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 27, 2009

New Stories: Mischief Afoot in Affynshire (Happened)

Originally the novel was divided into three parts:

  • Part I: Being a King
  • Part 2: The War in Affynshire
  • Part 3: Usurped!
With the last story we reached the end of Part 1. With this story, which is, with small changes, in the novel, we start Part 2.I can see that I still had no clue about the French in 769... that is, there were no French, just Franks speaking a Germanic language, and Bretons didn't and still don't speak French. So when Malcolm calls Elerde "Mon ami" the proper response from our tragi-nasty villain should be "Huh?" But I promise, by the novel I had it all sorted out.

February 769

Sir Elerde of what passed for Brittany in 769 sat on a bench in the armory at Malcolm's stronghold exercising his wounded shoulder. The old arrow wound was mostly healed, but his shoulder was still stiff. Although he was glad it had not been his sword arm, he could not help but smile bitterly at the memory of Lawrence's attack. He did not believe the shot was an accident. He knew for a fact the King's subsequent attempt to kill him was anything less than purposeful. He wondered if he would always think of this when he felt the tightness in his shoulder. He sincerely hoped he would.

"I hope ye will be fit in taime for the attack, mon ami," came the Scots voice from behind him.

Elerde turned slowly with a satisfied smile, not looking directly into Malcolm's face. His expression displayed some inner pleasure. "I shall be, my friend. 'Tis all I have worked for these many months."

Malcolm came around in front of him. "It still astounds me that the fool left things as he did, with the only man holding Affynshire together lying in the blood he himself had drawn."

Elerde thought for a while. "I had not known ere he came up here, but the man has a temper that shall get him in trouble more often than once. 'Tis no great feat to use it against him."

Malcolm considered his friend from their mercenary days. "D'ye think that temper has been unleashed on the woman?"

The Breton's eyes flashed with irritation at Malcolm's familiarity when referring to the Queen of Christenlande. He almost chided him, but decided to let the Scot think the flash of anger was for his beloved's husband. "If he does, it shall go hard on him. I will see to that myself."

Malcolm laughed. "Your hatred for the King is a joy to behold. Me, I have nothing but contempt for the man. Either way, we are each happy to see him dispossessed. The war council meets in an hour. Will ye be ready, Elerde?"

Elerde, pulling on his shirt, nodded but said nothing.

Malcolm and other adventurers and chiefs in the north of the country had enjoyed the liberty a long distance administration had allowed them since the King and Queen of Affynshire had been murdered a few years before. There had been much trepidation when news had come that a general was being sent by Christenlande to fortify the border. When word had come of the name of the general, Malcolm had had no relief from concern.. Sir Elerde of Brittany? It sounded familiar. But when the man stood before him and he realized Sir Robert de Riffet and Elerde were one and the same, he had roared with pleasure. The two had served as mercenaries together on many campaigns and for many masters. Neither had any loyalty to any one king or country. Malcolm knew his raids into the border towns would go on just as he wanted them.

Malcolm had been right. Elerde was a crafty general and administrator. He also had more than his share of ambition. He saw and seized the opportunity to benefit personally while carefully overlooking the exploits of Malcolm and his confederates. The cliché was known in the 8th century as well, that he would wash their backs, and they would wash his. It had worked out in a satisfactory way for all.

Until, that is, Lawrence had come north to inspect the frontier garrisons under the Breton's command. No, the man had not detected the corruption, a fact which gave both Elerde and the Scots raider much cause for sneering laughter. But the man's treachery and dishonor, attacking Elerde unprovoked and when he was unable to defend himself, had washed all that away. Elerde knew he had drawn the attack. He knew he had underestimated the King's anger and reaction. He had enjoyed the subtle and not so subtle challenges to the man's pride. But it had backfired on him. Lawrence's attack had resulted in Elerde being banished.

