Goals for “The Flames of Prague”

Front-Cover-v3-For-WebI have only 7 more chapters to edit for The Flames of Prague, plus finish up my notes/bibliography. I’m on schedule to hit my goal of 80,000 words (which gives me wiggle room to cut some during future editing, leaving me with 70,000-75,000).

My goal is to finish my first round of edits on or before the end of January. Then I plan on taking the month of February to do some more research and do a second round of editing and formatting for print.

Then it’s off to the printer for a proof copy for my beta readers. They will need at least the month of March to read it and get back to me–maybe into April. If I notice any problems with the cover, I will make it while they’re reading the book. I will also try to finish up my book trailer during this down time.

April will be for making edits and corrections based on their suggestions. May will be for grammar editing and general proofreading.

I will probably order another proof copy in June because I like looking at multiple formats (computer, print, ebook) when I’m proofreading, because changing up the format helps keep your brain from becoming tired and glossing over the same errors again and again. So, June will be for reading the proof copy and then making any handwritten corrections to the computer copy.

In July, I will format the entire thing for ebook, put it on my Kindle, then proofread it again. (I save this part for last because it means every change I make will have to be made to both the ebook file and the print file.)

Which leaves me ready to publish in August, exactly one year after I published my first book. Mind you, I’m not making any promise that I’ll go to print in August. There’s a lot that could happen between now and then (hopefully a job and a move to Chattanooga). But I should definitely be in the clear to hit my outside goal of fall of 2013.

I’m relieved that I’m back on schedule with this book after feeling like I had been procrastinating with it too much. What’s more, I’m starting to think about making a third book, which would be set during the Hussite Wars.

The Hussite Wars are a very interesting time in Bohemia. People were calling for a reform of the church (this was 100 years before Martin Luther and the Protestant reformation). Jan Hus–who was the founder of the movement and who was executed fairly early into the two-decade civil war–was rumored to have a cordial relationship with Rabbi Avigdor Kara, and some have even said that some of Jan Hus’s ideas for reformation were based on theological conversations he had with the rabbi. (Apparently Rabbi Avigdor was quite the rabbi; he was also rumored to have had theological discussions with the king and other members of the clergy.) Of course this creates an opening for all sorts of political intrigue by my Crypto-Jewish family.

And, finally, you have the Hussite war wagons. I just don’t think I can go through life without describing, in action-packed, gory detail, the use of Hussite war wagons on the battlefield.

From what I have read so far, they effectively broke the back of the chivalry in Bohemia. (The English would do the same to the French knights at Agincourt in 1415 using longbows and light infantry.) The war wagons were defensive, but highly mobile. When a location was chosen for a battle, the wagons would be formed into a circle or square (or whatever shape the terrain demanded) and chained together. If time permitted, additional defensive measures, such as trenching and putting in stakes or caltrops, would be done.

As you can see from the recreation, there were “arrow” slots in the outside face of the wagon, but these were used for hand guns (a whopping 1.00 caliber proto-musket). The charging cavalry had no defense against the bullets and no way to break the line or outflank it. And even if the king’s army disengaged and tried to make a larger outflanking maneuver–to get between the Hussites and their supply line or base of operation or what have you–the entire wagon operation could be on the move within minutes (more like a couple of hours if they wanted to take their stakes and other camp equipment with them).

Can Almost Taste The End….

After staying up to midnight last night, writing a difficult love scene, all I lack is a short transition scene (a few paragraphs) at the start of one chapter and I will have my newest book completed. As I ended up having about 10,000 words too many (and here I was worried about having enough!), December is going to be a month of editing. I know I got a bit long-winded in the second part of the book, so I don’t think I’ll have a problem cutting some parts and tightening up everything at the end.

You may have noticed that I have rearranged the blog. I like to change up the formatting/coloring from time to time, because I get tired of the same ol’, same ol’. But with branching into a new genre, I thought I needed to rework the entire blog to be about me as a writerr, as opposed to it being a showcase just for my vampire trilogy.

In the right-hand sidebar, you’ll notice that I have have links to genres, with information on my individual books as a drop down option. All of the information that I had before on my triology–my obsessive amounts of background and character info–is still available. Just click on “Accpetance Trilogy” and you will go to a page that has links to all the same info, plus book info.

Finishing Up

*Screams in horror* People are trying to spam my blog comments with links to “Justin Bieber and Selina Gomez naked on the beach” and “See how they made a baby.” Noooooooo!!!!!!

