Writing "Alsoomse and Wanchese" -- Research While Writing
Despite all the many months of research that I did to learn the history of the settlement of Roanoke colony 1584-1590, the culture of the Algonquian natives, and the geography, vegetation, birds, animals, and fish of the area prior to my writing the first chapter of this novel, I found it necessary to stop at certain places in my subsequent narration to research specific information that directly related to particular events. Here are two examples.
Treating a Particular Arrow Wound
Their immediate reaction was to duck and crouch. Wanchese heard before he saw that Rakiok had been hit. The left thigh. He was lying-half sitting on his right hip bone, right palm partially supporting his weight, his right leg bent underneath his left. The arrowhead had passed entirely through! The shaft was visible front and back!
The conjuror, naked except for the fold of rabbit skin hung from his waist band and the tobacco bag hung over his right hip, stood. Without explanation he disappeared behind the weroance’s longhouse.
“He will grind the roots of cattails into a salve.” Mesickek engaged Rakiock’s eyes. “You are fortunate the arrow did not strike your bone. He has removed such arrows as yours. You will survive. …”
I had to research the removal of arrows from body parts to write this and the scene that follows. The best source I found was the detailed account of arrow wounds and treatments found in Dr. Joseph Howland Bill’s “Notes on Arrow Wounds,” written in 1862. Dr. Bill made these important observations:
Arrows inflict wounds “with a fatality greater than that produced by any other weapons.
The worst thing a friend could do was to try to remove the arrow by pulling on the shaft, which would cause the arrowhead to be left behind forcing the doctor to search for the projectile.
To avoid inevitable infection, each arrowhead had to be removed.
It was much easier for the doctor and patient if the shaft was left intact until a doctor could remove the head and shaft as one piece.
The bowmen knew that a hit to the trunk was likely to be fatal and is where they aimed.
“Arrow wounds of the abdomen are generally fatal. An arrow can scarcely pass through the abdomen and fail to open a vessel or wound an intestine.”
You may read this entire article by accessing this link: https://allthingsliberty.com/2013/05/battle-wounds-never-pull-an-arrow-out-of-a-body/
The easiest wound to treat was that caused by an arrow passing entirely through a limb without severing a blood vessel or nerve. The shaft of the arrow would be broken off in front of the entry hole and the remaining part of the shaft would be pulled through the limb and out the exit hole made by the arrowhead. This is what is done in the following scene.
The conjuror produced a flint knife. “Hold the shaft below the arrowhead,” he ordered. Wanchese stepped forward. “You,” he said to Osacan. “Hold this end with the feathers.” He placed the edge of his knife on the shaft an inch from the nearest fletched feather.
It took awhile. Rakiock’s face was stone hard. His enlarged eyes stared.
The section removed, the conjuror moved the tip of his left index finger over the new end. Satisfied he had removed any sharp edges, he smoothed over the length of the shaft the cattail salve he had prepared. Afterward, he spread much salve on the middle part of the strip of deer skin. He gripped then, just below the arrowhead, the section of the shaft that had passed through Rakiock’s thigh.
“When I remove this,” he said to Wanchese, ”you are to place the deerskin over the bleeding wound. There will be much blood. Be sure the salve is over the wound.”
He pulled; Rakiock gritted his teeth; the arrow shaft came out. Blood spurted. Wanchese placed the deer skin, held it tightly against the leg.
The conjuror wound a strip of deer gut around the deer skin and tied it. He wound another strip around the skin on the other side of the wound. After tying it, he reached into his pouch and took out more tobacco leaves. Dancing, chanting, gazing skyward, he spread the leaves again around his patient. Finished, he retrieved his knife and wooden bowl and disappeared behind the longhouse.
I also had to research how Native Americans treated wounds. I discovered that broadleaf cattail was used as a food source, a construction material, and a medicine. It has been called the "supermarket of the swamps." Tribal wars had been waged over control of broadleaf cattail marshes. Broadleaf cattail was most commonly used as a wound dressing, its rhizomes grounded into a salve.
Narrating a Fight Scene
Later in my narrative, Wanchese is compelled to fight to the death a Nansemond warrior.
Upon Tesicqueo’s signal the opposite end of the circle opened and ten or twelve warriors danced within. They were brandishing invisible spears, clubs, and arrows. Their warbling cries were high-pitched, shrill. They weaved about him, their footfalls in rhythm to the beating of the drums. They swooped in at him thrusting their weapons at him. He would have enjoyed sending one of them sprawling with a swift forearm to the neck; but, outwardly, he was stoic. Save your energy for Megedagik. Be calm. He had been taught during his manhood training that a warrior must control his muscles so as to receive blows better, so as not to be stiff but instead be quick in reflex.
He would need to be very quick. And smart.
He knew how to fight.
I had no idea how Native Americans at that time fought without weapons. I again made use of Google. Here is information that I used in the fight scene.
Fight low, in a crouch, stay on your feet, try to be relaxed rather than stiff.
Strike pressure points to temporarily or permanently disable your opponent: eyes, temples, base of the nose, jaw, ears, Adam’s apple, sternum, groin, knees, shins, toes.
Use low kicks to the legs. High kicks open up your groin and the grabbing of your legs. In close, use elbow strikes.
Pull on fingers, or bend them backwards.
Various tactics to use to fight somebody bigger than you. I won’t go into details.
Best of all, use a choke hold.
Up on the balls of his feet, taking swift, short steps, Wanchese moved to his right. He, too -- knees substantially bent, chest nearly parallel to the ground – was in a deep crouch. Keep yourself loose, he reminded himself. Wait for his attack.
It came. Megedagik went for Wanchese’s neck. Wanchese struck the Nansemond warrior’s left hand away with his right. With his other hand Megedagik grabbed Wanchese’s left wrist. Bringing it toward him, Wanchese struck Megedagik’s leftt eye with the side of his right hand.
Megedagik stepped back. They stared at each other.
Megedagik closed. Wanchese drove his right knee into Megedagik’s lower left leg. Megedagik closed his arms around Wanchese’s upper body, straightened him, locked his hands, and squeezed.
Suddenly, Wanchese could not breathe. He reached for, found Megedagik’s left ear. He gripped it, twisted it, yanked, felt it tear. Screaming, Megedagik released him. Gasping for breath, Wanchese bent low. His ribs throbbed.
Megedagik came at him. Wanchese delivered a blow to his sternum. It didn’t slow him. Grabbing Wanchese’s long hair, Megedagik spun him, encircled him with his arms, his left hand gripping his right wrist.
Wanchese drove his right heel downward, striking the warrior’s left shin bone. He did it a second time. He felt a loosening of the grip. With his right hand, Wanchese gripped Megedagik’s left middle finger, pried it loose, bent it back. Megedagik’s adjacent fingers loosened. He cried out. Wanchese stomped Megedagik’s left toes with his left heel.
Again he was loose. His heart pounded, his breathing quick, emphatic.
Megedagik reached for Wanchese’s left shoulder, Wanchese struck the hand away with his left hand, and Megedagik struck the
’s nose with a
glancing right fist. bridge
Wanchese staggered backward, reached downward and backward with his left hand to regain equilibrium. Megedagik was on him. Wanchese went down, grabbed Megedagik’s legs above the ankles, pinned them, and rolled right. Megedagik toppled. Wanchese sprung opward, caught Megedagik rising, whipped the fingers of his right hand, stabbing and digging, across the warrior’s eyes.
Megedagik pushed him away, shook his head.
Wanchese’s nose throbbed. Liquid was exiting his nostrils.
Megedagik closed. He drove his right fist at Wanchese’s nose. Wanchese ducked and stepped left. He struck Megedagik’s right rib cage with his right fist.
Again Megedagik backed off. Saliva drooled down his chin.
That’s enough detail.
Writing a historical novel is not a continuous day after day process. I have had to make lengthy stops to research important information related to the actions of my characters.