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 27, 2009

New Stories: Lawrence Deals with Sir Robert (happened)

I changed the category of this story to "happened" because there is almost an identical scene involving Elerde of Brittany in the novel. I have to thank my husband for his input on this one. He helped me with insights into the psychology of a man whose woman is wanted by another man. I also appreciate laura's insights into what Josephine would put up with.

January 767

Lawrence woke to find his wife gazing at him from the pillow next to his. He smiled back, yawned and stretched. He saw he was still dressed and remembered. "Oh," he said with a smile and reached to pull her into his arms. Josephine happily snuggled into them. "What is the hour, my love?" he asked her.

She sighed languorously. "I know not, my darling, but the light outside is failing. It must be on to late afternoon."

"Methinks we should rise and make ourselves fit to be seen by others.." With that last word he recalled that particular "other", the man who had fallen in love with his wife.

Josephine felt his slight jerk as he thought of Sir Robert. She looked up. "Lawrence, is thy leg hurting?" Her eyes were filled with concern.

"'Tis nothing," he evaded. He saw her look. "Truly."

She nestled into him again, "Then can we not stay like this but a little while more?"

Lawrence kissed the golden hair on the top of her head and held her tight. "Aye, my Sunshine, we may." They lay together, drinking in the warmth and pleasure of each other.

While Lawrence was in his own chamber where his servants had already unpacked his clothing, he called for the captain of the guard. He dressed to be fit for the evening feast. When the captain arrived, bowing to the King, Lawrence sent the other servants away. "Captain, I have orders for thee to convey to thy men."

The man nodded, "Aye, your majesty."

"Under no circumstances is the Breton knight Sir Robert de Riffet to be allowed to approach the Queen in any way unless I am there as well. Doth thou understand?" Lawrence watched for a reaction. The captain made none except to bow again and affirm that the King's orders would be carried out. Lawrence continued, "This may be more difficult. I do not want the Queen to see him detained, hurt, distressed or held in any way. She is not to know he is being watched."

The captain replied, "Then with thy leave, my liege, I shall select men I know can be subtle and discreet to watch the knight. They can more easily take steps to make sure he doth not disturb her majesty."

Lawrence nodded. "Good. I shall make sure this assignment need not go on long."

The captain understood and nodded. "Very good, my lord." The King dismissed him.

Josephine still wondered if Lawrence had been told anything about the Breton knight. She most assuredly hoped he had not. She knew she could never tell from her brother, who was inscrutable at the worst of times. Lawrence had said nothing more than that he should never have left her alone. She knew that if he had gained intelligence of Sir Robert's infatuation, the King did not see fault in her, and that he loved her as much or more than e'er he had. She supposed she would see what transpired this evening.

Resplendent in their feasting garb, the King and Queen were in their magnificent chairs at the high table when the feast began. Sir Robert, unable to stay away for wanting to see how his beloved was faring, if there were signs her royal husband knew about him and had done harm to her, and finally to see if he was cold to her and no longer loved her, went in to the feast. He found himself ushered by a servant not to his usual place above the salt - he had known he would not be at the high table, by order of the Queen herself -- but far down the table, placed out of his rightful place of honor due to his rank. "He knows," the Breton knight thought. He looked up at Lawrence.

Lawrence had seen Sir Robert enter. He himself was beside his Josephine, whose hand was on his arm as she spoke animatedly about their son. Lawrence hid his glance in Robert's direction from her but she noticed when he visibly pulled himself to his full seated height and turned an especially fond look into her eyes. She was able to cast a sidelong glance of her own and saw the knight being seated far down the table. Her eyebrows went up but she said nothing. She thought to herself, "He knows." She prayed that Lawrence's temper would stay checked and there would be no scene.

Lawrence pierced her inward reverie with a question, "Who are those two men preparing to entertain us?" He nodded in the direction of a red haired man who held a lute and a dark haired man of strong build who was taking the stool next to the lutenist. "Oh, I think I know one of them. Is that not Sean the Scotsman? Not the fiery haired fellow, but the taller one?"

Josephine looked over where the two minstrels were preparing to provide an accompaniment to the feast. "Aye, that is Sean. Thou remembers him as a soldier, no doubt."

