Somehow, Hugo returned

Hi, everyone, it’s Hugo. Sorry for the long silence – it lasted far longer than it should have.

I’ve been going through my inbox and answering everyone who sent a message during my absence, but it’s taking a while, so I figured I’d write a post here in the meantime.

First of all, thank you for all the concern and words of support. I expected I’d open an inbox full of annoyed messages increasingly demanding to hurry up and finish the damn book. Instead, I found message after message of worried readers wondering about my health and telling me to take all the time needed to sort stuff out. Not to go all mushy, but damn. You guys are fantastic.

So, sometime after Dungeon Lord 4 came out, I was riding my bicycle for a bit of morning exercise when I got hit by a motorcycle from behind. The impact wasn’t that hard – we were able to fix the bike later – but something about the angle itself made it so I was launched up in the air like a very surprised human baseball.

I remember, quite vividly, that I had enough time before hitting the pavement to think “Let’s do one of those shoulder-roll things from action movies to avoid the impact…” So I threw my hands forward, got ready to turn, and SPLAT. Flat against the pavement. Inertia even slid me halfway across the street without rolling at all, as if physics itself were teaching me a lesson or two.

Please be aware that as I’m writing this, I’m perfectly fine and healthy and 99% recovered, there’s no need to worry about it.  

After I got up, there was no pain, only a few scratches. A traffic officer who was right there asked if I wanted to press charges, which seemed quite frivolous, because I wasn’t in any pain, other than the scratches. He shrugged and said, “You sure? That’s gonna hurt in the morning.”

We helped the motorcycle rider get her ride up, then I limped back home. A few hours later my hands had the size of boxing gloves and I couldn’t move them at all.

Recovery took several months. Almost two years for the right hand to fully recover, left one never completely did (we found a small fracture we’d missed the first time around. I had surgery to correct it, which seems to be doing the trick. I’m writing this in an arm cast, two more weeks to go!) By then I was already nursing one mean case of writer’s block, to say the least. The heart of the issue was something like:

Me writer. Writer uses hands. But hands not hand-ing. What do?

I’d like to clarify this period wasn’t all a gray, depressing funk. There are pictures somewhere of me drinking beer using my forearms to hold the glass. I went to parties, played board games, met a lot of people, all of that stuff. But my writing was a mess. Slow, clunky, forced… I deleted a third of Nightmare Kingdom’s original manuscript, started again. Started a different novel to see if the change of pace helped, got halfway there, and then scrapped it. Then slowly started NK again from the beginning.

At this time, I had decided I’d take a break from social media – which turned into a break from the internet entirely. I planned to finish the book before making any announcement, that way I wouldn’t string anyone along by missing deadline after deadline. It didn’t occur to me that people were concerned about my health before any release date.

This period lasted a while. Writing slowly but not consistently and the book just wasn’t finished. One day, I decided I needed to shake things up by doing something out of character, so I joined an MMA gym without telling anyone and started training every day, despite having zero talent for it. Great fun. I even fought a few matches, and got demolished in most of them, but managed to qualify for that year’s amateur national tournament. I had 2 matches, managed to win them 90% via sheer luck, and now I’m proud to be probably the worst amateur national champion ever produced in the history of my country.

(Because I never told anyone about this stuff until after I’d done it, long-time-no-see friends sometimes understandably think I’m bullshitting them, so here’s the only footage of the match as far as I know, about half a second of gif. I’m the one in gray socks. Finding the vid gave me great joy because it doesn’t show the several minutes of me getting turned into origami)

To avoid making an already long post even longer: there was stuff to handle. Good stuff and back stuff, as with everything in life. I do believe my writing is stronger for all of it, but that’s, of course, up for the reader to decide.

I’ve been writing consistently again for a while now, and Dungeon Lord’s 5th installment is done, and waiting for the last touches before launch in a couple of months.

Thank you again for all your patience and understanding. I’m already working on Book 6, “The Wraith’s Bane” and this time I’m keeping an eye out for any wild motorcycles lurking around.

-Hugo Huesca

The Dungeon Lord rises!

