Anselm and Micah Meet

I have had this scene written for a while, and I open it occasionally and tweak on it. But I’m starting to notice that I’m really bad about tweaking something to death (I’m still tweaking on my first book, and I considered it finished a year ago!), so I’ve finally decided to bite the bullet and publicly post it.

This is the story of how Anselm and Micah meet one another in 1512. This is also the first year that Joshua is the Erujtah, and you’ll see he clearly sets the tone for how he rules. I’ve tried to make all the information as historically-accurate as possible, but Jerusalem was a run-down, backwater little city in the 16th century, so it’s hard to find information on what people were wearing, how they lived, etc. It took a lot of digging just to find out what language people spoke (Arabic was the most common first langauge; Farsi (Persian) was the language of the government and courts), and even that’s a bit of a guess, because Jerusalem changed hands so frequently, what was common practice in one part of the controlling empire wasn’t necessarily the way things were done in Jerusalem. But, any historical inaccuracies aside, here it is:

            Micah woke up bored. He knew it wasn’t right, but sometimes he disliked peace. Fighting for or against whoever was trying to take Jerusalem in any particular year was all that really made him feel alive. Peaceful years passed without notice. But the Convening would open after the Rosh Hashanah service that evening, and while the meeting itself was often boring, it was a different kind of boring, which almost made it interesting. Besides, there would be people in town he hadn’t seen since the last Convening—and maybe even some new people; socializing after meeting was always the best part.
            He decided to go out to the market to kill some time.
            The sun was still shrouded in the early morning haze, but it promised to blaze fiercely when it rose fully. It was still hot during the days, as if summer didn’t want to let go.
            He meandered slowly through the narrow rows of vendors, while people bustled around him. That was one thing about living forever: you never needed to be in a hurry. Today, tomorrow, a hundred years from now—what did it matter?
            He stopped to admire a large stand of fruit. He had always liked fruit, especially melons; they were so colorful and juicy—the opposite of most of the surrounding land. Micah bent down to inhale the scent. It was strong; they were perfectly ripe. Even though he had no hunger for one, a ripe melon was still a pleasant scent.
            “You want to buy one?” the merchant asked.
            Micah smiled and stood up. “You don’t have anything I want to buy.”
            The man’s face instantly darkened. “What do you know, you Jew?”
            Micah waved at him dismissively. The man returned the gesture more insultingly. Micah wandered off, chuckling inwardly. Arguing with merchants was part of the enjoyment of the market, and if you couldn’t argue over the price, you had to find something else to argue about.
            Micah was surprised to find someone selling books, and he was instantly drawn to the stall.
            “Hey, Jew, I have lots of books. Lots of books for you.”
            “I see that,” Micah said absentmindedly, as he looked over the piles.
            “I have many languages. What do you read?”
            “Arabic, Hebrew, and Aramaic. My Persian is only so-so. And I can read a little Greek.”
            “You read Frankish? Look at this,” he said, shoving a red leather book under Micah’s nose. “New.”
            Micah took the book from him and opened it. He recognized the Latin characters, but he couldn’t tell if the book was written in Latin or French or something else. Everything that wasn’t a Hebrew- or Arabic-style script got lumped into the category of “Frankish,” regardless of what language it actually was. Micah spoke passable French, so he tried sounding out the letters to see if any of the words sounded familiar.
            “Excusez-moi,” someone said behind him, tapping him gently on the shoulder.
            Micah turned around and was instantly surprised; the man behind him was Canichmeh. He didn’t know why he hadn’t noticed his scent sooner, especially as it was no one he recognized.
            He quickly glanced the man over. He was tall, and dressed in a foreign style, not unlike the Frankish pilgrims that came to the city in a steady trickle. He wore his yellow leggings quite tight, and his blue woolen shirt was fairly fitted—especially at the waist—then flared into a skirt that barely reached his upper thighs. It all looked rather uncomfortable and hot to Micah. It was also rather dirty and travel-worn, as if the man had just arrived in the city.
            Micah looked up and was startled by the man’s eyes, instantly thinking he must be blind. The next moment he banished the thought; no Canichmeh was blind. The man’s eyes had to naturally be a very light gray. His hair was black—darker than even Micah’s—and his skin was quite pale, even for a Canichmeh. Compared to everyone else around him, he almost looked translucent. He also looked very tired. 
            “You are… Canichmeh?” the man asked hesitantly in French.
            “Yes,” Micah replied, thinking it ought to be obvious by his scent. But maybe the man was being polite.
            “Is… is today Rosh Hashanah?”
            “It is tonight.”
            The man looked immensely relieved and muttered something to himself that Micah didn’t understand. Then he smiled a little. “I was différé in Venezia because of bad weather, and I lost trace of my days. I was afraid I was too late. I’ve been riding hard to get here on time.”
            Micah didn’t understand everything he said, but he didn’t have to know much; traveling was always a risky, uncertain business, and sailing the Mediterranean was even worse. If the man was only delayed due to bad weather, that was something to be thankful for; it wasn’t uncommon for entire shiploads of people to go down en route.
            “You are here on time,” Micah reassured him. “Our meeting is tonight.”
            “Where’s a good place to stay? Something honest and clean.”
            “Oh, no, you will stay with us.” Micah pointed back the way he had come. “Go to the end of this street. There is… water there,” he said, trying to indicate a cistern with his hands. The man nodded his understanding. “Turn left and go… there is a second street; go to that. The building is on the right. That is where the meeting is. The door is red.”
            The man nodded, then smiled a little. “Thank you.”
            “You’re welcome.” The man started to leave, but Micah caught his sleeve. “Hey, can you read this?” he asked, holding up the book.
            The man didn’t even look at what was printed in the book; he just shook his head sadly. “No.”
            “Ah, well,” Micah said, turning back to the book stand. “What’s this supposed to be about, anyways?” he asked the merchant.
            “I think it’s about Christianity. Some new heresy. I got a good deal from my Venetian seller; they were trying to get rid of them before the Church burned them.”
            Micah shook his head. He couldn’t imagine anyone burning books; even though there were many more available now, thanks to the new printing press, they were still too precious to waste.
            He glanced at the book again. “Heresy is always interesting… but I don’t think I know enough about Christianity to know what is and isn’t a heresy.”
            The man shrugged. “What’s to know? It’s not the true faith.”
            Micah thought that rather applied to more than just Christianity, but he didn’t dare say so; he rather liked having his head attached to his body.
            He put the book down. “What else do you have?”
            “I have some books in Greek. This is a new printing of Homer,” he said, offering a book in brown leather. “Are you familiar with the story of Troy?”

