Draconis and the Undead

Unfortunately, it seems that if you summon a dragon, you can't control it. Which was pretty weird, really.

Photo by Laith Abushaar on Unsplash

PROMPT: Courage and stupidity were all he had.

“This made him the perfect host. He’d need all of those qualities to survive in the lands he now called his own.”

“Yes, I suppose you’re right,” I said. “I still wonder how he’d feel to know that his little dance around the dragons was far from over.”

“Ah, the questions of the dead, I see.” A reminder that, while there’s something satisfying about forcing the dead to answer a question, the dead aren’t necessarily eager to answer those sorts of questions, much less ones they’ve never seen before.

“Ah, I see. Why yes, I suppose it was kind of a mess, but it was pretty orderly. The crossbowmen must have come here before dawn to make sure they didn’t encounter any dragons of their own.”

“I think you’re right,” I said. “He’d have been in the same position as most of us. There were more than a few people who wouldn’t have been able to make it to the shelter in time.”

“True enough,” he said. “But I doubt that he would have felt so cheated. More like a well-earned victory.”

“Who’s he?” I asked.

“He’s Draconis, a man who discovered a technique to summon a dragon and use it to make himself invincible. Unfortunately, it seems that if you summon a dragon, you can’t control it. Which was pretty weird, really.”

“Wow, that’s a lot to take in,” I said. “I think I could go for a few drinks right about now.”

“And now that you’re talking like that, you’re probably more than a little intoxicated.”

“Thanks, Draconis,” I said. “Did you know that all the other stories you’ve told me are true?”

“I’ve heard about the general idea, but not the specifics. But I believe I have the main points. If you’re interested, I can give you more information.”

“Noted.” I was glad to hear he wasn’t offended.

“For now, let’s get to the main event,” he said.

We walked through the camp to where the defenders were. Every man was armed, and every weapon was at hand. They had been cleverly cut apart by the crossbowmen, but they were still standing.

I set out to talk to the first man. I knew a lot about the Harpies, and they’d said that they’d be staying here. I asked the man who was doing the talking.

“Your name, please?”

“Lily,” he said. “And I’m from the Harpies.”

“How did you get here?” I asked.

“Just by luck,” he said. “The dragon’s had a bad day.”

I stared at him.

“Luck?” I asked.

“Luck?” he asked. “Luck?”

“Yeah, you’re just kind of lucky, aren’t you?” I asked.

“I suppose I am. And if you happen to catch me a dragon, it’s a little odd, but I’m no doubt glad to see you.”

“I’ll catch you a dragon,” I said.

He chuckled. “I don’t know if I’d like to see it. It’s not exactly a paragon of good fortune.”

“Well, it’s a gift that we share,” I said.

“A gift?” he asked. “You’re giving me one? That’s pretty… nice.”

“It’s a good luck charm,” I said.

“Oh, that,” he said. “That’s kind of too cute for words.”

“You’ve just been gifted with a piece of advice from the dead. It’s a gift,” I said. “It’s a protection spell. But it’s a gift with a purpose.”

“That’s not a bad idea,” he said. “You never know when you’ll need a boost of luck. You know, just in case.”

I didn’t feel like buying a new charm right then, so I tried to think of what else we could use this for.

“I don’t suppose you’ve heard of the next people to come?” I asked.

“Never,” he said. “You know, the ones who’ve come back to life?”

“Yes,” I said.

“We’re talking about the witches,” he said. “Those who can revive the dead.”

I raised an eyebrow.

“What are you gonna do, kill us?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I’ll have to think about it.”

“Okay,” he said.


I could tell that I had hit a nerve, so I let out a sigh and told him about my encounter with the witch.

“So, you think it’s possible for the dead to come back to life?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“But are the dead only trapped in the Void, and that they’re limited to whatever happens to their body?” he asked. “I mean, could you revive someone whose soul had been consumed by that fire, perhaps?”

“Well,” I said. “Maybe.”

