Introducing: the first Battle Kreaturez Light Novel, Battle Kreaturez – Comeback!

It all started with me thinking about what things I’d streamline or change if I were to adapt Battle Kreaturez to another medium. For a while now I’ve been thinking about rewriting the early chapters of my comic to create a more cohesive narrative, but I’m in much to deep to actually reboot it entirely, so I’ve decided to write a web novel instead! This novel will be available on my site to read for free in its basic form, and the webcomic will follow its continuity from here on out.

Anyway, enjoy the first chapter!

PROLOGUE

In an alternate universe parallel to our own exists the world of Dimentiara. It is a land where monsters (known locally as Kreatures) are not merely the things of myth and legend, but are a part of everyday life. Each has a nucleus which is the source of its powers, and there are many different kinds. There are Wild Kreatures that inhabit the unexplored frontiers. Others are created in laboratories via genetic engineering.

There are Utility Kreatures, designed for work or as livestock. There are Domestic Kreatures, which are designed to be pets. Others still are grown for combat. These are known as Battle Kreatures. The people of this world were formerly at war with each other, deploying Battle Kreatures as living weapons, but currently they enjoy an era of peace.

Now Battle Kreatures fight in officially sanctioned matches regulated by the Kreature Combat Federation. The sport of Kreature Combat is big business in Dimentiara, and professional Kreature Tamers face off against eachother for glory, honour, prise money and the thrill of competition.

*****

“Welcome back, Kreature Combat fans! It’s Exhibition Night here at Zaito Hall, and our third one-on-one match of the evening is just about to begin!”

Professional Kreature Combat was a popular sport across all the nations of Dimentiara, but nowhere was it more beloved than in the nation of Zaitopia. For Zaitopians, it was more than just a game; it was a matter of national pride. Zaito City, the capital, was home not just to the Kreature Combat Federation, who oversaw all officially sanctioned matches, but to one of the finest battle compounds in the world. Matches in the team circuit, huge spectacles fought between anywhere from 10 to 12 Battle Kreatures at a time, drew the highest ratings, but one-on-one battles could still attract a crowd and even had their own dedicated sub-fandom. Even during the off-season, in a small venue like Zaito Hall, there was no shortage of passionate Kreature Combat fans to fill the seats, be they human, domonid, silarc or dolnean. It was a cherished pastime with broad appeal, and fuelled a lucrative industry that was one of the cornerstones of the nation’s economy.

To Ben Weiss, this meant a lot of people to laugh at you if you screwed up.

The scrawny teen sighed and bounced his knee impatiently as the crowed murmured with anticipation, eager for the next battle to get underway. The third match already? At this rate he’d never get to fight. The matches for this event were all booked in advance, but he’d been brought in as a substitute, just in case. He secretly hoped the next Tamer would throw the match or get diarrhea or something.

‘How am I going to afford the lodging fees for my Kreature if I don’t win any prize money?’ he thought, running his fingers through his sandy blonde hair. ‘I hope they at least refund my entry fee…’

The next contestants entered the arena and climbed into their podiums. Ben watched with half-interest as the host introduced them.

“Our next contestants are Skyler Martin and Viola Mendez! Keep an eye out, because you may be seeing these up-and-comers on the team circuit someday!”

Viola Mendez didn’t ring a bell, but Ben was vaguely aware of Skyler Martin. He was the same age as Ben, but even before he’d gotten his Kreature Taming license he and his brother were already a fixture on social media. A hoard of ravenous fangirls made up a not insignificant portion of the spectators at Zaito Hall that night. Ben had to concede Skyler was pretty hot. He was fresh-faced and cute, with green eyes and spiky, strawberry blonde hair with frosted tips, but he was also tall and muscular. A classic jock, just the sort of guy he’d be too nervous to ask out.

‘Who am I kidding?’ Ben mused. ‘He’s got “straight boy” written all over him.’

The contestants clutched the amulets that hung around their necks. The K-Gem cores lit up and beamed the Kreatures they contained into the arena. Skyler’s was a Gogon: a monster with spotted, leathery skin, large forward-facing eyes, a wiry build and features that were neither quite monkey or lizard. Blue eyes were more typical for the species, but those of Skyler’s Gogon were a fetching emerald green that matched its Tamer’s.

Viola’s Kreature was a Keefara: a squat, blue-grey subterranean reptile with huge, inky eyes and muscular forelimbs with large, stout claws. Ben’s interest was piqued slightly as soon as the Kreatures materialized in the ring. He’d been passionate about them ever since he was a kid. It was the Kreatures themselves, not the clout or the prize money, which had drawn him to the profession of Kreature Taming. He’d watched hundreds of matches but couldn’t remember if he’d seen a Gogon battle a Keefara before. He wondered which would win. They were both Rank D: hypothetically evenly matched. It would come down to whoever scored a KO, pushed the other out of bounds, subdued the other for thirty seconds, or scored the most points before the clock ran out.

