Allie tightened her grip on the dragon’s scales, forcing herself to open her eyes as they began to descend.
Below them, the palace was in plain view, a single large structure with a tower at each end surrounded by a lavish courtyard.
She could see movement in the courtyard as they grew closer. Nauseated with motion sickness, Allie closed her eyes once more, forcing herself to trust the dragon.
She didn’t open them again until they had landed in the courtyard. A line of guards surrounded all five dragons, but they were standing too far away to see clearly, understandably afraid of getting too close.
Completely unconcerned, Serenity and Frank dismounted their dragons and gestured for Allie to do the same. Her dragon decreased in size and lowered its neck, allowing her to slide right to the ground. Unfortunately, she fell off instead, too dizzy to land on her feet.
Serenity laughed. “It takes some getting used to.”
“I’m still not used to it,” Frank said, shaking his head.
Allie quickly got to her feet, too shaken to return their good humor.
Suddenly, all five dragons shrunk to the size of dogs and started chasing each other around our legs.
“My babies are always happy when they’re full,” Serenity said dotingly, a content smile on her face.
The guards inched closer, still too far away to be of any concern.
“Cowards,” Serenity whispered, eyeing the guards as she ran her hand down the sparkling scales of one of the dragons.
When the guards didn’t move any closer, Serenity sighed and made her way toward the palace. “Come on,” she called behind her, gesturing for Allie and Frank to follow.
Surprisingly, the dragons stayed behind, playing harmlessly as the three of them walked toward the guards.
Anxious, Allie watched the faces of the guards as they approached. Their eyes were wide with fear, sweat trickling down their faces. Not a single one of them looked like they wanted to be there.
“Bring me the Queen,” Serenity commanded once they were close enough. Frank and Allie stood obediently behind her.
One of the guards stuttered in response. “We, um, we can’t… but we can bring you to see her…”
“Do you really want to invite five dragons into your little home?” Serenity asked impatiently. “Bring her to us. I’ll wait.”
And with that, Serenity sat down in the grass, her legs crossed in a decidedly improper fashion. Despite the gravity of the situation, Allie found herself amused.
Suddenly, the dragons ran toward them, joining their mother in the grass. The guards immediately ran inside the palace, fighting their way through the doors.
In a matter of moments, the eight of them were left alone in the courtyard, waiting on the Queen.
Not sure what else to do, Allie stood behind the Queen, unwilling to sit at the same level as the dragons.
“The Queen won’t like this,” Frank warned, taking a seat next to Serenity.
“I don’t care,” she said, smiling at her dragons as they rolled around in the ground.
“You’re forcing her hand,” Frank said accusingly.
“Don’t worry,” Serenity said, “I will judge her by her fruit.”
“And if she doesn’t pass your judgment?” Allie asked nervously.
Serenity looked up at her quizzically, shading her eyes against the sun. “Justice. You know this.”
Allie shivered, her heart racing as they awaited the Queen. It seemed like forever had passed by the time the doors to the palace reopened.
A dozen well-dressed soldiers emerged from the doors, eight more soldiers following behind with a palanquin on their shoulders; the Queen on top.
Gently, the soldiers lowered the Queen to the ground, lounging in her throne. She wore a simple golden crown on her head with a single red jewel that matched her gown. She looked completely relaxed as she stared into Serenity’s eyes, her calm betrayed only by her twitching cheek.
As her throne touched the grass, all twenty royal guards spread out to surround us, each one radiating aggression. They were dressed in identical red robes, and had no weapons as far as Allie could tell.
During all this, Serenity remained in the grass, sitting with her legs crossed.
“Kneel,” the Queen commanded calmly.
Allie fought the urge to kneel, feeling her knees buckle.
Serenity frowned, getting to her feet. “I will stand if that makes you more comfortable.”
It was the Queen’s turn to frown. “I am Queen Veruth, ruler from the mountains to the river. I am intimidated by no man or woman, no matter how many dragons they claim. Kneel.”
Once again, Allie fought the urge to obey, trying to imitate Frank as he stood firmly behind Serenity.
“I know a few people who would disagree with you,” Serenity said casually. “When was the last time you checked your borders?”
Veruth stood from her throne, trembling with anger. “I will not be intimidated.”
