Discovered a story I skipped in this series. This should be right before Sir Elerde Finds the Queen
Through the countryside the knight had not disguised his identity. Better to let it be known, as it provided him with considerable protection from interference by brigands and local landowning nobles. But before he arrived at Calais he exchanged his armor and his horse's heraldic trappings for something more anonymous. The quality of his mount and of his bearing would be difficult to hide but let the unscrupulous merchants and ship captains - not to mention the smugglers and pirates - do what they may. He could handle them, but the fewer questions asked the better. For it was friends of the King of Christenlande he wanted to know as little as possible about him and his quest. So he led his undraped horse to a tavern near the harbor, where his merchant's robes excited nothing more menacing than the innkeeper's greed.
Ordering wine and a joint of mutton, Sir Elerde took a seat at a table far back in the dark smoky room. He knew the ways of harbor taverns, having been a mercenary knight for much of his adult life. He knew that it would not be long before sailors and itinerant monks and soldiers and bawds would be crowding in to eat, drink and share stories of the scandals of the day. He sat where he would be able to listen and learn what was known of the scandal in Christenlande, the scandal that gave him his first best hope of claiming Josephine as his own.
Many of the boats and ships in Calais did brisk business with many of the kingdoms that made Britain, these few decades before Egbert of Wessex tied them together to create the first step towards what would be called England, after one of the conquering peoples, the Angles, who displaced the earlier Celts. Christenlande was but one of the nations on that fair island, but it was Christenlande that contained the beacon for Elerde's life. Or so he imagined… was she still there? Was she even still alive? By God, if Lawrence had harmed her in any way other than releasing her to be with her real love, he would kill the man, King or no.
Throughout his pursuit of Josephine he had known he had no right to her affections or her body. As a soldier he saw most things as spoils to the victor, though, and he had tried everything he could to win her away from Lawrence. She had astonishingly made no pretense that she did not long to go to him, but for whatever reason - and you could not believe the lady's excuses - she had chosen to stay with the king. Now, if the King had not murdered her, she was free and no doubt lost without a strong shoulder to bury her weeping face in. Now he had every right to her. He could demand her love and she could not say him nay. She could not because she wanted him. That he knew with all his being.
As the seeming merchant pretended to focus on the wine in his cup, others began to sit near him. They paid no attention to him - Calais was an ever changing cast of every type of man and woman in the world… even from Africa and the East. One could see not only wealthy merchants but towering blackamoors in exotic armor, mustached and turbaned traders, bishops, princes, and mysterious ladies.
Elerde of course kept his eyes out for that last… he knew not where the Queen might stray. He hoped it would be straight into his waiting arms and had paid informers along the highways to let him know of any such who might pass on her lovely way to Brittany in search of him. So far however he had had no news of the lady on this side of La Manche, as the French called it.
Elerde kept a sharp eye out also for men who would know him and expose him. God forbid that one of those damned caterwauling Irishman should happen to sit down next too him. He had nothing but scorn for Shannon O'Neill, whom he considered a buffoon. But he hated Rory McGuinness. The two had been at odds over the Queen's affections under the very nose of the King, in spite of taking turns saving her life. Rory thought he knew what was best for Josephine. He might worship her, but he would never betray Lawrence or jeopardize the royal couple's marriage. Rory knew full well that Elerde would stop at nothing if he could be assured of possession. Therefore Rory had ever kept him in sight, a constant watchdog snapping at his heels until at last Elerde offended the King enough to find himself banished form the court, the kingdom, and from his lady.
Elerde believed he knew McGuinness well enough to know he would not go to seek the runaway Queen himself for the simple and miserable reason that he would not compromise her in the King's eyes. What a pathetic fool. Well, what did you expect of a minstrel. His low station made him an impossible match for her anyway. Elerde did not have that disadvantage.
He also did not want to run into the Norseman , Erik, who would not hesitate to kill him, capture him, or do anything else for his friend, that miserable excuse for a man, Lawrence.
As the disguised Breton knight sat looking drunk, he listened to the men who gathered near him and the loose women who inserted themselves among them, sailor, soldier and cleric alike. He was not to be disappointed. He caught the word "Lawrencium" from a conversation not a full table away and focused his attention on the five men and one woman, apparent soldiers of fortune and their bawd.
"So they say the King has not gone to find her. Eh bien, I do not understand it. Certainment he must have his pick of women. Why throw over a lady of good family for une putain."
Another man shared his view but added, "Peut-être his good wife deserves to be cast out."
"Does anyone know … where has she gone?" The others shook their heads. The bawd interjected, "My money is on the king having done away with her. But slyly. She had many friends.. including some very special friends, or so I have heard. Including one on this side of La Manche."
One of the men looked at her speculatively. "I wonder.. might she have come to him, that fellow you are talking about?"
Another man , sitting near them, a sailor from his clothing, broke in. "Non. Mon frère heard from some sailors from a dragon ship that n o such lady has been seen crossing the Channel."
That was the information Elerde wanted. He did not want to cross the Channel himself if Josephine was on her way already to him. Now he knew she was not yet on her way. He would go in search of her. First he must book passage of some kind to Dover and then around the East coast of Britain to the body of water called the Wash and thence to somewhere north of Lawrencium in Christenlande.
He would have to play his cards very carefully. There must be no hint to anyone that Elerde was near and searching for the Queen. Lawrence may forbid his friends to search for her, but he could not forbid Elerde. He could however hunt him down and have him killed. It was unlikely that the King would give Elerde another chance either to kill him or take his Queen.
Sir Elerde muttered, "King, Queen, Queen's Knave. My move."
Next: Back to regular series, Josephine and Elerde
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 http://authorchristophermoss.vlogspot.com