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: 1886
Total Wordcount: 5651 (includes Title, Chapter Headers, etc.)
Fantasy Travel Agents
“What this story needs is some backstory!” The Writer bounced into the faux-living room with a giant armful of sketches and doodled research notes in crazy colors. The story mists billowed in her wake, nightmares and daydreams nipping at her heels.
“I could have told you that,” said not-Daniel from his comfy chair, bemused. “In fact I think I did tell you that several times.” His own backstory notebook was starting to look more like a scrapbook than actual notes.
“A Writer info dumps when she means to, she is neither early nor late.” The Writer sniffed and then lengthened the writing desk with a flick of her head so it could fit all of her doodling. “Besides, with all the town-building we did yesterday I feel the need to actual work out how this all works.”
The plot bunnies were safely tucked away under the desk as the papers thumped down, having learned their lesson in dangerous napping yesterday. But once things had settled, they swarmed out to nibble on the margins.
“Plus it lets her work in really tiny chunks of time,” pointed out the Muse from her lounge on the couch. “Which is good for getting wordcount down, but not so great in terms of coherency in the story.”
“You’re implying the story has coherency as is?” There was an eyebrow raise.
“Rough draft!” cried the Writer as she dove into her off-topic, info-dumping, not-really-prose travelogue.
The Town of Spring Water is known for its high quality sheep. They raise both meat and wool animals and have been doing so for generations. The town proper is up in the hills and there are additional sheep and crop farms in the hills as well. The farms that were flooded out were build at the base of the hills next to the large river and that floodplain is hit roughly every 200 years when there has been a very heavy winter and lots of ice melt.
The farms that were flooded had some sheep, but were primarily food crops because of the better soil.
The primary source of water for most of the village are the springs instead of the river, because it’s too far away. The dragon’s magic helps purify the wells and collect the groundwater in large underground basins that feed into the springs.
The river is called the Singing River because it passes through canyons a bit further downstream and it has carved out the soft rock leaving a sort of swiss cheese of harder rocks behind. The wind and the water both make noise as they pass through it and it’s a great source of ghost stories. Sadly the riverboats and barges can’t fit through, so the traders land at the town before the caves and they normally caravan up by foot to the village.
The village has a yearly sale of sheep, sort of like the big horse fairs in other stories. There’s a lot of competition over the best meat and wool animals and thanks to the dragon’s selective appetite (because of the scrying pools) only the bad genetics end up as snacks.
The town is large enough to have its own blacksmith and tavern and to support some of the trades that need larger gatherings of people to thrive. The town is run by a Council elected from each of the basic trades represented in the town and serves for two year terms. They can be re-elected in non-consecutive terms and the positions are staggered so not everything is elected at once.
The two has its own jail and police force, but no standing army. The dragon serves as protection from anything larger than what a small force of guards can manage. There is no long term jail sentencing, either the person is killed or exiled if crime is severe enough.
The dragon has also been known to come down and eat people, when needed. With no explanation or apology. It is always assumed that something in the scrying pool caused this and no one has really fought back against it.
Thanks to the dragon the village is safe and successful and it has become a sort of local diety.
“That tells us nothing about the actual people in the town,” said Khany as she walked in from the story mists, still getting used to not being a dog. Her form wavered back and forth as tried on various descriptions in search of something that fit. “How is that supposed to help the story?”
“But it gives me a better idea of things that might go wrong,” said the Writer. “I know what’s important to them and building it out makes it easier to think of the ‘worst that can happen.'”
“Other than an invading army?” said not-Daniel, rolling his eyes.
“We never really established that you were going to invade,” pointed out Dragon who had snuck up behind the couch when no one was looking. “The way the story is going now, you might just show up alone. You’re enough trouble as it is.”
not-Daniel was quietly smug.
“We’ll burn that bridge when we get to it,” said the Writer who was busy doodling out the layout of the village. “Now we’ve just got to figure out the setup of the caves, since that’s where we’ll be spending most of the story.”
“It’s caves, how descriptive do you actually need to be?” The Muse had been trying to ignore them from her lair on the couch, but the dragon’s sudden arrival had startled her into joining the conversation. Not that she was scared. Not even a little bit.
