This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
Melvin Morrow experienced panic for the first time because of a forest, which he handled with virginal ineptitude. Alarm was Mr. Burney dropping pop quizzes on his desk as if algebra problems were all the rage this year and stress was finding Sophia Watkins standing behind him in the lunch line. Alarm and stress weren’t even on the same plate as panic. Melvin felt near dizzy as his stomach rose and his heart dropped while his blood surged with roller coaster speed. His mouth, suddenly extra dry, tasted like salt.
The forest was his living room. That’s to say, Melvin was just in his living room. Now there was no television, no coffee table, no game. There were no walls. It was all gone, replaced in a blink with trees that towered above him, a dense and impenetrable forest.
He had never seen trees loom but apparently that’s what trees do when you allow them to congregate in groups of more than a dozen. Melvin wasn’t that big into the outdoors, considering Dad would make him cut the grass every Saturday no matter how little it grew, but it wasn’t like he was afraid of the outside. This, however, was two extra servings of outside. These pine and cedar trees stretched as far as the eye could see. Even with the sun shining brightly overhead, he couldn’t see very far into the shadowy depths of the forest, but he was sure there were no stores on the other side, just trees and more trees.
Melvin looked down at himself, a “check to see if you’re a ghost, are you still alive?” kind of moment, which is when he discovered he was both quite substantial and had women’s breasts.
He couldn’t entertain the illusion that he was a dude that had somehow grown extremely obese. The breasts were in a chain mail bikini top and outside of a leather strap across his chest, chain mail bikini bottoms that matched the top and calf-high brown leather boots, he wasn’t wearing anything else. His skin was two shades darker than the russet potato color he had always known and there were very few places for fat to hide. Everything he saw looking down screamed woman. He, Melvin, was no longer a he. The steel bikini glinted in the sunlight. His chest heaved in sync with his panicked breathing, which only served to mortify him more.
“What the shit?!” a voice next to Melvin seemed to speak for him.
Melvin turned, immediately flooded with relief that someone else was here that could maybe help. The relief soured faster than it arrived. It wasn’t a human standing next to Melvin but an aian, a being that didn’t exist.
The sight stacked on top of the current things that were hard to parse, the equivalent a leprechaun riding a unicorn bareback through your living room. Only Melvin’s living room was now a clearing in front of the world’s biggest forest. The aian next to Melvin stood over a foot taller than Melvin with gray skin the color of charcoal ash and hair that was impossibly blue like sapphire. The aian, wearing a leather outfit that looked akin to tree bark, looked itself (himself?) over, as seemingly surprised that he existed as Melvin was.
The quiver of arrows and bow slung across his back sparked recognition in Melvin, mostly because Jason hadn’t stopped showing him pictures of the bow and raving about its stats. This aian was Cephrin. It was his best friend Jason Streible’s character in the game.
Melvin and the fictitious game being weren’t the only ones there. Next to the aian, an old man with a thick gray robe and an even thicker, grayer beard stood, wild eyed and staring about. That was his friend Richard Bates’ character, a mage Rich had named Razzleblad.
A roar erupted from the tree line. Melvin’s head snapped like a rubber band towards the sound.
Melvin knew immediately the thing charging at them was a weagr. It was more mountain than man, as if Lou Ferrigno and Arnold Schwarzeneggar had made a baby and fed it nothing but protein shakes and gunpowder. Melvin had seen weagrs plenty of times in concept art and plastic miniatures, but none of that prepared him for a heavy jawed, nine foot tall, Cro-Magnon giant barreling at him. The weagr’s roar seemed to crack the air like thunder, his brutish footsteps shook the ground and the axe he held raised to the heavens gleamed with wicked intent.
Before any of them could run, or put their hands up, or even scream back the weagr had closed the distance. He brought the axe down, deep into the aian’s shoulder.
Aians always looked noble in the concept art, tall with angular features that stayed stoic as they struck battle poses. Not now, not here; gone was any sense of regal composure as this aian screamed in desperate agony while it stared at the axe in his shoulder. Blood showered from the wound all over the bearded face and gray robes of Richard Bates’ character, the human mage Razzleblad.
Maybe it was the blood. Maybe Melvin had forgotten to breathe a long, long time ago. Maybe he had just plain reached his limit of mythical and impossible levels of crazy happening all at one time in a forest clearing that should’ve been his living room. Whatever it was, it caused his vision to tunnel, then darken as he stumbled on legs gone wobbly.
“Melvin! Melvin!” Someone was calling his name, shaking him awake. Melvin looked down. He still had breasts. He looked up to the blood soaked Razzleblad.
