The crowd of onlookers parted for Jade as she sauntered under the stadium arches. Draco watched their passing faces with a frown, contemplating the trouble he’d put them in by bringing the fight to the city.
Patty was silent as she stared at Miguel’s writhing body laid across Jade’s back, her face a thoughtful scowl.
As they entered the stadium, Draco realized with a start that it was no longer vacant. A dozen soldiers now stood in a circle around the pit, each one with their own Claimed animal. Draco counted two lions, the rest a mix of horses and dogs. None of them paid Jade any mind as she walked up to the sand-filled floor.
“You’re alive,” Serenity said, her face unreadable.
Draco slid off of Jade, dragging Miguel with him. “Barely,” he said, dropping Miguel in the sand.
Shean and Frank’s eyes simultaneously widened as they saw Miguel, their faces baffled.
“He broke a Blood Oath,” Draco explained, frowning down at Miguel.
“Serves him right,” Shean said. “Never seen it in person though.”
“What are we going to do with him?” Allie asked, looking confused.
Serenity glanced down at Brianna whose entire body went rigid. “Use him as an example.” She said with a smile.
“Miguel told me he has a sister in the city,” Draco said. “We can leave him with her.”
“After we make an example of him,” Serenity snapped as she grabbed the collar of Miguel’s shirt and dragged him through the sand toward Brianna, leaving him to writhe at her feet.
“Is… whatever it is… reversible?” Allie asked, paling.
“Not in the slightest,” Serenity replied, her eyes wild with satisfaction as she squatted down next to Brianna. Then she pulled out a knife and drew it across her palm. “Draw blood with me, daughter.”
Brianna clutched her hands to her breasts, terrified. “I choose death,” she hissed.
“Given easily enough,” Serenity said, looking around them. “I have twelve loyal guards here, each with swords of steel and sworn to serve me, but a quick death is more than you deserve. Have you ever been tortured with steel? Would you choose such a pain over dealing with me?”
“Gladly,” Brianna spat. “You can’t force an oath, and I won’t make it. My suffering will be short-lived, steel or not, once our dragons arrive. You lose, Sarah.”
Allie sighed, biting her lip as she surveyed their forces. Thirteen animals and a dragon. She watched Serenity massacre a larger force than this with only five dragons. There were at least seven on their way to do the same to them.
For what seemed like the hundredth time since they’d entered the city, she contemplated running, but she knew she couldn’t. Without Claire, it would be a true massacre, and whatever their faults, they didn’t deserve to die abandoned.
Serenity stabbed Brianna in the leg with her knife, slowly dragging it across her skin as she screamed in agony.
Allie considered giving Claire to Serenity. She wouldn’t owe them anything is she left her dragon behind. Or maybe she could give Claire to Draco. She used to be his, after all. He’d make better use of her in the fight to come.
Allie repeated the same thing over and over again in her head, but, in the end, she couldn’t do it. Frank was family. So was Shean and Patty, and Claire. A family fit to die for.
“Sarah,” Draco said, gently pulling her knife away from Brianna. “She made her choice. Stephen will be here any moment. We need to prepare.”
“We’re as ready as we’re going to be,” Serenity said, waving Draco away.
“Camor favors red in battle,” Frank announced as if on cue. “His heel is fire. Breen favors green and her heel is at the nape of her wing. And the third of Stephen’s dragons we know about is Horn. He doesn’t have a natural color, but he favors the underground. If you see a dragon avoiding the open sky, its likely him.”
“And his heel?” Allie asked.
“Blunt force,” Frank finished. “And the fourth dragon is unknown.”
“All that’s left is to kill Brianna and eliminate the other three dragons from the fight,” Serenity said, now standing over her with her knife. “Is that your final choice, daughter? Death? I could give you freedom. A life with your dragons if but swear an oath to fight with us in the battle.”
“You know my answer,” Brianna said, visibly shaking. “I’m not fooled, Sarah, and neither should any of you be!” She said, raising her voice. “To resist Stephen is to resist death itself! None of you have to give your lives for this woman!”
Serenity growled at her words, raising her knife over Brianna’s head.
“Sarah,” Draco called, not daring to repeat the mistake of tackling her. “We don’t have to kill her. We can still run. Find more dragons until we enough to even out the fight.”
“Oh Drumond,” Serenity sighed, knife still poised over Brianna. “You were always sweet. But a fool.” And with that, she drive her knife home right into Brianna’s skull.
Brianna fell to the ground, her eyes unseeing as the entire stadium held their breath. For mere moments there was complete silence. Then the chorus of roars erupted in the distance, echoing across the city.
“Brianna’s dragons,” Frank said, looking up at the sky. “They were close.”
“Then Stephen is close too,” Serenity said, pulling her blade free. “The fight is here.”
Allie’s heart raced as she climbed onto Claire and launched into the sky while the rest of them divided out weapons. Hovering above the stadium, she searched the sky, and there, just outside the city, she saw them. Several dragons flying around the clouds in a frenzy. It took her a moment to realize what was happening.
