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: 2,351
Total Wordcount: 39,973 (includes Title, Chapter Headers, etc.)
Day 25, Part II – Mighty Morphin Power Jashns
Jashn just looked at Dragon.
“I’m not making weapons!” Insisted the dragon. “I’m working on storage devices, and ways to make more efficient pools, and how to make tools that I can give to the towns folks to make their lives a little easier.”
“…wait, did we really come back full circle to having a steampunk flavored town?” asked the Muse, who was having serious issues with how many random ideas from the first few days seemed to be looping back into the story proper.
“It would seem so.” The Writer poked the idea thoughtfully. “Is there anything here that could allow the shadow dragon to teleport back to the town from the city? So it can flee before you can kill it?”
“Err… maybe?” The dragon took a moment to rummage around in his stockpiles. “Here, yeah, this should work, I think.” He held up a small metal tube. “It’s a take on the letter sending magic that Jashn was using earlier, but it’s for folks that can’t use magic themselves. It’s a direct portal to my caves or the town. In theory the shadow could use this to mail itself.”
“That wouldn’t work,” said Kahny. “Think about it– If that would work then why couldn’t the shadow dragon do it already? Why would be need to use devices that were created as a shortcut for non-magical people?”
“I have a lot of wards built up around the town,” said Dragon. “They’re meant to block out harmful magics and make people that are actively using magic feel paranoid and want to leave. If couldn’t get in through the barriers– but this would let it in. Also I think there’s probably something in the magic that has rules about you having to know where you’re going. Since the shadow has never been there, it wouldn’t be able to go.”
“But why would you have it with you?” asked the Writer. “Neither you nor Jashn need it.
“Khany might,” pointed out Jashn. “If something happens to us and she needs to warn the town to evacuate, then she’d be able to send them a message.”
“The portal would have to go to town then, unless you want to have someone staying in the caves just in case.” The Muse poked at the idea. “That could work, or at least it’s the best idea we have so far.”
“And if we think of something better, we’ll just retcon it,” said the Writer. “We’ve got a little over 10k words to go… let’s do this!”
For a long moment Time stood still, frozen in the tenuous balanced pull of the magic as past and future melded into now.
Then the vortex collapsed and Jashn stood in the waters of main pools facing the shadow as the overflow spilled down across the rocks.
The shadow was oily and thick. Bloated with magic it reared up from the waters, with a rotten hiss more static than sound.
Jashn backpedaled out of the pools, tripping on the way down and avoiding the initial lunge of the goo. “Start draining it!” He yelled as the doors to the pool room burst open as the Dragon’s Children responded to the noise.
They didn’t need any additional instruction and they formed a ring around the pool, pulling the loose magic out of the room as fast as they could.
Jashn and the younger dragon both moved in, trying to distract the shadow as Kahny darted behind them to dip her hands into the pools as well. The Dragon’s Children were staying away from the pools because they couldn’t afford to get caught up in the fight so they could only funnel the magic away slowly. But she could, so she grabbed ahold of the magic and threw it to them in a thick river, cajoling it away from the shadows.
The shadow was glutted with magic and paid no mind to them as they emptied the pools. Instead it focused on Jashn, throwing out out thick tendrils ooze, trying to entrap him.
Jashn was doging, but as he did he lost concentration on the magics holding him to human forms and with an eye watering twist, he flooded back into his white draconic self.
The shadow creature took the opportunity to entangle him in a web of black slime that coated his wings in dripping spiderwebs.
With a snarl, Jashn lept into the air, blue flames cascading down his feathers and sparking off the ooze that retracted into the pool below. He hovered for a moment and dove down to meet it again, keeping a careful eye on the Dragon’s Children below.
The town dragon was taken aback only for a second and although he growled at Jashn, he moved into attack the shadow as Jashn dove.
“Would the shadow really let them drain the pools like that?” the Muse asked. “It seemed very protective of the pools before, even though it’s under attack wouldn’t it notice that and try to stop them?”
“It’s shown it can pull magic from the dragon earlier, maybe it’s not so worried.” The Writer shuffled through her notes. “And they are just moving the magic out of the way right now, they aren’t doing anything with it. The shadow has to know about the other storage locations, it’s been around long enough. So it might not care that they are moving things since it can just hop locations and get it back.”
“So this shadow thing only sort of has a physical form, are any of these attacks going to really hurt it?” Kahny asked.
“It will cause it to burn magic to heal, so that’s something,” the Writer said. “So it is hurting it, just not as much as they’d like.”
“Also, I’m getting some serious Fern Gully flashback right about now,” said the Muse.
The city dragon was still frozen in place where she had stopped when time did, watching everything with wide eyes and and deep cold feeling of doom. It was going to happen, her city was going to fall and there was nothing she could think to do to stop it.
She could see the visions of her city in ruins dancing across the heatwaves of magic. The walls she worked so hard to raise, shattered beyond repair. The marketplaces she’d coaxed up out of a few small carts, empty and desolate. All of the nightmares over the centuries of what would happen if she failed paraded by as fight grew more heated.
Kahny was feeling a little lightheaded by the time they’d drained the excess magic from the rest of the pools. She could see the little sparks of light dancing in her vision, even when she wasn’t looking at the waters. In front of her the two dragons battled with the shadow and she didn’t have the energy to care that Jashn had turned into a dragon when she wasn’t looking.
