Cut Prologue

The Search for Dedu Tedu Novus

I cut this prologue for mysterious reasons. You’ll never know why! Hahaha! Or, actually, I’ll just tell you why afterward. Enjoy!

Bah!” Malory said, slicing his machete through the moonlit plants of Terralacoos. He hated this zone, hated the minty smell of it and all the water. So much damn water! And insects. And frogs croaking up a storm like an ADT house alarm system.

Oh, damn.

Was it an alarm system?

Did the King of Shadows train the frogs to spy on everyone and signal an alert? It was just another reason to hate frogs. Damn spies!

“Look on the bright side,” Torin said from somewhere in the long grass to the right. His voice sounded casual and, for reasons unknown, chipper.

“Bright side?” Malory yelled and hacked the offensive plants before stepping forward and making a squishy sound from his waterlogged boots. “There is no bright side. We shouldn’t have to be out here looking for this stupid town.”

“There’s always a bright side.”

Jessica shushed them from somewhere to the left. “I swear,” she said in a loud whisper, “I picked the worst people for my team.”

That hurt. Malory wasn’t bad. But no one in their right mind would want to be here.

The draft was stupid.

This was supposed to be his vacation for crying out loud, a vacation he deserved. He made his reservation months ago, and it was about time he used his damn timeshare. The maintenance fees were seriously eating up his earnings.

Free gift my ass. He could have bought a dozen different robes with an Intelligence +3 perk for how much he had paid over the years in fees.

And now, the very day he was supposed to be on the beach, checking out girls in bikinis and sipping a Mango Daiquiri, he was trudging through wet grass, listening to frogs and some random dude talk about the bright side.

“Yeah?” he said, ignoring Jessica. “What am I missing?”

“I just got my ten thousandth step,” Torin said.

“How is that the bright side? My damn feet hurt. Wouldn’t be so bad if I could ride my fox, but nooo, we have to walk because someone thinks we’d miss important details otherwise. I can’t see worth shit!”

“Keep your voice down!” Jessica yelled.

“At ten thousand steps,” Torin continued, unfazed, “you get a free Twinkie. Hey squad leader, do I get the Twinkie from you or . . .”

She let out a loud breath, which seemed to make the long blades of grass dance. “What are you going on about?”

“The free Twinkie.”

“I don’t have Twinkies!”

“Keep your voice down,” Malory chastised, happy to be obnoxious. It kept his mind from dwelling on images of scintillating waves in the sunlight and sexy girls.

Maybe . . . maybe Jessica could put on a bikini. That was not a bad idea! And he just so happened to have one in his inventory. Why? Such reasons did not matter. . . .

“But the service mark,” Torin said, his voice losing a bit of the chipperness from before, “says we get a Twinkie for ten thousand steps.”

“I don’t know how any of that works,” she said. “I doubt I’m the one who hands out rewards.”

“But I’ve been taking small steps this whole time to get a Twinkie. I don’t get a Twinkie?”

“Torin! I don’t know! I’ll . . . look into it when we—”

Malory stopped. “Jessica?”

“She’s giving us the silent treatment,” Torin said with a huff. “I’m really bummed I don’t get a Twinkie.”

“Jessica?” Malory called again, feeling a spike of concern pierce his chest. Maybe they were talking too loudly. But they were nowhere near a village. Could it have been a mob?

“Or maybe she’s eating my Twinkie.”

“No one cares about your damn Twinkie!”

Malory reached back into his mana reserve and a magic missile formed from bright white energy, sloshing within a sphere. Instead of launching it blindly into the darkness, he held it out as a light source and walked toward where his squad leader had last been.

The grass swayed in the cool breeze, making it damn hard to see anything. Add stupid grass to the things he hated about Terralacoos.

“I care,” Tiron said, still marching ahead, hacking grass. “I’m talking about an actual Twinkie. It wasn’t a euphemism. But if it was . . . I wouldn’t mind if she—”

Malory stopped. “Tiron? You’re not giving me the silent treatment, are you?”

No reply.

Fuck! What the hell was going on? Mobs were not the quietest things to exist in this world, especially not with how soggy the ground was. An attack would produce some sound.

And yet . . . he had heard nothing.

