Sundering the Gods

On the Eve of Snows,

come heavens or hells,

war will rage.

The Death of Guntar (Gundar)

I suspect that all novels lose chunks of their page count as they go into edit, and while listening to the audiobook of Eve of Snows tonight, one such segment came to mind. Then, my wee li’l brain thought maybe it’d be kind of fun to post these bits of book that were lost. The first one of these is from the very beginning of Eve of Snows. You will notice that he also experienced a name change before the final version. I hope you enjoy that which was severed from the final product. This is pretty raw writing, I haven’t edited this in many moons… best guess it was written 3 years ago, and boy does it show!

This section is from Chapter 3: Unseasonable Snows, and once followed Tokodin’s lapse into unconsciousness.

***

Gundar leaned heavily on the exhausted pony’s neck, twining his bloodied hands in its mane for grip and warmth. Nightfall was nearly upon him, and despite having reached the foothills where snow had yet to collect, darkness promised to bring with it a frigid cold.

His prayers were as weak as his body and barely able to keep him alive. He feared if he stopped to make a fire that he wouldn’t have the strength to remount, and afoot he was assuredly dead. As he swayed in the saddle, fighting to retain consciousness, his mind often wandered to the leather tube strapped to his side.

What was it that he was going to die in the effort to deliver? He knew only that some event of magnitude was occurring in the Treaty Lands, or so he had pieced together from slivers of conversations he was likely not supposed to hear.  Then the lights and thunder deep in the Crack of Burdenis, somehow those must be connected. Every time he thought of that sealed tube, some part of his mind promised he would open it before he made the journey down the Road of Living Stars to the House of Sôl and take its secrets with him. His other half argued that Sôl would seal the doors against him, condemning him to the Slave Fields, for such a transgression.

It would only be fair for a man to know what he died for, wouldn’t it? Would Sôl really hold that against him after so many years of faithful service?

The pony stumbled, and Gundar would have tumbled to the ground and found his final resting place if not for the straps that made sure he and his message remained with the pony. He checked his tethers, pulled them so tight that he knew his legs should ache, but there was only a vague pressure. 

Gundar mouthed a prayer of healing and a tiny surge of energy sparked within his being, but it was so much less than he had hoped. He reached for his canteen, but when he lifted to pour, he found only ice. Until that moment, he hadn’t realized how thirsty he was.

He lulled to his pony’s neck and thought perhaps he should name this faithful beast in whom he entrusted his life. A silly thought, he admonished himself. Undoubtedly someone had named it before.

He blinked. Or had he just reawakened? Full night was upon him, and there was no longer pain. His arms dangled past the pony’s withers to rub its legs as it walked. Not only couldn’t he feel his hands, he could barely move his fingers.

He raised his head a fraction and saw lights in the distance. Ervinhîn, the pony must have brought him to Ervinhîn, Sôl’s praise to this fine beast. 

The next time he blinked, he was inside a small palisaded town where a woman cried out.

“A rider! Wounded rider!”

He had no strength to call out, to say yes, I am here, help me. Before his eyes closed again, he saw men running toward him, men who wore the cloaks of the Côerkin Patrols.

“What we got here?” He heard a voice ask.

The next voice was right next to his head. “An Istinjôln man. A priest with a message judgin’ by the straps on his legs.” He felt his head lifted by his hair, and his eyes opened for the last time to see a balding man staring back at him. “But he won’t be finishin’ this delivery unless we prop him up with a stick.” There was a chuckle amidst the muttered prayers from others, and his head was dropped to rest against the pony’s side.

Gundar stared at the dirt until his vision faded, his final thought that he really should have opened that scroll and taken its secrets with him to the other side. But it was too late now.

Background Art by Jon Gibbons

© 2018 L. James Rice