Saturday, July 26, 2008

Out-take from Spymaster's Lady

'Moth' asked if there were any other out-takes from My Lord and Spymaster.

I couldn't think of anything from MLAS, but I do have a scene from Spymaster's Lady.

It's a scene I rather like. I regretted pulling it out of the manuscript.

Where it lived ... about three-quarters through Spymaster's Lady, there's a dream sequence with Annique's mother. I put it in that spot, in part, because I wanted to explain Lucille a little bit.

In the end, pacing demanded a very short dream scene, so I abandoned this writing.
With, y'know, regret.

It's a rough draft. And I never got it slimmed down and turned into a dream. So this reads like a realtime event mostly.


She hunched under the blankets, holding onto to them. There was only darkness. That was all there would ever be. Darkness.

"You will get up now and eat. You have eaten nothing."

"It doesn't matter."

"You must begin training. There is work to be done and you lie abed."

"There is nothing I can do. I have become nothing. Go away" ... and leave me to die.

"Nothing. You have decided then, to be nothing." Maman dragged her from the bed, pulled her by the arm, by the hair. "I will not argue."

Maman pushed her across the room, out into the hallway. In her nightshift, she stumbled through darkness that was halls. Then to the stairs, and up and up.

"I do not want to practice walking." She dragged her feet, sullen as a child. "Or eating or fighting. Or anything. Leave me alone."

They walked up stairs, endless flights, up and up. She went along, not bothering to struggle. Limply resisting. It would infuriate Maman.

Then it was cold and hard under her feet. They were outside on the roof. Somewhere. She had not tried to find her way around the chateau. It did not matter. Nothing mattered.

"Here." Maman shoved and poked at her back. Rough stone railing brushed by. "Take another step. Good. This will do." And she let go.

Anneka felt wind on her face. "What is this?" She stretched her hand out and there was nothing. Nothing in any direction. She did not know where she was.

"Maman?" Darkness. She turned and didn't know which way was back. Which way was forward. Everything was empty around her.

"Maman. Where are you?"

Silence. She heard her heart beating and, far below, tiny voices.


The wind whistling up from below, under the skirts of her nightgown. She stepped back. Back. Her foot stumbled.
She grabbed at air. Screamed. She was falling ...

She threw herself forward, toward the point of balance, and slapped her arms wide. Momentum grabbed her and tried to spin her into the dark.

She was flat on her belly, hugging the stone. She lay her head down, cold with terror. Sobbing air in and out of her lungs. Safe.

How to fall. How to fall safely, exactly where and how you choose. She had learned to fall before she could read. It is the first law of fighting -- how to fall. Her body remembered.

Wind screeched around her, tugging at the cotton on her back. She reached out. She was on a narrow stone walkway, over the air. She could reach from side to side of it, cup it with both hands.

She was weak as wet cloth. "Maman." It was a croak. A pitiful whisper. And everywhere around was only dark. Maman had left her here.

Tears leaked across her face, biting cold paths. "Maman. Help me."

No answer. She was alone.

She breathed in and out for an endless time. Waiting for someone to rescue her.

She would stiffen soon, if she did not move. She would become clumsy. And she was shaking with the cold as well. She must move, or she would fall and die.

Sometimes life is simple.

Now that she listened, it was easy to know where the open air was, and which way must lead back to the roof.

The first letting go, the first shifting of her hands, was the hardest. After that it became possible to creep and creep like a worm over the stones. The parapet that edged the roof was blessedly solid. It was carved with flowers or leaves. She pulled herself up and over, clamped to those flowers and leaves like an inchworm.

It took her an hour, crawling back and forth, to find the door Maman had brought her through. It took that long again to work her way down the stairs, recognize the proper floor by the smell of beeswax and potpourri, and find her way to her bedroom.

Maman was waiting for her there. She could hear breathing, over the spit and crackle of the fire. She could smell perfume. Lavender and bergamot.

She shuffled across the room, bent like an old beggar woman, sweeping the air in front of her with outstretched fingers, heading for the heat of the fire. She hurt in a million tiny cuts and bruises. The stickiness on her hands was blood, where she had scraped herself, falling. She had left a red trail on the walls of this pretty chateau.

"I hate you, Maman."

"I know, cherie." Cloth swished on cloth. Maman came to her. "I know."

Maman took her against warm, scented silk

She had not realized she was crying until she could do it against Maman. Yes, she was snivelling. "I could have died."

"There is always that chance. You must wash now, or the cuts will become infected. Then we will practice fighting. I have thought of techniques a blind woman can use."

"I cannot even walk. It is stupid to try to fight when I cannot even walk. We should practice walking first. Besides, I am starving to death."

"We will eat first. Then we will fight."


  1. I can see why you say it was with regret. I loved the characterization that shines through that rough draft, but then that's one of the things I like about your work.

    BTW, I really enjoyed MLAS as well. I finally found time to read it. The post about "tha" the other day was interesting too. Caught my 11 y/o DD's ear when I was listening to the recording. She found it fascinating that he was speaking English, but she couldn't understand it. :)

  2. H Kaige --

    I am so very glad you liked My Lord and Spymaster.

    This business of English one cannot understand ... when I lived in London I worked with a lovely young woman from Scotland. Beautiful voice. I never had the least idea what she was talking about.

    It is probably just as well your daughter didn't understand the joke. I fear it is indelicate.

  3. Fascinating snippet. What a strong characterization of her mother. I forget...Are you ever intending to write her parents' story?

  4. DD and I weren't listening to the joke, but the other tame snippet.

    DH went to Scotland for work and wound up in a Spanish Tapas Bar. He got talking with some of the waiters from Spain and asked the fellows why they were in Edinburgh. Their response? To learn English.

    DH and his boss found this extremely amusing since they had so much trouble understanding the directions they'd gotten from well meaning natives.

  5. Hi Precie --

    I wouldn't mind wrting Lucille's story. But I don't even have it on the back burner ...

    She'll do a walkon, I think.

    Lucille is not a 'nice' woman. She's angry and driven and ruthless, (why should men have all the fun?)
    But a 'nice' mother wouldn't have created Annique.