“The War of the Ravels”, Then and Now

So lately I’ve been doing mostly Teaser Tuesday posts, which are quick and fun, but for the last post of the year I thought I would go back and do another comparison of an original scene from the Shards follow-up, The War of the Ravels, and the same scene as it currently stands in the draft revision. (The final revision will be done in 2013.) Although the scene name remains the same for the moment, and the activity in the scene is similar — Mercy is still going after Daras-Drûm, AKA the death-wind — the setting has totally changed. There’s no longer a flashback to Yexandor’s place (which in the current version was no longer a temple, but instead a fallen tree) and a certain blue-skinned sorcerer, whose influence is alluded to in the original scene, is no longer involved in the death-wind’s activities. But other than that it hasn’t changed at all.



They ran up the gravelly path, Mercy in front, Cynidece and Bernard just behind. As they drew closer the shape inside the doorway retreated down the wide-throated hall, meat on a mobile hook.And the closer they got, the faster the doors closed.

They pounded up the path. Mercy reached the doorway first and darted through an opening two feet wide. Cynidece and Bernard squeezed in sideways, their stomachs and backs scraping the thick smooth wood.

The doors closed silently behind them.

The three of them stood in the wide entrance hall of the temple. It ran straight back into the building, lined with slender white pillars that nearly touched the side walls. To their left, through a doorless archway, was a large empty room with smooth stone benches arranged in rows: some sort of small chapel. To their right was a wooden door shaped like an onion, banded in gold, half-open. Beyond it curving stairs descended to the catacombs.

Twenty yards down the hallway Lex swayed in the grasp of two green tentacles. Just beyond him the corridor widened into a great vast hall, and from that hall light radiated in blinding waves, breaking over the three of them with almost physical force. Mercy felt each burst of incandescence wash over her, through her, swells of power raw on her skin and in her spirit.

“What’s going on here?” she murmured.

Mercy took a half-conscious step down the corridor, and followed it with another, and another; and then she was loping into the interior of the temple, leaving Cynidece and Bernard hurrying to catch up with her. She hardly heard Bernard shouting at her to slow down, because there was a hum inside her spirit and she knew what that sensation meant.

The Illata was near.

Lex, dandling out of reach, bobbed through the wide mouth of the corridor. Mercy followed a heartbeat later, sprinting, untrained body panting, a taste like dusty iron in her mouth. She drew up short in the great room.

She was back in Yexandor’s temple.

There were the curved ribs rising up to a central hole in the roof; there were the bodies of hundreds of dead elves scattered all about. There was Glorian, his wide bloody eyes staring at her like accusing sapphires; and Orindel, slumped over Glorian’s back, throat still seeping blood through a gash that cut his neck in a second mouth. The stalk was in the center of the room, too, but there was no Illata there; there was only a stinking green glow on its opposite side, a pile of glowing mist whose tendrils slithered and slunk all around the place. It was holding Lex directly above itself, and Mercy felt a cold gaze on her though the thing had no eyes she could see.

“So we return to the place it began.”

The voice seemed to be as much in her mind as anywhere else, a strange blasphemous burble, as if a scud of putrid sea foam had found the ability to speak. And yet, there was something vaguely familiar about the voice; some small thing that said she had heard it before. A faint tone, somewhere underneath; or a cadence, an inflection.

And there was only one being who would imitate Yexandor’s temple and call it the place it began.

“You,” she said.