I have been working on my book at breakneck speeds. I can’t type fast enough to get it all out. With character list and historical notes, I am running at 73,000 words, so I’m going to hit my goal of 70,000-75,000 words for the actual story. I only lack writing a couple of chapters and finishing a couple more and I’ll be done. I expect to finish it over this long holiday weekend. Then the next month is going to spent editing, fact-checking, and doing some more research. I will probably order a printed proof, because they’re not expensive and it makes it so much easier for me to give it to my husband and friends to read.

I will probably set January aside for my readers to give me feedback and do some more editing based on their reviews (I want my husband, especially, to fact-check my class structure, weapons and fighting, since that is his medieval specialty), and then look at February as a start for querying publishers. If I’m lucky, I might get a response within a year and I’d be looking at a publishing date of a year after that at the earliest.

As I have said before, it takes longer to get published than it does to write a book.
And for all the Americans out there, at home and abroad, Happy Thanksgiving.

Getting Down and Dirty

My word output for my book has slowed (I’m right at 35,000 words now) as I have started having to spend more time researching Bohemian history, clothing, currency, and knighting rituals. I’ve also spent some time consulting my husband, who has a lot of knowledge of medieval arms, armor, and social structure among nobility.

And I have now added Prague to my list of “Places I want to visit someday.” It is a very beautiful city.

I am getting jiggy with the two-part story idea; I think it’s working. I just hope I can get away with killing the hero towards the end. I love killing off characters; I revel in building them up to complete and total awesomeness, only to let them die in bloody, gory ways. I want to rip my reader’s heart out and stomp on it. Because to me, I have not succeeded as a writer unless my readers love my characters so much, they cry over them.

Of course, killing my hero off definitely kills the buzz of a romance novel. My Acceptance trilogy is different because it’s not romance, and the tone from the beginning is dark. You can tell something is building in the background, so it’s hardly a shock when everything explodes and people start dropping like flies.

I might have trouble with editors/readers when I kill off Jakub–although I’m going to make sure he dies in a romantic, heroic way. And the story doesn’t end there; vengeance must be extracted! Villains must die in horrible ways! And Jakub’s Jewish daughter must find unexpected romance with a Christian knight and start the cycle all over again.

Bursting with Craziness

I got a wild idea this morning; since my first “book” is coming up short (only half the word count that I need for a historical romance), and I have this awesome idea for a second “book”–which, in typical fashion, I’ve already begun to write–why not combine the two? I would naturally divide the single book into Part One and Part Two, with a twenty year gap in the middle.

It sounds a bit crazy for a romance, but I’m already telling the entire thing from the point of view of men (first Jakub, then his son, Samuel), so why the hell shouldn’t I be crazy?

I’m going for it! We’ll see what shakes out in the next 40,000-45,000 words.

Show and Tell

I reached the halfway point to my NaNoWriMo goal last night. Unfortunately, the book is about 3/4ths written at this point.  Unlike my triology, I have written this book from beginning to end without skipping around. And I’m finding that more difficult to work with, because I’m used to taking very full, complete scenes and stringing them together when I have enough. Now, I have an entire book with less-than-full scenes, almost all of which need some fleshing out. I think I prefer to do a good job on a small portion than write a skeletal story and then go back to put meat on it.

So here’s a sample. My main character, Jakub, is a forty year old knight, on the verge of retirement. In a fit of possible madness, he has ridden hard to Prague to rescue his love interest–a Jewess in danger of being caught up in a city-wide purge. She’s been rescued, but her parents and everyone she knows has been put to death. They are on their way back to his land–half a day’s ride from Prague on a highway that cuts through a large forest and have just had a clandestine wedding, medieval style.