Dungeon Lord is out on Amazon (free on Kindle Unlimited) and making a splash.
It’s about building dungeons instead of destroying them, opposing the schemes of evil gods, and forging your own path in a world where pretty much everyone is trying to kill you.

It’s a mixture between litRPG, Dark Fantasy, and Sword and Sorcery. Kinda like Conan the Barbarian meeting Dungeon Keeper.

Come check it out:

Dungeon Lord’s First Taste

Dungeon Lord Kael watched as what remained of his legacy burned to ashes. His brave monsters lay broken at every passage and corridor from the entrance to his own chamber, his traps were defeated, his magic was spent and dry.
Only the last line of defense yet stood: Kael himself and his closest lieutenants, a score of so of his remaining monsters, the ones loyal enough that were ready to die for him, or the ones stupid enough that they hadn’t managed to escape from the dungeon that was now a death trap.
Later, the songs would claim that the last Dungeon Lord of the Arpadel dynasty faced his end with a glorious charge against impossible odds. That he met sure death with stoic scorn and a grin, that he jumped at the idea of meeting his ancestors at the gloomy halls of the Dark god Murmur.
The truth was…slightly different.
“Alita’s misshapen cunt!” Kael bellowed with such force he almost broke his voice. He kicked a nearby treasure chest so hard that the ancient wood splintered against his armored boot and sent guts coins and gems and trinkets sprawling like guts all over the floor. “Those dung-eaters! Look what they did to my dungeon! Fuck! Ah, FUCK!”
What little remained of Kael’s followers had the presence of mind to take a step away from the maddened Dungeon Lord, and not one dared to take a coin from the floor. Probably because he was a tower of a man—well over nine feet tall—with giant’s blood somewhere on his family tree and well known for his temper. Only Kael’s two lieutenants were dear enough to him to be sure his rage wouldn’t shift towards them by the crime of proximity, so they stood by his side at his stone throne.
“I would damn my soul again for a chance to rip the entrails away from those…those…Heroes,” Kael grumbled as his rage slowed.
“Murmur is not in the business of making crappy bargains. He’ll have little to pay for a soul that’s going to belong to him in just a bit more, anyway,” said Bishop Leopardus, who floated placidly at Kael’s right. Leopardus’ body resembled a giant pufferfish and was big enough to swallow a grown man whole if the need arose. His mouth occupied the middle section of his body and was wide enough to handle such a bite. His red hide was spotted with white.
“Don’t listen to this asshole, he’s just pissed he has to meet his death hungry,” said Warlock Chasan, the second of Kael’s lieutenants. Chasan was an old half-demon—no one was sure what the other half was—who had spent his life serving the surviving members of the Arpadel bloodline. He had seen the rise and fall of Kael’s father and grandfather and half a dozen aunts and uncles. He would serve no one after Kael.
“If Master Chasan enjoys putting words into my mouth perhaps he should put his head into it, too, and see what happens,” Leopardus growled, but there was no real animosity behind his threat. Kael knew that the Warlock and the Bishop were friends behind their constant bickering.
“Enough,” Kael said. “Who says I intend to die tonight? Unlike my Dungeon, I am still standing, and no one shall say that Kael Arpadel sold his hide cheaply.”
He flashed a confident smile at his friends and made damn sure his surviving minions saw how little he cared about danger of death. He even barked a strident laugh that for a second was loud enough to mask the clamor of battle coming from behind the stone doors of the chamber.
Lord Kael did it more for the benefit of his people than for himself. Not even the most detestable kaftar deserved to die under the command of a cowardly Dungeon Lord.
The kaftar, the hyena-men, received Kael’s boast with a roar of their own, a bark-laugh that sounded like they smelled. The two dozen warriors were all that was left of the once great kaftar clan that had manned Kael’s dungeons and raiding parties.
The kaftar chieftain stepped away from his warriors and raised a broken scimitar at the stone doors. “Brave words, my Lord Kael! You made my cackle proud to have fought and died under your command. I ask of you, allow this old kaftar one act of pride and let me lead the charge against the Heroes once they breach the chamber. Let prime the battlefield with my blood and, gods willing, with the blood of your enemies.”
