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 couldn’t have placed where the voice came from if he tried, but if he didn’t know any better, he would’ve said it came from the walls of the cave itself.
The green smoke rushed toward him, but as he brought a hand up to his face to cover it from the rush of the poison, a thin shield came up to protect him from the acidic smoke. He peeked through an eye to see the thin light covering everybody, even the king and his men, and wafting straight over them.
This time, the word came from Yaga, who seemed to notice now that her plan had backfired when she looked around. Now, Vaeda realized the smoke was meant to kill them more than trap them, but Yaga’s displeasure etched into her expression as she looked from Surid and Cochava, still bound at the alter she tied them to, and the king and her former companions, still standing on the heightened slope above her.
“Yaga,” said the king. “You would dare try to use your power against me?”
Yaga lowered her gaze and sneered, “You think I haven’t done just that all along, my liege?” She snickered. “Oh, please.” She raised her hands out to the side and dropped them. “The great Yaga, who has outlived countless generations, seen many kings, and designed the Lanniswell Hollow to be the fly trap it has become?” She laughed again. “I’d have thought you were smarter than that, given your predecessors. Ah, wait.” She held up a finger. “I wiped their memories before they passed on stories of me to you. Oopsie. I suppose you wouldn’t have had anybody to warn you, then.”
Cochava’s skin started to glow and she wiggled in her bounds. Surid, minus the UV-rayed skin, did the same. Yaga carried on, oblivious, but Vaeda knew exactly what she aimed to do.
The king and a few soldiers moved past Vaeda, Go’Ranashu, and Runavan. It almost seemed, for just the tiniest blink of a second, that they’d be forgotten, but the king glanced over to them and said, “Someone stay with these three.” His eyes met Vaeda. “That one, in particular, I want to question.”
Vaeda, of course, had no intention of following the king’s orders, but hadn’t yet thought of a way to get them out of this situation.
“You are not as strong as you may like to think of yourself, Yaga,” said the king as he carried on down the path toward her. “Perhaps it may behoove you to remember as such every so often.”
Yaga carried on with her obnoxious cackle. “What makes you say that?”
The king raised out his arms to each side and shouted, “Bahroagian!”
Yaga’s jaw dropped, but Vaeda had no idea what that meant. He was not alone in the confusion, as he looked over to Go’Ranashu and some of the soldiers and saw they held the same confused expression as he. Runavan, however, also looked just as shocked as Yaga, and he turned toward the walls as the Omitars started rushing out of the hallways.
Vaeda looked down, but his sword was nowhere to be found. Was it ever there in the first place? He didn’t have time to fight with his mind right now, and he felt Yaga in there trying to tug at every last bit of his identity to still try and make it her own. She, however, had underestimated Vaeda, as she had this whole time. There was a momentary blip in his life when his guard was down, and she had caught him at his worst not once, but twice.
She would never succeed in doing so again.
Vaeda ducked a lunge from one of the Omitars and kicked another one out of the way. He picked up a rock and slammed it down onto one of their heads, then grabbed hold of Go’Ranashu and Runavan and ran down the path toward Cochava and Surid.
Cochava’s skin still glowed, and her eyes became alight. As soon as Vaeda approached her, the glow of the sun from within her reached its heightened peak, and she shed the bounds that kept them as her power came to its full strength. Vaeda covered his eyes and felt her wave of energy come over him, but when he brought his eyes down, he found that her power hadn’t caused any harm to any of their enemies.
“Are you all right?” asked Runavan as he ran toward them and they reunited.
“Where’s Yaga?” asked Surid. An Omitar came their way and Surid kicked it.
“I don’t know,” said Vaeda, who looked around and saw no sign of her or the king. The soldiers had taken up the task of fighting off the Omitars, who seemed to have arrived at the call of the king.
“Do you think she’s taken the king somewhere?” asked Go’Ranashu.
“Wouldn’t be the worst thing,” said Cochava. “I’d think she was partially doing us a favor by offing him.”
“Not if she’s trying to use his sacrifice as a means of keeping us trapped here the way she was with you,” said Vaeda.
“We have to find her either way,” said Runavan. He nodded toward the closest hallway and said, “That looks like the only option where they could have gone.”
Vaeda ducked from another Omitar that leapt his way, then picked up a sword from one of the soldiers who had lost his battle with these cave beasts. He sliced the neck of the closest one running toward him, then moved toward the hallway Runavan mentioned.
“Wait a minute,” said Cochava.
“What is it?” asked Surid.
“What if this is another opportunity?”
“What do you mean?” asked Vaeda.
“Yaga is distracted, as is the king and now the soldiers.” She looked behind her. “I don’t think any of them are going to follow us. What if this is our chance to get out of here without any other hindrances?”
“That won’t work if Yaga’s successful in her —”
“But how do we know she’s doing that? How do we know that’s her intention? What if it’s just the king she means to punish, for the way he spoke back to her? I wouldn’t put it past her to do something like that, would you?”
