awrence found the ride back to the capital unnerving. Where he had ridden out with his father and brother, an adjutant to them and inspiring nothing more than indulgent deference as the younger son of the King, he now found himself in the vanguard alone. He rode at the fore with the captains riding with him, deferring to him, treating him as if he was his father. He felt like running and hiding, but of course he had the weight of the entire nation on his shoulders now.
Once he had slain his uncle, Duke Nestor, the cronies who had supported or perhaps even egged the usurper on, fled, vanishing into the frontiers like snow on a hot stone, no doubt to conspire and plot some other dastardly deeds.. Lawrence pardoned the soldiers of the rebelling army as the first act of his monarchy. He knew they had little choice when their lords called them up to serve and that if they were grateful to him he had at least a better chance of never facing them in battle again.
The mourning for the King and Prince Arneth was great, for both had been very popular figures. Arneth had reigned long and with wisdom. Arneth was the quintessential knight and prince, much like the renowned Black Prince" of the Plantagenets some 600 years hence. Lawrence himself was numb with the grief and the shock of his new responsibilities. And here he was, riding into the capital, its King.
His heart was heavy as he entered the castle gate to share the saddest of news with his younger brother and sister. But it was heavier still when he learned that Roland had inexplicably fled and that his sister Laurel was dying. She was so near death when he saw her that he could not even tell her the sad news of her father's and oldest brother's deaths. He stood at the foot of her bed, silently weeping, more alone than he had ever been in his young life.
A kind hand touched his arm and he turned to see Juliana, her own face red and swollen with weeping. He reached for her and they clung, together for grief's sake. Each was holding one of Laurel's hand as she silently passed from this world.
From careless children Lawrence and his sister's friend passed into a mournful adulthood, with uncertain futures and no patterns for how to proceed. Lawrence was confronted with his father's old advisors who bowed and deferred to him, but seemed as watchful and wary as did he. They knew the young man as a personable, honest and earnest boy, but they would not see the mettle of the man quite yet.
Lawrence was grateful for a visit from his father's staunch ally, King Karl. He spent long hours with the new young king, advising him, listening to him, and urging him to move forward and be the King in every possible way. He convinced Lawrence to move ahead with his coronation and … his marriage. King Karl's daughter Josephine was now sixteen and more than ready to be a wife, he said. He promised Lawrence that she was sweet and she was lovely.
Lawrence shared many of his misgivings with Juliana whom he had known for some years, veritably growing up with her. He had met his intended bride only once, when he was eight and she six, and he could remember nothing but a little fair haired girl who had one finger in her mouth throughout the plighting ceremony. The girl was now the oldest child of the king, her sister, who had been affianced to Lawrence's brother Arneth, having died of a fever within that very year. The two had one brother, a boy named Lorin, who would someday succeed his father as King of Affynshire.
Juliana listened to Lawrence with sincere friendship, but she said little. Her own feelings could not be uttered. She tried to content herself with the light of her life's having come through relatively unscathed from the war. She nodded sympathetically as he shared his nervousness about meeting his young fiancée, but she did not disclose her own heartache.
The day came just a fortnight before Lawrence was to be crowned and made King in name and in sanctity, when King Karl presented his daughter to her husband-to-be. The girl was introduced in pomp and ritual as befitted the occasion, the meeting of the King and his Queen and mother of a future King. He sat on his throne, ill at ease with the pretentious ceremony. She came in on her father's arm, her head bowed discreetly. She was delicate and small, with long golden hair that shone like sunbeams. Lawrence recalled being told that her childhood nickname had been Sunshine. Her father beamed with pride at her as she was presented to Lawrence.
The young King's palms sweat as the girl raised her eyes to him. Their gazes locked. He looked into the sweetest pair of blue eyes he had ever seen. She, who had feared this meeting as much as he, took in the handsome face of this earnest young man with broad shoulders and kind eyes. Their gazes held. She smiled, and Lawrence's heart leapt with his first and only true love.
He stood and walked to her, taking her hands in his. "My lady, welcome to your capital," he said, and hearing his voice, she gave over her heart to him. She smiled again, curtsied slightly and kept her eyes on his. The world was obscured with a misty brightness as they bathed in each other's presence.
"Good my lord, I am so happy to be here. And with thee,." She looked harder into his face to gauge his reaction to her boldness. She saw a bald delight come across his face.
From the shadows in the corner of the room, Juliana stifled a sob as she smiled at the boy she now knew would be happy.
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 http://authorchristophermoss.vlogspot.com