Author’s Note: I am now fully in the thrall of the “just get the dang words on the page” portion of NaNoWriMo. The last few chapters (of which I think there will be 6 more) are displaying substantially less polish, and will probably leave some open ends hanging. In an ideal world, I would come back to these later and fix them, but let’s be honest — that’s probably not ever going to happen. However, instead, I am planning a series of three (or possibly four) NaNo deconstruction posts after all the smoke and rubble clears. So I’d encourage you to view these chapters as a “work-in-progress” and then come back to read the deconstruction posts to find out more about what the finished product would look like, were I ever to get around to making this a finished product.
Cameron’s mind was far away from his body. He was in a vast, featureless plane, and everywhere around him was brilliant, blinding whiteness. He stumbled to his feet, squinting, trying to discern where he was. There was a faint, rhythmic hissing sound coming from somewhere behind him, like a bellows being opened and closed repeatedly. He turned, and in the distance saw a faint figure curled in a ball on the ground. He walked curiously towards the figure, and he couldn’t shake the feeling that somehow, somewhere he knew who the figure was. Perhaps in a former life, they had been friends? Or maybe enemies. That felt more ‘right’, somehow.
As he got closer, he saw that the figure was bleeding out into a pool on the strange, oddly spongey ground. The man looked up at him with deep eyes that were somehow sorrowful and hateful all at once. “Cameron,” the man whispered. “Do… what you came for. Release me…”
Unsure why, but knowing it was the right thing to do, Cameron knelt down, and began lapping up the man’s blood. As he did so, he felt strength flooding into his body, a strength that he had never felt before. With each swallow, he felt the strange man’s strength draining, and finally, he collapsed on the ground next to the dead body of Baltasar, satiated and powerful.
“Good, Cameron,” the White King said, sitting on the ground next to him. Where had he come from? Cameron was unsure. “Very, very good. You have become one of a select few, men who make their own power. Now, you and I can understand each other.”
Cameron nodded, stomach full of this man’s soul. He could feel it working inside of him, changing the very chemistry of his cells, to interact with the Tao and harness its power, rather than just reject it. He felt like there was something important he ought to be remembering, but it escaped him. Surely it would come to him later.
“Cameron,” the White King said. “Do you realize what you have done? You are the second man since the Awakening to take the force of Tao into your body! You and I, we are unique!”
Cameron stood, towering over the White King’s body, and made no reply. His mind was changing, growing, expanding, and he was dizzy with the vast expanses of power that were being made open to him. He saw it all; he understood the Tao, he understood why it worked, and why some people could use it. He was a god, and he could bend the world to his will. He lifted up his foot, and made to step on the White King’s frail body, squashing him like the tiny bug he was, but he found that his foot was frozen in place. A flash of anger crossed his face; who or what would dare to get in his way?
The White King stood up, and gave him a nudge, toppling him to the ground. “I am not your enemy, Cameron,” the White King said. “You cannot defeat me. But you can help me. I can make you even more powerful. I can show you things that you cannot imagine, even now. Cameron, you shall be the most feared man in the Kingdom; your word shall be law, and people shall bow before you. Join with me.”
Cameron stared up at him. The White King was a very wise man; why would he ever turn down such a generous offer? He stood back up, and looked the man in the eyes. They were pure white, deep tunnels into the White King’s mind. Cameron could see every color inside his eyes, and it was intoxicating. Of course he would help the King; what kind of fool would he be to walk away from him?
The White King smiled widely. “Good, Cameron. Very good. You will soon wake up. When you do, come find me. We will rule this kingdom together.”
Cameron lay on the floor of the prison, twitching. He had been there for several hours. In the far cell, Baltasar’s dead body lay collapsed on the ground. The two other guards had long ago fled their post, terrified by the events that they had witnessed. The chill, cold winter air crawled down into the cell, and gusts of snow blew down the stairs. Cameron’s breath, slow and steady, condensed in the air and then faded away in faint, wispy strands. His eyes were closed, but they twitched back and forth, as though he was in the thrall of some vibrant, engaging dream. All else was still.
Cameron’s eyes snapped open. He glanced around the cell quickly, taking his surroundings in with a single glance. He acknowledged Baltasar’s dead figure; he stood, a determined look in his eyes. He would no longer be caged.
He waved his hand, and Tao-force rushed from his body. The bars of the prison cell twisted and snapped, leaving a gaping hole, through which Cameron stepped confidently. He muttered a word under his breath, and Baltasar’s body turned to ash. He strode up the steps into the courtyard of Castle Whitefall. The ground was coated in a thin layer of snow, but it evaporated wherever Cameron trod, hissing and steaming into the air. It was only early afternoon, but the cloud cover was so thick that it was dark as night. Cameron snapped his fingers, and his body was sheathed in flame, casting a glowing light around flickering off the walls. The courtyard was still; grey reavers stood motionless on the battlements, waiting for the coming storm.
Cameron strode over to the White King’s pavilion. The guards outside scrambled to get out of the way as he pushed aside the flap and entered the tent. He walked up to the throne of the White King and knelt on one knee. “Command me, O King,” he said.