- Virginia Johnson
Sword Song by Rosemary Sutcliff
"Just go! A man with a sword need never lack the means of life--or death. If after five years you still live and you shall be free to return and take your place in the settlement again, it may be that I shall be able to stand the sight of you."
With these harsh words from his chief, Bjarni Sigurdson, a young Viking swordsman, is banished from his home.
Yet Bjarni knew he was lucky. He and his brother had only been half a year at the settlement when Bjarni pushed a priest into the pond for kicking his dog. He held him under a bit as well to teach him a lesson; he hadn't intended that the man should die. Since Rafyn the Chief had sworn an oath to his foster brother that none who professed the faith of Christ would be molested in his land, to do any less than banish Bjarni would be impossible.
Even so, this act of mercy made the chief an oathbreaker. Bjarni should have paid with his life. Instead Bjarni takes the weapon that is given to him and sets off to try his luck as a sell-sword, first to the city of Dublin, then upon the northern seas where blood feuds reign.
Dragon's Bait by Vivian Vande Velde
Alys was worried. Her father had been ill for a very long time. He was still much too sick to run his tinshop, so she helped out as best she could, but they were barely keeping themselves fed. Until the day Alys was accused of being a witch.
Inquisitor Atherton came to her door, smiling his dead smile. He had Alys' wrists bound behind her and threatened to gag her, too, if she talked during what he called her trial. Had the widow's goat not gone dry the day after Alys passed her house? Hadn't the carpenter's apprentice hurt his hand after she argued with him over the price of a footstool? Never mind that the goat was old and the apprentice was always clumsy.
She wondered what was behind it all. Her neighbors, some kindly and caring during her father's illness, tried to defend her, but they were silenced.
Then the lies began, horrible lies. Gower, the wheelwright, and his wife and daughter told them eagerly. Alys understood now: Gower wanted her father's shop, and her father would not sell. They placed her in a cart and carried her to the top of a hill whose rocks were rent with deep grooves and trees were blasted and scorched. Then they sank a rough-hewn pole in the ground, lit the place up with torches, and left her -- for the dragon.
But Selendrile is not an ordinary sort of dragon, even as dragons go. He is of the golden variety, the kind that can shape-shift into a hawk, a stag, or even a handsome young man. Selendrile offers Alys what she wants most: revenge on the villagers who put her to the stake. But is his offer kindly meant, or is it, not Alys, the real Dragon's Bait?