The only thing she knows is true anymore is that the dragon needs to die.
This is the daily(ish) posting of my 2017 NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) fantasy novel. [YANS] is short for Yet Another New Story, so it’s new worlds and new civilization ahead! Since last year worked out well, this year’s attempt will also be a combination of MuseFic and proper rough draft. The story will be completed at the end of November… even if the story isn’t really complete. 😉
Read at your own risk/amusement: There will most likely be spelling and grammatical errors afoot as well as flat out bad writing, info dumps, plot holes, contradictions/retcons, uneven characterization and pacing.
Daily Wordcount: 2,624
Total Wordcount: 45,897 (includes Title, Chapter Headers, etc.)
Day 28 – Into the Valley of Death
“So what you’re telling me is that you basically wrote nothing useful in the past two days.” The Muse was not pleased with her Writer.
“I was sick! Sort of. Most of Monday was editing, so there were words but they got lost in Day 25’s Part III…” The Writer at least had enough self-preservation instinct to look guilty. “Look I know I’m asking a lot, but if we can just get close to where we need to be today, we can still win this!”
The Muse pointed at the complete and utter mess of yesterday’s attempt at writing.
The Writer deployed the Puppy Dog Eyes of Doom (doom) ((doom)).
…They were super effective!
“Three work days and nine thousand words and pretty much no plot left is not really a ‘we can win this’ situation.” The Muse shook her head, but got up off the couch to help. “I’m fine with helping you get the end of the fight on paper, but there is no way we are going to pull off a NaNo win on top of that.”
“I think you underestimate her ability to exposition dump,” said Dragon. He was immune to Puppy Dog Eyes and was still curled up in his bean bag nest. “Have fun with your worldbuilding, I’m going to nap.”
“On that note…” The Writer fished around in the sleepy pile of plot bunnies until she found the Tony Stark plot bunny. She put it on the writing desk where it yawned, sneezed all over her notes, and then groggily cleaned its face.
“Right, great, whatever.” The Writer handed the bunny a tiny cup of coffee. “So wake up little guy and let’s see how destructive it would be to introduce Dragon’s inventions into the town!”
Thanks to the dragon, the town had all sorts of small magic improvements that drew power from the world around them. Nothing was impressive enough to really raise any eyebrows, if it was noticed at all, but all of it was useful in making life just a little bit better.
A lot of it was fabric-based magitech since they were a town that pretty much ran on wool. The dragon could get away with adding very subtle magics to those because the humans didn’t use magic much on a whole and weren’t looking for anything other than the obvious. Still there were lots of rules in place for what sort of inventions could leave the town and which had be to hidden from tourists.
There were blankets that stayed cool in the summer and warm in the winter, based off what the person sleeping under them wanted. They weren’t very powerful, but it helped a lot since the climate itself was relatively mild.
There were flowers that bloomed at night and gave off light, like a bioluminescence, but slightly brighter. They used them to light the paths and inside of houses for sort of a night-light/twilight feel after the sun had set. The flowers also attracted the naturally glowing local bugs, so there were a lot of fireflies about.
There were curtains that could from semi-opaque to translucent with a touch. They were useful for shop windows where it was too cumbersome to draw back the curtains every morning. They might also be used to separate off bedrooms or areas of a room for sleeping. These were a more visible magic and we’re not shown to visitors.
There were rainproof cloaks that owed a talents to magic rather than wax. These were truly waterproof and had a warming spell besides. Great for shepherds out watching the flocks, but too magical to be given to outsiders.
Toilets had a composting fire chamber that would spark when you turned a handle and turn waste into dried bricks that could be used as fertilizer. The tourists would all assume they were normal public outhouses and the townsfolk would compact and empty them at night. They had toilets inside as well, but they kept those hidden away. Most places that were too small to have a public sewer system still used outhouses or chamber pots.
There were coats with warmer pockets so you could thaw out your fingers in the winter. The gloves just never seemed to make it out of prototype. These could go into the shepherds’ cloaks and maybe a really mild version could go into the sale coats as well.
