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!
An alternate version of last week's excerpt, this is from an even earlier version in which I tried to intertwine more of Jaranin's father's story. Here Jaranin experiences the ruins of Rehlor in much the same way as his father had fifteen years ago. Only for Arenen, this was his home.
This will be the last excerpt you'll see for a while as I go back to my normal posting schedule, beginning with an anime post next week. Thanks for all your support and comments, and I'll see you then.
Jaranin strolled at the front of the group, his eyes roving over the ruins. His heart was hammering with panic, one that shrieked even louder and stronger than the terror he’d felt at the blades of the warriors who had chased them here.
Suddenly, Jaranin broke out into a full-stride run, sprinting straight for the dead city.
Arenen’s footfalls thundered on the stone-cold ground. A tremor of panic rippled through his heart. A shriek of denial echoed in his head. But his throat had been crushed by the overwhelming fear.
Jaranin floated through the cracked cobblestone streets. Mist collected at his feet. Chunks of stone protruded at sunken angles from the ground, echoes of a once-proud city wall.
Burned. It was all burned, from the blackened marble walls to the scorched sandstone streets, from the blackened grass and the smoking stumps of limber ash groves. Overturned carts were afire, and collapsed roofs were aflame. The green things were dead, and even the stones were charred.
It had all been burned to the ground.
Nothing grew here. There were dry, dead stumps from thin young trees that had been planted along the roadside. There was no sign of life in them—no rotting stumps filled with insects, no mushrooms gathered at their base, no bark covered with lichen, no moss or hint of green. Naught remained but the burnt husks of a few trees that might have once shaded passersby in the hot summer months. The road was shattered, but not a single blade of grass, not one weed, grew betwixt the splintered stone. Everything was dead.
Arenen put a fist to his mouth as he withheld a scream.
Jaranin uttered the first sound heard in the ruins for fifteen years as he pointed beyond the mist: a terrible, horrified cry that needed no words.
Piles of bare-boned corpses were strewn about the road ahead.
Arenen could no longer hold back the scream, and he yelled as long and loud as he could. His feet scattered the clattering debris as he charged down the street, a lone living soul amidst this city of the dead. The sole survivor wandered from body to body, kneeling beside women he knew, cradling the heads of familiar children in his lap, and passing friend after friend with a growing, shivering shock of fear and anger and dread. He knew them all… and they were all dead.
“What happened here?” Jaranin whimpered, his voice hoarse as tears poured down his cheeks. There was a skeleton not a foot away from him, a child whose skull had been crushed. There were two more ahead and to the left lying in a heap—a parent and babe. Five more bodies lay just ahead in the middle of the road, no doubt brave men who had tried to fend off whatever evil had attacked their home, fighting to the bitter end. Their bleached bones were broken into thousands of pieces, and the skulls were nowhere to be found.
“Who could have done this?!” the boy screamed, enraged.
“Who did this?!” the man roared, charging through the ruins like a beast, passing rubble where homes had stood and skirting bodies of friends who were lying slaughtered in the streets.
Set in the center of the city was a clearing where rubble had been stacked into one blackened pillar, a jagged, unnatural, staggering thing with a threadbare flag that still flapped and cracked in the imperceptible wind.
A bloodied banner sat in the center of the city. It bore the image of a black dragon belching crimson flame into the air. It was a symbol with which Arenen was all too familiar.
He knew now who had done such a thing.
[Cut content from The Victor's Blade; all content subject to change.]
Check out more cut scenes here!
From Him, To Him