Vaeda looked down the hallway, then back toward the lingering sounds of the battle with the soldiers and the Omitars.
“What if we’re wrong?”
“Then we’re trapped here,” said Cochava.
“And what if we can prevent that from happening?” asked Go’Ranashu.
“We could split up,” said Surid. “Some of us can go stop Yaga and the king, and the others can find the way to safety to lay the path for the others.”
“As long as you and Cochava go separate ways,” said Runavan, who had gotten into his mind. “You slipped,” he said. “I knew it. I knew the two of you were planning something, ever since the moment you wanted to block yourselves off to me.”
Cochava smiled. “And what of it?”
“I knew you were just as vile as Yaga,” Runavan spat. “That we shouldn’t have trusted you! Any of you! It should have simply remained the three of us, and we might have gotten out of here in one piece once we’d met Vaeda!”
“What are you talking about?”asked Vaeda.
“There you are!”
A moment later, Sylvend came around the corner, carrying a sword of her own that dripped in blood. The blood also streaked across her arms and some in her hair, as well.
“I thought I’d lost you —”
She stopped, even though she was already finished with her sentence, as her eyes fell on Cochava. She took a step closer, hesitantly, and as Cochava looked back at her, the recognition seemed mutual.
“Sylvend?” Cochava whispered.
“Cochava!” Sylvend said before she sprinted forward and threw her arms around Cochava.
The two of them hugged for a moment before they pulled apart and looked at at each other.
“I thought you… I thought… I thought I’d lost you,” said Cochava, struggling to find the words.
Sylvend looked to Vaeda. “You did,” she said. “But he saved me.”
Cochava looked at Vaeda, followed by Surid.
“You saved her?” said Cochava.
“How?” said Surid.
“Vaeda has the ability to return the dead to the living,” said Go’Ranashu. “It is something we discovered after Yaga had taken you.”
“Who is she to you?” asked Vaeda.
“This is my sister,” said a very shocked Cochava.
“Do not let this distract from the matter at hand,” said Runavan. “The two of you have had something plotted against us almost as long as Yaga.”
“It isn’t as bad as you think,” said Surid.
“We just didn’t trust you lot either,” said Cochava, eyes still locked on her sister as they shared another hug.
“I’d say we could thank Yaga for some of that, too,” said Vaeda.
“Who is this Yaga?” asked Sylvend. “Apart from whatever we just saw of her a moment ago, what can she do?”
“Insert, remove, and manipulate memories, to put it simply enough,” said Runavan.
“Except for on me,” said Go’Ranashu. “For whatever reason, her powers never had any effect on me.”
“What are we doing now?” said Sylvend.
“We are finding our way out of here,” said Vaeda. “It just seems we have yet to agree on a method in which that would be best.”
“I think we should find Yaga and the king first,” said Runavan. “We have to make sure she isn’t trying to find a way to trap us in here. Otherwise any attempt to escape would be pointless.”
“I’d agree,” said Go’Ranashu.
“As would I,” said Vaeda.
“But what if this is our only chance?” said Cochava.
“I believe that Yaga is doing the same now with the king as she’d intended to do with you,” said Vaeda, who hadn’t noticed they’d already started moving further down the hall. Eyes closed and eyes opened stayed aligned and told him they were closer to the exit than they realized. He could understand Cochava’s fears and hesitancies; he wanted to get out of here, too. It was simply that, somewhere deeper than what Cochava thought, Vaeda believed that she had to be stopped first.
“If we don’t kill Yaga, we’ll never get out of here,” said Go’Ranashu, as though that simple statement ended any potential argument.
“I don’t disagree that Yaga should die,” said Surid. “I simply wonder if we shouldn’t take our opportunity to get out of here first.”
“Both paths lie along the same direction,” said Vaeda, as truth continued to lay itself into his heart and carve the path forward for him. “Yaga intends to murder the king at the entrance of the king,” he said. “If she accomplishes that, we will never be free.” Their feet all moved quicker. “If we can stop her, our freedom lies on just the other side of wherever she is now.”
“Can you feel her?” asked Go’Ranashu.
“I can,” said Runavan as Surid moved aside some of the rocks that stood in their way. “We grow closer to her.”
“And closer to her is closer to freedom,” said Sylvend.
“Or so we’d hope,” said Cochava.
But Vaeda didn’t have any questions anymore. He’d allowed his uncertainty to hold him back before, when he wasn’t able to grab hold of a single thought or memory. Now, that issue was gone, and his purpose and his meaning meant more to him now than it ever had before.
This time, his feet truly moved him forward to their escape. Regardless of any crime done by any of the people he was with, he didn’t trust that any of them deserved this.
One step in front of the other, and his freedom lay just within his grasp.
As soon as he started relishing the thought of the freedom, a pinch in his gut told him Yaga had started in her movement toward killing the king. At this point, they were too far away from them.
Another pain and his stomach actually started bleeding.
Perhaps they wouldn’t be successful, after all.