Monday, December 19, 2011
Mistwood/Nightspell Blog Tour: Delete Scene (+ Contest!)
And to go out with a bang, I have a never been seen deleted scene from Mistwood for you guys!
This is the final post in the Nightspell blog tour, and your last chance to enter to win an annotated copy of Mistwood – so I thought I’d end off with a peek at a deleted scene from Mistwood.
Many, many things changed during my revision of Mistwood – scenes were added, removed, shortened, lengthened, and changed. The book was much improved as a result, but there was one scene in particular that both my editor and I regretted removing – a dream scene in which Isabel recalls an episode from the Shifter’s past. We agreed that the scene didn’t advance the story and had to go – but of course, with the internet, nothing is gone forever. And since it was early in the book, it’s not very spoilery. So here it is…
That night she dreamed she was hunting.
The night was dark and humid around her, warm wet air settling heavily on her skin. She was dressed for speed and stealth, silk trousers and a long tunic, her waist-length hair bound in a braid that slapped against her back as she ran. The only real weight on her was the sword belted to her left hip. The short-bladed knife in her right hand weighed almost nothing. She held it low as she ran.
The man she was hunting waited in a small clearing surrounded by tall dark trees. He had not been foolish enough to light a fire, but that made no difference to her pursuit. She could smell where he had gone; scents as clear as footprints led her straight down a near-invisible trail, up a steep incline and through patches of ferns to the tiny clear space hidden among the trees.
There were four of them, three men and a woman. Isabel’s lips pulled up in a grin as she stepped into the clearing and threw the knife.
It was a good, clean throw; she felt her muscles clench and unclench, her fingers open smoothly, and watched with a thrill of pleasure as the knife sliced through the night air. It hit the woman in the throat. Her hood fell back as she staggered, raising pale hands to her neck. A wealth of dark hair spilled out, revealing a slightly horsey face already going slack. She made a gurgling sound as she fell.
Isabel didn’t bother to watch her die. Her attention was on the other men, particularly one of them: a tall youth of about twenty, with dark red hair and a similarly horsey face. He, too, was watching her instead of his sister. As their eyes locked, the dark-haired woman’s body hit the ground with a thump, and one of the other men made a strangled sound
“Thallene,” the boy said. His eyes flickered to her sword, then to her empty right hand. “It was foolish to let the knife go. She was no threat to you.”
“It seemed like an appropriate way to announce my presence.” Isabel’s voice was low and husky, almost gravelly; not her voice at all. The voice of someone named Thallene. In the dream, this seemed natural. “And it will save us some trouble later. Treason means death for all the traitor’s kin. Did you not know that?”
“Just living under your father’s rule means death for everyone, eventually.” The other two men were silent, watching. “At least she died clean. Better than living under a mad king.”
“How fortunate for you that you think so.” Isabel/Thallene drew her sword.
He laughed at her. “Put that toy away, girl. No matter how many lessons you’ve sneaked from the master-at-arms, I’ve been training since I was a toddler. And I have never been defeated.”
It was true. It was the reason she had come after him with a sword. The plotters were too numerous and dedicated for his death to stop them; she needed him humiliated.
She stalked toward him, and he sighed loudly as his blade scraped against his scabbard. “I’ll do my best not to hurt you.”
“I appreciate that,” Isabel said, and darted forward.
She could have killed him right then; he wasn’t expecting a thrust, not that soon and not that fast. But if she had, her success would have been attributed to luck, and she might as well have poisoned him and saved herself the trouble. She wanted him to take her seriously. So she left a scratch below his collarbone, just deep enough to sting, and danced back.
“I make no such promises,” she said.
There was still no hint of doubt in his eyes. He leveled his sword at her and lunged.
She kept pace with him for a while, even letting him get close to her skin a few times. They lunged back and forth, struck and parried, circled, occasionally met in a swift flurry of thrusts and parries before breaking apart. Slowly the smugness faded from his eyes, though it was not yet replaced by concern. He had realized that he was going to have to work. He had not yet realized that he was going to lose.
She made herself match his heavy breathing, and willed a sheen of sweat onto her face. Her victory had to believable. She let her foot twist under her, fell backward, and painted panic on her face as he lunged down at her. She waited until the last possible second before she twisted to the side and parried.
