Lord of Raven's Peak (Viking Series #3)

Lord of Raven's Peak (Viking Series #3)

by Catherine Coulter

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Lord of Raven's Peak (Viking Series #3) by Catherine Coulter

Merrik Haraldsson, the younger brother of Rorik, the Lord of Hawkfell Island, embarks on a journey that begins in Kiev where he comes away with two slaves—Laren and her younger brother. Laren wants to tell stories to earn enough silver and gold to buy her and her little brother from Merik, only he refuses to sell her. And now that she's his, he must protect her when she's accused of murder, then save her yet again when he discovers her secrets.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780515113518
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/28/1994
Series: Viking Series , #3
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 638,073
Product dimensions: 4.19(w) x 6.66(h) x 1.04(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Catherine Coulter is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the FBI Thrillers featuring husband and wife team Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock. She is also the author—with J. T. Ellison—of the Brit in the FBI series. She lives in Sausalito, California.

Read an Excerpt


The Slave Market of Khagan-Rus

Kiev, A.D. 916

THE SLAVE RING was as sweet-smelling as it would

ever be, Merrik thought. It was early morning and still

cool; a breeze off the river Dnieper rustled gently over

the scores of unwashed bodies. It was July and the water

below the embankment flowed smoothly and serenely

within the Dnieper’s broad banks now, the ice

floes having finally melted early the month before. The

consequent flooding had eased now as well, sending

cleansing river smells upward.

The sun had just risen behind Kiev, showing bright

gold behind the endless stretch of barren hills and jagged

mountains to the east. The stench of winter-dirty

furs and scrawny bodies too long unwashed wouldn’t

offend the nostrils until later in the day, even here in

the slave ring. The only thing here to offend anyone was

the abject human misery, and that was a condition so

familiar in a place like this, it hardly bore notice.

Merrik Haraldsson had unfastened the pounded silver

brooch and slipped its sharp point from the soft otter

fur cloak. He’d slung the cloak over his arm as he

walked toward the slave market’s perimeter. He’d come

from his longboat, The Silver Raven, moored below at

a long wooden pier that lay in a protected inlet of the

Dnieper just below Kiev. He wasn’t sweating now, but

the climb was a hard one, and he’d walked briskly,

wanting to be here as early as possible to find a slave

his mother would approve before they’d been picked

over and only the sick and wasted were left.

The Khagan-Rus slave market was set apart from the

town. Its name was the same as that of the prince of

Kiev: a reminder that there was a tax at each purchase

that would go directly into Prince Khagan-Rus’s capacious


Merrik turned to Oleg, a man he’d known since they’d

both been boys—wild and passionate and eager to best

their older brothers and acquire their own longboats to

trade and fight and grow rich, rich enough to buy their

own farmsteads sometime in a future that they pondered

only rarely, richer even than their fathers and

older brothers.

‘‘We will leave after I buy a female slave. Keep a

sharp eye, Oleg, for I don’t want a drudge for my

mother’s longhouse, or a sloe-eyed maid that would unduly

strain my father’s faithfulness. He has had no concubine

for thirty years. I don’t want him to begin now.’’

‘‘Your mother would break his head open were he

ever to gaze fondly at another woman and you well

know it.’’

Merrik grinned. ‘‘My mother is a woman of strong

passions. Very well, then, I think of my brother’s wife.

Sarla is a shy little thing and could easily be governed

by a clever female, slave or no.’’

‘‘And your brother is a man of strong appetites, Merrik.

A female doesn’t necessarily have to be toothsome

for Erik to want her. Look at Caylis, I’ll grant you she’s

a beauty even though her son is close to ten years old

now, but Megot, whom he beds just as much, is a plump

pullet and her chins shake when she laughs.’’

‘‘Aye, ’tis true. We must consider many factors before

I pick the right female. My mother needs a female slave

who will be loyal to her and work only for her. My

mother wants to teach her to spin, for her fingers stiffen

and give her pain now. Roran told me this should be an

excellent selection this morning, many slaves were

brought in just last night from Byzantium.’’

‘‘Aye, and the great golden city of Miklagard. How I

should like to voyage there, Merrik. It is the greatest

city in the world, it is said.’’

‘‘Aye, ’tis difficult to believe that more than half a

million people live there. Next summer we will have to

build a stronger longboat, for the currents and rapids

below Kiev are vicious. There are seven rapids and each

is more deadly than the last. The one called Aifur kills

more men than all the others combined. Even the portage

is dangerous for there are many vicious tribes living

along the Dnieper waiting for men to come ashore

with their longboats to drag them overland to beyond

the rapids. Aye, we’ll join an armada of other trading

ships for protection. I don’t wish to die just to see Miklagard

and the Black Sea.’’

