The “Planeswalking for Fun and Profit” Series

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The “Planeswalking for Fun and Profit” Series

Interdimensional Monster Hunting / Weird Fantasy Sci-fi
Cosmic Horror / Action-Adventure


“The Wyvern in the Wilderlands”
Planeswalking for Fun and Profit – Book 1

Explore other Universes.
Hunt Deadly Monsters.
Make a Profit.

Jason Leaper of Earth isn’t special.

But there’s an alternate Jason Leaper out there who is, and his unexpected death launches the other Jason’s life into a wild adventure of survival, fantastic creatures and bizarre other worlds, parallel universes, and higher dimensions!

All Jason Leapers across the infinite multiverses have the ability to rift–to open portals through other dimensions to shift between alternate planes of reality. And when dead Jason’s friends–the last survivors of the Reality Rifters, an interdimensional Monster Hunter crew–come looking for him, Earth’s not-so-special Jason finds his latent powers awakened, and his life is changed forever! When Jason Leaper is suddenly teleported to the Wilderlands, a vicious and primordial Earth overrun with dinosaurs, primitive savages, and epic wilderness, he’s cast into a visceral struggle for basic survival, and needs to figure out his rifting powers in a hurry if he expects to get home! And when the monster hunting planeswalkers finally find him, will Jason slay the apex predator in the region, and take his place in the Reality Rifters?

The Wyvern in the Wilderlands is a fast-paced survival story and is the first book in the “Planeswalking for Fun and Profit” series about Jason Leaper 934 and his Realty Rifters, Monster Hunters for hire. If you love books about guns, survival, vicious and terrible mythical monsters, cosmic horror, DINOSAURS, and traveling to strange, new worlds … read this today!

Read The Wyvern in the Wilderlands, Book One
of the ‘Planeswalking for Fun and Profit’ Series SOON!

— Will be Available on Kindle and in Paperback

— Comes with a Special Offer for a Free Book
(click to learn more about the Free Book)

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“The Minotaurs of Maze World”
Planeswalking for Fun and Profit – Book 2

**Coming Soon!**

If you’re interested in getting an email when Book 2 comes out, make sure to sign up for my mailing list! (Psst–you’ll also get a free book or two out of doing so…)

Read The Minotaurs of Maze World, Book Two
of the ‘Planeswalking for Fun and Profit’ Series SOON!

— Will be Available on Kindle and in Paperback

— Comes with a Special Offer for a Free Book
(click to learn more about the Free Book)

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“A Bond of Man and Monster”
Planeswalking for Fun and Profit – Special Feature

**Coming Soon!**

This is a Special Feature of this series, a FREE NOVELLA available only to fans that have subscribed to my mailing list. You won’t find this book in stores.

“A Bond of Man and Monster” covers part of the backstory of Riley Wyatt and Gliath Voidheart the Deathhand, the Reality Rifters that sought out Jason 934 in Book 1 of this series, starting this adventure.

This free book is not available yet–It will be offered to fans at the same time as I publish “The Wyvern in the Wilderlands”. If you’d like a copy, feel free to still join the mailing list (you’ll currently get a copy of another free book, “The Sniper and the World Eaters”, associated with my “Apocalypse Gate” series), and I’ll send you a copy of this free book as soon as it’s ready.

Read A Bond of Man and Monster, Free Special Feature
of the ‘Planeswalking for Fun and Profit’ Series SOON!

— Only Available to Fans on my Mailing List

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Preview of “The Wyvern in the Wilderlands
“Planeswalking for Fun and Profit” Book One


Chapter 1


The colors were as brilliant and varied as they were terrifying, and the adventure for Jason Leaper of Universe 113 was coming to a violent end. At the same time, Jason Leaper of Universe 934—across the phase space of the sixth dimension—had no idea where his life was going, or that adventure was coming for him…

“Jason!” Riley shouted against the noise. He could hardly hear his own voice above the din that sounded like white-hot lightning arcing around them, tearing constantly at the world. Underneath it all was the crinkling noise of cracks spreading through an infinity of glass. “What do we do? How can we stop it?”

