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Delvers LLC 3, Chapter 3

Posted by Blaise on
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Okay all!  Two big announcements.

One, this is the third and last chapter of book 3 I will be posting on my site.  When book 3 comes out, I will be forced to remove all my free chapters from the website.  I really apologize for this, but I don’t see any other choice.

/That said/  If you want to follow along with the story, make sure you check out my Patreon!

Also, there is a HUGE LitRPG give away being hosted by Jason Cipriano!  Check it out here:  The Give Away

Apologies for the editing in these first few chapters.  I was getting back into the swing of things when I wrote them.  Otherwise, enjoy!  🙂


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What it Dhu

 

The two orbs began to speak, but were interrupted again by the arrival of two more newcomers.  One moment they were there, the next, Henry felt a pulling, a tugging, and suddenly a large, shaggy dog made of metal was standing next to him.  Aodh’s shoulder was now occupied by a bright yellow, glowing songbird.  Tony stared at it in wonder.

The two orbs goggled, and Gellab asked, “How did they get here?  This shouldn’t be possible.  We are inbetween time and in a mind space!”

The dog at Henry’s side hissed a chuckle.  “We are invited.  We have a connection now with the hosts, orb-controller.  Check.”  Henry felt the talking dog’s voice was oddly familiar.

Mr. Neighborhood, Henry’s orb dropped his smile for a moment while his eyes looked off into the distance.  When his focus came back, he was obviously flustered.  “Henry, you have a new skill, Orb Communication (Rank X, 5 points).  It has no rank, and has a point cost that you never paid for.  This should not be possible, that skill doesn’t even exist.  This is all highly irregular, neighbor.”

The dog chuckled again.  “Something freely given is not needed to buy.”  With a start, Henry realized what he found familiar about the dog.  Underlying the strange, cartoony voice, he could hear the buzz, the chorus of the whispers he’d encountered in the void-place, the ones he’d trusted.  Despite the overwhelming weirdness of the entire situation, he felt himself relaxing.

“How did you learn to talk?” demanded Gellab.  “Plus, you shouldn’t be here.”

The dog stood on its hind legs, and the glowing bird on Aodh’s shoulder fluttered its wings, tittering.  “Connection!” the dog barked in triumph.  “Accepted by the host!  Wanted!”  It fell back onto all four paws again.

“Wait a moment,” Mr. Neighborhood implored.  “Everyone is very special, but where did they ever make contact with you?  Above where, when did they make contact with you?  There have been flickers, but we are between moments in time right now.  We are also in Aodh’s land of make believe.”

Henry mentally groaned at his orb’s obnoxious, half assed imitation of his childhood hero.

“They came Home, to the Home Place!” the dog yipped, tail wagging.  “The firsts!  They are firsts of hosts!”

“No, they could not have survived in your world,” argued Gellab.  The winged woman shook her head.  “If they went there, if you pulled them there, they would have died.”

“Already dying.  We not want,” the dog said solemnly.  “All attached Dhu help.  We make a chance.  Other Dhu make things hard,” said the dog, nodding at the shadow thing that was still standing behind them.  With a start, Henry realized it’d gotten bigger and closer.

Henry knew he could sometimes be a little slow on the update, but his enhanced mental processes helped him understand what was going on.  “You’re my Dhu,” he said, pointing at the dog.  “You’re Tony’s Dhu,” he said, pointing at the bird on Tony’s shoulder.  “And that thing is probably whatever that crazy witch bitch did before me and Tony got hit with the laser thing.”  Henry pointed at the roiling shadow creature.

“In general, this is right.”  Henry’s orb nodded.

“Okay, fine, but that doesn’t explain what the laser thing was, why we’re here talking to you assholes, or whether we’re dead.  I’m tired of interruptions and other fucking nonsense.  Talk.”  Henry crossed his arms.

Mr Neighborhood responded, “The weapon that hit you was of ancient design.  It used to be lab equipment, but has repurposed as an offensive device.  It sends complex organisms to the Dhu World, a place that is like a different dimension.  Everything dies there.  Everything,” the orb amended, “until you.  You must be very special, neighbor.  It seems highly unlikely, but my programming makes me objective, and the Dhu do not lie.  It is one of their only saving graces.  Telling a lie is bad.

“On the other hand, it seems odd that Aodh’s orb and I would suspend time, bringing you both here to plan our next move, but then your Dhu took you to the Dhu World anyway.  It was hard enough stopping time, saving your body from the death magic attacking it, and preventing you both from being destroyed in the Dhu world.  The attack spell was fighting us the whole time.”

Henry glanced back at the shadow thing, which was even closer now.  “So that is gonna kill me, huh?”

The Dhu dog shook its metal head, “After you die Henry-host it kills Aodh-otherhost.  Must save.  Must fight!”  The dog showed its teeth in a friendly snarl.

Henry decided to name the dog.  He liked dogs.  “Okay Spike, what do I do?”

The dog shook its head.  “It is a thing of us.  Of Dhu.  You know what to do.”

Henry thought back to his time in the Dhu world and realized he might understand.  “I gotcha,” he acknowledged.

He began taking a step towards the shadow creature when both orbs cried, “No!”  The world began turning grey and Henry’s thoughts seemed to slow.  He could feel his mind dulling again, his thoughts slipping away.  Fuck this, he mentally snarled.  Henry uncoiled his mind the way he had in the Dhu Word and lashed out.  It hurt, but when his mind touched the encroaching grey, it shattered and the tableau returned to how it had been before.

