In A Land Far, Far Away


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Scene Title In A Land Far, Far Away
Synopsis …there be dragons.
Date January 16, 2009


The metaphysical world is always going to be markedly different than the real one; in some special cases it goes way beyond that fact and into the outright bizarre. This one is quite beautiful in its execution, but there is something about it that immediately gives off an aura of wrongness. There are walls, tall, arched, with circular doorways taller than two men- and these are the only clues as to the labyrinth of sorts being a garden. Carefully manicured paths wind throughout a forest inside; the plants are an array of colors, some of them even backwards in hue so much as to grow up into neon blue pants with leaves of a matte grass green. The trees are little different in some cases, the fat bulbous trunks of some contrasting to spindly saplings nearby covered in fan-like leaves. Gnarled branches blot out most of the sky, which is a castover peach, dotted with clouds. The garden is a garden, of course- but it is a garden where everything is spun into some manner of Wonderland that Alice might happen into. Some flowers have sleeping faces- solemn eyes peering readily from the trunks of trees- plants and rocks sculpting themselves into strange shapes and figures- expanses of wildflowers in some places, tiny dots of ponds in others. It is all quite nice. For a time.

The closer one moves towards the center, the more that it becomes clear that something has been through here. At first, a snapped branch here, a trodden posey there, until it becomes an uprooted tree, dirt and rocks upended onto the path, ponds muddied and covered in broken cattails. It goes on along the paths, until the blood appears. Similar to the first, it alights shimmering red on leaves, flowers; eventually it is splashed across the flowers and ground. Around the curve of the trodden way this time, however, there is a source. A snake-like creature, tangled in the arms of one of the gnarled trees. Blue and green scales shine sleek on its hide, eagle arms and legs snapped and hanging limp out of the canopy. A steady stream of red drips down onto the path via gravity, the fur on its tail matted with the red gathering into it. Its mouth is open wide, neck hung slack over a branch and yellow eyes wide open. An orange tongue lolls out of the side of a whiskered mouth, lips pulled in mid snarl. Dried blood comes from its maw and nostrils, and one of those ivory-colored horns on its skull has been snapped from its root, and lies with other various scales and tufts of fur on the pathway. Further onward, there are several more, smaller than the first, but still brilliantly colored as if they were the birds of paradise inhabiting this jungle garden.

When the path finally stops- it is at a large pond, surrounded by big rocks, cattails, sandy rims- lilies and lotus flowers float innocently on the surface, on a layer of watery green weeds knotted together. The trail of dragon's blood drags along the ground, slipping into the giant, colorful pond at a point where the dirt has been parted and the ground flattened. There is only one other body here, and it is a shocking canary yellow scales of a slim female creature, white shocks of fur turned copper as it lies dead, vertical along the walkway surrounding the pond. There is little blood, apart from that bleeding from her broken skull- on close inspection, it was seemingly stomped utterly flat into the dust.

It only leaves one way that there is a trail ending at the rim of the water- whatever had done it is now lurking in the deep stillness of that dark water, perhaps waiting- perhaps it has died too- perhaps it is in the process of doing so.

Hooves that appear to be made of a gleaming gold delicately press its steps against the soft ground near the pond. Spattered, now, with dirt, with blood, too, and the creature lifts up one leg in a prim kind of gesture of distaste. Against his or her master's will, the mount backs up from the edge of the pond. It's legs are long, blending muscles into its lithe body, its coat a pure, shimmering white that catches silver in the light. The sprouting of mane along its arching neck has its own shine, all glossy golden strands that hands clutch into to steady, and the tail that swooshes along lazily is of the same golden quality.

Last but not least, the spiraling horn that juts from out between its eyes is that same metal, razor sharp, and it cuts through the air when the unicorn tosses its head restlessly. "Easy," its rider mutters, with a hint of impatience, ripping tighter onto the golden mane as he cranes his neck to peer into the pond.