“I don’t understand,” he said. “You’re talking about the dead. That’s pretty much the definition of death.”

“It’s a bit more complicated than that,” I said.

“I just don’t get it,” he said.

I let out another sigh.

“So you’re saying that you’ve heard of a certain group of people who can bring the dead back to life?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“And they’re living in the deep forest?” he asked.

“They’re trapped there,” I said.

“I don’t think that’s the way it works,” he said. “And that sounds pretty shady, if it’s the case.”

I could tell he was serious, but I felt that I should be clear on something: I was the only one in this forest. Nobody else had ever found the way out. I was the only one who could go and save them.

“Is that why you’re here?” he asked. “To rescue them?”

“Yes,” I said.

“And what would you have me do?” he asked.

“I’d need help,” I said. “The person who killed the witch is now trying to kill you.”

“And you’re willing to sacrifice yourself to stop her?” he asked. “You’re willing to kill yourself to help her?”

I felt a deep resentment at that. I hadn’t been aware that I was so selfish, or that I’d put my own life on the line to rescue a stranger.

“I guess,” I said. “But, you know, it’s been a while since I’ve had to do this.”

“They haven’t done anything to you since you came back,” he said.

“And I haven’t been here for too long,” I said. “It’s been a long time since I went on missions.”

“Oh,” he said. “Oh, this is going to be interesting.”

I nodded, and he walked away.

The sun was getting low in the sky, and I felt it was time to leave. I looked down at my phone. It was 11:10. I was already starting to think I’d be spending the rest of the day in this forest. I started to walk back to my car. I reached my car, opened it, and stepped out. The wind blew through my hair, and I began to shiver. I turned to look out the window, and there, on the street, was the witch.

She was standing there, and she was looking straight at me. I started to move towards her, but she waved her hand.

“No,” she said. “Don’t go out there.”

I stared at her.

“You shouldn’t go out there,” she said. “It’s dangerous. You’re not trained to handle the kind of magic that’s used here.”

“But I want to!” I said.

“That’s the problem,” she said. “Your life, and that of those who are friends with you, depends on how you act. Don’t be an idiot. Stay away.”

“What does it matter?” I asked.

“It matters because you’re still here,” she said. “If you’re dead, you’re not going to come back to life. You’re not going to come back to life if you’re dead, and you’re not going to come back to life if you’re alive

“Why can’t I be dead, then?” I asked. “Why can’t I stop coming back?”

“Because you’re alive,” she said. “You’re alive and you have to deal with the world.”

I stood there in the doorway, facing her.

“Is that what it’s like to be a ghost?” I asked.

“It’s worse,” she said.

“Do you have to feel this way?”

“I know I do,” she said. “You don’t understand. I can hear. I can see. I can hear. I can smell. I feel pain. I feel pleasure. I feel happiness. I feel pain. I can walk. I can talk. I can think. I can feel emotions. I can eat. I can drink. I can poop. I can die. I can stay dead. I can go to heaven. I can go to hell. I can stay dead forever. I can come back to life.”

“I’ve read about it,” I said.

“I don’t think you ever will,” she said.

“But it’s real.”

“It’s real,” she said. “But it’s a fantasy, and a very dangerous one, and you’re not in any position to know what you’ll face.”

“Why can’t I just be dead?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t know.”

“Why not?”

“Why not? I don’t know.”

“Why can’t I be dead?”

“You can’t be,” she said. “If you can’t be, you can’t live. You can’t live. I don’t know what’s going to happen to you. I don’t know what you’re capable of doing. You can’t. You can’t. You can’t. I don’t know.”

“But I can,” I said.

“If you can’t,” she said. “And I don’t think you can.”

“What’s going to happen to me?”

“You’ll lose all your memories. You’ll forget everything. You’ll feel nothing. You’ll live in a world of nothingness.”

“But I feel alive!” I said. “I feel like I’ve been here before. I feel like I can help people. I feel like I’m capable of being a hero.”

