Lord of Falcon Ridge by Catherine CoulterLord of Falcon Ridge by Catherine Coulter

Lord of Falcon Ridge

byCatherine Coulter

Mass Market Paperback | April 1, 1995

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A classic Viking novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author.

When Chessa, the princess of Ireland, is kidnapped, Cleve rescues her to hand her over to her rightful groom, William of Normandy. But Chessa refuses to marry anyone but Cleve.
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.
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Title:Lord of Falcon RidgeFormat:Mass Market PaperbackDimensions:368 pages, 6.72 × 4.19 × 0.94 inPublished:April 1, 1995Publisher:Penguin Publishing Group

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0515115843

ISBN - 13:9780515115840

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Malverne farmsteadVestfold, NorwayA.D. 922CLEVE DREAMED THE dream the first time on the nightof his daughter’s third natal day. It was in the middle ofthe night in the deepest summer, and thus it never darkenedto black until it was nearly dawn again. He was sleepingdeeply in that soft gray dark of the midnight summer whenthe dream came. He stood on a high, narrow cliff listening,sniffing the warm, wet air. Below him was a raging waterfallroiling through slick boulders only to narrow with thetightening of the banks before it shot out over a lower cliff,crashing far below beyond where he could see. A light mistfell about him. It was suddenly so cold that he shivered.He pulled his warm woolen cloak closer.All around him were thick stands of trees and brightpurple and yellow flowering plants that seemed to grow outof the rocks themselves. Boulders and large stones werescattered among the low, scrubby brush. He followed thesnaking path, making his way down through the narrow cutin the foliage. A pony awaited him at the bottom: black asnight with a white star on its forehead. It was blowing gently.Cleve knew the pony. Although it was small, it seemedright to him. He realized that just as he knew the pony, heknew this land of crags and misting rain and air so soft andsweet it made him want to weep.There was a single wolfskin on his pony’s back which heknocked askew when he jumped onto its back. A momentlater, he was racing across a meadow that was filled withbright flowers, their sweet scent filling the air. The mistingrain stopped and the sun came out. It was high overhead,hot and bright. Soon he felt sweat bead on his forehead. Thepony turned at the end of the meadow toward another trailthat led eastward. He pulled the pony to a stop, turning itaway to the opposite direction. He felt sweat stinging hiseyes, wet his armpits. No, he didn’t want to go that way,just thinking of it made his belly cramp with fear. No, hewanted to ride away, far away, never to have to see . . . seewhat? He sat atop the pony’s back shaking his head backand forth. No, never would he go back. But then he knewhe would, knew he had no choice, and suddenly, he wasthere, staring blankly at the huge wooden house with its sodand shingled roof. This was no simple home really, but afortress. He realized then that he heard nothing, absolutelynothing. There was so much silence, yet men and womenwere working in the fields, carrying firewood, directingchildren. A man with huge arms was lifting a sword abovehis head, testing its weight and balance. There was nolaughter, no arguments, just a deathly silence that filled theair itself and he knew that was the way it always was. Thenhe heard low voices coming from within the huge fortress.He didn’t want to go in there. The voices became louder asthe immense wooden door opened. Through air that wasthick with smoke from the fire pit he could see men sharpeningtheir axes, polishing their helmets. He could seewomen weaving, sewing, and cooking. It all looked so normal,yet he wanted to run from this place, but he couldn’t.Then he saw her standing there, her golden head bowed, sosmall she was, so defenseless, and he backed away, shakinghis head, feeling a keening wail build up inside him. She’dspun, dyed, and woven his woolen cloak for him and heclutched it to him as if by doing so he could clutch her andsave her. A