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, September 13, 2009

New Stories: The Hunting "Accident", Part 1 (Happened)

It would be cheating to say there is a link to an old story from this one, though there is a battle between Lawrence and Elerde it really has no correlation to this one. However if you would like to read it now, it is Lawrence's Fight with Elerde of Brittany.

This is a revised version in which the king does not attack the unarmed Elerde.. so the next story in succession will have to be scrapped and rewritten as well. For historical nitpickers I am perfectly aware that Saxons did not hunt on horseback. This is part of the romantic fantasy aspect of the novel.

Spring 768

"I suppose I must," the King said without conviction.

His brother in law, Duke Lorin, measured his response carefully. "Sire, you missed the opportunity when Elmet first came under Christenlandian rule. This might be seen as a boon, if it pleases your majesty." He kept his eyes slightly averted.

"'Tis your kingdom by right, your Grace. But you choose not to involve yourself. So that means I must go and confront the arrogant bastard in your place.." Lawrence fairly growled the words.

Lorin raised one eyebrow . "My liege, I will be only too pleased to go in your stead. Just say the word…"

Lawrence interrupted, "Nay, that is not necessary. I know I am just trying to avoid the man. That is no reason not to do my duty by my people."

Lorin sighed inwardly. This is just how he knew their conversation would go.

That morning a message had arrived from Cynewulf, the governor general of the Queen's and Lorin's home country of Elmet requesting that the King himself make the journey to what was now the northern province of Christenlande to inspect the remarkable success achieved by the man Lawrence himself had sent to secure the frontiers in the north, Sir Elerde of Brittany. A completely routine request, to be sure. The complicating factor was the Elerde was sent not simply because he was an able soldier but to get him as far away from the Queen as possible without actually killing him. Lawrence as the King should have had to bear no particular consequences had he simply run his sword through the blackguard, and of late he was beginning to regret his mercy. He sighed.

"Send to Cynewulf that I shall be in Loidis within a fortnight.. we can travel via the Humber and the Aire which will hasten the journey. Please summon Sir Percy and instruct him I shall wish to have him accompany me." The King stood to leave.

"My lord, might you pass through Scumthorpe on your way to the river?" the Duke asked.

"Aye, I suppose so… ah, that is right, my cousin was fostered there.. and wants to come to court. Shall I take him along to Elmet or pick him up on the way back, do you advise?" The King waited for his trusted advisor's good sense.

Lorin appeared to ponder a moment, then suggested, "On the way, methinks, my lord. 'Twill give you a chance to judge his character on the journey."

Lawrence nodded briskly. "Send to him to expect to ride with me then, in four days time."

The trip up the Humber and then along the Aire with horses and baggage made the journey a mostly relaxing one with little need to ride. The castle in the capital of Loidis, the very one that the young Josephine and her brother Lorin had grown up in was not long from where the King and his company disembarked on the north bank. The King's own memory of his visit at eight years of age was not strong. He had been brought to this place to be betrothed to Josephine when she herself was but six. He could only recall thinking that the castle was rather small and was more of a wooden fortress than was Ratherwood in Lincoln where he had been a boy.

The streets of the town were festively adorned with banners and with the people who still remembered and loved their little Princess Sunshine and were happy to share that love with her husband. Lawrence was touched by the welcome and smiled and waved, appreciating greatly this respite from the discomfort and irritation he had felt anticipating the meeting with the Breton knight again.

The governor general stood with his officials in the courtyard with his officials as the royal entourage entered the gates and rode to where they would dismount and hand off the animals to grooms to care for.. The King was unmistakable even had Cynewulf not have been personally acquainted with him. He stood tall and regal in his armor whether mounted or standing. He approached the governor removing first his helm, handing I t to his squire, then each leather glove in turn. His long hair was lank and damp with sweat. Cynewulf caught the King's brief annoyed glance at the Breton knight, Elerde, who stood at his own right shoulder.

"Your majesty, welcome to your northwestern province. 'Tis gracious of you to come to inspect the progress we have made with our frontier fortresses at the foot of the Pennines." Cynewulf elaborately bowed to his liege lord as he spoke. Lawrence nodded briskly.

The governor went on, "My lord, you know the man who has made this such a success, Sir Elerde." He looked at the inscrutable man who stood carefully not looking into the King's eyes, not out of any desire to avoid them except as would be expected from a lesser.

Lawrence's eyes went to the Breton's face. His piercing blue eyes bore into it. "Elerde, then? We had heard you had chosen to use that name, Sir Robert."

Without looking up the knight replied, "Aye, sire. I find that the many Celts on the border are more comfortable with the Celtic part of my name. That is," he added, "with your permission, my liege."

