Monday, December 26

Sing me now of Christmas, nowell sing me here.

(My Christmas wasn't really like this. I'm just being cynical because I generally dislike family holidays.)

I don't typically like holidays of the type where families roam the country in packs, raiding the refrigerators of their formerly cordial acquaintances and imposing sly diplomatic affections on distant relations.

Nearer to the home front, brother against sister and parents against in-laws all crowd under one roof, in frozen and polite accord. More dangerously do the females of the species congregate all in one kitchen where, inevitably, too many microwaves spoil the gravy. The children, expected to get along famously, will awkwardly sit at the television and wish they weren't. A few will find a good conversation or new cousin and gossip cliquishly.

The eve and day church services of Christmas are invariably led by one or more persons with snowflakes on their sweaters. At least one of their wives will have a machine-knit on-sale snowman cardigan. Grown-up children will return under obligation to their parents, though they have not for their own adopted the unaccountable sweaters; teenagers will fight the dress code, and the younger ones are shocked by the novelty into obedience.

After the present-snatching ceremony of Christmas Day, and Christmas Lunch is had, the good will of men for men will take shape in the form of mutual silence on account of having over-eaten.

Saturday, December 24

An attempt at archaic dialogue.

The feast ended slowly. Ceramics clinked, benches creaked on the stone floors, and knives were wiped and sheathed; the talking died down as people left the hall in twos and threes. Some went back to their rooms along torch-lit halls to prepare for evensong, and others went to finish their day's work and have a surreptitious beaker or two, or three, of wine mixed with honey. The table on the dais, usually the first to empty, was hushed and silent, the day having been long for all of them--cold and difficult winter days caught in closed spaces do not foster chivalry in the best of men.

The King leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. Perhaps he was praying, or maybe only hoping, or maybe he was merely more exhausted than he had been willing to show at the meal itself. The Queen was saying farewell to the Knight of the Golden Wren, so old and gray as he walked in perfect dignity to pray for his Order before evensong. The riddler was led off to find a place to sleep, and then only the royal family, several guests, and their attendants remained.

A few more logs were put on the fire in the back of the hall, and then at a word from the King, they stood and made their way to form a semi-circle around the fire. In such a way did the King begin to speak, recounting the deeds of the past month and declaring the purpose of their meeting.

" . . . and a reward is due, a request from the champion ought to be granted. We are gathered to hear what this request may be, and how it may be fulfilled to the honor of the people. Let the champion speak."

The young man squared his shoulders and spoke.

"Long did I ponder what boon I might ask of thee, and in the wondering did I fathom how vulnerable thou hast made thyself to those whom you honor. Thanks must doubly be in order, and the price thou hast set upon the honor of thy family--thy people--that care must be taken to find a suitable reward I return for what seems a small deed, to me. I have tried to think well. I would honor the love of thy family with my request--the good lady to whom I owe the honor of my reward I ask to pray at the vigil of my knighthood, that will be in one year's time, from the first day of the new year."

The King, afraid that the young man might have asked a place in the court for which he was not prepared, or a horse that he might ride errant, or at worst a vulgar kiss (all of which he could have rightly asked), was relieved and pleased by the discretion of the youth.

"You are a true son of your father! As thou hast a right to thy request, so we shall honor it. Thy vigil she shall attend, and pray therewith. May the day of thy knighting come soon that may we all prove your worth in praise and thanks, for verily thy grace and prowesse has shown thee worthy of knighthood yet again."

They stepped forward in front of the fire and grasped hands. A cup was brought of wine that all might drink in witness and agreement, and then the meeting broke up. It would be an early morning and there was much work to do yet.

Wednesday, December 21

Following the tunic.

The "squire" was actually a glorified page, whose name happened to be something from which the diminutive was Nolly. It may have originally been "Oliver", but who can tell? Oh, you mean you want to know why I called him a "glorified page". Well, the champion of the past fortnight's combat was to become a knight in a year's time; he'd been nominally granted his knighthood but the ceremony was not to take place until the period of mourning for his father had passed. That was at the man's request--and an odd request it was!--but most people already treated him as a knight since he was altogether worthy of the place.

