history, writing

Breaching the Shores of an Unfamiliar Sea

WIPpet Wednesday BannerOnce again it’s Wednesday, which means I am providing you with a snippet of my work in progress (thus, WIPpet), a challenge hosted by K.L. Schwengel. Basically, you post a snippet of your current project which in some way relates to the date. Speaking of …

Today in history – December 18, 1620, to be exact, a rickety British tub by the name of the Mayflower landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts. There, they signed the famous Mayflower Compact, an agreement by which all would consent for the good of the party. Thanks to a friendly Native American by the name of Squanto, the beleaguered Pilgrims learned to plant crops and thus created the first successful settlement on the East Coast of the United States. Hurrah!

The snippet I chose from my WIP, Dark Ages trilogy (Book 1) in which reluctant knight Justus must redeem a thief (Tristan) and guide a barren woman (Richende) on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, involves docking somewhere unfamiliar. Although, alas, it does not turn out to be as momentous as the Mayflower landing. Here they land at Jaffa, the closest port city to Jerusalem:

The port of Jaffa was ancient and filled with well-worn, limp-sailed boats of all shapes and sizes. Most of the buildings facing the sea were in need of white washing, made dirty and dingy by the wind and weather, and broken down by the weight of years. The small stone church that faced the water, however, still looked tidy, a lush and flowering jasmine plant snaking up the front of the building by the door, perfuming the air with its tender scent. People dressed in flowing white or light-colored robes with accompanying turbans passed by or worked industriously in the glare of the noon sun. Richende stood on the worn granite stones of the portside, shading her eyes and taking in the languid harbor, the unfamiliar squat building styles, the guttural, distinct cadence of the language, and the stark rocky landscape rising up behind the town. Even the warm desert breeze, heavy with moisture and the buzzing of sand flies, seemed so unfamiliar and exotic and welcome that Richende could scarcely halt the tears prickling the corners of her eyes.

                From here, Jerusalem lay inland fifty or so miles through hostile territory. But what was a mere fifty miles after coming so far? They were close now, so close!

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17 thoughts on “Breaching the Shores of an Unfamiliar Sea”

  1. Your descriptions are so vivid. You have a way of plunking me right into space and time. I love the contrast between the church and the rest of the buildings. A mere 50 miles, heh? Piece of cake. 😉

  2. Ah, yes, I’ve felt like Richende before! Her reaction in this scene totally spoke to me. 🙂

    I have one nit: “People dressed in flowing white or light-colored robes with accompanying turbans passed by or worked industriously in the glare of the noon sun.” I had to read this sentence a couple of times to parse it. My brain wanted to assign the verb “passed” to the turbans, you know? *g*

    1. Thank you so much for pointing this out! You’re awesome! It’s so helpful to me to have feedback when I create an awkward turn of phrase – I’m going to fix it now before I forget (I have lists upon lists because forgetfulness is in my nature, unfortunately). *hugs*

  3. Very evocative – I got a real sense of being there all hot from that humid breeze. I really like the way you use all the senses.

  4. You have a talent for bringing people into your vision of history, Xina. Like Ruth, I have one small nit. Same sentence, different part… I parsed the “passed by” fine, but stopped on the adjective ‘glare’. After such a serene, almost indolent set-up, the term glare was harsh and mood-breaking. I dare not suggest a better word, since you may want that effect, just wanted you to know that’s how I perceived it.

    1. Ooooh – thank you so much, Eden! Having your feedback is invaluable! Now I have to decide whether I wanted that effect or not, haha! Isn’t it interesting how reading is such and interactive affair? Please always feel free to provide whatever impression you have – I will eat it up with a spoon! 🙂

  5. Turbans and glare all OK with me. I stayed right there by that jasmine plant, sniffing – oh, I do love jasmine! =)

    This is evocative and lovely. It feels just like that first view of a new and very different place always does to me.

    50 miles….there’s so much that can happen in a space of time and distance that great – but would these people be using miles?

    This is a simple, powerful, and lovely bit of description, with a hint of trouble on the horizon…

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