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, July 30, 2009

New Stories: Origins I (Happened, with cuts)

You will notice that Lawrence has a sister and an extra brother in this story. Neither made it into the novel. It is also full of anachronisms, like stone castles. When I started writing all this again, I had not done my research on Saxon England yet. Just reading the novel's first chapter will show you how much I learned by the second draft.

764 A.D.

he young man dashed up the castle stairs, taking two and even three at a time. He was tall, well built, fair haired and beardless, and he was eighteen years old.

As he rounded a corner at a landing, he had to stop sharply to avoid running into the girls. One, his sister, a thin and pale girl of sixteen, rebuked him.

"Lawrence! Thou almost ran us over!"

Lawrence regarded his sister Laurel and laughed at her tiny form looking fierce, hands on hips. Behind her was her friend and constant companion, Juliana, taller, more filled out than she, and much prettier. He knew the girl was infatuated with him and loved to tease her. He winked at her, and she blushed and covered her mouth with the fingertips of both hands. Her dark eyes danced.

"Most gracious ladies, I doth beg thy pardon!" He gave a little bow and continued past them up the stairs. "Father called for me. I have to run."

The girls followed him up the stairs with their eyes. Laurel gave her friend and indulgent look. "Thou knowest he is promised, do thee not?"

Juliana bowed her head and nodded. "Aye," she replied, in a quiet voice.

Lawrence dashed up to his father's door , then stopped, smoothed his clothing and tried to make his hair neat, then knocked on the door. A deep voice called, "Enter," and he opened it and passed through to the room. He saw his father, King Arneth of Christenlande, his older brother, Prince Arneth who would be King himself someday, and several of his father's most trusted advisors, as well as an honored guest, the king of Affynshire, Karl. He saw that all were solemn and worried, and he shaped his own demeanor to the atmosphere.

"Ah, my son, thou art arrived," his father greeted him. His brother looked over and simply nodded. Lawrence bowed low to both of them and to King Karl, the father of the girl he was plighted to marry. "Lawrence, there is very unfortunate news. Mine own brother, thy uncle, has raised an army and hath attacked one of our most important outer garrisons and hath cast abroad that he means to take the throne. My throne, and thy birthright."

That explained the Prince's grim look. Arneth the younger had never trusted their uncle Nestor, and now his predictions were coming true. Lawrence was nevertheless shocked. He had never quite been able to believe that Nestor would do anything so rash., no matter his lust for power.

He focused on what his father was saying. "Lawrence, thou art a knight now. Thee and thy brother Arneth will join me in meeting Nestor and quelling his ambitions." The eighteen year old thrilled at being called upon to join in battle Like other young men who learn to fight he had been frustrated with no way to use his skill with weapons and strategy other than in games.

"Settle thyself down, little brother," the Prince said. "This is not a time for rejoicing." Arneth had always been the serious one in the family, probably for the best given his destiny. Lawrence colored and bowed his head respectfully.

He stood quiet and attentive as the older men and his brother examined maps and discussed the numbers, nature and outfitting of the force they would need to defeat the intended usurper. He tried with all his will to stifle his excitement.

Later at supper he sat with his sister and with their 17 year old brother, Roland. Roland was yet not a knight and was angry their father was forcing him to stay at home "with the women". "I am every bit the fighter you are, Lawrence," he protested bitterly.

Lawrence laughed derisively, his mouth full of mutton. Around it he shot back, "Nay, thou art not! And never shall be." Laurel looked up at Roland, afraid of their headstrong brother's reaction. Juliana, who sat with them also, averted her eyes.

Roland stood and put his hand to his dagger at his belt. "Scoundrel! Shall we test thy boast?" he challenged.

Infuriatingly Lawrence just waved a dismissive hand. "Nay, we have one fratricide threatened in the family now. I shouldst not wish to commit another." Roland spluttered resentfully but could do nothing about his brother's insult.

Laurel chided both of them. "What fools thou both are. Like little boys with wooden swords. Think ye of poor Mother. She has not been well these many months and now must fill her heart with fear of losing her husband and not one but two of her sons."

