Time flies when someone is wrecking your book. I can’t believe it’s Friday again.
Here’s Aaran (that unnecessary male) when he makes his first appearance in HAWKSPAR. Second scene–the entire second scene, not just a snippet, so it’s really long. (Hence the more note two paragraphs down so that I don’t kill the important shipping notice for international Book Giveaway folks.) This was one of about fifty scenes ripped out “in your and the book’s best interest.”
Yeah, I’m still pissed off. This scene should be restored in the version that goes to press, but I still haven’t heard anything.
|NOTICE: This material is copyrighted, uncopyedited late draft, probably buggy, and possibly not even going to be in the final draft. THOUGH IT HAD BETTER BE. Do not quote or repost anywhere or in any format. Thanks|
Aaran av Savissha, tracker for the Haakvaryn pack of Tonk wolf-ships, sat on the higharm, legs wrapped around the foremast, hands clutching ratlines. With his eyes closed, he tracked the fleeing slaver. “Two degrees north-west,” he bellowed over the scream of the storm.
The runner slid down the ratlines, careened across the deck to Captain Haakvar, and repeated Aaran’s direction. Within moments, he was back on the ratlines, and Aaran felt the Windsteed aligning itself with the slaver. “Dead on,” he yelled to the boy, a child who was one of the captain’s multitude of nephews, and the boy gave him an excited smile. Then the child clambered back into the riggings and settled below Aaran on the lines, waiting the next message to the captain.
Aaran, his eyes once again open, squinted through the sheeting rain that battered him. He watched the Windsteed climb up one towering wall of water and slide down the next. They were close to their quarry. He hadn’t caught sight of the slaver since it ran headlong into the storm, but he knew from the tracking spell he’d cast within the Hagedwar that the enemy and its cargo were less than half a league in front of them.
On deck and up in the lines, the sailors fought the storm—but it was less a storm than the slaver fleeing them struggled through. The Tonk wolf-ships had an advantage. Aft in the steersman’s castles, the windmen kept the worst of the storm at bay. The Windsteed’s windmen, bending the air with Hagedwar magic, surrounded the ship with a shield that filtered and channeled the storm—keeping the gale always behind and the sails always filled; smoothing the surface of the water, if not by much; making the waves the Windsteed fought less vicious than those ridden by the slaver.
Every advantage the windmen could confer brought the Windsteed closer to the hold full of captured, chained Tonk children bound for slaver markets in Sinali and Bheki.
Aaran and the trackers on the other three ships conferred within the Hagedwar—how best to bring the pack in for the attack, how to coordinate with the windmen for the safest arrival.
Then, bound by magic to his enemies, Aaran felt the slaver ship suddenly founder. At the same time, the tracker on the Long Fang gave the urgent message that they had men overboard from a rogue wave; that tracker stayed linked to the other three trackers, but his attention diverted to locating the men for the Long Fang.
Aaran shouted to his runner, “The Sinali mainmast has torn away, and we’re closing fast! Tell the captain we’ll be on top of them in minutes.”
The boy launched himself down the lines again, and just a breath later, Aaran heard Haakvar shout the “Ready to board” order. The marines streamed up out of the lower decks and formed up, crouched at the center of the deck with boarding grapples and swords at the ready. Sailors reefed in the ringsails, snapsails, and squaresail, and the Windsteed slowed and crawled up the next wave on pillar and fansails. She crested to find herself almost on top of the slaver, a modified three-masted Sinali war frigate that was fighting to keep its prow to the onrushing water, with broken main and fore masts and sheets dragging through the sea like anchors, pulling the ship’s starboard side toward the waves and dragging her port side upward.
Aaran could see sailors aboard the slaver fighting to cut the lines.
He closed his eyes—like most Tonk trained in the foreign magic of the Hagedwar, he could work within the patterns of sphere, cube and tetrahedrons with open eyes, but coordinating with other trackers required deeper, more intense concentration. The Sea Hawk, running even with the Windsteed, had planned to board the slaver from forward starboard while the Windsteed boarded from forward port. Sea Hawk could not approach on the starboard side, though—the sails and masts that were sinking the slaver would foul her. The Ethebet’s Dagger would board at aft portside, but like the Sea Hawk, the fourth member of the pack, the Long Fang would not be able to take her place on the aft starboard. But the Long Fang was still chasing down her missing sailors. With luck, she’d catch up quickly, but the tracker was sure the lost men could be saved.
The displaced Sea Hawk angled down the crest of the wave and fought her way to the port side of the Windsteed and the Dagger. When the Sea Hawk came even with the Windsteed and the Dagger, her marines crossed decks—a risky maneuver in bad seas.
The marines—tough, nimble men, went up the tall side of the frigate like spiders up their webs. From his viewpoint atop the crow’s nest, Aaran could see them swinging over the top onto the deck. This was always the worst point—the place where the most men were lost—but because the slaver was foundering, few of its men could be spared for fighting. Most of the crew was cutting lines to free themselves from the broken mast and tangled sails.
The marines killed those few who opposed them, but most slid to the listing starboard side fast as they could and began working with the enemy to cut away the entangling lines, while a handful of the nearly sixty men who boarded went belowdecks to find the captives and free them.
The marines knew where the captives would be. Sinali slaver ships—even the modified ones—followed the same basic design. And that design kept chained slaves lying flat in a lightless, low-ceilinged hold one floor above the bilge.
Knowing where to find the stolen Tonk children wasn’t the problem.
Getting them to safety was.
Just as the marines belowdecks located the captive children, the marines and Sinali sailors above succeeded in freeing the slaver from the deadly tangle of masts and spars and sheets and lines, and slaver righted itself—lower in the water than it had been and taking the waves badly. But upright for the moment at least.
