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

Monday, September 28, 2009

New Stories: Shannon and Heather Come Apart Entirely, Part 1 (Cut)

The one part in the book I felt especially bad about was writing Heather out of it. I've decided to move her to the sequel, with a more authentic name. I am still looking for the girl I roped into playing"The Story" with me. Her name is Linda laaksonen, she lives in Sacramento, Calififornia, and probably has no idea her wonderful drawings are appearing on the web. If by some m iracle you know her, please let her know.

Winter 769

Shannon O'Neill sat miserably in the cold dark barren room he had taken over the Blue Lady Tavern. He was chilled to the bone in spite of plenty to drink. The chill was robbing him of the one consolation he had, the numbness of being drunk. He tried to think how this could have come to pass, that he, of all men, was sitting on the floor alone and quite sober in a room so cheerless the whole building collapsing would have improved his mood.

"Shut that.. 'tis freezin' in here already," he shot at the figure opening the door. He had heard the steps on the rickety staircase up to his room, entirely disinterested in who it was who was bent on disturbing him.

"Shannon, why are ye sittin' in the dark?" came his friend Rory's voice.

Shannon grumbled, "Because I have no candles."

He heard and felt Rory come over to sit on the bench against which he was sitting. "Well then, come on back to the Hall and keep warm and share the company." When Shannon did not answer, Rory prodded, "Now then, what is it that is after makin' ye come out here into this icy room?"

Shannon snorted. "What is it ever, me fine friend? Heather threw me out."

Rory inquired, "What for?"

Shannon almost snarled, "What for? How the hell should I be knowin' the answer to that one? These days she dinnae even tell me.. She just gives me one of her, 'Ye know full well' looks and slams the chamber door."

Rory thought a moment. "Well, what do ye think it was?"

Shannon thought. "There be so many thhings I do she dinnae like, 'twould be easier to say what it was not." He sat for a few minutes, then spoke again with no irritation or anger in his voice but a genuine sorrow. "Och, Rory, I dinnae know how much longer I can take this. I know that in her mind and mayhap in truth I have wronged her.. but I have e'er been faithful to her in body. She dinnae believe me, but I have." The last word doubled as a sob.

Rory scooted down onto the floor next to his friend. He put his arm around his shoulders and pulled him to himself. "Shhh, shhh," he soothed. "That's a darlin' man, there there now."

He heard Shannon in the dark sniffle and wipe his nose on his shirt sleeve. "Rory," the man sobbed, "I cannae tell what to do. I told her who I was when I asked her to be me wife, and she said that would do. I have e'en kept me promise that I was after tellin' her I couldnae, to be true. But I am so lonely,. Rory, and so damned hard up."

"Do ye want me to have a talk with her, Shan?" Rory offered.

"And what would that be accomplishin?" the weeping man asked.

"I dinnae know.. but 'tis worth a try." Rory was full of concern and care for his friend. He did not really think Heather would confide in him, but he already had a fair idea what the problem was. These two people could not live together. Whatever they had had in the beginning, if anything at all, had not survived the years together. Shannon was selfish and thoughtless. Heather was demanding and perpetually unhappy. It would take a miracle to make this marriage work, and neither of the pair was likely to attract that sort of saintly intervention.

"I will try," Rory assured his friend.

And he did. The very next morning he went to the room she shared with her husband. She was up and dressed and preparing for her duties in the nursery. She looked at him suspiciously. "Out carousing all night with O'Neill?"

"Will ye sit a while so we can talk about that?" he asked, trying to look less irritated than he felt.

She frowned. "I cannot imagine what there could be to talk about. He was out all night again."

Rory stood patiently waiting for Heather to assent to sit and talk. She stared at him a while and then sat with a look of frustration. He sat down as well. "Heather, Shan was out all night because ye latched the door against him."

She shot a sharp look at Rory. "I knew ye were here to make his case for him. Why comes he not himself to make it?"

Rory kept his tone even. "He says ye dinnae listen to him."

"So he asked ye to speak for him?" she demanded.

"Nay, he dinnae ask.. I offered and after a while he agreed. He dinnae think ye shall listen to me either. But Heather, ye know I am a man who speaks straight, do ye not?"

She would not reply at first, then she said, "Ye are a good man, McGuinness, but ye have a bad friend. Ye cannae defend him."

Rory reached to take her hand. She withdrew it. He sighed and spoke, "I can tell ye what I know to be the truth because I was after seein' it with me own eyes. Ye think he was with a woman, do ye not, all last night?"

"Or drunk somewhere," she sniffed.

"He was neither. I was with him and there was no woman there and he was not drunk. He was sitting on the floor in his little room weepin' over how he loves and misses ye and fears he cannae please ye."