            They were not far from home, traveling at an easy pace, when Jakub heard the sound of hoofbeats growing louder behind them. He moved Papa to one side of the road, to allow the riders to pass. As far as they were from Prague, he felt uneasy.
            Three young men on undisciplined horses came cantering up to them, and pulled to a stop.
            “Well met!” one of them greeted Jakub loudly, as if he was drunk. “Have you come from Prague?”
            “Yes,” Jakub said guardedly. He casually put both of the reins in his left hand and rested his right on the pommel of the saddle, hear the hilt of his sword.
            “So have we. Did you get anything good?”
            “What do you mean?”
            “Loot!” one of the other young men said, leaning forward eagerly. “They’re stripping the Jews of everything.”
            “Look at this,” the first man said, digging into the bag draped over the front of his saddle. “Solid silver!” he exclaimed, displaying a pair of candlesticks pinched between his fingers. “Imagine what that will fetch!”
            Jakub felt Alzbeta squeeze tighter against his back—no doubt trying to hide the Torah between them. “You should be careful about showing such things,” Jakub said coolly. “There have been known to be robbers on this road.”
            “Yeah, that’s true,” he said, sticking the candlesticks back in his back. “There’s an old knight that’s supposed to take care of this part of the highway, but I guess he’s too old to get off his ass and do something about them.” The other two men howled with laughter. Jakub’s hand clenched tightly into a fist.
            “Well, good day to you!” the young man said, before he and his companion spurred their prancing horses forward.
            “How I would have loved to give them a thrashing!” Jakub declared hotly when they were out of earshot.
            Alzbeta’s only reply was a sniff. Jakub turned to look over his shoulder; she had her face pressed against his back, silently shaking with sobs.
            “Beta, what’s wrong?” he asked anxiously. He didn’t know if he could stand to see her crying for a third time in one day.
            “Those… those were my mother’s candlesticks!” she wailed, before being overcome with sobs again.
            Jakub was stunned. “Are… are you sure?”
            “Yes!”
            Jakub looked up the road, where the three men had disappeared. Then, without consciously making a decision, he kicked Papa into a gallop.
            Half an hour later, they caught up with the young men. They had dismounted and were watering their horses in a ditch that flowed near the road. In the summer the ditch ran dry, but when there was heavy rainfall, it held water.
            Jakub pulled Papa—snorting and breathing heavily—to a stop beside the men. “Those candlesticks of yours, where exactly did you come by them, did you say?”
            “From a Jew’s house in Prague. We hit the jackpot; some rich old Jew lived there. You should have been there,” he added. “There was more than people could carry away.”
            “I would like to have them,” Jakub said in a cold voice.
            The young man grinned. “I would be happy to sell them to you,” he said with a comic bow.
            “I didn’t say anything about buying them.”
            The man looked at him, confused. “What?”
            “Give me the candlesticks.”
            The man’s mouth hung open in surprise, then he quickly shut it, growing immediately angry. His two friends came up beside him. “Just try to take them, old man” he said boldly. “There’re three of us and only one of you.”
            Jakub quickly unsheathed his sword—hanging hidden beneath his cloak. “I don’t need any help,” he said, as he spun Papa around, slashing the first man across the face and upper chest.
            One of the other men ran at the horse’s head, and Papa reared, kicking out and striking him in the chest and sending him falling back. Jakub had to drop the reins and reach back to grab Alzbeta to keep from slipping off. But the next second Papa was on his feet again. The third man, seeing both of his companions down, turned to flee. Jakub spurred his horse to pursue. They caught up to him a moment later and Jakub thrust his sword between the man’s shoulder blades. He went down screaming.
            Jakub turned Papa around and went back to the other two. The first man was dead, but the second was only winded. Jakub pulled Papa up beside him. “Damned old knight,” he said, shaking his head, “can’t be bothered to get off his ass to take care of robbers.” The young man looked at him, perplexed, for a moment, just before Jakub leaned down and thrust the tip of his sword into his heart. His eyes flew open and he jerked, but no sound came from his lips—only blood.
            Jakub threw his leg over the front of the saddle and jumped lightly to his feet. He wiped the blood off his sword on the fallen man’s cote, then sheathed it. Then he knelt down and began stripping the body of its clothing.
            “Wh-what are you doing?” Alzbeta asked in a shocked voice.
            “Taking their clothes so it will look like a robbery,” he explained, even as he pulled the shoes off the corpse. “Not that I’d spend much time investigating it if it’s brought to my attention, he added.
            “I… didn’t mean for you to kill them,” she said, anguished.
            “And I didn’t mean to pay them to get back the things they took from your family. I couldn’t have borne the injustice of it.” He glanced up at her. “Get down and help me. The faster we’re done with this, the better.”
            She hesitated, reluctant, but at last she slid off Papa. She unfastened her cloak and put it on the ground, then carefully laid her Torah on it. Only then did she go to Jakub’s side.
            “Get those horses,” he said, with a nod towards the three horses who were beginning to wander off.
            She hurried to comply while Jakub stripped the second body of everything useful, leaving it wearing only the damaged cote.
            He walked to the third body and did it likewise. And nearby he saw exactly what he needed: a sinkhole in the forest floor. When he was done with the third body, he grabbed it by the ankles and drug it to the edge of the hole, then kicked it over the side.
            Alzbeta was struggling to drag one of the bodies to him, and he hurried to help her. Together they tossed it into the pit.
            “I can’t believe I’m doing this,” she said, as she helped Jakub carry the last body through the woods. He noticed her face was bloodless; she looked as if she was in shock.
            “You’re obeying your husband; there’s nothing wrong in that,” he assured her.
            She stopped and stared at him. “Is that how Christians really think? That… I can do anything—any crime—if you order me to do it? That makes it alright?”
            “Well, it doesn’t make it alright for me; I’m guilty of committing the crime. But you are not punished, no.”
            She just shook her head.
            Jakub tossed the third body down on top of the others, then kicked some leaves onto them. “Why, what’s a Jewish wife supposed to do?” he asked her.
            “Be the moral conscience of the husband and not let him commit sin.”
            “Even if that means disobeying his orders?”
            “Even so. Each person is responsible for their own soul, and answerable to God for it.”
            Jakub stretched his back and sighed. “God willing, Alzbeta, I will never lead you into sin again. But good luck keeping me out of it.”

