Today I have a special behind the scenes look at some of the chapters that hit the cutting room floor in Slave to War. These are unedited and raw bits of the story that were cut for the sake flow of the story. I’ll be releasing three bonus chapters, so keep an eye out for chapters two and three!
So without further adieu, here’s the first deleted scene. It was one of my favorites that I wrote for Michael’s character, and is in Rain’s POV, but found it was unnecessary in the end for the final draft of the novel. So it hit the cutting room floor.
WARNING | SPOILER ALERT FOR ANYONE WHO HASN’T READ WAR MACHINE
OR SLAVE TO WAR
Much to my unease, Michael took me to the garden where his party had been. But this time he took me to an aviary in the way back I hadn’t spotted on my first fateful visit.
Once inside, I looked around with amazement. Long rows of branches held creatures regarding me with keen, shrewd eyes. Vultures, hawks, owls, and one enormous looking condor all regarded us with glittering eyes. These were all military-trained birds. I could see transmitters hanging up in the corners with cameras they fastened on their backs.
I felt myself grin. Master Rascorr had had a pet hawk and excelled in falconry. He allowed me to practice with it every day. I whistled in a low tone following a particular pattern that perhaps they would recognize if the trainer had taught them in the style Master and I had.
I couldn’t hear their calls, but I could see most of their mouths open and a great deal of wings spread as they chorused their calls back at me. Michael jumped and stared around wondrously. Owls were blinking at us, falcons bobbed their heads up and down, and the lone condor spread its enormous wings and screamed at me in defiance. It was unnatural for so many birds of prey to be in one place, so it seemed they had formed their own social hierarchy. The condor reigned supreme, probably by sheer size. It stared me down with a hiss, cocking its head. Its lack of a comb and red eyes told me it was a female.
All the other birds stilled as I stepped towards her. I whistled softly, extending my hand in a friendly gesture. I saw scars lining her head. Seeing an electrical collar around its neck I understood her reluctance though she had been trained. I looked around at all the others. They had collars, too. They were just like me: trapped and forced to obey.
She eyed me with distrust and I whistled again. She lowered her head after a minute and allowed me to scratch her head. I lowered my head next to her and whistled softly in an affectionate tone. She hissed at me again and I stroked the feathers along her back until she jiggled her feathers back and forth. I had hit the spot.
I turned back to Michael to see him nose to nose with an owl that had settled itself on his shoulder. He winced as its talons dug into his shoulder. I saw blood starting and rushed forward. I stuck my hand out and the owl snapped at it.
I looked back at Michael who seemed utterly terrified as it bore its enormous yellow eyes into his and screeched at him. “You don’t have food, do you?”
He stuck his hand in his pocket, pulled out a bag of jerky, and stuck it at me. I opened the bag and all yellow, orange, red, and black eyes turned on me. They all returned to their perches as I whistled a command. The owl screamed at me and did the same, leaving his shoulder. I tossed the condor the biggest piece and divided the rest.
I gave a few to Michael and gestured he should give it a try, too, in particular to feed the owl. It was still eyeing him with interest. He tossed the piece at it and it caught it with a snap. It called at him, bobbing its head and twisting it around so it was upside down. Finally he cracked a smile and cooed back at it. The owl screeched at him for more. He jumped back with a start.
For the first time in months, I really laughed. And boy did it hurt. It turned into a coughing fit real fast as the scar where my vocal cords should have been stretched. It really didn’t feel good, but they didn’t rip. That was good. It meant they had healed even if it was badly. I probably sounded like a chain smoker laughing.
I shrugged off Michael’s concerned hand and ventured further into the building realizing it wasn’t just an aviary. It housed a lot more than just birds.
Through another door, I entered a dark room. A red light flicked on for me to see ruby eyes gleaming back at me. A breeze whipped around my hair as wings flapped around me. I stumbled back as a cold nose sniffed along my neck. I came eye to eye with an upside down brown head and enormous black eyes. It was a giant fruit bat. It probably was looking for its food. More eyes from all corners blinked open at me.
The room after the next was the best, though. It was a large enclosure that held a weird assortment. Two wolves, a black leopard, a cheetah, a brown bear, and panda all eyed me. They were in a cluster together except for the panther which paced its end of the cage restlessly. I gathered they had been raised together and had adapted to each other’s presences as the birds of prey had.
I looked at the electrical prod hanging in the corner and ignored it. I sat down on the opposite wall pretending I had no interest in them. The door to my left opened again and Michael stepped through, fighting off what appeared to be one of the giant fruit bats trying to get into his pocket. He threw in what looked like a bag of candies and slammed the door shut.
