Monday, July 3, 2017

Pathfinder's Way - Deleted Scene

As I near the end stage of Pathfinder 2, I'm reminded more and more why it took me over two years to write the first book. As much as I love Pathfinder's Way-and I do love that book-it was an absolute bear to write. It's impossible to make Fallon and Shea do anything. Reasoning with them is like talking to a brick wall. In the end, it's pointless and I just end up bruised and a little bloody. Their story loops and twists back on itself. Just when I think I've got a handle on things Shea does a 180 and totally mucks up what I have planned. For this reason, I'm left having to trim unnecessary scenes during the editing process. Something that I already know will happen with the current book as well.

Since I'm busy finishing up the first draft, I thought I'd share one of those deleted scenes with you. Be warned, they're kind of rough as I never really fully edited them. This scene takes place once Shea has escaped Fallon by climbing up the canyon wall and before she met up with Witt and Dane during that first mission.

Deleted Scene

With a grunt she pulled herself to the top and stood to slap away the dirt that had accumulated on her hands and arms. A rip had opened in her pants from when she had slid coming up that last little bit. She shook her pant leg trying to dislodge some of the dirt lodged there before giving it up as a lost cause. She was just going to have to resign herself to being filthy for the time being.

She began following the meandering path of the canyon in the general direction of the rendezvous. It would be nearly a day’s walk because of the detour they’d taken to the badlands. There were two paths she could take back. She could cut across the badlands and head directly towards the highlands or she could find her way back out the way they had come and walk across the lowlands until she found a way back up to the highlands.

She didn’t like the idea of heading back to the lowlands where possibly bloodthirsty villagers waited. Alone she would be easy pickings and without a horse she’d be easy to catch.

Badlands it was then.

Following the canyon was easy until it started branching. Eventually she found that she needed to get to the other side but didn’t want to go back down into the canyon.

Beasts often made their nests in the walls or caves down there and it was easy to get bottle necked. The bluffs had their dangers too with raptors that were twice a man’s size waiting to swoop down on potential prey. They could plummet silently from the sky right onto their clueless prey in seconds-the only warning the growing shadow on the ground. Shea knew, though, that it was mating season for them and most wouldn’t think about food until afterwards. She felt relatively comfortable with the risk.

Before long she found a tree that had grown sideways across the canyon expanse, nearly reaching the other side. Its roots were exposed at the top, bending in sleek arcs to grasp at the soil below. The trunk was three times wider than her and her arms didn’t even come close to being able to touch around it. She knew because she tried. The branches were a mess of snarls reaching for the other side. Most were too thin to support her weight but right in the middle of the mess was one that looked thick enough that maybe she could use it to cross.

She braced her legs and pushed against the tree with all her might trying to dislodge it from the soil. It didn’t move. Not a centimeter.

She relaxed and eyed it carefully and then edged to look down the cliff. The canyon floor was a pretty fair distance below and judging by all the rocks there wouldn’t be a safe place to land if she fell.

Edging closer to the tree she set one foot on an up thrust root, reached up to grab a knot in the wood and hoisted herself up, stilling when it creaked under her. When it became apparent she wasn’t going to fall immediately to her death, she inched further up using the tree’s branches as handholds. Once up into the tree, she bounced lightly on the thick branch she was counting on to carry her across. It shook under her but seemed like it would support her weight.

Shea took a deep breath as she stared over the canyon’s expanse, her view blocked partially by the twisty limbs of the trees. The ground seemed even farther away now that she was up here, but she tried not to let that bother her as she took a step away from the tree, using the other branches to balance. The limb she was walking across was as thick as her head but that would mean next to nothing if insects had eaten away at its core, leaving it hollow inside. If that was the case, she would crash to what she hoped was her immediate death. If not she might have to lie around with her arms, legs or back broken as she waited for the elements or the beasts to kill her off. Whichever got to her first. Of course she hoped neither of those options happened. Getting across the canyon safely was her deepest wish at this point.

By now she was over half way across the canyon and was running out of tree branches to grip. At least ones that didn’t break immediately the second she closed her fist around them.

Shea bent down wrapping her hands around the limb that swayed unsteadily under her at her movement. She scooted forward, her breath catching in her throat as the branch creaked ominously.

“Fuuck,” she breathed.

Biting her lip, she moved forward again feeling her stomach plummet as the limb bent slightly under her.

Perhaps this hadn’t been her best idea after all. She probably should have found another, safer, way across. As usual though she’d let her impatience get the best of her. Thinking she knew best and had calculated the risks she took a chance that left her suspended nearly a hundred feet over a canyon on a tree branch that could collapse under her at any moment.

“This is definitely what the elders were talking about when they said you leapt without thinking,” she groused to herself.

That very trait was probably a contributing factor in why she had been assigned to Birdon Leaf despite the fact that she was one of the most highly trained master guides in her age group or any age group for that matter.

She eyed the distance to the other side. Five feet. Not too bad. Better than the ten feet she’d have to traverse heading back the other way. In another two to three feet she’d run out of branch and she’d have to jump. But she’d jumped distances farther than that before. She could do it again.

One thing was certain; she had no intention of plummeting to her death. She wouldn’t give the elders the satisfaction of that death. No. She was going to prove every last one of them who thought she didn’t belong in this life wrong. That meant she needed to get moving and stop wasting time sitting on this branch being terrified out of her mind that she’d fall.

Something brushed against her hand and her pep talk came to a screeching halt. She held herself very still as she looked down because too much movement might upset the branch.

