Riley opened her eyes and stared upward. Two seagulls squawked overhead. The ground rocked underneath her. She sat up slowly, her head throbbing.
Maddy barked happily, Riley turned her head to look at him. What she saw, other than Maddy, was a long line of people from her village tied together with ropes on board a Viking ship.
Two Vikings where walking down the line, examining the captives. They came to Riley and looked her over disdainfully.
One grabbed a fistful of her long hair in his large hands,
“This is going to be a problem when we sell her.” He commented in Norse.
“Then chop it off!” replied the other, annoyed. Riley was scared, she tried to stand and run, but she found that her ankle was tied to the side of the boat. The first Viking grabbed her hair, then quickly unsheathed his knife. Then with one quick chop, He cut Riley’s long hair short. Riley gasped,
“OUCH!”, The Vikings laughed, then walked off to inspect the next Irish captive. Tears stung Riley’s eyes as she ran her fingers through her shortened hair. Madigan whimpered and climbed up to lick her tears away. Riley laughed quietly and rubbed her eyes.
“You’re right, Maddy, I can’t let these Vikings know that I care.” She declared, then she whispered in Madigan’s ear, “I’ll just play along until I have a chance to escape.” “They can never make me into a slave, Maddy. Never.” With renewed courage she looked over the ship, into the deep blue water.
Then Riley felt a tap on her shoulder and turned to see who it was. It was a Viking offering her dried fish and hardtack. She took it gratefully, suddenly realizing how hungry she was. She offered a bit of the fish to Madigan, who snapped it up right away.
Riley looked around and noticed that it was getting dark, and she was getting cold. Riley was rather glad that Mr. O’Neal had gone through all the trouble to teach her Norse, thinking that the common trade language would come in handy some day. A Viking walked past and Riley called out in Norse,
“May I have a blanket?” the Viking grunted, walked off and came back a few minutes later with a pile of sealskins. He handed them out among the slaves, who took them gratefully. Riley threw the blanket over herself. Madigan snuggled up next to her and fell asleep almost immediately. Riley smiled. “
Good Night, Maddy,” she whispered. She put her arm around him and fell asleep just as quickly as he did.
Riley woke up in the morning with Maddy licking her face and barking.
“What is it Maddy?” she asked, opening her eyes and yawning. Madigan tried to push her toward the edge of the ship. Curious she stood up and looked over the edge. Riley gasped, they were docked at a port in Dublin. Thoughts ran through her head. They could escape onto the dock and make it back to Larkford from here! She looked down at the rope that tied her to the ship and sighed.
Then suddenly her face lit up, she reached into her pocket. There was the small knife that the blacksmith had given her. She lay back down and put the sealskin over herself, then started working at the rope. Riley hoped that her plan would succeed. The rope soon fell off her ankle. She took the sealskin off and looked overboard into the water.
Suddenly, Maddy jumped up on Riley, and she lost her balance and slipped overboard. Riley fell into the water with a splash, swallowing a mouthful of saltwater as she did. She swam to the surface gasping for air. Shore! she thought, I’ve got to get to shore!
Just then she heard a splash in the water next to her. Riley shook her head, whipping her wet hair out of her eyes. It was a Viking! She tried to swim, but her clothes felt too heavy. She went under again and swallowed more water. Then she felt a big arm around her chest, the Viking pulled her to the surface. He swam back to the ship with her and slung her up onto the deck. Riley coughed up water and lay still, too tired to move as a Viking wrapped her in a sealskin blanket.
“Take good care of her!” ordered the captain of the ship. “We want her to be healthy when we arrive!” Riley groaned. What, other than slavery, lay ahead in this new land?
In the land of the Vikings
“EVERYBODY OFF THE SHIP!” hollered the biggest Viking as soon as they docked at their homeport. Riley obeyed along with all the other slaves.
“It’s time for the slave test.” Whispered one Viking to another.
“MOVE! ON TO THE ARENA!” The biggest Viking called out again. A cheer rose from the crowd at the docks. Soon they reached a place that looked, from the front, like a huge round building with walls made of granite bricks and an open roof. The huge doors swung open. A short, wide hallway soon led them into what looked like a gladiator arena. It had two even larger doors on the other side from them and it looked like someone was pounding on it violently from the inside. Riley wondered with dread what was behind them. One short, stocky Viking stepped out into the arena and cleared his throat.
