I’ve been writing in the Sha’Kae al’Dan world since I decided to write and committed myself to finishing, so since 2003. (The first book I ever completed went on to become The Rose of Shanhasson after several iterations.) In all these years, I’ve written some very hard scenes in the Blood & Shadows world. I’ve killed characters. I’ve made myself bawl like a baby. But one scene I never actually WROTE in all its gory, painful detail is Gregar’s darkest, secret shame.
It’s the scene that defines who he is, why he does what he does. It is wholly HIM. Yet I never wrote it, because it was too horrible, too painful.
Since I dared call on him for help this week, he decided to get even and make me write out that dark secret. In painful, gory detail.
NaNoWriMo count: 31,466 words
Snippet (with a bit from last time – corrected. That scene ended wrong.) First draft only.
I could not return to the Dream. Not if I wanted her to live.
I sat outside my tent watching the sky lighten until dawn broke the horizon. I dared not sleep again this night. I wasn’t sure that I’d dare sleep again. As the stars went out one by one, I finally realized what had been bothering me about that dream.
She’d been wearing Sha’Kae al’Dan clothing, perfect down to the last detail. Not outlander clothes.
The dream had been mine.
For days, I hunted, sparred with other warriors, rode endlessly across the rolling hills of my homeland, refusing to pause for fear I would sleep. I would Dream, and I dared not see her again. Her scent had driven me beyond honor. My will was nothing. The honor I was so proud of would be my damnation. And her death.
Why had Kae’Shaman shown me how to open that doorway into the sleeping realm? I knew, but I resented that knowledge at the same time. If I had not gone into the Dream that night, she might very well have died. My mark might have been successful.
But now dread weighted upon my chest that I might have replaced my mark in the Endless Night’s foul schemes.
Night stretched about me, the Camp silent. Shaido stood beside me, head down, ears drooping in sleep. I’d ridden him hard these days, seeking to outrun my fears.
Fool. You can’t outrun what’s inside your own heart.
Shame choked me. I closed my eyes, just for a moment, and I was there. Immediately. The same perfect summer day, the wind playfully galloping across the hills and leaving waves of golden grass dancing it its wake. Not a single cloud marred the glorious blue sky and the sun beat down hot on my head. It wasn’t the baked scent of earth and grass that filled my nose, but the sultry, spicy flower.
She was here.
Night fell. There was no slow fade to the gloaming of dusk, but a heavy curtain of darkness enveloping the world as my gift of Shadow cloaked me from all eyes except hers. So dark. No moon brightened the sky and the stars were mere pinpricks, too insignificant against the night to share any light.
Yet light came toward me. She glowed with silver luminescence, a pearly beacon to draw my gaze, as though her alluring scent wouldn’t be enough to bring me to her. She Called me, as surely as Vulkar’s thundering hooves would Call me to my next mark.
Crouched in the grass with Shadow chilling my skin, I waited. I am Shadow. I am Death. I…
Don’t want to kill her. Not her. Vulkar help me.
She came, even though she had to know I was here. Head high, shoulders easy and relaxed, she walked through the grass as though she knew this place, though no outlander had come to the Plains in my lifetime. Smiling with delight, she trailed her hands through the waist-high grass and breathed deeply, drawing my gaze to those sweet curves. At least she’d come in outlander clothes this time, although the metal wouldn’t protect her. Not from me.
I wanted to roar, Arm yourself! Never approach me without naked steel in your hand!
Maybe she didn’t know I waited like a viper in the grass. My bite would be as fatal. If she dared tread so close… She surely didn’t know. Not even she would be so arrogant.
Then she looked straight at me with a sultry little smile curving her lips. Oh, she knew. And she was that arrogant. Pride burned in her midnight eyes, blatant challenge, a glint of laughter that I could never deny.
I exploded up out of the grass with rahke in hand and she whipped the sword up to meet my strike.
She laughed and I’d never heard sweeter music. No scream, no tears, she met me with sword in hand and fought as a warrior. Did she truly have this skill, or did she have powers in the Dream that I couldn’t even imagine? I thought to test her stroke by stroke, but she didn’t give me that chance. As fast as I could be at my best, she struck blow and after blow, driving me to use my full skill. No holding back, no hesitation, we fought, sword to rahke, a symphony in the night that made my blood sing in my veins.
Until I drew first blood.
Blood welled on her chest. Until I saw the ruby and heard the gasp of her indrawn breath, I hadn’t realized her armor had disappeared piece by piece. Perhaps I had cut it off her in our glorious fight, or her powers in this dream had failed to maintain the illusion of protection. Most likely, my dream had changed hers, putting her into my clothing. The sight of my blue in her memshai—the same color as her eyes—made me growl deep in my throat.
Mine. She’s mine and no other’s.
Her scent ripened, a luscious fruit at the peak of sweetness, promising heaven and hell at once. Ignoring her blade entirely, I seized her left arm, dragging her into my deadly embrace. She struggled, grappling now with fear. Blade to blade, we were nigh equals, but in sheer strength and bulk, I easily overpowered her. I had broken the rules of honorable combat, but with the wealth of her blood only a breath away, I did not care.
Then I tasted her, and nothing else in the world mattered.
Her blood filled my mouth and Vulkar’s Moutain detonated in my head. I was lost, lost forever in her blood, her scent, her arms. She fought me, shifting her grip on the sword to slice the blade into my back, but she couldn’t stop me.
My blood smeared her hands and she moaned. She fisted her free hand in my hair and jerked my head up so she could slam her mouth into mine. Now she was lost too. She held me as I held her, raking her nails down my arms, my back, spreading the fire of my blood upon her skin.
I took her down to the grass, or perhaps she took me. She was as frantic as me, her mouth devouring mine, her hands pulling me closer instead of shoving me away.
Dropping my forehead to hers, I fought to regain my will. “I cannot do this. Not to you.”
“I wanted you from the first moment I saw your shadow.”
My shadow. I shuddered and pulled back. “I’m a Death Rider. The Endless Night wants me to kill you.”
“I know,” she whispered, tightening her grip in my hair so I could not leave. “He always wants me dead.”
Determined to save her from myself, I disentangled her fingers from my hair and pressed my rahke into her hand. “Kill me now, lovely one. Don’t let the Endless Night win.”
“I can’t kill you.” She shoved the rahke into my heart, as she’d done with her sword in the last dream. I felt the pain of it, aye, and the immediate surge in my lust. Pain and blood always fed my desire, and with her lying beneath me…
Her blood whispering to me…
How could I resist? Yet how could I not fight with every beat of my heart to keep her safe from harm?
She was my greatest dream come true, all fire and courage and pride, a heart cold enough to kill me or anyone stupid enough to threaten her.
Yet she was my greatest nightmare, because she was right. She couldn’t kill me. Here, in this Dream, my Shadowed heart did not need to beat and it refused to die as long as she lived and breathed somewhere in this world.
She kissed me. She took me into her body. She held me, whispering in my ear. Not sweet endearments, the sort of blanket talk a man and woman might share in pleasure. She whispered of blackest temptation.
“Save me,” she whispered, slipping the bloody rahke back into my hand. “Take me away from all this darkness. I’m tired of being alone in the Shadows, lost and scared and cold. Take me into your Shadow, hold me forever, and I’ll never be alone and scared in the darkness again.”
Her voice broke. She cried out in pleasure, tightening her grip on my hair. “Please! Please save me!”
My heart knew her, even though I did not know her name. I would know her anywhere, anytime, in any unknown place in this world. I pressed the tip of the rahke to the vein thumping so frantically in the side of her throat. “Na’lanna.” My beloved.
And I plunged the rahke into her throat.