Is it a game or is it reality?

And is it the end... or just the beginning?

WEBB-G. isn't ready for the Soulblade scenario.

He doesn't have a choice.

Memories gone, he has only his instincts to guide him. And a compulsive drive to complete what he's started.

Find the Soulblade. Kill the Demon King. Or die in the attempt.

PLAYER WEBB-G. Selection complete. New stage activated.

Soulblade scenario commencing.

Pick up a copy now and let the LitRPG adventure begin!

Soulblade is created by Patti Larsen, an EGlobal Creative Publishing signed author.

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Chapter 1: Soulblade Scenario Commencing
White light blinds me in a flare so bright I cry out. And then I'm tumbling forward, over and over, my body slammed to an abrupt halt. Groaning from the impact, I roll sideways in the brilliance, starting as a soft, female voice follows the musical ding of a bell. "Selection complete. New stage activated. Soulblade scenario commencing." Wait, what does that mean? My head spins, my mind aching but there's no time to ask, no moment to uncover where I am, what's happening to me. I'm moving again before I can understand, comprehend, even draw a breath. The light whirls, sweeps across me like a river of rushing water, sends me diving forward again, darkness appearing at the end of the glow, hurtling toward me too fast. My hands rise of their own accord, shielding me as I exit the light and impact something hard, cold, damp and roll forward on one shoulder. Instinct saves me from injury, though I groan from the landing, my skin wet from the back of my shirt where moisture seeps through. The light disappears, the world dark and moist, every breath heaving in my chest when I struggle to just draw air into my lungs. My arm twinges, aches and I lift it to look, check for damage, whatever hurt causes the discomfort. But instead I see light yet clings to me, the same brightness I remember from a moment ago. Only not a tunnel-like fissure in the air any longer. The stark lines of letters and numbers etched into the flesh of my forearm flicker, the soft underside shivering from the flare of the glow. I stare at it, mouth filling with saliva as something visceral and emotional twinges, the need to throw up clenching my stomach. No memory, not really, not specific enough to call it that. Just the surety that this is my normal, whatever that means. Regardless of my reaction, like a desperate dog starving for scraps, I hang on as the light fades again, leaving me in dimness that makes it nearly impossible to read the inscription in my skin, a dark tattoo all that remains. The groan that escapes me when I drop my arm to my chest has nothing to do with relief. It's torn from my dry throat when I release every muscle, collapsing utterly while my aching head throbs several times before easing off and giving me peace. I should be terrified, shouldn't I? I have no idea where I am, why I'm here. Not a trace of what's come before the light and the woman's voice remains to me. And, as I let my beaten and shaken mind stretch outward into questioning, that's not about to change any time soon from the utter blankness I'm met with. Leaving me here, without a clue who I am. I suffer one palpitation of my heart, a heavy, painful thud while it skips a beat in the face of fear. And then it plunges onward and I can breathe again, my aches vanishing, the dizzy incomprehension fading into the background when I force myself to sit up and look around. This feels familiar, despite my lack of memory. Emerging from emptiness into wherever I've found myself might not be ideal, but at least I'm not incapacitated by indecision. There's an awareness embedded deep inside me, like it's part of me. An utter confidence that everything is as it should be. Comforting when terror would be a better fit. In fact, not knowing is about as common a condition as I think I've ever known. How can someone become accustomed to knowing nothing? I shake off that question and instead inspect myself, my surroundings. I'm in some kind of cell, enough flickering light, pale yellow and gold, likely from a source of fire, casting shadows and bits of illumination from somewhere past the heavy metal bars I'm facing. The walls and floor, the ceiling above me, all stone, are wet beneath my supporting hands. I wipe them on the thick weave of the pants I wear, boots to my knee tied tightly with leather thongs, my shirt tugged out of the belt around my narrow waist. Some kind of unbleached linen laced at the throat, sleeveless. I shiver as the damp settles in, rising slowly from the hard, wet floor, testing my body's strength and finding I'm in better shape than I expected. The bars open into a hall beyond my cell-it must be a cell, with a low bench, a stinking pit for waste and little else-small and confining. The metal of my cage door comes away in rusting flakes on my hands when I grasp them, the lock a large and heavy flat plate, as pitted as the bars, but sturdy enough when I test the door with a firm tug. "Good luck with that," a female voice laughs at me from across the corridor. She sounds young, lost to my vision in the darkness of her own confinement. I lean as far forward as I can, cheek pressed to the iron and look left, then right, as she goes on. "You made a spectacular entrance just now. I fully expected puking, but no luck. I guess that means I should be impressed?" Jaunty, her tone, carefree despite her captivity. "I suppose," I say. From what I can see, the stone corridor extends in both directions, large torches mounted flush to the walls between cells dancing flame in the faintest movement of air. Left. That means the exit is left, doesn't it? How do I know how to sort that out if I can't remember anything? I lean away and peer into the