Razzleblad nodded. Melvin recognized Richard Bates’ eyes behind the blood-streaked gray beard. Those eyes were afraid.
Melvin searched for reality: the sofa, a hint of living room carpet, the role playing game that make-believed everything he saw right now. What he found was short-grass plains on the outskirts of a vast forest, a weagr passed out and taking labored breaths, a bloodied axe, and an unconscious aian who was short an arm and spewing blood from the gaping wound at the shoulder.
If Rich was Razzleblad then the aian had to be Jason. Before Melvin could think to get up and check on his best friend, yet another impossible sight gave him pause. There was a megrym crouched over Jason. Megryms looked like gargoyles without wings. They were hairless and short, between four and five feet. This one wore brown linen pants and a matching vest that exposed sinewy muscles and purplish reptilian skin. It stopped whatever it was doing with Jason and looked up at Melvin and Rich with stern annoyance.
“You pussies get over here already.”
Melvin found something familiar about the megrym. That look of annoyance came to him in an instant, across time and space and worlds. Melvin remembered begging his big brother to fill in as the fourth man for the game. His brother had chosen a megrym character and named it Ballztowallz.
“Who else, jackass? Get over here!”
Melvin and Rich scrambled over.
“You, old white kid,” Mike said pointing at Rich, “you supposed to know magic and shit, right? You need to conjure some fire and burn this shoulder wound closed.”
“But—but—I don’t know how.”
“Figure it out, or this kid’s dead.”
Mike looked at his brother. “Melvin, you gotta kill that big motherfucker before he gets up and finishes what he started.”
“What? Why me?”
“Who the hell else? Bloody Stump here or the pajama nerd that can maybe save his life? You’re the one with the sword.”
Melvin reached behind his back and found the hilt. Drawing it revealed his in-game favorite, the double-edged silver bastard. It was light in his hands but his nerves made the sword shake like it had a life of its own.
“You do it Mike.” He extended the sword to the megrym.
“What? Negro, I’m four feet high—the sword’s bigger than me. Plus I gotta stay with your loser friend here and see to it he makes this fire happen. Now ain’t the time to be scary. Go over there and stab it already.”
Melvin wanted to protest but Mike had already shifted his attention. He had picked up Jason’s bow and brought it down across his knee with a crack. Rich shuffled around in his robes, produced a book and was racing through its pages.
“That a spellbook?” Mike asked as the bow broke with a crunch.
“I think so, but I can’t read this language!”
“All the hours you put in this nonsense and you can’t read it? You better try. He’s spouting like a goddamn geyser.” Mike started setting the broken bow fragments down close to Jason’s bleeding shoulder
Melvin turned his attention to the weagr.
He was stirring.
Melvin advanced cautiously, holding the sword like a baseball bat. It shook more the closer he got.
The weagr was just a big man. Ugly for sure, his giant features misshapen and clothes rough and tattered, but still a man. The weagr laid there, his oversized brow furrowed in pain. Maybe Melvin could talk to him. Convince him to help them if he was made to understand they meant him no harm.
Melvin had played the game enough to know the bestiary and the character descriptions all said this was impossible.
The weagr’s eyes blinked open.
Behind Melvin a boom exploded. His heart leapt with it.
Melvin screamed and ran toward the weagr. His screams were pure fear as he stabbed the weagr over and over. The weagr died with an expression of agony and helplessness in eyes that stayed locked on Melvin. And Melvin kept stabbing until his arms gave out and he panted for air. His breasts heaved in their steel bikini.
“You gonna stop now?” his brother asked, “or are you just taking a break?”
Melvin turned. Rich was sweating buckets. Behind Rich a small, sooty fire crackled. Jason was still out, his wound well burned. Mike shook his head.
“You see, Mel? That’s why black folks don’t play these games.”
This morning he was Melvin Morrow, a sixteen-year-old math hating drum major in the eleventh grade. Just another half-black kid in an average suburban home.
Now he was Zhufira, warrior woman. Full lips, frizzy black tresses, bearing a sword that had more material in it than her current fashion choices.
His big brother was a little megrym. His friend who wouldn’t be the same age as him until December was an old man. And his best friend was an aian who had lost the battle for limb and was now fighting for life.
None of them knew why they were there. Or how.
They could worry about why or how later. Melvin asked the question that was pertinent now. “How do we get back?”
“Click your heels, Dorothy,” Mike said. “How the hell do you think we get back?”
Mike held his hands up to show Melvin the expansive countryside. Neither the forest line in front of him nor the endless grass behind offered answers.
A lesser question, the question of where, had an answer. They seemed to be on the edge of Kazawood; the place was distinctive with its giant cedar and pine trees. This is where they had started the game.