Since it was still Nolly's duty to act as page, he dutifully and dolefully ran messages and carried things back and forth, but one of the maids had seen his method of laundering clothes and at the last moment decided to have pity on the other guests and wash the champion's clothes with the rest of the batch that was going in at the moment. You know of course Nolly wouldn't mind that, so when he brought back the tunic and chausses for his master, he was expecting surprise or praise for finally having mastered the art of laundry.

However, he was disappointed. His master was preoccupied and distant, and rather cold from sitting in the stables in his old, patched clothes (the only clean ones at present) while his court-clothes had been prepared. In a fit of frivolity he laid his chausses (the equivalent of pants) on a hook by the broad stone hearth before putting them on, warmed. The brocade tunic he put on absent-mindedly over a linen under-tunic, then untangled his hair with his fingers, tying it back with a leather cord.

"I miss my gambeson," he mumbled, feeling oddly bereft. (A gambeson is the padded jacket that a fighter wears under his armor.) He took his cloak from a now sulky Nolly and stepped out into the cold towards the hall.

The feast was a rather homely affair of root vegetables and stewed meats, and baked fruits--all things to fill and warm those feasting, but still lavish enough to be called a feast. The dais was full of royalty with a few additions of the token Knight of the Golden Wren, the champion whose judgment and reward would be called after the feast had ended, and a traveling riddler that chanced to be overly clever and won a bet with the King in his own hall.

The light from the hearths in the hall glittered off of jewels and hair and the ruddy faces of those who had recently come in from the cold. The room was soon warmed from the talking and jostling of one and a half, maybe two hundred people, with the tapestries and fires in the hall insulating the feeling of cheerful isolation from the world outside.

Tuesday, December 20

Sleeves, tunics, and gambesons: modesty and honor.

"That's not your tunic." It was a rather abrupt greeting, one might think. Well, so it was.

"I know. Somebody gave it to me while my clothes dry. I think it's father's--the shoulders on this are fantastically huge." She shrugged to show the seam where the sleeve met the torso of the shirt was several inches past her own shoulders.

"I don't think it's your father's." There was an awkward silence.

"Umm. I need to take it off, then." The woman in the tunic blushed. Another pause. "How very embarrassing. Whose--never mind, I don't want to know. I don't have anything to wear until someone brings out the next batch of clothes. It should be any minute. All I have are stockings."

"Oh dear. His squire is waiting outside for the laundry--"

Smoothly eliminating the tension in the room, Juliana (nee Fiona) sailed into the room with several dresses laid over her outspread arms. "Put these on!" she said, and as Juliana's prophecies generally had a habit of coming true, the tunic was exchanged for the proper underdress, and the tunic was spirited out of the room to its owner, none the worse for wear. Another prophecy from Juliana made sure that nobody would slip the secret of such impropriety on behalf of the ladies.

Juliana took a phial of oil, a brush, and a comb from her basket and clucked at her lady's hair all pinned up and drying only in patches.



"The dress is still a bit damp in places."

"It will dry. Give me those ridiculous pins. Turn around. Sit there. Your hair has to dry before midsummer, so let the fire warm it a bit and it will dry faster."

"Couldn't you just brush it wet this once? It's cold."

"Not if you want hair when I'm finished. I've raised you better than that, girl; you have to treat your hair like silk if you want it to look like that."

"Yes, but it's cold."

"I've got other things to do than to listen to you whinge about being cold. Don't touch the brush. I'll return in a moment. Your hair had better be dry when I come back."

"I'll do my best."

Juliana sailed out of the room as majestically as she had entered, and the lute player laughed, shaking her head.

"Isn't she sweet?" said the lady, sitting obediently and still in front of the fire.

"No. I mean yes. I wasn't laughing about that, though--I just think it's funny that he's been wearing your sleeve as his honor and you've been wearing his tunic for modesty."

"What?! I think you must be mistaken. I haven't given my sleeve to anybody since I came of age."

"Didn't you hear? Oh, no, you were gone. I thought certainly you would have heard at the first opportunity--a man made an idiot of himself insulting your charity in the north, and somehow or other it got to be awkward. One of the southerners threw the gauntlet and they fought for your honor."

