"It's empty," Irwin whispered, opening the door, looking around, then stepping aside for Daubutim to enter.
Their movements were quick and practiced, a testament to the number of rooms they'd looked through. Irwin had long since lost count of how many, as he had the amount of Galubs they had killed.
As he ruffled through the large cabinet on the far wall, he found a hidden sword. They had plenty now, so he left it and continued searching. After a few more moments, he found a dark leather flask between the side of the cabinet and a pile of wood scraps that might have been a chair at some point. It sloshed as he shook it, and he grinned.
"And another bit of water," he whispered, turning back to Dautubim. He took off his torn backpack, placing the flask inside next to the other six. A piece of cloth clogged the holes, keeping the flasks from falling out.
"So, that's the last one. Weird, there's nothing but these odd small bedrooms and a few storerooms. I wonder who made this and lived here."
"Whoever they are, they are dead now," Daubutim said with a shrug. "It's time to go up the stairs."
Irwin grimaced as he thought of the large stone stair that wound up the second large room they had found.
"Yes, let's go," he said, summoning his flame and holding it up.
They walked out of the room and into one of the dozens of hallways of the maze-like city they had moved through. His flame cast long shadows away from them, and it would probably alert the demons ahead, but there was little choice. Daubutim couldn't see in the dark, and the Galubs could. Even with Irwin scouting, they had gotten jumped twice. Now Daubutim was at the point, Irwin with his flame lighting the way.
"This way," Daubutim said as he turned left.
Irwin followed him, still not used to the incredible memory the other boy had. He was somehow able to keep an entire map of where they had been in his head without any apparent effort.
It's a good thing, he thought as he followed Daubutim, who was carefully checking every corner before moving forward. I would have been lost hours ago.
He kept his focus on his surroundings, forcing his mind to stick with the task instead of drifting off and thinking about all the things that had happened. Walking into a patrol of two Galub had taught him quickly that drifting off was a good way to get himself killed down here.
After a long trek through the tunnels, and up a few smaller wooden stairs like the one before later, they stood at a crossroad. Behind them was the path back to the portal, while left and right were corridors leading to similar areas. They had just searched the last section, finding nothing but empty rooms and a few Galubs.
The fourth path ahead led into a massive stone room with columns twenty foot high lifting a curved stone ceiling. They snuck forward until they reached the engraved large door frame and stared inside. A square staircase sat to the right, going up to the next floor. Flickering of flames came from there, as well as dull thudding, sometimes accompanied by laughter.
"Ambraz, ready?" Irwin whispered.
The Anvil flew up, then looked around.
"Sure, scouting Anvil reporting for duty," he said mockingly.
Irwin had no idea why Ambraz seemed so annoyed at helping them, but he had begun to ignore it. Perhaps after they left here and were in a safe spot, he could ask after the Anvil's history some more.
"Right, lets go," Irwin whispered. He moved ahead this time, his flame unsummoned. To him, the room was perfectly lit, but Daubutim had told him it was hard to see more than some shadows and shapes.
Ambraz flew ahead of them, ready to rush back if anything approached, and Irwin began climbing the stairs. One of the things he'd realized as they moved through the city was that it wasn't very cold. Daubutim had confirmed, saying it felt like a hot summer night. The other was that the doors, closets, and hallways all seemed made for beings roughly as tall as he was.
And the steps, he added mentally, as he moved up.
The stair ended at a square platform, with another stair going further up, and there were six more before they reached the top.
Irwin's legs were sore, and his breathing laborous, but he was happy with both. A month ago, he'd have never been able to even walk for a day, searching through rooms. He'd have collapsed from exhaustion.
Two platforms later, the sound changed, and a dull voice began shouting. The echoes and bass made it impossible to understand, but Irwin and Daubutim waited until it was over before continuing.
Four platforms later they stood below the final flight and a cold wind blew up from above, causing Irwin to shiver. Right, cold, he thought as he wondered if there wasn't just some way to get rid of his weakness. Perhaps a card that gave him an internal fire to keep him warm? Pushing the dreams away, he focused on what was above them.
