I missed Deleted Scene Monday last week because I didn’t have enough time to sort through my material and find an appropriate snippet. Here’s a piece cut from a very old version of The Gantean.
This scene takes place after the shipwreck that separated Leila from her daughter, Tianiq, and the other Ganteans. In this older version, Leila, Miki, and Tiriq ended up on an island instead of being picked up from the wreckage by a following ship. They think the island is where a group of refugee Ganteans have settled, a place called “new Gante,” but it turns out it is inhabited by Lethemians.
I cut this material for several reasons– one, to cut words; two, because it only added world-building, not story; and three, because it ultimately distracted from the plot and slowed down the narrative.
Leila is the narrator:
Barely able to pull our bodies out of the umiaq, Miki and I stumbled ashore. We found an inlet with a thin strand of sand, hiding between outcrops of black rocks. I had tucked Tiriq under my sealskin cloak for the journey, and spirits be thanked, he had slept, lulled by the steady rocking from the sea and the rowing. As we came ashore, he began to whimper.
“Soon,” I told him under my breath, as I helped Miki drag the craft ashore. “We’ll get back to her soon.”
It was too dark to find our way much farther onto New Gante. Miki and I collapsed at the farthest edge of sand, curling close like sled dogs in winter. It was not especially cold, but the storm had left us with a deep chill, from trauma and temperature alike.
Tiriq rooted around at my breast. I drew the throat of my shift down, to give him access. He ate furiously, as if he too had rowed leagues yesterday.
Lush trees provided a backdrop to the beach. The waters before me were still and tranquil, with no trace of the fury of yesterday. The shore could only be the northern face of the island; as I faced the sea, the glow of sunrise emerged from the horizon off to my left.
Miki sat up, and brushed a coating of sand from his face. He rummaged in his pack and drew out two skins of water, and a couple lengths of jerk-dried meat.
“Which way should we walk?” I asked, peering into the dense greenery that lay behind us.
Miki groaned. “It would be better to go round the island in the boat. Surely, if we follow the shore, we will come upon people. We won’t have to leave the boat behind.”
Of course. My mind was disheveled from the events yesterday. All I could think about was Tianiq’s helpless form sinking beneath the waves, the horror and the helplessness of that moment. For Miki’s sake, I pushed it back, and agreed to keep paddling.
Though our muscles screamed their agony, we made time on the calm waters. The island was unvarying in its lush vegetation. Where there were inlets, small patches of beige sand collected, but never the long, wide deposits I had seen at Murana or Orioneport. The island appeared deserted. Many times Miki and I exchanged wondering looks as the panorama of greenery continued. The sheer volume of life springing forth staggered me. How did the New Ganteans know what to do with it all?
Dark freckles sprouted on Miki’s face from the sun. My own skin felt tight and dry, and I kept my cloak loosely draped over Tiriq’s head to give him some small amount of shade. After two days of following the coast, our supplies began to run low. We decided to stop and stay ashore for a day, and see if we could find fresh water and food.
We skirted the edges of the jungle at first, searching for an outlet of water running down into the ocean. On an island as green as this, Miki and I both knew we would find fresh water. It was not long until we were rewarded with a small trickle, cutting down through porous black rocks to a ledge that overhung the sea. We followed the path of the stream upwards, until it grew fast and plentiful. Miki knelt, sipping at the water to taste it, then refilling our two skins. We sat down together on rough black rocks, and sipped water from cupped hands.
Privately, I nursed a doubt that the island we had found was New Gante, but I debated confessing my fears to Miki. He was adamant that he had set the heading right, but the further we progressed, the heavier my doubts grew. Merkuur had told me New Gante was so tiny you could walk around the entirety of it in one afternoon. Yet Miki and I had traveled nearly two full days by boat, and we hadn’t yet rounded the northeastern tip of this island.
“Miki, do you think…” He grabbed my arm with fingers like strangler vines.
“Shhhh!” He pointed to an overhang of rocks and tree branches weirdly melded together above our little creek. Some of the more slender branches had begun to move, slithering down the face of the rocks like rivulets of thick water. Miki drew an ulio from his sack. His crouched with each muscle taut but still, only his eyes following the creature’s passage down towards the water. The snake slid gracefully into the waters, flowing towards us.
We tried to remove ourselves from its path. I had never seen a living serpent, but I had a visceral loathing for it. Miki seemed to know better how to treat it, and I could feel his fear and caution coming over me in waves. The snake made its way up the bank, straight towards us. It bent its black body into an s-shaped curve, retracted its head, and opened its mouth wide. Two fangs dripped with sticky white fluid. Miki pressed into me, his body cueing mine to creep backwards away from the snake. The snake sat frozen with its gaping mouth, and did not follow us. Once we were a good ten spans away, we bolted back down our trampled path through the foliage, racing towards the open visibility of the beach.
