The sun had just begun its climb back down for the day when they finally saw the city emerge on the horizon. They’d been forced to slow down as the day wore on, constantly looking over their shoulders, expecting an attack that never came.
“Maybe Stephen doesn’t care enough about Brianna to hunt us down…” Allie said, daring to hope as they approached the city.
“Doubtful,” Draco mumbled, pulling himself out of his melancholy. “Even so, we’d still have to deal with all three of Brianna’s dragons. Only a matter of time until they find her, and they won’t rest ’til they do.”
“I know one of her dragon’s heels,” Serenity said, her voice projecting a confidence that didn’t exist.
Frank nodded, willing himself to take what small comfort he could. “What heel is that, mother?”
“Wood,” Serenity said simply.
“Wood?” Allie asked, “how are we supposed to kill a dragon with wood?”
“A spear thrust deep enough through an eye should do it,” Frank said. “Simple enough.”
“See?” Shean interjected. “All we have to do is walk up a dragon’s face and stick a stick through its eye. All the sudden it’s only two on one. Easy pickings.”
Draco shook his head, watching as the city grew closer. “What about Stephen’s dragons?”
Serenity shot him a suffering look. “I recall three of the four heels.”
Patty popped her head up, still looking groggy from her sleep. “Three aint bad,” she said enthusiastically.
“Three out of four wouldn’t be bad at all if we were able to do anything about them,” Draco said, eyeing the city as they eclipsed the outer walls. “What we need to know is Stephen’s heel. It’s the only way to get out of this fight alive.”
Draco glanced at Jade flying behind them. She was still exhausted, but managing well enough now that she had less of a burden. Gently, he reached out to her and imaged the stadium below. “Allie,” he said. “You can have Claire follow Jade. She knows where to go.”
Moments later, they landed in sand still stained with blood. The stadium was empty save a single pair of men scrambling toward the exits.
“Everyone in the city saw us land here,” Serenity said as they slid off of Claire and into the sand. “Soldiers will be here soon enough.”
“At which point they’ll learn their Queen has returned,” Draco snapped. “Do you suppose they’ll fight with us? When they see seven dragons against our one, do you think they won’t turn on us? They’ve done it before.”
Serenity shook with frustration, clenching her fists. “I won’t apologize for ridding them of a tyrant.”
Draco bit his tongue, knowing a reply would only escalate the matter.
Silence fell upon them as Frank threw Miguel and Brianna into the sand. “What the soldiers will or won’t do is mute. There aren’t enough of them to make a difference either way.”
As soon as they hit the sand, both Miguel and Brianna began to stir, shaking themselves out of their blackouts.
“Then we force what we need from these two,” Allie said, looking down on the two concussed Immortals.
Draco saw fire in Patty’s eyes as she took a step toward Miguel, but Draco caught her arm, gently pulling her back. “We need him,” he whispered, squatting down to put himself level with her.
“He killed my mama,” she said, choking on her words. “My home…”
“I know,” Draco said, fighting back tears. “He deserves worse than death. But we’re not the ones to give it to him.”
Patty stared down at the sand, no longer able to look at her mother’s killer. “I promised her,” she whispered. “I promised he’d pay for what he did.”
The others watched in silence as they stood in a circle around Miguel and Brianna, who were just beginning to open their eyes.
“We’ll deal with him once we’ve won this fight,” Draco promised, resting a hand on her shoulder.
“We’re not going to win this fight,” she said, refusing to look at him as she walked back to sit with Jade.
Miguel was the first to sit up, rubbing this temples as he squinted at his captors. “So we made it all the way back, eh?”
Something about his casual demeanor made Draco snap. Not thinking clearly, he lunged for Miguel, punching him repeatedly in the face until his fist was as red as Miguel’s chin. Eventually, he rose to his feet, re-composing himself just as Miguel’s face did the same.
“Where are the others?” Brianna asked after a moment, her voice measured.
“We don’t need the others,” Serenity said, looking down on her. “We just need you.”
“You want to know our weaknesses?” Brianna guessed.
