Deleted Scene/Lethemia side story: The Writings of Lord Ronin Entila

One of the sometimes-frustrating things about creating a multi-book fantasy world is how much extra world you build that never actually ends up in any book at all. This excerpt is one of those situations. Lord Ronin Entila made a brief appearance in Tales of Blood & Light Book 2, The Cedna, in a flashback explaining how the Cedna herself came into existence. Lord Ronin Entila was her sayantaq father, an explorer/conqueror from the southern lands. At some point in my writings, Lord Ronin wanted to have his perspective known, and so I gave him the opportunity to narrate a travel journal–though it was always pretty obvious to me I wouldn’t use it in any book, and after edits, events in The Cedna ended up contradicting his tales, as in his journal he spends a long time with the Ganteans, while in the book, just a single fateful night. So here are the opening entries of the impossible journal…

A Travelogue, by Ronin Entila

Those who know me well know I am not much of a writer. I am a man of action rather than words, but it seems if I am to explore these cold lands, I must record my impressions, for I have so many thoughts I cannot hold them all tightly in my head. I came north with the blessing of His Highness, King Tryphon I Galatien, in this fine year the 804th of the nation of Lethemia, domain of the Holy Amassis. I came to discern what prospects these lands held for us, if they had any merits for trade or cultivation, and to finally bring the Ganteans under the shroud of our holy country. Too long have the residents of the northern isles been practicing unholy ways. I shall write more of these ways later. But we have long known they practice some strange magic up here.

A family of our own kind, of an evening, might gather together, and the father might read to his brood from the Book of Amassis, or of our history, or even, were he liberal, from one of the great poems. But the Ganteans do not gather to talk at night, or if they do, they do so out of my presence. What I feel from them all is this tightness, this secrecy, this wall of silence. I know we call them barbarians, but that is because of how rough and dirty their life appears, isn’t it? They have no plumbing, no steel, no bitumen, no engines. They live up here in this blasted cold. But it seems to me they have a deep and complex society, full of all kinds of rules and niceties I can barely discern. There are times I feel the fool.

The role of the woman they call Cedna is unclear to me: a queen, a soothsayer, a goddess? All three? To be sure, she holds their magic more than any other, and is often inebriated with their foul plant broths. So, I think, she is a shamaness, a soothsayer, more than anything.

But then I see how she lives, with those around her giving her deference and space, much as we would do with the Queen. She is cared for more than any other, and in a place where life is cold and hard, she is given more: her food is prepared and brought to her by others, her fires made in her stone house before she arrives. These are not a deferent people: each and every one does their own work, and such work it is to keep them busy just to keep themselves alive. (I cannot help but admire the stout and hardy dispositions of the Ganteans. They do not complain.) And so when Cedna sits idle when all those around her scurry about with the exhausting business of her survival, I think of a queen, more than anything (no disrespect meant, of course, to our Majesty Halcyone, whose wisdom precludes any notion that she does not deserve her leisure!)

But there is something more in the way her people treat her, something I have never seen before except in our temples of worship in Lethemia. A heady combination of fear and awe—as if Cedna was to her people as the dread god Amatos is to us. Holy, yes, but terrible, too. A goddess then, in the minds of her followers.

The woman herself is something to remark upon. Her hair is such a glimmering auburn I could best only compare it to a flame, but such cliché would cheapen the reality. She is youthful and yet old beyond her years, she speaks little and watches everything. ‘Twas this young thing who greeted me when I made land, and offered me warmer welcome than I had come to expect. I suspect the other tribal leaders put up with me only because of her apparent liking, but I find it strange she has no lord of her own. No one stops her when she takes me into her stone house at night (and I do not stop myself, though Amassis knows I should! What can I say? Her flesh burns even warmer than her hair, and I have never been one to turn away a willing woman!) Even so I can see the tribal leaders do not like that we share a bed, but they are too in awe of her to put a halt to it.

Every third sennight they perform a ceremony of some kind, and Cedna is away the whole night through. She returns in a drunken state and pale as snow, looking weak, almost bloodless. I cannot explain the strangeness of these nights. There is a flavor to the woman’s kisses that fills me with dread, and yet I hunger for it even more than the touch of her flesh. A bitter, strong flavor, I believe it is the plant drug they imbibe to worship their gods, or whatever it is they do. I know I ought not taste the plant, but I cannot help myself, and following her kisses I spend a sleepless night, wandering in dreams I cannot be having. I can barely recall the elusive madness the next morning, but I know I see her, Cedna, in those dreams. She carries a flame in her bare hand, and holds it against me, so warm in all this ice. Ah, but her tears! So many tears. A thousand tears to wash away the warmth.

