Deleted Scenes - GOD'S WAR
Just because you write a scene doesn't mean it belongs in a book. Here are some of the scenes that didn't make the final cut in GOD'S WAR.
RHY'S PAST CATCHES UP TO HIM
First pass at Rhys’s second chapter. We learn more about Rhys’s past, but there’s no narrative movement, so out it went. I much prefer the rockin’ second chapter we went with, which does a whole lot in very few pages.
Rhys helped Yah Tayyib wipe down the operating theater after the fight. There had been no time to clean the theater between the surgery and his dance set, and Yah Tayyib was grateful for the aid. Rhys, with his aversion to blood, could only assist Yah Tayyib with surgeries by gathering supplies beforehand and putting them away after.
Yah Tayyib’s methods were nearly bloodless. What little blood Rhys saw had seeped from the woman’s wounds prior to surgery. Bloody splotches made a ragged trail from the door to the end of the operating slab. By the time he arrived, most of the blood had eaten by bugs.
“Do you see that woman often?” Rhys asked as he rinsed out the mop in the sink. He did not look at the pink-tinged water as it drained. The woman with the new uterus and kidney was a bel dame, one of the more battered he’d seen. When he had arrived from the locker room, the bel dame was unconscious and prone on the table, and Yah Tayyib already had his hands in her belly.
“Too often,” Yah Tayyib said. “I’ve rebuilt her many times.”
“She has no magic?”
Yah Tayyib’s thin mouth tightened. “Magic? Stay away from that one. She will bring you nothing but grief.”
Rhys put the mop away and collected all the bugs littering the floor around the operating slab. He boxed them up and took them to the tall cabinet along the wall for filing. Any warning to stay away from bel dames was unnecessary. Yah Reza assured him that if he proved talented enough, there was a place for him doing government work in Mushtallah, perhaps even at the court of the Nasheenian Queen. The other magicians did not, however, share Yah Reza’s optimism.
“Leave those,” Yah Tayyib said. “Bashir spoke to me after the fight. She says a woman is asking for you.”
Rhys remembered the alien woman’s big laugh, her strange accent. He turned away so Yah Tayyib could not see his face.
“One of the women in the cantina. She did not say.”
Rhys must have given something away in his look, his posture, because Yah Tayyib added, “A foreign magician eventually needs to adjust to working in undesirable locations. If you find work it will be for a bounty hunter or a mercenary or, God be merciful, a bel dame. You best get used to blood outside an operating theater.”
“Yes, Yah Tayyib,” Rhys said.
“I wish you would bow your head when speaking to your elders.”
“I bow my head only to God.”
Yah Tayyib shook his head. “Chenjans. Go on, boy. I have things to finish.”
A knock sounded on the door, and Yah Tayyib bid them enter.
Rhys washed his hands. When he turned, he saw two big, broad women walk into the room. They wore loose black trousers and short coats. Though the cut of their clothes was different and their haircuts weren’t regulated, he knew their sort by the way they stood.
These women had the hard faces and cold stare of mercenaries paired with the loose-limbed arrogance of bel dames. He knew their intention the same way he knew the outrider’s left hand was bad, the way he knew the woman with the big laugh was an alien. He had met a good number of people who wanted to keep secrets. They guarded their secrets so closely that after a time all they thought about were their secrets, and you could read their darkest thoughts in their eyes and their postures; the way they smiled or did not, the way they leaned forward or turned away when you spoke. These women looked at Rhys too long and had too great a respect for Yah Tayyib. Only bel dames and other women doing red work treated Yah Tayyib as an asset instead of a body better left dead or dying at the front.
Yah Tayyib greeted the women and beckoned them to the far end of the room. One of them pulled out a recorder.
Rhys stepped across the theater and slipped out the door. The bel dames were a uniquely Nasheenian form of justice. They were all women, and all had served at the front. Rhys stepped out of the magicians’ quarters and into the exhibition area. A half dozen novice magicians were busy putting away benches and wiping up the ring. The room reeked of sweat, dust, and liquor, and when he walked into the cantina, it wasn’t much better.