“He’s trying to Claim them himself!” She yelled down. “I have to stop him!” And without another word, she took off with Claire, flying right at the chaos of dragons.
The swarm of dragons diving in and out of sight was almost too much for Allie to follow. One dragon dove through the clouds, followed by another dragon snapping at its tail, trying to latch on so it couldn’t get away just another pair of dragons slammed into the ground, wrestling for dominance.
Allie directed Claire away from those pairs, searching for Stephen instead. With bated breath, they climbed higher through the clouds, emerging above them to find two dragons wrestling a third. Stephen was currently distracted, riding the largest of the three dragons, colored black.
Allie used the distraction to climb above their tangled mess, looking for an opening. The three dragons spun in the air, two on one, with Brianna’s old dragon stuck in the middle and clearly growing weaker by the second.
Throwing caution to the wind, Allie and Claire eventually dove into the fray, slamming into Stephen’s dragon.
Stephen cursed as Allie kicked at him from her perch atop Claire. She hadn’t thought to stop and arm herself, leaving her weaponless.
Stephen snarled at her while simultaneously seeming to size her up. Finally, he cursed again and detached himself from Brianna’s dragon just as his other dragon did the same.
The third dragon fell out of the sky as Stephen and his two dragons turned don Claire. Allie realized her mistake too late as the two dragons collapsed on them, tearing at Claire just as they had done to the other dragon.
Allie screamed as random claws dug into her back, tearing her skin along with Claire’s wings.
She forced herself to focus, holding on to Claire with all her might as she let out a constant stream of involuntary screams.
Even as a claw removed itself from her back, she managed to glance backward at the offending dragons. As far as she could tell, Stephen’s was the unknown, but she knew who the other was. She was green, called Breen, and her heel was at the nape of one of her wings. If only she had a weapon.
Allie could feel the life leaving Claire as the dragons bit and clawed at her hide. With every passing second, they were losing altitude, soon to be lost in the clouds.
Allie attempted to turn on Claire’s back, thinking to jump onto Breen instead, but found she couldn’t move, her muscles too busy reforming between stabs to perform anything more than staying in place.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered to Claire as she let out a pitiful moan. “I tried my best.” With as much force as she had, Allie wrapped her arms tightly around Claire, prepared to fall through the sky, when her allies finally joined the fight.
Three Claimed suddenly flew over them, their riders indiscernible through the haze of dragons. With coordinated effort, they barraged Stephen’s dragons, picking at them little by little, trying to get them off of Claire.
It soon became clear, however, that the dragons wouldn’t let go. They knew the claimed couldn’t break their hold or do any real damage.
Allie and Claire were quickly picking up speed as the holes in her wings grew larger, Stephen and his dragons relentless in their assault.
Then, suddenly, someone threw himself onto Breen. “I’ve got you, my Queen!” Shean yelled as he slammed his sword into the nape of Breen’s wing. Breen roared, but maintained its hold on Claire. “Oops,” Shean said, “other wing.”
And with that, he slammed his sword into the nape of the other wing. Breen immediately went limp, falling through the sky.
Just as Breen fell, Shean leaped off of Breen’s back in an attempt to make it back on top of his horse. Instead, Stephen caught him in mid-air, pulling him to his dragon.
Allie looked on in horror as Stephen held Shean’s neck, staring at him in seething silence. Then, without a word, Stephen ran a knife through Shean’s head and dropped him into the open sky.
Alrighty. Continuing the breakdown of an ending to a story.
Again, as the most important part of the story, it’s essential to understand why we write certain endings so you can make informed decisions regarding your own stories.
I had a vague idea of how I wanted this to go, but, as in most chapters, the characters surprised me when I sat down to write it.
For the sake of simplicity, lets consider Serenity, Allie, and Draco as the three main characters. If your ending isn’t satisfying for the main characters, then re-write it.
It’s nice to give Shean, Patty, and Frank, etc. Big moments, but the story isn’t about them. So when I go into a chapter like this, I have to make sure its the main characters having their moments.
Serenity and Draco are pitted against each other and are a focus for this chapter, but their real moments will come next chapter. Leaving Allie to be the driving force in the fight.
I didn’t plan for her to go on ahead, but as I started writing the sequence, it made perfect sense. It’s her (and her dragon/representation of power) against the main bad guy (and his dragons/representations of power) with the opportunity to make a difference. To save her friends and prove to herself that she matters.
She succeeds. And she doesn’t. But the important note here is that she tried. She stood up for herself. That’s a story in of itself and it’s what matters when you look at the story as a whole. She’s not just a cog in the wheel. She matters. (And therefore the readers who identify with her matter)
There’s more to say on this chapter, but nothing I haven’t already gone over in previous chapters. Use fight scene writing skills to bring clarity to the scene. Set up a character so it matters when they die. Etc.
Use everything you have in the end. It will be remembered.