As promised, welcome to the first of nine blog posts featuring deleted scenes from The Lunar Chronicles!
SPOILERS WARNING: Even though this scene was ultimately deleted from the manuscript, it still contains information and references to things that did make it into the book. I strongly encourage readers to enjoy the published books before proceeding!
Lunar Chronicles Deleted Scene #1
From: Cinder, 1st draft
Featuring: Cinder and Kai
Naming Notes: For clarity, “Adele” later became Adri, “Merlin” (yes, Merlin) became Dr. Erland; and “Coen” became Konn Torin (and pssst, he was originally a villain, secretly working for Levana! DUN DUN DUN).
Editing Notes: I really debated whether or not I should “clean up” the text of these deleted scenes before posting them. Truly, there were times when it was painful for me to read over them and not allow myself to fix this run-on sentence or delete that superfluous adverb, but I thought that posting them in their unedited versions might be useful for some aspiring writers out there to see the text rough and un-polished. Therefore, these scenes have been left untouched, with the exception of very obvious typos or misspellings.
Helpful set-up: This scene took place about halfway through the book, when Cinder went to the palace to see Prince Kai but was met with a crowd of protestors and turned away by the guards. In this initial draft, she didn’t have a handy royal android (Nainsi) to alert Kai to her presence, though, so she had to get resourceful… by using her cyborg brain to find a secret passage into the wall, of course!
* * *
At first, nothing happened. But when she pulled harder, she felt something budge, just a little. Putting all the might of her robotic limb into it, she pulled until a slab of interconnected stones pulled out from the wall, and she was left holding a heavy stone-and-grout door and staring into a dark tunnel, filled with cobwebs.
She looked at the guards and, seeing them still preoccupied, climbed into the corridor before she could change her mind. The door was outfitted with handles on the inside too and, with a little bit of grunting, she was able to lift it up and pull it back into place behind her.
It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the darkness, which she spent brushing the cobwebs from hair and shoulders, glad that years of cleaning attics and chimneys for Adele had left her with a lack of fear of the everyday creepy-crawlies.
Standing at full height, the corridor’s ceiling was a good four feet from the top of her head, the same height as the castle’s ceilings, and the walls so close together that she had to walk at a slight angle as she made her way slowly into the shadows. There were two horizontal slits in the walls on either side, just above her eyelevel. She stood on her tiptoes to peer through one and saw that it looked out into one of the meeting rooms, but the view was dark and hazy. She guessed that the slit was hidden behind some sort of sheer curtain.
And so she’d been right—it was meant for spying.
As both of the meeting rooms were still empty, she proceeded down the hallway. It was much longer than it had seemed on the palmscreen’s tiny holographic map. One meeting room she passed had a couple servants in it laughing quietly together and drinking a bottle of rice wine. But otherwise, they all seemed deserted at the day’s late hour.
But as she made her way deeper into the castle’s framework, she began to hear more voices and footsteps on either side of her, some low and secretive, others boisterous and chatty, none suspecting that a spy could be in their midst, lingering in their very walls.
Cinder was suddenly hit with a feeling of discomfort. This was far too easy. She should not have been able to breach the castle’s security so easily.
When this was over, she would have to tell Merlin and make sure that something was done about this right away. She didn’t want to think that someone with evil intentions could steal into the castle just as she had done.
She was lost in these thoughts when she rounded a corner in the hidden stairwell and was suddenly grabbed by a strong arm.
A gasp and scream welled up in her but a hand clapped over her mouth.
And the scream sizzled away when she found herself staring into dark eyes, almost black in the corridor’s shadows, and looking just as wild and startled as she herself felt.
It was Prince Kai.
Recognition seemed to hit him at the same moment it hit her, and his grip loosened over her mouth. But he did not move the arm that was around her, pinning both her arms to her sides and holding her firmly against a metal support stud.
Without speaking, his eyes flickered to the wall behind her. That’s when Cinder heard the voices, quiet and murmuring, in the next room. There was a spyhole just over her shoulder and Kai kept his gaze on it as he held her, his brown drawn in concentration as he tried to make out the words.
It became clear that he’d all but forgotten her in his focus, even with one arm still tight around her, and one hand now lingering on her shoulder, and their bodies so close that she could feel his quick heartbeat.
She licked her lips and tried to keep her breathing as slow and quiet and possible, and listened as the words slowly became clear.
“—knows that it is the best choice for this country. And for all of the earthen kingdoms,” said one voice, deep and rough. Advisor Coen?
“I’m just not sure that it is,” said another male voice, not as deep. “She is not who I would have thought to be an ideal… choice.”
