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

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

New Stories: Lawrence Tells Josephine about the Hunting "Accident" (Happened)

Some readers of the book fault Lawrence for sparing Elerde. The real reason he does, of course, is that I needed Elerde alive for the rest of the story. But I genuinely made this forbearance for Josephine's sake part of Lawrence's character. If some feel that makes him a weak man, sobeit. I see it as remarkable strength. He sees his wife as a person, not a possession, and of having feelings and also rights no less than himself. If you think that is unrealistic for his era, consider this: is it any more realistic today? Not much, I say.

Late April 768

The King stood as his squire having taken his mount away to the stables, and removed his gloves and smiling at his wife as she rushed up to greet him. He smiled wider as she caught sight of her childhood friend, Lady Jocelyn, standing there between Sir Percy and Duke Gaylorde.

Josephine gasped in pleasure, glanced excitedly at Lawrence, who nodded and smiled. She knew he understood that she wanted to go to her friend and embrace her. They had not seen each other for many years. She went to her friend, and they embraced, kissed each other's cheek and laughed with happiness. Lawrence felt a deep gratification at having done this for his wife, bringing her friend to her. But in the back of his mind he was still thinking of what he was going to have to tell her.

Rory McGuinness had followed the Queen out and was just standing, smiling at her reunion with her friend. He looked up at Lawrence and smiled too, but with something else in the smile, something reserved. Lawrence did not notice.

Josephine came to her husband then. He took her hands and kissed them. "My lord, you are back sooner than expected! I am so glad!" They had eyes for each other only so they did not see Percy's and Jocelyn's exchange of looks or Gaylorde's smirk. However Rory did.

Lorin had just then come out as well, and was smiling his own welcome to the company. Lawrence put a hand on the man's shoulder. "Your Grace, I think you have already made the acquaintance of the Lady Jocelyn?"

Lorin's smile greeted Jocelyn warmly. He kissed her hand. Lawrence said, "My lady, it is my fond hope that you will make Lawrencium your home for as long as you like." She smiled back at him and curtsied. He bowed. "Lorin, can you have this hood lady's accommodations prepared for her? Oh and also my cousin, the Duke.. he shall be staying with us for a while as well. Welcome to you both."'

Lorin called to servants to set about this task, then turned back to the King. "My liege, would you prefer to rest after your journey?"

Lawrence shook his head. "Nay, I will confer with you first." He turned to the Queen, "I hate to do this, but would you mind terribly coming along? Bring Lady Jocelyn with you. You can catch up on old times in Lorin's chambers."

Josephine was puzzled by the request. Normally she would have taken her friend to her own chambers or the Great Hall, not sat outside the room where the King and her brother were meeting. But she smiled and nodded and took her friend's hand.

The King left his wife and her friend in the outer chamber of the Chancellor's office, being served food and wine while they spoke. Josephine glanced at Lawrence's back as he shut the door of the chamber behind him. She turned back to her friend, not revealing anything of her feelings about the King's behavior.

In the Chancellor's office the Duke waited for the King to sit, then sat himself. He had caught hints that Lawrence had more to say than just reporting on his inspection of the frontier fortifications in Elmet, but he waited for the king to direct the conversation.

The King began, "It appears that the Breton has done an excellent job bringing stability to the borders. Pity, since someone else will have to take over now."

Lorin's eyebrows went up. "My lord?" he said in surprise.

Lawrence's grin was wry. "There was.. an incident.. and he is now under guard. He may come here, but he won't be commanding any garrisons in any kingdom I govern."

Lorin regarded the King evenly. He waited for him to go on.

The King described to his brother in law how after a hunting trip in the far northwest, he had himself shot the Breton with one of his own arrows. The knight had not accepted his explanation and had accused the King of trying to murder him. Thereupon, Lawrence had suggested the man put his sword where his mouth was.. once he was recovered from the wound in his shoulder.

Lorin nodded slowly… the King had been perfunctory, not offering much in the way of details. "My lord, I am sure he deserved it and worse."

Lawrence asked , ""Which? The arrow or the challenge?" Lawrence crossed his legs, put one elbow on his knee, his bearded chin in the palm of that hand, and stared at his brother in law waiting for the man's reaction. The look on the King's face was almost humorous.

Lorin stared back. "Either. Both. If it pleases you Majesty." He thought how to put his next question. "Any witnesses, my liege?"

Now Lawrence looked less pleased with himself. "Percy and the blackguard's friend," he stated sternly.

"And how did they.. seem to .. um.. interpret the matter?" Lorin's expression did not change.

The King shrugged. "Malcolm is a piece of work. I cannot say a wolf in sheep's clothing.. maybe a wolf in a tame wolf's clothing. I suspect something was going on between himself and Elerde.. they know each other, that I could tell. But the Scot did not strike me as the peaceful sort… He was ready to defend his friend.. Percy just seemed puzzled that I shot the man in the first place."

"And is there any reason the goodly young knight should be puzzled?"

The King stared at the Duke with eyes that sparked. "What is that supposed to mean?"

Lorin averted his eyes. It had to be asked. "Did you shoot him.. intentionally?"

The King subsided. "I have no idea. Verily I wanted to kill h im every minute of every day I was with him.. but as to what happened… " He shook his head.

They sat in silence for a while. Then the Duke supplied, "So you have relieved Sir Elerde of his duties.. And we shall need a new commandant to replace him. Very well, sir, I shall look into the matter." He paused then went on. "May I ask, sir," Lorin posed cautiously, "how badly the Breton was injured?"

