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.
“Who’s there?” Vaeda called, unafraid of whomever they encountered.
Go’Ranashu grabbed Vaeda’s arm, the first time any real contact had been made since Vaeda discovered Go’Ranashu’s race. There wasn’t any anger in the touch, but Runavan’s voice proved distrustful as he snapped, “What are you doing?”
“Who’s there?” one of the female voices called back. Her tone matched the unwavering stance Vaeda’s had taken, and he softened. They were just as afraid, perhaps, of encountering an enemy, and perhaps this was an opportunity to make peace and bring forth unity. Runavan could remain afraid, Go’Ranashu hesitant, but Vaeda wouldn’t allow himself to succumb to their levels of skepticism just yet.
“I am Vaeda,” he announced proudly.
“Vaeda!” Go’Ranashu whispered. “Stop that, you don’t know who they are!”
“Exactly,” said Vaeda, his voice quieter than before but not quiet enough to become afraid to speak. “We don’t know they’re an enemy any more than they could be a friend.”
“It isn’t worth the gamble!” insisted Runavan.
“I’m inclined to agree,” said the woman who had spoken, but her voice became clearer now, almost coming from right over Vaeda’s shoulder.
He turned to follow the sound of the voice and found red vibrations emanating from the woman who neared. Behind her, purple hues stood in the middle, bookended by a yellow light from behind her. As Vaeda looked around, the blue lighting around Go’Ranashu strengthened, as did the green around Runavan, and he found himself grateful for the opportunity to start both understanding where people stood, as well as being able to tell them apart.
“There is no need to fear us,” said the woman who belonged to the purple vibrations. She moved forward and stood next to the woman in red. Her immediate presence was more soothing, almost as if she spoke more to the woman next to her than to the strangers they’d just encountered.
“I am not afraid,” said Vaeda, although just beneath the surface, he wondered if that bore any actual truth.
“Speak for yourself,” muttered Runavan.
“I have told you my name,” Vaeda continued, ignoring him. “Do you not think it proper to do the same?”
The Red Woman chuckled. “Who are you to speak to me of propriety?”
“Now, Yaga,” said the Yellow Man, moving more forward as though ready to stand between this woman and Vaeda. “I hardly think there’s any need to get so defensive already.”
“I think I’m inclined to agree,” said Vaeda. “Particularly when we are all more than likely trapped in the same situation.”
“We’re clearly all in the same situation,” snapped the Red Woman, Yaga. “Are you able to see clearly?”
“Arguing won’t get us any further in this, Yaga,” said the Purple Woman. The energies shifted to suggest they now faced Vaeda, Go’Ranashu, and Runavan. “In fact, that was the very argument the three of us were in the middle of when you called out. The matter and question of trust.”
“And who deserve it,” said the Yellow Man.
“And who doesn’t,” snapped Yaga. Her energies, too, red and fiery as they were, turned toward Vaeda, too. “Forgive me if I don’t hand it so readily to strangers.”
Runavan chuckled. “Can’t say I’d disagree with you there.”
“That sounds lovely,” said the Purple Woman. “Why don’t the two of you head off together and leave my head in peace? I don’t think I can’t stand another day’s worth of arguments over matters of trust. I think I’m more inclined to side with this Vaeda, here, that we’re all in the same situation. The question at hand, I’d wonder, should be more about how to get ourselves out of it.”
“Which,” said Go’Ranashu, “is the exact argument the three of us were having, as well.”
“There are just those of us who do not believe the way out of this exists,” said Vaeda, turning his own vibrations toward Runavan.
“And the same could be said over here,” said the Yellow Man.
Vaeda turned toward him. “The two of you have yet to introduce yourself,” he said, maintaining a polite tone while trying to keep a serious enough tone to indicate he’d still like the answer.
“I’m Cochava,” said the Purple Woman.
“Surid,” said the Yellow Man.
“And how long have you all been aware?” asked Vaeda.
Surid laughed. “Longer than anyone in this cave, I’d wager.”
Runavan matched the snicker. “I know that feeling.”
“I think I’m nearing forty years of awareness,” said Surid. “Prior to that, I suppose I don’t know how long I’ve wandered the Hollow.”
“None of us remember anything from the before,” said Vaeda. “That is what I seek to find, now.”
Yaga laughed, a high-pitched cackle that sent a wave down the vibrations of her scarlet spirit. “You sound like these two,” she sneered. “There is nothing from ‘before.’ There’s nothing before The Awareness. There is no escape from the Lanniswell Hollow, and we’ll all wind up dead down here one way or the other, whether we hope to find our way out of here or not.”
A moment of silence followed her words, and Vaeda looked toward Runavan. “Sound familiar?” he asked.
“Exactly,” said Runavan. “Seems as though Yaga here is the only one among us with some sense between her ears.”
“I would heavily disagree,” said Cochava. Her voice carried a deeper timbre, bookended with rasps in between her breaths and hers was a tone that suggested she lacked patience for people who tried to question her. “These two may have run around in circles around here for years, but I don’t think that’s all there is to this. As for me, I’ve searched these caves nearly three years, but I think I’m closer to figuring it out than these two.”
“You sound like Vaeda,” said Go’Ranashu, who still carried a judgeless tone. Although unsure as to why Go’Ranashu believed in him so much, Vaeda counted his blessings that at least somebody believed in him.
“Vaeda sounds like a fool,” said Yaga.
