2015/09/21

Souldancer Deleted Scene

Whenever I revise a novel, scenes--and even whole chapters--end up getting cut. Most of the time, material isn't cut because it's terrible. Quite often, scenes become casualties to continuity changes. Others need to go because they inflate the number of peripheral POV characters, while some otherwise solid scenes must be pruned to streamline the story's flow.

One scene that appeared in the first draft of Souldancer featured a conversation between Nakvin and Sulaiman that established what both of them had been up to since Nethereal and laid out Sulaiman's plan for dealing with the Cataclysm. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a good place to put the scene that didn't interrupt the narrative flow, and it was cut from later drafts.

I recently rewrote the scene using the Maass exercises detailed here. My editor liked the results, urged me to include it, and even suggested the perfect point to fit it in. So one of my tasks for the final Souldancer revision is to restore the Sulaiman/Nakvin scene. The finished version will undergo a rewrite, but here's the scene that resulted from running the Maass exercise.


The thread of light cutting a narrow trail through the prevailing dimness; the rustling of silk against stone disturbing the silence; the scent of lavender overshadowing the odor of dust and rotting books—all of these announced Nakvin’s intrusion to Sulaiman as clearly as any herald.

He stayed hunched over the tomes and scrolls on the ancient archives desk, even when she stood directly behind him.

“I know what you’re doing, Sulaiman.”

Sulaiman didn’t pause from making a note in the margin of a commentary on the Burned Book. “One should hope so, my liege.”

The silk of Nakvin’s robe whispered as she made a few discreet motions. Every candle in the room blazed with a flame many times larger, brighter, and hotter than before.

Sulaiman squinted. Queenship suits her well. She proceeds from strength to strength.

“Damn it, Sulaiman,take a minute out from plotting to kill my daughter, stand up like a man, and face me.”

With an inner grin, Sulaiman did as he was ordered. Nakvin stood before him; arms draped in lily white sleeves folded across her chest. Tresses black as ravens’ wings framed a pale face whose silver eyes seemed to pierce his soul.

“You didn’t think you’d keep this from me,” she said.

“I did not.”

Rage seethed behind Nakvin’s stern visage. “Then why in the name of all the departed gods did you scheme to kill Elena under my own roof!?”

Sulaiman felt the queen’s wrath wash over him, but he kept calm with an effort. “You know the necessity of my work as well as I,” he said. “One death will spare the lives of untold innocents.”

Nakvin’s face fell, but she soon rallied. “Elena didn’t ask for what happened to her. Others put her into that position. She’s no more guilty than the billions who died in the Cataclysm; and less guilty than some I could name.”

The degree to which Nakvin’s claim shook him surprised Sulaiman. He was not unfamiliar with moral philosophy, having debated such matters in the Skola while he was yet a prefect on Mithgar. Is it just to kill even a single innocent if a hundred be saved? Sulaiman had thought the hypothetical solved to his satisfaction. After all, there were far more than a hundred souls at stake, and the girl was far from blameless, whatever her mother said.

But deserving of death?

Sulaiman’s inner conflict must have shown on his face, because Nakvin said, “You’re a prefect of Midras, sworn to defend the innocent. Despenser may have made you a monster on the outside, but you’re still the same soul who gave me his cloak when I’d lost mine.”

A terrible weight pressed down on Sulaiman’s heart. He struggled against it for a moment before finally letting it crush every rationalization. “As you say, my part is protecting the weak from the wicked. My god’s abdication changes nothing. And perhaps one who kills an innocent to save millions himself deserves death. Yet the task must be done.”

Sulaiman marched toward the stairs, brushing past a stunned-looking Nakvin.

“I’ve been damned before,” he said. “Let the pain of this deed rest upon me.” He took the first step.

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