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Deleted/Reworked Scene: Sterling Prologue

My friend and reader Christine requested a deleted scene from Sterling, Tales of Blood and Light 3, and so this next one is for her. Book Three had fewer purely deleted scenes and many more “reworked” ones, so this scene may have familiar bits, for those of you who have read Sterling. This was the Prologue I had in the first draft, which was reworked and rewritten and massaged into the shorter and less wordy Prologue I used in the final version.

Sterling, of course, is the narrator, albeit a bit younger than she ended up in the final prologue:

“Every girl has a fairy tale,” my sister Stesichore said. We sat on the sun porch off the fourth floor of our Shankar house, as grand a dwelling as any in Lethemia. “Why, there’s a fairy tale for any situation and any appearance. There’s Cinder and Ashe for a housemaid, and Rose Red for a girl whose mother has died. Clever girls have The Peasant’s Wise Daughter, and beauties can have their pick from Fair Ruslana or Pretty Poppy.”

Stesi’s musing came about because she’d found me out on the deck reading a book of such stories, and she’d asked me if I liked them. I’d told her honestly that they were silly and unrealistic, and she’d begged to differ. Now she had to prove herself, which I knew could be a tedious game. I sighed and put the book aside. Stesi, impossible to ignore, demanded attention. She couldn’t endure being alone; only through the eyes of others could she make sense of the world and herself. I was fourteen; she was twenty-two, but I was the sister with more sense. Not that anyone would ever recognize that.

I acceded to her overtaking my quiet afternoon. “So what would your tale be, Stesi?”

The Princess in the Tower, of course.”

I wrinkled my brow, trying to determine why “of course” tagged this sentence. I couldn’t reason it out. “Why that one? I would have thought Fair Ruslana more to your liking.” Fair Ruslana told the tale of a beautiful, fair-haired princess enchanted into a long sleep, only to be broken by the kiss of her true love, a prince.

Stesi patted at her hair, upswept into a fabulous arrangement that likely took several hours for her handmaiden to create. “Well, first of all, I have beautiful hair. Everyone says so.”

That was true enough. Stesi’s hair was long and heavy, the color of honey. She’d been chagrined when the pale blonde of her youth had changed to the darker hue. She’d begged for a year to be allowed to dye it, but my mother had said that “Only courtesans and loose women alter their appearance with artificial aids.” So Stesi, in typical fashion, had begun to believe that honey-gold hair was far more desirable than the pale locks I had never outgrown.

“And The Princess in the Tower is all about an unattainable woman. That’s me. I have rejected all my suitors thus far, and I shall wait until the best one offers for me.”

“Oh? And who will that be?” I couldn’t help asking, though I knew encouraging Stesi in this way could be foolish.

“Prince Costas, of course. I am going to marry him and become Queen of Lethemia.”

This plan, far-fetched as it sounded, was not beyond the realm of possibility. In fact, my parents were likely angling for the match. But there had been no word yet that Costas Galatien, a full three years younger than Stesi, intended to hold a Marriage Brokering anytime soon.

“So what’s my fairy tale?” I asked, knowing this question would shatter Stesi’s argument to pieces. There were no fairy tales for a girl like me.

The Ugly Duchess,” Stesi said without hesitation. Her selection of that tale for me came as no surprise, but her choice showed how little Stesi knew. The Ugly Duchess told the story of a fair-skinned girl born into a dark-skinned world. She grew up her whole life being called ugly, until her father married her off to a duke from a distant land. When she arrived in her new home, she discovered that there were other fair-skinned people, and the people of the fair-skinned world considered her beautiful beyond compare. Like most fairy tales, the message intended to be uplifting: that beauty could be in the eye of the beholder—but the message was wrong. I should know. I had the kind of ugliness that could not be remedied by a change in perspective. I’d been born with a wine-stain birthmark sprawling across the right side of my face and trailing down my neck. My mark would not be considered lovely anywhere in the world.

I had been an outsider my whole life, looking in at other people’s stories from a distance. Stesi’s story dominated my childhood. Her beauty and her importance as the heir to House Ricknagel eclipsed everything else in Mama and Papa’s eyes.

But that afternoon after Stesi flounced away from the sun porch to do something “more interesting than reading fusty tales,” I began to see that I had a story too, though it bore no resemblance to Stesi’s bejeweled fairy tale.

