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There's not much point in reading these 'til you've read the story, "A Stitch in Time," a Saiyuki AU, which is here.

How It Was Born

When I read cicer's Taboo and emungere's Bless the Beasts and Children, both stories got me thinking about what you could change about the Saiyuki boys' s backstories and still have them be them.

Then, last winter, saiyuki_time had a challenge called "The Time Traveller." I quickly came up with the core scenes in this story - mortally injured Hugh running into Govan and then Father Calum, Hugh's illness and delirium, the time slip that (1) allows Gojyo to treat him with the opiates that allow his body to rest and (2) allows Hugh to tap in youkai!Hakkai's physical strength and inhuman healing abilities, followed by his awakening afterward to find himself miraculously mostly healed, and then the departures of the boys for the Continent. However, even at that length (about half what it is now), the thing was much too long for the time limit for the challenge, so I just let it go.

When saiyuki_time had a challenge to combine any two previous prompts, the plot bunny resurfaced. Once again, it was too long, but I decided to start writing it anyway. In discussions with smillaraaq , it became clear that the story was missing a huge amount in the middle: what happened during Hugh's convalescence; how that strengthened his bond with Govan so that the two of them would, of course, travel together; when did Hugh learn of Govan's sad history (and for the reader, how closely did that run to Gojyo's story in canon); whether Hugh would ever admit to Govan what he "dreamed"; and so on. A long series of drafts and rewrites and comments finally put the story into its current shape.

Rùnag was smilla's idea. As soon as I had Govan working as a shepherd, she said "He needs a sheepdog puppy." Of course, Rùnag was also very handy for breaking the tension in several scenes! I picked out her color from a Web page on border collies - I hadn't known they came in any colors but black-and-white. Her name means "Sweetheart." We decided that although Govan was not in Hakkai's category of Mr. Obvious Man when it came to names (I'm sure Hugh's horse, sold to fund his trip north, was named something like "Horse" or "Gray"), he would probably pick something ordinary but affectionate.

Its Literary Lineage

I have been to Scotland - once, briefly, as a not-quite-11-year-old. The Scotland of this story owes far more to several novels by a pair of beloved authors.

When I was 10, I discovered Sally Watson, author of historical adventure-romance novels for girls. Later on, the SCA herald I became would roll her eyes at Watson's nomenclature: Watson's minor characters have more-or-less reasonable names, but the heroines tend to have romance-novel historical-esque names ... Melanie for a girl born in the early 18th century in Virginia, for example, or Lauchlin as a variant of the male name Lachlan for a Scots Highland girl born in the mid-18th century on Skye. But her basic history was sound, and she roused both myself and my younger sister A. to explore maps, encyclopedia, and history books to learn more about the lands and times that Valerie, Lauchlin, Kelpie, Melanie, and their relatives (all the main characters in all the books turned out to be related - family trees appeared in the later books), so that when our family visited Scotland later that year, we recognized place-names and parts of the map, and our trip was that much the richer because of Ms. Watson and her adventurous girls.

When I was in my 20s, A. discovered the six-volume Lymond Chronicles, by Dorothy Dunnett, and got our entire RPG group reading them. I was completely smitten. The hero - antihero, really, for most of the series - has Sanzo's looks, Gojyo's audacity and forwardness with women, and Hakkai's brain and nerves ... and perhaps, in the end, there's even a little lost Goku in there. It's a great series for a hurt/comfort junkie, because Lymond is constantly getting injured, often gravely (well, he is a mercenary). Francis Crawford of Lymond is a Lowlands Scotsman, and several of the books have a number of scenes set there. The time period of this series - when Mary Queen of Scots was a child - is what I used for "Stitch in Time."

(BTW, the series is, I know, pretty melodramatic. My husband referred to it as the Perils of Lymond. And elsane has noted that Dunnett withholds information in a manipulative fashion. But it's still a helluva read.)

Scots Gaelic

I absolutely do not speak or read Scots Gaelic.

Watson's and Dunnett's books taught me a handful of phrases and words - the endearment mo cridhe (my heart) shows up in both books, for example. My half-baked attempt, years ago, to teach myself some Welsh demonstrated forcefully that Celtic languages are not to be trifled with.

And then I discovered Faclair Dwelly air Loidhne: "The online version of Dwelly's great Scots Gaelic - English dictionary." Not only is it really easy to use - but the multiple examples given with each word include entire phrases I could snatch. I also found a translation of the Lord's Prayer, elsewhere. The only bit of Gaelic I've used that really bothers me - because I'm 95% certain its grammatical form is wrong - is where Govan is telling Rùnag to get down when Hugh and Govan are tussling in the second to last section. I should note, too, that this is actually modern Scots Gaelic, and not exactly what Govan and his neighbors would be speaking in the mid-16h century.

I'm going to follow my beta's suggestion and give a little glossary here:

a mhairg - woe (as an exclamation)

... agus a' glòir, gu siorraidh - ... and the glory forever (last words of the Lord's Prayer)

ist - hush or shhh.

leigheas - medicine or drug

mo chridhe - my heart (as an endearment - pronounced "moh cree")

mo ghille - my lad

seall - look (as an exclamation)

shios - down (but I'm certain this isn't right in the context of the story)

sidhe - a fay spirit or fairy; usually not little and cute, but rather powerful, beautiful, and terrifying (pronounced "shee")

teirmeasg - misfortune, as part of the phrase teirmeasg ort! - bad luck to you!

Gojyo's Bedtime Story for Hugh

This is a Chinese folk tale that I found online on About.com, which I don't consider a terribly reputable source, but it was the right sort of story.



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 17th, 2009 01:30 am (UTC)
I'm going to go back to comment on the story proper in just a minute or two, but I wanted to read your story notes first... and this line cracked me up so much that I just had to comment on it right away.

although Govan was not in Hakkai's category of Mr. Obvious Man when it came to names (I'm sure Hugh's horse, sold to fund his trip north, was named something like "Horse" or "Gray"), he would probably pick something ordinary but affectionate.

I really did like the name Govan did choose for the pup. Indeed, the smattering of Gaelic throughout the story helped give it character (and yay for the glossary! ...Although the context clues were quite helpful for catching most of the meanings). :) Likewise, the language barrier itself was quite brilliantly done, and helped mark the pace of the story as that barrier became less problematic over time. Very cool. :D
Oct. 20th, 2009 02:55 am (UTC)


smilla & I were chatting and she was saying that it was just as well that Hakkai never had any children ... "What do you mean we can't name it 'Baby'?"

The language thing was very tiresome sometimes! You know how much I like writing Gojyo-speak, and here it was pretty much impossible. I think that also contributed to Calum's loquaciousness - he was talking for two, as it were ... .

I'm so glad this gave you a laugh!

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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