Peter M Howard ::

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Raphaël — Outline I of VI

07January2011 [writing]
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The book I’m writing is divided into two parallel stories — one in the 19th century, one in the 21st — each containing three acts. I’ve a very basic outline of the six acts; the following was written to extend the outline of the first act of the 19th century story.

Raphaël, 19th Century, Act I

Raphaël was born around 1790, the exact date unknown, his early childhood spent underground, especially through the Terror; he has only vague memories of instability, and of moving around a lot. By the turn of the century he and his mother are settling, evidently making the right alliances under the new regime. He has no memory of a real father, and believes him dead, though people sometimes talk of his father in the present tense, referring to him as a clergyman, of sorts. It’s implied that his father is assisting in the making of alliances, and is skilled at this sort of diplomacy.

By 1800, his education is being set in motion, some patron sponsoring his studies. By 1805, he’s being taught by professors from the suspended (and driven underground), University of Paris (the Sorbonnne). He has a liberal education, learning various arts and sciences. By 1810 he’s demonstrating an aptitude for the sciences, and for medicine in particular. Medicine still, at this point, a sort of guessing game, he learns a mix of ancient medicine and modern scientific technique; it’s implied that had the University not been suspended, the discoveries of 40 years later would be happening publicly contemporaneously, so he’s learning things that are advanced for the time. The learning is within a context of the ancients as well, not solely a modern “scientific” method. Hints of alchemy.

He’s being groomed, by his “family”, for a career as a statesman, but he’s rejecting what he sees as the abuses of politics, its intrigues not for him. As the wars get worse, he does what he can to help the City’s returning wounded. The Family, though, see the worsening wars and the increasing domestic instability as an opportunity (it’s implied that they’ve been benefiting from the instability of the last 25 years), planning to assist in the coming overthrow of the government and installation of a puppet king who might be easier controlled.

R is approached and asked/ordered to assist in the Family’s machinations. He is to get close to someone — a minister within the City administration — to feed information back and forth for the Family.

ASIDE: the City might be aware of him, but is unable to reveal herself; at this stage of the story he needs to think he’s utterly alone — he’s young and naïve and thinks he carries the world on his shoulders; he is to ignore the signs that he’s not alone and flee, afraid.

R’s mentor, Saul, one of his professors, an adviser more recently, has started to study something obsessively; he believes he’s about to make a great discovery, but is also becoming increasingly paranoid.

One day R is asked to kill the minister he’s been spying on — his death is supposed to trigger a power shift within the city. With his medical knowledge, this should be clean and straightforward, even painless. But R stalls. Reluctant to go through with the assassination, he goes to visit Saul, finds him dead, mutilated. Suspecting the Family, and finding himself the primary suspect for Saul’s murder, R flees the City. Not knowing where else to go, he decides to follow the lead of S’s late investigations, to northern Africa.

The City, 19th Century, Acts I-III

Through to the 1780s, the City was strengthening, but then weakens, and the revolution wracks her body. The subsequent Terror spreads through her like a cancer. By the turn of the century, she’s close to death, rarely seen anymore and unable to extend her influence. Her priestess too is aging, and unable to find a replacement. Come 1814, when R is being challenged, her priestess dies, and the spirit disappears from the city entirely. The City is effectively lifeless for decades. She gradually rebuilds her strength, but by mid-century isn’t strong enough to avoid destruction under the new Empire — whole quarters demolished and new streets and boulevards lain. This time around, however, she isn’t destroyed completely; she retreats to a hill on the northern periphery, sheltering amidst the artists and dancers and prostitutes. Within a few short years, the city’s boundaries expand dramatically, encircling her base and restoring her influence.

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