Posted in Cut Scenes and Fun Extras | Posted on 10-01-2016|
When I wrote the first Dragon Blood bonus scene, I wasn’t thinking about making a series of them, but when I was working on my Colonel Therrik side project (yes, he and a new heroine are getting their own book), I mentioned that a certain thing had already happened, and one of my beta readers pointed out that some readers might not appreciate it if they didn’t get to see that certain thing on the page (don’t you love it when authors are mysterious and vague?). So… I’m planning a couple more of these bonus scenes. At the end, the certain thing will happen.
Thanks to Rue Silver for the inspiration for this one (she wanted to see some more of Cas and Tolemek).
Dragon Blood Bonus Scene #2: Fowl Friends
Cas clasped Tolemek’s hand as they turned off the main street and onto the dead-end road where Ridge and Sardelle lived with a passel of houseguests who ranged from occasional to constant. Tylie, whose birthday it was today, should be excited to see her brother. Even though Cas and Tolemek had leased a cozy house between his lab and the army fort, Tylie still spent most of her time here, wandering around the woods and the pond to collect animal friends when she wasn’t busy studying magic. Tolemek kept hinting to her that she could move in with him now that he had a suitable house, but she seemed to prefer this quasi-rural living to the city life. Cas could understand that. She had grown up with room to roam and explore, at least when her father hadn’t been stifling her with mandatory athletic endeavors and shooting practices.
“I hope Zirkander doesn’t ask me to make him anything,” Tolemek grumbled. “The pharmacy isn’t open today.”
“I’m sure he won’t,” Cas said.
“I don’t know how he ever accomplished missions before he had me to rely on.”
“It is a mystery.”
Tolemek gave her the squinty eye.
Cas squeezed his hand and grinned back. She had no trouble seeing through the grumpy grumble. Whether he admitted it or not, Tolemek had been excited at the chance to escape his lab and visit everyone. Even Zirkander. They hadn’t had a mission since their kidnapping adventure in Cofahre, so Tolemek hadn’t chatted with many of Cas’s pilot acquaintances in several weeks. Even though he pretended to be engrossed in his work, she could tell from how chatty he was when she came home at night that he found the life isolating and a little lonely. Today, he had been the first one out the door, eager to see his sister and Sardelle.
Tolemek’s squint relented, and he returned her smile and hand squeeze. “I hope Tylie likes the charcoal set we got her.”
“I’m sure she will. Didn’t you say that she has paints and pencils, but not charcoal?”
“Yes, Zirkander got her all the paints she could need.” His mouth twisted in something between wryness and displeasure.
“Are you irked because she prefers to stay here?”
“No. Yes.” He stopped when they reached the house, pausing before turning down the walkway. “When I’m honest with myself, I admit that this is a better place for her, that she needs a mother and a teacher more than a big brother, and Sardelle’s a good influence. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel some…”
“Brotherly interest in her well-being.”
“You know she’s fine.”
Tolemek sighed and led her down the path. “I’m not sure it’s right that you’re the more mature person in this relationship.”
“I agree. You should work on that.”
“By gaining in maturity myself or by bringing you down to my level?”
Cas swatted him. “I hope you don’t have a potion for that.”
“Not yet, but if I can fix Pimples’s love life, I can do anything with my powers.”
“Megalomania isn’t as attractive a quality in a man as you might think.”
“No? It gets Bhrava Saruth a lot of belly rubs.”
“It helps that he can turn into a cute furry ferret. Maybe you should work on a potion for that.”
The door opened before Cas could knock on it. There was nobody there, though clanks and voices came from the kitchen in the back.
“Uhm,” Cas said. “Do we go in or…”
“It worked.” Tylie leaped through the kitchen doorway, barefoot as usual. She skirted the huge couch, its frame made from bullet-ridden crashed flier parts, and flung herself into Tolemek’s arms. “Tolie!”
“Someone’s working on telekinetics again, I believe,” Tolemek said, enfolding Tylie. She was a couple of inches taller than Cas, but still short enough that he could look over her head and smile a greeting to Cas.
“I didn’t even bang the door against the wall this time,” Tylie told them.
She stepped back, spun a pirouette, then raced back into the kitchen. She linked arms with another girl on the way, someone who appeared to be around fourteen, and who was covered in flour. Some neighbor friend?
“Cas and Tolie are here,” Tylie announced, dragging her comrade into the kitchen.
