Through the Veil of Time Anonymous One-Shot Contest
SECOND PLACE WINNER!
Story Title: The Gift of the Knife
Summary: A companion piece to The Knife, this is Rose's story of meeting the first Northern invaders to her home in Rathlin Monastery and their reunion the following summer.
Time Period: AD 795, earliest Viking era
Word Count: 3898
For the companion story that this one was based on, THE KNIFE, please go to LJ SUMMERS' profile:
http: / www . fanfiction . net/u/1965916/ LJ_Summers
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer created these characters…LJ SUMMERS and I just sent them back in time
I had risen before the morning light had found its way through my window. There was a chill in the air and I stirred the embers from last night's fire. Once it was crackling happily I placed a pot of grains to cook slowly at the side. The monks would be busy praying for the next hour and would be grateful for the warm cereal to break their fast. I added a couple handfuls of dried fruit, gave it a last stir and took stock of what I'd need to do today. A glance outside showed me the clouds drifting away; there could be enough sunshine to dry clothes, so that would be my chore today, laundry.
Deciding to wash the physician's robes first, in the clean water, I gathered the rest of the monks' clothes and my own and carried them to the kettle near the woods. A monk had already filled it with water and I started the fire under it. I cocked my head when I heard the prayer for Prime begin, the chanting a quiet background to my chores.
I hurried back inside and set out bowls, spoons and mugs for tea. Placing the kettle of cooked grains at the end of the table I waited for the first monk to appear. Marcus smiled as he picked up a bowl and I ladled a generous portion into it for him. Everyone had a smile and a quiet "Thank you, Rose" for me as I served them. It warmed my heart to be so appreciated.
After scooping some into my own bowl I sat near the fire to eat. The soft murmurs of the monks and the crackling fire were soothing as I thought back over my time here.
Three years ago my father had given me in marriage to Mícheál. He was a good man and had given my Da two cows, six hens and a small gold coin for my marriage price. Mícheál was young and good looking. I didn't love him, but he was kind and I was happy to bring some wealth to my family. My younger sisters hoped to do as well.
We had only been married a short while when Mícheál became ill. The healer in our village had done all she could, but he didn't get better. Her best advice was to bring him to the new monastery, on the other side of the island from us, in the hopes that their prayers and herbs could cure him. A couple of men helped me get Mícheál in a cart and I led them to the gates of the church. The monks had rushed to help us but there was nothing to be done; two days later I was a widow.
At first I just sat at their table, lost in grief. We had just started our lives together; there wasn't even a child for me to hold onto. I grieved the loss of what might have been.
The monks let me be, placing food before me, letting me sleep on a pile of blankets near the fire and giving me time. It was about three days later that I realized the food they ate might sustain their bodies, but it was not very good. My senses came back when the soup they set before me was no better than dishwater.
As they left for their afternoon prayers and duties I slowly rose from the table and began looking through the larder, the smallest outbuilding where they kept their supplies. The brothers had been kind to me and I wanted to repay them for their efforts on Mícheál's behalf.
While a lamb stew simmered over the fire, I began to clean the table, which led me to cleaning the floor and then the outer room. When Marcus, who was to cook that evening, came into the room, he found me setting the table for dinner, with bread baking on a flat rock near the back of the fire.
I nodded at him and continued on. The monks were a quiet lot, but they all made an effort to thank me for the meal. And so it continued. I cooked and cleaned and they allowed me to be. Returning home to my family was not an option. My Da had enough mouths to feed and didn't need me to add to his burden. It wasn't the home I had hoped for when I became a wife, but I was safe and they were grateful. It was a good combination.
With our fast broken, Brother Jacobus brought me one of his robes that needed mending before he headed out to mount the wagon that Brother Tomas had brought to the door. They were going to a village on the other side of the island to bring back some supplies that had been offered to the church. Two of the other brothers stepped up to open the gates and I waved farewell, as I headed into the sanctuary to get the altar cloths. The water would be heated by now and I wanted to wash them first.
Draping the cloth over my arm I heard shouting and turned back to the archway. I stopped, shocked to see several large men surround the wagon as the brothers who had opened the gate rushed back to the open door, linking arms to try and keep the wild men away.
