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

Friday, September 18, 2009

New Stories: Josephine's Dilemma About Rory, Part 2 (Happened)

This story contains one of my own favorite lines from the novel. Find it toward the end, namely Lawrence's assessment of Rory's feelings for Josephine.

Continued from Josephine's Dilemma About Rory, Part 1.

t was a mighty effort over the next several days for Josephine to remain cheerful and friendly to Rory without giving away her concerns. He was clearly puzzled. He tried to run into her in the corridors so he could ask if she was unwell or angry or what other cause for her discomfort there could be. But if she saw him coming, he noticed, she would turn and retrace her steps to avoid him.

Lawrence noticed her unease as well. He watched her with concern now, as her behavior was becoming more tense than he remembered from her earlier pregnancies. He asked her often how she was and she practically snapped at him as the days wore on and her tension became more acute.

Then her bloods came and she knew, as she had suspected, she could not possibly be with child. This was not a fact she could hide from her amorous husband, nor did she wish to, so she resolved that that very night she would have to tell him all.

That evening as she was hurrying to the Hall for the evening meal, alone as Lawrence was closeted with advisors much of that day, Rory finally found himself standing alone in front of her in the corridor. She stopped when she saw him there, paled, and breathed, "Oh Rory!" His look of concern was so genuine and poignant that her heart melted.

"Me lady, what is it? Are ye well? Are ye unhappy with me?" He started to reach for her hands but stopped himself. Instead he look ed at his own hands awkwardly, not knowing what to do with them.

Josephine looked at him, then her face took on the appearance of resignation. "Sit here with me, Rory," she said, indicating one of the bench level seats in the alcoves built into the stone walls. She went over to sit, and then Rory sat hesitantly some inches away. He waited to hear what she would say.

"Rory, I am sorry I have been so.. uncomfortable with you since the King's return. I have to explain. It is no good going on this way." She seemed to struggle for the right words. "I must tell my lord of your vow. I cannot in all faith keep it from him. And I am afraid.. for you. You know what happened in Affynshire?" She looked at him expectantly.

He nodded uncertainly. "Aye, I believe so, but I am not sure what to believe. I cannae imagine the King doin' such a thing, attackin' a man in cold blood like that.."

Josephine shook her head. "'Twas not entirely cold. He was provoked, though he burns with shame that he allowed himself to be. But Rory, 'tis not that I mean to say… 'tis that my husband told me he should hate any man who loved me.. that way."

All at once, Rory understood. He felt like a fool.. even Shannon had seen it. "Och, me lady, 'tis a thoughtless fool I have been.." he began.

Josephine's look was full of compassion. "Nonsense, Rory, never a fool. Not you. You are just being the sweet man you are. But we must be ready for whatever Lawrence says or thinks about this. It fair breaks my heart to think of this, but.." and she averted her eyes, "you may need to leave court."

Rory nodded sadly. "Mayhap I should be after makin' such plans now.. I dinnae believe the man would hurt me. But 'tis ye I am thinkin' of, and the difficulty I have made for ye. I cannae forgive meself for that.."

The Queen put her hand on his arm, then withdrew it self-consciously. "Nay, Rory, please stop that. And wait.. it may be foolish, but I have hope that the King will make clear what he wants. Let us wait to see."

Neither saw the King as he came to a corner. He stopped, seeing the Queen's face, her hand on his arm, and Rory's bowed head. He quietly turned and went back down the hall.

Lawrence noticed how ill at ease Josephine was throughout the meal, and also that Rory glanced up at him and his wife several times. When the Queen asked to be excused to her chambers, Lawrence put his hand on hers and asked, "May I come with you, my dearest?"

Gratifyingly she had nodded and said, "Oh, aye, I wish you would."

Rory looked up as the King rose with the Queen on his arm and escorted her out of the Hall. He swallowed. He wished her luck.

In her chambers, Lawrence led his wife to the bench at the foot of her curtained bed. He sat next to her and took her hands. "What is it, my darling? What has happened between you and McGuinness?"

Josephine looked up amazed. "You know?!" she said astonished.

"I saw you both looking sad today in the corridor. I assume that is what you want to talk to me about." Lawrence's face was full of kind sympathy.

She looked into his eyes. "My love, there are two things really. One is that I am not with child."

Obvious disappointment molded the features of his face, but he got control of himself quickly. "I am sorry, but there is time enow for another child, if you want that. You must school me in these matters, as I am a complete ignoramus on the subject." He smiled self-deprecatingly. "What is it with Rory, my dear love?"

Josephine took in a deep breath. "Lawrence, when you said the other day that you should hate any man who loved me.."

Lawrence looked surprised. "Is that it? Are you afraid I will hate Rory because he loves you?" He looked genuinely surprised.

Josephine looked at him uncertainly. "You know he loves me?"

Lawrence's face relaxed and grew merry. "I think there may be a blind man in Northumbria who doesn't know Rory is in love with you. And I am sure someone has told him." He chuckled. "My darling, that's what minstrels do. They fall in love with great ladies. Even if he believes it himself, even if it is true, I would never take that seriously. Not unless it troubled you. Then, watch out!"

The Queen was unsure what to say. "You wouldn't? You don't?"

Lawrence put his arms around her and pulled her tight against him. He chuckled again. "Nay, I would not and I do not."

"But Lawrence, there is more," she ventured.

Now he looked into her face seriously. "More? What do you mean?"

Josephine bowed her head. "He has sworn a vow to love no other but me for all his life."

Lawrence then laughed aloud. "Well of course he did. It's Rory, after all. I am sorry, I do not mean to make light of it. You care about him and you don't want to see him hurt. I am sure you have already told him that."

She nodded.

He looked at her speculatively. "He doesn't.. think.. that I would attack him or throw him in the dungeon or that sort of thing, does he?"

She looked up at him sheepishly. "We weren't sure.."

Now Lawrence really laughed. "Oh, sweetheart, you must reassure him. I will not do anything to him… he is no threat to me in any way, shape or form. That is, so long as you are not in love with him.." He looked at her with the smile of merriment still on his lips.

"Of course not!" she protested. "You know I love only you, am in love with only you."

He pulled her to him again. "Aye, I do. Never fear." He kissed her hair and caressed her arms.

Josephine closed her eyes and relaxed into him. "Thank God," she was thinking. "Thank God."

She felt as well as heard Lawrence start to speak, "Just one thing, my love?"

"Aye, my lord?"

He hesitated and then spoke. "Just please do not be alone with him too much. I am not jealous, but why put yourself and him in awkward situations."

Josephine smiled. It was a relief of course that Lawrence did not take Rory's vow too seriously, but it felt good to know he still felt some discomfort with her having another man's attentions.

Late the next day Shannon saw Rory leaning in the window opening of a corridor. "What makes ye smile so, me friend?" he asked him.

Rory leveled a happy look at Shannon. "The King is not after wantin' to kill me."

Shannon stared. He slowly remarked, "Well, then that's a blessin'." He continued to stare. Then he shrugged and suggested, "Let's go into the town for a drink, why dinnae we?" Rory stood straight and smiled, and the two of them headed for the tavern.

This is what would have been the end of Part 1 of the novel if I had stuck to my original plan to have it split into three parts.

Part I: Being A King
Part II: The War in Affynshire
Part III: Usurped!

Next: Biographies: Elerde of Leon

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About the author

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