He stopped in the doorway because it wasn’t safe to leave the magicians’ areas without an escort. If whoever was looking for him wanted to talk in the bar, she’d need to be prepared to speak on his behalf if he was challenged.
Women busied themselves inside; drinking, talking loudly, gambling, and at least three pairs of them were engaged in something all together more indecent. He gave up looking and turned to go back into the safety of the gym. As he stepped away, someone grabbed at his sleeve.
Rhys pulled back, fearful of more bruising. As he jerked back his arm, he saw the face inside the hood of her burnous, and realized with a start that the person who grabbed him wasn’t a woman at all.
“Karoush?” Rhys asked.
Karoush opened his soft mouth to say Rhys’s real name, and Rhys hushed him.
“Not here,” Rhys said. “I’m Rhys, here.”
“I’ve been looking for you,” the eunuch said. Karoush was Nasheenian, a deserter from the front who Rhys’s father had taken in more than a decade before. In return for his life, Karoush had agreed to become a eunuch and swear his service to Rhys’s father. He’d been sixteen at the time.
“My father sent you?” Karoush gestured to a table near the door. “Let’s sit. I won’t be long.”
“The gym is better. I’ll be challenged in the cantina.” He was a Chenjan man, alone. These women would tear him apart.
Karoush nodded and followed him inside the dim room. Karoush walked with a limp; the first time he ran from the front, his commanding officer had his kneecap shattered. They sat on the far side of the ring, close enough that Rhys could smell the sweat on him.
“What made you run off to this godless country?” Karoush said. He kept the hood of his burnous up. He could pass for a Nasheenian woman, but Rhys understood his caution. Bel dames hunted down and killed Nasheenian deserters.
“I didn’t have much choice,” Rhys said.
He caught Karoush looking at his hands. “Their magicians fix your hands?”
Rhys shivered. He remembered, again, running across the desert, his skin bubbling, the blood in his nostrils and his father’s words still hounding him, as difficult to forget as the blows that ruined his hands. He clenched his fingers.
“Yes,” he said.
Karoush nodded. “That’s good. You had talent.”
“I still have talent.”
“And you’ll give it to these people?”
“Chenja does not want it.”
“Your father is not Chenja.”
“He is to me.”
“He wanted me to tell you he burned her himself,” Karoush said, “and if you come back, he will have you hunted and killed. You’re on the black list.”
His sister, Asiya, dead. For aiding him. And they would come for him if we went back. Chenja had its own version of the bel dame; half-breed mercenaries from Tirhan with letters of marque from the Imam authorizing them to collect blood debt for families who did not have a suitable male heir to carry it out for them. But those mercenaries did not cross borders, not like bel dames.
“Is that all?” Rhys asked. The eunuch had his smooth chin in his hand, and Rhys saw darker smudges beneath his eyes. He had been traveling a long time.
“There is something more,” Karoush said, “from your mother.”
Rhys steadied himself.
“She asked me to spit on you,” Karoush said, “but I’ve been too long in the desert to spit.” He smacked his lips and pulled his chin from his hand. “You’re here training with magicians?”
“That’s good,” Karoush said. He frowned at the room full of women. “Perhaps you will find something here. Something to atone.”
“The laws I broke were made by men, not God.”
“The Imam interprets the words of the Prophet.”
“And the Prophet is the messenger of God. He is not God.”
Karoush stood. “I hope you find what you seek,” he said. “I suspect that when we next meet, you will be a great magician.”
“Let’s not pretend,” Rhys said. “You won’t come here again, and I won’t go back to Chenja.”
“Life is long,” Karoush said. “But then, a man’s life has always been shorter than a woman’s, and worth less.”
Rhys thought of the bel dames, the way the air tasted at the front. “No,” Rhys said. “We’re all living at the edge of everything.”
“You sound like some Ras Tiegan idol-worshipper.” Karoush smiled darkly at him; it was almost a grimace. “Good luck to you,” he said. He turned and dragged his bad leg behind him, back into the crowded cantina.
Rhys watched after him, watched until the crowd swallowed him from view and the calls of the women drowned out the sound of his heaving steps.
And he wondered why Karoush had not killed him. His father would not have risked sending Karoush across the border for sour words and a mother’s curse. Unless Karoush’s message was far more simple.
