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, May 30, 2010
Juiana Series: Broken Hearts and Kindnesses (Just for fun)
Now her mind was trying to make sense of Rory in a torn and bloody monk's robe making a beeline - that is, if bees can hobble -- for her using a quarterstaff as a crutch, and some huge man in similar garb making a noise like a banshee as he rushed with his own staff borne aloft as a weapon at the nearest pirate. Out of the corner of her eye she could see Elerde rush not towards the attacking giant, but towards Rory.
"McGuinness!" the Breton knight was roaring. "How many times do I have to kill thee before thou stayest dead!" He had drawn his sword.
Josephine's heart stood still and all the color drained from her face, but for once in her life she did not swoon. "How many times do I have to kill thee..." she repeated. She stared at the onrushing Elerde with horror. Then he had found Rory and he had wounded him. He lied to her, and what's more, he had hurt her dear Rory who himself had been unarmed.
"Elerde, my God, stop! I command thee!"
The anger in her voice made it through the Breton's fury to his ears. He slowed to look at her, stunned, as much by her anger as by a realization that he had just been about to screw the pooch. What she had seen already had been enough to overcome when they were alone, but a dead Rory meant no Josephine in his life or his arms for sure. He stopped and quickly sheathed his sword. He faced Rory without a drawn weapon.
Rory's own fury was unabated. He rushed at Elerde in spite of his wounded thigh and tried to strike him with the quarterstaff. The removal of his only real support sent Rory off balance and crashing to the ground at Josephine's feet. He cried out and clutched his thigh where the Queen could see fresh blood starting to seep from crude stitches in a long fresh wound.
She flung at Elerde, "Knave, what hath thou done to him!" She knelt by Rory to try to help him.
Rory gasped out, "My lady, art thou safe?" His eyes revealed pain and yet concern for her. Good old devoted Rory.
Elerde stepped in. "Aye, she is safe. The lady is mine now." He started to reach for the minstrel's arm, but the Queen stood between them.
From behind her she could hear Rory's voice. "My lady, my dearest Jo, is it true? Art thou willingly going with this man?"
At her murmured "Aye," Rory moaned and struggled to his feet. Josephine, frozen, did not move as Elerde rounded her. Rory had stumbled backward. The knight lifted a gloved hand and struck Rory across the face, sending him flying again to the ground.
Elerde spun to face Josephine, fear baldly showing on his face. "My love, " he started, but was distracted by a loud BANG that was followed by silence and a smell that made him think of Hell.
The pirates stood around a giant man who held something in his hand that glinted in the fading light. One of their number lay on the dock, crumpled as though he had been raised and dropped from a height. Elerde marveled at the man who had evidently been allied with McGuinness. His size was remarkable... much taller even than the Irishman who now was trying to sit up, holding his head as Josephine crouched by him fussing and sighing. And the man was broad. This would be a fine enemy even without whatever sorcery he seemed to possess.
The huge man that Elerde was now realizing must be the confederate "Beau" that Rory had been searching for in the woods had turned to look for his friend. "Beau" indeed, Elerde was thinking, "Un beau adversaire." But he had no sword, giving Elerde the advantage if the sorcerer could not use his magic again. In fact, as this adversary had turned and started to come to his blasted friend's defense the pirates had broken whatever spell had immobilized them and fell on him. In seconds there was a spark as metal hit metal and some kind of weapon flew into the air and fell with a delicious splash into the water under the dock.
Elerde drew his sword and dagger and came forward. The sorcerer appeared to have lost his only unearthly weapon as he was resorting to simple hand to hand fighting with one of the pirates' daggers . Elerde saw the man's quarterstaff in two pieces cast down the dock. He reached the ring of pirates and inserted himself to face the monster who still appeared ready to fight. "Thou art a dead man," said Elerde easily. He drew back his arm to strike.
"Not so fast," the pirate captain interrupted.
Everyone, including the giant, stood still and stared at him in surprise.
"This man has just killed one o' my best mates and injured two others. I can't sail without a full crew, and I certainly can't fight if we meet with trouble. And, cravin' yer pardon, yer excellence, ye don't seem ter be a seaman. So I'm for drafting this muscular gent to be a-mannin' of the ship."
Elerde thought fast. The man was right, but he so much wanted to kill someone just then and he was in enough dutch with the Queen over that other one. He turned back to the tall man and leveled a cruel smirk at him. He raised his sword to point it at the man's exposed throat. "So, sirrah, what will it be? Die like a man of honor, or join this band of scurvy cut-throats? Your choice."
The man had seemed almost to smile. He looked over at Rory who was still holding his head, stunned, while the Queen knelt by him and put her arms around him. He looked at the pirates. Then he looked at Elerde. He shrugged, and in a strangely accented voice, said "I always thought pirates were rather romantic." The colossus had then dropped the dagger and said, "Yo ho."
Elerde just stared. Disappointed and mystified, he watched as the remaining pirates grabbed Bo and hustled him on board their boat. While the captain was directing them to tie Bo to a mast, the Breton turned and walked slowly back to where the Irishman seemed to be going in and out of consciousness.