"I thought he had a room in town.. I have looked at night and not seen him among ye in the Hall. Convenient to have a private room, over a tavern I would think." Her face was a heartbreaking blend of pain and triumph.

Rory shook his head. "Och, Heather, if ye would just see it.. 'tis not a place fit for much carousin'. 'Tis a tiny room with a window that is not shuttered and a hard wooden bench to sleep on. Why when I go in there to see him I almost cannae find a place to put me legs… and it is up stairs that may fall at any moment."

"Good, I hope he breaks his neck," she retorted, but he could see she was taking what he said in.

"Ye dinnae mean that, Heather. I know ye love him. And I also know.." he moved his head so she had to look into his face, "that he is true to ye.. I know it. I know Shan better than any man and I know when he is tellin' the truth."

Heather sat sulking, not wanting Rory to convince her, but something inside her made her listen, made her want to believe. She gave him two or three speculative and hopeful looks. "Why did he take that room, Rory? Why does he not sleep on the floor with the unmarried men?"

Heather let him take her hands now. "Because he would be shamed and humiliated. The men in the Great Hall would make grand sport of him.. they do anyway, even if they just see him walkin' dejectedly away from your rooms. He is ashamed that his wife is so angry with him. He knows he has hurt ye.. he dinnae know how to prove that he is not after hurtin' ye the way ye think though."

She looked at him frankly. "Aye?"

He nodded. "Aye."

She sighed. "Will ye tell him to come see me?"

He lifted one of her hands and kissed it, smiling.

Rory then went to find Lady Jocelyn, a close friend of the Queen's and someone he thought he could talk to. He asked her bluntly, "Me lady, can ye tell me, what could Shannon give is wife as a peace offerin'?"

Jocelyn stopped what she was doing and just stared at him a moment. "Oh," she said, then put her fingertip to her chin to think. She nodded confidently and said, "The other day in the nursery Heather was saying she feels self-conscious about not having gowns more suitable to court life. Would you like me to select some fabric at the drapers?"

Rory smiled broadly, "Och, would ye? But take Shan along so he knows why ye choose as ye do. Here is money to pay for it.. take as much as is needed."

He held out several silver pennies. Jocelyn picked out two. "This should be enough. 'Tis just as well he did not go on his own.. the draper should have cheated him for certain.

Lady Jocelyn came back with a grinning Shannon and four yards of a fine soft forest green wool.

Shannon opened the door of the chamber he shared with his wife very slowly and carefully. When he had it wide enough to put in his head, he saw Heather standing glaring at him with her arms folded over her chest. Shannon came all the way in and stood and stared back at her. "Now. Love, what is it this time?"

She did not reply, continuing to glare.

"I wish ye would just tell me what 'tis I have been after doin' that I dinnae know I was doin'.."

The only response he got was Heather putting her hands on her hips.

"Ye have that 'ye know perfectly well what ye did, Shan' look." He mocked her voice with its Scots accent. This irritated her immensely, and she started to turn away.

He cleared the distance between them in a flash, and put one arm around her waist. She lifted her hand to slap him, but he deftly raised the fabric so that her hand hit it, then clutched it. She stared at it, then at him. "A wee gift for the woman I love, who is the most beautiful woman in all of the kingdom."

Heather could not help herself. "What a beautiful green it is," she exclaimed.

Shannon fairly purred, "And would I not be knowin' what color sets off your beautiful nut brown hair?" He put both arms around her.

Heather stroked the pile of the fabric. "'Tis so soft and warm."

"And would I not be knowing how it would feel against your soft, warm skin?" He nuzzled her neck and was rewarded with a slight shudder.

She shook out the cloth to gauge its length. "And it looks as if it is just right for a dress for me."

"And have I not held and caressed ye enough times to know the size and shape of ye?" He pulled her tighter and drew her face to his.

"Oh Shannon," she sighed, and let him guide her to the bed. He lay down next to her and said in her ear, "Heather, I do love ye so very much."

Whatever their problems, when they made love Heather and her minstrel were perfectly in tune.

Lying in Shannon's arms Heather toyed with the sparse hair on his chest, which was as red as the hair on his head. He was lying still with his eyes closed and a most contented look on his face. "Shannon, darlin'?" she said quietly.

"Mmm?" he purred.

Heather paused a moment and then ventured, "Do ye think we could find a small cottage to live in together, away from court?"

He opened his eyes and looked thoughtful. "I dinnae see why not.. 'tis a fine idea. I can ask Cedric the metalsmith how to go about it."

Heather looked up at him. "Truly? Ye like the idea?"

Shannon leaned his head to kiss her. "Aye, I do indeed. I want ye to be happy and I wish to have ye all to meself." His heart reveled in the happy look she gave him.

Next: Part 2

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About the author

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