The only thing she knows is true anymore is that the dragon needs to die.
In which there is debate about the actual plot… and more scrying.
Daily Wordcount: 1802
Total Wordcount: 13,183 (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.
I Scry With My Little Eye…
The story mists billowed and churned and then finally (reluctantly) let the Writer into the pseudo-living room. The rest of the cast was already there, in various stages of distraction.
“I’m not going any further until we have a plot.” The Writer sat down at the writing desk, shooing away the plot bunnies. “We’re going to get something hashed out before we go any further and don’t give me random visions of the future and try and claim they count.”
Khany muttered something unrepeatable and Jashn just rolled his eyes.
“Fine, if you’re so determined to get an actual plot in place, then what have you got?” The Muse put down her tablet and did her best imitation of Jashn’s patented single eyebrow raise of skepticism.
“Well we know the fair may cause the town to burn down and that Jashn is involved in both the town not burning down and possibly in the scrying pool’s destruction.” The Writer flipped through the previous day’s pages. “We know the town can survive, but the pool may or may not.”
“We don’t know that the town burning is actually a bad thing,” pointed out Dragon. “It could be that the fire is actually the good outcome.”
“I’d assume that the pools being destroyed would be bad though,” countered Khany, “and that’s what showed up when I asked about the town burning. And the only reason it did is because the pools are sentient enough to realize that they needed to work with me or they would perish.”
“I don’t know if a body of water can really ‘perish’,” Dragon objected, but he seemed unsure.
“The whole line of questioning for the pools is a little odd,” the Muse interjected. “Why are you always asking it to show you a specific future where something happens. Why not just ask it to show you the future?”
“Because there are too many possible futures,” Jashn answered. “It branches out immediately after the present into an infinite variety. So you have to give it some sort of touchstone to work with.”
The Muse was unimpressed. “But there has to be a most probably future, even with all those variables. There has to be some sort of threshold it’s working with to answer your questions. In theory there are an infinite number of futures, so every possible future would have an answer… but they’d be so unlikely they’d never happen.”
“And we already established that if that future isn’t likely enough that the pool won’t show it,’ noted the Writer. “So she has a point. Is the reason we’re asking the question like we do just a bad story choice that we need to retcon or can we make it more logical that we wouldn’t just be asking ‘show me what happens at the fair’?”
“Tradition?” Offered Khany after a moment.
“But tradition wouldn’t keep Dragon from asking the more obvious way once it was certain that the cave (and Dragon) were in danger.” The Writer frowned down at her notes willing an answer to appear from the margins. Sadly, it did not.
“Dragon is young though, maybe he misunderstood how the pools worked?” Jashn ignored the grumpy look Dragon shot him. “The dragon’s are just people, so they aren’t perfect. It could also be that the pools don’t want to answer questions like that so they’ve avoided letting folks figure out that it’s possible.”
“I think that’s going to boil down to how intelligent and powerful the pools actually are.” The Muse shrugged and with a twist of her wrist summoned one of the scrying pools into the pseudo-living room.
The pool was not amused.
“So, you can see the future, right?” The Muse asked as the pool rearranged itself into a tiny volcano lake instead of just inset into the floor. “How?”
“You mean besides the obvious answer of ‘Magic’?” grumped the pool, who was not pleased to have become a fictive. “I’m not a character, I don’t see why I have to be here.”
“You have a personality and some agency, so yes, you have to be here.” The Write frowned down at the pool, which was displaying rude emoticons in the swirling pyrite dust. “So what if we say the pools are literally the concentrated magic that the dragons like to nest in? It would make sense as to why they are there and not elsewhere and also about what is powering them.”
“So you are literally just liquid magic?” Khany crouched down beside the pool, fascinated. “That’s both awesome and terrifying.”
“Which means in the future where the pools are destroyed that the magic has been removed?” Jashn was suddenly paying a lot more attention to the conversation. “I know I’m going there because Dragon has something that I need, what if it’s help against something that’s destroying or consuming the magic?”
“Is that what happened to your dragon then? You were really really vague about it.” The Muse was still annoyed about that.
“I’d like to think that she’s sick and dying, but that I’m on a quest to try and save her,” objected Jashn. “Now I’m perfectly fine with the solution being killing another dragon and stealing its magic, but that seems a little over the top.”