While the kaftar warriors barked their approval, Kael examined their chieftain with his Evil Eye. The green eldritch light set his eyes aflame for a moment. It was clear that the chieftain was hurt. Kael could see the drops of blood—red so dark it was almost tar—streaking from a dozen cuts and wounds and spotting the gray fur of the kaftar. It was clear the chieftain would not survive the battle, and Kael knew the chieftain was aware of the fact.
“Very well,” said Kael. “You’ve been a loyal, honorable warrior. I admit now that the distrust I held against your kin when I was young was unfounded. It will be my honor to fight with you…my friend.”
The chieftain guffawed deeply, a prideful warrior choking back tears. He turned to his cackle, who waited expectantly for his command with their little, yellow eyes, and raised his scimitar. “For Kael!”
“For Kael!” they barked as one. The few surviving monsters next to the kaftars joined the yelling, raising tentacles, spikes, and other appendages. “For the Dungeon! Death to the Light!”
The Dungeon Lord nodded grimly at the display. Once, a long time ago, before age and hunger had taken their toll on his Attributes, two hundred minions would’ve joined that display. Perhaps the man he once had been would have crushed the people that now strode across his Dungeon’s passages killing and pillaging wantonly.
But right now, Kael smiled genuinely. The few survivors may not be much…but they were his people.
Lord Kael went to battle with his pride intact.
In fact, a somber royalty seemed to take hold of his posture—a grim visage that returned most of the handsomeness of his youth.
The doors of the chamber shook. Clouds of dust exploded toward the kaftars. Outside, the sound of battle stopped. It was time.
“Send the apprentices away,” Kael whispered to Warlock Chasan while the kaftar had their backs turned. “Send them through those spider tunnels and tell them to fuck off. They’ll be useless in battle, and there’s no sense in them dying tonight.”
The old warlock glanced at his friend. “You’ve grown, my Lord. Your family is proud of you, wherever they are.”
“You know damn well where the fuck they are, my friend.”
“Indeed, my Lord. I’ll be back in time for the main event.” The warlock scurried to the corner of the chamber where the group of apprentices huddled together like a litter of freezing puppies.
The Dungeon Lord watched Chasan go. Seconds later, he saw the stone doors crack and break like clay under the assault of rending magic from the other side.
The noise of the doors as they fell was deafening, like the roar of some ancient abomination from the Wetlands. One huge slab of rock flew atop an unlucky kaftar and unceremoniously crushed him. The survivors pulled back.
A cloud of dust rose all over the chamber. From the opening left by the doors, five humanoid figures stepped in.
“For the Dungeon!” Kael unslung a huge claymore from his back and immediately activated all the auras and enchantments he knew. He felt the wave of heat burst from his body like a physical entity, and his vision blurred at the intensity of it. But his step didn’t waver. Soon, power flooded through his muscles.
He leaped to meet the advancing adventurers while his monsters encircled them, ready to give their lives to give him a chance to land a Crushing Blow or perhaps a Devastating Cleave.
There was a lull in movement as both sides waited for the dust to settle. Soon enough, Kael caught a glimpse of the beings who had devastated his last Dungeon.
These are no men, he thought with a fury that drowned the pangs of fear he felt.
They had the faces of men and women alright, they had the features of Ivalis’ people.
But they are no men.
Their eyes were glassed, crystal, like mirrors decorating a Royal Hall. Nonliving.
And yet they could see. Their necks jerked with unnatural movements here and there, while their bodies faced forward, their gazes flayed wildly about like they were trying to see every corner of the place at once.
Much to his chagrin, goosebumps traveled through Kael’s back. Under his helmet, drops of sweat threatened to fall over his eyes.
Still, whatever these… Heroes were, Kael knew there were protocols to follow. He welcomed the visitors like a Dungeon Lord should:
“You never should have come here, slaves of the Light! Know that you’ll meet your demise in this most noble hall of Arpadel Lair, under the blade of Dungeon Lord Kael and the brave men and monsters who follow him! For I am the last member of a proud and noble bloodline who still remember the time when the Lordship was great and feared and—”

