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

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Shannon and heather: A Futile Search

“Clancy!’ shouted Lawrence. The boy came in from his anteroom, pale from fright at the sound of the wail that they all had just heard from somewhere in the castle.

“Aye, me lord?” the boy who was Shannon’s brother and Lawrence’s page asked, bowing to him and to the Queen.

“Go find out what that sound was, and what happened to cause it.”

“Aye, sire,” replied the boy and left to discover who had wailed
and why.

The King and Queen waited anxiously, but they were both astounded when
the boy finally returned, barely able to speak he was so distraught.

Josephine leapt to her feet and went to him, supporting him as he doubled
in grief. ‘Clancy, dear boy, come and sit. My lord, please get the boy
some wine.” She led him to a chair near the hearth and took the goblet
Lawrence handed her. “Drink this, Clancy,” she said as she held the
goblet to his lips. The boy drank noisily and continued to weep. Josephine
sat down beside him and held him, letting him bury his face in her breast.

He sobbed. The King sat and put a hand on the boy’s back and rubbed it.

When Clancy was finally able to choke out a few words, he cried, “’Twas
Rory, me lord. He has a message from Shannon. He.. he.. killed himself.”

Lawrence was shocked. “Rory killed himself?”

The boy heaved with sobs. “Nay, Shannon. He wrote that he was about
to drown himself in the sea.”

“Oh dear God in Heaven,” the King said, and he looked at Josephine.

She was sitting next to the boy with her hands over her mouth, tears
streaming from her eyes.

“Josephine,” Lawrence said softly. “We must go to Rory.” She
nodded and stood.

“Clancy, will thee come with us?” the Queen asked.

“Nay, me lady… may I just stay here?” the boy wept.

“Of course,” she replied. She took Lawrence’s outstretched hand
and they hurried to where they could hear Rory’s sobs. They went to him
and the Queen sat next to him and put her arms around him while Lawrence
stooped to pick up the letter which Rory had dropped on the floor. Rory
took his face from his hands and leaned into the Queen, much as Clancy
had, and continued to weep. The King looked at the message and his face
grew gray. “When was this message sent?” he asked. He handed the
message to Josephine who read it, gasped and began to weep again herself.

Rory could only shake his head. He managed, “The servant..” but no

Lawrence called to one of the men at arms near the door. “Ulrich,
which servant brought McGuinness the O’Neill’s message?”
The man bowed and replied, ‘Sire, ‘twas Donough.”
“Get him and bring him here,” Lawrence commanded. Ulrich bowed
again and went in search of the man. Lawrence went to sit on the other
side of Rory from Josephine and like her put his arm around the
disconsolate man. “Fear not, gentle friend, it may not be too late.”
Donough was brought to the King straight away. The man bowed his head,
crushed his hat in his hands, and shuffled his feet. “Man, when did thee
receive this message of Shannon?”
The man looked uncomfortable. “Sire, I beg thy pardon, but I did not
receive it of Shannon. ‘Twas given me to pass on to McGuinness by a boy
who said the O’Neill gave it him just ere taking passage on a small
Lawrence demanded, “Did the boy say if he had come straight from the
“Nay, my lord. He said the O’Neill told him to go and buy himself
some dinner, then to bring it here.”
Josephine moaned. The King dismissed the man.

“It may not be too late,” the King said. He gestured to Josephine
to step aside with him. She murmured something to Rory and stood and
followed the King into the corridor.

“My lord?” she asked when he had stopped and taken her shoulders in
his hands.

“My love, we must each do for the man what we can best do. Let me
send to search for Shannon. Thou should stay and care for him. Pray with
him, hold him, whatever thou needs to do to comfort him.” He leaned and
kissed her lips. “I shall come to him anon.”
Josephine nodded gravely, and they took their leave of each other.

The Queen came back to Rory and sat with him. “The King has gone to
raise a party to search for Shannon, Rory. May I stay and pray with thee?”
Rory turned a face like a brokenhearted youth to hers and nodded. He
sobbed, “Chapel?”
The Queen understood and took his hand and led him to the chapel. It
had been the scene of her own reassurance by him when the castle had been
taken and held by the usurping cousin of the King. She went in with him,
each of them genuflecting before the altar, and they both sat in the dim
candlelight. Josephine reached into her girdle and brought out her rosary.

She offered it to Rory, who shook his head. She began to recite the Rosary
quietly to herself.

