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

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

New Stories: Gaylorde Lays It Out for the Queen (Happened with Changes)

Since Gaylorde isn't even called Gaylorde any more, let's juist say this happened with changes mostly in Hadfrid's behavior. There is more drama concerning Lorin and Larisa in the novel as well.

onotony added greatly to the tension in the royal nursery as the Queen and Larisa stayed closeted, refusing to leave the children for any reason. Though servants came and went they were always accompanied by the usurper’s soldiers so no words could be exchanged. Any requests the two women had, such as for a change of underclothes, had to be passed through one of the guards posted at the door to the chamber.

Josephine spent all her time with her children, trying to provide a calm, comforting presence for them. They all seemed to have become much younger overnight. The twins were uncharacteristically clingy, and even Peter had started to suck his thumb again.

When Gaylorde arrived, Josephine was ready. She was dressed as befit the wife of a King and seated in a Roman chair set as if it was a throne in the room. She had had Larisa take the children to the farthest part of the chamber and engage them in noisy play so they could not attend to the conversation that would ensue.

When the Duke entered he smiled wryly at the lack of any other chairs. “I find it much more conducive to my purpose to tower over you standing, my lady. You have accomplished nothing.”

Josephine made no response, but when a moment later Elerde entered along with several of Gaylorde’s guards, she betrayed her reaction by darting her eyes to him and then back. For his part, the Breton kept his eyes down.

Gaylorde took a relaxed stance, his arms crossed on his chest, and stood considering Josephine with a mocking smile on his face. With a soft chuckle he stood straighter and started to speak.

“My lady, your husband will never make it alive back to this fortress. If he is not killed in Affynshire he will be killed in battle as he tries to return here or assassinated before he can reach Lawrencium. I am on the throne now. You have no standing.”

Josephine interrupted him, “Why, sirrah? My lord husband has never shown you anything but generosity..”

“You mean when he so generously killed my father? I don’t care why he did it, to revenge his own father’s and brother’s death in battle, as an act of war, or just to save his own sorry hide. My father is dead. I do not mean to let his killer live.” In spite of what he said, Gaylorde’s words had been uttered without feeling, even carelessly.

He continued, “I will allow you to stay here. In fact, I will keep you here whether you wish to stay or not. I am perfectly aware of your skill with rousing idolatry and support. I won’t kill you. You would be even more of a bother dead and a martyr for some misdirected notion of a cause. “

Josephine continued to eye him haughtily. “My children?” she inquired.

Gaylorde glanced at the children, Peter in particular and smiled cruelly. “They can remain with you… for the time being.” He waved away her attempt to speak a protest.

“I want to make it very clear, my lady,” he went on in a darker, more threatening voice, “that there is no hope for you or your husband. For the time being your brother will remain imprisoned. But if he will not cooperate with what I need from him, he will die.”

Larisa, who was the betrothed of the man he spoke of, cried out but quickly covered her mouth with her hands. Josephine shot her an entreating look. It was too late, the children had started to look about uneasily. “Sirrah, I will ask you to quit my presence,” the Queen demanded.

Gaylorde did not chuckle this time. He stepped forward threateningly. “Lady, your impertinence may make me forget my decision to let you live. Your situation is hopeless. You may as well accept it and be docile. I have complete power over you.”

Had the Queen not had her attention caught entirely by the man’s violent step forward, she might have seen the Breton mercenary’s involuntary jerk as his instincts caused him to go to defend her. But Elerde mastered his composure quickly, and when she did see him again he was responding to something Gaylorde was saying to him.

“I suppose you might like to have some time with your lady love, eh Breton? I think we can give you that time.”

Elerde leered his thanks. “Indeed, sire. I thank you. Can you not also remove the nursemaid and the children?

As Josephine sat forward to protest Gaylorde replied. “Nay, Breton, I think not. Better they learn the way of the world. If you choose to take her in front of them, so much the better.” To the guards he jested, “If you hear sounds of a struggle or screams, let it alone. The man deserves a reward for his kind assistance.” Gaylorde shot a derisive look at Josephine and went out, followed by his guards.

When the door was slammed shut again Josephine sat staring into Elerde’s face. “Larisa, please take the children’s mind off the disgusting smell the Duke has left behind.” She paused, then went on, “There is nothing to fear from this man. He will not hurt the children.”

Elerde’s eyes, no longer masked, revealed the depth of his regret. “Nor you, my lady. Nor you.”

“You have shown that in the past, yet here I see you again allied with a villain against me and all I hold dear.” In spite of her challenging words her voice could not hide a tinge of pleading.

“My lady, I would never do anything to harm you or your children. I am here to see to your safety. That is all.” His own eyes pled with her for belief.

Josephine looked back at him skeptically. Her expression conveyed at once distrust and relief. “You have an odd way of showing that, sirrah.”

The two stared into each other’s eyes for some time. Finally Josephine rose from her chair and went up to him, looking up into his dark eyes, searching for the Elerde who had been her friend. “Oh Elerde, why, why? You cannot possibly believe that I would ever come to you if you are part of something like this. Can you?”

Elerde’s expression had become hooded, inaccessible. “Madame, I am here to watch over you, not for my own desires but through my deep and abiding love.” No longer able to take her look of anguish, he dropped his eyes. Striking his booted heels together he stiffened and made a quick bow. “Your leave, my lady.” He did not wait for it, but turned and walked rapidly out the door.

On the other side of the door one of the guards smirked at Elerde. “That was quick, my lord. She must have really wanted it..”

His words were cut short by the impact of Elerde’s fist on his jaw. Through tightly gritted teeth the Breton breathed “Never speak of her that way again or I will kill you after removing your balls, first one, then the other, with a dull rusty knife.”

The man rubbed his jaw and stared up at the man from where he lay on the floor. He looked chastised, but a spark of defiance remained. “Aye, my lord,” he growled.

Elerde kept his eyes on the man’s face. Then he swept the tail of his cloak about as he spun on his feels and went down the corridor.

In the nursery Josephine had heard the commotion. Though unable to make out words, she heard Elerde’s deep threatening voice and one of the guard’s sulky one from the floor. She allowed herself a slight smile before turning back to her children.

Next: Malcolm Faces Judgment

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About the author

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