Save the frigging world.
When college sophomore Dan Marshall's life morphs into a hybrid of Penn State and a homebrew tabletop RPG adventure, he grabs his talking two-handed sword and hits campus, seeking gold, girls, and glory.
But even with two beautiful bad-ass women at his side, how can a low-level barbarian survive when he’s pitted against a fraternity of gnolls, a dungeon full of nightmares, and an apocalyptic death cult bent on destroying the whole world?
Warning: Dan the Barbarian is an over-the-top adventure novel intended for readers 18 and older. It includes explicit sex, graphic violence, a harem of gorgeous ass-kicking girls, and a foul-mouthed two-handed sword. Read at your own risk.
Release date: July 26, 2018
Publisher: Independently published
Print pages: 346
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Dan the Barbarian
The Worst Day
With a mighty roar, Wulfgar Skull-Smasher surged forward, swinging his massive two-handed sword at the towering troll.
The party’s other adventurers yelped with surprise.
“What the hell, Dan?” Kurt said.
Dan Marshall laughed. He was a hack-and-slash player to the core. “You guys think too much. Thinking kills action!” He sent the yellow twenty-sided die rattling across the coffee table.
“Twenty!” Dan shouted triumphantly. “Double damage!”
At nineteen, Dan shared the square jaw and dark hair of his fearsome Towers & Trolls character, Wulfgar, but the similarities pretty much ended there. At six feet and 190 pounds, Dan was far from puny, but he was no six-foot-six, 250-pound barbarian.
Dan rolled three six-sided dice. “Max damage, baby!”
Willis, Dan’s diminutive roommate and old school Towers & Trolls TM, shook his head, unable to conceal his grin. “The blade shears straight through the troll’s neck, and its head flies through the air, spurting blood.”
“Speaking of decapitation, Dan,” Kurt said, pointing at the clock above the sink overflowing with dirty dishes, “don’t you have class now?”
“Oh shit!” Dan said, hopping to his feet. “I’m late!”
He grabbed his backpack, rushed out the door, and tripped in the hallway. He fell hard, and his unzipped backpack vomited its contents onto the filthy maroon carpet.
Why am I always so clumsy? Dan thought.
Muttering curses, he started shoving stuff into the backpack. Of all classes, he was running late for Geoscience 02 with Dr. Lynch, a professor as old and inflexible as granite.
If I’m late, she’ll probably take points off my paper.
Then the door opened.
Not his door.
As in the door across the hall, where his secret crush, Holly, lived.
Holly was drop-dead gorgeous, with long blond hair, a curvy figure straight out of a Boris Vallejo cover, and a pair of glasses that managed to make her look both super smart and uber-hot, like a cross between a Greek goddess and a geek goddess. Dan and his friends practically worshipped her, but to his knowledge, Holly didn’t even really know that they existed.
Now she stood, blond, busty, and bespectacled, in a tight purple t-shirt that read My Best Friend Is a Tree, looking down at him uncertainly. “Are you okay?”
“Um…” Dan said, frozen by her beauty. As a gamer, he was bold and adventurous, leaping fiercely into combat. In the real world,
“Sorry,” he said lamely, and felt the warmth of his face blushing.
He jumped up and started running again. He almost fell going down the stairs then banged out the main door and sprinted across the yard, heading for campus.
Sorry? he thought and felt like slapping himself. You finally get Holly’s attention, and that’s what you say to her… sorry?
Despite the self-loathing he felt for mishandling his first ever face-to-face with Holly, he had to smile at the perfect October day. Penn State was beautiful year-round, but the best season was fall, with its crisp air, bright leaves, and—
Dan’s head jerked hard. He lost his balance and fell to the ground, confused. What happened? Had someone hit him?
He heard laughter, mean laughter, several voices all laughing together. A second later, he noticed the football rocking back and forth on the sidewalk nearby and understood.
Dan turned toward the laughter and saw Grady and half a dozen of his “brothers” standing in front of their frat house, which just happened to be straight across the street from Dan’s apartment. Talk about bad luck.
Grady was a curse.
They had met in fifth grade, when their respective elementary schools consolidated. Up until that point, Dan’s life had been all right. Not great, exactly, but pretty good.
Dan was poor, like the other kids at his elementary school, and country as a corn crib. He and his classmates wore hand-me-down clothes and brown-bagged white bread sandwiches to school. No big deal. They were all pretty much the same.
Dan’s father worked blue-collar at a factory in town. The man worked hard, drank hard, and spent his free time hunting and fishing.
