I would have screamed in agony had I the lungs to do so. My every nerve was on fire as acid ate at my body, disintegrating it to the point that I could no longer control my arms or legs.
Yet, my body refused to yield, struggling to heal itself as it had countless times before. The healing hurt almost as much as the acid. The pain of both blurred into each other, becoming an endless cycle of pain.
My eyes no longer functioned, my vision overtaken by large blotches of pain pulsating against my brain, but my nose and tongue still worked, adding to the agony.
Distantly, I was aware of the dragon moving, carrying me inside of her as she struggled to fly away. Her body stretched, attempting to flatten me within her, but my body retained its form, refusing to be crushed.
Moments later, she crashed against the ground, jostling me on impact. If I had been whole, I would have screamed yet again from the shock of it. As it was, I managed to move my lips wordlessly.
This was a game of wills. Or, rather, of the dragon’s will versus my body. Neither of us could die, but one of us could end it. I prayed she smarter than she was stubborn, or I was in for a long stretch of suffering.
I had no sense of time; no way to measure the length of my suffering. Instead, I focused on the dragon’s movements, forcing myself to stay awake as I did so for fear that she’d spit me out and leave me behind without a fight.
Several times, she attempted to fly with me inside her, but she was unable. Eventually, she gave up, digging into the mountain instead.
The pressure of the mountain pressed against me, adding to the discomfort of my situation, but I welcomed the distraction.
I knew she was getting close to giving up. She was discovering what I already knew: impact would not flatten me, nor pressure. She would never breathe or eat properly again until she threw me up.
At some point, the pressure was relieved as she emerged from the ground. Then, with a great heave, she started gagging.
Slowly, she managed to work me up her neck, pulling it out of the acidic bile of her belly. I worked my shoulder as much as I could to help her.
With each heave, I grew closer to freedom, my body beginning to properly heal.
The acid somehow hurt worse as I began to pull free, regaining the use of my eyes and arms. Finally, she gave one last heave and shot me out of her mouth.
I regained the use of my legs just as I crumbled to the ground beneath her.
I stood as fast as I could, my legs wobbling as I faced my draconic captor. I knew I only had seconds to Claim her before she recovered and flew away.
Instead of leaving, however, the dragon shrunk in size, collapsing onto the ground with a whimper of pain.
Gently, I knelt to the ground, laying a hand on her shoulder. She was shuddering, exhausted from the fight and famished from being forced into her largest size without food.
Feeling guilty, I pressed the palm of my hand against her head and imagined feeding her.
“I’ll get you food, little one,” I whispered as I Claimed her. “Just get some rest.”
A wave of peace settled over her as she closed her eyes, resting against her head against her wing.
Gently, I picked her up and carried her down the mountain. I wasn’t sure where she had carried us, but I knew the way nonetheless. The town was at the booth of the mountain.
The sun set over the mountains as I set out to carry her to town. It had been at least a day, if not several since Jade left me to watch over the girl.
I thought about calling for Jade, but decided her rest was more important, and I didn’t want to leave the girl alone again.
The sun had already risen on a new day by the time I finally returned to the town with my new dragon.
Art is not a science. Obvious, yes, but important to understand nonetheless.
I can give you countless outlines, formulas, examples, plot lines, and character arcs, but at the end of the day, you have to be an artist to write.
You can’t just plug in characters to a formula and make a good story. You have to create and imagine and explore. You have to understand how to put it all together in satisfying ways.
This takes practice.
But it also takes exposure.
The better stories you surround yourself with, the better writer you will become.
Just as you tend to pick up on the mannerisms of your friends, writers tend to pick up on the tendencies of the books they read and movies they watch.
If you read and watch trash, then you will likely replicate that trash. That doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it, just that it is trash and it’s likely others won’t enjoy it.
So if you want to write good stories. Read good stories. It’s that simple.