The dragon whimpered in my arms, weak from our fight the night before. Despite her injuries, her only thoughts were about her need for food.
My stomach growled along with hers, my arms trembling with the weight of carrying her down the mountain.
“We’ve made it,” I whispered. “Can you walk?”
She shook her head, whimpering louder.
“Alright,” I huffed, readjusting her in my arms as we entered the town.
The sun had only just risen as I walked by the broken homes, a stark reminder of the horrors Miguel had inflicted upon the town.
Automatically, I found myself searching for Jade, casting my gaze into the sky. I had ordered her to stay with the girl. “She must be hunting,” I mumbled, my mouth salivating at the thought of food.
Suddenly, my stomach sank with worry that something had happened to the girl. She shouldn’t have been left alone.
With the dragon still in my arms, I ran toward the girl’s home where she had fallen asleep the night before.
There was no door to her home, nor much of anything left of it except two of its walls. Frantic, I jumped over a pile of rubble and found the girl inside.
I nearly dropped my dragon from shock as I took in the scene.
Jade sat patiently in front of the girl, purring as the girl played with her hair.
“What’s going on here?” I asked, my heart still racing from adrenaline.
The girl looked up at me with a blank expression before turning her attention right back to Jade’s mane. She didn’t have much hair around her neck, but what she did have, the girl had twisted around into a bunch of tiny braids.
Jade purred louder as she glanced toward me, keeping her head still so as to not mess up the girl’s work. Mentally, she protected the image of the girl petting Jade: friends.
Overwhelmed with relief, I finally set my dragon down and collapsed onto the ground next to her. “I’m glad you’re both safe,” I said, my voice hoarse.
Yet again, my dragon projected the image of food, reminding me of my own hunger. “Food?” I asked aloud.
“It’s gone,” the girl said, her eyes still fixed on Jade’s braids.
Surprised, I took a moment to get a good look at her. She was older than I first assumed. Maybe ten years old, though I was no longer a good judge of such things.
Jade projected the image of her standing over the girl while she slept.
“I know,” I said gently, “you were following my orders. You did well. Thank you, Jade.”
Jade wagged her tail, seeming perfectly content to let the girl continue her hairdo.
“But we need food,” I added, trying to ignore my stomach. “Can you find some?”
“We can go,” the girl said, sitting back on her heels as she admired her work. “I know where to find berries.”
Jade grew in size, shaking her mane proudly.
“That would do nicely,” I said, smiling gently. “I can go with you while Jade hunts for meat.”
“No,” the girl said with a sudden ferocity. “I’m going with her.”
“Jade?” I asked, taken aback.
The girl nodded vigorously.
I let out a sigh while I struggled with the right thing to do. In the end, though, I didn’t know what the girl needed. And if she wanted to be with Jade, then I wasn’t going to stop her.
“Okay, we all go,” I said, picking up my dragon once more. “Lead the way.”
The girl’s face was still expressionless as she led us out of the shell that was once her town. I suspected she was still in shock, though it was possible she would be like this for the rest of her life.
“So what’s your name?” I asked eventually, keeping note of the paths she took through the sparse forest.
She didn’t answer at first. I was beginning to think she wouldn’t answer at all when she finally spoke up. “Patty,” she said weakly, as if saying her name reminded her too strongly of her past.
“I’m Draco,” I said, realizing I’d never introduced myself.
“I remember,” she said simply, never taking her gaze away from the path.
“What’s her name?” She eventually asked.
I frowned. “Jade?”
She shook her head. “No, the dragon. What’s her name?”
I shrugged, though she couldn’t see me. “I’m not sure. I never learned her name, and I don’t want to give her a new one in case it rang false.”
Silence followed my answer as we emerged into a clearing of sorts. Surrounding the clearing were several bushes filled with wild berries.
Without so much as a glance back, Patty started picking the berries off the bushes.
“This is great, Patty,” I said, setting the dragon down so I could help pick the bushes. “But my dragon needs more than this. She needs meat.”
“You can go get meat,” she said, “Jade and I are picking berries.”
I shook my head, chuckling at her audacity.
“I think we’ll wait,” I said, encouraged at her signs of life.
We settled into silence after that, all four of us eating as many berries as we could before carrying arms full of them back to the town, forcing Jade to carry my dragon.
As we walked back into town, I worked up the courage to speak again. “Patty, I need to talk to you about something.”
Patty frowned as she set down the berries next to her bed, using a torn piece of fabric to keep them clean.
“We need to move on,” I said, searching for the right words. “I need to save my… friend. And I understand it might be hard to leave…”
“I’m going with you,” she said, cutting me off.
I stammered in surprise. “Are you sure?”
Patty nodded seriously.
I smiled, a knot of worry unraveling in my chest. “Good.”
“We leave tomorrow?” She asked.
I hesitated. “Only if you’re ready..”
Patty nodded again. “I’m ready. We can leave in the morning.”
I let out another laugh. “Sound like a plan,” I said as she crawled into bed, Jade and my dragon right beside her.
“Lemon,” Patty said, suddenly.
“Lemon,” she repeated. “The dragon’s name is Lemon. Lemonberries are my favorite type of berries, and she liked them too. Lemon.”
I nodded, amused. “Sound good to you, Lemon?” I asked, looking to the dragon.
Lemon wagged her tail in approval.
“Alright then,” I said. “It’s settled. Sleep well, Patty.”
And at that, for the first time, Patty smiled at me before turning in her bed. “Goodnight, Draco.”
The idea this week is simple: movement.
Movement gives the reader an impression of progress, and helps to ground them in the story.
This chapter is basically just one conversation meant to establish the relationships between these characters and finally get them moving toward Draco’s goal.
I could have had them standing in place the entire time, but that would have felt stagnant. Even as it was, it might have felt too slow given the fast-paced nature of this chapter-blog, but either way, I guarantee the movement in the chapter increased your feeling of progress.
This doesn’t mean that you have to have your characters walking around when they have conversations, this only means two things:
- You need to be aware of the pacing in your story
You reader should always feel like the story is progressing. (or regressing) So make sure your story is not stuck in one place for too long unless your reader expects it – in longer epic fantasies, it’s common for stories to take a while to develop, so the reader will naturally have a higher tolerance for a slow pace.
- Give visuals to the conversation
Is your character nervous? Have them shuffling their feet. Do they need to pee? Have them shuffling their feet. Do they have some other quirk or quality? Now is the time to show it. Movement. Any movement. Is helpful.