I’m conducting a very scientific experiment, for science. In a nutshell, this book I’ve been reading (full review to come) has been very frustrating, so frustrating, in fact, that I’ve been rewriting scenes in my head just to make it bearable.
The following is an excerpt from the book in question (which, if you’re curious, is Gatekeeper by Rayne Auster. Below the excerpt, I’ll post my reworking of the same scene. You tell me which one you like more.
Sound simple? Okay, let’s begin.
The context for this scene is that main characters Kaji and Aniol have been ambushed by a group of warriors from a fierce tribe known as the Ruel. Their companion Rogue intervenes, and they find out that he’s actually a master assassin who graduated as a class of two from assassination school (the other students came down with a case of dead), obviously, Rogue is pretty badass and not to be fucked with.
The following is the actual excerpt from Gatekeeper. I won’t put it in blockquotes so it’s easier to read:
“‘Release them,’ the cold voice ordered, clearly expecting to be obeyed without question.
‘No,’ the warrior blatantly rebelled against the direct order. ‘They must die.’
‘Are you questioning my authority?’ the cold voice questioned, sending chills down even Kaji’s spine.
‘No, I’m questioning your loyalty,’ the warrior spat, challenge and disrespect in his tone.
There was a flurry of motion, a blur of movement, that ended with cold steel pressed against the warrior’s throat, a shallow cut similar to that upon Kaji’s throat trickling blood. Rogue glared at the warrior, sandy hair shifting in the cool breeze, blade glinting in the fading sun. ‘My loyalty is never in question.’ Rogue drew the blade across the warrior’s throat, adding a second thin cut to the one already there. “They are under my protection. Now order your men to release them. At once.”
The warrior swallowed, the blade at his throat cutting in deeper as he considered his options. ‘Release them,’ he whispered, the sound barely a breath above the wind. The warrior’s men released Kaji and Aniol.”
And now, after some thinking about it, here’s my rendition:
The warriors turned as one towards the speaker. In the dark, Kaji couldn’t see much, but he knew that voice anywhere. It was Rogue! But how had he known they were in trouble, more importantly, why did he speak with such authority to these soldiers of Ruel?
One of the soldiers turned his attention away from them to address the blond assassin, who stood with the relaxed posture of a lion surveying a group of mice. “No,” he spat. “They are of our sworn enemies, the Taiyoukou Clan! They must die!”
Rogue narrowed his eyes, and Kaji saw the soldier blanch with fear. “You question my authority?” He asked softly, too softly.
The soldier was shaking now, Kaji could almost taste his fear in the air. He had made a mistake, and everyone knew it.
Yet the fool was still speaking. Shut up! Kaji thought. Shut up and perhaps you’ll walk away with your life!
But to no avail, the fool kept one speaking: “I wonder at the loyalty of a man who has been gone for so long!” He cried, his voice rising higher in pitch like the last desperate cry of a dying man.
It was, appropriately, the last thing he ever said.
Before anyone could react, Rogue darted forward, his dagger painting a red line across the man’s throat. The man collapsed, his lifeblood staining the sand of Duiem, a blot on an otherwise pristine landscape.
“My loyalty is never in question,” Rogue hissed as the man gurgled and expired. The blond man’s gaze swept over the assembled soldiers, who were shifting nervously like a herd of cows who had encountered some strange, new thing.
“–and neither is my authority,” he continued. “Further disobedience will be punished by death.” He jerked his head towards Kaji and Aniol. “Now, let’s try this again, shall we? Release them!”
This time, their captors obeyed without question.
And that, everyone, is how that scene would have played out if I had originally written it.
This book can pretty much be summed up as a whole bunch of wasted opportunities. if you ask me.
Anyways, let me know what you think of my little rewrite/re-imagining/attempt-to-make-this-book-bearable.