Delvers 2 is out for sale on Amazon! The published version is professionally edited, has some new content (mostly fleshing things out) and is easier to read. Please support the official release. 🙂 Buy Delvers Here
In other news, I’m going to be adding a few chapters for Delvers 3 exclusively on Patreon until I start writing Delvers 3 full time after SOO. This might take a while. As a reminder, SOO 2 chapters will only be posted to Patreon past the first 2 or 3 chapters on my site. Link to Patreon
I’ve also decided that starting with the launch of either book 3 of SOO, or book 3 of Delvers, I am going to be going KU again. This will take place in a few months and means I will need to remove most of the content on my site. I’ll still be uploading /new/ stories, but the old ones will no longer be available for free. This means Delvers readers will continue to be able to read free content if they keep up with it. This is the best compromise I’ve come up with. What do you all think?
Jason wished he was still back in Harmly. Sleeping in a real bed for a few days had been nice, even if he hadn’t gotten to see Uluula much. His wife had been spending a lot of time with Mareen, helping her deal with Henry being missing.
Missing. It’d been over two weeks since the group had left Harmly. The whole group felt the absence of everyone who wasn’t with them anymore. In particular, Thirsty was sorely missed among the entire group. The strange, flamboyant man had been subtly improving morale the whole time he’d been with them, and Jason had never even noticed. He felt like an idiot.
On top of Thirsty not being with them anymore to talk about random things from Earth, or remark on everything they passed, or sing along to songs on Keeja’s music player, they didn’t even have the music player itself anymore. Keeja had taken it with her when she vanished over two weeks before.
Jason drove the Battlewagon slowly, the land between the Harmly and the Stem River had been rough, and now that they had found the river, it wasn’t any easier to navigate. Plus, nobody was manning the turret anymore. Henry was the only one who could use it, and he was gone.
Gone. Henry and Aodh being missing was one of the many things he had been avoiding thinking fabout.
Jason glanced back at Mareen. For the last ten days or so, she’d started riding in the turret where Henry used to be. She’d been getting much better with her bow, and while she wasn’t as effective as Henry used to be on the Battlewagon’s guns, her efforts had made the trip a little smoother. Not having to slow down for every random flying monster they ran into helped a lot.
The group was still fairly quiet, but beginning to come around. Bezzi-ibbi in particular seemed to have grown up a lot over the last few weeks. Jason had a hard time thinking of the boy as a kid anymore, despite the fact he was probably still middle school aged. His eyes just had a depth of wisdom and insight that Jason found disconcerting sometimes.
Jason had decided to honor Mareen’s request and save the monsterwood staff for Aodh if, no, when he returned. Quite frankly, the weapon freaked Jason out. He couldn’t wait to get rid of it.
Monsterwood, he’d learned, was a fairly rare material that only grew on the northern tip of Halal, the largest island on Ludus. Apparently, the Areva nations of Hilil and Hanana controlled all access and trade to the island. The material was harvested and weapons were made from it. It was even stronger than steel.
Unfortunately, it was alive. He looked at the staff and shuddered. It had bonded with him. Monsterwood weapons bonded with one person and reverted to a natural state when the bond was broken. Vitaliya had found the staff while it was slowly crawling off like an inchworm after the big battle two weeks before.
Monsterwood weapons were expensive, but they needed to be fed. In fact, after learning about them, Jason knew they were popular with people who did a lot of killing, like hunters and active soldiers. Meanwhile, Jason threw a cup of blood at the staff every few days and hoped for the best. Gonzo had told him that if a monsterwood staff gets too hungry, it might bite the hand holding it.
The plain, bumpy, reddish looking wood staff didn’t look like much next to Jason, but he’d seen the thing moving before. The fact a solid, rigid weapon could move was something out of a nightmare. Deep down, Jason feared the damn thing would get hungry and just reach over to take a bit out of him.
He’d never seen a mouth. He wasn’t even sure how it ate, but he didn’t want to find out.
He shook his head and stopped thinking about the disturbing staff. He had other, more important things to ponder.
He glanced at the box full of spirit stones by his feet and swallowed. The amount of wealth he had just sitting around in a wooden box was staggering. Minus the one spirit stone that Uluula had used to save his life, he still had ten left. It was insane.
Deep down, Jason knew he was hoping Henry would get back before he had to make a decision about what to do with them, but he couldn’t afford to wait much longer. If the last battle had taught them anything, now the entire team knew they had to get much stronger.
Jason has to be honest with himself. He was a little scared. He had a feeling that if he swallowed enough spirit stone again to go up a rank, he would. But he wondered what he was becoming. His transformation when he’d fought Biivan was terrifying in retrospect. He’d essentially been burning up his own life to maintain that form, and he hadn’t fully been in control of himself, either.
He eyed the box warily, realizing that spirit stones were no longer a means for him to just advance as an orb-Bonded. They were also fuel for his limitbreak. However, even if the purple cartoon cat hadn’t warned him against swallowing too many spirit stones at once, Jason wouldn’t have done so.
