Short Story: The Bench

I met my wife on this bench.
I was daydreaming, watching ducks float in the lake when I first saw her. She was running along the bike path, her face full of determination. I expected her to run right past, but she stopped right in front of me instead, kneeling to re-tie her shoes.
She shot me a quick glance as she knelt in front of me, her curly hair tied back in a bun, sweat dampening her shirt. Yet, despite her obvious exhaustion, she seemed… alive.
Nervous and suddenly sweating even more than her, I tried to think of something clever to say…
“I like your shoes,” I said, mentally kicking myself.
She gave me a quizzical look as she finished tying her pink running shoes and took out her earphones. “What?”
Supremely embarrassed, I looked into her eyes and managed a stutter. “Um, I said that I… like your shoes.”
She gave me a weird look, obviously unsure of what to make of me. I didn’t blame her.
“I mean… they look good on you, is all,” I said, giving her a tentative smile in an attempt to seem less creepy.
“Thanks,” she said, returning the smile, “your uniform looks good on you.”
My heart leaped. “Thanks. I iron it myself,” I said, smiling like an idiot.
She nodded sagely, a grin forming on her lips. “Isn’t that mandatory?”
I shrugged, declining to answer.
Her grin broke into a full-out smile. “So when do you ship out?” she asked.
I frowned. “Two days, actually. That’s why I came out here. To re-evaluate my life choices.”
She let out a full-throated laugh, her eyes sparkling as they looked back at me. It was the first time I’d ever made her laugh, and it’s still one of my fondest memories.
“Then we better make this time count then,” she said, holding her hand out. “I’m Sarah.”
I wiped the sweat off on my pants before taking her hand. “Andrew.”

“Then what happened?” Grant asked, taking notes in his little moleskin notebook.
I sighed, wiping away a tear from my eye as I looked out over the lake.
We were sitting on the wooden bench, still damp from the rain that morning. I didn’t mind, running my hand down the arm of the bench, dragging my fingers against the grain as I drug up memories long past.
“What was your project about, again?” I asked, eyeing the young boy.
“To ask a stranger their life story.” He said casually, his pen poised over the notebook.
I eyed him distrustfully for a moment. “It’s not a very happy story.”
Grant shrugged, looking at me expectantly.
“Alright then,” I relented.

I fell in love with Sarah over those next two days. She thought I was foolish for believing that, but it’s true.
She was smart. Smarter than anyone gave her credit for. And she never failed to make me laugh, even in my darkest moods. In a world full of so much suffering, she shined. A lone spark of hope.
But that third morning I left for war… It’s not something I like to talk about. And to tell you the truth, I’ve blocked much of it out. If I start dredging through memories… well, I’d rather not.
Suffice it to say that I was deployed for two years, but only about a third of that time was spent fighting. The rest of those two years were spent thinking about Sarah.
I didn’t send her any letters. She told me not to. But I wrote them anyway and held on to each and every one of them.
But before I could come back to Sarah, I got injured.

Grant stopped writing just long enough to look down at Andrew’s arm, his eyes alight with curiosity.
“And then I came home early,” I said lightly, eyeing Grant.
“But…” Grant said, still staring at my arm.
“But what?” I prompted.
“But, how did it happen?” Grant asked nervously.
I shook my head at the boy. “I told you I didn’t want to talk about the war.”
Grant nodded, his face fallen in disappointment as he readied his pen for more notes.
I rolled my eyes. “My arm was blown clean off,” I said, raising what was left of my right arm.
Grant’s eyes widened, taken aback.
“And that’s all there is to it,” I said, lowering my arm.
Grant nodded vigorously, his eyes still focused on the stub sticking out from my sleeve.
“So,” I continued, “I went home early.”

