The only thing she knows is true anymore is that the dragon needs to die.
In which there is scrying, discovery of a possibly decent plot, and Jashn arrives!
Daily Wordcount: 2088
Total Wordcount: 15,273 (includes Title, Chapter Headers, etc.)
NOTE: This is a MuseFic in which the Writer, the Muse, and her fictives work to create the rough draft of a story (or just worldbuild). There will be spoilers for the story being drafted, which will most likely contain plot holes, retcons, and other inconsistencies.
P.S. – Something, Something, Plot!
“…Did you just split the day in half again?” The Muse looked around, startled.
“Shhhhh,” said the Writer. “I’m going to be short chapters if I don’t. Plus it’s easier to read. And stuff.” There was a pause. “Because reasons.”
The Muse sighed and got back to the story.
In the myriad of futures the pool had presented, the stranger kept reappearing. They couldn’t scry into the past and even with long lines of questioning they could only catch glimpses of him in the future. Where he came from or why was still unknown.
Reluctantly Khany headed out to town to bring the news of what they had found to the Magistrate. Most of what they had discovered was simply methods of escape for the townsfolk, there was very little about how to prevent the fire, but it was better than nothing.
They had even narrowed down the time range for the fire to a few days after the fair, although it was less concrete and answer than they would have liked. The more the questioned the pool, the more organized the evacuation, but there were still several possible options open… it would all depend on what the Council decided to to.
When she got to town Khany was greeted politely, but warily. Word of her self-exile to the dragon’s caves and her role in the scrying had passed around town like wildfire. She had never been overly friendly with them to start with, still bound up in her losses to the flood, but it was still a bit unnerving to be treated like she might be dangerous.
She didn’t waste time getting to the magistrate’s house and passing along the information. He was calmer than he’d been at the pools, having had time to acclimate to the situation. She might now be able to offer him a solution to the disaster to come, not yet, but she could at least give him the information he needed to make plans.
She stayed overnight and waited for the Council meeting in the morning. She wasn’t invited in, but they gave her a new list of questions to take back to the pools… and the dragon.
She kept her opinions to herself about how much help the dragon would be, there was no point in starting fights or making folks more worried about something they couldn’t control. But nothing in the futures they had seen showed that the dragon played much of a role at all.
It would be down to her and the stranger.
And that was too frightening to share.
“I don’t like playing messenger,” Khany complained as she dumped her backpack against the wall of her room. The dragon lurked outside in the hallway, too big to fit into the tiny chamber. Which was one reason she had picked it.
“I could have sent a bird and summoned them here,” the dragon pointed out, his voice the soft rustle of ivy in the wind.
“And then they would have argued with us and wasted time questioning the pools about things we already tried.” Khany rolled her shoulders to ease the aches and then fished out the sheepskin list of new questions. “They’ve given me some silly things to ask as it is. Who cares if a specific building survives? Or how much it will rain.”
“I’d assume the person who owns the building will care and rain, even if it’s not heavy, will help to put out the smoldering fires, but it will also make things hard to clean up.” The dragon followed her over to the scrying room. “Did you want to do this tomorrow? You’ve had a long walk.”
“And plenty of time to think up more questions.” She leaned over to tap the surface of the pool and it woke up with a happy starburst of golden dust and sediment eddies. She sat on the edge of the rock formation and leaned forward to get a better view.
“Is there a future in which the town burns, but they old mill building survives?”
The pool pulsed once in annoyance.
“I know, I know, it’s one of the first things to burn in every future we’ve looked at, but I promised to ask.” She skimmed down the list of questions. “How about this one– is there a future in which the town begins to burn, but it is stopped part of the way through?”
There was a thoughtful ripple and the ghost of a few futures, flashed too fast and too faint to see, and then the pool was silent.
“Wait, wait,” Khany sat up suddenly. “The flames come from the west, they can’t be stopped, at least not by anything we’ve thought of– what if this isn’t really fire?”
The dragon raised an eyebrow.
“Well, it’s fire, but it’s not just burning the wood, that’s why we can’t put it out. What if it’s burning the magic? Show me how the town burns again.”
The pool started replaying the same generic scene they’d watched dozen of times before.
“Now stop, see there?” She pointed at one of the buildings in the back. “That’s the old Gentner house where the hedgewitch used to live. She had all sorts of bits and baubles there that her son never cleaned out. Start it again, but go slow.”
The pool obliged and they watched the flames lick along the thatching of the house and then spark into green flame for just a moment before the fire surged.
“That’s why the caves burned so hot, why the rocks cracked and we thought the pools had drained or boiled away. They burnt, they didn’t evaporate.” She didn’t bother to check if the dragon agreed with her, she was too focused on the pool.
They watched the fires together in silence, trying to find a flaw in the theory.
“See, now that’s some plotting!” Khany said smugly and Jashn shrugged.
