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.
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.