“They don’t have protection here,” Serenity said, holding a handkerchief over her nose.
Allie kept quiet as she followed Serenity and Frank into her old city. Already, the sights and smells conjured unwanted memories.
“There’s nothing to protect the people from,” Frank replied, looking down at his scroll. “The closest recorded city is weeks away.”
“And brigands?” Serenity said. “Thieves? We walked past the gates uncontested. What’s to stop anyone else from doing the same?”
“There’s a guard here,” Allie said, wrapping her arms around herself as she passed by the homeless people lining the brick streets.
It was midday, yet an older woman slept with her head resting on the only clothes she had. Two others sat next to her, their hands perpetually held out in pursuit of coin. Their eyes, however, were glazed over, whether from lack of food or lack of hope, she didn’t know. She remembered that feeling too well.
“Then they’re not doing their jobs,” said Serenity, who watched the people just as closely as Allie. “I’ve seen enough to condemn them already.”
“We must meet with their government,” Frank said, a hint of desperation leaking into his voice.
“We must do nothing,” she said. “But we will do as you say. Perhaps if they listen to reason…”
“Left,” Allie called, thankful they were moving further away from her old corner.
“You would think there would be more care in how they planned the city streets.” Serenity said, following my directions.
“This likely began as a humble town. They wouldn’t have put much thought into the streets back then,” Frank said, looking back at Allie. “Am I Right, Miss Allie?”
Allie shrugged, lost in thought.
“I’m sure I am,” Frank continued, looking back at his notes.
“I’ve seen enough cities come to be,” Serenity snapped. “That doesn’t excuse lack of thought.”
“But it’s an oversight from generations ago,” Frank said. “Not of those currently in rule.”
“Sins of our father’s,” Serenity mumbled, watching a beggar hold his hand out to a well-dressed man.
The man swatted the beggar’s hand away and kept walking, wiping his hand against the bottom of his robes.
Serenity immediately picked up her pace, forcing Allie to jog to keep up.
Frank realized what was happening before Allie. “My lady,” he called to Serenity, but she ignored him, moving even faster.
Moments later, Serenity had pulled even with the rich man. Before they had walked two steps together, Serenity whipped out her knife and slit the man’s throat.
Allie froze, stiff with shock.
“Come on,” Frank said, frantically pulling her forward by her elbow. “Keep moving.”
Suddenly, someone screamed, causing a panic. Before Allie knew it, most of the street had cleared, everyone running for their lives. Everyone except for most of the beggars, who were too exhausted to stand.
“Now we’ll see how good those guards are,” Serenity said, wiping her knife on the rich man’s robes.
Allie’s mouth worked, trying and failing to form words. “Why?” She eventually asked.
“Justice is a beautiful thing,” Serenity said simply as she continued on her path toward the palace.
Allie turned to Frank, his face expressionless. And with a slight shake of his head, he followed Serenity, leaving Allie to follow after him.
Emotions warred within Allie as they made their way to the Palace. She wasn’t sure she agreed with what Serenity had done. It wasn’t her place to administer justice. Was it? Yet she remembered a time when she had been the beggar. When people had dismissed her, hurt her, and treated her as if she hadn’t existed. They deserved justice. She deserved justice.
It wasn’t long before the palace became visible over the flat-topped homes of the city. A beacon for Serenity to follow.
Down each street we walked, people scattered before us. Eventually, even the homeless men and women were running for their lives, motivated by popular fear.
Eventually, only a block away from the palace, guards finally arrived.
They appeared suddenly, turning a corner just as another group appeared from behind.
“You’re under arrest!” Called one of the guards, the front lines leveling their spears toward us.
Allie could see the eyes of the guards fixed on Frank. They assumed he was the source of danger, dismissing the much smaller women.
Serenity raised one of her hands, the other still holding a cloth over her nose. “We want to speak to your leader!” She yelled.
“If you’re cooperative, I’ll let you speak to the mice that roam our dungeons,” the guard called back, eliciting a small wave of chuckles and grunts.
Serenity looked to Frank.
“Give them another chance,” he said.
Shaking her head, Serenity turned back to the guards who seemed content to hold their lines from a distance. “Last chance!” She yelled again. “Bring us to your leader.”
The guard spit, his jovial demeanor quickly becoming hostile. “The Queen is busy.”
Serenity turned back to Frank. “I tried,” she said, shaking her head.
Then, suddenly, bricks erupted all around the guards, the ground beneath them splitting open like the heavens.
The screams of the guards were overshadowed by the roars of five dragons, each expanding to fill the street.
Within seconds, all became still, the silence broken only by the intermittent groans of men slowly dying.
Shivers ran down Allie’s spine, unable to look Serenity in the face as she processed how many lives had just been lost. Did all of these men deserve death? She’d met decent guards in the past. Good men…
“Well,” Serenity said, sighing. “Our cover is blown, might as well take the easy way to the Queen.”
And with that, the dragons stooped their necks, inviting us to climb on top.
Serenity swung herself onto the back of the first dragon with ease, the dragon growing size as soon as she climbed on top.
Frank did the exact same with another dragon before looking down on Allie, both waiting for her to join them.
Allie seriously considered running, but couldn’t bring herself to move her feet. She knew she wouldn’t get far if she tried. Still, the last thing she wanted to do was climb on top of a beast who had just killed dozens of men.
Trying not to look at the blood dripping from the dragon’s teeth, she forced herself to climb on top, shutting her eyes as they launched into the air.
One of the first questions I had when I began writing was “where do I start?” There’s so much detail in the World, how was I supposed to mimic that in my story? It’s a tough task, and one that can summarize the difference between a good and bad writer.
Can you make your story feel real?
The key is about putting in just enough detail to let the reader fill in the scene with their own imaginations. This is an art. A skill worth practicing over and over again. Put in too much detail and the readers’ eyes will glaze over. Put in too little and the reader may feel lost or disinterested.
Since this is an art, all I can really do is give you parameters and tips:
Use all five senses
- Don’t harp on them
- Don’t constantly tell us all five
- But at some point in a scene, you should engage all of the readers’ senses.
Don’t try to describe everything
- Choose the unique feature of your environment and highlight them
- Everyone can imagine a street – so highlight what kind of street and move on
- Choose a unique feature of your characters and highlight them
- Again, we know what men and women look like – focus on bringing home their specific characteristics and try to re-focus on that same feature every time the character is in a new scene
- Ex: Rowling does a really good job with this for her characters. She chooses a characteristic and finds ways to bring it up again repeatedly. Long brown curly hair. Long crooked nose. Scar on forehead obvi. Giant beard. Black oily hair. Freckles… you get the picture.
- Focus only on the important part of your story
- Every scene should have tension
- There needs to be a reason for every part of the story
- If nothing interesting happens when your character wakes up. Don’t write that. If it takes three pages to get to something that matters, then cut the first three pages.
- (this doesn’t mean everything has to be fast-paced, just make sure there are MULTIPLE reasons for writing what you’re writing)