She wasn’t sure how she knew it was him, but when she looked at the white feathered serpent, it felt familiar, felt like Jashn.
Khany shook her head, trying to focus, and wondering if she could make it to the edge of the last pool without being seen. But the shadow was actively fighting there and it seemed to be looking everywhere and nowhere at once. So she put her hands on the stone of the pools instead and sent out a wordless plea to the last of the free magics that pooled around the shadow.
And slowly the water level in the main pool began to fall.
The town dragon’s scales burned where the shadow had landed blows, but his own attacks seemed to be doing little to harm the shadow. He danced away from another blow and sent a crackle of lightning dancing along the ooze. It smoked for a moment, convulsing, and then continued as if it had never been hit.
Jashn’s blue flame seemed to have the same effect. The creature would crisp and flake, but then heal a moment after.
He could see the magic level in the pool dropping, but the strength required to pull it away from the shadow was starting to take its toll visibly on the humans. A few of the Dragon’s Children had already collapsed and he could see Khany struggling. If the shadow focused on them, even for a moment, it would be too much for them to handle.
They needed to find a way to keep its attention on them. The dragon barked in annoyance at the City by the Sea dragon, who was still standing there in a dreamlike state, watching the battle.
The dragons don’t need the pools to see the future. It was something her old mentor had told her once, when they were out stargazing and pondering on the infinite. Dragons were just lazy, he’s said, but he’d never mentioned it again and she’d forgotten it until now.
Until now when she could see the futures dancing around the fight. Here the city died. Here the town burned. Here her apprentice Jashn was turned to white ash against blacken stone. Here the stubborn young town dragon writhed in flames so hot they burnt white.
And here, here that wild magic human, who had cursed them all, stood in the ash and laughed.
“IT’S LYING TO YOU, YOU IDIOT!” Khany yelled at the elder dragon, who was studiously ignoring her from the other side of the faux-living room.
“She does have a point, it’s pretty much a known fact that visions of the future are bogus at this point,” the town dragon said. “We’re going to need a lot more backstory to explain why you can’t recognize that.”
“It’s not my fault the story isn’t all there yet,” pointed out the elder dragon. “But at this rate we’ll have more POVs than scenes, so I may end up just implied. Still.” She refused to look at Khany who was lobbying couch pillows at her and cursing. The couch was thoughtfully keeping her ammo supplies restocked and the elder dragon pondered setting it on fire.
The couch was not amused.
The magic was gone from the main pool now and Khany’s vision was nothing but blurred shadows and light. She could feel the Dragon’s Children as they fell, passed out or dead, she couldn’t tell, but it was down to one of her and three of them.
With a snarl as vicious as the dragons who fought above her, she reached out with her prayers to the magic within the shadows creature… and pulled.
With the screech of rotting pines collapsing, the shadow creature immediately turned away from the two dragons and plummeted down at Khany. The dragons both pounced on it, catching big clawfuls of it and yanking upwards. They slowed it somewhat as Khany panicked and tried to pull as much magic down into the pipeline as she could before it hit her.
Behind her the Dragon’s Children staggered and fell and for one terrible heartbeat she had an immense rush of magic and nothing to do with it.
Then the City by the Sea dragon picked up the stream and tore the magic away from her with a snarl. The elder dragon reared up to meet the incoming shadow, glutted on her own stolen magics and the two fought faster than the eye could follow. Twin snakes of blue-green and black, they spun, coated in fire and lightning.
The ground around the pools cracked and shattered as the dragon from the City by the Sea ripped magic away from the shadow and used the energy to create shelters around the fallen Dragon’s Children. After a moment, Jashn and the town dragon joined in, siphoning the magic away and burning it to transform the room through brute force.
They carved slashed into the walls, melted stone, and raised and demolished stalagmites. The room was a constantly morphing scene of raw magics and Khany watched from where she had fallen, terrified, but too exhausted to flee.
The shadow shrank slowly as it’s magic was torn away, but it’s attacks grew more vicious and intense.
There was a sudden flash of darkness, deep enough to swallow all of the light in the room, save for the monsters red eyes. Then a pop and the darkness vanished like smoke into a crack in the air.
“No, no, no,” the town dragon is leaping for the crack while everyone just stands there blinking in shock as the light returns.
“What was it?” Jashn said, as the town dragon is cursing rapid fire and unintelligible.
“My letter carrier, it hijacked it somehow.” He held up the smoldering tube that leaked oily black residue.
“It’s gone to your town?” asked the City by the Sea dragon, panting and covered in hundreds of small burns. “Gone through a portal you brought here?” She laughed a dry brittle laugh that had none of the sea behind it. “Good. Let it be your town that burns then. Your town and all your corrupted magic toys.” She turned away, limping to to check in on the Dragon’s Children.
“We have to stop it,” the town dragon said, desperately to Jashn. “There has to be a way.”
“It’s more than a day away,” said Jashn, exhausted and singed. “Even if we go as fast as magic will carry us, by that point it will have found the caves and it will be just as powerful again. Only this time we’ll be alone.” He looked over at the city dragon and the prone forms of the Dragon’s Children. “Maybe we can’t stop this, maybe the town is supposed to burn.”
“Mail me,” said Khany, rising from the floor by stubbornness alone. She was nearly blind and shaking, but the magic came to her when she asked, and it steadied her. “It just proved it can be done, but you’re too large to go. Mail me and I’ll buy you time.”
The dragons looked down at her and then at the smoldering tube.