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 23, 2009

Old Stories: Ricca, Part I 769 AD

The date on the story is 767, but when I organized the stories more recently I put it in 769. Since both Ricca and Gaylorde, rechristened Gadfrid because my friend and colleague Augustina Peach said "Gaylorde" was not evil sounding enough, and what happens next made it into the novel it doesn't really matter. At any rate, the real-life thing here is my sudden interest in Russian language and names. Anyone thinking Doctor Zhivago? You are right.

new peace had settled over Christenlande. There had been a good harvest, trade was good, and the King was seated securely in his throne. No one felt the bounty of the times more than the King himself. Lawrence was contented with his life, and was ruling well and wisely with little difficulty. He recently had tried to establish popular favor for his policy of offering hospitality to anyone, of any race or religion. It had started with the court's indignation over his and the Queen's acceptance of Samir and the Jewish nursemaid. The Queen readily accepted anyone, and loved all, but the King would ever bear his distrust of French people, and his inconstancy to his own principle caused much ridicule. But it died down as he took on a semblance of accepting those Gauls who asked for hospitality readily.

The only thorns in the sides of peace were based at court. It tended to welcome scandals and intrigue, and even now stories flew behind the backs of the King and his favorites. And besides that, there seemed to be a new faction rising at court. Christophe had befriended Gaylorde, and several of the lords had begun to link their names with the unlikely pair. Despite contentedness, this yet worried the King and he and Lorin counseled often. But all Josephine was allowed to know was what she might guess from his long talks with Lorin and Elerde at night. He did not show his worry to her knowingly. She was aware of an uneasiness in his nature, but could only guess at its cause. She did her best to ease his care, and she found herself to be quite successful.

One particular evening, she was noticing with pleasure that Lawrence seemed happier than he had been in awhile. She needed not guess the reason. Gaylorde had decided to winter at his manor of Bury St. Sebastian near Leicester, and she well knew how he disliked his cousin. She was surprised tho' to look and see who he was laughing with. It was the solemn, sad Elerde! It was easy to imagine Elerde would dislike Gaylorde, since he and Lawrence loved and hated the same things, including Elerde's countrymen. Now Lawrence leaned over to Elerde with a more sober countenance and whispered something to him. Elerde turned his head towards the far end of the table and nodded gravely. Before Jo could look to see the object of their concern, the wife a prominent baron spoke to her and she had to turn her attention away.

Gaylorde sat not far from the King and Queen. His mood was quite obvious too. She scowled and occasionally glared at the King and his happy favorites. Christophe seemed to succeed a little in cheering him up. While they spoke, little Ricca Norling, Gaylorde's unhappy mistress, came up to them and meekly asked leave to go to her chambers. Gaylorde assented, without the slightest hint of affection, and she walked away slowly. It was then the Queen realized what her husband and Elerde had seemed affected by. She suddenly recalled Ricca's story, and Ricca's relationship with the King. She had come to Lawrencium from some Slavic country on the continent almost two years ago, when Robert had come to Sheffield. The King had befriended her and they'd linked with a close but holy relationship. He felt for Ricca as his Josephine might feel for Sean, or even Lorin. It was she who had endearingly named Lawrence "Larushka" and he yet called her "Rishenka." Her first husband and fought and died in one of Lawrence's battles with Avonshyre, but she was not a mourning widow, for Athelstane Norling had been 43 years old. Not long after Lawrence's attempt to poison himself, she'd been confronted by Gaylorde, who sweet-talked himself into her bed. She fell in love with him, so completely that she, like the Queen, blotted out recognition of any true evil in her lover. Now she did see his bad, but forgave him entirely. He kept her as his mistress, abut her joy was little. If he loved her, he showed it little or not at all, and she loved him more than she could be expected to. Happy, with little Ricca had become a meek, sad little woman.

Jo watched her walk somewhat painfully down the length of the hall. Jo sighed, and turned to Lawrence With a smile she kissed his cheek and his face lit up. "My Lord, please forgive me. I'm very tired, and it is late. Please give me leave to go to my chambers."

Lawrence took her hand and pressed it to his lips. "Aye, my love. I'll not be long. Wilt thou stay up for me?"

"Of course, my sweet. Good even, Elerde," she said and touched the cheeks of Lorin and Shannon, saying goodnight, and bade all good slumber.

Lawrence looked after her tenderly, but his attention was soon drawn away by a page, who bade him to go to the lady who stood at the end of the hall. Lawrence nodded and said everyone good even and walked, followed by a yawning Clancy, to the end of the hall. Seeing Ricca just outside, he dismissed Clancy and followed her to a small sitting room. There he took her hand. "What is it, my little Rishenka?"

She looked up at him with eyes full of tears. "Oh Larushka, it's the same old thing, but now something more has happened. He yet shows so little love for me. I would I could make him love me, untrustworthy as I am."

"Oh, Ricca! Don't say that. Thou are worth a thousand Gaylordes. But do not worry. He is a proud young man. He thinks he can be happy independent. But someday, I hope soon, he will see how he needs thee. Maybe now, at Barry St. Sebastian, thou'st be alone with him and he'll see. I know, it's not likely, but…ah Rishenka! How can I tell thee? He pulled her to his chest. "Here now, thou must promise me something."

With a little sob, she pleaded, "But wait, Larushka! There's more. I…I am going to have his child! Oh, I love him too much to bear him bastards! I wish he would marry me. Oh, God, why won't he love me?"

Lawrence looked very sad, but he tried to smile at her." No Rishenka, don't be sad. Think this way-it is his child! But promise me thou will speak to the Queen of this 'ere you journey. Please."

Ricca nodded. "Good my Lord, I will, if it is thy wish."

"It is," the King assured. "She is a wondrous good woman who, I am sure, can advise thee better than I can."

"Aye, she is a dear lady. And she loves thee so. God blessed thee, truly, with a mutual love. Would to Christ Gaylorde and I were so blessed. But I should not keep thee from thy Queen. Goodnight."

Lawrence kissed her hand and started to leave. "Oh, Lawrence!" He turned, and saw she smiled. "For thy sake, for I know thy wish, I hope your baby is a boy!"

Lawrence laughed and went speedily to his Queen's chambers.

Next: Ricca, Part II

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About the author

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