Wednesday, July 09, 2008

New Beginning 526

In the year of Our Lord 1155, Benedictine Monks gathered at Rannock Abbey to celebrate the vigil of Easter. The invited faithful watched as the monks kindled the the Easter fire to enlighten the Abbey for the coming year. In the light of newly created fire, light representing the Pillar of Fire that plundered Egypt, the light of Salvation and Risen Savior, the deacon intoned the message of joy to the world.

"Exult, all creation around God's throne! Jesus Christ, our King, is risen triumphant from the grave! Most blessed of Nights. This is the night when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death and his blood consecrates all believers. This is the night that becomes as clear as day; it will become my light, my joy!"

The roar of a thousand storms interrupted the prayer. With it, a light as bright as the sun appeared in the west traveling to the East, a biblical portent. The faithful signed themselves, holding their crucifixes and candles high as talismans against evil.

Captain Mickle let out a deep sigh and flicked the PA switch. "Sorry about the bumpy landing there, folks. We're parked a little way from the gate so there's a short walk. Don't forget you're on European time and will need to set your watches back 900 years. Thank you for flying American and we hope to see you again soon."

Opening: Dave.....Continuation: anon.


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:

The honk of a thousand geese blared, and tires chewed on gravel. The light flared and then focused to form two glaring eyes - a red metal abomination. With a flash of silvery teeth, it slid to a stop inches from the monks.

"What unholy beast is this?" The monk with the biggest crucifix stumbled backwards.

The polished maw of the beast opened and a man stepped out.

"You want to get killed? Get the hell out of the road, ya crazy bast--hey, aren't you?"

"You have interrupted the ritual! God's wrath will surely crush you!" Big-cross corrected his stumble, turned, and ran. His arms flailed like a drunken Jawa. "Cruuuuuush youuuuuu!"

The remaining monks pulled back their hoods to watch him flee. One approached the driver.

"Wasn't that George Romero?" asked the driver.

"Yeah, he's been reading Stanislavsky For Directors. I'm a fan of his work, but method-directing? Give me a break. Still, to be part of this series... Day of the Living Dead: Zombie Deities is going to break box office records!"

--Gordon C.

"Santa Claus!" yelled the Prior of the Abbey. Cover your heads. That fellow is drunk as a lord on tax day.

--Bill H.

A fat American tourist waddled from the bespectacled throng, fanning the steam from his New York Giants sweatshirt with his tour brochure.

"Say, you Brits sure know a thing or two about history, but is there any place round here I can get a burger?"


Dave Fragments said...

Gordon - I see you've been in my church's parking lot at the end of service. ;)

Bill H, and WO - those continuations are so good, I'm going to use them.

Kiersten White said...

It's a little dense for me. I read enough scriptures on my own to be tired of the language when it comes to reading for pleasure.

Still, well written, and I would be curious to know what was happening in that last paragraph.

Remind me never to visit WO's area of England.

WouldBe said...

Oops...forgot some quotes on my continuation, and it wasn't tax day.

I like this setting. (Not only because) it reminds me of a scene in a short story I'm hawking. In it, St. Augustine and his monks are marching into Canterbury in the 590s, where a couple of Jutish girls will twist his arm to start the Girl Scouts/Guides. (Very little known bit of Girl Scout/Guide history :) )

It's remarkable how little difference there is between the 6th and 12th centuries, other than who's in charge.

--Bill H.

Anonymous said...

This story is certainly beginning to weave a web that will pull me from my ordinary existence. However, I felt as though I was being pecked to death by the word “light” and that broke the spell for me.

“The invited faithful watched as the monks kindled the Easter fire to enlighten the Abbey for the coming year. In the light of newly created fire, light representing the Pillar of Fire that plundered Egypt, the light of...”

Clearly this writer has some skillz! But I am a little concerned this story may be sitting on the tailwinds of current publishing trends.

According to agent Irene Goodman’s May 17, 2008 list of what is OUT:

•cozy mysteries without any hook, paranormal romance, biblically based quest for a legendary object, macho guys, chick lit, American historical fiction, male private-eyes, English village mystery

Of course, Ms. Goodman’s list itself will probably be OUT before any of us can blink and leggings, that look like the ones I wore in college, are now all over the latest fashion magazines.

Who knew.

Dave Fragments said...

A friend and I keep discussing this story. He says and I've read the history books:
There is an air of tranquility and piece. England is no longer split in war with itself. No longer does Empress Maud (Matilda) fight to regain her rightful place from the usurper
Empress Maud's son is now King.. (Henry 2) Life seems better. It is the 1st Easter after Stephen's death. The service was looked on as a double meaning The resurrection of the Christ and the rebirth of the English nation.

