296 – “Magic, Flames, and the Sword” – Eddiwarth

A fight scene

Eddiwarth rushed along an alleyway, down a few stairs, and around a corner. He heard Shylai’a and Korr’s feet pounding close behind him, and the singing of metal as Shylai’a drew her sword. The smell of smoke made Eddiwarth shudder. Screams mixed with the chilling screeches of drakes echoed off the buildings from the plaza up ahead. Just a few more strides… 

They burst out of the alley into sunlight and chaos. The SummerFest tents on the far side of the plaza were in flames, as were the trees above. In the open center of the park, a tangled mass of a gigantic spider, webs, and drake rolled on the ground, screeching and chittering as they struggled. Immediately, Shylai’a hefted her sword and rushed toward them. 

To their left, the long, thin body of a drake lay motionless, probably one of Ari’s first victims. Further, Eddiwarth saw Parith and Illariel hiding behind some shrubbery with a collection of wounded and terrified people huddled nearby. Eddiwarth rushed to join them.

“Parith! Are you two OK?”

“We are, but these people aren’t,” Parith shouted over the noise. “Help me move this guy!”

Eddiwarth stooped at the man’s shoulders and reached under his arms. He was badly scraped and bleeding. The man winced as Eddiwarth and Parith lifted him and carried him to the edge of the plaza, nearer where Illariel was healing. As they laid him down, he whispered, “My wife. Help her.”

“You rest,” Eddiwarth said, “Where is she?”

The man raised his head, a move that obviously brought him sharp pain, and pointed beyond the trees to the buildings on the other side of the plaza. Eddiwarth saw several people cowering under the overhang of an inn at the edge of the plaza. As he stood, the twisting battle of one of the drakes and two of the guards wearing Kelig green shifted between them. I might be able to get past them on the other side! Maybe I could levitate. No, I’d better stay out of the air. Creator, help me!

“I’ll be right back,” he said, and dashed off along the perimeter of the buildings, pausing only to hide momentarily behind the cover of a tree trunk. He peered out from around the tree to assess his break. The inn was near, and the people stood next to the door. He could feel the heat from the burning trees above. 

To his left, one of the soldiers fell, slashed across the chest by the drake’s claws. This beast was almost as big as the one they had faced in the cathedral nave but it still looked tiny compared to the two dragons they had fought at the shrine. And even those had been small next to Heathrax. 

He couldn’t see how Ari, Shylai’a, and Korr were faring, but he heard screeching and shouting from where they had been, so at least they were still bringing the fight.

He glanced upward. Oh, no. Flames, no! The upper story of the inn and the building just beyond it were burning, having probably caught fire from the trees. I must not have seen it from where I was before! I need to get them out quickly.

Eddiwarth dashed to the nearest building, then along its face toward the inn. As he neared them, he called out, gesturing, “Come this way! There’s another alley!”

Several women began to take tentative steps toward Eddiwarth, then moved more quickly. “This way!” He waved them forward.

A large branch of the tree, weakened by flames, cracked off the main trunk and fell into the facade of the inn, scattering sparks and burning leaves and sticks all over the wooden walkway. Several of the people jumped aside, and Eddiwarth guided them to the relative safety of the alleyway. Others stopped, shying back toward the inn. 

“You can’t wait!” Eddiwarth called out, “You have to move!” But they hesitated with fear, watching the planking catch fire. 

“Jump over! Quickly!” Despite his encouragement, none of them moved, stepping away from the growing flames. “Come on!” They’re not going to risk it. The conflagration above them grew, and the heat made Eddiwarth sweat. He flipped his sweaty hair out of his eyes and stepped forward, but the heat pushed him back. He glanced back over his shoulder and saw that Ari and Korr had driven the drake back across the plaza. It seemed to be trying to fly away, but its wings were tangled in webs.

He focused back on the people in front of him, took a deep calming breath, but the smoke made him cough. Sweeping his hands before him as if opening a door, he willed the fires to part.

Nothing happened. The fire continued to rage, its crackling mocking him like laughter.

“Hold on!” He shouted to the frightened people by the inn. He stood for a moment, summoned his will from deep inside. He felt the warmth swell in his chest, and, breathing slowly, waved his arms before him again. 

