Deleted Scene : More Hinge Backstory

This little snippet was originally in The Gantean, a piece of information about the magic of the Gantean Hinge. Ultimately, I found a way to “show” rather than “tell” this information, but, like a lot of writing about magic systems, I had to write out the theory of it before I could even attempt to integrate it more naturally into the story.

Leila was the narrator telling this info, though it could have been the Cedna, too:

“Because of this Hinge, all other magic was possible, for in its opening, the Ancestors had made the Layers permeable, so that we could walk from one to the next. The Gantean People were the Guardians of this Hinge, and it was our sacred duty to protect it, to keep it hidden, safe, and open. Not just for ourselves, but for the whole world, for all the nations who used magic. The Hinge, high on the ice plateaus of Gante, was the source of all magic.

Every Gantean knew about the Hinge. Such knowledge made us Iksraqtaq. It was a secret funneled into us, never spoken, but lived and felt and inhaled from our very first breath. If we were a stern and somber people, it was because of this great responsibility we guarded. We kept the Hinge open by feeding it the dead, their flesh and spirit and blood, to appease its endless hunger.”

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Deleted Scene: Random Gantean Backstory

Here’s a little snippet cut so long ago, I can’t remember if it was originally in The Gantean or The Cedna–although I lean towards the Cedna being the one who said this. You may need to refer to the Gantean glossary in either book to make head or tails of this cutting.

More or less, the basic facts of this backstory may still be true, although Gantean prehistory just never became as relevant to the story as I thought it would…

The Ganteans were not just the last remnants of a barbarian culture, as the sayantaq believed. We were the last of the Hanimen, a tribe of people who had lived on the Peninsula that was now Lethemia for eon after eon. The Hanimen were wielders of magic, the basic magic of plants and animals, earth, stone, and water. For a long time, that had been enough. Until a clan discovered the Hinge. The clanspeople had seen something strange around the edges of a cavern of stone. They had entered the cavern, and perhaps they had been the first to walk the Other Layer, and come back to Ijiq to speak of it. Unwitting, these first walkers had opened the Abys Hinge, making the Layers of magic permeable, so that we could move from one to the next if we were willing to pay with a bit of blood. The Hinge made magic possible, so that we could take the spirit of tree or stone or wind or water, and share our will with it. Iksraqtaq, the People, were the Guardians of this Hinge, and it was our sacred duty to protect it, to keep it hidden, safe, and open, and fed. Not just for ourselves, but for the whole of the world, for all the nations who used magic.

Deleted Scene: Laith describes a mage’s view of pregnancy

This little scene is mainly interesting for a mage’s perspective on the magical theory of pregnancy in the Lethemian world. It turns out that neither this particular pregnancy, nor the magical facts about it presented here, remain valid. It was a wrong turning in magical theory and in story that I eventually had to cut.

The mage Laith Amar is the narrator for this scene:

As I descended into aethertrance, I swept my magestone over my hand on Lujayn’s abdomen. And there it was: a pinprick of mauve light in the center of Lujayn’s vibrant crimson plexus. A female spark, no more than a few days old. I bent to look closer. Damnation. The little fleck of life was barely attached in the network of Lujayn’s aetherlight, hanging by a single thread. I’d never seen an embryo so close to being unmoored. I’d heard many theories about why some pregnancies worked better than others—the mage I’d trained with at the Conservatoire said the ones that were not securely woven into the mother were unwanted by her. I didn’t believe that—I’d seen enough of the unwanted fetuses of whores—they often asked me to remove them—to know that whether a child was wanted has little to do with whether it was fixed well in the Aethers.

My own theory was that it had to do with the characteristics of the aetherlight of the parents. Most Conservatoire-trained mages paid no attention to the subtleties of aetherlight colors, how they melded or did not. Most mages did not have clear enough aethersight to see such nuances. When I examined a pregnant woman, I could easily see that the color of the child’s aetherlight was connected those of the parents, to varying degrees. But sometimes the parental aetherlights did not want to blend, and when that happened, the resultant embryo looked like this little one inside Lujayn Arania.

Experience told me not to bother with a repair—the little speck would never hold. But since it was my own brother’s child, I had to try. I pulled threads from my own aetherlight to stitch the little mauve speck into the crimson network more securely. Flashing the requisite sigils, I did the best I could, but even so, I worried.

As I came up out of the trance, I met Lujayn’s wide eyes. “Did you see?” she asked. “Will I have a baby?” her voice still held that cool and rather insouciant tone.

“Yes,” I said. “I saw the light within you. I made a working to fix it better. But Lujayn—” she glowered at me as if she didn’t like my casual use of her first name—“you must be very careful. I have done what I could, but the aetherlight was very fragile. I’d recommend bedrest for the next sidereal, at least.”

“Bedrest!” she cried, clearly annoyed. “But Jaasir and I are headed to Lysandra in three days!”

Deleted Scene: Palace and Pillar Description

Last week’s deleted scene was very long, this one is just a couple of paragraphs. Fun fact: the material described here for the Black Star Pillar is based on a two different minerals  I saw at the American Museum of Natural History: stibnite and a meteorite.

stibnite-stibnitemtkosangjapan25cm2

This scene is actually from Book 4, Mage & Source, and so I will refrain from telling who the narrator is. Suffice it to say, the narrator was greatly affected by the Fall of Magic in Lethemia, and is examining the Palace’s crystal pillars hoping for a sign of magic’s return:

I tackled the easiest of my questions about the pillars’ aetherlight first, heading out of the Palace into the rarely-used walled ornamental gardens that separated the Galatien grounds from the public street. Each pillar served as a point in the hexagon-shaped grounds as well as a point in the Palace’s six-pronged star.

From the gardens, I could examine the outer surface of the Moonstone Pillar, the same surface anyone could see from the street. I dashed past yew hedges and silver lamb’s ears interspersed with dead tulips—before the Fall, magical spellwork had kept white tulips ever in bloom in this garden, but no longer.

The Moonstone Pillar soared upwards, sheer and imposing. At their bases, the pillars were probably more than fifty spans in girth, though they all narrowed as they rose. The white stone was cool to my touch. I stared into it deeply, but I gleaned no sign of the aetherlight that had glowed within its walls so clearly inside the garden. I frowned and hastily traversed the boxwood maze to have a look at the Black Star Pillar. Throughout all this, I had yet to examine it closely.

Of all the pillars, the Black Star was the strangest—every mage had always agreed on that fact. While the other pillars resembled the gemstones after which they were called, the Black Star Pillar was composed of a substance unlike any other. The closest comparison was found in star-rocks, bits of material not of this earth but fallen from the heavens, and thus had the pillar received its name. But even star-rocks were not really like the material that comprised the Black Star Pillar. It was fully opaque, and yet blacker in it’s inside layers than it’s silvery outside layers.

Jagged silver lines made a crackled pattern all over the pillar’s outer surface, but I saw no illumination of the telltale lights within. Had the Black Star Pillar not been ignited by binding-magixe? Or like the lights captured in the Moonstone Pillar, were they occluded from this angle?

I sighed turned away from the Pillar. So many questions, so few answers. I was a blind man tripping through unfamiliar terrain.

Deleted Scene: Leila and Miki after the shipwreck

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.”

“How so?”

“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.

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.