Dan’s mom worried about money all the time and did an amazing job running the household and taking care of Dan; his kid sister, Hannah; and his wild but awesome older brother, Kip.
From an early age, Dan had a long list of chores around the house and worked at the farm down the road, picking crops and haying it in the summer and lending a hand in the milking shed seven days a week. He’d done well in school, and everybody liked him.
But two things happened in the brutally hot August of his eleventh year that would change his life forever.
Dan’s brother died, and Dan started middle school.
Someone had sideswiped Kip on Johnson Hill. Kip lost control, went off the road, and plowed into a tree at seventy miles per hour.
Dan was gutted. He loved his brother.
Still reeling from Kip’s tragic death, Dan climbed aboard a bus and rode across the river to town. After that, Dan always felt behind, somehow. Sure, he knew more about the woods, hunting, fishing, and farming than the town kids did, but none of that mattered in middle school.
He wasn’t stupid. He just didn’t know the things that the town kids knew. He rode the Cow Catcher, as the town kids called his school bus, and like most of the other country kids, went to school smelling like cow shit and wore beat-up work boots and old clothes that made the town kids snicker.
Suddenly, Dan had gone from being a kid to being a hick. He retracted into himself, shell-shocked into shyness.
The king of the town kids was Grady Lambert, whose dad was a white-collar, college-educated manager at the factory where Dan’s dad worked. Grady strutted like a fighting rooster, with his fancy clothes and movie star hair. He smelled like cologne, not cow shit, and was great at sports and confident in the classroom. All the girls loved him, which was weird to Dan, since Grady was mean as hell.
None of this would have mattered to Dan, but he was almost as big as Grady, and for some reason, that made Grady hate him. And because Dan was shy and awkward, Grady targeted him mercilessly.
Dan’s friends urged him to fight back. You’re stronger than Grady, they said, pointing to muscles Dan had inherited from his father and built, working the farm. Hit him once, hard, and he’ll leave you alone forever.
But Dan never did, knowing that if he got suspended from school it would break his mother’s heart. And we would never do that to her, not when she was hurting so badly from losing Kip.
The trouble is, some assholes, they keep pushing and pushing until you punch them in the face. Grady and his cool crowd friends dumped Dan’s books, tripped him in the hall, made fun of his hand-me-down clothes and the cow-shit smell that followed him to school from the milking shed every day, and worst of all, called him—
“Danielle!” Grady said. “Oh, Danielle, are you all right?”
Dan felt a rush of anger and humiliation. Instantly, it was like being back in middle school.
Of all the colleges in the world, his tormentor had to come here. And of all the frats on campus, Grady had to rush Alpha Alpha Alpha, which just so happened to sit directly across from Dan’s shoddy apartment house.
A curse. That was the only possible explanation. Grady was a real-world curse.
Dan said nothing and started to gather his things, which had again spilled from his battered backpack. He had to hurry, or he was going to be late to Dr. Lynch’s class.
“You should really watch where you’re going, Danielle,” one of Grady’s friends said, and the whole crew burst out laughing as if the guy had actually said something funny.
Dan reached for the last paper, his assignment for Dr. Lynch, due in twenty-five minutes. However, as his fingers closed on the homework, a sneakered foot slammed down on the paper.
“Hey,” Dan said. “Get off.”
The foot twisted back and forth, wrinkling the assignment, and lifted away. Grady stood there with his muscular arms crossed over his broad chest, his pretty-boy face smirking down at Dan. “Oh, I’m so sorry. Did I step on your homework, Danielle?”
“Grow up,” Dan said, grabbing the paper. It was all messed up now, badly wrinkled and stamped with a muddy sneaker print.
He wanted so badly to jump up and smash that smirk right off Grady’s face.
But Grady was super athletic and had taken karate lessons. Besides, everyone knew that frat boys never fought alone. Even if Dan miraculously landed a lucky punch, Grady’s buddies would knock Dan down and stomp him.
So instead of leaping boldly into combat, Dan Marshall, AKA Wulfgar Skull-Smasher, shouldered his backpack and scampered away like some level zero peasant.
The Worst Day Gets Even Worse
Twenty minutes later, sprinting up the elm-lined path known as the Pattee Mall, Dan spotted the Sparks Building uphill on the left. He only had a few minutes, but that was all he needed.
Yes! he thought. I’m actually going to—
“Look out!” a girl’s voice cried, and Dan realized that a bicycle was flying straight at him.
He lurched to one side.
The girl zoomed off the path. Her bike wobbled and fell to the ground, and the girl spilled across the grass in a tumbling roll.