He had been aiming to kill. His thrust drove his sword straight into the ground, throwing him off balance for a split second that was all she needed. Her sword hissed as it slid along his; and finally, when her sword point ripped his tunic, she saw dismay slide onto his face. He knew now that he was going to lose. He knew now that he was going to die. She smiled.
And in that second, her sword shimmered and disappeared.
The loss of weight threw her completely off balance, and she fell backward for real, landing flat on her back. She was on her feet in a second, before her opponent could even pull his sword from the ground. Her heart was pounding, more in fury than in fear, as she whipped her head around to stare at the other two men in the clearing.
But they both seemed as startled as she was, one gaping so widely she could see his teeth, the other making high-pitched gurgling noises. There was a sound in the woods behind her -- barely a sound, more like a whisper of wind. Isabel whirled just as the sorcerer stepped out from between the trees and leveled a staff at her. Blue fire erupted from it and hit her full in the face.
It tingled. It also obscured her view of the clearing. Isabel shook her head irritably, and the fire faded and dissipated, feathery tendrils of blue smoke writhing away from her and fading into the darkness. She raised her eyebrows at the sorcerer.
“Did you think I would come here unprotected?”
He stared at her from dark eyes sunken into stretched-out skin. He knew as well as she did what spell he had just used, and what it would have taken to protect herself from it. She carried no staff, wore no bespelled cloth, and had not uttered a single syllable of the protection spell. Several long seconds, and then she saw realization dawn in those hollowed-out eyes. His mouth opened to reveal crooked yellow teeth. “You’re -- ”
She had no way to kill him before he finished the sentence, so she interrupted him instead. “ -- wearing the Stone of Tarnath. Yes. Nothing you do can touch me.”
That confused him long enough for her to locate her sword. He couldn’t have translocated it far and still had enough energy left for the death spell; and indeed, it lay hidden in a bed of ferns a few yards from his feet. She couldn’t see the steel itself, but she could see the way the ferns were bent by its weight. She took a second to judge the angles, then leapt at him.
It took him by surprise, which disappointed her. She had expected him to call her sword into his own hand and try to impale her on it. Rapidly revising her plans, she shifted her weight as she struck so that the two of them tumbled sideways to the ground, a few feet closer to where her sword lay. He fell beneath her, and she distinctly heard a bone crack.
She considered killing him then... but no, it wouldn’t serve the story she was weaving to have the princess kill a man with her bare hands. It was too bestial. She wanted the traitors’ fear, but she also wanted their respect. She let him roll her over, cried out, and let him wrap his hands around her throat as she reached with one arm into the ferns.
The sword was farther away than she had thought. If he had squeezed his hands together then, he would have known the truth beyond a doubt. And she would have had no choice but to kill him without steel. But he only tightened them slightly, and growled, “What is the Stone of Tarnath?”
Her arm stretched out, impossibly far, and her fingers closed around the leather hilt. She smiled up at the sorcerer.
“There is no such thing as the Stone of Tarnath,” she said, and drove the sword into his side.
He screamed as he died, and for just a second he did squeeze his hands together. She rolled him off her and got to her feet, yanking the sword out in a spray of blood. Her attack had taken less than a minute; the other three men still stood there, gaping at her. She made her arm shake slightly as she took one step toward them.
“Idiot,” she said to the horse-faced boy. “No one who truly cared about the realm would hire a rogue sorcerer to aid him in his treason. You might as well hire a band of wolves to take care of your fox problem.”
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the mouth of one of the men tighten, and knew that he agreed with her. Had argued the point, probably, and been overruled. Excellent. She kept one eye on him as she spoke, molding her words to his facial expressions.
“You are lying to yourself if you truly believe you’re doing this for the realm. Or is it only your fellow traitors you’re lying to?”
“I’m not lying to anyone,” the boy said, throwing his head back. “I have no wish to be king. I won’t even allow myself to be considered, when the dukes choose the new ruler.”
Could he possibly still think it was when? Even if would have been a sign of dangerous overconfidence, now that he had seen her fight.