The spirit stones held so much raw power, the fact he was swallowing them in the first place was utterly insane. He shook his head. He more or less knew how he’d spend his points when he ranked up. He had advancement points saved up too. He’d been dragging his feet, but he knew he was putting the group in danger by not just making up his mind.
Still, he appreciated that everyone was giving him time. Losing Henry and Aodh had hit him, Mareen, and Vitaliya hardest. Mareen was beginning to become more animated, but Jason saw a brittleness, a sharpness about her now that made him worry. Mareen was Henry’s wife, but she was Jason’s friend and a teammate.
He worried for her mental health.
Jason hoped she wasn’t tearing herself up. He knew all too well how poisonous that could be, but he didn’t know how to broach the subject with her.
He sighed and shrugged. What would be, would be. He was glad he wasn’t a control freak, or he’d be having a fit.
That said, he found Keeja’s disappearance completely aggravating. More than anything, he needed answers, but the fucking, eons-old demigoddess riding shotgun with his little group had decided to take off without telling anyone.
Jason huffed and began steering the Battlewagon to a handy clearing in order to make camp. After a few moments, Vitaliya and Gonzo zoomed past him, riding the last two remaining magicycles. They’d obviously understanding what he intended, probably not too difficult since the sun was beginning to set in the east. The Berban spies usually followed behind the Battlewagon in case a large monster popped out of the Stem river. It didn’t happen often, but it happened enough to take precautions.
Luckily, Jason had truly been mastering his null time knife blades. So far, he’d been able to kill almost any monster they encountered with very little effort. He wondered again what he was becoming. Was he even really human anymore? The thought was sobering and he couldn’t help but remember how it’d felt to battle Biivan across the sky.
The raw energy that had coursed through his body…it’d been like a drug. Jason could almost remember how he’d achieved the limitbreak state too. He knew if he really had to, he could probably do it again, and the realization scared the hell out of him. He didn’t think he was meant to have such power, not yet anyway.
In the last couple weeks, he’d tried replicating some of the abilities he remembered using, but he had no luck. It was like he was watching someone else in his memories. He could recall what he did, but not how. He wondered if he even had the power to do the things he’d done in his normal state.
Probably not. The thought strangely comforted him a bit. Remembering he had limitations made him feel a little bit grounded. Having super powers and magic was cool at first, but Ludus was a dangerous world, and he was beginning to really feel the added danger of having a target painted on his back by Dolos.
Dolos, that dickhead. Jason frowned. Other members of the Delvers company had been nervous around Keeja after she killed Biivan, but Jason has been largely unaffected. He’d not only already suspected how powerful she really was, but he’d seen Dolos casually exert enough power to obliterate a forest during while slightly annoyed.
The world was insane, or at least Ludus was.
After stopping the Battlewagon, Jason disembarked and ran his hand over the bronze exterior. He’d built this thing with Henry. It had Henry’s touch all over it, even down to the stupid name. For a guy who constantly bitched about stupid names on Ludus, Henry sure hadn’t had any problems coming up with his own. Jason chuckled at the thought.
Speaking of stupid names, Jason spotted a flash of light in the sky, probably a magic messenger bird, or MMB as the group was walling them now. He smile crookedly, but the expression dropped in surprise when he saw the light had been an MMB, and it was descending to his group.
He watched in wide eyed astonishment as the MMB slowly came to a stop before Mareen, hovering expectantly. Mareen said something but Jason couldn’t hear it. Then she hesitantly held her hand out, letting the creature deposit a note before zooming off into the sky.
With trembling hands, Mareen unfolded the note. Jason quickly glanced around and noticed that the beautiful, dark skinned woman had the attention of every member of the group. Bezzi-ibbi in particular watched with interest, his eyes bright.
Mareen took a deep breath before reading for a few moments. She slowly put the note down, took another deep breath and said softly but clearly, “Henry is alive. He’s really alive.” She shed a single, slow tear, before collapsing against the side of the Battlewagon’s turret.
Uluula raced past Jason, nimbly climbing to the top of the Battlewagon to check on her friend. Jason’s mind went blank. Henry was really alive? A great weight he’d been carrying on his shoulders and hadn’t even been aware of seemed to vanish.
Jason wasn’t sure how he ended up in on the ground, but the next thing he knew, he was sitting. He closed his eyes, looking up at the sky, thinking, Thank you God, thank you for not taking my friend. Thank you…thank you.
Jason began to cry and didn’t care who saw it. It was like part of him, a hopeful part that had died had been reborn.
While he sat on the ground of a dangerous, alien planet, a grown man wearing a sword, crying , Jason decided to swallow spirit stones that night and become a rank three orb-Bonded.
He had to move forward. As long as he was on Ludus, he had to move forward. He was like a shark, if he stopped swimming he’d die.
But he felt deep, profound relief. He hadn’t lost Uluula and Henry was still alive. All the spirit stones in his box paled in comparison to the wealth he felt knowing that his only family on the entire, God-foraken planet were still with him.