Before there was the novel, there were the stories...

by Nan Hawthorne, who also writes under Christopher Hawthorne Moss, Books and Stories b ChristopherHawthorne Moss at

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

New Stories: When Shannon Met Heather

There are three types of stories related to An Involuntary King. The first are the original letters and stories or "scenes" Laura and I each wrote in the 1960s. The second are the stories I wrote within the past three or so years for the creative writing group Ghostletters. There arre quite a lot of these, and many of them had characters and story lines that had to be jettisoned to make the novel, which is the third type, the length and structure it had to be. If the stories posted over the next few days ever see the light of day on paper, it will be in a sequel to the novel.

When Shannon Met Heather


Shannon O'Neill sat alone near the massive hearth in the castle at Lawrencium. He was picking out a tune on his lute, trying different harmonies and variations. He did not notice the servant who came in and stood near him until the man cleared his throat. Shannon looked up as if woken from a dream. "Och, Hugh me lad. Do ye need somethin' of me?"

"Nay, O'Neill. I have something for thee. It's a message.. from Scotland." Hugh held out his hand to give the minstrel a many times folded piece of parchment that had clearly been riding in a saddlebag for some time.

Shannon looked up at the man. "Scotland?" he inquired. "Connery, mayhap?"

Hugh shrugged and turned, leaving the packet in the Irishman's hand as he left.

Shannon sat for several minutes just looking at the packet. He was afraid to open it, of what it might contain. As he started to pick at the crude string that kept the folded parchment shut, his friend Rory McGuinness walked in and over to where he sat. "Now then, old son, what have ye there?"

Shannon's hand was trembling. "A message from Connery.. Sure and I think it be from me own darlin' Heather."

"Aye, then, what are ye waitin' for, man? Read it." Rory urged.

Shannon looked at Rory and then down at the packet again. "Och, I cannae. Ye read it and tell me if 'tis bad news. Somethin' has happened to her or two Seamus or Deirdre.. or to Sean and his family." He handed the packet over, and shut his eyes tight as the taller man opened it and read to himself.

"'Tis good news," he told the O'Neill, who still kept his eyes shut.

"What kind o' good news?" Shannon asked querulously.

Rory lifted the parchment and read,

Dear Shannon,

I need to speak with ye. I am coming to Lawrencium and bringing the children. Please stay there until I get there.


Shannon took the letter from his friend and looked at it. "Aye, that be her writin'." He just stared at it for several moments, then his face broke into a joyous smile. "Heather, me darlin' bride! Rory, she's comin' back to me!" He grabbed his lute and began energetically to pick out a jig.

Rory looked worried. "Aye, but Shan, me lad. She says she wants to talk wi' ye. Do ye not think.."

Shannon broke off playing and chided his friend, "Och, dear man, none o' ye'r dark clouds today. She wants to talk, aye.. about a reconciliation!" He strummed a few quick chords. "Sure and does it say when she is comin'?" He handed the message over to Rory again.

Rory's concern at his friend's reaction made him reply irritably. "What d'ye think that part is written in McGuinness? Ye can read, can't ye?" But he took the parchment and looked it over. "Well, let's see… she wrote the note on Candlemas day… and said she would be here by Easter.. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, that's Sunday next!"

Shannon's mouth dropped open. "Faith, and I need to make things ready for her and the wee ones. D'ye think Lawrence will let me have a room for them? And me too of course?"

Rory gave him a familiar, "What do ye think? O' course he will" look. Shannon stood, handed Rory his lute and tore out of the Hall.

Shannon took over the same room that had been Juliana's while she was in Lawrencium. Larisa and the Queen fussed over it, making sure the servants cleaned it and brought trundle beds for the children. The fire was rebuilt and rosewater sprinkled about. Josephine was rather relieved to have the room occupied and the sense and scents of Juliana gone.

Larisa watched Shannon as he dashed about, in and out of the room and to the window. "O'Neill, how old are the children now?"

