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 14, 2009

New Stories: A Queen in Peril (cut)

Again, remember that Roland was not in the novel, so none of this could happen. I also changed how lorin, the Queen's brother, came to Críslicland.

Seven to eleven months after Lawrence's and Josephine's marriage and coronation.

For weeks Lorin was kept locked in his chambers, enable to see his royal sister or proffer her any help or comfort. He knew she must be in deep grief over the King's reported death, although the boy hoped she was as skeptical of this report as was he. He reasoned that the fact that he himself was still alive meant there was some reason to doubt that Lawrence was completely out of the picture. Someone somewhere in a position of influence was keeping him alive to use as a pawn, perhaps, or just not to have more for a furious returned King to punish him for. And whoever this someone was had a level of control over Roland's power.

Lorin was not completely in the dark about what transpired outside his locked chamber door. The castle servants, devoted to their dazzlingly beautiful and kind mistress the Queen, kept him informed. It was a mixed blessing, with both bad and good news, a lot more of the former than the latter. He learned that after he had been dragged from her chamber Roland had not stayed much longer and had left Josephine locked in with no one to help or see her but her servants, not even her ladies in waiting. She had gotten word to Lorin that she was all right, and he had reciprocated. He had hesitated to pass on his theory about Lawrence being alive, afraid that if his ideas became known to Roland he might out of fury at being seen as "handled" act rashly.

One early morning Lorin was awakened by a commotion in the corridor. He rose and went to listen at his heavy door. It was clear that something terrible was happening, but he could not make out any words. All he could do was wonder and wait, a wait that was excruciating. He paced, peered out the window to the courtyard, and pressed his ear to the door alternately. Nothing he saw or heard over several hours gave him any clues as to what was going on. Several times he thought he heard a woman or a child crying out in pain, but the sound was too filtered by the heavy stone walls to make out.

Finally there came a heavy pounding on his door. "I cannot open the door.. thou must gain entrance thyself," he shouted, wondering who would come to his door and not know it was locked from the outside.

A voice, one of the many Celtic servants in the castle called through to him, "My lord, forgive me. I will find a man at arms."

Lorin called "Wait!" and dashed to the door to ask what the commotion was, but the servant had already gone in search of someone with the key. The prince had to wait many more agonizing minutes before he heard the door being unlocked. It opened to reveal a sour faced man at arms who glared at Lorin before allowing the servant to enter. It was a small man he knew from his sister's service. The man looked back at the soldier and waited for him to close the door, but the guard just snarled, "Get on with it."

The servant spoke quietly to the boy prince. "My lord, thy sister hath delivered of a child, it is small and did not survive."

Lorin took a step back in shock. "Oh dear Jesu Christ, is my sister all right?"

The servant shook his head. "She is very ill, my lord. The King.. I mean Roland… "

"Aye, aye, man, I know.. just tell me," Lorin pleaded.

"He sent me to fetch thee to her side."

He glanced over at the man at arms. The burly man snapped, "All right, then let's get going and not keep the King waiting."

Lorin was bustled out of his chamber and down the long corridors to where he saw his sister's chambers door stood open. He dashed in, finding the room full of people, all rushing about confusedly. He saw the two still figures in the room, Roland, pale, staring at the other, the Queen who lay even paler dwarfed in her huge bed. Lorin rushed to her side, casting an angry look at the usurper. "What hast thou done, scoundrel?" he demanded.

"I have done nothing," the young man shot back, and turned and walked to the other side of the room. He was obviously quite concerned.

Lorin sat by his sister and took her hand. She slowly and painfully opened her eyes, and her voice when she spoke was weak and barely audible.

"Lorin, my brother, I am so happy to see thee!" Josephine said.

"My dearest, what hast happened?" Lorin clasped her hand to his chest, leaning close to her face to catch every word.

She looked stricken with grief. "Oh Lorin, the child. I lost the child. Lawrence's child, the only thing I have left of my darling husband." Tears welled and spilled from her eyes. "I know not why.. I went into labor and the child was born, but too early. It was a little girl. She died." The Queen, too weak to sob, nevertheless made choking sounds.

Lorin motioned for a servant to bring drink. He held his sister up a bit and helped her sip some wine. He put the goblet down and took her in his arms and rocked her, crooning soothingly under his breath.

Roland strode over and demanded, "Well?! Shall she live?"

Lorin shot him a look of unadulterated hate. "How shouldst I know? Thou hast only thyself to blame for this.. the grief hath killed the child, and mayhap the mother. "

Roland started to protest but realized nothing he could say would change the situation, and he angrily strode from the room.

Lorin stayed with Josephine and helped her servants to cool her with damp cloths, called for the apothecaries to make up restoring brews for her, and spoke to her gently. At one point he murmured as quietly as he could, "My dearest sister, I do not believe Lawrence is dead."

The Queen's body jerked and she looked into his eyes pleadingly. He explained, " I have reason to believe that he escaped whatever treachery his brother committed. I cannot tell thee for certain, but take hope in this. Thy deliverance will come."

The hopeful words seemed to help the Queen calm and sleep. The care she received from her brother and her servants slowly succeeded in bringing down her fever and helped her recover from the trauma, both physical and psychic. Her recovery was slow, but it was steady and encouraging. Roland came a few times to find out her condition, and seemed relieved she was getting better. "Strange," Lorin thought, "why does he care?"

When the Queen was finally able to get out of bed and sit with her brother in her chambers, Roland surprisingly stayed away and let Lorin stay. He slept on a mat on the floor, close to her bed. She protested frequently that he should go back to his own bed, that she was fine, but he did not want to leave her alone.

He may as well have gone, for all the good his staying did.

Soon after the Queen was fully recovered, yet still grieving for the loss of her and her beloved's child, a servant came to Lorin and urged him to step away for some news. The servant, Lorin knew, was taking a great risk by speaking to him in private, but much was at stake here besides one simple man's fate. Lorin contrived to place himself and the servant in an empty anteroom and waited for the man's hurried information.

"The King, the real King, is alive!" the man blurted, in barely a whisper.

Lorin's face lit up. "I didst know it, I was certain. What dost thou know?"

The servant moved in as close as he could to Lorin's ear. "He is amassing support in the north. Princes and lords from all around our borders are coming to his aid." The man looked around. "That is all I know and now I shall take my leave, with thy permission." Lorin thanked him and nodded.

He waited until he had an opportunity to whisper to his sister, "Josephine, there is glad tidings. Thy husband is alive, and he is in the north preparing to rescue thee and reclaim his throne!"

Josephine started to cry out in joy and clap her hands. Then she realized that others who were not sympathetic might report her joy to Roland, and she became more subdued. She and her brother thereafter tried with great difficulty not to exchange hopeful and happy looks.

How the servant knew these tidings Lorin never knew. The man disappeared and no other servants would speak of him. But the prince soon learned that word of Lawrence's escape and preparations for war had reached the usurper's ears. Roland himself revealed this, when one evening he burst into Josephine's chamber, clearly a little drunk and raving.

"So thy noble lord hath outwitted me?!" he spat at the Queen. "And he thinks to reclaim what is his. Well, I do not plan to give up the throne easily…" He leveled a malevolent look at Josephine. "And he shall not have thee at all." He gestured to some men at arms who hovered in the corridor. "Take this whelp away and guard the door." They grabbed Lorin. "Wait, no, just toss him into the corridor. Let him stay or go, as his stomach will allow him. " He gestured for the few servants to leave. Lorin was dragged into the hallway as Roland slammed the door shut. The boy heard the bar fall into its brackets. The men at arms dumped him roughly on the floor and went back to their posts in the corridor.

Lorin pulled himself up and ran back to the door, hammering on it with his fists. He heard a struggle inside the chamber, then his sister's cry, stifled with a rough hand. Lorin wailed "Nooo!" and crumpled on the floor and wept.

Next: To Regain the Throne

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About the author

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