He's dressed up for the outing. Armor is light and of a similar gold as his steed's features, with velvet red peeking from beneath it and silk of the same tone coming at a cascade in the form of a cape from his shoulders. His belt holds a sword, predictably golden, as if this metal were somehow more suitable than steel or iron. Logan's eyes are brightly green, less diluted than they are in reality, and reflect the light coming off the pond as he observes its surface and tries to will his mount into not fleeing. There's a hiss of metal to leather as he unsheaths his sword in preparation, and bends at the waist enough to lower the tip into the water. Ripples flood out from the gentle contact, experimental.

Moments after that contact, something bubbles up from below, the air escaping some manner of lung or- in this case, corpse- before it rolls to the surface. Yet another snake-like body rolls off onto the bank, scales rusty orange and tined horns of bronze, chest and spine similar in size to that steed. It seems to have been drowned just moments ago; no bloating, no waterlogged flesh. One hind set of talons is still flinching as the muscles contract in death, other feet still curling into balls.

While that final twitch is going on, the space of water under the knotted layer of greens rises up lazily, almost- as if the big pond has taken a breath. Skeptical or simply discerning eyes will be able to pick out the shape under there- something not unlike another reptile lurking in wait.

The unicorn snorts, makes large steps backwards for all that a squeeze from Logan's knees would urge her forward. Duchess is in no mood for dragons, dead or alive, especially ones that twitch so, but it's not the recently drowned creature that has her rider's attention. "Shh," he hisses to his mount, before swinging one leg up and over the graceful curve of her back, free of saddle and reins. Shining leather boots hit the soft earth of the ponds foreshore, and golden hooves gladly reel back some paces with a soft snort from the gleaming white creature.

"I can't take you anywhere," Logan says, over his shoulder, a light complaint — before he's focusing on the movement beneath the lake. He casts a glance up to scout out the treeline beyond the water, and though the faces in the trees, the flowers, the general strangeness of the land is, indeed, strange—

But so is he. "Come out, come out," he coaxes, coming right up to the lapping, rippling murk of the lake, only just brushing patent leather points of his toes, again encouraging ripples with the tip of his blade, glancing towards the dead thing with a glimmer of uncertainty.

A slurping succession of bubbles comes up through the weeds, lungs underwater letting out a swallow of air. It comes off as a warning, of sorts- a noise to make sure that the man knows that whatever is there- does not want him there. Logan is an obvious trespasser, and it seems very territorial.

After a few moments of this facing off, the weeds shift forward towards the shore, water parting increasingly wide as the creature looms back to the surface. With it comes another noise; a threatening gurgle that turns into a rumble of the ground as the dark of the pond lets out a vaguely beast-shaped head, covered in those tangles. It has ivory horns, single tines with a stumpy second just below, making them wide and dispensed to arc. Its eyes lie below the water, both a brilliant orange- though the one on its left side has a decidedly reptilian slit pupil, and the right side pupil is circular. They sit apart by literally feet- the length of a small child. They glow unnaturally back at Logan just under the guise of the tangle of plants, glaring angrily at the man and his noble steed. A handful of those flowers with faces wake up tiredly, tiny eyes flicking open before they sway in the breeze to nudge their neighbors awake to see this new presence.

The rumble comes back, and the creature lifts a great muzzle to touch the air, the nose of which is at least a foot and a half wide. Nostrils flare and spit water into the air, one last posturing before the apparently deep pond might gurgle up the rest.

The princely figure at the edge of the lake reels on back at the spurt of water, but doesn't run— as much as the appearance of those eyes might encourage him to, the weed-riddled horns, and it certainly has the unicorn hanging back. The reflection off the shifting lake makes patterns of light up the gleaming gold breastplate he's strapped into, over pale features as Logan once more takes back the ground he'd retracted. His sword is gripped two handledly, the point leveling down somewhere lower than a direct line towards the swamp dragon, enough to show it if not actually threaten.

"Yes, that's right, you're very scary," he says, voice almost singsong. "But I know something even scarier, and if you keep on like that, it might just be me. Show youself!" And that last part comes out as a demanding bark, words sharp like a cracked whip.

If a pond could inflate- well- this one looks like it is. The weeds rise slightly, bulbous as water shifts up under them. The faces of little plants turn to peer at this progression, some whose petals shrink closed over pods and pistils. Pondwater rushes when the creature lurches forward, grabbing onto the shallows and heaving itself lightning-quick up and out towards Logan, maw open wide.

