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: 2103
Total Wordcount: 7763 (includes Title, Chapter Headers, etc.)
Day 7 – Magic Eight Balls and Murky Futures
“We’re getting back to actual story today, right?” Khany was waiting for the Writer, curled up in her own version of the comfy chair that she’d summoned up next to the Writing Desk.
She’s settled her description overnight and was now a relatively young girl, maybe fifteen, with long red hair wound into a thick braid. She’s got brown eyes with only the faintest hint of green, tanned skin and freckles from working outdoors, and is lean but muscular. She’s dressed in basic rough-wear clothing, whatever the local equivalent is to blue jeans and a t-shirt.
She’s the kind of farm kid who knows just how tiring a full day of work is, but is just as happy to kick up her heels at the end of it. ‘Hold My Beer’ is a motto she’s quite fond of.
She also had a whole passel of very messy notes that are roughly approximate to not-Daniel’s growing scrapbook, which the Writer eyed with alarm as she sat down.
“Yeeees?” The Writer was still waving away clinging strands of story mists, trying to shake of a new story idea that had popped up and was demanding attention. “As much fun as it was to just play around yesterday describing things, I need to get back to work.”
“Great! So I have some ideas…”
The last time she came into the caves Khany had only come as far as the offering bowl. Now that she wasn’t planning on leaving, she took her time exploring.
There were lanterns in the common areas where the petitioners stayed that burned with a soft amber light. Sealed shut, it was impossible to tell where the light was coming from, but there was no heat when she touched the glass. Another relic of the dragon’s magic.
At first their light wasn’t quite enough to fill the tunnels between the caverns, but as her eyes adjusted to the darkness Khany found she could see well enough to move around. There was no map or tunnel markers, so she slowly worked her way back and forth between the first few rooms until the intersections were committed to memory.
Day by day she added more connections until she could walk from the entrance to the edges of caverns where quartz replaced the black rock. Those caves were off limits, walled shut by thin panes of quartz just opaque enough that should could see the dragon moving against deep blue reflections, but nothing else.
She still wasn’t sure what she was doing in the caves, but she couldn’t bring herself to go back to town. There was nothing for her there… and nothing for her here.
The dragon kept to itself and other than shadows against the walls, she rarely caught more than a glimpse of it. If it had a weakness, she’d found no hint of it in her exploring and even with time to think she’d come up with nothing else to try.
She took food from the stores meant to feed travelers, slept by the offering bowl, and kept thinking.
“Your dedication to my demise is amusing,” the dragon yawned and ruffled its feathers as it stretched awake. The combination was unnerving and the Writer blinked.
“You have feathers now?” She watched the fluff ghost down the dragon’s back, intermingling with the scales in decorative tufts. “I thought you were more of a rocky mossy type.”
“I’m considering it,” Dragon said thoughtfully and came over to look down on Khany’s notes. “What are the quartz caves for?”
“Haven’t decided yet,” said the fictive, tapping the location on the map. “But I know there’s magic!”
“Glad at least one of you knows what’s going on…” the Muse refused to look up from her fanfic binge and let them fade back into story without her.
Visitors to the cave were normally infrequent, but it was only a few weeks after her arrival when one arrived. Khany met them at the entrance, having been tipped off by the dragon.
“You look… well.” The magistrate hugged her awkwardly. He was confused, but trying to be comforting. “We were concerned by the note, of course, but the dragon will provide– We just didn’t think you’d really stay.” He stepped back, holding her at arm’s length the way her uncle used to and she pushed down the surge of sorrow that spiked at the memories. “I’m glad, if you’re happy. You are happy?”
Khany nodded, unable to give voice to the lie. There was a version of her that could be happy here, just as there was a version that could have been happy in town. So it wasn’t a lie, not quite, but she gave a weak smile and didn’t say a thing.
“Good, good, then that’s… good.” The magistrate let go, adjusting his pack, and peered ahead into the darkness. “I’ve come to ask about the summer fair, just the normal things. And checking in on you, of course. Was I expected? I must have been, I suppose.”
“The dragon has laid out a room for you and I can lead you back to the scrying pools tonight, if you like,” she offered. It was odd having someone else in the caves and she found herself torn between trying to be helpful and hiding away from the unexpected company. “Or you can go tomorrow, since it’s not urgent.”
“I think tomorrow, if it’s not too much of an imposition. I’m not as young as I used to be,” the magistrate grinned apologetically. “I should have ridden out, but I was stubborn and the youngest bailiff was making me feel old. Did you know I’d already been sheriff twice by the time he was born? Years fly by when you aren’t watching.”
Khany didn’t know how to respond to that, so she just nodded and led him into the caves.
“He’s a bit of a ditz,” pointed out not-Daniel. “Why on earth is he a magistrate?”
“He’s just not very coherent when he gets flustered,” Khany said. “He’s a good guy, dependable and plenty capable of handling the job since it’s so easy. Maybe he’d be bad in another town where bad things happen all the time… but this is Spring Water.”
