Allie flew in front of Patty, leading her to the caravan. With the wind whistling in her ears, it was impossible for them to have a conversation, let alone a tricky one.
The closer they got to the caravan, the more Allie regretted approaching Patty at all. If a battle broke out while Patty and her lion were still around, it would be one more life on Allie’s hands.
Allie glanced backward several times only to find Patty stone-faced and focused, her eyes flitting back and forth in anticipation.
Before long, the caravan came into view.
“We need to stop here,” Allie yelled over the wind, pulling Claire to a halt.
Patty pulled Jade to a stop just in time to avoid a collision. “Why’d you stop?”
Allie bit her lip, looping back at the caravan in consternation. As she looked, multiple figures rose into the air, apparently flying over to met them.
“I need you to go along with whatever I say,” Allie said quickly, watching the dragons approach.
“What do you mean?” Patty asked, furrowing her eyebrows.
“I mean we could both be in danger if you don’t corroborate my story,” Allie said.
Patty tilted her head in confusion. “Corroborate?”
“Agree with,” Allie said impatiently. “I need you to agree with me. I can explain more later.”
Patty frowned, tensing up once she noticed the dragons growing larger as they approached. “I don’t trust you.”
Allie looked back and forth between the dragons and Patty. “Do you know Draco?” She asked, taking a risk.
Patty froze, her eyes flaring with recognition.
“I can see you do,” Allie continued. “If you don’t trust me right now, a lot of people may be hurt by the same people who took Draco.”
“How do you know him?” Patty asked, her voice less certain than before.
Allie looked back to find four dragons nearly on top of them with Serenity riding the lead. Claire tensed up underneath Allie’s legs, wary of Serenity.
“Later,” she whispered as she turned to meet Serenity’s convoy.
“Welcome back, Allie,” Serenity said, half-shouting to be heard over the flapping of so many wings. “We feared the worst. You were gone for half a day.”
“I flew too far,” Allie said, tilting her voice to sound ashamed. “But I saw rebel Immortals tearing up the ground and flying back to their base.”
“Really?” Serenity said, her voice unreadable. “And found a girl in the process?”
“Yes, mother. She saw them too while on her way down from the mountains. That’s where their base is. Somewhere in the mountains. And I think I could find it again.”
“Do you?” Serenity in the same tone, her face a mask. “Well why don’t we talk about this some more when you’re both more comfortable? Allie, you can lead the way back for the this poor girl.”
“Name’s Patty,” Patty said, her lips pursed.
“Show Patty the way then,” Serenity amended with a smirk.
With a nod, Allie led the way back to the caravan, a wyer of dragons surrounding them.
They flew over the front of the line, casting shadows on the people milling about their carts. Frank smiled at the sight of Allie, clearly relived as he waved to her.
Allie waved back, letting Claire dip low enough to scrape the top of the wagons.
“Meet me at the front once you’ve had a chance to eat,” Serenity said, dropping down with all of her dragons next to Frank.
“I will,” Allie said as she took off to lead Patty to her wagon.
Patty flew above Allie, watching the countless people of the caravan with wary eyes.
Two-thirds of the way through, they landed beside Allie’s wagon, both Claire and Jade decreasing to the size of pets.
“Welcome back, Princess,” Shean said as he pulled the hat off his head and gave Allie an exaggerated bow. “You caused a bit of commotion today, ya know.”
“Did I?” Allie asked, petting Claire for a job well done.
“And who do we have here?” He asked, ignoring her question. “An even smaller princess no doubt!”
Patty didn’t reply, holding on tight to Jade as she scrutinized Shean.
“A mute princess then?” He continued.
“Just a girl in need of some rest,” Allie said, opening her wagon door. “She’ll share my cart.”
“Ha! Not if she wants to sleep,” Shean said, slapping his knee. “Can you sleep through earthquakes, little princess?”
“Patty,” Patty said, frowning. “My name is Patty, and I don’t need a fancy cart to sleep in.”