“Just Stephen’s would do nicely,” Frank said, his eyes unusually hard. “But we’ll take yours too, if you’re feeling generous.”
Allie shuffled her feet, making eye-contact with Shean as Miguel managed to sit back up, his face completely healed despite the blood staining it.
“You’ll get nothing from me,” Brianna replied evenly, her voice betraying something close to boredom. “The others can’t be far behind. You have maybe, what? An hour or two to torture me before they get here? No time at all. No leverage at all.”
Serenity snarled, her eyes turning wild. “We can have fun trying.”
“There’s no need for that,” Miguel said, smiling as if he hadn’t just been pummeled. “I can give you what you want.” Brianna shot Miguel a look of confusion, the tiniest bit of fear slipping through as Miguel continued. “Or, rather, part of it anyway.”
“What are you talking about?” Draco asked, holding his breath for fear that’d he’d lose his cool once more.
“Let me loose,” Miguel bargained, “and I’ll tell you Brianna’s heel.”
Miguel’s offer was met with silence, none of them daring to hope he was telling the truth.
“Alright, Miguel,” Allie said, when it was clear Serenity and Draco weren’t going to respond. “Tell us, and if you’re telling the truth, we’ll let you go.”
Miguel chuckled. “I’ve been alive far too long to believe such a promise. Let me go and then I’ll tell you.”
“Impractical and even less likely,” Draco said with a scowl. “You’re just going to have to trust us, Miguel.”
“I think not,” Miguel said, still smiling. “But I’ll tell you what. I’ll prove you can trust me…”
“Miguel,” Brianna hissed. “Don’t be a fool.”
Miguel ignored her. “I know someone else’s heel as well. And you can test it out here and now with no strings attached. Glass.”
Draco went stiff, his breath quickening.
“Good ole’ Draco’s heel is glass,” Miguel repeated, smiling wide. “Didn’t think I’d figured it out, did you? But I’ve studied heels, I’ve heard the stories, and I put them to the test over the last year. Who knew something as simple as glass could take down the mighty Drumond? Stephen was quite pleased to here it.”
Allie watched the tension in Draco dissipate, leaving him deflated. Even as she watched Serenity, she knew what Miguel said was true. Their worried looks confirmed it.
“What of Brianna’s heel?” Allie asked. “The truth will buy your freedom. On my word.”
Miguel eyed Allie with a mischievous grin. “I don’t believe you,” he said finally. “But I think I’ll tell you anyway. It’s fairly simple… most of them are after all…”
“Miguel,” Brianna warned, rising to her knees.
“Simple steel,” Miguel said, ignoring Brianna once again. “Steel to the abdomen. I’ve seen the scars.”
Brianna screamed, throwing herself at Miguel, but he rolled backward, letting Frank and Shean restrain Brianna for him.
“So,” Miguel said, rising to his feet, brushing the sand off of his clothes. “Do we have a deal?”
Serenity stepped forward, pulling a knife on Brianna, who was still being held by Frank and Shean. “We’ll have to test it first.” Then, with a grunt, she thrust her knife toward Brianna’s stomach.
“No!” Draco yelled as he tackled Serenity to the sand. The knife, already bloodied, fell out of her hands as they rolled across the ground.
“She deserves to die!” Serenity yelled, punching and clawing at Draco as hard as she could.
“She can still help us!” Draco yelled back, trying to extract himself from her claws.
Brianna knelt in the sand, holding an arm across her bleeding stomach. “Get me a cloth,” she pleaded, breathless as Serenity and Draco continued their tussle.
Allie ripped off a piece of her skirt and let Brianna staunch the bleeding.
“The cut was shallow,” Frank assured Allie. “She’ll live.”
Allie let out a sigh of relief just as Jade flew over their heads.
Then she saw Miguel running toward one of the stadium exits. He’d taken advantage of the chaos, having already climbed two-thirds of the way up the stairs by the time Patty noticed him.
As soon as he realized what was happening, Draco took off after him, but Patty and Jade had the head start. Before any of them could intercept Miguel, he disappeared through the archways and into the city.
