[YANS] (NaNoWriMo Day 18.2)

The only thing she knows is true anymore is that the dragon needs to die.

In which everyone attempts to make sense of the mess caused by the last chapter.

Daily Wordcount: 1,948
Total Wordcount: 24,368 (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.

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…And Now What?

“Did it see us? Can it see us? What the hell was that?” Khany was plastered up against the wall of the cave as far from the pools and the mist monster as she could get. She’d run away from the exit when she bolted and was trying to figure out how to flee properly without getting closer.

That is why we don’t ask the pools about the past,” the dragon hissed as it flexed its forepaw, wincing from the burns. “Whatever it is, it has an affinity for the pool magic as well. Normal creatures, magical or otherwise, can’t tell when they are appearing in a pool vision. In this case it not only noticed, but attempted to attack.”

Jashn was quite, shaken, and at the edges of his control. He had slipped for a moment, when the creature had attacked but the dragon had thankfully been distracted and hadn’t noticed the spike in magic. Or had attributed it to the monster in the vision. He focused on his breathing, trying to calm himself with the techniques he had learned from his dragon.

This was bad. Very very bad. All of his plans had been based around the idea that the magic was simply passively infected or tainted, but if the creature from the past was linked to the darkness somehow that changed everything. Which meant all of the ideas that he had come up with weren’t going to work because the thing he was trying to get rid of was going to be fighting back.

He had no idea what to do.

~*~*~*~*~

“First off, that was a really sad word count for a sprint,” said Jashn as he walked into the write-in and grabbed a chair. “And second, you’ve written us into a corner.” It had taken the fictive quite a bit to figure out how to get through the story mists from the living room to the write-in and he was rather pleased with himself.

“I haven’t,” objected the Writer. “…I’m just not sure what to do next.”

“Why would you do this at the ENOWE, my dear, when you know the dangers thereof? The plot bunnies hunger!”

There was a long pause as the Writer, her Muse, and Jashn all stared at the ML who had run in, typed like the wind, and run off again.

“Does she always do that when you leave your laptop unlocked?” Asked Jashn after a moment.

“Yeah… I just forgot she does that.” The Writer sighed, “To be fair, this is the first write-in this year that’s she’s run that I’ve been to. At least it wasn’t penguins this time!”

“Amusing as these antics are, can we get back to figuring out what we’re doing?” The Muse said. “You’ve invented a villain that can see the future, how are they supposed to defeat that?”

“Ah… yes.” The Writer started at the blankness of the page. “I have no idea.”

“It lives in the magic of the pools, but does that mean it can actually scry things?” Jashn asked. “Maybe it can’t, maybe it can just tell when scrying is happening.”

“So it would know the answers to questions if we asked it at the pool it was in, but it couldn’t ask the questions itself?” Dragon had materialised into the write-in and was trying to find a place to put the beanbag bed he had brought. “You have to limit it somehow, otherwise we’d never be able to suprise it.”

“Wait, you said you did a bunch of scrying before you left,” the Writer looked over at Jashn thoughtfully. “But you also said that the visions from the pools weren’t reliable. What if this thing can interfere with the visions? Wouldn’t that mean that it pretty much wanted you to come out here?”

“Uh-oh.”

~*~*~*~*~

The three retreated to another cave to continue the conversation. All of them had been shaken by the vision from the past and the monster within it.

“So if that thing is what is causing the tainted magic and it could see us scrying it, does that mean it can see the future too?” Khany was running her fingers along the cave wall, distracting herself from panic with the feel of the rocks. “And if it can cause problems with the visions of the future in the pools now, does that mean whatever Jashn saw was fake too?”

Jashn started, he hadn’t considered that all of the visions might be false. “Some of the visions seemed accurate. We would ask the same question multiple times until we got a consistent answer. They seemed to come true, at least as far as we could tell.”

“And how much did you manipulate things to make those futures happen?” countered the dragon. “I have a feeling that everything you’ve been doing lately might have been at the prompting of… whatever this is.”

“I’ve never read or heard about anything like this creature,” said Jashn. “Is there anything in the lore you know that would tell us what it is?”

“I’ve never come across it either, but there’s a good chance that whatever it is, it started out as some sort of animal.” The dragon said. “There are creatures that can live in the magic pools and over time they slowly dissolve into it. This might be some odd remnant of one of those, something that managed to hold itself together.”

“I’ve never seen fish in the pools,” Jashn said, dismissively.

“Again, you seem to forget who I am.” The dragon laughed, its voice summer leaves rustling in the hot wind, dry and paperlike. “You know your city and only your city much like Khany knows only her town. I had walked the length and breadth of this land and there is a lot you haven’t seen.”

