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

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Juliana Series: An Irishman in Calais, Part II (outtakes)

The Queen and her minstrel stood quietly over the fresh grave. "I hadst a golden locket that my lord the King didst give me many years ago," she said sadly. "I gaveth it to the priest to arrange for Christian burial for the man. I couldst not allow him to be treated as rubbish."

The O'Neill looked over at his grieving companion. She was wearing what may have been a new riding dress not many days before, but it was dirty and rumpled from constant wear. "The locket, me lady, that ye be after keepin' that wee scrap with the King's note?"

Josephine looked back in surprise and pleasure. "Then thou didst find it! I tucked it into Rory's cassock sleeve when he sat on the ground after... that fellow beat him so sorely. So did Rory or thee find it?"

Still looking at her over the grave of the big man the Duke had sent to search for his sister, Shannon smiled wistfully. "Nay, 'twas when we were in the King's privy chamber and the physician was cuttin' away the darlin' man's clothes so he could be lookin' at his wounds." Josephine had started a bit at the reference to the King, and now stood with lowered eyes, listening closely. "Sure and I picked it up as soon as it fell from the sleeve, but Lorin.. the Duke, I mean, beggin' ye'r pardon, me lady, snatched it and put it right into the palm of Himself." Her face was reddening delicately.

"And Lawrence... the King.. what didst he say?" she ventured cautiously.

Shannon laughed, "'To horse!'" he mimicked. "The poor dear man first ordered up the boats to come get ye, only to learn they couldnae sail for the tides were against it. Then he tore to Norwich to sail from there, God only knowin' what he planned to do when he did. The storm set in and he was like a dog behind a fence, runnin' back and forth piddlin' all the while."

The Queen, whose face had continued to color, looked at Shannon, "Why, sirrah, surely the King did not piddle!"

Her look was amused and he went on, "Faith, I cannae tell for I was not there.. but Sir Percy said nearly as much."

Josephine cast a longing eye to the sea, unfocused and unseeing. "Where is my lord now?"

Shannon reached to her and she took his arm. "He is in Lawrencium awaitin' ye, me lady."

The Queen looked into his eyes. "He is?" She took his arm.

He patted the hand on his arm. "Aye, that he is."

They stood together a while and looked at the grave. "Rory will be after not wantin' to hear this news, methinks," the Irishman said. He sang a few bars of a sad Gaelic song. Then he recited,

10,000 miles it is so far to leave me here alone, While I must lie, lament, and cry, And you'll not hear me moan, my dear, and you'll not hear me moan.

A tear fell from the outer corner of the Queen's eye. The minstrel saw it and leaned to kiss it away. She quietly said, "Fare thee well, gallant fellow." Shannon crossed himself and they turned together to descend the little hill into the port town.

They walked quietly, arm in arm, their heads bowed, as Shannon told her what he could of the things that had happened since she had left. Still back at the church she had flooded him with questions about her children, about Jocelyn's child, and carefully skirted the more painful topics. Now he told her of the fight he had with Lawrence, which made her laugh a little. He described how he and Juliana had helped Jocelyn bear her little child, Jolie. He told her how the King had set the courtesan aside only to be told she was with child. And he told her how he had suspected the pregnancy so quickly on the heels of Jocelyn's lying in and had sought to expose the courtesan. All the while she listened and nodded, seemingly content to hear what he would impart.

"Then, me lady, the dubhín called on me to help her in a desperate plot." He looked at her cautiously, ready to gauge her reaction. "To poison ye, me lady."

She abruptly turned her gaze to his face, a look of shock on her own. "To poison me?"

"Aye, but sure and I exposed her plan. She was tried and found guilty. So many spoke for her that the King sentenced her to spend her life in a convent rather than takin' the lady's life."

Josephine looked away. "Ah, is that why he spared her? Because there were those who stood for her?"

Shannon stopped walking and she stopped with him. He turned to her and turned her to face him. "Jo," he said without dissembling. "Ye know I cannae say what was in Lawrence's mind. But I can tell ye, 'twas I that spoke for her, and Percy and Jocelyn and ye'r brother and his wife. Jocelyn for the sake of her wee one. Larisa and Lorin for the sake of the unkindness done to Juliana. And I because I knew she was mad, mad for worry that her life was over. None forgave her for what she wanted to do to ye. Least of all Lawrence."

Josephine glanced questioningly into his eyes. "Shannon, tell me the truth. Doth the King want me to return?"

The O'Neill winked and grinned, chucking her under the chin. "Does Calais smell like fish shit?" She laughed and tears welled in her eyes. "Me lady, ye'r lord husband wouldst do anythin' to get ye back with him and ye'r bairn - if ye can forgive him."

