Sunday, August 2, 2015

Many years ago, I read a news story about the unearthing in rural England of a trove of Celtic artifacts. The trove contained some surgical tools. This snippet of interest lodged in my head and I pulled it when I wrote the first draft of my time travel. Also, the when the royal Duchess Anne died, her heart was put in a reliquary that is still on display in the Breton city of Dinan. 
In this scene, the heroine is revived. POV is the past life hero, Jermande.

The fat chirurgeon Denbigh appeared in the doorway flanked by two pages and Angelique's maid. Foy bore his scalpel, trephining saw and retractor on a stained ceremonial pillow. Sucy carried the final resting place for Angelique’s heart, an exquisite silver reliquary lined with the finest silk to be found in the city on such short notice.
Denbigh motioned to his reluctant assistants, passed several loud toots of wind, and shuffled to the bier. He pointed indignantly at the open-eyed corpse. “Who dares to defile this body? Where are the lidweights?” He turned and slapped Betia's face. “Girl, you knew they were solid gold. This is your doing.”
The drip basin she carried crashed to the floor, and she cringed as she pressed her hand against her upper lip. Punishment for theft from a noble family was amputation of both hands. “My lord, I did not."
The chiurgeon raised his hand to repeat the blow.
Jermande stepped forward and tipped up the maid’s face, well aware his eyes would glow in the dim chamber. “She speaks truth,” he decreed. “Proceed, medicant. We will concern ourselves later with the matter of your recompense.”
Denbigh glared at the serving maid, and then removed the rosary that bound Angelique’s hands in eternal prayer. “Do your work, girl."
            Betia sniffled as she pulled open the lace ties of her mistress’ gown and exposed her chest.
            Denbigh reached for his scalpel and leaned in for his first cut.
            “The fingers.” Foy and Sucy jumped back from the bier in unison. “They moved,” Foy shouted. 
            “My lord.” Denbigh straightened. “I can tolerate no interruptions. I wish to make a neat exercise. After all, she is your daughter.”
            “Sire, we both saw it. Tell him, Sucy."
            Sucy’s head bobbed up and down in the manner in which he communicated. No one had ever heard him speak.
            “A postmortem spasm, my lord,” Denbigh said authoritatively. “A frequent occurrence in one so newly deceased. Nothing more.”
            “There it is again,” Foy cried. “Look, sire. Look for yourself.”
            Edouard dragged Lillibet with him as he stepped two or three paces toward the bier. He craned his neck briefly and stepped back. “It is dark in here,” he said. “I am sure the chirurgeon is right. Let us get to the end of this. Proceed.”
            “Thank you, my lord.” Denbigh lowered his scalpel to Angelique’s neck and pressed the blade against her flesh.
            “A tear,” Betia cried. “It runs down her cheek. Oh, my lady, she weeps. Make him stop.”
            “That is not possible.” Ignoring her outburst, Denbigh made his cut. Slippery, bright red blood welled out of the incision. “Impossible. Sanguine humors of the deceased are thick and sluggish, like steamed pigeon liver.”
            “She blinked,” Betia shrieked. She threw the battered basin into the air again, ran to Jermande, and sank to her knees. “Save me, Druarwydd. You see the truth. I did see her blink.”
            Jeanne wrung the cuff of his robe until he gave her permission to move. She dashed to the bier and pushed back Denbigh with the strength of a smithy.
            “Edouard, she does make tears.” Jeanne put her hands on Angelique’s cheeks. “My hand is damp with her flow. Chirurgeon, you said she was gone and yet she weeps.”
            “My Lord Viscomte.” Denbigh passed several toots of wind. “This condition is most rare. I have never witnessed it in all my years of faithful service. Ah… ay… Perhaps the good friar can justify these irregularities. He and his brothers have been present at deaths of all natures.”
            Betia and the two pages made the sign of the cross. The trials and tortures conducted in the name of the Holy Inquisition by monks of the Dominican order were truly to be feared.
            “Let us pray.” Friar Castiore stepped forward. “Holy Father, we ask that you further punish this child, who is in your heavenly hands, for disturbing these solemn proceedings. Cease her distractions that bring torment and doubt to these, your faithful servants, who seek only to glorify your name. In Spiritu Sanctu…” His words died in his throat.

Angelique’s hand moved jerkily to her chinstrap. Her thumb worked its way under the thin strip of linen that held her jaw shut, bent like a hook, and slid the cloth free. Her mouth fell open, exposing a damp wad of the same cut cloth.  


  1. I love how tidbits of history, or even everyday life, stick with us and inspire our stories.

    This is a well-written scene. I was pulled right in, and am, of course, dying to find out what will happen next.

    And, yikes, the priest and the doctor are creepy...

  2. A very intense scene - and, like Debra, I want to know what happens next!

  3. Just coming in to say how much I liked this extract. I'm not into anything historical but this really did something for me.