            The meeting room was nearly full when Micah and Isaac walked in. The tables were arranged in a horseshoe-shape, with the Council members sitting along one side of the tables at the head of the room. Below the horseshoe arrangement were some additional tables where the Yaechahre sat.
            The local Yaechahre always came to the Convening, and many people from the surrounding areas also came, but not many Yaechahre from outside the Holy Land came. Depending on their starting point, it could take up to six months to reach the Holy Land, and even with a Canichmeh escort, travel was still dangerous. But, nonetheless, some Yaechahre braved the hazards—namely to arrange marriages.
            Yaechahre groups were usually small, and it was a delicate matter to get outsiders married in—and sometimes, depending on the political or religious climate, impossible. Due to a lack of new blood, it only took a couple of generations before everyone in any given group was too interrelated to marry. Groups in neighboring cities cross-married, but that typically only lasted a few generations, then both groups were too interrelated to marry. That’s when someone would end up going to the Convening to find mates for the young people in their group.
            Micah glanced around, and noticed his friend, Azir, sitting at the first table, next to the high table. Micah made a beeline towards him.
            “You’re late,” Azir said with a smile. He gestured for Micah and Isaac to sit on the bench next to him.
            “They haven’t started yet, have they?” Micah asked.
            “Then we’re not late.”
            Azir laughed. Isaac leaned around Micah to look at him. “That we’re here a moment early is thanks to me, of course.”
            “Of course,” Azir agreed with a knowing smile.
            Joshua rose and greeted everyone, welcoming them to the Convening. Joshua had been the local Eruj for several centuries, but this was his first year as Erujtah. The previous Erujtah had announced his resignation at the previous year’s Convening and Joshua had been elected shortly thereafter. Micah liked Joshua quite well, and thought he would be a good Erujtah, but everyone else seemed to be reserving judgment. How he handled the Convening would be very telling.
            Joshua asked anyone who had not been to a Convening before to come forward and introduce himself. Micah noticed the light-eyed man he had encountered earlier tentatively came forward. He looked rested, and he had cleaned up and changed clothes, but it was clear from the unpatterned fabric and lack of embellishment he was not a rich man.
            Micah and the others in Jerusalem tended to wear the best clothing they were allowed, by law, to buy and wear. In fact, the long tunic Micah was wearing was his very best. It was a very dark blue and heavily embroidered in geometric patterns of gold, silver and red. They had all been accused, at one point or another, of dressing above their station—Micah was especially bad about wearing white, which was usually forbidden to Jews—but they were generally only harassed by new rulers; the ones who had been in the city for a while heard rumors of the ones who never aged, and they generally left them alone.
Even though the stranger wasn’t human, Micah could tell he was nervous and a little unsure of himself. He suddenly felt a pang of guilt that he hadn’t been more hospitable before; he should have escorted the man there himself instead of just giving him directions. It wasn’t like he was busy with some pressing matter. 
            “What is your name?” Joshua asked politely in Cainite, when the stranger remained silent.
            “Anselm,” he replied. He didn’t offer anything else.
            “And where are you from?” Joshua pressed.
            Anselm looked confused. “I….” He hesitated.
            “Where are you from?” Joshua repeated a little more slowly, carefully enunciating his words.
            The man shook his head.
            Joshua looked a little taken aback by Anselm’s refusal to answer the question, but apparently decided to let it go. “Who is your sire?” he asked, changing questions.
            “John. Father, he was. Dead.”
            The entire room was silent, staring. “What?” Nasim—a member of the Low Council—asked, looking at Anselm in confusion.
            “John, my sire and father he was. He was dead. Is dead,” Anselm corrected himself.
            “How old are you?” Nasim pressed, looking shocked.
            “How many years have you been one of us?”
            “Oh….” He looked flustered. “I… not know. Deux cent soixante,” he said, giving up and speaking in French.
            “You’re two hundred and sixty years old, and can’t speak Cainite?” Nasim asked with shocked amazement. He glanced at the others on the Council. “Can we even recognize him as an adult if he can’t speak?”
            “I speak,” Anselm said, looking embarrassed.
            “Our Yaechahre speak better,” Nasim replied derisively.
            Tears of shame and anger welled up in Anselm’s eyes; his hands clenched in fists. “Where I learn?” he accused in Cainite. “I know no one but my father. He is dead many years. I have no one. Where I learn?”
            “Did you learn anything at all,” Nasim needled, “or do you drink animal blood like a savage? Êtes-vous un sauvage?” he asked contemptuously.
            “Nasim,” Joshua snapped, glaring at him.
            Anselm stood a little taller, gave Nasim a look of utmost loathing, then turned on his heel and strode towards the door.
            Micah extracted himself from his bench, hurrying to catch up with Anselm; he and Joshua converged on him at the same time, just before he went out the door.
            “Don’t leave,” Joshua pleaded in French.
            “My father always wanted to come here,” Anselm replied; Micah could see him trying to blink away tears, “but he died before we could raise the money. When I had the money, I came for him. But I’m glad he’s not here; I’m glad he died before he could come here and be insulted. I see now why we lived alone; our people are horrible.”
            He turned to leave, but Micah and Joshua both grabbed for him. “Wait,” Micah said. “Nasim is….” He glanced at Joshua. “What’s a good word for him in Frankish?” he asked.
            “I’d say Nasim’s the lame offspring of a diseased donkey,” Joshua replied in French.
            Anselm blinked, then a smile tried to creep on his face.
            “I’m sorry you’ve been insulted,” Joshua added. “Nasim’s behavior is disgraceful; we treat guests—and our people—better than this.”
