*Author's Note: Hello! This is the first original story I've ever posted on FictionPress. I hope you all enjoy and look forward to any feedback you have to offer. This story is about an MMO (massively multiplayer online game) so there is some terminology that is unfamiliar for anyone that hasn't played one before. I've listed below a few that appear throughout:
MMORPG – Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game
Mobs/trash – regular enemies that appear throughout, anything less powerful than a boss
Boss – a difficult enemy that typically takes several players to defeat
Mat(s) – short for materials
MEVI – Mind's Eye Virtual Intelligence
DD – Damage dealer
Mana – resource used to cast spells
NPC – Non-player character
Farming – a term used for when players go hunting or gathering for a large amount of materials
This story is rated M for violence, strong language, and some sexual situations*
Chapter 1 - Trapped
The fog settled in like a heavy blanket covering the trees in its warmth. The air was thick, clinging to my throat more with each breath. A weight settled down onto my shoulders that made each step a little more difficult than the last. The further I went the more blind I became. I clenched my fists to force the trembling to stop. Suddenly, a rustling noise from behind me forced my hands to unsheathe my daggers. With my eyes fixed on the origin of the noise, I crouched quickly while waiting in anticipation for the source of the noise to show itself. Again the rustling continued, but this time it was to my right; and then another to my left.
"Are my ears playing tricks on me? Or there is more than one." I thought to myself. Then, in an instant, the creature was upon me. The tall, malicious form was completely black apart from its blood red eyes. It had no legs and seemingly floated several inches from above the ground. There were no features, just the outline of a human-like figure and those eyes. The sounds that came from its mouth were distorted screams and whispers.
I started backpedaling as it charged me. It stopped for a moment and let out a chilling shriek as two limbs started pulling apart from the central figure, likening that of human arms. The stubs at the end of each limb started pulling apart into long boney fingers with sharp nails. An odd black liquid dripped from the newly formed limbs, like the melting of skin.
The figure let out another shriek that sent shivers and fear through my body. It came at me again and I readied my daggers. "Where do I strike it?" My mind raced quickly for the answer. I saw those blood red eyes staring at me menacingly as it approached and decided it was the only sure spot I could see. I raised my dagger, bent my legs, and prepared to leap at its face. Within seconds before I was about to leap, the creature disappeared. I hesitated, and within a moment, the creature appeared behind me, stabbing his boney fingers through my back. I looked down and saw the sharp nails protruding out my chest. My body froze in shock. "How is this possible?" My mind wondered as it started going dark. I opened my mouth to scream, but nothing came out. Thoughts faded to nothing.
"Tallulah!" The voice sounded distant.
"Tallulah Anne!" Someone was calling out to me. Everything seemed dark.
Suddenly I felt someone shaking me. "Tallulah Anne Benson! Wake up!" My eyes shot open. My mother was standing over me with her warm hands on my shoulders. I blinked a few times to remove the haze from my eyes.
"You were up all night playing on that damn computer again weren't you? It's almost noon, it's time to get up." She scolded.
"I pay you rent. I should be able to do what I like." I scoffed.
"What you pay does not come close to covering your living expenses. Once you graduate from college you are going to have to put something more towards this house hold or find somewhere else to live." Mom replied. I rolled my eyes.
"I'm not a bum like you are implying. I have a job, go to school, pay for my luxuries as you call them, and pay you rent. I think I should be able to enjoy my hobbies."
"Not when they keep you up until four in the morning. Well never mind. The reason I came up here at all is because you got a package in the mail. I know you were waiting for something, so I figured I'd let you know." She said as she opened my blinds. The summer rays filled my room and my eyes squinted in protest. "It's like a dungeon in here!"
I quickly got up and ran for the door. "Is it finally here?" My bare feet slammed against the wood stairs as I raced down to the front door. I saw the large brown package sitting on the bench near the front door. My name and address were neatly placed in the center. 'Beyond Technical Industries' was printed in the top left corner. My stomach flipped with excitement, my heart was beating quicker, and my hands trembled.
I started ripping away at the packaging like a savage. The printed label became ripped into several pieces as my hands pulled and tugged at the packaging. I stopped for a moment before opening the cardboard flaps of the box. My hands suddenly became delicate and slow, opening each flap carefully. Inside I read the words "The Mind's Eye." I picked up the box while allowing my eyes to fall on a picture of a sleek head piece and visor. "The Mind's Eye. The world's first virtual reality gaming system brought to you by Beyond Technical Industries. Included in this box is a copy of the world's first Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online game: Beyond the Veil." I felt my lips stretching into a smile as the words hit my ears. "Awesome!"
