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, August 30, 2009

New Stories: The Brooch (Happened)

I didn't put jocelyn into the novel, though the character Percy, rechristened Ronan, who is her betrothed and later husband does appear.

April 767

Mature content.

osephine sat at her dressing table and fingered the delicate brooch her would be lover had given her. It was pewter and intricate, with three stylized horse's heads surrounded by the intricate knot work of his people and her mother's. The horses reminded her of their many rides across the meadows and into the forests and she smiled at the memory.

Then she sighed, took the thick sheet of parchment she had set on the table for this purpose and placed the thing in the middle of the little volume of Latin love verse she already had set there. She touched the book with delicate fingers. A wistful smile played about her lips.

She had already written the letters that would accompany the keepsakes back to their owner, the gallant Breton knight, now in virtual exile in the north. She looked over the brief note meant for him.

Sir, I appreciate much your thoughtfulness in these gifts, but I can not retain them.

I pray that you are well.

Josephine, Queen

She tried not to think of what he would make of the message, so sparse, so cool. She wrapped the brooch in the message and placed it again on the book.

Then she turned to her other letter. This one was for her childhood friend, Jocelyn, whom she knew she could utterly and completely trust with her life, no less this clandestine act.

My dear friend,

I send thee my greetings and fond remembrances. I hope yet to encourage thee to come to me and be my lady in waiting, but we shall be living in the King's new capital within a moon, so thou must come there.

Jocelyn, I must ask a boon of thee. These items, the one wrapped in a letter and the book, I am returning to a man who sought to win my love and hath been sent to the northern outposts by my lord husband. Methinks these things are of value in his family, and I am loathe to dispose of them. My lord hath only asked me not to bring the book to Lawrencium, so I feel I may send them back to the man.

I do not wish to endanger the young and honorable knight, who delivers them to thee, so I have told him they are gifts for thee. I ask that thee find a way to send the items on to the man whose name the outer parchment bears.

Dear, dear friend of my youth, I thank thee for this favor and shall e'er remember thee for thy kindness and good faith. No one may know of these things but thee.


She carefully wrapped the letter to Jocelyn and all the other treasures in a larger piece of heavy parchment. She secured it tightly with string and set her seal upon the knot. She had written Jocelyn's name clearly on the outer parchment. She held the package a moment and then called for Sir Percy to be sent to her.

Sir Percy was a young man, newly knighted, from her own country. He was being sent back to the court of her late father and mother to protect her and her brother's interests there as a soldier. He was smitten with the Queen, as all the young knights were, and loyal to the woman he saw as his Queen, whether at home or in Christenlande.

He knelt and kissed her hand. "I have an errand for thee, Sir Percy," she began. "I have gifts for my dear friend Lady Jocelyn who lives in the castle where thou art bound, and I wish thee to carry them and give them into her hands." She hesitated a moment, then let the packet leave her hand for his.

He took it and bowed, "My lady, 'tis an errand I shall carry out though my life be forfeit for it," he said earnestly.

This chilled her a moment.. what did he know? Then she realized he was overstating his devotion, not alluding to the danger involved in carrying gifts to someone many saw as her paramour. She smiled. "I do not think it shall come to that."

He rose with the packet and bowed deeply to her. "I am leaving this very morning, my lady, and shall deliver thy gift into thy friend's hands."

Josephine put a hand on his arm. "I thank thee, sir knight, and.. do place it in her hands and hers alone, will thee?"

He struck his chest with his fist, "On my honor, I shall, your majesty." He bowed and turned and left. She smiled fondly after him. She watched from her window as later he rode away with his men to the north.

Lawrence came in and saw her at the window. "Thou shall miss the boy, my dearest?" She turned and saw an indulgent smile on his face. She smiled and nodded absently.

The Queen took sad leave of her garden, her bedchamber, the nursery, and even the King's chambers. This had been her home since just before her marriage and she knew she would miss it. She gave gifts and fond embraces to the servants who would remain, holding back tears.

Josephine rode beside her husband as they set out for their new capital. She let his excitement and pride overcome her nostalgia. He was effusive and as cheerful as a young boy. He described, for the fourth or fifth time to her the many wonders of their new castle and the town. "My love, thou shalt be able to see the sea from thy chamber window."

