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

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Old Stories: The Decision to Go to Ratherwood, 769 AD

I notice that Samir is mentioned in this story, along with Eric. Eric the Dane, as I have bmentioned before, was Lawrence's best friend and had been in the stories for some time before this. Samir al Tamid arrived in the kingdom with his companion, Sir Michael, whom we later learn was also his lover. From Samir's appearance I can tell one thing about my real life at this point. My father, divorced since about 1967, had met and was planning to marry a lovely woman named Kay. I was looking forward to living in a better house and going to a better school with my new step-sister Suellen. I had roped her into the story to play Michael. When the wedding was called off suddenly -- my father did that -- I lost my story partner too. The gay story line came up a little later.

Looking down at Donalbain, the King laughed and cooed. Baby eyes stared up at the light from a window behind his father. Then the prince's gaze fell on an arm bracelet of gold the King wore. Seeing his son's interest, Lawrence took it off and gave it to him. Then he laughed again, pulling Donalbain up to his and saying "Ah, my child, my child! The nursemaid, Rachel, smiled and shook his head.

There were several nursemaids in the room, but each was preoccupied with her charge. I was Rachel who had a peculiar honor. In the Queen's fight with the court to keep the Jewish maiden in her household, both sides had to compromise. The Queen had meant the girl for Donalbain, but had to assign her to little Tavish. Because of this, the Queen had promoted a friendship between the girl and the King, and, since the King had not known Rachel had been meant for Donalbain, he was grateful to his wife for assigning her to his son.

Lawrence had just put Donalbain back into his cradle when his wife walked in. She curtsied low, and said, gaily, "I though I'd find thee here! Thou should not be so dedicated to thy children…"

"And why not> Oh, I know, it's not good for a king's image to fawn so over his children." He took his wife by the waist and kissed her gently. "But thou knowest open affection to the Queen is also frowned upon, but though hast not discouraged that!" They both laughed. Taking leave of the maids they left together for the great hall.

In the passageway they passed Elerde, whose eternal melancholy had reached an apex. He lowered his eyes when they went by, in order not only to avoid the Queen's affectionate gaze, but to avoid Lawrence's strange one.

For recently their flawless accord had corroded. Sight of Elerde had begun to make him remember all his disquieting thoughts about his Jo. She looked up at his troubled face and sighed, wishing he could forget those silly thoughts. She'd noticed how he'd begun to disagree with Elerde on subjects everyone knew they agreed about. Elerde had often requested leave, knowing full well he would be refused it. The King knew that allowing Elerde to leave would only cause worse scandal.

As the Queen said, the King's image was not in the best shape. Not long ago he'd been praised as a most romantic person, a brave and victorious general, a just king, and a hole defender of the faith. Now the people were seeing him in a different light. His life to them had seemed quite unromantic, having not fought a ward for months, his inner turmoil affecting his justice and his bastard and friendly relations with unbelievers chafing the Churchmen and his their parishes. To the courtiers he was all to human. Then his poor relations with France frightened the people who knew well the ambition of King Charles, and irritated the Gauls who held land in Affynshire and Christenlande, particularly around the small estate called Riffet.

After many decisions on some trivial affairs, Lawrence and his queen retired to a small anteroom to talk. They talked about Donal mainly, and went out into the garden to watch the returning birds and the life returning with spring's homecoming. In was warm to stroll, but wore cloaks against the nip of the wind.

"Isn't it wonderful how the world seems to be being reborn, my lord?" asked the Queen. "We've been together for more than a year now, my love."

"Aye, I know. I've thought much about it. And do ye know, loved, I'm more in love with thee than ever before?" He stroked her hair gently and picked up a scented tress and put it to his lips.

"Imagine, if there had never been a you, I'd probably be wed to some hideous heiress, begetting ugly children and living up to the standards?? My father was a good king, he had a wife to whom affection was shown only within the confines of his chambers, and bore him five children to whom little or no affection was shown and he lived up to every standard, kingly, sacred and moral. But he did not fulfill all of his expectations. Fine children he had, but not fit to rule. The girls were fine marriageable material, but one died and the other ran away to wed her own love, one who was already an ally. His eldest was fit only for a monastery, the third only for a dungeon and the only one fit to be a king may deteriorate from humanness before his eldest can come to age."

Josephine put her head on his chest. "Cannot the people remember the Arthurian ideals? Love. Aye, that's the word."

"Nay, my dearest, it would never be the same. Thou art an Arthur, and (I'll be honest with thee) Elerde is a Lancelot,, I am not a Guinevere! And there is no Morganwse, no Mordred, and no men or spirits hunt the grail. And most important, there is an heir! And thou and thy people need to be honest with thyself. This is no Realm of Logres, just a small but powerful nation. We must take on Camelot's ideals and not try to see ourselves better than we are. Look around thee…Were it not better to see life in close view, than not at all, my love? Thou see it as it is, all full of love and glory because thou art human. Thy father did not see it at all. All he saw was death and what would be said of him when he was dead. Do you understand what I mean, Lawrence?"

He had been standing with his back to her, but turned at her questions. His face was lit up by a new comprehension, one had not had time for before. " I understand, my Jo. Looking at thee, I see life, for in truth, you are my life. Thus in life I see beauty, joy, spring and love. If thou love me forever, then the colors of life will whirl around me forever, until I am dizzy and giddy - Come let me take life in my arms and hold it tight." She went to him jus as, in other part of the garden, a minstrel pulled the strings of his lute and lifted his voice into a love song. "Josephine, let's go away. Let's take a long vacation somewhere. Lorin can handle affairs as well as I ever can." He added "Especially with Elerde here to help him."

Josephine's eyes danced. "Who shall we take with us? Where shall we go?"

"We'll not take anyone with us. Not Sean, not Emily, not Eric, Samir, or even the children. We shall go to Ratherwood. The happiest days in my life were spent there. We shall take a retinue, your servants and mine, and the guards, but that is all. Our lives are too complicated with others. We are like the world. For many days we toil and mix with our difficulties., but sometimes we must rest. Let this be our Sunday!" He caught her by the hand and with a silent exchange of adoring looks, they walked through the garden.

Next: Elerde and Tavish

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About the author

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