Allie turned Claire around, anxious to get back to the caravan and warn Serenity that they were surrounded.
They could fly over the canyon with their dragons, of course, but the caravan itself was stuck until they could create a solid enough pass for the wagons to cross through. That would take precious days; days in which they would be surrounded by the enemy.
Claire flew through the clouds, diving low enough that Allie could barely make out the caravan in the distance when something suddenly slammed into her from behind.
Allie was thrown off her dragon, the force of the attack ripping her grip free of Claire’s wing.
As she plummeted through the air, she saw Claire being dragged down by two other dragons, their roars drowning out Claire’s cry.
Suddenly, Allie slammed against something hard, her vision blackening for an instant as her lungs struggled to pump oxygen to her brain.
Then she was flying back through the air, caught in the claws of a third dragon.
Allie struggled to break free as the dragon carried her toward Claire, who had been captured just as thoroughly as her.
Together they were dragged away from the caravan, their cries lost in the wind.
Before long, Allie’s vision became clouded as the dragons flew them above the clouds. Attempting to track the distance they were traveling by the velocity of the wind, she guessed they had traveled a number of miles away before the dragons began their descent.
When they finally dove below the clouds there was no way for her to determine which direction they had flown. The only landmark she could see was a range of mountains in the distance.
Soon enough, it became obvious that the range was their destination.
Are you okay? Allie thought, hoping Claire could interpret the message.
Claire whimpered in response, impressing on my mind an image of her fighting back.
Don’t, Allie thought. Not yet.
The dragons flew dangerously low as they approached the range, diving underneath the layer of fog and into the forest.
Allie’s feet nearly dragged across the forest floor as the dragons flew them through a clearing and into a cave cut into one of the mountains.
As the dragons entered the cave, they grew smaller, forcing Claire to grow smaller with them. By the time they finally landed on the smooth granite floor, they had become the same size as Allie.
“Welcome,” someone said, their voice echoing throughout the cave. “We’ve been waiting some time for you.”
Allie attempted to stand up straight once her dragon finally released her, but she collapsed to the ground, her legs like jelly.
“Why did you take me?” She asked, searching the darkness for the voice that spoke.
Suddenly, five people stepped out from the darkness, each with torches in hand. There were three men and two women, all of them young, their faces smooth in the light of their flames. The contours of dragons played in the light behind them.
“To give you a proper choice,” one of the women said, stepping forward.
Allie climbed back to her feet. Her legs shook, but she managed to keep her balance this time as she looked back at the five Immortals before her. “Choice between what?”
“Freedom and death,” the woman replied, her voice gentle.
Allie frowned in confusion. “Freedom.”
The woman smiled. “You know not what you say. You have already chosen to follow death. Now you must learn what it means to follow freedom.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Allie said as her legs regained their strength.
“You have chosen to follow Serenity,” the woman said. “The side of rules and death. We are her enemies; the Immortals of freedom and life. Serenity wishes to rule both humans and Immortals as our judge, but we do not recognize her authority.”
“And whose authority do you recognize?” Allie asked.
“We rule as we see fit,” one of the men replied, raising his torch. “We are gods to rule humans as we see fit. We answer to no one but each other. And for it, Serenity and her followers mean to deal us death.”
“And you are her follower,” the woman continued. “But you are also an Immortal, and deserve the chance to choose rightly.”
Allie’s heart beat faster. “What will you do to me if I choose Serenity?”
The woman frowned. “We will take your dragon and deliver your dead body to Serenity.”
“And if I choose you?” Allie asked.
“You would keep your dragon, and we would allow you to rule as you see fit,” the woman said. “However, we would first require you to help us kill Serenity, for there is no true freedom while she lives.”
“I thought you were about life,” Allie said. “Not death.”
“We’re about our own freedom,” the man said. “Our own life. She threatens both.”
Allie looked back at Claire’s whimpering form, still held by the jaws of a pair of dragons. She didn’t know what to think. The more she saw of both sides, the more uneasy she felt.
“You seem more hesitant than we expected,” the woman said, her voice questioning. “We know you ran from her in the city. Your choice should be easy.”
“I don’t want to kill her,” Allie said. “I don’t want anyone to get hurt.”
“It is she who hurts us,” the man said, his voice quivering with anger. “She must be stopped.”
“It’s her or us,” the woman insisted. “You must choose.”
Allie thought about all of the people in the caravan. All of the friends she was just beginning to make. The Immortals had more dragons than Serenity, especially now that Claire had been captured.
Serenity was a murderer, and the more Allie thought about it, the more she agreed that Serenity needed to be stopped, but she knew that people were going to get hurt if it came to an all-out fight.
“I’ll help you,” Allie said eventually, curling her hands into fists. “But only if we do it my way. We kill Serenity, and only Serenity. No one else.”
The woman looked to the others, each nodding in turn. “Done.”

——

When we discussed foreshadowing and payoffs in an earlier chapter, I talked about the rule of three; you must set something up twice before it can be knocked down.
This week, however, we’re covering a slightly different aspect of payoffs: Understanding = satisfaction
Now let’s first look at the prevalence of satisfaction. One could easily define a story as a series of cathartic moments. A chronological (usually) series of events that build tension for the expressed purpose of releasing said tension… or Satisfaction.
You introduce a character so the reader can become attached and care about what happens to them. And you give the reader context such as environment and supporting cast so they will better understand the events that happen to them.
Everything can be viewed through the lens of understanding for the sake of satisfaction. (or whatever lesson you may be attempting to impart)
So it is important to understand how to deliver on that satisfaction. To make those payoff moments as poignant as they can be. And you do this by delivering on understanding = satisfaction.

Let me give an example:

Let’s say your character is walking through the forest at night. Your character knows nothing about this forest and neither does your reader. He or she is scared, but makes their way through, eventually unscathed. It’s not until afterward that your reader finds out that the forest is full of blood-thirsty werewolves that regularly kill humans.
Result: You reader is mildly concerned, but when the character makes it through, their reaction is to be mildly relieved and to question whether it was silly or not to be worried.
However, if your reader knows that the forest is super dangerous beforehand, there will be a significantly increased reaction both when the character originally walks through and when they come out the other side.

Your reader needs enough of the facts beforehand that when it’s time for things to come to a climax, tension is built and released based on the events around the character, not explanations afterward or even during.

The events of this chapter were set into motion because I decided the reader needed to witness and learn about the Immortals attacking Serenity in order to appreciate what comes next in the story.
This exposure to the other side allows the reader to begin forming ideas in their head about how the story will come to a head.
We now understand, to some degree, all three sides of this potential conflict. Draco, Serenity, and the Immortals of freedom.
This, combined with everything else we know about this world, allows the reader to appreciate what comes next without confusion or distraction because they understand the context and consequences.
Understanding = Satisfaction.