And eventually a few hundred years later, Henry VIII throws out the Catholics and despoils the churches.

As for Girl Scouts - What a wild alternate history that would be.

Wes said...

Nice job, Dave. Great voice; it helps set the scene and draws the reader in (or at least this reader).

Brenda said...

cozy mysteries without any hook, paranormal romance, biblically based quest for a legendary object, macho guys, chick lit, American historical fiction, male private-eyes, English village mystery

Wow... what's IN then?

And I don't see paranormal romance dying anytime soon. Anyone note Allison Brennan's newest sell through Trident?

WouldBe said...

It doesn't last long, but in the late 6th and early 7th centuries, King Æthelberht managed to combine the seven southern kingdoms into one, introduced a code of laws, promoted public education, and allowed the Catholic church back into England. The Normans fixed that. It did have long-lasting effects, though.

--Bill H.

Anonymous said...

Plundered Egypt?

What is a deacon doing speaking English in 1155?

Dave Fragments said...

I gotta check that out. I knew the image was strong, so I may be blind to its overuse.

It is the Blessing of Light that is interrupted. The Easter Vigil when fire is kindled outside of the darkened church and the light that was extinguished on Good Friday with the Crucifixion, returns to take its place in the church.

Three times the procession stops to invoke "Lumen Christi". And when they reach the alter, the Deacon intones the Exultet with the words I put in the opening. This is the light that guides the believers.

The imagery of "light" is omnipresent. After this event, the abbey is abandoned as evil.

FYI - The Wikipedia entries on "Easter Vigil" and "Exultet" explain some of the Roman Rite. The Exultet dates back to the 7th and possibly the 5th century AD.

Dave Fragments said...

I don't understand why you are troubled by "deacon"...
The Exultet is an idiomatic and highly stylized poem. If I quoted the Latin, no one would understand. I had 3 years of Latin in grade school, and I can't remember anything but a few phrases. I can just imagine how incomprehensible it would be to someone who didn't go to school with nuns and priests.

"Plundered Egypt" refers to the Biblical exodus of the Jews from Egypt. See Exodus in the KJV or NAB.

Anonymous said...

Dave, I haven't noticed you being blind to much of anything, quite the opposite.

Ms. Goodman's "What IN"
craft themed fiction (knitting, quilts etc., Female protagonists in thrillers (Buffy derivatives / damsel in control...), IN romance = old-school is now in style, Historical fiction especially Tudors and Elizabethan, sexy royal soap operas, Erotica (both good and bad erotica), Urban Fantasy - THE hottest thing is YA urban fantasy with female protagonist.

Ugh! Sometimes I wonder if I should stop watching the market and keep my eyes on the keyboard. Anyway, I guess it's always good to know which direction the wind is blowing.

I dunno, Dave, maybe one of the faithful could weave bandages of gold for a dying sun.

If your hearts in the story the trend will come round again. Unfortunately, I threw my leggings out two year ago!

Wes said...

If Ms. Goodman is correct, I'm hosed. Guess I'll let Kincaid die in NM and forget American historical fiction.

And Brenda, you gotta stop with the new pic. I'm only human.

Scott from Oregon said...

"The imagery of "light" is omnipresent. After this event, the abbey is abandoned as evil."

Light is a common hallucination when something goes amiss in the temporal lobe, often called the god section of the brain.

Epileptic seizures in this area, as well as blunt trauma and deprivation of oxygen, all cause some kind of light "visions".

There are many who assert that most "mystics" were simply temporal lobe epileptics.

Bernita said...

Well done, Dave!

Dave Fragments said...

I can be so blind to faults or problems in my writing. It's one of my problems. My words are so wonderful they look perfect to me. And I'm the first to roll my eyeballs at that. I know better than to believe it.

I don't know what's hot or not. I just write for myself. But that statement is only half true. I can show you four rejection letters from the past week.

Is it wrong to say, I've never been published but I've enjoyed every rejected word?

Dave Fragments said...

Thanks Bernita.
- - - - -
And Scott, I don't know what to say other than I will give someone in the story an epileptic seizure or at least make them a hypochondriac.

Anonymous said...

Although I read quite a lot of medieval-set fiction, and thus prepared to enjoy this, I too was blinded by the repetitious images of light (and fire).

A judicious snip of unneeded phrases in the middle may bring the combined lumens down to a level where spectators can follow the action.

"In the year of Our Lord 1155, Benedictine Monks gathered at Rannock Abbey to celebrate the vigil of Easter. The invited faithful watched as the monks kindled the the Easter fire <...cut to...>, representing the Pillar of Fire that plundered Egypt, the light of Salvation and Risen Savior...."