Flickering torchlight illuminated the edge of a city with squarish buildings built snugly together, made of different colored gray and brown stone. High above, past the buildings and a few towers, was the night sky. It was odd, long fissures running through the sky. They couldn't see the moon, but a few more pieces of it hung muttered around like overly large stars. The only ones. There was no sight of any others.
Laughter rang from somewhere far to the left.
"Let's take a look," Irwin whispered.
Daubutim simply nodded, raising his sword, while Ambraz hid back in his pocket.
He snuck up, the sounds growing progressively louder until he was at the top. A quick look around caused his eyes to go wide. The buildings everywhere had lit torches, flickering softly in the breeze. To the left was a large square, and a building that sat opposite it was filled with Galubs. In front of the building were two semi-circles of Galub's shouting and cheering as a couple of two-horns were hitting and kicking each other. One of them was bleeding, but his wide grin showed he wasn't going to give up anytime soon.
Further away from the building were more Galubs, walking around, laughing, and taking long gulps from odd square metal mugs. Many held orange things from which they bit large chunks.
I thought they had no food and drink? Irwin thought as he frowned. He couldn't see what the orange things were, but they looked a bit like carrots, and his stomach clenched.
A tap on his shoulder caused him to freeze before understanding it was Daubutim. He looked up to see the other point at the other side, empty and dark before beginning to sneak around the right edge. Irwin licked his lips, frowned, then followed Daubutim. Backs against the border around the staircase, a line of buildings was not too far ahead of them. Perhaps twenty paces. Daubutim leaned in, whispering.
"They are celebrating something and drinking too much. Father says drunk people are fools to be exploited. Let's scan that side of the city for some ambush points, and wait for them to fall asleep."
I wonder what else his father taught him, Irwin thought, before nodding. With Daubutim's memory, it would pay to get to know the city or at least a part of it.
Daubutim motioned for him to take the lead, and after a quick look, he ran towards a narrow alley between two of the grown-together buildings. The staircase helped block them from view until they reached the shadows of the alley. And Irwin didn't stop until he was behind another corner. Here, the only light came from the broken moon bits floating high above. Enough for him, but he saw Daubutim squint and look around without seeing anything.
"Let's look around for a high place, so we get a good look around," he whispered.
Daubutim nodded, and Irwin suddenly grinned. Nobody but him would have been able to see that.
"Make sure you memorize our route," Daubutim whispered. "I can't."
Right, Irwin thought, the grin wiped from his face.
He snuck forward, noting how clean the narrow paths were. Just a little dust and grit lay in the corners, but for the most, the stone ground looked like someone had just swiped it. The buildings they passed all had sturdy wooden doors, and most he tried were either locked or barred because they didn't open.
Left, left, right, straight, straight, Irwin repeated to himself as he walked forward and into a dead-end alley. A single door sat at the back, and he was about to turn around when he stopped.
Is it open?
Carefully he snuck forward, less afraid than he might have been because of Daubutims soft steps behind him.
The door was of the same, dark-grainy wood as the others, and slightly ajar. Taking a deep breath, and raising his sword, he pulled open the door, ready to fight or flee. The door opened to a dark room. Splintered wood, a table on its side, and chairs smashed below the left wall. A kitchen, not unlike what his mother had used, sat to the right.
There was nothing moving anywhere, and Irwin snuck inside, noting a narrow stone staircase in the corner and a large leather-covered bench with slash marks.
This is a good place to hide, he thought as he saw the sturdy beam meant to block the door. How big would the chance be of something being upstairs? Low he decided, and he walked back to the door, closing it.
"Safe?" Daubutim whispered, his voice no more than a breath.
"Stair," Irwin whispered back, realizing even he saw poorly as if moonlight filtered through a window. Daubutim must have no idea what was around them. He grabbed the other boy's arm and slowly pulled him along to the staircase.