"When did this happen?"

"A fortnight back--the justice is to be pronounced tonight after the feast. I thought you must know."

"No, I didn't. I only just returned, you know Thank you for telling me . . . " She began to comb through her tangled hair with her fingers. "Mercy! What an interesting world I live in." The door opened, letting in a draft, and Juliana entered bearing brocade slippers.

"I have to find the rest of my company--we'll need to set up in the hall soon." She gathered up her lute and finished buttoning her hood. "Oh, you might like to know that the southerner won."

"What? Oh! Thanks."

Monday, December 19

In the winter solar.

It would have been scandalous anywhere else but a woman in nothing but a man's wool tunic and her own stockings, all curled up under a pile of blankets, was nothing really surprising in the ladies' winter solar. Since there was a bathing room down the hallway and the room was only ever frequented by women, it was a safe place to dry while clothes were brought down and warmed for their wearers. The days before winter feasts often filled the room with slightly damp and cold women in warm robes, sewing or talking while their hair dried enough for a servant to brush, oil, and pin it up.

This afternoon was a stormy one; the horizon over the sea outside was blurred with falling rain and the wind as it fled the surface of the water. Occasionally there would be a fall of rain that whipped the window panes, but for the most part the storm raged outside without affecting the peace and warmth of the solar.

There was a pot of cider warming over the fire, hung by an iron hook that squeaked; one of the newly-wed lords was praised high for his practical gift of a set of glass beakers to the solar.

Anyway, she had her hair pinned up even though it was still soaking wet, and she was sketching on a piece of vellum with a bit of charcoal. She'd returned with her retinue from a long trip and since she had been riding forward of the group, got caught in the rain. After she made certain that her servants had been seen to, and the horses stabled, and arrangements to be made for their return, she'd been huddled off to the solar to be "fixed up" before the feast began that night. Unfortunately not everything had been seen to, so she was left to sit in a towel before the fire for a little while before some clothes were hurried from the laundry--none of hers were ready--so that she wouldn't catch her death of cold before the night fell.

The only female member of the company of players that was to play that night sat humming and tuning her lute a little distance from the fire. The tuning would be quite useless by the time night set in (the feast hall was noticeably cooler than the solar and the presence of such a warm fire in the solar would change the tune considerably) but the fire was so warm and the presence of female company so rare that the player sat comfortably dawdling until the hour they were to rehearse.

The two companions talked to each other during the intermittent silences when others weren't going in and out of the room. Discussing the dances, they decided the country dances were infinitely more fun to dance and to play. In dress their tastes ran mostly alike, except for the business about sleeves (the lute player really had to have close sleeves so that she could play); but generally it was quite decided that the jewel tones of dress were abhorrent and unnatural. A golden yellow or nice blue of natural dye always looked more graceful than the bright glare of scarlet or green. In books, too, they could converse, though the player knew more poetry than prose, because of her profession, of course.

Saturday, December 17

The AviceFiona woman and her ridiculous name.

Alright, her name is now Juliana. It reminds me of Julian of Norwich, who was a shrewd businesswoman and and argumentative goodwife who made me laugh. You can find her in the NAEL vol. 1 and I promise you will not be disappointed.

Will that do? I'm still biting my nails over this woman.

Friday, December 16

Delicate situations require ceremonial scripts.

I wish I could say it was a beautiful fight, or that the fighters moved with the grace and decorum of their years' experience--that their swords glittered in the glare of a righteous sun--but it was a cold and muddy, cloudy day and the fighters were not even well matched. There was a fair crowd of onlookers because the gauntlet had been thrown on account of a matter of honor--some said it was an irrelevant matter and counted both men fools but there were those that recognized how very solemn the matter might have become had not the challenge been accepted.

In the end, it was the younger of the two that won even though he'd had less experience and followed a higher standard of chivalry that without he might have been able to end the fight earlier in the day. As it was, the defeated had to be taken off the field on account of a twisted ankle. Nobody was sorry for him because he was trying to execute an illegal move when it happened; they hardly waited to see if he was examined before throwing a cheer of victory for the victorious youth. For a moment he stood triumphant, the righteous defender victorious; then those who knew him could see his shoulder slump a little.