There was also an answer to why the weagr was down when Melvin woke up. Rich explained it to him.
“Like the bestiary described them, weagrs are primitive minds driven by blood or lust. When you fainted you landed with your very attractive ass in the air, an invitation so strong the weagr’s gears switched momentarily. When it hesitated Mike used his club and bashed the weagr’s balls until it passed out from pain. Then Mike told me to wake you up while he checked on Jason. You were only out for like thirty seconds.”
Other questions were weights. Were there more weagrs out there? Would Jason live?
“I dunno. He lost a lot of blood while what’s-his-name was pulling his head out of his ass to make fire,” Mike said.
“It’s Rich,” Rich retorted. “You try deciphering this book next time we have a crisis.”
“If I had the kind of hard on you have for this shit I would’ve had it down cold, believe that.”
“This isn’t helping,” Melvin said. He turned to Rich. “You’re a mage. I know mages aren’t clerics, but you can cast spells. Can you cast a heal on him?”
Rich considered. “There’s no reason why I couldn’t. A cleric’s heal would definitely be a better grade, but basic spells are accessible to all casters. Let me look through the book.”
Mike snorted. “Welp, guess I’d better start digging his grave.”
Rich snapped the book shut. “How about you start shutting up?”
Mike fingered his club idly. “How about I get to cracking your skull like a ripe melon?”
Rich glared at him.
“I see you cutting your eye at me, boy. Any time you want to try something, my four foot ass is right here.”
Melvin stepped between them. “C’mon, Rich. Jason needs you.”
Rich took a last look at Mike and walked off leafing through pages.
“That’s right, keep it moving,” Mike said.
Melvin looked at his diminutive big brother. “What the hell, Mike?”
“What you mean ‘what the hell’? Do you fucking see me?”
“I see you. Look at me. And Rich. And Jason who’s got one arm. You’re not the only one who’s jacked up. So stop taking it out on us.”
“Are you serious? Fool, I didn’t even wanna play this stupid game. I let you talk me into it and here I am stuck looking like a chupacabra. Stuck in some shit none of us know how to get out of, and you telling me not to take it out on y’all. Who do I take it out on, then?”
“We didn’t put you in the middle of this. We’re stuck too trying to figure all this out.”
That only made Mike madder. “Y’all are supposed to be experts,” he said, waving his hands at everyone. “This is supposed to be y’all’s shit. Not only don’t none of you know shit, but here I am saving all y’all’s asses. I didn’t come back from a war zone just for you to send me to another one. Or are you saying it’s all right that I’m spending my first week of R&R bashing balls open in a dream world of magic?”
Mike pointed his gnarled purple finger at Melvin. “You know what, don’t say shit else to me.”
He didn’t. For a moment there were only the gentle sounds of birds chirping, squirrels rustling in the boughs of the cedars, the sound of Rich turning pages. Behind him, shrub grass plains stretched to forever. In front, the widest evergreen trees he’d ever seen seemed a dark and forbidding wall.
The dead weagr was a giant mass of torn, bloody meat. Melvin’s carnage had spared his head though. His eyes seemed to follow Melvin whenever he looked at the corpse no matter where he stood. He went over to Rich as he stood over Jason’s broken body. Jason’s shallow breathing punctuated the silence between the turn of pages.
Rich shook his head. “Not much. I’m really just guessing at what these words say. You rarely see this stuff in the game outside of decoration. And never with translations.”
“How’d you conjure the fire then?”
“I used a quote I remember from the Conquest storyline that had both the words and the meaning.”
Rich said the words. They were gibberish to Melvin, but they had a nice flow to them. Rich translated.
“Fire from figment, wind from wish, water from word, your soul at risk.”
Rich ruffled through some more pages. “It was a warning to apprentice casters in the story. Now it’s kind of my Rosetta Stone to deciphering this book. None of those words exactly say ‘heal’ though. So I have to proceed carefully.”
“I don’t think we have time for careful.”
“Yes, you’re right, Melvin,” Rich said, looking up from the book, his countenance angry. “Rushing and arbitrarily picking are much better options. I guess I should just pick a spell that doesn’t have any of the words I do know, which is like ninety-five percent of the book, and hope I don’t turn Jason here into a block of ice or summon a tree out of his pancreas. I’m ashamed I didn’t think of it.”
Melvin’s anger flashed, but he exhaled it down. He was half a second away from beating Rich’s face in with his sword pommel and doing the same thing to Mike. But that wouldn’t help matters. His best friend was dying and they were all still in danger.
“Look, I’m not telling you to rush it,” Melvin said. “I’m saying that we may have to just carry him away from this forest and hope he makes it. We can’t afford to run into more weagrs or whatever else is in there.”
