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
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Juliana Series: Lawrencium Discovers the Disappearance (Outtakes)
ocelyn stirred at the first light of the morning. Great with Percy's child, she struggled to sit up in bed to prepare for the Queen's morning. She glanced over at Percy who slept on, and she smiled. Then the smile left her lips as the first consciousness of the morning, and the return to the real world of waking, dropped into her mind. She sighed deeply and arose.
As she washed and dressed her heart was filled with trepidation. She thought of the Queen and what had transpired at supper the evening before. Her vain hope was that upon visiting his beloved wife's chamber the King would have remembered all they had together and begged forgiveness and made love to her. Then the Queen might be all right.
Jocelyn walked softly through the hall to the Queen's chamber and very quietly opened the door. She hoped to find the King there, in the Queen's bed, but did not want to disturb the royal couple in their amours. Instead she found the bed empty… and not slept in.
This did not discomfit the lady in waiting however. The Queen's chamber was connected by a private staircase to the King's own chamber on the floor above. It was not uncommon for the Queen to sleep with him in his own chamber. Jocelyn would simply go to Clancy, the King's page, and ask him to let her and the other ladies know when the couple had stirred for the day.
Jocelyn found Clancy looking distracted in the anteroom where he slept adjacent to the King's rooms. As soon as he saw her the young redhead's expression turned to a mixture of relief and embarrassment. "He's not here, Lady Jocelyn," he told her. "And I don't think he is with the Queen."
Jocelyn stopped in her tracks and the blood drained from her usually rosy cheeks. "He is not with her.. I just looked in to see if she was awake. Are you sure he is not in his rooms?"
Clancy shook his head. "In faith, nay. Last night he came here and dismissed me. I thought he was goin' to the Queen, so I went to bed in me room here. But not long after he had gone down to her, he came stormin' up the stairs and passed through me room and out into the hall. I went to me brother Shannon and asked him if the King had returned to the Great Hall but Shannon says he stayed and sang a song he wrote about some demon and the King never came into the room." Clancy looked downhearted. "Jocelyn, do you think…? Even here.. in the castle? With his wife downstairs?"
Jocelyn looked about her and breathed, "Nay, I cannot believe that. There must be some other explanation." She went into the corridor and stood, rooted to the spot, unsure what to do.
That was where Percy found her. He had awakened as she dressed and been startled fully awake by memories of the past many days. He washed and dressed and went to the Great Hall for a flagon of morning ale. There he found Shannon O'Neill and his friend Rory, along with others of the court, sitting at the long table hunched over their own flagons, looking dour. Shannon's face was red with obvious anger. When he saw Percy, he jumped up to confront the younger man.
"Jesus, Mary and Joseph," he exclaimed in a brogue made thicker with his emotions. "Has Jocelyn been to the Queen? Is she all right?" Rory had placed a restraining hand on his friend's shoulder.
"What are you talking about, man? Are you drunk already this morning?" Percy shot a look at Rory. Who shook his head.
The taller man said in a low voice, "Nay, he is not drunk. The King did not go to the Queen last night. Clancy was in here asking if he had come back to the Great Hall after supper. We are afraid that he may have gone… to.. well, her."
Percy took a step back. "Oh God, no, I hope not. But I must see if I can find Jocelyn. She is no doubt with the Queen this very minute." He turned and rushed from the room.
When he found Jocelyn he learned that not only had the King not slept with the wife he had not lain with since he had gone to Trent months ago, he had come up from her room in a rage and stormed down the hall. Then Percy heard the more shocking news that the Queen not only was not in her own rooms but that the Queen had not slept in her bed that night.
"She must be in the garden. I will go to her. " Percy pressed his pregnant wife's hand and kissed her cheek. "Go to the Queen's chambers and see if she is with the children." Jocelyn brightened at this, and with a look of relief sped down the hall to the stairs.
Percy waiting a moment to let Jocelyn get out of site before he turned and went slowly down the hall in the other direction, taking the stairs in the turret on the other end of the castle. One floor down he carefully tiptoed past the guest chamber that all knew was where the courtesan from Trent had been quartered. He stopped outside her door, knowing it unlikely that he could hear anything through the stout open door.
