Kill Your Darlings
(this is material that will NOT be appearing in the second book of The Last Journeys of Creigal berDuvante where I originally intended it to be. Although I love the first part, as Poltehne follows Meu through Ebertin, Poltehne quickly became problematic and disrupted the story in all the wrong ways. Although I tried to resolve the problems for some time, I eventually realized he need to be removed - and so I scrubbed him from the book. Sometimes, you simply have to kill your darlings. What follows are all the scenes I'd written with Poltehne and is unresolved. NOTE: there is one redaction in the second paragraph so I don't spoil a major event in book one [don't read it too closely, or you might figure it out...].)
Poltehne was jolted awake by the sounds of conflict. In a rush, he jumped from his bed, pulled on his clothes, and grabbed for his weapons. By the time he was dressed and had his short swords, there were two calls raised and repeated over and over. The first was for the fire that raged through a house and some nearby trees, which was fairly secluded. There were a few houses close by. The other call was the Pan Iskaer as they chased Ministrians and Degorouth from the area.
Poltehne shook his head. Not even a week had past since the death of *****, and already there was open conflict in the streets. Poltehne's first thought was that he should get up and help with the fire, as he wasn't interested in the fighting. His second thought was that he should move from Ebertin, and maybe go east or south. He had no interest in getting caught up in such political upheaval. These were the sort of times when innocent men were hanged with the best of intentions.
As he dressed for a fire, Poltehne considered the various places he might go: maybe he'd go to Hyber Pass and the basin of the Great Tallian Sea beyond, or maybe he'd go into the Saot kingdom. He'd always wanted to see Kelmish wine country. He considered a visit to the highlands of Gaurring, though there were whispers of trouble from that land. Still, there was a colony of his people in the highlands and it'd been a long time since he'd been among his own kind.
Wherever he went, he certainly wasn't interested in a city that was on fire with open fighting in the streets. He should pack a few boxes and mail them in advance, as he was known to do. It was that, or travel as a man.
Fully dressed, Poltehne twisted the knob on the front door of his rented house and stepped out. In the street, he raced along one of the many large parks that dotted the city. He'd certainly miss the parks when he left. Ebertin had beautiful parks - though many of them leaked naga from time to time.
He glanced at the flames as they licked the grand house and was happy to see a large crowd already fought the blaze. At least these Trohls weren't lax. As he moved toward the forming bucket line, something shot overhead and broke his concentration. The beast cruised toward the park and disappeared into the canopy formed by several sycamores, a couple walnuts, and one massive, ancient willow. Initially, Poltehne thought some great owl must be hunting, but he tossed that aside immediately. No. He'd seen something else, something he had not seen in years. He was certain of it. The wide wings, the long thin tail; it was a wyrm if it was anything more than a dream.
Poltehne's heart raced as he edged into the park, no longer interested in the fire at all. He had good eyes and soon found the form in the trees as it made its way down the various branches. The wyrm crawled through the willow, down, down to the ground, where it disappeared among the thick vegetation. Poltehne edged closer. He stared into the small grove, but saw nothing. There was nothing there.
And then, there was! As rude as a queen, a red haired lady in a sundress stepped from under the willow! Poltehne watched her go as he kept a close eye on the small grove. He snuck into the thicket of trees as the redhead stepped out around a corner and into the city proper. Frantically, he searched about the foliage, and found just what he expected: nothing.
With a wide smile and several happy steps, Poltehne ran out of the park, after the red haired lady. He stepped into the street expecting to see her, but she was gone. He thought she must have stepped into one of these most immediate doors as he glanced up and down the street.
Was it truly possible? Had he discovered not only a wyrm but a skin-walker? What were the odds?!
The light of day crept at the horizon as Poltehne stepped from door to door and examined each one. Several were locked businesses that wouldn't open for hours. There were also a number of houses and a fine inn where the lady might go. Poltehne realized the search was pointless. There was little chance of seeing her again, so he thought.
"ERR-AY-ERR-AY-ERRRRRR!" Poltehne jumped as a loud cry sounded just above him. He looked up expecting to see a rooster, but instead there was a small boy, four or five stories up. The boy stood on the balcony of the inn and held a small dagger in his hand as he glared at Poltehne for several seconds. Then, the boy raised his head to the lighting horizon. "ERR-AY-ERR-AY- ERRRRRR!" He called, a grand mimic of a rooster. This time he ignored Poltehne as he stared out over the city." ERR-AY-ERR-AY-ERRRRRR!" He crowed one last time as Poltehne watched.
