“My Nightmare of a NaNoNovel — With Unicorns”: An Excerpt
Character #1 sat on a rock with his head in his hand, staring off into the great distance of the enchanted forest and contemplating on the fact that he did not yet have a name.
“It does seem rather unfair,” he thought, “that I should be the one here driving forward all the action of this novel and be in possession of neither a name nor any concrete idea as to how I should help the plot to unfold.”
He was a young man, not yet experienced in the ways of the world, yet not completely without the means to engage with it. He was also entirely independent, having no family at all, for reasons neither he nor the author could be quite certain of.
“Well, that’s wonderful,” Character #1 thought. “I have no family either. And, on top of that, it seems that the author has just decided to burn my house down.”
He slowly stood, feeling the pull of muscles that were stiff from sitting on the rock for so long, and turned to face the lovely little cottage that he hadn’t realized was right behind him. It was just the sort of day, apparently, where the realization that you have a house and the knowledge that it will be quickly burned to the ground hit you in the exact same instant.
Character #1 sighed.
The author, having a bit of pity on him, decided to name him Leopold. For no reason in particular.
Leopold was grateful for this, although it didn’t change the fact that his thatched roof was alive with great orange tongues of flame. Sadder still was the sight of his carefully cultivated window box, filled with bright little posies and splashes of enchanted wildflowers, slowly wilting away under the surge of intense heat.
It flashed across his mind that he should run to the well and attempt to douse the flames one small wooden bucket at a time. Then the roof collapsed. Although the crude wooden furniture within would surely be reduced to a crisp as a result, there was no reason whatsoever that the walls, made as they were from gray stone, should themselves ignite and begin to melt into a slowly oozing lava.
Leopold jumped back in horror as the molten material ran down the walls like a waterfall and began to creep out across the lovely little clearing his cottage had been built in.
“Only one thing can make a fire that burns like that,” he realized, jumping up onto the rock that had previously served as his chair. “Somehow I’ve attracted the anger of a dragon!”
Helplessly, he watched as the liquefied remains of his stone walls sizzled around the edges of his perch. Living as he did in a world in which every person has their own particular talent for magic, it was quite unfortunate that his own abilities were completely useless to save him.
Others could have called down a magical wind to freeze the lava into rock and blow out the smoldering flames like a giant snuffing out a candle. Some could have commanded the rock he stood on to pick itself up and move, steering it through the river of lava like a tiny rescue boat. Leopold could pull the seed of an enchanted plant out of the pouch he wore along his waist, plant it on the surface of the rock, and help it to sprout and grow even without soil. But it would take at least a week for the plant to grow into anything substantial. And even after that, he knew of no variety of plant that would actually be helpful.
He had just resigned himself to his fate (many long, boring hours spent passively waiting for the lava to cool; he should have known, he later realized, that the author could never allow this to happen) when POP! He found himself magically transported to an entirely new location.
“Where am I?” he asked in surprise, examining the trees that he was now surrounded by.
“The enchanted forest!” a voice called out.
Leopold turned to see a bearded man wearing a robe running towards him from someplace deeper in the woods. When he finally reached Leopold, he stopped to catch his breath, the hood of his robe falling onto his head as he bent over and rested his hands on his knees.
“So sorry,” he said between breaths. “I’m afraid this… sort of thing… happens far too often to me.”
“So you’re the reason that I’m here?” Leopold asked.
“I’m afraid so,” the man replied, finally straightening up. “I offer you my most sincere apologies.”
“Apologies?” Leopold repeated. “You just saved me from a boiling river of molten rock!”
“Really?” the man asked, brightening up. “How wonderful!”
“So… You honestly didn’t know that was what you were doing,” Leopold noted.
“As I said,” the man replied, shaking his head, “this sort of thing happens to me far too often. I possess the… rather unorthodox talent… for communing with the Orb of Uncertainty.”
“Really,” Leopold said, feeling quite intrigued. He had known from the man’s light blue robes that he possessed a talent for working with magical objects, just as Leopold’s simple brown tunic displayed his aptitude for magical plants, but the ability to work with just one object, the Orb of Uncertainty no less, was highly unusual.
“I wish I could say that I exercise control over it,” the man said, “but it is called the Orb of Uncertainty for a reason. I can’t teleport you back to wherever you belong, but I can offer to help you in whatever way I can. I feel rather responsible for all this.”
“Unless your Orb sent a dragon to burn down my house,” Leopold said with a wry smile, “I can tell you that you’re not responsible for the worst thing that happened to me today.”
“A dragon?” the man asked in surprise. “Please don’t take offense, but what could a dragon possibly want with a magical plant specialist?”
“You got me, but, as it appears that I have nothing better to do and nowhere else to be, I suppose I had better try to find out.”
“Then I will assist you in your quest!” the man said. “It is the least that I can do.”
“Oh, thank you for your offer, but I wouldn’t want to take you from your work. I know that magical object holders are in very high demand.”
“Not this magical object holder,” the man replied with a sigh. He reached into the pocket of his robe and pulled out a small orb about the size of a crystal ball. Blue smoke swirled within as he continued. “I’ve already been banished from seven different kingdoms because of this. The Council of Object Holders has told me that it is the natural way that the holder of the Orb of Uncertainty should wander about the countryside. The use of uncertain magic calls for an uncertain lifestyle. And I don’t mind that, but it is rather hard to have no one who appreciates you.”
“I appreciate you,” Leopold said.
“You would be the first,” the man replied.
“Really,” Leopold told him, “I would love to have you along. I’m sure that you could be of great help to me.”
“In that case,” the man said, “we must go find a Unicorn Whisperer at once!”
He began cheerfully walking towards the deepest part of the forest. Leopold ran to catch up.
“A Unicorn Whisperer?” he repeated.
“When the Orb commands, I follow!”
He raised the magical object in his hand with a grand gesture. The smoke inside, once just a light blue swirl, had changed to purple in color and was now hovering like a tiny group of clouds. And right at the top was the clearly discernible outline of a horse with a long pointed horn in the middle of its forehead.