The King himself stepped forward from his chair on the dais and with a startling grace, walked across the yielding ground as if it were the stones of his own hall. As he stepped forward to congratulate the champion, a breeze lifted the air and the sun shot a shaft of light across his shoulders. Smiling, he stepped aside to let the natural glory of the sun reflect on the winner. Still trying to catch his breath, the youth removed his helmet and knelt before the King.

The King announced the winner to the assembled crowd in a loud voice, and the crowd cheered again before dispersing slowly towards the hall and outbuildings. The rest of the judgment would be settled in court sometime within the next fortnight, and the day was wet and cold, after all was fought and won. The King and his guards remained, as did a nondescript secretary or two. A page was sent to the gate to help carry the youth's armor and weaponry back to their quarters and the armory.

"I owe you a very deep gratitude, as does the entirety of the court, for not shedding blood on this especially beautiful day." The King looked gravely down at his subject, who looked up, startled. The maille on their shoulders clinked as both men laughed softly and blinked in the sunlight. "As a father, too, I must thank you," continued the King a little more hesitantly; "as you must know it is difficult to be a leader of men when one's own family is threatened by the very same men." The King removed his armored glove and held his bare hand out to the youth, who removed his glove in turn, and accepted the assistance to stand.

"Sire, I beg you not to single me out for this; it is what any man would have done in my place had there been another present." Indecorously putting his glove inside his helmet the better to carry it, he flexed his fingers awkwardly and tried with many stammers and stutters to explain himself.

"Assuredly they should have, but none did." The King had a quiet and confident voice, as sure as his steady step as they walked back to rejoin his retinue at the edge of the enclosure. "I hope you will at least dine with us tonight," said the King. "I am--that is, I would be honored to join you," returned the youth, and bowed and the King smiled and began the trek back to the dry, warm throne room.

The sun once again retreated behind dark masses of clouds, and the wind once again began to lift. He finally felt the cold, and turned back to prepare for the evening.

Pronouns. Don't play that game.

Oh, dears, I'm sorry I keep writing about a man talking with a woman. I just find it so hard to name characters and then put ridiculously individual characteristics on them that it is easier use pronouns. Plus it creates more tension without me putting it there (people seem to expect it between men and women, anyway, so it's fairly easy to take stereotypes for granted) and somehow people find it easier to believe that women have more than brainless conversation amongst ourselves. It is dashedly difficult to write, and rare to find that one may imitate it (the only really good example I've found is in Sayers' Wimsey book Gaudy Night, and that is set in Oxford).

Anyway, some of you will have been wondering why, and I knew I had to explain sometime. I do have a few guy characters that are their own selves but most of the time I just want an excuse to write dialogue. I have all sorts of interesting conversations with myself but can't quite put them all down.

Tuesday, December 13

Playing with names, goals, and motives: more words.

The shopping mall crouched licentiously on the edge of a well-groomed neighborhood, on a rainy December afternoon. The rain got in your collar and somehow into your shoes even if you had a scarf and didn't jump into even the shallowest of the many enticing puddles. The mall was situated so that it was between the elementary schools, grocery stores, movie rentals and the manicured lawns of the respectable neighborhood that lay in the vicinity.

They'd gone inside for a shortcut to the grocery store--it was movie night for the roommates of the shared house (with friends and sundries) and by some cruel trick of fate there were five bags of corn chips and no salsa. Not really a cause for too much adventure, just for one of those conversations that lasts for five minutes and then you remember it--and just to give props all around, it's there stereotype of a safe and platonic conversation.

"You won't reread a book because you don't like it." He said it as if he was amused.

"Basically." Well, it seemed obvious enough. She unwrapped her scarf from her neck and put it around her hands; she'd forgotten her gloves.

"Not even to study it?" In a futile effort to better humanity, he wiped his shoes on the mat.

"Studying it would be worse!" She shook her head. "Studying, reading--it all means I'm exposed to the material again, and that isn't good. It's filling your mind with trash, Ethan."

"Meg." He grinned. "Meg. Look, I'm not a Christian, but the argument works for me because you are, so hear me out: you read the Bible, don't you? Yes, of course you do. You're the kind of person who would. Well, have you ever taken a good look at those 'chosen' people?"

