I fought the urge to gag on the stench of burnt flesh, unwilling to give my torturers the satisfaction.
Sarah, however, found herself retching on the ashen ground at my feet. Frank held her hair back, his face a blank slate of despair as he stared at the pile of bodies before us.
Neither of them acknowledged my presence, but I didn’t blame them. What do you say to someone when you hate them? When you love them? When you’re waiting to die with them? So I ignored them as well, keeping busy by familiarizing myself with our surroundings.
Dragons milled about all around us as the sun began to rise over the remains of their slaughter. They paid us no mind, but were our guards none the less. Ten dragons ready to tear us to pieces, and six Immortals to give the order.
Most of the Immortals had yet to bother approaching us, leaving Miguel to keep watch while they feasted through the night. It wasn’t until the sun had risen that finally saw what they feasted on.
That was the final straw as I doubled over next to Sarah, emptying my stomach along with hers.
“I owe Serenity a silver piece,” Frank muttered. “I bet her you’d break before dawn.”
I looked up, still dry heaving. “Only a silver piece?” I asked. “Huh. Conservative even unto death.”
Sarah looked up, wiping her mouth with the back of her arm. Her face was pale, her eyes unseeing as she stared at the bodies nearest to us.
I watched her for a moment, fighting the temptation to despair. “I can end things quickly for you both,” I offered Frank. “I remember your heels.”
“No,” Sarah snapped before Frank could respond.
“They’re going to torture you,” I said, softening my voice. “They’ll torture us in front of you. They have an eternity to break us. And, eventually, they will.”
“I won’t take the coward’s way,” Sarah said, her voice wavering. “Not like you.”
My reply died on my lips.
“I’ll kill you if you like,” Miguel said, knives spinning in his hands. “Just tell me how and I’ll make it quick. It’ll be my pleasure.”
I shot him a look as my stomach finally settled, allowing me to rise to my feet. “How merciful of you.”
Miguel frowned, his eyes distant. “It is a mercy.”
Behind him, the other Immortals were gathering, making their way toward us, their clothes soaked with blood.
“We do not deal mercy,” Frank said, helping Sarah to her feet. “Nor do we accept it.”
I shook my head at their pride, but kept my mouth shut as the others approached.
“My King and Queen,” Stephen said, his voice mockingly smooth. “Have you found your accommodations to your liking?”
Neither of us responded, my fists tightening to the point of drawing blood.
“Does the royal couple have nothing to say?” Brianna hissed, her eyes wide with disdain.
“Where’s my dragon?” Miguel interrupted, feigning boredom as he spun his knives.
“You are free to hunt, brother,” Stephen said, biting off his words. “But we will not be giving you our own.”
Miguel frowned at that, but kept his mouth shut as Stephen stared him down.
“It’s the same with all Immortals,” Brianna said a little more gently. “We are to earn our own dragons.” As she spoke, three dragons crawled up next to her, followed by four more dragons, all of which gathered around Stephen. The other three Immortals were left with one dragon each.
“It doesn’t matter how many dragons you have,” Frank said, holding his chin high in the air. “You will never be our King or Queen.”
Stephen strolled up close to Frank, measuring him with his eyes. “We never intended to rule. Only to conquer.”
“And now that we have,” Brianna said, “there’ll be peace among Immortals. We’ll finally be free to live as we see fit. To take our place over the humans as is our right.”
“You’re no better than humans,” I said, emboldened by Frank’s defiance. “You have no right to rule them. You have no claim over their lives.”
“We have every claim,” Stephen snapped. “Our right is given by our power. We give life and death as we see fit. We are gods, Drumond. But you… you’ve forfeited your right to goddom.”
Suddenly, the dragons perked up, their ears open and alert. They seemed to sense something nearby.
“If you tell us your heels, we’ll do it quickly,” Brianna offered, her lips pursed tightly. “We’ve wasted too much of our lives on you already. Years away from our homes. There’s no need to draw it out any longer.”
I looked to Sarah, but she stood firm, her face hard will resolve. I didn’t want to see her suffer, but it was her choice, and the least I could do was take on her suffering with her.
“Do what you must,” I said eventually, steeling myself against what would come next.
Brianna pulled out a knife, her lips twisting into a thin smile. “If you insist.”
Suddenly, the dragons let out a series of growls, grabbing their Immortals’ attention. “Go then,” Stephen commanded, sending three of his dragons into the sky. It seemed as though they’d caught scent of some unfortunate prey.
Most of the other dragons joined them, fighting each other for position as they began their hunt.
I watched the dragons disappear into the clouds, leaving only two behind to keep watch. Both of which were clearly agitated at their forced restraint.
Suddenly, Brianna stepped forward and stabbed me in the right eye.
The shock, as much as the pain, knocked me to my knees. Brianna kept the blade lodged in my eye, not allowing it to heal. The pain, rather than receding, only increased as my body fought to remove the blade from my head.
“I can keep it here, you know,” she whispered. “Just hold it here for years. But don’t worry, I’ll make sure you keep your other eye so you can watch.”
With my one good eye, I saw Stephen pull a sword from his sheath and step toward Sarah. But I never saw what he was going to do, as, suddenly, the ground exploded beneath us.
All nine of us Immortals were thrown to the ground as a full-sized dragon emerged from the Earth, letting out a soul-shaking roar.
Claire had returned.
Setting a scene.
It’s pretty simple in theory, but it takes a lot of practice to get right. Plus, as you’d imagine, most of it comes down to preference anyway… but here are the basics:
Ground the scene as fast as possible.
Your reader’s imagination usually does the majority of the heavy lifting. But if you don’t give them a starting point – something to hold onto – then you’re leaving them blind.
For this reason, most chapters tend to start out by describing the environment of the scene. But this is where subjectivity comes in…
Some people like to know the exact dimensions of the room, and how many petals are on the flowers sitting on the table, and exactly what kind of wood that table is made out of… and some people don’t.
Generally, the older your audience, the more patient they are, the more details you include. But then again… people aren’t really patient no matter how old they are. Very few people want to read three pages of descriptions before the chapter gets interesting.
Reveal information only as needed.
Sometimes you don’t want your reader to know something about the scene until the end. Sometimes you might want to wait until someone leaves before revealing they had a crossbow to their back the entire time.
But, assuming you’re not purposely hiding information, you want to describe your main character’s immediate vicinity first, and the slowly zoom out as the scene goes on.
Ex: Bodies. Then Dragons. Then Frank and Sarah. Then Miguel. Then the other Immortals.
Or if it’s important to you that your reader knows exactly where your character is in the city, start on the whole and then zoom in.
Ex: Describe part of town. (Harbor district) Then the street. (Dark alley) Then the wall your character is leaning on. (White stone covered in dirt) Then what the character looks like/whatever they need to know about what’s going on in that alley/etc.
However you do it, it’s impossible to describe everything about everything, especially all at once.
Describe the tip of the iceberg and why someone is sitting on it. Imagination will do the rest.