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

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Old Stories: The Usurping - Gaylorde Vanquished, 769

October 769
agerly, the King pressed his ear against the wall. His heart swelled as he heard a distant trumpet sound the royal call to battle. He dropped to his knees to pray, for at least he was to be freed from his cell. A glance at the rose gave him the strength the wait. He whispered, "I'll not leave thee here, my friend,: and crossed himself. Looking about he said, " I wonder if it is dawn."

Out on the meadow beside the walls of Lawrencium, Lorin stood with this main supporters. Lorin was graver and paler than ever. His heart beat strong to rescue his King and his sister, but he was not looked forward to the battle. Sean, near him, was actually haggard, with the look of a man 10 years older than he was. Shannon was himself again, gay, sparking, and light. While Sean had left only defeat and disgrace in Scotland, the Irishman had left his home the new lord of Tyrone. Tramtrist stood talking with an emissary for Erik The Dane, whose dragon ships fluttered their sails just beyond sight of Lawrencium. Just on the horizon they could see the galleons from Brittany, with a proud commander at the prow of the lead ship.

Each surveyed the men in his command; they were a good strong lot and encouraged their worried leaders.

Several hours Lawrence knelt in his cell, awaiting sounds which indicated the rebels had scaled the walls. In the meantime, Clancy was running to tell the Queen something he had overheard. The queen, Larissa, and Lachrimae were barricading themselves in the nursery, but Clancy was able to whisper to her that Gaylorde had been boasting to Christophe this morning the revels would never find Lawrence for he was in the deepest cell of the dungeon. Quickly she advised him to go and hide himself near the entrance that he might tell whoever should appear to rescue the King.

Rory and Elerde both were in the chapel Elerde paced up and down while Rory made like a priest and sat in his confessional. Not a few side glances at each other did they take. At the back of the chapel Finnegan knelt in prayer.

In his cell, Lawrence at last heard the shouts of men scaling the walls. He craned his neck to hear a familiar voice and Lorin's broke through the nearly soundproof walls. The King clasped his hands in an ecstatic "Ave Maria."

The rebels took the west wall quickly. The north wall came next. The south wall faced Norwichshire and was better fortified and together with the east wall on the sea seemed impossible. Erik's Danes landed around mid-afternoon and were atop the south wall almost immediately. But with the one wall, the strongest, left, Gaylorde was able to prevent the scalers from coming off the walls into the courtyard. Around four o'clock Breton ships appeared around the peninsula, and Gaylorde's men gasped at the sight of a catapult.

Soon the rebels were flooding down onto the courtyard. Lawrence's heart skipped a beat when he heard men rushing about on the ground above. He held his breath when his ear picked out the sound of chains being broken. He was straining at the chains which held him when he heard muffled steps on the stairway.

The Queen and her tow ladies with the maids and the children, cowered in the nursery. She had hear Lorin's shout, too, and Larissa had wept with joy. Lachrimae had began rejoicing in French because she said she heard her brother's name, Sebastian le Fer.

Elerde had long been gone from the chapel. Rory fidgeted and worried. He wanted to go to the Queen but realized that she'd be with the other women. He couldn't risk being discovered, even now. Elerde was in the heart of the castle now burning arrows and talking with cohorts.

"Lawrence, where are ye?" a thick brogue called.

"Shannon! I'm here. Get an axe and break the lock. I'm chained, too.:

Shannon swore and set to breaking the door down. When it was opened, Lawrence squinted at the light of Shannon's torch. "How did you find me way down here?"

Shannon was now hacking at the chains. "Clancy was waitin' around to tell the one who came," When the King was free, the two friends embraced.

"How is it above?" Lawrence asked.

"We're doin' well, but that's all I can say. We've got our general now, though, so we'll be the victors in no time!"

Lawrence and the Irishman threaded their way up and off through the foray to find Lorin.

