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       Dangerous Ascent, Book 1: Starfall, p.1

          
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Dangerous Ascent, Book 1: Starfall


  Dangerous Ascent, Book 1: Starfall

  Copyright 2017 Mark Mulle

  Author’s Note

  This short story is for your reading pleasure. The characters in this "Minecraft Adventure Series" such as Steve, Endermen or Herobrine...etc are based on the Minecraft Game coming from Minecraft ®/TM & © 2009-2013 Mojang / Notch

  Table of Contents

  Prologue

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Interlude

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Epilogue

  About the Author

  Other books by this Author

  Prologue

  Almost three years ago

  Somewhere in the Ironheim Ice Biome

  The sun shone down faintly on the mountaintop village.

  Two swordsmen clashed blades: once, twice and three times their swords slammed into each other as the crowd watched expectantly. The biggest moment of the young men’s lives hung on a thread.

  One was tall, dark-haired and handsome, a chieftain’s son; the other was a short and heavy boy that was known for his brute strength and dark humor.

  Only ten of the twenty who fought on the day would complete their training and ‘come of age’, so to speak. The other ten who lost would go home and lick their wounds, their lives forever marked with the shame of having lost the final and most deadly test that an Ironheim teenager would face. Three years of training culminated in this final trial and although each of the young warriors standing in or close to the fighting ring had gone through many other challenges, this one was a must-win competition. Even the smartest or most resourceful young man or woman was unable to call him or herself an Ironheim warrior if they couldn’t prove their prowess with a weapon.

  Nine had already been chosen so only one remained. The one who would be decided in this long-expected fight.

  The tall boy stepped forward in a sudden evasive movement that unbalanced his opponent, and proceeded to stab and thrust with quick motions. The other youth weaved and danced to avoid his foe’s blade, but it managed to brush past his face ever so slightly.

  For a strange reason the shorter lad’s reaction was not to recoil in fear, but to growl in anger.

  “That’s it! Enough!” he roared, charging forward at his opponent. The tall fighter, who had been in control for most of the fight until then, stumbled back in an attempt to get into balance. It was, however, too late.

  The fat boy’s blade came slamming down onto the other one’s head. He collapsed, not dead but simply unconscious. Fortunately, every weapon was blunted before the fight began. The pain of defeat would be much worse than the bruising.

  “We have a winner!” a powerful man cried. As the chieftain’s son was carried away, the chieftain himself approached with a smile. His son had been beaten, but he knew how Ironheim’s laws worked — only the strongest and most able deserved to come of age. His youngest son would get his chance again. He himself would make sure of it.

  The heavy lad raised his fists to the air and howled in celebration. The great Coming of Age event was over, at least for another year.

  A small, thin lad sat on a nearby rock, watching the events unfold. His eyes were wide as he witnessed the end of the duel and imagined himself fighting within the ring, his axe — the weapon that he preferred the most — flashing at his enemy and cutting him down before the most glorious moment arrived: His coming of age.

  “I will be standing there one day, having won the final fight. You’ll see,” the boy told his friend, who sat next to him.

  “Oh come on, Luke. You know the final fight is always reserved for the best warriors. Maybe you’ll get the first one, if you even get that far at all.” The other youngster grinned, but Luke ignored him. In his mind, he made a silent promise.

  I start training next month. That will be me in three years, I know it. I’ll prove to Ironheim who I am and what I’m capable of. I am a man of Ironheim and I will become one of the greatest warriors from these lands ever.

  I’ll show them all what I’m capable of.

  As his light blue eyes shone with fire, the sun hit them and for a moment, Luke was not a thirteen-year-old kid from Ironheim.

  He was a warrior from the legends themselves. As he picked up a diary and started to write, he knew a great story was about to begin…

  Chapter One

  Lucas

  Ironheim Ice Biome - Now

  The comet’s trail shone in the sky. Is it a herald of doom, or of fortune? Opinions were mixed in the village.

  I sat on the stump of a tree, the cold morning breeze hitting me head-on from the mountains like an unforgiving wave rushing against the shore. The smell of snow, nature and life came with it and I closed my eyes to allow myself to savor the moment.

  The sun still hadn’t emerged from beyond the horizon, and I wondered about what awaited me in less than twenty-four hours. I have trained for the last three years, my mind and body transformed into something entirely different from what it was when I began. The Ironheim trials were not for the weak — you either adapted or you perished somewhere in the mountains or valleys.

  The tests of strength and speed were long behind me; the survival trials had ended. Now it was all about the final duel. I inhaled and exhaled, meditating as the first rays of sunlight began to appear. I had seen so many promising youngsters fall in these last months, many beaten in their duels by smarter opponents who fought with brains more than brawn. Nevertheless, I had made it to the final stages against all odds. No, the final. Some opponents had underestimated me; others had tried to act meek and helpless so that I would lower my guard.

