“We leave tonight,” said Serenity as her dragons emerged from the cracked soil. “We need to get there before nightfall.”
“Why fight?” Allie asked, stroking Claire’s neck. “Frank already said they likely have more than four dragons.”
“Six or more is my guess,” Frank said with a grimace.
“Exactly,” Allie said. “Versus our five. If you know they have us outnumbered, why ride out to meet them? Shouldn’t we run or something? Or at least come up with a plan.”
“Running will only put my people at danger,” Serenity said, her voice strangely calm. “We will fight, and we will win. They might have more dragons, but we have an advantage they can never match.”
Allie scoffed as she watched Serenity’s dragons inexplicably digging at the ground in the front of them, creating a large hole.
“We’ve encountered the other Immortals before,” Frank said. “They’re young. Not like us.”
Allie threw her hands in the air. “What is that supposed to mean?”
Serenity sighed, watching her dragons continue to dig. “Do you know your dragon’s weakness?”
Allie glanced at Claire, trying to read the answer from her thoughts. Nothing.
“I thought not,” Serenity said, letting out an imperceptible sigh of relief. “Few know their own dragon’s weaknesses, let alone the weaknesses of others. But for those of us who have lived long enough…”
“You know their dragon’s weaknesses?” Allie asked.
“As do I,” Frank said, frowning at the growing hole in the Earth. “At one point or another, Serenity has Claimed nearly every dragon to exist.”
“I know every dragon by sight,” Serenity said. “Once I know who exactly we’re dealing with, I can take them down one by one.”
“What if you don’t get the chance?” Allie asked, growing more and more curious about the hole. Serenity’s dragons grew smaller as they dug deeper into the hole, finally beginning to slow their pace. “Knowing how to kill them won’t do you any good if they overpower you before you can do anything about it. You’re only one person.”
“I’m more than a person,” Serenity corrected her sternly. “And we are four.”
Allie frowned. “Four?”
“You, me, Frank, and Miguel,” Serenity answered, never taking her eyes away from the hole.
Suddenly, a cry could be heard from the hole, the sound of it smothered by the Earth. Slowly, the cries became louder as the dragons finished digging, leaping out of the hole one by one.
Finally, a hand reached from the hole, its body following behind.
“Miguel?” Allie gasped, frozen as she watched him collapse onto the ground.
“We couldn’t figure out his heel,” Serenity explained, shrugging.
“Lying about it seemed kinder,” Frank said, frowning at the pile of a man in front of them.
Miguel laid on the ground for quite some time, giving into several coughing fits before finally pulling himself up enough to sit upright. After a moment, he looked to Allie. “Did you convince them to save me?”
“I didn’t even know you were down there,” Allie answered honestly.
Miguel grunted, looking at Serenity. “Time off for good behavior, then?”
“You bit my ear off when I put you in there,” Serenity said, her nose scrunched in disgust.
“You grew a new one just fine,” Miguel said, cracking his neck.
“You’re going to help us,” Frank said before Serenity could reply.
“Because we’ll set you free,” Serenity said. “And if we succeed, I’ll let you Claim a dragon.”
Miguel perked up at that, a smile creeping onto his face. “My original offer, eh? What do I have to do?”
“Fight,” Frank answered, offering his hand to help Miguel to his feet.
“Perfect,” Miguel said, taking Frank’s hand. “Who are we fighting?”
“Immortals,” Serenity said, glancing back and forth between Miguel and Allie. “We’re going to fly out there, spring their trap, and be ready to fight for our lives. Once I see the dragons, I’ll tell you what their heels are.”
“What kind of heels are we talking about?” Miguel asked, wiping off his clothes. “And where can I get my hands on some knives?”
“Their heels usually have to do with different locations of their body,” Serenity said warily. “A knife through the right scale. Fire in their eyes. It varies. But if we can weaken even one enough to Claim it from them, we’ll have turned the odds in our favor.”
“Shouldn’t we wait? Go over their potential weaknesses in detail before doing anything rash?” Allie asked, her heart racing at the prospect of what was to come. If she turned on them, or pulled out of the fight, Serenity and Frank would be finished. She didn’t want to be responsible for that.
“The longer we wait, the more time they have to hurt my people. We’re taking the fight to them.”
“Welp,” Miguel said. “It looks like I’ll be needing those knives then. When are we leaving?”
“Right now,” Serenity said, a thin smile spreading on her face. “I hope you got enough rest down there.”
We still have several chapters left in this story, but now is when things get interesting. Tension is building and there are about to be a lot of important moments for each of the characters.
So, naturally, now is a good time to take a step back and look at the arcs of the characters and the story as whole.
I’ve written about plot structures and the importance of character-driven story, staying true to characters, and how to make them compelling, but there’s one principle that ties everything together really nicely:
Your plot should be driven by the decisions of your characters.
That seems like an obvious rule, but it’s easy for many writers, myself included, to fall into the trap of making the main characters bystanders. They get swept up in somebody else’s plans and become pawns in their own story.
It’s okay for this to happen in the beginning of the story. Things are still setting up and your character may not be ready to stand up for themselves, etc. But when things start mattering. When tension is building. It’s the decisions of your characters that will define your story.
I’m not going to give too much away, but if dragons fighting each other decided the ending to this story, that would be a terrible ending. We don’t care (much) about the dragons themselves. We care about Allie, Draco, Frank, Patty, Serenity, etc. And it’s their decisions that will define this story.
So, especially at the end, don’t let your characters be bystanders.
Make us hate them or love them.
Because if they don’t affect their world, they sure as heck won’t affect us.