Rhys was no longer worth killing.
NYX & RAINE CHAT
Raine kidnaps Nyx. I wanted to get things moving quickly in chapter one. Originally, she’s kidnapped by Raine after leaving Bashir’s cantina, then there’s a chase scene while she makes her way to the magician’s gym. This was wasted scenery, but gives some more interaction between she and Raine, which doesn’t happen in the rest of the book.
Raine was a big man, a head taller than Nyx, just as dark and twice as massive. His face was broad and flat and stamped with two black, fathomless, expressionless eyes, like deep water from a community well. The hilt of a good blade cut through a slit in the back of his brown burnous. He was pushing Bashir’s age: men didn’t come back from the front until they were forty or dead. Mostly, they came back dead.
He took Nyx by her braids. “Do you know what the Queen does to bēl damês who turn black? When they start selling zygotes to gene pirates? Those pirates will breed monsters in jars and sell them to Chenjans, but you don’t care about that, do you? You need pocket money.”
Nyx had spent enough time as a part of Raine’s crew to know that his time at the front had given him a strong aversion to the war and the people whose work he saw as perpetuating it. Gene pirates - selling genetic material to both sides so they could breed better soldiers - were no better than arms dealers.
Raine released her, and Dakar put a hot burlap sack over her head. They hauled her toward what sounded like the Chenjan district; the language on the street broke from Nasheen to Chenjeen, the Chenjan patois. When the war had started, anybody who looked too dark, used a prayer wheel, or talked with a Chenjan accent had been removed to ghettos and given curfews. The cheapest rentals were all along the gates of every city’s Chenjan quarter.
Nyx stumbled over a low stoop, and the sounds from the street fell off. They brought her into a stuffy room and forced her to sit. They left her for awhile. Breathing was difficult. She strained to hear something from outside.
When the sack came off, it was Raine looking back at her with his flat eyes. He looked bigger in the dim room. They were in a cramped little chamber that smelled of hot brick and dog piss. There was a single grilled window covered in organic mesh.
“So you’re condemning more boys to die,” he said softly. He wore a dusty white burnous over short trousers and dark tunic. He carried two pistols, a curved dagger, and a sword on his baldric. Extra orange bullet rounds hung around his broad neck. He’d always been a better shot than her. Most people were.
“Don’t talk morals at me,” Nyx said. “Every kid that runs back over the border carrying some Chenjan disease kills more Nasheenians than any Chenjan burst. I do good work. Honorable work.”
“Old grudges against your brothers only breed more violence.”
“And what is this, exactly?” Her dead brothers had nothing to do with it.
“Don’t talk about morality to a man who’s been at the front. I didn’t train you to be a bēl damê. I taught you to fight real threats to Nasheen, like young bēl damês who believe that selling out their organs to gene pirates is an acceptable way to support themselves between notes.”
“I work for the Queen now, not you. You lost the right to lecture me the day you tried to hack me up.”
“You’ve never seen the Queen a day in your life. You’re supposed to be working for the bēl damês who hand you the notes, not the Queen. These days, it looks more like you’re working for yourself.”
“I got issued a note for a contaminated boy. I know he’s in Faleen, and I need the cash to bring him in.”
“You should have given up the note.”
Nyx looked him in the eye. “I don’t give up notes.”
“Where’s Tej? His reserves would have gotten you to Faleen without you resorting to black work.”
“Tej is dead.”
Rained sucked in a breath. He looked pained.
She gritted her teeth.
Taite ducked his head through the curtain behind Raine. “Raine, sir, there’s a client at the front.”
“I certainly hope so. Stay here and watch Nyx.”
Taite shot Nyx a quick, nervous look. He was a skinny, awkward-looking com tech. He had the half-starved, big-eyed look of a kid who had grown up outside the breeding compounds.
“I’m fixing the radio for tonight,” Taite said.
“Let her stew, then.”
Taite ducked back out, and Raine pressed a heavy hand to Nyx’s shoulder. He loomed over her. It was strange that she didn’t fear him, after all he’d done. No, it was something else when he put his hands on her now: anger.
