There aren't too many deleted scenes from Bloodline, but this small scene was cut pretty early in the process because it didn't make much sense. But even though it's both unedited and declared unworthy, I still thought you might enjoy reading it!
But before we get to that, a couple of reminders!
First off, in case you didn't know, Bloodline (Cradle #9) is going to be released this Tuesday, April 6th! It's supposed to be available at midnight in your time zone, but apparently that's unreliable, and it can sometimes be minutes or even hours later.
Amazon is a fickle mistress.
Second, I'll be streaming on Twitch to kick off Bloodline's release from 9 PM - 12 AM (EST) on April 5th, just like I did for the last couple of books. Check out Twitch.tv/willwight when the time is right if you want to see me answering questions while halfheartedly playing some random game. Probably Valheim this time.
Aaaaannnd that's about it! Without further ado, here's the tiny little micro-scene that might have blossomed into one of the first scenes of Bloodline, if I hadn't pruned it away with my relentless shears of judgment.
Eithan eased his broken, bruised, and blood-caked body down to sit on a chunk of rubble. His tender wounds and spinning head aside, he was feeling rather good.
Not far away, Lindon was straining his will to exercise his newfound authority, and that was going to be the fastest way out of this crumbling tower. Sophara’s body was still warm outside—he knew from experience that it took dragon corpses entirely too long to cool—and the Blood Sage had scuttled off.
But that didn’t mean the tower was clear of enemies.
Rubble shifted next to him, and Yan Shoumei crawled out from beneath a pile of timbers, coughing dust. Eithan instinctively shifted to the side, only for his ribs to scream protest. Gritty gray clouds landed on his robes.
Trying to stay clean was like sweeping sand at this point. The only thing that kept his robes decent was his blood sticking them together.
The girl leaned on Eithan’s chunk of masonry for support, still hacking her lungs up, black hair powdered gray-brown from her time in the rubble.
Even weak as she was, she could have burst forth in a show of power. She could have used her sacred arts to protect herself, and made her life a lot easier.
Instead, she had wrapped herself in layer after layer of veils. She was thoroughly cocooned, having wisely deduced that using blood madra here would draw attention far more than filling the halls with hacking coughs.
She was wise. His students were so preoccupied with their situation that they hadn’t done more than a cursory sweep with their perception. They had overlooked her.
He corrected himself when he saw a pair of red eyes, all the way across the other side of the tower, locked on his location. Yerin should only see blank stone in front of her, but she was frowning and looking straight at him, her scarlet blade-arms flexing.
Well, one of his students was too preoccupied to make a proper search.
“I’m impressed,” Eithan said to Yan Shoumei, and the Redmoon artist stumbled away from him in shock.
Her spiritual sense was completely deafened by her veils, and her eyes were still gummed shut with blood and grime. He had assumed she would have at least noticed his presence, but from the way she rapidly blinked and swiped at her eyes, she’d had no idea anyone was there until he spoke.
He smiled brightly at her. Surprises were always fun, as long as you were the one doing the surprising.
She froze, and he could practically see the thoughts crawling across her mud-caked face. Should she run? No, he’d catch her. Should she fight while he was injured and weak? No, he was too advanced. Should she scan him to see if he was too injured to fight? Maybe unleash her Blood Shadow? What if that drew Lindon and Yerin down on her?
While she was paralyzed between fight and flight, he gave her a gentle wave. “I mean it, I’m impressed. I know how hard it is to keep yourself restricted when you’re in danger. It was the right call.”
Yan Shoumei’s voice scraped out, even more dry and ghostly than usual. “Don’t toy with me.”
“Why not? Isn’t that better than killing you? I hope you realize that you were part of an assassination attempt against a Monarch’s children. The survival rate for such a failed operation is…not high.”
“Then kill me.”
That time, her voice shook. There was something of a quiver to it, so it came out more like a plea.
He read danger in that tone. Not danger to him, but danger nonetheless. If he left this situation alone, she would draw a blade and lunge at him, trying to force him to kill her.
She knew better than to be caught by Malice.
Maybe light banter hadn’t been the best approach.
Eithan frantically shook his head. “No no, I’m sorry, this is a bad time for jokes. I do apologize.”
She stared at him as though she couldn’t believe he’d just used the word “joke.”
“Yes, I see that I have failed to uphold the gravity of this situation. Let me cut to the bone: you should run away. I will cover for you with the Monarch.”
She crept warily a few steps closer to the entrance. “Why?”
“Because if I chased down everyone who was bullied or bought into doing Reigan Shen’s bidding, I would be a grim black-clad specter of vengeance rather than the bright, fresh-faced soul you see before you.”
He spoke more gently, now that he didn’t have to worry about a suicide rush. “You had no choice. I know that’s the coward’s favorite defense, but in this case it is literally true. You had to choose between killing and dying, which is no choice at all. Go home.”
With an underhand toss, he threw her a void key.
Not his, of course. He’d scavenged this one from a Redmoon Overlord, and there was nothing interesting inside.
“I don’t know what’s in your key, but in that one has several weeks’ worth of rations, scales, and other supplies. Keep your veil on, your head down, and your Blood Shadow quiet until you’re out of Akura territory. You can make it.”
She stared at the void key in her hand until a tiny whisper of her spiritual perception leaked out of her veil, so she could sense inside the storage and verify his words.
He had responses prepared for her distrust, for her gratitude, and—most likely of all—for another expression of stunned disbelief.
So he was caught with his mouth open and no idea how to respond when she said, “Come with me.”
There was an awkward moment of silence before she filled the silence herself. “You’re not the son of a Monarch. You can walk away.”
“I really, really can’t.” He gave her his best smile. “But I am truly flattered by the offer. Alas, it is the curse of the truly gorgeous; I can never escape attention from anyone who sees me shirtless.”
He expected rolled eyes.
But she nodded sadly, wearily, as though he had told her he planned to work himself to death in an iron mine. He suspected she might be reading too much into his words, but all she said was, “Thank you.”
In a sudden flurry of motion, she dashed off, leaving Eithan alone with his thoughts.
For a moment.
Yerin appeared next to him in a flash of white light from her Moonlight Bridge. “Letting her leave, are you?”
“She’s not our enemy, really, and if you’ll—”
Eithan had prepared himself for a lecture on the foolishness of leaving his enemies alive. Once again, he was left wrong-footed.
“…I have been surprised by young ladies too often in too short a time. I’m not certain my heart can handle it.”
Her brow creased in a frown. “Don’t talk like you’re three days from dead. Archlords can live a thousand years. You’re not much more than a screaming baby.”
“I hear that a lot. And I admire your optimism in assuming we won’t be murdered tomorrow.”
“You know me, all bright and shiny,” she muttered. “Now let’s go. Back of my neck itches when you’re not where I can see you.”
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