Ashes fell all around us, our only light emanating from the burning wagons. I wore no chains, but I was a prisoner all the same, surrounded by a ring of Immortals.
However, their attention was not on me, as all of their eyes were focused on their leaders, each awaiting their orders. Behind us, the cries of women and children echoed through the night unanswered.
My insides rotted with guilt as I listened to their pleas, but there was nothing I could do for them. I knew their fate was tied to Sarah’s decision.
I held my breath as she dismounted her dragon, daring to hope that she’d made the right decision. And then, finally, she submitted her dragons, allowing Brianna and Stephen to Claim them as their own.
When it was over, I sighed with relief. For the first time a thousand years, both Sarah and I had been stripped of our power, but it was a small price to pay for the lives of innocent people.
Within moments, that relief turned to dread in my chest as I heard the screams erupt from the crowd.
I turned to find the Immortal’s dragons ripping into the crowd, killing men and children alike. Not believing what I saw, I looked at the Immortals around me, but saw only indifference in their eyes. They weren’t killing people, they were slaughtering animals.
Sick and not thinking straight, I ran through them toward the slaughter just as their new dragons joined the horrible scene.
In every direction, people ran for their lives only to be caught in the jaws of dragons the size of houses. And yet I ran toward them, silent save for my heaving sobs.
My eyes locked onto a mother throwing her son to the side just as a claw enveloped her. “Run!” She screamed, her eyes full of terror as she disappeared forever.
The boy froze, staring at the claw as if expecting his mother to re-appear from it.
I ran straight for the boy, picking him up just as the dragon attempted to finish the job.
Its claw ripped my back, throwing us to the ground, shocking the boy out of his stupor as he let out a scream of agony.
Even as I rolled to my feet, picking the boy back up, my back healed itself.
“Quiet,” I whispered as I ran with the boy on my shoulder.
I glanced backward to find the dragon moving onto its next victim, with the next closest dragon too far away to pay them any notice.
“We’re going to make it, I promise,” I whispered again, running along the burning carts, hoping the roaring fire would hide our scent.
“Momma,” the boy cried, his face ashen and stunned.
I didn’t answer, my heart racing as I strove put distance between us and his mom. The farther we got, the more I believed my own promise.
The cries grew faint as we managed to lose ourselves in the darkness, the fire barely visible in the distance.
Then a dragon landed right in front of us.
“A true low point for the royal family,” Stephen said from atop his new dragon.
“Please,” I said, placing myself between the dragon and the boy.
Without another word, the dragon ripped through me with its teeth, and shook me in the air until I was close to passing out.
I was still in its jaws when I regained my vision, just in time to see the boy’s lifeless body lying in the dirt as we rose into the air.
I wanted to yell at Stephen. To punish the dragon. But my lungs were deflated, forced to wait until they were free to heal.
Within seconds we reached the camp, the innocent victim’s bodies already in a pile and on fire.
Stephen’s dragon landed next to the fire, joining the rest of the dragons. All save one.
After a moment, the dragon dropped me onto the ground, finally allowing my body to heal.
“Our girl did well,” Stephen said as he slid off his dragon and walked up to the lone dragon set apart from the others. “A valuable member of the team.”
“We had a deal,” Allie said, trembling atop her dragon.
“What’s done is done,” Brianna said, abreast one of her own dragons. “And you have played your part.”
“And as long as you remain a loyal teammate, you may keep your reward,” Stephen said, smiling thinly. “Your life and your dragon.”
I managed to climb to my feet, shaking with exhaustion and forced to remain still by the dragons breathing on my neck.
For the briefest of moments, I locked eyes with Allie as she considered Stephen’s words.
“Am I free to leave?” She asked, looking away from me.
“You are Immortal,” Stephen answered. “Now that we’ve won, you are free to do what you want.”
Allie looked back at me, her eyes seeming to beg for forgiveness as she turned away and launched into the sky with Claire.
“Now,” Brianna said, looking down at me. “We finally get to deal with you.”
Give them faces.
There’s this thing writers do that you may have noticed. Before someone dies or goes through something traumatic, they give that person “screen time.” They take just a moment or two to make us care before putting them through the trauma.
It doesn’t matter that we only met them 1 scene ago, we’re still sad when that person dies.
Someone’s going to die? Have them do or say something endearing the scene before.
I wrote about the elements of how to create compelling characters early on in these chapters. Basically, the writers just slip those elements in right before the character leaves the story.
Ex: Basically every show ever when an episode starts with something sad happening to a stranger:
Oh you silly dad driving and singing along to a Rhianna song… oh no! Car jacked by the villain?? We’re so sad for you… until the next scene when we forget you exist.
And that’s what I did here with the mother and the boy. I don’t even give them names, but it (hopefully) makes the horror of what’s happening more real.
Now, really, you should give every character in your story a “face.” You don’t have to wait until the last minute, but if they’re not important, then last minute works well so it’s fresh in your reader’s mind.
Thanks for reading! See you next week.