This is the FIRST DRAFT of the novel, flaws and all, that I am writing for National Novel Writing Month 2020. Please refer to these posts to see the entire creation of this, from scratch, should you desire. Comments will be closed as of January 1, 2021. For any comments prior to that, please… be kind. This is a first draft! It’s just meant to help inspire anyone to write anything, whether good or bad.
Vaeda sat alone, potentially on the edge of a cliff, potentially in the middle of a path that would warrant an attack, should one of the beasts of the cave choose to make itself known. His sat with his legs crossed, palms placed on his knees, and centered. All of the energies within him, representing the colors his eyes longed to look upon once more, burned brightly, aligned, and together.
At least he was at peace with himself.
Whenever chaos ensued around him, Vaeda had always managed to find a way to detach himself from all of it. He retreated within himself whenever he could, for there, deep within him, was a power both untapped and untouchable by anybody else.
He focused on the circular energies that began at his core and crept up his spine through the top of his head. Their warmth revitalized him. So long as he didn’t let any of those lights go dark, nothing could harm him. Nothing could stand in his way, or force him to lose his hope.
Eyes closed, Vaeda tried to envision a full of map of the cave around them. Although there were times his mind’s eye led him in the right direction, there were others when it led him astray. Once Go’Ranashu and Runavan had retreated for the evening, Vaeda spent some time focusing on the surrounding energies and aligning them with the images he saw in his mind. From where he sat, his mind’s eye told him a crevice that opened into a bottomless cavern should have been centimeters to his left. Eyes open, or simply physically testing that, proved that false.
Undeterred, Vaeda continued to focus on the vibrational energies he felt when his eyes were open. Part of him felt as though he could see those energies floating around him, but he knew the eyes created lights that did not exist when they struggled to adjust to the darkness.
He stood and raised his hands, feeling around before him to make sure there was nothing actually there. Eyes closed told him if he moved forward — away from the ravine — he would find an opening, narrow but comfortable, where he could raise his arms to either side of him and feel along the walls of the cave as he walked. Eyes open told him there were vibrational energies there that would prevent him from doing so.
Vaeda took a moment to stand at the edge of the path and consider this. Eyes open, he raised his hand and put it up to what he expected to be a wall. His hand, however, went through the vibrations and continued into the emptiness behind it. Eyes closed told him his and was already in the hallway, eyes open told him he was in a wall.
Trusting his closed eyes on this one, he stepped forward — eyes still open, just in case — and stepped around. He raised his hands on either side of him and felt along the wall, which was spaced exactly as eyes closed told him. Eyes open all but told him his physical body should be squashed from being inside of the walls as he was.
Seeing as how he still moved freely, he carried forward, trusting his sense of touch more than anything. Eyes open, eyes closed, the only truth he found was the one that rested in actuality, and that truth, as of now, lay within his fingertips and the soles of his feet. The empty air around him or the hard surfaces he encountered were the only truth he found as he examined his path, for what he saw, what he heard, even what he smelled didn’t always align with what actually existed.
Vaeda continued along the path, hopeful that he at least avoided any unwanted interactions with other life forms within the cave. He wondered if he would be able to sense any enemies before they arrived. Would their energies look different? Would eyes open tell him there was nothing, eyes closed warn him of something he couldn’t see?
A movement to his left stopped him in his tracks and he looked toward it. Eyes open told him there wasn’t anything more than the energies he was already supposedly trapped in. Eyes closed told him something moved, although he wasn’t sure about the level of trust he could put into whatever creature was behind the movement. Eyes closed proved more truthful in his current position than eyes open, and the sounds of the scuffled feet told him to put more trust into something being there than not.
He didn’t trust this, and decided he probably shouldn’t wander alone, especially if his mind wasn’t all the way there. The idea of grabbing hold of a memory still seemed laughable, as a white fog covered his brain any time he tried. Out of anything going on as of yet, that remained the most frustrating part for him. Go’Ranashu and Runavan may have thought he’d been trapped in the Lanniswell Hollow for an unknown period of time, but he still trusted, somewhere deep within him, that his time of being “aware” and his time of being trapped were truly one in the same.
It wasn’t the “awareness” that troubled him as much as it was about his inability to remember anything from “before.” He felt as though Go’Ranashu and Runavan suffered from similar problems, but they were more willing to accept that it was all because of the time spent lost being unaware in this cave.
He was not. Something was off here, and it was more than simply the fact this place existed at all. What had any of them done to the king? What treason had caused them to fall into this darkness? If it was enough to condemn them for their lives — perhaps even for the duration of time thereafter — why could they not know what they had done? Surely the point of their imprisonment was to force them to relive their crimes in their solitary confinement.
Runavan and Go’Ranashu could carry on thinking that so long as they desired, but it would not stop Vaeda from believing there was something more.
Whatever had potentially existed a moment ago didn’t follow him back to his encampment, and when he returned, he found Go’Ranashu and Runavan awake again. Go’Ranashu’s vibrations had come to take on a deep and soothing blue tone, while Runvan’s moved toward a brighter green.
“There you are,” said Go’Ranashu when Vaeda approached. “I worried you had wandered.”
“I wouldn’t have gone far,” said Vaeda.
“That might not matter sometimes,” said Runavan. The nervousness in his energies became more prevalent. “You don’t have to go far to get attacked.”
Vaeda thought back to the movement he had detected moments ago. “I thought I saw someone. Or perhaps something, I am unsure.”
“Where?” asked Go’Ranashu.
