Since What’s Up Wednesday has been retired, I’m trying out a new Wednesday feature, WIPpet Wednesday, hosted by K.L. Schwengel. The caveat to participating is that the excerpt must adhere in some way to math related to the date. Since five plus six equals eleven (my lucky number), I’m sharing the first eleven paragraphs of my WIP. It’s an alternative history which allows me to give my hero a fantasy happy ending he was cruelly denied in real life. Fellow participants in Weekend Writing Warriors have already read these opening passages over November.
My working tagline: Following a miraculous rescue, a sickly, unlikely boy Tsar defies expectations by surviving into adulthood and becoming the most beloved ruler in Russian history.
FYI: Though accent marks aren’t normally used outside of dictionaries and language textbooks, I personally use them as a courtesy to non-Russians and non-Russophiles who might not know where the stress falls. It’s just the Cyrillic transliteration style I use.
In a corner of a small cellar room lit only by a dim bulb, and with the windows nailed shut, thirteen-year-old Alekséy sat trembling in an armchair as bullets ricocheted off the brick wall. A silent scream formed in his throat, but he was too paralyzed by fear to utter it. His ashen face was already splattered with his father’s blood, and there was only so long the hemophiliac heir could be protected by the jewels sewn into his shirt. The specter of Death had hovered over him his whole life, but now it finally seemed as though he’d run out of miracles for this lifetime.
The cacophony of shooting was suddenly broken by strange voices coming down the stairs, and the firing squad turned to face these surprise intruders. Though it was hard to see through the thick haze of gunsmoke, Alekséy could see the late-night callers were clad in military uniforms. If they were from the Red Army, his life would soon be over, but if they were from the White Army, he, his sisters, and their servants could be rescued tonight and finally taken home.
The assassins, too stunned by this unexpected development, didn’t move to turn their weapons on the soldiers. After the smoky haze cleared, the soldiers could make out the freshly-dead bodies of the Tsar and Tsarítsa.
“Who’s the regicide?” one of the soldiers asked, slowly moving the scope of his rifle onto each of the executioners in turn. “If you don’t identify the guilty party, we’ll shoot all of you.”
Everyone pointed to the menacing-looking, moustachioed ringleader, who was suddenly speechless. He didn’t even move to aim his Nagan revolver at the soldiers.
“Let’s go. Soon you’ll wish you’d never been born. I’m sure the authorities will love to execute you without a trial, for a taste of your own medicine. The rest of you, you’re coming with us too, unless you want trouble. There’s going to be even more trouble if you turn your guns back on these unarmed, innocent people.”
“They’re not innocent,” a very thin executioner insisted, keeping a firm hold on his weapon. “They exploited the masses for centuries.”
“You’re all murderers,” a redheaded soldier said. “But this isn’t the time or place for a political debate. You’ll have ample time for that while you’re awaiting sentencing.”
The executioners were hustled up the stairs and out of Ipatyev House, into the dark night, while several of the soldiers remained behind to assess the extent of the damage from the first deadly volley and another soldier was sent in search of a doctor. After endless minutes, two physicians descended the stairs and were directed to the wounded, who included Alekséy’s nineteen-year-old sister Maríya. One of the doctors cleaned the blood off Alekséy’s face, mercifully shielding him from the view of his father’s lifeless, bloody body slumped in front of the armchair. Finally, the dead and wounded were borne out, the air still punctuated by screams and sobs.
“You’re safe now, Your Majesty,” one of the soldiers told Alekséy. “You can go back to sleep, and as soon as possible, you’ll be taken home. This house will be under our armed guards, and anyone who tries to break in will be shot on the spot.”
“I can’t walk, Officer.” His voice trembled in time with his frail body.