            “We are not like him,” Micah interjected.   
            “Come,” Joshua said. “There’s much more to our meeting than this, and many people better than Nasim here. Don’t judge us all on his actions. Come,” he said, gently tugging on Anselm’s sleeve.
            Anselm hesitated, looking unsure. Micah knew if he walked out, he would never come back. Franks were easily insulted—or, rather, once insulted, their hearts were hardened and that was that. They didn’t engage in angry name-calling and back and forth arguments until a compromise was hammered out; they just washed their hands of the matter. Or attacked. Warfare always seemed an appropriate course of action to them.
            “Micah,” Joshua said in a low, pleading voice.
            Micah took Anselm by the arm. “Come, sit with me. I can tell you everything. But do not laugh at my French; I do not speak well.”
            “You speak very well,” Anselm said sincerely. It made Micah feel even more ashamed of Nasim’s words.
            Finally Anselm let Micah drag him to his table. Azir and Isaac scooted over to make room for him.
            Joshua returned to the head table and turned to address the assembly. “We will be conducting our business….”
            “We haven’t finished with him,” Nasim interrupted, pointing to Anselm.
            “Why, is there some insult you’ve failed to deliver, Nasim?” Joshua said, looking at him witheringly.
            “He needs to recite his ancestry.”
            “For the love of God, Nasim! We haven’t required anyone do that in centuries.”
            “But it’s still law that they do.”
            “Why are you so bent on insulting and embarrassing this man?”
            “I’m not embarrassing him; he’s an embarrassment in and of himself.”
            Joshua frowned severely. “There’s only one embarrassment here, and it’s not Anselm.”
            Nasim’s eyes narrowed. “What are you implying?”
            “I think you know exactly what I’m implying.”
            “I’ll have you know I’ve been on this Council two hundred and thirty-one years. You haven’t been here a year.”
            Joshua drew himself up to his full height. “And I’ll have you know that I’m the Erujtah. I don’t care how long you’ve been here; I am master of this Council. Me, not you.”
            Nasim stood up angrily, and started to walk away.
            “Where are you going?” Joshua demanded.
            Nasim wheeled around. “I will not be insulted by an upstart like you, Y’hoshua Cohen.”
            “I’m an upstart?” Joshua replied, clearly affronted. “Your ancestors were tending goats in the middle of nowhere while my family was here, tending the altar of God. I fought the Romans for this city before your great-great-grandparents were even born, and I have the scars to prove it. I’ve held the group here together through war and persecution and plague for four hundred years. I’ve killed for our people and our Yaechahre, and I’ve nearly died for them as well. But I’m beneath you? I’d like to hear your list of credentials, if they’re so much more impressive than mine.”
            Nasim turned and stomped towards the door. He jerked it open, but paused when Joshua’s words rang out through the silent room. “This Council is still in session. If you walk out, I will bring a vote of no confidence against you.”
            Nasim glanced over his shoulder, glaring hatefully at Joshua, then he walked out, slamming the door shut behind him.
            The room was utterly still; every breath was held for a long moment. “How juvenile,” Naomi said, finally breaking the silence.
            Joshua glanced at her. “Me or him, my dear?” he asked, a hint of a smile on his lips.
            She chuckled. “Him. And maybe you, just a little.”
            Joshua returned to his seat. “There will only be one master of this Council, and until a two-thirds’ majority votes to remove me, that master is me.” He glanced at the others around him. “Does anyone want to raise a vote of no confidence against me?”
            There was only silence. “Very well,” Joshua pressed on, “then I would like to take this opportunity to raise a vote of no-confidence in Nasim.”
            There was a moment of stunned silence. “Are… are you serious?” one of the members of the Low Council asked.
            “I am. I do not issue idle threats. Nasim has obligations to this Council, and one of those obligations is to be present when we are convened—especially at the yearly Convening.
            “Furthermore, his actions before this assembly have been unconscionable. He publically and purposefully belittled Anselm—which none of us should do to one another, but we of the Council must hold ourselves to an even higher standard. We are the governing body of our people, and we represent everyone. Anselm himself said we were horrible people—and why shouldn’t he think that? Nasim degraded us all in his eyes. If we don’t have the respect of our people, we have nothing.”
            He picked up a round stone—a little larger than his hand—and banged on the table with it. “There is a vote before this Council. Each may cast his or her vote, and the reason behind it, if desired.”
            Every member voted in accordance with his or her rank—beginning with the members of the Low Council. Although some people voted to keep Nasim, none of them offered any words in his defense. Joshua was the last to vote. “I vote ‘no-confidence.’ That brings the vote to eight in favor of removing Nasim, six for him remaining, and one abstention. The motion carries,” he said,  pounding the table with his stone again. “The clan of Accad will replace Nasim according to law. Are there any here, now, who are of that clan?”
            Two men stood up. Joshua looked at them. “One of you needs to take Nasim’s place until someone can be elected to replace him.”
            One man bowed politely. “I will defer to my father,” he said, gesturing to the other man.
            Joshua gestured to him. “Come up and join the Council.” The man looked thunderstruck by the request, but dutifully joined the others at the high table, taking Nasim’s place.
            “Now that unpleasantness is over,” Joshua said, “maybe I can continue where I left off.” He stood up once again, and addressed the crowd. “We will be conducting our business….”
            Micah could hardly explain everything to Anselm in a hushed whisper without being overcome by a fit of giggles. Joshua was going to make a very good Erujtah.

