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

Monday, June 22, 2009

Old Stories: Christmas 768 AD

If Richard Sharpe can have a Christmas story, then I guess so can the crew in Lawrencium. I knew nothing about Anglo Saxon holilday traditions when i wrote this. In fact, I didn't know much if anything about Anglo Saxons back when i wrote this in 1968. But the spirit of giving is forever, right?

December 768

Heather looked sadly at Shannon, who slept peacefully, his head cradled in her arms. "Oh how can ye Shannon, my love?" she thought, and nearly wept to think how, even on Christmas morning, the thoughts tormented her. All she could think of were scene's of Shannon's eyes going to the Queen, love songs to Jo, the melancholy he fell into so often. She loved her husband very much, but was not able to understand his love for the Queen. She tried to force back a sob, but the slight heaving of her chest woke Shannon. His sleepy eyes looked into hers anxiously.

"What's wrong, dearest?"

"Oh, nothing. I only coughed;" she did no disguise the thickness of her voice. She turned away from him. "Rub my back, love."

"Of course, me darlin'" Shannon's eyes grew ominous, and there was no doubt in his mind about the cause of her sorrow.

At lunch, he caught himself gazing at the Queen. He noticed Lawrence no longer glared at those who gazed at his wife. But he guessed Lawrence felt it, like an acid on his heart.

Later he was granted an audience with the King. Jo, of course, was there, almost incredibly large with child. This of course, was awkward and uncomfortable for her, but she was proud that she bore Lawrence's child, and was happy it would be big and healthy. When he saw her, Shannon remarked, "Sure, and that one's a boy!"

Lawrence's eyes twinkled and he threw an arm about Jo, who was delighted. But when Shannon's face grew sad, they simultaneously lost their smiles. "What on earth bothers you, man?" Lawrence asked. Shannon went up to them, and taking Jo's hand, he said, "'I've come to very painful decision. I'm sorry to be telling ye like this, on Christmas, but it is too urgent."

They listened sadly to his plan.

In the great hall, that evening, servants rushed about a great tree, set in a corner. It was several feet tall, and very beautiful. They carried puddings, and pastries, capons and beef, jugs of ale and bottles of warm, spiced wine. There was to be no meal tonight, just snacks. All the children of the castle stood around the tree, trying to reach sweets and cookies hung on it, suffering an occasional minor burn or needle prick. Catie and Elaine held hands and gazed up at the star on the tree; Peter jabbered merrily with Seamus; Shannon's nephew Jamie watched Tavish curiously. The royal bastard lay in a cradle by the tree, his big brown eyes wide with excitement, gurgling and laughing, and waving his arms. Servants kept having to push children away from the tree. No gifts were under this tree- all were under private trees.

Soon all the guests had seated themselves in the hall. It was the usual large company of the Yule season. There were princes, nobles, churchmen and gentry, all eating as if they never had before. Lawrence ate little, and kept thing thinking of past Christmases, "How different it is now," the thought. "So wonderful to have my Jo with me." Purposely, he broke off the feasting to make an announcement a while later. "Please, those of you I name, grant me your company in my chambers, half an hour from now - let's see - Shannon, Heather, Sean, Emily, Lorin, Larisa, Finnegan, Percy, Jocelyn, and Sir Michael, Samir and Rebecca. Bring your gifts and, of course, your children!" All stood as he took the Queen's hand and they left.

The assembly of fourteen people in Lawrence's spacious apartment was quite gay. A tree was set in a corner, and gifts were set all around it. All ten children, no matter how young, seemed filled with joy. The elders sat on chairs, the babies held by their parents, the tots seated on the floor. The talk was warm and happy. Lawrence requested each of his friends request a boon of him as a gift. Jo asked first. "May we go away somewhere after the child is born?" Then Lorin requested some of Christenlande's newly acquired land for his baby son, John. Sean said he would wait, as did Shannon. Finnegan asked permission to have his wife sent here; Samir requested knighthood, and Rebecca asked for a small room for her own worship, and for those of her tribe in Lawrencium. To the surprise of all, Percy asked for the king's permission to marry Jocelyn! Michael asked for a sword. All requests, of course, were granted, and then gifts were exchanged.

After much oohing and ahhing, and the glee of the tots, all sat around and talked. Lawrence held Tavish in his arms and talked baby talk to him. Suddenly, Tavish looked up at his father said quite clearly, "Da!" Lawrence was overjoyed! "My God, where did you hear that?! He knows me! What a bright little child! Oh, Da's little angel!" Everyone laughed to see their royal sovereign thus.

Quite late, all wandered off to bed. Shannon and Heather walked silently to tie room. Once there, Shannon abruptly took his wife in his arms and kissed her passionately. "Heather," he said. I've but one more gift to give you this evening. We leave the first of January for Ireland…

Tomorrow: Rory's Killer Arrives at Court

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About the author

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