“I believe I’m treating you fairly,” he said, “considering all you’ve taken from me.”
“I’d do the same for you,” Nyx said.
“I don’t doubt it,” he said.
Raine left her in the dusky little room. She looked at the light in the window and could just hear the high, keening cry announcing evening prayer. She didn’t have much time.
Nyx worked at the sticky bands. They were covered in sand and grit now, which made it easier. She had picked up the trick to it from Tej while they were killing time in Chenja.
Kine was right – Tej had been the best of her partners, a little half-breed Mhorian with a fetish for armed women. He’d taken a shine to the wrong kind of woman in Chenja, the sort who wore a veil and burqua and carried a rifle. Even Chenja needed women running street security. All the men were at the front, fighting Nasheenians.
Tej had been careless and left behind too much of himself behind after sex, and it had allowed the woman’s family to have the border patrol tailor every filter from the mountains to the sea with Tej’s blood code. Nyx had gotten them a clear opening across the border between skirmishes, but the filter they stepped through ate Tej in an instant, leaving behind only his clothes, his sword, his baldric. It even ate the bug-slathered notes in his pockets.
Nyx pushed her fingers through the slats in the chair and worked out the garroting wire she kept looped in the back of her dhoti. She wrapped the wire between her thumbs and started sawing at the sticky bands. A couple of the bands came loose. She swiveled her wrists so they were back to back and carefully slid her right hand free of the primary band.
She got her second hand free, replaced the garroting wire, and crept to the grilled windows, which were slathered in organic mesh. The mesh tore easily enough. She rubbed around the edges of the cheap wooden grilling and yanked it out of the mud wall. That’s the sort of security you ended up with when you holed up outside the Chenjan district.
Nyx poked her head into the alley. The alley looked tight, but clear, like the window. Raine either thought she was getting soft, or was getting soft himself. Neither would have surprised her.
She balled up her burnous and threw it out ahead of her. She was still too wide for the window, but after shedding the empty baldric, she could just squeeze through.
Nyx pulled herself out. The sky was dark. She wasn’t going to get any money from Bashir, and that meant she had to fall back on the magicians. She needed to see them anyway. They owed her.
She wrapped herself in her burnous and swung the baldric over one shoulder.
As she turned toward the back of the alley, she heard something above her move. Nyx crouched and spun just in time to see slim little Anneke descend from the rooftop. Anneke landed with the predatory grace of a sand cat and grinned at Nyx.
“It was getting hot up there,” Anneke said. She’d drawn her pistol.
Nyx threw the baldric at Anneke, caught her across the face with it. The gun popped.
Nyx felt a sharp, stabbing thump on her right hip, like someone set a sledge hammer on fire and hit her with it.
She staggered through the alley and clutched her hip. She turned down a sharp side street. A burst of mud brick exploded behind her. She heard two more rounds go off. Her hip finally registered pain. A wave of fire flared through her torso. She felt the blood soaking into her dhoti.
Fuck, she needed those magicians.
ORIGINAL BOUNTY PICKUP SCENE
Original bounty pickup. Nyx’s first bounty pickup was initially quite a bit longer. Again, I needed to cut the time between Nyx showing up and Nyx getting her Queen’s commission. This was just excessive.
Nyx saw no sign of Raine.
“She says the shifters are inside,” Rhys said. He stayed sitting in the bakkie while a swarm of red beetles the size of a thumbnail circled his head. Three cicadas perched on his lapel.
Nyx saw Anneke with her feet propped up outside the old bus stop along the corner of Taval and South Zara. She was little and dark, with a close-cropped head of thick black hair. She could pass for a fourteen-year-old girl from behind, on a dusky day. She was great bait in the Chenjan district.
Nyx scratched her left ear. In reply, Anneke nodded absently from across the street, and jutted her chin at the nondescript mud brick one-level squeezed between two three-storied apartment buildings with more modern tiled facades, the sort that had gone out of fashion a century before. Most of the tiles had been worn of all color by gritty wind, broken by drunken kids, or pried off and stolen as good-luck tokens for grandmothers.
Nyx leaned against the bakkie.
“Too bad they aren’t gamblers,” Nyx said.