"Wait," he whispered, then took a deep breath and snuck up the narrow staircase. His shoulders almost touched the sides, and he wondered if Daubutim could even get up normally. The next floor was as large as the one below, with a single small window barred with a wooden shutter. Three large beds stood along one side, and a cabinet and closet back to back against the other wall, creating the image of two separate areas.
A quick look around the room showed no signs of any recent Galub activity. A thin layer of dust covered everything, and as he walked back he suddenly felt incredibly tired. Yawning, he walked back down.
"It's empty," he whispered, and he saw Daubutim start in shock.
Another look showed no holes or other places for light to filter through, and he activated his flame. A flash of light illuminated the room, and he suddenly saw everything in detail: tiny wood fragments on the floor, a cloth doll in the corner, and kitchen utensils strewn about.
Daubutim hissed, closing his eyes and looking away.
"Sorry," Irwin whispered.
"Are you sure nobody can see?" Daubutim asked.
"No windows here, and the one above is shuttered. The door falls in the frame," Irwin whispered before quickly rechecking it to see if he remembered correctly.
Daubutim visibly relaxed, and together they searched the tiny house until they reached the top floor.
"We should rest here," Daubutim said as he looked at the beds. "That party doesn't sound like it is over any time soon. We can look around undisturbed in the morning when there is light."
Irwin stopped nodding midway. "Are we sure there is going to be a morning?" he asked.
Daubutim didn't respond, but his eyes widened and he paled a bit.
"Ambraz?" Irwin asked as he took the Anvil from his pocket. "Is there a chance that the sun is also still here?"
The Anvil's lips pursed. "I don't think that's even possible," it finally said.
"Oh," Daubutim said.
Irwin could understand the other. With no night vision, everything was going to be a whole lot more difficult. He didn't know what to say and moved to one of the beds. It had an odd, tiny sort of straw in it, with a sheet partially covering it. Just seeing the bed made him want to lie down.
"Ambraz, can you keep watch, so we rest?" he asked.
"Divine Anvil, Scout, and now Guard," Ambraz grumbled before he flew to the stairs. "Sure, you two sleep. I'll wake you if anything happens."
It showed how tired Daubutim was that he didn't complain, and a few minutes later, Irwin was lying in bed, his stomach full of water. He'd removed the final leg to get it flat on the ground and put another partially sliced sheet over it. Without even bothering to take off his clothes, he lay down. He barely had time to register his rumbling stomach when he fell asleep.
A familiar pain from his legs, back, and arms woke Irwin. He groaned as he curled up. For a few seconds of bliss, he thought he was in his own bed, back home, and the pain was the usual pain after a day of school labor. Then the memories reasserted themselves, and he sighed.
He heard something shuffle downstairs and shot up, the pain in his body causing him to groan. Daubutim's bed was empty, but Ambraz still hovered at the stairs.
"The big one wakes much easier than you!"
Irwin didn't reply but lay back down. His eyes felt sandy, and he was slightly cold. Still, he remained in bed for another ten minutes before finally getting out and going downstairs. He summoned his flame halfway and was surprised to see that Daubutim had cleared much of the debris. It lay piled in one corner, making the room a lot more presentable. The leather-covered bench stood against one wall and the table before it.
How did he do this without light? Irwin wondered.
"I have an idea," Daubutim said, and from his gaze, Irwin had the feeling it surprised even him.
Irwin blinked, then sat down on the leather bench. It was comfortable, almost more so than the bed.
"We need food," Daubutim stated. "And more water… but…" he frowned as if struggling with himself. "But if we can find those somehow, I think we should stay here."
"We what?" Irwin stared at him, unsure what he meant. Did he mean here, in this room? Or in this shard world? And how long?
"You are bad at fighting," Daubutim stated.
Irwin blinked in surprise, feeling slightly offended even though he knew it was true. Daubutim just stared at him, and after a while, he nodded.
