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, April 17, 2010

Juliana Series: Josephnine and Elerde (Outtakes)

e had found her. Here she was, in his arms at last. He tightened them about her as if to keep her there for all time.

After Josephine had let him pull her by her hands to stand before him and put her lips on his and cling as if her life depended on it, she had buried her face in his chest and wept. Elerde had simply stood and let her weep, murmuring words of love to her and kissing the top of her head. She had wept like a soul long lost in a void, wept for her children wept for her husband the King, wept for all the years of hurt and uncertainty. She wept on, for Elerde himself, for her own loneliness and for the hopelessness of a long life of regret and sorrow. Tenderly he held her and waited for her heartache to be spent. For her to look up at him and start life with him in his own heart.

Josephine gradually left off crying. She stayed pressed hard against his chest. He began to think she had fallen asleep there and started to hold her away from him to look at her face. When he did, Jo clung to his chest and arms almost as if she clung to the precipice over some pit of fire.

Elerde murmured, "Josephina?"

Jo turned her red and puffy eyes to his. She had always been lost in those dark and penetrating eyes. They burned into her down into her very soul. She saw his light and loving smile, the one saved but for her. She knew she would burst into new tears and struggled to control herself. She felt his gloved hand soft on her hair.

"Elerde, dear love. Thou camest to find me." She looked at him in a mixture of wonder and gratitude.

He so wanted to say, "Aye, Josephina, unlike thy husband who languisheth at home with his putain." But he felt instinctually that his actions were safer with her than any words. He was here, after all, having traveled the dangerous lands and even more dangerous seas to come to her. At the risk of his own lands and life, he was here, holding her, loving her, comforting her. No one else.

"Aye," he said softly and cradled her head again on his chest. He closed his eyes to take in the joy of her in his arms. "I have come for thee, my dearest love. Nothing couldst have kept me away from thee when I learned of thy flight."

"Oh Elerde, it hath been so terrible. I canst not e'en begin to tell thee." She looked up into his eyes pleadingly.

"Shhh, shhh," he comforted. "Now we have all time to spend together and talk and love and simply gaze into each other's eyes."

Jo looked at him speculatively. In the joy and catharsis of feeling safe and loved in his arms, safe and loved for the first time in so very long.. centuries it seemed.. she had been entirely in the moment. She wanted to stay there, not needing to tell this man or that what she would commit to , what she would even think to do in the next hour. Why couldn't a woman, any person, just stop living and be alive in one perfect caress?

"Elerde, I knowest not…" she began to say.

Elerde did not want to let regrets or uncertainty chase her from his arms. He smiled his soft smile at her and shushed her again. He brushed her lips with his. Then he lifted her into his arms and started to carry her away. She leaned her head on his shoulder, needing to surrender for a time, to let the strength she had had to build to stay away from Lawrencium and her loved ones there slip away and rest for a while.

Elerde carried his Josephina back through the hawthorns, across the churchyard to the Inn. The kitchen maid and innkeeper gaped as they saw the two coming towards them. It was almost as though the pair was surrounded by a fairy light, of the world and not of the world. The knight called for his horse to be prepared and brought to him. He gently carried the Queen into the in and set her lovingly at a table, sitting down by her and wrapping his arm around her shoulders.

"Will thou be all right here for a few moments while I see to my horse?" he said into her stunned face. She nodded distantly. He rose but could not look away from her as he walked back to the door. There he stopped as if letting her leave his sight she would melt away and not be there for his return. Reluctantly he lowered his eyes and left.

Jo sat at the table like a doll sitting on a child's nursery floor, still and quiet. Rose came close and asked her if she wanted anything. Jo looked up at the familiar face and seemed to smile a little. "Oh Rose it is thee. " She went on looking at the girl. Then she said, "Aye, wilt thou take a message to Athelstan and Ceolwin?"

"Of course, majesty," Rose curtsied.

Jo thought, "So my efforts to be unknown were wasted." In fact she had kept herself to herself so well that no one really had a chance to notice no less examine her. Rose's realization had come along with Elerde and his questions.

"What shall I tell them, my lady?"

Jo cast about for the right words, but as a small smile crossed her lips she said, "Just tell them I hath left with my love." Aye, that was what she would do. She must. It was the only chance she would ever have again for peace or happiness. The kitchen maid curtsied and made for her cloak to carry the message. "Nay, Rose, not yet," the Queen called after her. "Wait until my lord and I have gone." Rose nodded and went back into the kitchen.

Jo sat trying to stay cut off from the time and place where she found herself, losing herself as best she could in a sort of glorious nothing.

Elerde came back into the inn and his face betrayed relief when he saw her right where he had left her. He came to her and knelt. "Will thou come with me, dearest love? At least to where I can house thee for a time in a manner better suited to thee?"

Still lightheaded and a little drunk with the feelings she was having, Jo nodded. She held out her arms, and Elerde took her and lifted her. He strode with her out to the dooryard and placed her up on the saddle. She reached down to him when he started to take the reins and lead the animal back towards Malcolm's manor. "My dearest, canst thou not ride. I must hold thee," she begged.

With a smile he nodded and came to put his foot in the stirrup and lifted himself deftly to a spot in front of her. She wrapped tanned arms around his waist and lay her cheek upon his leather armored back.

"Josephina," he said when they had started on the road. "I didst not want to give thee a chance to reconsider, but I am bound to ask thee.. dost thou have belongings thou needest?"

His heart leapt at her answer. "Nay, my love. My life starts now. I am reborn." He clung to the moment himself, pushing away fears that someday she would leave him, ass she must, to be a mother to her children in Lawrencium. Could but he make her forget, get her with child by him, she might stay. But he did not think so.

Elerde just rode, feeling her arms around his waist and her body pressed to his back. He smiled to himself and thought, "The knight hath captured the Queen." He looked up at nothing at all and thought, "Whate'er madness hath come o'er thee, Lawrence, I know that thou shalt not forget thy lady wife forever. I shall be ready for thee. Then checkmate."

Next: The Queen Steals Some Passion

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About the author

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