Claire refused to sit still, flexing her wings in frustration.
“It’s okay, girl,” Allie whispered, running her fingers across the scales on Claire’s neck. “They’re not going to hurt us.”
“Not if you’re true to your word,” said Brianna as she stared at the clouds brushing against the mouth of the cave.
The Immortals had been in the middle of formally introducing themselves when their dragons interrupted, catching the scent of a stray. Only one dragon remained behind. The others had yet to return from their hunt.
“If you so much as think about betraying us, we’ll know,” Stephen added, his eyes hard with warning. “We have eyes everywhere.”
“I’ve given my word,” Allie said, not bothering to look up from Claire. Because I had no other choice, she thought.
And yet, she wasn’t entirely sure that was why she agreed. She genuinely believed Serenity needed to be stopped, but who was she to decide? She was a slave. She knew nothing of the world.
Even now as an Immortal, she didn’t truly have any power. Serenity, and now these Immortals. She had been forced into serving both. And she would keep serving as long as it meant survival.
“They’re back,” Brianna announced evenly, still watching the clouds.
Seconds later, a storm of dragons emerged from the clouds, wings filling the cavern like thunder. One held a man in its claws while the other three held a whimpering dragon captive.
As soon as they landed, Claire started shaking, her entire body convulsing in concern for the man the dragons had captured. Images of the man cycled through her brain, every instinct telling Claire to run to him, but Allie commanded her to stay.
“Draco,” Stephen said, a satisfied smile spreading across his lips. “I’m surprised you let yourself get caught so easily.”
Allie managed to stop herself from audibly gasping at Draco’s name. She knew him as Serenity’s husband. Claire’s old master.
Draco collapsed to the cavern floor as the dragon released him. He remained on the floor for almost a full minute before finally climbing to his feet.
“You know as well as I that he spent the last year in captivity,” Brianna chided. “Perhaps he liked it.”
The other Immortals chuckled at that.
“Does this change the plan?” One of them asked.
Both Brianna and Stephen glanced at Allie.
“You found Claire,” Draco said, smiling at the sight of his dragon. “What happened to Miguel?”
“Your wife has him,” Allie said, drawing Draco’s gaze for the first time. He gave her a quizzical look.
“A new addition to your crew?” He asked, looking to the other Immortals.
“Something like that,” Brianna said. “And she brought your dragon with her.”
Draco frowned. “I’ve stayed out of your way for near a thousand years,” he growled. “You know I have no desire for power. You can take Lemon if you like, but then I’ll take Claire and be on my way.”
“Claire isn’t going anywhere,” Stephen said with a grin. “She’s part of the plan.”
“You know, I’ve heard rumors as to your heel,” Brianna said.
“Rumors only,” Draco said. “I have no heel.”
“So they say,” Stephen admitted, “but everyone has a weakness, King Drumond. And I believe Serenity knows yours.”
“She does,” Allie said. “I’ve heard her say as much.”
Draco frowned, analyzing her before responding. “You have no need of Claire. You have enough dragons.”
“But Claire belongs to Allie,” Brianna replied, walking toward Lemon. “And now your dragon belongs to me.” Ans with that, she placed her hand on Lemon’s head and claimed her.
“You call me King, but I have not ruled in a thousand years,” Draco growled. “I am no use to you. Give me Claire and leave me be.”
Stephen faced Draco, sizing him with his eyes. “You may go, Allie,” he said without looking away from Draco.
Allie hesitated, looking to the other Immortals.
“The plan hasn’t changed,” Brianna said. “Bring Serenity and we can end this cleanly.”
Allie nodded, locking eyes with Draco one last time before climbing on top of Claire. She could feel Claire’s agony as they launched out of the cave, flying through the clouds toward the caravan.
“There’s nothing I can do,” Allie whispered, feeling torn, but her words did nothing to assuage the pain.
Allie’s mind lingered on Draco as the land passed beneath them. They were leagues away from the caravan, but distance is no great hindrance for dragons.
Allie was so lost in thought, that she nearly fell off of Claire when the dragon suddenly stopped in mid-air.
“What was that for?” Allie asked, searching the clouds in alarm, but she saw nothing but clouds.
Claire imaged something below that Allie couldn’t make out before plummeting toward the ground, breaking through the clouds.
Confused, Allie let her fly, searching for whatever it was that was causing her strange behavior. And then she saw them; a little girl riding a lion.
Claire projected another image. Another picture of the girl, except she was with her mother. And of the lion, but with Draco.
As Claire plunged toward them, the lion sped up, running for its life, but it was no match for the dragon’s speed.
Quickly overtaking them, Claire landed right in front of the lion, lowering her neck in submission, revealing Allie.
The lion leaped into the air, attempting to fly in the opposite direction as Allie wavered her arms. “Wait! We’re not going to hurt you!”
The little girl hesitated, pulling the lion to a halt. “Who are you?”
Allie hopped off of Claire, hoping to set the girl at ease, thought eh girl stayed on top of the lion. “I’m Allie. I’m from a caravan not far off. Who are you?”
The girl frowned for a moment, obviously unsure as to whether or not to be truthful. “Patty,” she said eventually. “I’m just a nomad. I don’t have anything worth stealing.”
“I’m not looking to steal anything,” Allie said. “I just wanted to see if you needed help.”
“I’m fine,” Patty said, her eyes filled with distrust.
“We have food at the caravan,” Allie said, watching Patty suspiciously. Her gut told her Patty knew about Draco.
“Don’t need food,” Patty said dismissively.
“Really?” Allie said. “What about protection?”
Patty stiffened, glancing back the way they came. “Don’t need that either.”
Allie couldn’t help but laugh at that. “I’ll tell you what,” she said, relenting. “We’re both heading toward my caravan anyway. How about we ride there together? Just in case?”
Allie could see Patty working to come up with a good reason to refuse, but, eventually, she nodded. “Sounds fine,” she said.
Allie smiled. “Good. It won’t be much farther now.”

———

We’re going to stay zoomed in on prose this week and compare past, present, and future tense.
Let’s work our way backward:
The use of future tense is really rare, and when it is, it’s used sparingly, because the use of future tense pulls the reader out of the story.

The ball will fall down the steps. The boy will follow it one step and a time, sliding on his belly.

When you read that, you’re not in a story. You’re predicting it. And when you’re predicting it, you can’t get lost in it.
So when you write a story, it’s usually in past or present tense. Both, in theory, make sense, and really, you can use either one, but readers are conditioned to expect past tense.

Present tense:
The ball is falling down the steps. The boy is following it one step at a time, sliding on his belly.

Perfectly acceptable, and the reader can potentially get lost in the story, but it will take time for them to adjust first.
I’m half-way through a novel right now that uses present tense, and it still throws me off every once and a while, but for the most part, I’ve grown used to it and it’s perfectly fine.
But most of the time, you use past tense.

Past tense:
The ball fell down the stairs. The boy followed it one step at a time, sliding on his belly.

This is natural to us, and the most engrossing tense. (For whatever reason) This doesn’t mean you have to use it, but I do highly encourage trying this first.
However, in the end, write how you want to write. Just make sure you’re consistent.