Hello everyone!~ I know it’s been a while since I posted a chapter on here. Book 2 is actually complete on Patreon and has been for a week.
To be honest, I’m not getting a lot of feedback here on my website anymore and I’ve been thinking about moving to Patreon exclusively with new book. I know I have a lot of free readers, but this is a lot of work to update chapters in multiple places. The main reason I post chapters is to get feedback, whether here or Patreon. I’d like to hear your opinions on this subject below.
What would be a good compromise? I wrestle with this a lot. To be blunt, I would find a lot more readers with Kindle Unlimited, but I really don’t want to take these chapters down off my site… and with KU I’d be obligated to. I also don’t like Amazon telling me what to do.
So in other news, Delvers 2 is written, and I’m shooting to release the published version (with an extra 2 chapters of content) on 4/7/2017! The audio version should come about a month after that!
Thank you, everyone for being such awesome readers. I really value everyone who reads my work or visits my site or I would have given up on posting chapters a long time ago. I legitimately want to hear everyone’s opinion on where I should take this going forward as I transition into a full time writer over the next couple years. What is your opinion?
PS: Please vote for this story on TWF. 🙂 http://topwebfiction.com/vote.php?for=delvers-llc
Bezzi-ibbi watched in awe as his brother, Jason-ibbi fought the High Priestess to a standstill in the sky. Such a thing, only heard of in ancient songs and history books, was actually taking place before his eyes. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end and his tail bristled.
It was common knowledge that High Priestesses were the most powerful beings on Ludus. To challenge them was death, yet Jason-ibbi was fighting Child Thief Biivan paw to paw. Bezzi-ibbi felt deep pride as he watched his Clan brother fight against one of the most evil High Priestesses on the planet. Jason-ibbi brought incredibly honor to the Jaguar Clan through his actions.
Even if Bezzi-ibbi died this day, despite all the hardship he’d been through, he could not be more proud of himself and his family. And if he lived to see another sunrise, he would have the foundation to become a great Jaguar Troubadour!
Nearby, Bezzi-ibbi heard Gonzo whistle in disbelief. He glanced over and saw Uluula with a hand over her mouth, her eyes wide as she witnessed her husband fight in a duel to the death in midair. The rest of the group was watching with rapt attention too, the only exception being Mareen who lay in a fetal position, softly sobbing as she held herself.
Bezzi-ibbi hissed as he realized the last enemy, Liangyu had disappeared with her last two undead minions. He had no idea where she’d gone, and there was just enough fog left to hide her passage. Bezzi-ibbi couldn’t do anything about it now, but it bothered him that such a powerful enemy was unaccounted for. She’d also escaped with any answers about what happened to Henry-ibbi, too.
The Jaguar Clan heir shook himself. He needed to move. He passed Mareen and gently placed a hand on her shoulder. He understood. Henry had been her heart song. Bezzi-ibbi chose to believe that such a great warrior would somehow find a way to come back to them. If not, he would merely be hunting with the ancestors before Bezzi-ibbi saw him again. It was only a matter of time.
He had to find Yanno-ibbi. He did not know if his uncle was hunting with the ancestors yet.
Bezzi-ibbi padded towards the Battlewagon, figuring it was the best place to start looking for his kin. He feared the worst, but would not give into his worries. He kept an eye out for any remaining undead creatures and also warily watched the sky to witness Jason’s fight.
He smelled the blood before he actually found Yanno-ibbi. Bezzi-ibbi rushed forward and checked the older Mo’hali man’s pulse before sighing in relief. His uncle was somehow was still alive. He was terribly cut in several places, but the resourceful man had crafted tourniquets out of strips of cloth to stop the worst of the bleeding. He was unconscious and his breathing was shallow, but he was still alive.
Bezzi-ibbi gritting his teeth and blinked away a handful of tears. He didn’t have time for that. He had to get to work. He wasn’t big enough yet to carry his uncle so he hissed an apology before dragging him. Mareen wasn’t at her best, but she was probably Yanno-ibbi’s best hope to survive.
Bezzi-ibbi struggled, his tired muscles screaming in agony as he pulled his wounded uncle by the man’s undamaged leg. When he finally reached the rest of the team, he rested on his haunches in exhaustion. It was eerie how everyone was silent other than Mareen’s soft sobs and Vitaliya’s occasional sniff. Every gaze was fixed on the sky.
