As you may have noticed, I’ve been round and about on the interweb with some deleted scenes from The Hunted and the Hind. I wrote a lot of extra words set in Fenn’s Outlands, before I found that I was going down a road I didn’t really want to tread and writing a fantasy novel rather than a whatever-it-actually-is.
It was really hard to take these bits out, but I felt that it made the story waaaaay too ‘bitty’. There was already a lot going on and lots of loose ends to tie up. To introduce a major new setting at this point, with all the world-building that would entail was too much, if I’m quite honest. Here’s one of the bits that didn’t make the final cut!
Fenn Arrives Home
Fenn felt the push-twist that was the shimmer opening and stepped forward. They shoved the carnas in front of them firmly through the gate with a sharp motion and stepped after it, feeling a huge weight lift from their shoulders as they did so. They had done as the Ternant’s asked and the council should now release Fenn from this duty and Keren along with them.
The jangling clatter of light and sound, kias manifest that they recollected from their outward trip to Delf gradually began to subside.
They stood inside the circle, surrounded by the Ternants. Guards were already ushering the carnas away down a side tunnel.
“Where are the eggs?” Malach asked, holding the necklace of gable-stones that had been taken from the carnas. Fenn sighed. Always, Malach.
“I told you, Malach, when we spoke through the shimmer. There was only one egg. And it was broken in a struggle with a human.”
Malach nodded and banged their staff, the staff of the leader of the Ternants, on the floor of chamber. “Very well. I am disappointed, Fenn of the Hunters. We set you a task and you have not completed it.”
Fenn raised their voice. “I completed it to the best of my ability, Malach. I brought you back the carnas. Now release my sibling.”
Malach shook their head. “No. You did not complete the task we set you. Under the terms of our agreement, Keren will not be returned to you. They will be executed. You knew this would happen if you did not carry out the task, Fenn.”
Fenn lunged for them across the sand, but two of the Ternant’s guards grabbed their arms and pulled them back. “No, Fenn of the Hunters,” one said, lowly, in to their ear. Do not do this. Do not.” Fenn subsided as Malach turned away. The guard was right. There were too many people. And what good would it do Keren? They stood down and the guards cautiously released them.
“I did what you asked, Malach,” Fenn called after their half-turned back, instead. “I brought back the carnas. The egg, I could not bring, through no fault of my own. You are not treating me, or my kindred justly in this!” They felt the guard who had spoken wince.
Malach stopped their turn away and moved to face Fenn again. “Do not question the Ternants, Fenn of the Hunters. Or worse things will befall you than the keeping of an agreement. Your sibling will be executed as I told you would happen if you did not bring back both the eggs and the carnas. The word of the Ternants is unbreakable.”
Over their shoulder, Fenn could see that some of the other faces of council members looked sickened. They appealed to them. “Can you not see how wrong this is?” they said. “Keren is a child. This is not the way the council should work, this is not the way the Outlands should police the shimmer. We are not cruel. We are just. This is not just!”
Malach simply shook their head and continued to turn. The crowd of Ternants and workers who had sung kias to open the shimmer for Fenn’s return parted to allow them exit and then turned as one, to follow.
Fenn dropped to their knees and watched them retreat. After a moment, when the last twitch of over-robe had disappeared in to the tunnel, the guard who had spoken before put a hand under their shoulder and pulled. “On your feet, young Fenn. You won’t do any good down there.”
Fenn turned to look at them. Neither they nor their companion were familiar. “What do you mean?” they said. “I need to help Keren. I need to either get Malach to release them, or I need to get them out. Can you help?”
The guard shook their head. “No. I am sworn to serve the Ternants in this. But you are not, and there are others. Seek your parent and your kindred, Fenn of the Hunters. Ana is waiting for you.” The other guard nodded at him in a not unfriendly fashion and the one speaking gave Fenn a gentle push toward the door. “Get moving, Fenn. There’s not a great deal of time.”
Fenn stared hard at both of them for a moment and then did as they were told.
It wasn’t far to Ana’s quarters. They and Cora, Fenn’s other parent, had shared a set of family rooms quite high in the caves for their use when they were here in the Underhalls. Fenn and all three of their older siblings had grown up there until they had reached maturity and moved out in to the dormitories for the unattached. When Cora died two years ago, Ana had continued to live there with Keren, a constant stream of cheerful visitors sitting on comfortable couches or on the soft, deep rugs, discussing books and travel and kias and the ideas they had about everything under the sun.
Ana had clearly been pacing when Fenn chapped on the door and immediately entered.
“Fenn!” they wrapped their arms around them and they responded in kind. “I felt the working, but I couldn’t follow closely enough to know the result. Are you well?” They pushed Fenn back and looked at their face, framing it with their familiar, long-fingered hands. “You are tired? And…” they scowled, reading Fenn’s tumultuous thoughts. “And Malach refused to free Keren.” Their voice dripped vitriol. “The bastard. I knew they’d pull something like this.” Their hands dropped to Fenn’s shoulders, steadying. “Fenn, what of the one who came through behind you? There were two of you. Where is your companion?”
Fenn looked at them. “What?”