The sun blinded me as it splintered off the axe blade that quickly cut one of the brothers nearly in two. The sight held me there for several beats of my heart before I spun away from the door. My eyes darted around in panic, but there was no place to hide. The windows were small, to keep the cold out in the winter, and there was no way I could escape. Hiding was my only option and my choices were limited.
One voice seemed to be directing those outside. I snorted as I heard the amusement in his tone, although I couldn't understand a single word that he said. He was laughing and all I could do was try to keep breathing. Tucking myself behind a wide beam in the wall I hoped that I'd be invisible to any that entered. I pressed my hands to my heart and willed it to slow down.
Peeking around the corner I saw Marcus standing just inside the door. Suddenly the light was blotted out and I realized that a huge man had entered. Ducking back into my corner I heard the question in his voice as he held Marcus by the arm. Marcus told him that this was a church and to leave immediately. The massive man laughed and pulled him along, speaking gibberish the entire way. I shrank down and hoped that they wouldn't see me.
When they paused, the invader pointed at a clasp on his cloak and I realized that he was looking for gold. Marcus's eyes flew to another room, the room where the casks were kept, the casks that held the writings of the church. They were liberally decorated with gems, silver and gold.
Thinking that I could escape while the giant and Marcus were occupied, I stood up and stepped into a ray of light. Marcus caught sight of me and his glance caught the attention of his captor who spun to face me, his massive sword at the ready.
He gasped and said something, but I couldn't understand his words as I took in his face. His hair was dark and curly. He only had one eye, the other just a flap of skin covering a well healed space. The remaining eye was like the midnight sky and a sparkle lurked there. A smile crossed his face and dimples appeared in his cheeks. Could a man be beautiful? This one was, even with the scar marring his skin.
Marcus yanked his way free and the man let him go, his eyes still on me. I had never been looked at like this. Not even by my husband. Something stirred deep within me.
He asked something in a soft voice but, again, I had no idea what it was. I pointed to the door and with as much force as I could muster, I exclaimed, "You must leave, this is a house of God and you should away with yourself." He didn't move at all, he just smiled at me, his attention totally focused on me.
I thought that I should be scared of him, but I wasn't. Instead I felt drawn to the happiness that he wore like a cape around his shoulders. This was wrong, he was here, looting a house of God and I wanted to smile back at him.
A small sound caught both of our attention as Marcus tried to dash past him. Finally breaking eye contact with me, the man reached out and plucked Marcus from the ground, his focus now on him. This was my chance and I flew around them and out into the sunshine.
Despair filled me as I took in the bloodied bodies of three of the monks on the ground. The rest of them and the locals—all twelve of them-were being held at knife point near the wall as the invaders carried food and wine from the storehouse. A pile of small treasures were mounded near the door to the church.
I turned and tried to race to the trees, but my cloak was caught as I rushed by one of the men. He spun me to face him and his eyes widened as he looked me over. With a laugh he reached out and grasped the neckline of my dress and yanked. The sound of the material ripping caused my heart to clench. Looking around I hoped for help, but the men who were shoving bread and dried meat into their mouths just laughed.
Gathering the front of my dress together as best as I could, I tried again to run but the man before me grabbed my hair and jerked me close to him. The pain on my scalp caused me to scream. Another yank and he had me pressed against his length as he tipped my head back so he could look me in the eyes. His breath was rank as it blew in my face.
He said something to the laughing men before he ripped the garment from my hand, exposing me to their sight. An angry scream left my lips as I fought to free myself. A callused hand reached for what had only been touched by my husband and I fought to keep my tears from falling.
A roar came from the church and suddenly the giant was striding from the archway and the men quieted. More words passed between the man holding me and the leader. When the pig holding me turned to say something, I spat in his face. Somehow being near the one-eyed man had given me courage. I stood tall as the ire on my captor's face turned him a dark shade of red. He reminded me of a rose in full bloom. Before he could punish my defiance the giant had his sword out and saying the word, "Né," he hit him on the top of his head. His eyes had widened in shock before they closed and we fell to ground.
As quickly as I could I got to my feet, gathering my tattered dress close and pulling my cloak tightly around me. The leader leaned over and removed a long knife from the boot of the man on the ground. I wondered if he was going to use it instead of the long sword on me. I hoped that it would be quick and offered up a prayer.
Opening my eyes, I was shocked to see him presenting me the knife, hilt first. His men were loud in their complaints, but he silenced them with a look and sent them back to work. I took the knife by the handle and held it close. Awe filled me as I realized the importance of this gift.