“What is going on, please?” asked Henry’s orb.  The orb’s impersonated form was still polite and refined, but his eyes were narrowed.

Spike, the Dhu dog hissed a laugh.  “Check your skills, orb-controller!”

Mr. Neighborhood pursed his lips.  “Another new skill?  Mind Whip (Rank 1, X points)?  This skill doesn’t even have a point cost, and Henry got it free again!  How are the Dhu even here?  This makes no sense.”

“Henry-host bond with new Dhu, baby Dhu.”  The metal Dhu dog said seriously, almost reverently.

“How could he even access them?” asked the winged orb in the chainmail bikini.  “Blank Dhu are in stasis until we activate them.”

“We help, we save,” replied Spike.

“This is highly irregular.  We need to return you Dhu to where you’re supposed to be.  I still need to get to the bottom of all this later, but you are not supposed to be out here,” said Gellab.  She raised a hand and the grey started to descend again.  And once again, Henry uncoiled his mind and slapped the descending dullness away.  This time it was harder, though.  It felt like getting stung by a bee in the brain.  He winced.

“No, stops orb-controller!” pleaded Spike.  “No other way for Henry-host.  He know how to do what is how.  Stop being so boss!”  The strange metal creature stamped its front paws into the ground.  “Help you we do, talk in host world, break rules.”

The orbs seemed startled.  A strange look passed between them and the manifested Dhu.  Henry ignored them.  He had a job to do.  It was obvious at this point that his orb was clueless and he was going to die if he just stood around with his thumb up his spiritual ass.  What’s more, it sounded like Tony would die too after he did.

Henry would not allow that, not without a fight.

He warily took a half step to close a bit of the distance with the shadow creature while all the Dhu and orbs were giving each other cloak and dagger looks.  The disturbing, unnatural thing was only a few paces away now.  It looked vaguely humanoid, but made of dripping tar, screaming faces, and bubbling darkness.

Henry gingerly reached out with his mind.  The closer he stretched towards the shadow thing, the colder he felt inside.  Then he made contact.

Darkness.

The world went sideways.

His soul was upside down.

Flash. His fingers clawed out his eyes, trailing viscera down his face.

Flash. He sat in a field with a headless rabbit on his lap.

Flash. He crawled into the open carcass of a large animal.

Flash. He floated in a vat of blood.

Flash. He swallowed glass.

Flash. He sat on a kitten, its bones breaking under his weight.

Flash. He slowly inserted a needle into his own throat, the point deftly threading through muscle.

Henry pushed back hard.  It felt like his soul was drowning in garbage quicksand.  He was under attack, so he reacted how he always did while being attacked.  He fought back.

Flash. He held a human heart in his hand, a chunk missing and a chunk in his mouth.

Henry rallied, defending and counter attacking.  He couldn’t think normally, but fought anyway, creating a return image of a childhood memory.  He held a baby bird in his hand, a helpless animal that his elementary school class had saved and nursed back to health.

Flash. He existed in a world of pain, pulling ropy trails of intestines out of his own stomach.

Henry returned an image of him holding his sister’s hand during the birth of his nephew, being there for her despite their mutual dislike of each other.  She was family, and she had needed support.  Her boyfriend had left her, but Henry refused to leave his sister to give birth all alone.

Flash.  He threw an infant off the top of a tall building, watching it all the way down.

Henry was starting to get angry.  He still couldn’t properly form thoughts, but he pushed back even harder with the sound of the first song he could actually remember his mother singing to him.

Flash.  He was pouring acid on emaciated, naked people, their weak voices pleading with him, writhing in a pit before their mouths and eyes were filled with chemicals.

Henry was definitely angry now.  His counterattack was the memory of his first kiss, exchanged behind the bleachers in high school with Darlene Fletcher.

The back and forth seemed to continue for an eternity.  Henry was bombarded with increasingly disturbing images, eventually including sounds, smells, and even other sensations.  He fought back with increasingly important moments from his life, moments when he was happy to be alive or proud of he was, of who he’d become.  He dredged up moments that made him Henry Sato and flung them at his adversary.  The attacks strove to destroy him, so Henry kept rebuilding himself, strengthening himself through memories, weakening his attacker with love and honor.

He could feel that whatever it was, it was getting weaker.

Finally, Henry’s world of pain, torment, and exhaustion cleared.  He was hovering in the sky with a confused looking Aodh, both orbs, and the two Dhu animals.  The orbs were looking at him strangely, but the Dhu didn’t react at all other than Spike giving a doggy grin, tongue lolling out.

Henry’s orb cleared his throat, and said, “Alrighty neighbor, you aren’t out of the woods yet, but you have a chance to live now.  I’m surprised but very, very happy.  Aodh will be safe now.  However, we didn’t have many options of where to guide your bodies.  Without the Dhu actively helping, you might have even ended up in an ocean.  That would be bad.”

The tall man with the tie and sweater vest waved, and their entire group began floating to the ground.  Henry noticed that time seemed to be standing still, evidenced by a leaf on the wind standing still.  It was just as well, because he spied a few monsters prowling around the forest they were in.  He knew he should have an opinion about everything that was going on, but he was just too exhausted.

