So it looks like this Camp NaNoWriMo may be a bust. *sighs* I’ve thrown in the towel trying to follow the daily outlines and skipped to the end in the hopes I can backwards engineer a story. The fictives are starting to feel a little more solid, but the plot and the whole story is getting more and more off-script…
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: 2,065
Total Wordcount: 7,074 (includes Title, Chapter Headers, etc.)
Day 24 – End At The Beginning
“This should really be a graphic novel.” The Writer stared down at the blank pages and doodled in the margins. “Then I wouldn’t have to describe Wuli and I could just draw in the scenery as they walked and–“
“And you are stuck for ideas and running out of time,” the Muse noted from the couch, unimpressed. “And even if it’s a graphic novel you still need a script to follow. So stop procrastinating and start writing.”
“Easy for you to say!” The Writer grumped as the Muse goofed off on the sofa reading fanfiction. “I still have zero ideas on how this story is supposed to go. Even with the daily outline, I’m stumped.”
The Muse sighed and put down her laptop. “Alright, fine, then let’s write the ending now and we can fudge in the middle until we get a complete story… or we run out of time.”
“I don’t know the ending, that’s the problem!” The Writer waved a hand at the doodles on the endless whiteboard and her tiny piles of story notes. “I’m assuming they find the flowers and save the day, but I have no idea if that’s true. I don’t want to make a sad ending, these are nice fictives, so they have to succeed, right?”
The Muse got up reluctantly and walked over to the whiteboard. With a flick she scrolled to a blank area and picked up a marker.
“Right, so our ending choices are a) they don’t find the flowers in time,” she drew a very sad face next to the bullet point, ” b) they find the flowers but something keeps them from bringing back the seeds, c) they bring back the seeds and something prevents them from working, d) the bring back the seeds and they aren’t needed,” three more slightly-less-sad faces, “and e) they bring back the seeds, plant them, and everyone lives happily ever after.”
“The protagonists are supposed to learn and change during the story,” said the Writer. “Only I don’t know what they could learn? I have to make the ending match the message.”
“So is the quest actually about the flowers?” The Muse asked, capping the marker.
“Why would the magic be driving them into the hills if it isn’t? If this really isn’t the cycle in which the are meant to find the flowers, why is it pushing them so hard?”
“Maybe there’s something else in the mountains that they’re meant to find?” The Muse shrugged. “Maybe some other solution to the snake that they haven’t figured out yet– but then why would the flowers be mentioned in the foretelling?”
“What if there’s something near the flowers and the vision just got muddled?” The Writer pondered. “But what could it be? And why would the parents be the ones to find the answer?” She frowned. “I’m still stuck on what sort of changes we want to see in them, I don’t think the story will be any good if nothing happens to them.”
“Well for right now, let’s just do a sprint and take a stab at the flower-finding to see if your Pantsing can come up with anything.” The Muse waved the marker at the blank pages on the writing desk and the Writer sighed and set the timer.
The path down into the valley was winding, weaving back and forth as it made its way down due to the steepness of the mountain side. It was well tended, but there was no signs of civilization. No sound, no smoke, and no buildings.
The valley was full of plants and greenery, which made the barren rocky paths behind them feel even more empty. The closer they got to the bottom and the river the more the plants started to overhang the path. Towards the end they were walking in a forest with a thick canopy, full of unfamiliar trees.
The path ends at the river and the vines with their bright yellow flowers grow thick along the banks. It’s a ground vine, so its doesn’t climb and of the trees, but it has spread quite a ways along the bank choking out other plants.
“Are we here?” Mother asks, even though they can’t possibly be in the wrong place.
“The pull has stopped,” Wuli confirmed, but his feathers are ruffled and his ears are twitching. “But something feels wrong about this.”
“We found the flowers and they’re blooming,” sadi Father, stooping to look at one. “What could be wrong?” He tapped the flower and it released a small puff of pollen and one startled honeybee.
“Why is it this easy?” The wolpertinger said. “This is an epic quest, even if it’s a sidequest, why if the valley the easiest part?”
“The Oracle didn’t say anything about the flowers being guarded, did she?” Mother looked around, uneasily. “The path was too well tended for this to be abandoned, but I don’t see anyone here. Or anywhere else the path would go.”
“That’s because you lack imagination,” said a inky blank horse as it rose from the water. “But I can’t blame you.” It paused to nibble on the flowers, flicking an ear in amusement at their silence. “I have to say, you’re more polite than the normal adventurers, so that’s something.” It shook off the water and finished walking out of the river.
“Thank you?” said Father, confused.
“And who the heck are you?” The Writer glared at the black horse who was sniffing inquisitively at the endless whiteboard.
“I haven’t really decided yet,” said the horse as he licked one of the maps, “But I fit in this somehow.”
“Don’t slobber on the doodles, and there was no horse anywhere in the outline. I have too many horses in other ‘verses already.” The Writer grumbled as she got up to redraw the valley where he’d nibbled on it.