The Tamers concentrated deeply, and their amulets glowed, beaming their very consciousness into their Kreatures via synthetic telepathy. Skyler’s Gogon took up a fighting stance, but the Keefara simply shook its head irritably and loafed around.

“Two minds become one as Skyler successfully mindlinks with his Gogon,” the host commented, “but Viola seems to be having some trouble. Her Keefara has rejected her mindlink! It’s an unavoidable setback, folks.”

After a few more attempts, Viola shrugged in resignation and beamed her Kreature back into her amulet. Ordinarily, Battle Kreatures were eager to fight. They were designed for it. Their lust for combat was etched deep into their bio-software and they were never happier than when they were in the heat of battle. However, Kreatures are not simply mindless vessels for their Tamers, but beings with their own fickle wills and desires. It was embarrassing to have one’s mindlink rejected, but if the Kreature didn’t feel like fighting, it couldn’t be forced to.

The referee beckoned towards Ben and he sprang to his feet. Finally, a chance to prove himself! He swapped places with Viola and shyly waved to the crowd as the host introduced him.

“Mendez forfeits and the ref calls in one of the bench-warmers. Her replacement is Ben Weiss, a newbie who just recently turned 18 and got his Level 1 Kreature Taming License! This is his and Skyler’s debut match, so let’s welcome them and wish them both illustrious careers!”

Ben beamed his Kreature into the arena; a Jagaldie he named Slash. He resembled a baby capybara with doglike limbs, large, expressive golden eyes, and a machete-shaped blade for a tail. The base of his tail was short but very strong and flexible, and could swing the blade with both power and dexterity. Ben had no trouble mindlinking with Slash, as he had many times before. Like most Rank D Kreatures, Jagaldies had mild instincts and highly compatible bio-software that was simple and intuitive to interface with. Their minds easily merged.

Ben and Slash alike enjoyed the euphoric sensation of mindlinking. The anxiety Ben usually felt was put at ease by the Jagaldie’s carefree nature. His human intelligence gave Slash insight he wouldn’t normally experience. It was a symbiosis that benefited both and made them feel complete. Many Tamers felt a spiritual bond with their Kreatures, believing that through mindlinking, both Kreature and Tamer inherited a part of the other’s soul. Even less superstitious Tamers conceded that Kreature and Tamer tended to rub off on one another. Perhaps it was quaint, but the blending of souls was a belief which Ben felt near and dear to his heart ever since he first mindlinked. It was something only a Tamer could truly understand.

“Now that both Tamers have successfully mindlinked with their Kreatures, the match can finally begin!”

The air outside the arena shimmered and the crowd seemed to vanish as a barrier, both hologram and forcefield, manifested around Ben and his opponent. It was a one-way hologram that the spectators could see through but the contestants could not, projecting a flawlessly realistic backdrop of a naturalistic setting; in this case, a craggy landscape with a clear blue sky that matched the dirt and rock piles of the arena floor. Ben could no longer hear the roar of the crowd, which came as a relief. It would be easier to concentrate on the match.

Skyler, meanwhile, was a tad disappointed. He understood the necessity of the soundproof barrier – protecting the spectators from stray fire, preventing the crowd from scaring the Kreatures or heckling the Tamers – but now he wouldn’t hear the cries of his adoring fans when he curb stomped this upstart whelp! Skyler was completely unlike Ben. His cocky, blasé demeanour belied a deep seated need for validation. He thrived on attention and Kreature Combat was a means to an end. His Kreature, which he named Duke, was like a little fireball of barely-restrained savagery. He yearned with every fibre of his being to reach out and destroy the opponent in front of him, but Skyler’s smooth confidence kept that blood lust in check until it was needed.

“Ready… FIGHT!”

The moment the referee started the fight, Ben took the initiative. His Jagaldie darted towards the opponent like a flash. The enemy Gogon was physically stronger than his Jagaldie, so Ben intended to capitalize on Slash’s speed, make a quick strike, back off, rinse and repeat. Whittle down the enemy’s defences with hit and run tactics. He’d watched many Tamers he admired utilize the same techniques, how hard could it be-

Duke casually stuck out his fist.

Slash ran into it face first. Through the mindlink, Ben and Slash experienced the same pain and humiliation. It was a mild injury, but Ben was 99 percent certain the spectators were howling with laughter behind the barrier.

No time to dwell on that. Slash spun on his front paws, pivoting his entire body around in the blink of an eye, tail blade gleaming. The Gogon was as spry as it was strong. It seemed to almost dance around Ben’s amateurish tail strikes. All the while, the host provided a running commentary.

