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
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Juliana Series: King Discovers Rory's Treachery (outtakes)
Peter burst out, "Uncle Lorin, Rory is looking for Mother!"
Lorin looked away from his sheaf of papers and over at his nephew. He saw Percy with him and looked to him for explanation. "What is this the Prince saith?"
Percy came up and saluted the Duke. "Thy Grace, beg leave. We didst venture to find McGuinness where he resides with the O'Neill in the city. We didst not find him, but we did find Shannon."
Peter interjected, "He was kissing a girl!"
Lorin smiled and looked to Percy again. The young man continued. "I couldst divine from the look on the man's face that there was mischief afoot. I didst press. I asked him if McGuinness had gone to search for the Queen."
Peter added, "Which Father saith was forbidden!" He had a look of the utmost significance on his face.
Neither quite caught the look that passed over Lorin's face. It was the faintest of blanching as he thought of his own defiance of the King's order. He turned away so they could not see his further look of worry over whether Rory would interfere with the search his own hired agent was conducting.
Turning back to the two young noblemen he inquired, "Art thou certain that McGuinness has gone and that he is in search of my sister, the Queen?"
Percy started to say he was not absolutely sure while Peter gave his uncle an exasperated look. The boy responded, cutting off Percy's words. "What dost thou think?!" He sighed audibly and said, "God!"
Percy defended his young charge's less articulate comment. "Well, thy Grace, it wouldst be unlikely that the man would leave the city and not go to look for her. He hath e'er sought to protect her."
Lorin looked hard at Percy and then nodded. "Aye, I deemest thou art right in this. We must needs send for the O'Neill and get the truth from him."
Peter started out the door. "Then we will go tell Father!" he shouted. Percy wheeled and caught the young boy. "Not so fast, errant knight. We shouldst let thy uncle handle this." Peter disappointed reluctantly agreed.
The O'Neill was not at all surprised when two armored men came into the Blue Lady to find him. He was at one of the long tables drinking ale with the serving wench on his lap. He looked up at her and said, in a joking voice, "Sure, and it looks like the King hath called for me to save his kingdom for him... Will ye wait for me?"
The girl looked worriedly into Shannon's blue eyes.. both of them.. his black eye had almost healed. "See that he dost not finish thee off this time, darlin'" She kissed his lips and stood up. She gave the men who had come to take the Irishman away a saucy look and went out of the room swaying her hips provocatively.
Shannon looked after her, then said to the armored men, "Cruel the King is to take me from my dalliance with that colleen. She be very good at what she does, and I am not after talk' about pouring ale." One of the men, not unfamiliar with the very popular minstrel, laughed.
"I be sure that one will be waiting for thee when thou hast saved the kingdom, me lad. And many more besides."
Shannon drained his tankard and stood. He bowed elaborately to the men, picked up his lute and strode off ahead of them, whistling gaily. He did a fine job covering his trepidation about his own and his friend's future well being in the land of the Sassenachs.
The O'Neill was brought to Lorin in the latter's own study. The guards left the men alone. Shannon theatrically bowed and draped himself in the chair across from the Duke. He lay his lute aside, saying "I be thinkin' I won't be needin' to defend meself this time."
Lorin gave him an "I am not amused" look and sat back, his arms folded across his chest. He looked straight at Shannon and asked, "Where is Rory."
"Rory who? Oh ye mean McGuinness? " Shannon shrugged. "How be it that I be after knowin' what the darlin' man is doin' an' where? Be I me brother's keeper? Or Rory's for that matter?"
Lorin frowned. "O'Neill, thou art making a mistake if thou thinkest thou art fooling me. Thy very carelessness betrays thee." He stood up and came around the table to Rory. He sat on the edge of the table and looked at the Irishman, who could not return his gaze. "He hath gone in search of the Queen, hath he not?"
Shannon said nothing.
"And thou and he both know that the King forbade it?" Lorin challenged.
Shannon whipped his face around to Lorin's. "Aye, we knew. Did ye?"
Lorin looked at the man speculatively. Did Shannon know about the Duke's own actions set in place to find Josephine, his sister? How could he? These men seemed privy to intelligence they had no visible connection to. No wonder he and Rory had been spies for the O'Neills in their war with Donegal. Little did Lorin know the source the men had came from being away from Ireland and not at home.
Lorin stood with an impassive face and returned to his side of the table. "When didst the man leave? And where was he bound?"