‘‘The Aifur, huh?’’ Oleg grinned at Merrik. ‘‘You have

been talking to other traders, Merrik. You are already

preparing this in your mind, aren’t you?’’

‘‘Aye, I am, but Oleg, we grow rich trading in Birka

and Hedeby, for we are known there and trusted. The

Irish slaves brought more silver than even I believed

possible. And this year we grew even richer trading our

Lapp furs in Staraya Ladoga. Remember that man who

bought every reindeer comb we had? He told me he had

more women than he wanted and all of them begged

combs from him. He said their hair would beggar him.

‘‘Nay, we will wait to travel to Miklagard next year.

Be content.’’

‘‘ ’Tis you who aren’t content, Merrik.’’

‘‘Very well, I will be patient. We return home with

more silver than our fathers and brothers have. We are

rich, my friend, and there is no one to gainsay us now.’’

‘‘Forget not that lovely blue silk that came from the

Caliphate, at least that’s what Old Firren claimed.’’

‘‘He’s a liar who has grown over the years to believe

his own words, but the material is beyond beautiful.’’

‘‘Aye, and you will continue the lie. Will you give it

to your bride? You plan to buy your own farmstead now,

Merrik? Or perhaps return with your bride to her


Merrik said nothing, but he frowned. During the winter,

his father had negotiated with the Thoragassons,

not bothering to tell his son until the two fathers had

come to agreement. Merrik barely knew the seventeenyear-

old Letta. He’d felt anger at his father at such interference,

for Merrik was, after all, nearly twenty-four

years old, but he’d said nothing. The girl was lovely,

appeared gentle, and her dowry would be impressive.

He would look closely at her when he returned home,

then make his decision. But if he wedded her he would

have to leave his father’s farmstead, for already his eldest

brother and his wife of two years, the gentle Sarla,

lived there and would continue there after their parents

died. Surely they would have many babes, and soon it

would be too crowded, what with all his father’s and

brother’s people and his own men and slaves as well.

He shook his head. He disliked thinking of leaving his

home, but if he wed, he would have to take his wife

somewhere, and there was no more land in Vestfold

that could be farmed. His brother, Rorik, had gone to

Hawkfell Island, just off the coast of Britain, and had

prospered. Ah, but to leave his home, it was something

he didn’t yet wish to do. He also disliked knowing he

was now rich enough to leave.

He said only to Oleg, ‘‘A farmstead and a wife are two

decisions a man must weigh carefully.’’

‘‘That is what my father says, but he is always smiling

at me when he says it. Think you he wants me out

of his longhouse?’’

There were at least eighty slaves in the pit, as it was

called. They were of all ages, both sexes in nearly equal

numbers, some few still proud, their shoulders squared,

but most stood still as stones with their heads bowed,

knowing what was to come, perhaps praying to their

gods that the men or women who bought them would

be kind.

Merrik walked slowly through the rows. The young

women were lined up on one side, the older women behind

them, and the boys and men on the other side of

the pit. There were guards only behind the men, whips

in their hands, watching, ever watching, silent and

menacing, but they really weren’t concerned. None of

this group would cause any problems. They’d been broken

sufficiently since they’d been captured on raids,

some of them had been slaves for decades, some even

born of slaves.

It was a sight Merrik had seen since he’d been a boy

when his father had first taken him to York to buy

slaves. This was nothing new, save that this slave market

wasn’t as grim or as dirty and didn’t smell yet since

it was so early in the day and they were in the cool fresh

air of Kiev and not in the Danelaw where the Saxons

smelled as bad as the slaves, and their stench filled the

air. Here a man could breathe as he made his selections.

Many of the girls were fine looking and appeared

clean enough. They were from all parts of the world,

some with yellowish skin and beautifully slanted eyes

and the thickest black hair he’d ever seen, long and

board-straight. They were slight, and all had their

heads down. There were redheads and blonds from

Samarkand, some very tall and broadly built, others

squat with heavy torsos and short legs who hailed from

Bulgar and beyond. Merrik saw a girl who pleased him.

