21 December 2011

12 Days Of Christmas Reading ~ Day 12

On the twelfth day of Christmas...
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We feature author of Out Of The Water, Deniz Bevan...

Out of the Water Deniz Bevan


Part One – The Middle Sea
Chapter I – Morning
Palos de la Frontera, Kingdom of Castile, Spain
4 August 1492
She hurtled down the corridor, the slap of footsteps close behind. Her feet turned and her body followed, her thoughts a waterfall of words.
One flight, two flights. Gasping for air, she reached a long corridor lined with high windows.  A haze of early morning light gave the stone walls a forbidding aspect, as though they might move inward to trap her.  The smell of sizzling garlic led her to the kitchen and a pot bubbling over an open fire. A man in an apron rolled out dough at the table. He was a stranger; not one of the inquisitors who’d
Behind him, a door stood open to the gardens.  She grabbed a poker as she skidded past. The man called out, lunging around the table, and she hooked the poker to the pot’s rim and yanked, jumping back before the hot liquid could splash on her. He yelped as broth splattered across his arms. The rolling pin clattered to the floor.
Out through the door and across the herb garden, a crashing and banging coming from behind as the man followed her. She was halfway to the gate when a second man stood up among the mint, a fistful of green leaves in his hand. She caught one glimpse of his gaping mouth and kept running, the strong scent of trampled dill rising up around her.
Flecks of mud flew up against her legs as she ran on and on, towards the forest at the edge of the field, clutching a stitch in her side, not stopping or looking behind. Bursting into the shelter of the branches, she tramped through the undergrowth, slipping and sliding on pine needles, ears pricked to their utmost, straining for the sound of pursuit above her own thrashing and that of a river up ahead.  She sprang out of the treeline and crashed into another man.
“Let me go!” she hissed, and wrenched aside, snagging her sleeve on a branch.
He dropped her arm. “
She could not return, nor cross the river, and this man’s height and broad shoulders blocked the one other direction she could take. Had she run so far, to collapse from hunger at his feet? He was not dressed in the robes of an inquisitor, however.

