Allie’s heart raced, her thoughts scattered despite re-playing the scene in her mind. Even now she found herself trembling, all too aware of what Claire could do if she was set free. She would never look at a dragon the same way again.
Hundreds murdered right in front of her and she did nothing. Even with a dragon, she was helpless. All she could do was run. Fly back to the city in fear, leaving her only friends behind to die.
Serenity. Allie expected Serenity to die. She needed to be stopped, but Allie still didn’t know how she felt about it. Frank though. Frank was a good man, and she left him. And Draco. Even now, Allie could feel Claire’s pain from leaving him behind. Surely, he was a good man as well.
Allie closed her eyes as Claire sped through the clouds layering the night sky. Faces fought their way into her mind. Shean. Patty. Frank. Serenity. Even Miguel.
One by one, she forced them out, refusing to think about those she had abandoned. There was nothing for her back there. She was a street-dweller. A slave. And she was still slave, back where she started, only now with a murderous pet. She would have preferred pigs.
And where could she hide with a dragon? Not in the city. That thought forced her eyes back open. She couldn’t hide like she wanted. Not with Claire.
Claire issued a warning, a growl vibrating through her chest, but Allie paid her no mind, lost in her thoughts.
Allie had given up. And Claire deserved to be free. Suddenly, without warning or thought, Allie threw herself off of Claire and into the night sky.
Clouds and wind obscured her senses, replaced by fear and regret. She could feel her body turning, her eyes frozen open with terror. This wouldn’t be an end for her. Only pain.
She could feel Claire coming after her. Sense her concern, but she knew her dragon wouldn’t reach her in time. She was a coward about to be in a lot of pain.
Then her body lurched to a stop as pain flared through her back.
It took a moment for her mind to catch up, processing the field of grass mere feet below her. At first she thought Claire had caught her, but she was proven wrong as Claire suddenly flew around her, growling with concern.
Allie tried to twist around to see who caught her, but was unable to get a good look.
Slowly, her savior let her to the ground.
“Now why did you go and do that?” Patty said, sliding off of Jade. “Are you that bad of a rider?”
“Nah,” Shean replied, stumbling as he attempted to swing off of Jade. “I reckon she fell asleep. The Queen of snores can fall asleep anytime anywhere.”
Allie’s mouth dropped open, trembling with shock. Relief warred with shame within her that her friends were alive to witness her cowardice. “Shean? Patty? How?”
Shean ignored her question, wrapping her in a hug instead.
“Jade sensed them coming,” Patty said, keeping a respectful distance. “She recognized them from before when they took Draco.”
“The little lady convinced me to go with them,” Shean said, his voice lighthearted despite the heaviness off his eyes. “We were in the middle of an argument about what to do next when we saw you flying overhead.”
“What happened?” Patty asked, her teeth grinding with nerves. “Did we lose?”
Allie hesitated, unsure of how to answer.
“I don’t think she’d be running if they’d won, little one,” Shean said, grimacing. “I told you it was too late to go back. Our only option is to start again in the city.”
“Is Draco still alive?” Patty asked, her voice stiffening with resolve.
Allie nodded. “Last I saw, but Shean is right. There’s nothing we can do. They have near a dozen dragons now, and Draco could already be dead for all we know. We lost.”
“And you helped them,” Patty said, shaking.
Shean looked to Allie, frowning with doubt.
“Not…,” she stuttered. “I mean, I didn’t… mean to.”
Patty bit her lip, visibly retraining herself.
“They forced you?” Shean asked, all of his forced joviality gone.
Allie looked to Patty who refused to meet her gaze. “Yes, but it’s my fault all the same.”
Shean let out a sigh, exhaustion plain on his face as he turned to Patty. “It doesn’t matter why anymore. Only that it can’t be changed. We have to move on. Go to the city. All of us.”
“I refuse to leave,” Patty said, suddenly looking at Allie with a fire in her eyes. “I have to go back.”
“Draco might already be dead,” Allie said, feeling defeated.
“He’s not dead,” Patty said, gesturing toward her lion. “Jade is his Claimed. I’ll know when he dies.”
“There’s nothing you can do,” Allie said. “You’re one lion against a dozen dragons.”
“I can fight,” Patty growled. “And I will. With or without your help.”
Allie looked to Shean who shrugged.
“I’d prefer to keep you both alive,” he said. “My chances of succeeding are slimmer back there, but I’ll follow if need be.”
Then they both looked to Allie. She knew it was helpless. That they would be going back to their graves. But if there was even the slightest chance she could make a difference before her life was done, she wanted to take it.
“Okay,” she said finally. “But we’re going to need a really, really good plan.”
Seems like a good time to address The Climb. And the best way to address it is in contrast to the pit of despair.
One way to look at your plot is as a series of falls and climbs. Your character may have started the story in a pit, in which case your entire plot is about their climb out of the pit.
Or the opposite may be true, where your character is slowly falling into a pit the entire story. But, assuming your story isn’t a tragedy, at some point they need to climb back up.
This chapter is about Allie starting her climb. The entire story so far she’s been swept along. A bystander to the story. All of her decisions have been either to run or comply. This is the first time she’s decided to stand her ground for what’s right.
In most stories, the character’s turning point is when they finally take ownership of their lives. They’re structured this way because this control/power over their lives is the real fantasy. Dragons, magic, etc. represent power over your life.
Experiencing a story where the character climbs to the top and takes control of their lives allows the reader to experience a catharsis. It makes them feel like they can do the same in their lives. (Which they can)
So, until your character takes ownership over the story, your readers won’t be satisfied. Otherwise, it’s just the plot happening to your characters – exactly how many of your readers might feel in real life.
That’s not escape. That’s not inspiration. It’s just added stress.
So when your characters triumph. When they climb. Make sure it’s somehow because of their decisions, their agency.
They’re climbing a mountain. Not riding an escalator.