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

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Juliana Series: Sir Elerde Learns of the Queen's Flight (outtakes)

My personal image of Elerde.

In his chilly, damp castle in Brittany, Sir Elerde was getting quietly drunk. His thoughts strayed as they always did to Christenlande, and the point of light that was there obscured from his view across the Channel. That light, of course, came from the radiance of that nation's queen's face. A face he would never see again.

Elerde recalled his time basking in that radiance. He had traveled to Christenlande and its capital Lawrencium as a mercenary, to serve the King of that country. He had soon come to be friends with that man and his wife. Elerde was more the peer of this remarkable man than others who served him. Strong, intelligent, a skilled warrior, and tall. It had not been long before he added one more trait in common, falling into step with other men who met the Queen and came to desire her.

What differed with Elerde is that he simply did not hide his love. The King at first took this candor to be a joke. He thought the Breton knight was making a mockery of all the scandalous tales of this man and that who would die at her feet if she but asked. But the Queen herself was not fooled. She knew Elerde was truly in love with her. She trembled at his audacious talk, but began to be fascinated by his ardor. It was not long before the Queen began to secretly return his affection.

During this time Elerde, whose audacious talk of his love for Queen Josephine was well known, was approach by the King's cousin, Duke Gaylorde. This man, snide and supercilious, detested King Lawrence as much as he desired his throne. Gaylorde began to test the waters with Elerde, supposing that the Breton might like to share what else became available if the King was deposed.

At first Sir Elerde feigned that he did not understand what the evil Duke was suggesting. In fact he observed the Duke covertly to see how serious the threat was from this man and his faction. He began to see that the threat was great and that little could be done to prevent the insurrection. The Duke was crafty and had been patiently arranging for this usurpation for many years. Elerde came to understand that nothing he could do, and nothing anyone he shared this ill news with could do, would stop the King's overthrow.

So Elerde began to feign interest in pursuing the "fruits" of the overthrow. Persuaded by the Breton's obvious desire for Josephine the Duke trusted and made him a central part of the plot. Elerde's real purpose was to protect the Queen by staying out of the dungeon after the overthrow. If the King was killed and the Queen left a widow, well, then, what happened would happen.

Gaylorde was awaiting his advantage as patient as a cobra. Much to his pleasure and reward, the man he most knew could stop his nefarious plans, the Queen's brother Lorin, left for his own estate and left a void that Gaylorde could use. He sent the word to his allies. They came, and The castle was overrun with conspirators within ensuring the success of the usurping. The King was taken before the very eyes of the Queen, and he was thrust into the dungeon to await their fates. As he was dragged away Lawrence looked at his friend from Brittany first with shock and then with fury as the man stood coolly alongside Gaylorde. For her part, the Queen stood frozen, her mouth agape and her right hand clutching a rosary to her breast. Elerde leaned and whispered in the Duke's ear, and Gaylorde ordered, "Men, take this lady to her chambers." The Queen was led away, casting a heartbroken look back at the man she was falling in love with.

Over the months of the Duke's rule Elerde did all he could to prevent the King's execution. He played on the Duke's vanity and cruelty, pointing out that humiliating Lawrence was far more satisfying than killing him. "All in good time, my liege," Elerde said. And he watched the Duke for signs that he suspected Elerde's motives.

Sir Elerde of Brittany watched over the Queen. She tried to fix her attention on her children, refusing to participate in court . She refused also to speak to Elerde. She closely guarded Peter, her eldest son, as she knew that Gaylorde would some day get around to remembering this potential barrier to his full claim on the throne.

As Elerde looked back on those days, he winced, remembering how close Josephine had come to being murdered. Had not a shadowy figure appeared , a monk, she would have been lost in a fire that burned part of the castle where Gaylorde had locked her. He had watched this monk, who acted like no monk when in the presence of the Queen, carefully. And the monk returned his suspicious glares.

All the while Elerde had set into motion thee instruments of the King's deliverance. He secretly contacted his friends in Brittany. He cautioned them to hide his involvement so the usurper would not catch wind of his duplicity. But at the same time he had his allies contact Lorin in exile and arrange to assist in the recovery of the throne of Christenlande.

When they came, the armies were led by Lorin, the Scots soldier turned minstrel, Sean, and the Irishman Shannon, who was now chief of his own clan, the O'Neills. From the sea Erik came with his dragon ships. And the Breton navy sailed as well. The castle was overcome. The King was liberated. The royal couple were reunited.

And Elerde remembered how close he had come to death. Not believing that the King and the court would credit the story of his true intentions to preserve the Queen and her children's lives, he did not defend himself. But three came forth who stood his defense for him, and the Breton war leader confirmed it.

At this the King swelled with gratitude and told the Breton knight, "Any thing I can give thee to thank thee for my beloved's safety and mine own deliverance it is thine for the asking."

And it was this promise and Elerde's request that had been his downfall, for in a mad moment many months later he had asked for a night with the Queen. The King of course had refused, and Elerde was forced to leave for Brittany, for anger, for shame, for heartbreak, and for the good of all.

So now here he sat, his wits fogged with wine. He thought of the Queen and of his loss. He knew she loved him. He did not know if she stayed with the King because she loved him more or because she had no other real choice. He sank into his habitual misery.

A soft rap on the door brought from him an ill-humored, "Aye, what is it?"

A servant entered carrying a message. "News from Christenlande, my lord, " the man informed.

Elerde sat up stiffly and jerked his hand out for the message. "Well, give it here, knave. The man put the parchment in the knight's hand and turn and left, used to his lord's drunken demeanor.

Elerde looked at the parchment and his heart stood still. What could this be? There was no identifying seal. Surely were it news of the Queen's illness or death it would bear the royal arms. He gingerly plucked at the paper and it came open to reveal the message.

It was from his old friend and brother in arms, Brian. It said little, just, "The Queen has fled. The King forbids us to follow her. My friend, the lady is yours for the asking."

Elerde's mind, now clear of any sign of the wine's effects, called for the servant in a loud and urgent shout. "Get me my armor! Ready my horse! I am for Calais!" He did not know where he would go, but he would find her. He would have her.

Next: Lawrence Confides in a Friend

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About the author

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