Restart Again

by

Adam Ladner

Volume 1, Chapter 3: Jog My Memory

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I sat up, stretched my arms out above my head, and hopped to my feet. Time for an in-depth analysis. Up first....magic systems. Running my hand across my bandolier, I pulled a silver globe from its resting place and turned it slowly in observation. Still intact. Honestly, surprising for a mana construct. From the top of the bandolier I withdrew a well-hidden silver pin. The bottom was a slender hollow shaft, leading up to an intricately ornamented mechanism on top. Thin silver filigree wove around delicately to create what looked like a rose bulb, in the center of which sat a small button.

 

Taking the globe in one hand and pin in the other, I quickly punctured the surface. Although it looked and felt like a solid silver sphere, aside from it’s near weightlessness, the pin passed through with almost no resistance. Alright, moment of truth. I pressed the button in the device’s center and immediately determined it was working at full efficiency; the dull tugging at the edge of my mind and draw on my stamina was an unmistakable feeling. It stopped after only a moment as I released the button and removed the needle, but I couldn’t stop a smile from coming to my face, feeling relieved. Mana still works the same as it has before. Excellent.

 

The globe began to warm in my hand and glowed a faint orange against the growing shadows in my room. It swelled quickly, growing to about the size of a softball. The matte silver exterior became translucent and I could see a shining orange liquid under the surface. I spun it lazily, admiring the pleasant glow. Time for an efficacy test. Setting the orb down on the bed next to me, I held the silver needle to my palm and pricked the skin. Blood slowly began to well up where the tip had pierced my flesh. Ouch.

 

I returned the needle to it’s secure location at the top of my bandolier and retrieved the orange globe. Balancing it on my bleeding palm I clenched my fingers closed around it, bursting it like a water balloon. The liquid spilled out over my hand, sending a tingling rush up through my arm. The excess fluid ran between my fingers, misting away in moments where it landed on the wooden floorboards beneath my feet. In just a few moments my hand was dry, and the room looked exactly as it had before with no signs of orange liquid anywhere. I poked at my palm gently and was pleased to find the flesh perfectly repaired with no hint of an injury.

 

“Complete success, alright!” I jumped up from the bed, pumping my fist in victory. After the moment passed, I felt rather silly standing and celebrating by myself, and sat back down quickly. Through absent minded muscle memory I ran my hand along the bandolier and found the empty slot from which I had taken the silver orb. On the opposite side of the clasp, I depressed a small switch. I felt the slight drain of mana use as a new silver orb grew out from the bandolier, replenishing my stock to the max of four.

 

No need to test the other three now. The concept is proven...and I’m getting tired. As if to punctuate the thought I yawned, bringing a tear to my eye. “Aaaalright, one more test, and then sleep.” I wiped my eyes and stood up again, unslinging the empty scabbard from my back. Nothing flashy, proof of concept, and that’s it. I held the scabbard out horizontally in front of me with my left hand and reached out to where the grip of the sword would be with my right. Closing my eyes and exhaling, I curled my fingers slowly until I felt the familiar worn leather grip I had spent so long making. As the mana drain tingled in my fingers a grin curled my lips. With a swift pull, the room was filled with a beautiful ringing of metal on metal.

 

The setting sun shone gloriously off the bastard sword’s blade. It was personally hand forged manasteel, and engraved with a set of Oldworld runes. Looking over the weapon filled me with a satisfaction and happiness I hadn’t felt in a long time. “Hey beautiful. I’ve missed you.” I tossed the scabbard down onto the bed and traced my finger along the runes with a loving tenderness. My hand slid down the length of the blade, over the ornate guard, and came to rest against the small golden band wrapped just under the pommel. The joy I felt moments before became tinged with sadness and longing. I spent a long time wrestling with the emotions as they rose and fell: nostalgia, wistfulness, joy, sorrow, anger, regret.