November 24, 2010 – A Singular People with a Singular God

Yes, I still exist.  Work has been very hectic for the past few weeks, and when I get home, I don’t want to do much other than read or play The Sims, eat my supper, then go to bed.

However, I have been managing to squeeze in some research into Judaism.  I had previously been under the impression that the Midianites and Moabites had been closely-related to the Jewish people and were also monotheists.  While it is true that both groups believe they share a common ancestor, and are therefore more closely-related than they are with other peoples (like the Egyptians or Babylonians), apparently neither group was monotheistic; only the Israelites were monotheists.

This doesn’t change the history of my vampires in any way, but it does change how I describe them slightly.

History of the Vampires, Part I

Today is the first day of NaNo, and I’m hoping to work on a new writing project (which will, hopefully, end up as blog posts for your entertainment after November), plus I’m still deep in research on Jewish history, so my blog posts are probably going to be few and far between the next few weeks. 

But, I do have something interesting (or completely and totally boring, depending on your interest in history) to share.  I did some work on my third book this weekend, in which Joshua–acting as a history professor at the vampires’ university–gives some lessons on vampire history and religion.  This may or may not make it into the final book (depending on how boring everyone else in the world thinks it is), or may be heavily edited, but if you’re scratching your head on what the Canichmeh Scriptures mean, Joshua explains them here. 

This is the first of two explanations (please bear in mind this is a rough draft and subject to change in part or in whole). 

