The Song of Sir Chaucey
When Chaucey was born, many would have dubbed him a girl, but his mother needed a son. Raised a boy and desperate for knighthood, Chaucey conforms to expectations.
However, he is never sure where his heart truly lies, lost in a tangle of what is needed by the world, and by himself. Loving his childhood friend Malin leaves him unfulfilled. Loving the beautiful Queen Rhoswen seems impossible, although she longs to escape her husband's grasp...
Chaucey’s father was not present on the day of his birth. Instead he was on the field of battle, dying.
The news was delivered by Sir Galorian’s squire who, after bringing the news to the castle, succumbed to his own wounds and grief. It was up to his young son Malin to carry the tidings to Eolande, wretched and bleeding on her own field of battle.
“What is it, boy?” Hilaria asked, not taking her eyes from the babe’s crown. “Can you not see we’re busy?”
“It’s Sir Galorian,” Malin said, and he began to cry. The tears were really for Malin’s own father, but they made his message clear.
“Dead?” Hilaria asked, her working hands going still. She kept her voice low, as if she could keep the word, and thus this new reality, from reaching Eolande and affecting her labor.
Malin nodded, his face scrunched and red as he tried to stop his tears.
“Well, this is no place for a boy. Get.” She shooed Malin from the room, her tall woman’s frame a formidable sight to any boy, let alone one who had just met Death for the first time. Turning back, Hilaria regarded Eolande, the sweat that turned her blond hair dark and gnarled, the pain on her face that was both physical and emotional. Uncurling Eolande’s soft hand and taking it in her own, Hilaria asked what they should do, and she found she was more breathless than the woman giving birth.
Eolande suggested, through a guttural cry, that they should go on with the birthing business, and though she hid her fear in the tears of labor, she too wondered what they were to do.
“It may yet be a boy,” Hilaria said before again taking up her position in between her lady’s crooked legs.
Eolande shook her head and squeezed the sheets of her bed, holding her groans in the back of her throat. She knew what womanhood felt like. She knew her hips were widening to allow room for another pair of hips that would one day widen and create and bleed. She knew the creature tearing her apart had to be a girl, because only girls were so thoughtless, so demanding, and so quiet.
A daughter meant the end of comfort, evicted from their home so that Sir Galorian’s cousin and heir could tend the serfs who tended the farm. She knew a boy would value violence and chivalry, would do her the courtesy of killing her in this bed. A girl would live and thrive and make due with squalor, relying on her mother to carry her through the worst parts, to shield her from the worst of mankind, while she grew like a wild rose ever more beautiful.
Her daughter may even marry well, and if Eolande raised her with enough kindness, perhaps there would be large rooms in it for both of them at the end of it all. But, then, Eolande knew she was not known for her kindness—had always taunted Galorian’s cousin, thinking she would have sons aplenty before Galorian died. She thought it likely that Galorian was far more invigorated by the company of rough men and sharp swords than by the embraces of his obstinate and sharp-tongued wife. And so, this was a problem of her own making, and the likeliest outcome she could see was a hard life with a daughter who would abandon her. A son, if he did not kill her, would at least feel it was his duty to care for her.
And so, though a daughter her body knew the babe to be, Eolande’s quick mind gave birth to a boy. Pushing with the last of her might, out came the sound of babyhood, and Eolande’s own cries, calling the boy’s name: “Chaucey!”
Hilaria laughed and, with a sturdy hand, held the newborn child aloft, studying it for deformities. It was freckled but otherwise unharmed by its mother’s womb. “You’ll have to try again, my lady. It’s a girl.”
“No,” Eolande said firmly. “Give me my boy in red swaddling cloth and tell the others of his birth. Tell them I’ve named him Chaucey, a strong name for a boy.”
Although Hilaria suspected Eolande had been driven mad by grief and the pains of birth, she knew better than to question her lady’s orders, remembering well the boxing her ear received whenever she said something contradictory within proximity of Eolande’s hand. She gave the child to Eolande, and went about her duties, returning only after all in the castle had been told of the day’s events and were in a full confusion of emotions: grief beside joy.
Eolande drank greedily the water Hilaria returned with, although it had been intended for mopping up both mother and child. Once the blisters in her throat had resigned themselves to a dull burn, Eolande said, “We will not be forced from our home.”
“I do not wish it either, my lady, but the law says a girl-child cannot inherit. Even if Chaucey were a boy, the timing is questionable. Sir Galorian’s cousin may have a claim yet.”
“Damn him and God take the law!”
Chaucey began to cry, jostled by his mother’s sudden vigor. Hilaria cooed lovingly at the creature, taking him from his mother’s arms and rocking him about.
“I will not be forced from our home. Chaucey is Sir Galorian’s heir, and in breeches and tunics all his life, no one will question it. He already has a strong frame. No one will suspect the lie.”
Hilaria was wiping away birthing fluids from that very frame, in full awareness of its strengths and frailties. “He has other things that will out the lie in time,” she said.
“Who is there to tell of it but you, and I, and a babe who cannot speak? We will not be found out.”
“And on his wedding night?”
“He can join the church,” Eolande said, hoisting up her body—somehow heavier than it had been with the child inside of her—and crawling towards Hilaria, reaching for her child. She held the babe in her arms again, and brushed soft, tired fingers over his fine face. “He won’t wish for knighthood, not when it used his father so poorly. He will be a kind, gentle lad. No great warrior, no manly man, but good. And he need only live as such until I die. After that, he can find his own means, as he so chooses. Until then, he shall be my sweet boy.”