“You are not looking at the big picture. We all know it would be a marriage in name only, I certainly don’t expect them to fall in love or anything naive like that. But think what it would do for the relationship between the earth and the moon. No more threats of war would be only the beginning. The combination of our technology and the moon’s sorcery could lead to the greatest, most advanced civilization this galaxy has ever seen. But how will we ever accomplish that if there is no communication between the two cultures?”
“Communication, yes—we all agree there needs to be communication. But why must he marry her?”
“To ensure that we do not repeat this phase of distrust and silent threats that we’ve been experiencing for the past two decades. To unite the two royal families through blood—a common heir—would lead to an unbreakable alliance.”
A third, feminine voice interrupted. “What I worry about is the queen’s motives. Do we really think she desires only peace and a unity that could give her a child, after all this time?”
“What other motive could she have?” asked Coen.
There was a momentary silence, before the woman said, “Well, we’ve all heard the rumors about her. How she runs the country. If she is indeed drunk with power as the sources would suggest then expanding her rule to the earth would be a logical step.”
“I would like to remind everyone that what we know are only rumors. The moon people are severely misunderstood, largely because no one on earth has sought to debunk the myths surrounding them. And as for the queen wishing to arrange this marriage only so that she may increase her empire, well, she could just as easily do that by aiming a few missiles in our direction. Or infiltrating the minds of our world leaders and demanding allegiance through her magic powers, IF she has the ability as the rumors suggest. Look, in her thirteen years of rule, Queen Levana has done nothing to the people of the earth, and no one can doubt that it isn’t in her power to do significant harm if she wished it. That alone is a credit to her goodwill.”
Cinder watched Kai’s face for signs of disbelief or disgust, but he was as emotionless as stone. Only his eyes seemed haunted as they stared into nothing.
“And what of this army she’s supposedly raising?” asked the unknown man. “These… these beasts.”
Coen gave a sound, something like a snort. “I am convinced that the American Republic has been duped by a practical joke. Those images were clearly fakes. Can you imagine the queen dreaming up such a scheme, and then leaving it out in the open for any satellite to see? It’s absurd. It’s the stuff of fairy tales.”
“But shouldn’t we investigate further before asking our king to unite himself to this woman?”
“We are already working on investigating it,” Coen said, and Cinder saw a flicker of confusion in Kai’s face, as if he hadn’t known about any such investigation. “But we haven’t much time. The people of the Eastern Commonwealth will be anxious for a royal wedding as soon as Kai is coronated. Plus, we all know that Levana will request an answer at the meeting of the full moon. Kai needs to be prepared to give her one.”
“Well then let Kai make the decision. He will be king, after all.”
“And a great king he will be. But he is young still and I worry he will allow his youthful prejudices to influence this decision. I am asking for your help to convince him that his marrying Queen Levana is the best thing he can do for his kingdom and his people. It is possibly the only way he can keep us from entering into another horrific war.”
There was some uncertain grunting and humming before chairs were pushed back and Coen thanked his audience for giving him the time. The sound of a door opening and closing followed.
And then Cinder found herself alone in the secret, narrow hallway with Prince Kai still pressed up against her. They were surrounded by silence and heat and despite the conversation she’d just overheard, Cinder could not help delighting in the unfamiliar feel of a strong arm wrapped around her and warm, sensual breath upon her shoulder and a stray lock of silky hair on her ear.
Slowly, Kai seemed to reawaken from his thoughtful stupor and he heaved a sigh that spoke of desperation and responsibility. His gaze refocused on Cinder with something of surprise and she just blinked at him. She felt his fingers tense around her arm, as if testing the feel of her sleeve.
“Hello again,” he said in the most mild voice imaginable.
His face was softened after the intense struggle to concentrate on the meeting, filling Cinder with peculiar, warm tingles.
“They want you to marry the moon queen?”
His gaze danced away to the spy hole. “Coen does.”
“But the people don’t. They’re protesting it outside.”
She expected him to release her at any moment, but he didn’t. In fact, she found his fingers gently, absently caressing her shoulder, and she wondered if it was possible that he was just as enamored with the sensation of holding as she was with the sensation of being held.
With a gulp, she clenched the gloved fingers of her robotic hand and tried to tuck it behind her, afraid that should he brush against it he would feel the cool, hard metal through the thin cotton glove.
But her other hand stretched forward cautiously until it found Kai’s waist and grasped at the material of his tunic. In response, he pulled her closer, though it was hard to tell if he did it consciously.
“I don’t want to marry the moon queen,” he whispered, and there was aching in the voice that nearly broke Cinder’s heart.
“Then don’t,” she said. “It’s your choice, isn’t it?”
“And risk insulting her by rejecting her offer? That would be one quick way to turn our country into a war zone.”
