I’m celebrating the holidays and the new year with my own kind of giving – 8 weeks of extra stories and scenes from the world of Sword and Verse and Dagger and Coin. Each week I’ll be unveiling a deleted scene or extra story from a different character’s point of view, culminating on February 11 (my birthday!) with Lilano, a novella from Mati’s point of view that tells the story of what happened to him and Raisa while they were out of town during Dagger and Coin.
Some of these stories were originally parts of the books, some were writing exercises for me when I got stuck, and some I simply wrote for the fun of developing the world of the books more fully.
This week’s extra is a deleted flashback scene from Dagger and Coin, but it takes place chronologically during the battle in Sword and Verse. This is the full story of Soraya’s disastrous wedding day and what happened after her father was cut down.
“NO!” I SCREAMED as my father fell face-down to the dirt. This was not the way for a Gamo to die! He should have died standing, and elegant, and composed, and beautiful. He should have died in a position of power.
The two Arnath men he’d been fighting spat upon my father’s dying body. He convulsed once more, then slowly, so slowly, turned his head toward the place where Aliana had stood.
I gasped back a sob, realizing that Aliana and her attacker were gone—how long had they been gone? I pulled Alshara toward the front of the palace. She balked, still gaping at Father.
“He’s gone, or will be any moment,” I snapped at her. “Pull yourself together.”
“Aliana,” my sister whispered piteously.
“I know,” I said. “We’ll find her.” One of the flowers from my hairdo fell into my face, and I ripped it out and threw it to the ground.
But the courtyard at the front of the palace was even more chaotic than the garden. Someone ran at us as we entered, and I screamed and shoved Alshara behind me, before realizing that it was Aunt Silya. Words were streaming from her mouth, but I couldn’t make sense of anything she said. She pushed us up the steps of the palace, and I let her, relieved for once to let her take charge. Yes, I thought as we ran into the entrance hall, yes. If only I could get us up to my suite, we could bar the door until this madness was over.
And then there were screams behind us, and someone pushed me. I glanced back over my shoulder and saw a flash of steel by the door. The fighters were following us. I hiked up my skirts with one hand, clamped the other around Alshara’s wrist, and took off up the stairs at top speed. I practically dove into my room, nearly slamming the door on Aunt Silya’s foot as she slipped in behind us. Others banged on the door, begging to be let in, but I slid the heavy lock bar into place without a second thought. I cringed as screams replaced the begging. The armed men had caught up with the runners.
Alshara sank onto my bed. Aunt Silya’s mouth was still moving, but either she wasn’t making any noise, or my ears weren’t working properly.
My heart beat in my ears. Aliana. Aliana. Aliana.
I ran across the room to the window and swung open the shutters. The courtyard below seethed with never-ending motion, like beetles on rotting flesh, and my eyes flitted over every face, looking for my younger sister. She’d been wearing a lavender cloak—Aliana was always chilly in the sea breeze—and that should make her easy to find. I clung to that fact as I scanned the crowd below, squinting against the blinding glare of midday sunlight.
I didn’t see her anywhere.
I heard Alshara’s scream behind me before my feet even registered the bucking of the floor. I clutched the windowsill, watching the fighters in the courtyard falter and stumble, eyes watering as I searched for a lavender cloak. Aunt Silya dragged me away from the window, pointing at the blood dripping from Alshara’s face; a vase had slid off a shelf during the quake and hit her. I stared at the blood dripping onto her lavender gown. Ruined, ruined, ruined, beat my heart.
“There are earthquakes,” I said, my voice sounding loud but very even and practical in my own ears, the exact opposite of the racing of my pulse. “It is not safe to stay here.”
Alshara let out a cry and wrapped her arms around her middle. “I won’t go out there. They’ll kill me!”
Aunt Silya clutched my shoulder so tightly that I winced. “We must go to the Temple of Aqil. Penta will protect us. He owes that to your father.”
Penta Rale. The High Priest of Aqil. Her brother-in-law. My insides turned to water at the matter-of-fact way she referred to his alliance with my father, one I had only suspected until now. She’d been the link, hadn’t she? She’d been the one to convince Father to join Rale’s coup.
I stared at her. Had she expected this—the battle? I shuddered, remembering the words my father had spoken before he helped me on to my bridal litter. He’d planned that Mati would not survive this day.
Read the rest of the story here: Finding Aliana by Kathy MacMillan