Rich’s robe started fluttering erratically. He looked down. Jason was tugging at his robe with his one good hand, his gray aian face pale and clammy looking.
Rich and Melvin knelt down. Jason grabbed Rich close and mumbled something before passing out again.
Rich looked up at Melvin.
“I think he just told me the spell for heal.”
“No. But Jason does know more about this game than all of us put together. If anyone would know it, it’d be him.”
Rich’s look was solemn. “What do you think, Mel?”
Melvin shrugged. “It’s about our only option.”
They stood up.
Rich cracked his knuckles, shook his wrists, and held his hands over Jason’s body.
He cleared his throat.
“I wouldn’t stand so close if I was you, bruh,” Mike called from a few yards away. “He’s fixing to turn you into a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
Rich glared at Mike. He looked back at Melvin and motioned for him to back away.
Closing his eyes, Rich said the words Jason gave him. Jason’s body glowed in a soft white light.
Jason’s face contorted into a grimace. He reached for his shoulder and winced when his fingers touched the burnt nub.
“What the fuck happened to hit points?!”
Everyone was silent. None of them knew what to say to a person who just lost his arm to an axe-wielding weagr.
Jason shambled to his feet, using his one good arm to wave off their attempts to help him up. He looked around frantically. He went searching by the weagr until he found his severed arm. Holding the arm up to his burnt shoulder in a crude facsimile of how it should be, Jason looked at Rich.
“Cast the heal again.”
“Jason, I, uh, don’t see this working.”
“It’ll work. Just do it already.”
Rich cast the spell. The white glow spread from Jason through his body and into the severed arm. He smiled and stopped holding the arm up to his shoulder.
Melvin stared in disbelief at the arm.
Then the arm fell and rolled down to the weagr’s foot.
Jason roared his frustration and started kicking the meaty mass of the dead weagr.
“Hey! Hey!” Mike yelled at Jason, who stopped kicking.
“You healthy enough to kick, you healthy enough to walk… let’s bounce.”
Mike pointed to the woods towering over them.
“Unless you wanna wait for more ridiculous shit to pop out of the woods over there. Cry later. Walk now.”
CookieMonster911: The story overall was an adventure that is appealing to any age. The way the characters develop adds a more human characteristic to the novel. The writing style itself is amazing because you can learn every character's thoughts and emotions. The awkward love triangle and jerk moments adds to the ...
re8622: The Last Exodus quickly grabbed my attention. Almost as soon as I started reading the story, I couldn't put it down. I found that the ideas the author put forth were very thought provoking given the turmoil we have seen gradually rise over the last several years. I felt that I could understand th...
Dru83: This is the second or third time I've read this one and I just love it. It has just about everything you could ever want packed into one scifi story. It still has some parts that are a little rough in terms of grammar, punctuation, and word usage, but it's still an awesome story. I love how detai...
Hawkebat: Playing both Kotor I & II and Swtor I found the story line interesting and it held me until chapter 35 Very good story and plot flow until then, very few technical errors. I felt that the main character was a bit under and over powered, as it fought for balance. The last few chapters felt too f...
Bri Hoffer: I couldn't put it down!! The characters are all incredibly likable, and it's so descriptive you can see, smell, and feel thier surroundings. Great story, and very well written. I cannot wait for follow up stories. there were a few grammatical errors, but nothing that I could move right over.
spooky jedi: Love your story!I really hope more people read this story!Its amazing!! The plot is very unique and different, which is very good to have in a world full of stories. You have very complex and intellectual plot line, with your many loveable character and that hint of 'will they, won't they' is ju...
Alex Rushmer: This was not what I expected, but I enjoyed it a lot Malfoy was always one of the characters that I liked a lot, so I like that a lot of this happens between him and Colette. I read the first couple chapters, and I enjoyed your writing style and am excited to see where you take this story. My com...
Giuliana Cassetta: My face is full of tears, I never cried like now with a book or even a movie. I loved every single chapter. I truly don't know what to say, I'm out of words and my eyes hurt from crying. Such an bittersweet story, it's so wonderful. One of my favorites for sure. Keep it up!
rudyoxborough46: An action-packed, mystical adventure awaits anyone wishing to read this novel. I’m amazed at how well you’ve managed to flesh out the characters in this book, and I hope to read more of your work.I’ve read books about goblins and elves and all that mumbo-jumbo before, and most accounts of these c...
ArgyrisMetaxas: Thrilling story which builds layer ontop of layer. A few mis spellings every few chapters. What I found special was that it took a modern day problem and took it to its logical conclusion and plays this realism with gritting precision. I'm always on edge ready to shout from adrenaline. This is gr...