“Are you okay?” Dan asked, running to where she lay on the ground.
Crap, crap, crap…
He really didn’t have time for this, but he wasn’t about to leave the poor girl lying there.
The girl pushed off the ground. She had thick, chestnut-colored hair, the muscular build of a gymnast and, Dan couldn’t help but notice, an A+ ass.
“I’m okay,” she said with an embarrassed sounding laugh, and rubbed her shapely hip. “Ow.”
Dan helped her to her feet and practically gasped when he saw her face.
She was beautiful. Not petite and ultra-feminine, like Holly. This girl was taller, maybe five-seven, with bright emerald-green eyes.
She could’ve been a model if it weren’t for her slightly crooked nose, which had obviously been broken in the past, and which somehow made her even more beautiful to Dan.
He stood there for a second, gaping at her like an idiot.
She smiled. Her teeth were small and very white, with pronounced canines.
“Sorry for almost hitting you,” she said. Laughing, she reached out and gave his bicep a squeeze. “Good thing I didn’t. Would’ve been like hitting a stone wall.”
Dan felt his face go beet red. “It’s okay,” he
said, and leaned over to pick up her bicycle.
“Aw, thanks,” she said. She threw her arms around him and gave him a hug. “You’re sweet.”
Dan froze, shocked by her embrace and very much aware of her firm breasts pushing into him, the warmth of her cheek against his neck, and the nice, floral smell of her hair.
“I…” he stammered, but his overloaded brain couldn’t seem to form words.
“And you have a really nice butt,” she said, and squeezed his ass with both hands.
He couldn’t believe it. “What?” he laughed.
She stepped back, popped onto her tiptoes, and kissed his cheek. “Thanks,” she said, “gotta run.”
He stood there, stunned, and watched as she hopped gracefully onto the bike and started coasting downhill.
He probably would’ve stood there, mesmerized, until she completely disappeared, if the shouting hadn’t snapped him out of his trance.
“Stop that girl!” a short guy with glasses hollered at Dan. “She stole my bike!”
Confused, Dan turned to see the girl, who had paused fifty feet down the path. She smiled, shrugged, and held out a small, brown rectangle.
Looks like a wallet, Dan thought. Then, remembering the feel of her hands grabbing his butt, he thought, Looks like my wallet.
“Sorry,” the beautiful girl said, pulling out and pocketing the cash before dropping the wallet to the ground. “You really do have a nice ass, though.”
Then she zipped away, laughter trailing behind her like a colorful streamer.
Heat and Pressure
Dan skidded to a stop outside Room 213 of the Sparks Building. Fighting to catch his breath, he hurriedly straightened his clothes, finger-combed his tangled mop of dark hair, and flattened his demolished paper.
He was late.
He’d sprinted all the way from his apartment, and he was still late, all because he’d stopped to help that girl.
He’d worked his ass off for that money, washing dishes at the Nittany Lion Inn three nights a week when he could have been studying or playing T&T or actually trying to have some kind of social life. To make matters worse, rent was due next week, and she’d taken every last dollar.
What made him even angrier, however, was the fact that he couldn’t be purely mad at the girl.
He kept remembering the feel of her against him, her smell, and the sound of her laughter. Most maddening of all, he kept remembering her parting comment about his ass—and how, despite just getting ripped off, he’d felt a rush of excitement at her words.
How frigging lame am I to crush on a girl who just ruined my life? he thought.
Now he was late to a class he was barely passing, a class taught by the meanest teacher in the universe. For a second, he stared at the heavy wooden classroom door, heart thudding with apprehension.
Faintly, he could hear Dr. Lynch lecturing beyond the wooden door, her ancient voice like a hissing snake muffled beneath a blanket of fluttering moths.
“Heat and pressure,” Dr. Lynch’s voice hissed. “Pressure and heat.”
Dan put a hand on the door but hesitated.
Just slip inside, he told himself, silently as a thief. Maybe they won’t even notice you.
He summoned his courage, opened the door as quietly as possible, and tiptoed into the classroom.
The snake stopped hissing.
Everyone turned to look at Dan.
So much for stealth…
Framed in a crown of white hair, Dr. Lynch’s wizened face looked up from the podium and fixed Dan with a death stare.
“Sorry,” Dan stammered, his blood turning to ice.
Dr. Lynch raised her scrawny arm slowly and pointed a gnarled finger in his direction. Her rheumy eyes blazed with cold fire. “Late,” she said, her voice as dry and merciless as that of a necromancer casting the final word of a death incantation.
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