He stepped close and pointing at himself he said, "Emmett." Then he pointed at me with an enquiring look on his face.
Stalling for time I swallowed and pushed my tangled hair over my shoulder. How could I want to get to know this man, this barbarian who had invaded our safe little sanctuary? Before I could second guess myself I said, "My name is Rose."
Confusion covered his face and he repeated words that could possibly be my name. Deciding that I would have to simplify my introduction, I said just my name, "Rose." He was still puzzled so I knelt down and using the tip of my gifted knife I quickly sketched a rosebud and a full blown rose in the dirt.
Understanding now filled his face and he smiled as he said, "Steg!" and something more, then again, "Steg!"
With a delighted smiled covering his face he offered me his hand to help me rise. I hesitated for just a moment before I placed my hand in his. I was tall for a woman but I still had to look up into his face. The deep blue of his eye dazzled me and I found it hard to look away. He was murmuring in his own tongue, the tone sweet and calm.
Testing the sound of it, I whispered his name, "Emmett." He repeated it with a nod and another smile and I felt a shiver travel down my back.
I pulled gently and he let me remove my hand from his. It felt cold without the warmth from his fingers. I was startled when he leaned in and pressed a kiss to the top of my head, but not startled enough to forget about the knife in my hand. I placed the tip of it into the hollow of his throat, but didn't press hard enough to break the skin. Another laugh came from him as he stepped back and away from me with his arms raised in surrender.
With a shooing motion he sent me back into the church and I fled to my room where I dropped the stout bar across the door. My hands were shaking as my eyes darted around the small space, coming to rest on the sliver of a window that I was blessed with. There was no way any of the invaders could come through there. I had always felt safe here, but now some of that peace had been taken away. Dropping to my knees I said a quick prayer of thanks, thanks for the big man who had saved me.
It seemed strange to be thanking God for sending an invader into our country. On the one hand if they hadn't come, I wouldn't have been put into such a scary position, but having been there, if Emmett hadn't come out when he did, I had a very good idea of what would have happened. I shuddered again and concluded my prayer.
Taking my other dress from the press, I quickly dropped it over my head and picked up my brush. The strokes of the teeth through my long hair continued to calm my nerves. The noises from outside let me know that the pillaging of our home continued. I didn't hear any other screams which I hoped was a good sign.
Holding the knife before me, I ventured out when it became quieter outside.
The leader had Marcus by the arm and was pulling him out of the gates. He looked back and smiled at me and said something. Again I heard that word, "Steg." Irritated I shouted, "My name is Rose!" and he laughed. The sound rolled through the air and I felt something curl inside me, a small spark was lit and I felt a pang that he was leaving. I shook my head at my foolishness, but felt the need to thank him. He had saved me after all and he wasn't dragging me away as he was Marcus.
The big man turned and smiled as I shouted after him, "Thank you, Emmett!" A nod of his head and he was gone.
The remaining monks and those that sheltered with us quickly gathered together. The invaders had taken six of our men with them and left three monks dead. I knew that they had taken a lot of our stores and I quickly had everyone fan out to see what remained. A quick tally showed me that Emmett and his crew had left us enough to see us through the fall harvest, if we were careful. The brothers were crying over their lost brethren and the treasure that had been taken. I pointed out that they still had the sheets of the written Word, and surely that was more important than the gold that had been around them. After a moment they agreed and no longer spoke of that loss and focused on the loss of lives. I knew that we'd mourn the three dead monks and those taken, just as we should.
That was another thing we had to be thankful for. They could have taken everything, and all of us as slaves. It had appeared that Emmett was the only thing between us and starvation and that little spark grew a bit brighter.
Again my mind whispered, but if he hadn't come you wouldn't be in this position at all.
My memory conjured up the sound of his laughter and the sparkle in his eye. A shiver found its way down my spine. Coming to a decision and praying to God that I had read the situation right, even though we didn't speak the same language, I told the others to continue working and I turned and ran toward the beach.
I didn't know if he'd still be there, not knowing how long it would take for them to load our belongings on their ships. Stopping at the edge of the beach I saw the boats being pushed into the deeper water. Emmett was standing in the knee deep surf, looking back at the trees where I stood.