“Oh, I don’t say you’re doing it for power,” Isabel said. The tight-mouthed man blinked; this had been the sticking point for him, the reason he had followed this traitor. Because he had known the boy wasn’t power-mad. Isabel had to hide a smile as she continued. “But your personal need for vengeance will not benefit the realm either.”
The traitor’s mouth tightened. “It’s not my personal need. Any king who would execute a man in front of his family, without any proof -- ”
“There was proof,” Isabel lied. “And you know what it was.”
“There was nothing!” he shouted, but he was too angry to sound honest. Next to her cool composure, his truth sounded like the lie. The second man, too, was beginning to look uncertain.
Time to finish this, then; there wasn’t much more she could gain by talking. She sorted swiftly through her options, judged the expressions on the men’s faces again, weighed the anger in the boy’s eyes, and lowered her sword.
“You are a son trying to avenge his father. You’ve dishonored yourself, but I can understand why. I’ll grant you exile, if you want it.” He just looked at her, and she was suddenly afraid that he was truly considering it. She chose her next words with care, and loaded them with sincerity. “I love my father too.”
Like a charm, rage rippled across his face. “Your father is a coward and a murderer not fit to sweep out the stables, much less sit on a throne. He won’t continue his cruelty while I live.”
“Then you give me no choice,” she said sadly, and lifted her sword.
She wanted to end it now, as soon as possible, but it still had to be believable. She breathed loudly as she fought, even stumbled once, while slowly leading him where she wanted him. There was a hollow in the ground just the size of a foot, not deep enough to throw a man off balance unless he stepped into it just right. It took a few attempts to maneuver him into exactly the right spot, but finally, after a series of parries where she barely watched his sword because she was concentrating so hard on his feet, she had him arranged correctly. She let his next parry knock her blade a bit too far off center, and leapt back with a whimper. He grinned fiercely and lunged.
His foot hit the hollow just as her sword parried his thrust. She put more strength than she should have possessed into that parry, enough to insure he would lose his balance. He felt it, and she saw his eyes widen with horror as his fall carried him straight onto the point of her sword.
To his credit, he died soundlessly.
Isabel let the sword go, and the corpse thudded heavily to the ground. She had nothing to fear from the other two, though she was sure they both carried blades. They were backing away even before she turned to face them. She stood and looked at them for a long moment, well aware of how she must look: slim and fierce, with dirt and blood smeared on her hair and skin. Someone would make a tapestry of it, no doubt. Although tapestries took time; the minstrels would be faster with the songs.
But only if these two told the tale. She inclined her head toward them. “Thank you.”
The first man, the one she was counting on, stammered, “Your Highness?”
“You could have killed me for him. I could not have fought off two of you.” A laughable statement, but they wouldn’t know that. “I know he is your kin, and I know my father has hurt your House. But I want all this to end. He would have torn the realm apart.” She turned to look down at the corpse, lying on its side with eyes open and her sword protruding from its chest. Blood still dripped slowly from the sword hilt to the grass. Regret shaded her voice. “You should go.”
One of them cleared his throat, but said nothing. Twigs crackled beneath their feet as they went. Into exile, eventually, but first they would spread the tale. The brave and beautiful princess, the fight she had won against all odds, her noble words. She had not just killed a single rebel tonight. She had killed his rebellion.
Isabel smiled, the fierce proud smile of a hunter standing over her prey.
She woke up with that smile still on her lips, the scent of blood and fear in her nostrils, the taste of victory in her mouth. She was surprised, after a moment, to feel blankets weighing down her legs, and a tangle of hair sticking to her neck instead of hanging down her back in a single long braid. Just a moment, and then Thallene and her enemies and the dark clearing faded into the mist of dreams and memories, leaving only a new confidence and a long-overdue, intensely satisfying certainty. Her smile widened as she tilted her head back and stretched, then rolled out of bed and onto the floor in one smooth motion. Her body was taut with anticipation of the coming day. She still didn’t know exactly why she was here, but the dream confirmed for her what she was here to do. To protect her king, against all odds, no matter what.
It was time to hunt again.
Well, if that doesn't make a girl want to read these books again! So what do you guys think? Should it have stayed in? Is it a nice addition later on?
And don't forget to catch up on any posts you might have missed (full list here!) and leave your comments/entries by December 22!
Posted by Kari Olson at 8:20 AM