He felt like he might have literally just gotten into a boxing match with hell.  Either way, he wouldn’t do it again.  Not for anyone or anything, at least not willingly.  If he lived, his nightmares were going to have nightmares for the rest of his life.  The things Henry had seen would make Freddy piss himself.

Mr. Neighborhood guided the entire group into a cave, the opening set into a cliff before a little clearing.  At the rear of the cave, Henry noticed his body next to Tony’s lying on the ground.  His body’s cheeks looked sunken, his skin an unhealthy pallor.  Even in the frozen moment, he could tell that his physical body was sweating terribly, his eyes scrunched in unconscious pain.

Great, he thought.  He forced himself to notice everything, forced himself to think.

“We cannot keep time frozen much longer,” said Mr. Neighborhood.  “As it is, we are not actually doing anything other than allowing your consciousness to communicate with us between moments.  However, if we maintain this any longer, your brains and spirits will break from the strain.  You actually both should be dead many times over.  I am not aware of anything like this ever happening before.”

The golden bird on Aodh’s shoulder somehow looked extremely smug.

“We will make a log,” Gellab said.  “We must note all the circumstances.  Henry’s extra, unassigned Dhu, you and I working together, the Dhu working together, the two men being sent to the Dhu World, the inclusion of death magic that was actually composed of malevolent Dhu, the fact your host is Terran…”

“Yes, of course,” responded Henry’s orb.  “Henry, do you need anything else?  I would prefer you continue not to die since the my existence will end too, but based on the monsters we saw outside, our odds don’t look good.  They might have smelled your physical bodies.

“You will not be able to protect yourself for quite a while.  I do not know what will happen with you, your sickness, or the death Dhu that are still attacking you.”

“Yeah, well, I’m not dead yet,” growled Henry.  He snapped, “Tony!  Stop gawking and look alive!  You have a job to do, kid.  I’m going to tell you exactly what to do right now before we get thrown back into our own bodies!”

Aodh nodded, wide eyed, terrified.  The boy obviously had no clue what was going on, but despite his obvious terror, his gaze met Henry’s and he listened intently.  Tony’s a good kid, Henry thought with some pride.  I hope we get out of this so I can tell him so in the flesh.

Delvers LLC 3, Chapter 2

Posted by Blaise on
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Okay all!  Two big announcements.

One, this is the second of 3 chapters from book 3 I will be posting on my site.  When book 3 comes out, I will be forced to remove all my free chapters from the website.  I really apologize for this, but I don’t see any other choice.

/That said/  If you want to follow along with the story, make sure you check out my Patreon!

Also, there is a HUGE LitRPG give away being hosted by Jason Cipriano!  Check it out here:  The Give Away

Apologies for the editing in these first few chapters.  I was getting back into the swing of things when I wrote them.  Otherwise, enjoy!  🙂

 


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Deadlights

The winged woman pursed her lips and placed her hands on her hips.  The motion did interesting things to her chainmail covered…assets.  Henry felt like his thoughts were still kind of slow.  How in the world was he being distracted by tits while existing in such a weird situation?  Seriously, what was happening?  His thoughts actually even felt a little different than usual.  “Where are we?” he asked.

Henry’s orb answered, “This is a memory of Aodh’s, and part of his mind space.  Orb controllers like myself generally don’t work together like this, but the situation is…highly irregular.”  The tall man seemed apologetic.

“You know this place?” Henry asked Tony.

Aodh thought for a moment, his expression confused.  “Actually, yeah.  I used to come here when  I was a kid to play adventurer, usually when I was hiding from Vitaliya.  Who are these people?”  The young man pointed at the two strange people.

Henry sighed.  “The tall man is how my orb appears when it needs to talk to me.  I’m assuming the woman is your orb.”

“Just so!” replied the woman.  “I can not interact as well as this one,” she said gesturing at the other orb.  “Most of my resources are focused on my process.”

“Wait, you’re my orb?  Why do you look like…” Aodh frowned before pointing.  “You’re Gellab Gettafs Smith, the legendary adventurer!  Wait, you look exactly how I imagined you when I read all those old books!”

“Call me Gelly, sweetie.” The woman smiled.

“Well, that explains the bullshit armor.  Puberty imagination,” muttered Henry.

“What?” The young man turned to the beautiful winged woman again and asked, “What is going on?  Can you help us out, madam?  It’s an honor to meet a famous Adom adventurer like you.”

“You’re talking to your imagination, kid,” growled Henry.  “These things are just our orbs, but I bet we can get some answers out of them.  But before we figure out what the fuck is going on or what the fuck this is,” he snapped, pointing at the black streamers coming off his back, “let’s ask something simple.  You, Tony’s orb, what the hell does the kid’s orb actually do?”

The female orb, Gelly, replied, “Oh, so short tempered!”  She asked the other orb, “How is he still alive?  With that personality, he should definitely be dead by now.”  The tall, male orb shrugged and the scantily clad woman frowned at Henry.  “I’m a theoretical probability orb, one of the most rare orbs ever created.  I am the latest version.”

“What does that mean?” asked Aodh.  “I’ve tried everything, but I can’t do any magic or anything else.”

“My function is actually quite complex,” said the blue skinned woman.  “I take the safety and wishes of my host into account, and based on the strength of his feelings, I allocate power towards nudging possibilities or mutable events.  I make an advantageous outcome more probable.”

