Chapter 1:

Hangover

The Ringworld Hero


I woke up laying in a meadow looking up to the sky. I could hear the waves crashing against a shore from not too far away. It would’ve been perfectly normal if not for two things. One, the ground curved up and around into a ring, arching across the distant sky. And two, I have no fucking clue how I got here. I sat up, clutching my head. Bookmark here

“Fucking hell, how much did I drink last night?”Bookmark here

-Bookmark here

Sirens. The last thing I remember is sirens.Bookmark here

I remember being soaked in something warm and slightly sticky, probably my own blood.Bookmark here

I remember the stinging smell of chlorine as I lapsed in and out of consciousness.Bookmark here

I remember the taste of beer and cheap fast food from a late-night delivery order.Bookmark here

I remember the throb of pain as the life oozed out of my body, staining everything it touched.Bookmark here

I remember the fear I felt as my broken form lay helpless and intoxicated on the floor.Bookmark here

I remember how peaceful I felt as I sat on the edge of the abyss.Bookmark here

I remember how much it frightened me…Bookmark here

-Bookmark here

As my chin dropped to my chest, it didn’t quite reach. My chin hit something cold and hard sitting on my chest. Reaching out to touch it, I felt the edges where the object stopped, and my skin started. There was no gap whatsoever. Panicked, I pulled at the object, clawing to pull it off before I felt a hand on my shoulder.Bookmark here

“Don’t pull on it. Most of your throat will come with it.”Bookmark here

I sat up, hearing the voice of what was obviously a young woman. Turning around to face the voice.Bookmark here

In front of me stood the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. She had an angular face and large eyes that seemed to ensnare your very soul. Her pale skin seemed to glow ever so slightly in the sunlight. Took me a moment to notice her ears sticking out from her head at a near 90-degree angle and ending in points sharp enough to use as fucking darts.Bookmark here

“Deathwalker. Arbiter. Your coming was foretold many years ago.”Bookmark here

I scratched my head as it throbbed in pain. Bookmark here

“This is bad. I drank so much I’m hallucinating. You don’t happen to have any water, do you?”Bookmark here

She nodded, grunting in annoyance as she handed over a canteen.Bookmark here

“I was expecting the legendary arbiter to be a handsome hunk, not a skinny drunk.” The disappointment in her voice was obvious even though my hazy thoughts.Bookmark here

“Well I was expecting to wake up in my bed with a splitting hangover at one in the afternoon to the smell of two-minute noodles!” I shouted back. Bookmark here

"Can you at least tell me what the hell 'Deathwalker' means? I don't fancy a tango with the skeletons, thank you very much.Bookmark here

Her annoyance was rather plain, but she can't have expected me not to question what is happening.  "You came here across the void between worlds, from another time in another place. With the stars above little more than silent specs, it is clear that your kind are not pulled from among them."Bookmark here

I scratched my head, confused if her comments were facts or little more than poignant prose. "So, how did I end up here?"Bookmark here

"I don't know. There was a large bang and a flash of light. I ran over to it and found you lying on the grass bleeding. Your back was unnaturally bent, your right leg was twisted backwards, and your right forearm was bent into a square corner. I stuck the core against your chest and it dug itself in." What really scared me was how matter of fact she was about it. From the sounds of it, I was basically dead when I got here.Bookmark here

"So, you brought me back from the dead?" Came my drowsy response. Bookmark here

"No, I heard your heartbeat when I got there. You walked across death itself and lived to tell of it. Well, walked is a bit generous, it's more like you were dragged across without properly dying."Bookmark here

She sighed, as I held her leather canteen in my hand. It was worn and scratched, looking as if it had seen many adventures or many hands. Bookmark here

“Why did the gods send you to be the arbiter? The arbiters of old were heroes of towering muscle and unbridled heroism, not weedy little shits.”Bookmark here

I closed the canteen, holding it out while clutching my head in my other hand.Bookmark here

“Arbiter, Arbiter, why do you keep calling me that?”Bookmark here

“You are the Arbiter. Bearer of the ancient core and walker of worlds. It has been the du-”Bookmark here

“Short version please.” I fell onto my back, head pounding more from confusion than anything else.Bookmark here

“That thing in your neck isn’t the only part. Embedded in your chest is a magic core that powered every arbiter from first to last. They controlled the elements in their hands and brought peace to the ring. The gods chose each and every one of them and they all died here for the sake of our future. I'm sure you will be the one to die the fastest. Tell me your name, I’ll be sure to remember it for your tombstone in the mausoleum.”Bookmark here

“Danny. Danny Walters.”Bookmark here

She huffed angrily, puffing her cheeks out in a rather adorable manner. “Leena Carralei, you can call me Leena while you kiss my boot. If it wasn’t for me, you’d be dead right now.”Bookmark here

I chuckled, looking at my hands for the first time since waking up. There were six little nodes on my hand, one on the tip of each finger, one on my thumb and one in my palm. Both hands were a perfect mirror image of this pattern, as if placed by a machine.Bookmark here

“So, you put this thing inside me?” I ran my hands through my hair, the new parts of my hands still not feeling right. I took another look at Leena and then it struck me.Bookmark here

