While I finish edits and await cover art, here is a sneak peek at the first chapter of Storm Clouds: Hero's Sword Vol. 2.
Kids milled all around me, excited babble filling the air. The last bell of the day rang, signaling our release. I slung my backpack over my shoulder and shut my locker. Someone banged into me, sending me to my knees. “Watch it, dorkface.”
Trina Poppelman’s sparkly pink backpack bounced in front me as she walked to the door with her cheerleader buddies. I wished I had my bow so I could sink an arrow into the stupid, silver “T” decorating the bag.
Okay, I don’t really have a bow. Not in this world, anyway.
My name is Jaycee Hiller. I play this game called Hero’s Sword. A few weeks ago, I was actually transported into the game and became my avatar, Lyla Stormbringer. I had a sword, and a bow, and went on a quest to protect the lady of the estate of Mallory. Then I came back.
If that sounds confusing to you, imagine how I feel.
I got to my feet and brushed off the knees of my jeans. When I’d returned from Mallory, I’d been inspired to stand up to Trina for a while. Well, maybe for a day. But now I was back to my usual routine at Tanner Middle School - namely, trying to hide.
“Hey Jaycee, I think you dropped this.”
I turned my head, and my heart relocated itself to somewhere in my throat. Nate Fletcher, who has been my secret crush for, like, forever, stood there with my zippered pencil case, black with the Hero’s Sword logo, in his hand. “Thanks,” I said. Was my voice always that squeaky? I tried to think of something cool or funny to say, but my mind was as blank as a freshly washed whiteboard.
“Well, have a great weekend.” Nate waved and headed for the front doors with everyone else.
The mass of kids around me had thinned. “Yeah, have a great weekend,” I said. “See you on Monday. Did I mention I like your hair?”
Now that Nate was gone, a million things I could have said crowded my brain. Great timing, as always.
“Uh, Jayce, who are you talking to?” My best friend, Stu Porter, was standing beside me looking concerned.
I stuffed the pencil case in my open bag. “Nobody. Nate Fletcher, but he’s gone. So what are you doing this weekend?”
I walked through the front doors, Stu at my side.
“My mother says if I don’t get the grass cut this weekend, she will ban me from Hero’s Sword until I do,” Stu said, his face sorrowful. His red hair blazed in the sun, making it look like his head was on fire. “And she says I have to help her clean and close the pool, which is going to be completely gross.”
I patted him on the shoulder. “Look at it like a quest. Fearlessly battling the evil slime monster threatening to consume the Empire.” Stu chuckled. We always walked home from school together, at least as far as the turn onto my street. We chatted about Hero’s Sword and our fantasies of defeating cheerleaders for the entire walk.
I waved to Stu, walking backwards as I started down my street. “See you online this weekend?”
“If I get all my chores done, sure. Wish me luck.”
I waved in response, turned, and jogged the rest of the way to my house, your typical suburban thing with a neat front yard. I wished I was allowed to cut the grass. With my luck, my mother would have something else in store for me, something exciting like polishing the silver.
“Hey Mom,” I called as I stepped inside. She was in the dining room, counting out her fancy china and silverware for the party she was hosting tomorrow. I tried to sneak upstairs.
“Jaycee, come in here please,” Mom said as I placed my foot on the stairs. This would not be good.
I wasn’t wrong. “Yeah, Mom?” I stood in the doorway, as if that would protect me from what came next. Fat chance.
“You know my book club is meeting here tomorrow, and I need help getting ready,” she said. “I’ll wash the china. Get the silver polish from the kitchen and get to work, please.” She pushed the box containing her good silver toward me.
I dropped my backpack. “Why can’t you use the every day stuff?” I gave her my best sullen look.
“Because I only host once a quarter, and there’s no reason not to use the good silver,” Mom said. “I know it’ll interfere with your precious video game time, but really, you’ll have all weekend for that. Now go.”
I grabbed the box and stomped off to the kitchen. This would take forever.