Sorchand leaned forward and prodded the roasting bird just as a spear shot by his shoulder and thudded into the soft earthen floor beyond. Outside, the horses jostled and snorted. The rickety plank door burst open on a rush of big, burly men and the owner of the spear vaulted through the window after it. Someone swung an axe at Sorchand's head.
Eba sucked in air, choked and scrabbled
backwards away from the bearded, bright-eyed giant who stepped across the fire,
clapped a large hand across her face and dragged her into his embrace. There
was a brief scuffle, full of thuds and gasps. Comgell reeled away from a blow,
collided with the wall and slid to the ground. Sorchand stumbled and fell
backwards, arms out flung.
The man holding Eba tossed her in a corner.
Fear gathered thick in her throat, she crouched motionless and watched one of
the men seize the carcass from the spit and divide it amongst his cronies. She
heard her own uneven, shallow gasps, clamped her mouth shut and peered at the
two youths flat and silent on the dark earthen floor. The flames flickered on
Sorchand's red curls and closed eyes, but someone's boots blocked her sight of
In a very short time the attackers threw down
the bones, licked greasy hands and looked at her over in the same way she had
seen her brother assess cattle. Big, and armed with long daggers and swords,
they spoke in a language she could not understand.
She pressed back into the cold stone, her
heartbeat thudding in her throat. One man stooped to grasp her arm. He dragged
her to the door. Once in the open, he slung her across his shoulder and set off
She hadn't enough breath to scream, even if
there had been anyone to hear, and his grasp of her thighs was too tight for
her to wriggle free. She bounced horribly on his shoulder as he hurtled down a
steep and stony path, and fought to brace her palms against his spine. She
couldn't think beyond gritting her teeth to stop them banging together, caught
only a glimpse of Comgell and Sorchand, both belly down across horses. Her pony
trotted free, anxious not to be left behind.
The forest thinned out, sand appeared through
the grass and she could smell the damp, salty tang of the sea. Fine sand stung
her face as he ploughed through sand dunes. Eba shut her eyes, heard the
harshness of his breathing and then the echo like a muffled drum as he reached
flat, damp sand. At last he halted, hauled her off his shoulder and dropped her
at his feet.
She landed with a thump in wet sand, the flat
calm sea before her and a dark, threatening shape to her right. Bruised and
breathless, Eba looked beyond her captor and let out a squawk of fright. In the
cool milky light of morning the graceful bulk of a Viking longship reared above
An excerpt from Dark Pool by Jen Black,
available here at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.