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’ve returned to my alternative history about Dante and Beatrice, which I recently resumed after many months of hiatus. It’s now December 1287, and Dante has just become a widower at 22 years old (which didn’t happen in real life). Beatrice is in his house recovering from a very serious illness and a terrible beating her husband gave her before sailing to Cyprus on business.
Three days later, Dante has gone to her house in another part of town with her father and several servants to retrieve her belongings. The servants were horrified to discover the corpses of Beatrice’s maidservants, whom she reported had died of illness shortly before she left. However, her father is insistent that this mission proceed without delay.
I took a large basket from the cart and proceeded inside after the manservants and Galfrido, hoping my fear didn’t show upon my face. The sooner we finished our business in this house of the dead, the better.
All the blood in my veins froze, and a wave of bile rose in my throat, when my eyes fell upon three bloated, blistered, blackened bodies, devoid of clothing, curled up on their beds. A strong, noxious smell filled the air.
“May God rest their souls,” Ser Folco murmured. “Praise Christ Bice escaped this. She may not have lived much longer if she’d remained here, infected with God knows what.”
I was in a daze as we continued moving through the house, scouring each room for important belongings. Once Galfrido found the keys, he and the other manservants commenced opening the trunks and strongboxes, pulling out everything to determine which objects belonged to Beatrice and which to de ’Bardi. They left de ’Bardi’s belongings all over the floor.
The ten lines end here. A few more follow to finish the scene.
The sight of the bedchamber tore like a lance through my heart. There at the centre of the room was a large mattress with four oak columns supporting a rectangular panel above. Hung upon this ornately-carved wood were scarlet velvet curtains embroidered with gold and silver thread. The sheets, pillows, and quilt were just as luxurious. Completing the grand display of wealth was a hanging iron lamp, carved on all sides with the de ’Bardi coat of arms, seven joined rhombi running diagonally from left to right.
All I could think about as I looked upon this symbol of opulence was that de ’Bardi had carnal relations with Beatrice there. From the day of her marriage, I’d prayed he wouldn’t be rough or cruel with her, but now I knew my prayers hadn’t been answered. I couldn’t rid my mind of the image of that brute taking away her tender innocence at the age of fourteen, this pearl among men who’d already been married once before and was over twenty years older.
If I hadn’t been so afraid of the consequences of discovery and mindful of the Church teachings about forbidden intimacy, I would’ve done a lot more than just kiss and caress her in the garden. That would’ve spared her from having to experience carnal relations for the first time with someone she didn’t love, who didn’t love her and didn’t care about being gentle.