“You’re not,” she said. “You’re not. You’re nothing.”

“Then what are you?”

“I’m nothing.”

I started to leave.

“Wait,” she said. “I think you’re right. You might be right. I don’t know. You might be right.”

She shut the door and closed it, so that she could leave the room. I walked out into the hallway. The clock said 3:45.

I walked across the hall to the bathroom, where I found the clothes she’d left out for me. I wore them in the hallway, along with the clothes that we’d worn in the living room. I wasn’t sure what to do with them, so I threw them away. I didn’t want to remember.

I walked down the hallway, toward the exit. The clock said 4:00. I didn’t know what time it was. I was sweating. I stopped in the doorway of the hall.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

I didn’t say anything. I looked at her.


I shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“What do you mean?”

I shrugged.

“I’m sorry.”


“I don’t know.”

I walked out the door. The clock said 5:00.

I walked down the hallway. The clock said 5:06. I was starting to feel the fatigue of being awake, so I stopped.

I walked into the living room. The clock said 5:12. I was feeling hungover. I put my clothes in a pile by the couch,


Editor’s Notes

Generation Process

For this multi-generational story, I decided to make the generator to take 50% of the max generator length, and take that many characters from the end of the previous generation to use as a prefix for the next generation. This is just a more automated way of what I was doing by hand previously. Doing half of the previous gen as prompt should ensure some continuity across several of the maximum 1024-character generations, I figured.

It took me a couple runs to get a text from gen 2 and 3 that I liked, and that had ok consistency. I may try smaller generation text lengths in future to make the sample and prefix selection process easier for my human brain until I can automate with some type of fiction quality/consistency GAN.


I fixed some formatting and quotation marks for presentation, but no generated text was altered. Horizontal line breaks denote the different generations of generated text, like always.

Prompt came from Random Sentence Generator

GPT-2 Settings

gen 1

  "return_as_list": true,
  "include_prefix": false,
  "model_name": "1558M",
  "length": 1024,
  "temperature": 0.9,
  "top_k": 80,
  "top_p": 0.9,
  "truncate": "<|endoftext|>",
  "nsamples": 12,
  "batch_size": 2,
  "prefix": "\"Courage and stupidity were all he had."

gen 2

  "return_as_list": true,
  "include_prefix": false,
  "model_name": "1558M",
  "length": 1024,
  "temperature": 0.9,
  "top_k": 80,
  "top_p": 0.9,
  "truncate": "<|endoftext|>",
  "nsamples": 12,
  "batch_size": 2,
  "prefix": "f luck. You know, just in case.\"\n\nI didn't feel like buying a new charm right then, so I tried to think of what else we could use this for.\n\n\"I don't suppose you've heard of the next people to come?\" I asked.\n\n\"Never,\" he said. \"You know, the ones who've come back to life?\"\n\n\"Yes,\" I said.\n\n\"We're talking about the witches,\" he said. \"Those who can revive the dead.\"\n\nI raised an eyebrow.\n\n\"What are you gonna do, kill us?\" he asked.\n\n\"I don't know,\" I said. \"I'll have to think about it.\"\n\n\"Okay,\" he said.\n\nI"

gen 3

  "return_as_list": true,
  "include_prefix": false,
  "model_name": "1558M",
  "length": 1024,
  "temperature": 0.9,
  "top_k": 80,
  "top_p": 0.9,
  "truncate": "<|endoftext|>",
  "nsamples": 12,
  "batch_size": 2,
  "prefix": "e said. \"It's dangerous. You're not trained to handle the kind of magic that's used here.\"\n\n\"But I want to!\" I said.\n\n\"That's the problem,\" she said. \"Your life, and that of those who are friends with you, depends on how you act. Don't be an idiot. Stay away.\"\n\n\"What does it matter?\" I asked.\n\n\"It matters because you're still here,\" she said. \"If you're dead, you're not going to come back to life. You're not going to come back to life if you're dead, and you're not going to come back to life if you're alive"