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     As Jamie molded and shaped the facsimile of themself under the gaze of the four spirits, their mind began to wander. This was their internal space? What did that say about them? From the way Escalation spoke, Archivist must be young. Yet, why refer to their inner world as having so much promise?

     Thinking back on their life, the one bad day, they realized something profound that they had not previously been willing to admit. That one bad day had just sort of… turned them off.

     They had gone from living proudly and without shame, to merely surviving. Coming to this town, rebuilding themself… All of that was for survival. Yet, at some point in the four years that they’ve lived here, it stopped being about survival. At some point, Jamie had started to enjoy what they were doing, and they genuinely lived again.

     Yet, their time as a metaphorical undead had taken its toll… They no longer put any color in their hair, their clothes had faded from if not bright then showy colors to a baggy set of cool and earthy colors. Their once fantastical wardrobe now left to be sweats and the occasional frilly thing.

     Surely it was time for them to be over the loss of their parents, and that girl was an ass, anyway. Why were they so hung up on her in the first place? Sure, that jerk and his posse had given them a harsh beating… and Jamie ashamedly didn’t report it, but they were strong now. At least Jamie knew they had strong friends.

     Without their knowledge, as Jamie’s mind wandered, the facsimile they had been carefully and meticulously crafting, down to the barest detail, twitched. Not in that it had life, its skin had rippled upwards, twitching and shaking. Then, as if a pebble had been thrown into an undisturbed pond, a ripple flowed over the facsimile’s skin.

     Jamie’s mind wandered to their old look, and the facsimile’s hair changed. Growing to just barely shoulder-length, braids flowing in hoops and down the side in a way that one would just as likely guess a Viking warrior than a traditional women’s braid. A metallic sheen coated the hair, making different braids reflect slightly different colors. In direct sunlight, Jamie’s hair would shine a repeating pattern of mint-green, white, and the darkest black.

     They remembered their pride, taken from them… no, pained and retreated. No one could take their pride, it was not something one could. A curved set of horns jutted out from the crown of their head, two inches tall, the twisted and curved structures turned a brilliant light blue with tips of obsidian. While Jamie didn’t notice, Escalation quite approved, genuinely considering it a genuine lord’s crown. The green platypus made sure to remember to add more horns to things in the future.

     Jamie felt freedom from releasing these feelings, taking off the invisible shackles they had forgotten they had put on. This freedom manifested itself as two large wings shooting from the facsimile’s back. The wings were long and multi-jointed, the full wingspan of thirty feet neatly folded itself onto their back. Brilliant pastels making shapes in the ever-changing colors of their feathers.

     Their mind still lost, they stretched the model out, giving them a few extra inches of height, putting them at just under six feet tall. A little extra muscle mass was good around the shop, so, still lost in thought they added that too, giving their arms and legs a firmness under a slightly squishy cover.

     Patches of scales run up their sides, down to their hips and converging around their tailbone as a tail sprouts from the base. The tail fell down a full four feet in length and covered in smooth, almost snake-like scales. Creamy white and pastel blue melting into each other as the tail from behind would look like a frosted light-blue mountain with an obsidian underbelly.

     Just as Jamie finished daydreaming they remembered one final thing. They used to be so snarky, always having a witty comeback for every douche or jerk at the college who commented on their looks. Where had that fire gone? Just as those thoughts bubbled to the surface of their consciousness, the body’s iris’ turned violet and changed so that as they contract they become more and more slit; resembling a reptile.

     As Jamie refocused; a sheet covered the body they had been making both intentionally and unintentionally. “Huh? Why’s it covered?” Jamie asked the four spirits in the room.

     A child’s voice, not belonging to any of the spirits spoke. “We never see who we’ll turn into.”

     Jamie’s focus turned to the right. Behind the clear crystal hourglass of Cycle stood five humans. Only the first’s features were possible to make out. A young child in corduroy overalls they’d gotten from their grandmother’s attic and a very cute pink butterfly barrette.

     The child who couldn’t be a day older than six continued, “Just like I didn’t know then, even when I found the first piece of future me.” The child smiled at Jamie.

     Jamie was startled to see themself right there, just far younger. They decided that talking was far better than awkward silence, “Yeah, heh, who’d’ve known papaw just couldn’t stand those things together. I mean really, who genders overall’s anymore?”

     Just as Jamie expected a response from the child it stepped back, the next featureless form stepping up. The vagueness melted away to a young teen, formal tuxedo top perfectly detailed with a corsage with a long elegant skirt bottom. No one had invited them to freshman prom, so they’d decided to go themselves. Rumor had it that no one felt comfortable asking, didn’t know if it would mean they’re ‘gay’ or not. Ah, the foolish thoughts of the binary.

     “How are we ever supposed to know what will happen next? All we can do is to be ourselves, right?” They spoke quietly, not wanting anyone to hear their voice at this age.

     Jamie sighed, acknowledging their past self. It had been tough then, but they’d gotten through it.