You get rid of 'enLIGHTen', 'newly created FIRE', and LIGHT (representing..) with that one cut.

My other quibble is the lack of sensory detail other than light and fire. Are they indoors or out in the courtyard? Sunrise or still dark? What does the church smell like: incense, damp cold, bodies and clothing unwashed since last summer? What are 'the faithful' wearing: rich clothing or peasant rags (I assume rich, but I could be wrong)? Does candlelight pick up jewels on rich men's fingers or on the altar fittings? Are the monks chanting while the flame is being lit, or is there a waiting silence?

This is not to say I want a pile of description up front, just more scene-setting than 'Rannock Abbey' and 'fire'.

The third paragraph, representing a big change from the usual Easter service familiar to all the 'invited faithful' will have more impact if you ground the reader more thoroughly in the setting and people beforehand.

All that aside, I'm interested to see who the story will follow, and what changes will be wrought in their lives in the wake of the comet.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and 'Method-Directing' is hilarious!

Robin S. said...

Hey Scott-

That's interesting information on the 'god part of the brain'. Makes sense. Thanks.

Dave, I don't know enough about this type of fiction to give you a useful opinion. It seemed heavy to me in the first two paragraphs, and I really liked the third paragraph - for me, that was the beginning. But that's just me!

Good continuation, by the way.

talpianna said...

This ritual is unfamiliar to me. Is it Roman Catholic? It made me think of Beltane ceremonies rather than a Christian rite, so I was thinking "alternate history?"

Is there something special about 1155? I thought it might have been one of those supernovas observed in medieval times, but it doesn't appear in the list.

McKoala said...

Agree on the denseness of that first para and the repetition of 'light'.
Also, if this is by any chance a Scottish Abbey, 'Rannoch' would be the usual spelling.

Dave Fragments said...

McKoala - Rannoch it is, near to Inverness Scotland. Also near to Cawdor.
Another mistake here is the monks can't be Benedictine. Historically, they would be Cistercian, commonly called "White Monks" after their robes.

Talpiana - processional trappings are the same for many religions. Some symbol is carried in front and the air is incensed to drive away unwanted spirits and then blessed. I think Beltane took the trappings from the Catholic Church. But then, the Catholic Church stole them from the Greeks and Romans.

The Easter Vigil is the most holy of all masses. From Good Friday until the vigil -- the Roman Catholic church is dark, stripped, silent. Not even the candle signifying the presence of God is lit, for Jesus has been crucified and lays in the grave.
That is why the fire is kindled. It symbolized the resurrection of the dead. The triumph of faith over death. It is the fire from the Exodus of the Jews - The pillar that led Moses from Egypt, the Pillar that confounded the army of Pharaoh and destroyed them in the Red Sea. Christ the light, the pillar of fire that frees us from the fires of hell, the despair of death and brings us into the light of God.
This is the first time since Ash Wednesday (when all Catholics are reminded "from dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return" that the GLORIA is sung.

Back in HS, I was an alter boy at these services. It is my faith. I get carried away with some of the descriptions. That's why I put sent the opening to EE.

1155 was the first year of Henry II who was Catholic and brought peace to England and Scotland. King Stephen before him left a mess of internal fighting and squabbling. Henry, the first Angevin King brought order. It was a happy time for the Church. A time of promise. The promise spring and the new growth, the promise of Easter and salvation. But not here at this abbey.

And historically, Catholicism was the religion of England and Scotland until Henry VIII and the Reformation in 1533.

I will add a touch of description for the abbey. And I will tone down my overambitious descriptions of the resurrection as I do that.

Scott from Oregon said...

Dave-- I just happened to finish watching this series--

as research for brain damage

(gooping or not to goop?)

Nueroscience is kicking religion's hind-quarters at the moment...

fairyhedgehog said...

I wasn't sure what kind of story this was going to be. The second paragraph in particular had me thinking that this was intended as inspirational literature, so really not my scene.

Whirlochre said...

This is heavy duty stuff — a placing of facts in the absence of any character or obvious setting.

But — it's engaging, and I'm happy to wait for more 'cinematic' specifics.

Stacy said...

I like this. I would definitely read on. Different than other styles in which I've read of your work, Dave. You're getting very skilled.

Love the continuation, Bill H!

Dave Fragments said...

Thanks, I try hard to write well.

Anonymous said...

"Is it wrong to say, I've never been published but I've enjoyed every rejected word?"

No, It's very, very right! That's my story and I'm stickin' to it! I hope you do, too.