Merrick Haraldsson, is the youngest brother of Rorik, from Lord of Hawkfell Island. He still lives at Malverne with his parents and older brother, Erik, who will be lord of Malverne upon the death of his father. Merrick knows that someday he and his men will have to leave Malverne and to that goal go trading every summer. This summer Merrick plans to return with a new slave for his mother whose hands are paining her, so she can teach the slave to weave and sew. He travels to Kiev and watches as 2 slave brothers are separated. One is only 5 years old at the most and cries his heart out as his sibling is taken from him. Merrick cannot stand to see the pain of the younger brother and buys him for a pitance and sets out to steal the older brother.
The older brother is really an older sister disguised as a young boy and has been whipped brutally by her new master. The master leaves her in the care of another slave, Cleve, who tends her wounds and feeds her, letting her know that he knows her secret. Against the pain of the beating, the young woman, Laren, tries to escape her new master only to have Cleve follow her and to be stopped by Merrick and his man. Merrick tells her he has her brother, Taby, and Lauren, Cleve, and Merrick all leave for Malverne. Merrick discovers that Laren is a young woman and tells his men but also tells him that they will leave her alone. During the trip back to Malverne, Laren manages to make an enemy of Merrick skald when one night he refuses to tell a story and she volunteers to take his place.
Once home, Merrick learns his parents have both died from a fever while he was gone and his brother Erik has become the new lord. Erik has become arrogant, and cruel and has taken to beating his wife and the slaves. He wants to take Laren to his bed. Laren and Merrick pretend that she is Merrick's whore to keep Erik away from her. One day a nearby family whose daughter Merrick's father wanted him to wed comes to Malverne to make sure the wedding takes place. During there visit Erik is murdered and Laren is blamed for it. Merrick does not believe she did it and gives her 2 choices: to marry him as he has fallen in love with her or he will take her to her homeland but he will keep Taby as his son. Laren agrees to marry him and also tells him who Taby really is-an heir to the throne of Normandy. She tells him everything about her a Taby being kidnapped and who she thinks is responsible for it. He agrees to help return Taby to his destiny and help solve the mystery of who kidnapped them.
Once is Normandy attempts are made of Merrick's life. He learns of the politics involving the kidnapping and that Laren and Taby's father was accused of killing their mother. He is thought long dead by villians or his brother the ruler, Rollo. There is much suspense and intrique at the palace as we learn of Rollo, and what really happened to Laren and Taby's father. We meet the wicked half sisters and their evil husbands. Taby is returned to Normandy and his father but not before he becomes reacquainted with him and not before Merrick helps him understand that he has a destiny to fulfill. Cleve is made a free man but we also learn that he has the most awful luck with women. How all is solved is a wonderful tale.
This report prepared by plnorth