Edward Wright sighed over his mic when he heard the elven assassin mutter something like, “Screw this monologuing, I want to fight this Boss already!”
“Calm down, Ryan, he may give us some clue for our quests,” Edward suggested without any real hope of being listened to. He had little doubt for what was about to happen next.
His old computer monitor showed in barely 39 frames-per-second how Rylan Silverblade, Ryan’s character, interrupted the Boss-guy’s speech by leaping toward him with his dual-wielded daggers raised high.
“Ah, there he goes again,” groaned Lisa in the Discord chat. “I really hope we didn’t miss something important.”
The battle had begun. Rylan’s daggers reached the Boss—Kael, according to his health bar—and slipped through the cracks in the armor plate, scoring a critical hit. Cartoonish blood splattered from the boss along with a -253hp notice. It was enough to one-shot any minion they had encountered so far in the dungeon.
But this was the Boss, and he had 3000hp to throw around. Kael roared in rage and surprise, but reacted by instinct with a brutal swipe from his claymore, which was so thick it may as well have been a tree branch. It missed Ryan only thanks to the assassin’s daily power shadowstep.
The elf disappeared from the claymore’s range in a flutter of black leaves and reappeared ten feet away. Right in the middle of the mob of kaftars… Which proceeded to go to town on him, barking that hideous laugh of theirs all the while.
The assassin wasn’t built for tanking, nor for dealing with more than one opponent at a time. He leaked HP like a faucet.
“What the fuck?” Ryan instantly started over the Discord chat. “Where is my healing? Lisa? Healing? What do you think you’re here for?”
“I’m trying!” Lisa said. “You jumped too far away, I can’t reach you!”
“That’s because you suck!”
The giant red balloon with the teeth had floated into the fray and was throwing debuff magic onto Mark’s tank character so fast that the stout dwarf was left immobile while half the kaftars swarmed him and rained hits on his armor with their scimitars.
Ed clenched his teeth. Mark’s job was to establish a safe battle-line for the casters—Ed and Lisa—to work while Ryan flanked the elite minions. Hell, with Ryan in the middle of the battle, Ed couldn’t even fireball the bunched-up cluster of mobs as he had planned.
Now, Lisa was frantically trying to reach Ryan, taking constant damage from suicidal monsters all the while. Sure, thanks to her holy buffs they only did -10, -20hp damage at most, but those added up quickly, and her mana potions weren’t infinite.
It was up to Ed to make a decision. He saw the lead kaftar—a chieftain, proclaimed the game screen—jump toward his character with a howl of rage. Ed distractedly clicked on him and saw his character’s auto-attack roast the hyena-guy to cinders before he was halfway through his leap.
“Pull back, Lisa, you need to cleanse Mark’s debuffs,” Ed said. At the same time, he pulled his character out of range of the kaftars and casted a freezing beam at the red balloon to take the aggro away from Mark.
Ed was better equipped to deal with debuffs than the dwarf. The ideal target would’ve been Lisa’s Cleric, of course, since she had stacked the Spirit attribute, but Lisa had trouble of her own. Ed had to improvise.
“Ryan’s gonna be pissed!” Mark warned them while Lisa countered the curses away from his character, though the dwarf was then able to cleave three kaftars with his battle-axe.
“He’ll be more pissed if we get wiped at the very end of the raid,” Ed pointed out. It was true. Even though their situation was Ryan’s fault, he wouldn’t see it that way.
“Cleric, you fucking suck,” Ryan exclaimed. “Where are you going?! I’m running out of potions here!”
Ed’s Wizard and the red balloon were busy exchanging magical devastation, but his screen reached the center of the battle where Rylan Silverblade was getting his roguey ass handed to him by the Boss, the remaining kaftars, and the other elite mob—the ugly Warlock.
It was clear Ryan wouldn’t last much longer. He was already using the potion hotkey more than his combat ones. Never a good sign.
“Use your acrobatic leap,” Ed advised him. “Get safely back behind Mark until Lisa’s done with him.”
“Who do you think you’re talking to?” Ed was sure he heard Ryan spit at the mic. “Rylan Silverblade doesn’t retreat from rabble like this! Now, do as I say, ignore the dumb minions, and get over here to help me!”
Ed muted his mic before swearing furiously in his cramped room. It wouldn’t be the first time they wiped because of Ryan, even if he would never accept it.
The game, Ivalis Online, was an old rogue-like with a permadeath mechanic. So if their characters got killed during the Boss fight not only would they would’ve wasted not only an entire evening but entire months of leveling the characters from scratch.
Ed didn’t have that kind of time anymore. And they were so close to ending the raid…
