Untitled and Unfinished, Ch. 3
If I’m going to confirm how much influence I have on the story, I’ll need a situation that’s similar enough to my first Shadow Snapper encounter to make a proper comparison. I know it won’t be quite the same; the exact same combat scenario never happens twice. Heck, even trying to put myself in danger on purpose is going to backfire on me, most likely. How many times has the protagonist of a story tried something similar, only to have it bite him or her in the butt? Yeah, not exactly on my wish list. I have to test the limits of what I can do somehow, though, and desperation is a pretty big motivator for people.
So basically, I have to become real desperate to live again. It would help if I could survive that instance, too, and not just because I’m trying to escape from this book. Stories end real fast if the protagonist goes kaput in chapter three.
Not that I’m the protagonist of this story, of course—not the original protagonist, I mean. I have a feeling that must be Mister Red, one of the new recruits. Seriously, his dialogue just screamed hero time! during Commander Redford’s introduction. In fact, that and everything else I’ve seen and heard so far reminds me of a mediocre manuscript. No specific manuscript, really—just one that could use another round of revisions.
If you’re wondering where I am right now, I’m on the top floor of the watchtower. I’ve been here for about two hours now ever since Melinda and Donovan’s tour ended. In between figuring out how I’m going to test my abilities here, I’ve been reviewing the places we visited on the tour by looking for them from the watchtower. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to do this at night, but see, the moon is out and full. Ever hear the news talk about opportunities to see a super moon? Better yet, have you ever seen a super moon rise? Because that’s how big and bright the moon looks here in Book Land. This means I can see plenty of defined shapes among the nighttime blues and shadows.
From here, I can see the outlines of the taller landmark buildings. One of these is the Oak Tree Tavern, so named because an oak tree happens to be setting right next to it. The tavern itself is about a story higher, though, so there’s no huge risk of the tree falling over and crushing the building. Just about a block away from the tavern is the blacksmith shop where Melinda’s aunt and uncle live. They’re pretty pleasant folks, and their shop stands out because of the cone-shape on the top of their chimney. Both the shop and the tavern are easy for me to see because they’re in the east, just like the moon is right now. The west side of town has a long, wide street where a bunch of fruit vendors hang out, complete with colorful cloth awnings. I can see the street itself just from how the ground reflects the moonlight.
That’s when I see it—a shadow stretching into the air, then diving towards the streets. A whistle blows in the distance. Sounds like one of the patrol groups has seen the first Shadow Snapper of the night. Two more whistles blow in quick succession after that, and one of those is close to the watchtower. Much like before, these Shadow Snappers don’t go in one at a time; they’re just more spread out.
Something slams into the side of the watchtower hard enough that I feel the vibrations. Well, crap-o-la. Did one of the monsters come here already? Against my better judgment, I peer out the window that was closest to the sound. The sight that greets me is a Shadow Snapper holding a guard against the wall with the rest of its stringy limbs going around to keep its place on the watchtower.
Double crap-o-la. That’s no good!
Time to take a gamble by grabbing the nearest chair. First of all, yes, the furniture in the room like the chair have always been there; this isn’t another plank ex machina, though that thing is under a bed right now. Second of all, there’s only one reason I’d grab a chair and rush to a window: to drop it right on that Shadow Snapper’s head. The second I’m at the window, I toss out the chair.
Despite the awkward angle I’m at, I actually hit my mark. Bam! The chair slams into the monster’s head hard enough to dislodge it from the wall. But the guard’s falling now, too— crap, I didn’t consider that. But a strong wind kicks straight up at that moment and catches the guard before he can hit the ground. This allows him to land without going splat, the lucky guy. Thank goodness for that wind magic!
Now where did the Shadow Snapper go?
Oh, there it is. It’s on the ground not far from the guard right now, but it’s scrambling away from everyone. Actually, it’s latching onto the little bookstore close to us. Rolls right up onto the thatched roof, in fact. Why is it coiling like a spring now? Oh crap—
The Shadow Snapper suddenly goes from the roof of that building to the wall of the watchtower again—only this time, I feel the impact a lot more strongly because it’s less than two feet below me. The impact and the shock of the whole thing topples me onto my rear end, and I scoot away like the most unheroic person in a story ever. If I weren’t so scared out of my mind, I might feel embarrassed about it.
The plank. The plank ex machina. Have to grab it. I scramble to my feet as my thoughts run. Where’d I put it? Under the bed. Bed near the table, next to where the chair was. Scramble to feet, dash to bed, grab plank—all right, got it!
The second I grab it, I hear the Shadow Snapper screech something fierce. I look up and see it jerking like someone’s just pelted it. Wait, is that an arrow in its side? It looks like it’s made out of ice—more magic, I think. Anyway, that monster needs to get the heck off this tower. I rush forward and swing the plank just as the Shadow Snapper’s face passes by the window frame. It gets a face full of wood, another ice arrow in the side, and even a couple of thrown knives before it lets go of the watchtower. A flash of light from the street disperses the monster entirely.
I look out the window, and there’s just enough residual light from the flash that I see it coming from a book in a guard’s hand. I’m going to take a wild guess and assume that was magic just now. Also among the guards is Mister Red and his friends, Miss Blue and Mister Green. Judging from their equipment, it seems like Miss Blue had thrown the knives before; Mister Green, meanwhile, has what looks like a magic book in his hands. He must’ve fired the ice arrows, maybe even the wind burst from earlier. As for Mister Red, he’s now holding the sword I saw strapped to his side earlier.
