Well, my friends, Feast of Fantasy: The Ultimate Fantasy Adventure is no longer the title of my soon-to-be self-published novella. Or short novel. I’m still very fuzzy about where one thing cuts off and becomes something else when it comes to word count. The title of my novella is now Portal to Gaming, and here is the excerpt.
From Portal to Gaming:
The village of Tulupa bustled with life. Vendors hawking their wares shouted to be heard over the marching of booted feet and the whinnying of horses. Women walked along, examining bolts of fabric, meats, breads, and cheeses. Small children scampered underfoot.
Fen turned off the main road, and the sounds of everyday life fell away. The alley he strode down was surrounded by poorly constructed homes of thatch and stone and wooden carts with iron-spoke wheels, torches, with tall, stone walls peering over them.
It was also silent, empty. Muffled, even. He stopped and glanced around. Satisfaction filled him with how his and his friends’ quest to battle a group of Kobolds ended. The fighting relieved some of the tension creeping into his shoulders and kept his mind off his recent break-up with his boyfriend. Now was the time to collect the reward and move on to the next adventure.
Confusion erased away some of his satisfaction. Beggars and the homeless usually made their homes in the alleyway. He saw no one. He glanced at the piece of parchment in his hand and frowned. According to a bright red door to one side, he was in the right location to meet his contact.
Something wasn’t right.
‘Where’s the lady who . . .’
“Draw your sword.”
Fen froze as the sharp edge of a broad sword appeared in his peripheral vision and pressed against his cheek and ear. A trickle of blood ran from the right side of his face and slid onto his neck. The wounds stung and startled him. His heart pounded, heavy yet fast. He cursed himself for allowing his guard to falter so this assailant could sneak up on him. He’d not heard the soft whisper of a sword being unsheathed or the footsteps of this person’s arrival. He should have had some kind of indication in the quiet that he wasn’t alone.
‘How did I miss those? Where did he come from?’
Fen fought the urge to simply whirl around and smack the weapon away with the back side of his hand. He couldn’t risk another injury so soon after that skirmish with Kobold bandits, despite the ridiculously easiness of the task. His left arm ached from the gash the leader had given him. Panicking was the last thing he needed to do in his current situation. He inhaled a sharp, deep breath.
‘Calm. Remain calm,’ he told himself. ‘He’s expecting me to panic. Well, I won’t give him the satisfaction. He won’t ever get the drop on me again. But why does he want me to draw my sword? He could’ve killed me already, taken my stuff and be gone. Others would’ve done so by now. Is he really just wanting to fight me? Why? Stop thinking about it, dammit. Focus! You’re not usually a scatterbrain, Fen!’
“You want me . . . to draw my sword?” With slow and deliberate grace, Fen reached for his sword, where it hung behind his waist.
“Is that so hard to believe?” The man’s voice held mild amusement and a hint of mockery.
Fen’s free hand balled into a fist. Anger flared within him. He eyed the blade pressed against his cheek, noticing the hand holding it never wavered. The stranger remained calm and self-assured. Whoever he was, he wasn’t some rank amateur.
“Considering you snuck up behind me, yeah,” he replied. “I find it very hard to believe you want an honest fight with me.”
“So you feel I’m a dishonest person because your guard doesn’t exist? I suppose I should take insult with your implication. Yet, I can at least guess why you think the way you do.” The man chuckled. “Then again, it hardly matters now, does it? There’s only one truly important question requiring an answer.”
“And that is?” Fen asked. His heart continued to hammer away. He tried to inhale several deep, calming breaths instead of gulping in as much air as he could. His chest constricted a little, and he wanted, needed to keep his breathing under control. Sweat beaded on his forehead, threatening to obscure his vision. Why was he reacting like this? Had his opponent poisoned his blade beforehand? He eased his sword from its sheath.
“Are you ready for this?”
“I guess I am.”
Fen stepped to his left and spun away from his opponent in an effort to dodge a blow to the head. At the same time, he attempted to bring his sword arm into a better defensive position. In those seconds, he wished he carried his sword at his side rather than on his back. His arm ached from the awkward angle at which he held his weapon.
‘Can’t be helped now,’ he told himself. ‘At least now I know to keep my guard up when I’m here. It really does take all kinds, doesn’t it?’
He brought his sword into a better defensive stance, ready to counter his opponent’s strike.
The other man hadn’t remained idle in those moments. The stranger’s feet slid across the dirt, moving into a different position away from Fen. The air hummed as he swung his sword in a semi-circular arc. Fen crouched down and scrubbed at his eyes, his sweat blurring his vision.
“It appears this is over before it has even begun,” the man said. Was that disappointment and anger in his voice?
With his heart racing harder and faster, now in anticipation, Fen scrambled to stand straight so he could face his opponent. His blood pounded in his ears.
“Until we meet again . . . Fen Willows . . .”
The scenery shifted. It rolled like an image losing signal, twisted several times, and turned to static. All of his attention centered on battling his opponent, to prevent the other man from fleeing. They couldn’t stop now. The fight was just starting, and Fen loved a challenge.
“Player endangerment detected. Powering down. Initiating emergency protocol.”
The new voice didn’t register in Fen’s mind right away while the new event unfolded around him. He opened his mouth to retort to the newcomer to the fight. The words failed him.
‘Player endangerment? What the heck is he talking about?’
When the computerized male voice broke through his battle-ready mind, Fen blinked. The scenery dimmed and faded out of sight, the smells fading away. Before everything disappeared, however, Fen caught a hint of his opponent’s golden hair and a flash of silver. Instead of a sunlit sky in a medieval town, he stood in a room of four, light grey metal walls.
The game ended.