Saturday, March 10, 2018

No Gamable Content

It's been ten days and I have made zero progress. Lots of editing work, but no more plot than what I had ten days ago. Tiens! The women are still in Rouen, and still nothing has happened. I know what happens after Rouen, but I don't know what happens in Rouen.

One thing I do know: They will meet Bishop Odo. Imogene and Odo know each other fairly well already. Each of them is a trusted lieutenant to William.

Odo is young, handsome, charismatic, flamboyant, very self-aware. He is also utterly amoral, rapacious, climbing, and selfish. Even among the most horrible people in the most horrible time, he is singularly horrible.

I know precisely what he looks like but I have not decided how to describe his appearance yet. His place in history is that he was the majority investor in the conquest of England.

Odo wants Imogene. He doesn’t even like her. He just wants the notch on the bedpost. For her part she is flattered because he’s much fairer and more powerful than her own husband back in Brittany. She wants to think she’s too smart to be seduced, but there’s definitely something going on there.

When he sees Nesta, he wants her too and for the same reason. She’s younger and prettier than Imogene. But she can see he’s a phony and a letcher. She’s going to be put in a delicate situation, and either kick his butt or somehow convince him she’s more trouble than she’s worth to him. Ultimately he’s a coward.

So Imogene, against her wits, takes out her jealousy on her squire Nesta. I am unsure where along the remaining parts of the tale they will have time to reconcile that thread. Thankfully there are sequels planned.

Nesta bests Odo, and he’s got it out for her when they’re at Hastings. We can deal with that later, right on the field.


12 June 1066, Castle Rouen

Anon then, all the company had sated up on decent fare, and crossed the Seine by ferryboat. They were in Rouen proper now, a city of some four and twenty thousand Christian men and else six thousand Jews. The stench was unmistakable: Rouen! By eventide, they had reached up the gate of Rouen castle, it a wooden palisade about the motte and bailey. The palisade were two touises high, and marked about the boundary by guardsmen in their kit and carrying them crossbows, but not that many men were it.

The crossed the drawbridge o’er the moat, it filled in by the mighty Seine. Upon the gate approach, the keeper recognized the heraldry of Imogene; that be Breton Hermine pattern crossèd with our Norman shield. The gate was open up ere for the day and nary did he stop them, but to greet them coming back. They let the palfreys out to stablemen, and Ebren set alit and squawked, and ran off to molest the hens. “Kekaleku!” did he Heaven send.

The Keep at Rouen in the 11th century was likely made from stone.

Inside the bailey, Imogene led Nesta to the gate and up the steps into the castle proper. Rouen, built it on a motte perhaps it three and ten touises high, built up into the heavens from the riverbank. The broad but shallow steps were made from logs brought in from la Forêt Verte just to the north and filled in with the blonded pack right from the motte’s steep slope. T’would be near quite impossible for mounted men to climb the steps; a good defense from horseman did it seem. Even there on foot, the dams had difficulty getting up the motte due to fatigue, ere from their venture from Le Mans (and in the case of Imogene, from there and fro again.) And of course on each the sides of this, the wood and blonded gradiation, were the palisade continued from the bailey on the ground; good timber of some fifty years or more and two touises up, and half of one beneath the ground.

The upper bailey had some room between the palisade and castle keep, and any foot-spanned soldiery who got this far would cross through wither-splitting bolts from ballisteers about the crenellations. Withers be the place to measure up a man or beast, and whither withers split by crossbow bolts shall whither measure down again.

The keep itself was mostly square, except for on the obverse side, where it were half a hexagon. Nesta knew to call it so for she had marked The Elements at Bamburgh and at Wolvesey, and some even there in Maine. The keep was riddled on each side with arrow-slits, and men they saw about the front with voulges and the uniform of gentlemen for William be: surcoats with the blazon and the Norman nasal helm.

The gate was less than grand, if truth be told, for Rouen was the oldest of the Norman castles in the land. As Nesta did approach, she noted all the edifice was stone, just like the castles she had seen before, and were it gray, per usual: stone bound up with quicklime, as the ancient Emperors would do.

Imogene to Nesta then admonished, “Careful, child, with your clever tongue, lest see it cut out from your head for insolence. They know you not about these parts and might take up you to be hedge-born and so good for sport. Or worse, for you are fair of cheek, a common doxy brought to make the whiles leap.”

“We’ll make the whiles, marm, but do it Nesta’s way.” She smiled and her smile shewed she had in mind some mischief there to breed.

Imogene then spun and grabbed at Nesta’s hackles. The elder dame brought to the younger countenance to blanche the bones, and knit her eyebrows up, and brought the girl unpleasant close. “This is make my reputation, Nesta, eretofore the Duke and all his useful men. It’s not court with dim and unctuous lads and ladies with a brain for flowers and aromas. Nor is Charles here to clean you up your pretty messes. Do this right. Take my droit. Speak in shortish sentences of a word or less. You mark me girl!”

Nesta set her jaw and turned her neck to roll a shoulder, out from Imogene’s macabre grip. Nary did this bastard girl be downadmonished by a show of bastardy. Never did our Nesta’s eyes depart from Imogene’s. “Yes, my marm, I follow eft your lead. I take your droit and keep it safe from all the useful men. Heaven help you, Imogene, I never seen you spooked like this before!”

Imogene, deflated then. Loosed she up her grip on Nesta’s collar. Stepped she back a scoche. “You could pretend, for me, my dear, to take my manner serious when I dost grab you so?”

“Nesta Mortimer don’t scare so easy, marm. But ere, for you, before the boys? I’ll play the rôle of Ebren for your shew.” She grinned a wicked grin. She fussed at her hindquarters then, scratching itches up where cramping up a bit from getting off the palfreys some ago.

Unlike her to be so clucky, estimated Nesta. Something be afoot indoor. And Imogen pulled open of the mighty oaken door by circlet, iron-wrought, and let then in some light into the great hall from the Southern side. 

The motelets danced in sunbeams as they jiggarded to hide, and could they smell the mixed aroma of a life well fully-lived by Vikings of some generations now and sorely passed. Two hundred years of feasts and fights; two hundred years of victories, and schemings and of vice. Two centuries of gambling and singing ribald songs, and fires licking up the oaken beams when some the kingsmen turned to knaves by alcohol, that fickle fluid flowing through the veins. All of this and more well met their noses here within the heart of heart of hearts of Normandy: the Bastard’s Castle, heart supreme.


  1. A ha I finally had time to read it!

    Nice job! The sentence about the withers, which appears humorous, is out of place, unless it's changed to someone speaking it. The dialog is excellent, very melodic, and the most fun to read. The castle description seemed clunky to me at first but once you get through it it was basically well done!

    1. Edit to add: what do you plan on doing with the manuscript? Shop it around? You have a lot of talent!

    2. Thank you. Thank you for reading it and thank you for your criticisms. You are always welcome to say what you think!

      It's a first pass, frankly. When my good passions for this passage pass to past, I'll take another pass to push the prose preeminently, and then hold it fast for binding in the chapter for to shew.

      As far as withers, sometimes I like to play on one word, one word and it's various meanings, one word and it's synonyms, or like in this case, a word and it's homophones. I don't know if that's clever or precious. Probably the latter.

    3. Shop it around? No, it's just for fun. I think I'll have a few copies made at Lulu to give to friends and relatives and mayyyybe but it up on Amazon. But mostly it's just a fun and interesting challenge to myself.

    4. Thank you! You do an excellent job and it's obvious you put a lot of time into it, so you deserve as much time as I can give for thoughtful (for what that's worth) criticism. Looking forward to the next installment!

    5. You can find all the mostly-finished parts here: