Writing "Alsoomse and Wanchese" -- Getting through the Tunnel
I see a light at the end of the tunnel. The problem now is getting there.
It isn’t helping that I just had a corneal transplant operation on my right eye that makes reading uncomfortable. That difficulty should pass in three or four weeks.
My main difficulty is linking fictional conflict with historical events. To reiterate, I took an actual Roanoke Algonquian – Wanchese – whom historians know nothing about prior to 1584, gave him distinctive character traits, placed him in conflict situations, and had him do decisive acts. I gave him a sister – Alsoomse – a fictitious character, and did to her what I did to Wanchese. Now I must integrate seamlessly both characters and other fictitious characters into two historical events.
The first event is the wounding of Wingina, the mamanatowick (king) of six Algonquian villages along and close to the shores of
Historians are not certain who wounded him and where it happened. This has allowed me to designate Piemacum,
the weroance of Pomeiooc, and his braves as the culprits. I should not have much difficulty involving
Wanchese in this event. Alsoomse’s left
cheekbone was permanently damaged by a blow struck by Piemacum’s primary
subordinate – Sunukkuhkau – earlier in the novel.
She heard the sound of shock, alarm, and Sunukkuhkau’s triumphant hoot. She fought the Pomeuooc brave dragging her. She kicked at his feet; he lifted her, shook her, his hands squeezing to her bones her biceps. Her knees bent, she kicked at his shins, her heels striking and missing. He threw her to the ground, pinned the right side of her face with his left foot. With her left hand she reached for his toes, could not find them. Suddenly she was lifted. Two braves now had control of her. Arms and legs both immobilized, she was carried horizontally before the seated.
“Stand her up!” Sunukkuhkau ordered.
“Stop this!” Woanagusso, standing, advanced.
“You have no right!” Hurit was with her.
“Get back! I will have my due!”
She saw Manteo step forward.
“Samoset, Taraquine, I need you!” she heard a male voice shout.
Sunukkuhkau’s voice: “Two arrows are pointed at your weroansqua’s chest! Any attempt to stop me will cause her death!”
Her head immobilized by the seizure of her hair, Alsoomse was yet able to see Manteo hesitate, look to his left, presumably at Woanagusso.
“Keme, stop!” It was Hurit. “Just … stop! Control Samoset, Taraquine! Wait!”
“Hold her arms behind her!” Sunukkuhkan ordered.
First her right, then her left, were twisted behind her. When she attempted to kick, her arms were lifted causing her to wince and rise on her toes.
Two arrow length’s distance from her, Sunukkuhkan half turned. “You heard the great insult this
did me one sleep
ago,” he orated. “Her weroansqua has denied me the right to whip her. No woman
commands Sunukkuhkan. My great leader Piemacum sent me here to make peace with
Croatoan. Hurit and this servant spits on it! Woanagusso permits it! I will
defend Piemacum and Pomeiooc’s honor! Roanoke
Alsoomse spat at him.
Wheeling, he struck her left cheekbone with the heel of his massive right hand.
Alsoomse wants vengeance.
[A much later scene. Alsoomse is visited by an intellectual male Croatoan with whom before her injury she had conversed]
He rubbed his left cheekbone, drew his left forefinger away, looked at it, then grimaced. “Strange. Sometimes the body does something intentional the mind does not order, or does not know it has ordered. I look at you, I see the damage, and my finger goes to that place on my cheek.”
She blinked. She wondered if her eyes could reveal what she thought.
“I witnessed what happened. I asked later why it happened. Therefore, I know certain things.” Seated on the upended, thick block of wood that Sokanon had occupied, Abukcheech placed the palms of his hands over his bony knees. “My first question is, ‘Do you regret what happened?’”
Alsoomse felt her eyes jump. She looked inwardly.
Two women conversing passed outside the nearest wall.
He wanted her answer. Which was it? She moved her right hand.
He nodded. He closed his legs, scratched awkwardly the left side of his head. “You had to think.” He leaned forward. “Why?”
She frowned, moved her left hand.
“No, you have to answer. It is important to know.”
She stared at him, her lips tight.
“I told you when we spoke before that you wanted to be a man.” His right thumb and forefinger rubbed both sides of his jaw. “He hit you. He did not kill you. Are you glad now that you are not a man?”
What was this weak little man’s message?
“Do you regret speaking like a man because of this injury?”
Of course! She moved her right hand.
“But you have other reasons, I think.” He looked at his active forefinger. Curled it. Looked at her. “Because of it you caused other people injury or hardship.”
She blinked, closed her eyes, moved the hand.
“Then maybe you have learned that freedom to speak, or act, requires also self-discipline. Perhaps you have learned that what you do affects others. Nobody is really independent.” He gazed at her.
Who was he to judge?
“A wise man knows that. A true woman knows that.”