Above the soldier was the prismatic spread of blues and indigo; reds and yellows. The tearing and crinkling racket—it would deafen Riley if his ears weren’t fortified—it was shaking the house to pieces. Crystals constantly erupted into vast and speedy geometric patterns as the world was being torn apart, like rainbow fractals building upon themselves, bigger and bigger, to the size of clouds. The slashing sound scratched and tore at Riley’s synthetic eardrums—bizarre noises of glass shattering and crawling along the earth and metal; piercing through the concrete foundation and the walls of Jason’s living room. From here, Riley could only barely see the deadly rift, still yawning open in the garage, twisting violently and lashing out all around its swirling form. As the roof of the house was being torn away with each shriek of the crystalline air expanding from the incompatible universe, the soldier could see Earth’s sky filling with rainbows and streaks of color that glimmered in the sunlight as if it was made of glass…

The others were dead, and Jason Leaper 113 lay dying.

Riley Wyatt crouched down next to his friend, afraid to touch him, because it looked like Jason was melting, or at least parts of him were melding into the floor. His warped and half-crystalized body was covered with violet, green, and dangerous shades of orange.

Riley’s good friend and employer struggled to stay conscious.

Half of Jason’s wizened face had hardened into translucent, ever-sharpening gemstones—one of his blue eyes was like a sapphire, half of his dusky blonde hair had stiffened into translucent crystalline growths. The distorted hairs expanded into a brittle lattice, finer than Riley could make out—even with his enhanced vision—growing and branching off in endless symmetry, until cracking under its own weight and falling to the floor.

“Riley…” Jason croaked. “Gliath…”

Riley’s bodyguard ran up to Jason’s side, crouching down with an easy grace, his huge, dark form a stark contrast against the brilliant and colorful crumbling landscape. Gliath’s glossy black fur was bristling all over, and his brilliant yellowish-green eyes darted around at the incomprehensible madness around them. His long, dark tail swished back and forth frantically, which told Riley that his friend was anxious.

“Jason, tell us what to do!” Riley replied. “How can we close the rift?”

“Listen,” Jason snapped, the crystals of his hair growing like spreading ice as a flash of red and violet rippled over his face. “There isn’t time—the light won’t last. You’ve got to take this.”

Jason pressed the OCS into Riley’s hands. Riley stared down at the device in shock, but didn’t protest. He knew that Jason wasn’t kidding. They were surrounded by an intense sphere of white light, which was blocking the weird atmosphere of Earth 1240 from overtaking them for now, but the sphere was using a hell of a lot of power to keep it blazing, and those fusion cells wouldn’t last for much longer…

If Jason was giving him the OCS, this was bad…

“Aren’t you gonna come with us?!” Riley asked, running a hand through his beard in fear. A bold rainbow suddenly streaked across the room outside of the light sphere, crashing through the wall near the couch. It punched through drywall and wood framing like the house was made of paper. The soldier saw the fragile structure remaining suddenly overwhelmed and crawling with rapidly-growing crystalline forms and beautiful colors. Time seemed to be moving strangely as adrenaline coursed through the soldier’s system. “Jason, I don’t know how to—”

“Shut up and listen!” Jason cried. Gliath drew in closer, his large, black form shading Riley from a yellow and orange flare that popped by on his right. “I’m going to open a portal before the light goes out. It’ll take you to Earth 934.” Their leader stopped to cough. Jason’s voice was turning hoarse and scratchy, and the dying man grimaced for a moment as his legs and left arm spread more into the floor like rainbow jelly. “Find Jason 934! I’ve watched him. He’s a good fit—no attachments. There’s a portal to—oh God, it’s happening!—the Wilderlands behind his house!”

