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Jul 21, 2010


Here's an excerpt, with the the flashback scene included. Does it work? Do I need to separate the flashback from previous and following scenes with asterisks, or does it make sense simply flowing from the the current action to the past and back?

* * *

Jivad learned nothing of Hoxja’s plans for more than a week. He slept in a small barred cell at Hoxja’s mansion during that time, a prisoner, but not maltreated. Slaves from the kitchen brought him generous meals. No one tortured him. He did not see Hoxja or the Archons. In fact, he saw almost no one. This suited him. The little Bhia’ing boy he had saved – if he had a chance to do it over again, would he? Probably the boy had been caught and killed anyway, and his rescue had been futile from the start.

What would the old blacksmith have advised? Jivad thought of him frequently during the eventless days in the cell. The waves crash; the mountain is not moved. A Great Soul does good because it must be done, expecting no reward, disappointed by no punishment. The mountain does not fight the sea. A Great Soul does not seek to change what cannot be changed. Thedrosian rule could not be changed. In ten thousand years, the sea grinds the strongest rock to sand. A Great Soul accepts his death.

He practiced stillness and movement, as the old blacksmith had taught. Whether he sat cross-legged or exercised, the lashes on his back ached, and he acknowledged the dull pain as one more sensation in his awareness, neither more nor less important than the calls of parrots in the trees beyond his cell, the damp clay floor under his feet or the scent of the afternoon rain shower. If he wrapped a rag around his eyes to practice blindfolded as he used to, he could imagine the rasp of the old blacksmith’s breath in the corner, watching him practice.

Jivad is ten years old. Pa doesn’t want to bring him to the blacksmith, nor does the blacksmith want to teach him. The Overseers have orders from Hoxja to apprentice a new boy to the smith, and that is that. The opinions of the slaves don’t matter.

The first day, Jivad doesn’t want to be there either. He can tell he is not wanted. The blacksmith ignores him most of the morning. Jivad crouches in a corner of the smithery. Piled around him, half hiding him, are the fruits of the forge, curious grommets and cringles and latches for shipbuilding, some quite intricate. The smoke from the furnace smarts and chokes, and the clanging rings in his ears until his whole head throbs. The blacksmith notices his scowl, his hands pressed against his ears.

“I expect you’ll be as useless as your father,” says the blacksmith.

With that statement, Jivad realizes he and the blacksmith have a common enemy.

The blacksmith turns back to his forge, unaware of the secret alliance. Over the following days, Jivad begins to note all the ways the blacksmith differs from Pa. The blacksmith works steadily and silently. He doesn’t try to sneak away from his tasks. Even the Overseers respect him. He does not bribe them for booze. Though gruff and stingy with smiles, he doesn’t yell at Jivad, or anyone. Other slaves, even Overseers, come to him with problems. He listens quietly before he offers a word or two of advice, always sound. He is full of strange proverbs. He says things like, “An Emperor is as shackled as a slave, a slave is as free as an Emperor,” and means it.

Jivad begins to suspect the old blacksmith is more, much more, than he appears.

The splendid isolation could not last. Hoxja turned up one morning, flashing a toothy smile.

“I have a treat for you, Jivad."


Lucas Darr said...

I like it but it's hard to tell if it works as a flashback without seeing it in the context of the rest of the story.

But as far as pain making people reflective and moody, you got that right.

Michelle D. Argyle said...

It works for me so far since it's in italics, but there wasn't too much of a transition into it. Still, I think that's fine. There's so many ways to do flashbacks. It's insane. Like Anthony said, it's hard to tell if this truly works when I haven't read the rest of the story.

Tara Maya said...

Thanks for the feedback. I know it's hard to see if it works from such a small snip, so I appreciate it.