It's a very impressive set of chompers; hippopotamus in make, though as it breaches the shore it is clear that it must be distantly related to the scattered and broken beasts all over the garden. A thick, elephantine hide, of variants of greens, scaly and rigid; there is a rusty orange streak across its expansive belly, before turning pale at the underside. When its stocky, muscular legs latch clawed, knuckled paws into the dirt ahead, and it pulls itself up, teeth chomping at Logan, its shoulder height comes to something else elephantine, though the dragon is overall molded like that mammal it seems to have taken its long, sharp, ivory teeth from. It could probably fit all of the man down its throat if it really wanted to- but its mouth will gladly just cover him from head to waist like a happy crocodile if he doesn't move.

Needless to say, the sound is numbing, as when the beast opens up a thunderous roar comes with it.

Logan moves, and fortunately for him, the yelp of surprise at the attack is utterly drowned out by the roar that brings with it the stink of blood and rotting water. His sword flashes, but it only goes ping off one ivory fang as he busies himself with scrambling back, tidy boots not getting drenched in mud as he drives trenches into the soft dirt, shoulder connecting off a tree before his hand goes out, grips onto the rough bark, and he swings himself behind it. "Stand down!" sounds like a tinny, useless order, cried out panicky from his hiding place once the reverberations of the roar peter out. "I'm not your— "

He can picture it now, the tree splintering under the pressure of the dragon's giant maw, so Logan is already darting away again. His noble steed doesn't flee, but does dart and shift around the periphery, ready to goddamn run as much as her head lowers, shows off the shining horn in her own sign of aggression.

"Not your enemy!" Logan finishes, turning back to face the dragon, sword pointed.

The dragon adjusts its direction to pull the rest of itself out of the water, and it turns out that that pond must be quite huge. Its belly alone is possibly wider than a truck trailer, and Logan face to face with it will only be tall enough to come to the bottom of its muscular chest, dipped in rusty orange scales. Its feet seem too dexterous to be only paws, and that is made clear when it grabs onto the branches of the tree, snapping them like brittle toothpicks on they way down. When it all comes to a head, and Logan finally reasserts his sword, the dragon's mouth is parted in a threatening grunt of air.

Now that it is closer, dripping with mud along its belly and tail, there is far more to take in. That tail slides out of the water behind it, swinging to one side. There are spikes there- not unlike a dinosaur, and a club-like growth of a similar nature. Its back feet call back the hippo picture, hind legs having feet of four-toed hooves, though they are wide enough to support its weight effortlessly. Along its spine is a now drenched, rusty orange trail of fur, which at its neck lengthens, stopping at the back of its skull and along the ridges of cheekbones. It is clearly intelligent, though hostile, head lowering to present the heavy crest that is horns and thick skull, eyebrows furrowing at the sword twinkling in the light. There are whiskers on its head, somewhat like a catfish- three pairs, sprouting lengthy and orange from above its eyebrows, the chin of its jaw, and perhaps fittingly, along and hanging down from the upper lip. They flinch from muscles under scale in the now warm air, and they sway in no breeze, like tails.

"Yet you brandish a sword." Oh wow, it talks too. Then again, the flowers have faces. It is a he, by the voice- deep, thunderous- authoritative, firstly.

Again, again, Logan steps back along the blood spattered trail he followed, knees bent under the pristine white of his pants, clean boots up to his knees and creaking with new leather with each step, but it's not necessarily a retreat. No, he stares at the beast as it comes up from the murky depths, green eyes like cut emeralds instead of their usual paler dilute and wide and focused, studying the details as they come to surface. There's awe, some fear and wariness, but avid interest as well, in the way one might evaluate a new car, or a dinner date. You know, if you're John Logan.

"I do," he agrees, with a certain bravado in his voice, coming to stand his ground. The sword twitches aside, but isn't lowered, and certainly not sheathed. His words hold a cadence unnatural to him, too, overly formal in its recieved pronunciation. "For there is something out there that ensures I cannot let my guard down. It plagues you too, dragon. Tell me, does it hurt you? Haunt you? Change your shape?"