Jason suddenly flashed into view, followed by Biivan hot in pursuit. The Areva High Priestess snarled, savagely hacking at Jason with her curved sword.
Bezzi-ibbi crossed his arms in worry. Jason seemed to be teleporting more often and his soul song was not as loud as it had been. Meanwhile, Biivan didn’t seem to be tiring at all. The evil demigoddess had Jason on the run.
She began pumping her arms, launching multiple exploding orbs at Jason, catching him off guard right after he teleported again. He slipped away, but not before creating a shimmering shield at an angle to deflect and exploding orb. The energy blast rocketed into the lake where it detonated, launching water and debris up into the air.
Bezzi-ibbi focused to maintain his balance as the ground shook, a wave of pressure washing over him. Jason-ibbi is creating entire shields of null-time? He shook his head in amazement. His brothers were already becoming living legends.
However, his earlier assessment that Jason was tiring had unfortunately been correct. The combatants were close enough in the sky now for Bezzi-ibbi to watch everything. He was mildly worried that they were getting too close, but no place nearby was truly safe with Biivan throwing explosive energy around. This fact was probably why nobody else was taking cover, either.
The Jaguar Clan boy’s ears pricked forward as he watched one particularly furious exchange. The strikes and parries were so fast, Bezzi-ibbi doubted his Terran friends could catch each individual blow.
Suddenly, Jason managed to get a solid cut on Biivan and Bezzi-ibbi’s heart soared! However, his heart fell again when Biivan snarled, backed off, and her body healed itself. Even her silver singlet mended itself.
It wasn’t fair. Jason’s intimidating dark form flickered, his glowing silver eyes narrowed and he began launching some sort of null-time attacks at Biivan, but Bezzi-ibbi had tracked the truth. Jason was being worn down.
About a minute later, Jason had slashed his blade in the air, creating one last crescent of energy racing toward Biivan, but she crossed her arms over her body, generating a pale yellow shield. After the wave passed, she stood proud in the sky again, openly sneering. Smoke rose from her skin, but she ignored it.
Suddenly, Jason’s shadow form wavered. His silver eyes faded away, the twinkling shadow that covered his body drifting off like smoke, and his limp body began to fall.
Bezzi-ibbi gasped and Uluula shouted, “Jason, no!” Nobody could do anything but watch helplessly as he fell, though. There was no way any of them could have made it to his point of impact in time to try catching him. Uluula fell to her knees, landing bonelessly as she witnessed her husband’s defeat.
Bezzi-ibbi watched grimly as Biivan grinned, the evil woman beginning to follow Jason to the ground. This was the end. She’s probably kill all of them. Bezzi-ibbi was resigned to his fate. He was honored he was able to know such amazing people on his journey through the Day.
He slowly twisted his palms backwards in resignation, sure of his fate. However, he was still looking upwards when when Keeja suddenly blurred forward and caught Jason in the sky! Bezzi-ibbi gasped in surprise. He’d forgotten Keeja was with them!
“What are you doing, Keeja?” screeched Biivan. “You’re breaking the rules! Dolos will have your head for this!”
“I do not fear Dolos,” replied Keeja with a sneer. She floated over to Uluula and gently set Jason down on the ground. “Stay away from him, he’ll be fine. Just let him rest,” she ordered the white haired Areva woman. Uluula nodded, spastically dashing the tears for her eyes. Then slowly, stoically, she sat on the ground near Jason’s head, resting a hand on his chest.
Standing in midair, Biivan shouted, “You can’t do this, Keeja! You are breaking the rules! I’m going to kill every one of those pet mortals of yours and you are powerless to stop me!”
“So you admit you were trying to kill this man?” Keeja asked, pointing at the unconscious Jason.
“Of course I was, you bvantisti hrando! I’m going to finish the job too, him and all your other little mortals!” Spittle flew from Biivan’s mouth as she screeched, “There is nothing you can do! You always follow the rules, like a good little pet! All those stories, all the other High Priestesses being afraid of you. It’s all a ruse! You are nothing, a deceiver! Who are you to judge me? How dare you let this puking little mortal attack me? They’ll all die! I’ll make them suffer!”