His fingers acted on his decision before he realized any had been made. He casted his daily offensive spell, a lance of ice that did piercing damage and ignored 30% armor. It worked like a charm on the angry balloon—the lance pierced its tough hide like a hot nail through rubber. Its remaining health vaporized under the critical hit, and Ed’s Wizard received a chunk of delicious EXP for his trouble.
The game was old, several years outdated by anyone’s standards, but the developers’ attention to detail was impressive. While the torn flabs of red skin floated everywhere around the battlefield, the Boss roared at the sight and launched a massive combo of claymore swings against Ryan’s Rogue.
Normally, the Rogue would’ve been able to dodge most of the attacks, but he was still surrounded by a few remaining kaftars. That meant a penalty to the Agility attribute…and that Rylan Silverblade’s health was suddenly down to its last 100hp—it rose fast thanks to a potion. Not fast enough, though.
The Warlock chose that exact moment to launch a lance of his own as if inspired by Ed’s attack of choice. The shadow strike pierced Rylan straight through his leather chest plate while tendrils of darkness climbed through the inside of the rogue’s body like coils of electricity. As the Rogue’s corpse fell to the ground, Ed saw that the tentacles were coming out of the eyes, mouth, and ears.
The Boss stepped over the corpse with his claymore raised high, letting the three or four remaining mobs regain some of their low morale. Then Kael rushed Lisa.
Unfortunately for him, Lisa had already finished cleansing Mark. The dwarf calmly stepped into the way of the Boss’ charge and stopped it cold with a defensive talent of his tower shield. Chips of stone flew away from under the dwarf’s heels and he took a massive 200hp hit for his trouble. But taking those kinds of hits was his job.
The Boss recoiled from the impact and staggered. Ed chose that moment to fireball the area right behind him. Flames erupted as—
“What?!” Ryan’s high-pitched voice was all over the chat. “Fucking bullshit! That’s fucking bullshit, it’s not fair the Boss can combo with his minions! Fuck you, Eddie, this is all your fault! Thanks for wasting my fucking time!”
Then he disconnected.
“He’s going to remember that in the morning,” Mark commented while Lisa healed him. “Maybe you should have let us wipe, Ed.”
The Boss and the dwarf exchanged furious blows strong enough to break the bones out of lesser warriors even if blocked.
While they fought, Ed and the Warlock—the only remaining minion—exchanged spells as fast as their Mind attribute would let them. For a mere elite mob, the monster managed to survive a lot of abuse. For a second or two, that is.
“Maybe I’m tired of putting up with him. Perhaps he’ll calm down when we give him his share of the loot,” Ed said. They could load Ryan’s new character—probably Rylan Silverblade the Fourth—with the old one’s loot and whatever items they got from raiding the dungeon.
“That would be very reasonable of him,” Lisa sighed. As soon as the Warlock died, she switched from healing Mark to debuffing the Boss, making him do less damage, move slower, and be more vulnerable to Ed’s spells.
To Ed, the battle’s results had been decided the second after the Rogue had fallen. There was still mop-up to be done, though.
There was no surrender mechanic in Ivalis Online.
As if thinking the same thing, the Boss suddenly switched aggro away from Mark—which netted Kael even more penalizations—and leapt straight at Ed’s Wizard.
The claymore rose over Kael’s head, covered in the red aura of the berserker-type talents. Ed’s fingers flew over the keyboard and pressed the teleport hotkey. His Wizard reappeared behind Mark and away from Kael, just in time to see how the Boss’ sword cracked the floor as it came down.
When the Boss turned to them, Ed swore he could see something akin to disappointment in his eyes.
Nah. The game isn’t that detailed.
Mark charged the Boss, but it was Ed’s Wizard who got the last hit. Kael died to a particularly mean stalagmite spell that went through his helmet like it was made of butter. Clear, pure ice pierced through, but it was dark red after its tip reappeared at the helmet’s end.
Ed felt a rush of tired satisfaction when his screen was showered with EXP, a level-up, and a bunch of magical items that would look very, very good on his character.
And also, away from the demands of the Boss battle, he started thinking immediately about what he had done.
Ryan was not going to be reasonable about it.
“Tomorrow is going to be a bitch,” Lisa said while her Cleric stepped over Kael’s corpse on her way to looting the chamber. “I hope we don’t get fired for this.”
“Oh, shit. I guess it will,” Ed said. He took out the earplugs and rested his back against his chair. His room was lit only by the screen of the computer.