            “If you don’t already know, I’m Joshua—or I’ll also answer to Y’hoshua.  The only thing I won’t answer to is Josh; the last man who called me that is no longer among the living, so don’t get lazy with those last few letters.”
            Kalyn was almost positive Joshua was teasing, even if his face was impassive; everyone else in the room, though, looked thoroughly terrified.
            “I will be teaching this class this semester.  I teach just about all of the history classes here because I’ve lived pretty much all of it.  I am one thousand, nine hundred and sixty-two years old, give or take a couple of years.  I’ve seen the Temple fall, the Roman Empire fall, the Crusaders fall, the British Empire fall and, finally, I saw the State of Israel rise.  I’ll never claim I’m unbiased, but at least I was an eyewitness.  Other historians aren’t eyewitnesses and they’re biased too.  One thing you must always know about history is that what you hear or read about has been filtered through someone’s lens, and it will be filtered through yours as well.  That’s because we all have an inherent need to make things relate to ourselves—to put things in terms we can understand.  And as soon as we do that, we color the truth.  It’s a Catch-22: we can’t understand the truth unless we relate to it, and yet by relating to it, we automatically alter it.  It’s like the old saying, ask two Jews a question and you’ll get three answers—everyone can look at the same truth, but everyone will perceive it slightly differently.”
            Kalyn noticed that everyone else was diligently writing down Joshua’s every word.  She wondered if they were doing it because they thought he expected it, or if they were really that interested.  Not that she didn’t find what he said interesting, but even if she didn’t have perfect recollection, she wasn’t sure if she would have been writing that studiously; after all, there wasn’t going to be a test.
               He began doling out handouts.  “There aren’t any books for this class, but we are going to be starting with this,” he said.  “This will probably be the only written thing I give you all semester.  This is known as the Canichmeh Scriptures, although some irreverent persons refer to it as the ‘Vampire Bible.’  As you can see, it consists of three typed pages, so it’s hardly what one would really consider a bible.  When we talk about something being a bible, we tend to mean something which gives us complete and total instruction.  If you think you can get complete and total instruction in these three pages, you’re getting a lot more out of this than I am.”
           Joshua sat down on the edge of his desk.  “You may notice that the word ‘Yaechahre’ is never mentioned in the Scriptures, and yet you all know there are laws and customs both regarding Yaechahre.  That’s because those laws were written later—after these five… books, for lack of a better term.  Actually, they’re more like chapters, really. 
           “One of the reasons why there is a separation between the Scriptures and the written law, as it exists now, is that the Scriptures are believed to have been written down in the time of the children of Lamech; everything else was written after that.”  He looked over the class.  “Is everyone familiar with the children of Lamech?”  Several people shook their heads a little.  Even Kalyn wasn’t sure if she knew everything she was supposed to know about them.
            Joshua stood up and went to the whiteboard.  He took a blue dry-erase marker in his left hand and began writing backwards.  He wrote “n,” “i,” “a,” “C,” in his meticulous handwriting from right to left so, when he was done, it read “Cain.”  He drew a line down from it and wrote “h,” “c,” “o,” “n,” “E,” below it in the same backwards manner, so it came out as “Enoch.”
           Kalyn watched, fascinated, as more names appeared.  She knew many left-handed people came up with tricks to write without smudging the ink with their hand, but she didn’t know anyone who could write words starting with the last letter and working back to the first.  It made her brain hurt to think about trying to do it. 
            “Irad,” “Mehuyhael,” “Methusael,” and “Lamech,” were each carefully written, backwards, one below the other, then he drew a line on either side of “Lamech” and wrote “Zillah” on one side and “Adah” on the other.  Under Adah and Lamech’s line were two lines leading to “Yhabal” and “Yhubal,” and under Lamech and Zillah’s line was “Tubal-cain” and “Naamah.”
            Joshua gestured at the names with his marker.  “Where you see a ‘y’ you can substitute a ‘j’ in English.  You’ll see all of these same names in the Book of Genesis, but if you’re reading it in English, all these ‘y’s’ are ‘j’s.’”  He retook his seat on the desk. 
            “Scripture begins with the story of Cain because he’s the progenitor of the Canichmeh people.  Humans are descended from Seth—Adam and Eve’s third son.  You’ll sometimes see “children of Seth” mentioned in our documents.  Depending on the context it can mean any human, but modernly it’s used to denote humans who are not Yaechahre—those who are outside the Orunameh.
            “I’m sure all of you are familiar with the story of Cain and Abel.  Our Scripture says pretty much the same thing as Genesis, although we’re a little more specific about the offering part.  Depending on your translation of the Bible, you might read that Abel brought the ‘firstlings of his flock’ but we specifically say that he brought the best of his flock.  And Cain only brought some of his fruits.  We make it quite clear that Cain gave God a half-assed offering, while Abel sacrificed the best of what he had for the Lord.  So that’s why God was pleased with Abel and displeased with Cain. 
           “Then,” he continued, “Cain got jealous and killed Abel.  And we have a wonderful line, which is not in Genesis: ‘And Cain’s hands were stained red with the blood of his brother.’  It’s a very powerful image—having your hands stained red with blood.  And then God adds an extra little bit for us, saying, ‘You have spilled the blood of your brother, which is your blood also.’  This is a very important line.”
           Kalyn noticed that everyone was bent over their notebooks hurriedly scratching notes and underlining that part on their handouts.
            “Your brother’s blood is yours also,” Joshua said.  “To spill the blood of someone related to you is like killing yourself.  As John Donne would say a few thousand years later, ‘No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.  If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were.  Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.’ 
            “That is really the principal upon which we operate.  When one of us dies—Yaechahre or Canichmeh—we all say the Lament: ‘Our souls bleed for you, oh our kinsman.  Our hearts weep bitter tears for your death.  The world is cold agony, and we are alone, until we join with you and find peace.’  That’s what the Lament is all about.  We are one people, and when one of us dies, we all lose a part of ourselves.  It’s one thing that separates us from the children of Seth, who do not recognize any common brotherhood amongst themselves. 
            “Moving along to verse nine—which is a relatively new thing, by the way; we stole the idea of having separate chapters and verses from Christians.  Jews ripped off the idea too; the Jewish Bible is organized this way now too just because it makes it easy to reference a particular section.  Kind of like quoting a statute of law. 
            “But anyways, verse nine and ten are pretty different than what you read in Genesis.  It says, ‘And the Lord cursed Cain to be a vagabond.  Where he went, he was not welcome.  Where he planted a seed, it failed to grow.  As he cut down his brother, so was he cut off from mankind.  And Cain cried out unto the Lord for mercy saying, ‘My punishment is more than I can bear.  For what man can survive without his kindred?  Surely evil men will come upon me, alone, and slay me.’”
            Kalyn noticed that Joshua repeated the words perfectly, even though he wasn’t looking at the handout. 
            “Genesis says that God cursed Cain to be a vagabond, but it’s a bit hazy on what that means, exactly.  Here we see exactly what it means: no one wanted Cain around.  He can’t get anything to grow—which is a sad state of affairs for a man who used to be a farmer—and no one will take him in.  And then there is another very important line for us: ‘For what man can survive without his kindred?’  That’s why we put a lot of emphasis on our family. 
            “I don’t know how many of you are aware of it, but among us—the Canichmeh—we are naturally attracted to the scent of our own kind.  But among those of us who are related by blood—a sire and child, for instance, but also siblings and slightly more distant relations—that attraction is even stronger.  We want to be physically very close to our relatives.  And this is to say nothing of the fact that people who are in direct descent can communicate with one another mentally.  A sire and his child will have constant mental contact with one another—once the child gets old enough to hear everything coming from his sire—but even a child and his grandsire can communicate if they make an effort.  It’s not an always-on thing for them, but they can speak to one another if they want to.”
