The Persimmon Cup

By Amalasuntha

The writers challenge to be completed by 20/9/2011 was to take an older piece, and rewrite it:  I present a short piece called The Persimmon Cup, originally written on 29th June 2011 as a fragment, and revised for this exercise.
1st draft:
Delivering the Persimmon Cup was something which nearly literally killed me, and nearly done in the Old Man as well.  The moment I unwrapped it in his Solar and placed it gently on his desk was a stone around his heart which sank almost without trace, taking his whole heart with it.  All his fight left him then, a great whoof of air expelled in sitting in his chair, the early morning light disguising the sudden wan look.  From than he walked as if already dead, a daylight ghost drifting through corridors and halls and Little Council Meetings.  but before that, I had arrived by breakfast, dreading taking that little cup to him, knowing what it symbolised and how hard it would be to deal with.  The aftermath would be harder but not my concern.  I could care about what happened next but it would be to my own cost.  My job was to deliver the message: that and only.

As usual the story writes itself, and I’m not really sure where this one’s going.

2nd Draft:
When I placed the Persimmon Cup on the man’s desk top it nearly killed him, and me, in the process.  A great sigh, a whoof of energy left him then as he sat, collapsing backwards into a worn chair.  I had had a long journey there, dust and drain, around the base of the Shivering Mountain to arrive after lockout at the citadel.  The guard at the gate was bad-tempered, had a stinking cold and had to be persuaded with a gold shilling to let me in.  Had he known what I was carrying, it may have taken simply words.  before the gate I had run on after sundown, spurred on by the lengthening shadows, their creeping growth stretching my strides.  Pacing the sun was not something I had considered, believing that the journey could easily be completed in the time .  I was slowed by the exodus, people and chaos.  Cows harnessed to carts of beets, furniture, children.  it made the Drum Road impassable at anything over walking pace, the crowds volume was such that they spilled over the edges trampling fields, pushing round trees and shrines, stamping down earth and kicking up dust.  The run should not have taken as long as it did, I had set off from the city gates at dawn, headed for the border.  The guard here was simply bored, and sought out every travellers reasons, not from efficiency but from personal alleviation.  I showed him my papers – lawful authority seal present and unbroken.  I had reached the gate directly from the Court, the brief audience over, and I was dismissed with all the needs of the city on my shoulders.  The Lord had charged me with delivering our surrender in traditional form, and so I had.

After the second draft I’ve got a better idea: there’s more strong images and the passage is longer. It’s better, but there’s still fat to trim away. Not sure about the structure of the first sentence: it still doesn’t read right compared to the rest. The image of the exodus needs work – it’s not clear which way it’s going. Need a new name for the Drum Road, it’s a name I’ve used before. The phrase ‘personal alleviation’ needs clarifying, it’s too posh to be applied to a gate guard. And the Lord at the end: it should be the runners Lord, so someone he names by name?  Don’t really know where the story’s going yet. The image which is particularly strong: the old man sitting suddenly down on sight of the cup, the rest the messenger shouldn’t know: and so the reader doesn’t need to. Also he should be arriving after sundown and a days running, not in the morning.  Also tenses. Need to fix those and double check them

3rd Draft
When I unwrapped the Persimmon Cup in front of the court that night it nearly killed the General, and me, in the process.  A great sigh, a whoof of energy left him then as he sat, collapsing backwards into his worn chair.  I had had a long journey there, right around the base of the Shivering Mountains to arrive late into the evening.  The guard at the citadel gate was bad-tempered, had a stinking cold and had to be persuaded with a quarter gold shilling to let me in.  Had he known what I was carrying, it may have taken simply words.  Before the gate I had run on after sundown, spurred on by the lengthening shadows, their creeping growth stretching my strides.  Pacing the sun through the midday hours was not something I had considered, knowing that the journey between us and them could easily be completed in the time traditionally available.  I was slowed by the exodus travelling anywhere away from our city: a living glacier of people and beasts and possessions.  Great lowing longhorn cows harnessed to carts of beets, furniture, children, plough horses pulling great wagons holding the sick and injured, whole families and neighbours, beggars and musicians, wives and nobles, farmers and blacksmiths, the displaced contents of a city pushing slowly round trees and shrines, stamping down earth and kicking up dust. I had set off from the outer gates at dawn, headed for the first checkpoint of the Great South Gate.  I had showed the gate guard my papers – lawful authority seal present and unbroken. He was on edge, and sought out every travellers reasons, not from efficiency but because it would give him some small sense of achievement in the fast crumbling structure. I had reached the gate directly from my summoning to the the Little Council Meeting, the brief audience over, and I had been dismissed with all the welfare of my city dependant on the speed of my run.  My honourable Lord Geoffrey of Wharram had charged me with delivering our cities unconditional surrender in traditional form, and I had done so.

read more about Amalasuntha HERE

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