Welcome back to WIPpet Wednesday, hosted by K.L. Schwengel, a weekly blog hop wherein participants share excerpts from their WIPs related in some way to the date. Since it’s the tenth of the month, I’m sharing ten paragraphs, the opening of my ninth chapter. It’s September 1918, the Tsar and Tsaritsa’s funeral.
Aleksey is now forced to wear calipers all the time, to recover and preserve the strength in his legs, particularly his weaker left leg. Since he’s in public, he can’t use his crutches, and he has to sit during services. Traditional Orthodox services only have chairs for the sick, elderly, and pregnant women, as I discovered when I attended a special Russian Orthodox service to see the famous Kursk-Root ikon.
Later on during the funeral service, the claws start coming out, and Aleksey starts discovering just what a lot of his relatives, including his own grandmother and aunt Kseniya, really thought of his belovèd mother. Other relatives take swipes at his uncle Mikhail, the Regent, as well as their unpopular Vladimirovichi cousins and the visiting King George V of England.
Koliva is boiled wheat served by Orthodox funerals.
The entire family in happier times, even if no one looks particularly happy
The priest led the procession to Peter and Paul Cathedral, carrying a large, ornate cross in one hand and a heavy censer in the other, as everyone sang “Trisagion.” Alekséy could see the huge, high bell tower coming into view long before the cathedral itself was within close distance. It still seemed beyond surreal to be on his way to his own parents’ funeral at only fourteen.
“Try to walk a little faster, Baby,” Ólga whispered. “You need to appear as normal as possible, so you won’t invite rumors.”
“Please don’t call me Baby. I’m too old for that nickname. While we’re on this subject, I’d also appreciate it if you stopped calling me Sunbeam.”
“All of a sudden you feel this way? You always let us call you those names before.”
“Well, now I’m too old for it. I’m not a baby anymore.” He continued clanking towards the cathedral, praying no one could see the outline of the calipers underneath his pant legs. For once, he longed for the aide of his crutches.
Once inside the cathedral, the coffins were opened, and one of the assisting priests placed several bowls of koliva with lit candles. The head priest then placed crowns on the heads of the Tsar and Tsarítsa, and put ikons of their patron saints in their hands. Alekséy looked away as he drew closer, and retreated to one of the few chairs available.
“You’re not going to stand for your own parents’ funeral service?” one of his many Imperial cousins asked. “You’re more than old enough to stand for an entire service. A nice religious boy like you shouldn’t shirk his Christian duty.”
“I hurt my leg, and I don’t want to see my parents’ dead bodies. It’s bad enough I had to see them murdered, and that my father’s blood went all over my face after he was shot.”
“That’s no excuse to shirk your duty to your family and faith. Your own father saw your great-grandfather after he was torn apart by a bomb, and he was even younger than you. Be a man and do the right thing.”
“Please don’t speak like that to my nephew,” Mikhaíl snapped. “He’s been through a very traumatic experience, and is dealing with it in his own way. You’re very lucky we’re not going to punish you for sassing the new Tsar. I may be the Regent, but never forget who’s really the Tsar. I’m only standing in for him temporarily, while he gets old and experienced enough to take over.”