part of him seemed to know the danger she wasin; he also knew he was helpless to prevent what wouldhappen. He was outside the fortress now, but he could stillhear the calm, low voice that was speaking from somewherewithin. It was deadly, that voice, just as deadly as theman who possessed it. Soon he would be silent. Soon, allwould be silent, except for her. The low, deep voice murmuredon until it was pierced by the woman’s scream. Thatwas all it took; Cleve knew what had happened.He ran as fast as he could, looking frantically for thepony, but the pony was no longer there. He heard a cry ofpain, then another and another. The cries grew louder andlouder, filling him with such unutterable emptiness that hesaw nothing, became nothing.He gasped, jerking upright in his box bed.‘‘Papa.’’He heard her soft voice before he could react, before hecould pull himself away from the terror he couldn’t see, aterror that gnawed at him just the same. He knew, heknew . . .‘‘Papa. I heard you cry out. Are you all right?’’‘‘Aye,’’ he said finally, focusing on his daughter. Herhair, as golden as his own, fell in tangles around her smallface. ‘‘ ’Twas a vicious dream, naught more, just a dream.Come here, sweeting, and let me hug you.’’He tried to believe it was just a dream, nothing morethan a simple dream concocted out of the barley soup he’deaten for the evening meal.He lifted his daughter onto the box bed and pulled herinto his arms. He held her close to his heart, this smallperfect being whom he’d magically created. He tried not tothink of her mother, Sarla, the woman he’d loved who hadtried to kill him, particularly not so soon after that dreamthat still made his heart thud against his chest and madethe sweat itch in his armpits.Kiri kissed his chin, curling her thin arms around hisneck. She squeezed hard, then giggled, and that broughthim fully back into himself. It had been nothing but astrange dream, nothing more.She said, ‘‘I kicked Harald today. He said I couldn’t usehis sword. He said I was a girl and had enough to do withoutlearning to kill men. I told him he wasn’t a man, hewas just a little boy. He got all red in the face and calledme a name I know is bad, so I kicked him hard.’’‘‘Do you remember what Harald called you?’’She shook her head against his chest. He smiled downat her though he felt more heartache than he wished to leton. He couldn’t protect her forever from the truth. Childrenheard the adults talking. Sometimes they spoke of that timeso long ago and spoke of Sarla, then looked sideways atKiri, who looked nothing like her mother. No, Kiri was theimage of him. Were they trying to see Sarla in her? Aye,of course they were.He hugged Kiri to him. He loved her so much he achedwith it. This tiny scrap of his, so perfectly formed, a faceso beautiful he knew someday men would lose their headsat the mere sight of her. Yet from her earliest months Kirihad clutched at her father’s knife, not at the soft linenstuffeddoll her Aunt Laren had made for her. It was hewho arranged the stuffed doll where Kiri slept so Laren’sfeelings wouldn’t be hurt.To his now sleeping daughter he whispered, ‘‘I dreamedof a place that seems not so different from Norway, butdeep down I know it is. There was mist so soft you couldbelieve it woven into cloth, all gray and light, and yellowand purple flowers that were everywhere and I knew theywere everywhere, not just that place in my dream. It wasvery different from any place I have ever been in my life.It was familiar to me. I recognized it. I knew more fearthan I have in my life.’’He stopped. He didn’t want to speak aloud of it. It scaredhim, he freely admitted it to himself. He hadn’t been himselfin that dream, but he had, and that, he couldn’t explain.He kissed his daughter’s hair, then settled her against him.He fell asleep near dawn, the lush scent of those strangeflowers hovering nearby, teasing the air in his small chamber.Malverne farmsteadVestfold, NorwayNearly two years later‘‘Damnation, Cleve, I could have killed you. You’re juststanding there like a goat without a single thought in hishead, ready to take an arrow through his heart and be theevening meal. What is wrong with you? Where the hell isyour knife? It should be aimed at my chest, you damnedmadman.’’Cleve