I wrapped my arms around the box and bolted for the stairs. "Hey Hey Hey! Don't you dare leave that mess in the entryway!" The strict tone forced my feet to a halt. I sighed quietly.
"Sorry, Dad. I'll clean that up right now." I walked back down the stairs, allowing my shoulders to fall into a cowering position.
"Damn right you will!" the bellowing tone nearly knocked me to my knees. A fear that was ingrained in me from my childhood was controlled solely by him. He was laid back enough about my life choices, except when they made his life more difficult. Perhaps it was a projection of his young adult life. The numerous tattoos that covered his arms told a rebellious story. Perhaps he just liked the fact that I spent most of my free time holed up in my room, never drinking or doing drugs or partying with random guys. Maybe it was a relief to him; and maybe he thought that the fear he instilled in me was why I was so well behaved, at least, well behaved by his standards.
I placed my new precious treasure back on the bench while I tore the packaging down to a nice flat pile and put it out in the recycling. My father's death gaze faded and he went back to eating his lunch in the kitchen.
Finally I was able to go back up to my room. I shut the shades and quickly opened up the box. I set up the console, hooking the power up and connecting it to the internet. I plugged the headset in and saw a display pop up on the console. It read "Initializing…please wait." I gave a disgruntled sigh. "This will probably take awhile."
The light on my cell phone was blinking. "Hm, I wonder when I got a text." I grabbed my phone off the desk and swiped my finger across the screen. The message screen appeared with Sera's name printed at the top.
"Hey Lu! I'm betting you got a special present in the mail today! I got mine early this morning! I'm so excited! My ID is Seraphina616. Get in quick! They are taking all the good character names!"
I hit the reply button and my fingers started spitting out a message on the screen. "Sera! I just got it now. The system is going through its first time start up sequence. My ID is Tallulah805. As soon as it finishes, I'll get on. I hope you didn't get too far ahead of me!" I hit the send button and placed the phone down.
I plopped down into my desk chair and stared at the console display that still read "Initializing…please wait." I sat idly thinking when loud grumbling noises started coming from my stomach. I glanced over to my bedside clock: 12:24. "Oh yea, I haven't eaten yet today." I got up from my chair and quietly slipped out of my room and down the stairs. Before exposing myself in the hallway, I peeked out to look in the kitchen down the hall. No one was there. "Good, I don't feel like dealing with people any more today unless it's on an MMO."
I opened the fridge door and my eyes immediately set on something easy and tasty. "Yes, leftover Chinese food!" I grabbed the Tupperware container and stuck it in the microwave. My fingers pressed over the two minute button and the humming sound of my food heating began. Crackling and popping of the rice could be heard as I grabbed a cup from the cabinet and poured myself some water. It wasn't long before my ears picked up the familiar beeping noise. I gathered my drink up in one hand, grabbed a fork with the other and stuck it in my mouth, and picked up my food with my now free hand. I headed back to the stairs.
I hadn't even placed my food down before I noticed the display on the console read "Please put on headset." I was so excited that I swallowed down my food in a matter of seconds and gulped down my water just as quick. I lay down onto my bed and picked up the head gear. The thin plastic helmet wrapped around my head. I felt the soft ear plug speakers fall into my ears, making it impossible to hear anything. A sleek visor, that went the length of my forehead to the tip of my nose, sat comfortably in front of my face. On the visor display, I saw the words "Please press the connect button." I felt around to the side of the head gear and pushed the nickel-sized button. In an instant the world around me disappeared and I was soon standing on a lone platform. I looked around and there was nothing but never ending white space.
"Welcome to the Mind's Eye virtual reality program. My name is MEVI. I will be your personal assistant when navigating the Mind's Eye and associated programming." A woman's voice said. She spoke with a warm and inviting tone. "Please think of your username and password. It may help to say them out loud." A screen suddenly appeared in front of me, suspended in the air. It had two blank spaces sitting vertically and the words Username and Password next to them.
"Username." I said. The username space highlighted. "Tallulah805."
"Tallulah 8-0-5" MEVI repeated. The user name appeared in the box. "Is this correct?"
