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Bæcca's Conversion, from The Serpent Weaver chapter 7.

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Old 05-08-2013, 03:11 AM
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Default Bæcca's Conversion, from The Serpent Weaver chapter 7.


The old man leaned forward to get a better look at his young guest. ‘You have an honest face Bæcca, and a strong will I perceive; why have you come to see me?’

Bæcca was slightly thrown by this question, but he collected his thoughts and replied as best he could. ‘Because I wish to bring peace between the Lindisware and the Bearnet-seatte.’

‘A worthy aim,’ said Alca, ‘but you know there has been hostility between those peoples for a hundred years.’

‘Yes, my father and many of my folk have died at the hand of the enemy.’

‘And yet you would have peace; but it is for your own reasons that you desire this, is it not?’

‘It is,’ answered Bæcca truthfully. ‘I wish to settle in the land debated with the Bearnet-seatte.’

‘Then your purpose stands on a knife edge,’ said Alca. ‘You must rethink your reasons for desiring peace . . . have you heard of the God of peace?’

‘No,’ admitted Bæcca ‘who is he?’

‘He is the almighty, the maker of all things, the father of all things and his name is peace. He is the one everlasting God and I am his servant; would you have his help?’

‘I would,’ said Bæcca.

‘Then you must seek peace with love in your heart, you must desire it for love of your fellow men and not for your own sake, only then will you be sure to succeed. Do you have love in your heart Bæcca?’

‘I want to have love, but I have only distrust,’ confessed Bæcca.

‘Don’t you know that all men are the same Bæcca?’ said Alca. ‘They are all struggling to survive in this World, to protect their homes and provide for their families. They are driven by many things, hope, love, fear, but mostly they are driven by fear; fear of hunger, fear of death and fear of enemies. It is fear that makes men distrustful, and fear that breeds war. Your distrust stems from fear; you feel it because you have not yet asked the god of peace to help you. Do you want to ask him?’

‘I do’ said Bæcca.

‘Then come with me now, if the Lord King permits it?’

Cædbad nodded his approval and Alca took up a stout staff that was propped up near the door. ‘Ready?’ he asked, looking round at his guests.

No sooner were they outside than the old hermit went off at a surprising pace and Bæcca and the king were hard put to keep up with him along the narrow paths that seemed to criss-cross this part of the forest. When they had changed direction several times Alca halted and pointed with his staff.
‘That way,’ he said, ‘is the Hymbre, over there is the river Usa that drains the land of Deira, and on this side is the Great River, the Treante. We are standing at the very corner of this realm, at the place where these mighty streams meet; tell me, what do you see Bæcca?’

‘Nothing but trees Father,’ answered Bæcca.

‘Nor will you my son, unless Alca is with you. For I guard the secret of this place, a secret of which none know except myself and the king, and even he would not find the way here.’

‘You are right my friend,’ said Cædbæd, ‘in truth I could not now lead us back to your dwelling.’

‘Then it is well that I am here,’ said Alca, chuckling softly ‘or you might be roaming this forest for days. Come!’

Leading the way through the dense undergrowth, the hermit brought them to a place of such beauty that it caused Bæcca to gasp in speechless wonder. The forest had suddenly given way to a broad lawn of fresh, springy turf, but such a lawn as Bæcca could never have imagined, for it stood on the very edge of a steep cliff. The massive trees that fringed that place on three sides had extended their wide branches above to form a soaring leafy canopy, through which gentle shafts of light twinkled like stars in a green sky. It was as if they had entered a hall, carpeted and roofed in green and open on one side so that it looked down from a great height upon the confluence of the silver rivers and the wide lands beyond.

‘This must be a very holy place,’ whispered Bæcca, recovering his powers of speech.

‘It is indeed a holy place,’ confirmed Alca, ‘the most hallowed in all this realm of Lindis-eg. It is said that when the everlasting God made this land he looked down from this place and saw that his work was good. His peace is about this place. Come, I will show you more.’

Alca motioned them forward and Bæcca noticed for the first time that in the centre of the wide lawn there was a bowl shaped depression some thirty ells across and around two ells deep. It was angled somewhat towards the open cliff edge and thus had been quite invisible from their earlier position. More remarkable still was the bowl’s content, for the turf in its base had been cut into a most intricate serpentine pattern of narrow green pathways.

‘It is a labyrinth, a puzzle,’ explained Alca, ‘said to have been made by the great Julius, mightiest of the Romans . The paths represent the road to righteousness, which is ever narrow and seldom straight. Have faith in the everlasting God and, if you can walk the path to the centre without placing a foot wrong, and then back again without mistake, you will receive his blessing; but be careful, if you take the wrong route you will not reach the centre and will fail the test. Go on, and banish mistrust from your heart!’

Bæcca stepped gingerly onto the path and began to pick his way very carefully; the turf was scarcely wider than a hand’s breadth and although the entire labyrinth was in view it was of such intricacy that recognising the correct path was no simple matter, but Bæcca followed every twist and turn, coming at last to the centre.