“What’s the Wilderlands?” Riley asked. He suddenly felt too young for all of this…

“Take a portable gateway!” Jason shouted. He tilted his head with great pain and gestured to the big satchel nearby, still protected within the sphere of light. “Use it to—holy hell, I can’t believe this pain!—to get to the Market from there if you need. He might not be able to use the focus key. Give Jason 934 this infinity stone—”

They were interrupted by a loud crash of one of the exterior walls falling down into a sea of green and purple, then disintegrating. Riley looked around and gasped—his cybernetic eyes let him see through the glare and brilliance of the light sphere protecting them. The walls between here and the garage were now gone, and the rift to Universe 1240 stood brilliant and horrific, swirling like the center of a storm, spitting colors out all around it like a monstrous tesla coil with lightning and rainbows. The piercing streaks and sizzling hues crackled and boomed and hissed! Even the concrete floor of the garage below it—and the earthen ground below that—was gone. It was all gone! Crystal branches like the nightmares of fractals and lightning frozen in time extended in all directions, swallowing clouds, reaching for the stars themselves…

Riley felt disoriented, trying to make sense of the incomprehensible details all around him. It was as if the passing seconds pulsed in and out of minutes and moments…

Time was becoming weird, but everything was happening so fast!

“Gliath!” Riley exclaimed over the noise. “Get the gate!”

The tall black leopardwere stood and dashed over to the bag on long, nimble legs, hefting its weight onto one muscular shoulder. It was no doubt pretty damned heavy with those fusion cores inside…

“Riley!” Jason exclaimed again, and the soldier leaned in close. He could hardly hear his friend’s voice over the deafening sound of unmaking. His words were distorted by the crystals growing in his throat. “The infinity stone is special … to the Wilderlands! Get more, start over!”

“But we need more gear!” Riley replied. “More ammo! We’re low on everything after—”

“No time, Riley!” Jason shouted. Good God—it really looked like he was melting into the floor! Did that mean that the invading crystals under the floor were coming up to them, too? There really wasn’t much time at all! “Give Jason 934 the OCS! I’ve tuned its informational set point to 934! I’ve also restricted—” Jason voice hitched up and he writhed through a spell of being wracked with pain, then he focused on the two of them again. “I’ve restricted ninth dimensional travel to within a 95% tolerance to the physical laws of—” He clenched his good eye closed in pain. The other eye remained open and unmoving, like a solid gemstone; no longer part of a man. “Laws of 934 … so this doesn’t happen again! Now go!”

Riley stood, his duster jacket flaring out around him. He felt Gliath’s powerful hand encouraging him to his feet as Jason opened a portal right next to them, protected for the moment within the brilliance of the white light sphere. One last rift.

“Jason…” Riley offered, not knowing what to say. I love you? I’m sorry? Jason was his good friend of four years now, and the soldier hadn’t able to protect him. His boss was dying. Riley was choked with emotions, and he didn’t want to leave. What was probably a second or two felt like much longer…

Dust and splinters of wood showered down around them through the white light.

“Gliath, get him out of here!” Jason shouted, and Riley felt the firm push of his feline pal, guiding him toward the portal, which swirled and spit and fluttered at the edges, revealing a vista of a dark mountain town covered in snow, with wet streets and rows of quiet houses under a grey night sky. “Find Jason 934! He can get you to the Wilderlands with that infinity stone!” Everything roared in Riley’s ears, and he could hardly understand Jason now. “Use the portable gate … Reality Rifters … start over…”

Riley looked around at the apocalyptic, prismatic sky.

The colors were bold and deep—as deep as space—and he could easily lose himself inside that infinity of blue … indigo … violet…

Shaking his head and passing a nervous hand through his beard, Riley looked back down at Jason 113 with a frown.

“Goodbye, Jason!” Riley finally said, shouting above the chaos.

“Yes, goodbye, Jason Leaper 113,” Gliath added with his low, rumbly voice.

