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.

The next morning, Vaeda awoke to a gentle push on his right shoulder. A pain shot down his left side, and he realized he’d fallen asleep on that side and hadn’t rolled over at all. He massaged the base of his neckline along his collar bone as he sat up and saw Runavan’s green energies hovering just over him. This took him back for a moment, for he’d expected Go’Ranashu or even Yaga here to cause problems.

“Runavan?” asked Vaeda, the sleep still sitting in his voice as he rubbed his eyes. “What is wrong?”

“Nothing,” said Runavan, although the rushed tone and breathless voice he used to say the word didn’t convince Vaeda he was telling the truth. 

“I don’t understand, why are you frantic if nothing is wrong?”

The green energies inched closer until they were almost touching Vaeda’s face. “Because I remember,” he whispered. 

Vaeda sat up straighter, thankful that Runavan shifted as he sat up so they didn’t hit each other’s faces. “You remember?”

“Not everything,” said Runavan, whose green energies grew more excited as he spoke. “Certain things come back to my mind at random.”

“Certain things like what?”

A pause before Runavan said, “Like what I did to get myself locked away down here.”

Vaeda’s interest piqued. “I’m listening.”

Still keeping his voice low, Runavan said, “I can see into the minds of others around me.”

Vaeda’s mouth dropped, and he sat up even straighter. “Say true?” 

The slightest shift in the green energies showed Runavan nod. “It came to me in a dream, but when I awoke, I looked over to Cochava, laying not far away from me. I do not know if it is the same for you, but I see colors of energy when I look at the people who are with us.”

“I see the same,” Vaeda said, although hesitated from asking if his energies were as black for Runavan as they were for himself. 

“When I saw her, I saw into her mind.” He grunted. “It is most difficult to explain, but I could see her dreams. Even past those, really, almost as if I could see into the purest intention of her soul. When I looked even further to Surid next to her, I saw the same.” He paused. “But then I looked into Yaga, and that was when I came to wake you.”

“Me?” asked Vaeda, thinking back to Go’Ranashu’s previous warning of Yaga plotting something against him. “Why me?”

The ripple in Runavan’s energies showed a shrug. “Because you are the leader, of course.”

Despite himself, Vaeda laughed. “The leader?” he said. “Please. I’d hardly think any of you wanted to listen to me in the first place. I feel as though I’ve been shouting into an abyss even blacker than the one provided by this cave. Shouldn’t think anyone’s even been listening, with the way you’ve all responded.”

Runavan paused again before he said anything. “Silence isn’t always as problematic as you may think, Vaeda. Although you may not receive the responses you want when you want them, that doesn’t mean your words don’t take their desired effect, either way. Or that they won’t, over time.”

Vaeda smiled, feeling the first sense of relief in a while. It felt nice to hear from someone besides Go’Ranashu that his thoughts and desires of hope and freedom were met by more than just one pair of ears. Even if Vaeda carried on doing things for himself, saving these people because he felt like he had to, it still got hard to accept that, sometimes, all of his efforts were for naught. 

“Thank you,” said Vaeda. “But back to what brought you to wake me. What did you see when you looked into Yaga’s mind?”

Runavan shuddered. “I do not think it is as much about what I did see as what I didn’t.”

“What do you mean?”

“Nothing,” said Runavan. “That is exactly what I mean. When I looked into her mind, I saw nothing.”

Vaeda’s eyebrows met at the bridge of his nose, as they so oft did anytime he tried to make sense of whatever was told to him. “Nothing?”

“It was a blank haze. She’s the only one I received such thoughts from. Even you, now.” He paused, and it took Vaeda a moment to realize Runavan had entered into his mind. He felt him poking around in there, almost the same as he had felt the puppet strings earlier, but somehow less invasive. Runavan’s presence felt oddly soothing, and oddly welcome. It was as if he could finally be understood from someone else, and that was a feeling Vaeda didn’t know he needed until he’d felt it. 

“I see your true intent,” said Runavan after spending a few moments in Vaeda’s mind. “I trust that you want to lead us free from here. I trust that you have the best intent at heart.”

“And do you see what I did to get here?” Vaeda asked. “Or why my energies are so black amongst the ones full of color?”

“For that, I do not know, for those are the questions in your mind, not the answers. I can only access your mind as it is, not find the answers you seek. Not unless I found your prosecutor, that is.”

Vaeda looked over to Yaga’s red energies, so soft in their glow, but so present all the same. He’d still yet to talk to her since the altercation with the soldiers, and he wondered if Runavan would be able to put his powers to use if ever they crossed them again. Perhaps Runavan’s remembering of the past came as no mistake, but as something of a stroke of luck to further the attempts to find the freedom they all deserved.

Or so he thought, anyway. Vaeda still wasn’t sure if any of them had deserve their punishment, least of all himself. Even hearing Runavan talk about his ability to read minds didn’t mean he was innocent of whatever crime he was accused of. How did Vaeda know Runavan didn’t use that power to manipulate instead of help? He supposed he could still ask himself the same question, but he refrained. As of now, the more people who shared in his distrust of Yaga, the better. In his mind, she was truly the only one who deserved any levels of distrust, and he didn’t want to further any tensions that didn’t need to be there.

“Thank you for coming to me,” he said after he’d thought over everything. “What do you think we should do from here?”

“I’d say carry on as we were,” said Runavan. “Maybe, now that I can start getting more into people’s minds, we can start to figure out the memories that are all suppressed in there. I feel some of my own start to move their way toward surfacing. I can’t grasp on to any of them yet, but I know they’re there, and that’s filling me with a hope in and of itself. I haven’t been able to remember a single thing from before the whole time I’ve been here. Always just darkness, despair, and whatever memory I carry from my time down here.” He sighed. “I don’t know much, and I don’t know if we’ll be successful in our mission, but I do know that, for some reason, your arrival as spawned a resurgence in me I did not know was possible. Seeing now into your mind as I am, understanding your full and true intentions, and starting to find some of the connections within myself… I don’t know, but I’d say we were well on our way to success. Perhaps that’s what the king fears so much.”

Vaeda sighed. Runavan had his points, but Vaeda still didn’t see all of the strength within himself. Go’Ranashu had said something similar to him, about how he’d be able to find the power needed somewhere within himself. It certainly felt better to have more support, now, but Vaeda still wasn’t all the way sure he had that power within him. He felt so weak, if he was honest, and he couldn’t think of a single reason any of them would have wanted to follow along with him in the first place.

But that was the exact type of talk he knew he needed to shed, if he were to be as successful as he wanted to be in this mission. Extra support simply meant he was on his way to do what he had set out to do, and he couldn’t stop now. No matter what.

Read Chapter Seven

Read Chapter Eight Part Two

Read the full story here.

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