Friday, July 13, 2018

Cut Chapter - TVB: "Isalaina Kidnapped!"


To help me gear up for Realm Makers Writers' Conference in July, I'm bringing you a series of scenes cut from The Victor's Blade. Be sure to check below for any other cut scenes you may have missed so far!

Looking back, this chapter was a mixed bag for me. While there are some elements I definitely am glad to be rid of, there are some parts I genuinely liked. For instance, I felt Kerlonkus's "attraction" to Isalaina was over-the-top and too dark for The Victor's Blade. And I see I wrote this was before I started to do research into the medical repercussions of injuries (Jaranin really should probably be suffering from major brain trauma if he got knocked out for an hour).

But I actually love Jaranin in these scenes. He has a lot of self-motivation and drive that I find myself struggling to get back into the current draft. It's nice to see him take charge and make things happen. I've got to remember to have him use these tracking skills in at least one entry in the TVB trilogy...

You'll also notice that this chapter ends before a fight. That's because I never wrote the fight scene!

This draft of TVB was highly experimental: I was writing it at the same time I was deeply revising key aspects of the plot and pacing. The transformation from this draft to the next was probably one of the most dramatic and brought the narrative to more or less where it's at today. For context, this version was TVB 3.0. I'm currently on version 6.0. Needless to say, the story's come a long way.

So while I was in the process of rewriting these scenes with Kerlonkus, I came to the realization that I wanted to significantly change the plot and pacing of the beginning chapters in Sinoa. This meant that all the scenes leading up to the fight were no longer going to be in the story. And, since I hate writing fighting scenes (I'm certainly no fight choreographer), I used it as the perfect excuse to never write it out. :P

Also, advisory: This scene will NOT contain any sexual acts, but it will imply intentions of such. Discretion is advised for those sensitive to such issues.

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[While out riding to celebrate Isalaina's birthday, Jaranin and she encounter a riderless unicorn meandering around the forest. Jaranin instantly recognizes it as Kerlonkus's mount, but where is its rider...? Their suspicions are up immediately, but it's already too late for them to foil the birthday surprise Kerlonkus has planned...]

As soon as Jaranin had dismounted to check on the riderless unicorn, Isalaina had felt a chill tickling her flesh.

Something isn’t right here… She was opening her mouth to say so when she saw a figure stalking toward Jaranin from the forest. “Jaranin, behind you!”

Too late. A rock in hand, Kerlonkus struck Jaranin on the head. He crumpled to the ground.

“Jaranin, no!” Isalaina shrieked. She threw herself off the unicorn and raced toward them. “Kerlonkus, you beast!” she roared, throwing her fist back for a strike. She’d waited for this chance for a long time

“Now, now, birthday maiden,” Kerlonkus turned to meet her, grinning wolfishly. “I’ve got a gift for you, too—”

She slammed her fist into his face, and the brute went reeling. “You leave him alone!”

Kerlonkus took a step back to regain his balance. He cursed with a laugh as he held his eye, where she’d struck him. “You hit me! You actually—”

Isalaina drove her knee at his stomach while he was half blind.

This time Kerlonkus stepped backward. With her balance off, Isalaina stumbled forward. He took the opportunity to snatch her by the wrists and pull her body up against his.

“My!” His face twisted into a hungry grin, “You’re a marvel when you’re all fired up!”

Isalaina stomped her foot down on his boot. The beastly howl he unleashed was mildly satisfying, but he wouldn’t let go. His grip only loosened enough for Isalaina to twist one wrist free. She swung her fist at his face again.

With a thump, her fist landed right in the palm of his open hand. He’d anticipated this attack too.

Isalaina shot him a dark glare. He smiled back charmlessly and raised their fists. Before Isalaina could move or break away, both fists were flying at her head. Then, her world was swallowed by darkness.

#

Jaranin shot awake, scrambling to his feet. “Isalaina!”

He swooned. His back slumped against a tree trunk. Jaranin bowed his head and winced, clutching his forehead.

A unicorn whinnied nearby. As soon as his head stopped swimming, he looked up to see Brand at his side, with Arviña close beside. They waited expectantly for their riders, and even their faces betrayed concern.

The forest was darker now. He must have been out for an hour. There was no sign Kerlonkus and Isalaina had even been there.

“We’ve got to find them…” Jaranin muttered, struggling to his feet. What would Kerlonkus do to her? Jaranin stubbornly pushed aside the horrific images that filled his mind. No. He’d save her in time.

As he knelt in the dirt to look for tracks, he winced as Isalaina’s frantic scream flooded his head. “Come on, give me a sign… Where did he take her?”

He should have known it was a trap. Kerlonkus’s unicorn, riderless, in the middle of nowhere? And he’d known Kerlonkus was chasing them.