“Goodbye, you two…” Jason 113 replied. “Now hurry, before I die and this portal goes away!”

Riley glanced up at his leopardwere friend when he felt his strong, black-furred hand on his shoulder. Gliath looked back down at him, grim and stoic, all the colors of the rainbow bursting and flashing past behind his shadowy face. Then, the two planeswalkers both looked at the rift together, and stepped through to the other side…

 

Chapter 2

“All of you make a reflex save,” Tom said suddenly, putting down his diet soda and gathering several 6-sided dice from behind his cardboard DM’s screen.

“Wait!” Jason cried. “I’m at thirteen—don’t I get to go next?”

“Jeez!” Amanda scoffed. “Patience!

Ben rolled a d20, sitting across from Jason. His green die tumbled to a stop against the man’s ratty Player’s Handbook, then, he read the result aloud, running numbers in his head. “Twenty-two,” Ben said with a wry smile. He took a sip of his own diet soda, plucking up the can with his dark, nimble fingers.

Amanda also rolled.

“We’re still at the cult leader,” Tom replied to Jason flatly. “He’s at fifteen. Do your reflex save.”

Jason frowned. The big bad guy was almost dead, and Jason was looking forward to finishing him off. He already had 9d6 clattering around in his hand. Disappointed, Jason put his clutch of dice down onto the table and rolled his d20 instead.

His lucky red die rolled to a stop on a 12.

Damn it,” Jason said, then, after doing some math in his head, added, “sixteen.”

“Fifteen,” Amanda announced, sitting back in her chair with a nervous sigh. The light of the kitchen seemed harsher since all of her and Tom’s stuff was packed away, and all of the wall hangings had been taken down. Now, they played in an almost empty room, and Jason could see that Amanda was really starting to look older. They’d even taken down the Halloween stuff, which made sense, since they wouldn’t be around for the 31st…

“Okay,” Tom said, rolling a frightening amount of dice behind his screen. The DM furrowed his brow, and the light reflected off of the areas of Tom’s head where his hair was thinning. Jason hardly ever noticed these things, but now that the comfortable environment of Amanda and Tom’s apartment was changing—back to blank walls and empty spaces—everything seemed different in little ways. “So, the minotaur leader is in rough shape, and he’s coughing up blood as he glares up at you all, but when you drop his champion, he suddenly points to you…” Tom pointed for effect across the table cluttered with books, dice, and empty diet soda cans. “He grunts out some words in that dark language, and you guys see a single point of inverted light fly at the champion’s body! It lands in between all of you, and explodes in a huge burst of black fire! Amanda, your character takes thirty-four damage. Jason, you barely made it, and take half … seventeen.”

“Ouch,” Amanda muttered, scribbling on her character sheet with a frown.

“Holy shit!” Jason exclaimed, crossing out his hitpoints total and penciling in the new number below. “Is he a higher level than—?”

“Of course he is, Jason,” Amanda interrupted.

“I have improved evasion,” Ben said with a smirk.

“I know,” Tom replied. “So Ben’s character flips and tumbles with great skill—maybe using the body of the minotaur dark champion to get away from the explosion—and Jason, your guy manages to dodge back quickly enough to just take the edge of the attack. But Amanda’s paladin is caught right in the middle of it. The minotaur leader laughs with his bellowing, low voice, and pulls his great-axe, looking like he’s thinking of charging. Jason, you’re up!”

Finally!

“I cast lightning bolt at him!” Jason exclaimed, grinning from ear to ear as he collected nine d6’s from the mess of papers on the table in front of him.

“Okay, roll,” Tom replied, as Ben took another sip of soda. The DM then rolled his own d20 to see how the monster would be able to resist, but Jason knew that it was hopeless—they had this battle. It was already won. Unless the minotaur wizard was immune to lightning to something, there was no way it would survive…

Amanda lifted up her sheaf of papers and started scrutinizing her inventory.

“Don’t I have any healing potions left?” she asked herself.