This was the first circle of my story, the truth on which the world agreed: Sterling Ricknagel was nobody, the ugly, shameful daughter of a great house. Any story is never only one story, one circle. Concentric circles lie beneath; even the tightest story has other tales creeping below, silent loops waiting for only a slight weakening in the first story to break free.

No one would remember me in the history books. The passage of my life would be forgotten, and I couldn’t help but think it would be a mercy if it were. I would make no mark upon the world.

I slammed the book of fairy tales closed.

Deleted Scene: Laith and Miran in Muscan

Here’s a scene that was cut because the book from which it was drawn was entirely rewritten (ToB&L Book 4) and the young boy character “Miran” (Laith Amar’s nephew) was cut. This was a scene from Book 4– and so you see a big give-away about one of my narrators for that book, who happens to be Laith Amar, Lethemia’s top mage and Leila’s half-brother. There is another big reveal about something that happens at the end of this scene that may relieve some readers, however, since this scene was cut, I make no guarantees that it officially happens in Book 4–or anywhere!–anymore. This scene was a bit of a darling because it contained one of my favorite things: puppies!

Reminder–the narrator here is Laith. Muscan is a city in the Eastern Empire.

Scene:

I needn’t have worried. Miran loved Muscan. Everything fascinated him—the gilded cupolas on the seven basilicas, the elaborate bath houses, the spicy food, the hothouses full of flowers that stretched for leagues beyond Muscan, even the stray dogs on the street that he insisted on feeding.

“I miss the hounds at home,” he told me as we stood in a filthy backstreet pursuing a bitch-dog with sagging teats that he had spied from a far. The poor dog was skin and bones. Miran had bought a shoulder of raw pork at Muscan’s open-air market and held it wrapped in linen.

I had a headache—the final, enduring symptom from whatever sickness had struck me down in Galantia. It never stopped, a dull, throbbing pulse behind my left temple. After nearly two sidereals in Muscan, Elena’s image had faded from the backs of my eyelids. A little. But I was losing hope. No Esani troupes had passed through the city in all this time. Somehow she had slipped through my fingers. The failure weighed more heavily upon me with every passing day.

Miran tossed the pork in front of the hole in the wall where we’d seen the desperate bitch pass carrying not one but two tiny puppies in her mouth. We waited.

“She looked so weak,” he murmured. “Maybe she can’t come out? Or maybe she’s just wary.”

“Wouldn’t you be, if you were her?” I said distractedly. The hammer at my temple beat a steady, nauseating rhythm.

Wheels rattled on the cobbles behind us. “News! Printed news! The latest from Lethemia!” A small voice cried in the Imperial tongue.

I turned away from the dog’s hidey-hole, though Miran did not. A boy smaller than Miran pushed a cart brimming with freshly-printed new-sheets. I could still smell the fishy odor of the ink. “News! Papers minted from the Muscan Imperial Press! Official!” he cried again.

“How much?” I asked in his language, which I had learned lifetimes ago as a student at the Conservatoire. What news of Lethemia was so important the Imperial press had taken it up? I had come to understand that the Empire rarely made mention of its western neighbor in its press or politics these days.

“Two jennars, sir,” the newsboy said. He lifted a paper with ink-stained fingers.

I handed him the coins and took the paper. The newsboy passed on his way, and when I turned, I found Miran standing with two wriggling puppies in his arms and tears streaming down his pale cheeks.

“What? What is it?”

“She died,” Miran said. “Their mother is dead.” He jerked his chin towards the hole. I peered into it and saw the sad, still form of the bitch, every rib shadowed.

“They’re too small to eat the pork,” Miran said from behind me. “They need milk.”

I rolled up the paper, tucked it beneath my arm, placed a hand on Miran’s shoulder, and together we went back to the open-air market. I couldn’t stand his tears.

After procuring milk and paying an exorbitant sum to the keeper of our hotel for permission to keep the puppies in our room—the Imperials, in general, disliked dogs—finally I had Miran happily settled with his freshly-bathed puppies and a ball of yarn. I unfurled the newsprint and began to read.

The paper nearly slipped from my hands.

“Holy Amassis!” I whispered. “After all this time?”

Leila’s long missing daughter, Tiriq’s own twin, Tianiq Galatien, had been found.