Both brothers were sobered by the reminder. They each looked to where their mother's chair by their father's at the high table was vacant. Queen Eleanor had been ill and spent all her time in her own bedchamber. She was wracked with pain in every joint and muscle and could barely move. The leeches who worked on her despaired of her returning to full health. The best they could offer to a grieved King was that she would stay as she was and not become worse.

The four young people concentrated on their meals and said no more of fighting.

In the dusk Lawrence found his sister's friend walking in the castle garden. They met on the path, each shy and hesitant at being alone with the other.

"Juliana," Lawrence said, and took her hand and kissed it. He looked up into dark lustrous eyes. She gazed at him, with both longing and reserve.

"My lord," she said softly. "I am sore afraid that thou shall go to war." He had kept her hand and held it now.

He smiled as reassuringly as he could. "Fear not, my lady. I canst take care of myself." He let a little swagger filter into his stance.

The girl was not appeased. "Lawrence, " she began, using his Christian name, a familiarity strictly frowned upon, particularly from someone of modest station as was she. "Lawrence, I have an ill feeling of doom. This war shall bring much death and sorrow."

Lawrence stood unable to think of anything he could say. He quite frankly wished she had not said it. He was suppressing all misgivings and concerns of his own, fearing that it was cowardice that sparked them.

The girl impulsively darted forward and kissed him quickly on the lips. He took her shoulders in his hands, looked at her with surprise, and stammered, "M-my lady. I cannot. I am promised. I shall be wed upon our return from war."

Juliana blushed and lowered her head. "Oh Lawrence, I know." She gave him a pained looked, turned, and fled, weeping. He watched her delicate figure as she hurried away, completely at sea as to what he should do, what he should have done. He felt pity for her, but no love. He was too young to know that obsession as of yet.

The preparations for the war continued with Lawrence and Arneth making sure their armor and weapons were in perfect order, seeing to the caparison of their mounts, and attending to their father's commands. Lawrence was startled when in the stables his older brother came to him and lay a strong hand on his shoulder. "Lawrence, my brother. Thou must be ready."

"Aye, brother, I am," Lawrence said puzzled at his brother's meaning

Arneth looked at him solemnly. "Nay, not for war alone. Thou must be ready to take the throne.. should father and I be killed." Lawrence saw that his brother was deadly serious. It chilled him to the bone. He thought of Juliana's presentiments.

"Nay, nay, Arneth," he almost pleaded. "Thou shalt be King. Thee know it, I know it, it is fore-ordained." His eyes begged Arneth to relent. "Arneth, I cannot, I will not.."

Arneth gripped his shoulder tightly. "Thou must." He looked hard into his brother's eyes, and then turned and went back to inspecting the buckles and straps on his mount's battle armor.

The brothers and their father stood with Laurel and Roland near their mother's sickbed. The beautiful woman had dried and faded into this wraith they saw before them. Her hands were gnarled into fists. Her eyes ever disclosed the pain that wracked her. Her light and musical voice now rasped, "Come here, my sons."

As Roland watched his older brothers go to sit on either side of the Queen's bed, he knew she had only meant the older boys. He cast down his eyes.

"Arneth, take care of thy father," she pled. No one protested that the King could protect himself. The oldest son was a skilled fighter and young, and had ever been his father's strong right arm.

"I shall, Mother," he said gently.

She looked at her second son. Her eyes filled with tears. "Oh Lawrence, my golden one. How I love the look of passion in thy eyes. Come back to me, my beloved son."

Lawrence fought back the tears that burned the back of his eyes. "I shall, mother, I shall, and thou shalt dance at my wedding."

Eleanor just smiled her pained smile and put her hand to his cheek and caressed it. "Now, children, leave us. Thy father and I have our goodbyes to say."

The two older boys stood and leaned to kiss her cheek. They and their brother and sister bowed and backed out of the room, leaving Arneth where he had gone to sit by his wife, taking her hand in both of his and bowing his head sorrowfully.

In the corridor the young princes and princess looked at each other. Arneth said, with a break in his voice, "We shall ne'er the four of us stand together again as we do now." Laurel burst into tears and ran away down the hall. The younger sons lay aside their rivalry and the three embraced.

Early in the morning, before the dawn, the King and his two elder sons set out to face their destinies.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Buy on


Buy on

About the author

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