"You lack training and experience. After this portal, we might have to close more or fight surge demons. We need to maximize our chances," Daubutim continued, again speaking like his father or whoever taught him all he knew.
Irwin looked at the room around them, trying to imagine what Daubutim was suggesting. "You want to stay here so that I can practice fighting?" he asked.
"Yes. I'll teach you what I know," Duubutim said with a nod. "I don't understand everything that Ambraz told us, but we can stay here for a long time, and not a long time will pass outside. Right?"
Irwin nodded. "Yes."
"Then I think we should try. It is dangerous here but also predictable. The Galub with one horn are weak, and those with two we can defeat. If Ambraz is right and there is only one stronger one, we just have to avoid large groups."
Irwin leaned back on the bench and looked at the stone ceiling.
"What about the portal? They might find it?"
"Maybe," Daubutim said, his brows furrowing as if he hadn't thought of that yet.
Ambraz fluttered on the table.
"I think Daubutim is right. Besides the points he made, you still have to find the cards of that Doomblade guy. With those, even if none are suitable for you, I can easily reforge both your cards and Greldo's," he said. "The rest you can use to trade?"
Irwin didn't respond, still wondering if it was even safe to stay here. That was without taking into consideration that they had no food left. His stomach clenched and rumbled at the thought, and he sighed.
"If we have to, we can go outside and hunt in the forest, then come back," Daubutim said.
Irwin looked at his rusted short sword, resting on his leg, then at Daubutim. He could still picture the quick, practiced moves of the other as he fought the two-horned Galub. Then he looked at his thin wrist and arm. He was still weak but already stronger than he'd ever been. If they could stay here for two months, only a day would have passed outside the portal. How much stronger would he become? Perhaps they could even find more cards?
"Alright," he said. "But first, we need to get food."
"Then we should go now," Daubutim said. "They had food, and we need to get some before they eat it all."
Irwin groaned as he got up. "I wonder if it's day now," he muttered.
"It is still dark," Daubutim said with a sad sigh. "I checked."
Irwin nodded, suddenly even more impressed with what the other boy suggested.
"Alright, let's go and see if we can find food without getting killed," he said.
Support "Irwin's Journey [Card Fantasy]"
I am mainly a reader, but at some point, I found that I wanted to try my hand at writing something. As it goes with these ideas, it never really happened, that is until LitRPG's showed up. Something about the concept and idea greatly appealed to me, but I couldn't find that many stories I enjoyed. So back in 2018 I began writing my first novel, Nothing but Bones. I finished it half a year later and started on Minlings, which is still being written and is a GameLit. For the NaNoWriMo of 2019, I wrote a short story called Again and again, which is influenced by GameLit. For NaNoWriMo of 2020 I started writing a story called Kernstalion, a full on hard system LitRPG.
As I am not a native English speaker, I expect you will find many weird mistakes, especially the phonetic pronunciation mixups. Things like, 'Look up at the sealing!' might happen.
Upcoming: "Nothing But Bones: Undead AI: Part 2"
Edit: Undead AI is on hold for now. Book 2 is largely finished, but is not to my liking and I don't know what to do about it.
On 01-08-2022, "Nothing But Bones 3: The Lethargy", released on Amazon and Kindle unlimited!
On 21-07-2021, "Nothing But Bones: Undead AI: Part 1", released on Amazon and Kindle unlimited!
On 16-04-2021, "Nothing But Bones 2: The Chaos Rifts", released on Amazon and Kindle unlimited!
On 14 May 2020, "Nothing But Bones 1: The Wasteland", released on Amazon and Kindle unlimited!
On 10 September 2020, "Again and Again", released on Amazon and Kindle unlimited!
Stories on RR- updated 07-02-2023
Irwin's Journey [2 chapters per week +1 on Patreon]
Minglings [Currently being edited and releasing on my Patreon - at chapter 54]
Nothing but bones [Book 3 being released on RR]
Also, Nothing but bones book 2 and 3 , and The undead AI: Part 1, are free to read on my Patreon.