     The young teen stepped back, and a new vague figure melted away into recognition. Jamie remembered high school, but seeing it on the outside was, well, honestly kinda funny. Black shirt, studded bracelets, an Aggretsuko shirt, with a Fast & Furious 23 backpack. “You didn’t take any crap from anyone! How was I to know I’d be such a softie later on?” The rebellious younger them bellowed in a quickly cooling rage.

     Before Jamie could fully process high-school them, the fourth figure strode forward. Dressed just as they had been on their last day in their hometown; nineteen-year-old Jamie stood behind the clear hourglass. Their hair was a dark black on the outside, but from the front, you could see the rainbow of layers dyed into their hair. Their hair had a half-shave on the left side which they liked, not for any fashion reason, but because it was cool when they slept. A soft velvety purple blouse and casual grey shorts donned their too skinny form.

     “I didn’t know either… What would happen? All we can do is keep going forward, right?” The barely younger Jamie spoke with an unsteady rhythm as if avoiding tears.

     The current Jamie nodded at themself, “Yeah, I suppose your right… You know what? It was good being you.” The memories of the happy times, being unconstrained, were soothing.

     The college-age Jamie smiled again, a genuine smile like they used to have; like they’d only recently regained. The fifth vague form stepped forward and Jamie saw… Themself? Not a different age, or one of the past, but the current them, the one who had gone into the cocoon.

     “What? What’s going on?” Jamie asked the specter of themself, panic in their voice.

     “What has to happen, no one stays the same person. We all have little rebirths through our lives, for the better…” the doppelganger paused, waving a hand toward the youngest version of them. “...And for the necessary.” The dopple-ganger returned their hand to their chest, almost looking like they were praying.

     “Wait, If you’re over there then…” Jamie swiftly shifted their focus back to the sheet that had been covering their new body. The sheet was gone, in reality, their perspective had moved. No longer did they stand solely behind the Archivist spirit, now they stood in the direct center of the four mana-beings. They swiftly turned their head again, panicked desperation took hold as Jamie looked at the form they had just previously had.

     “What?” Jamie began in fear, but their elder form shook their head chidingly.

     “None of that, do not worry. You have always been you, you were all of us.” The elder form smiled gently. “I... You, did what you needed to, to heal and regain a place for yourself, a home. I am proud of myself. I am so glad I can be you now.”

     The five forms, the five Jamies burst; like disturbing the surface of an overfull glass, the old thems were gone in a sea of clear water. The new draconic Jamie looked down at their hands, their nails painted a beautiful aqua-blue.

     “What just happened?” Jamie asked confused, scared, their new body’s heart racing.

     “Hm? Never experienced a personality rebirth inside of your own mindscape? Well, it can definitely be an experience as far as the records I have compiled have said.” The feminine voice of the Archivist spoke from behind them.

     “The cycle begins anew,” The soothing voice of the hourglass flowed over Jamie’s form.

     “What does any of that even mean?!” Jamie let out a frustrated scream, their emotions fully unshackled. An orange glow in their chest they hadn’t noticed until now crackled to life and as they let out their primal scream of confusion. A blizzard was unleashed from their mouth and coated part of their mindscape in gently falling snow.

     They quickly shut their mouth, covering it with both of their hands as Escalation started laughing. “Ha, Whew, that’s good. I gotta remember all that for later. You’re so much better now, inside and out. I don’t exactly know what that shenanigan that Cycle pulled was, but even your internal energy feels different.”

     Luck seemed to unfocus as if they had just been lost in their own world for a time. “Hm, Oh? This turned out quite well.”

     Jamie turned around, now looking at the quietest of the spirits. “What do you mean?”

     The orb somehow shrugged, its tophat swaying back and forth as it did. “Pulled on the strings of reality, if only you could have heard it. The strings inside of here sound like a well-tuned harp, I just couldn’t stop.”

     Jamie stared at the confusing spirit speaking in riddles, deciding it was best to get the information from the more reliable source. “Archivist, what about you? What even was that?”

     The orange calculator stepped forward. “I do not know.”

     Slapping themself in the face and nearly knocking themselves backward, Jamie sighed, “Got it, new territory… fun.”

     Escalation drew close, his glowing green platypus form swimming through the air around Jamie, “Draconic? Hm… I suppose that makes sense. Hey nerd, mind filling the other nerd in on just why we’re actually here?”

     Archivist jumped back, shaking, “B-But…”

     Cycle's deep tone soothed the terrified spirit, “It is fine. All cycles will be broken, that is why we must try to create the best ones when the moment comes up. Withholding this information would not benefit anyone.”

     Jamie stared at the spirits who talked as if they weren’t here, in their own mindscape. As Archivist calmed and stopped shaking they spoke with a sure tone again, “As you likely know; Dragons love to hoard wealth. Do you have any theories as to why?”

     Shaking their head in the negative, Jamie beckoned the spirit to continue.

     Archivist, continuing, “Dragons release massive amounts of mana, they are sort of… batteries. No, that’s also incorrect, collection devices? Yes, that is the closest, dragons collect the ambient mana in the air from spells, usage, or general release and stockpile it. Both beast dragons and reborn dragons do this naturally and without any mental input. Now, all of that magic has to go somewhere, which is why some dragons would unleash massive gouts of magical breath to rid themselves of an overabundance of Mana. Burning a village or two would usually accomplish the job.”

