WeWriWa—A secret comes out

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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.

I’ve skipped ahead to Chapter XVI, “Permanently Broken Bond.” It’s now 1287, and Dante is 22 years old, married for the last two and a half years to Gemma Donati. He was studying with his guardian and mentor Brunetto Latini when his eight-year-old halfsister Gaetana (Tana) told him Gemma went into labor about two months early. During their walk home, he discovers Tana knows about his love for another woman.

“Do I have to watch if Gemma’s really having a baby now?” Tana asked as we started walking out of Ser Brunetto’s house. “Mamma said it was important, but I’m afraid. Gemma was bleeding when I left, and her noises didn’t sound human.”

I held her hand a little tighter. “Birth is a female business, so I don’t know anything about it besides what I’ve read in a few books about science. You can stay downstairs with me while Gemma labors if you’re scared to observe. But remember, we should only fear things with the power to hurt us. Nothing else is fearsome, since we were made by God in his grace to be able to withstand many difficult and negative things.”

Tana stepped over the threshold and into the street. “Is that from the Bible?”

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

“No, it’s something my old friend Bice often says.” I side-stepped an oncoming herd of pigs, keeping a firm hold on my sister. “She first spoke those words to me when I was recovering from a very serious illness in childhood. I asked her why she wasn’t afraid to come into my room to pray, and Bice said God in his mercy protects his faithful from even the most frightening, dangerous things.”

“Are you talking about the Bice you’re in love with?”

I came to an abrupt stop. “I’m talking about the second daughter of Ser Folco Portinari and Monna Cilia de’ Caponsacchi. What makes you think I’m in love with her?”

Tana giggled. “I see the way you gaze at her all the time and talk to her at church. You never look at Gemma like that or seek out her company. It’s obvious you care for her a lot more than Gemma. I’d be surprised if Gemma didn’t suspect it by now, even if she’s never said anything.”

“Yes, I do love Bice, and I’ve loved her since we were children,” I admitted in as low of an intelligible voice as possible. “But she belongs to another man, and I to another lady.”

************************

Next week I’ll be switching to my yearly Christmas-themed excerpts, followed by a New Year’s snippet and something for Russian Orthodox Christmas. The excerpts from my alternative history will resume on 16 January.

WeWriWa—Stunning news

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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.

I’ve skipped ahead quite a bit, to Part III, near the beginning of Chapter XVI, “Permanently Broken Bond.” My intention wasn’t to write this book out of order as I did with my other alternative history, but it was the only way I was able to start pulling up in my lagging NaNoWriMo wordcount. Some parts of books flow faster and more effortlessly than others.

It’s now 1287, and Dante is 22 years old, married for the last two and a half years to Gemma Donati. He lost his father as a teenager, and Brunetto Latini became his guardian. In turn, Dante also helps with the upbringing of his much-younger halfsiblings Francesco and Gaetana (Tana).

I was in the middle of studying Averroes’s Aristotelian commentaries with Ser Brunetto during the eleventh day of November when Tana came running into the room, her face a deathly shade of grey and her hair in an advanced state of dishevelment. Immediately I leapt up from my chair and hurried towards my dear little sister.

“What happened, dolcissima?” I put my hands on her shoulders. “Is something wrong with Francesco or your mother?”

Tana shook her head. “They’re both fine, God be praised. It’s Madonna Gemma who’s in a terrible state. She’s in labor.”

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

“But how could that be! She’s only about seven months along!”

Tana crossed herself. “She assumed it was just a passing pain or her imagination, but then she started making funny noises and retreated to your bed. My mother sent me to fetch you, so you wouldn’t be surprised when you came home and saw your wife in labor so early.”

“Some ladies have false signs before the delivery,” Ser Brunetto said. “I’ve read about this kind of thing in the writings of Avicenna, Trota of Salerno, and Haly Abbas.” He shut the book. “If this can’t be stopped, perhaps the child will survive. There are cases of children surviving a premature birth. Whatever happens, it’s all in the hands of God now.”

I pulled my hood over my head and took Tana’s hand. “Perhaps everything will be normal by the time we come home.  We shouldn’t tempt the forces of evil by thinking only of negative outcomes.”

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.