This is one instance where I had to juggle the "real" and the Bo Butler stories.
Josephine agreed and pulled her horse to stand in the road. She watched as Elerde carefully went forward, drawing his sword. She looked about her nervously as he disappeared around a stand of trees. She listened to see if she heard any hint of distress.
Elerde approached the crossroads and looked about. The old man who watched the little dock there was outside his cottage, speaking with someone. Elerde held up to watch and see who the stranger was.
The delay made Josephine quite anxious. She spurred her horse forward, coming up to where Elerde was quite slowly and quietly. She saw that he was watching something and craned her neck to see what it was.
Just as the man the dock keeper was talking to moved into view Elerde heard a sharp gasp from behind him. The Queen cried, "Rory!"
McGuinness looked up. He cast his eyes about as if looking for someone. Whoever it was seemed not to be there.
Elerde did not hesitate but spurred his horse forward, sword drawn. Rory turned and ran into the woods to escape.
"Elerde, no!" the Queen implored.
Elerde ignored her. He rode to the edge of the woods and finding no path for his horse, swung from the saddle. He sheathed his sword knowing it would not be as much use in the close thicket. He listened for Rory's fleeing steps and spotted the red of his hair at a short distance. He kept to a circling strategy, hoping to see the minstrel take cover somewhere, not knowing his nemesis was right at his shoulder.
Rory seemed to be looking for someone. He called "Beau" in a hoarse whisper several times. Elerde wondered who this "Beau" might be and kept a wary lookout for the minstrel's confederate.
As silently as he could, Elerde gained the advantage and found Rory crouched within some bushes. He reached in deftly and pulled the Irishman up by the back of his cassock.
"At last I have thee where I want thee, McGuinness," he grinned.
Rory showed not an ounce of fear. His look burned back into the Breton's face. "Aye, 'tis true. Ye can finish me off now.. and that is what it will take to make me leave off lookin' for the Queen."
Elerde considered him coolly. "Thou need look no more.. the lady is with me, as thou didst hear. And she is coming with me to Brittany."
Rory stared into Elerde's face, trying to divine the truth of the statement. "Sure and I cannae believe that. She may run from Lawrence but not to thee."
Elerde held the dagger he had had in his hand to Rory's throat. "Nay, she dist not run to me. But I didst to her, which is a far piece more than her royal husband hath done. The lady knows who wants her."
"Well ye will still have to kill me, sirrah, if ye wish to carry her away." Rory struggled but could not pull loose from the knight's grip. The blade of the dagger left a thin line of red on his throat. Rory opened his mouth to shout to Josephine.
Elerde pushed him down and put his knee on the Irishman's chest hard, knocking out his breath. Rory gasped for what air he could. Elerde leveled a steely gaze into the taller man's eyes. "I shouldst kill thee for all thy interference in mine own and my lady's brief moments of joy. But I shall not. If 'twere to come to her ears that thou wert slain by mine hand I should sorrow her and lose her for mine act." He continued to glare at the man. The he took his dagger and skillfully cut Rory's thigh along the outer side. Rory's cry of pain was stifled by the Breton's gloved hand.
Elerde stood. He leaned to wipe the dagger on the cassock Rory was wearing. "Thou shalt live, particularly if thy companion finds thee soon. But thou shalt not follow us."
Elerde gave the man, who was writhing in pain, clutching his leg, a swift scornful kick and turned.
Back at the crossroads Josephine had dismounted and stood clasping her hands to her breast. The dock keeper had disappeared. When she saw Elerde she ran to him, quickly assessing whether he had been wounded. "Rory?" she breathed.
Elerde had sheathed his dagger and went to her and held her arms too look into her eyes. "I couldst not find him. He must have slipped away. " He smiled.
The Queen searched his eyes for any sign he was lying. She could not be sure. He led her to the old man's cottage and bade her sit inside while he surveyed the coast for their rendezvous. He kept another eye watchful for interlopers from the woods. As the dark fell, he relaxed a little. He could see the dim lights of a boat on the water and knew they would be able to slip away without detection soon. He returned to a shivering Josephine and put his cloak around her to warm her.
Josephine sat rigid, her mind a tangle of fears that Rory would reappear and be killed by Elerde and some other longing she preferred not to name.
Elerde smiled to himself in the dark. Rory would find his way back to court now with the tidings that he and the Queen had set forth for the continent.
Next: Heart Breaks and Kindnesses
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