Saturday, July 15, 2017

Shadow Fire Alternate Ending #1

When I first started writing Shadow Fire it was a Choose Your Fate book. Similar to the Choose Your Own Adventure books I read as a child, but a more grownup version. As it turned out, publishers weren't interested in this type of book for young adults, and I scrapped the idea. But the alternate endings still exist on my hard drive. Most were rather gruesome, some bittersweet. This is the bad ending for the first choice the reader made in Shadow Fire. Because it was never published, it never went through an editing stage, so this is from my final draft:

There’s nothing I can do right now. The bandit’s blade digs into my neck, and I can feel the trickles of blood oozing from the wounds. I know I’ll never reach the dagger sheathed on my thigh without alerting him. Perhaps I’ll have a chance to escape later if I bide my time now. He drags me back quickly, to the back of the merchant caravan. Though I dig my heels into the ground it does little to slow our backwards progress. Zane, Lukas, and Daren are busy fighting off the remaining bandits. When the brigand holding me reaches the corral where the merchants’ horses are tied, he releases me for a quick second to slice through the reins of the nearest horse. I wasn’t expecting him to let go, and I fall hard on my backside before trying to scramble to my feet. A sharp pain sears through my head and everything goes black.
The first thing I notice when I begin to wake is that my head throbs in time with my heartbeat. As my mind becomes more aware, an awful stench assaults my nose. I’ve never smelled anything so repulsive in all my life. When I try to move my hand to cover my nose, I realize my wrists are shackled together in iron manacles. My eyes fly open, and as I take in my surroundings, my heart plummets like a stone falling over a cliff. I’m lying on my side staring at the bars of my prison cell. Not only are my hands shackled but my ankles are as well. The stone floor is damp and covered in what I can only assume is human refuse. My eyes water from the horrendous stench. I blink, swallow hard, trying to remain composed. Panic will not help. A rat skitters across the floor in my field of vision, and it takes everything in my power to swallow the scream that rises to my throat. Carefully I sit up to get a better look around. My cell is only one of many, the others also filled with women. I must be in the bandits’ stronghold.
“Where are we?” I call out softly to the woman in the cell beside mine. The only acknowledgment I receive is her dead, blank stare.
“Well, my pretty, little slave, I see you’re finally awake.” A voice booms from the hall in front of my cell. The women in the surrounding cells shudder and cringe at the voice. Shakily, I try to rise to face the man leaning against the bars of my prison. My legs give out, and I fall back to the floor in a heap before finally pushing myself to my feet. “You definitely have spirit,” he says as I stand and glare at him.
He opens the cell door and grabs me by the hair, forcing me back to my knees. As he holds my hair up another bandit enters and places a leather collar around my neck before quickly departing. My captor pulls me back to my feet, this time by the thick metal chain attached to the collar at my neck.
“Come, slave. I already have a buyer interested in you. He came for the head of a bounty I killed, but became interested in you when I told him the man was trying to rescue you.” As he drags me down the hall, my mind screams in protest. A man tried to rescue me. It could only be Zane. Then that would mean…
Tears streak down my face as I realize that Zane is dead, killed in an attempt to rescue me from these filthy bandits. I stumble and fall to my knees, but my captor refuses to slow. Unable to stand again, I’m forced to crawl quickly behind the horrible man as he yanks on the collar choking me. We arrive at a large wooden door, and the bandit hauls me to my feet before opening it.
“Come, little one. You should be honored that such a powerful man is interested in you,” he says as he leads me into the brightly lit room. “Here’s the girl that the bounty was trying to rescue.” As my eyes adjust to the brightness of the room, I notice a man sitting at a table near the wall.
“Leave us,” the new man orders in a brusque tone. My captor immediately steps outside and closes the door behind him. For some reason his quick acquiescence makes me fear the man before me even more. “Come, sit.” He motions to the chair beside him.
Never taking my eyes from the man, I approach the table, the short chain between the shackles on my ankles making walking difficult. I ease my battered body onto the hard, wooden chair. Biting the inside of my lip, I raise my eyes to my new captor. The man is handsome, with long, flowing, brown hair pooling around his waist. His eyes are an intense shade of dark red…just like Zane’s.
“So, you’re the one my foolish son thought dear enough to take on an entire bandit stronghold. I’m sorry to say that it didn’t work out for him, my dear.” Fresh tears form and run down my face, warming my chilled cheeks. “Oh don’t cry, precious. I’ll take good care of you in my son’s place.” He reaches out and lightly caresses my hair, and I cringe away in revulsion. “You will come to respect me soon enough, my little slave. There will come a time when you will beg your master to touch you.”
He rises and moves behind me. It takes everything in my power to allow him to leave my line of sight. When his hands touch my shoulders, I steel my nerves to keep from flinching since he seems to enjoy my distress.
“Such a strong will you have,” he purrs the words in my ear. “I will thoroughly enjoy breaking it.” His maniacal laughter echoes throughout the room as he crosses back to his chair. “I have a gift for you. We will hang it on the wall in your room to commemorate your new life with me.” He pushes a burlap sack across the table until it’s in front of me. “Come, my dear, open your present.”
With trembling fingers, I untie the string holding the sack closed. Once the string is released, the sack falls open. Bile rushes from my stomach to my throat. Leaning over, I vomit on the floor at my side. Horrible tremors wrack my body. My stomach continues retching uncontrollably. I shut my eyes to block out the hideous sight before me, but the image is seared into my brain and there is no escape. My new master cackles gleefully at my reaction to his ‘gift’. I open my eyes again and find myself staring in horror at the bundle on the table. Zane’s garnet eyes stare back sightlessly from his decapitated head. Something in my mind breaks, and I fall into blissful unconsciousness, my master’s laughter echoing in my ears.

The End
Return to page 37


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