Rory sat hunched over. When the Queen's voice reached the extent of the
prayer, he looked at her. “I knew, me lady. Somehow I knew.”
She put a gentle hand on his shoulder and looked into his agonized eyes
with sympathy and caring. “Thou knowest the man better than anyone,
mayhap e’en himself.”
He nodded sadly. “”Tis true, that, and though others may not hae
seen it, the man was clingin’ to the vainest of hopes. I think he had
convinced himself that the only thing he lived for was to reconcile with
Josephine nodded and put her arm around his back and said, “’Twas a
cruel shock. But I ne’er thought he would … I thought he would be able
to take it. I suppose I should have known the man’s humours better. He
was e’er the passionate one, rash in his joys and rash in his sorrows.”
Rory nodded and they sat for a while in silence. He looked up at her
and asked, “Jo, will ye leave me alone for a while?”
She smiled fondly and patted his hair. “Of course, dear.” She stood
and left him to pray in solitude.

Rory did not pray. He sat and stared sightlessly before him. He tried
in vain to empty his mind so he could stop the pain that wracked him. He
knew now the grief Shannon must have borne when he saw, or thought he saw,
him hanged in Donegal. It only made him more bitter towards Heather.

Perhaps someday he could come to forgive her, but not now. Not after this.

He wanted to go after her and drag her back and force her to admit that
she had killed the dearest man in Rory’s life.

“Rory,” came the now familiar small voice. “Rory, ye have need of
me now.”
Rory did not look over to see the little girl who had transformed into
Brigid just days before in front of his very eyes. “Aye, wee lass, I do.”

“What will ye have of me, Rory?” the voice, wavering between that
of a small girl and of a grown woman, asked.

Rory sighed deeply. “Go to Shannon. Go to him and make sure he dinnae
harm himself. Dinnae let him kill himself.”

The woman’s hand came down onto his shoulder with the same fiery ice
of the earlier touches. “As ye will keep ye’r promise to me, so shall
I keep my promise to ye.” When she leaned to kiss him on the cheek she
was a little girl in a pale blue dress again. She winked out.

Lawrence strode into the chapel, briefly genuflecting, then called to
Rory. “McGuinness, will ye join the search?
Rory looked up and around at the King. “Aye, “ he called back and
stood and followed Lawrence out of the chapel.

“God speed,” Josephine said to them both as they prepared to leave.

Lawrence stopped by her and took her chin in his hand. He lifted her
pace to his. “My darling, we may have to set out in boats. Do not fear.

‘Tis not a rough sea tonight.” He leaned and kissed her gently and
slowly. When he drew back up he saw her eyes were full of love and worry.

He tried to smile his reassurance. Rory stood to one side, averting his
eyes out of respect.

The Queen was forced to wait for hours, fearing for Shannon, fearing
for Lawrence and Rory. She sat in the Hall with Larisa and Lorin, who had
stayed behind. It was well onto midday the next day before they heard
noises in the courtyard. The Queen jumped to her feet and dashed out of
the Hall.

What she saw as the King and Rory came into the keep chilled her to her
bones. Lawrence was supporting the Irishman, who could hardly seem to
walk. He motioned to a servant, who had been waiting up as well. In fact
many of the servants were hovering. Many were Celts and Shannon and Rory
were great favorites among them. The keening began before Lawrence could
even speak. “Hugh, get McGuinness into bed in a chamber so he can sleep.”
He transferred his crumbling burden to Hugh, who took Rory’s weight onto
himself. “Do not forget this,” the King added, and pulled from his own
shoulder the strap of Shannon’s lute. Josephine saw it and gave a cry.

Lawrence hurried to support her as her own legs gave out beneath her. He
guided her to her chamber just as Hugh took Rory to another, stripped his
damp clothes and tucked him into bed, and sat watching until the tall man
fell fitfully asleep.

“We learned from fishermen in the harbor that Shannon had set out on
a small skiff belonging to some French net fishermen. We set out in boats
to try to overtake them. We could not, but I have sent on to find them and
learn where Shannon has gone. But when we found the lute floating, almost
awash, in the sea, our hopes were dashed.”
Josephine sat next to him, while his arms encircled and supported her.

“Thou didst not find him then, alive or dead?”
Lawrence put his cheek against hers. “Nay, my love, we did not.”
Josephine sighed. “Then we must continue to hope. And to care for

Next: Shannon's Requiem Mass

No comments:

Post a Comment


Buy on


Buy on

About the author

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