  I knocked my own best friend out of the trials by beating him in the first round of duels. He had never believed in me; perhaps that would change now that I had gotten this far.

  When the sun was properly shining its light above the land, I stood up and picked up my axe. The short, heavy-headed weapon was my preferred tool for combat, the feel of a sword just not the same. I spun it in my grip and practiced a few cuts and slashes. My next and final opponent was a wolf-hunter; he fought with a blade in each hand and had proven again and again that no man in the village could challenge him. He was also blindingly fast and never missed a strike. I picked up a second axe — I would need to fight fire with fire and counter his dual-wield with my own.

  My hands flashed forward as I danced and struck at a pile of stones, catching imaginary blows on my weapons. I stopped to look at the comet once again, my mind drifting as I wondered if it was a good omen for the coming days. Perhaps it was a sign of some sort. It wouldn’t be the first time that a celestial object spoke to us of an important event.

  “Ready for tomorrow, Lucas? You’re the underdog, you know.” a voice asked from behind me. I turned and saw him standing there, his typical smile beaming on his face. The chieftain was a giant of a man: his arms as thick as my legs and his chest more like a barrel of muscle. The elders of the village spoke of his prowess, the way he had led the Ironheim contingent during the war and smashed our enemies to pieces whenever he entered the battle. It was considered an honor for the chief to come and see you personally like this, especially when you were training.

  “I am, sir, and yes, I know. I made a promise, three years ago during the final duel.”

  The chieftain’s eyebrows rose. He knew what date I meant.

  “The day my son fell? What promise was that?”

  I turned away from him and continued my training.

  “I promised myself I would become one of the greatest warriors ever. I intend to keep it.”

  There was silence as the chieftain chewed on that fact.

  “You go out there tomorrow and you win, and maybe it could come true…”

  Finally I turned, smiling at the man and bowing my head…but he was already gone.

  With a grin, I shook my head and turned back to look at the ball of flaming gas hurtling far above somewhere in the cold reaches.

  Tomorrow I will prove it to him and to everybody else.

  The look on my opponent’s face as I pulled the two axes out and spun them in my hands was priceless. He, like everyone else around us, had been expecting me to come out and fight with my typical axe and shield combination. I would have been at a disadvantage — not counting his superior size and strength — but not anymore.

  The Chieftain nodded and dropped his arm in a cutting motion and we pounced forward from each of the corners of the ring. The moment of truth was here.

  The teen’s blades crossed and he struck in an X-motion, aiming to disarm me in a single flashy strike. It’s useless, I knew. I twisted my axes to simply catch each strike on their heads and threw a carving thrust at the boy’s head. A parry followed as he side-stepped to the right and rammed his left blade into my side. I cried out, but the fight was far from over. He’d hurt me, but I was now within range to unleash my fury. My first attack knocked a sword out of the way and my other hand came slashing around as I caught him in the neck with a powerful blow.If these blades weren’t blunted, he’d be dead, I knew.

  The lad cried out and fell to one knee, but was fast enough to catch my downward cut with his blades, pushing me back several steps with his sudden charge and forcing me to block his sudden flurry of stabs and slashes. The crowd began to get excited, and I risked a small glance at the chieftain.

  Come on, you can do this, his gaze said.

  My counterpart charged forward, his blades moving faster than I could follow. I caught one blade, then the other, but the third and fourth attack flew past my guard, smacking me in the face and ankle, the fifth attack knocking an axe right out of my hand and the sixth throwing me off my feet. The cheers got louder as my opponent stood over me with his blades pointing down at me like a hunter getting ready to finish off his prey.

  “I win,” the youth said with a grin. His blades rose one final time.

  In that very instant, I looked past him and saw the comet in the sky. It was larger than ever, shining brightly over the world like a huge star which had been pulled all the way in front of us by a mysterious hero of legend.

  “No,” I muttered simply. I grabbed my remaining axe with both hands and swung it as hard as I could.

  Clang…

  The axe smashed the incoming swords out of the way and cut right through the other boy’s guard. A loud crack was heard as the axe head slammed into his chest and threw him flying onto his back. A loud gasp was heard.

  I’ve done it, I thought as the boy landed hard onto the ground, hitting his head as it snapped back against the earth.

  The crowd cried out in shock as I picked up my other axe and lifted both weapons into the sky.

  “Yes!” I shouted.

  It was a glorious moment, the pinnacle of all I had been training for. Slowly, some within the crowd began to applaud, and that applause became cheers that rose to a roar. The chieftain was looking on proudly, his eyes shining as the light of the comet hit them.

  The comet…

  Something was wrong. The cheers were starting to sound strange, almost as if they were turning into screams…

  I looked up at the comet again as somebody pointed up to the sky, and I felt my skin go cold. It looked strange and too bright, almost as if—

  The flash lit us all up an instant later, blinding us all for a few moments until it ended.

  When the stars cleared from my eyes, I saw the pieces of molten rock flying through the sky. They were all heading in different directions, away from us. All but one. The largest of them all.

