#1 Co-Writing with NovelAI: Amuin and the Dragon Kingdoms

#1 Co-Writing with NovelAI: Amuin and the Dragon Kingdoms
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In a twist turn of events, there is an AI specifically for co-writing fiction with, and we were gifted a subscription to it! So begins our first journey with NovelAI.

A young dragon crawls from the nest, wings wet and feathers thin and rumpled. They sniffle blindly toward the mouth of the cave, toward the smell of fresh air. Then one of their siblings catches a scent and lifts his head up to the sky, gulps in a lungful, then takes another step on his stubby legs—and falls down with a terrible cry.

The first dragon scrambles back toward their brother. They don’t yet have words, but already they want to give comfort. They cuddle against their brother’s side until he stands back up again. One by one, the rest of the dragonlings step onto the damp earth; some crawl awkwardly, others totter along on four legs before taking a tentative bite at the grasses in the cave’s mouth.

The first dragon follows their brother, now more confident, to the grass. It tastes sweet but requires a lot of chewing; they are excited by the experience, and can’t help but make a small chirp of delight. They are beginning to get a sense of themself, and that’s exciting too. They can’t remember much of their time in the egg, but now the world is full of thoughts and smells and siblings.

A shadow passes overhead, and the dragon trembles and hunkers lower into the grass. Some of their siblings make shrill cries of alarm. A few leap away from their father, who shakes out his wings in a quick flapping motion.

Father. The idea forms more clearly in the first dragon’s mind. The smell is familiar, comforting, and they immediately crawl toward him. He spreads his wings to encircle the young dragonlings in a feathered embrace, and begins to check each one.

To each he gives a name, and it reverberates through the young dragon. They can feel it in their bones, and in the crystal sharp pouch of their gizzard. “Amuin,” he says, touching the dragonling’s forehead with the tip of his snout. He is large enough to swallow all of these hatchlings whole, but they have no fear of him. The name, the little dragonling understood, meant Story.

Years later, Amuin’s wings are finally strong enough to carry them in flight. After their first few clumsy test flights, they set out in earnest, leaving their cave and their family behind. They follow the sun, growing taller and stronger as they fly toward its golden rim. Their gizzards fill up, and when they are full, they fly back home.

Their mother scolds them for eating so much food, but their father laughs and says that their gizzards will only get bigger if they keep eating, just like their wings.

Amuin shuffles their wings, embarassed by their father’s laughter. “I don’t want to get bigger,” they say. “I only want to fly farther.”

“Then fly farther,” their mother says. “You are plenty old enough.” There is something weary in her tone.

Amuin feels more embarassed still. Nearly all of their siblings have already left the nest on adventures; it is only them and their brother, Dolor, who huddles at the back of the cave and rarely tests his wings. Amuin does not understand this lack of ambition. How can you fly without flying? They want to be part of a story.

They find the answer in the stories they hear from their parents. It was in the beginning of creation, the dragons tell them, before all other things were made, there was nothing but fire. But one day, it burst out and devoured the land, and then the sky. The dragons fled to safety in the caves; their brothers and sisters stayed behind to watch the flames. The siblings of dragons were said to be the phoenixes or firebirds and the fireflies in their multi-coloured swarms. The fireflies were unharmed by the flames, but the phoenixes burnt to a crisp. When the fire died down, they emerged from the ashes into a new world. The dragons emerged from their caves to discover vast oceans and tall forests in the wake of the missing flames. They saw birds with the bodies of deer, foxes that could become invisible at will, plants that grew so fast that some parts would die for lack of light. All of these creatures came together to form the dragon kingdoms. And they told their children what had happened in the beginning, and how it all began—and why each of them was important.

Amuin can’t stop thinking of the world from those stories — the world that is out there now, if only they could fly far enough. All of the dragon kingdoms and their many peoples and creatures, waiting for Amuin to meet them.

“I’m going to go out again,” Amuin says firmly. They flap their wings for emphasis.

Their mother’s ears twitch back. “So soon?”

“I can do it,” Amuin says. Their gizzard is full of sunlight, warm and pulsing. Their heart is full of stories. They know, somehow, that this time their wings will carry them for longer. This time they will truly leave their cave behind.

They scamper to the cave mouth. They are still a small dragon, barely larger than a newborn lamb. But they know that they will be able to do it. They leap into the air, flapping their wings. A few loose feathers shake free as they climb once, then immediately drop to hit the ground with a thump. They jump again, springing up and batting the air with their wings.

They try again. They get higher, but then lose altitude, skidding down the grasses of the hill. Amuin doesn’t want to fall down the hill; they have already seen their father scolding one of his hatchlings who fell too close to the lake below. Amuin is determined to make this flight different.

They huddle down, muscles bunching, tail wiggling in anticipation. They try to put all their strength into it as they jump; their wings snap out and stroke the air once, twice, and three times. They are flying properly now, and they trumpet their triumph to the skies. They can feel the effort of it, and sense the sunlight in their gizzard burning away. But now is the real challenge; will they be able to fly beyond the grassy hills and out into the wider world? If they are not careful, they could end up crashing right back down onto the hill.

But if they keep going, maybe…

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