shook his head at Merrik Haraldsson, the man whohad rescued him along with Laren and her small brother,Taby, five years before in Kiev. Merrik was his best friend,the man who’d taught him to fight, to be a Viking warrior,the man who was now striding toward him, his bow at hisside, anger radiating from him because he feared Cleve hadnot learned his lessons well enough. It was an uncertainworld. Danger could appear at any moment, even here atMalverne, Merrik’s farmstead, a magnificent home surroundedwith mighty mountains and a fjord below that wasso blue it hurt the eyes when the sun shone directly uponit.Cleve waited. When Merrik was just an arm’s lengthfrom him, Cleve turned smoothly to his side, gracefullykicked out his foot, connecting with Merrik’s belly, nolower, for he didn’t want to send his friend into agony, thenhe leapt at him, his knee in his chest, knocking him backward.He landed on top of Merrik, straddling him, his knifepoised at his throat.Merrik looked surprised. He said nothing. He brought hisknees against Cleve’s back, hard, knocking the breath fromhim, even as he jerked sideways, hitting upward with hismighty arm, trying to throw Cleve to the ground beyondhim. Cleve dug his knees into Merrik’s lean sides, closedhis eyes against the pain in his back, and held on. WereMerrik an enemy, he would be dead, the knife sliding cleanand quickly through his neck, but this was naught but sportand there was more pain to be borne, more grunts andcurses to turn the air a richer blue than it now was in latespring, more breaths to explode into the warm afternoonlight, before Merrik would allow him to declare victory, ifthat would indeed be the outcome. Merrik was a cunningbastard and Cleve still hadn’t learned all his tricks, evenafter five long years.Oleg shouted from behind them, ‘‘Enough, both of you.You’ll kill each other and then what will Laren do? I’ll tellyou what. She’d take Merrik’s big sword and hit both yourbutts with the broad side. Then she’d kiss Merrik until hewanted to rut more than he wanted to fight.’’ He was laughing,standing over them now, hands on his hips. Oleg wasa big man, golden as most of the Vikings were, his eyes asblue as the summer sky.Finally, when Cleve lightened the pressure from Merrik’sthroat, Merrik splayed his hands upward in the dirt. ‘‘I amdefeated. Actually, I’m dead, truth be told. You and thatbloody knife, Cleve. You’ve gotten much too adroit withit. Then you’ve got the gall to toss it away and use yourelbows on me, a trick I taught you.’’‘‘You were angry, Merrik. You’ve told me often enoughthat a man is a fool if he allows himself to be angeredduring a fight.’’ Cleve grinned down at him. ‘‘Actually, Idon’t think you had a chance, angry or not.’’Merrik cursed him, loud and long, until all three of themwere laughing and others had come to them and were tellingsome of their own tales of cunning and guile.Cleve climbed off Merrik, then offered his hand to hisfriend. Merrik could have broken Cleve’s arm, could havethrown him six feet with a simple twist of his body, couldhave brought him eye to eye and crushed the life from him,but he’d claimed defeat, and thus the sport was done, atleast for now. There was always another day to test eachother’s strength.Suddenly, Merrik was as serious as he’d been when feverhad come to Malverne the past spring and killed ten of theirpeople. ‘‘Listen to me, Cleve. You can never relax vigilance,you know that. There is always trouble somewhere,and if you blink, the trouble can be right in front of you.Remember just weeks ago my cousin Lotti nearly diedwhen a wild boar came into the barley fields? She waslucky that Egill was nearby. You can never nap, my friend,never.’’Cleve remembered well enough and the memory stillmade his blood run cold. Cleve adored Lotti, a woman whocouldn’t speak but who could communicate just as clearlyas those who did by moving her fingers. It was a languageof her own creation but all the Malek people, her children,and her husband, Egill, understood, and spoke thus to heras well. Cleve himself had learned some words over thepast five years but he doubted his fingers could ever be soadroit as Lotti’s or Egill’s.