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

Saturday, November 21, 2009

New Stories: Elerde Reemerges in Lawrencium (Happenedwith cchanges)

A little jumping back and forth here. Forgive me.

As Josephine came through the town gate to return to the palace after visiting the sick with her maids, she noticed a man in the dress of a messenger riding out from its double gates.

"My lady! News of the King, mayhap?" one of her women said excitedly. She was carrying the basket that had been filled with food and supplies when they entered the town.

"That would be wonderful," the Queen replied hopefully. "I have had so little word of late." She started to lift her hand to get the messenger's attention, but dropped it with a sigh as he veered abruptly south and away from them.

Her other woman reassured, "Your brother will be able to tell you all about it, my lady."

Accordingly the trio and their man at arms hastened their steps up the steep climb to the fortress on the bluff.

Josephine did not wait to go in to change her clothing before seeking out Lorin. She found him as she most always did of late, bent over scrolls in his workroom, with his betrothed Larisa sitting quietly by with some spinning or needlework. Both stood and bowed in respect to her. She waved her hand to indicate they should relax and asked her brother, "There was a messenger.. news from my lord the King?"

Lorin looked at a loss for a moment. "Oh, the messenger. I know not, sister, for his message was for Duke Gaylorde. Something related to the fyrd."

"Oh," the Queen replied shortly. She did not care for the Duke, nor did she feel comfortable with how much her brother, the Chancellor, had simply ceded to the King's cousin without any oversight at all. "Then I suppose I must find him and ask him."

The quiet woman who would soon marry Lorin spoke up reassuringly. "My lady, I am sure there is no bad news. We should have heard it by now."

Josephine nodded distractedly and swept out of the chamber.

She had no intention of going to find him. She found a servant and sent him to fetch the man. Then she went to her own work chamber, composed herself and waited.

The man came slowly, or so she guessed from the time it took and his demeanor, as casual and unconcerned and downright insolent as ever. He entered her chamber at her "Come." He made the minimum effort at obeisance and waited for her to look up and explain the summons.

"My lady," he said simply.

After a moment the Queen looked up at him, cool, as distant as he. "Your Grace, I understand there was a messenger here. I would see what he brought."

Gaylorde inclined his head with a smirk. "Aye, my lady, there was a messenger. On matters of the guard, nothing more. And he brought nothing but what he had to say."

Josephine stared at him consideringly. "No news of the war, of the King then?"

"Nay, nothing you need be concerned about."

The Queen continued to stare, a glint of anger just showing in her eyes. "Sir, while I am standing in for my husband the King, all matters are of concern to me. I will hear what message you received." The man's responding derisive smile infuriated her.

He looked about and stepped over to a chair on which he draped himself carelessly. He stared back at her. "Nay, my lady, you do not need to know everything."

Josephine fought to keep the fury from her demeanor and voice. "Sir, I did not give you leave to sit."

"My lady, I do not need to ask your leave to take a piss, no less to sit."

Though he could be subtly defiant and discourteous, his open contempt for her was new. She thought a moment, then rose. "How dare you speak thus to me, sir?"

At his careless wave of a hand in reply, she stepped from the table, her carriage as dignified as she could manage, and walked to the chamber door. She opened it and called to a servant. "Fetch my brother and have him bring guards."

She turned to her husband's cousin where he still sat with no respect for her. "Methinks, your Grace, you have become too complacent in your role in my lord's fortress and army." To her surprise his only response was a chuckle of derision.

Several minutes of tense silence passed, then the chamber door opened and several of the guards entered. Josephine looked around them expecting to see her brother. "My lord Duke," she began, addressing him, but he did not appear and her voice broke off. She turned to the captain of the guard. "Where is my brother the Duke?"

She caught the glance between him and Gaylorde and all became clear. She took a step backward. "What have you done with him?" she demanded. When no one replied, she turned back to the captain. "I demand you put this man in irons immediately and conduct him to a cell where he may be held until called." She stood as tall as her small frame allowed, her right arm raised in a gesture of command.

The captain stood still, his eyes the only thing on him in motion. He seemed to glance furtively about as if trying to think what to do.

Josephine demanded, "Man, are you uncertain who is speaking to you?"

Gaylorde's snort of amusement seemed to bring the man around. He gave Josephine a disdainful leer. "Lady, I do indeed know who you are. But I take orders from the King."

"The King? You know I stand in lieu of the King as his regent."

The man smirked. "Not that King, my lady." He looked at Gaylorde. "This King." He made a formal bow to the man in the chair.

Josephine stood staring first at Gaylorde and then at the captain. Very deliberately she made for the chamber door. Two of the guards, men she had not recognized, grasped and held her arms. The indolent voice came from the chair. "Let her go. She isn't going far. Post a guard outside the nursery where the royal brats are penned."

He was right. The Queen hurried, hardly looking to one side or another, to the royal nursery. Her gait was stiff but purposeful. All that could have stopped her in her forward motion was one thing. "Josephine," said the old familiar accented voice from the chamber door she passed.

"Elerde!" she breathed and glanced quickly at him. He stood with one of Gaylorde's lead captains and was clearly not under duress. She thought to herself, "Nay, it cannot be. There cannot be that much villainy in the world." She prayed she was wrong and Elerde was not part of this, but she said nothing to him.

She did not give the man a chance to reply but hurried to the building that housed her children. As she turned to shut and bar the door she saw the guards following her and the look of sorrow on the Breton's face as he watched. She slammed the door shut and set the bar so that she and her children would not easily be dislodged.

"My lady, oh my lady, what is happening?" came the feminine voice from further within the chamber.

The Queen looked back to see her brother's betrothed, Larisa, in the doorway of an adjoining room holding little Elaine who had lifted her head from where it was buried in her nurse's shoulder.

"Mama!" the child cried and reached to her, leaning away from Larisa.

"Larisa, why did you not bar the door? Your first task is to protect these children!" Josephine went quickly to them and took Elaine in her own arms, then pushed past the frightened woman to enter the chamber where the other two were waiting. Peter had his thumb in his mouth and Caithness seemed frozen. "Where is Tavish?" the Queen demanded.

"H-he's under the bed," Larisa stammered, following her into the chamber. "I am so sorry, my lady. But.. but they came into my lord Lorin's room and took him out. I know not where. I came straight here."

Josephine sat on one of the beds, setting Elaine on her lap and pulling Peter and Caithness to her. "Tavish, darling, come out. I am here."

A head of curly brown hair slowly appeared. Tavish came out from under the bed and climbed up, coming around to the Queen's back and putting his arms around her neck. He put his face in her hair.

"Careful, my love. Do not choke memo" Josephine chided in a gentle voice. She looked up at Larisa who was pacing and locking and unlocking interlaced fingers. "Help me calm them and put them down for a nap. Then I will tell you what little I know."

Next: The Siege Is Broken: The Battle Begins

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About the author

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