“Oof! Ben flubs his first move, but quickly recovers and goes on the offensive! Skyler’s Gogon dodges a horizontal tail strike from Ben’s Jagaldie! There’s a clear gap in skill between the two Tamers. Ben is telegraphing every swipe and Skyler can read him like a book! But it’s early and still anyone’s game-”

Ben continued to attack, having forgotten his strategy in the heat of the moment. Now he was just determined to land even a single hit on his opponent. It gave Skyler a perfect opportunity to set him up. He manoeuvred Duke to the top of a rock pile, tempting Ben and Slash to follow him. Ben took the bait and leapt after him, somersaulting in midair to try and hit the Gogon with a vertical slice. Duke leapt to another rock pile just as the Jagaldie’s tail blade swung down and split it in half. Skyler smirked, bracing Duke in anticipation for his opponent’s next move. Slash leapt for him.

Hook, line and sinker.

Duke leapt towards Slash, intercepting him while he was unable to change vector in mid-leap, and spiked the Jagaldie downward as if he were a fuzzy volleyball. Dirt and debris erupted from the arena floor as Slash crashed into it with such tremendous force that it shook the entire building. Duke fell feet first onto Slash’s belly, stomping a geyser of blood and vomit up through the Jagaldie’s throat. Ben reflexively clutched his own gut and nearly doubled over in agony. With his prey firmly pinned in place, Skyler released the valve on Duke’s pent-up fury and set it free. The Gogon rained down a hailstorm of bone-crushing blows, giving no quarter, no chance for his opponent to recover or counterattack. Ben felt every single strike through the mindlink.

“Skyler Martin has Ben Weiss on the proverbial ropes,” the host exclaimed. “Skyler has taken complete control of this match! Now all that’s left to be seen is how much longer Weiss can hang in there!”

Suddenly, a blade cleaved through flesh and bone. The Gogon’s severed tail flew through the air and landed outside the crater with a splat. Skyler felt pain in a match for the first time. He had been so focused on attacking he’d neglected to protect his rear, and Ben scored his first clean hit. Ben used the opportunity to kick Skyler’s Gogon off and follow through with another swing of Slash’s tail blade, opening up a gash across Duke’s chest. One more strike to finish him off!…

Slash’s tail blade stopped millimetres in front of Duke’s face. Skyler blocked the attack, grabbing the tail at its base.

“Okay, you got me a couple times,” Skyler muttered to his opponent through his amulet’s comm-link, “but don’t let that get to your head!”

Holding the base of the tail with both hands, Skyler’s Gogon swung Slash around to punish he and his tamer for daring to offend him. First he bashed him repeatedly against the ground, and then slammed him into a rock pile, pulverizing it into gravel. With his opponent stunned, Duke braced the Jagaldie against the ground with his foot and yanked with all his might. Slash yelped as his entire tail was broken off.

“Ben’s counterattack is cut short! An eye for an eye, a tail for a tail,” the host observed. “What will Weiss do now that his Kreature has been deprived of its best weapon?”

Skyler swung Duke’s arm down, intending to chop into Ben’s Kreature with its own blade, but they rolled out of the way by a hair’s breadth. Undeterred, Ben bared Slash’s huge, chisel-like incisors and lunged for Duke’s throat. Skyler parried the attack and the Jagaldie’s jaws clamped down on the blade instead. Twisting it, Skyler cut down into the Jagaldie’s gums and yanked the blade out through the corner of Slash’s mouth. Ben felt the sting, tasted the iron and salt of Slash’s blood as if it were his own.

He considered finishing his opponent off with the blade – a bit of dramatic irony – but Skyler’s ego was still bruised over losing his own Kreature’s tail. He tossed the blade out of bounds and into the pit. No, he was going to finish Weiss off slowly, with his own fists. No points, no pinning, none of that namby-pamby ring-out bullshit. Skyler wasn’t going to be satisfied with anything less than a knockout. His pride demanded a decisive, violent end to the match. Duke lunged for his opponent, claws bared, unleashing a guttural, primal scream.

“Skyler’s mad as hell! He pins Ben’s Kreature and resumes his assault from earlier! He hammers away with no resistance as if his opponent were a sandbag! The enemy Kreature is battered and bruised! He winds up for one final haymaker!”

Then, everything went black.

*****

Ben collapsed like a marionette whose strings had been cut, knocked out straight through the mindlink at the same time as his Kreature. Skyler and Duke roared, and the Gogon lifted Slash’s unconscious form over his head for all to see and tremble. It was theatrical, and sent a warning to all of Skyler’s future opponents: fuck with me, and this is what happens to you. The ref announced the victor and Ben’s amulet, detecting a lack of neural feedback, automatically beamed Slash out. The Jagaldie’s broken tail blade and even pools of its blood were converted into pure K-Matter by the amulet’s tractor beam, then Slash was put back together and stored in the amulet’s gem.