Get away, get away, get away.removed her from her uncle Aram’s house nor yet de Armas, the officer who’d questioned her last night.Cuidado!” A deep voice cried in her ear. A heavy clasp on her arm pulled her back from a swirl of foamy water.Disculpe me, Señorita.” Excuse me.
For now
“Escaped? Why would –”
“It’s the inquisitors! I can’t stay here.” She made to follow the river.
“Where will you go?” He stepped aside, leaving a space between them, but kept pace with her as she scurried along the track. “Will they not search for you?”
She paused and listened.  Crickets chirped in the tall grass; martins twittered as they flew back and forth from the river to the branches above their heads. No pounding of hooves or booted feet.  She couldn’t run much further, not without rest, and glanced again at the trees, and at the man in front of her, her legs shaking.
“I won’t hurt you,” the stranger said, when she did not reply. His eyes were dark, but
something gleamed in their depths. “Look, I’ve got food in my satchel.” He slipped the leather strap off his shoulder and held open the flap for her to look inside. There was bread, and a number of objects rolled in cloth.
“What are those?” she asked.
“Brushes, canvas, charcoal. I’m an artist.” He bowed. “My name is Baha.” Dappled sunlight had made shadows of his features; at his smile the shadows fled. “May I ask your name?”
“I’m called Rosa.”
She looked up at his face under the pretence of inspecting the rip in her sleeve. He was clean shaven, but his hair was long, framing his cheeks in dark threads. Not a Castilian, perhaps a
“Pleased to meet you, Señorita Rosa. There’s a clearing on the other side. If you’re hungry, we might stop there a moment and eat.”
She looked back one last time and went with him as he veered off the water’s edge into the trees, willing to believe herself safe. She couldn’t return to Palos on her own, and there seemed no way to reach her guardian, Brother Arcturus, without becoming caught once more.  If, indeed, he hadn’t played a role in her capture.
The clearing was there as Baha had said, and she waited as he tugged a blanket out from his satchel. He draped it at the foot of a fig tree, and held out a hand. “Please.”
She lowered herself gingerly onto the furthest edge and tucked her skirts about her. He sat down on the far side and leaned back against the tree trunk with a sigh.
“I usually walk at night and sleep in the afternoons,” he told her, rummaging in his satchel.  “But I was abroad early, to see Amiral Colón leave.”
He pulled out a round loaf of bread filled with cheese, and tore it in two, passing her the
larger half. His matter of fact manners were soothing, and the shaking in her limbs subsided enough that she felt more hungry than ever. The inquisitors hadn’t spared any food last night.
“Could you repeat your name, please?” she asked on the final mouthful.
He rose up on one knee and plucked two figs off the tree, laying one on the blanket beside her.
“Baha. It’s an Ottoman name.”
An Ottoman! Whatever was he doing wandering so far from home? She murmured her
thanks and peeled her fig, keeping her eyes averted as he dug in a thumbnail and peeled his own. 
It hurt to think of Santiago, especially with her other family still trapped across the field.
She’d evaded pursuit, and had to find a way to save them, but then what? Even if they could find a ship, they had no means of affording passage.  She finished off her fig and wiped her hands on the grass.
“Are you cold, Señorita?” His words, though soft, rang in the still air, skittering through the midst of her frenzied thoughts.
“No, thank you.” Cold? The sun filtered down through the leaves, their resting place sunk in a bowl of golden light.
“Are you certain? You’re trembling. I’ve a cloak, if you need it.”
“No, thank you. What are you doing?” His eyes were lowered to his lap, where he held a scrap of paper and a smudge of charcoal.  He smiled and held up the – well, she wouldn’t call it a drawing. She peered at the squiggles; there was something like a half moon, with many shapes on either side that looked like houses.
“It’s something called
“Which text have you chosen?” She tried to make out as much of the tiny illustration as she could without leaning too close.
“None, this time.” He smiled, giving her a sidelong look. “It’s meant to portray the capital, Stam Boul, or Constantinopla.”
. She’d have to return, to rescue them.Catalán like Brother Arcturus, by his accent? His hose were tightly woven, of dark silk; his doublet ragged-edged but clean.He must have been among the crowd on the docks while she’d been talking with Santiago. Her father.nakısh. An illustration for a text,” he explained, returning the drawing to his lap and adding more lines. “An outline, at the moment, as I have no pigments left. I’ve been painting in the Frankish fashion for many years now, but as I am returning to my homeland, I try to remember and relearn the techniques used there.”
“Constantinopla! Are you headed that far?”
“Yes. I’ve heard that a merchant acquaintance of mine may be arriving tomorrow. So I bide my time at Palos, and come out to the river to paint.”
“My parents are headed to Constantinopla, as well. I wish to join them there.”
“Is that so? Then you are leaving because of the Alhambra Decree?”
She hesitated. There were many Christians under the Ottoman Empire, after all. Baha had been kind to her so far, but if he was Genoese or Greek, might he turn her in to the Inquisition?  He had not looked up from his work, concentrating on shading in the charcoal with one finger.
“I was,” she said, “but now I’m – I don’t quite know what I am. We left Toledo, my parents and brothers and I, en route to Barcelona. We were meant to take ship from there to Constantinopla. But we’d been on the road only two weeks when I fell. Down a cliff.”  She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye, but he hadn’t so much as raised an eyebrow.
“Did you hurt yourself?” he asked.
“No, not really. Only bruises.” She rubbed her wrist in memory. “But I fell so far, I couldn’t climb back up. That’s when I met Brother Arcturus, a Cistercian monk. I journeyed here with the monks, before Amiral Colón sailed, because Santiago – a friend of our family – is sailing with the Amiral.”
That made him look up. “Is that so? With Amiral Colón?”
“Yes.” She returned her gaze to the drawing. A caravel had taken shape inside the half moon of a river. “I thought he might help me find a ship to Constantinopla, or at least to Barcelona. I spoke to him at the last, the moment before they sailed.
“What do you mean?” His tone was gentle, as though to indicate that she did not have to answer if she didn’t wish to do so.
He’s my father.”
The words had spilled out before she could stop them, an echo of Santiago’s revelation
yesterday morning. “I’m not sure. He said he was my father, but there was no time for him to explain.”
“Yet you wish to travel to Constantinopla to find your other family?”
“What else can I do?” She’d meant to snap at him, but her voice came out in a whisper.
“I was not criticising, Señorita. I understand that you have no other choice. How will you journey there?”
“I don’t know.”
He’d drawn so much out of her in so short a time, this stranger. Yet it was easy to talk with those dark eyes on her, and the sun heating up the quiet glade. She could rest here for a while, and move on late in the afternoon.
“If we are headed in the same direction, perhaps I might be of help to you.”
“Perhaps. Thank you.” She slid down a little way, leaning back against their tree, watching his thumb rub back and forth as it smoothed out the lines of the drawing, blackened at the tip with charcoal dust.

Out of the Water

by Deniz Bevan

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He held up his hands, palms to her. “Are you in trouble?”
She nodded, waving a hand behind her. “My aunts and uncles are trapped at the manor
house, but –” She shuddered. “I’ve escaped.”


  1. You are quite welcome, anytime! I love the excerpt of 'Out of the Water', and cannot wait to read it. Merry Christmas!