osephine realized Rory had fallen into step with her as she made her way to the King's council chamber. "Oh! Rory! Good, I am glad you are coming."
He stopped her a moment by putting a hand on her arm. "My lady… Jo.. that was.. that brave of ye…" His use of her name eloquently communicated his emotion.
She looked at him, but her attention was caught by his words and she looked inside herself. She felt pride to have his approbation. Then she said, "Oh dear. Lawrence is not going to like this."
Rory's sympathetic look showed her he knew what she was thinking.
The Queen firmed her resolve, setting her jaw and said, "Well let us go to him and find out."
She and Rory found the King with Lorin in discussion over some administrative matter. Lawrence looked up at his wife as she entered and smiled his welcome. "Ah, you are back. I hope you had a successful quest into the town." He went to her, took her hand and kissed it. "Did you run into my lady there, McGuinness?" he addressed to Rory.
"Aye.. well.. " Rory began.
"Lawrence darling, I need to talk to you about something.. do you have time now?" Josephine broke in as Rory's reply did not go on.
Lorin started to gather papers as if to leave. "No, my brother, if you can stay, I should like you to," the Queen asked.
Her brother left off gathering his work and nodded. "With pleasure, my lady" he said simply.
Josephine looked about. "Can we all sit then? Aye, you as well, Rory." He and Lorin hurried to pull a chair out for her. Lawrence gestured to one by him and Josephine took it. The three men then sat.
Josephine took a breath. "While I was in the town today I learned something most distressing." She tried to keep her focus on what she had to say and not let Lawrence's sudden protective look detour her. "I saw a man who had beaten his child taken away by our guard, Pendra…" She noted Lawrence's start. "But what disturbed me even more was after, when I spoke with Goodwife Branna who had taken the child under her care. She told me that it was likely that when the father came to judgment he would just be sent home to do to his family what he wanted. She said that it was unlikely he would be punished greatly, even if he killed the child in the future… "
Lawrence looked sharply at Lorin. "Is this true? A man may kill his child and be allowed to walk free?"
Lorin's face was grieved. "At this time, sire, aye.. depending on the judge. I have worked for reform of the penal laws in this regard, but the Church has blocked me.."
"Blocked you? The Church? Why?" Josephine reacted incredulously
"My lady," her brother replied, "they fear that should the civil authority interfere in family dominion, that 'tis usurping the man's place as the head of the home." He shook his head. "If we interfere with how men treat their children, the bishop said, we will next try to tell them how to manage their wives. I believe the scripture he quoted was 'The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband.'"
To everyone's surprise, Rory spoke in response. "Aye, your Grace, but that is but half of the word the saint was after sayin'. He finished by sayin' 'twas the same for the man. He hath no power of his own body, but the wife."
Lawrence frowned,. "In my experience, churchmen choose whatever they want to support what they say is 'God's will'." The others waited for him to speak again. He looked at Josephine, reached a tender hand and stroked her cheek with the back of his fingers. Well, in this Kingdom that interpretation shall not stand." He looked at Lorin. "Your Grace, please ask the bishop to attend me here after morning mass."
Josephine put her hand on his arm lovingly. "Thank you, my lord." She thought a moment, then went on, "I am concerned for the child.. I would like him brought to stay at the castle."
Lawrence looked at Lorin questioningly. The Chancellor hesitated. "Does the child have a mother, my lady?" he asked his sister.
Josephine looked to Rory, who replied, "Nay, I believe she is dead. Giving birth to a younger bairn. The boy's name is Osric, me lady."
Lorin nodded. "Then I should think he can be brought here, this young fellow." His sister smiled.
Lawrence called for a servant whom he ordered to fetch Pendra. He noted with curiosity the quick look that his wife and the Irishman exchanged. He gazed at them uncertainly. "My lady, is there something I should know about Pendra's actions in all this?"
Josephine looked back at him frankly. "Aye, my lord. That is, he has more to say. For he will tell you how I came to know of this situation." She did not turn aside her gaze. "I heard a struggle and went with all the rest to see what passed. 'Twas Shannon O'Neill who had interfered with the father's brutal treatment of the child. The father attacked Shannon. The man is large, so You can imagine 'twas not going well for our friend." She glanced briefly at Rory, then went on resolutely. "'Twas shocking to me that no one went to his defense. In sooth, I believe some of the people were.. enjoying.. the spectacle."
Rory nodded and observed, "'Tis always thus."
The Queen gave Rory a despairing look. "Nay! It cannot be!" But he just nodded again, sadly.
"How is O'Neill? Was he badly hurt?" the King inquired.
Rory answered, "He looks worse than the injuries signify, me lord. He is receivin' the lovin' care of his wife."
Nodding, Lawrence urged, "And so how did it come about that the man was taken into custody?"
His wife looked back into his eyes. She spoke forthrightly, ""I grabbed a dagger from the belt of a man near me and threatened the man with it."
