Shean locked eyes with Allie as Stephen’s blade pierced his skull. He’d never had a family before. No one to die for until Allie.
He had just enough time to smile before everything went dark. Wind rushed past his ears as he fell. Then nothing.

——

Allie reach out to catch Shean, but he was too far away. There was nothing she could do for him anyway. He was dead as he fell, a small smile etched on his face.
Stephen flipped the knife in his hand and threw it at Allie. She saw the knife just in time, throwing herself flat against Claire.
Anger overtook her as the knife passed over her shoulder, biting into Claire’s hide.
With a shout, she threw herself at Stephen, attempting to tackle him off of his dragon. She managed to wrap an arm around his neck, throwing all of her weight into the chokehold.
“Traitor,” he hissed as he broke her hold with a sweep of his arm, following up with an elbow to her jaw.
Her vision darkened for the briefest of moments as she rolled backward down his dragon’s back.
Just then, both of the dragons rolled, still grappling for dominance. Claire was worn down, but unburdened by Allie’s weight as she tore at the other dragon.
As the dragons rolled, Allie was nearly thrown clear of the fight, but barely managed to grab hold of the dragon’s leg.

——

Camore and Horn reluctantly let their wild dragons go, forced to follow Stephen’s orders. They had new enemies to worry about, turning to face the swarm of Claimed flying toward them.
The four riders carrying torches flew straight toward Camore. None of them engaged right away, taking their time in sizing him up.
Jade was one of them, riding on Jade’s back. She carried a blazing torch as she circled Camore, looking for an opening to attack. Three others held similar torches, including Draco, who’d commandeered one of the guard’s horses.
Their four torches were the only ones they’d managed to scrounge up before rushing in to attack, making them the only chance of taking down Camore.
Patty climbed higher into the sky to avoid Camore’s tail just as Draco’s horse slammed into Camore’s side.
With a lunge, Draco dragged his torch across Camore’s wing, attempting to set it on fire. But before it could catch, Camore spun, knocking the torch out of Draco’s hand while simultaneously snapping the head off of a guard with its teeth. His torch went out as he fell through the sky.
Patty saw the opening, bringing Jade down hard on Camore’s head. Jade slashed at its back as Patty jabbed her torch into its face.
Camore let out a roar as it raked its claws across Jade’s body, flinging her off of him before Patty’s torch could set him aflame.
Camore spun, following Patty as if to finish the job, but Draco interfered, slamming his horse down on its back. The horse clawed deep past Camore’s scales just as the fourth guard faced the dragon head on.
Foolishly, he flung his torch at Camore’s face.
Furious, the dragon pumped its wings, knocking Draco off balance just as Camore snapped the other guard in half.
Draco’s horse launched away from Camore, joining Jade as they circled the dragon. Patty’s was the only torch left.

——

Horn dove in and out of the Earth, picking off his enemies one by one. Serenity rode a lion, forced to hover above the ground where Horn last disappeared.
“We can’t hit him hard enough!” Frank yelled from the back of his horse. “Not while he’s using the ground as protection.”
“Be patient,” Serenity yelled back. “Ground or not. Dragon or not, we have to try.”
Just then, Horn exploded from the ground, wrapping its jaws around the last remaining guard and dragging him back underground.
Serenity and Frank climbed higher in the air with their Claimed, watching the Earth for signs of movement.
For seconds. Minutes, there was silence as Horn waited for the Serenity and Frank to move closer to the ground. Close enough for him to surprise with an attack, but they maintained their distance.
Finally, Horn emerged, clearly agitated as it flew at its enemies. Frank intercepted the dragon, letting Serenity fly higher into the sky.
Horn snapped at Frank’s horse, roaring in aggravation as Frank led him on a narrow chase. All the while, Serenity climbed higher, watching for her moment.
Eventually, when she deemed they’d climbed high enough, she urged her lion downward, gaining momentum as they sped toward the dragon.
Frank repeatedly spun in the air, barely managing to avoid Horn’s claws as Serenity barreled toward him.
Just before Serenity arrived, Horn caught Frank in his claws. Frank was ripped from his Claimed, thrown to the air just as Serenity’s lion slammed into Horn’s head.
The lion was half as big as Horn and had hit him with as much force as she could muster, but Horn was unfazed.
Horn spun in the air with Serenity and her lion still attached. Then, catching them off guard, he plunged toward the ground, slamming Serenity into the Earth.

