The only thing she knows is true anymore is that the dragon needs to die.
In which Jashn gets a name and an epic backstory!
Daily Wordcount: 2167
Total Wordcount: 9,640 (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.
Too Long; Didn’t Write
“So we should be at 18,333 words today, right?” not-Daniel looked over at the Muse who deep into another fanfic binge, trying her hardest to ignore the fact that the Writer was gone and they were massively behind. “Is she giving up?”
“…Probably not.” The Muse grudgingly admitted. “But it doesn’t look good. Most of the years where we’ve fallen behind and still won we were further ahead than this.” She reluctantly put away her tablet and got up to survey the mess of the writing desk.
A lone plot bunny was nibbling sadly at the margins of the existing wordcount. It looked up hopefully as the Muse approached, ready to do mischief.
“It’s not in the story proper, but would you like to get some of your backstory out and onto the page?” The Muse petted the plot bunny, who twitched its ears evilly and looked cute. “At least until we can track down Khany or Dragon.”
“It would be nice to figure out why I’m burning the town down,” said not-Daniel, and maybe get a real name. He got up from his comfy chair to come help.
“That I think we can manage….” The Muse picked up a pen and started writing.
In the distance the story mists began to churn.
Jashn was born seven hundred years ago in a massive walled city that was guarded by an ancient dragon. He was an orphan, left on the steps of the dragon’s temple and raised in its priesthood. At sixteen he was taken into the ranks of the Dragon’s Children and partook in the ceremony that bound his life to the dragon’s own.
He was one of a small handful of elites who acted on the dragon’s behalf across the massive city. Jashn worked magics, investigated conflicts, and dispensed the dragon’s justice as it directed.
By the time he turned twenty he’d lost track of number of lives that had ended at his feet or that had been saved. The city churned on, peaceful in the aggregate, and the Children tended to the weeds.
It was nothing like he’d imagined his life to be and it was everything he’d ever wanted. He devoted his life to the ancient cause that was so much bigger than himself. As long as he lived the city would never fall.
And in return he would live forever.
“Well, I wasn’t expecting you to invent a whole religion, but I suppose that makes sense.” The Muse poked at the newly created city. “So this is off to the west then? The river was to the south of town and the hills were to the east so if it’s flowing downhill to the sea it would need to be going west.”
“I can work with that,” not-Daniel made sure that his new name fit, trying a few alternate spellings before settling back on Jashn. Satisfied he got up and went over to the whiteboard.
“It needs to be far enough away that the town wouldn’t have heard of us, at least as anything more as a ‘this city exists’.'” He scrolled to a blank space and started doodling with a blue marker. “So they are here, with a river to the south and hills and a mountain range to the east. We’ll be over here to the west, north of the delta where their river flows into the sea, but not too far. We want to avoid the swamp, but for trade we need to be near enough that the riverboats would come up to us.”
The Muse frowned at the sketches. “Couldn’t the dragon redirect the river or build a canal up to you? Sort of an alternate route to the sea? I can’t seem them being able to control a delta well enough to keep it from turning into a swamp, but maybe a small offshoot? This is a pretty massive river, right?”
“So we take the northernmost branch of the delta, fortify it a bit and control just that portion. Make it just the right size for boat travel and then build in a cove or bay to protect the ships. Then we have a sea transport and river transport– would be enough to support a city.” Jashn sketched out the new layout.
“Put it, what, two months of travel by foot or by boat?” The Muse pulled out her travel notes from an interdimensional pocket. “Roughly a person can walk twenty miles a day, a caravan is thrity, river boat without propulsion will do forty. So two months walking would be 1200 miles. In theory if there should be several larger town between this one and that one, which would be why they haven’t heard much about it. It would be the end point to the river, so they’d be familiar.”
“But it would be too long for anyone to really bother traveling that far, not unless they were moving good to the coast. And it takes three months to travel the Mississippi River, so it’s not that far off.” Jashn eyed the board. “I think I’m happy with that. They’ll know where I’m coming from and it wouldn’t be impossible for me to have a reasonable reason for coming this far.”
“Back to the story then?”
“I think so,” Jashn gave the board one last thoughtful look and then followed the Muse back into the fray.
He had been twenty for forty years before he was called into the dragon’s presence again.
The dragon lived in a massive temple at the center of the city. Made of white marble laced with gold and ruby it rose into the sky like a mountain in miniature. The priesthood lived on the outer layers, the Children further in, and in the center lay the dragon herself.
She was a massive coil of blue and green, shimmering like the sea that lapped against the city’s western shore. Depending on her mood the scales would deepen of brighten, but that was something few humans had ever seen. She rarely left her nest and only a small handful of the highest order of the priesthood ever came into her presence. She lay, curled around the scrying pools, lost in visions of all the possible futures.
The elder priest brought him into the room and then left, leaving him alone with the dragon.
After a long moment, she shifted to look at him. Her eyes were milky white, like pearls, blind and age-worn, but she gazed down at him as if she could see.