There was some sort of ‘dragon hotline’ that the Council could use to alert the dragon of troubles. It wouldn’t be the letter system since that was only in prototype, but it could be a simple ‘push this button and a bell goes off in the caves’ sort of cantrap.
They couldn’t have anything really obvious like floating carts, but they could have things like wheelbarrows that were lighter than they should be. Shovels and pitchforks that amplified the user’s strength just a bit. Tiny little things that would see like background radiation for the most part.
The Tony Stark plot bunny preened happily over the small pile of creations it can summoned up out of the story mists. There were also quite a few weapons in the pile, but the Writer carefully tucked those away.
“So all the stupid little chores the dragon was asking Khany to do while she was living in the cave… they were really all things he could have done with magic.” the Muse noted.
“Well yes, but he was trying to get her to leave.” The Writer stretched, took a break to color in the new wordcount, and realised she had run out of gummi bears. It was truly a dark time upon the land.
The Muse was not impressed by her woe.
“Enough of that, you have have gummi bears when you’d hit 50k, now pick something random and get going!”
The pools had issues seeing the future. They relied on the most probable outcomes and for a lot of things in life the probabilities are immense. Big life events were easier, although a thousand little things lead up to it, there tend to be trends in a person’s life that drive them in one direction or another. A farmboy is much more likely to go adventuring that a banker’s son, a nobleman is more likely to duel than a petty thief.
The problem is that the pools only answer the question you ask it. If a banker’s son asks it if he’ll ever end up running the bank, it won’t show him the futures where he went adventuring. They’re far less likely futures, but they exist. There are very few futures that simply aren’t possibilities… but then most folks aren’t very good at asking about the unexpected.
There are some things the pools can’t answer well. It is a little hazy on the passage of time, since all time looks the same to it. The magic can see all of the futures, all of the pasts, but only a single present. That’s why they hate answering ‘now’ questions.
It’s almost impossible to tell someone how they are going to die because they will immediately work to prevent it. Unless the method of death is inescapable the best the pools can do is give a few vision that become null almost immediately.
The magic has been around since the world was formed and recycles endlessly. Living things that soak to long in areas of high magic concentration will eventually reach a saturation point and fade away. Only the shadow dragon has been able to stop this process.
Plants and animals soaking in magic will simply grow and then fade away. They don’t have the ability to use the magic, so it builds up much faster than it does in the dragons. The dragons are constantly burning magic, but they also reach a point where they can’t burn it fast enough.
It is possible for a dragon to burn through all of its magic, at which point it will return to human form. The human can then become a dragon again quite easily. It’s much easier to become a dragon on purpose, although unsafe since if you haven’t done it before you don’t know your personal threshold.
“The pools really waffle between ‘useful’ and ‘useless’,” pointed out Khany as she wandered in from the story mists with Jashn and dinner. “In this draft we won’t know what they really need to show because we haven’t written it yet.” She handed out carryout bags and then crashed on the couch to eat her share.
“We need to get back to the main story and finish this thing off,” Jashn agreed. “Worldbuilding is definitely something that needs doing, but after we finish the fight.” He summoned a tv tray table from the story mists and settled into the comfy chair.
“Alright, alright.” The Writer got back to work with a mutter about ungrateful fictives which was roundly ignored.
Khany catches up to the shadow dragon outside the caves. They collapsed the entrance when they left and put up layers upon layers of wards to keep people out. People and the monster.
So it was prowling back and forth in front of the cave, more compact and catlike then it had been at the pools. It was making noises like rotted wood being splintered and it was chewing away a the protective spells.
Khany drew a little more magic from the ground around here and then grabbed a rock and lobbed it at the shadow.
The rock passed through the creature, but it was a little more solid and the rock made a hole in it for a few heartbeats.
“Hey, you!” She picked up another rock. “Get away from there!”
The wards would repair themselves, if she could distract it long enough. They still weren’t enough to keep it from breaking in eventually, but this would buy them time. That’s all she needed.
The creature growled at her, but then turned back to the wards. She lobbed another rock thought it and was ignored.