The door to the balcony opened. A thin form stepped out and wrapped an arm around the boy. The newcomer glanced down at Poltehne and blessed him with a smile. Poltehne waved back at the red-haired lady he'd followed from the park. She waved, ushered the boy back into the room, and closed the balcony door. Poltehne stood there for several seconds before he shook his head. Now, all plans were out the window. He glanced into the inn and wondered how he might find out more about this woman.
Poltehne thought it best not to leave the inn until he had more information about the wyrm, which turned out to be the right move. As he stood at the desk and asked the clerk about amenities and rates, the redhead and the small boy came down the stairs, placed a key on the counter, and stepped out the front door with nothing but a smile. Abruptly, Poltehne gave a polite nod to the clerk, and followed after the redhead.
They walked fast as they stepped through the streets. Poltehne was curious that they moved toward the center of the fighting - though by the time they arrived, the fighting was long over. A large crowd gathered about a knot of Trohls and a fine mix of foreigners. The redhead and the boy fixated on this small knot of strangers but stayed back a good distance as the strangers were surrounded by a thick knot of Pan Iskaer militia.
Finally, several officers of the Pan Iskaer shook hands with members from the group and began to stir. Several dozen Pan Iskaer formed up around this group and led them through the streets toward a nearby gate. The redhead followed after them at a discrete distance. The foreigners were led through the city gate and the Pan Iskaer continued their escort into the country.
The strangers walked on and on for several miles with their escort. They arrived at an inn, an opulent set of buildings and a large garden called Shindal's Hospitality. Several of the Pan Iskaer saluted and waved as they left their charges at the inn, but a good dozen of the militia took rooms and stayed near the foreigners. Two of the Jindleyak returned to Ebertin with the Pan Iskaer - both fighting men though one was a veritable giant. The rest remained.
As the foreigners stepped among the various cabins that formed the inn, the redhead whispered a word to the young boy and gave him a pat on the back. The boy bolted across the courtyard and wrapped his arms around the legs of one of the women - a Ministrian by the looks of her. Surprised by the action, the lady looked down and gave an audible gasp. She lifted the boy in her arms, cried, and clung to the boy as if he'd returned from the dead. The boy's appearance caused quite a stir among the others. They gathered around and patted the boy awkwardly. They were glad to see him, it was sure, but most of them didn't really know the child.
The redhead approached the group in a more restrained manner as she smiled and held her arms out to the crowd. They hugged her and kissed her cheeks.
It was not all peace and friendship. The Ministrian woman slapped the skin-walker, though she hugged the woman and refused to let her go for a long time. But then, the Ministrian seemed to be in something of a condition as she cried and burbled the entire time.
After a short time, Wenifas was fast asleep. There was a knock at the door, and Meu expected Celesi returned. She opened the door and found a stranger stood in the way. He was tall and thin, with a charming look about him and looked vaguely familiar.
"Good eve," he said and offered a slight bow. "My name is Poltehne, and I have followed you from Ebertin. If it is at all possible, I might like to have a word with you in private?" He asked as he glanced at the sleeping form of Wenifas.
Meu thought to brush him off, to close the door and stay inside, but there was something curious about the man. She could tell he had secrets, strange and powerful, and wondered what they might be.
Poltehne held his hand out to Meu and a winning smile crossed his face. "I meant to take a walk along the stream. The sun is down, and I think we might be alone there."
Meu took his hand, stepped out, and closed the door. She walked next to the stranger and followed him down to the edge of the river.
"It is a nice night," he noted as he walked. "I am thinking I must leave Ebertin, as there seems to be a growing chaos in that city. I do not want to be there for the unrest, and I do not wish to go home. So I consider where else I might go." He blushed. His manner was shy, and he had a hard time keeping Meu's eye.
Meu listened as the man described the possible places he might go next. He talked of Tallia and the Saot Kingdom for a time, not bothered that Meu did not reply. She thought to lock eyes with the man and try that magic, but he only ever gave her glances. Despite his kindness, Meu noted a growing mystery about the man. He was certainly not what he pretended to be. Still, she was unafraid. There was a gentleness about him, and she thought it was genuine.
When they were very much alone, the man stopped and his manner became very serious. "I do believe this shall be far enough." Poltehne said, and turned to Meu. "And now you'll see..." He smiled.
Poltehne dropped his swords and peeled of his shirt. The faint light of the night seemed to dim. Meu knew this type of magic. Astonishment swept over her face. In a beat, she replied. Shadow raced in on the woman as she transformed into her serpent's skin. The fabric of her dress dropped around her. Her jaw expanded and revealed wicked long fangs.
(so Poltehne eventually revealed himself to be a skin-walking wyrm, in many way similar to Meu, only he talked. I planned for him to be an ally for Meu, but realized he presented far more problems than solutions, and so I nixed him. Goodbye Poltehne. RIP.)