Three hours later the usurpers were surrounded in the Palace of Sunshine. Terrified, the Queen and her ladies huddled together in the nursery. Elerde stood near the door to make sure on one tried to get to them. Gaylorde was in the Great Hall discussing escape plans, and all the whole scores upon scores of Lawrence's men swarmed around the structure. Some of the usurper's men had given over to the King, and the castle resistance was growing weak.

When in became dark, the swarming men stopped and camped at the foot of the castle. In the main tent, Lawrence sat, reunited with his friends. All marveled at each other. Lawrence saw his friends as I have described them, all a little older than when he last saw them. The only who had not changed was Erik. He was the same hard Northman he had ever been. And they all marveled at the King. With months of little light or food, he was pale, gaunt, and much thinner. It would take the Queen to unsallow those cheeks, Sean thought. Shannon jested that the reason they'd been doing so well is that Lawrence had smelled so bad, no enemy had bothered him.

Lawrence felt all too well Elerde's absence from his rings of friends. After all had gone to sleep, Lawrence sat outside staring up at the castle, the Queen's very image in his eyes.

"Aye, she be up there, awaitin' ye," Shannon said as he came up and sat down beside the King. "On the morrow we'll see her and she'll be lovely as ever. Never ye worry, me lord, she'll be well an' wantin' ye." His voice drifted off on a sad note. Lawrence now noticed the true change in Shannon. After all his youth of living and loving and examining every facet of life, he finally knew real, deeply serious love. His vigor and life came from the boy in him, and it was the aged ancient old man that let him realize his new gift.

The next morning life again stirred in the camp and the ranks were set in order. Repeated attacks were made on the castle. It grew weaker and weaker. One parley was held between the cousins who were now so bitterly enemies, and by the Duke's treachery, Lawrence nearly lost his life. Lawrence took great care to assure that no harm would come to innocent persons within the castle.

About noon, a great shout was given up as men succeeded in getting into the windows of the lowest floor, at least. The King was one of the first in. They were only to fine that each section of the castle was to be won for Gaylorde had convinced his mean they would be shown no mercy if captured.

The castle was nearly won. At the top, some of the last adherents were bring vanquished. Lawrence dashed up and down the halls, trying to find Gaylorde. At last, he caught a glimpse of the man fleeing up the stairs, to the tower. In no time he was in hot pursuit. At the top of the tower, Gaylorde turned and stood, panting from exertion, in defiance of his cousin.

The landing of the tower was a wide, parapet-encircled circle. When Lawrence reached it, Gaylorde was standing between the steps and the parapets, sword in hand. Lawrence's sword was drawn and they clashed with fury. The battle was long, for they were evenly matched. Finally Gaylorde grew full of rage and made an unwise lunge Lawrence's backlash caused Gaylorde to step back sharply he lost his balance, to fall from the tower clear to the ground in the midst of a small foray outside.

Lawrence knelt at the edge of the tower, trying to comprehend what had happened. Suddenly, he felt the sharp pain of a French rapier piercing his left shoulder. With a quick turn, he stuck Christophe with the flat of his sword, and sent him to the ground unconscious.

Gaylorde's men now saw that their leader was dead and they scattered. Some were captured, others killed, some escaped. Slowly, the King descended the steps of the tower and went for the nursery.

In the meantime, the Queen had gone to Lawrence's room to see if he had gone there. When she returned to the nursery, he was there, kneeling by Caitie's bed, weeping as he held the happy child to him. In the next room she heard Larissa's joyous cry, "Lorin, my dearest!"

"Lawrence," Josephine breathed. His head went up and he very slowly turned and looked at her. She was as beautiful as ever, though a little flushed. She repressed a grimace when she saw him. He was dirty, unkempt, wan blood covered his shoulder where the rapier had gone through. His voice, though, broke as he called her name, "Josie!" and she ran to him.

He remained only for a short while, because he had to make sure all was in hand. He we went off through the crowd, just as Rory was struggling through to reach the room. When he behold her smudged and saw the blood on the shoulder of her dress, he flew to her, panic-stricken. In a moment he guessed the cause of his terror and explained, "Oh, no Rory! I'm not hurt. Lawrence was here and he had a sound on his shoulder! What is happening? Is all this going to end?"

