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

WeWriWa—Ser Folco’s business wraps up

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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 Beatrice’s father Folco discovered not only that his daughter is very ill and injured, but that her husband beat her because he believes she was committing adultery. In the middle of his rant against his son-in-law and his own poor judgment in arranging the marriage, Dante’s stepmother comes into the room.

My stepmother smiled at Ser Folco. “I presume you’ve come to take your stricken daughter home. This scandalous arrangement can’t end a moment too soon.”

Ser Folco stopped in his tracks and stared at her. “Scandalous? You dare call human decency scandalous? Have you been speaking with my son-in-law Simone de ’Bardi? Who knows, perhaps you’re one of the women he’s been sleeping with in secret.”

Monna Lapa gasped and ran out of the room, almost tripping over her skirts.

“She refused to help Bice last night,” I said, hoping she overheard and felt even a smidgen of shame.

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

“When she saw me carrying Bice into the spare bedroom, she accused me of bringing her there for illicit purposes. Thank God, my eight-year-old sister volunteered her feminine assistance without complaining.”

“I’d be more than happy to give you one of my maidservants,” Ser Folco said. “It’s not fair to make a child provide all the assistance.” He pulled his cloak tighter around himself. “I think my business here is just about concluded. Praise Christ no one harmed Bice when she was walking alone at night, and that she collapsed where she did, when she did. I don’t want to think about what might’ve happened to her in different circumstances.”

I saw Ser Folco to the door while my siblings went to eat their morning meal. Once I bid him farewell, I dashed upstairs to check on Beatrice.

She was still deep in sleep, and her face hadn’t lost any of its redness. I made the sign of the cross over her, sank onto my knees, and began reciting every Biblical story and prayer I could think of about healing. All our days are numbered, but I couldn’t bear the thought of my immaculate dream being taken away before she was even midway our life’s journey.

Posted in 1280s, alternative history, Beatrice Portinari, Couples, Dante, Middle Ages, Writing

WeWriWa—Shocking revelation

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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 shortly after last week’s excerpt, when Dante, newly widowed, found Beatrice walking down the street alone at night. When she collapsed outside his house, he picked her up and immediately realized she has a high fever. She said her husband beat her before leaving for Cyprus on business, and that he also discovered and destroyed the herbal concoctions she secretly used for birth control.

Now comes an even more shocking revelation.

“You’re safe here, Bice,” I said in a shaking voice. “I won’t let de ’Bardi take you away when he returns. If I have to, I’ll hide you in another city until you’re widowed. Maybe your father will agree to help with getting an annulment.”

“He thinks I’ve been committing adultery with you.” Her voice had faded to almost a whisper. “That’s why he beat me.”

I almost dropped her upon hearing this revelation. Of all the things anyone could believably accuse me of, adultery was beyond the beyond.  Beatrice and I had never been alone during her entire marriage, and when we exchanged words at church, in the street, or at her family’s celebrations to which I was invited, we only spoke of mundane, respectable things.

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

Not one personal word suggesting an inappropriate relationship passed our lips, though almost everyone in Fiorenza knew we’d been close friends since childhood. Neither did we send letters to one another. Perhaps the look of adoration in my eyes betrayed my true feelings, but there was no other evidence which would prove such an accusation.

“Francesco, Tana, come inside,” I called through the back door. “We’ll have to stargaze another night. A terrible calamity has occurred. There’s no time to explain.”

My siblings ran into the house and stopped abruptly when they saw me carrying Beatrice.

“Can we do anything to help?” Tana asked.

“You can summon Galfrido and ask him to fetch Dr. Salvetti. Tell him it’s urgent.”

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

WeWriWa—Shocking surprise

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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 from very early in Chapter XVII, “Complicated Crisis.” It’s now December 1287, and Dante has been a widower for a month. Despite still being in deep grief and following mourning customs, he recently resumed tutoring his much-younger halfsister Tana and teaching his halfbrother Francesco things he doesn’t learn at school.

Aiutami means “Help me.”

Copyright Suiseiseki

Since Francesco’s favorite subject was astronomy, the three of us sometimes sat outside at night in the courtyard, weather permitting, and gazed up at the stars. This always gave me a great sense of peace, knowing people the world over had sat underneath the same night sky and looked at those beautiful little orbs of light, as long as world there had been. Likewise, our descendants would be looking up at the same stars many millennia after we had all been gathered up into God’s eternal glory and our physical casings had turned to dust.

The serene silence of early night was broken by a female voice shouting “Aiutami!” Without taking a moment to reflect, I jumped up from the stone steps and ran around to the front of the house. That was my lady’s voice, which I would recognize undimmed from the highest place where thunder roars or the very bottom of the sea.

