WeWriWa—A Virgilian fortune

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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 now 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 week’s excerpt comes right after last week’s, when Dante asked an apothecary employee about a good book. He was shown The Aeneid and told about Sortes Vergilianae, a fortunetelling method where people open one of Virgil’s books to a random page and put their fingers down on a line without looking.

The admission of the sin of pride recurs throughout the story, and is inspired by Dante’s statement in Purgatorio that that’s the sin he struggles with most.

“Should I say a prayer beforehand?”

“Only if you want to. God will lead you to the perfect line no matter what.”

I closed the book, shut my eyes, opened the book again, and put my right pointer finger down. When I opened my eyes, I beheld the line “fired his soul with a love of glory still to come.” I read it several times to ascertain that was what it truly said and that my finger hadn’t landed on the line above or below.

Now Reader, I know very well pride is a sin, but it’s very difficult not to have excessive pride in myself when God chose to create me with so much genius. Even as a boy, I was keenly aware of my superior intellect and abilities. Thus, seeing that line fired my own soul with a love of glory still to come.

“I’ll take it,” I told Ser Torello.

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to finish the scene.

“This book will always have a place of pride in my library. I can’t wait to start reading it.”

He glanced down at the line my finger was still resting upon. “That’s a very good line to get. May you indeed have many future glories.”

I closed the book and put it in my basket. Another employee, Ser Alberto, totaled up my purchases and quoted me the sum. Most of the price, which cost me all my florins, came from The Aeneid, but it was more than worth it.  Quality is never cheap.

All during my walk home, I couldn’t stop thinking about what good fortune I’d had in such a short span of time. I now attended Mass with the Portinaris six days a week; I was having nice new clothes made; Babbo had found a lucrative new business opportunity which would improve our financial status; and my hand had been guided to a very fortuitous prophecy.

My prayers of May Day had truly been answered, much faster than I expected.

WeWriWa—Meeting a very special book

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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 returning to 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 week’s excerpt comes a few pages after last week’s, when Dante was on his way to the apothecary to buy some sweets and a new book (both things which were sold by apothecaries in that era). After some trouble caused by real-life villain Corso Donati, he proceeded on his way.

“Can you recommend any good books, Ser Torello?” I asked the employee who managed the literary side of the apothecary. “I like adventure stories with great heroes. I’m an advanced reader, even if my Latin isn’t fluent. Most of the other boys in my class are still reading simple books like Aesop’s Fables, but I can already read adult literature.”

Ser Torello went to a shelf and pulled down a thick red volume. “Have you read The Aeneid?”

“It’s not in my library yet, but I have other books by Virgil. I know that’s a very important book all educated people should read and be familiar with.”

Ser Torello flipped through the book, revealing page after page of beautiful illustrations. Some took up an entire page, while others were only on the top, bottom, or corners.

The ten lines end here. A few more to complete the scene follow.

The first letter of each section was also enlarged, colored, and decorated with small illustrations like leaves, roses, and geometric shapes. Now I wanted to read this great book even more.

“Do you believe in bibliomancy?” he asked in a low voice.

I thought for a few seconds, trying to recall if I’d heard that word before. “I’m afraid I don’t know what that means.”

“It’s a form of divination using sacred books. God directs our hands and eyes to the passages which most speak to our current situation or future lives, providing advice or telling our fortune. Many people do it with the Bible, and used to do it with Homer’s works. What a pity almost no one understands Greek anymore. This particular form of bibliomancy is called Sortes Vergilianae, Virgilian lots. Virgil was a great magician and inspired prophet, not merely a great poet. Why don’t you try it yourself?”

WeWriWa—Trouble on Via Santa Elisabetta

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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 now sharing from an 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 week’s excerpt right after last week’s, and begins the chapter’s third section. Dante is on his way to spend the florins his father recently gave him when he runs into some of his friends. Corso Donati was a real-life villain who led the enemy Black Guelphs and, before that, kidnapped his sister Piccarda from her convent to force her into a politically advantageous marriage.

Piccarda Donati fatta rapire dal convento di Santa Chiara dal fratello Corso (Piccarda Donati was kidnapped from the convent of St. Clare by brother Corso), Raffaello Sorbi

Saturday afternoon, I tucked the bag of florins into my tunic pocket, picked up a basket, and set out for Pasquini Apothecary on Via Santa Elisabetta. This was one of my favorite neighborhood stores, since they carried a lot of exotic sweets and spices from places like Persia, Spain, the Holy Land, and Byzantium. They also sold beautiful imported papers that looked like marble, with a rainbow of swirled colors. Someday I hoped to buy one of their blank bound books with a marbled cover.

Along the way, I passed a tempting array of stalls offering spices, carpets, flowers, roasted meat, dyed fabrics, fruit, silver and gold bowls, furs, honeycombs, and parrots. Had I a giant cart full of florins instead of merely a small bag, I would’ve bought something from every merchant.