“You’re welcome,” said Dragon, smugly.
“I’m still killing you!” she snapped.
They next morning after a small breakfast of fruit and grain porridge, Khany lead the magistrate back to the scrying pools. Visitors looking for scryings didn’t leave the traditional offerings for the dragon– the pools were their own entity, although the dragon would often help with the phrasing of the questions.
The magistrate had been here before and the list of questions about the yearly fair were written down on a piece of tanned sheepskin. He pricked his finger on the single shard of obsidian that jutted out from the largest pool and let three careful drops fall into the murky waters.
They waited patiently as the waters slowly cleared and once the pool was still before beginning the questioning.
The yearly fair was very important to the town as the festival brought in tourists as well as traders. They needed to make sure every possible bad scenario was accounted for, or at least the ones bad enough to cause real trouble.
Khany had never heard the questions before and it was fascinating to hear the calm recital of calamity after calamity read out. Every sort of natural and manmade disaster was accounted for, from summer thunderstorms to murder, and the pool reflected back the answers.
For most questions the pools remained blank, signifying that there was no probable future in which the action would occur. Khany wasn’t too surprised as most of the things on the list sounded incredibly unlikely. There were two results that did come back with visions, one was a falling tree that the magistrate made a note to have removed and the other was a child that wandered off and was kicked in the head by a sheep.
It took several tries to find a method to prevent that injury, in the end the magistrate had to use the ‘What if we assign someone to guard that pen and keep an eye on that specific ram, who is a bit of hot-head?’.
Personally Khany thought that maybe they should just have turned that ram into dinner or banned the child from the event. But the magistrate was happy, the dragon didn’t seem to care one way or the other, and she wasn’t planning on attending herself.
That was the last of the prepared questions and the magistrate threw in a few off the cuff, ending with ‘Is there a future in which the fair causes harm to the village?’
It was an incredibly generic question, but they’d been over so many catastrophes Khany wasn’t expecting anything to appear.
But it did.
The pool flickered and showed a town in ruins. Not a single building was standing and fire coated the rubble in thick blankets of smoke and dancing shadows. There was no movement other than the flames. No humans. No animals. Nothing but an empty shell of their home.
There was a very long silence.
“I –Um –oh. What?” The magistrate opened and closed his mouth a few more times, eyes wide and darting from ruin to ruin.
“This isn’t the fair, it’s the town,” said Khany after a moment. “This started with the fair, whatever it is. How do we ask it what caused this? We’ve got months before the fair, we can stop this.”
“Is there a future in which the village doesn’t burn?” the dragon asked, calmer than she expected him to be, but there was a chill to the sound of his voice, a faint frost across the crackling of dry leaves.
The pool shivered and the images of devastation were replaced by the image of a single traveler arriving at the dragon’s cave. The man was dressed in well-worn traveling clothes, but was on foot and was carrying only a simple knapsack. He wasn’t anyone Khany recognized and the magistrate shook his head as well.
“This is too vague!” The magistrate complained. “It’s devastation or a traveler. Does he burn the village down? Does he stop someone else from doing it? I don’t have questions for this.” He waved his hands at the pool, which flickered and faded back into a murky fog.
“You aren’t meant to,” said the dragon, still gazing at the empty pool. “He comes to my cave, so this is a task for the girl.”
“What!?” Khany was already arguing with the dragon before the magistrate could open his mouth. “It’s your cave. It’s your village to protect. Why is this my problem?”
“Because that was not a future I saw before you came,” said the dragon, still cool, but decisive. “There is something you caused that set this chain in motion, so you will learn how to fix it.” The golden eyes bore into her own, their cores swirling mezermisingly.
“Fine.” Khany turned her glare to the pools.
“But–” the magistrate looked back and forth between the dragon and the girl in growing desperation. “But you can’t, you have to fix this!” He almost dropped the sheepskin list as his arm guesstures grew more frantic. “You can’t just leave it to her, that’s not fair!”
“To who?” The dragon seemed genuinely curious.
“To us, to her, to everything!” The magistrate waved the sheepskin at the dragon. “She’d never used the pool before, how will she know what to ask? What if she missed something? What if she can’t find a way to prevent that future?”
“Then maybe it can’t be prevented,” said the dragon. “There were no deaad people in that future,” it cut off the magistrate’s objections. “There were no dead animals. All you saw were burning buildings. Things can be replaced. People cannot.”
Khany frowned into the pool, thinking. The dragon was right, whatever had happened didn’t seem to have left any bodies behind.
“Daniel, what the heck!?” The Writer gestured at the scene angrily.
“Hey, that was all Dragon,” not-Daniel shrugged. “I have nothing to do with any fiery futures… yet, apparently.”
“Well, at least I have my first task.” Khany looked down at her notes. “That wasn’t quite what I meant to have happen, but I can work with this.”
“This is my story!” objected the Writer.
And lo, the day ended with the Muse trying very hard not to laugh and a group of fictives who weren’t quite sure what they were doing, but kept going anyways.