“Why?” Rhys asked.
“Gamblers got curtains, not solid doors like this one. Queen hates gamblers.”
“Khos is in place,” Rhys said. The swarm of bugs contracted. Nyx had no idea how he read anything off them.
“Tell him to wait for me at the door. I’m taking it down.”
“Nyx, don’t kick in another –“
Anneke folded her paper.
Nyx crossed the street. She hopped up to the door. Anneke was three paces away. Nyx pulled out her pistol.
Nyx busted down the door with her second front kick. Limber little Anneke was already darting up the side of the crumbling building, heading for the old entrance in the ceiling.
Four men, two dogs, and a parrot the color of piss scattered like minstrels after a brawl. Nyx shot at the parrot first, the dogs next, and pistol-whipped the slowest man to the window. He crumpled next to the shivering parrot, whose blood-stained corpse morphed into that of a dark-haired boy with eyes the color of sapphires. The parrot had taken three shots.
She heard Khos bellow something behind her. He wasn’t supposed to be behind her.
Nyx holstered the pistol and kicked onto and over the tattered divan.
She heaved herself forward and caught hold of the bunched fabric of the long coat belonging to the last man struggling out the broken lattice of the window. He tried to push out of his coat. She shifted her grip, caught him at the back of the trousers, and yanked him in.
The man let out a high keening sound and flopped back at her feet. She pressed a knee to his chest, gripped his neck with both hands.
Khos pounded in behind her.
“Where?” he said.
Nyx jutted her chin toward the sapphire-eyed boy, then tightened her grip on the man at her feet.
“What’s your regrouping point?” she said.
The captive’s face was getting darker, the eyes bulging.
“We aren’t –“
She squeezed tighter. “I keep at this, you won’t talk again,” she said.
“God be merciful!”
“You’ll find I’m bloodier than He is,” Nyx said.
“This one’s dead,” Khos said. “Didn’t the Queen want them live?”
“You have another half minute, then I start cutting things off,” Nyx said.
“She’s serious,” Khos said, gravely. He always said it just the right way. He had the voice for it.
“No sanctuary. We don’t regroup. Please, I just –“
She hated their accents.
Nyx hauled him up. She pushed him at Khos.
“Pat him down and truss him,” Nyx said. “Anneke!”
Anneke slid in through the broken lattice of the back window. “I saw them come out the back. They shifted into dogs. Every last one of them,” Anneke said. “They must be running with powerful shifters for that shit. Slipped out under the fence. Where was Khos?”
“Where was I? You were supposed to be on the roof.”
“Shut up,” Nyx said. “Anneke, go run your ass off after the dogs. Khos, leave me this guy, shift, go sniff the others out. Now, now, go!”
If she didn’t get them, Raine would.
Khos shrugged out of his burnous. For a moment, he stood big and pale in the dusty room, entirely nude but for a fine webbing of blue tattoos winding along his flesh like snakes. Then he was growing smaller, denser. His hair darkened, thickened, and in three breaths, he was a tawny-colored dog.
Anneke moved away from the window. Khos jumped out after her.
Nyx trussed up the Chenjeen and hauled him out to the bakkie.
Rhys opened up the bloody trunk. “Where are the others?”
“Coming,” Nyx said. She pushed the bounty toward the trunk. He protested. She hit him. He doubled over, and she shut him up in the trunk.
“Stay here,” Nyx said.
She shed her bulky burnous and tossed it in the front seat. She took off at a run. Three bakkies buzzed at her, and she startled a pack of carriage cats.
Nyx found the fence Anneke must have been talking about, and dug her feet through the slats, brought herself up and over it and into a sandy yard.
She saw Anneke and Khos-the-dog on the other side. Anneke had lit up over the lip of the far fence.
Nyx caught up to them.
“What is it?” Nyx yelled. She prepared to mount the fence.
Anneke curled her lip. “Raine’s got them,” she said. She jumped down.
Nyx didn’t bother to look.
She knew where she’d find Raine.
KHOS GETS A BLOWJOB
This scene didn’t make it past draft one. It’s silly, a bit over the top, and pretty badly written. Don’t expect me to write sex scenes any time soon. It was one of the first scenes to get cut.
