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: To Love a Child (Cut)

In the novel, all of Josephine's children are also the king's, except Tavish, whom they adopted. I see I was still calling it Christenlande at this point. Actually, "Crísliland" is just "Christenlande" in Old English. On another note, the French spoken here did not exist yet. The language French developed from Latin Vulgate within about 150 years, but at this time the language used would more likely have been Frankish, a Germanic language. That's what "Charlemagne" spoke.

18 months to two years after the marriage and coronation of Josephine and Lawrence

he Queen of Christenlande cried out in pain. "Nay, nay! 'Tis too soon!"

The Mother Superior of the Convent of Ste. Marguerite urged her noble guest to lie down.

"Mais, Madame, if God says it is time for l'enfant to be born, it is time." She pressed Josephine's shoulders down to the bed. "Restez, child, so we can help thee." She was growing impatient.

The pains had come nearly a month early, as far as Josephine could calculate. She was not surprised at this, since a timely delivery would have been unlikely with the hardships of the past several months. Her time isolated in the castle in Christenlande's capital, the worry about the King and about her brother, the voyage to France followed by the journey to the convent, and finally as much respite here as she could hope for, as she waited to learn if she still had a loving husband who wanted her back.

The child in her womb had been conceived in pain and violence by the brother who had usurped her King's rightful throne, but nevertheless she loved it. She had lost her first child when the little girl was still born, and now she was about to bear a bastard, but one she intended to love with all her heart. She would care for the child even if it meant giving up Lawrence -- for if he did not want this child, she did not care to go to him, no matter how it broke her heart.

She need not make that choice, for as she was in childbed her husband was again ensconced in his capital and conferring with his ministers on how best to bring his Queen, and the child, back to him. There had been a message from the usurper Cariadoc and his henchman, Jean d'Armagnac, the man who had taken the Queen to France, with certain demands in exchange for return of the King's precious wife. They demanded pardons and for return of their lands and possessions that by default had been forfeited to the crown upon Lawrence's return to power. Lawrence argued vehemently for agreement with these conditions, and no matter his ministers' objections, his will was final.

One minister had ventured a risky question, "But, sire, the child.. it is not thy child."

The King had leveled a threatening look on the man and replied, "It is my lady's child, and therefore it is my own.. doth thou understand?" The man was silent.

Next came unbearable delays and negotiations, frustrated by the sheer time it took to send messages back and forth in an era where even wind powered sailing was the slowest it would ever be. The weather further delayed passage of heralds to and from France. Lawrence knew by the time any concrete agreement could be reached, Josephine would have been delivered of her child.. and would she be well? Would she even live? He could not leave the kingdom, not after all that had happened, but he at least wanted to send Lorin, the Queen's 17 year old brother.. but the usurpers had not revealed where she was being kept.

Josephine herself knew nothing of any of this. She was kept entirely in the dark about the negotiations. For all she knew and for all the nuns would tell her, her husband was dead or seeking her or rejected her or was remarried. She could only cling to the hope and Lorin's reassuring words when he left her on the ship. The King would come for her. He loved her. He would never blame her for what his brother had done.

When Lorin delivered the final agreements to Cariadoc himself, the older man shook his head. "I understand not thy King, boy. To give over so much for nothing more than a scrawny little wench who is not even a pure woman any more.. aye, I know she is thy sister. But I have betrayed him twice now. Thou may believe I shall not again, but I also should not risk it were I he.."

Lorin returned to the capital with the Queen's whereabouts. Lawrence wanted to leave immediately himself but knew he could not dare it.. and Lorin set out for the coast and sea passage himself.

When he arrived at last with his retinue at the Convent of Ste. Marguerite, he was haughtily told to go away and wait for a message that he could visit his sister. Lorin feared some sort of trick or delaying strategy, but in truth it was just the convent's way. He billeted his retinue in local merchants' homes and himself waited at a rather seedy inn. He received a summons a few days later, went to the convent and was allowed, alone to enter a room in the guest house outside the walls. There he found his sister, pale, drained and morose. He went to her and clasped her in his arms.

"Sunshine," he said, calling her by her childhood nickname, "I thank God thou art here and all right."