Lawrence nodded. "Was he not injured badly during the war with Mercia?"

"Aye, and has given up soldiering for minstrelsy, having a very fine voice and a vast knowledge of Scots melodies."

Lawrence approved. "Aye, I have heard him sing in camp with the army.. most rousing battle songs, and not a few sweet love songs." He turned to look at her and leaned in to kiss her. He resisted the urge to see if Robert had seen. "And the other, the one with the lute?"

Josephine's smile, left over from the kiss, was cast in the lutenist's direction now. "That is Shannon O'Neill. He is a friend of Sean's. They and their wives arrived here at Ratherwood Castle just after the new year. " She looked in the direction of the two women she had referred to. It meant she had to look at the end of the table where the Breton sat among his lesser. She quickly looked away. "Their wives, Sean's Emily and Shannon's Heather, are down at the end of the table."

Lawrence looked down and saw two modestly dressed and very young women who clearly were friends for many years. One was tiny, raven haired and smiling, talking animatedly with of all people, him. The other, chestnut haired and solemn, listened to her friend's conversation. Robert's and Lawrence's eyes met. They locked for a moment, the King's gaze steely, the knight's gaze searching. Lawrence took Josephine's hand and kissed it.

Josephine for her part was trying to ignore the tension that was almost palpable across the length of the large room. "My lord, thou art in for a treat. O'Neill is a famous singer and player. He breaks ladies' hearts where'er he goes."

Lawrence turned his smiling attention entirely to her. "And what doth his pretty wife think of that?"

Josephine smiled ruefully, "Well, my dearest, that is a tale for another time." Lawrence laughed.

The Irishman was playing his lute.. a quiet instrument, and most of the chatter in the Hall lessened so all could hear. He was an able lutenist and Lawrence enjoyed his lyrical style of playing. He and Sean joined voices for a sweet love song next, and Lawrence noted the sighs from female voices in the Hall. All except the solemn woman sitting next to Robert. Her gaze remained on her trencher and what she was eating. This time he ignored the Breton.

Lawrence remembered the many times he had heard Sean's rich deep voice and recognized it now. The other man's voice was higher, but not by much. It had a mellifluous quality and the man knew how to milk an audience. His glances into the feasting company were flirtatious, knowing, and downright seductive. His wife, Lawrence assumed, was the one studiously "not noticing". Lawrence joined the cheers when the minstrels' set was done. He made a mental note to seek both out, Sean to reminisce and Shannon to praise.

He turned to Josephine, "Methinks we need to keep these fellows here to entertain us."

Josephine's face was bright. "Aye, though we may not keep the Scotsman long. His little wife is with child and they wish to return to their home to farm and raise their family."

"Methinks the Irishman's wife is not so fond of his allure with other women," Lawrence stated.

She laughed. "Aye, and I know the feeling.. I care not for all the ladies here that swoon for thee!" She realized she was on dangerous ground and stopped. But Lawrence only took her hand again and kissed it.

"My darling love, I have no interest in any woman save thee." His eyes were full of love.

She looked into them. "My lord, I do and could ne'er love any man but thee." Her voice was full of emotion. The King smiled happily and leaned to kiss her, this time long and sweetly.

The courtiers noted all and filed all away for gossip later.

Over the next few days Lawrence spent as much time as he could with Josephine, alone or in company. He did find time to call for Sir Robert to come to him in his council chamber. The Breton's face was guarded as he bowed, then stood before the King, who was seated at a table looking over parchments, intentionally averting his focus away from the knight.

"My liege, thou didst call for me?" Sir Robert said in a thin voice.

Without looking up, Lawrence replied absently, "Aye, sir, we did." He went on looking over a document. He made Robert stand where he was and wait. Robert knew exactly what the King was doing. He waited.

When Lawrence finally turned his eyes to the Breton they were cool and measuring. "Sir, we have an assignment for thee."

Robert was struck off guard with the question. "An assignment, my liege?"

Lawrence referred to a document. "Aye, we need a capable man to go our outpost in Affynshire. Our holdings there are ever at risk from raiders. We need a man who canst command the garrisons and ensure that we do not lose sovereignty. We need thee to be that commander."

Robert pursed his lips. "Is my lady displeased with me?"