"This is my shape, boy." A snort issues forth from his nose, coming with a trail of what seems like steam. "You do not know of what plagues me. Of what plagues I have made. You presume to know anything at all." Stomp. One step forward from the dragon rumbles the ground- his weight is worth its own quake. Orange eyes rest on the shimmer of armor, sword, and eye, narrowing when it comes to the last.

"Might you be able run faster than I am able to knock down trees?"

He manages not to let the shimmer through the ground knock him off his feet entirely, legs bracing and breath catching in his chest. A hand goes back, reaching, and the unicorn is as responsive as any noble steed could be hoped to be — she comes forward, touches her velvet soft muzzle to his hand in indication of her presence, sooty grey in relation to the rest of her snowy coat. Logan moves swiftly, climbing up onto her bare back with a sweep of his scarlet cape, keeping the golden edge of his weapon away from her hide and all the while, he keeps the dragon's orange eyes in sight.

The unicorn steps back as if preparing to spring away, but Logan urges her still. "We'll find out soon enough," he says, free hand gripping onto his mount's golden mane. "I do know what plagues you, for it plagues me. The Blue Fairy's bewitchment." It's a gamble, continuing to speak instead of run, but Logan is a betting man.

"You know not what plagues I've had a hand in spreading," he adds, watching the monster's movements carefully.

Anger seethes from the dragon, and his jaw pops open again, lips curling, tongue flat, and throat bellowing. More steps forward come, the muscles stretching under the hide at his shoulders. "I brought her into this place!" That voice shakes the leaves on the trees, vibrates through the metal Logan wears on his torso. The dragon's head lowers again, thick neck shaking his great horned skull to and fro like a ceratopsid out of time. "I made her what she is, she is never the one to plague me, nor wrest me from my slumber. Spread what plagues you wish, but do not bring them unto me."

Like an angry cat, the unicorn turns in a circle, preparing to run when that second roar bellows, but a yank from Logan's hand has her steering back to face the dragon. Golden hooves paw the ground, the horn lowers before she tosses her head, restless, making every show of desiring to dance away without actually doing so. "If you made her," Logan continues to snarl, even as he wrestles to control his own mount. "If you made her, then you must be the one to unmake her. There's something else you don't know."

A brutal kick of booted feet steers the unicorn forward one reluctant step. "It's the shadows. On every mind the Blue Fairy touches, the shadows take over. It's them you need to fear, and fight, because it's only a matter of time before they get you too, dragon."

While his head is down, ears flick up past the wetness of mane, wagging around on swivels before falling back down against his head. It might be comical if they weren't on him. Muscle shivers under skin, shaking like a beast of burden. His head lifts and legs move him forward, the tail behind crashing into brush and fallen branch, the four pointed spines swaying precariously.

"She has never touched my mind as she might another, yet these shadows still come for me. I do not fear them- I kill them!" In his own way- he fights them all the time. One after another, and it is more tiring than he is letting on- but it shows in the weary lines sagging into the skin just under his brilliantly colored eyes. Whether or not killing these things is effective, it is making him weaker with each defeat of perceived enemies.

"It's true, the shadows haunt many regardless," Logan concedes, and in one motion, he sheathes his sword at his belt. "That is why I am here. I can help you kill them, for I see you're wearied." He pushes forward, enough so that the wisps of breath coming from the monster's snout brush its curls against the unicorn's breast, and its whiskers could easily swivel and touch the creature and the rider upon it. "And I know of places you can go where the shadows do not come for you, but for this knowledge, I would have something in return."

He allows a pause, there, a hesitation, but not a gap that yawns wide enough to allow interjection. "I need people who can fight them. We all do, to help protect those that cannot. I came here to help but I see you're just as capable as I am."

Though his breath curls hot onto the equine, he is barely below opening his mouth to clamp onto it. The temptation is there in the flinching of his neck's muscles. Those orange eyes light at the knight face to face, quivering with interest in places where the shadows lurking around here cannot go. Interest piqued, those loop-shaped ears cup at the sides of his skull. After the next few words, the thick, pliant lips on his muzzle twist up in something caught between a sneer and a smug curl of his mouth. Of course he is capable. The end of his face wrinkles around his bovine nose.

"You see I am worn, yet you ask me to continue?" And as far as he can see, there are no more here.