Cas looked down at a couple of cedar siding shingles lying in the flower bed under the wall and had no trouble imagining doors being flung open. Hard.
She nudged Tolemek before he could walk in and showed him the shingles. “Perhaps it’s good that she only visits us. You did pay the majority of the damage deposit.”
“Hm. This house is still standing. She can’t be doing too badly with her studies.” He walked into the living room. “Even that couch is still standing. Alas.”
“If machine guns couldn’t take it down, nothing can.” Cas poked a finger into one of the holes in the frame.
Sardelle walked out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on a towel. The air smelled wonderful, of cinnamon and cloves, and Cas thought she detected a berry pie of some sort too. Her stomach rumbled in happy anticipation.
“Hello, you two,” Sardelle said with a smile.
“You’re baking?” Cas asked. “I didn’t know, uhm.” She paused, not wanting to offend. She hadn’t been aware that Sardelle had culinary skills.
“Fern is baking. I’m assisting.” Sardelle smirked, implying that this might not be as calm an activity as the words suggested. “There is instruction involved. Fern is concerned that Ridge is working too much and that I’m not fattening him up properly.”
Cas blinked, trying to imagine a portly General Zirkander wedging himself into his flier. He was already on the tall side for a pilot, so he had better keep his frame lean.
“His head is already plenty fat,” Tolemek said.
Other than the slightest eyebrow raise, Sardelle ignored the dig–she had a way of making an insult, and the person delivering the insult, seem juvenile without saying a word.
Tolemek lowered his head and scuffed his feet on a rug. Juvenilely.
Sardelle pointed toward the pond. “The boys are in the duck blind if you want to relax until the meal is ready.”
“Duck blind?” Tolemek asked at the same time as Cas mouthed, “Boys?” Was she supposed to go with the boys?
“Why is there a turtle on my cookie sheet?” came a voice from the kitchen. General Zirkander’s mother.
Sardelle patted Cas on the shoulder and waved her toward the pond. “Trust me. You’ll want to join them rather than–” The squawks of a bird, perhaps multiple birds, interrupted her. She shrugged and stepped outside to finish speaking. “Follow the path there, and you’ll see it. You’ll probably hear it. The boys are drinking, playing cards, and listening to records. Cas, you’re welcome to join us in the kitchen, but the duck blind is a turtle-, kitten-, and raven-free zone. Some visitors find that appealing.”
Raven? Had another pet been added to the household since Cas and Tolemek had come out for the barbecue the month before?
“Is it a dragon-free zone?” Tolemek asked.
“Ah, not currently. But I understand Bhrava Saruth doesn’t cheat at cards if you distract him with tarts.”
“That’s… reassuring,” Cas murmured. “Sardelle? Was your former life this, uhm, interesting?”
Sardelle’s eyes crinkled. “It was more filled with magic, including magical creatures, gadgets, and experiments, than animals or dragons, but it wasn’t without its interesting moments.”
“Where’s my assistant?” Fern called from the kitchen. “Tylie, come carry your turtle out of here. It’s licking the sugar off the sugar cookies.”
“Give Ridge a kiss for me,” Sardelle said and waved them toward the pond before disappearing back inside.
“You better not,” Tolemek said as he and Cas stepped off the walkway.
“What? Kiss General Zirkander?” Cas asked.
“I assumed that directive was for you.”
Tolemek curled a lip. “I’m not going to kiss him.”
“Good.” Cas linked her arm in his. “I’d hate to spend the day consumed by jealousy.”
He snorted, his sneer shifting to a smirk. He kissed the top of her head before they had to separate to weave along a muddy path meandering between reeds and trees. The sound of lively music reached their ears before the duck blind came into view, a stone structure set into the ground between the path and the pond, with a long rectangular window overlooking the water. A sturdy oak door stood open, revealing familiar people gathered around a table that had been pulled into the center. General Zirkander and Bhrava Saruth in his human form sat in hideous chairs, one upholstered in faded stripes and the other in an equally faded floral pattern. Lieutenant Duck, Pimples, and Captain Kaika sat on stumps that had been dragged inside, their shoulder blades pressed against the wall in the tight space. Phelistoth, also in human form, leaned against the wall behind Zirkander and Duck, frowning across the card table at Bhrava Saruth.
Greetings, humans, Bhrava Saruth spoke into Cas’s head, and perhaps Tolemek’s, as well. Have you come to renounce your old and useless gods and be embraced to my loving bosom?
