This scene takes place not long after Arlen is found on the road by Ragen and Keerin in chapter 8. It was designed to do a little worldbuilding with regards to corelings and the rules that govern them. Corelings “rise” by dematerializing and following paths (natural currents of magic) that radiate from the Core. Corelings can only rise through natural paths, and not worked stone or wood. They can only rise at night because the sun destroys them.
So could they rise inside a cave during the day? It’s dark down there, and there are presumably paths to the Core, since caves are natural formations. No one in Arlen’s world knows the answer for sure, so Messengers like Ragen take precautions, using mirrors to shine sunlight into iffy places.
I also wanted to show that Arlen was illiterate, but that he loved maps, to pave the way for his obsession with finding lost places.
Why It Was Cut
This was an early sacrifice to the word count gods. I thought the mirror technique was a little impractical, and the scene lifted right out. No one missed it, not even me. I threaded in the pertinent info elsewhere in the final draft.
Ragen dismounted and went to the cart, removing an item wrapped in cloth. Arlen’s eyes widened when Ragen unwrapped a large silvered mirror, some three feet high. He had never seen something so beautiful.
“Wait here and stay on the cart,” Ragen ordered. He stuck a spear in the ground outside the cave, and angled the mirror to catch the sunlight and reflect it inside. There was a low growl from within, and Keerin grabbed a spear, clutching it tightly.
Ragen bent to examine the dirt by the mouth. He grunted, took his spear, and slipped inside. There were a few moments of silence, then another growl followed by a high pitched squeal. Ragen came out a moment later, hauling a carcass. “Badger,” he announced, throwing the creature down. “They’re not the best eating, all tough and stringy, but we have time to boil the meat, and the pelt will fetch a fair price once we get to Miln.”
Later, Arlen sat close to the fire’s light, looking at his map of Tibbet’s Brook. He still thought the map wondrous, a few scribbled lines that summed up his home; it was like carrying a piece of Tibbet’s Brook with him wherever he went.
As he finished his coffee, Ragen hefted his spear and came back to the fire, kneeling as he rinsed the pot.
“What have you got there?” the Messenger asked.
“The map Coline gave us,” Arlen said. “It didn’t help much, but I like to look at it.”
Ragen held out his hand, and Arlen handed him the paper. “Not very good,” he grunted. “And the handwriting is terrible.”
Arlen shrugged. “Doesn’t matter,” he said, “I don’t have letters.”
Ragen arched an eyebrow. “You can ward dirt well enough to hold back a coreling host, but you can’t read?” he asked.
Again, a shrug. “You don’t get cored for not being able to read.”
Ragen frowned. He rolled the map up in its tube, then went to his saddlebag, producing a leather satchel. He rifled through the paper within.
“Ah,” he said at last, pulling a piece free. He brought it over and handed it to Arlen, who looked down at it blankly. “This is the map Graig made of Tibbet’s Brook,” he said.
Arlen’s eyes widened as he looked at the map. The difference in quality was immediately apparent. Lines along the edges ticked off distances, and the terrain symbols were so intuitive that Arlen immediately knew marsh from pasture from farmland. There was a symbol at the top, next to the name. A shield painted with lush fields split by a stream that fed a small pond.
“Keep it,” Ragen said, seeing the boy’s interest.
“This is too precious,” Arlen protested.
“Bah,” Ragen said. “There are copies at the Messenger’s Guild office. I can get another.”
“Thank you,” Arlen said, carefully rolling the paper into the tube with Coline’s map.