I was embarrassed to see her again. I didn’t even want my mother to see me the way I was then. I felt half a man.
Still, I looked for her, hoping that when I found her she would look past my injury.
I had built up this image of her while I was away. I imagined her just as she was when I first saw her. I thought about what I would do when I saw her again. What I would say.
We had arranged to meet at this same bench. I arrived early, dressed in my military uniform and sweating with nerves. I was close to bursting with anticipation when I saw her walking down the bike path, just like that very first day.
When I saw her, all other thoughts escaped my mind. The only thing I could think about was how lucky I was to see her again.
She wore a flower dress with sandals, her hair loose around her shoulders. Her eyes lit up when she saw me, a smile breaking out on her face.
I stood, fidgeting with my hand as she walked toward me, unsure of what to do. I wanted to run to her, but didn’t want to make a fool of myself.
I knew the exact moment she noticed my missing arm, her smile faltering, her eyes squinting in concern.
“Didn’t you have two of those before?” she said, her eyes twinkling.
I smiled, feeling a weight lift from me. “They were pretty strict,” I said playfully. “I couldn’t leave early unless I left a part of me behind.”
She came to a stop right in front of me, smiling as if no time had passed at all.
Blindingly nervous, I gave her half a hug before taking a seat.
“How are you?” I asked, nervously fiddling with my jacket.
She sat on the bench next to me and took my hand in hers. “I’m good,” she said… “A lot has happened.”
I nodded, focused on the warmth of her hands. “For me too, obviously.”
“Was it terrible?” she asked, her eyes full of concern.
“The war? Not really. Not most of it anyway.”
“And… losing your arm?”
I shrugged. “It wasn’t the most pleasant thing I’ve ever experienced, but it brought me back to you.”
She smiled sweetly, stroking my hand.
“What about you?” I asked. “Was it terrible… being here without me?”
She scoffed, rolling her eyes. “Not so terrible as losing an arm, I would think.”
I shrugged again, smiling back at her. That was when I noticed the ring on her finger.
For a few moments I just stared at it, trying to process what it meant.
“Are you engaged?” I choked.
Her face wilted. “Married,” she admitted.
I pulled my hand away, trying to hide the fact that I was shaking.
“I didn’t know how to tell you,” she whispered.
I shook my head, not knowing how to respond.
“I told you not to wait for me,” she said, a single tear falling down her face.
I couldn’t look at her, running my hand through my hair. I was shaking with anger. At her for moving on, but more so at myself for expecting anything else. She didn’t owe me anything.
I looked at her one last time, forcing the barest hint of a smile onto my face before walking away. I felt broken and lost, but I never looked back.

“But you got married,” Grant said, frowning at me.
I chuckled. “Yes, years later.”
“Can we skip ahead, then?”
I sighed, taking a swig from my bottle, watching the sun begin to set over the lake. “Might as well.”

Three years later, Sarah divorced her husband. I didn’t realize it at first. I wasn’t really in a place to keep tabs on anyone, seeing as I was dealing with my own things.
During those three years, my mother died suddenly. She had lung cancer. I spent all the money I had trying to treat her, but she died anyway.
We only had each other at the end, and then I had no one. She asked me to decide where to spread her ashes. I chose this lake. Not long after, I lost the house along with most everything else. Still, I never loved anyone else.
It was sometime after that when I found out Sarah was divorced. She had apparently tried to reach me for a long time before she finally succeeded. She found me at this very bench, watching over my mother.
I almost didn’t recognize her when she walked up to my bench. She had aged so much over those five years, but she was more beautiful than ever.
As soon as I recognized her, I pulled her into an embrace, overjoyed at the sight of someone I cared about.
She hugged me back, holding me even tighter when I eventually tried to pull away.
I don’t know how much time passed before we let go.
As soon as we sat down on the bench, I couldn’t help but look at her hands. There was no ring.
I proposed to her sixth months later. We were at this bench, and I read to her every letter I’d ever written to her over the years. We both cried. A lot. And it was the happiest day of my life.