As Mercy tried to find her way back to the harbor gate, the city became increasingly shrouded in a mist that seemed to be rising from the sewers; it must have been flowing through the pipes and tunnels beneath Abacar’s main streets like water, forcing its way up through the grates and drains that carried water into the chasm. The basin in which she had earlier found refuge was probably full of fog now. Maybe it was backing up into the castle, even into people’s homes and businesses, assuming any of them had connections to the sewers. She imagined those closed-up buildings filling with fog, a clammy chill permeating every room, every hiding place, settling into the lungs of those within like a pale, unhealthful perfume. Even out in the streets, where the concentration was thin, she didn’t like the way the mist smelled, the taste of it on her tongue, the feel of it on her skin and hair, a faint greasy sheen, as if it were an atomized blend of water and fish oil. She couldn’t imagine breathing it in any sort of concentrated form without passing out. Finally she took the outer towel off the Illata and wrapped it around her nose and mouth instead, providing some slight filtration of the miasma, which helped a little.Between the disorienting sheets of drifting grey mist and the mild dizziness that inhaling it induced, she missed the turn onto the street Cynidece had taken. She soon realized she was wandering through unfamiliar territory, and moved closer to the buildings on the left—which, she thought, was the direction in which the harbor gate would be found—hoping to spot a building she recognized, or maybe find a sign or a person to tell her which way to go. Not that she had much hope of either; no one was out on this sinister night, and as far as she could tell, Abacar did not believe in “You Are Here” kiosks.

Suddenly she became aware of running footsteps from somewhere ahead of her. A person! She hurried in that direction, and was almost knocked down when a man came bounding out of a narrow alleyway between a shuttered saloon and a darkened flophouse. The running man was looking over his shoulder as if pursued—she didn’t know by what—and overbalanced, and when they collided, even though she was by far the smaller party, the man was the one who went sprawling in the street. Mercy spun, grabbed the chill iron post of one of the darkened oil lamps, and managed to stay on her feet.

She reoriented on the fallen man as he staggered back to his feet. He wore the uniform of the city watch, and sported a bow and a quiver on his back; a few arrows had spilled from the quiver when he fell, lying among the cobbles, pointing back at the man as if in accusation. Before he could start running again, three shapes emerged from the alley, all dressed the same way as the archer. Two of them seized his arms, hauling him off his feet; the third got hold of his kicking ankles. Ignoring Mercy just as they ignored the man’s howls of protest, they carried him back into the mists of the alley. Without hesitation, Mercy snatched up the arrows from the street, then went after them.

The stink in the alley was worse than out in the streets, the air closer. The noxious vapors that had risen up to fill the city found concentration here, where the air was still and the buildings pressed upon each other. She could barely see their dark shapes up ahead of her, but the would-be deserter continued to protest so she knew she was keeping up. Besides, there was only one way to go, so it wasn’t like she could make a wrong turn. At least, not until she came to a four-way intersection, where a second pair of buildings met the first pair. The intersection was offset with a little jog to the right. The sounds of her quarry had grown faint and confusing, echoing around one of the corners, but she couldn’t tell which, and the damp, muddy cobblestones had been smeared by so many feet that they yielded up no information about any recent passages, even if she’d known the first thing about tracking.

Time to use one of the arrows, then.

She’d gotten the idea from seeing the arrows lying in the street pointing at the man who’d been carrying them. Assuming he was running away from wherever Daras-Drûm was approaching, following the ones who had brought him back seemed like the way to join up with whatever forces of law and order remained operational. Switching one of the arrows to the hand that held the Illata, she let the other one balance on the heel of her palm and told it to point the way to the man who had been carrying it. It swayed there, bobbing slowly, then—here she felt a little thrill—gradually pivoted to indicate one of the corners. So what if, left to her own devices, she would’ve chosen that way anyhow? She hadn’t used the Illata for this; she’d done it herself. It was a small thing, but it was hers. Transferring the other arrow back to her free hand, she hurried up the alley, toward, she hoped, the harbor road.

The alley opened onto a smallish square ringed by shuttered businesses, mostly of a nautical persuasion; from there she could see the harbor gate, its ring of defenders, if they could be called that, and beyond them the wall of fog, the leprous mass of Daras-Drûm rising beyond. In minutes it would pour into the city like a storm surge, sweeping everything away. What could she do to stop it?

Storm surge. Death-wind. Fog and fury. This was weather.

She had handled weather before.

Hefting the Illata, she headed for the gate.

No doubt this scene will change again before the final revision, but not as much as it did from the original to the current version.

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