Cold War Rune: Prologue

All was still in the frozen expanse. The compound was a speck of gray in a gigantic island of snow and frozen mountains. The sea surrounding it was icy blue and the reflection of the sky in the water was so perfect that the ice appeared as if floating in the middle of the clouds.
In the complex, an alarm blared. More followed. The stillness of the scene was shattered.
A lone snowbike raced out of the complex just a second before the heavy, metal doors could close entirely. It spat snow in all directions as its driver fought with the controls to avoid rocks and the deep ice crevices.
The doors opened again and more snowbikes followed after the first. They were at least a dozen, with more incoming. The man they chased looked back, saw them, and accelerated as much as the engine could stand.
The pursuers couldn’t outrun their prey, but they outnumbered him. The snowbikes spread like a pack of wolves and chased after the lone snowbike with a constant roar of engines fighting against the ice.
The man looked back once again and drove his vehicle towards the edge of the ice, still maintaining a healthy lead.
Back at the pack of pursuers, a woman’s voice blared on the communicators:
“You let him get away and it’s on your pension check,” she said with a coldness that rivaled the air currents around them.
“There’s no place to go, Madam,” said Foreman. He was the chief of security of the compound and the one responsible in the case of an escape. “He can’t outrun us for long. He’ll run out of gas.”
To drive his point home, he pressed on his bikes’ pedal and slowly gained on his own men. He was leading the chase both physically and strategically, with the efficiency of a man who has survived several wars in a lifetime of service.
So, why was she so furious? The escape hadn’t been Foreman’s fault…
“He obviously doesn’t think so,” she pointed out. “I suggest you order your men to begin shooting.”
“He’s still too far away—” Foreman closed his mouth before he could fully contradict his boss. When Stefania Caputi told you to begin shooting, the best bet was to listen to her or she might tell the others to begin shooting at you. “Men, begin covering fire. Aim at the ground in front of him and drive him towards the crevices.”
Shooting a rifle from a moving vehicle was hard. Doing so at a moving target from a long distance while driving a jumpy snowbike was next to impossible. Foreman’s pragmatic nature made him wince at the sheer waste of ammo.
The man they pursued saw the snow around him explode as the rounds hit all around him, without actually coming close to hitting him. He began to zigzag and shot back at them without turning back to aim. He had the right idea: it didn’t matter a damn at this distance, but it helped get people nervous. Nervous people made more mistakes.
The volley went far over the pursuers’ heads.
On the comms, Stefania Caputi could be heard barking a string of orders to an unseen soldier. For what Foreman could hear, she wanted to get air support over there post haste. Even artillery.
The air support Foreman could understand. It was protocol. But the artillery was overkill. The fugitive had no possible escape.
“He’s going to run out of ice at this rate,” Foreman pointed out. “This chase will be over long before the air support arrives.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” muttered Stefania Caputi under her breath.
Instead of drifting, like Foreman hoped, the man they chased pointed his snowbike straight at the edge of the ice. At the speed he was going there was no way he could turn around in time.
A couple of the soldiers under Foreman’s command realized this on their own bikes and pressed on the brakes. Foreman himself began to do the same.
“What are you doing?” Blared Caputi’s voice on his ears.
“He’s going to fall over!” Exclaimed Foreman. The fall was huge and led into freezing water.
“Then jump after him!”
Foreman may have been a soldier but he wasn’t a random mook. He liked living quite a lot, thank you.
But an order was an order. He pressed the accelerator and shot forward like a bullet. A couple of the other soldiers yelled at him to stop, but he closed the channel. He needed to focus.
