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

WeWriWa—The morning arrives

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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 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.

I’m skipping ahead a few pages from last week’s excerpt. Beatrice has spent the night in the house after collapsing from illness and injury, and then falling into a very deep sleep. Because she’s too severely and extensively injured for bloodletting, her only course of treatment thus far has been cold rags to bring her body temperature down.

The moment the first slivers of light began breaking across the sky, I jumped out of bed, ran upstairs to Galfrido’s room, and pounded upon his door. In all the years he’d worked for my family, I’d never awoken him or taken advantage of my authority over him, but urgent times necessitated unusual measures.

Galfrido opened the door and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. Without wasting a moment, I firmly grasped his left arm and pulled him into the hallway.

”You must hasten at once to Ser Folco’s house and tell him to come here,” I said. “Say there’s a very complicated, sensitive situation I need to discuss with him, but don’t provide any details. If I had the money, I’d pay you extra for inconveniencing yourself last night and this morning.”

“There’s no inconvenience in the life of a servant,” Galfrido said as he adjusted his cloak. “Doing as my master demands is just how my life is ordered. It doesn’t feel like a hardship or annoyance to me, since I’ve never known anything different.”

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

He pulled his hood over his head. “I’ll return as soon as I can. God willing, Monna Bice will still be in this world.”

After he departed, I hurried to Beatrice’s room and peered in. Now that it was daylight, I saw how red and rashy her face was. It wasn’t merely flushed, as I’d interpreted it last night. To make sure she still drew breath, I entered the room and put my right thumb and forefinger over the veins in her neck. Praise God, there was a pulse.

Since there was nothing else I could do to help her, I went downstairs into the library and took my favorite book off the shelf. Though I knew The Aeneid by heart, reading it offered a more intense, personal connection to my dear Virgil’s ancient words than recalling them in my head or reciting them aloud. And even if I still failed to find solace in them for want of being preoccupied by the turmoil seething in my life, I nevertheless loved the full-page illustrations, fancy letters, and little drawings in the margins.

The door creaked open just as Aeneas had lost his dear Creusa. I shut the book and stood up to face Ser Folco, who walked ahead of Galfrido.

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

WeWriWa—Dr. Salvetti’s initial suggestions

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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 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. Dr. Salvetti has come to the house to treat Beatrice, who unexpectedly collapsed outside alone at night, very ill and injured. Because Dante’s stepmother wants nothing to do with this situation, his much-younger halfsister Tana has agreed to assist.

Tana took my hand, and we walked down the hall to the ladies’ guest room. Dr. Salvetti sat in a chair, rubbing his temples. Despite the lack of natural light, I could see his face was pale.

“The lady has a very weak pulse and heartbeat, her skin is alarmingly hot, and her eyes aren’t very responsive,” he reported. “I believe she’ll outlive the night and eventually recover, but it’s of vital importance that she stay right where she is. Her condition could deteriorate if she’s moved. I also suggest summoning a priest for Last Rites tomorrow, just to be safe.”

I bowed my head. “Do you still want to record her injuries? My sister is willing to help us.”

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

“Yes, that would be very much appreciated.” Dr. Salvetti smiled at Tana. “Can you remind me of your name?”

“Gaetana, but everyone calls me Tana.”

“Your brother and I will stand outside the door while you help his lady friend with undressing. I need you to tell me what kind of injuries she has and where they are. If you’re able to, it would also be a great big help if you could try lifting her up or rolling her over to check her back. Since she was able to walk here and put her arms around your brother’s neck, I doubt any of her limbs are broken.”

“Should I help her put on a sleep chemise afterwards?”

“That won’t be necessary, as long as she’s covered by a sheet. People with very high temperatures need to cool down, and that means wearing little to no clothes. But you can help with putting cold rags on her skin.”

Dr. Salvetti stood up, walked out of the room, and turned his back. I also turned my back, though I stayed as close to the door as possible. To make sure I wouldn’t accidentally see anything forbidden, I both closed my eyes and covered them.

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

WeWriWa—Assistance needed

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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 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 a bit after last week’s excerpt, when Dr. Salvetti arrived at the house to treat Beatrice, who unexpectedly collapsed outside alone at night, very ill and injured. After the situation was briefly explained, he asked if Dante would fetch his stepmother for feminine assistance. Since she wants nothing to do with this situation, his halfsister Tana has to help.

A Medieval chart correlating bloodletting location with Zodiac signs

“Is it time for Compline?” Tana asked. “I’m very sleepy.”

“Very soon,” I promised. “But first, I need for you to do an important favor for me and Dr. Salvetti. Since your mother doesn’t wish to be involved in this situation, and you’re the only other lady in this household, you’ll have to undress Bice and describe her injuries. Dr. Salvetti and I won’t be in the room, to avoid violating modesty. She might be ill enough to need bloodletting right now, and Dr. Salvetti can’t take blood from areas covered in bruises or wounds.”

Tana shut her book and stood up. “How did she hurt herself?”

My blood boiled as I recalled those hateful words.

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

“Her husband beat her very badly. That apparently wasn’t the first time he did it, though it wasn’t frequent until recently. You’re too young to hear all the grotesque details.”

Tana ran to me and grabbed my leg. “Do a lot of husbands do that to their wives?  Should I worry about my future husband beating me?”

“Many husbands do beat their wives, unfortunately, but many others behave like human beings instead of brutes.” I put my hand on her shoulder. “If I discover your future husband ever does that, I’ll take swift vengeance. Wife-beating isn’t against secular law, but it violates the teachings of Christ and all sense of moral decency.” I looked at Francesco. “I have faith you won’t beat your future wife either. God made our half of the human race to be dominant over the other half, but that doesn’t mean he wants us to mistreat them.”

“I’ll be very good when I’m a husband,” Francesco said. “It’s not right to hurt people who are weaker than you.”

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

WeWriWa—Several more shocks

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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 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’s stepmother, Monna Lapa, discovered Beatrice in their house, taken to the ladies’ guest room after collapsing. She isn’t exactly happy about this situation, particularly not after she recognizes the visitor.

“That is a married woman, Dante!” Monna Lapa shouted. “A married woman!”

“Not for much longer, God willing. I’m certain her father will agree with me that an annulment must be sought.”

“Only disreputable people seek annulments! Marriage is supposed to be for life, not until a couple has an argument or one spouse tires of the other! How do you intend to explain this woman’s presence to visitors? No one normal does this!”

“It’s not as if I live alone or there are no ladies to ensure respectable conduct. And why would I sleep with a seriously ill and injured lady, married or not?”

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

Monna Lapa shook her head and stalked back to her room. After she was gone, I knelt by the bed and uttered every Psalm that mentioned healing, rescue, and wonderworking. I had just finished reciting Psalm 116 when I heard the downstairs front door opening and Galfrido coming in with Dr. Salvetti.

I ran out of the room and to the landing. “Please make haste,” I called downstairs. “This is a very urgent matter.”

Dr. Salvetti went up the stairs two at a time, Galfrido keeping a close pace behind him. Once they were on the second floor, I grabbed another lantern and led them towards the ladies’ guest room.

Dr. Salvetti stepped back slightly when he recognized his patient. “May I ask how in the world a married lady came to be in this house at this hour? I know you’ve been dear friends since youth, but ladies usually don’t visit men without a proper chaperone, particularly not at night.”

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

WeWriWa—Stepmother’s shock

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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 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.