           “We have a physical attraction to our species—especially our kin—and we have a mental connection with our direct ancestors and descendants—as well as with anyone else we share blood with, such as friends, people we adopt as family, and lovers.  So you can imagine how horrible life must have been for Cain to be alone.  For many years now, capital punishment among us has exclusively been banishment.  There is nothing worse for us than to be permanently cut off from our people.  That’s why Cain said his punishment was more than he could bear: he was alone and defenseless.  Which is another important point, although it’s implied, rather than stated: family keeps each other safe.  When you don’t have family, you don’t have anyone to protect you.  This was especially true in a time and place where the concept of a police force and even an army didn’t exist.  Back before the government took care of your safety, you and your family and your neighbors took care of one another.  That’s why, after the Yaechahre were freed, so many of them decided to stay with us and continue to serve us: we promised to protect them against everything that might harm them.  That, and we gave them a nice signing bonus.
            “Sir?” a boy asked, raising his hand.
            “Yes, Peter?”
            Peter swallowed, looking pale.  “Um… what was the bonus?”
            “When we freed the Yaechahre, we said that anyone who would stay with us would be given housing and we’d set them up in business—whether that was a trade or giving them animals to raise—and we gave them everything they were currently using for themselves—their clothing, dishes… all that sort of thing.  People who took their freedom left with nothing but the clothes on their backs.  Which is why most people chose to stay.  But I’ll be covering that in more detail later. That’s still a couple thousand years in the future from where we are now.
            “So,” he said, getting back on topic, “in answer to Cain’s plea, God set a mark on Cain so no one would slay him.  Our Scripture, unfortunately, is just as silent as Genesis on what this mark was.  No one knows for sure, but tradition holds that God gave Cain pointed teeth.”  Joshua bared his briefly.  “Some people even call this the ‘mark of the beast,’ although that’s a reference to Revelations, which is another story entirely.  There’s nothing in Genesis or our Scriptures which say Cain was marked as a beast in any way.  A small minority of people say that God gave him the ability to control people mentally, and that’s why no one would slay him; he could prevent them from doing it.
            “But, whatever mark God gave him, no one killed him and some woman, somewhere, took him in, because he had a son, Enoch.”  He gestured to the board.  “There’s a succession of men between Cain and Lamech which we know absolutely nothing about, except that Enoch built a city.  We don’t know anything about Lamech either, except that he had these four children, one of which, Naamah, was a daughter.  Which, by the way, is the first daughter listed by name in the Bible.
            “Genesis has an interesting little monologue by Lamech, though, in which he says that he has slain two men for wounding him, because ‘if Cain is avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy-sevenfold.’  That is entirely absent from our Scriptures, and many have said that’s because we don’t want to teach retaliation.  When are you’re strong as we are, it’s easy to strike someone and kill them without any real effort—especially when we’re angry; a quick slap across the face can break someone’s neck.  Although some people have said that’s exactly how Lamech ended up killing two men who had struck him—he returned the gesture, but they ended up dying.  He is avenged seventy-sevenfold not because he thinks it’s deserved, but because that’s how much stronger he was than they.  In any case, that bit is not in our Scriptures, and there’s probably a very good reason for that.
            “Lamech’s children are where we get into the really interesting stuff because that’s clearly where we, as a species, originate.  And while we call ourselves ‘Canichmeh’—descendants of Cain—we are really the descendants of the four children of Lamech.  But that’s a lot harder to say repeatedly, so we’ll just continue to stick with ‘Canichmeh.’
            “Something I will add in here: we were working in myth, and now we’re about to step into semi-myth before very going into historic fact.  What do I mean by that?  Well, I doubt any of us really believe that all of mankind began with just Adam and Eve.  Even the Jewish tradition doesn’t really teach that; Adam and Eve were merely the first civilized humans on earth.  The history of mankind, therefore, doesn’t begin with mankind, but rather it begins when mankind invents writing and starts recording all of these things.  Before that, the concept of history didn’t even exist.  People didn’t have any problem in the world embellishing the stories of their ancestors’ times or making up a past all together.  The idea of there being a historical truth—a past that is unchangeable—that’s pretty modern.  Herodotus and, later, Josephus, really got the idea rolling with that, but people didn’t really get serious about telling history accurately until about the 18th century.  And even that wouldn’t be possible without the written word, because that’s when the stories stop changing and become something concrete.  ‘Set in stone,’ as the saying goes—although the first writings were probably in clay or wax.  When stories and law and everything else is oral, it’s subject to change.  It’s like playing that game telephone, where one person says something to the next person, and they transfer it to the next and on down the line until the person at the end has a message which is completely different than the person who started it. 
            “Now, generally, people are much more careful when they’re dealing with something like the law or sacred text, and they take the time to learn things properly, but even when someone knows every piece of law and history and religious scripture perfectly, they often can’t help but embellish it or attempt to explain it.  Then we get into what I was talking about at the beginning of class: everyone sees the truth through a different lens, because everyone alters it so they can relate to it and understand it.  Pretty soon, those explanations are getting passed down, and a few generations later no one can tell the added on part from the original part. 
            “Writing eliminates about ninety-percent of that problem.  You can get errors creeping in through copying, and especially in translating, but the Scriptures were written in Cainite, and we have reason to believe that the copy we have in the Archives is the original copy.  So anytime we translate that Scripture into another language, we translate directly from the original Cainite, so it’s as error-free as possible.  It’s not like the modern Christian Bible, for instance, which is frequently an edited compilation of text from the King James Version, the Vulgate and often a few other sources.  Some Christian Bibles, in fact, get their Old Testament from the Greek Septuagint, rather than from older, Hebrew versions of the Bible.  We don’t have that problem, though, because we’ve been speaking the same language for several thousand years with little change.
            “But, of course, that language didn’t spring forth from someone’s head fully-formed, like Athena from Zeus; it had to evolve like everything else.  That the Scriptures appear to have been first written down in Cainite indicates that we were an established group of people before our own creation story begins.  Do I think that the children of Lamech were the first Canichmeh—the first people to drink blood and live forever?  No.  That’s what the Scripture says, but that’s what I think is myth.  I think everything prior to the story of Lamech’s children is a myth, and parts of their story is myth and part is fact—which is why I called it semi-myth.
            “I think Lamech and before is all myth we ripped off from the Hebrew Scriptures in order to explain how we are related to the Jewish people, because later on we became very close to them.  That doesn’t mean that what’s been said isn’t important.  What I said about why we don’t kill our own kind, and why we can’t live without our kindred—that’s all very important and our culture undoubtedly both influenced those parts being put in, and those parts have also influenced the way our culture has evolved.   But did we spring up from humans in one generation, thanks to the secret knowledge of Lilith?  No, I don’t think so.  I think we evolved, just as humans evolved. 
            “That being said, I think there were probably four people—possibly even brothers and sisters—who did come together to organize our people into the collective that we are today.  Just as Adam and Eve aren’t literally the first humans to walk on earth, but rather the first civilized humans, so too were the children of Lamech not the first vampires to walk on earth, but rather the first leaders of a unified people.