“Wait, wha–” began Aodh.

Henry held a hand up.  “She’s a fucking luck orb,” he said.  “That makes no sense, though!  Tony hasn’t been lucky!  I mean, he’s here with me, whatever this is.  I sort of remember some danger.  The memories are slowly coming back but they’re still fuzzy.”

“Ah, that is not true, Aodh is not unlucky,” the woman answered.  “He found a high quality bronze dagger lying in the dirt when he was wishing for an attractive weapon like everyone else had.”  Aodh blushed.  The woman continued, “He has managed to keep distance from his cousin, and he also managed to avoid three near-certain brushes with death during your battle before arriving here.”

“Wait, I would have died without your help?” asked Aodh, his voice breaking.

“Undoubtably.  Through my assistance, you are already incredibly powerful, even at your low rank.”  The woman smiled.  “I was happy to help.”

“Okay, that’s all well and good but–”  Henry’s words were cut off suddenly when the entire world transitioned to night.  His vision and thought processes felt interrupted, scrambled as the the darkness surrounding him got deeper.

For a time, he just existed.  None of his senses worked.  His thoughts moved differently too. The Asian man’s mind felt like it was pushed up against a rough wall.  There was pressure forcing him forward, but he had nowhere to go.  It hurt, but the pain wasn’t physical.  Even if his mind had been working correctly, he would have been hard pressed to describe the feeling.

The core of the sensation was losing himself.  He felt like he was dying.  Actually, worse than dying.  It felt like something deep inside of him, his very being was being worn away.  It felt like he was losing his soul.

Henry’s mind moved glacially slow, but he focused every bit of his will on a single thought: Fuck this.

The stubborn man pushed forward, pounding against the obstacle before him.  It hurt, it hurt terribly.  It felt like the very fabric of his existence was being ripped to shreds, and he was desperately trying to find a gap to escape.  He didn’t stop, didn’t give in.

Eventually, he found something, something different.  He felt a small breach in the barrier holding him back, a weakness.  Henry pushed with everything he had, all his memories, his personality, his thoughts, and desires.  He pushed with every bit of himself that he could, and without warning, the overwhelming darkness around him shattered, motes of light exploding outwards, disappearing into the distance.

He was floating in space, the dark place he had been before he transitioned to Tony’s old memory.  Pinpricks of light slowly moved in random patterns.  Flashes of memories came and went.  An enormous pressure settled on Henry’s spirit, but with the same dogged determination he had grasped onto before, he pushed back.

He kept pushing until the pressure abated, and he suddenly felt a deep sense of peace that tickled parts of his mind, parts of himself that he’d never even felt before.  He tried to close his eyes, but realized he couldn’t.  He wasn’t seeing with his eyes.  The thought as bizarre, but the feeling of the strange place made the fact unimportant.

Henry felt a faint presence and realized it was Tony.  The farm boy turned adventurer was failing, his life ebbing away.  Henry thought, Can’t let that happen.  He reached for the young man, stretching the new part of himself he had never felt before.  The sensation was like fumbling around the dark for something small, but eventually, he made contact with Tony.

As soon as his will touched the Ludan teen, Tony grasped the lifeline of Henry’s consciousness and began pulling himself out of the pressure he’d been in.  The closer he got to Henry, the stronger his life force felt.  Eventually, after what seemed to take ages, after incredibly effort felt through their connection, Aodh reached Henry’s position.

He couldn’t see anything, the view of the deep darkness, moving lights, and distant flashes of color remained unchanged.  However, Henry could feel Tony’s existence.  He also heard the boy’s Irish accented voice in his head whispering, “What is this?”

Henry tried to speak, but nothing happened.  It was like his mind worked, but the body it was usually connected to was out for vacation.  He mentally narrowed his eyes, and tried thinking his question.  He projected, “Are you okay, Tony?” in the general “direction” he thought the kid was.

Ouch, don’t yell so loud!” Tony complained.  “What is going on?  Where did those orbs go?”

Henry focused on thinking a little softer.  It was weird for him.  Actually, everything about the situation was weird, even for someone who’d spent a few months on Ludus.  “I don’t know.  Those lights in the distance seem to be getting closer, though.”

Yeah.

Henry paused for a moment.  The fog over his mind from before was completely gone.  He could remember everything.  In fact, his memory actually felt much sharper than usual.  His mind seemed to be moving faster than it usually did, too.  It felt like his thoughts didn’t have any resistance.

He warily watched the lights approaching and pushed at Tony.  “Hey, what was that!” the boy mentally shouted at Henry.

Nothing, probably your imagination.  I can remember everything.  Can you?

Yes,” Aodh said mentally, his “voice” somber.  “Are we dead?

I don’t think so,” replied Henry.  “This isn’t oblivion, it’s not what I thought hell would be like, and it damn sure isn’t paradise.  I see no golden gates, Valhalla, dozens of virgins, nothing.”

Virgins?” Tony asked, his mental voice curious.

Yeah, of course you’d be asking that.  I saw that blue skinned hottie earlier.  You have a very active imagination, kid.”

Uh, it made sense at the time.”  Aodh sounded embarrassed.

Whatever.  She’s hot and seems nice.  There are worse fantasies young dudes can have.  The lights are almost here, look sharp.”