She smiled wanly and embraced him as tightly as her weakness would allow. "Oh my dear brother. It is so good at long last to see the face of someone I love." They sat together on a bench. She could see a change in him, no longer the callow boy, but taking on a little more height and definitely developing the frame of a grown man. For his turn he saw a woman older than her 18 years, careworn and clearly not well.

"My lady, thou art pale and weak. Was thy delivery difficult? Where is the child?" He took her hands in his as he spoke.

She looked back at him, weary. "Aye, 'twas a difficult birth.. too early. But that is not the cause of my sorrow. My little boy, I named him Dreoghan, is not well.. he was too small at birth and has failed to thrive. I do not think to have him long in mine arms." Her eyes were filled with grief and exhaustion. "I wanted to bring him here to meet his uncle, but he is too ill."

Lorin regarded his sister with the deepest compassion. "Dreoghan? That means 'suffers'?"

"Aye, after the dear one was born I saw how he bore his ills with such patience, such sweetness. Soon God will have him and he shall suffer no more." The tears brimmed over and down her cheeks.

Lorin continued to hold her hands and stroke them.

"My lady, Josephine, I have come to take thee home… to thy husband, the King," he said after a while.

Josephine dried her tears and looked skeptically at him. "My husband? He is still my husband? I had thought with all this waiting he had no desire to see me again."

Lorin's heart felt heavy. "Aye, I was afraid of that. The usurpers who held thee here would not tell us where thou wert. We have been negotiating for thy return. In the end, they wouldst only tell us were thou were not send thee home themselves. Lawrence grieved that he could not come to get thee himself."

Josephine stood and walked to the window. "My brother, I shall not leave without my child," she stated firmly.

Lorin stood and went to her. "My lady. Thou needest not leave thy child, but bring him with thee to Christenlande, " he assured her.

She looked around at him surprised. "Bring him? Bring my little Dreoghan? The King will tolerate him?" she asked doubtfully.

Lorin smiled warmly. "Aye, and more than tolerate. He hath made it clear that thy child is his child and that he should e'en declare him heir if thou wills it."

Josephine was stunned. "His heir?! My God, Lorin, his heir?!" She put her hands to her cheeks and just stared. She could not take it in.

"Josie," Lorin began affectionately, taking her in his arms, "Did I not tell thee? He loves thee above all things. He hath sworn to move heaven and earth to bring thee home."

The Queen's tears flowed again, but now they were the happiest of tears. She smiled and wept, unbelieving. She put her arms around her brother and sobbed joyfully into his shoulder.

"I am overcome with joy," she said at long last, "but my brother, I cannot leave now. Dreoghan is too ill and too little to travel, and I will not leave unless he can leave with me."

He nodded. "Of course, and I will send to thy husband that thou shalt come as soon as the boy is well enough to cross the sea."

Lawrence was disappointed when he received Lorin's message. But more than that he was filled with love and pain for his dear wife. He stood at the window, looking out upon the southeast, wondering how he could bear that she was there, aggrieved and alone, and he could do nothing. He called for writing materials and wrote a message to her.

"My own dear love,

My heart is torn asunder by thy sorrow. How I long to be with thee, to hold thy sweet little hand, and to gaze with thee at the mite who suffers by no fault of his own. Should thy son live, I shall love and care for him with all my heart and as mine own son. I weep for thee and thy pain. I shall pray that he recover and that thou canst both be back in my arms soon, my wife and child.


Josephine's eyes filled again with tears as she read this loving message. She received it as she sat by her child's bed, waiting for his tiny lifeless body to be carried away to be prepared for burial in sacred ground. Lorin stood at her side and held her shoulders.

The small procession left the graveside and walked to the courtyard. The Queen looked back where her little son would lie forever, far from the home he never saw. "I wish I did not have to leave him here alone." Lorin nodded with shared grief. He led her to the where retinue waited, and helped her to mount a horse. She was still weak with sorrow, but held herself well.

"I feel as if by leaving him, Dreoghan never lived.. he was but a sweet and patient dream." She paused for a moment. "Nay, he lives in my heart and e'er shall."

She spurred her horse and the company rode for the g=harbor where they could take ship for home.

Next: A Brief Respite

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About the author

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