“And you both lived happily ever after,” Grant said hesitantly.
I shook my head, gesturing around me with my hand. The park was empty except for my box full of letters and the ducks floating in the lake. “If we lived happily ever after, then where’s Sarah? I told you this wasn’t a happy story.”
Grant shifted uncomfortably. “Well, for a while then, at least, right?”
I nodded, already lost in my memories. “For a while.”

We were happy for a time, but like all things on this earth, it didn’t last. It turns out, Sarah wasn’t perfect, and neither was I.
I still loved her. More than she ever knew. But marriage was hard. Even harder than war.
I hated myself for thinking this, but I began to understand why my father left us when I was little. It didn’t make what he did any better, but at least I understood. He was weak, and so was I.
I eventually turned to alcohol. It became my crutch. My escape from the stresses of marriage and the memories of war.
It was reasonable at first, but then it got worse and worse until it had taken over my life. Alcohol had enslaved me, and it had enslaved our marriage.

“So you got divorced?” Grant asked, strangely somber.
“Not divorced,” I said, “but separated. She was right to leave me. She deserved better.”
Grant’s hands shook, for once not taking notes. “I’m sorry.”
I shrugged. “It’s not your fault. The blame was entirely on me. Anyway, before she left me, we had a child. A little boy named Bryan. He was fourteen months old when she left with him.”
“And you never saw them again?”
I kept my gaze on the lake, trying to hold myself together. “No. That was about twenty years ago.”
Grant hesitated before closing his notebook and setting it inside his backpack. “How long have you been homeless?”
I gave him a look before taking another swig from my bottle. “I’d say nineteen years or so. There aren’t a lot of jobs for amputated veterans without a degree. It doesn’t matter, though. I’m fond of this bench. Better times and all that.”
Grant wiped away a tear as he looked into my eyes. “And you get to be with your mother.”
“Exactly,” I said, smiling as I placed the bottle next to my box.
“But you never tried to reach out to her?” Grant asked. “To see your son?”
I frowned at him. “Of course I did, but she wanted nothing to do with me. They moved out of town and on with their lives.”
“And you stayed here,” Grant said, a hint of accusation in his voice.
“Here is home,” I said defensively. “If they ever want to see me again, this is the only place she’ll know where to find me. So it’s here that I stay.”
“But you’re still drinking,” said Grant.
I stopped mid-swig, looking Grant in the eyes. “Like I said, I’m weak.”
Grant stood, sighing as he pulled his backpack over his shoulders.
“Thanks for your time,” he said as he dropped a dollar in my box and walked away.
I grunted, taking another swig from my almost empty bottle. It felt good to talk to another person, but it came with a price. My memories better forgotten were more vivid; more painful.
Then I noticed the markings on Grant’s dollar. In pen were the words when you’re ready, followed by an address.
I snatched the dollar up, staring at it blankly, suddenly realizing who Grant really was. My heart leaped as I threw the bottle at the ground, shattering it into pieces.
Clutching the dollar to my chest, I tried to run after my boy, but I was out of shape and he was nowhere to be seen.
I stumbled around the lake a couple of times, hoping to spot him somewhere in the distance, but he was gone.
Both heartbroken and hopeful, I made my way back to the bench and picked up my letters. “By, mama,” I whispered, as I walked away from the bench.
My boy wanted me sober, so that’s what I was going to be.

When I sat down to write this piece, I liked the idea of writing an entire story in one location. But it is incredibly difficult to write an engaging story without significant movement.

So instead of telling a story in space, I tried to tell a story through time. The same location over years of time. Pretty neat in theory, but that brings a whole other issue of consistency.

To start at the beginning of the story and then jump through time in chronological order would be jarring for readers. Therefore, we need a narrator, someone to guide us (hopefully seamlessly) through time.

Hence, this story all centering around a single bench. I hope you enjoyed it!


Allie. Chapter 46. Catharsis.

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.

Draco. Chapter 45. Fearless.

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.

Allie. Chapter 44. The kill.

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.

Allie. Chapter 43. The Breakdown.

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.
“What the…”
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.