The lights approached slowly, spinning and casting brighter flashes at each other.  At first, Henry had thought they were all moving together, but he noticed that a large group seemed to be blocking something. Something dark.

As the lights got closer, Henry began to hear whispers around the edges of his mind.  He tentatively thought a question at Aodh, “Can you hear that?

Sort of,” said Tony, sounding scared.  “It’s like hearing a bunch of people whispering in the next room.  Like they’re facing away from me.”

Henry paused.  He said, “I think they’re whispering at me.”  The lights grew nearer, and the whispering didn’t get any louder, but seemed more focused.

When the lights were even closer, Henry began to hear individual voices speaking in concert.  Well, a few groups of them.  They weren’t saying anything in any language he understood, but he could grasp the meaning all the same.

One group was warm, welcoming.  This group’s colors were hard, sharp.  Another group was curious, determined.  This group’s colors were soft and whimsical.  The last, a group he couldn’t see, was dark, insidious.  Its collective voice made him feel a chill in his soul, and it seemed the other lights were pushing it back.

What the hell? Henry thought.  One time when he’d gotten out of the Army and just started taking some college classes, Henry had gotten really, really drunk at a party and a pretty girl had convinced him to drop acid.  Measuring that experience against the one he found himself in was was like comparing a candle to the sun.

When the lights stopped moving, they began to orbit around Tony and himself.  Henry focused on the voices.  Despite the strangeness of the entire situation, the first two groups of lights didn’t scare him.  They somehow felt familiar.  Even the third, dark group he couldn’t see didn’t particularly terrify him.  It almost felt like a snake, a viper.  It was dangerous, but the harm it could cause didn’t feel personal.

Eventually, Henry felt his mind shift, his thoughts slightly turning to better understand the voices.  The dark group’s whispers didn’t make a lot of sense.  Death, destruction, rot, it just repeated some of the same ideas over and over.

The second group, the light colored, curious group was mumbling offers of friendship, ideas of solidarity.  Henry heard, “Friend?  Friend?  Friend?” repeated under everything else the group said, almost like a baseline.

The first group he’d heard, the rigid group, was the most interesting and the most comforting.  Companion. Protection. Power.  Honor.  Henry felt his spirit, the very stuff that made up who ne was in this place resonating with it.  The voices whispered, Let us help.

Henry mentally shrugged and reached out to the jagged, hard lights.  His mind almost felt like it uncoiled and tentatively extended the same way he’d touched Aodh.  When he made contact with the lights, he felt like he’d stuck his finger in a light socket.  Pain racked his being and his entire existence became agony.  Instead of nerve endings lighting up, in this strange place, he felt his memories flashing, the intensity trying to unravel his mind.

With the new connection, he heard the whispers, now voices, much more clearly.  “Please hold on, Henry!” they begged.  For some reason, he knew he could trust these lights.  Instead of trying to reject the connection, Henry dug his metaphorical heels in and deepened his connection.

Now it felt like he had all his fingers stuck in light sockets, and some of his toes as well.  The agony was overwhelming.  Henry dimly heard Tony’s voice in his mind asking if everything was alright.  The man from Earth ignored him and channeled every bit of his mind into keeping himself from flying apart.  He thought about his mom, how much he loved her, and how much respect he had for her.  He focused on how she and his dad had loved each other, on how her heart had broken when he’d died.  Henry had just saved his mom from cancer.  He refused to die before she did.  He refused to leave her without a son, refused to go out without a fight, even if his grave would be on another world or whether he currently found himself.

Then he thought of Mareen, his sweet, pure-hearted wife.  A woman from another world, another race, another background, another culture who somehow completed him, made him better than he could otherwise be.  He knew he made her happy most of the time, and remembering her smile filled him with joy.  Mareen was young, and her very youth just made who she was as a person even more amazing.

They’d been arguing before the battle with the zombies.  Mareen wanted a child, and Henry hadn’t thought it was time yet.  They were adventurers, after all.  Their lives were dangerous.  He decided if he survived and found his way back to her, he couldn’t deny her any longer.  More importantly, he had to survive.

Henry would not leave Mareen all alone, he couldn’t break her heart.  He had three choices.  He could let the pain take him, let it carry him off to the distant darkness and pinpricks of light, he could reject the lights he was reaching out to, which he somehow knew would still result in his end, or he could endure.

I am me! He thought, shouting his words against the emptiness around him.  Henry steeled himself, drawing even more deeply on his connection with the lights.  Now the sensation was like all of his extremities were plugged into a hydroelectric dam, like he was riding several bolts of lighting all going different directions.  He raged against oblivion, barely holding utter destruction at bay.

After what felt like an eternity of barely holding himself together, maintaining his personal identity amidst a torrent of power and pain, all the agony suddenly stopped.  “Well done, Henry!” he heard a strange voice say in his mind.  It still sounded like many whispers speaking in unison, but now he could understand it perfectly.

The voice continued, “Now reach out to the other group!  You are amazing!  We might be able to save you after all!

Henry’s spirit felt dull after the fight he’d just had, but he knew with every fiber of his being that he could trust the voices.  It was like he was hearing a part of himself.  With a sense of fear, he gingerly reached out to the light, hopeful group of lights.