When he turned to face this room, I think he had a near coronary. He gripped the handle of the room with too much force and slammed his back into the wall. His wild eyes found me on the floor and started saying something out loud. I rolled my eyes, patting the floor. He looked at me as if I had sprouted a third head.
I shrugged. The panda was sauntering toward us, sniffing the air. Behind it was the brown bear. The others watched to see what we would do. “Thank you for bringing me here.”
“Sure,” he signed with sarcasm as the panda came over and plopped in front of him. He waved at it weakly. To his and my intense surprise, it waved its paw back before rolling over on its side. The brown bear growled, already bored, and sat down behind it.
“It’s hard to believe Emperor Huang domesticated pandas and used them to defeat Emperor Yan 4000 years ago. They aren’t very intimidating.”
“I can believe it,” he signed, sitting beside me. “All I see are rows of razor sharp teeth. I think the army had the same idea. But it got too expensive so my father took on the care of the menagerie. He likes having the bragging rights to his own private zoo.”
He stopped as curiosity got to the others. The Leopard and wolves hung back, but the cheetah came over with a chirrup. I couldn’t hear it, but I remembered the call from the visit to the zoo as a child with Master and Dantenn. I whistled the birdlike call back and it came forward with a purr. It sank down next to my side, rubbing its head against my arm. I stroked its ears as it nipped at my hand playfully.
Michael stayed with his knees curled up to his chest. The other animals ignored us and the leopard went back to pacing at its end of the cage. The wolves watched with pricked ears. I was disgusted to see all of these animals too bore scars and collars.
Michael nodded, venturing to put his hand out for the cheetah to sniff. “I brought you here to talk without prying ears. I wanted to discuss what may happen tonight.”
He looked at me then. Bitter loathing for his father warred with the warmth for me in his eyes. “Sorry he’s attempting to force you to marry me. I’m not sure how he’s going to work this considering you’re still supposedly still hitched to Cain.”
I sighed. “There are worse things than being married to your best friend.“
He squeezed my hand. “Yes, but if you were going to marry me I’d want it to be on our terms. I have no aversion to marriage; in fact I rather like the idea of binding oneself to the one you love for eternity.”
His eyes held such warmth and affection that I gulped. I felt like I was cheating on Cain it was so strong a connection. He drew me to him then, like he hadn’t dared do before, resting his head on my shoulder and stroking my hair. We stayed like that for a while. He just held me like there was nothing on the planet he wanted to do more and perhaps that was true. I felt for him, I really did. We were just two broken souls that the world had spat out years ago. But we had saved that world together despite what it had done to us and now it had turned on us once more. But we still had each other.
“If I weren’t too young would you consider me being with me?” he asked suddenly, pulling back just far enough so I could see his hand but not far enough so I was out of his embrace. I didn’t reply. “If you had never met Cain, would it be a different answer?”
The questions were getting more difficult. “I don’t think you’d like me very much if I hadn’t. I am a killer, Michael. Never forget that.”
I felt him suck in a breath. “But you wouldn’t be if it weren’t necessary, right?”
I reflected on that for a second. “If there were no more evil in the world, I suppose would find myself without a purpose. There would be no use for my skills to defend those I love-“
“But you do love,” he insisted. “That is the difference. Evil is most often defined as a lack of love. I know evil. It is my father. He doesn’t love me. He doesn’t love anybody, which is why he ripped me from my mother’s arms as she died from childbirth. I’m just an heir so he’ll have a legacy when he dies.”
I bowed my head. “I’m sorry about your mother. She must have loved you.”
“She did. The doctors told her she wouldn’t survive if she had me. My father tried to stop her and blames me for her death. That’s why he hates me so much. But she insisted to carry me full term. Sometimes I wish she hadn’t. She would still be alive then.”
I gasped at that statement. That rivaled even my way of toxic thinking. He was wishing himself away. “Don’t belittle her sacrifice with those thoughts. Do something with your life. You are valued-“
“Am I? If I died, my funeral would be a show for my father to profit off of.“
“But I would grieve,” my hands said.
He looked down at me with sad eyes. “Yeah, and you would run to Cain for comfort.” He shook his head and glanced at his watch. “We have to go. Father will be looking for us soon. After tonight, I doubt we’ll be spending much time together-” I started to protest – “Alone, that is.“
I stood with what I’m sure was a fierce expression. “I’m not leaving without you. Remember that.”
He stood and nodded, still thoroughly unhappy looking. He didn’t release my hand as we went back to reality, leaving our little piece of solitude behind.
– Copyright 2018 Maggie Lynn Heron-Heidel
Keep an eye out for bonus chapters two and three in the next few days!