Allie knelt beside Miguel’s body, her hand wavering over his head. His eyes rolled around unfocused as if unaware of his surroundings, only to connect with hers for the briefest of moments.
He was alive in there somewhere, changed forever. And yet he was responsible for Draco’s death.
Allie’s hand shook over his head as she struggled with what she was about to do.
Frank knelt gently beside her, digging into the sand that lined the stadium floor. “Draco wanted to bring him to his sister. We can still honor that.”
Serenity stood behind them both, her eyes fixed on the sand she dared not look at Miguel’s body. It was all she could do to refrain from attacking him, no matter how helpless.
Patty’s eyes were distant, absently petting Jade as she watched Allie making her decision. Miguel had done more than take Draco from her. He’d taken her entire village. Her mother. There would be no mercy for him if it was up to her, but that’s not what Draco wanted.
Sensing her pain, Jade purred reassurance, nuzzling Patty’s hand.
Finally summoning the nerve, Allie placed her hand on Miguel’s forehead. His eyes continued to wander, unseeing, but his body stilled at her touch.
She felt the tension leave him as she closed her eyes. She focused on his breathing, ragged and uneven.
Reaching out was natural, as instinctive as Claiming, only there was no response.
Broken images flashed through Allie’s mind, unintelligible and disorienting. “Your sister,” she whispered, frustrated. “Where’s your sister?”
The images continued. They may have been people or places for all she knew, but none of them were discernible.
“Miguel,” Allie whispered again, refused to give up. “Show me your sister.”
Miguel stiffened at his name, his eyes meeting hers just long enough to be on purpose, and an image appeared in her mind. Or, rather, a series of images, all of the same person.
A baby on his arms. A little girl with bows in her hair. A teenager scowling at him. A middle-aged woman with sadness in her eyes. An old woman with a cane in an alley, turning her back. And it turned out Allie recognized the street. Then the images became scrambled once again.
With a sigh, Allie removed her hand, rising to her feet as Frank did the same.
“Well I know where to start,” she said, meeting the gaze of her companions one by one.
Frank nodded firmly. The others had no response.
“It’s what he wanted,” Allie continued, raising her chin.
Patty pressed her lips together into a thin line, but eventually nodded as well.
Serenity remained unmoved, her mind on other things. Past things.
Allie let her shoulder slink a little as she glanced at Claire, Shean’s body draped on her back next to Draco’s.
“We should bury them both first,” Allie said, breaking the silence. “Before I go searching.”
“I’ll bury Drumond,” Serenity said, standing up straighter.
“We’ll help you,” Frank said, his chin wavering as he held back his emotions.
“No,” Serenity said, “I need to bury him alone.”
Allie nodded. “And I need to bury Shean,” she said. “Also alone.”
Allie and Serenity made eye-contact, each nodding to the other.
“When I’m done, I’m leaving,” Serenity added, her voice breaking ever so slightly.
“To chase down the others?” Patty asked, a hint of eagerness in her voice.
Serenity shook her head. “No. I’m going alone, and for no other purpose than to be alone. I need time… space.”
Patty scrunched her eyebrows in confusion. “You’re leaving us? What about family?”
Serenity smiled. “You have your family,” she said, nodding to Allie and Frank.
“And the city?” Allie asked, eyeing the townspeople peaking down into the stadium. “Aren’t you their Queen?”
Serenity sighed. “Let them rule themselves… unless you want to rule them?” She offered Allie. “You do have two dragons now. More powerful, even, than me at the moment.”
Allie frowned at the idea, unable to comprehend the full meaning of Serenity’s words. The idea of more power than she’d ever dreamed… didn’t feel right. She had no desire to be Queen.
“No,” she found herself saying. “I may have been born in the city, but I don’t belong here. I don’t want to belong here. I want to go back to the farm.”
Frank smiled, looking back and forth between Serenity and Allie. “Would you have any room for a stable-hand on this farm?”
Allie smiled back. “I should think so. I may even have room for a little sister if she’ll have us…” she said as she looked to Patty.
Patty’s lips trembled as she held back her tears, her face contorting in the effort. “I’m not going anywhere near the pigs,” she finally managed, nearly choking with emotion.
“Oh come on,” Allie said, beaming. “They’re really quite majestic animals.”

