Save the spirits, save the world.
Haunted by a past that wants him dead, Carver must find a way to stop Riven's collapse before he becomes the very monster he's trying to save.
Carver's burning his days doing Guide work, patrolling Riven and helping its lost souls find their way while, back on Earth, World War One ratchets up the lives waiting for Carver's help. Problem is, those lives don't like waiting around, and when a new, angrier soul starts gathering the dead and directing them at Carver, being a Guide goes from dangerous to deadly real fast.
But why Carver, and why now? With his fellow Guides, Carver has to figure out why he's been marked and how to get the souls off his back, all while keeping Riven from spilling over. Because if the dead get back to Earth, life's going to have an unpleasant end.
Packed with intriguing characters, deadly machinations, and rollicking adventure, The Riven Trilogy will take you on a story you've never seen before, in this world or the next.
1."I loved how it grasps your attention"– Reader Review
1."…the very clever idea of guides handling the influx of spirits to the afterlife…"– Reader Review
1."I loved this book"– Reader Review
I swung my legs out of the bed and looked over at Bryce as he raised the cup from the small table. Riven threw its muted gray light into the clock tower's windows, the usual flakes of ash fluttering around the room. It always took a moment for my body to catch up with the new sensations. The hard switch from the smells and sounds of the city to Riven's blank expanse. The first couple of times it was jarring. Now I'd learned to give myself a moment to sink into the new reality.
"I'd say you're late, but you already know," Bryce said.
"Sorry, the walk ran long."
Bryce didn't ask for a follow-up. Just nodded and drained whatever was left in the cup. Drinking here was more of a joke than anything. Whatever liquid existed bubbled up through pipes that no one had ever built. Came out of faucets no one had ever installed. Tasted a pure and perfect nothing. Like drinking air. Most guides didn't bother, but I think Bryce found it calming. A bit of normal in a strange world.
"Grab your gear," Bryce said. "With that high quota, we've got a lot of work ahead."
Armed with my lash and the usual assortment of guide gear, I followed Bryce outside. My partner had his giant voulge strapped to his back, the blades at either end gleaming against the murk. Bryce raised a finger and I took a small tube from my belt. Held it up and pressed in a button on the bottom. A bright blue light shot up into the sky, split and sparkled azure color above the dead city. Right over the fountain, which I figured was a nice touch.
Over the next couple of minutes other sparks shot up and appeared in the sky. Red, gold, green. Each identifying another set of guides at work. One area, to the south, showed no flash.
"See, this is what happens when you take too long," Bryce said.
"You know you've been wanting to go back."
It had been a while since we had last gone into the Warrens. Of the places to go hunting in Riven, the Warrens were, well, less fun. Or more, depending on how you looked at it. Bryce chose to shake his head and walk towards the south. I followed.
The streets around our clock tower were mostly deserted. A few blank-eyed spirits wandered down the avenues. So many guides came through here that anyone even close to changing would be wrangled within moments.
On the right side of the street, beneath a bending lamp post, was a melancholy man. You could always pick out the interesting ones by how they stood. A spirit that had simply gone out on their own time, wasted away from a disease or old age or passed off in their sleep, those always looked lost. Ready. As though finding their way in this next life. This guy, though, he wore a set of army fatigues. The vest and pants with the whole pack attached. What drew my eyes to him was his face, the open mouth, a silent scream stamped onto his expression. A giveaway of a person who hadn't meant to die. Who couldn't believe where he was.
"How long, you think, for that one?" I asked.
"I give him a day. Maybe two."
"You want to wrangle him now? Save some time?"
Bryce hesitated. Then shook his head. Potentials were always a risk. You could usually get the drop on a spirit that wasn't angry yet. They wouldn't be expecting the guide to strike, but if you messed up, or if the spirit proved better than you expected, there was always a chance it could go wrong. One of the first things I learned about Riven was you didn't go picking fights you didn't need.