She felt physically ill at the sight of the small brown insect with ten legs crawling over the top of her hand. It was about the width of her thumb and only slightly bigger than her fingernail. Against the pale skin of her hand it stood out, but against the bark of the tree it had blended right in. Its butt ended in a sharp point that held a stinger filled with a poison that could cause massive hallucinations. If the victim got a high enough dose of venom, it could lead to a painful death.

It was a reardown, so named for the fact that it would rear back on its legs as a sign of aggression right before it sank that stinger into its prey. Its stomach had a hard outer shell that protected it from attacks.

This one was a baby. They could get as big as Shea’s hand and the adults were twice as deadly. But where there was one baby there were bound to be more.

Her body held as still as possible, Shea looked around her and nearly whimpered at the sight. She would like to say she could hear the insects’ legs skittering as they approached her but they were silent and trees branches creaking as the wind rushed through it made a sound.

Keeping the hand with the reardown very, very still, Shea got her feet under her, freezing any time the little insect moved.

Her gaze darted to the other side of the canyon. With the reardown making their way down the tree branch behind her, her only other option was to make that jump. And make it fast.

She lifted her other hand slowly, so slowly, and flicked the reardown up and off her hand, surging to her feet and running for the end of the branch. It cracked under her and shifted as her weight became too much.. She didn’t hesitate as she hit the end and leapt, trusting herself to reach the other side. And she did. But barely.

She crashed down, only one foot landing on the ground. The other hit the rim of the canyon and she started to slide back. She threw herself forward at the last moment and clawed her way onto safe ground.

Shea panted into the dirt, hardly believing she had made it safely. A glance behind showed the branch had been broken halfway by her leap and was held to the rest of the tree by only the slimmest of slivers.

A sharp pinch on her arm interrupted her moment of triumph and she jerked and slapped at it.  A reardon fell to the ground, but the damage had already been done. A spot where the stinger had penetrated the skin on her forearm was already turning red.

Shea popped to her feet and shook herself free of her jacket, dropping it the ground and stomping on it. She shook her entire body wildly, hoping to dislodge any other hanger ons. Once she had assured herself she had no other passengers, she picked up her jacket and shook it wildly, beating it on the ground a few times for good measure. Afterwards she donned it and pushed up the sleeve to look at the reardon sting.

This was not good. Not good at all. Worry had already set in and panic wouldn’t be far behind. Shea shut her eyes and concentrated on her breathing, bringing it under control with an effort. Panic wouldn’t help. If anything, the elevated heart rate and breathing would spread the toxin quicker, which was the last thing she could afford.

The reardon had been a baby so maybe it wasn’t as poisonous as an adult, though judging by the spreading angry red lines around the site of the sting, she had a bad feeling that wasn’t the case.

There came the panic again. She allowed herself a moment to worry about what was to come before pushing it firmly back out of her mind. Those thoughts weren’t helpful. She needed to concentrate.

Even if it was as potent as an adult, it wouldn’t kill her. It might fuck up her mind for a little bit, disorient her until she walked into a crevasse by mistake and seriously lower her awareness of her surroundings, but the poison itself wouldn’t kill her.

Time to get moving again, then. She needed to cover as much ground as she could while she was still able to function. At the very least she could find cover to wait for the toxin to work itself through her system.

Her lips were set in a grim line and worry had drawn the skin tight on her face as she changed course slightly to cut directly through the badlands to the meeting place in the highlands. Originally she had planned to follow the edge of the lowlands until she reached the highlands before cutting over to the rendezvous point. It was a longer route admittedly, but safer. Now she was taking the most direct path possible and praying she made it.

It was a long journey, one that took every ounce of strength and will Shea possessed. More than once she found herself having to argue herself into taking another step. At one point she thought the rocks were moving, scooting along the ground beside her and leaving grooves in the dirt behind them. Trees made thin by the climate grew to humongous proportions before shifting color and eventually melting away.

As she walked she became increasingly delirious but convinced if she stopped she’d die. Ghostly arms grew from the ground grasping at her feet causing her to stumble at times. Their hands soon became claws as they tried to keep her there.

Caught in her nightmare, Shea stumbled into the rendezvous point and collapsed shaking to the ground. Witt and Dane rushed to her side as she crumpled.

“Shea,” Dane whispered, shocked at how pale she seemed and the slightly manic look in her eyes.

Witt was already checking her arms and any reachable skin for marks. He hissed when he found the raised golf ball sized welt.

“She’s been bitten or stung,” he told Dane grimly.

“Can’t- can’t stop,” Shea struggled to stand, grasping onto Dane’s shirt weakly.

The two held her down. Dane’s eyes met Witt’s as he asked, “Do you have any idea what stung her?”

Witt shook his head. “Could have been any number of things?”


Witt’s mouth was tight as he said softly, “Probably."


“Can’t stop walking,” Shea whispered her eyes darting around in panic.

“Shh. You’ll be fine.” Witt’s hand felt cool on Shea’s forehead. “Can you tell us what bit you?”

She stared into his eyes, trying to concentrate, to remember. Her legs moved restlessly as he repeated the question.

The fog cleared for a moment and she gasped, “Reardon.”

The elders were never going to let her live this down was her last coherent thought as her body abruptly relaxed and her consciousness started to fade. Witt shouting instructions was the last thing she saw as the world faded leaving her alone with her nightmares.


  1. I have just re-read "Pathfinder". Clearly I LOVE the book. Really looking forward to the second book. Don't edit too much - I love your writing.

  2. Thank you so much for writing! I love all of your books so much, and this little tidbit is wonderful treat