Lawrence was sitting forward, preparing to stand. "Not fatally, more's the pity. A shoulder wound. He will heal. He received good attention for it quickly. I did not stay to make sure however."

"Do you believe the knight will accept your challenge and confront you on the field of honor?"

Lawrence stood, with Lorin matching his movement. "I do not know that either. He is a good fighter, but he must know that he cannot win even if he killed me. The result for him would be death or exile. And he cannot possibly be so great a fool aas to think he could win Josephine's heart after killing me. I suppose we shall see." He nodded to himself. I will ask Percy to fill you in on the details of our inspection. Now I would like to spend some time with your sister."

Lorin nodded his head graciously. "My lord," he began..

"Aye?" encouraged the King.

"It may be that I have insights into the man that you and my sister cannot. She saw the man as courteous and erudite. You see him as a cad who tried to take your beloved from you. I have seen a little more. If he seemed as if he was trying to provoke you, my lord, then he was. He is a reckless man and ambitious. He is dangerous as well."

Lawrence nodded gratefully. "I thank you for that. Fortunately I think we shall see no more of the man."

In another part of the castle Duke Gaylorde was settling into his new chambers. He called to one of his own vassals. "I want you to go and make inquiries about where this Elerde goes when he leaves Elmet. I think he may be useful in our plans. But be careful.. and discreet."

The door to Lorin's office opened, and the Queen and Jocelyn looked up to see the King emerge. He smiled and stretched his hand to his wife. "I think I shall take some of that rest now, my ladies. Ill you accompany me, dearest?" he asked Josephine. She stood quickly and took his hand.

"Of course, my lord, you must be very weary. I think Lady Jocelyn's chamber will be ready now. The servant is waiting to take her there."

Lawrence bowed graciously to the young woman. "I apologize for stealing your friend. We shall all see each other again at supper?"

Jocelyn curtsied and nodded. "Thank you, my lord." She smiled at Josephine.

Lawrence spoke to a servant, "Please ask Sir Percy to attend the Duke."

In his chambers, the King went to his hearth and, stretching out the kinks in his back muscles, yawned and groaned. "Will you sit with me a while, my darling?" he asked the Queen.

She had come up to him, smiling happily. He put his arms around her and kissed her. "I am so glad to be back with you, dearest. I missed you terribly. I thought of you constantly, especially at night." He smiled and kissed her again."

She held him and returned the kisses eagerly. "I am never happy when you are not with me, my dear. I missed you terribly as well."

He took her hand and led her to their chairs by the hearth. They sat. He seemed to be composing something he wanted to say to her. She waited.

"Josephine, my dearest, I have to tell you about something that happened while I was in the north… something that may trouble you." He leaned to take both her hands in his. She leaned so he could.

"Aye, my love? What can that be?" She waited tensely.

He looked down. "Well as you know I expected to see the Breton knight there, since he was the one who fortified the frontier forts."

"Sir Robert? Aye, I did." She revealed no particular reaction to the man being mentioned.

"He calls himself Sir Elerde now.. something to do with relations with the Celts there,… but aye, that is the man." He hesitated. "You and I have not spoken for some time about what happened with him, why I sent him away in the first place. Forgive me, but I did not think we needed to speak of it more than we already had." He looked up to gauge her reaction.

She had looked down at the statement. She looked up again. "No, my lord, you were right. There was nothing to speak about."

He nodded solemnly. "That does not mean, unfortunately, that I have not thought.. about it… nor it seems did he." He gathered his resolve, "Josephine, some will believe that tried to kill him."

She was unsure of what he was saying. "And why would anyone believe that, my darling?"

He looked away, then back at her. "Because he himself believes it.. and in some way it may be true. I shot him in the shoulder while hunting."

She was startled. She sat upright and put her fingers to her lips. "Oh!" escaped them. She collected herself and asked, "Is he.. hurt?"

Lawrence nodded. "Aye, 'twas not so bad a hurt that he cannot recover completely." He sat back, letting her hands go, and looked as if he was struggling for words. "I did, though why I cannot say. Whether it was a slip or I acted so quickly on impulse I did not quite know what I was doing.. I cannot tell you for I do not know myself."

Josephine folded her hands in her lap. "Please go on, my love, if you wish to."

"There is not much more to say. As he lay on the ground wounded he angrily accused me of deliberately trying to kill him. I could not tolerate that, especially in front of others. I told him he should put his sword to the test if he believed what he said. He will be allowed to recover fully, but then, if he wishes to, he may meet me on the field of honor in a fight to the death." He saw her go white. "I am sorry, my love, I did not want to upset you. Can you forgive my thoughtlessness?"

She leaned forward and put her hands lightly on his knees. "There is nothing for me to forgive, dearest Lawrence. I am just happy you are unhurt. I know you and I know you would not do such a thing without cause."

Josephine stood and went to him. She crouched so she could look into his eyes. She took his hands. "My love, I cannot say why the man provoked you, but I am certain he knew the risk. I do not blame you at all. In fact, I blame him for accusing you." She paused, "Where is he now, my dearest?"

Lawrence kissed her hands. "He is with his friend Malcolm at his fortress. He is under guard."

She simply replied, "Good. Then he shall not vex us."

He looked into her eyes gratefully. "I was afraid you would be angry or upset that it came to this.. with the man who was .. your friend."

"Nay my lord, I believe in you. You did what you had to in the circumstances. I love you dearly, Lawrence. Only you. I always shall love only you. That will never change."

He reached for her and pulled her to him. "I know that, and you know I love only you. I admit I will be happy if I never see that man again."

Josephine held him. "Aye, dearest. I know."

Next: Josephine's Dilemma about Rory

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About the author

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