So she picked up more rocks, and slightly larger rocks, and kept throwing. Eventually she was doing enough damage that it had to stop working on the wards to stop her. She was breaking its concentration and it was having to burn through magic to heal.
The creature was slower now and Khany was agile enough to dodge its initial attacks. The noises it made grew angrier and more frustrated as it kept missing and she kept lobbing rocks.
It paused for a moment, shrank into something more closely resembling a large cat and then pounced. This time is was much faster than she was expecting and Khany didn’t quite get out of the way in time.
But the magic that protected the caves protected her and instead of losing an arm she only ended up with long scratches that burnt and itched.
With a curse, she dodged back under cover, there were plenty of larger rocks this close to the caves and tried to come up a better plan. She didn’t know how to use magic and she wasn’t good with weapons, not that she had any, so throwing rocks was pretty much her only form of attack.
“This is a horrible, horrible plan!” Dragon objected. “If I’ve made all those cool toys, why haven’t I given her any to play with? Why did anyone thinks that just lobbing rocks would do any good at all? Even if she could distract it enough to actually fight it she’ll die on the first hit.”
“And that isn’t going to distract it for long at all,” agreed Jashn.
“Because your toys can’t go through the portal because they are magic? Or because you don’t trust her to use them with her wild magic? Or because there is some better tactic I just haven’t thought of yet?” The Writer had no idea, but she needed to finish the fight.
“Well, no matter what method I use, it will still end the same way,” said Khany, having cheated and read ahead in the notes. “So just use rocks for now and we’ll come back and make it more logical later.”
While she hid the shadow dragon healed and then resumed its attack on the wards. They had regenerated only a tiny bit during their scuffle and he quickly reclaimed the lost ground.
Khany took a steadying breath, focused in on the fact she had nothing to lose, and tried to ask the magic for help lobbing the rocks.
The next rock went through the creature with a satisfying thump. It was much more solid in this form and while the rock did grow through it, it took more effort and seemed to be causing more damage.
This time the creature turned after the first throw and chased her about for a few minutes before giving up and going back to the wards.
Khany pulled a little more magic and went to throw again, but this time the creature leapt backwards, twisting in the air as soon as she let go of the rock. The shadow landed where she had been standing, but she was already dodging out of the way.
Buffered by her success at getting the magic to help her throw rocks, she asked it to help push the creature off balance as it leapt again. It wobbled slightly in midair, but didn’t take any damage. The snarls got a lot more vicious.
It started hunting her for real at that point. She was barely keeping in front of it and didn’t realise it was herding her towards the caves until she stumbled and fell back through the wards. Her back was at the collapsed rock blocking the tunnel, but she was partial inside the wards.
With a snarl the shadow dragon latched onto her leg, the cave’s magic keeping the jaws from shutting all the way, but it was enough to drive the canines into her calf.
She felt a draining sensation and couldn’t figure out what it was–then she realised the shadow dragon was using her as a conduit to syphon magic from the wards. She tried to shut down the link, ask the magic to stop protecting her, but it refused and the shadow dragon grew stronger.
In desperation she tried pulling back on the magic stream the shadow creature was using and for a moment she was draining magic from him again. Then it chomped down just a little harder and reversed the flow again, only this time it was pulling hard and the magic of the caves started to flow through her at a rapid rate.
She fought with the magic, trying to hold onto it as it slipped through her mental fingers. She begged it not to go, to stay in the pools, and finally just to stay with her.
And it did.
The shadow dragon growled and shook her by the leg, bashing her against the rockfall, but the magic from the caves pooled in her, buffering the impact, healing her and slowly forcing the shadow dragon’s jaws apart.
She held on, worn out from the earlier fight and the trip through the void, but desperate to buy enough time for the dragons to get there. But the amount of magic started to get too heavy to hold and it started to leak out into the shadow monster again.
He was going to win, there was nothing she could do but she wouldn’t, couldn’t stop fighting, she couldn’t save her family from the flood, but she could save the town from the fire. She clung to that vision and tried to hold on to the magic.
And her wild magic sparked.