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

Friday, December 18, 2009

New Stories: The Queen Arrives in Northumbria (Happened)

Click to enlarge. "Lawrencium" is south.
The ship had left from where the Hull flowed into the Humber, then just within sight of Lawrencium as it turned into the North Sea at the tip of Spur Head. The dusk was full on, and Josephine thought she could discern the firelight coming from beach bonfires outside the town and below the bluff where her own namesake, the palace, towered. Her children were asleep, nestled against her where she sat, almost reclining, covered with furs.

The mercenary commander stood apart, leaning against the mast, watching her, sensing rather than seeing her grief. She would never let him see the depth of it, he knew that. He bowed his own head, feeling a pang of hurt in his own heart as he wondered if she would never be his. Even if her husband was truly dead, would she keep faith with him until her own death and her reunion with him in the afterlife? Would he himself remain alone? A wry and rueful smile played on his lips. He had always been alone. Would that always be his lot. Nay, he would be patient. Someday she would accept her situation, would turn to him.

The queen closed her eyes, blocking out the last sight of the home she had shared with her beloved for the last few years. Shutting her lids squeezed out a tear she had not known was ready to spill. She sensed Elerde’s gaze on her, willed him to stay where he was. She hurt too much to let him into her world just now. Under her breath she vowed, “I will be back in your arms again, Lawrence. I swear it.”

The children were cranky in the morning and for the rest of the voyage to Bamburgh, the tiny port near Lindisfarne where so many embarked for the continent. Tavish found watching the Holderness coast of some interest for a while, but then he had turned to Josephine and asked, “Papa?”

“He is still at the war, dearest. He will come find us when it is over.” She put her arms around him and looked at the slowly passing coast of Northumbria. Peter she thought would decide he wanted to be a sailor once he had been on a voyage, but the boy was quiet, his thoughts unshared. The twins simply whined and fussed. Josephine hoped they would enjoy being out of the dank, stifling chamber they had just spent weeks and weeks in, but it was almost as if they longed for the confinement now that they were free of it.

Elerde kept mostly apart, though he was obviously still watching over them. If the queen saw him speaking to a crew member that man would be at her side making sure she and the children had all they needed. He exchanged pleasantries with her and spent time with the children. Josephine wondered if he had finally come to his senses or was simply waiting her out.

When the small ship finally beached at Bamburgh she waited while the men and horses disembarked, then gathered up her children and the little they had with them and went to the rail to put her feet on solid ground again. Elerde was there immediately with arms raised to take first one child and then another. Finally he raised his arms and eyes to her. She shook her head, sat on and put her legs over the rail and pushed off. Her feet hit the sand but lightly, for he was there with his hands under her armpits, catching her and lowering her gently to the ground.

“I am perfectly capable of getting off a ship myself,” she rebuked sternly.

“I am perfectly aware of that, my lady, but it is my desire to be ever at hand to help you land softly and safely.” He did not let her go at once but held her, his eyes smiling into hers. Then he saw the look she returned and dropped his hands. “I beg pardon, my lady.”

She glared at him a moment, then slowly turned her head to scan the scene before her. “Why here? Why Bamburgh?”

“Convenience, that is all. ‘Tis a good port to leave for Kent from.”

She shot him a suspicious look. “And a good port to leave for the continent from. Was that your plan, sirrah?”

He flinched from the unkind tone and choice of words. “We shall only go where you choose, your grace. I swear it.”

She considered him, seemed to accept his promise, but her tone remained chilly as she asked, “And where are we to stay until that ship to Kent leaves?”

“There is an inn in the town, I am certain.”

Her returned look was offended. “I am not exposing my young children to the custom in an inn! How can you even suggest it?” She thought a moment. “I saw an island with an abbey as we sailed in to Bamburgh. Was that Lindisfarne?”

He raised his eyebrows, sighed, and nodded. “I believe so.”

She bent to pick up Caithness. “Then we shall seek lodging there. Will you bring Elaine and the boys?” She did not wait for his reply, but put one hand out to Tavish and said, “Come along, children. We will go stay with the monks.”

“My lady, wait. You cannot walk there. ‘'Tis too far,” the mercenary called after her.

Josephine was a breath away from snapping back that she was simply not going to stay at an inn, when the look of concession on his face stopped her.

He went on, “We must ride. I will get the horses and an escort.”

Next: Lawrence Rejoins His Army - plus Rory Follows the Queen

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About the author

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