Deleted Scene: Miki becomes a Dragonnaire

Here’s my first deleted scene. This one takes place in the series timeline right at the end of The Gantean, after Leila has left Costas and her son, Tiriq, to go after Laith and the Cedna. As you will see it is told from Miki, her Gantean brother’s, point of view. Leila left Miki on the ship with to take care of Tiriq while she was away, but there was some lingering animosity between Miki and Leila’s husband, Costas Galatien. This little scene was part of a prologue I had originally written for Mikien’s book (Book 7), but the big timeline changes I made in the overall series arc made that particular prologue unworkable, as I felt the jumping around in time was too confusing. It also turned out that Miki becoming a Dragonnaire was less central to his story than I had originally imagined, so using this scene didn’t have the story-relevant impact I needed for the opening of a book. Below is just a snippet from the entire scene.

Scene: 

Costas sat down on the bed with Tiriq in his lap, ashen. I shifted awkwardly, wishing I could leave, but the ship was small, and I had no where to go.

“I’ll have to call off my men,” he muttered. “I’ve sent them ashore to search for Leila.”

“They’ll never find her. Leila can blend.” It was a uniquely Shringar talent, that easy adaptation, melding into every circumstance like a drop of water into the ocean.

Costas pulled himself together. “Very well. I will allow her to perform this duty. I practically gave it to her myself. But if she isn’t back in a fortnight, I’m going after her.”

I lifted my brows, suppressing a skeptical snort. “To Gante?” Costas had all the usual trappings of a southerner—the rich, thin clothing he wore would kill him in a second in Gante’s harsh climate, not to mention his thin skin and a preference for weapons and magic rather than raw resourcefulness.

“That’s where she’s gone?”

“Undoubtedly,” I said. “But give her at least a moon. I expect she’ll be back to you by then. In the meantime, don’t you have a city to retake?” All through our sea journey from the harbor of Engashta, where Leila and I had gone to find Tiriq and Costas after they were captured by Xander Ricknagel, Costas had been planning how to retake the High City from Ricknagel’s remaining army. Galantia and Province Ricknagel were the only places in the country still held by those loyal to the man who had usurped Costas’s throne.

Costas stared at me for a long moment. Then he threw back his head and laughed. “How old are you, anyway?”

“Fourteen winters,” I said sullenly. As a Gantean—a small one at that—among sayantaq, I was usually mistaken for a child.

“Leila says you are her brother, but I see little resemblance between the two of you. You look fully Gantean, as she does not.”

“Ganteans do not reckon relationship by blood,” I said shortly. “But I call Leila a sister, and I call Tiriq a brother. I always will.”

Costas gazed down at Tiriq in his arms. “You feel for them both like family, though no blood connects you?”

“This is the Gantean way. Our island is a hard place. We look after one another. We are connected by the land itself.” We were connected by blood, too, but in a different way from how he would understand. All Gantean blood fed the Hinge.

“Interesting.” Costas set Tiriq back down on the bed and began to pace. “Allian told me you killed my mage Oruscani.”

I retracted toward the cabin door. I had feared there might be repercussions for killing the mage once Costas pulled himself together and regained his power. I still had the ulio I’d picked up from Leila, the Gantean ritual blade, stuffed in my back pocket. I scrambled for it and crouched. Once again I wished I’d had some kind of training in the martial arts. I’d seen Costas’s Dragonnaires practicing their moves, and they had looked useful. Costas had easily snapped the blade from my hand earlier, and he had all the training the wealth of the world could buy.

All I had were instincts honed by a lifetime of dangers.

Costas stared down at the ulio that I held in front of me. “Now why would you go and do that?” he wondered aloud. “You’re not stupid, boy. You don’t want to fight me.”

“Allian Kercheve put me in binds for killing the mage. He said there would be consequences.”

Costas laughed again. “You’ve been exonerated. Allian was actually quite impressed with you. He said you were fast. Coming from him, that means something. He was the fastest fighter I had.” Regret tinged his voice. Kercheve had died fighting Xander Ricknagel as we’d rescued Costas from his upscale prison in the Duke of Engahsta’s home.

Costas’s eyes never left the ulio. He moved like summer lightning, springing towards me, then darting to the left, and finally snapping his hand down on my arm.

I didn’t drop the blade; I went with the force of his blow, crouching lower until one shin rested on the cabin floor. I spun on my toes on my standing leg to avoid his next blow and skittered away from him.

“Good instincts,” Costas said. Again he moved, this time in a frontal attack, both hands whizzing through motions too fast to track. With the wall at my back, I had few options. I ducked and somersaulted, coming to my feet behind him. Now he was pinned by the wall.

“Ingenius,” Costas said. “But you’re still outmatched.”

I cast a quick glance at Tiriq on the bed.

“Don’t you dare,” Costas said, his face hardening. “If you touch my son, I’ll murder you with my bare hands.”

“I’d never hurt him,” I hissed. “He’s my brother.”