Lawrence, still staring into the man's face, nodded his reply. He looked back to Cynewulf and gestured carelessly to his companions. "Lord governor, our cousin, Duke Gaylorde, who has graciously agreed to attend us on this tour of inspection. And one of our loyal knights, Sir Percy." These latter two exchanged bows with the governor, then, uncertainly, with Sir Elerde, the hurried to catch up as the King walked around the welcoming delegation and strode into the Hall.

In the Hall Lawrence looked about, thinking how much smaller it appeared even than he recalled. He stood waiting to be waited upon.

Cynewulf hurried up and called for refreshments, indicating a chair of honor for the King.

Duke Gaylorde glanced at the Breton knight. He knew the story of the man's advances to the Queen and his ensuing exile up here to the hinterlands by her husband and was enjoying the palpable tension between the two men.

For his part, the young knight, Sir Percy, who although not much younger than the King himself was startlingly youthful in his appearance, seemed to be looking about for someone.

"Will my lord the King take some refreshment?" Cynewulf inquired. The King nodded and went to sit where strong Roman style chairs fronted a hearth. The other men followed and sat once the King had seated himself. Elerde glanced at a servant, who nodded respectfully and hurried off.

"My liege, I have sent also for the Lady Jocelyn to attend us a little later. I believe you know her?" the governor general asked.

Sir Percy looked up sharply and a smile played across his lips.

Elerde, who had been silent to this point, inquired, "Sir Percy, you know the lady as well?"

Percy looked to the King, then back to the knight. "Aye, I met her when I delivered a small parcel and message from the Queen last year."

Elerde was intrigued, "A parcel? So you are the one who brought it.. who brought the messages from the Queen to her friend." He made sure he could catch the King's reaction to the exchange which in fact concerned a parcel meant for himself -- and was not disappointed. Lawrence looked sharply at him and then the Christenlandian knight, but he said nothing.

Elerde asked politely, as would be expected under the circumstances, , "And speaking of her majesty, the Queen --I trust she is well?"

The King's face darkened. Elerde thought he saw a faint smile sneak across Duke Gaylorde' s lips.

"We thank you for your concern, sir. She is quite well." The King had a severe look on his face not at all in keeping with his words.

Elerde now looked directly into the man's eyes. "'Tis most gratifying to hear it." Cynewulf eyed the two men cautiously.

Servants brought wine, and the men sat and drank, Lawrence asking general questions about and receiving brief answers on how the frontier had so easily and quickly been strengthened. Gaylorde had remarked languidly but with a hint of admiration, "It seems, sir knight, that you have a particular skill.. shall we say even talent.. for holding a border." Elerde had bowed his head in appreciation and this time ignored the King's irritable reaction.

Throughout their conversation, Elerde noticed the Duke watched the King surreptitiously, not entirely managing to hide amusement at any sign of the man's antagonism towards the knight. The King's cousin knew of course about the incident with the Queen a year before. His supercilious look and smile were ever present, but the Breton was observant and could detect the subtle reactions. He resolved to learn what these two men's relationship was beyond their familial connection.

"Ah, here is Lady Jocelyn. Let us leave more talks to the council chamber and enjoy this young lady's company for a nonce, with your permission, of course, my lord," Elerde said, glancing at the King.

Lady Jocelyn came in demurely, small, dark haired, doll-faced. Percy did nothing to hide his pleasure at seeing her again. She was more discreet. The men, even the King, rose to greet her, sitting again, when the lady was seated among them. Percy unabashedly smiled at her.

Elerde announced, "This lady wishes to accompany you back to visit her childhood friend, the Queen, if you will allow her."

Lawrence nodded, "That may be possible, lady. It shall not be for some weeks."

Jocelyn smiled and bowed her head. "I thank you, your majesty. 'Tis been a very long time since I saw her Grace. I am so anxious to be with her again."

Later that evening after Sir Elerde had had a chance to report fully to the King and to the other officials of the Elmet governing council on the status of the frontier strongholds and the company had feasted, he found himself alone in a chamber with the Duke. The man cast a considering gaze at the Breton knight and ventured boldly, "I know why he hates you, sir. I did not realize how much."

Elerde looked up surprised but cast his eyes down again quickly, saying nothing.

Gaylorde was not discouraged by his lack of comment. "It is a joy to behold. He has, methinks, found his match in you.. or mayhap his better?"

Elerde looked up again, this time irritated. "Sir, I have no idea to what you are referring."

Gaylorde just smiled, turned and left the chamber. Elerde looked after him, puzzling over Gaylord's purpose in the seeming conspiratorial tone.

Elerde thought, "This poseur, the cousin, he was trying to get me to say something untoward about Lawrence. He was fishing, methinks. He will bear watching."" If he had designs above his station it could well put the Breton's beloved Josephine at risk.

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About the author

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