A Triad Expanded Scene
This is the last scene of part 2 as it read before the book was edited for length. It replaces the entirety of page 377 in the hardcover, and runs from page 496 to 497 in the paperback.
Caille left the sleeproom to give Eilryn and his mother some time alone together. Then she left the common room beyond. She walked down the veined marble corridors and out of the Heelhill residence hall, into the grassy triangle it formed with the Boothill and Grazehill halls. Benches were set out in the angles of that triangle. She sat on one, warming its chilled, sleeping wood with her shine. The midwinter air was very cold. Hunger began to gnaw at her right away.
She had plenty of reserves. Her shine wouldn’t flag. She could sit here till sunset if she wanted to, or longer.
There didn’t seem much point, when there wouldn’t be a sunset.
The stain was creeping upward, the sun lowering to meet it. Clouds slid out of the stain on one side, delivered a shaded gray promise of snow as they crossed the sun in their transit across the heavens, then slid back into the stain. The transit was growing shorter. Come dawn, the sun would have to fight its way halfway up the sky to scale the ringwall of darkness.
This morning, when Pelufer came back, they couldn’t see the curtain of darkness from ground level. Now they could. The darkness was rising. If it didn’t stop, it would cover them, and kill them.
They had reserves. The land could do without sunlight for a little while. Till Greenfire. Maybe. But mages couldn’t cast preservings on food that had never grown. Could they cast a ball of light as bright as the sun into the sky below the stain, and keep it burning bright enough to coax the new shoots from the soil, quicken the leaves on the sowmid trees, feed all the plants in Eiden Myr and keep it green?
Mages had immense powers. There was a time when folk believed that there was almost nothing magecraft couldn’t do. She had immense powers, and there was a time when she believed that there was almost nothing she couldn’t do. She had found that there were things her shine simply could not mend or heal or change. There were things that magecraft simply couldn’t ward against or smooth or fix. Hatred was one of them. Vengefulness another. Tortured guilt. Murderous rage. The lust to kill. The wish to die.
Those were what the stain was made of. Unless the visants could glean it away, she didn’t know what they would do. Elora’s child was due on Pledge Day. Dobran and Andri had just shown their lights. All the children . . . all the shielders, who fought so hard to keep them safe . . . so much light come into the world within her lifetime, only to be extinguished by this darkness of the soul . . . all the creatures that lived on Eiden’s body . . .
One lone steward was working along the base of Grazehill Hall, reseating shrubs uprooted by the wind that had swept through when the intorsion tore apart, then shoveling back the scattered mulch he had swept up and piled in a wheelbarrow. When the sun set into the stain, just one last flare before it left only cloud-diluted afterglow in the decreasing dome of sky, Caille got up and pitched in to help him. Eilryn would see her here if he looked out. Until nightfall drained the sky of what light it could still provide, she would help ease these unsettled plants back into their hard beds, blanket their sore feet in bark, heal the ones whose trunks and limbs had broken. She had shine enough for that.
So long as some little shine remained, she would hold out against the darkness.
The trimming done here was the small, surgical kind that adds up over the course of an edit. Ironically, what I took out would have filled the page nicely in the reflowed text of the paperback, but commercial book publishing can’t accommodate that kind of fiddly back-and-forthing. The edits tightened the section, which 98 percent of the time makes narrative stronger; but Caille’s action of helping the steward care for the damaged plants is the active climax of this little scene, and an important emotional beat to hit here at the end of part 2. Those lines will go back in if there’s ever an unabridged digital edition.