cell opposite me, but it's too dark to see anything. Instead, I look down at my arm again, examine the tattoo in the slightly better light I've gained at this angle. Written across the top, I read: PLAYER WEBB-G. Webb. Is that my name? Player of what? Beneath it are five sets of letters in a row, with numbers corresponding: PH, ME, SP, EM and 13, 12, 09, 13 in turn. HW is next, 24 assigned to it. For some reason that number pleases me, but I can't figure out why, just an instinctual reaction. And, finally, BL with the letters FH. I touch the tattoo but it's flush with my skin and no longer aches. Without any context to offer clues, I drop my arm and let that curiosity go for now. "Did your capture addle your brains?" She's having fun with her taunts, apparently. "You're not much of a talker, are you?" "Maybe if you had something important to say," a gruff voice says beside me. From the next cell down? Male this time, like mine, only deep and graveled. "Meanwhile the rest of us get to listen to your obnoxious chatter and wish you were in reach." "Poor dwarf," the girl's voice rises in pitch and irritation, more than likely on purpose. How long have they been down here? And how many more, exactly, considering he used the term, "rest of us?" "Am I bothering you so very much?" The voice in the next cell grumbles something that sounds like a curse in another language, the intent apparent even if the literal translation isn't offered. My mind automatically tells me he's speaking a dwarfish dialect as if instinct is more important than memory. At this moment, I suppose it is. "Go choke on your slop," he finally grunts. "Are you recovered sufficiently to test your lock?" That's from the other side of the girl across from me, forward on my right. I catch movement at last, someone drifting to the bars to peer out at me, her tall, slim form cast in the flickering light of the torch beside my cell. Her long, sweeping ears arch backward from her narrow face, eyes deep set from shadow, angular features and elongated limbs clearly elvish in origin. I don't question I know she's of another race than me-I'm human, I'm sure of that-nor that I recognize what she is. Long, pale hair hangs over one shoulder, wound in some kind of elaborate braid, thin hands rising to grasp her own bars. "I have," I say, rattling the door to no avail as proof. She sighs and nods, disappearing back into the darkness of her own cell. "As expected." "Why you even bother," the grumbling voice of the dwarf on my left complains. "Elves and their optimism." "She's not the only one who holds hope." The newest voice comes from my right as well, but beside me. So I'm flanked by a grouchy dwarf on the left and another male on my right, this one with a deep, rich tone that reminds me of something I can't put my finger on. Cultured, smooth, with practiced care of phrase and pronunciation, almost as if he's been trained as a singer or public speaker. He sounds large for some reason, like he's holding back volume and I wonder now with awoken curiosity who I've fallen into hard times with. The final voice comes across the corridor and on the left, on the far side of the happy girl who spoke first. "We can't just sit here," she growls, coming to her bars much as the elf had. Another human, like me, only female and angry, lips in a gash of a line across her pale face. I make the connection we're divided by sex, female on one side, male on the other, when she speaks again. "His arrival changes nothing. We're still without a plan." "You go ahead and plan away, mighty paladin." The cheeky girl across from me finally pokes her nose against the bars and I grin despite my predicament. A halfling, barely taller than my waist, furry feet padding silently on the stone, her own smile answering me in bright greeting, saucy wink tossed casually in my direction. "If you can think of something, I'm all ears." She giggles at that like it's funny, her own pointed like the elf, though without the sweeping elegance, more spring buds than fully formed leaf shapes. The paladin woman sighs and meets my gaze, frustration written on her stern features. She's attractive enough, maybe in her mid-twenties, without the refinement of the elf. But her broad shoulders and large hands that grasp the bars before her tell me the halfling knows what she's talking about. "You're all useless," she snaps before turning her back, leaning against the bars. The large dragon that's embroidered on her surcoat glares at me through the barrier like it blames me for the mess I'm in, the mess we all apparently share. I'm about to apologize for not being the bearer of better news-heavily dosed with sarcasm since I'm as much a prisoner as they are-when a distant sound of metal grinding and the heavy thud of a door being shut catches my attention. The sound of footfalls, again to the left in the same direction as the air flow, heavy and lacking any kind of stealth, silences the others. The paladin retreats, though it's the single fingertip to the lips from the halfling before she disappears into the depths of her cell that warns me I should do as they do and find a hiding place in the darkness. Too late, I catch the approach of what has to be a guard, the torchlight reflecting from the faint green of his skin and catching the moisture of his bulging eyes just as he comes to a jingling halt before me. My mind instantly identifies his race with a kind of detached logic that makes me feel wobbly. Though, my otherwise empty history does nothing to defer the truth that strikes me. Hobgoblins smell like sewers. "New boy," it grunts, smacking its grossly thick lips, a large and bulbous nose flattened faintly off center in its pockmarked and scabby face. "Time for your lesson." ***

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