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 day Vaeda tried to kill the king, the sun scorched through the sky without a single barrier. He’d planned this for months, maybe even years, or perhaps even his whole life. As the memory played out through his head, almost as crystal clear as if it were happening now, the only thing he couldn’t seem to remember was the full reason why.

He stood on a hill overlooking Raelevarre, in all of its glittery and glinting glory. The people in Hardmoure faced oppressions those in this city could never understand. They had to fight for themselves sometimes, and the Raelevarreans continually raised the taxes and expenses while decreasing the wages for the workers. Farmers especially thrived in Hardmoure, where everything harvested came straight here for less than it was worth instead of feeding the people who slaved over bringing it to life.

He’d come here alone, because he thought it best for no one to know what he was doing. No one would have been able to say where he was right now if questioned, and that was exactly as he’d intended.

A moment came when he thought about foregoing this mission. It may have not been as smart an idea as he thought, for it might not have produced the results he’d intended. The people in the country of Theduen needed help, and nothing seemed to change. It didn’t matter how many people argued, how many lives were lost over petty things like all this gold.

But what would happen if it was all cut off at the source?

What if Raelevarre crumbled to dust, and the rest of them didn’t need this city as much as it pretended it was worth?

Was all of this gold worth the lives it cost?

Vaeda’s fist closed in over the bottle of poison he’d brought with him. He’d done his research on the inner workings of the Raelevarrean court. He’d already gotten his wardrobe ready to look like a bussing boy in the palace restaurant. That would be the easiest place to access the food and wine brought to the king, and once he was in there, he’d simply put the delivery boy to sleep and bring the food to the king himself to make sure the job was done correctly, and only the king suffered.

He’d thought about this long and hard, and he was certain everything would go exactly as he’d intended. As he started walking toward the palace, he supposed it wasn’t as much about if he’d succeed as much as it was about whether or not he’d wanted to. All he wanted was for the civilians of Theduen, the most populous country in Kadiux, to be treated with equality and fairness. He didn’t want death any more than the rest of them, but the calls for the death and imprisonment of people who were considered subpar or less than worthy came from the place he moved toward with every passing footstep, and he kept his eye on the goal as his feet carried him toward his goal.

For all that shined in material things, Vaeda couldn’t help but notice how odd it was that no one paid any mind to the people who dirtied up the place. Vaeda himself was hardly the only one walking around the streets who looked like he could do with a good shower and a wash of clothes. Or, to hell with the wash, perhaps just a nice new pair to match those of the more sparsely populated creatures of wealth.

Those creatures walked by with blinders on either sides of their eyes. Blinders Vaeda could almost visibly see; no, they were actually there. As he moved about the streets, he noticed the eye blinds came in different colors and glinted in various diamonds, as well.

These creatures would spend more on the blinds that covered their eyes than they would half that on helping the suffering around them.

This idea caught Vaeda by surprise, because he hadn’t expected it. He’d studied everything he could about Raelevarre, but he’d never been here himself. All he’d known, like everybody, was about the Lanniswell Hollow, and the ever-imminent threat of being placed there for any vocal displeasure with the king.

And thus, Vaeda had kept his mouth shut while he carried his weapon in his pocket. He looked around the citizens, now that he was here, and the second thoughts became third, then fourth, then fifth, then continued on for every creature of wealth that walked by someone who looked less than even Vaeda, who presently stood at his purposeful worse to see if that could sincerely be the easiest way to get by here.

No one paid him any mind as he moved toward the palace, and he looked toward the back for the employee entrance. He knew servants were not allowed to enter through the front doors, for that might usher the wrong impression that the sleek and spotless image of the palace may be infested with someone who was dirty.

And yet they let the same people walk around just outside, and they still worked within the same walls regardless of the door they took to get in there.

So many things Vaeda couldn’t understand as he meandered the hallways of the palace, so golden and shiny everywhere he looked. He couldn’t even think of any other words to explain what he saw, because he’d never even seen anything like this. He’d only ever seen trees and mountains and humble buildings, and he couldn’t make sense of the obsession with all of these things that only looked truly good in a certain light.

There was a lack of humanity around these walls, and it was that soullessness that stopped Vaeda from going any further. Killing the king wouldn’t change anything here. If anything, there would be many who would fight over his position, and who knew the toil or turbulence that may cause.

Where to fix the broken system?

Vaeda fingered the bottle of poison in his pocket and wondered if he ought to just destroy the whole city and be done with it. He doubted that would actually do anything, but it also felt like at least he was trying to do something valuable and worthy and memorable and just something that was different. Why did they not care of any of the suffering? Why did they watch it sit directly in front of their feet?

Without even feeling them coming, tears streamed down Vaeda’s face in a blink. He wiped them away quickly before anyone would notice, but nobody did. There were too many people here to notice just the one standing crying in the center of it. And besides, even if they did, most of them were too caught up in their own pain to understand his, anyway.

That was odd to him. While there may have been certain issues in Hardmoure, as with anywhere, Vaeda had always felt like the people there still cared about the ones they interacted with. There was a heart out there that was missing here in this city. This city that ran the entire country, attempted to both control everyone and make them happy at the exact same time.

But was any of that real?

Any public messages from the king or any of his direct subjects had always come across as hopeful and peaceful. There was always talk of underlying messages beneath the words of hope, but being here now, Vaeda understood the whispers more than the shouts.