That was it. The damn priests of Light could charge him with desertion. He didn’t care. He never wanted to be here in the first place!

He summoned his Nintendo Switch and hit the right bumper to switch to his map. There was a waypoint not even a mile west of here, minutes away from paradise.

The island resorts never cared about politics or war. He could wait out the clash between Light and Shadow there, doing all the things he had been counting down the days for.

Sexy bikinis. . . .

Daiquiris. . . .

His soul device faded.

The rustle of grass came from behind.

He spun on the spot, nearly tripping on his soggy boots. He thrust the magic missile out in front of him, mentally clinging to the power so it didn’t launch from his palm.

The grass swayed, brightly lit by the glowing sphere, casting dark shadows everywhere else.

Nothing. There was nothing there. But obviously, it wasn’t nothing. Nothing didn’t make Torin shut up about his damn Twinkie, literal or otherwise. This all meant something was there.

He mentally sucked the mana out of his magic missile, now finding it a rather stupid thing to be waving about, making him a beacon, a target.

After the count of five, hearing nothing but the pounding in his ears, he crept forward. Water squished out of his boots, sounding like someone enthusiastically tonguing a popsicle, loud and, worst of all, noticeable.

Fuck it!

He ran, followed by nothing other than the now sharp and quick squish, squish, squish of his boots.

Something moved to follow. It didn’t make a sound, but neither did the damn frogs. It was like everything decided to finally shut up, not wanting to lure whatever it was.

Of course, he knew what it was.

Frozen fingers of fear slid up to cradle his thrashing heart. The devourer of souls was here, and it wanted a midnight snack.

Dammit! He liked his soul. He liked his life. He liked his collection of bikinis and the girls he could convince to wear them.

Grass whipped past, slapping his face. It was like swimming by how he had to reach forward to part the grass and pull it behind him.

He hated swimming!

He broke through the green blades and crashed into a river reflecting moonlight, falling to his hands and knees. The water was cold, the pebbled riverbed slick.

He shoved forward and tripped but didn’t stop. He was across seconds later, looking behind himself where he suspected the fiend of nightmares to come from, its eyes glowing red.

It would have demonic wings and horns and black obsidian claws six inches long to easily remove his entrails with. It would have fangs, and the trapped souls would wail from within its throat, forever tormented.

His foot struck something hard, a root or rock. He crashed to his stomach, his chin bouncing on sticky dirt, not entirely dry.

He looked up and froze at the sight of black boots. They connected with black leather armor and scale and fur and . . . cat ears?

The Kind of Shadows.

I started Arachnomancer 3 a handful of times, each leading to a dead-end and forcing me to restart. The story just wasn’t clicking or ended up retracing previous plots: Dhane does something miraculous and beyond reproach, then ends up where he shouldn’t be, his town woefully forgotten.

I played Anno 1800 in preparation for the second book, expecting a bunch of town-building, resource management, and RTS-styled conflict.

In fact, I had this fun idea where he could build neutral buildings that produced monsters his town could control. The thought was, unlike those of Light, those of Shadow could create monsters to act as units in an army.

Sadly, none of that happened.

Dhane—grr—just wandered off and found himself in Glimmerpond. All the preparation of town-building, strategy, and war prep was thrown out the window so he could transform into a cat and peep at girls in their underwear.

Le sigh.

You see what I have to deal with?

For the third book, I wanted to accomplish two things. The first was more time passing—a constant struggle I have. And the second was more focus on developing Dedu Tedu Novus.

So, when I started Arachnomancer 3, I tried to time-skip. The first attempt actually started the story on the beach of their new tropical home. But it had no tension, and my effort to add tension resulted in him Returning in a place he shouldn’t be, just like in Arachnomancer 2.

The above cut prologue was my second attempt, which I actually quite like. But it time-skips all the details of Dhane dealing with the immediate problem of the second book’s cliffhanger.

I decided that the cliffhanger made a promise, and if I didn’t keep that promise by providing a satisfying answer, it would hurt the story.

The final solution—starting the story immediately where Arachnomancer 2 left off—for me, worked perfectly. I love the tension, the pacing, and all the opportunities for humor it provided.

Unfortunately, this new start to the third book didn’t work with the prologue. But it’s still a fun short story. I hope you enjoyed it!