She resented his superiority.
“A good woman helps her man become wise.”
A “good” woman cannot oppose injustice?
“Your eyes tell me you want vengeance.”
She scowled, jerked her right hand.
“How can you take vengeance without risking or burdening other people?”
She had no answer.
“I believe it is better to be good to people you care about and accept what you cannot control.”
Is that what he thought he was doing with her? All the while adding wood to my anger?
“I have talked enough.”
She closed her eyes. Recalled Sunukkuhkau’s ferocious face.
“I will stay here until your cousin returns.”
Do as you wish.
In a meeting of adversaries at Croatoan Wanchese declares his desire to fight Sunukkuhkau.
“We are pleased that the leaders of Pomeiooc, Dasemunkepeuc, and Roanoke have accepted our invitation to speak their dissatisfactions, listen, and strive to understand that our common interests are more important than – permit me to say – selfish, individual purposes.” Manteo stood beside his seated mother, Woanagusso, weroansqua of Croatoan. To his right scowled the important men of Dasemunkepeuc and
. To his left glared
the men of Pomeiooc. Roanoke
“This man here, Sanukkuhkau. I know him. I know about him. I know him to be a cruel bully. At a meeting here two moons ago he insulted my mamanatowick and my weroance, both of whom sit before you. This man said they were weak, they were cowards.” Wanchese looked now at Tamabick. “That woman you saw at my fire is my sister. If she were here, this bully would recognize her as the woman who defended my mamanatowick and weroance, the woman who two sleeps later he struck and broke her face. He is the bully I hope someday to meet in combat.”
Wanchese turned toward Piemacum. “He, and you, are war-like people.” He looked at Manteo. “We do not need this meeting to understand who they are and what they intend.”
Piemacum’s face was inflamed.
“I will tell you exactly what I intend!” Pausing, leaning backward, he took control of his emotions. “I intend to make strong again the villages closest to the Pomouik. I will do this because you” – he nodded at Wingina – “do not!”
Wingina pointed his right forefinger. “Aquascogooc and Secotan are part of my confederation. You do not decide who protects them!” He rose.
“Aquascogooc and Secotan will decide. Not you. Not me. I will give them better reasons for them to accept me!”
Wingina took a step forward. Sunukkuhkau rose, stepped in front of his weroance.
Watching Wanchese, Sunukkuhkau removed his knife from his apron band.
Manteo rushed between the lines of combatants. “Stop!” His hands made invisible arcs. “All of you agreed! Whatever was spoken would not cause fighting! Step back! I ask you. Everybody sit!”
Eyes locked, Piemacum and Wingina refused to move. Watching Sunukkuhkau, Wanchese slowly complied. Sunukkuhkau then sat.
Piemacum and Wingina continued to stare. Neither will sit first, Wanchese concluded.
Manteo again. “Because I am the host and one of you must sit first, … I ask, because of Wingina’s senority, that you, Piemacum, yield.”
Piemacum looked past Manteo as if he were vapor. To Wingina, he said, “If you interfere with what I and my braves do with the Aquascogooc and Secotans, I will treat you as I would the Mandoags.”
Wingina nodded. He turned toward Manteo. “Your meeting as achieved its purpose.” Squaring his shoulders, he addressed Piemacum. “We reject your assumption of authority. We will continue to serve all our people’s needs. Should you interfere, we will fight.”
I have not yet planned the run-up to and the actual wounding of Wingina and the event’s immediate aftermath. This is entirely doable but I am impatient. The tunnel is long.
The second event is the appearance and one month’s stay in July and August 1584 of the English exploratory party. Historians do know quite a bit about what the Englishmen observed that month. But what were the thoughts of the local Algonquians? Historians must rely on Englishmen’s accounts of Algonquian behavior to infer native conclusions. I am allowed, therefore, some leeway in portraying Wingina’s, Wanchese’s, Alsoomse’s, and other characters’ judgments. I can do that, but doing so will take weeks.
I have two major worries about integrating Alsoomse and Wanchese into the narrative of these two events. One, Alsoomse, because of the nature of the events, easily becomes a subordinate character, a bystander, an observer instead of continuing to be an instigator, a cause, and occasionally a resolver of conflict. I do not want this to happen. I will have to find several ways to make her relevant without violating historical truth. Two, I have caused Wingina to doubt Wanchese’s reliability in crisis situations. Yet, he will select Wanchese to undertake a vital mission at the end of the novel. I have to find a way to resolve this apparent contradiction without straining reader credulity.
The light flickers. Depth perception is problematic. I estimate that I have ten chapters to write to finish the first draft of this novel. I have completed Chapter 26. The novel will exceed 400 pages. Will it be too long? How will I be able to tell? What should I cut? Not need to attempt to answer these questions for quite some while.