Suddenly, the royal guards moved, carefully inching toward their prey. Allie’s chest tightened as she watched the guards close in.
As they moved, she noticed something she’d missed before. Prowling next to each of the twenty guards were what looked like tiny animals. As the guards moved closer, the animals grew in size, each one distinct from the other.
Allie had never seen so many Claimed before. In fact, she’d never seen a single Claimed outside of the five dragons standing next to her.
Each one was different, though some were the same species. Two of them looked like mountain lions, but had long leathery wings stretched out behind it. Several looked like horses, but their skin looked more like scales and they had claws instead of hooves. The rest seemed to be different variations of dogs, but every single one of them had wings.
As each of the Bonded grew in size, so did the dragons, until each of the creatures were at least twice the size of Allie.
“These animals were made to fight dragons,” Veruth said, standing tall. “You are outnumbered. For the last time, kneel.”
Serenity clasped her hands behind her back, calmly scrutinizing Veruth. “Are you a good Queen? Do you care for your people?”
Veruth scowled, raising her chin in defiance. “I protect the people, and so deserve their deference…”
Serenity tilted her head in thought. “Do your people suffer?”
Veruth spat. “You have forfeited her life, Dragon-Claimer.”
Upon her words, the creatures leaped forward, attacking the dragons with a series of roars and howls. Each of the creatures had become thrice the size of Allie, but the dragons were the size of houses.
Still, the creatures attacked in unison, practiced in the art of taking down dragons. Surprisingly, the guards didn’t attack Serenity, but stood on the edges of the battle, all of their focus on the fight.
Allie looked to Serenity and found that she was doing the same, all of her attention on the dragons.
“Claimed follow the mental instructions of their Claimer,” Franks said, noticing my stare. “This won’t be an easy battle to win, but she will.”
Allie shook her head violently, trying to block out the fight. Still, the screams of the animals were heartbreaking.
Then she noticed the Queen’s face, a far-off look in her eyes.
“What—,” she began to say when the ground suddenly shook, another dragon emerging from the earth.
“The Queen has a Claimed too,” Frank muttered, glancing at the Queen. “I better ensure our victory.” And with that, he jogged over to the Queen and held a knife to her throat.
It was too much for Allie. None of this felt right to her, but she couldn’t do anything to stop it. There was only one thing she could do.
Making up her mind, Allie turned and ran as fast as she could back into the city.
Her emotions ran with her, tears falling behind. With every step she took she became more certain she was doing the right thing, but with her increased certainty came increased fear.
She glanced behind her as she left the courtyard behind. No one was paying her any attention. Would anyone bother to track her down when the fight was over?
The gate was closed, but unmanned amongst the chaos. With a grunt, she threw the lever, pushed the gates open, and ran through the city streets until she couldn’t any longer, collapsing in the street.
One of the first things I learned about writing was this:
Write what you love.
Why else would you do it? Writing a lot of work, as you might know. If you don’t love it, stop immediately and do something else. This doesn’t mean every day of writing will be easy, in fact, the best writers are merely the ones who finish writing in the first place. It’s going to be monotonous at times. It’s going to challenge you, test you, and possibly break you, but, like… in a good way.
Art requires vulnerability. Writing requires discipline. Practice both.
Secondly, if you are writing with the intention of having others read it, then your purpose is (usually) to entertain. In some way or another, all readers pick up their books in order to be entertained. (The exception to this are basically self-help books, but they still want to be entertained) So be entertaining!
If it’s awesome, put it in the book! And figure out how to make it work later. You will have more fun writing it and the reader will have more fun reading it.
This book is unique for me since I’m publishing each chapter as I write it, and so can’t go back and edit it as I see fit. But I can still make decisions on the fly, I just need to figure out how everything fits as I go. (which is quite fun for me) Pretty much every chapter I add something new to the World that I didn’t plan beforehand. It makes the chapter WAY more fun to write that way.
I came up with the “Claimed” idea as I was writing this and decided it would be cool. So, guess what? I added it.
Lastly, and this is a general point to apply to all of your writing, you don’t have to be perfect. The best writers are actually just good editors. Just write what you want to write and clean it up later. Be vulnerable. Be true to yourself, and have fun with your stories.