Jaranin smacked his fist into the ground with a grunt. Right beside the three sets of footprints that rested in the moist dirt.

He stared at them intently, tracing patterns with his fingertip. The footprints were all mixed up, indicating a struggle. How long had Isalaina fought with her captor? But it was impossible to tell where the two of them had gone; there was a jumble of prints, and none of them broke off to wander back into the forest. He’d have to fan out wider.

He found the track after weaving through the trees for several agonizing minutes. A single set of hoofprints, leading north through the trees. Arviña and Brand were here; it had to be Kerlonkus’s mount. But there’s nothing north except more plains… And the mountains…

Jaranin whistled for Brand and leaped on the beast’s back, urging him into the trees. In the fields there’d be no more tracks to follow, but at least it was open riding until the foothills of the mountains.

Jaranin gritted his teeth as he wound his way through the forest, riding as fast as he dared. “I’m coming, Isalaina…”

#

By the time the sun was setting, Jaranin had covered a great deal of ground. The forest and most of the valley was long behind him. Rocks began jutting out of the earth at haphazard angles. The ground was quickly sloping up. Jaranin stared up the incline. Cliff faces glared down at him.

Brand snorted nervously and sidestepped. Jaranin stroked his neck and patted him gently. “There, there, boy. Easy does it.” Though as they approached the feet of the mountains, Jaranin swallowed.

Photo by K on Unsplash
This was it—the mountains Sinoans called “the Jaws of the World.” It was a sharp, jagged range. The mountains towered above the clouds and formed a ring around the lands of Sinoa, Wilyan, and Embraeth—broken only in the south where it collided with the Xagimn Ocean. And even that place was well-known as a graveyard for ships. The mountains were the only thing keeping people in… and the outside world out. It was little wonder, then, that so many myths floated among the villages about the accursed mountains and those unfortunates who trespassed upon them.

Jaranin scanned the edge of the cliff, searching for any sign of Kerlonkus and Isalaina.

There! Out the corner of his eye, Jaranin saw movement high above. A unicorn with two riders staggered from behind a rock. They were heading for another boulder. Kerlonkus had had a strong lead, but now that his unicorn was slowed by picking out a safe (and hidden) path, Jaranin had a chance. The perils of the mountains were forgotten. All that mattered was getting Isalaina back.

Emanir, Brand!” Jaranin hissed as he urged the beast onward.

#

Isalaina swung her arms blindly as she felt herself floating back into consciousness. “Teach you to…” she slurred, “…ruin my birthday…”

Kerlonkus’s hoarse laughter greeted her. Isalaina closed her eyes, wincing. Something hurt—and when her hand brushed against a lump on her head, she knew what.

She lay on her stomach across a unicorn’s back. She tried to squirm off, but a powerful arm clamped around her middle, pinning her down. She wasn’t going anywhere.

“Now, now, you just stay right there.” Kerlonkus growled, giving her back a none-too-gentle push.

She swung her elbow back in reply, but Kerlonkus just batted her elbow away like it was light as a feather.

They weren’t in the forest any more. All she could see was a rocky slope to their side. She couldn't wriggle around to see what was on the other side. None of this looked familiar, but she knew where they were: they were riding up into the treacherous mountains, miles away from Sinoa or any civilization.

Isalaina couldn’t fight a shiver of fear. “W-what are you going to do?”

“Why, Snow fairy, I should think that’d be obvious,” Kerlonkus crooned. “You’re always so cold…”

She swung her elbow again, this time rewarded by contact with bone. Her elbow tingled and Kerlonkus grunted with pain.

Not enough pain, though. He only sounded more giddy when he replied, “Except when you’re angry.” His mouth loomed so close she could feel his breath puffing on the nape of her neck. “Ohhh, that flush in your face is so… tantalizing…”

“Let me go!” she shrieked.

A shrill whinny in the distance made Kerlonkus sit up straight.

Her heart thrummed in her chest. “JARANIN!” Isalaina hollered. “I’M H—!”

Kerlonkus clapped a hand over her mouth. “What, you want your precious Jaranin interrupting our moment, eh?” He cursed under his breath. “Should’ve hit him harder…”

Isalaina craned her neck to look up at him. But he’d turned his head away from her, gazing over his shoulder. She could just make out the edge of a wolfish smile. “Maybe that’s not such a bad idea…” He turned back to her, eyes glittering. “I could give him a nice little greeting. Then tie him to a rock. After all, you and I will have so much fun. Why shouldn’t Jaranin get to watch?”

Isalaina blanched. “Y-you can’t be serious!”

He spurred the unicorn on, still smiling.

Anger and fear mingled within her, vying to be first to get out. She writhed beneath his vise of an arm. “Kerlonkus!” she roared. Apparently anger had won. “You are an absolute monster!”

