PLL is kicking off the U.S. blog tour leading up to Fiona Paul’s BELLADONNA release next week (07/16) and we have something VERY special for you today:
VENOM’s DELETED EPILOGUE
… with some annotations from the lovely Fiona herself!
Do you often find yourself wondering about the relationship between an editor and author? Or why authors are sometimes asked to cut entire chapters? Here’s your chance to not only read an eerie epilogue that didn’t make the cut, but to get the inside scoop on why scenes like these are sometimes cut.
VENOM: Deleted Epilogue!
South of the Rialto, on the island of Giudecca, a peasant girl made her way across an overgrown meadow. The high reeds slapped at her bare legs; flies buzzed around her sweating face. She carried a pair of woven baskets on a pole resting on her shoulder. Her mother had sent her to the river for water.
Something white fluttered in the tall grass. At first the girl thought it was a dove, trapped within the thick reeds, beating its wings to escape. As she got closer, she realized it was a scrap of cloth. She stooped down to examine it and found a lovely handkerchief. Her eyes widened as she lifted it from the glass. Silk. The mark of the upper-classes, as peasants were forbidden to wear or carry it. The girl tucked it into the folds of her simple muslin gown anyway. She would have to keep her treasure a secret from her four sisters, or else the eldest would claim it as her own.
The swarm of flies grew thicker. She waved the handkerchief in front of her face, sending the winged beasts scattering. As she neared the riverbank, a foul smell engulfed her. The girl gagged on the thick putrid air. Something had died here, she was sure of it. She froze, debating whether to turn back, even though it meant she would be scolded for not completing her chores. Again, something white flapped in the reeds in front of her. More silk? Her eyes flicked around her nervously. No one was watching. She was alone.
Covering her nose and mouth with one of her hands, the girl edged forward, trying not to gag as the odor of death grew more pungent. She focused only on the fluttering white cloth. She bent down to grab the scrap of silk and realized it wasn’t silk at all. It was thinner, gauzier; the fabric disintegrated in her hands.
She pushed forward, to the water’s edge, intent on filling her baskets as her mother had requested. The reeds were highest just along the bank and the girl reached out with one hand to make a path through them. A twig snapped under her foot and she jumped back. One of her baskets toppled off the pole she carried. As she bent down to retrieve it, she noticed a shock of blonde hair protruding from the grasses at her feet. So silky and smooth. It looked more like ribbon or flax than actual hair.
The reeds parted as the girl grabbed hold of her basket and she realized with dread that it hadn’t been a twig that had snapped under her feet. It had been an arm.
A human arm.
Her stomach twisted violently as her eyes followed the broken limb back to the torso of what had once been a girl.
She wanted to run, but for a few seconds she couldn’t tear her eyes away from the body. A thin cotton shroud had fallen away in pieces, leaving behind arms and legs that were almost completely bare of muscle and flesh, having no doubt been picked clean by scavengers. The breasts and belly had been split open by someone or something, a dark crevasse remaining where the dead girl’s organs should have been. Slashing bite marks covered what was left of her flesh. Rats.
Or perhaps vampires.
The girl’s face had also been ravaged, scant scraps of skin clinging to the hollows of her cheeks, a single milky eye half protruding from its socket.
Something rustled in the tall grass behind her and the peasant girl stumbled back from the body, dropping her pole and both of the baskets. This time she didn’t care. So she would be punished, probably forced to weave two new baskets by herself. It didn’t matter. Evil lurked in the meadow, and it was hungry.
The girl turned and fled, racing through the high grass, not stopping even when one of her soft leather shoes got stuck in the reeds and pulled free of her foot. Her heart battered against her ribcage; her blood accelerated in her veins. She plunged forward, back along the deserted trail from which she had come. Sharp stones cut into her bare foot, but she barely felt them. She didn’t even notice that she was bleeding until the outskirts of her village came into view and she dared to slow down.
Only when she was safely ensconced in the house, did she take the time to wrap an old rag around her foot as a bandage. As she huddled on the straw-filled mattress she shared with her sisters, she pulled the square of white cloth from inside the bodice of her dress. Had the lovely silk handkerchief belonged to the dead girl, to that abomination in the grass? It must have.
The peasant girl examined the square of silk with shaking fingers. She flipped it over and read the name embroidered there. Liviana.
Fiona’s comments: The original purpose for this epilogue was to show that Angelo de Gradi and the Order had, in fact, used Liviana’s body for their research. To set this up, I added a bit to Chapter One (which was cut from the final book) to the effect of: “A white silk handkerchief was knotted around one of Liviana’s wrists. So it won’t get lost on the way to heaven, Cass thought.” I have no idea if that has any basis in fact, I just felt like there was no way a handkerchief placed in a dead girl’s hands would still be there after the Order finished draining her blood and dissecting her. But then there was the secondary problem of how to definitively connect the Order to this scene. I thought the hollow body cavity was enough to implicate them, but the editorial team wanted something more. Some of the editors pitched things like leaving a scarf or a token with the Order’s six-petaled flower insignia nearby. That didn’t work for me because Livi washing up on the Giudecca was just a body dump, not a ritualized killing. Besides, it’s a SECRET order so they really shouldn’t go around tagging their crimes like some serial killer who wants to be caught, right?
Because of these issues, we opted to cut the epilogue—even though it is so deliciously creepy!–and end with the more pensive scene of Cass considering who she’s meant to spend her future with and ultimately coming to what I feel is a very girl-power decision. Hope you enjoyed!
Comment on what you liked best about the deleted scene (The big reveal at the end? Fiona’s note? The lovely – and creepy – descriptions?) for a chance to win an ARC of STARLING (the FINAL book in the Secrets of the Eternal Rose trilogy). Contest is US only and the winner will be contacted in the comments thread so be sure to check back before Wednesday to see if you won!
Tomorrow, stop over at Bookalicious Pam’s blog for an annotated excerpt of BELLADONNA! And come back to the PLL blog later this week for a special VENOM Venn Diagram + some character cards with details on our main trio to remind you who’s who before reading the sequel!