The other man was almost to the edge of the ice. It was now obvious he had no intention of slowing down. Turning would be impossible even on the special tires of the bike. Foreman decided the fugitive’s only chance of escaping was to jump sideways at the last second and to hope he found a rock to grab before skittering over the edge.
So, Foreman took careful aim. The man was driving in a straight line, now. The soldier unloaded the entire weapon in the fugitive’s general direction. One hit the snowmobile and sent a shower of sparks, black smoke, and fragments of metal in all directions. The bike skittered.
The man fell to the ground and inertia made him slid on the ice and drove him dangerously close to the edge.
Without stopping his shooting, Foreman jumped out of his own snowbike, slid on the ice with the practiced grace of a soldier who has lived a dangerous life. He took aim again. This time, he wouldn’t miss…
The fugitive, without bothering to look back, regained his footing without bothering to stop his forward momentum. Instead, he jumped. His body crossed the air, besieged by Foreman’s shooting. For a second, the fugitive appeared to fly across the air. Then he disappeared under the edge of the ice without so much as a scream. His snowbike was next and Foreman’s own bike followed. Both of them made heavy splashes on the water below.
Foreman stood up with a pained grunt. He holstered his rifle and reopened his communications to hear the impressed voices of his soldiers:
“Good shooting, boss!”
“Just like something out of an action movie!”
“If only the bikes had exploded…!”
He allowed himself a small, triumphant smile. It quickly vanished when Stefania’s voice blared on his helmet’s speaker:
“Well? What are you waiting? Follow after him!”
The soldier thought something very unflattering of his boss. “Beg your pardon, Madam? The fugitive just jumped a two-hundred-feet fall into open ocean—” He had to stop himself before getting dangerously close to insubordination.
A silence followed, long enough to make the soldier wonder if he had just lost his cozy job as chief of security. Then, Stefania spoke again: “You know what? Confirm the kill.”
“Wh—?” Foreman coughed and thought better than second guessing Caputi two times in the same sentence. “Yes, Madam.”
He walked to the edge of the ice, glancing at the surface with distrust. Then, slowly, he peeked over the edge.
Nothing. Just the icy waters down below, still as a mirror, disturbed only by two concentric waves in the spots where the snowbikes had fallen.
“Hypothermia must’ve set in by now,” he said over the comms. “I think this is enough to confirm the fugitive’s—”
Snow was floating atop the surface of the water. Foreman did a double take. No. It wasn’t floating. It was suspended in the air. Then it was rising. Towards him. He clearly heard the roar of an engine way too big to be a snowbike. Too big to be a helicopter. It was the roar of an engine powered by an antimatter reactor. The sound was unmistakable.
The air rippled in front of him. The view of the ocean grew distorted. The soldier felt a wave of paralyzing surprise and terror travel down his spine, chilling him more than the air around him.
The air drew the outline of a spaceship. Its outline grew clearer by the second and then colors appeared. The metallic armor of the ship shone under the light of the alien star.
Foreman realized he was standing right in front of the ship’s nose cannons.
“What the f—?” He muttered weakly.
“Those,” explained Stefania Caputi over his open channel, “are two twin-linked laser cannons, starfighter-grade. A custom model made by the Terran Federation as commissioned by one Beard Ivanic. Those cannons are installed in the bow of The Diplomatic Immunity, which is the ship you’re seeing right now.”
“But the fugitive… he jumped—”
Stefania Caputi sighed. “And you’d be inside the ship’s cabin if you had jumped after him like I told you to, soldier. I’d fire you if I thought your replacement would be more competent. Enjoy your respawn, Mister Foreman.” The last thing he heard was Caputi ordering her unseen subordinate to launch all planet-bound fighters in pursuit of Cole Dorsett.
I had you, The soldier thought. This is just not fair—
The laser cannons shot him. Foreman and all the ice around him were vaporized in a single instant.

