I recently finished the second draft of a story I’m working on, and I decided to share it online. I’m sharing one chapter at a time, and the story is about 487,000 words right now (roughly 5 paperback novels in length, give or take), so this will take awhile.
I estimate that 2nd draft is about 80% of the way there, story-wise; but 80% is not 100%. This chapter might show up in the final story completely unchanged. It might show up with minor changes, or heavy revisions; or might be cut from the final draft completely. If it does remain, it might be in a new place in the story or the same place.
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Iliar groaned as his eyes opened, the coarse hammock swaying underneath him.
The pain of the dream–that last wonderful day with Papa, before those two men in cloaks had killed him and taken Iliar onto their vessel–stabbed at his chest, at his heart. Shockingly sharp, sharper than it had been in a long time.
He wiped the wetness from his eyes.
And yet, underneath the pain, underneath the agony of losing Papa again that ripped through him, suddenly as gaping and raw as it had been that first night when he had sobbed himself to sleep without a care for who saw, he felt…something. Awake, somehow. Alive. As though some spark had come back into him, as though the numb curtain that washed over his days and weeks and months and what felt like centuries had been pushed back.
The sun was bright where it shone in through the porthole, and even a sea breeze reached through the small hole to ruffle Iliar’s hair. Sea spray spattered gently on his face, cold and wet and refreshing.
For an instant he wondered what was going on. Why was everything so bright? Why did he suddenly feel things, suddenly feel the damp wood under his bare feet as he swung his legs to the floor? Why did his body, muscled from all that rowing and all that food they ate, suddenly feel alert and strong?
It was like he had been wandering around half-asleep, mind and body and senses fogged and fuzzy; and now he was waking up.
For a moment he wondered what had happened; and then those thoughts were cut off by sheer horror as his eyes opened to where he was.
He had been kidnapped, had been taken aboard this ship by the men who had killed Rorin; and and he had spent years or decades or centuries here, day in and day out, mind and body and soul fuzzed to the point where he might as well have been dead.
He looked around at the people around him–they had been boys his age, and now they were men in their prime like him–and realized he didn’t even remember any of their names. He had vague memories of them talking to him, and him to them, once. Vaguely thought he might have heard about their families, or friends, or people who might come to rescue them. But his throat was sore from disuse. He licked his lips, swallowed, and realized in one blinding shock of a moment that he hadn’t spoken in a very long time. Hadn’t heard another spoken word in an equally long while.
He looked at the men around him, and…nothing was different about them. The man across from him met his stare, dead-eyed and slack-jawed, before turning away like he didn’t even see Iliar. Iliar had the feeling, half-buried from what felt like decades ago, that they had once been friends.
And in the man’s own dead eyes, before he had turned away, he had seen a reflection of himself. Knew, somehow, that yesterday–and all the yesterdays, stretching back almost as far as he could remember–he had had that same dead expression in his eyes. That same vacant look, that same utter indifference to whether he lived or died as he rowed away his life on this ship.
And that terrified him. The terror jolted him, and he realized in an instant how long it had been since he had felt anything–even sheer fear and terror.
And Iliar knew in his bones that if he didn’t act now, if he didn’t act quick, he was going back to that. If he didn’t get off this ship this instant, he was going to sink back into that state of half-death where he didn’t notice anything and didn’t care about anyone. That state where he was too numb to even dream about going on deck and feeling the sunlight on his face.
And that scared him to his marrow.
Iliar looked around, clear-eyed and clear-minded for the first time that he could remember. Full to bursting with life and desperate to hang onto that.
And he made himself a promise. A man’s word was his bond, and he made himself a promise. Before this strange new energy faded, he was going to get off this Gods-be-damned ship.
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