Flane chuckled and shook his head as he strode away from the bathing
hut. Within a few paces he ran into his good friend Skeggi, grasped his arm
and steered him towards the barns and outbuildings.
“What’s the matter?” Skeggi squinted from beneath the riot of dark,
tumbling curls hanging over his brow.
Flane glanced sideways. “What makes you think anything is wrong?”
“When you start avoiding your future bride, there has to be a reason.”
A smile split Skeggi’s clean-shaven, wide cheek-boned face. His dark eyes
danced in amusement beneath the brown curls.
“Who says I’m avoiding her?”
“You’ve been away at Dublin nearly a week, yet you are in no hurry to
go and see Katla. Either you don’t give a sailor’s cuss about her, or you’re
Flane’s mouth pulled to one side. “I may as well tell you,” he said.
“My trip to Dublin went well. Nothing unusual happened. Except that I
purchased a female slave on the very last day.”
Skeggi’s brows disappeared beneath the curls hanging over his
forehead. “You did what?” Surprise dissolved in a grin. “What’s she like?”
“Young and attractive. She seems to have a mind of her own.”
Skeggi broke into open laughter. “Katla’s going to take your knife and
slice your nose off with it if you’re not careful.”
“Not if I have anything to do with it,” Flane growled.
“What’s she look like?”
“Small, up to here.” Flane’s palm indicated a spot level with his collar
bones. “Brown eyes, brown hair and you know—” He indicated curves
between his two palms.
Flane nodded. “Very.”
“What are you going to do with her? Apart from the obvious?”
“She can be my bed slave.”
“What? You think Katla’s going to put up with that?”
“Is that all you can say? Your what? is getting monotonous. Katla will
have to put up with it, that’s all.”
Skeggi shook his head. “You’re a brave man, Flane Ketilsson. Let me
be there when you tell her. I very much want to see it.” He ducked to one
side to avoid the sharp jab Flane aimed at his shoulder. “You’re not a green
youth to be bowled over by the first pretty face you see in a slave market.
Why did you do it?”
Flane shook his head slowly. “Well, we paid good silver for some
strong youths to help with the ploughing.” His wide shoulders moved
lightly up and down. “Skuli Grey Cloak chose them.” He rested his
forearms on the fence and squinted across the paddock at the Steading’s
few milk cows. “I can’t say why I did it. She was trying to hide behind the
other slaves, didn’t want to be spotted. I saw her, and fancied her. She
wears an old gown she’s outgrown, and—”
“How do you know she’s outgrown it?”
Flane frowned and thought about it. “Her gown’s tight across the
chest, and far too short. It shows too much ankle. May I go on without you
drooling over me? She speaks our language and there’s a streak of
arrogance in her. She offered me silver to take her back home.”
“She sounds like trouble.”
Flane regarded his friend sorrowfully. “That’s what Skuli Grey Cloak