Happy New Year’s Eve to all of my awesome friends and blog followers, but more importantly — happy birthday to me! I’m planning a lovely low-key evening with a small group of friends to involve pizza, cake, and games. I hope that whatever you plans have, you remain safe and have a blast.
To celebrate today, I’d love to share two short scenes that were removed from Steel Time before publication. Enjoy!
[Please note that both scenes are in very rough draft form, and neither of them have been edited.]
This scene was removed because it ended up being the only scene in the book from a perspective other than Toria or Victory, and ultimately proved unnecessary. But I had to learn how MREs work for this one, and everyone loves Mikelos.
Mikelos watched with trepidation as Kane prepared entrées from military ration packs, doing something arcane with multiple bags and a canteen of water before propping the three meals against pieces of rubble gathered around a battery-powered lamp. Half-cooked meals over a smoky fire were no treat, but he wasn’t convinced these military rations would be much better.
“Seems a bit of a waste.” He gestured to the packs when Kane glanced up from sorting utensils. “All the chemicals and packing materials for such small meals.”
Kane laughed and, one by one, tossed a handful of additional unopened packets over the lamp to the grass by Mikelos. Crackers, snacks, seasonings. “Not so small, just compact. Good for trips like this to the Wasteland. And Toria likes to make—”
His voice broke off.
Mikelos crushed the package of cornbread in his hands at the contorted mileu of emotions that crossed Kane’s face, from shock to denial to pain. “Kane?”
The better side to not having a campfire was that flames didn’t engulf Kane when a strangled cry ripped from the young man’s throat and he pitched forward, scattering the lamp and food packs.
Mikelos lunged forward as his foster son seized in the grass. He grabbed Kane’s broad shoulders and dragged him off the food packets and rocks to prevent injury as his limbs writhed and his back arched.
With desperate hands, Mikelos pitched the dropped utensils out of the way, then rolled Kane onto his side with effort as the muscle spasms decreased. He checked for a pulse at the neck. Light and fluttery, but there, though Kane’s skin was ashy from shock. He placed the back of his hand above Kane’s mouth to check for air.
Toria should have come running by now. There’s no way she’d miss sensing this through her magical bond with Kane.
Unless the same thing affected Toria. “Victory!” Mikelos’ bellow echoed through the ruins. Panic rose in Mikelos’ chest. He placed his cheek next to Kane’s mouth in time to feel a massive exhalation of breath as the younger man’s body went limp.
He checked Kane’s pulse and breathing again. Both steadier now, in a deep unconsciousness. Mikelos hauled a travel pack closer and rested Kane’s head on it, then righted the fallen lantern.
Neither woman came running. Even if Victory cared for a similarly afflicted Toria, he’d have heard an answer by now. Kane was as settled as Mikelos could make him, so he retrieved a flashlight and swept the circumference of their camp.
He had no idea how far Victory and Toria had scouted. He had no idea which direction they were in. He had no way to track them.
Dawn was coming.
The next scene is a dream sequence that takes place after the first bar fight Toria takes part in. It was removed for both space and because Toria was already doing enough angsting all on her own.
Toria darted through the halls of Limani’s mage school. She tore through mismatched hallways that linked the various parts of the structure, different architectural styles built up over the years to create a hybrid maze of a building.
She tried to reach Kane and Archer’s suite but kept ending up in the wrong place. The library, overflowing with thick tomes and comfortable couches, suffused with academic serenity. The kitchen, where Cook pressed a fresh pastry in her hand even as she ordered Toria out of the industrial space, filled with clamoring students assisting with meal prep. The giant oak tree out back, still scarred from an incident during Toria’s own training.
Nothing connected the way it should, and as she turned left and right, she found herself farther and farther away from the third-story suite of rooms in the main hall.
Skidding on the thick grass, Toria spun on her heel. Kane stood before her in the great field that edged the back of the property and sloped down to a line of distant trees. Burnished gold edged each blade of grass, burnt by the same summer light that shimmered above her partner. His skin glowed with golden shadows, and though she shielded her eyes from the sun, his face disappeared into darkness.
“Kane! I’m here.” With every step forward she took, he remained the same distance away
His voice echoed around her. “Then why can’t I find you?” The grass shivered at his harsh words.
“Because something happened, something I couldn’t control and neither of us could predict.”
“You left me.”
The accusation lanced through her core, and she dropped to her knees. “I would never leave you, you know that.” Shadows enveloped the field, until all Toria could see was Kane’s outline, shimmering with the emerald glow of his aura and shields.
She reached out with one hand, sheathed in her own familiar violet. But when their power touched, thunder crashed through the dreamscape. The shock hurled Toria away until she was falling, falling, falling…
Thanks for reading! I’m looking forward to a productive 2019, the publication of Steel Empires Book 5: Steel Shadows, and lots of cat snuggles.