 

The room falling into darkness finally snapped me out of my sentimental self-reflection. Looking out the window, I noticed the sun was now completely set, replaced by a beautiful full moon. How long was I sitting here? Slumping back down to the bed, I gingerly placed the weapon back into the scabbard and leaned it against the bedpost. Running my hand across the pommel I expended a small amount of mana and the blade flashed away, leaving an empty scabbard once more.

 

I yawned more violently than before, reflexively stretching until both my shoulders popped. I rolled my neck around until it yielded a similar pop, then stood slowly and began the process of preparing for a good night’s rest. I removed my coin purse from my belt and set it on the bedside table. The chest of drawers across the room was just large enough for my bandolier, cloak, shirt and leathers. Slipping out of my boots, I took a moment to be thankful for anti-fouling enchantments placed on my socks and undergarments. “I get the feeling that I won’t be…” A yawn interrupted my muttering, “...I won’t be finding much deodorant around here.”

 

With my preparations completed I crawled underneath the single blanket on the small mattress. The fabric was a bit scratchy, but provided some warmth against the chilly room. I take my cloak for granted too often. Curling up to combat a small shiver, I closed my eyes and rested my head on the straw pillow. Sleep came almost instantly as the weight of my world finally crashed down on me in full.

 

---

 

The sky overhead was bright blue and completely clear of clouds. I was sweating from exhaustion, and the sun beating down from above made the day uncomfortably hot. The rhythmic chopping of my woodsman’s axe was the only sound in the clearing save for a slight rustling of leaves in the weak breeze. My shoulders ached from a day of exertion, but it was a sweet pain. It felt good to be strong, and to use that strength to achieve a tangible goal.

 

I leaned on the axe for a moment, wiping my brow and letting out a satisfied sigh. For my entire life, I had never felt like I knew what my purpose was. Bouncing from job to job with a half-finished computer science degree, renting a small one-room apartment barely big enough for a bed, a shower and some choice kitchen appliances, and random one night stands that never resulted in a second date...It left a hole I could never figure out how to fill. I was about to be in my thirties, and felt like my life to that point was completely wasted.

 

Until the day when everything changed. I furrowed my brow, doing my best to think back to what happened, but as usual I came up empty. I was watching TV from my bed, half drunk and dozing off, and then...blackness. Blackness, and pain. With a shiver I put that particular memory aside and reflected on my life after arriving here.

 

It took a while to adapt to the strange new world, but I found myself oddly suited for it in the end. Technology was nowhere to be found: Horses pulled carts of farm goods, smiths forged weapons and armor for knights, and a printing press was considered advanced machinery. I quickly found a job in the village I appeared in as a smith’s apprentice, and lived in a small addition behind his forge.

 

Two and a half years had passed since I first appeared here. I smiled, proud of how far I had come. Initially I was a weak, pale, lanky stick of a man who would rather stay inside drinking and watching anime than go out and interact with somebody in public. Through the hard work at Ashedown’s forge, I was now fit, tanned, and pleasantly adept at interacting with people. I could care for farm animals, forge a variety of high quality items, and even wield a sword with a middling level of expertise.

 

Satisfied with the amount of wood that was chopped before me, I lodged the axehead down into the chopping stump and began loading the afternoon’s work into a wheelbarrow. It would take at least four trips with the wheelbarrow to move all the wood from the clearing back to the forge, so I filled it as high as possible without the threat of tipping and began the short walk back. It was a nice winding path through the thicket behind the forge, and I took my time on the trip to appreciate the respite of the shady trees.

 

A faint melody began to drift through the trees ahead of me. It was a lilting soprano voice, softly singing of times gone by and glories won. This song was one I knew by memory, and the voice stirred my heart at its first word. I doubled my pace, a large smile rising to my face. The wheelbarrow bounced loudly off the uneven roots of the forest path, and the voice ahead stopped.

