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 18, 2009

Old Stories: Elerde Saves the Queen's Life, 768 AD

Lord Elerde sat upon the floor of his cell, his arms folded and his lips tight and his face grim.

"Well?" he snapped at the mousy servant fidgeting outside his cell.

"She will not come in, milord."

"Damn!" he cried, clenching his fists. After a minute of thought, he sent the messenger to his good friend Brian to ask him to beg Jo to come see him.

"There is someone to see you, Jo." Shannon said kindly. "I'll stay with Lawrence for a while."

Jo thanked him quietly and slipped from the room.

She started when she beheld Elerde's friend but composed herself quickly.

"Madame, you are very kind to hear me," he said, politely bowing before her.

"I know what you want, and the it cannot be. I cannot, will not go to see him. Please save your breath."

" I do not believe, dear lady you are so cruel. What harm can it do? Perhaps he shall be put to death. Do you deny him the right see her whom he loves so dearly, her whom he dies for, one last time? I beseech thee, in the name of mercy, give him but five minutes of your time! I promise you, you shall not be sorry."

"Well. I …began Josephine doubtfully. But so kind was her nature she could not refuse and accompanied Brian to Elerde's cell.

"Josephine!" cried he when he beheld her in the doorway. At the tone in his voice, Josephine became very confused. Her face flushed deeply and she could not look at him.

"How I love you, Josephina!" he cried with feeling.

"No! You must not say that. Please!" said she, her thoughts in confusion. For it was no small compliment he paid her.

"You are unfair. I love you as much as HE does. Oh God that I had not met you first!"

"Oh! Do not say such a thing!"

"Forgive me, Josephine." He said, seeing that she really was distraught.

She turned to leave but he called after her. " Jo! Would you leave me here to rot? Do I deserve this?"

"Yes! Oh Yes. When I think…" and she saw again Lawrence lying silent on the ground, his crimson blood spilling out upon the earth.

"Oh yes, that," he cried, bitterly. "But you have forgotten, did you not, your dear Lawrence murdered Robert?" he saw her go pale and knew he had hit the mark. "Yet you have forgiven him. He did it for your love. I also strove against him out of love for you."

He watched the conflict in her face. She was a woman and woman said to her, "He loves you. How can you hate him?" And woman won.

Quickly she left the room. He heard the exclamation of surprise from the guard. A minute late the guard appeared and grudgingly let him out of the cell.

Outside, a small girl watched for Josephine. She tugged on the hem of Jo's gown.

"What is it, child?" she asked kindly.

"Please, milady. Come with me." On an impulse, Jo agreed. The palace of Sunshine was actually three buildings when Lawrence had built his capital. He had built two castles on either side of one that had been there before. It was to this old part of the castle she found herself being led. And Elerde, emerging from the prison noted where she was going.

High, high up a turret they climbed. AT last she found herself in a barren room with an old woman. She was a lady though Jo was completely bewildered as to who she was.

"You are proud of yourself, I suppose," she said critically.

" I don't understand."

"Oh, I know your ways. You flirt and act all innocent with men till they all fall in love with you and kilt each other. Oh, I know your charms!"

Jo was completely bewildered. "Who are you?"

The woman was haughty. "I? I was once the proud mother of a kind and gentle woman who raised her son as a noble gentleman. But all this is gone now. Because that young man was murdered and his sweet mother has died of grief. But perhaps you may recognize me. He resembled me very much."

Jo looked closer at her. She started and gave a little cry. "Robert!" The word trembled on her lips.

"Yes, that was his name. He that you charmed reason away from. You brought him to his death just as you will bring he who lies in the prison at this moment. Oh, yes, I know you. I have watched every man in the court. There is not one man among them who would not give up his honor, homes, families or even wives if by doing so he could have you. You will come between Lawrence and his friends. You will cause this whole country to be divided up by the jealously you cause."

While she spoke, Josephine had unconsciously backed up. Now she found herself at the balcony. She could go no further. There was strange smell in the room. Josephine felt very dizzy. She looked over the edge . the world swam before her eyes.

"You are the ruin of this country. The murderer of my son. Why don't you throw yourself out. End it all! We all will be happier without you!"

"Yes, yes," she whispered, leaning far out into nothingness. "Robert's murder. Rory, Rory…too."

She hung far over the precipice. In another second she would have fallen. In that instant, far below there was a shout, "Now!" followed by an explosion. Instantly, her senses were cleared and she grappled for balance. The castle had been attacked.

She strained to see what was going on. Everyone was in mad confusion below. Hundred of mounted knights were charging down upon the castle. She could see a great battle going on far to right. Now it had spread and men were fighting all around. She heard a great deal of shouting inside this part of the castle. She smelled smoke.

"Oh God, help us! The castle is on fire!" Smoke began to seep through the floor.

The old woman had made it to the door first. Quickly she slipped through the door and shut and bolted it.

In a panic Jo pounded on the door and screamed. She began to cough. The smoke grew thicker. She gave up on the door and tried to get to the window. But she fainted on the way there. Little red dancing bits of flamed appeared on the cracks of the floor.

The door crashed open. A ghostly figure appeared in the doorway. He was covered in black soot from head to toe. He was desperate, for fear she was dead.

"Good God!" he cried when he beheld her prostrate form.

He snatched her up from the just before the flames reached her..

Elerde managed somehow to get down out of the building. All around him the castled burned and crashed in. Had he been alone he would have perished. But the precious burden in his arms drove him on.

The attackers hand been drive back. The oldest part of the castle had been given up as lost.

High up in the turret and old woman screamed curses at the world till at last the whole thing collapsed.

Lawrence cursed and directed from his bed, angry that he could not be defending his castle and kingdom.

All the efforts the men now turned toward keeping the two other parts of the castle from burning. At last the flames were extinguished and the hubbub died down.

Lawrence held a council. The rebellion had been the work of a few villainous barons. The words against them were hot and angry. Although their forces were scattered, they could not be allowed to patch their wounds together and try again. Obviously, Lawrence could not ride with his armies. He had to find a man capable of routing the villains and send them packing.

At that moment, a man entered the room. "I am the man you want," he said simply.

For a moment, Lawrence was doubtful. But as he thought it over, he nodded to himself.

"By God, Yes!" And he and Lord Elerde shook hands.

Tomorrow: Some old drawings from this story line.

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About the author

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