Haj led him up a winding set of stairs to the balcony overlooking the ring. She opened up a battered metal door and revealed a lushly appointed box viewing room with windows overlooking the ring.
Two young women slumped on the raised benches set against the windows. The benches were covered in an assortment of pillows that matched the gauzy veils the women wore. Both women were Chenjan dark. They looked up at Haj and Khos with big eyes. “Get this man a drink,” Haj told one of the women.
The woman got to her feet with the practiced ease of a dancer. She went to the private bar at the other side of the room and poured out two glasses of dark liquor.
“Sit,” Haj told Khos.
He pushed some cushions out of the way and sat next to the other woman on the bench. She smelled good, some kind of heady, flowery scent peppered with cinnamon.
Haj sat in a big armchair across from him and took the liquor the woman offered her.
“I’d heard you were in town,” Haj said.
Khos felt the hair on the back of his neck rise. Who else was tagging them? “Is that so?”
“I run the brothel on east Babuk,” she said. “Oversee it, actually, for my employer. I was told they gave sanctuary to you and some friends.”
“And who’s your employer?”
“Local magistrate,” Haj said, waving a hand. “No one important. I hoped to thank you for services rendered. You helped some good men dodge the Nasheenian draft. I’m grateful for that.”
“Kin of yours?”
“In a way.” She gestured at the women. “Are you interested in some time with them? All I ask is that I watch.”
Khos looked again at the young women, now seated on either side of him. They both leaned into him. One put a hand on his thigh.
“I’m Mhorian,” he said, and took a deep breath. “We’re more about consent than obligation.”
“I understand. These women aren’t forced into anything they don’t desire. Mostly, they pay me attention, but on occasion they’re interested in tumbling with a man. I don’t deny them that.”
“So you brought me in to whore me out?”
“A crude way of putting it,” Haj said, and smiled. “Unless you’d enjoy that.”
A knock came at the door.
“Enter,” Haj said.
A bulky Nasheenian woman pushed into the room. She wore a set of dueling pistols, and one arm was paler than the other.
Khos tensed. He knew that woman.
A skinnier kid came in behind her.
“You entertaining again?” Dahab said to Haj. She spared only a glance at Khos. Something else was on her mind, praise be. “I need to talk to you about Nikodem.”
Khos forced himself to drink more. One of the Chenjan women was moving her hand further up his thigh. The other one leaned over and licked his ear.
“We can talk over here,” Haj said. “Let my women have their fun.”
“You’re such a voyeur,” Dahab said. “I don’t have time for this shit.”
“So long as I pay you, you’ll make time. Come on.”
Haj moved to the far end of the room with Dahab. The girl who’d come in with them hung around pretending not to look at Khos and the women.
One of the Chenjan women straddled Khos and slipped her hand into his trousers.
“You’re a good man,” she murmured, in Chenjan.
Khos didn’t want to tell her what sort of man he was feeling like at the moment. With her hand on his cock, he didn’t mind the audience. But he kept his head tilted toward Dahab and Haj. He’d seen Dahab two or three times around the Cage. She hadn’t been on the list of bēl damês looking for Nikodem.
“I can’t protect a woman who goes out to fights,” Dahab said.
“I’d think you wouldn’t be able to protect her because you’ve been out running notes.”
“I’ve got my side work,” Dahab said. “That’s my business.”
Khos leaned back while one of the women knelt between his legs and pulled his cock out of his trousers. She took him into her hot mouth and gently sucked. He was having some trouble paying attention.
Dahab and Haj said something else, and then Dahab was marching past him and out the door. Her squirt followed after her, spared one last look back. Khos had a sudden memory of Nyx in his lap, her arms around his neck. He grabbed the girl’s shoulder and came.
Haj sat across from him as the Chenjan woman finished him off. Khos held the other girl tight and shuddered. Memories of his night with Nyx – years before - the smell of her skin, the strength in her legs, her perfect naked ass - showed up in the strangest places.
When the women pulled away from him, leaving his trousers around his ankles, a smile touched Haj’s plain face.
“Now,” she said, “let’s talk about what I can offer you for Nyxnissa’s head.”