——

Stephen’s dragon roared, trying to shake Allie free from its leg as Claire bit at its neck.
Allie’s arms shook with the strain of holding on to the dragon, all too aware that she wouldn’t be able to hold much longer.
Stephen frowned at her, but made no effort to reach her as she clung to his dragon’s legs. Instead, he gazed into the distance, communicating with his dragons.
Suddenly, Stephen’s dragon managed to twist itself around Claire, breaking her hold on him. Then, with a sickening crunch, he sunk his teeth into Claire’s neck.
Claire immediately sunk through the air, limp.
Then, able to hold on no longer, Allie feel through the air after her.
With a satisfied grin, Stephen left them to fall and steered his dragon through the clouds, eager to deal with Drumond and Sarah personally.

——

Camore flew right at Patty, identifying her torch as the last remaining threat.
Patty and Jade dove underneath the dragon, twisting in the air in an attempt to avoid the dragon’s wrath, but Camore was too fast.
The dragon managed to hook Jade with one of its claws, yanking them to the side with a force that nearly knocked Patty off of her back. Even as she struggled to stay on Jade, Patty tried to catch Camore’s leg with the torch, but the flame wouldn’t take.
With gritted teeth, Draco flew straight into Camore’s leg, trying to break its hold on Jade, but his horse wasn’t strong enough.
Camore flapped its wings in a fury, twisting its neck around just enough to catch Draco’s horse in its teeth. Then, with a twist of its jaws, it flung the horse to the side.
Draco jumped just in time to catch Jade, pulling himself up next to Patty as his horse fell through the air.
“Give me the torch,” he said, breathless.
Patty pressed her trembling lips firmly together. “But… I can fight. I’m not going to go hide. Not this time.”
“I know you can fight,” Draco said, watching as Camore reared its head back, preparing to bite into Jade next. “You’re so brave, little one. Your mom would be proud.” And with that, he snatched the torch from her hand and lit himself on fire.
Ignoring Patty’s look of horror, he leaped onto Camore as the flames took hold, climbing up its leg.
The move caught Camore off guard, shocking it into hesitating, its jaws poised over Jade and Patty. With a roar, it tried to bite at Draco instead, but it couldn’t quite reach him.
With the flame now roaring around Draco’s body, Camore’s leg finally caught on fire, slowly at first, and then quickly spreading down its body.
In searing pain, Draco forced himself to keep climbing, working his way up Camore’s torso until he finally reached its head.
Soon, Camore’s entire body was covered in flames. Only then did he finally release Jade from his clutches. All four of them fell through the sky. Patty and Jade in pain. Draco and Camore in flames.

——

Stephen broke through the clouds just as Camore burst into flames, falling through the sky.
With a snarl, he flew past the dying dragon, forcing himself to focus on Horn instead. Only two of his dragons remained, but with Claire out of the fight, his enemies had none. He intended to make sure it stayed that way.
Suddenly, Horn emerged from the ground with a victorious roar. Behind him, both Frank and Sarah were sprawled on the ground, their bodies actively trying to mend themselves back together.
Stephen landed his dragon next to their bodies. “Good boy, Xaen,” he said as he slid to the ground.
As he looked down at Frank and Sarah’s beaten bodies, he was surprised to find mixed emotions welling up inside him. Relief at the victory, and yet disappointment as well.
Years spent in pursuit of absolute freedom, and it he finally had it. Earned through the blood of his fellow gods and their pets. It had taken far too long to accomplish, and yet… it felt unfinished. He was unsatisfied. And as he stared down at Serenity’s slowly healing body, he realized why.
It wasn’t enough to have freedom. He needed revenge. And with that realization, he allowed himself to breathe more easily. Yes, revenge. And he was about to take it.
Feeling more sure of himself, he grabbed Serenity’s unconscious body and dragged it on top of Xaen. “Now for Drumond,” he said as he flew back into the sky, Horn at his side.

