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

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Old Stories: The Birth of Tavish, May 768 AD

When Laura and I discussed our stories decades later and I told her about my plan to turn it into a novel, we tlked about all the infidelity rampart in what I used to call "Ye Olde Soap Opera". We decided as w came to understand the characters as adults that they would never have betrayed each other if they could help it. Therefore in the novel Tavish could not be Lawrence's bastard with the Welsh girl, Lanimere, so we made him the very legitimate child of Lawrence's old friend, Ansovald. This is part of the old plot. I am a bit confused as I thought there were some other stories in this series, but withoutfurther ado...

t was the eighth of May, no special day as far as holidays went. The day had been uneventful; this was pleasing to Lawrence. When it came to excitement his royal upbringing showed piteously. He didn't like a lot of stir unless he'd planned it, such as the Maying next week, and the Spring tournaments. The Queen also preferred the quiet. She always had . She'd spend the morning in her Bower and had come to watch Lawrence in the court later. Then they'd eaten a filling dinner and gone to the King's chambers in the evening. It would have been a dull day for the Queen had she not had the King and thoughts of him to dwell upon.

Lawrence now lay on the bed. Jo sat beside him on the edge, brushing her long golden hair. The cool spring wind came in through the open window. The weather was calm, and pleasant, the kind of weather Lawrence said was like a Frenchman: fair gentle and deceptive. He had a bitter hatred for the French, thou' he was truly a charitable, loving young king. Only his Queen and his closest friends knew the reason for his hatred.

Lawrence reached up and stroked the silken threads of gold. He asked if he could brush it for her. She assented gladly, for he was very painstaking, and it felt good to her. Josephine like not feel his hands on her cheek, and neck, and often he would kiss her as he brushed her hair.

In the far distance, thunder rumbled. "'Tis in Scotland, probably. It will come here, too." Lawrence chuckled a little. "Shannon says he used to love thunderstorms. Not any more.. Heather isn't very afraid of them!"

Jo shook her head in sympathy.

Both were startled by a loud banging on the large door of the chamber. It was a housearl, saying that there was a grave emergency and that the King must attend. Lawrence hesitated. Jo sensed no danger t him and nodded, so he grabbed his cloak and left, not forgetting a kiss for his queen.

Out in courtyard, he and the housearl mounted and rode through the freshly begun rain to a cottage on the far side of Ratherwood. In the castle, Jo had summoned her Lady Jocelyn to talk and help lessen her fear of the thunder until Lawrence would return and comfort her.

The King was puzzled by this call, and somewhat unsure of his safety. Why would a peasant require his King's help so urgently? His questions were answered when he was led into the bedroom of the meager hut. It was Lanimere…but not as he remembered her, fresh, beautiful and defiant. She lay on the bed soaked in her own sweat, and writhing in pain. "Oh my God!" thought Lawrence, "She's bearing my baby. I'd almost forgotten about it…"

She screamed and then saw the King. She gasped, "Ye came? I didn't think ye would. Oh…oh Lawrence, hold my hand! I beseech ye!"

He fell to his knees and clasped her hand. " L-Lanimere! Thou'rt here…in Ratherwood?"

She gritted her teeth a moment and then said, "Aye, I came to be sure ye'd be here when the accursed child came. I know ye hate me, but stay for the sake of the child, the prince, until ye can take it back to that queen of yours." She moaned.

The midwives arrived and inspected the woman on the cot, shading their heads mournfully.

Lawrence was in a panic. He'd never been present at a birth before, as men were deemed unlucky at that moment in a woman's life.

Lanimere began whimpering and pushing with all her strength. One of the midwives shouted at her not to, for the baby was not right in the womb and would be crushed. Lanimere despairingly cried she couldn't help it. She needed to be distracted. Terrified, Lawrence set his lips firmly on hers and pressed with all his might. She relaxed very slightly, but just enough to let me midwife right the baby.

Now suddenly Lanimere let out a shriek and the child came. Just as the babe breathed its first breath of life, its mother breathed her last. Lawrence crossed himself and stood, to receive the child, his little son. The boy had light skin, and thick, curly brown hair. When the atheling opened his eyes to the blur of the new world, Lawrence saw to his dismay that they were deep brown.

The priest gave the woman her last rites. The wee child was separated from her. The young bastard prince was wrapped in white cloth and the king carried him away, sheltering him from the rain. Lawrence was still stunned and walked as one asleep.

In the castle, he pushed the camber door open and stood, pale. Jocelyn saw his face; with a whimper of fear and sympathy she left. The Queen stared back at him. He held out the squalling infant to her. She took it. He moaned, "That's Lanimere's baby…my baby. Lanimere's dead." He closed the door behind him and walked to the bed where he put his head against the canopy post.

Jo looked at the baby a moment and then smiled. It was a handsome baby, for a newborn. It opened its eyes wide and stared unseeing at the Queen. "Oh, what beautiful big brown eyes!" she exclaimed.

"How ironic," Lawrence thought. "The one thing that proves it was that Welsh wench's baby. There has been many dark-haired members of both our lines, but never a dark-eyed one!"

Jo took the little boy over and put him in the middle of the great bed, cooing to him all the while. Then she went to his father, who whirled about to receive her in his arms. Holding her dispersed the horror she sensed he felt. Afterwards, they both looked at the sleeping child. "Someday I'll have to tell him!" the King groaned.

"What shall we call him?" the Queen asked, smiling.



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About the author

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