But he was wrong. Through it he heard a familiar male voice utter some sharp remark and a light woman's laughter in response. His heart falling, he shook his head dolefully and proceeded to the Queen's little garden, her refuge from the cares of the day.
She was not there. There was no sign of her among the wintering plants. The lovely little bench was there. The only thing that looked alive in the little garden was a dark evergreen set just a few paces away. Everything else was dry and shriveled or under cover.
He found Jocelyn among the others in the Great Hall. Rory was helping her to sit down at the long table. All faces turned to him when he entered, some faces full of concern and anger. A few faces amused, close together, whispering intrigue. He shook his head and Jocelyn burst into tears. He rushed to her. "Then she is not in the n nursery?!"
His wife wailed, "No!"
At that Shannon, Rory and a few others ran out of the Hall . Shannon called back to Percy, "We have to find her!" But the search was fruitless. She was nowhere in the castle. She was not in the church. She was not in the town. And worse, two of her servants were missing as well.
All looked at Percy when they regrouped in the Hall. He looked about for answers. "We must find the Duke. He will know what to do." At this word the faces changed to certainty and all went en masse to the chambers that Lorin shared with his family. Without knocking they burst in, knowing the Duke would be at work on his papers at his desk and Larisa his wife would already be in their own nursery, dressing and feeding their young son.
Lorin was startled by the sudden entry of so many men. He put down his quill and sat back concerned. "What's wrong?" His first thoughts were that Juliana had hurt the Queen again, or that Lawrence had come to his senses and thrown Juliana out. Or maybe he had killed her.
When Percy had told the Duke what he knew, and Shannon had uttered a number of Gaelic oaths, the Duke sat and pondered what to do. The arrival of the courtesan with the King on the day before had puzzled him deeply. Later when he and Larisa were alone he had told her, "I knew they had courtesans there.. Some of the other princes thought it would be necessary to keep the peace to have women to relieve the tensions during heated debates. I thought it was a bad idea… that the men should be concentrating on treaties and trade and building a united army, not dalliance with strumpets."
Larisa counseled, "Dear husband, the women are not strumpets. They are women of higher birth, education and poise who have fallen into misfortune and must make their way as best they can. It does no good to judge them."
Lorin, always surprised at the worldly knowledge his intelligent and virtuous wife had, replied. "But I did not think Lawrence would betray my sister. Now he has brought one of them home with him. It is beyond understanding, nay reason… nay, simple good manners… to bring her here." He went on. "Then just to let her sit there and gloat after striking the Queen. He shouldst have called for the guards and taken her away at once. Instead he let poor Jo flee and that woman sit there looking triumphant. It was appalling."
His wife could not disagree with these points. "Aye. And as I told thee earlier, when I went to her she was sitting, chilled and unblinking, while her ladies fussed over her.," The Duchess went on, "I did not have the heart to tell her that the woman had remained when she looked at me to assuage her pain with just such news."
Now with these men before him, Lorin's mind raced. They watched him impatiently as he thought. In time he said, "We need to let this play itself out. I don't know where my sister has gone, but we can find her and bring her back. Leave the King to his paramour. It will all be all right and they will forgive one another. He and the Queen always do. We should not interfere/"
"Like hell I will!" Shannon shouted and tore from the room, letting the stout oaken door crash against its hinges as he went. Frozen for a moment, the others headed after him, Lorin among them.
Upstairs Shannon thrust the guest chamber door open even more violently. He passed into the bedchamber where he found the King seated on the edge of the bed with Juliana, who had dressed, sitting on his lap with her arm around his neck. The King had opened the front of her gown and his hand was thrust in and caressing the bare skin of her back.
His face reddening, the King raised a look of fury at Shannon just as the others came to the door and stood in the hall. "What is the meaning of this, sirrah?!" the King shouted.
"What have ye done to her?" Shannon shouted back at the King, uncaring of the royal wrath.
The King's fury shifted briefly to confusion as he looked from Shannon to Juliana and back. "What have I done to… what do you mean. Spit it out, knave," he said menacingly.