‘‘I was thinking of a dream I had,’’ Cleve said. Nosooner had he said this than he wished he’d kept hismouth shut. Dreams were always important to Vikings,each one remembered was spoken about, argued overendlessly, until all were satisfied that it posed no dangerto any of them.‘‘What dream?’’ Oleg said, handing each man a cup ofpure fjord water, so cold in late spring that it constrictedthe throat.‘‘A dream that has come to me five times now.’’‘‘Five nights in a row?’’‘‘Nay, Oleg, five times over the past two years, it hascome unexpected. It has become fuller, richer, I suppose,like one of Ileria’s tapestries, yet I still can’t grasp what itmeans. But it means something, I know that it does. It’svery frustrating.’’‘‘Tell us,’’ Merrik said. ‘‘A dream that returns in fullerdetail could mean something very important, Cleve. Itcould portend things to come, mayhap dangers of which weknow naught as of yet.’’ ‘‘I cannot, Merrik. Not yet. Please, my friend, not yet.It’s not about here or about you. It’s about the past, thevery distant past.’’Merrik let it go. Cleve was as stubborn as Laren, Merrik’sred-haired wife, particularly once he’d made up hismind. As they walked down to the fjord to swim with ahalf dozen of the men and boys, he changed the subject.‘‘You leave tomorrow for Normandy and Rollo’s court.You will tell Duke Rollo we will come to Rouen to visitafter harvest.’’ He paused a moment, his face lighting withsuch affection that Cleve was glad Merrik’s sons weren’tthere to see it. ‘‘Tell Taby I will teach him a new wrestlingtrick. By all the gods, I miss him. He’s ten years old now,a handsome lad, honest and loyal.’’‘‘You couldn’t have kept him with you, Merrik. AsRollo’s nephew, he belongs in Normandy.’’ Aye, hethought, Rollo had subjugated northern France so that theFrench king had been forced to grant him the title of thefirst duke of Normandy and cede him all the land he alreadyheld. It was important that Rollo’s hold never be weakenedelse the country would again be ravaged by marauding Vikingraiders.‘‘I know, but it doesn’t make me miss him less.’’‘‘I will tell him his brother-in-law misses him so muchthat he failed to thrash a former slave.’’ Cleve thoughtabout that time five years before. Merrik had been tradingin Kiev. He’d wanted to buy a slave for his mother, buthad seen a small boy in the slave ring and been drawn tohim. He’d bought Taby and then rescued both Cleve andLaren, Taby’s sister, from the merchant who’d brought her.Merrik had loved Taby more than any other human being,save his wife, Laren, even more than his own sons.Cleve waited until Merrik smiled at that, then continued.‘‘I think Rollo wants to send me to Ireland to see KingSitric, at least that’s what his messenger hinted at. Sitricwas once a very old man near to death. Yet when we visitedRouen last year, Rollo told me that Sitric is again a manin his prime. Magic was wrought by a foreign magiciancalled Hormuze, who disappeared after he’d wrought thischange in the king. I can’t believe it, but most do. Odd, allof it. Do you know anything about this King Sitric, Merrik?’’‘‘I? Know about Sitric? Nay, Cleve, not a thing. Not asingle thing.’’Cleve knew Merrik was lying. He also knew he wouldn’tever find out why or what precisely he was lying about.Not unless he could find out from this King Sitric himselfor if he could manage to find more guile than Merrik possessed.He doubted that would happen.‘‘Laren and I are pleased that you’ve become Rollo’semissary. You have a wily tongue and a quick mind, Cleve.Rollo is lucky and he knows it.’’‘‘I could be an utter fool and Rollo would still rewardme since he believes I saved his beloved Laren and Taby.’’‘‘Rollo is fortunate,’’ Merrik said, and clapped Cleve onthe back. ‘‘Since you aren’t a fool, he can make good useof you as well as reward you.’’

From Our Editors

From the New York Times bestselling author comes the third novel in the Viking trilogy. All the characters from the first two Viking novels, Lord of Hawkfell Island and Lord of Raven's Peak, are back--five years older, but not necessarily wiser--and ready to stick their oars into Cleve and Chessa's problems. Special release date of 2/16/94. Original

Editorial Reviews

"Adventure, love, and humor keep readers entertained."
-SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL