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

Sunday, August 16, 2009

New Stories: Separations (Cut)

We are not quite back into the "happened" stories. This one is utterly not in the novel.

he young woman and the boy stood together on the deck of the low ship with its simple triangular sail and sweeping prow. The woman was with child. The boy was solemn and protective.

Josephine leaned in and whispered to her brother, "Lorin, I crave a boon of thee."

The boy looked into her eyes and replied, "Of course, my sister, anything thou wishest."

She hesitated a moment, clearly making up her mind about something very difficult for her. "I want you to leave the ship as it sets out… and run so they will not go after thee."

Lorin looked at Josephine, shocked. "My lady, I cannot do that!"

She gave him a sharp look. "Thou said 'anything'. I require it of thee. Lorin, please, I need this."

Lorin had looked around to make sure his panicky reply had not been overheard. The sailors were busy preparing to sail as the tides were tricky and there was no time to waste. "Why, my sister? Why shall I not go with thee to France?"

Josephine put her hand through the crook of his arm and pressed against him. "I need thee to go to Lawrence. I cannot bear that he may arrive at the castle and find me mysteriously gone. I need thee to tell him where and that I was well when ye last saw me."

Lorin nodded reluctantly. He waited a while, then said to her, "Thou knowest this refuge is a trick, doth thou not?" He leveled a grim look at her.

Josephine cast down her eyes and nodded. "Aye, I know. They need a pawn so that Lawrence will not confiscate their lands or harm their families. As long as they have me they believe they will be safe. "

"Aye, and that they will, more the pity," her brother interjected.

Josephine turned away slightly, and said in a sorrowful voice, "I know not. When my lord learns of the child, of Roland's child, I may not be so valuable to him any more." She gazed out at the land that rose above the bay, the site, though she knew it not, of her future home, the Castle of Sunshine.

Lorin started to protest, as he had often before, but she stilled his words. "Thou must be ready to go.. methinks we are soon casting off." She turned to him again and said determinedly, "Lorin, tell him everything.. save for the child I carry. I would he know not of that until he must. I shall delay the pain for him as long as I may." Lorin put his arms around her and they stood, silently weeping.

Lorin's next words were cut short by a shout from the captain of the small ship to cast off the lines that held them to a piling in the harbor. The Queen gave Lorin a pleading look. He nodded sadly, kissed her cheek, and turned to watch for his advantage. The ship started to drift out into The Wash. He braced himself, then dashed to the side of the ship and jumped.

Sailors shouted with surprise, but the captain waved them off… the tide was not going to wait for them to chase the young boy. Jean d'Armagnac approached the Queen. "Eh bien, so thy brother has no stomach for a sea voyage?" His look betrayed that he was not fooled about the reason the boy had run.

Josephine hid a slight smile. "Aye, it seemeth that way." She let the man take her arm and lead her to a shelter constructed on the deck for her.

Lawrence's army was on the march, making its slow progress towards the capital in the center of Christenlande. He rode with the outlaw Athelwick by his side. The man was telling him that spies had reported the desertion of his cronies from Roland's defense. The King nodded grimly, but made no reply.

At length he said to his companion, "Athelwick, what will thee have for thy generosity and devotion? It seemeth we shall overcome the villain, and I shall grant everyone of thy men pardons.. but what more can I do? Tell me."

Athelwick thought. "Sire, for myself I ask nothing. But for my brave men I must find some boon thou canst grant." He considered for a while. "They have lost everything. What little was left to them after their outlawry, was taken when we did ally with thee." He looked to Lawrence, not wanting to incur the King's now famous flashes of rage. Lawrence looked on without a change in expression.

The outlaw leader went on, "They have lost homes, land, possessions, work, and many have lost their families. After this they shall need either to return to outlawry or find new lives."

Lawrence considered for a while. He ventured, "Christenlande needs a capital that can be better defended. Might I not create a new one, on the coast mayhap, and put thy outlaws to work planning, building and inhabiting a new city?"

Athelwick's face shone. "Sire, that is an excellent idea. I shall tell my men, and it will bring even more fire to their battle with the usurper.

Lawrence shot the first smile his companion had seen on his face towards him and nodded. "Go. Tell them." Athelwick turned his horse and sped back to where his men were clustered in the line of soldiers.

Virtually alone now in the castle, Roland paced and shot orders at everyone who came near. He wrung his hands. All his co-conspirators had deserted him. They had even spirited the Queen and her brother away, to be hostages no doubt. But they had left him unprotected, with no soldiers, like an animal caught in a trap. The servants took care of his daily needs, but no one came to his defense or aid. He waited knowing full well he waited for his own death.

A scout shouted a warning to the King and his commanders. A rider was racing towards them across a field. The King's guard drew their swords and started to ride to meet him. Lawrence peered at the approaching rider and recognized him. "Wait, bring that boy to me. It is my lady's brother."

Lorin was brought to the King directly. They both dismounted and, ringed with soldiers and commanders, fell into each others' embrace. Lorin cried, "I ne'er gave up hope that thou wert alive and wouldst come to rescue us" he wept.

Lawrence clasped his brother-in-law's shoulders and pushed him back to look into his face. "Lorin, thy sister, is she well?"

A shadow crossed the boy's face. Lawrence insisted, "What hath happened, Lorin, tell me. Quickly!" He saw how tired and dispirited the boy had become and called for his men to make camp and bring Lorin food and wine. As his men jumped to, Lawrence led the boy to a fallen tree and they sat.

Lorin told the King that the supporters of his brother's treachery had deserted him at long last, but that they had meant to take himself and Josephine to France. She had begged him to escape and inform Lawrence. "So thou shouldst not race into the castle to find her vanished."

Lawrence turned and sat forward, his head down and his hands clasped between his knees. "Then she is for France. To be held for ransom or some assurances from me." Lorin nodded. "Well they shall have whate'er assurances or riches they wish. So long as they have not harmed so much as a hair on her head."

Lorin replied before he thought about it, "That is what I told her, my lord, that she was wrong and that thou shouldst not desert her!" He paled at Lawrence's sharp look, realizing he had opened a subject Josephine had wanted kept closed for as long as possible.

"Did my lady doubt that I should cross heaven, earth and hell to find and save her?!" the King cried incredulously.

Lorin bowed his head. "Aye, sire, she hath reason to wonder if thou shall want her when thou art again on thy throne."

Lawrence roughly took the boy's shoulders and pulled him to face himself. "What art thou saying? What hath happened?" he fairly growled.

Lorin sadly responded, " She is with child again, sire. Thy brother's child."

Lawrence roared, "With his child? That bastard took her? I shall tear his heart out of his chest!" He released the boy's shoulders and asked more gently, "How fares my lady? How badly was she hurt when he.. he raped her?"

Lorin was relieved to hear that Lawrence's first thought was that his wife had been taken against her will. Even the Queen had wondered whether he would think she had gone with Roland willingly or at least without a struggle. She need not have worried, as Lawrence knew both her and his brother well enough to imagine what had happened.

Lorin told him how the other usurpers had prevented Roland from committing such an outrage again. He expressed his belief that it was to make sure the King had no more to blame them for than he already had. He said he had not been allowed to see the Queen after her rape for many, many weeks, When he finally saw her, not long before they left to take ship for France, she had seemed grim but well, and she had been visibly with child.

Lawrence buried his head in his hands and wept openly When he looked up his eyes were swollen and red and his mouth twisted with pain. He stated through clenched teeth and tears, "I shall find Roland and I shall kill him. Then I shall find her and bring her home.. with child or nay." He put a hand on Lorin's shoulder. Then he stood and strode away.

The castle did not stand long. Only its physical strength resisted the King's onslaught. No men at arms defended it. What few had remained with Roland had deserted as the King's armies came into view. Roland had ordered servants to shut the gates against the returning King but that had only delayed what must come.

Lawrence found him in the Great Hall, in armor, sitting on the King's throne with the Queen's empty beside him. Roland stood and raised his sword. "Lawrence!" he spat.

Lawrence regarded his brother. "Bastard," was all he said, in a low menacing voice.

Roland continued to glare. "So thou doth win again, Lawrence. All my life I have been bested by thee." The King did not reply but stood watching his brother, his own sword in his hand. "Well I may have the last blow after all, my King." Roland laced the last word with as much venom as he could produce.

Lawrence's face was guarded, knowing that Roland would boast that he had bedded the queen.

Roland spat, "Thy innocent little wife is not so pure now that… I have had her."

Lawrence roared and advanced on Roland. He struck at the man, who caught the blow with his own broadsword. "Had her.. against her will, thou villain! Lorin hath escaped and told me all." He swung again. The two men struggled, struck and circled each other. Athelwick, Lorin and many others had come in not long behind the King and watched, ready to rush in if the usurper gained the advantage.

The King swung hard and wide and struck his brother on the side, sending him sprawling. He darted to the fallen man and raised his sword to take the final blow. He hissed, "Thy child will be raised as my child, Roland, so thou shall not even have issue upon this earth."

Lawrence was surprised by his brother's reaction. Roland looked stunned a moment, then his lips spread in an evil triumphant smile. "My child? That is sweet! I did not know of it. Thou shalt have to remember me and how much I detest and scorn thee for the rest of thy miserable life. My child, that I got on your Josephine!"

Lawrence glared and the blade came down one final time on his brother. He shuddered as he saw that the smile, the victorious smile, remained on the corpse's lips.

Next: To Love a Child

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About the author

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