“If she’s sick, maybe the magic was infected somehow?” Dragon had been staying out of the conversation, brooding over the comment about his age. “So there is something in our magic that will fight the sickness… but that means in the future where the town doesn’t burn but the pools are destroyed that he failed in his quest.”
“There are other dragons and other pools,” pointed out Jashn who had been drawing more maps than were actually needed by the story. Or his backstory. The Writer was hoping he just liked making maps.
“I don’t see why you needed me here for this,” the pool complained.
“You’re not getting off that easily,” the Muse sniffed. “We need a better explanation about what you can and can’t do when it comes to these predictions.”
And then the pool dragged them back into the story…
“Show me why the town burns,” Khany demanded, shaken by the reappearance of the stranger who seemed almost malevolent in the vision.
The pool rippled and the image faded, but nothing reappeared and only the swirling sediment remained.
“It can’t do ‘why’,” the dragon said, walking over to look into the pool. “It can do ‘how’ and ‘what’ and sometimes ‘when’, but never ‘why’. It’s only a pool.”
The pool shivered and seemed almost annoyed, but remained dark.
“Fine, how does the town burn?”
There was a churn of sediment and then an image of the town, untouched by flames. Slowly an orange glow rose in the west until they could see the fires taking hold. It leapt from building to building, as if chasing something, leaving footsteps of ember and the rippling heat waves behind.
After a few moments the entire town was engulfed and Khany watched familiar buildings blacken and crumble.
“Stop, stop.” She wiped tears away as the pool faded out the future she was trying to avoid. “That’s how it burns, but I meant what. What starts the fire? What do we have to prevent?”
The waters churned and stilled, but nothing appeared.
“What does that mean?” Khany turned to the dragon who was watching the pool intently, golden eyes mimicking the mists of the waters. “Why won’t it show me anything?”
“The pool sees all of the futures that might be, but the further out you go from the present day the more futures there are. Every choice that is made creates a new future and after a certain point the possibilities are infinite.” The dragon touched the tip of its claw to the water and the sediment sparkled and danced. “It can’t show you all of the futures, so it shows the most likely. If you ask it something where there are too many possibilities and all of the possibilities are just as unlikely… it gets confused. Narrow your question.”
“So how likely is the future with the fire then?” Khany frowned. “Do we even need to worry about it?”
“The pool chose to show it, so that means it’s something that is more likely to happen than not, given the question.” The dragon pulled back his claw and breathed out onto the water, his breath heavy with magic. “Try again.”
Khany turned back to the pool. “In the future in which the town burns, how do the people survive?”
The pool spat out a vision instantly showing a mass of people clustered knee-deep in the river, then it flashed to a group walking along the trade roads, and then back up into the hills where they watched as the town below them burned. Image after image popped up and faded away in a frantic slideshow of possibilities, but none of the futures were in town. Or in the caves.
“They scattered,” Khany noted. “So whatever happened, it wasn’t an organized evacuation, but they were all out of the town before it burned. At least the ones who survived.”
“My magic should have prevented this,” the dragon noted. “If nothing else the caves should have been safe, but no one was there.”
“Is there a future in which the town burns and the pools survive?”
The waters flickered and went dark.
“That was not really helpful,” pointed out Dragon as the pool tried to fade away. “I have a feeling we’re going to have to rewrite all of the scrying scenes in the second draft.”
“I’m 99% positive of it,” sighed the Writer. “But let him go for now, we at least got it to the point where we have a slightly more coherent method of questioning the futures.”
The pool seized the opportunity and vanished back into the story mists with a hiss.
“So is the story just going to be them sitting around the pools until I show up?’ Jashn asked, having lost interested in the storyline. Again. “Can we swap to my POV for a bit? I’ve got some more backstory to work out.”
“I’m still not sold on the idea that you need any POV time at all,” the Writer said. “I don’t see what it would add to the story, other than interrupt the flow of the plot.”
“Which is staring into pools.”
“It is pretty passive,” pointed out the Muse, who was annoyed to find herself agreeing with Jashn. “Let’s just pretend they figured out enough from the pools to get a plan together and hop into that. We can backtrack to the scrying later and figure out just how much they need to know (and not know).”
“Sounds like a plan… onwards!”