           “And, to come back around to the point I started to make about twenty minutes ago, we have never added subsequent laws or history to the Scriptures because we believe that the Scriptures were actually written down while one or more of the four founders was alive, so it has a special distinction—just as the Torah, which is the first five books of the Bible, that Moses personally wrote, has a special honor.
            “Now, to get back to the story of how we came to be—which we all agree is fiction, but it’s good fiction.  Naamah went into the desert, for whatever reason, and found Lilith.  Lilith was a sorceress—or a witch, depending on your definition of the word—and she did something on the ground to divine the future.  Probably read something’s entrails—that was common back then,” Joshua said with a small smile.  “She tells Naamah that she will never die and Naamah says that’s impossible, because everything has to die.  Then Lilith tells her to drink human blood, which is the Tree of Life, and she will never grow old and die.
            “It’s pretty obvious what’s going to go on from there, but I want to point out something here that’s very subtle: Lilith tells Naamah that she will never die.  If she never died, where is she?  She’d be older than me by two or three thousand years, so I’d definitely have to yield my place as history professor to her,” he said with a smile.
            “There are two main arguments on this point.  One is that we shouldn’t take that literally.  After all, when people talk about us, they say we never die.  That’s not true; we do die, but we don’t die of natural causes; none of us gets old and dies, like a human.  If you look at it that way, then it makes sense that Naamah would have, at sometime, and for some reason, died.
            “The other argument, though, is that Naamah is still alive, but in hiding.  There is an oral tradition—God only knows how old it is, but it definitely predates me—that after her three brothers died, Naamah went back to the desert to dwell with Lilith, and she will reappear if the day ever comes when our people are fractured, and she will lead us and reunite us and make us of one blood again.  This is a common theme across cultures—that some founding father—or, in this case, mother—will come back to earth and reestablish his or her golden age.  The Messiah will come and reestablish the age of Moses and the Prophets in Israel; King Arthur will come back to rule Britain in a golden age of peace and brotherhood and chivalry; and Naamah will come one day and save us from falling apart.  Of course, many have argued that the reason why we haven’t seen Naamah in a few thousand years is that she’s not needed; so long as we don’t allow ourselves to fall apart or turn on one another, there’s nothing for her to do, so she’s just going to stay on vacation down in the Arabian Peninsula somewhere.
            “But, back to the story—Naamah takes what she’s learned back to her brothers and she and Tubal-Cain begin drinking people’s blood immediately, but Yubal and Yubul are resistant at first.  It’s interesting that Tubal-Cain follows her so quickly.  That may be because he’s her full brother; Yubal and Yubul are only her half-brothers.  Oral tradition says that these are not just siblings, but two sets of twins, so Tubal-Cain is actually Naamah’s twin brother. 
            “Tubal-Cain drinks blood because Naamah tells him he should—in other words, he trusts her.  Either that, or he takes orders from her, depending on how you want to look at it.  The other brothers, though, only take up drinking blood once Naamah and Tubal-Cain have shown them there’s a benefit to it—that there’s something in it for them.  And this is why, on the High Council, the tribe of Naamah is always treated as first among the tribes and Tubal-Cain is second. 
            “That was something that developed much later, but the representative of Naamah eventually was assigned the task of keep the Archives.  This is thought to be the most important task anyone does, since we don’t exist as a people without our history.  Naamah created us, so Naamah’s direct descendants keep our history.  After that, the person who represents the tribe of Tubal-Cain takes care of our people and our relationships.  Marcus—who is the current representative—assigns Yaechahre, helps people move around, and takes care of any interrelationship problems.  This is the second big, important task, so it goes to Tubal-Cain’s descendants because he worked in support of his sister.  Yabal is associated with accounting and Yubul with diplomacy—although no one knows why they got their specific assignments; maybe one of them was better at math than the other.  But dealing with money and with people outside of us are both jobs which face outwards… if that makes any sense.  Working with our records and with our people face inward—they deal directly with us.  Accounting and diplomacy, though, deal with us very little; rather they deal with other things and other people; they’re not focused on us.  Which is, perhaps, appropriate for the brothers who were not too quick to follow their sister.
            “So next we see is that God punishes the children of Lamech for drinking blood and trying to be immortal—he makes them sterile.  And the children of Lamech wail and cry and say that their curse is too much to bear.  But unlike when God came back and helped Cain out a little, God is silent when the four founders cry out; there’s no help for them.  Perhaps this is when God really ceases to talk to them.    
            “As a personal side note, I have to say the curse of being sterile is probably the single hardest thing to bear about being Canichmeh.  Not being able to eat or drink is probably second, but it’s way, way down on the list in comparison.  Not being able to have children is very hard.  And I had eight before I was turned—I had a full family.  I can only imagine how hard it is for people who are turned before they can have any at all.
            “Naamah went back into the desert to curse Lilith for giving them knowledge that would cause such a horrible punishment from God,” Joshua said.  “And Lilith tells her to stop cursing her; all she needs to do is give her own blood to another and that person will become her child.
            “Of course, that’s how we make others, and while I have loved all of my omehechareah, they are not the same as having a real child.  I’ve had both, and they’re completely different animals, as it were.  Yes, you have to teach both, and yes you are incredibly close to both, but a baby is a baby and a person who is sixteen or older is an adult, and they just don’t do the same things.  I don’t personally think Naamah should have given up cursing Lilith; omehechareah are only a manufactured substitute for what you should have naturally.  And, as with the case of everything, a substitute is not the same as the original in many respects.
            “We’ll end the class today with the most important part of the creation story, which is the last line of the chapter, ‘The Children of Lamech:’ ‘And the Lord looked down upon their wickedness and he was wroth with them and His hatred so great, He turned His back upon them.’
            “What does that mean?  There are probably as many theories about that as there have ever been Canichmehah in the world.  One of the more common theories is that we no longer have souls, and that when we die, we cease to exist, or we do have souls, but they’re damned automatically to hell.  That, however, is a relatively new idea—and when I say ‘new,’ I mean in the last five hundred years or so.  That really took hold after the myth of vampires spread in the later part of the middle ages in Eastern Europe, and also when the Catholic Church excommunicated everyone who was a vampire during the middle ages.  Even if you believe you still have a soul, if you’re Catholic, you believe it must now be going to hell. 
            “An older theory, which is somewhat related to the first, is that when God turned his back on us, He ceased to care what we did.  If we commit mass murder, He doesn’t notice.  But also if we die saving a busload of children and nuns from certain death, He doesn’t notice that either.  Good or bad, nothing we do can garner the attention of God, and when we die, our souls will be treated the same way.  We’ll be in a sort of purgatory which we can never escape.  We will not be in hell, but we will never be in the presence of God either.  We’ll just exist, but without any purpose for all eternity.  We will have to suffer Divine neglect and indifference forever—which some people say is worse than enduring God’s anger.  Even people in hell will get a form of negative attention; we’ll get no attention at all.
            “However, there are those of us who are more optimistic, and we think that if we are good enough, we can attract God’s attention and get Him to look our way again and have pity on us and spare us either hell or neglect in the afterlife. “