Lorin entered, bowing his head slightly and trying not to look at the couple on the bed. "Beg pardon, my liege. The Queen is not in the castle. In fact, we cannot find her anywhere."
Juliana shot out, with a laugh, "Well, surely you did not expect to find her here, did you?" Her laughter cut off as Lawrence pushed her, firmly but not roughly, to her feet. She turned her face so the invaders could not see the dismay it displayed.
The King stood and demanded an explanation. As Lorin recounted a diplomatic version of the events of the morning, the King listened. His face altered from fear to anger to sorrow and back again. The tale told, the King drew his mantle from the bedpost and wrapped it about him. He paced, apparently unaware of Juliana, of Lorin. Of Shannon,. Of them all.
He stopped abruptly and turned and strode from the room. The men followed him as he wound through the corridors to the Queen's rooms. He pushed the door open and strode in to the Queen's bedchamber. There he stopped, rooted in one spot, and stared at the unmussed bed. "Jo? My lady? Where has she gone?"
In spite of Rory's and Lorin's best efforts, Shannon burst in. "God knows, ye idiot. Ye have driven her away. I ought to break your neck where you stand…"
The King whirled and shot a look at Shannon that should have burned through the Irishman's head and hit the men clustered behind him. Even in his anger Shannon recoiled. For all his formerly kind and wise ways, the King was a formidable man, tall, strong, powerful in every way. And the most dangerous weapon he had was his look. He reached one long arm out and grasped Shannon by the throat. "How dare thee, thou pathetic little mouse! I will kill thee as thou stand here in this room!"
At this Percy and Lorin rushed forward and each grasped a royal shoulder to try to restrain him. Rory and another man snatched Shannon back as soon as the King's grasp loosened. Lorin said quietly into the King's ear, "Lawrence, my brother, thou doth not wish to do this. Let the man go. He is just afraid for her, as are we all."
The King pulled back and fairly deflated. He staggered to the bed and sat heavily. Lorin turned and started to shoo the intruders out of the room.
Shannon, massaging the front of his throat, resisted the pressure and called out in entreaty," My lord, we must not be wastin' time. We need to go and find her."
The King was on his feet again. He roared, "We shall do nothing of the kind. If she wants to run away, then let her. She will come back and beg my forgiveness. It is not like she has been ever the good and pure wife. Did I run when she betrayed me?!" the King's face froze as he recalled that in fact he had, when he had discovered and then poisoned Robert de Riffet. But remembering the man his wife had lain with, his anger blossomed again. "I can tell you now, I do not care to find the lady in the arms of that damned Elerde!" He shot a look of challenge at Shannon and breathed, "No one is to go to look for her. Is that understood?"
At this the men let Lorin push them the rest of the way out. They drifted, disconsolate, back to the Hall. Rory looked at Shannon, and slapped his back. "You are as mad as ever you were. One of these days you will not come back from the dead."
Lorin went back to the King's side and led him out of the Queen's chambers and up the stairs to his own and sat with him as he took it all in.
Back in the guest chambers Juliana sat at her mirror, shaken. She tried in vain to quell her worries. Had she made a mistake? Other men she had been with did not care if they ensconced both a wife and a mistress under the same roof. And what's more, most of the wives just ignored her. She had thought it would be the same here, and mayhap had thought she could even be part of the court. She had known Lawrence so many years before, when they were but youths, and she had longed for him ever since, throughout the ill fortune that made her a courtesan. She realized her own avid desire for the man had blinded her to the difference between this man and the others she had been with. He was more complicated. He actually cared whether his wife lived or died. She must be more than a baby maker to him. She'd heard the stories, the songs, but had dismissed them as anachronistically early courtly love tales.
But, as she arranged her dark auburn hair and gazed into her own reflection she thought to herself, "Well,. Most royal Queen, possession is nine points of the law. I am here and you have gone. If anything you may have just helped me win him completely away from you. You may have been his childhood fantasy, but I am a woman he can respect, listen to, befriend, and, yes, make passionate love to. You were the playmate of his youth. I am the real woman to serve his manhood." She set the comb she was holding down and said aloud to the mirror, "The little tart will never come back. The King is mine."
Next: The King Goes to juliana