"There's always a chance he'll be cycled," Bryce said. "Always a chance."
"If he bites me later, I'm blaming you."
It took nearly twenty minutes of walking to reach the Warrens. You could always tell you'd arrived by the way the crumbling buildings rose higher and higher, coupled by more and more stairs leading down from the sidewalks, below the ground. If Riven had ever been a real city, this is where the masses would've lived. Bryce paused between a pair of tall towers. The guides called them the Ghoul's Gateway.
"Any chance we'll see one today?" I asked as Bryce looked the two towers up and down.
"It's been almost fifty years since the fight that named these things," Bryce said. "Don't get your hopes up."
I knew the remark, the comments about facing a ghoul always got under Bryce's skin. Sure, we'd all known guides that hadn't made it. Maybe it was disrespectful to hope for danger. At the same time, though, I wanted to see a legend live.
There were a couple of ways guides started a hunt. You could wander around and hope you stumbled upon something interesting, but that usually meant relying on luck. Or lots of time. Neither of which we wanted to waste in a place like the Warrens. So instead we had a couple of tricks.
"Let's listen," Bryce said.
Not a bad call. The Warrens were tightly packed, with plenty of spirits wandering through these rooms. Using the resonator made sense. I took the small box off of my belt and placed on the ground. The box itself was covered with mesh, wires that would vibrate if they were hit by a certain frequency of sound. Sound that Bryce and I couldn't hear. The sound of a spirit losing its mind, a scream too high frequency for our ears. I flipped the small switch on the top of the box and we waited to see what the Warrens had for us today.
It only took a minute for the resonator to vibrate. With the heat of the vibration, the wires closest to the sound glowed a faint orange. That pointed us in our direction. Straight up the street, deeper.
"That was fast," I said. Getting a strong signal out here meant one of a couple things. Either we were really lucky and we had a spirit real close by. Or, worse, we had some strong waves coming in. Which meant either one very, very angry spirit, or a whole bunch of them. "We get a whole group, maybe we can fill our quota in a single fight."
"I'll take ten single spirits over a group any day," Bryce said. "It might take longer, but you're probably going to be alive at the end of it."
Holding the resonator in my hand, we walked down the street. Followed the tinting of the wires as the glow shifted from straight ahead to going right. The sound led us down an avenue, towards a tower that was holding together well. Few cracks in the outside walls, no collapsed floors. The base was built as an ornate restaurant, silver letters above proclaiming it The Castle. Above the restaurant stretched at least eight floors of a hotel. A hotel that had never been occupied, just as the restaurant had never served a single meal. At least, not so long as the Riven we knew had been around.
Bryce pressed on the door, a thick revolving one with four slabs that slid against the tile floor. Slid well too. Riven was a study in paradoxes. Some things wore down, others kept working as though the elements never touched them. I had asked Bryce about it before but he had shaken his head. Said that Riven had its own rules, and whomever wrote them wasn't around anymore to explain.
"Be ready," Bryce said as he stepped into the lobby. It took me a moment to see why. The floors and walls were chipped, gashed. Chunks were missing, and not the usual crumbling of decay Riven had elsewhere. These had all the hallmarks of collateral damage. Irregular slashes and tears in the sides, an entire corner carved out of the dark wood desk that in some other time and place would have served as the greeting spot for customers.
I uncurled the lash and let it dangle behind me on the floor as we moved through the lobby following the marks of the fighting. Equipped the resonator back to my belt, flipping off the switch. We were too close now to bother taking up a hand with a tool that had no use with a spirit grabbing for your throat.
The damage led us back through the restaurant, a line of overturned chairs and broken tables suggesting the fight hadn't been going in a good way. The goal was always to get your spirit wrangled as fast as possible, as cleanly as possible. Drawn out fights could always drive other spirits to investigate, bringing in more enemies than you could handle. The carnage here suggested something more desperate.