“Slaves, this is a toughness test. You will be given swords, shields are hidden somewhere in the ring. And then…” He paused grandly and surveyed his expectant audience before dramatically continuing. “A dragon will be let loose in the ring for five minutes!”
A gasp rippled through everyone present! The Viking seemed satisfied with the reaction he had produced. A woman next to Riley whispered fearfully
“D-Did he say ‘Dragon’?” Riley nodded, dumbfounded. Just then she felt something furry by her ankles. She looked down, and there was Madigan, whimpering by her heels.
“Maddy! Your not suppose to be in here!” The Viking stepped back into the audience.
“RELEASE THE DRAGON!!!” The huge doors on the other side of the arena swung open and slammed into the walls on both sides. The dragon lumbered out into the open and surveyed its human audience with hate. The dragon was a full twenty feet tall, had green scales with a rather opalescent sheen and what looked like a huge spiky club on the end of its tail.
One little slave girl started crying. The dragon swung his head around and stared at the humans who had invaded his territory. He took one step forward, the ground shook, Riley, among others, fell over. She scrambled to her feet and started towards the swords.
The dragon saw that one of the intruders was on the run and let out a tremendous “ROAR!” He took a step towards her; the ground shook again, but Riley was ready this time. She dropped to the ground and rolled the next few feet to the swords. Riley grabbed a sword and jumped to her feet. She noticed many other Irish had followed her lead. The dragon seemed temporarily distracted with the next group of Irish rushing to the swords.
Suddenly Riley realized, “Maddy! Where’s Maddy?!” Her worry was interrupted as a huge fireball, spewed by the dragon, was coming straight for her. Irish flew in all directions as the fireball whizzed past them and left a charred hole in the wall. Suddenly Riley heard sharp barking behind her. She whirled around to see Madigan, running frantically toward her, pushing a shield along with his nose.
“Maddy!” she said happily, “Good dog!” She ran quickly over to retrieve the shield. She scooped up both Madigan and the shield, then pulled the shield up in front of her. Riley ran across the arena into a safer place. “It has to have been about three minutes now!” she thought, “Just two more minutes! I hope we’ll all last that long!”
She was realizing that the dragon wasn’t as fast as she had previously thought, all they needed to do was keep out of his reach and they would be fine. Suddenly, Riley heard a scream on the other side of the arena! She whirled to see a little Irish lad of about seven, being picked up by the dragon.
“HEY!” she hollered, charging out into the open.
The dragon, hearing Riley’s shout, turned his head in impatience to see who dared interrupt his meal. He noted with annoyance that it was the small human that had given him the most trouble so far. The dragon decided to ignore this small, human interruption, and rolled over on his back, so as to have a little fun with his food before eating.
Riley noticed that the dragon was paying no attention to her and quickly scrambled up his tail.
The dragon was appalled at this human’s audacity. He let the boy go, but this other human could not challenge him and live! Still on his back, he put his head up and spewed a fireball at Riley.
Riley put her shield up just as the fireball hit her it. She stumbled back a few steps, then regained her balance and charged forward. The dragon tried another one, but Riley dodged it.
Now’s my chance! she thought. She ran the last few feet, spun the point of the sword downwards and stabbed it through the dragon’s heart. It let out a shriek that made Madigan roll to the ground pawing at his ears, then the dragon went limp and died. Riley stared at the dragon, breathing hard, and then looked up at the open mouthed Viking audience.
A cheer rose from the crowd as Riley slid down from the defeated dragon. A couple Vikings slipped out of the crowd to round up the slaves. Riley heard them talking,
“Did you see that?” said one.
“Yeah! That’s the first slave I’ve seen that’s been able to KILL the dragon!” replied the other, “That’s the most impressive girl I’ve ever seen!” Riley’s hopes rose; maybe they would let her go!
“She’ll bring in a good price!” Riley’s hopes fell.
I’ve GOT to get out of here! she thought.