Jashn bristled, but kept his temper in check. His own dragon had never been as dismissive to him or lorded over him with her knowledge. He wanted to confront the dragon, show him who he really was… but that was a trump card he needed to save. Even if his original plan was dust, he needed to find a way to save his city. Even if it meant burning their town.

“So… something ate too much magic and became magic?” Khany frowned. “So is wild magic and dark magic just different kinds of dissolved fish?”

“No, those are natural states of magic,” the dragon said. “At least as far as I’ve been taught. Dark magic is… problematic, since it’s a lot like this creature, but it’s caused by magic that has gone stale or rotted, for lack of a better term. But it’s not malevolent, there’s no thought behind it, it’s just toxic.”

“We have a future where we defeat it,” said Jashn, refusing to give up. “No matter what it is, there has to be a way to kill it.”

“How do we know it hasn’t already infected our pools?” Khany asked. “Maybe that’s a false future as well.”

“I would be able to tell,” the dragon said.

“Our dragon couldn’t,” countered Jashn.

“She didn’t know what she was supposed to be looking for,” the dragon said confidently. “I know now and that foul taste isn’t one I’ll forget.”

“But if it can see us when we scry it, won’t that warn it in whatever future we are trying to get to?” Khany was trying to find a way around the seemingly impossible wall that had been built between them and their goal. “We need to find a way to scry without including it, even by accident.”

“Or we can just stop scrying for a future that it’s still in,” Jashn said. “We know what it is, roughly, we just need to think of a way to kill it. We can’t scry for that moment, we have to scry for a future beyond that. If it’s already dead then it won’t matter.”

“So we have to include the win condition in whatever request we make. If the plan is a dud and we fail, it will still exist but the vision won’t show.” The dragon looked back toward the scrying room, but made no move to leave. “Whatever we do, the futures we saw for the town happen soon. I can’t see that creature causing the fire, so whatever we do to attack it must spark it.”

“Can’t we just not use fire?” Khany countered. “There has to be a way to kill the thing without burning it. I know that’s the answer for dark magic, but this is– well, we don’t even know if it is vulnerable to fire. Can we freeze it or electrocute it or something?”

“That’s the problem, we have no idea what will work on it, not until we scry.” Jashn was frustrated, but still as wary as the dragon was about going back into the pool room. “We need to stop for today, I think we need to put this aside for today and come back to this tomorrow.”

So they did.

~*~*~*~*~

The Writer leaned back in her chair and stared thoughtfully at her notes. She carefully ignored the fact that the spell check wasn’t working in offline mode and that she had a feeling she was going to be doing a lot of editing tomorrow.

The more she looked at it, the more it seemed like the town was supposed to burn. A tiny pyromaniac plot bunny hopped out from under the table to nibble on an index card.

“So, I’m assuming fire is the answer,” said the Muse, eyeing the plot bunny. “Considering how you’ve sort of locked the story into that outcome.”

“To be fair, they’ve been asking the pools specifically about the fire ever since it popped up. They haven’t asked it what other ways the town is destroyed.” said the Writer. “But yeah.”

“Can we maybe stop thinking of ways to destroy my home?” Khany grumbled. She glared at the plot bunny who pretended to ignore her, but switched its nibbling to Khany’s character sheet.

“Technically it’s not your home,” pointed out Dragon. “You have voluntarily taken up squatting in my caves. For no good reason.”

“Fire is actually pretty much your theme anyways,” pointed out the Writer before they could start arguing. “You keep burning things as a way of bringing closure to your life.”

“Themes come after November,” the Muse, who had pretty much given up on figuring out just what this story was about. There would be plenty of time for book reports later, once they had a book. “Right now we just need a story. We can add in all the fun layering once we know what the heck is going on. You can’t really foreshadow random.”

“‘Right now’ I’d like it to get to the point where they kill off the monster, then… who knows.” The Writer yawned. “We’ve not even halfway through the wordcount and if we kill off the monster before the end, there has to be something else.”

“We can go back and add in subplots,” offered Jashn with a grin. “Whole POVs even.”

Khany glared at him and he was not at all bothered.

“We’ve got another word sprint in a few minutes,” the Muse said. “So let’s get it sorted out enough to continue. Are we going to spend all of the story stuck in the scrying room or are you actually going to get out and do something?”

“We could always go ask my mentor for help,” pointed out Dragon. “Or another dragon if someone else is closer. Mine is probably a lot older though.”

“Sounds like plot point… let’s do this!”

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Martha Bechtel

My name is Martha Bechtel and I write fantasy and science fiction stories, paint small model horses silly colors, cast resin and plaster magnets, code random code (and Wordpress plugins)... Come on in and join in the fun!

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