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, August 20, 2009

New Stories: Calamities: A Close Call (Happened with Cuts)

In the old stories and these new versions, Lorin had a wife n amed Anne who dies at some point. The story of Aelflynn is much more involved in this and the following stories and results in a murder mystery down the road. I really hated to cut it, as it was a fun and effective sub-plot. But cut I must or the book would have been even longer than 628 pages!

o little news that was of any use came from Lord Jehan about the King's condition that all the Queen could do was pace and fret and plague her brother with questions about whether Lawrence was receiving competent care, whether she should go to him in spite of her advanced pregnancy, and many of the anxieties she could not dismiss from her mind.

Lorin asked his young wife Anne to spend as much time with Josephine as possible, all but moving in to the Queen's chambers. Lady Anne herself was not a strong woman, but she had infinite patience and a loving nature. She herself had an infant, a girl named Hildie, who was cared for in what they all hoped would be soon the royal nursery.

With Lady Anne with her, Josephine was able to turn her worried questions to her and spare Lorin, who had more than many others could handle trying to keep apprised of Lawrence's condition, the diplomatic side of the war's end, daily business of the realm, and, finally, although much delayed by the costs of the war in terms of money and men, the construction of the new capital. The new city of Lawrencium, it was hoped, would be ready to settle into around the time the Queen's child was due.

Anne's steadiness calmed the Queen for a short time, but with little news that encouraged her from Lord Jehan, her anxieties recommenced. She finally determined to go to the King, and set about, with both Lorin and Anne trying to dissuade her, to make plans for the journey.

"My dear sister, it is a journey of three days at best," Lorin pleaded. But Josephine was adamant.

The night before she was preparing to leave she and Anne were putting together a selection of herbs and bandages to take to Jehan's manor for the care of the King. Josephine stooped to place an item in a chest, then suddenly straightened up and groaned. Anne looked up, concerned. "My lady, art thou all right?"

The Queen started to nod, then winced and went pale. "Nay, oh nay.. not so soon!" she cried.

Anne called to a servant to fetch help and the Duke, and she rushed to the Queen. "My lady, is it a contraction?"

Josephine wailed, "Aye!" and struggled to find somewhere to sit. Lady Anne helped her to a cushioned bench set under a window. The Queen was breathing heavily but erratically and had a look of panic on her face. "It is too soon! I cannot have the child now.. I will lose this one too!"

The physician came in hurriedly, followed soon by Lorin, who went to Anne. They held each other as they watched the physician examine the Queen superficially. He barked, "Someone get her into bed and out of these tight clothes!" Lorin rushed to help servants support the Queen through a door into her bedchamber. Her outer clothes were removed and she was laid onto her bed in her shift. The physician hustled everyone out except for Lady Anne.

Lorin went to the King's council chamber and called together several of the chief men of the castle and nation to confer about the Queen's dangerous condition. "My lords and reverend sits," he began, "the Queen is in danger of using yet another child. I believe it is the fault of the worry and fear for the King. She has rested and been very well cared for this time and there seems no other explanation. We may lose an heir to the throne, especially risky with the King in such peril himself." He looked to his advisors to offer suggestions.

One knight, Sir Alfred, who had been with the King's father, offered, "Cannot we keep news from her, or tell her the King is well?"

Another man, a cleric, Brother Leo, shook his head, "That shall be very difficult, your Grace, with servants gossiping all around her." He paused. "May I suggest an alternative. The Convent of St. Helens is but a little more than a day's slow journey from here.. and I should see to it myself that no word of the King's condition, save for good tidings, reach her ears there."

Lorin looked up, interested, "But can she travel at all? Should we not try to find some closer refuge?"

The cleric offered, "It needs must be some place that can be controlled. We should consult the physician about traveling. This may be the only possible solution, your Grace. I fear if the lady loses this child, she shall never bring any to full term."

Lorin nodded sadly, "Aye. We must do what we can to protect her and the child. I know the King would never set her aside to father an heir on some other woman. It is his great strength and the kingdom's misfortune that he is true to my sister."

The physician was ushered in. All observed the gravity of his countenance. Lorin nodded for him to speak. "Your Grace and my lords, the Queen nearly bore a child to early. I was able to use soothing herbs to quiet her contractions. She shall not be delivered now, but I cannot vouch for her continued well being and that of the child if she continues to fret for the King's safety."

Lorin nodded and replied, "Aye, we are concerned about that very thing. She cannot be allowed to go to the King. But we also know she must be taken somewhere she will not receive more troubling news." He looked at Brother Leo and then at the physician. "Could the Queen travel.. as far as St. Helens in Boultham?"

The man put his finger to his chin and considered. "Not for some days at least, your Grace. But I see thy thinking… such a place of calm and serenity may be the only thing that keeps her and the King's child alive. I should prefer she not travel at all, but if she can be kept quiet and protected from anxiety for, say, a week - it may be our only hope."

Lorin's face reflected the resignation on every other face in the room. "I shall ask the Lady Anne to see to it personally that no one speaks to the Queen without her there. And I am afraid the Lady Anne must go with the Queen to St. Helens." He did not want to be separated from his young wife and their child, but he knew there was no real choice.

"Your Grace?" began Sir Alfred.

Lorin looked up at him. "Aye, Sir Alfred?"

"I know not, your grace, what ye will think of this, but methinks we must feign a message from the King saying he is recovering well and wants her to take whate'er action she needs to safeguard the heir."

Lorin did not hesitate, "Aye, we must do that. The alternative to the lie is much worse a sin."

For the next week the physician kept Josephine drowsy with mild herbs. Lady Anne now slept on a cot next to her bed, keeping all who might disturb her away. The wait proved useful to Lorin, who was able to put together a credible ruse of a message from Lord Jehan about the King.

When Josephine was allowed to come to full awareness he went to her and bade her listen to a message about the King. She looked up anxiously but this time Lorin had prepared himself and the smile on his face seemed genuine. "My lady, thy husband is recovering well. He may not stir from his bed for sometime, to let the wound heal, but he sends his greetings and love."

Josephine visibly relaxed. "That is good news. I shall still wish to go to him as soon as I am able."

Lorin hastened to add, "My lady, the King expresses his wish that thou take precautions for the health of thee… and his heir. Thy physician and I have been consulting and have a plan."

Josephine looked up warily. "A plan, my brother? What plan?"

"When thou art ready to travel, my lady wife will accompany thee to St. Helens, a convent in Boultham. It is not so far as Lord Jehan's manor and the sisters there are known for their skill with healing." Seeing her about to protest, he went on, "The King should heal much faster if he knoweth thou art safe and well cared for."

She seemed to consider this. Slowly she relented. "Aye, as always thou art right, Lorin. When I can, I shall go to the convent to recuperate and to wait for my lord to come to me." She pondered a moment. "Did the King send a letter?" she asked.

Lorin responded with equanimity. "Nay, the message was through Jehan and through a herald. There was nothing written."

"Well I should like to send a message to my love. I shall take parchment and ink and compose something. Wilt thou then have it taken to mine husband?"

"Of course, my lady. And the Lady Anne and Hildie shall come with thee to St. Helen's."

The Queen's face reflected conflict. "Ah, my dearest brother. I should not like to take them from thee, but they should be a great comfort to me."

Her brother nodded.

Three days later the party that bore the Queen slowly in a litter made its way to Boultham and the convent.

Next: Calamities: Grave Condition

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About the author

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