The only thing she knows is true anymore is that the dragon needs to die.
In which all the little piggies go to town…
Daily Wordcount: 2,496
Total Wordcount: 31,890 (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.
The Middle of the End
“I’m guessing you plan on writing a lot of words on Thanksgiving,” the Muse noted as the Writer attempted to make sense of her notes. “You’ve only got one weekend left before NaNoWriMo is over and there’s still a lot of words to go. And not that much story.”
“My plan for today is to write the ending and then backtrack,” the Writer flipped to a blank page. “Hopefully having the end will give me a better idea of where the middle needs to be.”
“…That sounds wrong, but word count is word count. I guess.” The Muse was not enthused.
“Does this mean we get to kick some black goo butt?” Khany asked, looking up from her doodling. “Because after that training montage I am ready to rumble!”
“You learned how to channel things,” Jashn said, not impressed. “Channeling things isn’t really ‘kicking butt’.”
“I am contributing to the butt kicking in my own special way,” Khany said, cheerfully ignoring him. “And I am going to be the best channeler that every channeled!”
“As opposed to the professionals that will also be helping,” he pointed out.
“We don’t know that they will actually help,” Dragon said from the depths of his beanbag bed. “You haven’t actually talked to any of them yet and if the shadow creature is influencing them at all they might not be willing to work with you.”
“Do you have some secret method to contact them?” Khany asked. “Smoke signals or a secret handshake or coded letter?”
“I have a normal letter,” Jashn said, rolling his eyes. “And I am going to sent it using normal methods. There’s no reason to assume that they won’t believe us, at least not yet. They were all aware of the change in the pools before I left and I shared my reasons for coming to your town to look for help.”
“If we’re two months travel from town, how would the letter get there in time?” Even the faster of the couriers weren’t going to be able to cut that down by more than half. Birds might be able to whittle the time down more, but they were somewhat unreliable over long distances.
Jashn looked at her. “I said normal methods, which for us involved magic.”
Jashn took the sealed letter, did a bit of magic, and dropped it into the small wormhole that formed. The letter vanished with satisfying pop and the hole closed behind it.
“So, does that get delivered straight to them? And how do they know where to send it to you if they have a response?”
Jashn tapped the broach of office. “These are locator pins, any magic they need to direct at us can find me that way. It will take a while for them to read over and discuss it though. So we’d better get traveling.”
The trip to visit Dragon’s mentor had short but over very rocky terrain, so by foot it would have taken months. The trip to the City by the Sea was longer, but they could still make it there before the visions of the town burning began.
With a sigh they began packing for the trip.
“So the plan is… what?” Asked the Muse.
“A) We convince them that we need help channeling if the thing attacks. B) We try to get the dragon on our side, or at least not getting in the way. And C) we drain the magic out of it and then somehow kill it.” Jashn ticked off the points on his fingers.
“And if they don’t believe us we’ll be fighting a whole city and a dragon and a shadow monster.” Khany was not impressed.
“I think they’d be more inclined to believe him and not less,” said Dragon. “They know something is going wrong and their dragon is making less and less rational decisions. They’re loyal, but they wouldn’t be stupid.”
“Plus I am asking for their help specifically in channeling energy away from the shadow monsters. I’m not asking them to overthrow the dragon or to act against her in any way. If the shadow monster doesn’t show up, then they won’t need to get involved.” Jashn shrugged. “I’m honestly more worried about us getting there and having it go into hiding so we can’t prove that anything is wrong.”
“…How smart is this thing again?” The Muse asked.
The answering letter came the second day into the trip, dropping out of the air to land at his feet during their stop for lunch.
It wasn’t as straightforward an answer as he had been hoping for. The group had asked a bunch of additional questions and there was an underlying feeling that they were doing this without the dragon’s knowledge.
And the Dragon’s Children didn’t do anything without asking the dragon first.
Jashn frowned and started drafting his reply.
“Are we going to try and sneak in?” Khany asked.
They had landed a few hours walk outside the city. Far enough away that the dragon wouldn’t been seen and cause alarm, but close enough that they could see the massive walls of the city. The walls were made out of stone, but it had been raised by draconic magic, not by man so they were smooth as glass.
“I don’t see why,” said Jashn, “Either she knows we’re coming or she doesn’t. There’s no point in trying to hide. There’s no telling what the pools have been showing her while we were gone.”
“Well, at least we need to hide him, right?” Khany gestured at the dragon who was stretching out the kinks from the long flight.
“I am perfectly capable of hiding myself,” the dragon said. “But I’m not hiding from her, I’m just trying not to terrify the locals.”
“It would be appreciated,” Jashn said dryly.
With a shiver of magic the dragon shrank down, down, in a blur of scales until a man stood beside them. He was dark haired, brown eyed, and dressed in clothing that wouldn’t look out of place in his town. He wasn’t dressed as much like a farmer as Kahny was, but nowhere near as much of a traveler as Jashn was.
“How do I look?” He frowned down at his clothing. “I think this is right.”
Khany just stared at him in shock.
There was a pause.
“You didn’t tell them you can do that?” Jashn finally asked as Khany tried to find the words to respond. “What, do you go walk around town sometimes as an undercover spy or something?”
“I might,” said the dragon, noncommittally. “But mostly I don’t want them terrified of every stranger that shows up. Once they know dragons can change shape they’ll be jumping at shadows every time something unexpected happens.”
“But, she can still tell you’re a dragon,” said Khany after a moment, faint and still a little in shock. “I can feel the magic, you still feel like you, just– muted.” She started to reach out to touch him, but pulled her hand back.