"Yes." I said. "Password; Maggie410." I waited for MEVI to respond.
"Are you finished? If yes, say 'connect.' If no, say 'erase password.'" MEVI said. "Please note that by connecting, you are agreeing to the Terms and Conditions of Beyond Technical Industries. If you wish to review the Terms and Conditions, please let me know."
Suddenly I was flying through the air again. I quickly came upon a dark room. There was a single round light in the center where I stopped.
"Welcome, Tallulah. Let's get started." MEVI said.
She went through several steps to sync the system with me. After going through the process, I was even more eager to start.
"MEVI, when can I start playing?" I asked.
"We are almost complete. Let's finish by adding your friends. If you wish to skip this step, say skip."
"No, I have a friend I want to add." I said.
"OK! Seraphina616 has been added to your friends list." She said.
"How did you know her ID?" I was a little taken aback.
"It is stored in your memory banks that I have access to. Please refer to the Terms and Conditions if you are concerned about your private information. Please know that Beyond Technical Industries cares about the privacy of our customers and only accesses the mind for relevant information. Your privacy is well protected." MEVI said.
"Alright, well then let's get started." I said cautiously.
"Understood. Accessing Beyond the Veil game files. Preparing."
The ground beneath me started breaking apart. The walls shattered like glass and soon I was standing in mid-air with a giant world underneath my feet. I reached my arms out as to grab something to keep from falling, but nothing was there and I wasn't falling. "Wow." I said.
"Please pick a character name." A blank box appeared in front of me.
"Lulu." I said.
"Lulu is available. Moving to character creation."
In front of me appeared several icons. "Let me explain the race options." MEVI said. "Humans," She selected the icon and an image of a human appeared. "They are a proud race that holds a significant amount of territory. They often take on a leadership role and are a force to be reckoned with. They show their power in the magnificent cities that they create and the large army they boast. Human's history if filled with noble heroes as well as vicious outlaws." The human icon minimized back out and the next one was selected. It was the image of an elf. The elf was slightly shorter than the human and had a much slender build. They were small but also looked agile.
"Elves are a dignified people. They have a true connection to nature and live among the elaborate forests of Erutan. They believe in a balance among the races and the world. They work with nature and not against it and celebrate in returning to the earth at the end of their lives." The elf icon minimized back out and the next icon was selected. The image was a very short, bulky person.
"Dwarves are a mountain people. They are not often found outside of the Splendor Mountain range. They built their cities in elaborate tunnels throughout the mountains with taking great care not to damage the structure. They are very leery of outsiders." The dwarf icon minimized out and the last icon was selected. The image that appeared was a tall figure in a dark cloak. The face was pale and the eyes were glowing in a blue hue.
"Revenants are also known as the forgotten ones. They are the dead believed to be reincarnated by the Mistress of the Dead in order to help her reach across the Veil. They often work alone and can be very powerful. They tend to avoid heavily populated regions and areas." The icon then minimized out. "Which race would you like to choose?" MEVI asked.
"I would like to join the elves." I replied.
"Good choice. Scanning facial features. Please wait." She said. "Scanning complete. Opening customization window." In front of me, appeared a small girl with a sleek physical build. Her ears were pointed and face was a bit longer and slimmer than mine, but otherwise she looked identical to me.
"Wow." I whispered.
"Is there anything you would like to change about your avatar?" She asked.
"Make her hair longer, to the back. I want her hair an ocean blue. Can you change her skin tone?"
"Yes. Elves have a variety of blue, green, and purple skin tones."
"I want a blue-green skin tone."
"Working…" She said. "Changes are complete. Is there anything else you would like for Lulu?"
I went through, making subtle changes to my Avatar. I made her eyes blue and added a couple small tattoo markings to her face and wrists. "What's next?" I asked MEVI when I liked how she looked.
"Choosing your class. I will go over the options with you."
"Protectors are very powerful and often take to the front lines. They can take on two roles, one being defenders where they take the brunt of the attack and defend the rest of the group, and the other is damage dealer where they do a large amount of damage to the enemy and is more susceptible to being injured. Defending protectors generally carry a sword and shield and are a necessity to your group when facing a dangerous foe. Damage dealing protectors are are much more susceptible to taking damage, they are often capable of defending groups for short periods of time in an instance that a defender has died or is unavailable. "
"Elementals use nature in order to attack. They can take on two separate roles. One of their roles is to be a healer where they predominantly use water and earth spells to heal and shield others from damage. The other role is a damage dealer where they primarily use fire and air to do damage to their enemies. Elementals have a wide variety of weapons to choose from. Some take a staff for the extra spell power and rely on others to protect them when enemies get too close. Others can use daggers at the sacrifice of some spell power in order to protect themselves when in melee range."
