The only thing she knows is true anymore is that the dragon needs to die.
In which the Writer starts catching up, the Dragon meets Khany, and pre-plotted things start to unravel…
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.
Daily Wordcount: 2121
Total Wordcount: 3490 (includes Title, Chapter Headers, etc.)
False Starts, Fibs, and Fall Colds
“Lies, all lies!” Khany pounced on her Writer as it came walking back into the faux-living room. “You said it would be easy to pick up again!”
“It is– was,” the Writer countered as she cleaned off the writing desk with an absent-minded arm sweep. The falling paper and sketches sent the plot bunnies scrambling as it tumbled into their nest. “It wasn’t that I didn’t know what to write, it was that I was too sick to get to it.”
“So, in theory that means you’ve been thinking about the story the entire time and now have lots of things to get on paper?” not-Daniel said with a patented single eyebrow raise of skepticism.
“More like I was dosed to the gills on NyQuil and spent the last few days in a blanket burrito getting nothing done.” The Writer skimmed over the previous day’s writing and then popped open Google Docs. “But I’m here now and it’s time to start playing catch-up.”
“Please tell me you aren’t going to try and write four days worth of words today,” said the Muse with alarm. “We’ve still got most of November left!”
“Wasn’t planning on it, but we’ll see…” The Writer grinned and dumped Khany back into the story.
The dragon paused for a long moment, its golden eyes calm and ambivalent as it surveyed Khany and her offering. Then with a sigh it turned the mutton to ash, a small focused flame so precise the girl felt only the hint of heat as the magic rushed past her.
“You won’t kill me like that,” the dragon said, its voice both a whisper and a roar, and it turned back into the shadows in one smooth motion. Gone before she could react.
Like that, it echoed in her head as she sat, staring into the darkness after the dragon. Like that.
After she’d stopped shaking, she cleaned the ashes from the offering bowl, refilled the candle holders, and began the journey back to her village.
“What were you thinking?” She threw another handful of debris into the bonfire, furious at herself. “Of course it knew what you’d do, it’s always known.” She watched the waterlogged wood fragments spit and smoke before they caught.
She’d almost cleared the near pasture, although there were no sheep left to graze it. Only splintered fencing entangled with the prickler vines ripped free by the flood waters. She’d burned the last of the flocks yesterday and the sickly sweet scent of death was finally starting to give way to smoke and ash.
If she’d had family left, she might have buried the animals, but with only one set of hands it was easier to burn them where they lay. There was plenty of wood.
Townsfolk from up the hill had come down in those first few days to help bury the human dead. But sympathy only ran so deep and they had lives and relatives of their own to care for. She had nowhere else to go, so she slept in the ruins of the house and spent her days clearing the pastures.
The dragon would provide, the saying went. But she watched the curls of smoke from other farms, burnt offerings of lives and livelihoods, and she wondered what they thought it was going to do.
The next time she visited the cave, the dragon was already waiting for her.
“You killed my family.” Khany hadn’t bothered to bring a pack this time. No offering. No tribute.
“The flood killed them.” The dragon’s eyes were the size of her head and glowed softly in the shadows. There was no hint of remorse or apology in its voice, just the odd echoing hiss of fall leaves against the rocks.
“You’ve stopped floods before! And fires, and storms, and an army once, if the tales are true.”
“Those were all things that couldn’t be avoided,” the dragon drew back slightly and yawned, showing rows of teeth lined up like gravestones. “But that flood– that flood I saw coming and I told you not to build there.”
“You didn’t tell us anything! My family has lived on that farm for generations!”
The dragon blinked and tilted its head. “I told the village not to build on those floodplains. Maybe I did not tell you, but you are very small and live such tiny lives. It is not my fault if the message was not passed down.”
“Why not? You saw us build there. You saw the future hadn’t changed. So why isn’t it your fault for not telling us again? Telling us as many times as it took until the future I’m living didn’t happen?”
“I do what is best for the village,” said the dragon, pulling away into the shadows. “Sometimes the best thing isn’t the best thing for everyone.”
She said a lot of things after that, but the dragon was already gone.
“Well this is taking longer than expected.” The Writer frowned down at the story. “I thought you were going to go talk to the dragon once and then poof, dog-dom.”
“I can only see the most probable futures in the scrying pool,” said Dragon. “I have to make sure she’ll turn out to be one of the good futures, not one of the bad ones.” There was a pause. “There were a lot of bad ones.”
“I’m just stumped trying to come up with another way to kill it,” grumped Khany. “I can’t attack it physically, it’s too big and I’m not that much of a fighter. Poison seemed the easiest method, but apparently that won’t work.”
“You could always get someone else to kill him,” suggested not-Daniel. “Or you could ask a question about how to kill it. Is he bound to answer questions truthfully?”
“No,” said Dragon. “That would be a ridiculous thing to promise to do.”
“He has a point,” agreed the Writer. “Even the scrying pool doesn’t answer things 100% truthfully, it just answers with the probable.”
“You could just dedicate your life to annoying it to death.” suggested the Muse.