“Sad, but true,” noted the Muse. “So make him an otter or something.”
“No thank you,” said the horse and drug them back into the story instead.
“So they’ve made it this far before,” said Mother, annoyed and startled at the sudden equine’ing. And then more annoyed that she had been startled at all, even if the horse appeared peaceful. “So why haven’t they come back and planted the flowers so the river monster stays asleep?”
“It’s a snake,” said the horse, starting to walk back up the path.
“The monster?” Wuli asked, resettling his wings and trying to unfluff his tail. “Why does that matter?” The group reluctantly started following the horse.
“It doesn’t,” the horse admitted, amused. “I just don’t like leaving anything out. Now you came for the flowers, which means the current Oracle isn’t any better at her job than the others.”
“I could have told you that,” Mother grumped.
“I’m sure she did her best.” Father hedged. “You know your cousin always took the job seriously, even if she loved making riddles out of things.”
“So we don’t need the flowers?” Wuli was trying to focus on the goal, but the horse was made of an inky darkness that fluctuated slightly as he moved, as if he was still underwater or made of mist.
“In the way you mean it: no. You need the flowers, but not for the reasons you think,” said the horse as he took a turn off the path onto a hidden trail. “Come, let’s sit and have something to drink and see if we can’t sort this out.” He led them into a clearing and over to a small cottage on the far end. “I do appreciate you not trying to kill me, the least I can do is return the favor.”
In one smooth movement he changed from a horse to a man, opening the door, which had grown to accommodate the size of the wolpertinger, and beconning them them to follow.
For a moment the party froze, and then Father nervously entered, followed by Mother and then Wuli who tried to stay as far away from the man as he could.
“See? There, now I’m not a horse,” said the Man as he summoned up his own chair from the mists. “Does that make this better?” He frowned. “I can’t see how.”
“Not really,” Mother said. “Who the heck are you? Why are you here? Why are you being so cryptic with the answers? You might be dangerous in the story, but you can’t hurt me here.” She crossed her arms and glared at him.
“You can’t hurt me here either,” he noted mildly and scrounge some coffee from the interdimensional cushion gaps. “And we’re pantsing, so sit down, stop fuming and let’s make it up as we go along. We’ve got plenty of time and plenty of words to work it out.”
The inside of the cottage was larger than the outside, the door lead into a sprawling entrance way made of aged wood and clay. There was a step down into a larger circular area with a hearth on the far wall and sitting and sleeping areas curving off of it like petals.
The fire was already burning and the man took out a teapot and began to make coffee.
“Now that’s a nice change,” Father settled into one of the chairs in the sitting room with a happy sigh. “Coffee and a soft seat– I think I’m far too old for all this adventuring nonsense.”
Mother very kindly did not say ‘I told you so’, but she gave him a look as she took a seat and he laughed.
“This isn’t at all what I expected,” Wuli said, curling up in a disgruntled loaf next to Mother’s chair. He tucked his tail neatly around his paws and tried to keep his ears up.
“Most of them say that,” the man said as he handed out the coffee and placed the tray with milk and sugar on the coffee table between them. “If that make it this far.” He settled into his own chair and sipped the coffee with a small smile. “And now I promise to explain, since I’ve been annoying vague. Were there any questions you wanted to ask before I begin?”
“Alright then,” he settled back into his chair. “You have come from the city on the river where the snake sleeps, because you need to find a way to kill the snake or keep it asleep, right?”
“Close enough,” said Mother.
“You’ve been told by the Oracle that the yellow flowers are the key to this and the wolpertinger has been following a magical pull that lead you to this valley.” He looked over at Wuli who nodded.
“As I’ve said before, the flowers were a misdirection, although an understandable one. I don’t show up when people scry for me, but the flowers will and where the flowers go, I go.” He sipped his coffee.
“So you’re tied to the flowers somehow?” Wuli frowned. “Why?”
“I’m not,” the man shrugged, “they’re just tasty. And after being alive for a millennium or twelve you learn to enjoy what you can.”
“Right, so we were told to bring back seeds and plant them along the riverbank to keep the river monster asleep,” said Mother.
“Snake,” he corrected.
‘Whatever,” she snapped. “If the thing that will really keep the snake asleep it you and you’ll go where the flowers are, why isn’t the quest the same? Why isn’t planting the flowers down by the river still the solution?”
“I’m not that easy to control,” he said mildly.
“Would it help if we asked nicely?” asked Father, trying to figure out where the conversation is going. “Or is this just you telling us you could help, but that you won’t?”
“We could burn the flowers here,” said Mother grumpily. “Then he’d have to move.”
“You aren’t a very nice person,” said the man, giving Mother a bemused look.
“I’m practical,” she said. “We have a quest to do and I’d like to be done with the quest– so either you give us a way to make you move or we come up with something on our own.”
“Children…” warned the Muse.
“Why don’t we just pick this up tomorrow,” said the Writer. “When we’re all less, err, grumpy.”
And they did.