NonFiction – A #fridayflash Renovation

Jeff Posey had this to say about the original:

I hereby issue you a challenge: the next thing you write, circle ever use of the word “was” and replace it with a strong verb.

So here is a first revision:

He’d written versions enough of their story to impress Sheherazade. Countless genres spanning generations, stages and an impressive amount of technological advances which still left his inner Luddite scrambling for a crucifix and a wooden stake but he’d yet to tell their tale the way it actually happened. Now that a fifth century without her had slipped away into another millennium, Talesin, teller of tales, thumbed the worn pages of his memory for a final time and decided to tell the truth.

The misdirecting ballads and epic romances full of adventure and magic began innocently, born from the urgent need to conceal their strange near immortality, an unwanted gift that transformed itself from an inconvenience to a liability. She reveled in the names he chose for her. Grainne. Isolde. Guinevere. But soon wearied of distorted facts, amalgamated characters, and the way Talesin fused their bound souls to the ideals of the era like washing on the line that the wind wrung and twisted into shapeless sack cloth.

In particular she loathed Camelot, imposing it as he had over their Saxon birthplace of Wroxeter. Talesin had to admit he’d taken more than his usual lot of liberties with setting and character alike.

“Lancelot?” she raged. “Was he that foppish priest in Calais? The one who leered at me over a consecrated host no less? He’s the best model of virtue you can manage? Robbie’s head would explode if he knew, and still had a head, ever all that virtuous. Sometimes your inspirations leave me to wonder if we share the same memories at all.”

She’d refused his bed for weeks after  reading the original draft, but Talesin refused to change a word. It was his first book. Gutenberg pressed and not some jongleur recitation. He’d never seen a book, but the bible, before that first copy of his own work. His own tale, inked finely and bound in a soft leather with his name on it.   A real book acknowledging him a storyteller.

“It’s not even your real real name,” she reminded him, but he didn’t care. He took the first step towards untwining the tale’s centerpiece – their hearts.

The book placed him in good stead in the French court, garnering the admiration of Francoise’s first Queen, who took them with her when she finally deserted her pale and pious King and his staid northern kingdom. The time spent with the Duchess in her native Aquitaine proved Talesin’s most fertile writing period, but she scoffed at the shallow subject matter.

“When was I ever rendered wet to the knees by bad poetry sung off key?” she said with that snicker-like giggle and a toss of her thick red mane that drove him mad in ways too numerous for his pen to fully elaborate.

Talesin shared her less venomous views of the Duchess’s ideas about courtly love but needed her patronage. France flitted like flimsy drapery around them, but the Isles menaced them still. Time hadn’t quite laid them to rest between the covers of his books.

She had the last laugh when the Duchess ran off to their soggy brutish beginnings with the rakish Plantagenet heir.

“She’ll get precious little adoration or devotion from that one,” she said.

Talesin said nothing. His fondness for the aging Duchess led him to hope the young Duke was her shining knight. Storytellers do more dreaming while awake than in the papered world at the tip of their cold cramped fingers, but when the romance fizzled so famously, she said,

“It must bring Eleanor no end of joy to be the living embodiment of one of her insipidly tragic ballads.”

Talesin declined to admit the truth in her observation or his not altogether small role.

She left the century later. Talesin imprisoned, a writer’s fate from time to time in those days. He envied her freedom. While his was a corporeal body almost without end, hers was a soul that repeated intact from one body to the next.

To make it easy for him to find her, her habit was to select the region – sometimes even the family – of her next incarnation well in advance of her death, while he endured, waiting for her to be reborn and mature again. During her absences he spun their union into adventures and fanciful stories only she would recognize as true.

She came to the prison to say goodbye. Wizened with shoulder length hair as white as the snow owl’s and still as soft as flax, the guards mistook her for his mum. Green eyes filmy with time, not tears, she warned him.

“We’re quits then,” she whispered in his ear, freezing his thoughts with an icy breath he’d come to recognize. ” I want to hear truth from your inky tongue. Read reality on the page. Your words, Talesin. Not Beroul. Or Thomas or Malory’s. I am done with the recycling of lies.”

Talesin watched wordlessly as she hobbled past to the barred door and rattled for the guard. He knew she would not join him again unless he told their story. The truth with all its secrets and pain and plainness. But he had refused her many times over the ages, and she came back to him.

A blank screen seared his eyes like snow on the mountaintop. White and virginal, reminding Talesin of their first night together. Celestial children unknowingly casting a spell that would become a curse. The keyboard, silky under his finger pads as they drew absent circles, waited for his words. More patient than the only other lover he’d ever known. He wondered absently what to call their story. A story that only by an accident of words and timing came to include her at all, he had pointed out once, and he should be able to recount it as he liked.

“Always the magician, eh, Merlin?” she questioned. “Illusions and sleights are the tools of wizards and writers?”

“The feelings are always true,” he’d said in his own defense.

“Weighted like kittens in a sack,” was her reply.

“I’m a storyteller,” he said.

“That’s for certain.”

Talesin caressed the qwerty and began.

8 responses to “NonFiction – A #fridayflash Renovation

  1. Stronger after Jeff’s challenge? I think so. And that’s saying something, as the original was already a stellar piece. I believe it to be great advice. While it is wonderful to hear so many “I loved it”s and “Nice Job”s it is even more of a complement when excellent writers, such as those found within the #fridayflash group, give critiques. Their wanting to uplift my writing is a much bigger complement. And as you say, growth should be a big part of wanting to participate in #fridayflash.

  2. Excellent, Annie. This is so very well done. I have taken advice from Jeff too, on more than one occasion. He’s a gem, as is this piece.

    This is the piece I linked to in the report, so hopefully lots of eyes will see it.
    ~jon

  3. What a gift Annie, that you could take the time to weave Jeff’s suggestion into this revision today! Your resulting partnership in this edit is such a fine example for all of us to see, consider our own goals for learning and growing through #FridayFlash.

    As others have mentioned (in your original) you have a talent for crafting wonderful phrasings, but without overdoing them so that the story still shines through for the telling. I enjoyed reading this.

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