"Necromancers deal with dark magic and the dead. They have one role of being damage dealers. They use a variety of tools from poisons to dark magic to raising the dead to assist them. They are sometimes viewed as outcasts for their use of such negative energies. Due to the complication of their spells, Necromancers are required to use staves only for the extra assistance. They can call upon the dead to help defend them when they become overwhelmed."
"Dreamers are a very powerful and mysterious class. They can take on the role of defending and damage dealing much like Protectors, but in a very different way. They are masters of illusions and can fade in and out of the world to confuse enemies. They can also use meditation and sleep channeling to heal themselves quickly. These phases cannot be interrupted, however, or the healing will stop. They are a very difficult class to master and are not recommended for beginners. However, once mastered, Dreamers are one of the most dangerous classes in the game. You will see Dreamers typically with large weapons, such as two-handed axes and swords."
"Prowlers have the role of damage dealers. They use stealth and cunning to trick their foes and sometimes their friends. You always should keep a close eye on Prowlers as you may lose your coin purse. Prowlers make up for their vulnerable armor by being quick on their feet. Prowlers have a mixed arsenal of bows, daggers, and powders. Anything they can easily conceal and carry is their go to method."
"Finally we have Seers. Seers are primarily healers, but have a few damage dealing abilities in order to protect themselves. Seers can "see" damage coming and adjust accordingly whether through healing spells or shielding spells. They have amazing tracking abilities and connections to their environment. Many seers will carry damage dealing weapons, such as daggers and bows for extra protection. However, some brave Seers carry staves that make them even more powerful. Seers are difficult to master and aren't recommended for beginners. They see the world a bit differently and can view things from the past and sense the future. It can warp their present and throw them off balance."
"So, Tallulah, I have listed all the classes available to you. Which class would you like to play?"
I stared at the six icons for a few moments, trying to decide. I had done a fair share of research on this game, and had plenty of experience in MMOs. My role for years was a healer so I wanted to play a healer, but which one was more difficult to decide.
"I want to be a Seer." I said. The icon selected and zoomed in. My avatar's clothing changed into a long dress-like garb that went all the way to the ground. The garb was blue-grey in color and decorated in sapphire jewels around the neckline. The neck dropped into a steep v-style and had wire-like straps strung across the top. A wire-like belt was wrapped loosely around the waist. There were pieces of lace fabric scattered around the bottom of the garb. While it gave the appearance of a low level, it was still beautiful.
I also took notice of the elegant silver earring wraps that were around her pointed ears. There were also small sapphire earrings that dangled from her ear lobes. The final touch was a pendant that was wrapped around her neck. It was a small time-vial that contained blue sand. A circular silver ring held it in place. It reinforced her connection to time and the potential for power she held.
"Are you certain? You will not be able to change your class once it is chosen. The Seer is a very difficult class to play."
"I like a challenge." I smiled. The Seer was perfect.
"Loading you into your Seer avatar."
Suddenly everything went dark. There was no world floating below me, no avatar in front of me, and MEVI's voice was gone. "MEVI?" I was starting to panic a little. "What's happening?" I tried to say, but there was no voice to carry the words. It felt like hours I was trapped in this darkness, but it had actually only been a few minutes.
"Loading complete. Welcome to the Veil, Lulu. Good luck." MEVI's voice said. The darkness lifted and I was suddenly standing on a platform that was set in the middle of numerous trees. The trees shot up to the sky and I could not see beyond them. The platform had several other elves that were looking around confused. The platform was glowing an elegant blue-white hue. As I took a step forward, it lit up around my foot. I couldn't hide my smile. I took another step forward and it lit up around my other foot. I started taking small leaps forward to watch the light swallow my feet.
"Well, it's about damn time." A familiar voice said from the other side of the platform. The name that floated above the elf said Seraphina.