“I need the general feel for them, just like the village.” The Writer had started sketching out the cave system on the whiteboard. “The only room we know exists so far is the one with the offering bowl, but there must be more. It can’t just be one giant open cavern if Dragon keeps vanishing back into the shadows like a ninja.”
The Black Rock Caves line one side of the town’s hills. To… the east, with the river to the south. They are made of black hematite which is an iron ore that interestingly turns red when ground to powder. So it’s really just really deep red? There are veins of plain quartz and fools’ gold (pyrite) within the rocks. Which may not be possible, there shall be some rock research in the near future. (Update: Looks like that is a valid combination of minerals, so yay!)
The caves are naturally occurring, to a point. They are a focal point for magic in the region and that has warped the natural laws where it’s strongest. The focal point itself is not manufactured, but it has been subtly enhanced by the dragon over the years. He has done this by manipulating the veins of quartz and pyrite as well as the shapes of the caves.
Wild magic is not inherently dark or evil, but the villagers are less likely to try and use it if they think it is, so the dragon has encouraged the superstition. Humans with the ability to manipulate magic are incredibly rare and the dragon has selectively pruned the human population to keep it that way.
The rock is easily malleable by magic and the dragon has carved away at the caves, expanding as needed into the ground. The caves are a complex maze, once visitors move deeper in from the offering rooms, which helps protect the dragon as it sleeps. They aren’t mean to defend that well from an invading force, but to give the dragon time to prepare to meet one.
Villages would come in to use the offering room, the scrying pools, or the caves that are set aside for lodging, food storage, and lavatories.
The only reason the villagers come to the caves is to interact with the dragon. They do not mine any of the three minerals that make them up and what raw materials they might want are gathered and refined by the dragon.
“I’m still a little in shock that you managed to pick three minerals that coexist.” not-Daniel was eyeing the growing travelogue with something akin to alarm. “Do you always get this lucky?”
“Not a chance in heck,” the Writer finished doodling the rough outline of the cave system. Then erased half of it and re-doodled. “I probably need to find an actual map of an actual cave and use that. I have a feeling everything I am doodling here is more D&D and less actual geology. But it’s good enough for now… Onwards!”
The Scrying Pools lie slightly deeper into the caves, but only a short walk from the offering room. The dragon will allow some villagers to do the scrying themselves, but for most of them he will do the scrying while they are in the room to view. Very few of the humans have the talent that is required to ask the pools for an answer.
The pools are a mild sort of sentient in that they can understand the questions asked of it and provide the probable futures for viewing. They don’t place any sort of value judgment on the question, they don’t lie, and they don’t avoid showing the futures they know the petitioner doesn’t want to see.
The pools can only show a limited number of futures, normally three to seven. They show only the most probable futures and each future shown after the first one includes the reaction of the viewer to what they have already seen. Thus the futures are shown in order of probability as it is calculated right before each vision is shown.
If the petitioner is asking about something that will never happen, the pool will remain blank.
If the petitioner asks about their own death, the pool will rarely show repeating visions unless the death is somehow unavoidable.
It takes some practice to learn how to ask the pools and get reliable answers and the dragon will sometimes help the villager with the phrasing. Because of the imposition it makes on the dragon’s time they are only allowed to ask the pools questions once a year (or in qualifying life events) and only if the dragon approves the request.
The Writer came back up for air and noticed she was the only one still paying attention to the worldbuilding.
Khany was humming songs about small towns from Beauty and the Beast. The Muse was deep into her Stargate fan fiction binging (again). Dragon was sound asleep and not-Daniel back to working on his own backstory.
“So…?” The Writer poked not-Daniel’s chair since he seemed the only one bothering to help.
“That was… informative.” not-Daniel glanced at the new notes and cavern layout with a lack of enthusiasm. “So you spent all of today not writing story. Basically.”
“You can look at it like that,” the Writer shrugged. “But this is stuff that all needed to get down on paper– err, screen. The story needs a good grip on what reality is in order to figure out where it’s going.”
“Why couldn’t we just have figured this all out as we went along?” Khany asked. “I don’t think you’re doing Pantsing right.”
And then the Writer gave up and went to bed.