“You, boy!”

A snap of the fingers, and Vaeda turned around to see the king himself, talking to him. Vaeda, who was more than a mere boy, took great offense to this, but said, “Your Grace?” to save from an argument. 

“I spilled,” the king said, dipping his chalice and spilling. “Clean it up.”

He walked away, and Vaeda’s hand slipped back into the pocket with his weapon. He could find his way to the kitchens easily, he was certain of it. The only thing stopping him now was the idea that his success may not warrant as much of a reward as he’d wanted. He was displeased at the thought, but he also knew he wouldn’t know the answer until he at least tried for it.

“I don’t see you moving!” called the king as he rounded the corner and left the hall. 

Sure the king wasn’t one to pass up the idea of throwing him down into the Lanniswell Hollow for not mopping up a mess, Vaeda moved to get it cleaned up, grunting and groaning all along. The king hadn’t even noticed he’d never been here before. How easy it would have been for Vaeda to pretend to be any role within the court, here, and the king probably wouldn’t pay him any mind. He, at least, didn’t have the physical blinders around his eyes, but he may as well have; his, it seemed, were just better situated around his brain.

After Vaeda cleaned up the spill, small as it was, he started walking around the palace to see what else he could find. On the other side of the hallway where he’d cleaned the spill, but on the complete opposite side from the corner the king had disappeared down, Vaeda found himself heading through a doorway that led to a garden in the backyard.

Even the roses out here were laced in gold, although upon closer examination, Vaeda could see that they were painted. The golden coats didn’t cover the petals completely, just a thin inner stroke on the edges, but at least the scent still remained. Vaeda exhaled completely, readied his diaphragm, then inhaled through his mouth, allowing the scent of the flower to dance across his tongue so he could taste the fragrance of its breath.

But the fragrance was sour, dark, and putrid. Where he had expected a feathered dusting of a rosy powder across his tastebuds, he thought he’d accidentally swallowed a dose of the poison himself.

He coughed a few times, and after a few heaves, the darkness started to close around him. He tried to call out for help, to question what was happening, but he keeled over, fell to the ground, and the darkness took hold of his vision.

When he awoke, he was back in the Lanniswell Hollow, next to Go’Ranashu and Runavan, but nobody else.

“Welcome back,” said Runavan. “I was getting worried about you there for a while.”

“What do you mean?” asked Vaeda, whose head had suddenly felt like it had been hit a few times with a hammer or two.

“It was Yaga,” said Go’Ranashu. “She did something to all of us. Even I was affected this time. When I awoke, Yaga, Surid, and Cochava were all gone.”

“But I do not think Surid and Cochava left willingly,” said Runavan. “I think Yaga took them deeper into the caves.”

“Why?” said Vaeda.

“Because they have the most convenient powers needed to leading us out of here,” said Runavan. “She forgets, it seems, that she can leave, and the longer she’s away from us, the more we start to think clearly. Now that she’s gone, I’m starting to remember everything about her.”

“Like what?”

“It’s everything I’ve said,” said Go’Ranashu, who had no more patience for the manner. “Yaga is out to kill all of us, and she’s captured Cochava and Surid to enact this folly.”

“But it might not be too late,” said Runavan. “There may still be time to save them before… Well, I’m not all the way sure what she has planned, to be honest. She’s still good at keep me out of her mind, even if she slips every so often.”

“What do we do?” asked Vaeda.

“Now that you were awake,” said Go’Ranashu, “I was hoping you would know.”

“All I know is that she has led them further into the caves,” said Runavan. “I struggle to see, as do the rest of us, and Cochava is the one who has the light. I’d think that was another reason Yaga took her, for selfish purposes as well. I’m not all the way sure what she’s up to. We’d have to find her first.”

Vaeda took a deep breath. This, he supposed, was the time when eyes closed and his inner mind would come at their most handy. He knew whatever he had seen during the memory of him in the palace was the deepest truth he could know. That was the story of events, summarized though they were, that led him to the Lanniswell Hollow; simply breathing a flower in its purest incense instead of simply sniffing it. That was also what rendered him an unknown and partially accidental prisoner.

And yet, just as he knew the reasons that landed him here in the first place, he knew he was meant to be here. That was what scared both Yaga and the king when they found out. 

His inner mind started laying out the necessary map for him, and the walls of the hallways started to paint their own picture him with his eyes open. It was almost as though the very gold from within the palace lay before him now and glinted the way it did up there, but this time as a guiding light instead of a source of discrimination.

“I will lead the way,” said Vaeda, now sure of himself and the task at hand. “When we get there, I think we have past the point of trying to remain nice or working together. I think we need to do everything we can to prevent Yaga from ever hurting anybody ever again.”

Go’Ranashu looked at him, and for the first time, Vaeda looked upon him with true eyes, in a true light, and as a true friend. His beastly features of that fateful mix of ram and bull beamed back at him with black eyes that shone as brightly as the golden light that ignited them. His tufted and matted fur fell out in a few patches here and there, and he stood almost two heads taller than Vaeda.

“Do you mean…?” he asked, and Vaeda nodded.

“I mean it’s time for Yaga to do die.”

Read Chapter 11

Read Chapter 13

Read the whole story here.

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