Jason rolled his big handful of dice, and counted up the damage as Ben pulled out his phone to check its screen.

“Thirty-six damage!” Jason exclaimed.

Tom sighed, then gave a thin smile.

Must have had something else planned, Jason thought with a broad grin.

“Okay, well,” the DM replied, “that definitely did it. So … as your lightning bolt streaks from your hand to the wounded leader, the magic hits him full force, and the minotaur throws his big bull head back, crying out in pain and dropping his axe to the floor! He falls, disintegrating bit by bit, but to all of your surprise, he laughs with a booming voice, saying ‘Fools! You cannot stop Baphomet from rising out of the abyss! It has already begun, and he will be here soon to bring about a vicious, dark world of beasts and slaughter! There’s nothing you can do to prevent the end of your world! Bwahahaha!’ The minotaur’s laughter fades into the crumbling and crashing of the black walls of the castle starting to fall down all around you as he falls down dead…!”

“Crashing?” Ben asked, cocking his eyebrow. “The castle is literally falling down around us?”

“Yes!” Tom replied, his eyes gleaming as he looked at all of them over the rims of his glasses. “Huge chunks of the black stone walls are falling inward as the entire castle begins shifting under your feet! A huge crack opens in the middle of the room, and some of the dead minotaurs’ bodies slip down into darkness. It looks like mere moments before the ceiling collapses on your heads! What do you do?!”

“The amulet!” Jason exclaimed. “Get the amulet!”

“I’m on it,” Ben replied, looking at Tom. “I go in as fast as I can and take the demon lord’s amulet from the minotaur’s neck…”

“You do that,” Tom replied.

“I pick up his great axe,” Amanda said, then, she looked to Jason. “Time to use that teleport scroll!

“Okay!” Jason replied with a grin. “I pull out the teleport scroll and get to where I can reach everybody…”

“You do that,” Tom said, looking at his wife, “Amanda, you’ve got the axe. It’s big, made of a shiny, black metal, and looks either really ornate, or like it’s probably enchanted. Are you guys going to let Jason’s character touch you for the teleport?”

“Yes,” Ben and Amanda replied at once.

“The castle continues to fall around you, huge pieces of stone smashing down nearby. Where do you teleport to?”

“Okay,” Jason said, rubbing his hands together. “Teleport to … the magical forest!

“Alright,” Tom replied with a smirk. “Where in the magical…? Oh well … you already said it.” The DM looked down at his papers, and started rolling dice, hidden behind his screen. “Let’s see where you end up…”

“The magical forest?” Ben asked dryly, raising his eyebrow again. Even though Tom and Amanda were starting to look older, Ben was still as thin as he was ten years ago, and didn’t look much different. The faintest lines showed around his eyes. “Not somewhere more specific? If you don’t know exactly where you’re going—”

“It’s just regular teleport,” Amanda added. “Not teleport without error. Besides, the magical forest is magical! Areas with high magic might make you more likely to miss!

“Well, hey … it’s better than the collapsing castle, right?!” Jason asked, hiding behind a long sip of soda. He smiled uneasily as his friends sighed.

“So,” Tom said finally, capturing all of their attention. “You guys all teleport away from the dark castle with a flash, and reappear in a beautiful green meadow surrounded by a forest of tall pine trees, with the colorful lights of tiny fairies drifting around you, high above the ground. The problem is, you also teleport in too low, and each of your characters appears waist-deep in the ground, taking nine points of damage.”

“Damn it!” Jason exclaimed.

“See what I mean?” Amanda asked, adjusting her hitpoints.

“Through the extreme pain of having rocks and dirt mingled with your legs,” Tom went on to say, “you recognize the village in the distance where they told you about the minotaur cult and gave you the map to the castle.”

“Trying to get out of the ground,” Ben said.

“Okay, all of you can roll strength checks until you hit … fifteen.”

