Hi, my name is Patrick Matthews. I’m the author of Dragon Run and The Boy With The Sword.
During the course of writing a novel, a lot of the story ends up not making it into the final book. There are many different reasons for dropping a scene, and not all of them are “it wasn’t good enough.”
Here are some of my lost scenes, along with a little writer's commentary before each one. Whether you're looking for a little deeper insight into Al and his friends, or a writer curious about my process, I hope you enjoy them.
Thanks for reading!
“Al, meet Master Ruipert.” Al’s dad nodded toward the thin man leaning against the wall of the barn.
Not quite as tall as Al’s dad, Master Ruipert was bald and tan, with narrow eyes and wrinkles that looked like they’d never experienced a smile. His clothes were dusty and well worn, and a scabbard hung from his hip. A long black box sat on the ground next to him.
Al stepped closer and held out his hand. “Um, hi.”
The man straightened so smoothly that his hand was clasping Al’s before Al realized it. He glanced up and down Al’s body. “Your balance is terrible.”
Standing behind him, Al’s dad chuckled. “He’s a hard worker and a quick learner. He won’t let you down.”
Master Ruipert raised his gaze to Al’s father. “There are others I should be training, others who actually need my help.”
“They need my help more.”
Al moved out from between them. He’d heard his dad use that tone before. It was his “I’m Overseer Pilgrommor, and you won’t mess with me” voice. No one ever did.
The two men stared at each other. Several tense breaths passed, and then Master Ruipert sighed. “Very well.” He transferred his attention back to Al. “We will meet in this barn every morning as the sun rises. We will practice for two hours.” He knelt and opened the black box. Inside it was an array of swords, both metal and wood.
Al’s eyes widened.
Master Ruipert selected a wooden sword and handed it to Al. Its blade was as wide as three finger-widths, with an edge on one side and a sharp point at the end. Al grabbed its pommel. “It’s heavier than it looks.”
“It’s weighted to match an actual weapon. Keep it safe and secret. I expect two hours of drilling every evening.” He closed the black box and lifted it onto his shoulder. “I will know if you skip.”
Without another word, Master Ruipert walked away. Al watched him, fascinated. The man’s every movement seemed effortless. When he’d lifted the box, there had been no pause to prepare himself. When he started walking, there was no shift in his balance.
“Come on.” Al’s father said, patting him on the shoulder. “We have chores to get to.”
Al looked at his wooden sword. “I don’t understand why we have to keep this secret.”
His dad steered him toward the house. “After your Testing Day, you’re going to start training to be an Overseer. You will be very busy then, with no time to learn the necessities.”
The “necessities” were subjects that his dad considered to be important to any person of decent rank: heraldry, fencing, and numbers. Al was also studying UnderEarth, the language of the earthers. His dad didn’t include that as part of the necessities, but was still making Al learn.
“Okay,” Al said. “But that doesn’t explain why it has to be secret. Why can’t Wisp learn with me? Or Trillia?”
His dad stopped walking and turned to face him. “The life you’re heading for is complicated, Al. Becoming an Overseer requires more than just being rank four. Even though you’re my son, you’ll still have to beat out others for your position. There’s no telling who the Magisters will appoint. If Lord Gronar gets involved, things get even more uncertain. I want you to have every advantage. I want you to have mastered the necessities without anyone else knowing you’re even aware of them.”
“No buts. This is important, Al. You’re going to need these skills.”
“But heraldry? The Magisters and dragons appoint all the nobility anyway. What do their symbols matter?”
His dad chuckled again. “They matter.”
They walked quietly up the hill toward their home. When they reached the front porch, Al turned to his dad. “Do you know how to fight with a sword?”
“As good as Master Ruipert?”
“No one is as good as Master Ruipert.” His dad smiled. “Not even Master Ruipert, if you know what I mean. Now take that thing upstairs and hide it, then get to the fields.”
Al groaned. He’d argued and argued over the past few days, but his dad had remained firm. Even though he was learning the necessities, Al was still expected to continue his work in the fields as a farmhand.
This is going to be the most exhausting summer of my life, he thought as he carried the sword upstairs to his room.
“Again.” Master Ruipert scooped a big glop of redberry jam out of the jar and slathered it onto a piece of toast.
Al raised his sword to the first parry position. “But I’ve been doing the same thing for two months!”
“And you’ll keep doing it until you stop moving like a pregnant cow.”
Al brought his sword through the first progression of parries and counters that Master Ruipert had taught him. He’d done the movements so often that he didn’t even need to think about them anymore. After the first progression, he moved onto the second, and then the third.
Halfway through the seventh, Master Ruipert finished his toast and wiped his hands on his pants. “Okay.” He drew his sword. “That last routine wasn’t all bad. Let’s see it for real.”
Al’s eyes widened. “What?” Master Ruipert held a real weapon in his hands, not one of the wooden practice blades.
“Time to stop playing around. You need to learn to face a real weapon.”
“But I’m not ready!”
“Then this is going to hurt.”
Al moved into his base stance, holding his sword at the ready. Master Ruipert moved like no one else Al had ever seen. It was like the man never needed to shift his balance, which made predicting his movements all but impossible. Al had been hit more times in practice than he could count.
And now he’s trying to stab me with a real weapon.
The first attack came high, a stab toward his chest. Al parried hard, and as Master Ruipert’s weapon was forced out of line, he spun his sword around his opponent’s and shoved, trying a disarm maneuver. Master Ruipert’s blade moved faster, spinning around Al’s and slapping it out of the way.
“Not a bad choice.” Master Ruipert said. “But be careful. If the disarm fails, you can be left wide open.” He raised his weapon. “This time, let’s go a little faster.”
Al’s heart raced in his chest.
Master Ruipert stabbed, in exactly the same place as the first time. The blade moved so fast, Al didn’t have time to think. He stepped back as he parried, barely avoiding the tip. Master Ruipert brought his sword around again, this time in a slash. Al parried, stepping back again. The attacks continued, driving Al backward until his back touched the wall of the barn.
“Backing up is a valid strategy.” Master Ruipert said. “Until it’s not. The smart swordsman uses it only when necessary.”
Al licked his lips. He hadn’t been retreating as a strategy. He’d just been trying to stay alive. His eyes narrowed as he focused on Master Ruipert’s chest. The slightest of shifts warned him, and he parried just in time, pushing Master Ruipert’s weapon away from his chest.
The man’s eyebrows raised. “At last I see the potential your dad has spoken of. Now keep that focus.”
Al parried two more attacks, one high and one low, delivered in rapid succession. After the second attack, he tried a simple riposte, but it was batted away.
Master Ruipert stepped backwards and lowered his blade.
“Tell your father I was wrong, Al. You have progressed well. I’ll see you tomorrow. Drill hard tonight. Tomorrow, we’ll move faster than quarter speed.” Sheathing his sword, he turned and walked out of the barn.
“Quarter speed?” Al said hollowly. His mouth felt dry. He’d been moving as fast as he could.