He slowly explained that the usurpers were beaten and how Lawrence escaped. He told her that Gaylorde had been killed and that as far as they could see, Elerde was escaped. Her look became dreadfully serious as she put his hands on his arms.

"What about you? Have you been recognized yet?" He shook his head. :Are you staying? Oh, Rory, dear Rory; please do. Somehow the rope's ends will meet and all will be well."

To lighten his humor he rubbed his neck with both hands and said, jokingly, "Oh, don't say 'rope'!" She laughed and his eyes danced. "Someday, when you are old and content, you will sit and think of all t different ways men have loved you, but you'll never remember my having deserted you." He kissed her hand and left her to weep confusedly at his vow. "Oh, Rory, Rory - I would my faith to you cold be as yours to me, but, nay for I love the King, because I am his life and death and his world is me…"

As the blanket of night was pulled over the castle by loving hands, triumph was being celebrated in a gaily lit Great Hall. Lawrence sat, renewed in appearance and strength, at the head of the room, with a rosy-cheeked Queen by his side. Josephine marveled at her loved ones. "Have we became children gain or have we finally grown up?" Everyone was smiling but serious.

The gay talk stopped when the prisoners were brought in. Christophe acted like a defiant stallion, but Elerde stood as if he'd been stunned by a colossal blow. Christophe's case came up to questions and little was said. Larchrimae's brother Sebastian requested he be given responsibility to take his countryman to their own king. When the other Breton stepped forward, Lawrence stated the charges and asked the man what he had to say.

"Nothing, my lord."

Lawrence fidgeted. "Nothing at all?"

"What I would say, you wouldn't believe."

The Queen stared away from him, unknowingly straight at Shannon. Her gaze was suddenly diverted by a shout, "Wait!"

Three people stepped forward with Clancy running up behind. They stood there, Finnegan, Shannon's brother Ronald and Gaylorde's mother, Lady Marianna. They carefully outlined how they had guessed Elerde's motives and leagued with him to bring the Breton ships to undermine the palace security and morale. Elerde, they vowed, had not intended to make the Queen has reward for an alliance with the usurpers. On the contrary, he'd saved her life a dozen times. Her eyes were now on him, relieved and grateful. As were the King's who stood and went to him. His voice shaking, he grasped Elerde's arms and said, "Oh, Elerde, I've prayed to hear that! Oh Elerde, thank you, thank God, and I swear to you, what you will is yours and never will I say nay to you, in return for the life of us both, my Queen's and mine!"

More lights were brought in and the tables were dragged tot heir places. The mean was no more than meager but with Josephine, Elerde, Lorin and Shannon close about him, Lawrence would have judged seawater and straw to be ambrosia.

At the end of the meal, the Queen whispered excitedly into the King's ear and those who watched saw him glance about, smiling and frowning at the same time, unbelieving of whatever it was she said. He stood and hushed the gathering, requesting Shannon to perform for them. Inevitably, he asked the Queen's pleasure and she chose "The Ballad of Rory McGuinnis. He bowed gratefully, for he felt Rory was left out and needed to be mentioned and remember time and again to keep him living in the hearts of many.

"Good lords I sing praises…" he began and slowly and almost tearfully sang the first verse, "Whose tear flowing o'er thee, would overflow the Moyle.: As he signed before going to the refrain, a tall figure came out of the shadows. The King and Queen, Finnegan, and Elerde, and those who guessed the man's identity, all held their breath. When Shannon went on, his silver voice was matched and his voice failed, allowing the other to go on.

"Sing-a toor-a-lay, toor-a-lay, farewell my son…"

Rory stepped to Shannon's side, and Shannon, gasping, fell to his knees. Clutching Rory's habit, he buried his face and began to sob for joy. Rory knelt, too, and they held each other and wept. The courtiers watched and each in his heart was touched by what he now understood to be the priest of loves.

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About the author

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