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 20, 2009

New Stories: Josephine and Her Brother (Cut)

Here we go off on a subplot that I enjoy greatly but which never really had a chance to make it into the novel. Maybe I mentioned this before, but each of these stories was also being posted on Ghostletters, so I was entertaining a couple hundred members of that group. Somewhere in this sequence Laura told me that our crew would probably have been Angles, not Saxons, thus the reference to Josephine as "Queen of the Angles". I have a terrible reason for going back to calling the Saxons.. it sounds better. Enjoy the buffet.

May 768

n spite of assurances to the contrary from Lawrence, Josephine found herself worrying about the obvious antagonism he felt towards the man who had sought to be her lover. It was clear to her that he believed everything she told him about the relationship with Robert/Elerde, but somehow, and she could not understand this, he was still angry with the man, now doubly angry at the incident while hunting.,

Since she had sat with him and her brother, Lorin, while the King described what had happened to cause him to challenge Elerde to fight him she had been chilled at the fact of the continued rivalry. If she had not put the Breton entirely out of her mind before, the story of his accusation that the King had tried to murder him had driven out any remaining regard for the knight. She was conflicted about how such a kind and gallant man could be so crass, but she supposed in extremis anyone might be. Still he had infuriated her beloved and that was beyond forgiving.

If she could put the matter behind her, why could these two men not? True, the King had sent the man away, but the post he was assigned had brought great honor and credit to himself. The King for his part had made what turned out to be a good decision, sending his old battle comrade off to do good for his lady's country. How could they not be satisfied with the relationship they had now? She needed a man's opinion. She thought of the men she knew, then nodded to herself, and sought out her brother.

The Chancellor was, as always, at work in his chambers. He looked up and smiled when she put her head in. "Lorin, may we speak in private?" she asked quietly.

He stood and beamed at her. "Of course, my dear sister! Come in and take a chair. Can I send for refreshments?"

She shook her head as she came forward and sat in the chair he had gestured to. "No, but I thank you. I need your thoughts.. and advice."

Lorin saw his royal sister seated and comfortable, then took a chair himself. "About the King's trip to Affynshire?"

She was not surprised at how close he had gotten. Lorin was the most perceptive man she had ever known. While not a sentimental man, he was also not at all heartless. His calculations took in the whole of a situation, not just cold facts. "Aye, but more to the point, my lord's animosity towards the Breton knight. Why does it go on?"

Lorin smiled sympathetically, and as he sat back and crossed one leg over the other, he laced his fingers under his chin. "Dear lady," he began, "I believe that animosity will ne'er cease."

Josephine sat forward, "But why? There was never anything between Robert.. I mean, Elerde and me. You know that."

Lorin nodded. "I know that, and for that matter, Lawrence knows that. And I am certain the knight does as well. But that is not necessary for them to behave as they do."

The Queen strove to subdue exasperation. She simply asked, "Please explain that to me, Lorin."

He looked up at her. "My sister, I am afraid you have attracted the affection of two of the most competitive men I have ever met."

She could not help but break in, "But competition over what? There is only one man who can win my heart, and he has me, body, heart, soul and all."

Lorin shook his head. "You do not understand. That matters not. Once these two men vied for the same prize, even if hopelessly on the knight's part, they became locked in eternal and constant battle. That is, I am sorry to say, just how they are."

Josephine shook her head. "I do not think I will ever understand it. Do you? Do you find you have such feelings?"

Lorin thought long and carefully. "I do not know. I have not been challenged as Lawrence has. And if I am competitive, it is in other areas than the heart. Still there may come a time.. I honestly cannot say."

Now the Queen sat and thought about what he had said. "I suppose 'tis not peculiar to men alone. I can see a woman being threatened and competitive. But that would come from doubt that she holds her love's fidelity. I should ne'er doubt my lord. He would ne'er betray me."

Lorin nodded. "Mayhap that is the difference between men and women in this matter. So long as you have his love and trust his honor, you have nothing to fight another woman for. But for Lawrence and Elerde, there is more than just you between them.. especially now."

He saw his sister's puzzled look and went on. "Possession of a woman, especially one such as you, is part of how a man like Lawrence defines his manhood. He is a master swordsman, a magnificent leader, and in every way a superior man. But so long as he lives, his manhood will rest in good part on the fact that he possesses you." He smiled at her uncomfortable grimace.

"But he does 'possess' me," Josephine began.

"Aye, but 'tis more than that fact.. 'tis that the world perceives it as well. 'Tis that Sir Elerde questioned that, through his actions, that disturbs the King. By attempting to woo you, my dear Josephine, he questioned whether the King could hold you. And questioning that.."

She finished the sentence for him, "By questioning that he questions Lawrence's very sense of himself as a man."

"A man, aye, and a King." Lorin seemed to be considering his next words. "I see a different man in Elerde than do you and my lord the King. You saw a courtly and erudite man who could appreciate your learning and your poetic nature. The King sees a blackguard who sought to steal his Queen."

Josephine was nodding. "And you, my brother? Whom do you see?"

"I see a man as competitive as your husband.. perhaps more. He is also a man with much daring combined with great ambition."

She shook her head questioningly. "Meaning.. what?"

Lorin cast down his gaze. "Meaning I see a very dangerous man.. a ruthless man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants."

Josephine stood shaking her head. She walked several paces away and turned to face her brother again. "Ruthless? I cannot see it. I cannot believe it. He may be ambitious, but he Is a good man at heart."