 

Rounding the last corner I burst from the treeline at a near sprint. The wood jostled violently as I came to a sudden stop and sent the top layer spilling to the ground. I hardly noticed; my attention was fully drawn to the clothesline directly ahead of me. Standing before it was Amaya, the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Her face was beaming with a wide smile and softly closed eyes. A deep purple sundress complemented her free flowing, shoulder-length golden hair. From the top of her head, two rabbit-like ears folded down lazily, further amplifying her adorable aura.

 

“Done already, love?” She asked sweetly, skipping over to meet me.

 

I took her hands in mine and pulled her close, leaning down to plant a quick peck on her forehead. “More or less. The hard part’s done, anyhow.” Looking over her shoulder I noticed the basket of linens was only half emptied onto the drying lines. I cocked my eyebrow and gave her a smirk. “Those clothes giving you a hard time today?”

 

Amaya rolled her eyes and pushed me away playfully. “I thought you would be gone for another half hour or so, and I figured…” She looked up to the sky and smiled. “Well, it’s such a nice day outside, and I got distracted.” Suddenly, she flopped down into the grass, giving a soft squeak as she stretched out in the sun.

 

I laughed, marveling for the thousandth time at her perfection. Following suit I landed lying down next to her, our faces just mere inches apart. “You know…” I put on my best over-the-top sultry voice, “If you wanted some help being distracted, I’ve got some ideas of what we could do.” I ran my hand softly down the side of her face, twirling her hair in my fingers.

 

Her eyebrows shot up as her eyes widened in exaggerated shock. “Sir, how unchivalrous of you!” Amaya turned her head away, her nose up in pretend indignation. “A lady would never even consider such a thought.”

 

“Oh, of course, of course, how rude of me!” I sprang up to a kneeling position. “I beg your pardon, m’lady. I’ll leave you to your purity and your laundry. I have some wood to stack, after all.”

 

I turned to go, but Amaya caught my hand and yanked me back to the ground. “Not so fast.” She pulled me into an embrace, then brought her lips to mine for a kiss. I closed my eyes, doing my very best to memorize everything about this one perfect moment in time. The ground beneath us was comfortable, but slightly uneven. The sun was relentlessly beaming down on us but a breeze blew by and tempered it nicely. Amaya’s lips were soft and warm with a faint taste of raspberry. I could smell her perfume, a mix of lavender and berries, layered atop her natural earthy musk.

 

As she pulled away, I opened my eyes and drank in Amaya’s beauty. Her eyes, a light purple, were wide and loving. Her skin was lightly tanned from days spent in the summer sun, flawless in it’s complexion. A button nose sat cutely in the center of her face, just barely crooked to the right. Although I had seen her nearly every day of my new life, I always managed to find a new aspect of her to love whenever we were together.

 

In that moment, I realized that Amaya was the one thing I had been looking for my whole life, the solution to my emptiness. I grinned, dumb in love, and brushed the hair from her face. “I love you, Amaya.”

 

She smiled, the most beautiful smile I had ever seen. “I love you, Elden. Forever.”

 

---

 

A clatter across the room woke me in a panic. My head spun wildly looking for the source of the noise. In the center of the room where the moonlight pooled in from the window, a small silver globe was rolling in a lazy circle. I scanned through the darkness towards the chest of drawers where I had left my bandolier. A familiar figure materialized in the light of the moon. I stared on, incredulous. “Melrose?”

 

Her features unmistakable now in the light, Melrose smiled and tilted her head to the side. “Nice to see you again, Lux.” She approached the bed slowly. “I came to see how you settled in. I’m glad to see you found the place! Sherman told me which room you were in, and the door was unlocked, so I just...let myself in.” Her hand moved up to one of the straps of her dress, which she slowly pushed from her shoulder. “I hope you don’t mind.”

 

Alarm klaxons were firing in my head. You know this isn't right. Put the pieces together. I scooted to the opposite side of the bed from her, still fighting off the last remnants of sleep as I tried to make sense of my situation. “What are...what are you doing?”