Jade flew over the arches, touching back down on the crowded city-street. Swarms of people had gathered around the stadium, drawn to the excitement of the dragons, yet unwilling to draw attention to themselves by entering the stadium.
As Jade landed, the crowds scattered, screaming as they clawed their way from danger. “Move!” Patty yelled as Jade carefully made her way through the city, smelling her way toward Miguel.
Finally, Patty spotted him turning down an even bigger street filled with vendors.
Jade turned down the street, locked-in, yet forced to wait for people to move out of her way.
“Patty!” Draco yelled from somewhere behind her.
She ignored him, making ground on her prey. She had promised her mom.
Finally, they were almost on top of Miguel when he spun and threw a dagger right at her. Too late, Patty turned, trying to dodge the knife. Jade managed to pull up just in time to protect Patty, but the knife lodged deep in Jade’s leg.
Jade let out a roar as she stumbled in the street.
“Patty!” Draco yelled again, coming up on their heels.
Miguel’s look of satisfaction turned into one of determination as he frantically searched the buildings around him. Almost immediately, he let out a roar of victory as he ran to the nearest house and smashed its window, pulling out a shard of glass.
Draco didn’t blink as ran toward Miguel, weaponless and wild.
As calm as could be, Miguel let Draco come to him, the crowd around them fleeing for their lives.
With blind rage, Draco lunged for Miguel just as Miguel slammed the glass into Draco’s leg.
Draco crumbled to the ground, but forced himself to stand in the face of his death.
But death never came, as Miguel suddenly fell to his knees, foaming at the mouth. Slowly, he let the glass dagger fall from his hand, his eyes unseeing as he entire body convulsed. Then Draco finally understood.
The blood oath. Miguel had violated the blood oath.
Because the conclusion of the story is so important, I’m taking this chapter to breakdown my thought process going into the ending of this book.
We’re getting to the point where the smallest mistake can now ruin the story, because, typically, the ending of a story gives it’s definition. Meaning your story will be remembered for how it ends. A comedy is called a comedy when it has a happy ending. A tragedy because it has a sad ending. And even if a story is good all the way until the end, if its ending is bad, only the most forgiving of readers will look back on it as anything other than bad.
So let’s look at this chapter:
This was the first time in the entire story that I already knew what was going to happen before actually sitting down to write the chapter.
My goal here is to start tying up the loose ends before the final fight. We need to know all the stakes so we can be completely invested in the fight. We need to understand where everyone stands and conclude every arc in order of importance. (As explained in a previous chapter)
Primary in this chapter is Miguel:
He’s been a helpful villain since chapter 1. So I had him help us one last time before sealing his fate. There’s a final component to come in the next chapter, but his arc is ultimately coming to a close because of Draco, Patty, and Jade. All three of them had very good reasons to want revenge, so it was them who chased him down. He would have gotten away if not for Patty and Jade, and he would have beaten Draco if not for making the (semi) fatal mistake of forgetting his oath. He tried one too many tricks, and in the very same place as when we were first introduced to him.
Secondary is location:
As mentioned above, there’s something poetic/symbolic about returning to where the story began. There are practical reasons to go back, but it’s more about providing the reader with a feeling of completion. If the story had ended in a desert, there’d be an implicit message of unfinished business. The city means something important to all of these characters, and ending the story there carries more weight than it may seem at first glance.
Third was the set-up:
I had to plan this chapter out to make sure the ending was set-up well enough to be satisfying. If I was editing this book, I’d have the luxury of going back and doing it later, but alas…
Now we have:
Leverage over Brianna
An opportunity to settle Draco and Serenity’s beef represented by a singular conflict (what to do about Brianna)
A chance for (somewhat) evened odds in the fight to come
And clarity on the situation as a whole (how many dragons are likely coming and how many of them we know how to take down)
It’s these kinds of things you should be thinking about when writing the endings to your stories. We have three chapters left. The rest of the set-up, the conflict itself, and the results. Strap in.