  It was on a collision course, headed straight towards us.

  What had only moments ago been a moment of sweet joy was about to become a moment of pure terror.

  The chieftain’s face whitened as he saw what was coming. He shook his head and roared the command:

  “Everybody run!”

  Chapter Two

  My heart raced as I ran as fast as I could, making as much distance from the enormous shadow that grew with every passing second. A massive shard of space-rock was plummeting down onto us and we couldn’t do a single thing to stop it.

  Smashing noises echoed from above and I saw how the huge rock began to fracture and release smaller pieces of itself. I turned back to our village and saw the screaming crowds running away. I hadn’t even stopped to look for my family or friends — I wouldn’t have time to go back now either. My legs were pumping as I used all of my strength and speed to escape the destruction. Impact was imminent, and by the final few seconds, I saw the size of it.

  It was practically a mountain crashing down to the Minecraft World behind us; each of its smaller shards the scale of a three-storied house.

  Finally, it crashed into the ground.

  BOOOOOOOM

  We were thrown off our feet as the rock impacted, the shockwave decimating our village and launching us off the surface and into the air. I spun several times in the air and soon lost my awareness of what was up and what was down.

  “Oof,” I spat as I hit something hard and began to lose consciousness.

  In the final moments before everything went black, I saw the smaller pieces of rock hitting the ground.

  At least none of them hit me…

  When I awoke, I was indoors.

  “What the—”

  The chieftain looked up wearily from across the room and forced a smile.

  “You’re awake.” The tall man stood and limped across the room. I could hear noise outside, the sounds of a crowd.

  “What happened to you, sir?” He carried a grimace on his face that was rare to see on such a cheerful and confident man. He’d probably been hit by one of the rock fragments.

  “Nothing. Don’t worry. I am actually grateful to be alive and well; many people in our village are now homeless, others have gone missing.” He paused and seemed to remember something. “This is where I’d normally congratulate you for winning the tournament and coming of age, but you’ll understand that things are a bit different this time round…” There was a smile on his face, and I nodded wearily.

  “That’s not an issue. What was that, by the way, the thing that crashed into our world?”

  “We don’t know. I’m going to send people out to find out: villager pairs to each shard and a search party to the main thing itself. We need to know what it is that landed among our lands. You never know; it might have been carrying something.”

  I felt a chill run down my spine as I chewed on his words.

  “I’m going as well.”

  “What? No.”

  The door to the hut opened and somebody stepped inside. My mother shook her head and I saw her eyes filling with tears. She didn’t say anything, just ran toward me and hugged me as hard as she could.

  “Mom, it’s okay…Really! I’m fine.”

  My father stepped inside a moment later. He stood in the doorway, watching. It was a way of showing me he cared without being too overprotective. Ironheim culture was very tough on its children: both boys and girls had to be taught that life wasn’t one big safe place without dangers. Parents were typically cold and prepared to let us leave at a young age to begin our training. Their main job for at least ten to twelve years was to keep us well fed and teach us how to survive in the cold ice plains.

  “I’m glad you’re okay. We were returning from trading when we see the smaller rocks smash against the village. I thought you had been caught right under it.” There was a small smile on my dad’s face and it was all I needed.

  “Your son,” the chieftain interrupted, “Wants to set off with the search parties. I believe he needs to rest and recover. He is the champion after all, and despite what’s happened I think he deserves a bit of a prize, even if it’s a couple of days laying down and resting. What do you, as his parents, think about it?”

  Mom backed away from me and turned, looking the chieftain in the eye.

  “If he doesn’t want to rest and prefers to go out there and risk his life, I’m not going to complain.”

  The chieftain looked at her with an eyebrow raised.

  “Very well. I’ll have some equipment brought to you, Lucas. The main party sets off in two hours. Think it through, they won’t be returning if you’re not well enough to continue — you’ll probably be dumped somewhere warm until they can come back for you in a few days. By then you might even have been attacked by wolves…or worse.” He nodded at everybody in the room and left through the door. I managed to see the crowd outside. There were people lying on the snow as if they were injured and I spotted a woman crying beside a camp fire.

  “What’s happened? Is there anything left of the village? Did everyone make it out alive?”

  My parents glanced at each other without saying anything and I knew.

  The rock had been a terrible bad luck omen, nothing close to what I had thought before the fight. I needed to get to it, for some reason. My heart pushed me to it, if only to see what it was and why it was here. It was an obstacle, but I was an expert at getting past obstacles.

  The promise still stood, this would only be a small distraction.

  I am going to become the greatest warrior that ever lived.

  Chapter Three

  I’d put my equipment on long before the man arrived to pick me up and set out.

  In fact, the guy who came to inform me that we were leaving was shocked as he saw me on my own two feet, standing beside the bed and stretching my arms and back.

  “I heard you were hurt and would need a bit of help,” the bearded scout muttered.

 
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