My eyes grew wide when I saw Beatrice stumbling down the street, unaccompanied by anyone, not even a link boy with a lit torch. She tumbled onto the stone street a few feet away from my front door and didn’t attempt to pull herself back up.

I rushed to her side and lifted her, and she wrapped her arms around my neck and nestled her head against my shoulder. Through my wool tunic, I could feel her radiating heat, and when I looked closer at her under the light of the Moon, I saw her face was red.

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

“Mone found my herbs,” she said in a muffled voice. “He smashed the jars and burnt the remains, and then he beat me much worse than usual.”

“‘Worse than usual’? You never told me he beat you at all!”

“How was I supposed to say that when we’re not allowed to be alone together anymore and can only discuss certain things when we do see each other? It was never nearly that brutal before, and not very often.” She locked her arms even tighter around my neck, and her voice became more labored. “I feel so faint, and my skin is so hot. Mone dismissed all our manservants before he sailed to Cyprus on business, and the maidservants took ill. They’re with God now.”

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

WeWriWa—High emotions at Mass

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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 from Chapter XVI, “Permanently Broken Bond,” right after last week’s excerpt. It’s now 1287, and Dante just lost his wife Gemma Donati in childbirth. The baby was a premature stillborn.

Despite being submerged in grief, Dante feels obligated to attend Mass with his much-younger halfsiblings. Before the service starts, his longtime love Beatrice, whom he’s never abandoned hope of someday marrying despite everything, senses something is very wrong. Dante’s little sister Tana tells her what happened.

Beatrice’s emerald windows softened, and she crossed herself. “May God grant them eternal rest. If your family needs anything, my family won’t hesitate to help you. No favor is too great to ask.” She smiled down at Tana. “Would you like to stand with me during Mass?”

Tana shook her head. “I’m staying with my brothers.”

“That’s perfectly understandable, carissima.” Beatrice put her hand on my arm.

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

“Once again, I’m truly sorry to hear about Gemma and the baby. We should all be eager to taste eternal life in God’s presence, but that doesn’t mean make death easier to accept. God put us on this Earth first for a reason. He didn’t create us to exist forever in Paradise.”

“Your kind words are very much appreciated.” In the thick of so much grief, I couldn’t bring myself to think about how I was now legally free to marry her as soon as she lost her own first spouse. Gemma wasn’t even enshrouded or in a tomb yet, while de ’Bardi was still very much among the living.

Mass passed in a blur, and my legs were like meat jelly wobbling about on a platter. My arms were trembling too wildly to cross myself, and not one prayer escaped my throat. I collapsed like one paralyzed at the conclusion of services, and had to be helped home by Ricovero and Forese. What happened next I cannot recall, so lost was I in a dark, dismal, and wild forest of anguish.

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

WeWriWa—A funereal mood

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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 from Chapter XVI, “Permanently Broken Bond,” a bit after last week’s excerpt. It’s now 1287, and Dante has become a widower at age 22. His wife Gemma Donati died shortly after giving birth to a premature stillborn boy whose limbs, shoulders, and neck were broken as he was maneuvered out of a stuck breech position.

Despite being submerged in grief, Dante feels obligated to attend Mass with his much-younger halfsiblings.

Church of Santa Margherita, Copyright Javier Carro

I walked downstairs in a daze, almost tripping down a few steps. Though I often indulged in a light morning meal instead of abstaining until dinner, today I had no appetite for such a thing. I watched with blank eyes as my siblings partook of candied ginger, bread, sausage, dates, and hard cheese. It might as well be Great Lent.

We walked to Santa Margherita in silence, holding hands. A few people called out greetings to us, and we could only nod at them in acknowledgment. Every time I saw a man walking with his wife, the jagged wound carved upon my heart was ripped anew.

“Can I stand with you and Francesco?” Tana begged. “Girls are allowed on the men’s side if they’re my age, and I don’t have any ladies to stand with.”

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

“I don’t see why not. I used to worship on the ladies’ side until I started taking Communion, since I otherwise would’ve been all alone.” I looked over my right shoulder at a sudden, familiar touch on the back of my arm.

“What happened?” Beatrice asked softly. “I couldn’t help noticing your melancholic demeanor, and you look like you’ve been entombed.”

I began weeping piteously all over again.

“Gemma is with God now,” Tana said. “She went into labor yesterday, and she died this morning. The baby was two months early, and he was gone before he was born. Now he’s in Limbo in a beautiful castle full of light, with other babies who died unbaptized and righteous non-Christians.”