 

Melrose grinned. “Well, after we first me, I was worried you might not get here in one piece.”

 

I never told her my name was Lux.

 

“After all, you couldn’t read any of the street signs.” She laughed, beginning to kneel down onto the bed next to me.

 

I definitely locked the door behind me when I came in.

 

“From first glance, you didn’t look very imposing, and there are some...unsavory characters in this part of the city.” The red strap of her dress fell down her shoulder.

 

My bandolier was in the drawer, and the drawer was closed. I tried to scoot further away, but I had reached the edge of the mattress.

 

Melrose ran her hand across my bare chest. “But now, I guess I feel sort of silly having thought that. You can definitely take care of yourself.”

 

All at once, the pieces fit together in my mind. Identify the threat.

 

“So, I was thinking...maybe you could help take care of me as well?” Melrose pushed me back against the headboard and hopped up quickly to straddle my waist. She reached behind her back to grab her dress, beginning to pull it up over her head.

 

There! Just for a moment, I spotted a garter belt on her upper left thigh. A sound I had been expecting finally reached my ears: a small click and the rush of metal against leather. Her dress had begun to fall back down, but I was already taking action. Before her dagger could appear from behind her back, I bucked my hips hard, launching her towards the headboard. I brought my elbow up, connecting hard with the bridge of her nose. Now unseated, her weight no longer pinned my legs, allowing me to ball them up and extend at full force into her chest.

 

Melrose spun backwards, bouncing off the bedpost and landing on the floor with a yelp. As she struggled to recover I sprang from the bed and retrieved my scabbard, taking a defensive stance. She leapt up from the foot of the bed, her face now a mess of blood. The fire in her eyes I had noticed when we first met was still there, but it was changed now. A cold, ruthless flame stared me down from across the bed.

 

“You just had to put up a fight, didn’t you? You know how much it’ll cost to get my nose repaired?!” She spat out a glob of blood. “I guess it’ll be on your dime.” From behind her back, she produced my coin purse. “Sherman said you were loaded, and this certainly feels full enough for a nice vacation. Maybe a few vacations.” Gloating, she pulled the drawstring, opening the purse and glancing inside.

 

I couldn’t help but grin as her expression changed. Frantically, she upended the purse and shook it violently, but nothing came out. Melrose growled angrily. “What sort of trick is this? How are you doing this?!” I stared her down, saying nothing, but continuing to grin. She flourished her dagger, pointing the tip at me. “Nothing to say? I guess I’ll have to cut the information out of you, one little piece at a time.” She cackled. “Unless, I suppose, you think you can take me down without a weapon.”

 

“I figured you would say something like that.” I grimaced, feeling justified in taking counter action, but not looking forward to the results. For a brief moment I closed my eyes, looking inwards to begin the process of opening up my mana reserves. Feeling the surge of energy tingle down my spine, I held up my scabbard and withdrew my sword from the ether. The grip was cool and comfortable in my palm, and the familiar metallic ring put a determined calm over my mind. Gently, I tossed the scabbard back down onto the bed next to me, taking a more aggressive stance.

 

Melrose took a step back, her face a mix of shock and...was that fear? “How...how is that possible? Without incantation, without a catalyst? What sort of magic is that?” She was speaking frantically, clearly reexamining the choices that had led her to where she was at this moment. Her grip readjusted on her dagger repeatedly, her indecision clearly breaking through her overconfident demeanor. “Where did you learn that? Magic like that shouldn’t be possible without…”

 

Don’t give her time to recover! I tuned out her babbling, setting to work on combat preparations. Combat acceleration. The runes on the end of my sword burned with white light, sending a quick pulse down the blade and into my sword arm. I felt my mind quickening, and Melrose seemed to slow down. The nervous fidgeting of her blade, the backpedaling step she took in reaction to the flash, it was so sluggish and predictable. Windstep. A green flash came from the runes, and my limbs surged with pent up energy. Greater sharpening. Red light now, covering the edges of my sword in an angry crimson. Heighten senses. A blue glow, and the room sharpened into extreme focus.

