I repeat, however, that today was good. There was a cage fight, a near-death experience, and (finally) an end to Chapter One.
Excerpt from the cage fight included below, as promised:
The snake-dragon had yet to take flight. Most of its sinuous body was still coiled along the far edge of the cage and its flicking tongue and venomous fangs could not quite reach her. Hink yelled, cracking the whip right before the beast’s snout, hoping that she would appear to be enough of a difficulty that the snake-dragon would not try eating her.
Then, before she could draw the whip back, it struck. The snake-dragon uncoiled in an instantaneous motion, throwing itself into the air. Tiny skin pockets along its sides rippled, functioning as wings as it darted at her. Hink tried to step back and get out of range, but she was trapped against the cage bars.
She saw the beast’s forked tongue before she threw her whip arm up to protect her head. The mainlanders cried out in surprise as one of the snake-dragon’s fangs pierced Hink’s hand, slicing straight through her palm.
Hink cried out, her hand lit on fire. She pulled down, trying to slip the fang from her flesh and get away before the venom paralyzed her, leaving her body at the mercy of the snake-dragon’s appetite.
She yanked convulsively, her whip dropping from her fingers and thudding to the cage’s wooden floor. The snake-dragon hissed, its hot breath enveloping her body in a cloud. The beast shook its head, irritated by the restraint of being attached to Hink by its mouth.
Hink hissed in return, hoping that the beast would respond to the basic calls of its kind—the cry of a young, vulnerable snake-dragon or hiss used to call off an attack—but the serpent did not seem to hear the noises. It shook its hooded head, throwing Hink to the cage’s floor. The forked tongue flipped in and out, curving like a heated leather whip around Hink’s face, scraping like sandpaper.
She hissed at the animal, its bitter-tasting saliva splashing into her mouth. It threw her into the air, her entire body weight hanging on the impaled fang. Hink felt as though she were drowning as the salvia dripped into her eyes and filled her nose and mouth. She hissed desperately, hoping to sound authoritative enough that the snake-dragon would pause in its thrashing.
Her vision blurred, blocked by the snake-dragon’s saliva. She blinked rapidly, but her mind was moving more slowly, dulled by the venom coursing through her system. Through the blazing pain in her hand, Hink felt the fang loosen with the snake-dragon’s head tossing. It slammed her to the wooden floor; the fang finally slid out of her hand.