WeWriWa—Mass at Santa Margherita

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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 comes a bit after last week’s, which takes place the morning after the party. Dante ran across the Portinaris while both were walking to church, and was easily convinced to go to Santa Margherita with them instead of his usual San Martino.

Church of Santa Margherita, Copyright Sailko

When we passed through the doors of the church, I looked back and forth between the men’s and women’s sides. Though I was young enough to stand with the ladies and children, Babbo preferred I stand with the men and older boys to avoid developing soft habits. At the same time, it would be rude to spurn the people who’d invited me to church with them, and I couldn’t pass up the chance to be close to the youngest of God’s angels even for just an hour. Monna Cilia also possibly already thought poorly of Babbo because he let me attend Mass alone, and I didn’t want to give her more reasons to dislike him and disseminate gossip. Building a stronger friendship between our families was imperative if I wanted to marry my dream girl. I remained on the side for ladies and children.

To impress Beatrice and her mother, I followed along in perfect Latin. There were a few words and lines here and there I didn’t fully understand, even after a lifetime of hearing them, but I still knew how to pronounce them correctly. By the time I was old enough to start taking Communion in a few years, I’d be fluent in Latin.

I barely paid attention to the priest’s sermon, and immediately forgot his subject as soon as he finished speaking and began leading us in the Nicene Creed.

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

This was a prayer I often struggled with reciting perfectly, since it was so long. Today, however, all the words came out just as they should, without any stumbling. When I prayed my own prayers privately, I spoke to God, Christ, and the saints in Italian, but I was obligated to use Latin in church.

As usual, only a few people besides the priests took Communion. Ricovero nudged me when a young man in turquoise robes went up with two ladies and an elderly man.

“That’s Pietro Tonelli, and he takes Communion at least once a week,” Ricovero whispered. “A lot of people suspect he’s falling into heresy, is losing his mind, or thinks he’s so much holier than everyone else. I’d advise you to avoid him.”

With this comment, I knew Ricovero was destined to be a genuine friend, not just a convenience or surface friend. As undesirable a habit as it is, I’ve long had a weakness for listening to entertaining gossip. Besides, not all gossip is falsehood.

WeWriWa—The main course is served

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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. They’re now walking in the garden.

This comes right after last week’s excerpt, when the partygoers were summoned to dinner (the Medieval name for lunch, the biggest meal of the day). Per that era’s scientific views, a meal had to begin with apéritifs to open the stomach, followed by light foods which were easy to digest, and then somewhat heartier foods. Only after all these preliminary foods had been eaten did the main course come out.

The Taste of Medieval Food - Medievalists.net

Our next course consisted of cabbage, more fruit, broth, duck meat, lettuce, and herbs. Finally, the servants brought the towels and water basins around again so we could wash our hands in preparation for the main course which sat temptingly in the middle of every table. And what a marvellous meal it was.

Though everything I ever could’ve dreamt of at a dinner was on offer, I regardless waited to see what Beatrice and Ricovero would put on their plates first. This wasn’t my home, and I was a first-time guest. If they thought I were a glutton or more interested in the food than their company, my chances of being invited back would diminish.

“You must eat your fill,” Ricovero said. “Don’t wait for us to start eating. This isn’t Great Lent.”

“Yes, please serve yourself whatever you’d like,” Beatrice said.

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

“All this food is here for us to enjoy in abundance. Calendimaggio only comes once a year.”

I smiled at her and began filling my silver plate with an abundance of hard-boiled eggs, bread, cheese, sausages, beef, olives, roasted vegetables, and porpoise meat. Then I requested a servant fill my tankard with mulberry juice. If my stomach still permitted the intake of food afterwards, I planned to eat a slice of vegetable and eel pie, ravioli, and mussels. It was imperative to preserve enough space in one’s stomach for the dragées which closed every meal, but I wasn’t sure when I’d again get the chance to eat so much decadent, delicious food in one sitting. At least I wasn’t tempted by everything on the table. To this day, I’ve never had the desire to eat swan, lark and other songbirds, porcupine, whale, or hedgehog, despite their popularity among the wealthy. People often develop many strange habits when they acquire or are born into too much money.

WeWriWa—Called to dinner

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4

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. They’re now walking in the garden.

This comes a few pages after last week’s excerpt. Before being called to dinner (the Medieval name for lunch, the biggest meal of the day), Beatrice suggested Dante might become friends with her brother Ricovero. If he’s friends with both of them, her parents will be more inclined to approve future visits.

The next-best-friend Dante mentions in La Vita Nuova is believed to be one of Beatrice’s brothers, and we know from Folco Portinari’s will (which names all his children) that his oldest sons were Manetto and Ricovero. His other three sons were under eighteen as of 1288, which would’ve made them too young to be friends from childhood.

The Taste of Medieval Food - Medievalists.net

Just then a maidservant came into the garden and announced it was time for dinner. Without having to be asked twice, I went towards the door and followed the other guests towards the great hall, where an immense feast awaited.

Beatrice led me to a long walnut table where all the other children were taking seats. The scents of the food laid out before us were so tempting, nothing like the meals I usually ate at home. Babbo and I didn’t eat like peasants, but we were nowhere close to the level of a wealthy family like the Portinaris, who regarded things like wheat and beef as everyday staples instead of luxuries to be indulged in when finances could justify it.

“Ricovero, this is my new friend Dante,” she told a boy dressed in a burgundy tunic and cornflower blue hose. “Mamma and Babbo will be more likely to invite him to visit again if he’s friends with you too. He’s serious and thoughtful like you, so I think you’ll like him.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Ricovero said.

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

“If Bice likes you and thinks you’re a good person, I must too. She’s a better discerner of worth than many adults.”

We chose chairs near the back left-hand side of the table after almost everyone else had claimed a seat. Presently, maidservants and manservants came around with linen hand towels and shallow silver basins for washing our hands before eating. After that, we said Grace in one voice, and then finally we were at liberty to partake of the apéritifs eaten at the start of every meal to open the stomach.

There were so many to choose from, but I didn’t want to reverse the positive impression I’d made so far, and so settled for just a few pieces of sugar-coated ginger and honey-covered anise. For an apéritif beverage, I directed a manservant to pour me a tankard of sweetened milk. I could drink wine any time I wanted, but milk was a special treat I didn’t often have the opportunity to enjoy.