I called his name and the smile that filled is face was like the sun and I felt an answering heat bloom in my chest that expanded when he dashed out of the waves and came to stand before me. Concentrating on his face, and hoping that I was doing the right thing, I slowly lifted the knife that he had gifted me to eye level and then tucked it behind me.
Joyful was the only name I could call the look on his face as he whispered, "Steg…"
"Rose," I answered as he leaned close murmuring other soft words. My heart was pounding as his lips softly and gently travelled along my jaw. I sighed as I whispered his name, "Emmett." That little spark grew brighter as his lips came close, but not close enough to where I wanted them. Turning my head I captured his lips with my own and the spark was now a fire. I had never felt anything like this, like I had run for an hour, while standing in one place. I had to put my hand on his chest to help balance me where I stood on the rocks. His heart was thundering beneath my hand, keeping pace with my own. I felt a sense of belonging, of coming home, when he slipped his hand beneath my hair at the base of my skull.
The sound of laughter and yelling from the ships finally broke us apart, both of us panting for breath.
Pressing his lips to my cheek, he whispered words I couldn't understand, but the look in his eye said it all. He would be back. A nod of my head and he understood that I would be waiting for him.
"Rose!" The son of one of the tenants came rushing through the kitchen door. "There are sails on the horizon! They are the same color as those that came last year." The monks who had gathered for breakfast quickly leaped to their feet and fled to collect their treasures. After the invasion last year, the monks had kept everything gathered together, in packs, just in case something like this were to happen. They only took the items out that they were studying at the time, keeping everything else tucked away.
In a few moments they had shouldered the packs and were away, trotting into the forest to a hiding place that they had prepared. I didn't know where it was and I didn't want to know, so that if I was asked, I wouldn't have the answer.
Taking a deep breath, I stepped into my room, closing the door behind me. I heard the monks and our friends rushing here and there, trying to hide what they could and preparing to flee into the woods. None wanted to be out in the open, waiting for the invaders to approach.
None but me.
They left the gate open as they fled, knowing that it wouldn't stop a force like the one that had come last year anyway.
I calmly put on my best dress of the two I owned and brushed my hair. I thought about my meeting with Emmett the year before, how I had felt. In fact, he was the last thing I thought of each night and the first thing I thought of each morning, his name the first in my prayers. I had worked past the guilt I felt about praying for a man who had led invaders into my home.
All I knew was that a spark had been lit and I wanted to see it fanned into flames. No one had ever touched me like he did, with his laugh and the twinkle in his eye, with the gentleness of his kiss at the beach. I wanted more, more of him.
I made sure all was in readiness for guests, checking the supply of yesterday's bread and the warming soup. I slid past the guilt that I felt thinking about these barbarians coming into the church. The monks were peaceful, they wouldn't fight. They had taken their Word and their treasures as they fled. They would be safe this time.
Glancing around to make sure everything was in its place, I offered another prayer and turned to make my way to the beach, to where I hoped that my man would step ashore, to where I hoped my life would begin anew.
The wind was chilly, even with my cloak wrapped securely around my body, but I could see the sails and, yes, they were the same as those that I had watched recede from my island last year.
My heart started to pound when I caught sight of massive shoulders topped by a head of black curls. His searching eye found me where I had last stood, where we had kissed, where he had left me.
I waited while the longships were brought to land, my eyes never leaving him and the smile that filled his face.
As soon as they were close enough, Emmett leaped over the side of the ship and waded ashore, coming straight for me. When we were an arm's length apart I raised the knife that I held to eye level and then tucked it behind me. Surely my heart was pounding loud enough for him to hear as he nodded once.
"Rose, my island woman, I have come back, as I promised you," his voice was just as I remembered, but I was shocked that he spoke in my own tongue this time. "And you have waited, just as I hoped."
Joy filled me and I laughed as I launched myself at him, flinging my arms around his massive neck. He caught me easily and swung me around, his laughter filling my ears.
"Emmett!" No more words were needed as he stopped spinning and leaned down to press his lips to mine.
I was finally home.
I was thrilled to win Second place in this contest. I beta'd Sandi's THE KNIFE and asked her what was going to happen...and set out what I thought it would be. Asked her if SHE was going to write it, but she's a busy girl and told me to do it. Six hours and almost 4k words later...and this is what happened. Do go and read her Emmett's POV for THE KNIFE and please, let us both know what you thought of our stories.
Thanks, Sandi, for trusting me with YOUR vision.