Reclaiming the Circle

Introduction

This scene took place at the very end of chapter 27, Nightfall. In the scene, the reader is shown, through the POV of the bandits, just what happened when Rojer and the Painted Man went to reclaim their stolen possessions. The eventual fate of the bandits is still left a bit to the imagination, but the actions of the Painted Man, and by extrapolation, Rojer, are clear.

Why It Was Cut

This is one of a small handful of scenes in the book where I shift POV away from Arlen, Leesha, and Rojer and take on someone else’s perspective. There is nothing inherently wrong with shifting point of view to side characters from time to time. It’s a fun way to do quick character sketches, and to convey information to the readers that the main characters themselves don’t know. I used to do it constantly in my early novels, getting into the heads of even the most minor characters. This is different from the Omniscient Narrator, because the reader only gets one perspective at a time, with shifts occurring with section breaks.

With The Painted Man, however, I wanted to experiment with something closer to the Scott Meredith writing style, which strictly limits the number of POV’s on the premise that it creates a tighter and more compelling reading experience.

Still, there were a handful of times when I felt it was essential that the reader to see or know something that they otherwise wouldn’t in the lead character’s POV, and in these cases, I allowed myself to shift perspective briefly. I probably did it half a dozen times in the original manuscript, and my agent and I debated them all heavily while I was revising the draft for sale. Being a Meredith protégée himself, Joshua was of the strict mind that all POV shifts from the main 3 should be eliminated, period. I didn’t entirely agree. In the end, I conceded that 2/3 of them weren’t really necessary after all, but I held strong to the ones that I felt were. In the final manuscript, I think there were two of them:

1. The scenes where the Milnese guards, Woron and Gaims, watch One Arm over the wall of Miln.
a. These were something that Arlen himself would never have seen, but they were necessary to remind the reader that One Arm was still stalking Arlen, and to set up the action in the Breach chapter. Plus, the scene where One Arm breaks through the Milnese wardwall is just plain awesome.

2. The scenes with Mother Elissa, when she goes to speak with Mery after she and Arlen break up.
a. I knew we weren’t going to see either of them again in the first book, and I wanted to give some closure to their stories without lessening the impact of Arlen’s abrupt departure from the city with no intent to ever return. The scene also gives the reader insight into Arlen’s psyche that I think is valuable.

In the following scene, however, the POV shift adds nothing. We get no special insight into the bandits or the main characters through them, and since the Painted Man and Rojer are present in the scene, there’s no reason why it couldn’t be in their POV anyway.

I started to rewrite it in Rojer’s POV, but it occurred to me then that the scene itself was unnecessary, and I could just get rid of it and have done. There was no reason to spell out the details of Rojer and the Painted Man’s raid. It was sufficient to say that they set out to reclaim Rojer’s circle and Leesha’s horse, and that they succeeded. The rest is better left to the reader’s imagination, so they invest more in the argument later when Leesha finds the circle and the truth comes out.

Scene

The bandit stood sleepily at the edge of the circle, relieving himself. He was still wearing Rojer’s motley cap.

His half-lidded eyes widened as the Painted Man strode into the clearing. “You!” he cried, just as a warded foot arced into the air, connecting hard with his jaw and sending him spinning out of the circle.

The Painted Man completed the circuit, his foot coming down in time to charge the black-bearded man, striking the pit of the man’s stomach with his bald head, butting him backwards. He quickstepped a bit before falling flat on his back.

The Painted Man reached for the stake tethering the horse, but the mute grabbed him in a great bear hug from behind, lifting him clear off the ground. Each of the giant’s arms were thicker than both of the Painted Man’s together, but he only growled and flexed, breaking the grip easily.

He pivoted the moment his feet touched the ground, grabbing one of the mute’s treelike arms and ducking under it. A moment later, the giant, too, was flung from the circle.

The others had begun to recover, but none quickly enough to stop the Painted Man as he tore the stake from the ground and leapt astride the horse, kicking its flanks and sending it leaping towards the road.

The men snatched their weapons and brands from the fire to give chase, but by the time the made the road, the galloping horse was beyond the reach of their light, its hoofbeats fading fast.

The black bearded man looked about, suddenly realizing that they were exposed to the night. In the woods across the road, he found a pair of hard, shining eyes, staring back at him.

“We’re off,” he said to the others, never taking his gaze off those black orbs. “Back to the circle, slow like.”

They edged along slowly, heading back to their clearing. The eyes followed slowly, stalking.

They stepped from the trees, and the light at their backs gave the black-bearded man relief. “Come morning, we’ll track that son of the core and peel his tats off with a knife,” he promised, and the others grunted in assent.

But when they turned, they found their circle was gone.

And the eyes drew closer.