Aaran, his job done, sent his runner down to the captain, who would most likely send the boy into the Haakvar’s quarters to wait out the storm. Aaran began to slide down the lines to offer his own services to the captain, whether to fight or to assist the windmen aft in keeping the storm at bay.
It was at that moment, hanging halfway down the ratlines in the midst of a gale, that pain screamed through the Hagedwar—sucking pain that almost pulled Aaran and the trackers of the Ethebet’s Dagger and the Sea Hawk down with it.
He didn’t have time to think—only time to react. He broke away from the connection he shared with the other three trackers to save his own life. And, unguarded, wide open, unprepared, he fell to a wave of magic unlike anything he’d ever felt. It blasted through the Hagedwar that enveloped him, slamming him in lungs and gut and heart all at once. A cry, unearthly and powerful, rose up out of the sea and wrapped itself around his brain, blinding him to all but the space between the worlds in which the Hagedwar lay. Aaran found himself in the danger zone between the relatively safe Feegash magic of the Hagedwar and the deadly magic of his own people. He hovered at the point where protected space bled into the View, where the siren songs of eternity flowed through him. The faint, fragile buffering of the Hagedwar shield didn’t keep them out—they called to him, luring him toward solitary ecstasy and annihilation. Over their sweet music, which was nothing less than the breathing of the universe, a trail of desperate rhythms, of terror and pain and despair, pulled him north and east.
A captive Tonk girl begged for rescue, and—bound to her by blood and pain—countless others cried out in wordless horror.
The girl’s plea was cast by intent, though, and it was clear in his mind as a dagger drawn across flesh: “For the love of Jostfar, by the hands of the Five Saints, save us before we perish.”
She was Tonk.
Desperate for rescue.
Aaran shook himself free of the powerful spell she’d woven to find that he hung upside down in the ratlines, his legs tangled in rope, while two sailors and his cousin Tuuanir fought to free him.
“I’m all right,” Aaran yelled over the screaming of the storm. “I’m all right. Av Yaddar, the tracker on the Long Fang is dead, though—he bound himself to one of the men overboard so he would not lose the lot of them, and he didn’t pull back in time when sharks hit them and the man he’d marked died.”
“Tracked him into death,” Tuua asked.
They got Aaran down quickly, and he steadied himself as best he could in the churning seas and vicious winds. He dragged himself by steady-rope and rail to the captain. “I’ve located more slaves,” he shouted, and the Haakvar, at the tiller holding the ship tight to the struggling slaver, stared at him in dismay.
“Yes, Captain. I cannot be sure of precisely how many, but nearly a hundred. Possibly more. One of them has a good grip on the View. She’s used it to send out a rescue call that near knocked me senseless when we floated through its current.”
“Her plea … has a current?” Haakvar frowned, clearly bewildered.
“She bound magic to the sea. I do not know how she did it, or how she holds it together, but it’s a powerful current. We’ve passed it now, but I marked it before we moved beyond it. I could get us back to it again. We could find them.”
Up on the deck of the slaver, Tonk marines fought with Sinalian sailors. In the Windsteed’s rigging, half the sailors hung from the ratlines, acting as a secondary force of archers, taking clear shots at the enemy when offered. In the slavehold below, other marines were gathering the freed children below the aft hatch that opened onto the archerâ€™s platform. No archers occupied the platform because while they fought with their masts and rigging, the Tonks deployed their smaller but better-trained forces.
When the fighting finished, the marines below-decks would move the rescued children to the four waiting ships, and would strip the slaver of any worthwhile cargo it carried, as well.
Aaran said, “We could let the other three ships take captives and cargo from this slaver, and go after the slaves to the north on our own. They’re desperate—something horrible is about to happen to them.”
Aaran couldn’t ignore the look of dismay Haakvar sent in his direction. “Aaran, lad, think about it. Can we, alone, run north, perhaps near the Fallen Suns, certainly across Sinali shipping lanes, to rescue more than a hundred slaves from their unknown situation? We’ve taken storm damage, we’ve lost men, we’ll have injuries. How am I to tell these men risking their lives right now to forgo their shares in the loot from this ship, or their share of the reward for the successful rescue of the captives, to run up north into Jostfar knows what?”
One massive wave crashed over the deck of the Windsteed, and everyone grabbed lines or masts or rails lest they be washed into the ocean.
The captain clung to the crew companionway rail, holding his footing. Rya Haakvar was a good man, but practical. He saw not grand goals, but the obstacles that stood before them; not a bird’s wings, but its feet. He patted Aaran on the shoulder and said, “Am I to take tired and injured crew and exhausted windmen into the northern hells without a re-supply, rest, or a chance to stand on dry land? What sort of Captain would I be if I did that? Saints’ sorrows, what sort of man would I be?”
Aaran sighed. He knew that Haakvar was right—that he stood on firm moral ground in refusing to chase Aaran’s newest trail.
But Aaran could still feel the girl’s desperation vibrating beneath his skin like the metal of a hard-rung bell. He couldn’t stop feeling her. Just as her pain and terror had bound itself to the water, so it had bound itself to him.
He clung to the rigging and stared to the north. “I understand,” Aaran said. “But I can feel edges and shards of their situation. I don’t think they have much time.”
At the back of his mind was the thought, never absent, that Aashka might be among them. That she might be almost out of time.
Haakvar said, “When we’re on our way back to port with the children tucked away safe, come into my quarters and we’ll chart your trail out and see where it leads. It might be that we can take the pack after these slaves you’ve found as soon as we’ve had a chance to resupply and refit. But perhaps not. No matter how desperate the situations of those who need us, we cannot save them all. We are too few, and those in need of rescue are too many.”