“Dragons can’t hide from other dragons. Even without seeing the future she’ll know I’m here as soon as I get within the web of the city,” said the dragon. “Magic calls to magic, so she’ll sense me just like a spider would when you touch its web. Although I’d hope she doesn’t plan on eating me.”
He was joking. Sort of.
Part of him wanted to correct the dragon on the whole hiding issue, just because he could, but Jashn still hadn’t told them who he was. Partially out of habit, partially because he was still worried that somehow this would go horribly wrong. There was a chance that they two of them were planning on taking over the city and he had to be careful.
“So we just walk in the gate and act like this is all normal?” Khany was calming down, but not much.
So they did.
They were arrested at the city gates, before they even stepped foot inside the city proper. There are three main roads that lead into the city and each one has a corresponding gate in the massive walls. They gates are staffed by guards that check each incoming traveler, checking for contraband and for those they have been warned to look out for.
“Jashn Dragonschilde you are hereby arrested in the name of the dragon. Those who travel with you are also under arrest.” They eyed dragon and Khany suspiciously. “Will you come quietly?”
Jashn nodded, Khany shrugged, and the dragon just gave them a long measuring look. Which was only slightly less intimidating in his human form.
There was some nervous shuffling of feet in the guard before the dragon finally nodded.
They had no weapons to hand over so after a quick check the guards began their escort through the city. The locals were only mildly curious and for the most part they were left alone. There was some whispering because Jashn was a known member of the Dragon’s Children and was pretty decently respected. But no one made a move to stop them or to say anything to them.
Khany was a little creeped out by the little attention they were getting. She had never been arrested before and even though she was pretty sure this wasn’t going to turn into a real arrest, it was still unnerving. At least they hadn’t tied their hands, they were only being escorted. Still, the city was so large and there were so many people– it seemed surreal that they kept walking and walking and still hadn’t gotten to the center and the temple yet.
The dragon was amused more than anything, but kept up a stone faced silence. Better to have the guards a little bit on edge and focused on him then on the others. Of the three he was the hardest to hurt– plus he could fly if everything went south. He was carefully paying attention though, getting a feel for where the magic ran and how the locals reacted to them.
The oddly bitter taste to the magic that Jashn had mentioned was very faint here, but he could feel it getting stronger as they moved along. The streets all led to the temple, but in a roundabout way. They main routes from the gates weren’t meant to go there, so they were quite a few turns and smaller roads along the way.
The dragon was used to the caves and the maze, but he was still amazed at the complexity of the city. For a moment he considered building up his own town, but that would require more work to maintain and he tossed the idea after a moment. Let her have her city, he was happy with his flocks.
As they approached the temple steps they were surrounded by the Dragon’s Children, who had come out to meet them.
They were dressed in browns and greys, alligator skin and snakeskin decorations. They had leather scale armour that was heavy enough to prevent stab wounds but light enough to move in. They weren’t expected to fight archers or heavier infantry so it was more than enough. They all had the same magical location broach as Jashn did.
“We’re here to help,” Jashn said, frustrated at the lack of welcome. “You know there’s something wrong, you have to be able to feel it.”
“Leave us,” said the captain, dismissing the town guards.
There was a long moment when the guards seemed like they might not hand over the prisoners, but they relented with only a few glares. There was some mild competition between the two groups. The normal guard handled things that weren’t important enough for the dragon’s followers to deal with and they felt a bit second class, which rankled.
The Dragon’s Children led the group into the temple. Through the outermost rings with the children and young students, built from yellow stones. Through the ring of scholars and priests, deep reds and oranges. Through the ring of the Dragon’s Children and training rooms, which were done in blues and greens and felt like walking underwater. Into the central sanctum of the pools, but not quite through those ivory and marble doors.
They paused there.
“There’s something wrong, but I don’t know if you can fix it.” Said the captain at last. “The pools have been unreliable, but she still trusts them. She’s almost obsessed, asking questions constantly even though the answers are never the same. We’ve tried, but there’s nothing we can say to convince her that you aren’t a threat, so be careful.”
“Are you willing to help us, at least, if what we’re saying is true and the thing attacks?” Jashn asked. “I’m not sure we can do this without you.” He’d never gotten an answer to his second letter and there was the small possibility that they’d decided to stay out of the fight,
There was an uncomfortable pause, but the captain finally nodded. He seemed unwilling to say anything beyond that.
They opened the doors and let the party into the pool room.
“Traitor,” rumbled the dragon with a growl as they came into sight. “I took you in, fed you, clothed you, raised you as my own and this is how you repay me.” Her voice was the sea in a high storm, deep and deadly.
“You know I wouldn’t do that,” Jashn countered, as the groups slowly split away from each other as they approached. “I don’t know what the pools have shown you, but it’s not true. You know it’s not true.”
“You’ve brought another dragon into my city,” she snarled. “Brought my death in on silent wings just so you can have it when I’m gone to dust.”
“He’s not here to hurt you,” and it wasn’t quite a lie, but she caught the flavor of it.
“He can’t hurt me,” she said dismissively as she reared up, coil after coil rising into the air, supported by magic almost thick enough to see. “You are both children, tiny insignificant things. You’re no more a threat to me than a fly.”
The rankled a bit with Khany’s dragon and he let his glamour fade away. She knew who he was, after all, there was no point in hiding. He might be only a fraction of her age, but he was a dragon.
“There’s a darkness in the pools and we’ve come to cleanse it.” Said the younger dragon, his voice the sound of a forest in a faint summer breeze. “You know it’s there, you can taste it.”
“I know nothing,” snarled the elder dragon, looking down on them. “I see nothing, taste nothing, the futures are voids of chaos and it’s all your fault.”
“Aaaaand that’s a good place to leave it for the night,” said the Writer smugly.
“Have I mentioned how much I hate you?” The Muse sighed.