Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. For the last few weeks, I’ve been sharing from the opening of my old/new WIP, an alternative history called And Aleksey Lived. It’s based on the premise, which very nearly happened, that the last Imperial Family of Russia was rescued just in time to save 13-year-old Aleksey and his sisters.
Some people last week misunderstood the nature of Aleksey’s knee injury, which rendered him incapable of walking. The soldier he’s speaking to assumed it was a broken knee, but it was actually a subcutaneous hemorrhage. Telling the truth would’ve meant letting the cat out of the bag about his hemophilia, which his parents had chosen to keep hushed up. It became common knowledge among European royalty, but the general public had no idea. His illness was publicly named in a New York Times article in 1912, when he was close to death, but no such story ever appeared in the Russian press.
I’m skipping ahead a bit, past a dialogue where one of the liberating soldiers explains Grand Duke Mikhail, the Tsar’s only surviving brother, has recently been rescued too and will serve as Regent till Aleksey reaches majority. Though Mikhail married a twice-divorced commoner in 1912, thus removing himself from the line of succession under the draconian marriage and inheritance laws for the Royal Family, he’s still the next in line to the throne. After what just happened, they just need someone on the throne, and a Regent who’s married to a commoner will be more popular with the people than some out of touch autocrat married to a foreign princess.
In real life, Mikhail and his secretary Brian Johnson were murdered in June 1918. Their remains have never been found. Mikhail’s wife Natasha and their son Georgiy managed to escape the USSR. Joy, the dog, was rescued and lived the rest of his life by Windsor Castle.
A barrel-chested soldier carried Alekséy back up the stairs and was directed into his room, while his three unwounded sisters had to be supported by other soldiers as they left the cursed cellar room. It seemed bizarrely surreal to be put back to sleep by a strange soldier, and to be expected to resume sleep as though nothing out of the ordinary had just happened. When he closed his deep blue-grey eyes after maneuvering himself back into night clothes, he saw his parents’ dead bodies lying on the cellar floor, blood oozing from the gaping, gory, sickening, macabre bullet holes, as a thick, black haze of gunsmoke drifted through the room and his sisters screamed. When he opened his eyes in the dark, the images were still there, even stronger. And if the White soldiers hadn’t burst in before the massacre could go any further, he might now be among the dead, condemned to be forever thirteen, snuffed out as though his life didn’t matter. He shuddered to imagine what the assassins might’ve been planning to do with his family’s bodies, if they’d already shown so little regard to them in life.
Alekséy’s pet King Charles Spaniel, Joy, snuggled against him and licked his face, and he managed to put his still-shaking arms around the faithful, loving ball of fur. Dogs were good like that.
Today, the 29th of Kislev, the 5th day of Chanukah, is my Hebrew birthday. There’s a tradition that on one’s Hebrew birthday, one has the power to give and receive blessings, so I’d like to bless all of you with health, happiness, success, peace, love, and luck in the coming year, and that you should all enjoy very happy holidays.