This time when he made contact, the sensation was completely different.  Instead of pain, he just felt warmth.  At first, the heat was uncomfortable, like standing too close to a bonfire.  However, over time, the sensation abated and Henry heard a new voice, like the previous, hard edged precise voice, but with more personality now.  “Excellent!” it praised.  “We might all be able to survive!”

Henry felt exhausted in mind and spirit.  With the new change that had taken place in his consciousness after making contact with the second group of lights, he could sense another group of lights oriented on Tony, lights that were golden and flickered in and out of existence.  They whispered quiet, good natured laughter at him, and he noticed they extended trails of sparks at him, feeding him power.

He could also sense the group of dark, non-lights staying in place.  Now he could hear that voice better too.  It was saying, “Mission” over and over again.

He tried to formulate a thought towards the voice in his mind, directing his question to the lights with hard edges.  “What now?  What about the dark lights?

We don’t know,” the voices replied.  “We are out of time too.  If you remain in this place much longer, you will be lost to us.  It was a risk to begin with, one that would not have been possible without the other host’s Dhu cooperating.”

Wait, what? Henry began, but the entire world around him began spinning, swirling wildly like he was caught in a universe was spiraling down a cosmic drain.  Once again, his thoughts fractured.

Eternity seemed to pass.  When Henry regained his senses again, he was standing in the field on Ludus again in Tony’s memory.  The two orbs looked confused, and the darkness that had fallen before was receding as fast as it’d come before.

The dark streamers were still coming out of his back, and he saw them wildly waving around out of the corner of his eyes.  Something had them agitated.  He turned around to get a better look, and when he saw what was behind him, his eyes narrowed.

Tony fell to his knees, shaking wildly.  “Henry, please.  Please, we need to get out of this.  I can’t do that again.  I can’t be in that place.”

The two orbs began opening their mouths, but Henry held up a forestalling hand.  His mind was sharp now.  In fact, he felt stronger than he ever had in general.  “I think we can ask your orb, her name Gellab, right?  We can ask Gellab and Mr. Neighborhood over here some questions.  I’d also like to know what is going on, and more specifically, what the fuck that is,” Henry said, pointing at the giant, enormous shadow standing a few yards behind him.

It seemed to be reaching for the lines of darkness coming from his back, and more worrying, the waving tendrils were all trying to reach the shadow too.  Henry didn’t know what it meant, but he had a feeling it wasn’t good.

Delvers LLC 2, Chapter 25

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This is the last chapter of book 2.  Thank you for coming on this ride with me!

I’m getting pretty beat up in reviews, so I’d appreciate if you’d leave a review for me on Amazon if you liked the story!  https://www.amazon.com/Delvers-LLC-Obligations-Blaise-Corvin-ebook/dp/B06Y4BVRQ4/

And as always, please vote for the story on Top Web Fiction.  These votes really help me.  They refresh every week, so please vote again!  http://topwebfiction.com/vote.php?for=delvers-llc


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Politically Expedient

 

Yelm tapped his foot impatiently.  He let his magic creep through his body, manifesting on his fingertips in a subtle warning.  He growled a question.  “Why haven’t you found them yet?”

The woman he spoke to, a Ludus-born Terran, a Ludan, merely smiled.  She was obviously not intimidated in the slightest.

With an effort of will, Yelm reigned in his temper.  He was aware of all the other eyes on him.  There would always be time to properly deal with Celina, the smug bitch was not as untouchable as she thought she was.

Delvers LLC 2, Chapter 24

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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?


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Different Burdens

 

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.

Writer of the day on r/Fantasy!

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Hey everyone!  I have good news!  Firstly, I’m writing again and trying to make up for lost time.  Thank you for being so patient with me up until now.

Second, I’m the writer of the day on r/Fantasy today (2/15/2017)!  I’ll be answering questions on Reddit all day.  If you’d like to stop by to upvote, ask questions, or just show some support, that would be awesome!  The link is here:  https://www.reddit.com/r/Fantasy/comments/5u6pvo/rfantasy_writer_of_the_day_blaise_corvin/

I’m working hard now to have Delvers 2 out next month.  I’m behind, but if I push hard I think I can still make it happen.

-BC

SOO is now on sale… with added epilogue!

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Hi everyone!

Luck Stat Strategy, the first book of Secret of the Old Ones is now on sale on Amazon Kindle!

The published version is edited, polished, and more importantly, has new content!

Check out the official release to see the epilogue.  Just click the cover below!

SSO 20

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Okay, last chapter of the first book!  Bam!

If you guys wouldn’t mind and you have a RRL account, I could really use some more ratings and reviews!  http://www.royalroadl.com/fiction/9319


 

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The next few minutes became a nightmare of dodging tentacles, killing Hygon Spawn, destroying the occasional NPC or player that managed to climb up onto the train, and dodging into the nearby boxcar to avoid being shot.

Vale was forced to use another max power <Wind Slash> to break up a new group of ranged Abyssal One players, this time almost exclusively containing LoF.  He would have taken great joy in blowing them apart if he hadn’t been so stressed out, barely staying alive.

Abigail had run out of enough mana to use exploding rounds, but she was still pumping lead into Lord Hygon as fast as she could.  The train was starting to travel past Innsmouth.  Vale was busy staying alive, but he noticed Hygon Spawn running around and killing the thousands of panicked Abyssal Ones players.  It was mass chaos.