“Do you know what kind of serpent that was?” I asked Miki as we collapsed onto the sand next to our umi.
“Not exactly. But my master said the islands in the Parting Sea were full of snakes. He said they lived in the trees, and they could jump down onto you and bite you in the face. The venom’s deadly.”
I shuddered, imagining if the snake had chosen to strike. I hugged Tiriq and let him pull at the stretched out neck of my tunic to get to my milk. Tiriq had been eating nearly double since Tianiq was gone, as if trying to make up for her absence.
“Maybe the New Ganteans were chased out by snakes,” I said.
Miki pulled our last biscuit from his waist pouch. The biscuits were some invention of the Hutre: hard, twice baked breads that lasted forever. He broke it in half and handed me my share.
“I don’t think this is the isle of New Gante,” he said. “It’s just too big.”
I nodded my agreement. “But what is it?’
“It must be one of the Amarantinas. They’re the only islands of any size in the Parting Sea. The storm blew us off course.”
“What about the others?” I said, sitting upright. Tianiq. “If the course we set was the same as they, do you think they would have made it here?” I often forgot Miki had only twelve winters.
“Leila, the only reason we made it here was because we changed our course,” Miki said. “You went into Yaqi and flew, and found an island for us.”
“Merkuur would have done the same,” I said quickly. He too had a bird for a tormaq. “Pamiuq and Atanurat were with him.” I didn’t even know who Atanurat’s tormaq was, for he had lost his tormaquine.
Miki nodded. “I guess all we can do is keep going. If this is one of the Amarantinas, we’ll have to find some sort of community.”
“The Amarantinas. They’re where people like Cerio’s mother go to learn how to serve the gods.”
“They do?” I didn’t remember anyone ever mentioning that.
“Yes.” Miki rolled his eyes. “Cerio said his mother was gone for almost six sidereals. And when she came back, he had to pretend he wasn’t her son, cuz they don’t allow the servants of the gods to make young.”
I stood up, and tightened the lacings that held Tiriq against me. “So now we’re looking for priests and priestesses? We may as well keep going. We can try to find food on the waters.”
We made too much disturbance traveling through the water, and my line caught nothing. Suddenly, the coastline shifted as the sun dropped. Something about it seemed…inhabited. There were no boats moored at the water’s edge, nor any buildings. Maybe it was the clean line of foliage that approached the beach, different from the overgrown masses of green we had grown used to seeing.
“Let’s stop here,” I told Miki, sitting in front of me. The modest waves did little to help bring us into shore, so we paddled until Miki could hop out and drag us in the rest of the way.
Miki scanned the forest around us in the fading light. Tiriq began to fuss and whimper.
“What’s that?” Miki pointed up into the verdant hillside. I looked up, and saw the distinct shape of a roof, strangely familiar, with upturned eves, a line of red glowing against the green leaves.
“It’s a building.”
Miki began to trudge up the beach, and I followed. We found a narrow path cut up through the forest, strewn with rounded black pebbles so that the plants would not take root upon it. Steps led up the hill paved with flat, smooth stones. We followed the staircase up at least forty spans, and the path took a sharp left, widening into an open garden with islands of moss and stone.
Miki froze. The path turned to black sand, and the sand was raked into neat designs. It seemed wrong to marr them.
“Who’s there? Iduma, is that you?” A voice floated through the gate of hewn cedar that walled in the garden. The voice spoke in Balethemian, and spoke it well, with an accent that would have put the speaker in good standing in the High Court.
Miki and I just looked at each other.
“Iduma, the Prioress says we aren’t allowed to go out into the gardens after they have been swept. Honestly, don’t you…” The cedar gate swung open, and a girl stood before us, draped in pink linens of varying tones. Her honey-colored hair was pulled back from her round face and braided down her back. She froze for a moment, long lashes fluttering round her wide brown eyes.
“Oh!” she finally said, as her eyes flicked down at the curving patterns in the sand. “No one’s allowed in the garden after it’s been swept.” She stayed frozen on her side of the sand, and we on ours.
“We came up from the beach,” I told her. “Our ship was wrecked in the Parting Sea. We’ve been paddling for three days looking for people.” At this point, Tiriq began to squall.
The girl’s eyes grew yet larger. “Oh, Lord Amasis!” she said. “I’d better go and get the Prioress.” With that, she turned and fled, leaving Miki and I marooned on the far side of the black sand.
Miki gave me a look. He mostly loathed the Lethemians, and I knew he was happier alone in the wilderness than in their company, even taking viperous snakes into account. He was thinking we would do better to run back down to the boat and flee before the girl came back.
I shook my head at him. “I can’t, Miki. Not with Tiriq. And we have to find out if the others might have come by here, or if there are other islands where they might have landed.”
I had to believe we would find Tianiq and Atanurat and Merkuur. The alternative did not bear imagining.