Hi guys! It’s been awhile! Last week I was engaged in some family drama of the hobbit-sized kind (apparently toddlers can be difficult! Who knew?), and in actually putting some snippets back in to the current draft … as well as deleting lots of reallys and seemses, cleaning up the timing on certain events, and other nuts-and-bolts-type writerlykinds of things.
In the course of looking for the bit I’d cut that I wanted back (it’s a character moment with Evion, and I thought I’d had approximately one million instances of it in the book, and apparently I cut them all), I found some more potentially interesting scraps for you guys.
A bit (more) intro here: in the original 1998 version of the story, Aine and Evion journey into a haunted forest (like you do) and get into a fight with a GIANT SPIDER (like you do if you’re in a Tolkien rip-off). Part of the my trouble with writing the new version was my resistance to having them fight a giant spider, or any other kind of spider, or anything at all, darnit! I have talked about my struggle with the haunted forest elsewhere; what follows is one of the fourteen or so false starts/unsuccessful attempts to get around the haunted forest without a random encounter.
Definitely Not a Giant Spider in This Chapter
“You know,” he said, turning back and extending his hand to her as she scrambled out of the low cave mouth, “I must confess myself disappointed.” She took it, and he helped her to her feet.
Aine brushed dirt from her trousers. “Oh, really? How so?”
“All that rigmarole yesterday,” he said, “all that running after ghosts–or a ghost–obligingly allowing ourselves to be led on a wild chase through haunted woods, and did we have one single encounter for our pains? No, indeed! We were unmolested! Not a ghast, haunt, werewolf, hag, vampire, or banshee did we see. Not a single twelve-foot-tall ice bear. If there were any justice in the world, a yeti would be gnawing our bones even now. Or a giant spider, maybe. I hear those can get as big as a carthorse.” As he spoke, he knelt and fussed about with cooking implements by the fire, with such a clatter as must have attracted all of the above in the area, had there been any to attract.
“Our … quivering bones?” said Aine, raising her eyebrow. A reference to an earlier exchange. -Me
He sniffed in response, chin high. After a suitable pause to let her know how affronted he was, he continued, “I thought last night we would certainly be attacked, if not when we found the cave, then at the very least sometime in the night watches. Imagine my disappointment!” He spread his arms wide, indicating his disappointment’s vast extent.
“Oh, yes,” Aine said. “Crushing.”
“Hmph,” said Evion. “Do I detect in my companion’s tone a reluctance to do battle? Are we cowards, to–”
“To refuse such an adventure,” Aine finished for him, wearily. “My companion must have that written on the inside of his eyelids.” She dropped down beside him at the fire. “Here. Where are the coffee things?”
Six hours later, “This,” said Aine, “is all your fault.”
“Me?” Evion cried, all wounded innocence. “What did I do?”
They were still in their campsite clearing–or, more accurately, they were back. Here was the wet earth where they’d buried the campfire’s ashes, there the scuff marks where they’d planted their feet or their bottoms on the ground. And there: their own footmarks, crossing and recrossing the same ground, again and again. The same camp, for the fifty-third time.
Aine groaned and let her pack slip off her shoulders. It hit the ground with a soft plumpf. Dragging her hands through her sweat-tangled hair, she said, “If you hadn’t taunted the forest, practically begging it to attack us, we’d be out of here by now.”
Evion stared at her for a long moment, one eyebrow slowly drifting up to meet his hairline. His lips pursed, then parted with a loud smack, eloquent of disdain. “Well,” he said finally, “I must congratulate you. That is the most perfect piece of illogic I’ve ever heard.” It was Aine’s turn to glare, and she did so with a will. Evion carried on, “It’s not as though the words we say actually have any effect on the activities of the uncaring universe!”
“This from a wizard,” Aine sneered.
“And besides!” he said loudly, riding over her words, “even if they did, what I said was, I wanted to be attacked and bothered and messed with, and I was disappointed that nothing had happened, a clear invitation for the forest to leave us alone and go bother someone who wouldn’t like it!”
His face was flushed, his fine pale hair a frizzy, sweat-darkened halo around his head; his fists were clenched at his sides.
“And you accused me of being illogical!” Aine said.
It was in the middle of Evion’s heated reply that the spirit howled up in a whirl of snow and ice and shrieking winds.