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.
Go’Ranashu ride to his side as Vaeda keeled over. Blood seeped over his fingers from the gash in his stomach that wasn’t there moments ago.
Vaeda’s vision went black again as he collapsed. The golden light that had filled the cave diminished as he reverted back into his mind and returned to the center of the truth within him.
“What’s going on?” asked Cochava. Vaeda felt her kneel next to him, with Go’Ranashu, as his mind continued to swim in all the confusion.
Where he’d thought Yaga had meant to use the king as the sacrifice to keep them all imprisoned, the truth inside him revealed that she had implanted a connection between Vaeda and the king, wherein the king himself would not fall ill to knife she sliced across his stomach, but that Vaeda would be the one who ended up as the sacrifice.
He tried to formulate these words, but found himself unable to speak. Runavan, however, knelt next to him, as well, and spoke Vaeda’s thoughts aloud for him.
“How close are we?” asked Surid.
Vaeda’s mind revealed they weren’t far from Yaga or the king, which also meant they were mere feet away from their escape. A vision crept its way into Vaeda’s mind and showed a pink energy floating back and forth between Yaga and the king, who looked perfectly content with the blade that sliced across his stomach. He, of course, didn’t feel a thing, didn’t drop a splash of blood. All of that had come down to Vaeda, and if they didn’t get to Yaga to stop her soon, she may succeed.
Runavan spoke Vaeda’s thoughts aloud as they crossed his mind, and Vaeda felt his body shift as Go’Ranashu put his hands underneath him and lifted him up. Vaeda’s head lolled back and a string of saliva slithered out of the corner of his mouth. His life force dwindled with the passing seconds, but he stayed strong in his desire to live. They were so close, now. So close to the end he’d fought for all along. His memories faded in and out of his mind again, somehow more clear than they’d ever been, but still lacking all the finer details that made it a full and complete story in his mind.
“We’re almost there,” said Runavan as he continued to read a part of Vaeda’s mind he himself wasn’t even aware he was still connected to. Runavan used Vaeda’s mind to lead them to Yaga, and Vaeda had long enough to think he hoped his mind let them in the right direction before he heard her voice.
“Ashkomarvia mokvarti en sharcekav,” she chanted, and the visions inside of Vaeda’s mind grew stronger.
The weaning pieces of his life force sprang back into life when he heard the chant, and although the pain from the slice in his stomach still existed, the outpouring of the blood stopped. He opened his eyes just enough to see through the eyelash ridden slits of the lids and saw a faint light of sunlight highlighting Yaga and the king. They stood at a stairwell, rotten as the cave it led into, the pink energies coming from Yaga brighter than almost anything Vaeda had ever seen in his life.
She saw them approach and started to laugh. “You are too late,” she said.
“That is yet to be determined,” said Cochava.
Yaga, that putrid smile still painted on her face, sliced the king’s neck in an attempt to behead him. He still, of course, felt nothing, for whatever magic she’d had connected to him still kept him safe.
Much to her shock, however, Vaeda’s head also remained in tact. In fact, Go’Ranashu placed him on the ground, and a moment later he rolled over and regained his footing.
Yaga looked down at her hands, at the pink energies flowing into the king, and said, “It cannot be.” She shook her head and whispered, “it is impossible.”
“Perhaps you forget what it is I can do, Yaga,” said Vaeda as his strength returned to him. “You may have once succeeded in your attempt to kill me, but have you forgotten your inability to since?” He stretched his arms out and inhaled deeply. “Dear, sweet, Yaga. How stupid you really are.”
She lowered her gaze. “You think I fear you?” She dropped her knife and the pink energies flowing into the king came to a halt as she turned to face Vaeda. “The biggest thorn in my toe ever since you woke up.”
Vaeda returned her sadistic smile. “I could certainly say the same thing to you.”
Yaga scoffed and started walking toward Vaeda. Everyone else stood watching, almost as if this were some sort of schoolyard battle that had spread through rumor first, and everyone gathered to see the final outcome.
“I knew I should have removed your head the first time I killed you.”
“Can’t guarantee that would’ve stopped me, either,” said Vaeda, more certain of himself now than ever. He had been brought back from death, a power not even his own until that very moment, and placed back in here to put a stop to this corruption. The caves of the Lanniswell Hollow had run unstopped for long enough.
