In this latest excerpt from Sons of Alba, Book 3: Son of Courage, Uilleam meets one of his own people who has lived his life as a slave among Vikings.
Inside the dim building, in the reek of horse dung and fragrant hay, Kara waited for him.
“You can take this one,” she said, patting the rump of a handsome, sturdy chestnut beast. “Thrall, saddle our horses … please.” She added the last with a sheepish smile.
“It’s a fine animal.” A thought occurred to him and he paused, his hand arrested in motion toward the horse’s nose. “This isn’t your father’s horse, is it?”
She laughed and shook her head. “No. My youngest brother. He won’t mind, truly.”
With relief, he stepped closer and let the horse smell him. The thrall Kara had called, a stable boy of about eight years, approached the stall.
“That won’t be necessary,” he told the boy. “I’ll saddle him myself. Will you please see to the lady’s horse … what is your name, lad?”
The boy blinked, surprised. For a moment Uilleam thought he might answer with the simple epithet “thrall” but he smiled bemusedly and said, “Coluim.”
“That’s an Albannach name, is it not?” Uilleam looked at him again in surprise. Indeed, he did have an Alban look to him – more than Uilleam himself – with his small sturdy build and brown hair and eyes.
“Yes it is,” he said with a sudden smile. “My mother was Albannach. She was with child with me when … when they brought her here.”
“Well met!” he said in the Gaidhlig, and the boy’s eyes widened in recognition. “I am Albannach as well. I should like to speak to your mother some time.”
“Oh.” The boy’s face dropped. “She died a year ago last winter.”
For a moment Uilleam saw himself in the lad’s face, what he might have been. He gripped the boy’s shoulder and gave him his regrets.
Kara’s eyes were on him through the entire exchange, wide with surprise, a smile playing on her lips. “That was kind,” she said softly as the boy went to work preparing her horse.
Uilleam shrugged. “We are the same, he and I. All of us thralls. Some of us freed.”
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