She opened her mouth to say something and no sound came out. Tried again. "That's . . . different."

"Of course. You are going to say that the Bible has a message in it, and that that is what makes it different." She nodded, still listening. "Humans, on the other hand, cannot be relied upon to try and express a . . . pure message."

"Yeah." They passed the little bakery shoppe that always smelled like cinnamon rolls; Bing Crosby's Christmas music was blaring out of the intercom system.

"Gah! Ok, you were just quoting that guy who wrote the hobbit books. Tolkywhatsit."


"I know." Then there was the electronics store. They stopped for a moment in silent agreement that the products in the window were ridiculously overpriced.

"Oh, you mean what he said about mistaking applicability with allegory?"

"Exactly. Can you see where it is that I'm taking this?"

"You mean that the message I take from the book depends on me."

"Pretty much. That your reaction reflects more on you than on the book--or books--in question."

The coffee shop. "Coffee? Hot chocolate?"

"Sure, we have time."

They stopped, and there was hardly any line for the counter, so they were walking past the enormous plastic Christmas tree in the centre of the mall before she said something.

"Is there a specific book you wanted me to read, that you made the point?"

"Ever heard of the story of Tristan and Yseult?" Gently, gently . . .

"Read it last summer for a class on legends. Gross. Must I?" Her nose wrinkled in disgust.

"Well . . . not exactly 'must', but I don't know anything about legends and I need help in this class." He poked at the marshmallows in his hot chocolate and thought about making an effort to look pitiful instead of half-triumphant.

"Ok. I can teach you a little."

"Yes! I knew it. Adam said you wouldn't for love nor money."

"Heh. So I won't for love or money, but I will for hot caffeine and good conversation."

"I proved you wrong."

"I know."

They walked out of the mall through two sets of double doors and walked back into the rain, towards the grocery store.

Monday, December 12

Fiona must change her name.

I shall have to change Fiona's name, because it is a new one--very new, and not medieval at all. So do excuse me. It was a substitute, anyway, because we all know how bad I am at choosing names for people. I'd rather they choose themselves. Anyhow. Fiona is now to be called Avice, until she finds a name better suited to her.

Note: write about going to the chandler when he makes beeswax candles instead of tallow ones, and the way the wax smells. Also, about plain dresses and the market, and what it is like to enter a stall full of fabric. Write about making trim for a dress. Write about getting trim from Amelia for Christ's mass celebrations and exchanging trims and tablet cards. Also about patterns.

Friday, December 9

Julian is Emeric's mum.

"Jules, you could at least come out by yourself, sometimes. You're an adult. Your son is brilliant. He's a great kid. I'm not saying anything against him. But maybe," the voice paused and sighed, "maybe you're spending too much time with him and not enough with other . . . you know, adults."

"So Aubrey, Jen, Gil, and Eric aren't adults . . . No, wait, let me say something, Mum. I get the fact that you're upset I'm spending too much time with Em, and we've already discussed that, but I don't see how your concern for my adult friendships has any real foundation."

She paused and waited for her mother to continue, but there was a silence on the other line--maybe a hesitant silence. Julian was used to talking to her mother face to face, and could almost see her twisting a bracelet on her hand and shaking her head as she waited for the words to come. Finally, she decided to say it and get the whole hour's conversation out in one sentence.

"It sounds like you just don't approve of them."

"Well, they're hardly mature--," began her mother, and Julian rolled her eyes. The whole hour had been only for this. Just for this.

"Look, Mum, I love you. However. The only reasons you've given me to avoid these people are things like . . . well, that Gil plays video-games. That Jen and Eric don't plan on having kids. That Aubrey . . . how can you think badly of Aubrey? He's a librarian, for crying out loud."

"He's a drug dealer."

"Dreadlocks do not make you a drug dealer, Mum. Aside from the fact that I think I am old enough to enter into being friends with other adults, I think you ought to spend some time with my friends. Aubrey said he wanted the recipe for the breakfast bread you brought by last Friday--want to come join us for coffee and we can talk recipes? It's just a half hour until Em gets out of school."