“I think not,” replied Keeja, unruffled. She pointed at Jason and snapped her fingers. His sleeve fluttered down to the ground, revealing the mark Dolos had placed on him. “You just admitted to using lethal force on a priest of Dolos, personally chosen by his hand, no less.”
“Wait, what?” Biivan’s expression went from cruel to confused to frightened in an instant. “All Priestesses are female, and—”
In a blink, Keeja was simply gone. Her movement was so sudden, so fast, wind billowed out in every direction, kicking up dust, dirt, and rocks from where she’d been standing. With no warning, Keeja appeared in before Biivan in the sky, her hand effortlessly immobilizing the evil High Priestess by the wrist above her sword hand.
Keeja’s expression was devoid of emotion, cold. Bezzi-ibbi swallowed. Keeja the Ravager, he remembered her ancient title. Bezzi-ibbi had secretly wondered how Keeja had such a dangerous reputation after he’d observing her lazy, silly behavior the last few months, but the name didn’t seem so farfetched after seeing her new expression.
Biivan struggled, trying to kick Keeja to get away. Keeja just smiled, effortlessly blocking each attack with her free hand. When Biivan tried forming an energy blast at point blank range, Keeja casually punched the other woman in the jaw. The wet crack from Biivan’s jaw snapping followed by the snap from Keeja breaking the wrist she was holding was sickening and somehow loud enough to reach everyone on the ground.
The dark Areva woman’s glowing, curved blade fell from her nerveless fingers, twisting end over end before hitting the ground near the Battlewagon. Biivan gasped in pain and fear, the sound sharp enough to reach Bezzi-ibbi’s ears. He watched the unfolding spectacle with wide eyes.
Keeja’s voice was cold as she said, “You were not tricked. You were careless. You didn’t scan. You made assumptions. I am truly not sorry for you. You are vermin with a power complex. If I were to claim I didn’t get any satisfaction from doing my duty in this situation, I would be lying.”
“No, wait, I didn’t mean to say that–”
Keeja held Biivan steady, her iron grip on the other woman’s broken arm prevented her from escaping. With a detached calm, Keeja brought her other hand up, pointer finger extended.
“No, please, you have–” Biivan’s last words remained forever unfinished as Keeja’s finger erupted in an eye-searing energy beam. Bezzi-ibbi had to look away.
When he glanced up again, the afterimage of the attack was still burned into his vision, but Biivan had been reduced to a headless corpse. Keeja dropped the body, letting it fall to the earth near her discarded sword.
Keeja shook her head and became her normal self again. The change was immediate. She called down, “Don’t touch that body. It might still be dangerous and I want to see if I can crack her n-space storage.” Bezzi-ibbi found Keeja’s sudden change in personality slightly disturbing. Henna-ibbi had always said, “Beware a hunter whose garb changes too often.”
Which personality was the real Keeja?
The High Priestess’s clothing billowed in the wind as she hovered in the air, putting her hand to her chin in thought. After a moment she looked up at the sky and shouted, “I give this kill to Jason James Booth! He was instrumental in the death of Biivan, a High Priestess of Dolos!”
Bezzi-ibbi cocked his head after the announcement, alert for any new developments. However, nothing obvious happened. He shrugged and moved over to the rest of his group, most of whom almost seemed to almost be coming out of a trance with the battle in the sky being resolved.
Bezzi-ibbi was a brave boy, but Keeja was terrifying. He’d prefer to be standing with his friends when the demigoddess floated back.
Vitaliya suppressed her raging emotions out of necessity after the battle was over. Only a couple more undead creatures were discovered wandering around without direction, and immediately put down. The Death Witch had fled. One other attacker, the big, armored woman that Mareen had fought was missing too.
Vitaliya was irritated. Leaving enemies behind was unfortunate, especially enemies who had taken her Aodh from her. Her cousin was delicate and special… She ruthlessly suppressed her thoughts. She couldn’t cry. There would be time to figure out how she was going to find little Aodh once the group got moving again. Aodh being sent away, being lost was the only possibility she was willing to entertain.
She couldn’t bear thinking about what that horrible woman had said before, about Aodh being dead. She rejected it.
Mareen was the most shaken and the least emotionally stable of the group. She’d still somehow managed to pull herself together to stabilize Yanno-ibbi’s injuries and heal a few other wounds the group had sustained, but after that, she climbed into the back of the Battlewagon by herself.
Everyone left her alone to her grief.