“We came for Tylie’s birthday party,” Tolemek said, his gaze flicking toward Bhrava Saruth’s chest. The dragon, his mussy blond hair hanging into his eyes, looked back at them and wriggled his brows.
“Tee, Ahn.” Ridge waved for them to enter. “Pull up a stump.”
Cas did not see room for any more stumps. She was small enough to squeeze into a corner, but Tolemek was already hunched low to stand in the doorway, and he did not appear enthused about crawling over Bhrava Saruth’s lap to reach what might optimistically be called an opening around the table.
“Here, take my spot.” General Zirkander stood up, his own head in danger of bonking the low ceiling, and waved to his chair. “I need to check on Mom and Sardelle, make sure the kitchen isn’t on fire yet.”
“You know you just want to check on the status of those sugar cookies, sir,” Duck said.
Zirkander grinned at him. “Do you object?”
“Absolutely not. I’ve been waiting for warm cookies. Why else would I come to a teenage girl’s birthday party?”
“Because she calls you Wasley and doesn’t tease you about your name?”
“Oh, right. That too.”
Pimples rearranged his cards and nodded in agreement.
Zirkander started to step around Bhrava Saruth, but the dragon-in-human-form held up a hand. “I believe you lost the last of your fliers and the rules of the game state that you must forfeit a tart.”
“We’re playing the baked goods version of Sky Riders,” Captain Kaika told Cas. “For some reason, the boys didn’t want to play the version where you strip items of clothing with each loss.”
“How odd,” Cas murmured.
“I wouldn’t have minded playing that,” Duck said, giving Kaika a brief leer, “but I was afraid we’d end up looking at a room full of naked dragon flesh cannons. Nobody wants to see that.”
“Not… nobody.” Kaika smirked into her hand of cards. “Also, wouldn’t they be scale cannons?”
“Depends on what form they’re in.”
“The dragons never lose,” Pimples said. “You’d probably just end up looking at the general’s cannon.”
An alarmed expression flashed across Zirkander’s face, but he covered it by delving into a grease-spotted sack on the shelf next to the phonograph. He pulled out a miniature tart with orange mango pulp on the top and set it on the table in front of Bhrava Saruth. “You’d think a god could make his own tarts.”
“I don’t have the recipe.”
“Well, there’s a divine tragedy.” Zirkander grabbed a tin of crackers off the shelf and stepped around the dragon.
Cas and Tolemek made room for him to slip out. He only took a few steps up the path before pausing to crumble some crackers and toss them to a flock of ducks that beelined toward him.
Tolemek looked into the duck blind, wearing a dubious expression. Captain Kaika winked at him and patted the vacated seat.
“Maybe I should–” he started.
Cas gave him a shove. “Go play a round.”
“You’re not staying?” Tolemek frowned.
“I got concerned at the talk of dragon cannons.” Cas’s stomach was rumbling, too, and she wouldn’t mind an opportunity to sneak some warm cookies from the pan. “Here, I’ll take Tylie’s present into the house and then join you.”
“I got concerned at the talk of dragon cannons also.”
“Tolemek?” Pimples asked. “I have a buddy in the barracks who wanted to know if you make any other types of creams, besides the pimple one.”
“Aside from my healing compound and formulas that have military applications?”
“What kind of cream does he want?”
“Something to remove warts. In a… sensitive area.”
Cas made a face. This sounded even more alarming than a discussion of dragon cannons.
“Ah. Perhaps he should see a dragon god about that,” Tolemek said, though he handed Cas Tylie’s birthday present and stepped into the duck blind, apparently drawn in by a chance to talk about the various goos he made.
“I would require a great deal of worshipping to be tempted into healing warts in sensitive areas,” Bhrava Saruth announced.
“I don’t believe any amount of worshipping would be worth that,” Phelistoth said, his always-haughty expression growing haughtier.
“That’s because you’re crusty and aren’t moved by the affections of your followers.”
“I don’t have followers, nor do I want them.”
“Silver dragons are strange beasts,” Bhrava Saruth said, then, while Tolemek was picking his way to the vacated chair, transformed into a ferret. He hopped onto the table, then into Captain Kaika’s lap, where he flopped down on his back, stretching out and inviting a belly rub.
“Well,” Kaika said, giving him a scratch, “I suppose that’s better than seeing a naked dragon cannon.”
