Posted in 1280s, alternative history, Dante, Middle Ages, Writing

WeWriWa—Stepmother’s shock


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.


Writer of historical fiction sagas and series, with elements of women's fiction, romance, and Bildungsroman. Born in the wrong generation on several fronts.

12 thoughts on “WeWriWa—Stepmother’s shock

  1. Carrie-Anne, May I ask a question about Beatrice’s husband? Do you know that he was abusive or is this alternative history? Simone de’ Bardi?


        1. When it comes to an era before record-keeping was as meticulous as in the modern era, we can only go by what was possible and probable, to varying degrees. Many things will never be known, so we have to fill in the gaps ourselves. There’s a lot more leeway when we can’t say one way or another, and the de ‘Bardi family died out centuries ago.

          The disclaimer at the start of a book covers writers. I’ll be using the same lines I used in my other alternative history, “This book is a work of alternative historical fiction. All well-known historical events, real people, or real places are used fictitiously.” No writer has ever been sued because of using real people in fictitious situations. In law, one cannot libel the dead, and the story would be weakened and radically changed for the worse if I took that important storyline out.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I wasn’t thinking of your being sued, or whether it’s possible to libel the dead, legally, but whether it’s right morally to do what you’re doing here.

            About your story being weakened or changed for the worse, you have the ability and a range of possibilities to use.


            1. I’ll be keeping the storyline I came up with, since it’s so ingrained into the overall trajectory of Part III, and don’t consider it immoral or wrong to do what writers have always done when using real people fictitiously. That’s why it’s called alternative history, and why writers have fictitiously used real people in their stories since time immemorial. I know my story and how I chose to structure it, and why something works and makes it stronger. Since we don’t know anything about this person beyond whom he married, that he was part of a rich banking family, where he lived, and that he was later a leader of the Black Guelphs, it’s entirely reasonable to write the alternative historical fictional version of him in the way I chose after much consideration.

              Liked by 1 person

  2. Apparently his mother-in-law knows who Beatrice is. I assume her family is still highly placed in Society. I hope that knowledge keeps her from bedeviling Dante. He’s had quite a time of it! Great snippet! Tweeted,


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