Results of the poll: In the vote for whom the queen should choose among the three men devoted to her, Lawrence thanks you for your overwhelming support! He got all the votes.
Spring came in beautifully in the year of Our Lord 769. The winter had been cold but not stormy. By early March the meadows were riotous with spring flowers and the birds sent up their chorus of thanksgiving merrily.
Josephine and Lawrence walked along a narrow path through a field, followed at a discreet distance by a small cadre of armed men. So used were they to the company that they almost felt alone as they went hand in h and. "Mayhap next time we walk we should have the nurses bring the children. They may play outside all they wish in the garden, but would they not enjoy this radiant sun and our company?"
The King nodded back at his young wife, enjoying her sunny smile. "Not to mention the occasional rabbit we startle and leaps away."
Josephine laughed. She took Lawrence's arm threading one arm through the triangle he made with it and placing her opposite hand on his forearm. She hugged his arm close, and he put his own hand on her hand.
They both looked up to see a servant rushing up the mild slope to where they walked.
"God's wounds," the King swore. "Now what trivial matter cannot wait another hour but must be looked to by the King?" His voice was vexatious.
But the man, cap in hand, bowed not to him but the Queen. "My lady, I am so sorry to disturb your walk, but there is a messenger from your family in Affynshire. There has been an illness."
Josephine put her free hand to her mouth. "Dear Lord, who is it?"
"I know not, my lady. He is with your brother, his grace the Duke, who has bidden me to find you and ask you to hasten thence."
The King snapped, "Hasten where, man? Speak up!" His expression had changed to one of concern.
"The Duke's privy chamber, my lord." The man kept his eyes obsequiously down.
Lawrence turned and shouted to one of his guard to dismount and bring his horse hither. Then he himself boosted into the saddle and reached to pull Josephine up behind him. Settled there, she put her arms around his body. He spurred the horse and the remaining mounted guard hurried after them. The men afoot and the servant came along as quickly as they could.
The Queen slid off the mount as soon as Lawrence reined it to a halt in front of the keep. He dismounted and followed her to her brother's council room. She burst in on a somber Lorin and a messenger who sat gulping down a mug of ale, his clothing damp from his own and his horse's sweat.
Lorin looked up at his sister sadly.
"My lady, it is our uncle, Earl Ceretic. It appears that he is dying."
The Queen sank into a chair. Her husband stood behind her, his hands strongly gripping her shoulders. "We must go to him, Lorin," the Queen said.
"I cannot, my lady," Lorin replied sadly. I cannot leave with affairs at hand that require my attention. A vicious dispute over nearby land holdings needed Lorin's expert negotiating skills to avoid sinking into violence.
"But you must, my darling," Lawrence said from behind her. He spoke to the messenger. "Where is her grace's uncle and aunt now?"
The man had stood as soon as he had guessed the identity of the woman and man who had entered so hastily. He bowed painfully, stiff and sore from his long fast ride across Christenlande from the border. "My lord, they are at their family manor in Keito Uxello ."
Lawrence looked at his wife's brother. "That is in the foothills, is it not?"
Lorin shook his head. "Further up into the mountains, but not difficult to reach. About two days' ride from the border with Christenlande. I would say it would take about four days to reach it ahorse.. or one less day to travel by river."
"I think not the river, not this time of year.. 'tis strong, the flow, and harder to navigate upstream. Will you travel by horse then, my lady?" Lawrence asked, turning back to the Queen.
Lorin encouraged, "Our aunt, Modron, would very much appreciate your comfort at this time, my sister."
Josephine sat, thinking quickly. "Aye, I shall wish to go, if my lord will give me leave. At least to bring our love to our aunt and uncle. 'Tis a hard trip, riding, but I do not believe I shall be gone more than a couple of fortnights mayhap some days more, depending o n what I find when I arrive.. I should stay longer if he is near to death." Her voice trailed off sorrowfully on the last few words.
Lawrence spoke to Lorin. "Make arrangements for my lady's journey, if you will. I shall send armed men with her for the borders can be wild at times. She can travel through Lincoln. The men at arms may billet with the troops camped near the capital and a local troop may accompany my lady to her uncle's. Send word that she shall be able to leave here in two or three days."
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 http://authorchristophermoss.vlogspot.com