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

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Old Stories: The Usurpring Series Continues, 769 AD

May 769

osephine sighed. There was a heavy feeling in her heart that she could not shake.

She dismissed the maids and uneasily went to bed. She could not sleep by lay for a long time staring and the heavy curtains around her bed. The dream of then night before returned to her and she feared sleep lest it continue. She turned to dismiss it from her mind. But it kept coming back to her - Elerde cupping her face in his hands tilting it up to his and gazing deep into her eyes, bewitching her luring her, saddening her. Such emotions stirred in her that belonged only to Lawrence. But his will had no power in the dream, he was dim and faraway and Elerde was close. Now, pulling her tight against him and kissing her madly as if no Lawrence existed.

Josephine at length fell into a fitful sleep. At times she saw Lawrence face feigning cheerfulness to mask his hurt, at which a sigh escaped her lips at Elerde passing. At other times she saw the Elerde of her dreams , assured of his possession of her.

Suddenly there was a scream somewhere. It woke the castle. Men grabbed their swords and rushed to stay a flood of soldiers who suddenly appeared from nowhere. Women ran screaming further into the castle, as the few guards that were on duty fell back in the terrible rush. The enemy streamed into the castle pursued the resisters to every corner. A fire burst out in a stable and the night turned to day.

Jo was barely aware something had happened when she hurt boots pounding up the stairs. She flew to the door and with shaking fingers unbolted the latch and threw it open.

Samir stood behind a heavily bolted outer door, his face set, listening intently as the pounding and shouting grew closer.

He turned at her cry. "Samir!

"Josephine! Get back, quickly! For God's sake, Jo!"

She went numb. She could not move. Samir went to her. "May God and Lawrence forgive me!" He slapped her heavily across the face.

"Please my lady! Come at once!" Josephine had come to her senses and she moved back into her room. "Shove that chest against the door!" Samir slammed the door shut.

There was a splintering sound outside. They were trying to ram down the outer door. Josephine tried to plug her ears but she could still hear one her ladies screaming hysterically in a room nearby.

"Oh Lord, have mercy, my children, oh my children!" she cried. "I have to get to them!" and she began tugging at the chest she had managed to get in front of the door. But the insurgents were already inside the antechamber.

Samir battled bravely, but there were nearly a dozen of them against him. They pinned him against the wall and took his sword. They led him away as Gaylorde entered. Samir struggled and swore, and Josephine tried to follow, pounding her fists on Samir's captor's backs. Gaylorde motioned, and several men grabbed her and held her.

Josephine addressed Gaylorde. "My lord, I beg you release me at once. What is this madness?"

"Madame, you will be so kind as to control yourself. I will explain."

Jo pressed her lips and waited.

"It is very simple," he smiled. "I am deposing the King in favor of myself. I'm terribly sorry my dear, Josephine to relieve thee of thy duties as Queen, but I am afraid it must be so."

"But the King yet lives and is free," she cried proudly. "No man shall rule in his stead while he breathes!"

"Bah! Ha! That is what you think! On the morrow you shalt see thy dear glorious lord ride home from the hunt. Unknowing, untroubled, impatient. Straight into our loving hands! And there he will be, at our mercy! To clap into a dungeon for the rest of his life. Or not, as I may decide."

A black despair fell upon Josephine and mercifully, she fainted.

At that moment Elerde entered the antechamber. He regarded the Queen with pain in his eyes. Gaylorde, seeing Elerde's reaction, motioned for someone to revive the Queen. Elerde stayed the man's arm.

"Let her be. Bring her not back to her despair. She shall have enough time to think upon the unhappiness of her situation. Go instead, my good man, and attend to it that no mishap come to the royal children."

Gaylorde shrugged, and left along the rest of his followers, leaving Elerde gazing down at the prone figure of his beloved.

All the following day, Josephine alternately became distraught, or paced up and down up and down, endeavoring to find a way to warn the King. But no plan would come to her. She must wait helplessly during which he fell unknowingly into the trap.

Evening came and brought Gaylorde to see how she was doing. He informed her all was prepared and the King was expected any time now. Josephine was upset and fell upon the floor weeping hysterically. Gaylorde regarded her without emotion and left.

There was a great blare of trumpets. Josephine checked a sob and ran to the window where stood transfixed. Within a few minutes the gates opened and her dearest, her love, her Lawrence entered dignified and very king-like atop his favorite Arabian.

All at once the men concealed within the courtyard fell upon him. Though she craned her neck, all Jo could see was a knot of men fighting.

Within a few seconds the scuffle was over. Lawrence, who had but a few men with him, had been overcome. Now she could see Lorin, still struggling, being dragged off. Then she saw the men drag off a limp figure from the fray. It was none other than the King himself. Josephine stumbled numbly from the window. It simply could not have happened…it was all a dream, she was sure. But it did happen. Jo could only pray that he was not dead…

Elerde brought the news that Lawrence had only been knocked unconscious and had been carried to the dungeon quite unhurt otherwise. Josephine heard him out calmly and thanked him coldly. He paused a moment as if waiting for something. She turned away and ignored him. He watched her for a moment, then shrugged and left. All at once a thought struck him.

"Gaylorde is taking over Lawrence's room."

Josephine glanced with sudden apprehension at the privy stairway. Elerde followed her gaze. He strode to the door, and bolted it securely.

"Do not open for any reason," he instructed her.

Her eyes flashed. "I am not a child. Thinkest thou I would open it?"

"No, my lady," he said very gently. "I would not think so."

The next morning Jo decided to move into the nursery. She packed together a great load of her belongings and then peered out her door. There were several stone-faced guards, one on each side of the door. Jo contemplated the problem for a moment. She decided all she could do was try. She sent back after her belongings, emerged from the room, and strode confidently past them. As the made no move to stop her she decided they were there to spy on who came and went from her chambers.

The bundle was very awkward. Clothes kept spilling and she would have to squat to retrieve them, trying to keep from spilling the entire load. The two guards were trying not to notice.

"Here," she said to one of them. "Follow me."

The guard looked very much confused, not knowing what to do.

"Well," she demanded, "are you going to just stand there all day?"

Reluctantly he followed, picking up her clothes as she dropped them, looking rather silly.

A little after noon, Gaylorde visited her.

"Good day, day lady. I see you have moved into the nursery. You are not at all afraid for you children? There is no cause for alarm, I assure you."

"Nevertheless," she said, "I should sooner be here. I do not intend that Peter leave my presence for even a single moment."

"I hate to hurt you in any way, dear Josephine, but I am afraid that the truth must hurt sometimes. And the truth is, we have no interest in your son."

"That I choose not to believe."

"Ah," he said, sighing. "It is always so. The mother must believe in the importance of her children. I regret to inform you of the opposite. We haven't the slightest interest in the so-called heir. For he is heir no more."

Gaylorde turned to leave. He paused at the door to the nursery. "And, I must say, we also have no interest in you. I will leave you to the devices of Elerde, as he requested." He left.

Josephine was left to ponder Gaylorde's words.

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About the author

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