Josephine stood and whirled to face Elerde. "Put that away!" she shouted, seeing his still drawn sword. He glanced at Rory and sheathed both his weapons. He stood and looked down at McGuinness.
"What, prithee, in hell was that?!" Josephine spat at Elerde.
He looked at her a bit dazed. "What, the giant?"
From the ground Rory moaned, "Bo."
Elerde laughed a little, "Bien sûr," he breached. "Très beau."
As Rory tried to reach for the Queen and grasped a bit of her skirt, Elerde deftly put a boot against his shoulder and shoved him away. He fell again, moaning, "Bo... my lady.."
The Queen's eyes burned into Elerde's own. He knew he could say nothing that could explain what had all just happened. He was taking her to Brittany - that was all the explanation he had. He knew also that she was on the very verge of abandoning him for what he had done to the other one of the King's rivals for her love. He had to think fast.
A commotion from down the road drew both his and Josephine's attention. Amazingly, the caretaker had gone for help. They could hear him faintly in the distance chattering to some scythe and staff carrying peasants about "the Queen" and "pirates" and "fine horses". The men were rushing towards the trio before the cottage.
Elerde swiftly took Josephine's arm. "We must fly, my love. They will care for the Irishman. Thou canst not help him. Hurry, we canst not linger." His grip was firm on her arm. Her face though still flaming looked to be collapsing back into confusion. "Thou knowest thou hath nowhere else to go save with me," Elerde finished.
Jo turned her head to Rory who was looking at her pleadingly. He tried to speak. "Bo... my lady.. please..." He seemed to gesture towards the boat where his friend had just been secured to a mast.
"Rory, my dearest, is that your friend, is that 'Bo'?"
Rory nodded painfully, His head swam with agonizing pain. He could not articulate what he was trying to say, that if she was afraid, if she could not get away from Elerde and the pirates, Bo would protect her. "Bo," he rasped out once more.
The Queen resisted the tug of Elerde's hand on her arm. She thought, "Rory wants me to go with his friend, to prevent Elerde from harming him. She knew Rory's famous devotion to his friends. He had saved her once.. now she could return the favor. "I understand, darling Rory. I will go with Bo." She turned an eye to Elerde whose jaws were clenched and who was now pulling her with him Shock was setting in on the Queen and she relapsed into numbness.
Rory watched as Elerde led the Queen to the pirate vessel and helped her into it. He bowed his head in sorrow and defeat. As the caretaker and the peasants reached him, he collapsed.
When Rory awoke he was on a straw filled mattress in a small and poor but tidy cottage. A woman was ministering to the bruise that covered one side of his face. She saw his eyes open and smiled at him. "Brother, would thee take some mead?" When he nodded ever so tentatively his head swam and ached. He moaned. The woman looked with sympathy at him and got up to get a cup. She returned with it, helped him sit up and sip the honey-sweet home brewed liquor.
The woman's husband came forward then, clasping his cap in his hands, and made a short bow to Rory. Rory waved a hand to indicate that no such honor was owed him. He managed, "Nay, I be only a minstrel A simple man like ye."
The couple exchanged a look. The man said, "With great and noble friends, it seems."
This brought Rory back to the present. He jerked up and was instantly sorry he had. His head reeled and his vision blurred. He moaned "The Queen!"
"Now, Alfred, did I not tell ye that is who that lady was?" the woman asked her husband.
"Aye, wife, and I fear that she is at the mercy o' the pirates the knight bore her away with." The man saw Rory's distress and firmly pushed his shoulders back down on the bed. "Now, lad, be not tryin' to stir. Ye be sore wounded. That bastard cracked ye'r skull and I think he probably was responsible for that gash down ye'r leg." He returned the weak nod Rory gave him.
The woman could not resist a question, "Who was the man, the knight, who kidnapped the Queen? I reckon he will be hearing from the King in no time at all."
Rory sighed. "It was a knight of Brittany, Sir Elerde."
Both people gasped as they recognized the name. How often they would have read the supermarket tabloid headlines -
"Weeping Queen Denies Elerde Rumors" "King Bans Breton" "Royal Couple to Call It Quits Over Knight?"
That is, if they had been able to read. And there were any tabloids. Or supermarkets. Or printing presses.. or...
"I have to get to Lawrencium right away, " Rory said. In spite of the pain he struggled to sit. Then he stopped and looked at the peasants. "What of the big man the pirates pressed into going wi' them?" His eyes pled for some good news.
The woman looked at her husband. "Alfred?" she queried.
Alfred shook his head, "I didst not see anyone but that knight, the Queen and them pirates."
Rory hung his head. He hoped with all his heart that Bo was all right. He had not been able to tell quite what had happened, in the condition he had been in himself. He did not want to think of Bo dead.. the darlin' man. And he thought of Josephine and hoped that Bo was on the ship with her, keeping an eye on her to protect her.
"Where can I get a horse?"
Next: Stories about Shannon and juliana