“In the path down the hallway over there,” Vaeda said, gesturing in the direction even though he knew the extra effort would remain unnoticed. “I sensed it might not be as welcoming as the two of you, so I came back.”
“What path?” asked Runavan as he stepped closer to Vaeda, who could almost feel the warmth of his body as their energies entered into each other’s spaces.
Continuing to remain honest, despite his uncertainty, Vaeda said, “After the two of you left me, I tried to connect with myself. My mind’s eye tells me one thing, and yet actuality sometimes differs. I saw a path within a wall with my eyes closed, but with them open, I saw the vibrations of the rocky walls. Yet when I ventured into them, I found that the path in my mind turned out to be true, but anytime I opened my eyes, the way seemed that much more unclear.”
Run-on walked forward toward the path Vaeda saw with his eyes closed. Eyes open continued to tell him of a wall, which Runavan inadvertently agreed with when he said, “Vaeda, my friend, there is nothing there.” A moment’s paused and a few tapping sounds proved Runavan ran his hands over the wall that eyes open told him was there. “It’s just a wall, like you said.”
Vaeda joined him and ran his hands along the wall, too. Reality agreed with eyes open this time, and no path made itself known this time. Eyes closed even seemed to agree that, should some form of a path actually exist, it wouldn’t be wide enough to allow him to move through it.
“I don’t understand,” said Vaeda as he joined Runavan in his examination of the wall.
“Could you have retreated further into your mind than you thought?” asked Go’Ranashu as he, too, met them at the wall and felt it. His tone remained sincere, and his presence stayed the only one Vaeda truly felt comfortable with.
“I do not know,” Vaeda answered truthfully. “I swore I walked down that path, became one with the energies of the wall, and saw other movement nearby.” He strained his ears, but nothing apart from the sound of their breathing traveled along his ear canal into the drum the registered noise.
“If we are not alone, I think I’d rather know,” said Runavan. “There are many mysteries within these caves, many paths that turn into many twisted directions. I swear, there are times I think the paths here move. That is why we can never find the exit. There isn’t any light, the paths change, and the creatures lurk. You may have gotten lucky now, for all we know. Maybe you weren’t trapped in your mind, but truly here, inside of these walls, next to a creature that could have taken your life in a blink if it had known you were there.”
Vaeda said nothing, and neither did Go’Ranashu. The three of them simply stood next to the wall, feeling its vibrations and each just as confused as the other.
“And what happens now?” asked Vaeda. “Do the two of you remain here, day in and day out?”
“No,” said Runavan, another hint of impatience rising to his tone. His energies indicated he’d shifted from a nervous wash of his hands to a more rigid stature. “But we also do not wander into walls at random without a clue as to what may or may not be on the other side.”
“We have food stored,” said Go’Ranashu, once more coming to the aid of a potential argument and doing his best to stifle it before it started.
Vaeda’s nose crinkled as he thought back to their conversation about where the food had come from. “And what’s on the menu for the day? Soldier? Innocent prisoner? Old friend who tried to fight you for your meat?”
Silence for a moment.
“The latter,” said Go’Ranashu. “He tried to kill Runavan, Runavan fought back, one winner remained.”
Vaeda swallowed bile again. “That’s sick.”
“It isn’t as though I asked for it,” said Runavan, his defensive tone coming once more to the forefront. “He had been my friend closer to five years, and I’d have given anything…” He paused, and they all knew he’d meant to finish the thought by wishing it were Go’Ranashu that had tried to attack him. Go’Ranashu, the Noverten beast that everyone assumed would have brought forth those violent tendencies anyway.
“It wasn’t as though I asked for it,” he repeated instead, choosing to remain docile over flagrant. “I almost let him kill me, too, instead of carry the weight of what I had to do to survive it. Every day, I think I should allow myself to starve instead of feast on the flesh of one I’d trusted so heartily once before.
“You think it easy, Vaeda, to live down here in these halls. It is not. I will allow your judgment, for now, but in time, you will learn on your own the ways of the Lanniswell Hollow. You will learn that sometimes it doesn’t matter whether you like something or not. Sometimes you have to do what you must to make sure you survive another day.”
“What of the unaware?” asked Vaeda. “Do any of them get attacked? Eat their friends? How do they survive.”
Another moment’s silence that told Vaeda Go’Ranashu and Runavan shared a look.
“No one knows,” said Runavan.
Vaeda sighed and maintained an effort to keep his aggravation at bay. To him, this proved another point becoming “aware” was something immediate upon arrival in the Lanniswell Hollow, and that it was the “before” that would potentially forever remain lost.
Why was Runavan stuck there any more than Vaeda or Go’Ranashu?
Why had this wall opened up into a path moments ago, but led to nothing now?
“No one knows,” Runavan said again, and Vaeda’s mind halted. If he hadn’t known better, he would have thought Runavan had slipped into his head for a moment as those questions presented themselves to him, but quieted the wonder.
From a distance, soft voices that grew louder with the passing seconds caught all three of their attention, and they looked to find the source of the noise.
“Do you call out in this type of situation?” asked Vaeda. “Or try to hide and hope for the best?”
Go’Ranashu scoffed. “Every interaction is a gamble.”
The voices grew louder, still. As they neared, Vaeda started to make out more of the details behind them. At first, he detected one female and one male, but after listening more, he noticed two women were involved in this conversation.
“They don’t sound harmful,” Vaeda suggested.
“They never do,” said Runavan. “And thinking things like that is how people like you get themselves killed.”