Red energies of his own flares up inside of Vaeda and he clenched his fists. For a moment, he thought the entire room had lit up in a momentary flash; Yaga, with her wiry red hair and withered glare, wearing a robe that looked as though it belonged on the king himself; Cochava, with her winged hat atop her head, her purpose dress oddly clean considering the circumstances; Surid, the skin atop his shaven head glinting in this random burst of light, his tattered clothes looking the most in place for where they were; Runavan, thicker than most, the last bits of his hair clinging to the forefront of his scalp, his green eyes glinting with more knowledge than his voice let out; and Go’Ranashu, the beastly mixture of a ram and bull, taller than them all, rigid muscles visible even through his thickened black fir; and himself, a glimpse of his feet, as they all stood together within the belly of the cave, conflicted over the opinion as to whether the idea of an escape was possible.
In the same moment everything lit up, it darkened again, and Vaeda realized he had simply seen a more clear vision of eyes closed during his blink. Eyes closed again painted the same picture when he put the focus back into it, but the details of the five people standing around him returned to their colored energy lines; something else decided he couldn’t actually see the details of their faces.
“I don’t think you should speak on things you do not fully understand,” growled Go’Ranashu in response to Yaga’s attempt at an offense against Vaeda.
Vaeda, however, returned to his calm and centered self. He put up his hands, and once again had the smallest feeling that Go’Ranashu could see him, as well, and perhaps more clearly than the other way around.
“I do not think it is my competency that should remain this high in question,” he said. “I think Cochava and I see things the same, and I’d think perhaps you, Go’Ranashu, would align more so with Surid.”
“What are you unable to understand about this?” Yaga’s energies tightened again. “There is no escape. You’d be better off letting go of the thought now as opposed to filling everybody’s minds with the falsities of an escape.”
Vaeda thought on her words for a moment, but said nothing. She and Runavan, for whatever it was worth, seemed to believe what they were saying, and that was all that mattered to them. If anything, he wished he could think the same way. They, after all, had spent years under here; perhaps he’d be smarter to heed their words of warning.
So long as Go’Ranashu believed him and Cochava sided with him, perhaps Vaeda would carry on to find some semblance of a meaning out of all of this. His heart told him these people deserved help, deserved to breathe the free air again. They all did.
“I suppose we must make a decision, then,” suggested Surid. “None of us know each other over here. I don’t know the dynamics with you lot, but do we stick together?”
“How do we know we can trust you?” asked Runavan.
“Funny you asked, I was hoping you could answer the same thing,” said Yaga.
“I certainly think, should we all stick together, we should consider arguing less,” said Vaeda. “Perhaps turn our focuses more toward unity, regardless if there is an escape possible here or not. We’re not going to get anywhere or solve anything by arguing the whole time.”
“I second that,” said Cochava. “If anything, I’d think maybe Yaga here could take a hike and leave the rest of us alone.”
“Excuse me?” snapped Yaga. “If it weren’t for me, that Omitar would have sliced your head off at the last attack.”
“An Omitar?” said Vaeda, ears perking up. If they had slain an Omitar and fed off its meet, he’d certainly rather feed on that than fellow humans.
“It got away,” said Surid. “Damn rotten shame, if you ask me. Haven’t eaten in a week, myself. Only been with these two three days.”
“We have some leftovers,” offered Go’Ranashu, and Runavan’s energies tightened again.
“Thank you,” said Cochava. “It’s kind of you to offer to share.”
Without anyone initiating it, they all started moving in a direction led by Go’Ranashu. Vaeda thought about their upcoming meal, still debating if he should join or not. The faintest moans of hunger pains continued to remind him of his human weakness, and he wasn’t sure how long he’d manage to hold off from eating.
He wasn’t sure how far in they were now, nor if Go’Ranashu would be able to lead them home later. A moment ago, he’d felt like he’d started to understand the layout of the immediate surroundings, but everything in his mind shifted again. Was it the paths that moved, or his memory that failed him?
Once again, the faintest hint of a white light clung to the edges of his mind, and as soon as he tried to cling to a thought, it disappeared in the same moment. He blinked and lost everyone’s names, then blinked again and their identities returned.
He looked to Yaga and felt an electric pulse when his eyes fell on her energies. Eyes closed and open told him to keep his eye out on her.
The purple light revealed Cochava as she approached Vaeda.
“Hang back with me a moment,” she whispered.
Vaeda slowed his movement and waited until the others had put some distance between them before he said, “What’s wrong?”
“It’s that Yaga,” said Cochava, her voice still hanging low. “She knows something, I think. Something more than she’s letting off, but I’m not sure what. Surid thought the same, but we haven’t been able to rid ourselves of her. She’s a real sour mood, in my opinion. I wish she’d go off somewhere else if she didn’t think there was any use trying to get ourselves out of this.
“I could say the same for Runavan,” said Vaeda. “On all fronts. I thought he knew more than he pretended, but he insists we are all in the same arenas of knowledge.”
“I don’t buy any of that.”
“Neither do I, but until we can either find some proof or get some answers, it seems we may be alone in that theory.”
Cochava sighed. “Look, I know we don’t know each other, and it’s hard to find people to trust down here, but… Something tells me I can trust you. More than that Yaga headache, at least. I don’t know how or why, but something tells me there’s more to this little cave than any of us know.” She cleared her throat. “If I really tuned into my intuition, it would tell me she had something to do with that. But who knows? Anything goes in the Lanniswell Hollow, and whether there’s any hope of getting out of here or not, we sure as hell are damned while we’re here, aren’t we?”
She quickened her pace. “Let’s keep an eye out for each other, yeah?”
Vaeda hung behind and watched as the purple hues of her vibrations reconnected with the rest of the group up ahead. He frowned, unsure where to go from here. Cochava spoke volumes about wondering who to trust down here, and he thought she mightn’t be incorrect in her assumptions about Yaga, either. He wondered if that meant Runavan was just as susceptible to treachery, but pushed that thought again.
From any question he had, the only thing he knew going forward was that he’d always sleep with at least one eye open.