He stopped in mid dash and looked at her, a little panicky, and counted on his fingers. "Well, let's see… Seamus would be four.. no, five, and Deirdre, well.. she would be almost three."

Josephine looked at Larisa and said, "Well we had better get the girls and Tavish to volunteer some of their toys." Larisa gave her a look that communicated, "Good luck with that." They both looked at Shannon as he paced and fidgeted and chuckled.

"Verily, it mayst have been just as well the King knew not thou were arriving when thee did, my lady . He shouldst have been much worse than this one!" Larisa joked, her eyes twinkling.

When Shannon abruptly dashed from the room, Josephine, who had been arranging some early spring flowers in a bowl, turned and said in a confidential voice, "I worry about him, Larisa. Every time Heather hath come or he hath gone to her she hath hurt him somehow. Rory told me there was nothing in the message that shouldst have caused him to be so hopeful." She stood with her arms crossed. "I know not how many more times Shannon can take this."

Larisa sighed. "Well, my lady, all we canst do is hope and pray."

Josephine nodded. "Amen to that."

It was hard for Shannon to sit still during the days that followed. He could occasionally calm himself by playing his lute quietly in the Hall. On one such occasion Lady Jocelyn heard him and came to sit and listen. Shannon looked up and smiled at her.

"That is so lovely, Shannon. Thou truly loves this lady, doth thou not?" Jocelyn's young face held a sweet smile.

"Aye, and that I do. Loved her these many years since we met in Scotland." He gave a wistful look to the side.

Continuing to play quietly on his lute, Shannon told Jocelyn the story of how he met and fell in love with his wife, Heather.


Shannon sat with the wee ones in front of the little cottage of the friend he had made at the royal court in Lawrencium. Sean had invited him to come with him on his long trek back to his home in Scotland to spend some time while the King and Queen rested at Ratherwood together in the summer heat. Sean was a soldier turned minstrel who longed for nothing so much as to return to his beloved wife Emily and their children and start crofting. The man and wife were in the cottage now, rekindling their love, while Shannon obligingly kept the wee ones out of the way for a while.

A light voice startled Shannon out of a reverie. It was feminine and spoke in Scots Gaelic, but he knew enough to recognize the inquiry, "Who are you? Where is Emily?"

The Irishman looked up at a slim girl, probably no more than 17, with chestnut brown hair and steely gray blue eyes. She leveled a look of suspicion at him with her pretty but serious face. She was dressed simply as would befit a woman of her village.

Shannon stood and made a courteous bow. "Shannon O'Neill, at your service. I am with Sean. He and Emily are getting.. reacquainted. I thought I'd keep the children occupied meanwhile."

The girl's face relaxed. "Sean's back? Emily has so looked forward to that. His long absences are very hard on her."

Shannon gazed at the girl. "Aye, and that may be a thing of the past. He is back to stay." He gestured for her to sit by him, but she resisted the invitation. He sat anyway. "May I be asking your name, darlin'?"

She pursed her lips. "An Irishman, I hear from your accent. I suppose it can't hurt to tell you my name. It's Heather."

Shannon pulled his lute from behind where he had been sitting and started to pick out a melody, crooning her name quietly as he did.

"Another minstrel," Heather said with a sniff.

"You be after not likin' minstrels?" Shannon's smile was teasing.

"Nay, they make women swoon, then have their way only to go on to other villages and other women," she snapped.

He put his lute down again and considered her. "Sean has been like a monk, in spite of me best efforts to lead him astray."

Heather replied, "Aye, I hope that is so. But he still goes off for months at a time, leaving Emily here to raise the children and keep the farm." She cast a look at the cottage. "Well, I have work to do… I will come back later. Will you be here?"

He nodded and her reaction told him she was less than pleased to hear he would be. He shook his head at her retreating figure, but his interest was piqued. He would get to know her better.

This story continues tomorrow.

(c) 2007

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About the author

Nan Hawthorne now writes under the name Christopher Hawthorne Moss. You can contact Christopher at .