Warning:  Major spoilers!

Here are two scenes that I wrote for Poison Dance but ultimately decided to cut. They show James getting his revenge on Gerred and Lord Hamel. In the end, I decided it was better to leave these moments up to the reader’s imagination. I wanted the moment of Thalia’s death to be a transformation for James, the point at which he becomes a mystery. But for those who are curious, here they are.

Scene 1:  James and Gerred

Gerred strode down the narrow alleyway. Beside him, three of his men hurried to keep up.
“No sign of any of them?” he said, making sure the displeasure in his voice was obvious. It had been a mistake not to kill James and his supporters earlier. He should have picked them off quietly when he first suspected them of working behind his back. But he wouldn’t make the same mistake twice.

“They’ve abandoned their own lodgings,” said his man Darron. “They also know well enough to stay away from the Scorned Maiden. In a city this size, it could take weeks to find them. That’s assuming they even stayed.”

“We find them. We kill them,” said Gerred. “No excuses. I want everybody after them until this is done. We’ll go over the new plans when everyone is here.” They rounded the corner and came to the door of an empty storehouse. An assassin named Bors reached for the doorknob, but Gerred pulled him back.

“Where are the door guards?” he asked.

His men exchanged glances, and then slowly drew their blades as the realization dawned on them. Gerred looked at Darron and jerked his head to the door. Darron nodded and edged closer, finally kicking the door open when he was close enough.

Silence inside. And as their eyes adjusted to see the bodies through the doorway, the smell of blood wafted out to meet them. Blood, and something else. Darron led the way in, followed by Bors while Gerred and the last man Swinton stood guard at the door.
Bors’ voice drifted out. “They’re gone.”

“How many dead?” Gerred asked.

“Six.”

Motioning for Swinton to stay, Gerred ducked inside. As Bors had reported, six of his men lay lifeless on the ground. The body closest to him was cleanly run through. Gerred continued to the next one. Barth, one of his best. He was surprised that Barth would’ve succombed this easily. Gerred knelt to take a closer look. The body bore some superficial wounds. A shallow cut on the chest, a graze along his arm. But how did he die?

Outside, Swinton yelled, then swore. By the time the rest of them rush outside, Swinton was leaning against the wall, cradling a wounded arm. Gerred gripped his blade and scanned the shadows. “Who was it?”

“Bacchus,” he spat. “Bastard took a swipe at me and ran away.” Swinton’s breathing was labored. As the wounded man sank to his knees, and Gerred suddenly understood. He hauled Swinton to his feet and pried open his eyelid. “Look at me.” As he suspected, Swinton’s pupils could not focus.

Gerred let go of Swinton and looked around more urgently. “If you see them, don’t let them cut you,” he said to his surviving men. “Not even a graze, hear me?”

A slight movement of air, and the soft thud of someone landing behind him. Gerred spun to face his attacker, but not before he felt a slash across his back.

James and Hamel

Fletcher stood at attention in the corridor, doing his best to stay expressionless as the sounds of his employer’s rage drifted out through the doorway. Hamel was well known for his temper, but this episode was extreme even for him.

“Think this has anything to do with his city friends?” asked his fellow bodyguard Tomlin.
Fletcher shrugged. His stitches still hurt when he spoke, so he preferred to be silent in the absence of anything consequential to say. It was his own fault he supposed, letting his guard down around that girl. He should’ve known she might have a knife, especially since they had taken one off her that first night.

“I’ll wager it is,” Tomlin prattled on. “We in’t been to the city for a week. Something’s gone wrong.”

There was a sound from around the corner, like metal dragging on stone. The two of them exchanged a glance.

“I’ll go look,” said Tomlin.

A moment after he disappeared around the corner, Fletcher heard a muffled grunt. Then nothing.

“Tomlin?” Fletcher drew his short sword and walked to investigate.

He didn’t realize that someone was behind him until he felt the blade at his neck. Fletcher froze. A voice spoke in his ear.

“I have no personal grievance with you, but your job puts you in the way. I’ll make this quick.”

A burning pain across his neck, and then warmth. As darkness closed in around him, the voice spoke again.

“My time with your employer, however, will be a more drawn out affair.”