This scene originally appeared in Impossible Things, just before Freyda meets Maskai for the first time. Personally I love this scene, but a friend advised me to take it out. I didn’t want to, but what she was saying made sense. This scene is much more about Shaiel and the bigger Aekhartain story, while Impossible Things was supposed to be about Freyda and finding her place amongst the Aekhartain.
However, I liked it too much to just ditch it. So here, have a deleted scene, in which we learn a little bit more about the Aekhartain story, especially the three figures right at the heart of it all.
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Shaiel stirred at the sound of Maskai’s voice. He’d been lying on his back, staring up at the night and dreaming of nothing in particular while she worked nearby. At some point he must have dozed off. Now she knelt beside him and ran her fingers through his hair, bringing him back from his drifting.
Opening his eyes, he smiled. She had changed. When she was alone, working or with him, she wore her first and most natural form: a woman made of shadows; dark, beautiful and mysterious, as befitted a Shadow-born Entity. Now she wore the face of the woman he’d first met, back before he’d even know what an Aekhartain was.
Her hair was gold and red and platinum, fiery and shining, while her skin was sun-kissed bronze. Only her eyes remained the same. A deep, fathomless blue shot through with golden streaks, like sunbeams trapped within her gaze. She was beautiful in either form, but this one held extra special memories.
She smiled down at him but, even as he watched, a mask began to form over her features. An incredible mask, made from glossy black feathers. It was undeniably lovely, but it stirred the coals of an ancient rage deep inside him, and had done so for almost a thousand years.
“Why do you still wear it?” he asked, as he had countless times before. “Is he still that important to you?”
Her smile turned sad, as it had too many times before. “You are the most important thing to me,” she told him, touching his cheek. “But there are other things that must never be forgotten. Essential things.”
He’d never known exactly what had happened that day, so many centuries ago, between her and Nawaquí. All he knew was that Nawaquí had lost his Wings and Maskai had taken to wearing a mask that hid her face from the world.
It still stirred an age-old anger inside him, urging him to go in search of the man he had once called, however briefly, friend and demand answers. Demand restitution. Demand something, everything, to put an end to whatever still haunted his Maskai.
“He isn’t worth it,” he told her, trying to restrain his rage, knowing she saw it anyway.
Her eyes glinted with gold. “The others are.”
And that quickly she reminded him of his responsibilities: to her, to the others, to the Garden. It was one thing to dream of confronting his old enemy, of finishing their battle once and for all, but another to abandon everyone in a fit of selfish gallantry.
She touched his arm, restraining him, grounding him. “It’s just a mask, melaruhm.”
Except it wasn’t. It was a symbol of an unhealing wound, one he could see but never quite touch. And yet, it wasn’t his to heal. So he put away his private dreams for another day, yielding to the unspoken plea in her sun-questing eyes. “And you wear it well, oyeparní.”
“Flatterer,” she chuckled, breaking the tension and tugging at his hand. “Come, you must go. I have company coming, and I think it best if we meet alone.”
He’d guessed as much when she’d put the mask on, so he sighed and sat up. “As you wish,” he murmured, turning her hand over in his and planting a kiss in her palm.
Maskai smiled and brushed a kiss across his lips, tickling his face with feathers. “Go,” she urged, pushing him to his feet. “It will be better without you here.”
Clapping a hand across his heart, he staggered playfully backwards. “Such cruel words, my lady. You wound me.”
“Easier without you, then,” she laughed, and flicked her fingers dismissively. “Go. She will be here soon.”
Even as she spoke a huge raven glided out of the tall trees, skimming low over the budding saplings to land on her shoulder. Its feathers merged with those of her mask, turning her into a strange two-headed bird-woman.
Spotting him, the raven extended its neck and shouted, crronk, crronk, crronk, sounding not unlike a dog with a cold. Apparently taking this as a challenge, a magpie dropped onto Shaiel’s shoulder and chattered something highly uncomplimentary back.
The raven gave a dismissive tonk.
Shaiel laughed. “I do believe we’ve been routed, Messenger,” he told his magpie. “So now we must vacate the field, while we still have some pride left.”
The magpie on his shoulder muttered low and grumbling, making him chuckle. Behind them the raven burbled something surprisingly musical, revelling in its victory.
Shaking his head, Shaiel gave Maskai a wave and took the path that led around the edge of the birch wood. Somehow he didn’t think his lady would be too appreciative of him running into the guest she seemed so keen for him to avoid.
“Love is a many, varied thing, Messi,” he misquoted to his magpie.
She tutted impatiently and took off, flapping ahead, her opinion on the subject quite clear. Smiling, Shaiel tucked his hands into his pockets and ambled back to his tower.
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Notes: Melaruhm – Dearest one
Oyeparní – Beloved
Nawaquí was the man Beatrice Winters spoke to on the phone. His tale is coming. If you don’t know who he is yet, don’t worry, you’ll know quite a bit about him soon.
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Like what you just read, but aren’t familiar with the characters?
Why not give Orion’s Kiss a try?
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