     “And If I don’t want to be a homicidal maniac?” Jamie asked sarcastically.

     Archivist looked shaken, so Jamie followed up their statement with a smile. The small orange calculator continued, reassured that the once-human wasn’t upset at them. “I believe you’ve already seen the other option. As I said, Dragons create hoards because the second way they release their mana is that the area around their home becomes more and more enchanted. Now this could mean that an animal suddenly evolves, becoming far stronger and that could threaten the dragon, so, they came up with a stopgap. Might you know what that is?”

     Jamie shrugged, “I’m guessing it has something to do with their hoard?”

     “Correct!” Archivist beamed happily. “Gold, metal, crafted works made by masters or weapons wielded by people of legend. These items are very receptive to natural enchantment. So, the more peaceful dragons appeared as greedy. Even though they were doing this so they would not seed destruction, it made people believe that Dragons only had evil qualities. Even before you were reborn, you were a Dragon. Do you know the first natural enchantment you created?”

     Jamie still lost as to what they did without their knowing, shrugged again, “Honestly, you got me.”

     Luck, again, called from behind Jamie. “You made our creator you gibbering buffoon!”

     “Uhm, yes, you did indeed had a hand in creating Majesty Will.” Archivist confirmed.

     “Huh? No, I didn’t. And I thought you just said dragons enchant items!?” Jamie was caught aback by this new information.

     “The day that this town shot into the air, the natural mana inside of the dome became trapped from the reactivation of the ancient distance spell. With no other way to release itself back into the natural order, it sought out your body. Whatever emotions you had at the time would have been directly transferred to them and your urge to see new, different, and most importantly; creative things quite literally came to life.” Archivist said sheepishly, regaining their timidity from Jamie’s outburst.

     Jamie looked at all of them but… These beings were literally made of magic, if anyone would know what was going on, it would be them. “So, what happens now? More genies just pop out of nowhere? Besides, that doesn’t so much sound like I made them rather than… well, honestly it just kind of sounds like the water-cycle or something.”

     Luck laughed, “Oh deary, I quite hope so.”

     Cycle made a throat-clearing noise only to regain the attention of the room, “No, not unless you are trapped in a confined area with that much freshly released mana again. Abiogenesis is a complicated messy thing and it rarely happens when planned. As for your second question, yes, that is why I am here, you are part of a great and wonderful cycle and my power grows from your mere existence.”

     “So now what?” Jamie asked, afraid of the answer after the last few bombshells.

     “Now? You return to your life when you awaken. Keep building your horde, sell off the enchanted items, for those cannot be re-enchanted by you simply releasing your energy. Truly, selling the items you create should have been something the dragons of the past tried, but sometimes the glitter of gold genuinely did send them down a path of no return.” Archivist let out a genuinely sad sigh.

     “How do you all know all of this? And I suppose that’s good, gives me more incentive to move and buy products.” Jamie tapped their re-clawed finger against their chin.

     “The gnome, one of his gifts to creator Will was an incomplete history of the past.” Archivist said matter-of-factly.

     “Of course it was him,” Jamie said with a drawn-out sigh.

      ***

     It had been just over eight days since Jamie had fallen into the cocoon’s slumber. Billy Joe waited inside of the currently unused boss room just as she did every day after Zippy’s magic school. While her best friend didn’t need babysitting, she did want to be there when they awoke.

     She was getting better at using her darkness and while she waited, she decided to try and make more intricate designs out of it. Fiddling with the Idea of a snowflake and throwing it, only for it to sink a good inch into the wall; Billy Joe stowed that idea for later.

      A loud cracking noise reverberated around the beautiful boss room. The orange cocoon containing Jamie began to crack open. No designs appeared on the outer shell, which was weird from what she had been told of the others.

     “Uhm, Will, you should probably get everyone here as soon as you can. Jamie’s coming.” Billy Joe said with trepidation and elation.

     Theodore came out of the portal linking the boss room to what was now being called ‘The Vault.’

     “We’ll bring them in as soon as we can. Good timing, Gus, Mark, and Ned are all finishing up their fight with ‘Toy Force’ right around now. This time it seems like Ned’s sister has paid us a visit as well.” The well-dressed opossum clapped his gloved hands together with the largest smile possible on his face.

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A note from Blackguard

Here we have the big reveal. I tried to leave hints throughout the other chapters so this wouldn't be such a big shock.

Current chapter list: 3 banked for future, after I reach 5 spares I'll start making double posts again.

I would like to ask a favor of my readers. Many of the reviews on this story are for the first 10-20 chapters, I don't think I've seen one be posted since I got in the mid-30s. If any of my long term readers would, please leave a review with your genuine thoughts.

Stay safe, stay inside, and as always...

Best Wishes,
Blackguard.


About the author

Blackguard

Bio: Amateur writer and ravenous reader. I do my best to keep consistent if not generous updates, comments are welcome and encouraged. Nonbinary Zebra.

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