——

Lots of topics to cover here at the end…

First off, I want to thank everyone who took the time to read this story. I realize it can be quite frustrating to wait this long to finish a book, but it also gives a good indication of just how long it takes to write a story.

I wrote each chapter the week it was published without exception, and did no editing. I’m sure that was obvious at times, but, again, it gives a good indication of how a first draft looks. It’s messy and a grind, which I hope gives any aspiring writers the freedom to proceed. It’s not going to be perfect the first time. Keep working at it.

I intend to self-publish this book for anyone who doesn’t want to read it in blog form, but only after it’s gone through a round of editing. This can also give an idea of how different a chapter can be after a round of editing for anyone interested in that.

I will continue the blog primarily through short stories self-contained in each individual blog, so I hope you enjoy them! And I’ll continue to tackle writing principles after each short story.

Now for the breakdown of the actual chapter:

The last chapter. The very end. Should be about catharsis.

I spent the entire book attempting to build up your emotions, and now, at the end, this is my attempt to allow you to release them. A sigh of relief. A spark of hope. Whatever you want to call it, it’s supposed to be satisfying.

In the very beginning, I had no idea what this story would be about, but it eventually became clear that it was about justice and mercy. Absolute freedom vs. Rigid judgement vs. Mercy. Draco, through all his faults, stood for mercy.
And even though he died. He also won, because mercy won. And in that way, he truly has become Immortal. He lives on through his friends (and wife) who are forever changed because of his actions.

This in of itself should be good enough to bring a sigh of relief, whether consciously done or not. But as I’ve already implied, it’s not a self-contained character arc. All of the characters are tied to each other.

Draco’s mercy is the catalyst to Serenity’s character arc. Not completed within the story, but hinted at.

Simultaneously, Allie has been shown how to wield her new power. For her, it wasn’t just about taking control of her life, but what to do with that control.

And then there’s Patty, her family taken from her, and a new one given; the beginning of a whole new story, and a representation of Allie at the beginning of her arc.

All of these arcs tied together and represented by the one decision to show what little mercy they could to the person they hate. I didn’t plan that ahead of time. It’s merely the natural conclusion to the story of these characters.

Now, I’ll end this chapter with one last topic: sequels.

I do not intend to write a sequel to this story. But it is written in such a way that there could be a sequel, or there could not. I could end the story right here. Or I could continue it. Both are completely viable. And if you’re a new writer, I highly recommend you approach your story in this way. Allow me to explain.

If you go into a story intending for it to be a trilogy, that’s cool. More power to you. But that becomes a problem if you’re also trying to sell that story to an agent or publisher.
Publishers do not typically trust new writers to deliver on trilogies. They might give you a chance for one book, maybe. And that one book cannot end with a cliffhanger, because you just don’t know if you’re ever going to get to write the next book or not.

What does this mean? That if you’re a new writer, you have to prove yourself by writing a great satisfying story in a single novel. You don’t have multiple books to prove it to them. Just one. So you better know how to end a story right. How to provide that catharsis necessary for the reader.

This is why you read so many trilogies where the first book reads like its own story. Because the writers didn’t know if they’d get another two books to finish it. So when they do, they tack on the other books to the original story. They still had a plan in place in hopes that they’d get more books, but they needed to write a satisfying story in the first place. So how do you do that?

Don’t hold back. Give them everything you have in the first book. End the story in a satisfying way. And if, in the process, you’ve given the readers a world that captures their imagination and characters they want to spend more time with, you’ll get your chance to tell more of the story.