Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.
I’m sharing from my alternative history, with the working title A Dream of Peacocks. It starts on May Day 1274, when Dante met his great love and muse Beatrice Portinari, and will give them an eventual happy ending, with lots of Sturm und Drang.
This comes right after last week’s excerpt, when Dante, newly widowed, carried Beatrice into his house after she collapsed at night, alone, with a fever and other symptoms of malady. Her husband beat her before leaving for Cyprus on business, discovered and destroyed the herbal concoctions she secretly used for birth control, and accused her of adultery.
Dante’s halfsiblings are very willing to help, but his stepmother Lapa is quite displeased to learn about this situation.
They raced up the stairs while I staggered up, each step taking thrice as long as usual to pass, my halted foot always the lower. By the time I finally cleared the last stair on the first flight of steps, Galfrido was in the hall and pulling on his cloak.
“What in the world happened?” Galfrido asked.
“She’s ill and injured, and needs Dr. Salvetti immediately. Please hurry.” I stumbled down the hall to the ladies’ guest bedroom. “Francesco, Tana, you can read quietly in your room while I take care of Bice. We’ll pray Compline together a bit later than usual tonight.”
Though Beatrice was quite short and delicate, even as an adult, she felt heavier and heavier the longer I carried her. It was a relief when I entered the only remaining spare bedroom and could deposit her upon the mattress.
The ten lines end here. A few more follow to complete the scene.
As soon as she was situated, I hurried out into the hall to grab a lantern.
“Am I seeing things, or did you just carry a woman into that room?” Monna Lapa asked, her arms crossed. “I was reading the Bible in my room with the door closed when I heard a lot of agitated voices talking at once, but I couldn’t make out what anyone was saying from that far away. When I investigated, I saw you walking down the hall with a woman in your arms. How could you take a new lover so soon after losing Gemma, or sleep with anyone outside the bonds of matrimony? That was sure a quick mourning period, easily forgotten.”
“It’s not what it seems, Madonna. A dear friend collapsed outside the house, injured and feverish. What kind of Christian would I be if I left her there to suffer and possibly be abused by unsavory men who found her? Galfrido is summoning the miracle-working doctor who saved my life as a child.”
Monna Lapa shook her head as she followed me back into the room. She turned white and jumped back when she recognized our guest.