——

Allie blacked out as she hit the ground. Distant in her consciousness, she felt her body break at the impact of the fall.
Then she felt nothing. Thought nothing. Time was eternal, and yet had stopped. Then, eventually, light broke through.
Words, thoughts, and images reformed in her mind as she fought to stand. Her muscles trembled, but held enough to climb to her knees. Then she managed to open her eyes.
Claire stirred next to her, mere feet away. Allie could feel her pain as she stumbled toward her. Her dragon let out a pitiful roar as she rose her neck, muscles trembling more visibly than Allie’s.
“Take your time,” Allie whispered, gently laying her hand on Claire’s wing. “The fight is already lost.”
Claire let herself back to the ground, following Allie’s advice in preserving her energy. It wasn’t until that moment that Allie noticed the mound laying several paces past Claire.
The heap was colored just like the ground, camouflaged as it recovered its strength. The wild dragon Allie had saved from Stephen.
Hope flared within Allie as she was hit with the realization. She had the opportunity to continue the fight. All she had to do was Claim the struggling dragon.
Making her decision, she sprinted toward the dragon, her chest tight with anticipation. Her body rebelled against her, protesting the limits of its health, but she refused to listen, pushing herself to catch the dragon before it was too late.
The dragon raised its head, alert, just as Allie leaped onto its back. And with all of her strength, she held her hand against its head, attempting to force a bond.

——

The sound of their impact was the only thing that alerted Draco to the fact that they’d hit the ground. The rest of his senses were blinded by the pain of the flames, and yet he still clung to the bonfire called Camore.
Jade pumped her wings, managing to slow their fall just before crashing into the ground next to them. One of her legs snapped as they hit, the impact of the fall throwing Patty from her back.
Draco forced himself to crawl, every motion pure agony as his body fought the flames. Blindly, he clawed his way forward. With every pull against the dragon’s scales, he tricked himself, convinced that the next pull would bring him free of the fire. The next. And the next.
He had nearly fallen unconscious by the time he managed to finally pull himself free of Camore. He would have never realized except for falling off of Camore and onto the cracked Earth. The flames ate at his body all the same, refusing to let him recover.
“I suppose I should thank you for going out with a fight,” Stephen said, kicking dirt over Draco. “It would have been disappointing any other way.”
The flames enveloping Draco began to die as Stephen continued to kick dirt over him.
“I’m quite tempted to let you burn,” Stephen continued, “and I still just might. But I haven’t come all this way just to stab you in the back. No, I want to watch your eyes fade as you die.”
As Stephen continued to layer Draco with dirt, he became increasingly aware of his aching body. Feeling returned to his limbs as he became acutely aware of the searing flames.
Finally, the fire died down enough that Draco regained control of his eyes. When he opened them, he found himself laying face-up, looking at Stephen’s menacing grin, Xaen and Horn framing the sky behind him.
Then Stephen raised his knife.
Stephen’s grin grew wider. “Did Miguel tell you, Drumond? I was hoping he might.”
Draco tried to roll to the side, but his muscles had yet to reform, still fighting the active flames.
“A glass blade,” Stephen said. “Made special for the king.”
Then, with a steady hand, Stephen brought the knife down to Draco’s chest, resting the tip of the blade on his half-exposed heart.
“You’ve had your run,” Stephen whispered. “It’s my turn, but don’t you worry. I’ll take care of your wife for you.”
Draco tensed, his eyes widening as he tried to move his arms, hardly managing to raise them off the ground.
Stephen laughed, pressing the glass blade so it cut into his heart. A shallow cut, bringing a slow bleed.
Suddenly, the Earth shook with a chorus of roars.