‘Now, follow your route back to me,’ said Alca. And Bæcca turned, faithfully retracing his steps one by one until he once again stood before the hermit.
‘You see,’ said Alca, ‘with your faith in the God of peace and the love of all men in your heart you can do anything.’

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Old 05-08-2013, 03:21 AM
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Old 05-13-2013, 11:27 AM
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A little feedback:

Dialogue is very stiff, and seems to be quite "preachy" and moralising...
making it difficult to read.


Draw your readers in more.

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Old 05-13-2013, 12:09 PM
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‘Then you must seek peace with love in your heart, you must desire it for love of your fellow men and not for your own sake, only then will you be sure to succeed. Do you have love in your heart Bæcca?’

‘I want to have love, but I have only distrust,’ confessed Bæcca.

‘Don’t you know that all men are the same Bæcca?’ said Alca. ‘They are all struggling to survive in this World, to protect their homes and provide for their families. They are driven by many things, hope, love, fear, but mostly they are driven by fear; fear of hunger, fear of death and fear of enemies. It is fear that makes men distrustful, and fear that breeds war. Your distrust stems from fear; you feel it because you have not yet asked the god of peace to help you. Do you want to ask him?’
I like the idea of this exchange (essentially the conversion before the conversion). I think there needs to be an indication of pause before Baecca makes his confession, unless he's given no reason to be hesitant about this emotional information.

Also, I wish Alca had acknowledged and accepted what was said. Possibly saying something like "That's only natural." But, y'know, in old-timey-speak. As it stands it doesn't feel like he's responding as much as preaching. And without him validating Baecca's feelings, I feel like most people wouldn't respond as positively as Baecca does, and accept his offer. Just doesn't feel comfortable or plausible right now.

You have a really clean and beautiful writing style. Just formal enough without being flowery. The dialogue is the only real sticking point for me.



PS. I'm so glad nobody around here names children like this anymore. I totally thought this was about a girl named Becca calculating changes between measurement systems when I clicked on it.
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Old 05-13-2013, 12:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Elyzabeth View Post
A little feedback:

Dialogue is very stiff, and seems to be quite "preachy" and moralising...
making it difficult to read.


Draw your readers in more.
Thanks, I'm sorry you didn't like it.
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Old 05-13-2013, 10:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Izzyn View Post
I like the idea of this exchange (essentially the conversion before the conversion). I think there needs to be an indication of pause before Baecca makes his confession, unless he's given no reason to be hesitant about this emotional information.

Also, I wish Alca had acknowledged and accepted what was said. Possibly saying something like "That's only natural." But, y'know, in old-timey-speak. As it stands it doesn't feel like he's responding as much as preaching. And without him validating Baecca's feelings, I feel like most people wouldn't respond as positively as Baecca does, and accept his offer. Just doesn't feel comfortable or plausible right now.

You have a really clean and beautiful writing style. Just formal enough without being flowery. The dialogue is the only real sticking point for me.



PS. I'm so glad nobody around here names children like this anymore. I totally thought this was about a girl named Becca calculating changes between measurement systems when I clicked on it.
Thanks Izzyn,

I've been mulling over your comments and you're quite correct, the exchange between Bæcca and Alca lacks a certain plausibility. It's important that I get this right because it's only Bæcca's faith in the God of peace that later saves him from a very untimely and grisly death.

This conversion is really just a halfway house for Bæcca. He is perfectly at home with the concept of gods, and believes in dozens of them who govern every aspect of his life. That there is a God of peace would be unremarkable, and easy for Bæcca to accept, and Alca hasn't tried to burden his thoughts with ideas of The Trinity, or redemption from sin, or even the role of Jesus. So Bæcca isn't yet a Christian, but he has taken the first step to becoming one; only when he encounters his enemies will he acknowledge Christ and accept baptism.

This needs some re-writing because Alca isn't preaching to Bæcca, he is using Bæcca's pagan notions of what gods should be to reveal the existence of the 'one everlasting God'; importantly at this point Alca doesn't insist that this is the 'only god'. Any further ideas you may have that might help clarify this for the reader would be much appreciated.

BTW All the names in the Serpent Weaver came from original sources, such as Bede's writings or the Welsh Triads, or from the landscape itself, both Bæcca and Alca are derived from place names and are entirely authentic.
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Old 05-14-2013, 10:12 AM
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Don't get me wrong; Alca is still selling the god of peace fine. But salesmen who start out with an accusatory tone tend to only work in high pressure situations. I would simply change the very first sentence of his in that exchange. I can't say specifically how, but imagine how a Jehova's Witness tries to engage. Or, since the clergy were better educated, how a professor might try to absorb and change the mind of a student. Or, imagine how you get a stubborn horse to enter a doorway; you first move in the direction they're already moving (distrust), then circle back to where you want it to be (trust in a specific god).

Overall it does feel authentic. I was just jarred by the "Don't you know all men are the same?" line. It makes some sense, but reads out of place.

Because I have a very different writing style to yours, I tend to gloss over the grammar as fitting with your voice, but I will go through again tonight when I have more attention to give.

And I don't doubt your names are completely accurate... I'll still tease you about them being funny
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