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, February 12, 2010

Shannon's and Rory's Journey: Shannon and Heather Finally Meet in Lawrenciium, Part I - Lawrencium

art 1 - Lawrencium

The small party of travelers came down from the forest road into Lawrencium in a slight drizzle. The woman and two children rode in a donkey cart while the man walked at the animal’s head, carrying a walking stick. They were silent as they saw the village below and the castle rising above it , overlooking the town and the harbor at the mouth of the River Welland. The boy, who was eleven years old, poked his hooded head out to see the wonders, and the little girl, who was barely six, huddled under their mother’s cloak for warmth and too keep dry.

“Matthew, let us stop at the monastery just ahead. Ye can wait there while I walk with the children to the castle.”

The man pushed back a hood to look at her. “Are ye sure ye will not want me there, in case he is.. difficult, Heather?”

She waved a dismissive hand. “Nay, he will not be. Shannon folds when he is disappointed. He dinnae grow angry.”

The man nodded resignedly and turned his steps towards the monastery.

The four accepted wine and bread from the monks, then Heather stood to go.

“Wife, when will ye return?” Matthew asked anxiously.

Heather shook her head. “I dinnae know. If he is there, then mayhap this evening. If he is not or may not be found the children and I may need to stay a few days. I shall send word, dinnae worry.” She looked about and seeing no one paying attention, leaned and kissed the man on his cheek. “Come along, Seamus and Deirdre. Seamus, hold ye’r sister’s hand as we walk.”

The man gave each child a quick hug before they joined their mother and left.

Duchess Larisa happened to be crossing the courtyard on her way back from the garden where she had gone in the drizzle to clip some fragrant herb. She saw the woman and children come in at the gate, having received no challenge from the gatekeepers. She had never met Heather or seen Shannon’s son and daughter, but she went to inquire anyway, out of sheer curiosity, since she knew most all of the market people and servants who frequented the castle.

Heather noted the Duchess’s fine cloak and curtsied before her, motioning her children to bow and curtsy as well.

“Well met, good woman. Thou looks like thou hast traveled a long way. Come forth and we shall find thee a cup of wine to warm thee,” Larisa said, beckoning Heather to follow her towards the servants quarters.

Heather stopped her. “My lady, beg pardon, but I am here to see Shannon O’Neill. Is he here, if ye please?”

Larisa stopped and turned back. “Shannon? Nay? He hath gone to Scotland to see his wife and chil…” She stopped, realizing that the red curls that could not be kept under the boy’s hood looked familiar. “Are thee Heather O’Neill?”

Heather curtsied again, “Aye, well I was . He went to Scotland? Och, I told the man to wait here. He ne’er listens.” She remembered herself. “Madame, these are my son and daughter. Seamus O’Neill and Deirdre O’Neill.”

Larisa accepted the children’s bows with a smile. “We must get all three of thee inside to the Hall. We can get thee dry clothes, food and drink. Thou shalt need a chamber for thyself and thy husband when he returns as well.” She shifted her direction to the door of the keep, not seeing Heather’s look of determined irritation.

Larisa spoke as she walked, “I am so sorry, I have not told thee mine own name. I am Larisa, the wife of Duke Lorin.”

Heather replied, “Och, aye, he is a good man. A very good man.”

Larisa cast a smile at her over her shoulder as they came into the keep. Servants rushed to relieve Larisa and the new arrivals of their cloaks. The duchess called for warm dry cloaks, food and wine to be brought. She smiled seeing the children’s wide eyes and open mouths looking around in the Hall. They had been all eyes out in the courtyard as well.

A knight, Lucullus by name, happened to walk into the Hall just after them and Seamus took a step back and just gaped. “Och!” he exclaimed. The girl hid in the folds of her mother’s kirtle.

Larisa made sure the woman and children were seated comfortably before the massive hearth and were being attended to by servants, then she took her leave of them, saying, “I shall inform the Queen that thou art here with thy children. She will want to see thee and tell thee when thy husband and McGuinness may be expected to return.”

Heather nodded respectfully and thought, “Off with Rory again. Well, ‘tis good to know Rory is lookin’ after him.”

Seamus looked up at Heather. “Then is Shannon not here now, Mother?”