 

With every evocation, the mana flowed faster through my body, the channels widening in response to my adrenaline levels. It had only taken a moment to prepare, and my body was burning with stored power. Melrose had begun to recover, seemingly done with her questioning. Her dagger thrust out awkwardly as she began an off balance charge from the opposite side of the bed. I quickly analyzed my tactical options. The room is too small for full swings. She’s fighting with fear and instinct, not practice. I’m still curious to her motives in all this, so a non-lethal response...for now.

 

I took two strides forward, completely closing the distance between us. Her dagger was slow and clumsy, and I easily dodged the stab. Gripping my sword in both hands, I twisted sideways and dropped to one knee, using the extra acceleration in a crescent slash aimed at her dagger hand. If I hadn’t been watching, I would never have known the blade connected; it sliced through her wrist without resistance. My blade continued, traveling easily through the straw mattress and shattering the wooden bedframe below.

 

Melrose recoiled, screaming in pain as her hand separated from her arm and fell to the floor with a dull thud. Blood gushed from the stump at the end of her arm, which she tried in vain to staunch with her free hand. She fell backwards, writhing in agony as she screamed incoherently. Beyond Melrose, I heard more commotion. Through the door, I could hear patrons of the inn had started to fill the hallway, and were now running away in fear from the screams. One set of footsteps was moving in the opposite direction, coming towards the room, a very telling gait in my ears. Casually, I reached down and pulled the dagger from the severed hand.

 

I stood facing the door at the ready, weighing the dagger in my hand. Non-lethal. The wooden door burst open, revealing Sherman charging into the room with a crossbow leveled at my chest. He hollered a battle cry and loosed a bolt downrange. I easily sidestepped the shot, returning fire with the dagger. It flipped end over end in a graceful, deadly arc, impacting blade-first into his dominant shoulder. Roaring in pain he dropped the crossbow, grasping at the dagger with his non-dominant hand.

 

Before he had a chance to react, I charged across the room, swinging my sword flatside first at the side of Sherman’s head. It connected with a satisfying thunk and he stopped yelling, knocked to the floor unconscious. I kicked the crossbow into the corner of the room, well out of useable range, and closed the door. Kneeling down I retrieved the dagger, withdrawing it with a soft squish, and then checked his back pocket. I was satisfied to find the golden coin he had shown me earlier still there.

 

From behind me, I heard Melrose was crying now. Turning, I found her crawling towards me, her face awash with fear and pain behind the blood. “P-please, please don’t kill meee!” She wailed, most likely beginning to feel lightheaded from loss of blood. I stepped past her, crossing to the chest of drawers. Rummaging through my belongings I withdrew a tonic orb and the hollow needle, quickly activating the mana process. I placed the needle back into the bandolier and returned to Melrose, kneeling down in front of her. Placing my sword behind me, well out of reach of her remaining hand, I reached forward and grabbed her damaged arm. “Please, no more! It huuuuurts…” She cried out in pain.

 

Insistently, I pulled up the stump in front of me and crushed the tonic in my fist directly above the wound. Initially, Melrose screamed, most likely a gut reaction, but I could see the relief flood over her bloody face. The healing liquid almost immediately staunched the wound, knitting together flesh to leave the stump closed flat. She let out a labored breath in relief and slumped backwards. “Now, you have some explaining to do,” I growled down to her.

 

She looked up at me, broken and helpless. “I don’t know what you want me to say.”

 

“Try starting with why you broke into my room and pulled a knife on me.”

 

“That’s never the plan!” Melrose insisted. “Usually, nobody has to get hurt, and they never even know I was here.” She sat quietly on the floor for a moment before motioning to the pile that was Sherman. “We have a deal. I pick a mark, butter them up, and send them his way. He gives them this room, and then I come in with a key at night. He gets a cut of whatever I can find.” Another pause. “It’s never gone this wrong before.”