“Well, we know the fire is feeding on the magic and that it probably started in the caves.” The Writer said. “There’s one future where the town doesn’t burn but the caves are destroyed… so there’s a way to stop the fires, even after they start there.”
“I’d prefer we stopped them prior to destroying my home,” said Dragon.
“But what is causing the fire? We didn’t pin that down at all.” The Writer sighed. “Is the fire related to Jashn finding whatever it is he needs from Dragon? Was the fire and accident caused by him trying something reckless, or is the fire what he’s trying to have happen? If he’s in the futures where the town doesn’t burn, but the pools do– wouldn’t that indicate that the pools burning is his goal?”
Jashn shook his head. “What would the point be in that? If I need to gather the magic and bring it home, burning it would cancel that out. There’s no reason to destroy the magic here, it would only harm this area and have no impact on my city.”
“The magic pools here, so could you be trying to redirect it?” Asked the Muse. “Sort of like diverting a river so it doesn’t form a lake? There are town nearer to you, but are there any dragons?”
Jashn looked over the collection of maps. “…No?”
“I still don’t think the magic would divert like that,” said Jashn. “It’s not a physical thing so I don’t think the ‘magic flows downhill’ approach is rational. I’d expect it to just resume the trickle into this same location and eventually pool up magic again.”
“That sounds like we’re going with ‘someone set the magic on fire’ then,” the Dragon didn’t look pleased. “So is it on purpose? Is it an accident?”
“It could be that you’re trying to burn out an infection,” said the Writer after a moment.
“Well if what made his dragon sick was tainted magic, then it would make sense for him to be the catalyst to discovering and trying to cure the tainted magic here as well.” The Muse leaned back on the couch and stared thoughtfully into the wall of gently rolling story mists.
“So he’s a good guy?” Khany gave Jashn a skeptical look.
“I don’t see why the idea that there are people other than ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ is such a hard concept to grasp.” Jashn countered. “Why doesn’t trying to kill off the dragon make you a bad guy?”
“Because the dragon’s the bad guy!”
“I am not!” Dragon snorted, offended. “And you know that, so if you could stop pretending that I’m some irredeemable monster, I’d appreciate it.”
“As much as I’d like to point out that everyone is someone’s villain, we need to get the story rolling again.” said the Writer. “So let’s get back in there and at least get Jashn into the picture.”
And so they did.
The stranger arrived in the village along with lots of other travelers to the annual sheep and yarn festival. Even in the crowds he stood out because he wasn’t dressed in local fashions and wasn’t coming in with sheepdogs or carts. He wasn’t local and coming by as a tourist and he wasn’t someone related to the industry that was coming by to buy or sell.
But folks were friendly here, so they didn’t treat him badly, they were just a little confused. He was friendly right back, although in a slightly calculated manner, and kept on moving.
When he passed the threshold of the dragon’s wards and protections there was a slight chill that ran along his skin. He shivered and tried to avoid looking west towards the caves. Few people around him reacted at all, most were so low in magical ability that they wouldn’t have noticed if the wards were written in giant flaming letters.
Minor magic usage in the city was much higher, but he was already aware of the population statistics and had already guessed the cause. Right now he was more concerned with the dragon appearing and attempting to do him in before he could reach the caves, even if that future was incredibly rare in the visions.
The fair ran for five days and started two days from his arrival. He spent those two days wandering the town, getting a feel for where the magic flowed and how the town regarded the dragon. Unfortunately they seemed incredibly fond of their protector so if the worst of the futures came true, he’d most likely be running for his life.
He twitched wings he didn’t have in an attempt to calm himself. The last thing he needed was to lose hold on the magic that kept him human.
Then the fair began and he used the chaos to cover his own journey to the dragon’s caves.
Jashn stumbled to a halt. His mind had been wandering along the possible futures as he walked, playing out over and over the best path towards what he needed. The girl standing in front of him barring his path was in none of them.
But he couldn’t afford to be rude. Not now.
“Why?” He asked cautiously.
“Because your futures all end in fire and I don’t want to die with you.” She crossed her arms and glared at him. “Why are you here?”
Nothing the pools had shown him had prepared him for that question and his mind raced trying to figure out where he’d gone wrong.
“I’m not here to kill anyone, I swear.” He raised his hands to show they were empty, clamping down on the fear that would fracture his carefully crafted magics.
“You don’t kill anyone,” she said with a huff. “Just me and I can’t figure out why.”
She seemed more annoyed than angry and he could feel the edge of his panic smooth away. This was still wrong, but maybe not too wrong.
“I don’t know who you are, but I don’t think I’m who you think either?” He lowered his hands, abruptly self-conscious. He stretched out his own magics, testing the air around him, but if the girl was magical she hid it well. There was no oracle that worked for this dragon, so why would she have seen his futures?
“It’s going to be that future then,” she frowned. “Fine, come along then, you won’t kill me for a week so we’ve got some time.” With that she turned away, walking towards the dragon’s caves.
Lost and slightly alarmed, he followed.