Elerde had not gone from the country however. He had been thwarted by Lawrence before, but now he would put the man's commands into action against him. With Malcolm and the brother mercenaries they collected over the past months since the King's precipitous departure the plans had been underway to take advantage of the unanticipated and unbelievable vacuum in power Elerde's "dismissal" had left.

Elerde entered the council chamber to find the familiar faces of the conspirators already around the table. Besides Malcolm, he saw three other mercenaries he knew well and trusted. Finnegan O'Donnell sat forward with his strong arms crossed on the table before him, his fiery red moustache framing cruel lips. Ricbeorht of Flanders sat back, leaning to talk to another man, One of Malcolm's clansmen. Ricbeorht had lost an eye in a campaign just the past year and the scar around his eye was horrific. Sven Ormyngel toyed with his dagger, alternately stabbing into the tabletop with it and spinning it in his hands, back and forth between them. He glanced up and glared at Elerde, who smiled grimly back, rememvering his name meant "snake offspring". The rest of the men were Malcolm's cronies. He knew their names but did not bother with them if he did not have to. Compared with himself and the four mercenaries they were of no consequence.

O'Donnell glanced up as the Breton sat. "I shall ne'er fathom the lack of action on the part of Christenlande. To banish ye, Elerde, and not to put in a strong man after. Can ye explain it?"

Elerde shook his head. "I cannot. He is a keen strategist. Those of you who have fought with him know that. All I can imagine is that there is someone sabotaging his efforts, his commands. He made a mighty mistake by leaving as he did. I am certain he is still smarting from it. But even if he did not take the right action thereafter, his clerk of a brother in law the Chancellor would have."

Malcolm snorted. "Ye mean our rightful king, Lorin, the only son of King Willibrod? He who is too fine to govern this savage land?"

Elerde replied with nothing more than an arch look.

Sven spoke up. "It would not surprise me if that other man, that other Duke you talked about who came with the Saxon was behind the matter. "

Malcolm agreed. "He was most interested in our arrangements, or so my men in the town and countryside informed me. The day of your tragic 'accident', Elerde, he was about seeking information on the raids and our other local enterprises."

Elerde nodded. "He sent one of his vassals to inquire about me. He is as inept as his cousin Lawrence. I had no trouble unmasking the man. The only thing I guessed wrong was who the agent was from. The Chancellor sent his own, so Malcolm tells me, but this man was from Duke Gaylorde. The weasel is a fool, but I mean to make him a useful fool sooner than later."

What Elerde kept to himself was that he and Gaylorde had already cemented their own private collaboration. He knew Malcolm would laugh heartily with approval when he told him about this later. Elerde did not care whether he laughed or not. For Malcolm himself was just a means to the same ends.

Malcolm called out in a loud voice that it was high time to get to their battle plans and the talk focused on these for some time.

The talk, which repeated plans he himself had helped craft, allowed the Breton knight some time for reflection. He thought over his own plans, through and beyond the ones being discussed around him. He had not fully formulated them until Lawrence's attempt to kill him. As he lay in pain back at the fortress, the plans had solidified, his anger and hate firming his resolve. He fought to keep the focus from simple revenge against the King. He had more important goals now. His heretofore un-coagulated ambition now had as its target two things.. power and position in Christenlande and.. part and parcel of this but also a reward in itself.. its present Queen at his side as his wife. Whatever else he did from here on in those two ends would guide his actions.

He had thrown in his lot with Malcolm as soon as the Scot had sought to engage him in a plot to take possession of the small kingdom of Affynshire. Malcolm traded on the Breton's outrage over the King's dishonorable attack on him, but it was not his anger that had made Elerde ally with his old friend. It had been the means he saw to his own ends. He would help Malcolm, yes, but he made a bargain with the man that once they were successful, he had his own plans and would expect quid pro quo.

Around the table strong and ruthless men stood, raised their tankards of ale, and toasted their pact and its end. Together they cried, "Death to Lawrence of Christenlande and to us the spoils of war!"

Next: Shannon and Heather Come Apart Entirely

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About the author

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