Vale had been saving his mana.  Out of his max mana pool of 90, he was down to 70 due to his two full power <Wind Slash> spells.  Hygon was looking pretty beat up, but Vale wasn’t sure how much longer his group could last either.  His own stamina was getting dangerously low.  Vale gritted his teeth and made a decision.

He ran out into the open screaming, “Keep them off me!”  He squared his feet, but before he could do anything else, a large Hygon Spawn jumped up onto the flatbed train car.  Vale tensed to fight, snarling.  However, the creature hadn’t taken two steps before Brutus seemed to appear out of midair, hitting it with a flying shoulder tackle and forcing it off the train.

“If we kick them off, they become Innsmouth’s problem, not ours,” the big man chuckled evilly.

Vale grinned and got back to business.  He focused, not an easy feat with so much going on, and began casting full strength <Wind Slash> spells one after another.  Each wave of power slammed into Hygon, opening massive wounds in the terrifying giant.  One, two, three, four, five, six waves of power lanced out, hitting Hygon so hard, the enormous being was physically forced backwards.

Vale only had ten mana left.  He sighed, he wasn’t sure his efforts would be enough.  He noticed Lord Hygon’s disgusting penis tentacle reach out and grab a Lord of Finality player.  It ripped the fish man’s head off and ate it.  Vale thought it was funny, chuckling darkly.  Then he got an idea.

He prepared one last <Wind Slash> with nine mana, leaving one mana in reserve to hopefully keep from passing out from -Casting Shock-.  He tried to ignore what was going on around him, trusting his group to keep him alive.  Suddenly, the boss monster took another step and Vale saw his chance.

He snarled and cast <Wind Slash>, his legendary rapier glittering at the end of his extended arm.  Vale breathlessly watched his attack scythe through the rain.  He was soaked to the skin and the growing storm’s cold wind cut right to his bones, but he ignored it all.  All that mattered was the wave of destructive magic.

The Wind Slash passed between the giant’s  legs and hit its target.  It was a beautiful attack; Lord Hygon’s disgusting, toothy member was severed and fell to the ground.  The huge monster screeched in agony, his body bleeding heavily from a dozen places.

A message popped up

You have suffered casting shock.  You can choose to die now,
or wait an hour before regaining consciousness.
Would you like to die, or wait?

Vale chose WAIT.

Suddenly he was in a dark room with a comfortable recliner.  Vale had set this room up ages ago in case he ever passed out in the game.  A number of effects could cause a player to pass out without actually dying, which started a black out timer.  Of course, he might still die in-game, but there was nothing he could do at this point.

While he was waiting, he decided not to log out.  Instead, he accessed his email through his persocom and began killing time.  He was idly cleaning out his message box when he stumbled across an email that chilled his blood.

It was dated that day, sent just a few hours ago.  Vale opened it and saw a picture of his family, his real world family.  An old fashioned physical newspaper was in the frame with the date visible.  The photo had been taken that day.

Someone was watching Vale, no Trent’s family.  The “from” box was blank.  The threat was obvious.

The only message read,

Vale, stay in the game after your friends have left  Do not ignore this message.

He felt cold, like someone had just walked over his grave.  They wouldn’t really hurt his family, would they?  He didn’t even know who “they” were.  Then he remembered someone shooting at him in public a few weeks before.  There were people playing for keeps when there were large amounts of money involved.

Not for the first time, he felt way out of his depth.  His mind raced but felt blank at the same time.  He didn’t know what to do.

Suddenly another prompt appeared.

An hour has passed and you can regain consciousness.
Would you like to wake up?

Vale chose YES.

He came back into the game on a bed.  He suffered a second of disorientation before Minerva’s face filled his vision.  She was grinning from ear to ear.  “He’s awake!” she yelled.

Vale shook his head and sat up.  He closed all his alerts and windows.  He didn’t have the patience nor the heart to deal with anything game-related at the moment.  It could all wait.

Bartholomew burst in the room.  “We did it!  Vale, we did it!  Hygon is dead and most of us got away!  Brutus straight up carried you to the stagecoach and made it back to this inn!  Dude, we won!”

Vale forced a smile.  “That’s awesome!” he said.

Obviously expecting more cheer, Bartholomew gave him a suspicious look but shrugged and left the room.

Vale could hear the others celebrating outside his room.  He hoped they thought he was just going through his inventory or checking his character sheet or something.

He didn’t know what to do, at least not at first.  As the minutes passed, Vale turned his mind to the problem at hand and realized how negligent he’d truly been.  He should have seen this coming.  He’d been an idiot.  He gritted his teeth and set his resolve.  He knew what he had to do.

…He had to give whoever was threatening him whatever they wanted.  It was a bitter pill to swallow, but he refused to get his mom and his little sister killed over a game.  Even his step dad didn’t deserve to be snuffed by some anonymous hired killer.

Eventually, his group members wound down from celebrating and came to visit Vale again.  The next few minutes felt like a dream. Vale didn’t really feel there.  His mind was elsewhere.

He did learn that Abigail hadn’t made it.  She was the only member of their group to die, but Minerva had managed to pick up the corpse and bring it to the inn.  That meant in a week when Abbey resurrected, or rezzed, she wouldn’t lose any of her gear or XP.

The quest had been a smashing success.  Vale knew the rest of his group members expected him to act excited, and he wasn’t behaving expected.  In fact, he seemed to be bringing them down.