Bryce froze as we neared the back of the restaurant. Held up his hand. Folded down his fingers so that only two pressed together and pointed straight up. The symbol for silence. A moment later I heard the reason why. The gnashing and scrambling, the tearing of a spirit in its frenzy.
I wasn't a fan of this place. Too many things my lash could get stuck on. Too tight. But a guide didn't have the luxury of choosing where he worked.
Bryce pushed his way through the swinging doors into the kitchen. There, lying on the central island where food would've been prepped, was a body. On top of it, chewing away with its hands covered in blood, was the ragged form of the spirit that had lost its mind. Another soldier, though this one's outfit suggested he'd suffered his death at the hands of the enemy's guns. Holes peppered the spirit's uniform, bullet-sized pock marks rippled up and down his arms. Some spirits came to Riven as they wanted to be in their mind's eye, their ideal form. Others, too swept up in their own tragedy, came the same way as they left life.
The voulge's edges flashed blue as Bryce, with his right hand, whipped the weapon off of his back and brought it, as he ran forward, slashing at the spirit. The move was fast, but the spirit was faster. He rolled off the body and behind the island as Bryce sliced the air where the spirit had been.
"Pincer," Bryce said, moving around the island to the left. I went right. The spirit stood, looked at each of us in turn. Blood ran down his ruined face. A hole where half of its mouth had been. No wonder the spirit was angry, his death had been the thing of horrors.
As I moved directly across from the spirit, I swung the lash over and across the island. The lash was ten feet long, more than enough distance to strike the spirit. Only as my arm flipped the weapon forward, I felt a body tackle me from below. A new spirit drove me into a counter and I rolled away from its grasping hands. Another soldier, though this one less torn up than our first friend. Hiding among the dishes and pans beneath the island.
The spirit lunged at me again and I threw up my arms to block his grasp, dropping the lash and gripping the spirit's scrabbling wrists with my hands. His mouth hurled soundless curses at me and I stared into those bright blue eyes, burning with pale fire. Then I brought my knee up into his stomach and slammed the spirit into the counter on my left.
"There are three!" Bryce shouted from across the kitchen.
The rattle of metal on tile announced another spirit bursting from beneath the island, thankfully not on my side. I let go with my right hand and jacked the spirit in the face, trying to keep his biting teeth from getting a grip on my fingers. The punch knocked the spirit back a few steps, gave me just enough space to draw my backup weapon, the standard-issue long knife that every guide had. Twisted the hilt and the blade glowed blue, ready to wrangle.
On the other side of the island, Bryce danced between the other two spirits. The quarters were too tight for his voulge to be any good as one large weapon, so Bryce had pulled the neat trick of splitting it into two separate blades. He stood with his back against the cabinets, one blade facing each of the spirits on either side of him. Trying to delay till I could come for help.
My target gave a ripping howl, or tried to; his throat wasn't in the best shape, the wound that had probably killed him slashed through his vocal cords so that the scream came off as a crackling wind. Then he charged. I stepped forward with the knife, hoping the spirit would just impale himself and make this easy. But the soldier had just enough experience to dive below the blade and hit my legs, knocking me down.
I felt the spirit's hands digging into my ankles as I tried to roll away. But he wasn't letting go. Was trying to get behind me as I struggled with my face against the floor. Not good.
Then the spirit was on my back, climbing towards my neck. I felt the hands on my throat, the cold clammy grasp of bloodless fingers.
"Should have stayed down," I said. I stabbed my knife over my head, into the air where I hoped the spirit would be, and felt it bite into the thing's skin. The spirit's fingers loosened and he rolled off of my back. I sprang up and glanced at him, but the blade had done its work. The pale fire was gone from the spirit's eyes and the only thing left was a blank gaze. In another minute he would start his long walk to the Cycle.
"If you're all done over there, I could use some help!" Bryce yelled.
Oh yeah. Guess that would be the nice thing to do.