His chin settled down on her shoulder. The hand on her shoulder made its way around her back until she was almost drowning in the embrace that was so peculiar and startling and yet almost natural. Her stomach flipped at the realization that it did feel almost natural. It felt as though being cradled against him was the only reasonable place for her to be.
But then, she’d never been held by any boy before. How was she to know that it didn’t always feel that way?
And… it was the prince.
The very thought of it made her muscles tighten with nervousness. She desperately tried to dispel it and found herself chuckling awkwardly to herself. “All the girls in the kingdom will be so disappointed when they find out that you’re probably going to marry someone else,” she murmured, followed by another partial laugh.
A mildly amused chuckle followed from him as well. “I’d like to think so.”
“They all think you’re going to find a bride at the ball. They’re all planning their dresses and hairstyles right now in hopes that you’ll choose them.”
A silence followed. It occurred to Cinder that this may have been a very stupid thing for her to say, but when the prince pulled away from her—just barely, just enough to look into her eyes again—he did not look upset. Perhaps a little sad. Perhaps even a little hopeful.
And then he kissed her.
Cinder froze against him, stunned and wide-eyed at the feel of soft, warm lips against hers.
It was a short kiss, tender and longing, and left her trembling to the core. When Kai pulled away, still holding her close, she found herself unable to breathe as she stared up at him. She was heartened to see that he looked stunned too, as if the falling, suffocating feeling was not restricted to her alone.
A hint of a shy smile touched his lips and he looked as if he would say something.
And then a sharp stab of pain shot up Cinder’s spine. With a cry, she collapsed against the prince, shuddering as the pain arched through every nerve and fiber, ending in a hot, angry burning where her skin melded with metal.
“What’s wrong?” Kai asked her, his voice full of fear, but she barely heard him over the tumultuous agony frothing in her head. She gritted her teeth and grunted, struggling to breathe as the pain constricted her lungs and throat. Her legs gave out and she found herself supported by Kai’s grasping, terrified hands.
“It’s okay,” she said through her teeth. “It… it won’t last long.” Even as she said it, the pain was fading and she found herself struggling to gulp down the air.
“What was it? What happened?”
Cinder shook her head against his shoulder. “It just… happens, sometimes.”
“Did I do something?”
She flinched at his worry, unable to answer the question. She wasn’t honestly sure she knew the answer. In the past, the pain from the base of her spine had only struck her at times of supreme, passionate anger. She’d never experienced it when she was happy.
But then, how many times in her life had she been supremely, passionately happy?
“No, it’s all right,” she said, trying to keep her limbs from trembling as she backed out of Kai’s supporting embrace. “It just comes and goes. I never know when it will happen.”
She met his gaze and tried to smile reassuringly, but he did not look at all calmed.
“What should I do?”
“I need to go see Merlin,” she said.
Kai nodded, but slowly. “He can help?”
“Okay. Can you walk?”
“Yes. The pain is almost gone now. I’m really fine.”
Kai was silent a moment as he analyzed her face, then his frown softened. “Good,” he said, reaching up and brushing a strand of hair back from her face.
She had a deep, unnatural fear that his kindness would trigger the pain again and shivered at the touch. Then Kai reached down to take her hand—her mechanical hand—and she jerked it away as if burned.
When he looked at her with uncertainty, she tried to smile at him and pretend that she’d only been caught off guard, before slipping her gloved, human hand into his. A thrill rushed up her and Kai gently squeezed her fingers, even though it was clear that his panic had not entirely disappeared.
They had to walk single file, and at an awkward angle, as they proceeded down the secret corridor. They didn’t speak and Cinder was glad for the silence as she tried to figure out what could have caused the eruption of pain.
The kiss, it would seem.
She had always thought the pain was related to stress, and maybe it was.
Falling in love could be stressful, couldn’t it?
But the thought brought both denial and hopelessness falling all around her. Denial, because she barely knew the prince. Sure, she’d had a crush on him since she was thirteen, as all red-blooded girls in the Eastern Commonwealth did, but she’d met him less than a week ago. And this was only the second real conversation they’d ever shared, and it was about him marrying somebody else.
Which was, of course, the source of her hopelessness.
He was going to marry somebody else. He was going to marry the Moon Queen.
The thought sickened her, and it wasn’t just jealousy.
2016 Marissa Commentary: Remember how I made you guys wait three whole books before you got a real kiss between these two? Well, clearly I used to be much more generous! And yes, this was officially the first kiss scene I ever wrote for this series. Oh, memories…
Stay tuned for next week, when I think I’ll be sharing a snippet from the original ball scene… or maybe we’ll jump straight to something from Scarlet? I’m not sure yet. Either way, more to come!