He freed one hand to rub his ear, wincing in pain. “Now, now, birthday maiden. What’s the matter?” Kerlonkus donned a mock pout. “You don’t like my plans for a birthday surprise?” He opened his lips, showed off his sharp, white teeth. “It’ll be far more of an experience than a little pony ride. You’ll enjoy it… Trust me.” Kerlonkus kicked the sides of his unicorn again, and they made their way higher up the rocky slope.

Isalaina was getting paler, and it wasn't due to the altitude. “Kerlonkus, you can't do this! Turn back!”

He simply shook his head, the smirk of victory spreading wider and wider across his face.

“You can’t climb to the summit!”

“I’m not aiming for the summit, Love,” he snapped. Then his face smoothed back into a smile. He draped the reins over his arm a moment to tickle her chin with a free hand. “There’s been paths cut through these mountains before. I came here all the time as a child.”

Isalaina scoffed. “You'd be the first in years to cross the mountains. As if I'd believe that. I'll bet there is no plan; it's all you can do to keep ahead of Jaranin.” She tilted her chin away. She may not have been able to fight back any more, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t use her tongue. “You’re getting desperate.” She glanced behind Kerlonkus as she talked. Hope welled in her heart as she saw a cloud of dust rise in the horizon. And there, in the center of the dustcloud, riding far faster and harder than they—

Jaranin! “And he’s catching up now—Ah!” Isalaina winced in pain as Kerlonkus's iron grip went from around her waist to crushing her chin. She struggled to pull her head away, but he pinned her to his knee.

“You let me worry about him,” Kerlonkus whispered. His voice was low and so calm it made her shiver. It was like a thin layer of ice over a deep, dark lake. “Concern yourself with what you’re going to do once I’ve cleared the mountains and I have you all to myself, leagues away from anyone who can hear you scream…”

Isalaina swallowed the lump of fear that had lodged in her throat. Kerlonkus simply chuckled and spurred his unicorn higher and faster.

#

They were right ahead of Jaranin now, and he'd driven them between a steep cliff and a giant boulder. The path wound too high and steep to go fast up ahead.

Jaranin had Kerlonkus cornered. “Kerlonkus, stop!” he ordered.

He wasn't actually expecting Kerlonkus to listen, but to his surprise, Kerlonkus complied, pulling his mount to a halt and turning in the saddle.

Kerlonkus shot Jaranin a crooked smile.

They both knew what was coming now.

Jaranin and Kerlonkus dismounted as one, their feet crunching on rock and gravel. Kerlonkus tied the reins around Isalaina's wrists before she could slide off.

Jaranin held his hands palm-out toward Kerlonkus. Better to look as non-threatening as possible. Because if he goes over that mountain, it’s done. They'd never make it over the mountains; it was too dangerous.

Kerlonkus sneered. “You know, this whole chase could have been avoided if you’d just left us alone.”

Jaranin felt his face flush. “I couldn't let that happen.”

Kerlonkus snorted. “I should have just hamstrung your unicorn when I had the chance...” He balled his hands into fists.

Jaranin did the same.

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[Cut content from The Victor's Blade; all content subject to change.]

Check out more cut scenes here!

From Him, To Him

Friday, July 6, 2018

Cut Scene - TVB: "Isalaina's Birthday Gift"


To help me gear up for Realm Makers Writers' Conference in July, I'm bringing you a series of scenes cut from The Victor's Blade. Be sure to check below for any other cut scenes you may have missed so far!

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Jaranin stopped at the low white fence that guarded the house and opened the gate for the maiden. “Good morning, Isalaina.”

“Morning, Jaranin.”

He began to stroll beside her as she headed down the path east. “Are you going somewhere?”

She eyed him slyly and chuckled, “Well, yes, I’m heading to the weaver’s. Just as I do every morning.”

Jaranin could no longer remain stoic, and he beamed as he replied, “Ah, but there’s no work for you this morning!”

“What?”

His heart began to drum as Jaranin eagerly explained. “I told Anna it was your birthday, and she decided she would offer you a well-deserved break. She said to consider it her birthday gift to a very special young maiden.” Jaranin then stopped smiled sheepishly as he—to his great dismay—felt himself blush. “And now I was—well, I was wondering if… if you might like to…” Jaranin stopped and stammered. What if she laughed at him? He was doing this all wrong, he just knew. If only Elun were here—

“Yes?” Isalaina waited, her curiosity growing every moment.

“Would you… like to take a ride with me?” There. He had said it.

“Well, with work out of the way for the day,” Isalaina giggled, “I’d love to!”

“Very well, then. A unicorn ride for the Birthday Maiden!” Jaranin and Isalaina headed to the north, arm in arm.