"Sera!" I said as I recognized the elf's face. Her hair was different shades of fire red and fell to her shoulders. Her skin was a purple tone and her violet eyes radiated in the gentle light. She wore a bikini style top that was orange and red in color. Her bottom was a skirt-like garb that fell to her ankles and looked to be made of several silk materials layered on top of each other. It shared the top's orange and red colors, but had some gentle purple hues scattered about it. Her feet were bare except for a sole that was made of straw and tied up around her ankles. It appeared I was wearing something similar. Tied to her waste was a pair of daggers. One had an emblem of a flame and the other had an emblem of a lightning bolt. "Very cool get up. DD Elemental?" I asked.
"Yup. Cool huh? And look at you! You seriously picked the Seer? Hopefully you like it. I hear you can't create more than one character at a time right now. It would suck if you had to start over." She said.
"How did you know I was going to pick the elf?" I asked curiously.
"Because you always pick the elves." Sera laughed. "Come on, let's at least get you a weapon to start. I haven't had much time to screw around before I saw you added me to your friend's list. I figured I should meet you here. Oh and here." She pushed her hand forward and a small menu appeared in front of her fingers. She selected the friend's list from her options and selected my name. She then pressed the "add to party" option. A box appeared in front of me asking me if I would like to join Seraphina's party. I accepted. In the corner of my view appeared Seraphina's name with a health bar and mana bar. Above hers, I could see my own health and mana bar.
"There we go. Now we can find each other if we get seperated." She said. "You know how to access the map, right?"
"No, MEVI only went through a few things during the tutorial. She didn't go over anything in major detail."
"Ah, MEVI. Yea you can get to the map through your menu." Sera motioned for me to open my menu. I placed my hand out in front of me and used the mental command to open it up. It appeared in front of me. I scrolled down opened up the map. A virtual map appeared in front of me and I could adjust it any way I wished. "We are here in the Forests of Erutan." She pointed to the forests on the southern part of the map. "Touch it." I placed my finger on the Forests of Erutan and the map zoomed in, revealing the forest in detail. "We are in the elven capital, Erugar. This is where all the elves start out. You can see all the smaller cities and towns surrounding it. This is where we will level up. When we get past this point, we can start exploring the more difficult areas until eventually we can start attempting the outer Veil content, but that won't be for awhile." She motioned for me to zoom out. "And to the east of us is Eclipse. It's the starting area for the revenants. We can't get in there. Way to the north is the Splendor Mountains. It's quite a journey so we probably won't see any dwarves for awhile either. Finally, to the north and west is the human territory. They have a pretty substantial amount of territory and apparently the majority of players are human. We will probably see a ton of them as their lands boarder our forests." Sera backed away and I closed my map.
"It's a lot of ground to cover." I said.
"We are going to need all the experience we can get if we are going to tackle getting through the Veil. I hear the creatures in there are really tough." She said. "So why don't we get started by getting you some weapons. An old guildy of ours already opened up a blacksmithing shop here. He's only got basic stuff, but that's all you will be able to use anyway."
"Oh yea? Who?" I asked.
"Willoughby!" She said excited.
"Ha, so surprised he followed you here." I said while smirking.
"What are you talking about, Lu?"
"He likes you."
"Pfft. Whatever." She waved me off. I couldn't help but chuckle.
We had walked down the many stairs off the platform and entered into what appeared to be a city, but was unlike anything I had ever seen. Every building was a part of a tree. Floating blue flames lit the city brightly. The paths were decorative cobblestone that went as far as the eye could see. Flowers, bushes, and stonework filled every inch of the city. When I looked up, I was amazed by the never ending bridges between the trees. There was no sky. It was replaced with clouds of multi-colored leaves. They varied from purples, blues, and greens. Everything was connected.
The streets were filled with elven players and NPCs. It felt so real and surreal at the same time. "Isn't it amazing? It feels like we are actually in a real city made of trees surrounded by real elves." Sera asked while caught in awe. "Here we are!"
We had stopped in front of small shop. The sign out front read "Will's Weaponry." There was a soft yellow glow coming from the window. I could hear a clanging noise coming from the other side of the wooden door that Sera pushed through.
We entered the store front where many weapons and armors were hung about on racks and along the walls. The stone front counter was on the opposite wall from where we entered. Behind it was an open doorway where a fiery glow quietly danced. The clanging noise continued from that back room and then the loud sizzling sound of water quickly turning to steam could be heard.