Down below, I hear the familiar voice of Commander Redford. “We’ve taken care of the Shadow Snapper here, but there are at least two more.”
“Where are they exactly?” asks Mister Red.
“East and west!” I cry out. I double-check real quick and see signs of those stringy, flailing shadows right where I saw them last. “Blacksmith’s shop east; fruit vendors west!”
“We’ll split into two groups,” says the commander. She sends Mister Red and his friends east while she and the remaining three guards head west. Before departing, though, she looks up at me and gives me a thankful nod.
The other two Shadow Snappers are too far away for me to see how the battles go, and I don’t see any others around town, so I sit myself down on the bed. Hearing the sounds of battle is a lot like listening to a thunderstorm brewing outside, just with a lot less flashing lights from above and a wider array of sounds. The interim I have now gives me some time to think about my test.
All told, I don’t think I can conclude anything just yet. People coming to another’s rescue “right on time” is a really common trope, so I can’t chalk that up to my inducing a deus ex machina situation by accident. In fact, I don’t think I had any influence at all on when Mister Red and his buddies appeared.
The only thing I did learn is that I can aggro the monsters in this world pretty easily, so I really need to think a bit more before I act. Getting swarmed by baddies would be really inconvenient, to say the least. It’s a nice side note, at any rate; it just has nothing to do with my test.
Great. Now what do I do? The groups are too far away for me to provide battle commentary, and I’m not going to try my luck at flinging the plank ex machina all the way across town just to see if I can hit a Shadow Snapper. I have to admit that would be pretty hilarious, though. But as far as waiting for the next scene to start, well, I seem to be out of luck. I may have to wait for dawn to approach instead of relying on a scene break or something….
The next thing I know, it’s dawn. Wait, did I just fall asleep? I’m lying down on the bed, which doesn’t last long because I sit straight up the second I realize the vast lighting difference in the room—for reference, faintly pink instead of dark blue. The plank ex machina is set against the side of the bed now. That would suggest to me that I placed it there before falling asleep, except I don’t remember doing that. Or falling sleep. At least I’m still in the top room of the watchtower.
Time to take a look around town. Oak Tree Tavern and its namesake tree look just fine from here. The roof and chimney on the blacksmith shop looks fine, too. I also don’t see anything out of place in the fruit vendor place. I see no smoke trails, and neither do I smell any fires raging out of control. I’d need a closer look at everything to see how well everything stayed in tact, but this preliminary scan here would suggest to me that the patrol groups succeeded in fending off the Shadow Snappers last night. I should check in with Commander Redford to make sure, though.
So I bolt down the stairs. Lo and behold, the commander is sitting at that table again, writing away. I don’t see the other guards, but if I remember my tour correctly, they’re at a barracks of sorts right across the street. The reason I haven’t gone in is because it’s for town guards only. Well, no time like the present to figure out how everything went.
I approach the table and clear my throat. “Commander?”
Redford looks up at me immediately. “Ah, Claire. Good morning to you.”
“Good morning to you, too. Er, say… how did the battles go last night? It looked to me like everything went okay. None of the buildings are trashed, anyway.”
“We were able to keep the damage to a minimum, yes. Jason, Erika, and Franco contributed a great deal to our victory.”
“That’s good. But who were those three people you just mentioned?”
The commander kicks her head back laughing. “They’re the new recruits. Jason handles a sword well, and Erika is a great shot with those knives. Together with Franco’s magic, the young trio make for a very effective team. I’m kind of surprised.”
“It’s possible they knew each other before volunteering,” I suggest.
“Maybe. In any case, they more than proved themselves capable last night. They helped ensure that none of the citizens were hurt, and that our own injuries remained minimal. I must thank you as well. Your contribution to patrol was small but vital.”
I shrink into myself then. “You mean telling you where the other Shadow Snappers were? I think I only saved you a couple of seconds at best.”
“But every second counts in a situation like that. Had you not spoken up, we would’ve wasted precious time in narrowing down the remaining Shadow Snappers by sound alone.”
“Oh. Well, uh….” I bow my head quickly. “Glad I could help. I had some good tour guides.”
I’m surprised to hear Redford let out another laugh, but pleasantly so. It’s definitely better than having one of those hard-nosed personalities that treat you like trash no matter how much good you do.
In any case, she rises from her seat and motions me to follow her. “We’re taking a little trip across the street.”
Don’t have much of a choice other than comply, so I fall in step behind her. In between leaving the watchtower and crossing the street, I think back on my little test long enough to realize something.
It probably wasn’t anything about the battle that I influenced—no more than what would’ve happened in the narrative without my being here, anyway. I think I may have influenced just how quickly we went from last night to this morning. That’s why I felt so odd waking up. I don’t know how much direct control I have over what happens in this story, but I’d be an idiot to assume I have no influence whatsoever. You’d think if I had absolute control over everything that I would’ve been able to leave the book on my own by now.
So something tells me my ability to change the events in this story is going to be pretty limited. If I’m going to be pulling off scene transition tricks again, I should use them sparingly. Even if I could use them with wild abandon, I don’t think I want to disrupt everyone’s sense of reality in this world. Not too much, anyway.
Bottom line? I take back what I said before; I think I can call my test a success. Now it’s just a matter of seeing where my limits lie.