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
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Juliana Series: Shannon Makes His Move (Outtakes)
"Lawrence?" a small voice came to him from an alcove built into the wall.
Lawrence turned to the voice and saw the familiar form of Juliana, seated somewhat in profile against a shaft of sun from an ornately cut window. The profile clearly showed the curve of her belly as the child was growing inside her. He stopped and made a small bow to her.
"My lady," he acknowledged politely but with no warmth.
The hopeful look on her face was at once replaced with disappointment. He saw that she looked hurt and felt for her sorrow and loneliness. He extended a hand.
"How art thou, my lady, and how is thy child?" he said, trying to master his voice. He wished he could manage the even tone that came naturally to Duke Lorin.
Juliana turned her face away and replied, "Our child , Lawrence. Our child."
Lawrence stood, uneasy and unsure of what to say.
"Hast thou forgotten making this child?" she pleaded.
Lawrence pulled back his hand. "Nay, lady," he said gently. "I have not." He bowed his own head. "Juliana, thou knowest I must go on and be the king I was born to be. Thou hast done nothing to make me pull away from thee. I must pull away to go towards my right path." He looked up at her.
Juliana stood and placed her palm on her growing belly. "So it is truly over, dearest love?" Her eyes searched his as she stood close up against him.
His look held compassion and not a small bit of regret. "Aye, Juliana. I am sorry." He kissed her hand and turned and strode away.
Juliana looked after him, a look of complete anguish on her face. She put both hands to the sides of her head and stumbled back to sit on the bench in the alcove again. Her body shook but she made no sound. Her heart cried, "But this cannot be. I love him. I love him." She felt a hand on her shoulder, and looked up quickly, thinking Lawrence had come back. But it was Shannon, looking down on her with his deep kind eyes. She put her hand on his hand and bowed her head. He sat down and put his arm around her shoulder.
"Strumpet," he said, but the tone was sad and fond.
"Whoremaster," she said in return and turned to put her head on his shoulder.
Over the past few weeks they had spent many hours walking in the garden or sitting in the Great Hall by the fire. He would sing to her or tell her jokes while she gave him the adoring audience he craved. They salved each other's loneliness. They called each other outrageous names as if they were pet names between two lovers.
She started to speak, "Oh Shannon, Lawrence.."
He broke in, "I saw, dubhín. I am so sorry." He saw the deep hurt in her eyes.. and that other thing he seemed to be the only one who could see.. the desperation.
Juliana searched his face and saw only caring and concern. For Shannon was a minstrel, as good at playing a part as she, the courtesan, but better than she. She never seemed to see the watchfulness behind his limpid blue gaze. "It is true, is it not? He does not love me."
"Nay, darlin', no more." Shannon took Juliana into his arms and let her weep. All the while she was thinking, "I must. I must."
"I know not what to do, dear Shannon," she wept into his chest.
He crooned quietly to her for a while and then said softly, "The King will care for ye and the child. I believe 'twill be ye'r choice whether ye take the child with ye when it is born or ask the court to care for it. He is that good a man, whate'er ye may think. He will not tear thy child from ye, ma croidhe."
Juliana pulled herself away from him. "What bumpkin knight would take a woman who hath born the King's bastard?"
Shannon smiled sweetly and stroked her hair. "Sure and I know not.. but I know a minstrel who is the chieftain of a clan in Tyr Owen that might be happy of such a one."
Juliana stared at him. "Thee?" she finally asked. She looked around to be sure they were not observed. "But thou art married."
"Aye, that I am, dubhín, but so is Lawrence. Can we not live together as ye wanted to live with him?" He painted an innocent look on his face. He took her hand and put it to his lips.
Juliana considered him for a while. Her look was undisguised speculation. "Thou knowest I do love Lawrence, dost thou not? And that the child I beareth is his child?"
Shannon laughed softly. "Dubhín, of course I be after knowin' all that. It means nothin' to me. If I couldst but take ye home to Eire I should be happy to have ye and would love the child as me own."
Juliana sat stunned. "Shannon, I didst not know thou felt for me."
Shannon smiled sweetly, "Nay, I know that. Saints, I didnae think I could have a chance with ye. So I have held me tongue. But Juliana, dearest Juliana, I should do anything' for ye. Anythin'"
Juliana cocked her head to one side and looked back into his liquid eyes and asked, "Anything?"
"Wouldst thou lie for me?"
"Wouldst thou steal for me?"
She stood and paced a little way away from him. Without turning her head to look at him, she asked, "Wouldst thou... kill.. for me?"
Behind her back Shannon's face went hard. A fire danced in his eyes.
"Aye." Came the answer slowly.
Juliana bowed her head and smiled a little. Then she simply walked away.
Shannon sat considering. It might take a while before she made her plot clear to him. He would have to hold her trust somehow. Perhaps he would pick a fight again with Lawrence. Or he would explore what ills would resound with Juliana's own sense of being wronged. He was almost unable to believe she would go this far. And whom would she ask him to kill? When the time came, how would he expose her.
A profound sadness came over Shannon. This was all so ugly. He wished there was some way he could avert what seemed inevitable. He would play this game slowly, try to trip her up some other way.. but he knew if she pushed him away before the fullness of her plan was clear he would not be able to protect the King and Queen, could not protect himself if it came to that.
If Rory were only here. He could talk about this with him and Rory would stop him from stumbling into disaster. He did not know where Rory was nor when he would return, if he returned. He would simply have to go it alone.
Next: Juliana's Plot