Vaeda looked at Go’Ranashu, Cochava, Surid, Runavan, and now Sylvend. The smallest line of sunlight highlighted their features and ushered a better view of them than Vaeda had seen before. He felt their purity and wondered how he could have ever doubted their innocence. Although he still had inner questions about the necessity of killing the king in the first place, he had to believe it was the right decision from all of them. Various aspects of the before still seemed clouded to him, but he relied more on the inherent truth inside of his gut than anything his memory played out on him.
That memory, that beautiful beast inside of his mind that this witch had manipulated and altered for his entire experience in the Hollow. How much quicker he may have succeeded if not for her. He allowed the feelings of hatred that boiled in the pit of his stomach as he looked at her. Little flecks of electric energy shot into the tips of his fingers, and as he looked down, he realized that white energies started to move off of the bodies of his companions and closer in toward him.
The first energy that touched him came from Cochava, with all the power of the sun in the tiniest touch. Surid’s came next, with a firm and full grasp that the rocks that stood in the way to their freedom would not be a hindrance for long.
“What are you doing?” asked Yaga as she looked at all of the energies coming into Vaeda.
Runavan’s was next, followed closely by Go’Ranashu and Sylvend. The latter two didn’t provide much in the way of actual power, but their mere life force provided a strength in him he wasn’t sure he even needed until he had it. Runavan’s power blended with Vaeda’s mind, and he finally and full saw into Yaga’s.
Where so much anger had been moments ago, waves of peace came through Vaeda as he came into an understanding of why she had done what she did. Every past affliction that Yaga had experienced within her life came to Vaeda within that moment, and took all of the anger with it.
Yaga’s father had tried to kill her the moment she was born.
He knew, more than even her mother, what she would become if she were allowed to live.
In that moment, he made the decision to offer her a life full of hatred and distrust, instead of one full of love and support. How different Yaga would have been — even she knew, in her heart — if she’d never gone through what she had.
Part of Vaeda couldn’t see past her discretions. Even though she’d come from a life of pain, that didn’t give her the ability to treat others as she had for all of these years. She’d created this Lanniswell Hollow to keep and torment souls for eternity just because she couldn’t get past her own issues.
“You don’t get any sympathy from me, Yaga Mantada,” Vaeda whispered through gritted teeth. He wondered in that moment how many of Yaga’s memories were true and accurate. For all she had done to prevent him from trusting her, he couldn’t shake the feeling that she wasn’t being as honest as she pretended, even now.
Runavan’s power aided him in realizing the continuation of her treachery. There were difficulties in her life, to be certain, but she still made the conscious choice to do what she did, and she’d been offered plenty of alternatives throughout her life. That was the truth even she couldn’t admit to herself.
An energy as red as the fire that had claimed Yaga’s soul shot forward to Vaeda, but he put out a hand and deflected it. The energy shot back and hit Yaga in the chest. She flew backward and hit the wall behind her, and Vaeda tapped into Surid’s power to bring a rock down on her.
She, too, was ready, and she deflected Vaeda’s attempt at a final blow with as much ease as he had done with her. She stood back up and threw an energy ball at him, but Cochava’s power of the sun lit his skin up and absorbed the energy as though it were a gift instead of a punishment.
The king, now no longer under the influence of Yaga, seemed to become more aware of what was happening and inched his way toward the stairs of the cave to leave. Go’Ranashu went after him and grabbed him, then said, “You go nowhere.”
Vaeda didn’t have much time to pay attention to what else was going on in the cave as he and Yaga battled it out. All of the power from his companions, mixed with his own inner strength, caused this battle to move faster than it would have if it were just him. The aid of the other powers also prevented him from dying, still, and if ever he wondered about the validity of the people with him, he found himself, in this moment, more grateful than ever that they’d become a part of his life.
Yaga ran at Vaeda and a scythe appeared in her hand as she did. When she was inches away from him, she brought the scythe down in a hard swing, but Vaeda threw up a forearm to deflect it. The blade nicked his skin, but the momentary gush of blood it produced disappeared in a blink.