Shannon retorted, "Mayhap I shall tell ye those things when ye tell me why the King hath not gone after the lady himself, no less lettin' any o' the rest of us go?"
Lorin said, "Shannon, thou knowest I canst not tell thee what I dost not myself know?"
Shannon stood and leaned forward his palms on the table. "Then, man, what do ye think?"
Lorin pondered. "Well unlike thee I dost not think it is because he was besotted with the courtesan."
Shannon started to protest then stopped. He peered into the Duke's face. "'Was besotted'? Be that a slip o' the tongue? Or did ye mean it?"
Lorin said nothing in reply. Just prithee tell me this: is McGuinness near enow to the city that men on horse could o'ertake him on the road?"
Shannon saw the out the man was giving him. He grinned. "Och, nay. He be halfway to Rome by now."
Lorin nodded. "The King must be told."
Shannon looked philosophical.. "Well then , well then, take me to the lovesick fool."
Lorin glared. "Dost thou want the Queen to return?"
Shannon looked surprised. "Och aye! We all do. Most of us anyway. "
Lorin said, "Thou mayst be surprised at just who wanteth her back." Shannon looked at the Duke questioningly. The man said no more but led Shannon to the King's chambers.
Lawrence heard the burst of happy greetings as Shannon and Clancy met in the anteroom. His curiosity changed quickly to irritation when he realized he was about to have a most unwelcome visitor. Sure enough, the door was pushed open. Lorin entered followed by the O'Neill. Lawrence scowled at him.
Shannon offered his mocking bow again and quipped, "So pleased to see ye too, me lord." He caught Lorin's stern look and subsided.
The King looked at his brother in law and asked, "What is this man doing in my chamber?"
Lorin was composed. "He had some news to share with thee, my liege."
Lawrence's eyes were on Shannon again. "Out with it, man. I am not interested in one of thy never-ending tales."
Shannon looked back hurt. It was one thing to criticize his manner, another to suggest he was a bad minstrel. He stayed mum, though. He was looking around the room. Last time he was here he and Rory had seen the bed and other furnishings taken out. The bed was still gone. Of course. He had been sleeping in it himself, or the feather mattress anyway. But the armoire was no longer in front of the stair door. And perhaps most interesting the "Josephine" tapestry was back up. Shannon looked at the Duke who was not looking back at him.
Shannon made up his mind. "Rory's gone to find her, Lawrence." He dispensed with the formalities. "As ye should have ye'rself."
The King glowered an shouted, "Keep thy tongue still, knave. I didst forbid this. Thou knowest it and thou didst defy me. "
Shannon's challenging demeanor dropped. "Lawrence, why? I know ye regretted it as soon as ye saw she had gone. Lorin says it is not for any love of the courtesan." He looked around. "There has been a change in the weather, has there not?"
Lawrence glared at Shannon from under thick brows. "I shall send men at arms to find your friend and drag him back."
Lorin asserted himself innocuously. "My lord, beg pardon. McGuinness left some time ago. A few days after thy fight with this minstrel here. We couldst not find him now. Mayhap he will look in vain. "
Lawrence knew he was being handled but for reasons of his own let it happen. "Take him away. But confine him to the castle grounds. I do not need this one chasing about the countryside too. "Struth, who else has gone to look for her?"
Shannon shot a look at Lorin who replied to the King, "No one, sire. Only Rory."
Shannon pulled his brother aside as he was ushered out of the King's chambers. "Clancy," he said in a stage whisper, "What is goin' on?"
Clancy filled his older brother in on the split between the King and the dark-eyed Juliana. Shannon was amazed. "So why hast he not sent to find the Queen?"
Clancy shook his head. "I suppose I see more of the private side o' the man than almost anyone. He is resolute. He doth not believe the Queen would be after choosin' to come home, e'en to her children. "
Shannon was incredulous. "Now then, why would a mither leave her bairn and stay away? Tell me that."
Clancy shrugged. "Sure an' the King could nae let the princes and princesses live but with him, in his capital, can he now?" Shannon conceded the fact.
"So the King believes that the lady will not return because she is not wantin' to be with him, because o' Juliana?"
Clancy sighed. "He is believin' she does not want him at all... with or without that lady."
Shannon considered this and said, "Oh, that be sad, very sad."
Next: A Tale of Two Pregnancies