The barrier disappeared and Skyler raised his arms in triumph, taking in the cheers of his fans as nurses carried Ben to the infirmary.

Ben watched it all unfold on his phone. The match had been uploaded to VidT00b not long after it concluded. He was relieved the KCF had disabled comments on the video or against his better judgment he’d be doom scrolling through every single nasty insult. Is this what they called digital self-harm?

Suddenly, the door to the infirmary flung open, and in came Ben’s parents, Colin and Carol Weiss.

“MY BABY BOY!!!”

Carol threw her arms around her son’s neck, cradling him as she wept. She had the motherly assets to to go with her attitude and Ben’s face was awkwardly smothered by her ample bosom. “I’m so glad you’re okay! We’ve been on pins and needles waiting for you to wake up!”

“We watched the match on TV and rushed right over the second you fell unconscious,” Colin said.

Ben pried himself out of his mother’s iron grip and gasped for air.

“How long was I out? I don’t remember a thing…”

“About an hour,” Colin replied.

“Shit…”

“No more Kreature Combat for you, young man!” Carol lectured. “You just about gave me a heart attack! What if you’d died out there? That can happen, you know, I saw an article about it on Blarghfeed! Mindlinks go both ways, if the Kreature gets killed during battle-”

“I know, mom,” Ben sighed, “they make you sign the waiver before every match.” He saw the pleading look in her eyes and tried to reassure her. “But Kreatures are practically indestructible, so that almost never happens. Only unless there’s a freak accident and its nucleus is destroyed.”

“It is statistically very unlikely,” Colin added, placing a hand on his wife’s shoulder. She rebuffed him.

“Now that you’re okay we’re going straight home and you’re going to forget all about this Kreature Combat stuff!”

“Mom, I’m an adult now, it’s my choice to make!”

“You haven’t even graduated from high school yet!”

“I can’t let this be the only time,” Ben said. “I gotta try again or I’d never stop thinking about it for the rest of my life. Besides, Battle Kreatures need to fight. I’d be a bad tamer if I didn’t at least take Slash to sparring matches.”

Carol frowned. She had no retort for that. She knew how much her son adored that Jagaldie of his, especially ever since he’d mindlinked with it.

“C’mon, let’s stay positive,” Colin chimed. “It was only his first match. He can try again. You can do it, son, we believe in you!”

“Yeah,” Ben said. “I’ll definitely win next time!”

*****

Ben lost his next four matches.

His record was abysmal. If a novice Tamer like him could be said to have a reputation, Ben’s would be that of a “tomato can.” A fighter who exists to add easy wins to the records of others. Knock him down and red stuff spills out. He did have one legacy, though.

The opening move of his debut match. Ben’s Jagaldie running face-first into the fist of Skyler’s Gogon. Skyler’s large, preexisting fan-base had of course watched every minute of the battle. First it wound up in an “EPIC KREATURE COMBAT FAIL COMPILATION” on VidT00b, and then memes upon memes were made at his expense.

It was pretty demoralizing, but Ben had to keep soldiering on. He wondered how he was going to afford to pay Slash’s rent at the Kreature Lodging service he was using. The money he made delivering bread for his mom’s bakery wasn’t enough, he was pissing it away on entry fees for fights he kept losing.

He poured over the Tamer Manual cover to cover. Watched every free tutorial he could find on VidT00b. Scoured articles on T-Net, studied up on every one of his opponents on the KCF database in advance. But he just couldn’t improve fast enough on his own. He’d run into a wall.

“What it sounds like you need is a tutor”, DanJeff4Eva said. Ben, who was known to them as Benster5197, had been venting about it to them on Blabbr, an app they both used. Normally they talked about Beach Fighters – a show on StreemFlix about an all-male team of Kreature Tamers who were also sexy lifeguards – but Ben wasn’t in the mood for that tonight.

Benster5197: Like I can afford a tutor. Lodging and entry fees have been bleeding me dry.

DanJeff4Eva: You could join a Kreature Combat team! You wouldn’t have to worry about paying for lodging anymore, your Kreature would be kept in an enclosure on their compound.

Benster5197: There’s a million tamers out there looking to join a team. What team would ever want to hire me? My combat record blows. 0 wins, 5 losses, 0 ties.

DanJeff4Eva: I heard some teams have apprenticeship programs, you could sign up for one. It’d look good on your resume, you’d learn a bunch of stuff about Kreature Taming, and it’ll help you get hired!

Benster5197: Hmm… that’s a pretty good idea! Thanks, I’ll look into this.

Ben logged into his account on Tamer-Net, the social media platform for Kreature Tamers. He typed “apprenticeship programs” into the search bar and scrolled through the results until he finally came upon an ad that didn’t look like some kind of scam.

“Wyldcard team official apprenticeship program… this seems promising…”