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, January 2, 2010

New Stories: Homecoming (Happened)

It was almost Yuletide, and the air was cold and water frozen where it pooled in the courtyard. There was no snow as of yet. The king stood in the Great Hall watching servants put holly and evergreen boughs on the rafters. he stood easy, his hands clasped behind his back. He had regained his spirits, was trying to enjoy the holy season though it would be without his family, for the sake of his people who had looked to him as a sort of symbol of renewal and hope.

He felt the gust of chill air as the Hall’s main door was opened. He looked to see the bard Shannon come in. He was swathed in a woolen cloak his hair was damp and his shoulders dusted with snowflakes. He rubbed his hands together and blew into them as he came over to Lawrence. With his accustomed insolence he neglected to bend a knee, to bow or even to nod to his sovereign. he was too busy trying to warm his bright red nose and cheeks.

“The world be that full of madmen,” he said without preamble.

Lawrence laughed. “What is that supposed to mean?”

Shannon shrugged. There be a boat rounding’ into the harbor.. in this weather me lord.”

Lawrence’s heart leaped, but he cautioned himself that the same thing had happened every time a ship had been seen coming in to the mouth of the Humber estuary. “Could you see any insignia?” he asked calmly.

Shannon shook his head and walked over to the firepit to warm himself. Lawrence wondered why Shannon had gone out into the cold at all. He went back to watching the servants.

He was about to turn away to go get some work done when he heard the commotion outside. A servant tore open the Hall door and shouted breathlessly, “She’s here! The queen is returned!”

Lawrence nearly jumped out of his own skin. Without a thought to his lack of a cloak, he made the distance between himself and the door in a few strides, ran to the stables and fidgeted wildly as his groom brought out his horse, a quiet rowan mare who was more suited to time of peace than War-Brother. He lost patience as the groom was hoisting out the saddle on his shoulder, took some of the mare’s mane in his fist and leaped upon her back. Using his knees he urged her forward. The gates were open, no threat on the horizon, and he drove the mare as fast as she could go down the road, through the town, and out the Seagate.

Others were flocking there behind him. He was not the first by any means to arrive and see the long low and shallow ship with the brilliantly colored sail being guided to the shore. But the crowd gathering parted to let him through. He stayed mounted to see better and farther. It was not long before he could see a tiny figure in the prow jumping up and down and waving her arms. “Josie!” he breathed, then jumped to the ground. He went to the water’s edge and danced his impatience in the rising tide.

Josephine’s heart had started singing as soon as they turned around Spur head into the estuary. It was snowing lightly so the shore where the town and fortress would be was obscured. Her children clustered about her under the watchful eye of Rory. Brother Willihad stood at the Queen’s shoulder as she stood straight as a sentinel waiting to catch her first glimpse of her home.

When she had finally seen the ghostly form of the fortress on the bluff she had clapped her hands, turned to Rory and the children and said, “There it is ! There’s the Palace of Sunshine.” As if by prearrangement the clouds separated and a shaft of sunlight hit the peak of the hall. She sighed, “They will be decorating the hall for Yule about now.”

When they were close enough to identify small figures, a whole throng of them, on the shore, she peered until she saw the mounted figure coming forward. She put her hands over her mouth, then turned and smiled joyfully at all who stood near her on the deck. She turned back and jumped up and down, waving her hands. “There he is, your father. Lawrence! Lawrence!” she shouted to him.

She saw him jump off his horse and run down to the water’s edge. She laughed as she saw him running back and forth in the edge of the tide like a puppy itching to get out of a pen. She waved and giggled.

Rory scaned the crowd as well. He thought he saw bright red hair casually making its way through the mob. He shone his sunlit smile and whispered, “Shan,. ma croidhe.”

Lawrence met the ship before it beached, striding out into the water to his knees. He felt nothing of the cold. Someone in the crowd had come forward and thrown a thick woolen cloak over his shoulders. He did not even know it. He grabbed the rail of the long ship and beamed at his beloved. “Silly, we’ll be on shore in a moment,” she chided him. But she knelt at the railing and reached out to stroke his hair. He caught her hand in his and put his lips to it. The feel of his beard on her skin filled her with joy. “Oh my love,” she sighed. Her lips curled up on the ends with a precious smile.

All around her the children were chanting “Papa! Papa!” Lawrence hung his upper torso over the rail and accepted kisses and neck hugs from the little boys and girls. he did not see Rory. He only had eyes for the little ones and their mother.

When at last the ship slipped up on the beach and a boy jumped out with a rope to secure it to a post, Lawrence reached up to Josephine. She came to him, fell into his raised arms. He stepped back and held her in his arms, spinning her around in the water. Her kirtle was trailing in the waves. He reached to pick her up in both his arms. They looked into each other’s eyes and their faces came together. He kissed her and held her and the throng cheered, whistled and made whatever noise they could with whatever they had at hand. The king finally pulled away, went back for another short kiss, then said, “The children?”

Josephine nodded. “Rory and Brother Willihad will bring them.”

He nodded, then did a double take. “Did you say Rory?” He looked up an saw the familiar smile, the familiar dark red hair. “What, how?” His words were silenced with her lips. Still kissing, he carried her up and set her gently on the ground.

He looked wonderingly at her. “Oh my love, my love. Are you real?”

She nodded. “Aye, my darling, I am here. I will never let us be separated for so long again.”

A man of short stature stood frozen on the beach. His eyes were wide with disbelief. His arms hung down and away from his sides. Under his cropped red hair his mouth hung open.

The tall man he recognized gave him a loving smile. He raised one finger to indicate, “One moment.” He jumped nimbly into the water, helped the old monk climb down, then reached for the little girls. He put one into the crook of each of the monk’s arms, then turned to bring out the two boys himself. He came through the water onto the beach and set the two boys at the feet of their parents who were now each holding a girl and covering them and each other with kisses.

Rory turned to Shannon and came up to him with his recognizable easy rolling hait.

“R-Rory.. can it be? But you were hanged. They told me in Hucknall.”

Rory rubbed his neck. “Aye, they did. Ye were in Hucknall?”

“Aye, terrible place.”

“Och aye, ‘tis.”

Rory looked down into Shannon’s face, and Shannon up into his lifelong friend’s. he leant into the resurrected man’s chest and Rory put his arms around him, Shannon’s arms went around Rory’s body and they stood amid the well wishing and greetings, in each others’ arms, until the royal party, arm in arm and followed by Brother Willihad walked together, eyes never leaving each other’s faces, on the muddy trek through the town and up to their home.

Next: Epilogue

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About the author

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