Several blocks away from the apothecary, I caught sight of my friends the Donatis. Corso was eating a greasy skewer of goat meat as he walked, picking his teeth as always, while Maso and Sinibaldo carried a Persian rug with a bold pattern of black, red, and white. Ravenna, Piccarda, and their cousin Gemma wore glove puppets and were animatedly making up a story about characters with nonsense names. Only Forese wasn’t walking with them, being occupied at a honeycomb stall.

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to complete the scene.

Before I had a chance to call out greetings to them, a herd of pigs came stampeding down the street. This was an unavoidable annoyance of city life, pigs permitted to run freely through town. Complaining about it to the authorities or farmers never accomplished anything.

Faster than anyone could react, Corso stepped forward and laughingly pushed Piccarda right into the path of the pigs, who promptly knocked her down into a filthy puddle. Piccarda began loudly crying as Corso walked off, still laughing. Without a moment’s hesitation, I rushed to help her up. Forese pulled her up on the other side.

WeWriWa—Choosing new clothes

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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 now sharing from an 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 week’s excerpt comes a bit after last week’s, when Dante came home from school to find the family tailor. His father said he earned extra money from an unexpected new source of business, and announced plans for using the rest of their windfall. He then gave Dante a bag of florins to use on sweets and a new book.

The phrases “the richness of the choice” and “[Name] agonized long and hard over the richness of the choice” are among my trademarks that crop up in just about every single book I’ve ever written. Though it comes from the 18th century French erotic novel Thérèse Philosophe, I usually don’t use it in erotic contexts!

After Ser Landolfo took all my measurements, I had the delightful task of looking at the richness of the choice contained in the many bottles. Most of the dyes and pigments were beautiful, distinctive, arresting colors, but not all of them were my favorites, and some didn’t seem as if they’d look good on me. I also needed to choose colors which weren’t too dark and thus wouldn’t absorb too much heat during the coming summer months.

All the same, I didn’t know when I’d next get the chance to have new clothes made, and it weren’t as though my existing clothes were terrible or worthy of a lowly peasant. Lightweight fabrics like linen and cotton would also keep me comfortable in heat. With all these factors considered, I finally selected light teal, Byzantine blue, and scarlet for tunics, and blue-grey, charcoal grey, and pale green for hose.

“Can you make the blue and teal tunics in linen, and the scarlet one in wool?” I asked.

“I always endeavor to please my customers,” Ser Landolfo said. “All these garments should be ready by the time you leave for Fiesole. I’ll return for a fitting a few days beforehand.”

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to finish the scene.

“We very much appreciate your services,” Babbo said. “If my business continues improving, I may summon you again next year. Perhaps I’ll eventually be able to justify the cost of silver and gold embroidery or luxury fabrics.”

While Babbo counted out Ser Landolfo’s fee, I picked up the bag with my precious florins and went upstairs to my room. As magnificent as it was to have new clothes tailored, studying Latin grammar was even more important. Fine clothes might impress a certain type of person, but a fine mind was even more impressive, and would be there regardless of what types of garments I donned.

WeWriWa—Getting new clothes

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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 now sharing from a brand-new project, an 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 at a party held by her parents.

This week’s excerpt opens the second section of Chapter II, “Answered Prayers.”

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Kharbine-Tapabor/Shutterstock (6051054bb)
Tailor’s workshop, facsimile of Italian manuscript illumination, 14th century, of Tacuinum Sanitatis, a Latin translation of an Arabic Health Manual by a doctor from Bagdad
Art (Manuscripts) – various

A week after my bliss first appeared to me, I came home from school to the sight of Babbo in the main hall with Landolfo Vernizzi, our tailor. Many fabrics were draped over benches, chairs, and tables, and one bench temptingly displayed glass bottles full of pigments and dyes in a rainbow of colors.

“God has been very good to us,” Babbo said with a smile. “Several very lucrative business opportunities arose during the last few days, and I decided to use some of that money for new clothes. Ser Landolfo is making six new outfits for me, and he’ll make three for you.” He looked back at the tailor. “Remember to use extra fabric for Durante’s clothes, so they can be let out multiple times as he grows. I’m not paying you for garments he can only wear for a short while.”

“Yes, Ser Alighiero.”

Ser Landolfo picked up a leather ruler and beckoned to me.

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to finish the scene.

“First I’ll take your measurements, and then you can select the colors you want. This time you can use more expensive dyes than usual, except royal purple.”

What a wondrous turn of events! Now I didn’t need to think of a way to suggest having new clothes made, since God answered another of my prayers so beautifully. I wasn’t even upset by how Babbo was getting twice as many outfits as I. Only royalty needed inordinate amounts of garments, and this would bring my number of outfits to nine, God’s most perfect number.