Friday, June 13, 2008

Teeth & Skeletons -- an old chapter, unearthed

I was just searching through a very early draft of Silksinger, hunting down a description I recall writing, and I reread this old chapter and was delighted with it. At one point, this was the "prelude." Well, the book has changed entirely between then and now; this chapter was cut long ago, but I love it, so I thought I'd put it here. As I say, nothing of this remains. Actually, the name "Slomby" does, but he is an entirely different character now.

I've said in talks I've done how "second-string villains" are great fun, because they can be gross and nasty and imaginative. Well, this is a perfect example of one. I had so much fun writing this, and was sorry to have to let it go:

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Teeth and skeletons were Slomby’s bread and butter. He dealt in other things too: horn and talons and fur, feathers and blood and spit. Even plain old rags sorted according to degree of filth: very filthy, or extremely. He was a rag and bone merchant, so he had to stock rags, but following up the bone end of the business was what put the spring in his step.

Or rather, in his slither.

There was a greedy market for bones in Nazneen. No matter that from the air it looked like a faerie city, clean as mountains, pearly as teeth -- underneath it was another city, a dark and festering one where tails left slither trails in the mud and faeries never dared flutter their dainty wings.

“Teef and skellies!” Slomby cried, pushing his cart through the murk and the dark. He wasn’t selling just now -- he did that out of his shop. He was gleaning. In Nazneen’s undertunnels there were always creatures ready to part with a well-gnawed haunch or a nice bit of jawbone, and Slomby made it his business to buy those grisly treasures and haul them back to his shop, where he polished them up proper and sold them to someone else.

Down here, magic wasn’t the airy stuff of faeries. Faeries’ power was gifted to them by the Djinn, and they had no need to sully their fingers with skulls and such. They had only to think their magic -- draw pretty pictures in their pretty heads -- but for others it didn’t come so easy. Others needed fangs and feathers and hair with scalp still clinging to it to work their spells, and maybe just maybe guts once in a while. Slomby didn’t judge. Who was he to judge?

Hadn’t he spent the first half of his life hanging off a sea serpent by his sucker mouth and thriving on its blood? He’d been born a parasite, a snag parasite on a bigger snag, and he was unashamed of it. After all, he hadn’t dreamed his ownself up. Something else had done that job for him and he wasn’t sorry -- though if it had been up to him he guessed he’d have asked for fingers instead of hooks and perhaps a less particular appetite. It was a job of work for him just to fill his belly.

He wasn’t unique in that. In the upper city faeries may have been in charge, but down here in the slurk and the slough, strange hungers were what ruled. Knowing parasites like he did, Slomby knew there was at least one made special for every kind of creature in the Djinns’ grand world, a unique and dastardly parasite for everything that lived, like they’d been doled out at the Creation: here ye go, a tummy for you, some teeth, a brain (maybe), and. . . a parasite all yer own. There was even a mite that lived only in the left ear of one kind of moth!

And it wasn’t just parasites. In Slomby’s experience the same went for predators. For every living thing that went about its business, yawning and griping and scratching its rump, there was some other creature out prowling with slick teeth and a rumbling belly, hungering just for it. About the best you could hope for in life was to not meet the creature whose hunger was for you. It was a big place. Odds were good.

But no one could live forever.

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Tee hee. A little gross, no? I do love me some gross, I got to say!


Q said...

It's so true! There IS a parasite for everything!

Nerd Goddess said...

Great, now I have a craving... for Dreamdark. Maybe I'll re-read it on my several hours long flight...

Thanks for the old chapter! It makes me want to read Silksinger. And I think you are right about the secondary villian thing... I must ponder this. *ponders*

Candace Ryan said...

Not only is there a parasite for everything, but it seems that everything is a parasite.

Global warming may just be planet Earth's parasiticide for us. "Warm" thought, huh?

Star said...

A very different peddler pushing its cart--seems you had peddlers on your mind even before you started the "Emily" story idea. ;)

Frida said...

Eeeew - he is gross. I love him.

And now I am all the more impatient for Silkslinger.

So, yeah, get back to work. ;-)

Hope to see you soon, soon.

Alex said...

what timing Fatty. I was just chased through Washington Park by over a DOZEN wild boar. I have bad cuts ALL over my legs from jumping through the rose bushes up at the gardens trying to run back home. They tore apart the Japanese Garden as well trying to mow me down. I was to be their dobage cake! Can you imagine having to relay the news that your favorite person in the entire universe was eaten by wild Portland boars? (You don't have to call. I'm ok. I'm resting quietly now.)

liz elayne lamoreux said...

oh this is fantastic.
i can't wait for the next book. can't wait. going to have to read blackbringer again this summer just to have my fix of this magical world you have created.

Abigail said...

What a treat you've given us---so tantalizing. The world of Dreamdark is so juicy and exotic, yet it's clear you draw inspiration from nature herself too. Your magic is fairy magic.

Fuse #8 said...

I just saw a YA book yesterday with what may be the greatest title in the world. If I'm not too much mistaken I believe it's called "In the Forest of Teeth and Hands". Look for it soon.

brittany said...

wow! I don't know how you come up with this stuff. It's very impressive. I would be sad to take this out, too.

very gross. very genius, too.