The night air brushed against my skin, sending a stir through the tall grass surrounding us.
“Not too much longer now,” Miguel whispered, lounging in the grass.
I didn’t respond, watching the injured horse stumble as it walked in circles around us.
“You worried about the horsee?”
I eyed him, frowning in disgust. “He’s going to collapse soon.”
Miguel shrugged, looking up at the stars. “If it dies, then we’ll be the bait.”
“We wouldn’t last any longer than the horse,” I mumbled. “Not without water.”
“We could still ride it,” Miguel said with a grin. “Maybe get far enough to find water…”
I shook my head, trying to ignore the sick feeling in the stomach.
“Then we wait for the lions,” Miguel said, lying back in the grass as he spun the knife in his hands.
The field was still visible in the dead of night, thousands of lights filling the sky. The only sounds came from the horse struggling through the grass.
I considered ending its misery, but doing so would almost certainly ensure our deaths… or close enough to it, anyway.
“So…,” Miguel said eventually, watching me out of the corner of his eye. “Who is she?”
I avoided his gaze, focused on the horse. “Who?”
Miguel chuckled, shaking his head. “Why are you so afraid of her? She found your heel?”
I hesitated, deciding whether or not to be honest. “She knows my heel,” I said, sighing. “But that’s not why I’m running.”
Miguel sat up, a grin plastered on his face. “I can always count on you to entertain. Why, then?”
I glanced his way before refocusing on the horse. “I’m not afraid to die. She and I… we’ve lived long enough.”
“So why are you running?”
I frowned. “She’s not going to kill me. That’s not what she wants. She wants to hurt me; to hurt me just like I hurt her. She wants me to wake up each day and despair to be alive. She represents everything I’m trying to avoid in this life… and she’s the only thing I have left.”
Miguel went silent, a puzzled smirk on his face. “Dang, Draco. What did you do to her?”
I didn’t answer, watching the horse as it slowed to a crawl. “What about your sister?” I eventually asked. “Did she know your weakness?”
Miguel’s grin grew wider, stabbing his knife in the ground as he looked up at the stars. “Clare. And yeah, she has her suspicions.”
“She still alive?”
Miguel nodded, his grin fading. “She’s older now, but still kicking. She refuses to leave our old home.”
“In the city?” I asked, surprised at just how young Miguel must be to still have living relatives.
“Yep,” Miguel said, “I wanted to leave once I’d claimed my dragon; to start fresh somewhere new. We’d live in a nice house; maybe even get some slaves and run a farm. But she wouldn’t leave. So I stayed with her and pledged myself to Queen Veruth.”
“What about now?”
Miguel grinned. “You mean after you give me your dragon? Yeah, I’ll go back… just as soon as Serenity leaves. I might even end up running the place.”
I shook my head. “What about your sister? Would she live with you in the palace?”
Miguel shrugged. “Clare wants nothing to do with me. But whatever happens, I’ll stay close; make sure she’s safe.”
The horse finally came to a stop, unable to keep trudging through the grass.
Miguel sat up, suddenly alert. “It senses something.”
I slowly got to my feet, squatting just low enough to stay concealed in the grass. Miguel did the same, his knife in hand.
I didn’t see anything, but the horse was completely still, it’s ears perked up.
“It smells somethi—“
Suddenly, roars erupted in the night as something hit me from behind. A thousand pounds of muscle crashed against me, pinning my back to the ground.
I was barely able to get a glimpse of the lion before it raked its claws across my face, destroying my vision. My only option was to play dead as it bit my shoulder, its teeth ripping all the way through my body.
Inwardly, I writhed in agony, trying to stay as still as possible.
With a parting blow from its claws, the lion launched itself off my torso, growling as it attacked elsewhere.
Shuddering from the pain, I forced myself to stay alert, listening to the fight as my body healed. I identified two sets of growls as I attempted to form a fist with my right hand.
My fingers were non-responsive, but my vision slowly returned as the horse released a haunting scream. I couldn’t see anything but the grass.
My heart raced as my body worked to heal itself, the tendons in my shoulder reforming. Again, I tried to make a fist, forcing myself to keep trying until it finally worked.
My body felt like it was on fire, but I ignored the pain, slowly rolling onto my stomach.
Careful not to make a sound, I got to my feet, peeking just over the grass. The horse had grown to its largest size, trying to defend itself from one of the lions. The other lion towered over Miguel, warily circling him just beyond the reach of his knife.
I crept toward the horse’s lion, staying out of its line of sight as it clawed fruitlessly at the horse’s armor.
With each frantic attack, I moved closer, matching its movements to mask the sound of my approach.
The horse screamed again, trying to bury itself in the ground, but the lion wouldn’t let it, throwing all of its weight against the horse.
Finally, I got close enough and threw myself onto the lion’s back, crawling up to its neck. The lion roared, rearing up to try and throw me off just as the horse finally managed to bury itself in the ground.
Furious, the lion tried to snap at my hands with its jaws, but it couldn’t turn its head far enough around. Instinctively, the lion fluctuated in size, trying to loosen my grip, but I held on tight, prepared for the maneuver.
Finally, with a desperate yell, I managed to place my hand against the lion’s forehead, willing it into submission.
The lion gave the faintest whimper as I Claimed it as my own and slid off its back.
In the distance, both Miguel and his lion still stood, their figures outlined by the stars.
I mentally ordered my lion to help Miguel as I collapsed to the ground and immediately passed out.
There are a lot of advantages and disadvantages to using the written word vs. audio-visual mediums. Music, images, and words affect their consumers in different ways.
For example, if you were watching this chapter in a movie with emotional music playing over it, it would likely have likely impacted you in a deeper way than just reading it on paper. BUT, in the long-game, a reader will develop a much deeper connection with the main characters of a novel than they will with a movie.
I won’t get into all of the reasons why, as that’s not the focus of this chapter. The focus, instead, is on fight scenes.
Almost universally, readers are prone to zone out during fight scenes. In movies, fight scenes are a huge part of the visual spectacle and often cost millions of dollars. In books, the special effects are free, but the thrills are limited. So you need to make your fights count.
Be clear. Be concise. Be entertaining.
As soon as the reader gets lost, they’re skipping to the end. This is why it’s ultra important that you are very clear when describing a fight, which is difficult to do because of how many moving parts there tend to be.
So here are 4 good rules to follow:
1. Follow one character at a time
- Narrow down the scope so you can show details without losing the reader
2. Show brief flashes of everything else
- Have the character take a breath and look at what else is happening
- Briefly show who is where and how it’s going
- Then go right back into the immediate fight
- Keep doing this until it’s over
3. Be concrete
- No fluffy language
- Don’t drag it out
- Tell us what’s happening and then move on
4. Avoid common mistakes
- If you are outnumbered, you lose – the only exception is if you have magic or are the only one with a weapon – and even then they would have to go berserker to make it work (scare their enemies enough to be timid in their approach instead of attacking right away)
- Everyone attacks at the same time – no one waits their turn unless there’s a VERY good reason
- Most armies pull back after losing 10% of their troops – it usually only gets worse than that when the armies are closely matched enough that it’s not clear who will win – as soon as either side can tell, it’s over
- Pretty much, you want it to read as real as possible – don’t force your character to do something unbelievable