Cas shook her head and backed away from the duck blind. Tolemek no longer batted an eye at magic and dragons, but she found such displays a little alarming. This gave her another reason to go seek out cookies. There wouldn’t likely be shape-shifting taking place in front of Zirkander’s mother, since the woman did not believe in magic or dragons, and nobody had taken it upon themselves to disabuse her of her beliefs.
Cas headed back toward the house, but paused when she reached Zirkander. He wore a pensive expression as he tossed crackers to the twenty or thirty ducks that had gathered to squabble for his offerings.
“Sir, are you all right?” Cas asked.
“Oh yes. Just making sure they’re sated, so the duck blind doesn’t get invaded again.”
“They’ve been known to come through the window. And around the door.” He shook the cracker tin and peered in. “I’ll have to resupply soon.”
“Does the, ah, ferret not keep them out?”
“The ferret is more interested in being petted than in hunting ducks. Besides, it’s not fair to hunt something you’ve been feeding.” Zirkander tossed a few more crackers, then frowned thoughtfully at Cas. “Ahn. You’re a woman.”
“Yes, sir. I understand Tolemek is pleased about that.”
“Let me ask you a question. I’d like the answer from a woman’s perspective.” He lowered the cracker tin and peered up and down the path to make sure they were alone.
“Go ahead, sir, though I’m not sure I’m a typical representative of my gender.” Cas flicked a finger toward her shoulder, where the barrel of her sniper rifle poked up when she was carrying it on a mission.
“You can’t be any more atypical than Kaika. She already gave me her answer.” His mouth twisted–had he not liked it? “Listen, if Tolemek were to propose to you–”
Alarm flooded through Cas. Tolemek wasn’t planning that, was he? They’d only barely moved in together. It was too early to commit to marriage. He hadn’t even committed to living in Iskandia for longer than the duration of their lease yet.
“He’s not, is he?” she blurted.
“No. I mean, I don’t know. If he was planning to, I doubt I’d be his confidant.”
“Oh, you might be.” Cas let her shoulders relax, though she glanced back to make sure Tolemek hadn’t wandered up the path. He might not find her alarm at the subject charming. “He won’t admit it, but when you were presumed dead, I think he missed your company.”
“He didn’t have anyone else to trade barbs with, eh?”
“That might have been it. Others find him too fearsome to barb.”
“Since I’m not in the market for zit or wart cream, I’m not too worried about irking his fearsomeness.”
“Is that a word, sir?”
“I think so.” Zirkander held the tin out toward her. “Want to feed them? They’ll befriend you instantly.”
Cas considered their beady-eyed observers. “Should that be a goal of mine?”
“Everyone needs more friends.” He dumped some crackers into her hand. “About my question…”
“Go ahead, sir. I didn’t mean to interrupt.” Cas tossed the crackers into the water, avoiding the carpet of algae floating near the edge. Wings flapped and squawks sounded as the ducks fought to get to the crackers first.
“If Tolemek or some other desirable man were to propose to you, would you prefer it to be done sedately? A promise necklace delivered over dinner? Or would you find it more interesting and memorable if it were done while flying upside down through Crazy Canyon?”
“Uh, I think a proposal would be memorable, either way. Would you want to risk dropping the necklace into the canyon while you’re inflicting these aerial acrobatics on Sardelle?”
He frowned at her. “Inflicting?”
“Yes, sir. It’s a word.”
“With negative connotations.”
“That’s why I used it. Maybe it would be nice if you flew up to a spot with an amazing view and had a picnic while proposing. But I think it should be a stationary spot. Women don’t like to feel nauseated while making life-changing decisions.”
A chirping noise came from behind them, and a golden-furred ferret scampered past on its way to the house.
“A stationary spot without ferrets, kittens, or dragons,” Cas added. “Something private and peaceful.”
“Peaceful?” Zirkander rubbed his head, as he couldn’t imagine a woman desiring such a thing.
A shout came from the house, something about ferrets and turtles and sugar cookies being licked.
“Yes, peaceful,” Cas added firmly.
“Huh. I’ll consider your advice. Thanks, Ahn.” He thumped her on the shoulder and headed for the house.
Cas changed her mind about going in that direction and turned back toward the duck blind instead. If those cookies had been licked by a ferret and a turtle, she was less enthused about them. Besides, she now had a tin of crackers to snack on. At least for the moment. Several ducks waddled out of the water and followed her up the path.
Continue on with bonus scene #3: Fowl Revelations.