“Your companion. There were two come through. I felt them. Where is the person who accompanied you?”
Will Grant. It had to be Will Grant. They were closest to the shimmer when it opened and had been helping Fenn herd the carnas through. Fenn had been focused on keeping it under control and had trusted the team of humans to help open the shimmer and keep onlookers away.
“They were not with me when the gateway closed. We must have been split up in the shimmer itself.” Fenn looked up at Ana as they sank in to a chair and fought exhaustion, anger and the slight nausea left from coming through the shimmer. They shut their eyes briefly. They were so tired. “Where is Keren, Ana? Can we get them out? It will have to be quickly.”
Ana shook their head. “Perhaps. Things have happened whilst you were away.”
“How long was it?” Fenn asked. Time sometimes got twisted when you traveled through the shimmer. Some people could control it and use it to move back and forth in the when as well as between the worlds. Fenn couldn’t and had relied upon the council to pull them through in the right time. Now though…now they didn’t trust anything the Council of Ternants did.
“The third time of trying, that they arranged before you left. So three months.”
Fenn nodded. That was good. It had been their first trip through the shimmer and they had been frightened of all sorts of things. Not least Malach’s word.
“Where would Will Grant have gone? What happened, Ana?”
“I think the gate was shutting behind you as they entered. They could be anywhere. Anywhen, even.”
Fenn made a noise of distress. “They helped me find the carnas and looked after me when the Ternants would not let me through. I must search for them.”
Ana shook their head. “There is very little to be done without a circle to try to trace their kias from the closed gate. That is not a priority. I need to speak to Malach, to see if I can get them to release Keren.” They knelt down between Fenn’s feet and took their hands between their own. “Fenn, child. What did Malach say? What happened in Delft?”
Fenn told them. “The carnas was killing humans. The humans were searching for it. There are a few who use kias…Will Grant is one. We found the egg…the carnas only laid the one. I had it safe and tried to come through with it at the second meeting-time that the Ternants gave me. But Malach would not let me through without the carnas as well. They said one egg wasn’t enough.”
Fenn bent forward and put their forehead on Ana’s shoulder, allowing them to slip their arms around Fenn’s back. It was a relief to have someone else take some weight, just for a moment. Ana’s hands moved gently up and down Fenn’s back, soothing as if Fenn was still a child.
Fenn continued. “And then, Will Grant found me. They broke the egg. I had not told any of them about Keren. When I did…Will Grant was sorry. They took me to their family home and cared for me. I was…” they paused. “I was distraught.”
Ana made a comforting noise. They smelled of home.
“And then…we went back to the city and the other humans had managed to find the carnas. So…I went. And we found it and I managed to push it through.” They drew a breath. “Why do they want it so badly, Ana?”
Ana made a noise in their throat. “Not for anything good. Malach has been consolidating their power for years. The carnas…the carnas should never have been used like this. We should never have consented, when they first came up with the idea of using them to track kias and help police the border. It has been nothing but trouble. Malach uses them like a blunt weapon, aiming them and letting them go. The result is never good, for the hunted for the carnas themselves. It is cruel.”
They released Fenn from their embrace and pushed them a little apart, hands on Fenn’s shoulders, staring urgently in to Fenn’s face. “We can fix this, Fenn. Once and for all. And I need you to do as I ask, now. And not ask me questions. Can you do that? There’s very little time.”
Fenn nodded. “Will you get Keren out?” they asked. “Can you get them?”
Ana shook their head. “I don’t know. I am not even sure Malach has kept them alive this long. Keren is a threat to them. Yes, Malach can use them as leverage, to maneuverer you and I and your other siblings. But on the other hand…Malach must know that using children in these games of theirs is opening more and more eyes to their true nature. If Keren is already dead, then there is no risk of Malach’s own people freeing them.” Her hands tightened on Fenn’s shoulders. “You should think of Keren as already dead, Fenn.” Their eyes filled with tears. “Think of them as already gone and plan your actions accordingly.”
Fenn swallowed. “Namma…,” they said, slipping in to childish language. They had called both their parents by their given names since they left home. They put their hands on Ana’s shoulders, in turn. “Namma…I will find Keren.”
Ana shook their head. “No. Leave Keren to me. You search for the human. And wait. Wait. Trust no-one who is not recommended to you by me or your siblings. Do you understand?”
Fenn nodded. “Very well.” They dropped their hands from Ana’s shoulders and they both pushed to their feet. “Very well.” Fenn drew Ana in to their arms again. “Ana. I am so pleased to be home.”
Ana wrapped her arms back around him. “I am so pleased you are home, too, Fenn. Your other siblings are well. We will make this right, I promise. It may be too late for Keren and I ache for that. I am so angry. It’s time to move against Malach, and we are not alone in being poised to make that happen.” They pushed Fenn an arms length away again. “Now, go. Go back to your quarters. Assume Keren is gone. Grieve them. Rage against Malach. And wait.”
Fenn did as they were asked. Ana was no longer on the Council of Ternants, but the Hunters still had supporters there. Ana had stepped down when Cora died, saying they had both done their duty to the council. Malach had stepped up. And here they all were.