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, October 18, 2009

New Stories: Elerde's and Rory's Understanding (Happened)

This story has one of my favorite lines in it. See Elerde's reply to Rory's statement about whom he believes should end up with Josephine.

Late July769

he soft rap at the door was answered by the Breton warriors equally soft "Enter." Rory came in, cap twisted in his hands, and stood waiting for whatever judgment he would have to face. He dropped the fey act entirely. He wondered if he would live long enough to explain it, even if he had wanted to.

"For God's sake, sit down," the man at the table ordered impatiently. "I really do not enjoy it when excessively tall people tower over me."

Rory looked about and saw a stool, pulled it over and wrapped his long legs around it as he sat. He waited while Elerde sat back himself and considered the Irishman.

"All right. Who are you?" the dark haired bearded man asked directly.

Rory eyed him cautiously. "Exactly what you see. An Irish minstrel traveling in Affynshire."

Elerde twisted irritably in his chair. "Belay that, man. You came looking for Shannon O'Neill, you said. And the lady said you were here before with that same man. Why were you here? Did you come with the Queen to Keito Uxello? Do you know where she is now?"

Rory gazed unblinking and said nothing.

The Breton stood with a sigh and came around to sit on the table and look down into Rory's face. "Look, McGuinness, something tells me we have a common purpose. I do not know if you know of me or my history with the Queen. I somewhat recall O'Neill from ere I was ceremoniously sent away by her husband the King. And of course I have heard of O'Neill since. But you.. you are new to me." He seemed to consider. "You probably know, "he went on, "that I pursued the lady when her royal husband was off indulging his passion for his capital instead of his wife. You will also know she rejected me. And that the Saxon learned of our near-tryst and saw to it I lost access to the lady."

Rory was watching Elerde carefully, hearing nothing he did not in fact already know but trying to guess where the tale was leading.

"What you may not know, sir, is that I love the lady with all my heart and soul. I would not harm a single golden hair of her head. I shall not tell you all, though I do not believe you are a spy from Malcolm. But suffice it to say, had I had the opportunity to capture her of late I should not have taken it." He sat on with his arms crossed across his chest and tried to gauge the Irishman's reactions.

He was not disappointed. Rory had glanced up sharply at the confession and the implication that the warrior had in fact had the Queen at some point and let her go. Could he believe that? "Me lord," he gingerly offered, "'tis true that Shannon and I came here with the lady. We traveled together, but that is all. We spent a short time here at Keito Uxello then took our leave to make our way doin' as we do, singin' and playin' and tellin' tales for our suppers and a place to lay our heads."

Elerde nodded slowly. "Part of this is true. There is something missing, but I know you shall not give it up. " He stood and went back to his side of the table. "What I want to know is what your purpose is in coming back here.. and whether you want to hamper me or help me keeping her safe…"

"Help you..? Keep her safe?" Rory's mouth was open with surprise.

"That is what I said." Elerde sat in his chair again, leaning forward with his hands clasped in front of him on the table. "I will be candid. I have been part of this plot to take this kingdom from the very beginning. As you may imagine, there is no love for the Saxon coming from my direction. I despise him for many things, for neglecting and leaving that remarkable woman when she needed him, and for his attempt on my life.. nay, do not try to dispute it. Had he challenged me in battle I could respect his right and even accept defeat as honorable. But however understandable his act in trying to make my assassination look like an accident.. it was contemptible."

Rory could not argue that the incident near Horsfort would look like an intentional act to the man, for even the King seemed troubled by his own actions. He himself believed the King innocent of ill intent. But Rory also knew that he and the Queen were in the minority. Even Shannon thought the act purposeful.

Elerde was continuing. "Everything changed when she came here. Had I had it in my power to stop the takeover I should have, for her sake. I did not wish her to be directly harmed or to be used as a pawn in this struggle of ambitious, greedy men. But there was nothing I could do to stop them, had I even tried. With her as one more bit of booty, they were more determined than ever."

He looked with an open, frank, even vulnerable expression at the man before him. "I stayed in it to try to protect her. And it may be my undoing, as they suspect this is what I am after. McGuinness, if you can help me, it may be our only hope. Her only hope. There is much afoot that is tangled like a snare. I cannot tell you. But if you care at all for the lady.." He stopped and looked at Rory, whose face had fallen into a look of frustrated grief. "You.. you are not the catamite you play at, are you? You.. why, I think… you love her too."

Rory's eyes lifted to the Breton's. For a moment there was complete understanding and sympathy between the two men. "Aye, I love her too."

Elerde stared at him, then dropped his eyes and nodded. "Does the lady know this?"

"She does."

"And her husband? Does he know?"

"I believe he does."

Elerde's glance came up sharp and puzzled. "How.. how.. no do not tell me." A private smile played on his lips and a spark showed in his dark eyes. "You are but a bard, no threat to him.." He saw the confirmation, with all its implicit grief, in the Irishman's eyes. But for Elerde it confirmed his own position of power. "He is not a threat, so the man lets him play with his wife. But I am still very much a threat.. and becoming more powerful everyday." For the first time in many months the Breton let himself hope.

Rory however replied grimly, " What I am sir is an honorable man."

In his own elation, Elerde snorted derisively. "I know now all I needed to know. You will help me. I know not how we will protect her, now that I am to answer to O'Donnell." He saw the flicker of disquiet that crossed Rory's eyes. "What is it? O'Donnell? You know him?"

Rory frowned and nodded. In a dark voice he replied, "Aye, I know the man all too well. I served with him in Ulster."

Elerde's eyebrows went up. "Served? I wondered if your soft act was to cover a soldier's background. I was right. No love lost between you two, then?"

Rory chuckled sardonically. "That is one way of puttin' the matter."

"I see. Well, it cannot be helped. I will think of how we can get aid to the lady in spite of him. You know where she is?"

It was apparent that Rory may know or might guess but was loathe to reveal the details.

Elerde went on, "Never mind now. Our movements will no doubt be circumscribed from here on in. We shall just have to look for openings."

"Sir," came the quiet serious voice from the Irishman. "I will do anything.. anything to protect her." He continued with pointed emphasis, " Anything."

The Breton met the earnest even imploring gaze. He nodded slowly. "Methinks the lady has at least two champions besides her husband. Alas that only one of may win her.."

Rory's gaze changed to a challenge. "If it comes to me to make that choice, sir, that champion shall be the King."

Elerde stared for a few moments then dismissed Rory with a gesture. "Well then it is a good thing that you will be unlikely to be the one who chooses."

Next: Preparing for a Siege

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About the author

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