Apr 07, 2020 10:07 PM
The First Age
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This only secures Best Singer's place as leader of this collection of dragonets even further. She basks in the constant praise and leads ever-grander projects. The latest project is carving images of a swarm of dragonets surrounding the Sky-Scaled One into the very cliffs! Unfortunately, while they can fly, when working with heavy stones - accidents sometimes happen (unless the divine is watching over the construction site).

There are so many here that all the dragonets barely even recognize each other! Some of them find this overwhelming and lurk near the edges, only staying near for the easy source of food. Sometimes trouble brews on these edges, fighting out of view of the quelling presence at the center of it all.

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The divine is watching very keenly over the construction site, being a bit more interventionist than normal. She has attention to spare, after all, even while continuing her planet experiments elsewhere. This project is so delightful!

The fighting she doesn't try to stop, but dragonets tend to not come out of it badly injured, at least.

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A group of adventurous dragonets finally manages to take down a Skyhorn and thus gain access to its gemstone-cutting horns, though one of them is grievously wounded in the process.

There are seven of them. The six motile ones immediately turn to fighting over who gets the horns.

(Disease has not really been a problem so far. Dragonets generally only die when they starve or are wounded by this or that. But microbes evolve.)

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She doesn't approve of fighting among your allies. There's a warning rumble - like thunder, but deeper - around the fighting dragonets.

She doesn't much like this disease thing. But it's hard to do anything about. Still, she sets to studying it.

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They're confused, then one says 'Sky-Scale', and they're terrified into stillness for a while. Eventually the six motile dragonets come to an agreement to split the horns between two trios. One of the trios stays behind to try to nurse the badly injured adventurer - the other leaves.

The diseases that become recurring events are mostly pretty mild. The really deadly ones don't spread much.

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She doesn't much like disease, but they seem hard to stop, and translating 'this one fungus kills some of the types of bacteria around it, but not others, and the killed bacteria aren't a kind that infect dragonets' into potential cures is slow work with a lot of experimenting in making fungi and chemicals and bacteria and in testing those on newly made dragonet-like bodies without the higher nervous system functions. A lot of things that kill many bacteria are apparently general poisons.

And there's this thing that's even tinier than a bacterium that decided to evolve that're extra annoyingly hard to get rid of - being resistant to viruses so far seems a property of an individual cell or immune system, and she's not sure how to give cells and immune systems that property without violating the rules. She keeps experimenting.

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The dragonets keep up their major art projects at all the big oases. They start working the bounty of beautiful crystals and metals that Skyhorn horrns can let them access into the art. Many of them like to make art that's not about the Sky-Scaled one and keep it for themselves instead of displaying it or sharing it.

The big oases, as concentrations of dragonets, fall into a pattern of diseases rushing through the population, where it seems like very suddenly everyone is sick at once. The dragonets don't seem to know what to do about this, even Best Singer.

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She can run a lot of trials at once, and she figures out how to run some in a massively accelerated time field. She experiments with magical water that cures disease on her brainless dragonets - the first few rounds seem to work on the wrong definition of 'disease', and also remove bacteria the dragonets apparently need to digest things, or leave the dragonets vulnerable to other infections, or cause weird growths in organs the dragonets need to live. She experiments with magical water that kills a specific microbe - that works a lot better, and whenever there's an outbreak the oasis water changes slightly to cure the relevant pathogen. She responds to a really bad airborne outbreak by just making it rain and mist magic anti-plague water until the pathogen slows down enough to die out. This one spread by tiny biting insects is a bit more annoying. She figures out how to make magic water that kills just that insect, though, and replaces it with another insect that the relevant birds can still eat but that doesn't bite dragonets and spread disease.

This would, she acknowledge wryly, be a lot easier if she hadn't removed her own omniscience. She'd probably also miss fewer pathogens with really slow development periods; she knows there's a few viruses that can cause cancer, which is separately really hard to treat since magic healing seems to naively treat the tumor as part of the host body...

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Over time, gatherings at the oases shrink a bit, once it becomes clear that the cycles of disease and occasional deaths are more common in crowded places.

They start working the metal encrusted in cliff-faces and found just below the surface into crude shapes that mimic simple stone tools. It's very hard to make metal behave the way they want it to with their claws and whatever other tools they can devise.

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She leaves them to experimenting with the metal - they don't need her guidance here, not really.

She experiments with making tiny virus-like machines that can hunt down and kill cancer cells, but that unlike viruses shouldn't evolve to hunt down other cells. Mostly works in less essential organs, sometimes does more damage than the more mild cancers in the organs dragonets need working mostly perfectly...

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While their art flourishes and metalworking slowly advances and fights mostly stay limited to one-on-one arguments and they invent stories to tell each other and Best Singer organizes a massive release of stored-up fruit from the fruit caves to feed the hungry after a particularly bad outbreak, dragonets still regularly die to disease.

 

One day, Best Singer notices a lump on her side. She knows what it means. She hides it from the others for reasons that are purely her own, and keeps leading songs, though she spends most of her time resting from those brief forays.

It's in her blood by then. It's not that much longer after that that she falls asleep for the last time - maybe a week or two. Not quite dead, yet, but clearly on the way.

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She creates stinging insects that inject everything she's invented to fight this disease - one of the longer-acting ones that often slips under her notice - alongside healing serums. She accelerates her experimental fields dramatically, testing millions of potential cures, sifting for the most effective.

It's hard, though, to work quickly enough Best Singer won't die of thirst - she's been focusing on keeping disease down on a population level, mostly - it's already done tremendous damage.

Her puppet curls around Best Singer, ignoring the swarms of shimmering insects trying to deliver cures and then trying to manage the side effects of the cures.

She's certain it'll work - Best Singer starts to recover noticeably, her scales regaining the appropriate shine, her breath becoming less labored. She erases every single microbe in Best Singer's body - she understands the beneficial ones well enough to replace them by now - healing already done damage is possible with magic she's already developed -

And then Best Singer's heart skips a beat.

Seizes.

And stops.

Her brain activity ceases.

She promptly tries to put Best Singer back -

What has been destroyed is gone forever.

The Sky-Scaled One begins to keen, the sound echoing in every corner of her creations.

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The dragonets are alarmed and don't know what to do about it.

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This can't happen again.

She starts to work, even as she sings a mourning song -

Crafts a second nursery, another layer over the rest of the world... A place where souls - a new concept - will go after death, so she may choose among and reembody them. Infinite, not bounded like her nursery is.

She creates a new Rule.

All beings have souls, which cannot be destroyed.

The universe blazes brightly - harmlessly, a light display as the Sky-Scaled one's power thrums from the universe -

And the Sky-Scaled One vanishes.

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