I’m such a bum. Forgot to do a book review last Thursday and I’ve got no mental energy for a blog post today. The good news is that is because I’ve been living and breathing the start of book 3. The better news is this means you get a deleted scene from STEEL VICTORY!
This takes place during the first scenes of the book, when Victory, Mikelos, and Asaron are camping out in the woods and about to head back on the long walk to town after rescuing Asaron from cargo ship. It was ultimately cut for space reasons, repetitive info about the Wasteland and character histories, and because I was trying to set up a conflict between Mikelos and Asaron that never really went anywhere and didn’t fit with the overall theme of the rest of the novel. (Don’t worry: Cutting scenes like this means I am totally free to explore that potential conflict later!)
Mikelos ambled back toward the impromptu camp, admiring the brilliance of the stars above him. Limani was not a large city, but the stars shined much brighter out here in the forest. He could not imagine how dim they must have been two centuries ago. This land used to be covered in towns and cities, but now all that remained were monuments such as the piles of concrete and steel where people once thrived, remnants of the vast war between the British and Qin colonies. They had wiped each other out decades ago. Limani stood as a neutral city-state between the current English colonies to the north and the Roman colonies to the south.
“I told you! Ha!” Asaron’s voice rang out through the trees. He and Victory had shortened their habitual morning workout routine and instead taken to sparring with each other.
Victory climbed to her feet, sword in one hand and rubbing her knee with the other. “Yes, so you were right. Trying to block that was stupid. But come on! That hurt!”
“If you had been wearing armor, I wouldn’t even have pulled my blow.” Asaron fell back into a fighting stance. “Just count yourself lucky that I hit you with the flat of the blade.”
She mirrored his guarded position. “No, you’re lucky I still have a leg.” She waved at Mikelos as he approached. “Want to join us?”
“No way.” He held up his hands. “You two are maniacs when you get together.”
“We haven’t sparred in a while,” Asaron said, pointing his blade toward Mikelos. “Join me for a session when we get back to Limani?”
“You’ll wipe the mat with me as usual, but I’d be glad to.” Mikelos reached Victory and wrapped an arm around her waist. “Have you seen anything unusual around here?”
Victory returned his hug. “Did you see anything on your walk?”
“Nothing specific.” Mikelos let her go and kneeled. He picked up a handful of dusty grit and let it trail out of his fingers. “This place just feels…off, somehow.”
“That’s the Wasteland creeping in,” Asaron said. “When I was first there, it gave me nightmares. Just too many deaths at once for any one place to handle.”
“Makes me wonder how anyone could ever try to live there,” Mikelos said.
“There are more than a few small towns out there,” Asaron said. “You humans are versatile creatures.” He slashed the air in front of him with his sword. “Come, girl. Try to block me this time.”
Victory whirled back toward her sire, on the defensive right away as he lunged for her. Mikelos backed away from the sparring partners and stood watching from a safe distance.
Asaron had walked the earth for almost two millenia, making him one of the oldest vampires in the world. Victory was also up there at over eight hundred years old, though she marked her own age from her birth as a vampire. Mikelos had been a blood-bound daywalker to vampires for what felt like his entire life, first to Connor and then after his death to Victory. He’d counted once—he had spent a mere twenty-three years of his life as a human. Now he neared the end of his third century.
Yet it still irked him when Asaron said things such as “you humans.” Mikelos had not really considered himself one in decades. He knew Asaron did it mostly out of habit. Just as Mikelos identified himself as pure daywalker, Asaron had not been human in so long that he was now all vampire. Humans had the lifespan of mayflies compared to his own.
Victory managed to dodge beneath a swing and ended the bout with her sword to Asaron’s stomach. The two disentangled themselves and started arguing about whether what she had just done would work in a real, full-on fight. Victory brought up a centuries-old example in her defense, a detail from a long-ago battle from the years she and Asaron spent as mercenaries together.
The debate continued when Asaron and Victory rested their swords against their shoulders and started back toward camp. They forgot Mikelos watched. The two seasoned mercenaries were always aware of their surroundings. But when his beloved was with her sire, sometimes he faded into the background to become part of the scenery, a constant to be ignored.
For the first time, he realized he wasn’t quite certain he wanted Asaron to stick around in Limani once he’d given Toria her sword back.