Tits.Bookmark here

Two of ‘em.Bookmark here

Two big bonkers.Bookmark here

Staring me in the face.Bookmark here

I noticed they had a sort of perkiness to them that seemed to match her ears. It was almost fetishistic how she dressed; miniskirt, knee high boots, thigh high socks, and to top it off a large cutout to expose her breasts, the flat bottom and sides of the neckline line traced with a small frill, stopping just below her armpits, with some sort of cloth bit leading up to a part that wrapped tightly around her neck. Around her neck hung some sort of winged crest set inside three concentric rings, it was made of gold with gaps and chain links keeping the whole design suspended in place as it sat in the middle of her chest, the window almost making it look like a frame. Unfortunately if I was to appreciate the design, looking in the general direction of her breasts was necessary and that was liable to cause issues. I realised that if we were travelling together, she would become like alcohol to me.Bookmark here

On a whim, I touched my thumbs to each of my fingers. I wanted to know what this strange metal(?) sounded like. The centre of each little dot began to light up and glow. Leena looked at me with a mix of confusion and disbelief, pulling out and reading a small, leather-bound book which seemed to be very old. Nodding, she lowered the book and pulled out an artifact. It had a strange design that resembled a horseshoe magnet with a section connecting the bend removed. A curved crosspiece connected the bottom section, holding two tips apart that began to crackle with energy. It looked strangely familiar for some reason that escaped my hangover-addled thinking. She pointed the device at me and it began to crackle with energy as a ball of light formed between the two tips. The noise was extremely familiar and also terrifying, for reasons I couldn’t remember.Bookmark here

Then I felt my leg burning.Bookmark here

Looking down there was a large hole in my calf, exposed flesh and muscle leaking blood.Bookmark here

“OW FUCK!”Bookmark here

I clutched the wound and suddenly a mass of foam exploded from my hands, covering the wound, and completely removing the pain. I pulled away in shock as the foam hardened, becoming almost rock-solid after a few seconds.Bookmark here

“Alright, it seems the healing system works.” Came her nonchalant comment as she looked at the bizarre expression on my face.Bookmark here

“So you shot me just to test if it’d grow back? What if it didn’t?”Bookmark here

“The book says it would and there’s records of other Arbiters regrowing entire limbs with that foam. It took them a while, but they eventually grew back.” It was how level her voice was that scared me the most. Though she still held the gun (at least I think it’s a gun, she did shoot me with it), it wasn’t pointed directly at me. Bookmark here

All it took to change that was a moment and a flick of her wrist. Bookmark here

“Throw your hands out.”Bookmark here

I did as she said, thrusting my hands forward and pointing the little nubs that had shot the foam that still clung to my leg. I heard a loud discharge and waited for my second death today. Bookmark here

One second passed.Bookmark here

Then another.Bookmark here

I opened my eyes to see a shield projected in front of me.Bookmark here

“Holy shit.”Bookmark here

I stood up, holding my hand out threateningly, pointing every single nub at her face. Bookmark here

“Now, you’re going to tell me exactly what the fuck this thing is, or I’m going to find out by testing it on you.”Bookmark here

What I expected was for her to panic. What I got was a look of annoyed disappointment.Bookmark here

"You have no clue what you're doing. Put your hand down before you end up blowing your own arm off."Bookmark here

I crinkled my nose on a half-snarl, going for the intimidate attempt. "Alright then, have it your way." I tried to will something to come out of my hand.Bookmark here

But nothing came.Bookmark here

She grabbed my arm and twisted it away from her face, pulling me back to the ground.Bookmark here

"OW FUCK!"Bookmark here

"Stop being an idiot and I'll tell you. It’s a divine artifact, one of the most powerful ever discovered. Containing a powerful magic generator and extremely powerful magic manipulators, the one in your chest is the only one in existence.”Bookmark here

She let go of my hand. All I could do was rub my shoulder to try and stop it hurting. Bookmark here

“So, did you summon me specifically, or was it just dumb luck?”Bookmark here

Leena flicked through a few more pages of the book in her hand.Bookmark here

“It just summons whoever’s the closest to death at the time that fits the parameters of summoning.”Bookmark here

“Parameters of summoning?” I strolled over and yoinked the book out of her rather dainty as she squeaked in protest. I then began to read aloud from the page she had flicked to.Bookmark here

“When the summoning ritual is complete, an Arbiter shall be summoned from another world and fused with the Arbiter’s Core.”Bookmark here

I began pacing, projecting my voice.Bookmark here

“The summoned person will be a male human of ages between fifteen and nineteen years. Though Arbiters have been summoned up to ages as high as thirty, they tended to die within a year of being summoned.”Bookmark here

It sounded like the setup to a shitty manga.Bookmark here

Leena jumped to her feet, her skirt pulling a small amount of grass with it.Bookmark here

Before I even had the chance to stand up, she yanked me to my feet and pulled my arm over her shoulder as if she were dragging a wounded man.Bookmark here

“Now what? Are you going to blow off another of my limbs, or do I have to go and save the world?”Bookmark here

“Well, Arbiter, that’s something only you can decide. Come, I’ll explain the situation as we walk.”Bookmark here

“Where are we going?”Bookmark here

“The king will want to meet his Arbiter…”Bookmark here

Bookmarked
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