This is my submission for the Scrivener’s Forge exercise on plot. I confess I cheated on this one by using a story I’ve already published, but it exemplifies so well the “go in late, come out early” advice.
Bomaru’s Quest Part IV
The creature’s head punched round, leathery scales abrading his skin. Bomaru held tight, the sinews of his arms corded like autumn branches, slowly forcing the winged reptile’s head to the ground. Teeth sharp as spear-points snapped, close enough for the clash to shiver through his straining grip, and the stench of the creature’s foul breath to taint his nostrils. It was no ordinary strength that maintained his grip. He knew sweet Farlaine would die if he failed, and the knowledge lent him the force of ten. Bomaru twisted with a desperate might. With a sickening crack, the dragon’s body gave one last twitch and was still.
‘Wow! You just killed a dragon with your bare hands,’ Michael observed. ‘Hard to believe isn’t it?’
Michael was heartily sick of Bomaru and Farlaine.
Yet bold Bomaru strode on over the evil creature’s carcass, undaunted by his ordeal, and rifled through the dragon’s hoard, until he found the blade, Srithanthril. Farlaine’s father had borne that sword in battle before he fell to the Worms on the plain of carnage. None but Srithanthril’s wizard-honed edge could sever the bewitched bonds holding Farlaine shackled to the promontory.
‘Cool, you got the magic sword.’ Michael’s tone held acid mockery. ‘Bewitched bonds, tum-ti-tum.’
Bomaru raced sure-footed down the hillside, pebbles slithering and rolling. It was almost as if the earth itself bore him forward to Farlaine, hastening her release. Farlaine’s roots were deep in the land, and the land ached at her peril.
When Bomaru reached the foreshore, the tide was lapping around his beloved’s ankles. She screamed and strained against her bonds.
Michael’s attention was captured by the wild, age-carved, crags, while Bomaru’s was on the huge kraken that reared up, reaching clawed arms towards the sacrificial virgin.
‘How do you like them apples?’ Michael sneered at Bomaru, and turned away from the combat to watch the sea birds, wheeling lithe in the thermals that rose from the cliff.
When he gazed far, Michael saw the birds soar at the cloud-front that roiled against the updraft, unable to press forward over the ocean. It entranced him. He was seeing the wind itself in the invisible barrier that held the creatures firm as Farlaine’s bonds. When he studied close, Michael discerned the rough porosity of the cliff-face, the tiny cavities and crags made by an aeon of the insistent sea’s soft probing fingers. He peered into one crevice, with a scrutiny deep and searching, and detected, in a jumble of twigs and seaweed, the ghosts of a guillemot’s past home. He heard the minute skulking of the lives folk never have the patience to notice.
While battle raged below, Michael probed the mysteries of the promontory. The woes of men meant no more to that ancient headland than the ephemeral scrabblings in the nooks and crannies of reality. Farlaine’s cries, as Bomaru hacked and hewed, troubled him no more than the calls of the kittiwakes. Michael marked the transit of the sun against the rock, striving to capture the slow shifting of colour. He saw subtle reddening where there had been only grey. He witnessed crags and boulders that leapt up from the escarpment, like footpads from an alley, as the light picked them out in relief.
The strife behind him quieted. ‘And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?’ he quoted to Bomaru. ‘Oh frabjous day. Calloo! Callay!’
The headless body of the kraken was sinking into the waves, while Bomaru clove Farlaine’s bonds with the enchanted blade, Srithanthril.
Michael frowned and tore his thoughts from the precious secrets of the eternal cliff, and the slow march of time. Farlaine was freed. The realm was saved. The people rejoiced.
‘One day, one goddamn day,’ said Michael, ‘I will kill you, Bomaru. One day, I’ll be able to live free of you. I’m better than this. I can perceive the world in a guillemot’s nest.’
‘Perhaps,’ Bomaru scoffed. ‘But not this day.’
Michael sighed, and began the writing of Bomaru’s Quest, Part V.