Deleted Scene - The Return of Wroid the Provoker
We are delighted to welcome Gavin G. Smith for a special guest post. Gavin’s new book A Quantum Mythology is out now in bookshops and we are thrilled to share with you a deleted scene from it. Gavin G. Smith’s new epic space opera is a wide-ranging exploration of the past, present and future of mankind.
A note from Gavin Smith: Wroid was a minor character from Age of Scorpio - one of the Fib, a tribe from the area that would become modern day Fife, just across the Tay River from my hometown Dundee. He was a lot of fun to write. He fought with his tongue and enjoyed winding people up.The deleted scene:
Wroid had always been more skilled at fighting with his tongue than with sword or spear. He had been the one that Finnguine had called on to incite trouble for the Fib’s gain. The other members of the cateran, the warband - the word meant family - had named him the Provoker for his prowess with a bitter tongue. Wroid was smaller in build than many of the other warriors, and as such reasonably fast. He had learned where best to place himself in a battle to avoid harm. When the Lochlannach had come for the Fib his smaller size, lack of scars and craven demeanour had allowed him to avoid becoming one of the slave soldiers. It hadn’t saved him from having the crystal seed pushed into his skull. Even now, when he remembered the thoughts he had shared with the thing under the water, he could taste bile in the back of his throat.
The Lochlannach may not have recognised him as a warrior but he still had some skill and strength. More than enough to bully the other prisoners on the black curraghs, and in the Wicker Man, for their food, and whatever else he had wanted. He had quickly learned enough of the southern tongues to recruit other like-minded people to work with.
When the chance had come he had escaped. He had been appalled that the island he had swam to had offered no respite, but then he had been better fed and better trained than many of the other survivors. He had left the others to fend for themselves. One person had a better chance of avoiding the moonstruck.
It had taken him the better part of the day and the night to make his way across the island, but finally he had made it to the northern shore. There was a narrow strip of water between him and the boggy mainland, and it looked like the tide was going out. He was exhausted but knew he couldn’t risk resting on this island of madmen and women.
In the distance, to the south, he could hear the screams of what he presumed was the last of the survivors being killed, eaten, raped or whatever the moonstruck did to those they caught.
Wroid scrambled down into the thick sucking mud that bordered the narrow channel, and started wading slowly through it. It was still dark but the sky was starting to lighten slightly in the east.
He wasn’t sure why he looked up. He hadn’t heard anything. There was a horseman on the opposite bank, watching him.
What fool brings a horse of that quality into a bog like this? he wondered. He thought about calling to him - after all, he had been seen - but he couldn’t know if there were any of the moonstruck within hearing.
Wroid was more than a little surprised when horse and rider moved down the bank and into the mud. The steed’s movement looked strange as it moved - too easily - across the mud towards the water. With mounting terror Wroid realised that there was something very wrong with the shape of the rider and the horse. The horseman reached the water and disappeared beneath it. Wroid started to shake.
Something felt strange under Tangwen's foot. She heard a cry. She staggered back, almost falling, raising her dagger. The mud started to move. Kush was trying to wade quickly towards her but only succeeded in falling into it face first.
“Wait! Wait!” the moving mud cried. Talking mud made no sense to Tangwen. She decided to stab it to be on the safe side. “No!” Slowly Tangwen was starting to understand that there was a person buried in the mud. His accent was strange, like Britha’s, but he seemed to know enough of the southern tongues to be understood.
“Who’re you?” she demanded, though she was so tired that her speech was slurred.
“My name is Wroid, I am of the Fib, a tribe from far to the north! Please, I was a prisoner in the Wicker Man!”
Kush had made it over to her now.
“There was a Wroid on the Wicker Man,” a brown-haired woman said as she waded through the mud towards them. She looked to have had a powerful build, before her imprisonment, but it had since gone to waste. One eye was white and dead, she had a mouth full of broken teeth, and scars across her lips. Tangwen reckoned her only a little older than herself, and thought that she had probably been a warrior. “When we spoke to those in the level below us they spoke of a Wroid, and his cronies, who were a band of thieves and rapists,” the woman spat.
Tangwen pushed the man who was trying to pull himself out of the mud back into it, and Kush looked down with distaste.
“Is this true?” Tangwen demanded, trying to think of a lower way to behave in the circumstances, and coming up with none.
“You must turn back,” the muddy man hissed. The scarred woman had reached them.
“Kill him, or better yet let me,” she said. She had been tiredly dragging a tree branch behind her.
“Who are you?” Tangwen asked, mostly something to say, to put off another decision that would try her exhausted mind.
“I am Branwen, daughter of Ehueubyrd, of the Iceni.”
Tangwen knew the name Iceni. They were said to be a warlike tribe from even further north than the Trinovantes.
Germelqart said something in his own language. Kush replied to the navigator.
“What is it?” Tangwen asked the tall, thin, powerfully built black man.
“He says there is something in the water,” Kush managed slowly in an approximation of Tangwen’s language. Tangwen knew she should ready herself, instead she just sighed. She was too tired.
“That’s what I was trying to tell you,” the mud-covered man said. “A horseman…”
“You speak with a serpent’s tongue!” Branwen snapped, earning her a sharp look from Tangwen.
“One of the Corpse People?” Tangwen asked, thinking of their confrontation on the causeway on the western island. Nobody else knew what she was talking about.
“The horse went into the water!” Wroid cried in exasperation. This got people’s attention.
“Glashtin?” Tangwen demanded. “A water horse.”
“It had a rider,” Wroid told her.
“They trick men and women onto their backs, and then drag them down to drown,” Branwen said.
“No, the rider did not resist, and there was something wrong with it, it looked... strange... somehow.”
“What was wrong with it?” a man asked as he crawled through the mud towards them. He too once looked like he had been heavily built, but more from fat than muscle. Folds of skin hung off a blotchy face. His hair and beard were thick, grizzled and black, with more than a little grey in them. Tangwen didn’t recognise his accent but he spoke her language well enough.
“He looked ill-sat on the back of the beast,” Wroid said, irritated at the questions.
“There is a foul creature from Otherworld,” the man began, “A nuckelavee, it is…”
“Is it over?” Wroid asked, sitting up in the mud. Tangwen had caked herself in mud to hunt, to scout, she was covered in mud now, but it had never been due to cowardice.
“You’re strong enough to rape but not to fight?” she asked. Wroid turned to look at her. This time his clever tongue deserted him. Tangwen walked over to him. He was shaking his head and started to protest. He lifted his hands to try and fend her off. She forced him back into the mud with a strength born of a cold fury, and stabbed him until he was red and still. The other survivors watched her, horrified but silent.
Finally she stood up.
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