——

Allie flew Claire over the fire, aimed directly at Stephen and Draco. Physically, Claire was weak, not fully recovered from her injuries, but Allie could feel the rage flowing through her. She was ready to fight.
Beside her flew Bael, her new dragon, equally ready to fight as he fed off of her emotions.
Before Stephen’s dragons could rise to meet them, Allie leaped off of Claire, landing directly on Stephen’s back.
As she threw everything she had into her chokehold, her dragons clashed with Stephen’s head-on. Bael thrashed at Horn as Claire wrestled with Xaen. The last of the standing dragons.

——

Serenity was thrown off of Xaen as he launched himself into the sky. Half-conscious, she attempted to catch herself as she hit the ground, but to no avail.
Her body was still healing where Stephen had injured it, done in the attempt to keep her subdued, but he had left her alone for too long.
Slowly, she climbed to her feet, stumbling in the process.
Looking around her, she found a pile of flames littering the sky-line with dragons clashing overhead. But what most caught her attention was Stephen stumbling backward as he fought to free himself from Allie’s grasp.
Then Draco rose from the ground, looking paler than she’d ever seen him.
As soon as she saw him, she found herself running, gaining momentum as her body healed.

——

Draco stumbled to his feet, holding his right hand over his heart. Even as his skin healed, he could feel his heart continue to bleed.
Stephen stood before him, throwing Allie back and forth as she clung to his neck. With wild jabs, he managed to stab Allie repeatedly with his glass blade, but it wasn’t enough to break her hold.
Allie yelled victoriously all the while in his ear, pausing only to bite at his neck.
Draco dragged his feet forward, determined to help her finish the job, but he was too slow.
Before he could reach them, Stephen managed to free himself from Allie by slashing her wrists. She let go, falling to the ground just as Draco attempted to tackle him to the ground.
Stephen nimbly stepped out of the way as Draco fell to his knees, but before Stephen could take advantage, Serenity appeared, seemingly out of nowhere.
Before he could react, Serenity tackled Stephen to the ground, knocking the knife out of his hand.
Draco watched as Stephen rolled on top of her, pinning her shoulders. He tried to stand, to run to her aid, but he was too weak.
Then Stephen lunged for his knife, Serenity still pinned to the ground.
Draco got to his feet, only to fall again. “Sarah,” he whispered, unable to speak any louder.
Stephen grabbed his knife, holding it over Serenity.
“No,” Draco said, climbing to his feet once more. “Sarah!” He yelled hoarsely, managing to throw himself at Stephen.
Draco lost his balance as he crashed into Stephen knocking them both into the ground as Serenity rolled out of the way.
Draco tried to stand again, but he had already used everything he had to save Serenity.
Then Stephen was on top of him, knife in hand. “There’s no time to savor this,” he said. And then he plunged the blade into Draco’s heart and twisted, breaking the glass.
Draco mouthed two words as he died. Inaudible and unheard. “I’m sorry.”

——

Serenity rolled to her feet to find Draco lying at Stephen’s feet. Lifeless, his eyes half-open, a tear still on his cheek.
Serenity froze, uncomprehending as she stared at her estranged husband. She paid Stephen no mind as he moved toward her, her mind in shock.
Tears formed on her cheek, her body beginning to shake with despair.
It was Allie to came to her rescue, prompting her to fight. Allie to broke Serenity out of her haze. Then came the fury. The anger at Draco for leaving her yet again. The anger at Stephen for forcing him.
What came next was a blur as Allie and Serenity fought together, tearing Stephen down bit by bit until he finally lost consciousness.
It was only then that Allie’s dragons persevered. Horn was the first to go down, killed with a blow to the head by Bael. Then Xaen fell under the pressure of Claire and Bael, subdued long enough for Serenity to Claim him as her own.

———

I’m keeping this extremely brief since this chapter took so long to write.

Be fearless.

Don’t let expectations rule your writing, not your own or anyone else’s. Your story doesn’t have to look a certain way. End a certain way. Etc.
I suggest you be true to the characters. To their arcs. To use certain storytelling principles in order to write a satisfying story.
But those are just suggestions.
The only necessary thing to be a writer is to be fearless.
Write what you want to write. Don’t let fear get in your way.