This time, the flames parted as if cooling winds had blown them aside. He opened his eyes to see the people’s astonished faces. “Now!” he shouted, “Run through! You can escape!”

First one, then others rushed through the gap he had created in the inferno. “Keep running! Don’t stop!”

Eddiwarth turned to follow them toward the alley. As he moved, he glanced over the plaza. Shylai’a had engaged the brown drake with the remaining soldier and was trying to divide its attention. It lashed out with its claws and tail. Flaming and smoking drool dripped from its mouth, scattering burning spots into the grass. Eddiwarth directed the last of the escapees away from the plaza. “This way! Quickly!”

Shylai’a vaulted up onto the writhing back of the drake. She flipped the grip on her sword and slammed it down into its snaking neck. It reeled over in pain, twisting its body and screeching. Shylai’a felt weightless for only a moment before she landed hard on the ground with a grunt. She rolled to her knees and began to crawl away, but the drake’s thick tail whipped around and slammed her down to the grass. She screamed and collapsed.

“Shylai’a!” Eddiwarth shouted, running to her. “Are you OK?” 

“No! I can’t move!” The drake lay still, now dead from her sword strike, but she was trapped under the weight of its lower body. He knelt next to her and tried to push the drake off of her with his shoulder, but it wouldn’t move.

“Yeah, I guess that was kind of a stupid question.” Maybe I can use mental power to lift this beast. I’m not that good with my mind, though. “Parith! Hurry! She’s hurt!” Her lower leg was pinned off to the side in a very unnatural position. “Bring Illariel!” Shylai’a’s head dropped to the grass, mercifully unconscious.

Korr appeared next to him, breathing hard. His arms and chest were scratched and bloody, but none of the wounds seemed deep. “Perhaps we can lift the drake,” he suggested. 

“I think I can lift it if you can carry her to Illariel,” Eddiwarth said. Korr nodded, and positioned himself at her side, opposite Eddiwarth, who leaned his hands on the massive body of the drake. The scales under his hands were cool and slick. Anger and fear welled up inside him, fueling his determination. This will not end us!

As his Will surged inside him again, his head and hands began to shimmer in a faint haze of blue. Eddiwarth heard the shuffling of feet and Parith’s voice saying, “Let me help.” The voice sounded distant as Eddiwarth focused. The sound of screaming and the smell of smoke faded into the background. All he felt was his will and the dead weight of the drake. Now! Rise!

He felt it lifting, floating upward, a few feet at a time. Parith and Korr spoke quickly as they gingerly eased Shylai’a out and away. When Eddiwarth heard their quick feet moving away, he blew out his breath and broke the magic. He fell back and the drake’s limp haunches dropped to the ground with a sickening thud. Eddiwarth wiped his brow and glanced around at the burning trees and buildings, the fallen drakes, and the bodies of the soldiers and festival-goers. 

He dragged himself to his feet. Another dragon passed high overhead, shrieking out a roar and momentarily drawing Eddiwarth’s gaze upward. He took in a breath, squared his shoulders, and coughed through the smoke.

As he stepped unsteadily toward the area where Illariel had been sheltering the wounded, he passed the head of the drake that Shylai’a had slain. Its head lay sprawled on the ground, smoky slime drizzling out of its open and bloody mouth. Shylai’a’s sword protruded from the back of its neck at an odd angle. She had driven it deep and neatly severed the spine. He grabbed the hilt and in a single angry motion yanked it out of the drake’s neck. It glinted slightly in the sunlight, though covered in streaks of magenta blood. 

Shylai’a will want this.

He turned it slowly in his hand, then stumbled to his friends. 

The End of Part 20

The End of Story 6

Author’s Note: How to write a good fight scene.

As I’ve been learning how to write, the fight scene/action scene has always been a bit of a challenge. Some authors describe each move, each sword swipe in the fight scene, where others will abstract it. Which approach creates a more exciting fight scene?

Actually, I think that both can be effective. As I was researching how to write a fight scene, I discovered that most authors use a balance between the two. General description of swords clinking and people shouting and grunting at times, and specific details of individual lunges and parries in other parts of the fight scene.

The trick is to identify key moments when the balance of a fight scene shifts, or when something vital to the story happens, and to describe those blow-by-blow, then abstract the rest.

Also, it helps to watch a lot of actual swordfighting videos and martial arts videos to help visualize the moves.