“I have seen you in the pools,” she said at last. Her voice the soft curl of waves over sand. “I have seen you and I have seen death.”
Jashn was already on edge and now he froze, breath in shallow whispers as he waited. It could mean so many things, but if it meant danger to the city, danger to the dragon, he knew what would come next.
“Did you know that dragons die?” She asked, uncoiling in a long sinuous movement, stepping carefully down from her perch on the edge of the pools. She had six sets of legs, spaced out across her long snakelike body. More ferret than reptile the scales faded into fur as they moved down her length, ending in a fluffy squirrel-like tail that fluffed as it unwound.
She was waiting for him to answer, but it took two failed tries before Jashn got out a breathy no.
“We do,” she said with a tried sadness, but no anger. “We fade, over time, just as mountains wear down to the wind. And I am old, very old.” She stopped in front of him, head lowered so her massive nose was only inches for his chest. “I looked into the pools and I have seen my death. And you.”
“Why me?” He was still trying to wrap his mind around the idea that dragons —gods— could die… and what that meant.
“I am not sure.” She gazed at him with eyes of swirling mists and a voice as endless as the tide. “I think you are meant to take my place.”
What little coherent thought he’d had vanished into a blank stillness.
She laughed, sea foam against the jagged rocks. “Where did you think dragons came from? Have you ever seen another? Eggs?” Amusement flowed down her side ripples of emerald green and teal. “No, we grow into ourselves the same way a river wears canyons away. Magic has a way of revealing the truth of things.”
She exhaled, long and low and he could feel the magic flow from her in swirling eddies of heavy warmth.
Hesitantly he reached up, feeling it play around his fingers, wrap caressing streams along his arms.
“I have seen you and I have not seen you.” The dragon said. “So I do not know what you will choose, but the pools all lead me to this moment. Now. Here.”
The magic waited, pooling between them with every breath.
“Your dragon looks nothing like Dragon,” pointed out the Muse.
“Which I also explained,” Jashn said smugly. “None of the dragons need to look like each other– the magic shapes them to whatever form they want. This isn’t a species bound by biology.” There was a pause. “Or logic,” he added after a moment.
“Also, why hasn’t the dragon picked someone else to take her place before now? If she’s that old?” The Muse looked over the notes they had so far, but there was precious little about the whole dragon-ing process.
“Because it wasn’t time yet,” shrugged Jashn. “What would be the point of picking a successor before one was needed? A town can’t have two dragons.”
The Muse raised an eyebrow.
“Well, okay, it could, but what would be the point? She needs to pick someone at the point where there is just enough time left to train them and make sure they are ready to take over control of the city.”
The evil plot bunny was looking quite put-out and muttered angry evil noises on the corner of the desk.
“Look, I’m sorry, but I never said I was a kick-the-puppy sort of evil,” Jashn said and pulled a bit of carrot out of his pocket in way of apology.
The plot bunny glared at him. And nibbled the carrot.
“So do we need someone or something a little more evil to drive the plot?” Asked the Muse.
“Not sure yet,” Jashn added another carrot to the pile. “And I’m not not-evil, I’m just not pointlessly evil. I still want to take over the world.”
“The world or just the city?”
There was another pause and Jashn frowned. “You know, I’m not sure. I had started out thinking I wanted to start an empire, but I’m not sure if I’ve been around long enough to get to that point yet. I’m old, but not really ancient yet. And my dragon had issues keeping just the one city going by herself… if I want to take over the world, it could get complicated.”
The road was damp but not muddy from the recent rains which was a nice change from the dust he’d had to deal with. He missed the paved stone roads of home, but those were rare this far down the river. The larger towns had cobblestone along the city streets, but few of the villages shared that luxury. The caravan roads were the last to be paved and only a few made it out this far.
Spring Water was the last stop along the path and beyond that the river curved up into the hills. Even if boats could have made it past the canyon, the river was too shallow to support them.
Jashn look up from the path at the mountain range that surged from the plains to the east. Somewhere at the end of the path and the base of those mountains lay the dragon he sought. Young, at least in terms of dragons, but powerful enough to help him if the scrying pools were right.
He scratched an itch along wings he didn’t have and adjusted his backpack.
Not much longer then.
“So wait, what happened to your dragon?” The Muse asked, flipping back the pages. “Did she die? Is she in trouble? Why are you going to see Khany’s dragon? …Are you trying to form some giant dragon alliance to take over the world?”
Jashn grinned. “See, I told you I had ideas!”
Whatever the Muse was going to say was interrupted by the Writer stomping in from the story mists. She was arguing with Dragon over theories of time dilation while Khany ambled along behind them, looking bored and annoyed.
The trio came to a stop as soon as they saw the chaos on the whiteboard and the pile of new story.
“Sooo… what happened?” The Writer asked, eyeing the plot bunny who had accumulated a small hoard of carrots.
Jashn was quietly smug. Again.