He realized she pleased him too much, for she had the

pale golden hair of his people, pale clear flesh, and a

long slender body. He felt a mild spurt of lust and shook

his head. No, she wouldn’t do for his mother. His

brother would soon have her flat on her back, if Merrik

didn’t take her first. He wouldn’t provide another concubine

for his brother Erik, for unlike his brother, he

saw how much it hurt Sarla when her husband ignored

her at night, then took himself off to bed with one of his


He must search for a comely face, but not too comely,

certainly no more than a pleasant face, perhaps one on

the broad, flat side. His brother disliked thin women;

Merrik searched out females with hollow cheeks, showing

bones. He selected three possible young slave girls,

turned to search out the slave-auction merchant, Valai,

to bargain. As he waited for Valai to finish with a Swedish

merchant who smelled of rotted fish and stale sex,

he realized he’d seen that same merchant—so obese he

wheezed even as he spoke—the night before with a

dozen more merchants at the house of a man who had

many female slaves to sell. Each merchant was given a

girl and they had, each one in turn, with all the others

looking on, stripped the girls and had sex there on the

wooden benches that lines the inside wall of the great

hall. Merrik had felt immediate lust, for he saw that

there were still half a dozen girls left and one would be

his, until he saw a merchant over a girl, and the girl

was lying there, her eyes closed, so still she could have

been dead, and the fat merchant had shoved into her,

huffing, his great belly shaking, until, finally, he’d

spilled his seed inside her. She’d never opened her eyes.

Merrik saw tears seeping from beneath her closed eyelids,

streaking down her face. He had left.

He turned away from the fat merchant, and looked

indifferently at the long line of men and boys. He froze.

He didn’t know why that of all the scores of men he

looked directly at the boy, but somehow, once he had,

he couldn’t seem to look away. The boy was perhaps

twelve years old, not older than thirteen. He was so thin

Merrik could see the long bones clearly in his bare

arms, the knobby scabbed elbows, the wrists so thin he

could wrap his fingers about them twice over, long narrow

hands held loosely to his sides. His legs, bare from

the knees down were just as thin and very white where

they weren’t blackened and streaked with filth and

scabs from cuts. He could even see the pale blue veins.

The boy was pathetic and would die soon if he weren’t

bought by a master who would at least feed him properly.

He’d doubtless been mistreated in the past. He

was wearing rags and a ripped filthy sealskin.

Not that it concerned Merrik. The boy was a slave

and would be sold, perhaps to a cruel master, perhaps

not, perhaps to a master who would let him buy his

freedom someday. It was a common practice and perhaps

the lad would be lucky. It didn’t matter. Ah, but

there was something about him that held Merrik very

still, that wouldn’t allow him to look away. But he

forced himself to look away. He wanted to sail from

Kiev this morning and there was much he still had to

do before leaving. He turned to go when the boy

denly looked up and their eyes met. The boy’s eyes were

a gray-blue, two colors that sounded normal, even common,

particularly in Norway, but this boy’s eyes were

different. The gray color was deeper than the rich pewter

bowl Merrik’s mother had received as a gift upon

her wedding to his father, and the blue darker than a

sea in winter. He could tell that the boy’s flesh was very

white despite all the dirt. His brows were dark and

well-drawn but the tangled, filthy mat of hair on his

head was too dirty and oily to determine its true color.

It was simply dull and dark and filthy. The boy was

beneath notice were it not for those eyes. They caught

Merrik cold. Eyes weren’t made filthy; but eyes could

reflect a man or woman’s thoughts, and the boy’s eyes

were drained empty, dull, accepting. Certainly that

wasn’t odd. But then, quite suddenly, there was a remarkable

shift—where there’d been emptiness, there

was now coldness and a look of defiance that would

probably get the boy killed or beaten to death if he

didn’t learn to mask that spark better. In a flash that

look of defiance turned to one of anger, immense anger

that held such violence and rage, it shook Merrik. Then,

just as suddenly, the boy’s eyes became blank again, all

that fury and passion buried beneath hopelessness and

awareness that his lot in life was that of a slave and

probably would remain so until he died. It was as if

Merrik could see the boy withdrawing into himself. He

could see him dying and accepting death before his


Merrik roused himself from this ridiculous revery.

The boy was a slave, nothing more. It didn’t matter if

he’d been captured from a hovel in a small village or

from a rich farmhouse. Merrik would never see him

again after he left the slave pit. He would cease to think

about him the moment his hand was on the rudder of

his longboat and the wind from the sails was sharp in

his face. He shrugged and shook his head. He turned

then when Oleg tugged on his arm to point out another


He heard an agonized cry and turned back. The very

fat merchant, the same Swedish merchant Merrik had

seen the night before, the same merchant who had just

been dealing with Valai, had grabbed the boy’s arm and

was pulling him away from the line of other boys and

men. He was shrieking that he’d paid too much silver

for the filthy little garla, or puny pig, and he would shut

up now or be very sorry for it. But the shouts and cries

weren’t all coming from the boy. The most piercing ones

were from a small child who had a death grip on the

boy’s other hand. By all the gods, Merrik thought, it

was the boy’s little brother and the man hadn’t bought

him. The child was screaming, terrified cries that were

pathetic, and it made something deep inside him twist

and cramp and he didn’t understand it. He took a step

forward, then saw the fat merchant slap the boy, for he

was now trying to grab his little brother. The merchant

then kicked the child hard. Merrik watched him fall

onto his face and remain still, saw him just lie there,

huddled into himself, sobbing. The boy hit the merchant,

not a hard hit, for Merrik doubted he had the

strength, but a fist in that oaf’s fat belly that surely had

to hurt. The merchant raised a fist, but then lowered it.

