In honor of Halloween, I thought I would post a scene from She Who is Always Sick. This scene is included in the first edition of the book but will almost certainly be deleted from the upcoming second edition for several reasons, primarily that it is not pivotal to the action of the main story.
This scene occurs on the road from Nulorien to Rayneval, a journey that requires the characters to cross much of the country of Argentan in western Ettria, the fantasyland where the stories of the Not-So-Beautiful Princess Trilogy take place. Cathy, some of her Elf captors, and Mistiel – the Goblin Bolgar has sent to keep tabs on her – are sitting around the campfire after lunch looking for something to do.
Mistiel is sort of a good ole boy Goblin, and isn’t a very erudite speaker, even by Goblin standards.
Mistiel’s Ghost Story
Later in the day, after they had stopped for lunch, and eaten it, Cathy, Mistiel, Steve, Harry, Mandi, Dablin, and Euori were all seated around one of the campfires gazing silently into the flames, each lost in his own thoughts, as the regiment was not ready to move on just yet.
Jai Rayneval had been entertaining them earlier with some tales of his younger days (despite the fact that he was relatively young for an influential Elf), but he had gone off to give some instructions to Carabon and Angin, leaving the others to stare dreamily into the fire.
Stephen was the first to rouse himself. “Penny for your thoughts, Cathy,” he said suddenly. The others all perked up somewhat at this interruption.
“Perhaps if you gave the penny in advance…,” Cathy bargained with a touch of mischief. Steve laughed and extracted a small copper coin from a pocket in his vest and tossed it toward her. It landed between Cathy and Mistiel. Cathy picked it up and scrutinized it carefully. She had never seen an Ettrian coin before and could decipher neither the writing nor the picture on it.
“Go on,” Harry urged. “It’s genuine copper; I’m sure if it.”
“Hey, that’s one o’ ourn!” Mistiel exclaimed, looking over Cathy’s shoulder at the coin. “See, there’s the Great Cave Copper works on that side, and Chief Captain Bralin on the other.” Both images were so worn that Cathy could make nothing of them.
“Only Orcs would make foolish things like copper coins. All the pennies in Ettria are Orkish coins,” advised Mandi.
“Yes,” Dablin, who was a little older and had been a sailor in the past agreed, “but so many of the things normal Men or Elves have to buy only cost a penny. If you start out with a Frankenheimer (this was a silver coin minted by a private bank in Argentan) or a NumenThayer (gold coins, common along the southern coast, which were supposed to have come from Novoral) and you want to buy a bushel of apples, the person selling the apples will have to come up with a lot of change somehow, or you will wind up with either a lot of apples you can’t use or a bushel of very expensive apples. Your other choice is to give your apple vendor a penny, even if it is an Orkish coin, and you can call it even.”
“We use ‘em mostly for playin’ cards,” Mistiel pointed out helpfully. “Ain’t a lot the average Goblin hasta pay for. Fat lotta good it’d do’em to try to charge for horse soup and most o’ the other things we get ta eat. Same wi’ makin’ us pay anythin’ for our rooms. And low-class grunt-Goblins like meself aren’t paid anythin’ anyways so we wouldn’t have anythin’ ta pay wi’. I hafta find a penny, or get staked, even ta play a real game o’ poker. Tha only Goblins I know of that use money much are some o’ the higher rankin’ ones that eat at the Tavernia o’ nights. They sez they has better food there – roasted dead pig, and the like, and real beer instead o’ grog, an’ some thin’s like that.”
“Give Mistiel the penny, and I’ll tell you what I think,” Cathy directed. Stephen indicated it would be ok, and Cathy passed the penny to the Goblin and began.
. . .
“I was only thinking about all the leaves changing color everywhere,” Cathy said blushing, “and falling, falling, everywhere falling, maybe at home too. And all over, in such big forests – you have such big forests here, you know? And maybe nobody to watch them sometimes. And I was wondering if they were lonely when they were falling with nobody to watch.”
“Oh, no,” chirped Harry brightly. “Somebody’s always watching. Somebody has to be, or they wouldn’t fall at all. Wouldn’t grow, in fact.”
“I know whut you mean,” agreed Mistiel. “A forest is full o’ eyes. I’ve felt it many, many a time.”
Dablin, the former sailor, looked about nervously, expecting any minute to see, in the broad daylight, the eyes of a thousand Orcs hiding behind the trees, waiting to spring upon him at the first opportunity.
“No, no, Dablin, not Orc’s eyes,” Mandi reassured him in a loud whisper. Ever since being nearly beheaded by a Horgu Orc in a battle seven years before, Dablin had harbored an unreasonable fear of the creatures.