“Well you have one,” Allie said, gesturing to the door. “You can stay here until I come back. I need to talk to a couple of people.”
Patty took a step back, her fingers clutched tight around Jade’s fur.
“You have to trust me,” Allie said gently. “And your lion can join you.”
Patty hesitated before finally nodding, carrying Jade with her onto the cart.
“I’ll be right back,” Allie said just before closing the door.
“Keep close watch over her.”
“Anything for the princess,” said Shean, a smirk on his face.
Allie rolled her eyes as she began the trek toward the front of the caravan, giving Claire a much needed break. She used the time to run through the plan in her head, trying to make sure she had everything straight.
“I said what I needed to,” she whispered, walking around a cluster of children playing with a broken wheal. “I’ve done my part.”
She found Serenity and Frank in a deep conversation the front of the caravan, standing apart from everyone else.
“Sharing my news?” Allie asked as she walked up, her heart racing with nerves.
“Quite,” Serenity acknowledged. “How many dragons did you see?”
Allie stuttered at the direct question. “Four.”
Serenity stared her down, her eyes hard. “I see, and where in the mountains did you see them?”
“They were flying over a forest,” Allie said more confidently. “I think they were in a cave nearby.”
“Likely story,” Serenity said, glancing toward a hard-faced Frank.
Allie’s heart was near exploding as she realized they didn’t believe her. She was on her last straw.
“Where’s Miguel?” Allie asked, realizing he was nowhere to be found.
“Dead,” Frank said, gesturing to a mound of dirt a ways away from he caravan. “Turns out his heel was snake venom.”
“Allie,” Serenity said, her voice hard. “I’m sorry, but I think the rebels let you see them.”
Allie froze. “What?”
“We think the Immortals are trying to draw us into a trap,” Frank explained. “So if they let you see four dragons, that means they likely have at least two more than that. We’re outnumbered.”
Allie let out a sigh of relief. They didn’t suspect her. “So what do we do?”
Serenity frowned, her eyebrows scrunched in thought. “We spring their trap.”
It’s an essential skill that I’ve mentioned a couple of times in previous chapters, but bears in-depth analysis.
One of my biggest hurdles when I began writing was knowing what to include in my story. How much of the environment do I describe? How much movement should I include? Etc.
The specifics are difficult to nail down, and, ultimately, are subjective. But there is a helpful rule of thumb:
If it’s not the story, don’t write it.
Now, I just made up that phrase, so allow me to explain…
Let’s say your story is about a woman protecting her children from a house invader.
You likely wouldn’t begin your story five years before the person invaded her house, because that’s five years before the actual story takes place.
What’s the exception to this? When it directly affects the plot of the story.
So if the invader turned out to be someone the mother wronged five years ago, then it’s a valid reason to start the story five years before.
However, you obviously wouldn’t want to include everything that happened in those five years, because it just straight up doesn’t matter. So you would need to find a way to include the information that matters while excluding the information that doesn’t.
Ultimately, it’s that simple: write what matters, leave out what doesn’t.
But the trick is determining what matters.
Characters really matter.
But the real question is what matters to you.
What do you care about? Is it the magic system you made up? Your fabricated race? Your intricate plot?
Figure out what matters to you, and include it in your story.
(Hint: If character, environment, and plot aren’t included in your list, then no one will read your story, so as long as you’re cool with that…)
And this applies not just to the overall narrative of a story, but at the smallest scale as well.
Don’t start your chapter with someone waking up unless the story necessitates it. Same with ending a chapter with them going to sleep. Along with literally anything else someone does in a average day. Only if it matters.
But here’s where it gets super-subjective:
You can make anything. The smallest, most boring thing… and make it matter.
You could write write an entire trilogy about a man slicing an apple and make it impactful. And someone else could describe the same action with one sentence.
You determine what matters in your story. You can hide meaning everywhere. You can describe the simplest of actions in order to explore your environment, hide clues to your plot, or show the nature of your character.
As long as you make it count. As long as it’s the story. Write it.