While digging through notes, I found this excerpt from yet another chapter that was cut from The Eternal Front. In the book, Sethlan receives a promotion to Haut Captain, which is a crucial distinction for one of his kind: It finally puts him on par with the overlords. He was to be paid, listened to, and trusted as one of the Imperials – purportedly! Sethlan should have been glad, or at least gratified, but it’s only a new source of ambivalence for his doubts about the war and the empire.
What I like best about this passage are the knucklebones, the modern imperial callback to the world’s gory past. Centuries earlier, Sethlan’s people might’ve affixed an entire severed hand to their armour like an epaulette… but today it’s a bone-shaped piece of silver. Then Sethlan pays for the insignia with a currency called “bones” – this is something I stole from an old friend, a madman from Shreveport, Louisiana, who would say things like, “They’re charging four bones for a slice of pizza!”
The bones, the traditions, the the carry-overs from a grotesque past – these were part of a campaign of story-clues, planted to become the themes of later books…
(PS: The nattering voice in Sethlan’s mind is a rider named Eponymous; she was implanted in his head without his knowledge. Sethlan thinks he’s going mad, but he’s begun talking to her. This was also a version of the story where Eponymous, out of sheer impatience at his ineptitude, was playing matchmaker for Sethlan. Their conversation, and the whole chapter, was cut because other parts of the book covered the same ground better.)