The mood among the group was grim. They’d all survived, but Henry and Aodh were missing, and everyone had been bloodied and bruised. They could all very easily have died.
Eventually, everything that could be salvaged had been. Only three magicycles still worked, and one was sluggish now.
The group stood in a loose semicircle around Keeja. Jason was lying on the ground, still unconscious, Uluula cradling his head in her lap. When Vitaliya had first met the white haired Areva women, she hadn’t liked her much. Now she had to concede that Uluula was a fierce warrior and had a backbone made of bronze. She’d earned her respect.
“Why won’t Jason wake up?” Uluula asked.
“Because he’s dying,” Keeja replied offhandedly, rummaging around in a sack she’d placed on the ground.
“What?” Uluula still sounded calm, but only just. Her voice rose slightly in volume, her eyes narrowed dangerously. “You said he’d be fine.”
“I lied. He’s dying. But luckily, we can fix him.”
Uluula gritted her teeth and restrained herself with obvious effort, all while holding Jason’s head protectively. “Please do what you can, if you can find the time, of course.”
Keeja ignored the sarcasm. “I can definitely find time to help Jason after he displayed so much potential. He also allowed me to kill someone I have deeply despised for several hundred years.” She looked up at the sky, mumbling, “That was so, incredibly satisfying.”
Keeja suddenly turned, holding a hand out to Jason and her vision grew unfocused for a moment. Before Uluula could even say anything, Keeja grumbled, “Yes, I’m fairly sure I’m right…”
From her sack, she produced a box. It looked like the boxes that appeared after an orb-Bonded person was killed, the boxes that held an orb or a spirit stone. However, this one was several times larger. It had Jason’s name on the lid. “I found this by Biivan’s corpse,” Keeja said ffhandedly. “It’s Jason’s reward for killing Biivan.”
“But you killed Biivan,” Vitaliya stated, confused.
“Yes, we all saw it,” said Gonzo. Thirsty just nodded. He’d been quiet, withdrawn ever since the battle ended.
“No, I had enough reason to give the win to Jason, and even though killing a High Priestess was not part of Dolos’ game, Jason has been rewarded.” Keeja opened the lid to the box and Vitaliya gasped. She couldn’t even count how many spirit stones were in it at first glance. Keeja handed a spirit stone to Uluula. “Get him to swallow that and he should recover.”
Uluula eyed the demigoddess out the corner of her eye, but eventually complied, rubbing Jason’s throat so he’d swallow the spirit stone. As soon as he did, color almost immediately returned to his cheeks and he began breathing easier.
“There. Now we wait,” pronounced Keeja.
“Why don’t we just leave now? I want to quit this place,” announced Vitaliya. The sooner they began to move, the quicker she could begin formulating a plan to look for little Aodh.
“No!” They all turned to see Mareen standing up in the back of the battlewagon, her face wan. “We can’t leave Henry behind!”
Vitaliya glanced around and saw some of the group looking down awkwardly. She pressed her lips together tightly when she noticed they pointedly weren’t looking at her either. Aodh is not dead! I’ll show them, she thought.
Keeja looked Mareen in the eye and said, “Henry is not anywhere nearby. I would sense it if he was.” Mareen seemed to deflate a bit and settled back into the rear of the Battlewagon, ignoring the rest of the conversation.
Gonzo spoke up, patting Vitaliya on the shoulder. “We should wait for Jason to wake up since High Priestess Keeja said he will. None of us are still any good at driving the Battlewagon.”
Vitaliya nodded. Her trainer was right, and more importantly, he knew about Aodh. He would help her look for him, she was sure of it. Not for the first time, she was grateful that Gonzo had been the trainer assigned to her. It eased some of the burden she felt.
“Okay fine, let’s wait,” said Bezzi-ibbi, shrugging. With that, the Jaguar Clan heir lowered himself to lay on the ground next to his unconscious uncle. His intention to take a nap was clear. He was obvious done with the conversation.
Vitaliya envied the boy. She wished she could care so little, too. It must be nice to have no responsibilities. Meanwhile, she felt the weight of an entire country crushing down on her. The responsibility, the duty she’d possibly failed at—she couldn’t think about it. She couldn’t dwell on it or she’d have trouble breathing. She had to focus on solutions to her problems.
She wished Jason would hurry and wake up.