It turned out he didn’t even need to suggest they all log out, they came to that decision on their own. First Brutus, then Minerva, and finally Bartholomew all left, leaving Vale alone.

He slowly got up and walked outside.  It didn’t take long before a nondescript man approached him.  Vale looked at the man’s physicaldex, which read 5/10.  Figures.

The man stopped next to Vale and leaned against the wall of the inn.  He said, “Did you get our message?”

“How do I know you are who you say you are?”

“If you don’t comply, they will not be around anymore within ten minutes.”

Vale felt like he weighed a million pounds, even his eyeball felt heavy.  His heart dropped into his stomach.

“What do you want?” he whispered.

“Give me the Monarch Stone, the Secret of the Old Ones,” the man instructed.  He held out a hand.

Vale had never been so angry, scared, or ashamed in his life.  It felt like his entire life was leading up to this moment, this act of ultimate powerlessness.  He was watching evil rear its ugly head and leer at him without any repercussion at all.

Vale almost asked about the World Tree but held his tongue.  He numbly reached into his inventory and produced the dark, pulsing crystal.  “You’ll leave them alone?”

The man looked at him levelly before saying, “If you feel that anything bad could happen soon, this thing will not happen if you hand over the crystal.”  Vale realized the man avoiding saying anything that could incriminate.  It was clever, and exactly the kind of professional behavior that made up Vale’s mind for sure.

He handed the crystal over and the man smiled.  “Nice doing business with you,” he said before casually walking away.  Vale watched him numbly until he was out of sight.  He had no idea how they’d found him, but for all he knew, he’d been stalked for weeks.

He shook himself and felt a seed of something growing in his heart; something hot, something angry.  How dare these motherfuckers threaten his mama!

The seed grew, erupting into a blazing inferno of rage and hate.  Vale went back up to his room in the inn and sat down to think some more.  He could go back to the real world, but with the slight time dilation, he actually had more time in SOO to get his head straight.

He thought about all his options and several courses of action until he settled on what he had to do.

He logged out of SOO.

Colors and strange sounds assaulted him.  He felt like he could see sounds and taste color.  The experience muted his growing fury.

Trent was back in his body and the full force of his rage returned and then some.  How dare they threaten Mama!  He gnashed his teeth in anger and took action.

Trent worked via his persocom as he left his room and headed towards the little armory by the nearby shooting range.  When he’d been shooting there before, he’d realized how few rules and regulations were in place at the Rainbow Ranch.  At the time he’d been surprised, but now he was glad.

He picked up a 9mm pistol and two boxes of ammo to bring back to his room.  He also sent an email to his parents and told them to take his little sister and get out of town… immediately.  He sent them the reservation he’d made her at a nice hotel two cities over, paid.  Included with his message was an FYI than he’d put a large sum of money in his mother’s bank account.

He had remembered he was rich-ish now.

Trent had a quick back and forth with a bodyguard company before signing a contract and sending a down payment to protect his family.  He instructed someone to immediately go to his parents’ house and accompany them to the hotel.

By this time he was back in his room.  He quickly loaded two magazines for his pistol and put it somewhere safe he could grab quickly.  He’d never been into guns, but now he was going to get good with this pistol.  He swore it to himself.

Last, Trent sent an email to all his SOO group members.  The next day, they were all logging in together and he was taking everyone to the World Tree.  Michelle would just have to wait another week until Abigail resurrected, then he’d take her too.

He had been dragging his feet, procrastinating about the World Tree.  He hadn’t been sure what to do, who he could trust.  However, he just had his face rubbed in how stupid his issues really had been.  He had to protect his family, and the best way to do that was to make as much money and be as powerful as he could; in SOO and out of it.

Nobody threatened his family and got away with it.  For the first time in his life, Trent was honestly, truly enraged.

He wanted to hurt someone.  Someone had to pay.  If he could, he’d kill them.

Trent sat on his bed in a daze, alternating between dismay and anger.  He skimmed through entertainment channels on his persocom.  He ignored stories about himself, ignored rumors about what had just happened outside Innsmouth, and he ignored a new price set on his head by the Lords of Finality.

None of it mattered.

After a few hours he found what he was looking for.  Breaking news.  Someone had used the Secret of the Old Ones, the Monarch stone to unlock the First Things race.

The player wasn’t well known, but the name had popped up in the system menu.  Miguel Veneno, either the person pulling the strings, or someone being pulled.  But it was a lead.

Miguel Veneno.

Now Trent knew the name of his enemy.  He wasn’t sure how yet, but he was going to make the sonofabitch pay.

Nobody could threaten Trent’s mama and get away with it.  Nobody.

Trent began planning who in his group would get what element from the World Tree.  He was going to make his group the strongest, most badass force in the game by far.  He was going to make tons of money.  And he was going to make those fuckers pay for threatening his mama!

SSO 19

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Okay all.  Only two more chaptes to go.


 

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As soon as he saw the train in the distance, Vale and the rest of his group hurried forward, trying to be as sneaky and quiet as possible.  Since they were crossing railroad tracks and an open area on the outskirts of the Abyssal Ones player base, Vale was cringing during the entire shuffle-run.  By the time they all reached the shrine, his anxiety level was overwhelming.

He blew out a sigh of relief as he began inspecting the ugly strructure.  At least now they were all in some shade.  It helped him feel a bit less exposed.

“What ar

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