I jogged at a steady pace through the jungle while howls of many dragons filled the sky like haunting music. Dragons only howled in extreme circumstances, and right now, many of the dragons were being injected with a deadly poison from a local tree frog in this area of the Patter Forest.
The King, Ross the “Great” wanted all dragons tamed and controlled by local Warlords to be loyal pets under the Kings dominion. It was far fetched, reckless and just plain stupid that Ross the Great had gone to such lengths to make his dream come true.
I myself tagged along on this newest mission to lure the dragons in with a strong peace scent so I could disable as many traps as possible. It was treason, yeah, but I couldn’t live with myself by not doing anything. I was allowed to come because I was a natural Healer, I could heal by drawing power from the earth. I could help any of the injured that would indefinitely come with this suicidal mission to bring the dragons under control, so I was using this opportunity to my full advantage.
I was meant to be back at the main trap site but I already had an excuse planned for later when I’d be questioned where I had disappeared to. I had disabled two outsider traps already, and there were at least 16 traps altogether. The central traps had already been successful so I only had a chance at disabling one more trap on the outside perimeter before it’d be too dangerous to be out in the open, especially with blood thirsty, revenge seeking dragons flying above. The only protection I had was the dense coverage which made it harder for the dragons to land.
I saw the last trap ahead of me and quickly went down on my knees to smother the rock that emitted the peace scent with mud. It would effectively counteract the scent and be disabled completely. It was as I finished smothering the scent rock that I realized just how quiet it was. In fact, it was deadly silent and that only meant one thing.
Every so slowly I raised my head and looked ahead, nothing, to my left, nothing, the slowly to my right. A glowing pair of blue-green eyes level with my head was staring straight at me. I sucked in a breath, fear closing off my throat and making my heart start to race at surely an unhealthy speed. I slowly made out the outline of the humungous black head, and the long glinting fangs, the length of a short sword. I closed my eyes in silent acceptance.
I was going to die.
Technically, this is only 450 words but it’s the full first chapter, so I’ll work with this.
What Works: Great hook; the protagonist is working to protect dragons, which is treason, but the dragons don’t know that she is on their side, so when she’s caught, she thinks the dragon will just kill her. Great start.
What Needs Work: Oh, so very much telling instead of showing, too much set-up, not enough action. Some awkwardness with the phrasing, too, although in general, the story is easy enough to follow.
The air hung heavy with the earthy promise of more rain mingling with the spicy musk of dragons. I jogged at a steady pace through the forest as dragons haunted the darkening sky, their howls eerily musical.
King Ross “The Great” had wanted me to accompany his army, knowing they would need a Healer. I had agreed, planning to commit treason.
I followed the scent of peace extract to a small boulder that came to the tops of my knees. It took several minutes to cover it with mud, but the forest floor had plenty to spare. There were at least a dozen more of these dragon traps, so I searched for the next one, hoping it would be smaller.
The clash of swords against dragon scales rung through the forest. I would be missed soon, as the dragons fought back against the king’s army. The dragons hadn’t started this war, but maybe, with my help, they would win it.
For me, if I didn’t want to be branded the traitor I was, and exiled, I’d have to maintain the appearance of fealty. The screams of warriors joined the dragon howls as I moved through the forest. The next trap was a rock only about as big as my foot. I kicked mud over it and moved on.
Peace extract was ensorcelled perfume. Ladies used it to calm themselves when their corsets got too tight, and men used it in battle when their broken limbs needed to be re-set or cut off. It was currently being used to trap dragons in a part of the forest that was too dense with tree cover to escape by flight.
The next boulder was half as large as the first. I coated it with mud as quickly as possible, fighting the urge to lay down next to it instead. At this moment, I had three enemies; the army, the dragons, and the weapon I was trying to diffuse.
I was already tired, and already needed back at the base. I was lured to the next boulder almost against my will. It was twice as big as the first one, almost as tall as me, and nearly perfectly round. This would take forever! I didn’t even know if I’d be able to resist the scent long enough to cover it up. I kicked the boulder in frustration. It wobbled and slid an inch or so on the muddy ground.
My breath caught. Could I – just roll it over? I nudged it with my shoulder and praised whatever gods might be listening when it spun away from me, almost as though it was eager to help. A few more nudges and a hefty shove later, the peace scent had been neutralized. I sagged against the side of the muddy boulder in relief.
This was definitely the biggest threat against the dragons. I could detect smaller threats close by but I wondered if it would be safer for me just to return to base.
Before I could decide, I realized that the forest had gone silent. Distant shouts and clanging persisted, but all of the forest sounds; rustling, chirping, slithering — had ceased. I turned slowly, bracing myself against the boulder with one hand and reaching for my dagger with the other.
My hand froze as I stared into a glowing pair of blue-green eyes. The dragon was jet-black with tiny scales that glimmered like freckles across his nose. His fangs, as long as my forearm and as sharp as my dagger glinted dangerously, inches from my face.
I closed my eyes in silent acceptance.
I was going to die.