#

Isalaina laughed in delight as she and Arvíña mounted another hill. Jaranin, who had chosen to ride Brand, was at her side in a heartbeat.

The fair maiden sought to absorb every drop of beauty that the surrounding scenery held. She looked around her, smiling and laughing even more. She absolutely adored riding Arvíña. It gave her so much exhilaration and freedom… it felt like she was flying!

As she looked upon the field of violets before her, the young maiden sighed contentedly and held the reigns loosely, whispering, “It’s so beautiful…”

Jaranin sat up straighter, “What is?”

Isalaina turned to him, her eyes sparkling with excitement, “Everything!” She laughed, and then flicked the reigns, calling to Arvíña, “Emanir, Arvíña!” The unicorn leaped into a swift gallop.

She heard a laugh over her shoulder and turned to look. The glance would prove that Brand was swifter than she’d thought. Jaranin and his mount were already at Arvíña’s hooves, but Isalaina was hardly deterred. She laughed and cheered Arvíña on. Her unicorn neighed a long, wild cry and shot ahead.

Emanir, emanir!”  Jaranin shouted from behind.

The unicorns sprinted across Sinoa’s knolls, valleys, and meadows, as their riders competed to be the winners of the friendly contest. Brand and Arvíña raced neck and neck, each whinnying with joy.

Eventually, Arvíña slowed to a halt, but Brand galloped right past her, still driven by the excitement of the race. It took a good deal of time and effort for Jaranin to slow the zealous unicorn and steer him back to where Isalaina and Arvíña had stopped.

Isalaina dismounted with a laugh and patted Brand’s neck, “I hereby declare Brand and Jaranin the winners of the race!”

Brand neighed, and Jaranin chuckled. “I’m not so sure.  It seemed like an even match, to me.”

“Ah,” corrected Isalaina gravely, hand waving majestically. “But ’twas I, the Birthday Maiden, who declared you the winners, and the winners you shall be.”

“Can’t argue with that,” Jaranin shook his head as he laughed.

Isalaina joined him in their breathless laughter. That is, until a sound made her turn. She could have sworn she heard hoofbeats. Isalaina’s laugh died as quickly as her smile.

“What? What is it?” Jaranin was asking. He rested a hand on her shoulder.

Riding over the horizon was a rider on a pale gray unicorn. She knew the mount; she recognized the rider better.

“Kerlonkus…” she muttered.

“What?”

She heard the clip of hooves through grass. She glanced over her shoulder to see Jaranin had led the unicorns back over to the riders. “Come on. Let’s head into the forest.” He nodded to the cluster of trees a few hills over, in the opposite direction of their unwelcome guest.

Isalaina nodded, and together they mounted and headed toward the evergreen trees to the north.

While they rode, however, Jaranin couldn’t shake the feeling they were being followed. He kept glancing behind them, but once they were under the trees, it was impossible to see more than a few yards back. The trees grew close here. And any sound Kerlonkus would make, were he still following them, would certainly be masked beneath their own noise.

Jaranin called for a halt, and the two waited in breathless silent atop their mounts. There were hoofbeats approaching, but it was impossible to say which direction they were coming from.

“I don’t like this…” Jaranin murmured. “Why would he be following us?”

Isalaina frowned. “Perhaps because he’s a brute.”

Jaranin grunted an assent and scanned the trees again.

“Look there!” Isalaina whispered, pointing to his left. Trotting toward them was a shaggy gray unicorn, its saddle empty. It meandered toward them, nickering.

Jaranin dismounted and approached the beast cautiously. “Kerlonkus’s mount… But where’s your rider?” He asked, stroking the gentle unicorn’s muzzle.

“Jaranin, behind you!” Isalaina shouted.

Something heavy struck the back of his head. His vision went blurry, and he felt his body hit the ground.

He heard Isalaina scream, but it sounded muffled, as though from far away. Footfalls rushed toward him.

“Now, now, birthday maiden…” he heard Kerlonkus croon. “I’ve got a gift for you, too—” The jeer was cut off by a heavy grunt.

“You leave him alone!”

The sound of a scuffle followed.

Jaranin struggled to rise, but his limbs refused to work. He raised his head and craned his neck. He could see Isalaina struggling against Kerlonkus, but his vision was quickly darkening. No, stay awake!

Jaranin watched helplessly as Isalaina freed one of her arms and swung a strike at Kerlonkus’s face. The brute caught her hand.

“Isalaina…” Jaranin slurred. Get up, you idiot! Do something! Anything…

But as Kerlonkus was smashing both his fists into Isalaina’s temple, Jaranin slumped, unconscious.

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[Cut content from The Victor's Blade; all content subject to change.]

Check out more cut scenes here!

From Him, To Him