It seemed, after all this time, that Yaga could still not accept the mere fact that Vaeda was purposefully brought back from the dead by a force stronger than even her, and that his sole purpose of return was to both stop her and free everybody she’s held captive all these years. As the souls of the people she had claimed came into his awareness, Vaeda tapped into all of their energies and willed them to move back toward the sight of the living.
Vacant screams started echoing around the halls first, and those caught Yaga’s attention. She turned her head toward them before the faint blue lights of the spirits started to sweep around her.
“No!” she gasped. “No!”
The spirits swarmed Yaga, almost as if Vaeda had stepped on five hornet’s nests and angered the clans for all of them. In this moment, Vaeda finally understood just how long Yaga had done this. Just how many people had lost their lives due to her villainy. He even felt the smallest blip of sympathy for her, once again. If only she’d have chosen a different path — because she could have — then none of this would have happened. If only she’d have been willing to accept her pain as part of her life, to use it to enhance and influence others rather than to suppress and imprison them.
The angry, dead spirits did everything to Yaga’s body that Vaeda wished he could have, but couldn’t bring forth the strength to actually do. Bits of her flesh ripped away as the spirits bit into her, and it didn’t take long before her blood ran across her body in river-fueled streams. Her skin, so porcelain, so young, and so full of everybody else’s life, decayed toward the gray texture it should have taken as everything within her life force came, at last, to an end.
Silence met the cave once the scream of both spirits and Yaga herself disintegrated. The remnants of her body fell to the ground in a pile of ash, and Vaeda stood over them and stared at them as they drifted away with the slight breeze that came to greet them from the entryway.
Then he turned his attention to the king, who fell to his knees immediately and begged, “Please. Do not hurt me. You do not understand, she was in my head, she made me do all these things, she —”
“That will be enough,” said Vaeda, who could see clearly into the king’s head with Runavan’s power. Fortunately, for the king, he actually spoke the truth, and Vaeda had no qualms in his acceptance of it. Out of any emotion he’d picked up on from any of the others he’d interacted with so far, this was the most genuine and pure. The king felt sincere remorse at everything done, and Vaeda ushered for him to stand.
“I think all you must do now is show us the way out,” said Vaeda with a nod to the stairwell. A look shared with his companions proved they, too, deemed this a fitting enough penance from the king. An unspoken agreement washed through all of them at Vaeda’s suggestion, and the king himself put up no issues or qualms with the idea.
And, with that, he turned and started walking up the stairs, closely followed by Vaeda and the others. Vaeda’s heart pounded in his chest more and more with each passing footstep. He didn’t even know the last time he’d actually seen the sun, and even though he now carried its very power within him, he couldn’t wait to greet it as an old friend.
His eyes didn’t even need to adjust as they came back into the light they were meant to find. The oxygen that filled his lungs felt untarnished, almost as if it had been created specifically to enter into his lungs for his first breath as a free man.
“The people will have questions,” said the king.
“In which case, I’d suppose you’d have answers,” said Surid.
The king nodded. “There will be great dismay amongst the civilians when they discover all of the prisoners have been released.”
“Will there?” said Vaeda. “That’s interesting. I should have thought, since you were so honest with your claims of Yaga’s control, you could use that to let the people know you are, in fact, safe?”
The king looked at him for a long moment before he finally nodded. “As you wish.” He looked toward the outskirts of the city. “What will you all do now?”
Vaeda turned his eyes toward the mountains off in the distance and shared a look with Go’Ranashu, whom he could finally look upon in all of his glory. This bull-rammed friend of his had been by his side through all of it, and was the only person Vaeda had never questioned. Moving forward in his life, he knew he’d always have Go’Ranashu here as his friend, and even as he shared a look with the others, he felt the same for them.
Cochava and Sylvend had reunited in their sisterly bond, and Surid and Runavan both seemed equally content heading off in their own directions. Out of all the time spent in the darkness of the cave without the smallest hint of hope, they’d all finally discovered what that idea truly meant.
“Well,” said Vaeda, “I think it’s time to head home.”
And with that, they all went in their separate directions, free for the first time in an unknown amount of time, and the caves of the Lanniswell Hollow were boarded up by the king and never seen again.