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 16, 2009

Old Stories: Lawrence's Fight with Elerde of Brittany, July 768 AD

I dropped the character of Robert de Riffet in the novel, allowing Laura's character, Elerde of Brittany, all the limelight as Josephine's darkly sensual admirer. Unfortunately for Elerde, he never got as far as poor old Robert did. Luckily for Lawrence.

ife was gayer than usual. Although Josephine and Lawrence were always happy and content together, just not much occurred in Lawrencium. Christenlande's capital tended to be a bit on the dull side. Both the King and Queen felt it. There was an occasional feast, and a lot of scandals, but otherwise all they did was sit in court trying to look pleasant.

But now! Lawrence had set for mid-September a tournament, and had invited the Lord of Brittany and his knights. The Frenchman had quickly accepted, and soon enough arrived, with much of his household. Lawrence now spent much time bragging about "formidable English steel, only outshined by the valor of English knights," et cetera, and the Queen was frequently with the Breton ladies, discussing fashions, the news from France, and particularly the new king, Charles, who was said to very handsome, brace, and courteous.

Lawrence had a habit of calling his wife by different names, depending upon his present mood. When he was either very stern or emotional, it was Josephine, when affectionate, Jo, when in polite company, My Lady, or My Dearest Queen. When he was excited, it was Josie, sentimental, Sunshine, and when he was being melodramatic, it was Josephina.. Well now he was calling her "Josie" and beaming from ear to ear.

In the kitchens, beef, mutton, hams and venison were roasting. One couldn't begin to count the loaves of bread and barrels of wine. And not only was the feast to be great, but the garb of the guests and hosts was quite dazzling. There was silk, fur, brocade, cloth of gold, jewelry and tons of other things. For once Lawrence swerved from his traditional garments and donned a fine silver-embroidered green silk tunic, over a white silk shirt. His shoes were fine leather, with engraved straps. He wore and emerald medallion, many rings, and his gold crown. He wore no hose, not caring for them, but his shoe straps bound his leg to the knee. Josephine was ravishing in a clinging gray dress of gossamer-like cloth, low cut at the breast, embroidered with silver and set with topaz. She wore a pearl necklace and her gray silk coif had pearls sewed on it with silver thread. She, of course, wore her topaz rings. Though the Frenchman were elegant in their rare attire, there were no two as handsome as the King and Queen.

The first day of the tournament had been quite pleasant, and the guests and hosts set into their feast joyously. It was only a tourney, so naturally the lances had been blunted and the swords covered with dull covers. The only injuries had been a few broken fingers, and a rib or two. Shannon had attempted a bout, and had been promptly been unhorsed and badly shaken. When the day was over, those among the remaining English contenders were Lawrence, Percy, and Christophe. The last had roughly accepted kind plea to join his side, although it hardly mattered. No real challenges hand been made yet, except an angry quarrel between two young knights, which was discouraged, and assuaged quickly.

Now on the evening of the second day, the King and Queen sat at the head of the great hall, conversing happily with the lord of Brittany and his pretty young wife. Josephine looked out over the crowded hall and smiled and the enjoyment everyone seemed to feel. Her eyes sought out Shannon. Now, Tramtrist had become the most favored of the minstrels, but she saw Shannon where she knew he would be, amongst a group of children, who were laughing and singing with him, although many of the Breton children spoke no English.

In the midst of the merriment, a young Frenchman strode up form the back of the hall. He knelt quickly to the King, and then kissed the hem of Queen's skirts. Tilting his face to her, she know had full view of his face, and she gasped. She threw a frightened, helpless look at Shannon. He shook his head and pointed to the man, but the Queen grimly nodded.

The knight stood. He threw his gauntlet at the King's feet, and looked down coolly. Lawrence laughed, but the look angered hi, and he asked sharply what the grievance of the man was. The knight said only, " I am Elerde, Knight of Brittany."

A shiver went through the room. Just recently it had been made publicly known that Sir Elerde intended to have the thing he'd desired so long - the Queen. He'd just challenged her lord to a combat to the death.

Lawrence's face became flushed and his eyes were sharp with fury. He picked up the gauntlet and with all his strength, crushed it. Elerde tried to hide his uneasiness at this, and said calmly, "Tomorrow, then?" and threw an amorous glance at the Queen. She shuddered and clung to the King as they both watched Elerde leave the hall.

That evening, the King paced the floor of the royal chambers. The Queen sat on the bed, weeping. Shannon acme and tired to calm the King, who merely said coldly, "Save thy breath for comforting thy Queen. I cannot be calmed." Shannon had tried both, but finally left, having failed.

The next day, the Queen requested that the Irishman and his wife sit with her in her pavilion. She was nearly distraught with anxiety and lack of sleep. She pressed Shannon's hand close in hers, while on the other side, he held Heather close.

A few minor battles were fought, and finally Lawrence and Elerde advanced onto the tourney field and lowered their lances to her. Then they went to opposite sides of the field and began the tilting. It was eight tilts before Lawrence took a slight wound on his shoulder, and dismounted to continue with sword. For a long time the fought, both taking some bad blows, until the battle turned obviously to Lawrence's favor. Soon he had Sir Elerde at his mercy. Shannon felt himself clutched from both sides, as Lawrence raised his sword, but threw it aside. Unlacing his helmet, he swore loudly and threw it aside also. Then he rose, and hotly walked off to his squires. But suddenly, Elerde was also, and grabbing the sword, threw himself at Lawrence. Guards carried him away to the dungeons, quickly, but Lawrence was left on his face in the dirt, unconscious, the back of his head crimson with blood.

Josephine fainted away, and as she and Lawrence were carried to their respective chambers, Shannon tried to comfort Heather who was weeping her heart out.

When Josephine aroused, she was hysterical, but she was soon called down. She was led up the privy stairway to the King's chambers. Her face went white when she saw him, in their bed. He was heavily bandaged, his taut face pallid and his breathing irregular. The leech said the King was very near to death, having been struck very strongly with the hilt of his own sword, not the blade as she had feared. She knew Elerde's action was purely despair, but she had to hate the men who had done this to her love.

As it went, Sean's mother was found to have special knowledge of medicines. It was thanks to her that four hours later, the King ceased to die, and slept almost peacefully. Jo dismissed all in the room, and curling up beside Lawrence, wept herself to sleep.

Tomorrow: What Elerde did to get off the hook.

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About the author

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