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

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Old Stories: The Usurping - Preparing for Battle, 769 AD

n the dungeon the restless men clanked and jangled around, making a continuous noise which occasionally reached the ears of the Queen. She sat and embroidered cloth in the nursery a great deal of the time now so as to avoid meeting anyone. She would sit an listen to the rattle from the building outside the bay window and wonder if any of the men who made the racket was the King. Sometimes she would wonder if he was still alive. Sometimes she would try to imagine what he was thinking about or planning, for it seemed to her nothing was being done. Peter grew even quieter. Caitie did not improve, but just lay there ad was silent, although not really unhappy. Elaine was seldom out of Josephine's sight, for she was terrified of the Duke's men and especially of the Duke himself. She avoided even Rory, whose gentle kindness was almost like an aura about him. And while Elaine was seldom out of sight, Tavish was rarely in. He caused the Queen much anxiety by roaming the castle, paying no heed to strangers, guards or her protests. He spied on Elerde and Elerde was never aware of it. The Queen could take her greatest comfort in Donalbain, whose six months and strong back had him sitting up now. He cooed and laughed and was at his gayest when the tall priest was nearby. And of course the affection was quite mutual. Rory called Donalbain "my son," at which nobody so much as blinked an eye at, considering he was "Father Aidan" to most. (St. Aidan was Shannon's beloved patron saint.) Relationships between the Queen and the Eireannach had become even more tense than before, as a result of Rory's worry for her, her impatience to see what was to be done, and a general air of uneasiness whenever they were close. Elerde watched like a hawk, even considering boring a peephole to spy on them or forcing the priest to reveal himself and his intentions.

Gaylorde himself was no longer so much the overly ambitious cousin, but a one-eyed, angry usurper, prepared to do desperate acts. His eye still pained him and the uneasy anticipation of resistance in Affyn-Shyre, and waiting for Lawrence to die naturally caused him to be very irritable and tense.

While everyone in the castle paced and started at the sound of chains, Lawrence in his own solitude listened to and remembered everything. He did not have enough chain to walk about, but he could stand, although his 6 foot height caused him to have to stoop under a five foot ceiling. He spend most of his time wondering what was going on in the world above. Whatever had happened to Caithness, how his wife was and what she was doing and feeling, if anything was being done to rescue him, and if he would ever see daylight again. He was quite aware that Gaylorde was waiting for him to die. The only light was the touch in the stairwell outside his cell, whose rays came in through the air hole in door, made from the heaviest oak. The food was relatively ample, but confined to whey-soaked bread which was hardly palatable, let alone sustaining. He had not seen a human face in over three weeks, and since the last time someone changed the rushes on the floor. Amazing, though, Lawrence's wits were still very much with him. His reason for this was quite obvious.

When he first had been tossed into the cell, he'd not eaten, so as to frighten Gaylorde who was afraid of being accused of murder. One morning, or so he supposed it was morning, he'd been absently listening to knights tilting at a quintain when he'd glanced up at the corner of the ceiling above him. There, in spite of the impossibilities, in the light beam from the touch outside, grew a rose! Lawrence's immediate reaction was great joy, and he laughed aloud. He came to take it as a symbol of achieving the impossible, a symbol of hope and of his love for the Queen. At this time he talked to it, as anyone so far from human life as he would. He named it Rosalind for obvious reasons and would in hushed tones, discuss his ideas with it.

"Do you know, Rosalind, that I have come to feel it is unnecessary to resent all the men who are in love with Josephine? For, you see, I am the only one worthy of her. I am the only one alive who can love her as she deserves. There was only one person who ever was as deserving of her as I am. Unfortunately for the world and fortunately for me, he was hanged by an O'Donnell hangman in Donegal over a year ago. Were he alive today, I would almost be willing to give her up to him for her own sake." No response of course would have come from the rose, but the idea had taken shape in words and the pain had been eased.

Meanwhile, stout hearts in Affyn-Shyre were secretly rallying to the banner of a handsome, serious young man, so rightfully their leader. And a messenger galloped his way to the west, hoping to get to the Irish shores by September, to communicate with the young chieftain of Reagan in Tyrone. In Scotland a tall minstrel and his uncle, the Earl of Connery, sang the rallying songs to aid a friend. Somewhere in the young Frankish kingdom, an irate uncle destined to a great future, listened to his nephews eloquent pleas to rescue the princess Lachrimae from the clutches of a most evil usurper. And in Brittany, secret messengers gathered supplies for the armies to be formed soon. One would wonder, though, how Elerde could get away with a lot of secret messages and conferences, but little was it known that his business was being done by three very dynamic and unexpected personalities who were not likely to let themselves be known for a while yet.

But now the only question was when? When!?

Next: The Usurping: Gaylorde Vanquished

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About the author

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