There was a pause.
“What?” The Muse shrugged. “It’s not like you have anything else to do. You can’t run a farm by yourself and you’ve already pointed out that there isn’t anyone else in the village who will help you. So either you go work for someone else… or you go hang out in the cave with the dragon and pester it.”
“You can’t run a farm by yourself.”
Kahny didn’t look up from where she was mending the last of the porch steps. She might never be the handyman her father had been, but she was slowly learning how to get brick and wood to obey her.
The magistrate sighed. “I know this has been hard on you, it’s been hard on everyone. But you can’t run a farm by yourself and we both know you don’t have enough food to last the winter.” Khany was one of the few survivors of the flood and the only one who had remained in the devastation to rebuild.
Everyone else had moved up the hills, either into town or to the farmlands high above the water lines. Some had surviving relatives, some like Khany had nothing but a stubborn will that kept them going.
They didn’t want to leave her behind, not when the dragon had been so clear about what happened to those who ignored his warnings, but she refused to leave.
“You can’t stay here.” He took a firm breath and steadied his resolve. “If you won’t come with me now, I’ll be back tomorrow with a cart and the constable.”
She finally paused to look up at him, silently furious.
“The dragon was quite clear, no one is to live here. The Council’s had a talk, found a nice place for you in town, a family that’s offered to take you in.” He tried not to look away from her eyes. “Don’t make this harder than it has to be.”
He’d been friends with her father and Khany knew that was the only reason he hadn’t brought the cart with him today. As much as she wanted to hate him, the magistrate was a kind man and she knew the Council was only trying to help.
“I’ll walk up in the morning.” She smoothed the anger from her face and gave him a weary smile. Let him think her defeated, if it would buy her one more night. “I promise.”
She would save her hatred for the dragon.
In the morning she set fire to what remained of the house. Who knows, someday the pastures might be used again, but the house was her’s —their’s— and no one but ghosts had the right to it.
When she was sure it was too far gone to save, she started up the road to the village. Halfway there she met the fire brigade and without a word they turned the water cart around. It was a silent ride back to the village and Khany felt a little guilty when she saw the magistrate’s happy tears and she realized everyone had assumed she’d thrown herself on the pyre.
The family who had offered to take her in was kind and she tried her best to fit into the place they had offered her. Town life was a far cry from farm life, but it was pleasant in its own way. She could see the future unrolling before her and the happiness lurking around the corners. But when the moon rose full again, she left a note on her pillow and went back out to the dragon.
“It’s your fault I’m homeless,” Khany said as she set up camp beside the offering bowl. “So it’s not fair to make the village pay for your mistakes.”
“You are being ridiculous,” said the dragon, but it made no move to kick her out.
“They might accept your deflections, but I don’t.” She finished stuffing the mattress with straw she’d gathered as she walked. “Blame my parents, my grandparents, my great-grandparents. It’s all the same, you didn’t do your job.”
There was an amused snort from the darkness and the faintest hint of flame. “I have only ever promised to protect the village.”
“We were the village, just as much as the town, just as much as the northern farms.” Khany snapped. “You can’t say you protect us and then pick and choose what it means.”
“My promise means the same thing it has always meant. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t make it not true.” The dragon got up with an avalanche of noise, as scale scraped rock, and gave her a measuring look before disappearing back into the darkness.
“I’m going to kill you someday.” She said to the shadows, long after it had gone.
And in the whisper of breeze that danced in from the meadows, she thought she could hear, I know.
“I hate to point this out, but I don’t see how any of this is going to lead to her being turned into a dog,” pointed out the Muse. “Unless we’re ditching that plot point?”
“I don’t know, I sort of liked it,” said the Writer. “It worked well with the time dilation and explaining why she hadn’t notice time starting to slow for her. I don’t know how we’ll work that in otherwise.”
“You could just have the dragon assign her tasks within the caves.” not-Daniel was still sketching out his own backstory, but put the notebook aside to help brainstorm. “She’d only be interacting with the people who came in to leave offerings or ask questions. Those don’t tend to be the same people, do they?”
“I’d expect the Council members would be coming up relatively often,” said Khany. “But everyone else… I mean, I hadn’t been up since I was a child, so I’d guess only for new children and for serious questions.”
“I suppose it would make more sense for her to still be human when I got there,” pointed out not-Daniel. “She might be telepathic, but it would still be a lot easier to communicate if we’re the same species.”
“Plus we can keep up the interaction with the village,” pointed out the Muse. “Maybe we can play off the fact that the reader is going to notice the time passing, even if Khany doesn’t.”
“I think a lot of that will have to come in the next draft.” The Writer yawned. “I think I’ve caught up about as much as I can for today. It wasn’t much, but at least I’m less than three days behind now.”
“We didn’t stop in the middle of a scene though,” Khany pointed out.
“Gah, okay, fine. So the next things we write will be about how she’s surviving living in the cave, the village’s reaction to her staying there, and the dragon giving her the first task.” The Writer scribbled some quick notes in the margin of the next chapter.
And then they called it a night.