October 22, 2010 – A Question of Faith

So yesterday I started downloading what turns out to be a semester’s worth of lectures on Jewish history.  Obviously a good thing for me to be studying, given that Joshua lives through the past 1,960 some-odd years of Jewish history. 

So I listened to it in the car this morning (I listened to too much French yesterday; I was speaking random French words in my sleep), and I had some interesting thoughts.  My first being, “This is a college professor’s lecture….  People paid money to get this education and went to school and everything, and I’m listening to it for free in my car.  Mwahahaha!” 

My second thought was more directly related to the lecture.  Rabbi Spiro makes some interesting statements about the Garden of Eden not really being an actual physical place (like a vacation at a Caribbean nudist colony), but rather it was existing in perfect harmony with God.  And since Adam and Eve got kicked out (because they didn’t uphold their end of the bargain–they turned their attention away from God and engaged in earthly cares), humanity has struggled to try and return to that state.  Because perfect union with God (what Buddhists term “Nirvana”) is what humans want above all else; that is what will make us completely and totally happy.

I guess you can’t expect Jewish history not to contain religious insights, but it was a  surprising tidbit nonetheless–not the least of which is because I have never looked at the Fall from Grace in that light before.  There’s a reason why I have Jewish characters in my books–I find Judaism fascinating.  I love the way Jews look at the Bible; it’s very different than the way I was raised (Baptist), which is never to question anything, because lack of faith = highway to hell.  I subscribe to the Jewish idea that questioning actually makes faith stronger, because when you come up with answers, your faith is more solid than blind faith, which has no logical foundations.  

If you haven’t noticed–by the fact that my vampires have “Scriptures”–there is actually an element of religion in my books.  My vampires quote the Bible, pray, observe the Sabbath, etc.  It seems to me today that a lot of authors sort of skirt around religiousness in their books (unless it’s meant to be Christian-audience book, or similar).  One of the things I found disappointing about Twilight was that it came right up to religion, then danced around it.  Carlise was “spiritual,” but he appeared to exercise no religion in particular.  And Edward–who would have been brought up to be religious–had no real religious beliefs, other than he thought that he was probably damned for being a vampire.  No one made a good philosophical argument for their positions, no one quoted any religious scripture….  Mayer came right up to the big “G” word, but then chickened out and went spiritually apathetic–her characters believe in God, but don’t do anything about it.

I work with the assumption that vampires are the same people they were when they were human.  They do not suddenly become damned, depraved, morally-bankrupt beings overnight.  So people like Joshua–who was raised to be very religious–hold onto that religiousness.  While Micah and Anselm have drifted away from organized religion to some degree (Anselm, though, begins going to church with Kalyn in the second book), they still have a strong faith, and they’re not afraid to admit it.  I feel that’s more accurate to real life than most literary characters seem to be today.

October 18, 2010 – What a Fine Looking Jew

Dear Mr. Fehr:

I would like for you to be in the movie version of my book.  I have selected you to play the role of Joshua.  You should be equal parts charming, sexy, powerful and badass, with some Israeli Jew sprinkled on top.  I think you will not have a problem with this role, given your looks, nationality, the fact that you are awesome in a suit (or naked; we can rework the script to accommodate), and you have previous experience in action roles.  Either allow yourself to go completely gray, or we will need to color your hair so that it is completely gray for the movie.  Please have your people get in contact with my people for an audition (just a formality; you are at the top of my list).



P.S.  What are your feelings towards shiksas?  I mean, if you met this young, zaftig shiksa (with a decent understanding of Yiddish), and she said age and religion were no object, what then?  Just curious.

October 12, 2010 – New Query

Okay, I’ve decided to make my query letter a little bit longer and make it–in my opinion–a little bit more interesting.  While the other query letter stated the plot in 250 words or less, it sounded boring.  There was no mention of love and no mention of what I find to be the most interesting idea: Jewish vampires. 

I came across an agent’s blog and she offered a writer’s successful query letter as an example, and it sounded more flavorful.

So here is my new query:

The idea for Accepted started with a rather bizarre spiritual question: what would a religious Jew do if he became a vampire?  As one of the characters points out, “Drinking blood is not kosher.  Very not kosher.” 

From this question was born the idea of vampires who originated the Middle East over four thousand years ago–just one of a number of nomadic, monotheistic tribes.  They eventually spread to other parts of the world, but they have maintained their separate cultural identity. 

But the world as they know it is falling apart; a new type of vampire has appeared.  No one knows where the strange vampire-human hybrids have come from, but they are secretive and appear to have no laws or morals.  The ancient Canichmehah are beginning to fear for themselves and even humanity itself.  

The story of the conflict between the Canichmehah and the Others is told from the point of view of Kalyn Reid, a sixteen-year-old human girl who has just been formally accepted by the Canichmehah as one of their human subordinates.  As she is thrown onto the front line of that conflict, she learns that an individual’s conscience matters much more than their species. 

She must also confront her own culture’s problems with prejudice and inequality.  When she grows too close to Anselm–the vampire who becomes her guardian–her human aunt tries to  take her away from him.  And while Anselm would risk his life out of love for Kalyn, she finds out the hard way, when it comes to the law, she is a second-class citizen. 

Accepted is an urban fantasy novel of approximately 114,000 words which begins Kalyn’s crash-entrance into adulthood.  This is the first book of a trilogy [remainder edited so I won’t spoil the plot].

September 29, 2010 – More Character Pictures

A friend at work is reading my book and giving me feedback.  I was showing her the pictures I had collected of people who resemble my characters, and realized I had never gotten around to putting up Kalyn and Micah’s pictures.  So, here they are.


The young woman is Astrid Berges-Frisbey, a French actress who will be staring in the 4th Pirates of the Caribbean movie (as a mermaid, apparently). 

The man is actually an author, not an actor, by the name of Jonathan Safran Foer (I find it rather humorous that when I finally find a picture of a guy who looks like Micah, it turns out to be a writer; it just seems fitting somehow).  Obviously Micah doesn’t wear glasses, though (although why don’t I look cute like this in glasses?).