All three of them started rolling their d20’s. Amanda was the first out, being the strong character, while Ben and Jason’s characters continued to struggle. After a short while, Tom looked down at his papers again, and rolled more dice.

“What are you doing?” Jason asked. He rolled a twelve, then a nine, trying to break free…

“Random encounters,” Tom replied. “Okay, while your characters are trying to pull your lower bodies out of the ground, you all hear a terrifying screech in the distance!”

“That’s not good…” Ben muttered.

Tom went on. “If any of you choose to look in the direction of said screech, you’ll see a large creature flying through the air, heading your way. It’s got long wings, scales, looks reptilian, with a long neck and lots of teeth and spikes on its head. The long tail behind it is tipped with a stinger, like one on a scorpion’s tail, and—”

“Wyvern!” Jason exclaimed, rolling his lucky d20 again and again, but not passing fifteen. “Come on!”

“Okay, seventeen—I’m out,” Ben said. “I’m helping Jason’s character.”

“Alright, add two to your rolls, Jason. The wyvern is flying toward you guys quickly!”

“Does anyone have a healing potion I can have?” Amanda asked. “I’m almost dead…”

“I have one,” Ben replied, looking up at Tom. “I give her one.”

“Finally!” Jason exclaimed, rolling a sixteen. “I’m out! Running for cover!”

“Running for cover,” Amanda echoed.

“Running for the village!” Ben said. “Come on, guys!”

“As you three run for cover and toward the village, the wyvern catches up. It’s much larger than it seemed from when you first saw it, and it dives down in your direction! Roll initiative!”

Everyone grabbed for their dice…

“Mommy?” a small sleepy voice said suddenly, pulling Jason out of the fantasy world and making everyone gasp.

Coming from the hall leading away to the bedrooms, Tom and Amanda’s little boy stood, rubbing his eyes. Josh, Jason thought. They must have been making too much noise; getting too excited.

Amanda stood, rushing over to the little boy standing in Minecraft pajamas, and hugged him close to her legs.

“Hi, Joshie,” she said. “You okay, honey? Did we wake you up?”

Ben took another drink from his soda, tilting the can all the way back to empty it. He set the empty can down on the table with a ting.

The little boy made a small sound. “Is it tomorrow yet?” Josh asked, mumbling against his mom’s leg.

“Not yet, baby,” she replied. “Go back to bed, now. It’s late. Get some sleep, okay? We’ve got a long drive in the morning.”

With that, little Josh turned and disappeared down the hall, his little feet padding away on the carpet. Tom chuckled, looking after the boy with a smile. He gazed up at Amanda as she made her way back over.

The energy changed in the room, and Jason felt a stab of loneliness.

It was over. Everything was over…

Ben stood, pulling all of his papers and books together.

This was the end.

“Yeah…” Tom groaned with a stretch, folding up his DM’s screen, revealing his dice and papers behind it. “It’s probably a good time to stop.”

“It is getting late,” Amanda added with a sigh, walking up and giving her husband a little side-hug.

Seeing his friends starting to pack everything up, Jason suddenly felt a crush of disappointment. This was it. It was finally the end of the group. It’s not late, he thought. It’s only—he looked down at his phone—not even midnight, after all!

“Come on, guys!” Jason said, staying in his seat. “Let’s kill the wyvern and finish the quest! How long will it take to get back to town and total everything up? Not even an hour, I bet!”

“No, it’s alright,” Ben replied, pushing in his chair. “It doesn’t matter. This is the last game. We don’t need to total up.”

The words were chilling, but for some reason, Jason noticed that his friend didn’t seem all that broken up about it. Ben’s thin, black face was serene, and he smiled at Tom and Amanda while he packed up his things into his laptop bag.

“But we used to play until like three,” Jason added. “Hell—it’s the weekend, right? Do you guys even have to work?”

“Well, we don’t have to work,” Amanda said, “but we do have a long drive ahead of us. Sorry, Jason, but it’s nineteen hours to Portland, and Tom’s new job wants him there on Monday morning, so we’ve really got to wake up early to get going.”

“Yep, unfortunately,” Tom added, organizing all of his stuff into a neat pile. The longtime DM smiled at all of them, then looked warmly at Amanda and pulled her in close. “Hey, it’s gone on a long time, right? Good, long game. Things change. I’ll miss our gaming, but, you know, we’re really looking forward to the move. It’s a good thing!”

“Bittersweet,” Amanda said.

“But how about just another hour?” Jason asked. “If you wake up an hour later, what difference will it make?”

Jason felt comfortable with Tom and Amanda, and Ben was the closest thing he had to a best friend. But still, after his last-ditch effort, Jason decided to pull back and preserve some form of his dignity. He didn’t want to beg. But it felt bad—terrible—like the end of an era. Ever since Jason’s accident, he’d been playing DnD with these guys since … God, has it really been over ten years now? A little more? Players came and went over the years, and some of them were part of the group for a long time, but eventually, they all moved on to something else. They all moved on with their lives.

But he, Ben, Tom, and Amanda were the core of the group.

And now the core was breaking. The game was over.

Jason didn’t want to face it.

They were leaving him all alone…

Amanda sighed and gave Jason a smile, which also became a hug when she sauntered over. Jason stood and returned the hug, squeezing her tightly, feeling a strange, intangible desperation in that she was almost gone from his life. Jason felt like Amanda understood him more than any of them. She had to know that she and Tom moving away would be hard for him. As Jason moved around the edge of the table with her hug, his bad right knee complained.

“We don’t want to get into Portland too late on Sunday,” she said gently.

“Yeah, we’ve got to be prepared in case there are any delays,” Tom added.

Jason sighed miserably. “I’m gonna miss you guys. Ten years, you know?”

“Thirteen, actually,” Amanda replied.

“Yeah, and I’ll miss you, too,” Ben added, directed at the two of them. Then, he walked up to Tom and gave him a long, solid handshake. “Good luck in Portland, Tom. Keep in touch.”

“Of course, Ben.”

“And hey—I’m always looking for new clients all over,” Ben said, “so if you come across anyone in the company that needs some web design or content or anything…”

“Sure, we’ll pimp you out, Ben,” Amanda said with a smirk.

Ben walked over and gave Amanda a hug while Jason stood, feeling like he was drifting away on an iceberg, broken off from a very large piece of his life…

“Bye Amanda,” Ben said with a broad smile. “And you guys be careful on the road. It’s probably still pretty slick over the pass.”

“We will,” Tom said. “Jason…” Tom extended his hand, and Jason shook it.

“Maybe we can play some more next time you guys visit, if you do,” Jason offered. He smiled, desperate for a glimmer of hope, that one day he’d have his friends and his life back again…

“Sure, probably,” Tom replied quickly. “Take care of yourself, Jason. Take care of your folks’ house, alright?”

“Okay,” Jason said, giving one last heart-string look at Amanda. She smiled and gave him another hug.

“Bye, Jason,” she said. “I’ll let you know when we get there safe and sound, okay? I’ll call you.”

“Alright.”

Jason picked up his things, wanting nothing more than to rewind several minutes and stay there forever. But then, Tom walked to the door to see them out, and Amanda started picking up around the kitchen. Ben lifted his bag, and turned to leave as Tom opened the door to the apartment building’s bland and empty hall.

Grabbing his books, his CamelBak backpack, and picking up his cane from the corner of the room, Jason cast one last look and smile at Amanda, who smiled back, then followed Ben to the door. Tom clapped Jason on the shoulder as he limped through.

“Bye,” everyone quietly said to each other, and then, Jason made his way out into the hall, leaning on his cane to take the stress off of his right knee.

He didn’t want the night to end just yet. He didn’t want to feel alone.

“Ben, hold up!”

These were the first two chapters of
“The Wyvern in the Wilderlands”

 


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