At this range, it's clear that the unicorn has the same tone of eyes as her rider, deep green, as much as her mood and wants seem to be at odds with Logan. Still, they're a part of each other — they have to be, to be here. "I do," Logan states, injecting some rue into his voice, blonde head nodding in admission. "But whether you fight here, in your realm, or across the borders of others, you will still be fighting — but if you help, there is a better chance that we'll be able to banish back the shadows once and for all."

Or so goes the theory. Golden horse tail swishes restlessly, and he sits straighter. "You can fend off the shadows with light, with a champion of your realm, and you can help others find their own, and with enough soldiers, we'll win. What say you, dragon? Have I misjudged you?"

"Light? I possess no light, knight. Not anymore." The dragon lifts his chin, showing a pale strip on his neck, and the orange whiskers on his face seem to flatten back. "Why should I bother with elsewhere?" Here comes the part where he can actually care or not, and though he has not misjudged the creature completely, Logan is offered a rather apathetic response. "Will it make my own problems leave me more hastily? Or is this simply to channel me into doing your dirty work?"


The knight leans forward, arms crossing against the curving neck of the unicorn, peering at the dragon past his steed's snowy ears and the spiraling jut of its horn. His mouth twists into half a smile, eyes cat-green and bright. "There is enough work that I could not hope to pass it off on to ten dragons, let alone one, never mind how magnificant they may be. But no," and his smile dims, seriousness taking over, "I do not try to trick you. But I believe that one of the best ways to learn a thing— is to teach."

His eyebrows go up, as if asking his opinion, before straightening up again. "There is also the benefit that the shadows do not harm you if you are within someone else's realm, but abuse such a benefit and you will be left here, alone, to fend for yourself — and if you have no light, than I believe you'd be well and truly…" Logan thinks on his wording for a moment, before ending with, "Fucked."

The singular word 'teach' appears to do something behind orange eyes, as something flickers, dies, fires up again. He listens still, remaining wholly silent for some time afterward. "How do I know what light there is? I have none, though even plagued men seem to- be able to produce such a thing." Is he really only just that much a leper? "I may be keen to do this- but going to war with no sword in my scabbard is a dire mistake."

"I agree. If I— or any one of those battling the shadows— help you find your sword," Logan says, wrapping a hand around the hilt of his own, offering the dragon a smile, "then will you help the cause?"

Now, he steers his pony away, the regal step of the creature lifting its legs high with a jaunty twitch of its tail. "Everyone has light, dragon," he says, steering to a halt some distance, showing off the unicorn's profile. "Even I do. Even you do. If you cannot arm yourself with a steel blade, then your selflessness will be your armor, and your wits. Find what is good in you, for the shadows are only what is bad."

The unicorn paws the ground, tosses her head restlessly. "I will send the dreaming witch your way, and she will guide you to the room of mirrors. It's your choice, dragon."

What does he have anymore? His wits? His brains? His waking self has very little these days, save for a building having just causes in the village that is Chinatown. Perhaps that may be it- perhaps it is not what he has- but what he had, as well. There is nothing else that the dragon can come up with here, in this garden strewn with signs of his fighting. The tail behind him sways back and forth in the air, one swing rattling against the trunk of a tree. His eyes watch Logan and the mare, ears tilting cockeyed and tongue wiping an animal's idle motion over his lower muzzle.

"The witch?" Horns tilt with his head. "Mirrors?" Orange eyes make a cat-like blink, his voice rumbling. "Very well."

"You will see," Logan promises. There's the hiss of his sword against the sheath, drawing it now not to threaten, but in a fare well, lifting the blade up towards the canopy covered sky and letting it glint in what sunlight struggles through. The unicorn moves, throwing its weight back onto her strong hind legs, front ones curling up in a kick before the creature twists. Faster than any kind of equine should be, with a feline fluidity, the unicorn leaps back down the path, unnatural distance gained.

The whole world warps a little. The dragon will gain the impression of smoke in the air, spiced, gleaming gold and whisper of velvet, as if those things gathered together to make Logan's own avatar were materials of the world he vanishes into, but there's something else too, an impression of mirrors.

Lots of mirrors.

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