For the last leg of their journey the party rode along the banks of the River Welland. Centuries of flowing and bringing soils from the midlands made the riverside lush and verdant. Josephine thought about how lush the soil might make a new garden at the Castle of Sunshine, and her heart lightened and she began to share the king's excitement in earnest.

They had their first sight of Lawrencium, in particular the castle, as they approached the mouth of the river where it flowed in the bay called The Wash. The flag of Christenlande, with its sunburst flanked by swords set to resemble crosses, flapped from the highest tower. The castle gleamed in brilliant light. Coming over a rise Josephine then saw the harbor and town. The harbor had but a little dock, but the sight of the town made her eyes wide. Lawrence saw and grinned. "Fair, is it not?"

The town was new, the buildings new, and the streets as yet clean and straight. As they entered the town, the men who owed Lawrence their livelihoods and their reunions with wives and children, cheered them along with their families. Josephine looked at Lawrence and laughed delightedly. He beamed.

They entered the gates of the castle and she saw that a garden was already laid out and was being planted with the flowers and other plants she had requested. The King dismounted before the entrance to the strong square keep where they would live out much of the rest of their lives, and he came to her and helped her down from her horse. She insisted on seeing to it that Peter was being cared for and was well after the many days ride, then allowed Lawrence to take her by the hand and lead her into his castle.

She was pleased with the Great Hall, with its high ceilings and tall narrow windows that let in much light but not too much chill. The hearth on one side was the largest she had ever seen, so big she guessed that twenty men could stand in it without stooping. The walls were festooned with bright colored banners and tapestries. She saw that at the center of the high table two ornately carved chairs awaited their royal occupants for that night's feasting.

Next Lawrence took his wife to her bedchamber and the royal nursery. Peter was already being put into his crib for a nap, and the nursemaids fussed at the men who were too noisily bringing in wooden boxes and wicker baskets of the Prince's things.

In her bedchamber Josephine exclaimed, "Oh Lawrence! Glass!" She was looking at the windows in her room, both glazed from sill to top. "However…?" she began. He just smiled. "And does thy chamber have glazed windows as well?"

"Nay my love, for I shall keep thee warm there," he smiled.

She started for the door. "Let us see thy chambers now." He stopped her, with an impish look. And led her to a door in the opposite wall she had not noticed at first. She looked at him questioningly as he opened the door and ushered her into a narrow stairwell. He took her hand again and led her up. The stairs were lit with thin torches. At the top he opened another door. They went into his own chamber.

The Queen looked at him with delight. "A privy stairway! Thou art truly a devil!" She laughed. She turned and looked about the room. There was a good sized hearth in this room, as well as tall narrow windows covered with drapery. The walls were covered with tapestries save for one long section. The bed was massive and heavy with thick draperies of its own. She indicated the door on the far wall.

"That goes through to an anteroom where my page shall live and thence to the corridor," Lawrence explained. He went over to two chairs in the Roman style near the flaming hearth and sat down. He sat watching her as she examined everything in the chamber.

Josephine turned to him and gave him a long look. She smiled. ""Tis a manly room. A very manly room."

She went to him and sat on his lap, facing him. She took his face and pressed her lips onto his. She kissed him passionately, then wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him even harder.

"My lady," he exclaimed when he could. "What hath gotten into thee?" His face was flushed and happily surprised.

She kissed him again and reached inside his jerkin to caress his chest. He put his own arms around her and held her tight, joining enthusiastically in the passionate kiss. He began to undress her as she did himself. He lifted her and guided her to the bed, laying her on it on her back. He finished loosening his own clothing.

Their lovemaking was intense, as it had been so much of late, and Josephine cried out with pleasure when he entered her and began to move within her. She called out, "Oh Lawrence, my dear love, my dear and only love."

He reacted to "my only love" by casting a burning look into her eyes and increasing the force of his thrusts. She cried "Oh dearest, harder!' He complied.

The King and Queen lay in his new bed. When she could speak, Josephine said, "Lawrence, that was magnificent." His look was dazed but happy. She went on, "I wanted to tell thee later this evening, my dearest, but I want to tell thee now."

He looked at her tenderly. "Aye my darling?"

She smiled into his eyes, "I am again with child."

He gathered her up in his arms and kissed her. She said over and over, "Oh my dear, my only love."

Next: Sir Artur and Gwenlian

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About the author

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