She smiled and pulled him to her. “Nay, Seamus, ye’r Da was so excited to see ye he went lookin’ for ye and Deirdre.”

Deirdre peeked out, “And ye, mother?”

Heather nodded.

The children were awed by the appearance of the Queen moments later. Seamus murmured, “Och, she is so bonny!” He and his sister gazed at her fine clothes and the delicate circlet of gold she wore on hair almost as golden. Her smile was sweet and her pleasure at seeing the children and Heather obvious.

“Heather, my dear, dear Heather. I must beg thy pardon, for my lord is in council now and cannot come out to greet thee. These must be Seamus and Deirdre!” Josephine motioned for the three, who had stood at her entrance, to sit again and took a seat herself.

Heather bade each child come out and show respect. “Children, this is the Queen of Christenlande. Ye have heard me speak often with Sean and Emily about her and the King, d’ye remember?”

Seamus gaped. He bowed and took the Queen’s hand and kissed it. “My lady, is Peter here? I mean, is his highness here?”

Josephine smiled. “Nay I am sorry to have to tell thee that my son has gone to page for Sir Percy. He just left two days ago. But thou doth remember Tavish, doth thou not? He is much older too now. He is younger than thee, but not by much. And the twins are as well.” She turned her attention to the little dark haired girl. “What a beauty thou art, like thy mother,” she said, earning a bright smile from the child.

“My lady, her Grace told me that my hus.. that Shannon is not here…” Heather began.

Josephine’s attention went back to the Scots woman. “Aye, that is true. He left just as soon as he received thy second message saying that thou wert delayed. He and Rory thought they might come upon thee on the road.”

Heather pursed her lips. The Queen went on. “Aye, I knowest, ‘tis a pity thou missed him. Thou must be so disappointed. I know that he shall be when he finds thee not in Connery.”

Then she remembered that a message from Rory had just arrived that morning. She called to a servant to fetch it from the King’s chamber where she had taken it for him to open. She was careful with Rory’s messages that the King see that she waited for him before reading them.

When the servant arrived with the sealed parchment, the Queen took it, broke the seal and opened the stiff material. She glanced over it, “Let’s see… oh, they arrived in Connery and found thee gone… They spoke to Sean and Emily who said thou hadst gone to Northumbria… Rory said Emily does know.. oh, dear!” She looked up at Heather. “I am sorry, he saith thou hast entrusted her with a secret. I did not mean to embarrass thee.”

Heather looked resigned. “If ye please, my lady. Go on. Where did the Irishman go?” She was looking off to the side, not meeting the Queen’s eyes.

Josephine still held the letter in her hands, and she looked at Heather hesitatingly and then went back to scanning the familiar handwriting. She carefully read but did not comment on Rory’s misgivings about Heather’s interest in reuniting with Shannon. “Let me see.. ah, here, they were on their way to Northumbria and then here if they didst not find thee. He says Sean sadist thou wert coming here to see Shannon.” She looked up. “The rest is personal.” She was annoyed to see that Heather rolled her eyes at this last statement. “For my lord King and myself,” she added rather sternly.

Heather did not respond. She sat and looked into the fire frowning.

The Queen urged, “Wilt thou stay and wait for Shannon? He is on his way back here after all.”

Heather sighed and looked at her children. She looked to Josephine and nodded, “Aye, my lady, if we may have ye’r permission, I should like to have a chamber for me and my bairn. If O’Neill dinnae take too long, I shall wait for him.”

The Queen motioned to a servant and asked that a chamber be made ready and the guests taken there to rest and recover from their journey. She politely said to Heather, “Shannon sleeps here in the Hall with the other unmarried men.. I mean those who do not have their wives with them here… So thou shalt appreciate the privacy of a chamber for thy reunion.”

Heather looked straight into her eyes. “My lady, this is not a reunion. I have come to let the minstrel see his children for the last time. And to tell him I have had our marriage made invalid and have meself remarried.” She gathered up her children, curtsied to the dumbstruck Queen, and followed the servant out into the corridor.

Next: Shannon and Heather Finally Meet in Lawrenciium, Part II - The Road to Lawrencium

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About the author

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