Owyn is the nine-year-old son of a blacksmith living with his family outside the local nobleman’s castle.
The band of Viking raiders encounters only a small band of peasants in an isolated enclave. They kill most of the villagers and take the females as slaves. But they did not count on one survivor.
Young Owyn is discovered and rescued by a band of Benedictine monks who take him to their abbey. There they heal and raise him. Owyn’s mother and his sisters were taken prisoner in the raid.
Bronwyn lay in the curve of the prow, heavy spray battering the sturdy
ship and all its crew and passengers. Her daughters lay at her feet,
shivering in a half-sleep borne of exhaustion and fear. Gwyn, now eight
years old, curved protectively beside Gael, just six years of age. They
were two children in peril with no one but Bronwyn to interpose and
protect them. The mother felt more like a numb observer. That sense of
idyllic safety and comfort fled when the Viking killed her husband.
Bronwyn watched in mute horror as she witnessed Bereat cleaved in half,
a scant twenty feet from their doorstep. Those gold, brown and
red-bearded invaders now contended with the might of the Irish Sea. The
Clontarf encampment above the Viking settlement of Dublin on Ireland’s
east coast was this raiding party’s destination. Now surfeited with
bloodshed, plunder and slaves, the raiders bent their backs to hasten
them all to their refuge. There they would ponder what gain there had
been, what training and knowledge of the Anglo-Saxon and Briton victims
they could glean.
Aarvald moved toward the women and children. His seemingly dull
surveillance satisfied, he made to move off when he observed the
females’ shivering. The leader of the raid, Aarvald had ordered all
slaves place in the prow of the ship, there the better to observe and
calculate the value of them. All exultation of conquest behind him, the
Viking commander now occupied himself with securing the raiding
party’s prizes. That one won’t last the voyage without something in
her belly Aarvald concluded. He moved toward the leather tent in the
center of the ship where a small fire burned in an iron pot, which was
secured to a trifold structure attached to the deck of the ship. He
reached for a tankard and poured some of the hot mead warming in a clay
jar on the edge of the fire. He lifted the jar out of the pot and
filled the tankard in his hand, then added a pinch of herbs from the
pouch he carried in the sash about his waist. The captives pulled the
lengths of rough cloth tighter around their bodies. Even wet cloth was
better to them than nothing. Bronwyn looked up to see the long-haired,
red-bearded figure of Aarvald return to her and the children with the
tankard in hand. The man and woman looked long at one another, and then
the man held the tankard of warm mead out to her. Aarvald gestured an
order for her to accept the offering. Wordlessly, Bronwyn obeyed. The
sweet, warm mead felt like fire to the tired, frightened woman. Aarvald
gestured again and indicated the children. Bronwyn pressed the tankard
to the girls’ lips, hoping to give relief to the half-wakeful
children. Slowly, the warm drink lulled the mother and daughters into a
welcome sleep. While they slept, the ship plunged doggedly on toward
the Irish coast.
Excerpted from "Life Song: An Irish Odyssey" by Susan O'Neill. Copyright © 2015 by Susan O'Neill. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Susan O’Neill is the pen name for Susan Thornburg. The pen name is a full spelling of the family ancestral name and pride in her Irish origins. She grew up in the Chicago post-WWII suburb of Hometown, acquiring her first library card at the age of 8. She continues to be an avid reader, historical researcher and life-long learner. She graduated from Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois with a Bachelor of Arts degree in both Psychology and History in 2006. She is the mother of two daughters and two sons. Her career spanned the banking, industrial and social service fields. For ten years she partnered with her husband in Ohio and West Virginia running a management consulting firm for smaller industries.
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