"You did what?" the King cried. He shot a look at Rory. "And I suppose you just stood by and let her do this?!"
Josephine went to her friend's defense before he could answer, "My lord, Rory was not there. He came moments later." She kept her voice calm and even.
Just then there was a rap at the door and the guard Pendra entered and bowed. The King shouted at him, "So, sir, I hear you stood idly by while the Queen put herself in mortal danger!" He glared at the man, who flinched.
"My.. my lord, I did not have time to intercept the dagger and prevent her.." The man was looking miserably at his own feet.
"And was not my order that you keep an eye on her at all times?"
Josephine looked up at her husband surprised. Then she smiled slightly, and thought to herself "I should have known my lord would have his eye on me in one way or another." She gave him a loving smile.
Rory twisted the cap he was holding in his hands and ventured, "My lord, if I may be after sayin' a thing or two about this.."
"Aye?" the King lowered a steely glare at the man.
Rory cleared his throat. "The Queen was ne'er in any danger. The crowd made sure the man knew who she was. He knew better than to lay a finger on her."
Lawrence's glare was unabated. "Aye, but did she act knowing this 'fact'?"
Lorin spoke up. "He is no doubt quite right, my liege. She is much beloved of the people. I do not believe they should have let her come to any harm, and that is, begging your leave, sire, what signifies, is it not?" As Lawrence's glare shifted to his Chancellor's face, Josephine smiled encouragingly at Rory.
Lorin went on. "Methinks her attendance to the market and such shall merely strengthen that love and regard. Barring pure accident, my sister is unlikely come to harm in the town, most certainly not more than she could come to harm crossing this castle's very courtyard. And it appears that her observations and judgment may in fact be of singular value to you, my lord."
The King glanced briefly at the Queen, then looked back at her brother. "Aye? And how is that?" His voice still was filled with his anger.
Lorin raised one eyebrow., "My liege, the people never talk to you. Or to me, in truth. They either speak to us what they want us to know or what they deem Is what we want to hear. Is that not true, sire?" Lawrence did not reply, so the Duke went on, "But my sister's keen intelligence and discriminating assessment of what she sees shall only be enriched by the trust she will quickly garner.." He smiled fondly at Josephine. "We shall, sire, gain unprecedented knowledge of them, what they need, and what they are thinking."
Everyone turned to look at the King, waiting for his reaction to this. He glared back at Lorin for some time. Then his face relaxed some. He nodded briskly.
"We shall speak of this and of the disposition of the prisoner anon," he said sternly to Pendra, who bowed and gratefully was dismissed.
The King then glanced at Rory. "My lady may not like this, Irishman, but I command you to accompany her any time she goes outside the castle walls." At Rory's firm nod, Lawrence gave him leave to depart as well. Rory glanced apologetically at the Queen, but she was not looking at him. He bowed in turn to the three royals and left to check on Shannon's wounds.
Lawrence did not look at the Chancellor but simply said, "Your Grace, we can finish our previous business later.. in the meantime, I want you to look into the laws as they stand that touch upon a man's control over his family and to bring the bishop to me, as I ordered. You may leave us."
Lawrence was looking at his wife, who of course understood he wanted her to stay. "I should like to speak to you, my lady," he said in a dry voice.
Once Lorin had left the chamber, the King sat back and regarded the Queen. She looked back at him mildly.
"My lady, it distresses me greatly to hear that you put yourself at such risk in the town. Do you have no care for the fear that puts into me?"
Josephine was surprised at his question.. his past reactions had always been to tell her she did not know the danger of a situation or action. This was the first time he had gone straight to her responsibility to think of himself. She rose from her chair and stood at his side, looking down into his face, her hands on his shoulder.
"I do care my Lord", she answered him. "More than you know. Have I not myself sat here many months wondering if you will return to me from war? But should I ask you to lay down your sword and let others fight your battles in order that I may not fear losing you?"
She let this thought sink in a little before continuing, "I am glad you sent that man Pendra to watch me. But if you protect me from every possible danger, my life shall not be worth living. In fact, I have come to feel lately that if I must continue to live so closely guarded here, I will die of it!"
Lawrence's eyes searched her face. He said in a gentle voice, "My darling, mayhap now 'tis you who are overstating the danger? Is your judgment not clouded by this strength of feeling?" He put his hand on one of hers and his gaze was filled with concern.
"It may be, yet I must be the only judge of what I may do..."
Lawrence looked down. "Your brother certainly believes you are as safe as can be hoped in the town. I suppose I must surrender to the two of you on this. But I must be allowed to think upon this ere I do. Do please grant me that, my lady."
Josephine then laughed, leaning to put her arms around his neck and her cheek on the top of his head. "Oh Lawrence, I love you so. " She leaned further to look into his face. He looked back at her. She kissed him lovingly and they said no more about the matter for the moment.
Not long after however she happened to catch from the corner of her eye his appraising look. It said "Did you really do that?" And there was a barely perceptible smile on his lips.
Next: Josephine and the Sword
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