 

I sighed deeply, pinching the bridge of my nose. “Out of all the people in this damn world, I picked you. That sounds about right.” Sherman began to stir behind me, a low groan coming from his crumpled form. I stood up and addressed Melrose coldly, levering my sword towards her broken face. “You’re going to take your little man, and you’re going to leave this room, and we’re never going to see each other again. Then, you’re going to…” I trailed off, alerted to loud footsteps on the floor below. Four sets of heavy boots thundered towards the stairs. Guards. The other patrons must have found someone to investigate the commotion.

 

As they approached, Melrose picked up on the sound as well. Suddenly, with an energy I thought was long gone from her, she sprang across the room back towards the bed. She rolled through the blood that had pooled from her severed hand and began to scream, a convincing replication of her legitimate cries from moments before. No...she wouldn’t.

 

The wooden door was smashed open and four men in matching iron armor charged in. Melrose was sobbing now, holding her removed hand in a pitiful display. You know how this ends. Don’t fight now. Wordlessly, I dropped my sword and fell to my knees. The guards were shouting, one commanding me to surrender, another trying to assess Melrose’s condition, and a third calling for backup down the hall. The cacophony of noise and the rage of being played like a fool was too much to bear. I let my battle evocations fade, and my world shrunk back to it’s normal, dull semi-clarity.

 

A guard was in my face now, I realized foggily, and he was yelling loudly and pointing at something. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, but I had the undeniable urge to break his nose with my forehead. Two guards ran past me, and soon after returned carrying Melrose between them. Our eyes met momentarily, and I saw an immense smugness in her face. I will not forget this. I will not forget you.

 

My arms were yanked roughly behind my back, and irons locked around my wrists. A second guard was clearing the room, collecting my belongings into a small pile; sword, scabbard, coin purse, cloak, bandolier, clothes, armor, and Melrose’s dagger. Everything I have left, my entire history...reduced to a single pile. My head was starting to clear from the post battle withdrawal, and the guards’ voices finally came into focus. “...down to the dungeons for now. Sick bastard wasn’t satisfied with her services and wanted to ‘teach her a lesson’, she says. Damn scum.”

 

A shove knocked me forward, and I was led out of the room and through the inn. I followed the guard in front of me silently, knowing that anything I said would only make the situation worse. As I walked through the street, shirtless and shoeless, passersby eyed me with disgust. I’m just another criminal now, I thought bitterly. A lone stranger with no connections to anyone in the world, thrown in the dungeon to be forgotten. Though, I suppose I earned it. I trusted a stranger with a pretty face. You’d think I would’ve learned by now.

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A note from Adam Ladner

Hey everybody, thanks for reading! Due to contractual obligations with Amazon, this is all I can host for free online. If you'd like to continue with the story, you can find it here as a paperback, eBook, and soon, an audio book! The next chapter hosted here is the first chapter from Volume 2, so make sure you've finished Volume 1 before continuing! 


About the author

Adam Ladner

Bio: Hi there. I'm Adam, the author of the "Restart Again" series. I started this writing project in the spring of 2019 as a fun creative outlet, and much to my surprise, I actually stuck with it! Fast forward to a year later, and here I am with the first book completely finished, and the second well under way. It's been a great experience, and I'm glad I have a chance to share it now!

I'd never heard of this site until recently, when one of the Amazon reviews for this book suggested I share it here as well. I'm not entirely familiar with how the site works, and whether or not it's frowned upon to just come here to share fully finished products that exist on other sites. With that in mind, I plan to drop a chapter on here every Sunday and Wednesday until the entire book is posted. If you enjoy it, hop over to my website to find the latest news on the project, and a link to the Amazon page where you can buy the eBook/paperback. I hope you enjoy it!

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