Her mother sounded flustered. "Jules, I am not giving my recipes out to drug dealers. I have to go; your father just came home. Bye, sweetie!"

Julian was laughing so hard at the thought of Aubrey as a druggie that she barely gasped a farewell before her mother ended the call.

"Does she make you keep a curfew, too?" asked Jen, sipping on a mocha and underlining a large paragraph in her DSM study guide. Julian laughed wryly. "She'd probably like to." Jen raised her eyebrows and gave her friend a Look. Julian tried to explain.

"I can't afford to alienate my mother because she worries about me. She's family, and she loves me. She'll get used to the idea of me having my own friends. She's just . . . overprotective, that's all. Come on, she's a mother."

"Is this your first time living apart from your parents?" Jen looked at Julian in a new light.

"No. The first time was a little over nine years ago. I had a flat in the city with a cousin of mine. Had to move back when I was pregnant with Emeric--that got too much to handle." She sifted through her purse for money to buy herself a coffee.

"It's because Em's dad left you. That's why she's overprotective. Of course, that would make sense." She stopped herself. "I'm sorry Jules, I'm totally prying. I've been reading too much of this type of stuff." Jen held up one of her psychology texts on attachment theory.

"Emeric's dad and I were never together. I only saw him in court." Julian found an extra quarter in her pocket. "And on the news. I'm going to get a coffee. I'll be right back."

Thursday, December 8

Bookstores and interesting gingerbread.

There are times when one feels especially solitary and contented, and some of those times can be stumbled upon in bookstores. Emeric, a nine-year-old boy, already knew this well--he and his mother visited bookstores on special days; holidays they spent alone, dreaded visits to the dentist, and special Wednesday nights when they were both really exhausted and went to share a hot chocolate and giggle at people reading aloud.

The novelty of that solitary contentedness was mixed with the feeling that it would soon be Christmas. Christmas music could be heard over the speakers, and shiny bits of colored paper were attached to bookshelves and ceilings and computers, and even some of the hats of the employees. It was still the same bookstore, though--big and full of the smell of paper, except for the corner with the coffee shop which housed the delightful dark smell of roasted coffee beans (his favorite place, even though he didn't really like coffee very much).

Emeric and his mom been holding hands going into the store, taking turns to open doors for each other and then meeting up on the inside, stopping in front of a large display of Books Made For Purposes Other Than Reading to decide whether they wanted to go to the left or the right or split up, or go get drinks and then wander around. He was standing still, just letting it all sink in.

"Hey, Em." It was his`mom, holding up a book for him to see. Somehow she'd gotten two or three tables ahead of him into the store without him noticing. He was shocked. "Have you got this one?" she asked.

He shook his head and went to join her. "Derek said it wasn't so good. There's a lot of . . . umm, kissy parts in it." He wrinkled his nose and hoped she understood; baring his soul was difficult even in the middle of a safe haven of books.

"Oh." She wrinkled her nose, too, and put the book back. "Lame." Suddenly he felt that his mom was the best, the only mom to understand the imminent danger of sappy books.

One of the employees walked past with a Santa's elf hat on, and they watched her pass. It was then that they decided they would have gingerbread with their hot chocolate, the interesting gingerbread with the raisins in it--the kind that came with a little tub of cream cheese icing.

Monday, December 5

A metafiction.

She's not wearing a wimple today; it's too hot.

(You do know what a wimple is, don't you? A little before Shakespeare, women wore coverings on their hair and neck; veils, mostly, sometimes hats, and wimples. In any case, despite the Renaissance pictures of women with loosed hair flitting about forests, most women wore their hair up and covered. We say nowadays that it was for modesty--that explains, to some, the seemingly excessive coverings. I'm inclined to think, for myself, that it was for warmth--most of the places they were worn was in cold climates--and that when working, one of the worst problems to come up against is messy hair so a wimple was only practical, but it cannot be denied that even today, the "faint half-flush that dies along the throat" which Browning's duke found so mesmerizing is still captured in cosmetics and film quite a lot.)