"Hey, Willoughby!" Sera shouted with her hands pressing against the stone counter as she leaned partly over it. I was wandering around the shop looking at the weapons that were on display.
Suddenly the clanging stopped. I turned towards the open doorway and saw a tall, well built elf. He was by far the tallest one I had seen so far. He had strands of black hair stuck to forehead from the heat of the forge. His eyes were a soft blue-grey and reminded me exactly of Willoughby's temperament. His figure would be intimidating if it wasn't for those soft features in his face.
"Back already, Sera?" Willoughby smiled.
"I brought a friend," said Sera as she pointed in my direction.
"Hi Willoughby." I said.
He looked at me for a minute as one does when they see a familiar face they cannot put a name to.
"Well I figured you would at least recognize my voice. I know you don't know what I look like in real life, but jeez we've been guild mates for over three years already." I teased.
"Holy Shit! Lu, is that really you? Ha I should have known from your name plate." He put his hand behind his head and his face brightened with embarrassment. "Sorry, Lu. You know I would never forget about you."
"Hmph." Sera grumbled. "You are such a kiss ass, Will."
Willoughby gave an amused smile to Sera. "Aw, come on now Sera. Don't be jealous. You know I'll always have a soft spot for you." He joked.
"What!? Knock it off you… you…" Sera stuttered.
"Hunk of an elf? You didn't know I was this good looking in real life did you?"
Sera was turning bright red. "Please! You can customize your body to however you want. Just your facial features are scanned into the game. You are probably a fat slob," she said with an irritated voice.
Willoughby laughed. "Well does that mean you don't look nearly as good in real life?"
Sera growled. She reached next to her and picked up a helm that was on display. She threw it as hard as she could towards Willoughby. Willoughby caught it with ease right before it hit his face. He lowered it just enough so that Sera could see his face. He smiled warmly at her.
"No worries, Sera. I don't care what you look like outside of here." he said.
"Well, whatever!" Sera replied. "We are here to get Lulu some weapons, not to listen to your nonsense." Her face was still bright as a tomato. I was actually quite shocked at the Mind's Eye's ability to replicate human emotions.
"Alright then!" He said excited. "Let's see here. You're a Seer. That's quite a bold first choice, Lu. Going for the throat as usual."
"You know me. I can never keep it simple." I replied.
"Well, you have several options. A Seer's best weapon would be a staff, but that leaves you pretty defenseless if you get yourself into trouble. I'm in the school of thought that it's great to take advantage of the best possible stats, but it's useless when you're dead. Might as well take a weapon you can use to defend yourself with just in case. That and it will make leveling much easier for you. You can use a staff in the end game when you have people to watch your back."
"So what do you think? I've done my research on this game before it came out. I can use staves, daggers, bows, one handed axes, and one handed swords."
"Well Seers and Prowlers have an advantage of being able to dual wield daggers and have a bow. They are the only two classes that have a weapon combo like that available to them. I would take advantage of it. That way you can choose if you want to attack from a distance or close up."
"Sounds like a good idea." I said as I walked with him over to his display of daggers.
"You are going to have to select your weapon skill choice in your skills menu. Once you pick your weapon skill, it cost a lot to change so be sure this is the route you want to take. Here, see how they feel." He said as he handed me a couple of daggers. A small dialog box appeared in the corner that read 'practice mode.' I grabbed the daggers. They were longer than I thought, but light and easy to manage. I held them in different positions to get a feel for how to use them.
"These aren't too bad. Let me see what else you have." I said as I started looking at his display. "You sure have learned to make a lot in a short time."
"They let those of us in the beta transfer some of our profession skills over to give us a head start."
"You were in the beta?" Sera asked surprised. "How come you didn't tell me?"
"We aren't married yet, Sweetie." He smirked. Sera threw yet another helm at his head. This time his back was to her and a loud clash was heard as the metal helm smacked him in the back of the head. "Ow!" He rubbed the rather large bump that developed. "You do know they incorporated pain sensors in this game, right?" He growled.
"It didn't hurt nearly as bad as it would have in the real world." Sera replied. "Besides you need to stop making such stupid jokes."
"Who said I was joking?" Willoughby mumbled. Sera did not hear him.
I gave him a reassuring smile and continued looking over his stock.
"I wasn't allowed to talk about the beta at all. It was in the contract they had us sign. I heard one kid got sent to jail for breaking his contract." He continued.