A satisfied look crossed Costas’s face. He struck anyway, launching into a dizzying array of strikes, punches, and kicks, too fast to track. His foot connected precisely with my wrist and the ulio went flying. Before I knew what had happened, he had me on my belly with two fingers digging into the back of my neck like iron pins, his knee in my back.

“This grip,” he said, “is a secret known only to me and my Dragonnaires. I can push so hard I can knock you unconscious, just from the pressure. It cuts off the blood supply to the brain, you see. If I hold it long enough, I’ll kill you.”

I writhed but he held on.

“Listen to me, Mikien. I’m giving you only two choices. One, I keep squeezing. I can do this for as long as it takes. Two, you agree to pledge your loyalty to me, become one of my Dragonnaires, and have your oath bound by a mage. My men have gone ashore and they will be bringing at least one mage back to the ship when they return.”

“What does that mean, bound by a mage?” I rasped. I could hardly breathe, what with the force of his knee into my ribs.

“It means you will swear your life to me, as all my Dragonnaires do, blood and breath. A magemark will be put upon your arm, written in my own blood. This makes you physically incapable of harming anyone who carries my blood. And you will serve me. We will put these good instincts to better use.”

“I’m Gantean,” I spat. “I will not kneel to a southern king.”

Costas Galatien’s laugh had begun to grate on my nerves. “You’re already kneeling, boy. One way or another. Come now, pick life. I like you too much to have you go to waste. And I fear Leila would never forgive me if I killed you.”

“Will you train me to fight?” I asked.

That grating laugh again. “I most certainly will.”

“Yes, then,” I said as my vision began to blur. “I’ll do it. I’ll take the pledge.”

New Feature: Deleted Scenes

I do a lot of rewriting in my books. I’m fully rewriting two drafts right now, the draft for Mage & Source and the draft for Light & Shadow. Three issues had presented themselves in my original drafts for the last four books in the Tales of Blood & Light Series. The first was a relationship between two characters that was problematic; the second was a deep timeline issue; the third was the fact that the last four books were all telling the same events from different points of view and thus the storyline itself was repetitive. So…that meant rewrites on all four drafts. I’ve excised the problematic relationship so it no longer exists, restructured the timeline of the last four books, and teased out the storyline into the four books so each one tells its own story, and yet the plot arc of the series is distributed evenly over the final four books (or rather, it will be once I’m finished).

All this rewriting means that I have tons of deleted material. Some interactions and scenes I enjoyed no longer fit within the parameters of the books and cannot be used. So, in keeping with a goal of trying to post more on my blog, I’ve decided to present some of my deleted Lethemia scenes here.

They will post on occasional Mondays starting next week on 1/9. I’ll try to give a little context for the scene before hand, and I may explain why it was deleted if that seems relevant. I’d love to hear what you think of them.

January 2017 Goals

I ushered out 2017 with a big, long migraine headache yesterday, during which I accomplished very little. I meant to make some progress on one of my December goals and that did not happen. I can’t say I’m sad to see 2016 go–towards the end there it felt like a real slog. There have been many external world issues that have intruded on my writing mind this year, especially this winter, mostly in the form of mental depression, although the noisy construction project next door hasn’t helped, either. Thank goodness for noise-canceling headphones and music or I’d get nothing done.

I don’t generally like to post my yearly goals, since it feels like too long a time frame for realistic projection of my capabilities, so I will stick with my monthly goals.

Last month I planned to:

  1. FINISH ToB&L Book 5 LIGHT & SHADOW revision. NOPE! I made good progress but I still have several chapter to go to have a finished draft. This one will have to roll over to next month. The good news is that I have have a solid outline for the remaining chapters, finally.
  2. LIGHT Mage & Source revision. CHECK! It’s ready for my next set of readers and I’m sending it off to them today.
  3. BRAINSTORMING: CHECK! Tamara and I spent several days and nights brainstorming our next co-write. I’m very excited about this one. It involves music and magic in an old world/eastern Europe setting.
  4. Other. CHECK! I completed some formatting odd jobs and finished a beta read for Nancy Chenier’s YA fantasy Dragon Sprite.

 

Goals for January 2017:

  1. FINISH ToB&L Book 5 revision–this time for real!
  2. REVISE River Running with Tamara based on beta reader feedback. We have a master document all set up with the revisions we need to make.
  3. START musical magic co-write: This is a tentative goal, as both Tamar and I want to finish our goals #1 for this month before we begin this project.
  4. Other. This seems like a good goal category to keep. I’m sure I’ll have more other to report at the end of the month.