Josephine looked into Shannon's eyes. "There shalt be much forgiveness sought on both sides, dear Shannon." She looked out to sea, casting a fond eye far to the West. Shannon looked down, but heard her gasp. "Shannon, look!"

He followed her gaze to where a very familiar dragon ship was gracefully gliding across the harbor to Calais.

Sir Elerde saw Erik's ship as well. He had waited until he saw his beloved leave the church and its safety to go with Shannon.. He paid the priest what he had promised and took his horse, stroking g the animal's face and speaking gently to it. He led his horse to the tavern he had moved to and retrieved the few belongings he had there. He had spent the night with a tavern girl, burying his loss in her simple charms, and holding a firm image of the Queen in his head throughout. Afterwards he felt empty.

The knight mounted and rode his horse up to the top of the hill overlooking the harbor. He stayed and watched as the Viking ship pulled in. He saw the shore skiff with the tall Dane and some of his men make for the land. He saw the two small figures, one red headed and one with her golden hair floating up behind her as she ran. The three met at the skiff. They talked, then Shannon and the Queen were taken into the shore skiff and borne to the imposing vessel with the familiar red and white sail. He could see when Josephine was handed up onto deck.

Sir Elerde turned his horse and made for whatever duke, king or cardinal needed a hired sword.

The storm had finally passed to the east and Lawrencium was bathed in sunshine. In the castle on the hill overlooking the city, Lawrence looked over some papers that Lorin have given him to peruse and sign. Through the quiet of the day he heard a faint sound, low and golden, the sound of Erik's ship's horn, a long polished bull's horn, hollowed and decorated with gold. He looked up and smiled. Erik was always a tonic to him, and although he would have to tell his friend about all the events since his last visit, he stood and made for the door. "Come along, Lorin, " he called to the Duke. "Let's see what treasures the Dane hath brought us this time. Lorin closed the accounts book he had been referring to, handed it over to Master Timothy. And followed his king out of the room.

Lawrence called for his horse and swung up on it unsaddled. He did not need to hurry as it should take some time for the dragon ship to be close enough to set forth its boarding party. But there was an inextricable feeling of lightness to his heart this day, mayhap because of the sun and the hope that he should soon hear from the Irishman. He let his horse gambol in the courtyard while Lorin and Rory, who had joined them, waited for saddled mounts. Peter came running out of the keep and Lawrence put down his hand to help his son swing up onto the horse behind him.

The company rode down the road along with servants with empty carts to help the Viking merchant ship be unloaded of its cargo. At the fork where the road led to the greater part of the town the King and his party went right one towards the harbor. There was a little rise there, and Lawrence looked at the ship and its colorful sail and the row of shields that lined each side. He did not see the golden haired woman who had just stepped up behind the captain's raised platform. He did see the familiar form of Erik and Peter called out, "There he is!"

"Aye," said his father. "Let's see what exotic surprises he bringeth this time.

By the time the party reached the small dock where the landing party was just disembarking, Lawrence had begun to have a presentiment of something more than unexpected. He turned the horse around a stand of small trees and looked to where he could see the figures of Erik and two others, besides Erik's crewmen. One was unmistakable. The lute and the red hair were without match. Peter saw him too, "Shannon! 'Tis Shannon!" Peter swung down deftly from behind his father, who was stock still looking at a graceful form being helped from the small vessel onto the dock. He watched as Erik lifted a woman and helped her to stand ashore. As Lawrence stared, unable to breathe, Erik moved aside, and there she was. Josephine stood smoothing her skirts, sparkling like the sun that danced on the water behind her. She looked up then and straight into the King's eyes. He gasped.

"Mother!" came Peter's cry, and Lawrence, as he dismounted saw the mother and son rush to each other and embrace. He watched as he slowly walked towards the pair, all the while feeling his heart standing still.

Josephine looked up from her son and saw Lawrence approaching. Peter saw him too, and danced over to his father, laughing and chattering. The King and Queen stood facing each other, looks of longing and hesitation on their faces.

"My lady," Lawrence said softly, his voice thick and breaking.

Josephine came to him and put her forearms up to his chest and leaned into him. She gazed into his eyes, then slowly smiled. "My dearest Lawrence," was all she said.

With a look of deep painful joy he wrapped his arms around her. They stood savoring the feel of each other as Peter danced around them and the others just stared and smiled.

Lawrence breathed into the beloved golden hair, "Oh my dearest Josephine. I do love thee so dearly." She looked up into his eyes and they kissed.

Next: She's Home

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About the author

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