She is wearing a veil, though--she wears a rectangular veil and not an oval one because someone once told her that round veils are dressy, and fashionable--that may have been the fashion of twenty years ago, but she still holds to the idea that she wishes to look a tad austere. So she wears a rectangular veil, unsupported by wires or wicker frames and a little on the long side, in the back.

Without a wimple, the world is much cooler (even if the ornery contraption was only linen), especially the kitchen, where she is kneading dough. Her hands are covered in flour, and the sleeves of her linen underdress are pushed up past her elbows right before the line of her overdress (scandalously short-sleeved) and tied with the trim that should have been holding up her stockings--she's taken her stockings off and stowed them in a corner with her shoes, planning to bathe her bare feet in the stream later in the afternoon, so nobody will be the wiser (or the warmer).

A lute player and a man with the short drum are sitting by the window that looks out on the sea--they're picking out a tune and arguing over the beat. The drummer would have the song go faster than they've been practicing but the lute-player is insisting that he will not have the dancers hopping about the floor like crickets in velvet. This is because the drummer is a country man and used to the livelier dances of village folk--friends among friends having fun, not stately strangers of stiff manners that must be politic.

The cook is paying no attention, but she likes to have music while she works, so she's rented them the window as long as they will watch the chiches (chickpeas) roasting near the fire. They've already let about four servings burn.

Friday, December 2

Selling his cloak for a sword, maybe.

A horn sounded in the distance, and the hearts of men quickened. Hoarse calls from warrior to warrior for direction were partially drowned among the cries and groans of the wounded. A wind blew across the scattering retreat, washing them with a metallic smell of blood and smoke; to some it seemed like the herald of death riding an hour ahead. A few standing men reached for any weapon at hand and turned back to join the last stand.

"Quick, give me your sword!" A wiry man with an empty sheath stooped over one of the wounded--a ragged youth still clutching the naked blade to his chest as he crawled away from the blood-soaked fields.

"It was my father's." The youth shook his head, teeth chattering. The warrior took this in for a moment, and said "Let me fight for him, too, then!" There was a pause. "I shall not dishonor him. Your sword I shall return to you--do but let me fight!"

"Give me your cloak. Promise me," entreated the youth, his breathing ragged, "Promise you'll bring me back my father's sword." The warrior nodded grimly, handing over his cloak and gently prying the broadsword from the young man's cold and bloody hands.

The youth collapsed as the horn sounded again, his head against the trunk of a tree and the cloak over his knees. The warrior found an easy grip on the sword, sheathed it awkwardly, and ran back to the line of trees. With no cloak, he could hardly hope to last through the night unless he were moving--not running: fighting.

Thursday, December 1

What to write when do you daily scribble.

"What do you carry closest to your heart? What pulses at your mind and makes your fingers twitch? What makes you laugh loudly to yourself or cry silently in a corner?

All those things are real and all are begging expression. Pick one and begin."

For a while, I've been writing whatever came to my head--and that isn't wrong--but it also doesn't have a purpose that I recognise, and such a faith in one's imagination is not always safe. I'm sure it will all make sense some day, but for my everyday purposes, it must be realised that I'm not always inspired like that. I need practice, so that when I am inspired, I will be trained to handle that sort of . . . crisis:)

Sir Walter Scott started writing at 4:30 a.m. when he moved to Abbotsford, and Ray Bradbury writes every day for at least two hours, in the morning (starting at 9 a.m., though; shows Americans must be at least a tad bit more sane than those crazy Scots). I'm not sure I could handle that type of routine. I do write personal reflections in a journal, almost every night and sometimes during the day, but it is hardly something I keep up very well as a routine . . .

I do try, normally, to write a page every day, but with no specific time set aside for it--my life does not cater to routines. Normally, though, it is just about as difficult to find something set in my head to write about as it is to find time to not feel guilty about writing.

It isn't that writing is work. That is what it sounds like from this post. What I mean is that I've got something inside me trying to force its way out, and I have no certain means of expression for it. That's difficult, my friend.

So perhaps I really will write what is close to my heart. Then we will all see what happens. I have a feeling I'll be posting less of them, though. How very awkward. I hope they turn out alright and don't make me seem a fool for writing woodenly.

But let not my pessimism be untoward! I can't NOT write. I may as well practice here as anywhere.