He cursed, threw the boy over his shoulder and walked


The child rose slowly, holding his ribs, and just stood

there, not crying out now, just staring after his brother,

and suddenly, quite without warning, Merrik couldn’t

bear it. Something gave way deep inside him. No, he

couldn’t bear it, he wouldn’t bear it. ‘‘Wait here,’’ he said

to Oleg.

He was on his knees in front of the child. He gently

cupped the child’s chin in his large hand and lifted it.

The tears were still streaming down his dirty face, leaving

obscene white marks in their wake. ‘‘What is your

name?’’ Merrik said.

The little boy sniffed loudly. He stared at Merrik, his

small features so drawn with fear that Merrik said, ‘‘I

won’t hurt you. What is your name?’’

The child said quite clearly, his words only mildly

accented, ‘‘My name is Taby. That fat man took my—’’

His voice died, just stopped cold. He looked at Merrik

and the tears were thicker now and the child was sniveling

and hiccuping. And there was such fear in the

child’s eyes that Merrik wanted to snarl like a wolf, but

he didn’t. He didn’t want the child to fear him more.

He said only, his voice low, slow, ‘‘What is your

brother’s name?’’

The child ducked his head down and said nothing.

‘‘Is he your brother?’’

The child nodded, nothing more. He was very afraid.

Merrik didn’t blame him.

Merrik had looked up as he’d spoken, but the merchant

was gone. The child was alone. He looked down

at that bowed head, saw the child’s thin shoulders

heave and shake with his crying. He knew well what

became of children who were alone and were slaves.

Most of them died, and if they didn’t, well, perhaps

what became of them was even worse. Suddenly, Merrik

didn’t want this child to die. He took the little boy’s

hand, felt the filth on the child’s flesh, felt the delicate

bones that would snap like twigs at the slightest pressure,

and something lurched inside him. The child

wasn’t as thin as his brother, and Merrik knew why.

The older brother had given what food he’d gotten to

the little boy. ‘‘You will come with me, Taby. I will take

you from this place. You will trust me.’’

The child shuddered at his words and didn’t raise his

head or move.

‘‘I know it is difficult for you to believe me. Come,

Taby, I won’t hurt you, I swear it.’’

‘‘My brother,’’ the child whispered, and he raised his

head then and looked at Merrik with pathetic hope. ‘‘My

brother is gone. What will happen to him?’’

‘‘Come,’’ he said, ‘‘trust me.’’ He walked away from

the line of slaves, the little boy’s hand tucked firmly in

his large one.

Merrik knew he would buy the child for a very small

weight of silver, and he was right. Soon he had completed

his business with Valai, a small man with a

twinkling eye and a shrewd, ruthless brain. Valai

wasn’t, however, necessarily cruel, just matter-of-fact

and spoke his mind when it couldn’t hurt his trade. He

said to Merrik, ‘‘I know you aren’t a pederast, thus the

child will bring you no pleasure and will be only a burden

to you.’’

‘‘Aye, but it doesn’t matter. I want him.’’

‘‘It’s possible that someone would buy him and he

would be raised well, used only to service his masters.

Not a bad life for such as he. Better than dying, which

is what would happen at many other places.’’

Merrik said nothing but he felt his guts surge with

rage. Aye, the best that could happen would be that the

child would be raped endlessly, then trained to pleasure

men, those damned Arabs who kept both sexes in their

keeping to pleasure them at their whim. After Taby

grew up and no longer had a boy’s allure, he would be

thrown into the fields to work over crops until he died.

And Merrik couldn’t bear that. He looked down at Taby.

No, he wouldn’t allow that to happen. He didn’t

tion what he would do with the child. He paid Valai,

then went to find Oleg.

If Oleg believed him mad, he said nothing, merely

stared at the small boy, then grinned and nodded, rubbing

his hands together. Oleg always loved an adventure.

Merrik realized he was thinking he would grant

him one this day. And Oleg would probably be right,

Merrik thought.

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"Another spry Viking romance...A grand adventure." -Booklist

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Lord of Raven's Peak (Viking Series #3) 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
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I loved this book. I would recomend it to anyone who loves romance books. Catherine Coulter captivates the reader. I couldn't put it down.