Work in Progress: The White Raven, week 6

I might not make the Nano goal of 50,000 words in a month, but just over a third of a novel in six weeks? That’s really nothing to sneeze at. Especially since this week was a holiday week, and I had one day of no words, and one day of close to no words.  I pulled my total weekly words out today when my husband and son went out to catch Pokemon.

The White Raven
Week Six Total Wordcount

I’ve been having a lot of fun with the research into Roman baths. According to what I’ve read, Roman men spent so much time in the baths that they did their day to day business there, while lounging in the tepidarium and getting oiled and scraped by slaves.

Oiled and scraped? What?

Here, take a look. Lorcan’s first experience with a Roman bath.


The next room was warm, warmer than Lorcan was used to, but he ignored it, staring in wonder at the elaborate decorations on the walls. He wandered over to one, examining the thousands of brilliantly colored tiles that made up the pictures. Laughter caught his attention, and he turned to see his escort smiling. He said something in that other language, then gestured. Two men in brief garments came forward. Lorcan’s companion gestured to a place in front of him, then mimed taking off his robe. Lorcan looked at the other men, then back at his companion. He arched a brow, and his escort laughed and nodded. Lorcan shook his head, and his companion sighed, then left the room. He came back a few minutes later wearing a similar robe. He took his off and handed it to one of the attendants, then looked expectantly at Lorcan. Lorcan grimaced, but took his robe off. One of the attendants took it and laid it on a bench, coming back with two jars. He handed one to the other attendant, then waited. Lorcan looked to his escort for guidance, and remembered Ivo. He tapped his chest.

“Lorcan. I’m Lorcan,” he said.

His escort smiled. “Felix,” he said, repeating the gesture. Then he held his arms wide, and the attendant started rubbing something onto his skin. Lorcan blinked and looked at the man waiting next to him. He held his hand out, and the attendant opened the jar and and handed it to him. Lorcan sniffed at the contents, then dipped a finger in to what appeared to be some kind of thick, heavily scented oil. He handed the jar back and held his arms out, the way that Felix had. His attendant started to smear the thick oil onto his skin, spreading it all over. Lorcan sneezed twice from the scent, and Felix laughed again. Then he frowned and said something to his attendant. The man left the room quickly, coming back leading an old man. He brought the man to Lorcan and said something.

“They tell me you’re from Eire?” he said, his accent jarring in it’s familiarity. He tipped his head back; his eyes were milky white.

Lorcan gasped, then clasped the man’s hand. “Yes! And you’re the first person I’ve heard speak Gaeilge since I was taken from home.” He looked around. “What’s your name? And how long have you been here, Grandfather?”

The old man smiled. “I’m Ercc. And I’ve been here more years than you’ve been alive, I warrant. When I left Eire, Eochaid was still High King. Do you know from Eochaid?”

“I know his name, yes. His son Eogan is High King now,” Lorcan refrained from adding that Eochaid was his grandfather. Better to leave that hidden for now.

Ercc nodded. “And, as to how I came here? I was a mercenary. Then I was a slave. Then a gladiator. Now, I tend the fires. Don’t need to see to throw a log on, hm? What’s your name, lad?”

“Lorcan mac Diarmuid mic Morrigan.”

The effect on the old man was striking. He scuttled backwards and moaned, “The Battle Raven’s own blood? Here?” One of the attendants grabbed him, and they chattered back and forth in that other language. Then the attendant shoved Ercc forward, hard enough that he stumbled. Lorcan caught him before he fell.

“Peace, Grandfather,” he said gently. “My grandmother’s wrath is not for you. They wanted you to explain something to me?”

“Ahhh…” Ercc stuttered. Then he swallowed. “The strigil. They wanted me to explain the strigil, because Felix worried you might kill the man who tried to scrape you.”

“Scrape me?” Lorcan looked at Felix. He shook his head, and Felix nodded. He gestured to his attendant, who brought out a curved blade and started scraping it along Felix’s skin, removing oil and dirt alike.

“Grandfather?” Lorcan asked softly. “What is this?”

“It’s how Romans bathe, Lorcan.”

“This is a bath?” Lorcan looked around. “Oil and a knife? Don’t they have soap here?”

The old man cackled. “You sound like me, the first time I did it. Try it. Just don’t kill Bruno here. He’s a good boy.”

“He pushed you!”

The old man shrugged. “He’s better than most. Will you let them?”

Lorcan nodded, and held his arms out to his sides, letting Bruno come toward him with another curved blade. Without prompting, he held the blade out to Lorcan to examine.

“Grandfather, will you tell him thank you?” Lorcan asked as he took the blade. “It’s not sharp?”

“You couldn’t cut cheese with this. But it will get all the dirt off you. Let him work.”

Lorcan handed the blade back and let Bruno work. The feeling was decidedly odd, and ticklish when Bruno went to work under Lorcan’s arms. He tried to stay still, and mostly succeeded, although he was certain that Bruno was laughing at him by the time he reached Lorcan’s legs. When he was done, he stood up and said something. Ercc smiled.

“He’s asked me to explain to you how the rest will work. We’ll go into the hot room now. You won’t like it. I didn’t, when I first tried it. You’ll stay there for a bit and sweat. They’ll pour cold water on you every so often. Let them. It feels good. There’s a pool in there, too. Hottest bath you’ve ever taken. Then you go to the cold room to swim. You swim?”

“Yes,” Lorcan answered, taking his robe from the attendant and putting it back on. “And this is all to take a bath? Does everyone do this here?”

“Men and women both. In the public baths, they even do business in there. Trading and whatnot. Since they spend so much time in there.”

As an aside, I swear I was not doing research when I was on vacation, but we did do a spa experience that included a tepidarium (your standard sauna), a caldarium (very hot, very steamy), and a laconium  (very hot, but dry), and that replicated the frigidarium (cold) part of the experience by having you go through cold showers afterwards.  Interesting experience! Still, I prefer soap.

What do you think?

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