Lorin stood and came to her, taking her hands in his. "Leave it to you, my sweet and generous sister, to see that in him."

Her eyes flashed. "I am no fool, Lorin!"

Lorin shook his head. "Nay, that is not what I meant. He is good.. you are right to see that in him. But he is fast losing the battle within himself that will rob him of that goodness. Mayhap it is the company he keeps. This is not a man who should e'er have become a mercenary."

Josephine's brief anger had subsided. "True." She went back to her chair, but she did not sit down. She looked back up at her brother. "Lorin, what do I do? It fills me with horror to know that my heedless behavior with Elerde led to this, to my dearest Lawrence challenging him to fight to the death. How do I keep that from happening?"

Lorin shook his head. "You cannot. I do not think it will come to pass.. certainly not in the near future. For the reasons the King and I stated when we three met. He has nothing to gain. But in some ways that does worry me the more."

Josephine's eyes filled with apprehension. Why? Please tell me."

Lorin pushed out his lower lip contemplatively. He paused, then explained. "It would be safer if the man's motives and designs were so straightforward. I cannot believe that a man such as he would just give up his ambitions. Would the King? Nay, of course not. You have heard the words 'irresistible force and immovable object'?" She nodded. "Well that is the King and Elerde… and if Elerde cannot gain through honorable deeds, he will try to gain some other way."

Josephine put her fingertips to her mouth, "Oh, Lorin, that is terrible."

Her brother nodded.

"What can be done?"

The Queen's brother answered, "I will do everything I can to learn the movements and actions of the Breton. In the meantime, you must go on as is your wont.. love the King. Keep him feeling strong. If he feels confident, he may not feel threatened and thereby take unwise action."

Josephine had a thought that stopped her as she had planned to go out of her brother's chamber. "Lorin, another matter.. may I?"

Her brother bowed graciously and said, "Of course, my lady. I am always at your service."

The Queen said simply, "Rory?"

Lorin did not seem to be surprised at all. He nodded. "I should not worry too much about that. The King will ne'er feel the Irishman is a threat. For many reasons, sensible and not. But be honest with your husband, sister. Do not hide anything from him, even for convenience sake. Better to tell him what you are about and let him know you know he trusts you. He will also appreciate if you go so far as to ask his advice."

"His advice?"

"Aye," Lorin replied. "The King worries about you. He worries that you will be so unhappy with your lot that you will do something reckless." Seeing her bridle slightly he hurried to add, "That is overstating the matter. He knows you want to move about more independently.. and he wants you to have and do whatever pleases you. But he worries that you do not understand the threats out there in the world. He would be happy to know if you went out with companions. Rory is one man he would trust."

The Queen looked at him, considering. "Truly?"

Lorin came over and kissed her on the cheek. He smiled into her face. "Truly."

That evening as the King and Queen sat together in his chamber, Josephine looked over at her husband. "Lawrence, dearest?"

He had been staring dreamily into the hearth fire, but looked up at her with a smile. "Aye, my love?" He sat up straighter and waited for her to go on.

She had thought through how she would put what she had to say, so unhesitatingly she said, "You of course know of Rory McGuinness's regard for me?"

He reached and took her hand. "Was I not the first to comment on it the day he arrived with Shannon and the little boy?" He squeezed her hand.

"That does not concern you," the Queen stated.

Lawrence's face broke into merriment. He laughed. "Nay, my love. I shall not be challenging the minstrel to fight. He is just doing what minstrels do.. they fall in love with Queens and other unreachable ladies. It is real in his case, I think, being such a charmingly earnest fellow. But he will keep it to himself save in song."

Josephine looked harder at him. "Lawrence, he has declared his love.."

Lawrence looked surprised. "He has? I suppose that is the earnestness again." He seemed to think. "Still he is both honorable and realistic." At her questioning look, "He knows he can't have you."

Josephine suppressed a sudden rebellious feeling. "Then my lord, do you not mind if I sometimes seek the companionship of Rory and Shannon.. for outings and such."

She saw a look of relief come across his visage. "Nay, Nay, I should not mind at all. On the contrary, I should feel much better knowing you have a man who knows how to protect you with you."

Josephine squeezed the King's hand. Her smile was amused when she asked, "And I am assuming you don't mean Shannon.."

Lawrence laughed and squeezed back. "Nay, I do NOT mean Shannon."

The King found an opportunity to speak to the two Irishman the next day. He held a parchment in his hands and was looking at it when he suddenly addressed Rory. "McGuinness, you always carry a weapon of some kind when you are out of the castle, is that right?"

Rory looked puzzled but replied, "Aye, sire, I do, . a dagger."

Lawrence nodded, apparently absently. "And you know how to use it?"

Rory answered firmly, "Aye, my lord, I most certainly do.

Lawrence nodded again, this time glancing up into Rory's face. "Make sure you have it whenever you accompany the Queen outside the castle walls. Is that understood?"

Rory bowed and affirmed his promise to do so.

The King said, "Good." Then he simply walked away.

Shannon sniffed offended. "Oh I see, the big strong man can protect his Queen, but the skinny little one isn't even worth acknowledging."

Rory laughed and tousled his friend's hair. "Now, Shan, is it you are wantin' to be responsible for the lady?"

Shannon was unwilling to concede the point immediately, but finally he shook his head.

"Then I shall," Rory assured.

Scuffing one shoe on the floor, Shannon said sulkily "Grand so."

Next: The Queen Learns of Shannon's Past and Saves Osric

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About the author

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