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

Friday, August 21, 2009

New Stories: Calamities - Grave Condition I (Happened with Cuts)

You might be interested to look back to the original appearance of Aelflynn in the earliest letters written in the mid-1960s. Here are all the currrently available references. I tghink Aelflynn rehabilitated well, don't you?


Lord Jehan de Grantham was one of the knights who bore the King with his grievous arrow wound on a shield into his manor. He called to servants in the Great Hall to clear a space before the hearth and bring in a cot and blankets for the King. Lawrence, senseless, was placed on the cot and wrapped heavily in every blanket or fur that came to hand. He shivered in spite of the covers and the nearby fire, which servants fed to increase the warmth. He was in shock from loss of blood.

"Get the healing wench," Jehan barked to a servant. He meant the woman Aelflynn, who lived on his estate and was known for her skill with herbs and other healing arts. His seneschal carefully uncovered the King's wound to examine it. Jehan heard his sharp intake of breath.

The seneschal look up at his master. "The arrow is in deep, my lord. I wonder if the King broke the shaft off himself. It is in the bone, methinks, which should have made that easier, but it would have hurt something fierce."

Jehan asked, "Can it be removed?"

The man examined the wound further. "I know not. He has lost much blood, my lord. The bleeding hath stopped at last, but I should not want to have it start again. Methinks we shall have to wait until he regains some of his strength."

Jehan nodded. "Will he stay like this? Unconscious?"

The seneschal replied, "Aye, until he has replaced the blood he lost.. and that shall be hard. We must find a way to nourish him but not endanger him further."

Jehan considered. "All we can do is our best. The wench will know more. I must send to the Duke to tell him of this calamity. At least I can report that the war is all but over, if it be not in fact at an end." He went to his chamber and wrote a message to Duke Lorin and through him, to the Queen. He dispatched the messenger at once, knowing that he should wait until he knew if the King would survive the night. Loyal a subject as he was though he wanted the Duke to know everything as soon as it happened. He returned to his Hall to see that the wench Aelflynn had just come in with her baskets of plants and other tools.

The young woman made Jehan uneasy. She was rail thin and her skin was extremely pale. Her eyes were so light a blue they almost faded into the whites. But her hair, full and rich and smelling of pungent herbs, was coal black. She seemed otherworldly to the nobleman, but he knew she possessed knowledge and skills unequalled in the region, perhaps in the entire kingdom. He stopped near the King's cot and watched her.

The woman first examined the King's wound making clucking sounds with her tongue. She cast an angry glance at the seneschal, "Did thee break the shaft off, sirrah?" She had a wild look about her pale eyes.

Jehan replied for his servant. "Nay, 'twas like that before he fell. We found no other part under him when we lifted him."

She frowned and went back to examining the wound. "Mayhap the fall drove what was left farther in. It appears that he lost much blood when he was shot and then more when the arrow was broken. I think there was a gush of blood no doubt when he fell." She palpated the skin around the wound and sniffed at it. She demanded, "Have thou not cleaned the wound? Where are thy heads? Bring me very hot clean water and clean cloths."

Aelflynn reached into her basket and drew out a dried plant, complete with desiccated purple flowers and roots still attached. She took a mortar and pestle from another basket and, tearing off the roots and leaves and pulling them apart, she put them in the mortar and used the pestle to grind them as fine as she could. When she got the boiling water, she pored it over the plant matter and waited, going back to examine the shaft of the arrow. "It hath pierced the bone and done damage to the muscle. We are indeed fortunate, it came nowhere near the artery in his thigh or he should have been dead long ago."

Jehan addressed her, "Can the arrow be removed?"

"Nay," she shot back sharply. "If thou removest it now he will bleed out and die. Doth thee want that?~ We must build up his strength again. Then we can remove it."

The King stirred and moaned. Aelflynn moved on her knees to look into his face. She examined it quietly. "Poor man, so much pain," she breathed.

The seneschal spoke up, "But the King is without sense.. he cannot feel the wound now!"

The woman continued to look into the King's face, her cool hand on his brow. "There is pain and longing here. And fear. Deep loneliness."

She went back to her infusion and soaked a cloth in it. She gave the mortar bowl to the seneschal and bade him have the liquid boiled down to a dark dense liquid. She went back to the wound and carefully cleaned it, causing the King to stir and moan again.

"Are thee hurting him?" Jehan demanded.

"Aye. It cannot be helped.. and the sting means the infection is retreating from the plant's warriors." She continued to bathe the wound. She then dried it and took more items from her baskets, this time chopped bark and strips of cloth, , put the bark in another mortar and took a fresh pestle and ground it. She poured more of the water on it, but only enough to make a paste. She took clean dry cloths and piled the paste into the middle of one and wrapped it up. She applied the poultice to the Kings red and angry looking wound and then tied it firmly but not tightly with another length of cloth. She Examined the blankets before she draped them back over the wound. "Well at least these seem clean."

She went back to his head and pulled up his eyelids one by one and shook her head as she examined his eyes. She put her fingers between his lips and pushed them apart so she could look at his gums, then picked up each hand and looked at the fingernails. She felt his throat, then sat back on her heels. "He is a strong healthy man. He will live… if the wound does not bleed more and if there is no infection." She got to her feet and dusted off her hands. "I will need a cot for myself. When he can be moved he will need a chamber so he is not disturbed and can rest. I will stay there too. Now I need somewhere to sit. And in an hour bring me some clean water in a bowl with a spoon. If he can take it, I will feed him some rich meat broth tomorrow. He needs to replace the blood he lost. "

Aelflynn pushed the chair that was set by her closer to the King's side and sat. She pulled her baskets closer to her. She brought out a small cloth bag and handed it to Jehan. "Take this to your kitchen and tell them to make am infusion of it , very strong, and let it cool. Make sure the water they use is clean and boiled. Bring it to me in a flagon with a cup. " Seeing Jehan's interested look, she explained, "It is Bistort, Yarrow, Nettle, Rue, Red Clover, Parsley and Alchemilla. It will build up his blood."

She turned back to the unconscious King. "His name is Lawrence, is it not?"

Jehan had started to leave with the pouch. "Aye, but it is not fit to use his Christian name.. he is the King."

Aelflynn just smiled and looked at the King's face. "I know that."

Image: A page from the Anglo Saxon book, Leechcraft.

Next: Calamities - Grave Condition II

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About the author

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