“Oh no, not Orcs,” Mistiel seconded. “No,” he added dreamily, “ya go out inta the woods by yerself at night, away from the city, on spy duty mebbe, or guard duty, or jes’ for wood, or, if times is hard, out lookin’ fer berries and such. Ya know they ain’t ‘nuther Orc anywheres around – er at least they ain’t supposed ta be, an’ yer doin’ yer work, goin’ ‘long fine, an’ all on a sudden ya feels them eyes on ya. They gives ya a creepy feelin’, kinda like somethin’ crawlin’ on yer neck – like ya wouldn’t get if it was only ‘nuther Orc watchin’ ya – at least,” he added, looking sympathetically at the others, “like ya wouldn’t get if ‘most any other Orc was a-watchin’ ya. There’s some as ‘ud give ya that feelin’ any time.
“But this ain’t them – ‘least, it couldn’t be all tha time ‘cause it happens too offen. ‘Course, I reckon you got Elves that’s the same way. The kind as ‘ud as soon kill ‘nuther Elf just so’s he c’n get in power, er look good, huh?” Mistiel looked about at the Elves.
“There are a few like that,” muttered Euori, the oldest of the particular group, who also had a reputation for being a wise Elf.
“Yep,” said Mistiel. “I thought so. But anyways, getting’ back to the eyes, they follows ya aroun’ an’ ya gets the feelin’ that ever’ move ya makes, they jes’ wants ta leap out and kill ya dead. But then thass only some o’ the eyes. Now, they’s other eyes as is real nice eyes. They wants ta make frien’s with ya an’ get ter be yer pal. They sez thins like, ‘heard any good jokes lately,’ an’ ‘’ave a cup o’ Goblinweed tea, Mistiel,” an’ ‘’Ere, let me carry them logs.’ But them other eyes, the’ mean ones, they seems ta be sayin’ thins like, ‘dare ter step over this line an’ I’ll hang yer,’ or ‘Iffen you ain’t outta here in five minits I’ll rip ya apart,’ or ‘I on’t care what ya do, I’m gonna get ya anyways, or ‘Don’t lissen ta them nice eyes; they’s our enemies, an’ iffen you do, we’ll get ya wuss’en before.’ An’ they sez all this ‘thout ever openin’ their mouths – iffen they’s got mouths.”
“The old legends say in some forests the trees have eyes,” Harry volunteered. “And if you look closely enough you can see them even in the daytime.”
“Some forests!” Mistiel snorted indignantly. “Why ever forest I ever been in has got eyes, an’ it ain’t jes’ in tha trees neither. Seems like it’s in the whole air an everthin’. An’ it don’t jes’ happen in forests neither. It’s on cliffs, an’ in the bottoms of the tunnels where ain’t nobody ever goes much, an’ in tha medders, an’ in big Man-cities, an’ ever-where’s I go where they ain’t a lot o’ other Goblins.”
“Maybe they’re ghosts,” Dablin suggested.
“Mebbe,” Mistiel shook his head. “But ya know what I think? I think they’s Spirits o’ Mystery.”
“That’s a thing I’ve never heard of before,” Stephen looked interested.
“Well,” Mistiel said, making his voice sound suitably mysterious, “Accordin’ to Granperri, who is always a-checkin’ up on ole legen’s an’ Goblin lore, the spirits of mystery is a bunch of ghostie-type bein’s. They float aroun’ in tha air an’ set on tha groun’ an’ in tree stumps an’ in cave bottoms an’ on buildin’s an’ ever’where. They gets together in a big group an’ sits thar a-waitin’ fer a victim. An’ when ther victim comes, they stares at ‘im an’ stares at ‘im, an’ they cain’t say nothin’, ‘cause that'd break the spell, but some on ‘em looks friendly an’ some on ‘em looks mean. Tha nice ones sorta send out nice messages, an’ the mean ones sorta try to c’mmunicate mean thin’s, an if ya answers ‘em anythin’, they takes ya away an’ nobody ever knows what happened to ya. The only thin’ ya can say to’em is ‘shut up,’ an’ then they’ll close ther eyes an’ go away.”
. . .
So, what do you think? Would you like to see more in the way of deleted scenes, character sketches, etc.? Would you rather see material that is less closely related to the Not-So-Beautiful-Princess books? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments. Or you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
She Who Is Always Sick cover image from Goodreads. This is the cover from the first edition.
Misty forest and fallen leaves images from Creative Market.
She Who Is Always Sick copyright 2015