You have died! A ship’s laser atomized you in what you thought was your moment of triumph. What a bummer! Time of death: 2:34pm. You’ve lost an item [Firedome-class Shield Generator] during your Quantum Safeguard. Don’t despair! In Rune Universe, death is part of the adventure! And the adventure… continues!

10 Great litRPG Books in Kindle Unlimited

LitRPG is a new (relatively) genre of SFF books. It deals with protagonists trying their luck and wits against virtual, game-like worlds with game-like rules and leveling systems.

Books that deal with virtual reality environments have been around for a while now (and if you haven’t read Snow Crash already, you’re seriously missing out) but a LitRPG has more of a focus on the leveling and loot collection –more in the vein of a videogame adventure.

LitRPGs are not for everyone. But they are great adventures that can be surprisinly well-thought and entertaining. If you haven’t read them all already or want to give a couple of them a go and see if they’re your cup of tea, I have some great news for you: There’s seriously talent in the LitRPG section of Kindle Unlimited, at least at the moment.

Check them out, I’ve compiled ten of them for you. In no particular order:


Awaken Online


By Travis Bagwell

AO is one of the best litRPG in the market. It’s not only a fun romp with a rogue protagonist, but a story about revenge and a protagonist that has been pushed to its limit. If you somehow haven’t given it a go already, you definitely should.


Delvers LLC


By Blaise Corvin

The writing is solid and fun.  It’s a story about two friends who suddenly find themselves in the fantastical world of Ludus. As it turns out they were kidnapped by a god with an agenda. To return to Earth, they must survive the challenges of a strange land  — paying rent included.


Caverns and Creatures


By Robert Bevan

Very different than other series in this list. Robert Bevan has an irreverent sense of humor (the books’ tagline is “Sword. Sorcery. Dick jokes”) and the books are fun and entertaining. If you want to get a sense of his writing style, check out his blog:


Difficulty Legendary


By Gregg Horlock

D:L is a solid addition to this list. Is a first book in an upcoming series and Gregg Horlock’s readers are asking him for more books already.


The Land: Founding


By Aleron Kong

One of the most famous litRPG works in Amazon right now, if not the most famous. Aleron Kong is the authority in all things litRPG and if you haven’t read at list the first book in his series, you should do so, soon!




By Jeff Sproul

Paragons is a hard litRPG (meaning, the videogame aspect of the story is rock solid and takes preference to all) and perhaps the first litRPG in a Superhero setting. It’s definitely worth checking out!


Adventures on Terra


By RA Mejia

Ramón Mejia has been an authority in all things litRPG for a while now. AoT is a work of love to the genre and it shows. It’s solid, has a fun and gripping plot, and has a great cover (seriously, check it out).


Unbound Deathlord


By Edward Castle

A Deathlord is a person who has achieved undead immortality through corrupting dark magic.

A dark protagonist with a mysterious past. It’s a darker story than other books in this list, if that’s your kind of thing you’ll like this story.


The Feedback Loop


By Harmon Cooper

A different approach to the genre, The Feedback Loop begins with the protagonist trapped for a long time in a virtual game world that constantly repeats the same day, without variation.

Until he’s visited by a mysterious woman named Frances Euphoria. Then, things get crazy.

I recommend the series, working through it right now.


Desperate Times


By Matthew Sylverster

The 49rs Saga does not get as much attention as it deserves. It has an interesting setting (a world at war a hundred years into the future) and has a great mix of genres that I hadn’t seen before written like this. Think military-squad scifi meets litRPG with a smidge of Hunger Games for good measure. Give it a go and leave a review if you enjoyed it!