So, I’m rather happy with that chapter–my older knight kicking ass and taking names. Yeah, it’s brutal, but welcome to the middle ages. The problem is that it (and all of my other chapters) seem short. Mind you, romance novels are supposed to have shorter chapters, and I think that’s a good chapter length for the genre, but I think I need more material in there and there’s nowhere else to break that particular chapter logically. So that leaves me with longer-than-normal chapters if I pad them out. Of course, the alternative is to leave my chapters more or less as they are and just make up more scenes and stick them in. I have all the scenes I need for the plot already in there or planned; I’ll just have to add some little nuggets–like the scene above–which are interesting and develop the characters, but which aren’t directly necessary for moving the plot forward.

My mind being what it is–because one book is never enough–I already have an idea for a book which would serve as a sequel/generational continuance to this one, picking up 20 years later from the POV of Jakub and Alzbeta’s eldest son. I don’t have much of an idea for it yet, just a scene:

The new priest to Jakub’s parish is a young firebrand, who actively goes in search of heretics. Jakub and Alzbeta have done a good job of hiding her Jewishness, but the snooping priest quickly puts together the tell-tale signs and, at a large church service, publicly reveals that he’s found Jews in the village. He then goes around to everyone in the church, making them kiss the cross. He purposefully leaves Jakub and his family for last. When he comes to them, they all refuse. Forced to drop their braies, Jakub’s adult son and his 11 year old son are revealed to be circumcised. Then–surprising even Jakub’s son–Jakub is also revealed to be circumcised. The implication is that, sometime in the past 20 years, he converted.

The priest promises to burn them all the next day as heretics–even Alzbeta and the daughter-in-law, who are both pregnant–and they are locked in the church. Not willing to be taken without a fight, the eldery Jakub seizes the processional cross and smashes it against the stone floor, breaking it off into a sharp point. He and his son go around the church, making weapons from other fixtures and planning their defense.

I’m thinking the priest needs some muscle to back him, because otherwise Jakub is just going to slap him across the face for demanding that he drop his pants; after all, Jakub is a lord. I might look into the Teutonic Knights; could the priest call in a few for help? If so, one will be someone Jakub served with in a campaign some years ago. But I haven’t decided if he would help Jakub or become his mortal enemy; I’m leaning towards enemy.

But Jakub’s household will find a way to help the family. Petr and Jiri are both landless knights in Jakub’s employ; one has been his friend and righthand man for more than thirty years; the other is Jakub’s former squire. Jakub’s people are also less than enthused about the denouncement; Jakub and Alzbeta have been good landlords. Alzbeta (the daughter of a physician) has taken care of everyone in the village and helped deliver almost all of the children. Jakub has always been fair and just, never heavily taxing his people for his own enrichment. More than a few people remember the rule of Jakub’s brother and father from two decades before; both were purposefully cruel. There are several young adults who are Jakub’s neices and nephews by his brother’s rape of their mothers. Should the arrogant young priest succeed in his denouncement, Jakub’s lands will be forefeit–and everyone knows the church will try to make a claim on them. And no one in the village wants to trade Jakub and his line for the priest.

The family will get away (they have Jewish contacts in other cities who help hide them) and Jakub and his son work to discredit the priest and try to restore their name. Jakub’s son is a favorite at court and has friends, and Jakub’s other former squire, Jan, steps up to plead in their defense, but it’s pretty dicey. This is where having that enemy can come in handy–Jakub’s former friend pursuing the family across Bohemia in a game of cat and mouse. And at this time in history there was some sort of uprising/civil war that I will have to research, but of course the family gets caught up in that as well. In the end Jakub is going to have to die, because, hell, the man’s 60 and he’s got to go sometime, but he’ll go out in a blaze of glory, with sword in hand. I’m thinking, though, that he won’t finish off his enemy; his son will have to take up his sword to protect his family–both his mother and siblings, and his wife and new child.

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.
            “No.”
            “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.
            “O-old?”
            “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.