“If you wish to earn your bread by weaving your own words into fantastic creations, instead of mending the scholars’ tomes,” Dedication told me, rustling her iron-grey wings, “you should not rely solely on the great tapestries. The wise woman from whom you have obtained so many other helpful maps has a new one to offer, and following its course may yield some modest treasure. No guarantee,” she added, just before she leapt into the air, red scales gleaming, “but I’m sure you’ll find the journey useful, wherever it leads.”
I purchased the map, as she had suggested, and with it in hand began my journey. It wasn’t long, however, before I reached the Plains of Decision. My map offered me little guidance through this mystical realm; whatever path I forged through the trackless expanse would lead to the other side, so long as I stayed the course, but the path I chose here would shape every step of the journey that followed.
“Well, this is boring,” a voice said from behind me. I jumped, flushing as I realized how long I had been standing, mesmerized by the grass swaying in the breeze of possibility.
“Inspiration! I’m so glad you’re here. I need to find a colony of stories somewhere in there,” I said, waving a hand at the grasslands. “But I don’t know where to start. What are you looking for?”
The dragon yawned, showing teeth the same parchment shade as her wings. “I’m sure whatever you come up with will be fine.” She lowered her head to her forelegs and closed her eyes. Despite the bright sunlight that shown on her inky scales, a snore soon rose from her muzzle.
I reminded myself that I was not a child, to stamp my foot and demand attention. Inspiration had been generous with her gifts in the past, despite the fact that I had tossed so many of them into some dusty cupboard or chest for storage. Small wonder that she was tired now.
A quick teleport spell brought me to the basement of my home, and I opened the vault where I had stored so many of Inspiration’s gifts. As I sorted through the room, I found myself returning time and time again to one particular box, holding a character who had already nudged his way into a number of other ideas as a minor player. I smiled and picked up the box, blowing the dust off of its green and bronze surface.
When I returned to the Plains of Decision, my draconic friend had left her nap; I could see her on the distant ridge on the opposite side of the grasslands. With the box in my hand, the expanse before me was no longer trackless, and while the path I found branched and twisted, I reached the far side happy with the choices I had made. “Oh, good, I like him,” Inspiration said when she saw the box I held. “You should start with him already in trouble …”
With Inspiration chattering in my ear, I began sketching the colony my new creations would occupy, and then I set about assembling the first of my creatures. As always, the result was rough, but Inspiration pronounced herself pleased. This time, however, when Dedication challenged me to improve upon it, she also held out a strange crystal orb. “I have watched you struggle through the towers. This may be of some assistance to you, though I am not certain of it. Use it in the towers with the tallest, steepest stairs, and see if it lightens your step at all.”
I thanked her and set off on my way. I have entered the first tower, knowing that my journey has only just begun.