Out-take from Path of beasts

The chapter titled Ominous Days, where the keepers and Broo harass the mercenaries in the fog, was enormous fun to write. But it also took quite a few goes to get it the way I wanted it. The following scene was something I wrote and then discarded, but it remains interesting because it gives us a bit more detail as to how some things happened. You may notice that, in this out take, Goldie delivers the message to the mercenaries, whereas in the final book she delivers it to the Blessed Guardians, while Toadspit does the mercenaries. There was no particular reason for this change – it just happened- Lian Tanner, author


'Chicken pie,' said Broo, licking a crumb of pastry from his nose. 'Those soldiers were eating chicken pie.'

'That's another five rifles we've got rid of,' said Toadspit, marking them off on a scrap of paper.

'And another five soldiers we've put the wind up.' Sinew grinned. 'I wish Broo and I could stay a bit longer, but we'd better get back to the museum.' He patted Goldie's shoulder. 'You two take care. I know it's fun, but it's dangerous fun. Whatever you do, don't get caught.'

Goldie nodded, but said nothing. In the back of her mind, Frisia whispered, Of course I will not get caught. I am a warrior princess, not a fool!

Sinew looked at her oddly, as if her expression had given her away. 'Well,' he said. 'Well...'

'We'll just deliver the messages,' said Toadspit, 'then we'll come back too.' He glanced at Goldie. 'Do you still want to do the messages?'

Goldie nodded again, and turned away. Being down in the city like this was getting harder and harder. The constant presence of the mercenaries, and the air of violence that hung over the city, seemed to give Frisia strength. Goldie hardly dared open her mouth in case the wrong words came out.

As soon as Sinew and Broo had gone, Toadspit took the messages from his pocket. There were a dozen of them, all on the Fugleman's official notepaper, which Sinew had produced with a flourish from behind the kettle, earlier this morning.

'Another triumph for the filing system,' he said. 'This'll make your messages look more official. Do you know the Fugleman's writing at all? No? Ah, well, let me show you. He has an elegant hand, as you would expect. He does his 't's like this...'

Now, in the foggy street, Toadspit split the pile in half. ‘'Which ones do you want to deliver? The Guardians or the mercenaries?'

‘'Mercenaries,' said Goldie, and quickly shut her mouth again.

Toadspit handed her six of the messages. 'Are you all right?'

'Yes.'

Are you sure?

'Yes.'

Toadspit shrugged. 'I'll see you back here then. In an hour?'

'Yes.' And Goldie hurried away down the road.

It was both better and worse being by herself. She could talk out loud to Frisia without everyone looking at her as if she was mad. But at the same time, there was no one to remind her who she really was.

'I'm Goldie Roth, Fifth Keeper,' she whispered. The words sounded hollow and unconvincing.

In the back of her mind – or perhaps it was the front – a far more confident voice said, I am the daughter of a warrior king...

She found the first group of mercenaries near the Physicians; Guild. They were not one of the squads that the children had targeted earlier, so their rifles were in their hands, and their faces were untroubled by thoughts of demons and witches.

Goldie crept towards them, her shoulders hunched as if she was too frightened to stand upright.

In the back of her mind, Frisia said, I am a warrior! I do not COWER before the enemy!

'It's a trick!' hissed Goldie. The last thing she needed now was the princess taking over and challenging the soldiers to a fight. 'It's strategy!'

She was pleased and astonished when the princess fell silent. She was going to need all her wits about her-

'Hey, you! Girl. Whaddaya want?'

The soldier's rough voice stopped her in her tracks. She ducked her head lower so that her hat fell across her face. 'P-Please,' she whispered, and she held out one of the messages, letting her hand tremble visibly. ‘'H-His Honour the F-Fugleman told me to d-d-deliver-'

The man snatched the paper from her hand and tore it open. He scanned it quickly, then hooted with laughter. 'Ooh, this is nice,' he said to his companions. 'This is very nice!'

'What's it say? Who's it from?'

'It's from the Fugleman. Listen.'

As Goldie crept away, he began to read aloud, with interjections every few words. 'To the courageous soldiers- That's us, lads! To the courageous soldiers who keep our beloved city safe-'

'Yeah, safe from everyone except us. Ha ha ha!'

'Shut up and listen. My Guardians and I regret that it took so long for your first payment to reach you-'

'So they should regret it! A stinkin’ disgrace!'

'-and would like to make it up to you.'

'Give us the keys to the treasury! Then we'd be happy! Ha ha ha!'

'To this end, my Guardians have volunteered to be your servants for the next three days.'

The joking died away. The soldiers looked at each other, their eyes glittering. One of them whistled. 'Is he serious? Does he mean it?'

'Here's his signature down the bottom, all nice and clear. And he says, They will happily clean your boots and scrub your toilets-'

There was a roar of approval. Goldie smiled into her hat. Right at this minute, Toadspit was delivering a similar message. Only that one said that the mercenaries had volunteered to be the Guardians' servants, to clean their boots and polish their toilets...

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