MEETING AT THE MARKET V
At the 2015 Market at the Square in Urbana, Illinois, Micel Folcland manned a table once a month. We released a new installment every month, at our appearance at the Market, in this continuing serial set in the Danelaw of the early eleventh century. We tried to keep the installments as related to common everyday life in the Anglo-Scandinavian culture of the, and we tried to deal with matters of history and culture that were largely unknown and that would provoke question and thought. We were glad to answer any questions that might be posed, and we still are!
WHAT HAS GONE BEFORE—Sixteen-year-old Beornræd’s family has a stall at the market, selling grain and textiles, and they are doing brisk work. Business has been good, and Beornræd encountered a young girl who is still in his thoughts. The family has also encountered a Norseman, who buys fabric to trade, but when a thievery is discovered several booths away, the Norseman disappears.
Beornræd was kept away by the crowd about Rædwulf’s stall. It was not that Rædwulf was so popular, but he was the only smith hereabouts, and his neighbors were more concerned with his happiness than if he was just another smith, and they are important enough!
He asked the man to his left, “What is missing? What was stolen?”
The man glanced at him. “A seax I hear.”
Another said, “It is terrible that one cannot trust his neighbors.”
“Aye. Everyone at the market is known and…”
Beornhelm said, “There was a Norseman.”
They looked at him. “What?”
“There was a Norseman, a stranger, going through the market. He stopped at…”
And Rædwulf was suddenly by him. “I recall him.”
“He was a trader, trying to find goods he could buy for Birka.”
“So said he,” said Rædwulf. “Where is he now?”
Beornræd said, “I know not, but he could not have gone far.” He paused. “Why, do you think…”
Rædwulf said, “He is a stranger.” He turned to the crowd of people. “Hwæt! Spread out and find the Norseman. Ælfwig, go fetch Eadmund. If we find this Norseman, I want a fine levied against him and have him exiled from this land!” He folded his arms and breathed heavily, saying almost under his breath, “I will deal with him…” Then he caught sight of Beornræd standing there, and he stared at him as if he had never seen him before and said angrily, “Get out of my sight, boy! Run down that lawless Norseman and bring him to me!”
Beornræd nodded and, saying, “Yes, sir,” turned and walked away very rapidly. He shook his head and smiled to himself. When Beornræd returned to the stall, his father was busy with a customer. When the customer was gone, Beornhelm looked at his son and asked, “What was stolen?”
“A seax. Rædwulf now has people out searching for Ármóðr. Since Ármóðr is a stranger, we feel that he is the thief.”
Beornhelm sighed. “Rædwulf might be a decent smith but he is sometimes a real wanhoga. An honest trader who will spend good silver on a cartload of fabric but will steal one small seax? I rather doubt it.” He shook his head.
Another customer came by, and Beornhelm smiled his merchant smile and turned to help him.
It was by then about mid-day, and the bells of the minster rang sext. Beornhelm waited for his father to stop talking with the customer, then said, “Da, may I go to the minster and say a prayer for Grand-da’s soul?” Wærburh’s father had died last winter.
Beornhelm nodded. “Business is slowing down, so certainly. Just be back as soon as you can, because I expect business to speed back up this afternoon.”
With a nod, Beornræd smiled and ran off toward the church.
—to be continued