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

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

New Stories: The Hunting "Accident, Part 3 (Happened)

This is essentially what wound up in the novel, with some changes, including the removal of Jocelyn and Percy is now Ronan..

t was but an hour later that the hunters spotted a magnificent stag on a rise. They stilled their horses, quietly pulled arrows from their quivers and set them to their bowstrings. Lawrence was carefully taking aim, sure of his shot, when from his right he saw Elerde's own arrow notched in the bow. He shot the man an angry look, and Elerde lowered his bow, looking away discreetly.

The King again took aim, but the distraction had cost him his chance. The stag started, then turned and dashed away.

Lawrence glared at the Breton, but Elerde did not look at him.

Malcolm eyed his friend and his friend's royal nemesis. "We should return now," he recommended.

Lawrence was still glaring at the Breton knight who for his part had not raised his eyes. With difficulty the King pulled his stare away and said, "Percy, come, we will head back to the manor." The young knight nodded and waited for the King to lead off and followed him.

Malcolm and Elerde were left to exchange looks, then turn their own horses to go back. Malcolm chuckled, "Would ye truly have taken that shot?"

Elerde looked back at him betraying no answer on his features. He did suggest, "Shall we delay or go another way? I do not care to be much more in that man's company."

Malcolm laughed and nodded. "Nor he in yours, methinks!"

As Lawrence and Percy rode back through the forest with their small group of men at arms and servants, they came at last to a clearing atop a hill where they could see the manor in the distance. Of a sudden Percy caught movement at the edge of the clearing. "My lord, look there! It is a hart!"

Lawrence turned in his saddle and saw the animal. He thought to himself that it would be sweet to be the one to bring in the prize this da, and leave Elerde empty handed.. He took his bow and pulled an arrow from his quiver to notch it. From his awkward position turned in the saddle he took aim at the animal.

"My lord, wait!" Percy called.

The King saw him. Just about to ride into the clearing was Sir Elerde, followed by Malcolm and their attendants. They appeared to have seen the hart first and were advancing on it to run it to ground. Lawrence caught a glimpse of an arrow protruding from the animal's flank. The hart sprang and in a moment where it had stood was the Breton knight, slowing and wheeling just then to call to his companions.

Elerde glanced up and saw the King. He stared straight at him, not moving."

Lawrence paused for less than a heartbeat. He felt himself let the arrow fly without altering his aim. The arrow flew swift and straight and right into the Breton knight's shoulder.

The King could not decide in those next few moments if he had acted reflexively, if he had slipped and let the arrow fly, or if he had deliberately aimed for the man. He saw Elerde jerk back, but the man did not fall from his saddle. He leaned forward, his hand pressed to his shoulder, a look of shock on his face. He glanced up at the King and bared his teeth in anger at him. "You!" he snarled. Then he slid off his horse and onto the ground.

"My God, sire, you have killed him!" Percy breathed.

Lawrence wheeled. 'Do not be ridiculous. He is not dead. I simply wounded him." The statement of responsibility struck him hard. He had. He HAD wounded Elerde.

He and his party rode directly to where Malcolm's stood. Malcolm was off his horse and at Elerde's side. Elerde was conscious but clearly in much pain. Lawrence dismounted and kneeled by him across from Malcolm. "Sir, you are wounded. My shot was meant for the hart." he began, questioning his own sincerity as he said it.

Elerde's lips drew back tight to reveal a snarl. "My heart, methinks! That arrow was meant to kill me."

Lawrence's face grew red. "How dare you, sirrah?!" he growled. "How dare you accuse me. If you would challenge me, be a man and put your sword and your life behind it, else hold your tongue."

Elerde glared back. "You have made that an uneven fight, my liege," he snapped.

Lawrence gave the prostrate man a darkly threatening look. Then he said in a grim voice to Malcolm, "Get this man to a surgeon. I shall not have his blood on my hands." He looked back at Elerde. "At least, not yet. I will set a guard upon you to wait until you are fit, then to accompany you to Lawrencium should you decide to make good your accusation."

The King turned then and strode over to his horse. He said not another word but mounted and rode off at a gallop back to the manor.

Percy hesitated, then bent to help Malcolm raise the wounded man to his feet. "Can you ride, " Percy asked Elerde.

Elerde nodded, his face full of pain, anger and hate. They got him back onto his horse, the arrow with the teal, gold, black and white fletching still protruding from his arm. Elerde leaned heavily and painfully on his horse's neck. Malcolm led Elerde's horse at an easy pace back to the manor complex where one of his own men at arms with skill dressing battle wounds removed the arrow and cleaned and bandaged the wound.

He started to throw away the arrow. Elerde shot at him, "Nay! Give it to me!"

Percy had followed Elerde's horse. He could hear the party's combined entourage muttering amongst themselves, turned and shot them a glance that silenced them.

He sought out the King when he got back to the manor, while Malcolm was taking the Breton to the surgeon. He found him in their chambers directing servants to pack up all their gear to leave immediately.

The King was talking to two men at arms, who then turned and left the chamber. Then he turned to the younger man. "Make ready. We are leaving immediately for the capital."

Percy's face was filled with hope. "Might we then escort the Lady Jocelyn, my lord?"

The King looked back at him absently, but he did not say nay.

Sir Percy happily bade the lady to prepare herself for the journey when they arrived again at the castle. Meanwhile Lawrence had met with the commander of the home garrison there and put him temporarily in charge of the border fortresses.

The King spoke little and never without absolute necessity throughout the rest of the journey. She could not guess until riding alongside Percy she asked, and he told her why the King was deadly silent.

The King's cousin seemed almost buoyant in his mood. Gaylorde, who so often looked bored and acted annoyed was unaccustomedly cheerful and chatty the entire fortnight.

It was nearly Beltane when the party returned to the castle at Lawrencium. Lawrence dismounted, a grim smile for the Queen whom he could see rushing through the door with McGuinness right behind to greet him , a look of joy on her face at his own return.


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About the author

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