Lawrence glowered. "My lady hath said nothing whatsoever about thee. And I shall thank thee not to mention her to me, doth thou understand?"

Robert bowed his head, but not from deference. "My lord, as thou doth command."

Lawrence nodded. "Thou shalt leave immediately. It will be a long and most difficult posting."

Robert replied evenly, "I am certain that it is. I shall leave willingly. But I ask only one boon of thee ere I leave."

Lawrence scowled. "And what might that be, sirrah?"

Robert cleared his throat. "Permit me to speak with the Queen just once ere I leave."

Lawrence's look was dark. "Upon the condition that I be present when thou doth speak to her."

Robert nodded resignedly. "Then sire, I shall go."

Robert shot a sharp look at the King "Sire, may I have thy assurance that the lady is safe and well cared for with thee?"

Lawrence swelled with anger. "Thou seeketh to threaten me, sir?"

Robert allowed a smile to touch his lips. "If thy lady is happy with thee, then thou hast nothing to worry about."

The King cast a faint look of approval at the man. He smiled grudgingly. "Then thou shalt ne'er more set foot in my kingdom," he replied with confidence and not a little swagger. "Thou wilt leave immediately."

Robert bowed slightly. "I shall prepare immediately and leave as soon as I may have my audience with my la.. with the Queen."

The King nodded and turned his attention away, dismissing the man. Robert bowed and left the chamber.

Lawrence carefully orchestrated Robert's leave taking from the court and from the Queen. It was to take place in company, with many about the royal pair. Lawrence was seated with his legs crossed and his long arms stretched out along the backs of the chairs on either side of his, one of which was graced by Josephine. She had Peter in her arms, and was talking and cooing at the tiny laughing face. Emily was seated near her, leaning in to tickle the little Prince. Shannon sat to the side with his wife, teasing her a little, and occasionally winning smiles from the shy solemn woman. She blushed when he stole a quick kiss. Others were about talking and engaged in various activities, chess, needle work, idle conversation.

Sir Robert entered in riding clothes. Lawrence saw him first, nodded almost imperceptibly, and the Breton advanced to kneel before Josephine. She was startled, not having seen him come in. She allowed a short, "Sir Robert!" She glanced up at her husband, whose expression told her nothing. The others in the room, except Shannon and Heather, stopped what they were doing to listen and watch. Shannon was still whispering to his wife.

Lawrence told Josephine, "Dearest, I have need of this worthy knight in Affynshire to protect thy and thy brother's birthright at outpost garrisons there. I have ordered him to leave immediately."

Josephine looked at Lawrence again. Still nothing to read.

Sir Robert said, "I have come to take my leave of thee.. if thou will grant it."

Lawrence looked at the Queen who was looking at her son.

She sighed. She slowly looked up at Sir Robert, keeping her look formal. "It is an honorable thing to serve me and my brother, Sir Robert. If thou art leaving for that reason, then I will honor thee with leave to do so." She searched his face.

Lawrence frowned as Robert returned the Queen's searching look. "My lady, my dear lady, if thou art well and happy, I can leave with assurance that my presence is no longer needed."

Looks were exchanged in the chamber. Lorin, who sat alone, glanced at the King. The King looked darts at the knight.

The Queen looked frankly into the Breton's eyes. "I thank thee, sir. Thy concern is much appreciated. I am fortunate among women to have a husband who is so understanding.. and so forgiving. And whom I love and am loved by so dearly." She reached and took Lawrence's hand. Lawrence relaxed visibly. Even Shannon noticed that.

Sir Robert wanted to take her hand and kiss it in farewell, but she had arranged that both hers were occupied, one in her husband's and the other wrapped around and cradling their child. "Then I give thee leave, sir, with gratitude for thy kind friendship here at Ratherwood."

Sir Robert nodded, stood, bowed, and, with one last look, vowed as well to the King and left.

Josephine turned to look at Lawrence. He was looking at little Peter, a happy smile on his face. A twinge of sadness touched her heart, then she too cast her gaze on their precious child.

Shannon whispered to Lorin, "Och, and who be that tense fellow?"

Lorin looked at the minstrel. "His name is Sir Robert Elerde de Riffet, a mercenary Knight of Brittany."

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About the author

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