"Seriously?" I asked.
"I don't know how true it was, but BTI certainly made it known to us that they didn't want anyone to know anything about their game. There were only a hundred of us and we had to be checked for surveillance or recording equipment on the way in and for anything that could be taken along with us on the way out."
"That's right, you live in California, and so you must live close by to their testing facility." I said.
"Yea, about an hour or so. Unfortunately it's on the other side of the country from you lovely ladies." Sera began to turn towards him.
"It's a compliment Sera." I quickly said. My eyes continued to scan over the daggers. They finally rested on a pair unlike the rest. These daggers had a short blade on the bottom of the hilt and a blade that was the length of my forearm on the top part of the hilt. The hilts were unique in that they wrapped around the hands rather than the hands wrapping around the hilt. I assumed the purpose was to guard the hands. "Wow, those are pretty cool."
"Ah, those are from a set of rare plans I obtained in the beta. They are probably some of the best low level weapons available." He handed me the two blades. I swung them and spun them to get a feel. They were the perfect weight, not overly light but not overwhelmingly heavy.
"Since they are rare, I'm assuming they cost a fortune." I said disappointed. They were perfect.
"Hm, you can have those daggers." He said.
"What? That's nuts! You just said these things are really rare." I said.
"It's not like I'll ever sell them. No one has any money yet in this game and by the time they do, they will have out leveled these."
"You have a heart of gold, Willoughby." I said.
"Only for my friends." He replied.
Sera was watching him out of the corner of her eye. She was no stranger to Willoughby's kindness, and couldn't help but get a little jealous when he showered other people with it.
"Check these out Sera!" I said excitedly. She forced a smile.
"They are really cool. It should definitely get you started on the right foot." She said.
"Now, unfortunately I won't be able to supply you with a bow. You are going to need a Bowyer for that. I have a name of a good one I know from the beta. She has also set up shop here in Erugar. Her name is Lily. She's a Prowler so you will have to bargain with her unless you want to pay a ton. If you can wait until a little later, I'll take you there and help you find something. I just have an order I have to finish up. I have to do a little mat farming." Willoughby said.
"That's fine. I will take her to the low level mobs outside the city to practice in the meantime." Sera said.
"Sounds good. I'll meet you guys back here around 7pm if that works." He said.
"Sure. See you then." I replied and Sera nodded.
Sera and I made our way to the outside of the city. There was a small field covered with tall grass and filled with lightening bugs emitting purple and blue light. It was the first time I could see an opening into the sky. The moon shone down brightly basking the field in its light.
"It's daytime, how is the moon out?" I asked.
"This forest has also been nicknamed the moon lit forest. It's nighttime 24/7 for everything below the Erutan boarder. That means us and the revenants are always in the dark or so Will says." Sera replied.
"Then how does anything grow without sunlight?"
"According to the lore, the plants and animals here thrive on the moon light. That's why almost everything is shades of purple, blue, and green. You won't see much of anything in red, orange, or yellow."
"Interesting. I guess I really didn't read too much into the lore."
"No, you were probably too consumed with learning the classes like I was. Willoughby was actually the one to take me out here this morning while I was waiting for you." She said. "Oh there's one!"
"What is that thing? It looks almost like a miniature Rhino." I said. The animal had rough, leathery skin and short stubby legs. Its face had a snout of a boar with a large tusk and two canines that jutted down half the height of its body. Overall, it was short and looked to only be as high as my stomach.
"It's a boar, though I guess its leathery grey skin does make it look like a Rhino. It's got a tuft of hair on its head, though, and also the tusks coming out of its mouth. Be careful, they charge if you get too close. It's a level one beast so you should be able to take care of it no problem. Here." Sera said as she guided me closer to the beast.
The beast suddenly turned its attention towards us. It snorted, forcing small clouds of dust to form from the ground. "It doesn't look happy to see us." I smirked.
"Use your mind to visualize the command you want your avatar to do. You have set abilities. You can start by commanding a regular attack or you can will yourself to dodge. It's similar to how you command yourself to move or speak except more fast paced." Sera explained. "Here it comes."
I watched as the boar scraped its hoof against the ground before it started making its charge. I bent my legs, put my left hand forward, and my right hand back by my ear. My daggers started glowing as I tried to predict the oncoming attack. Suddenly the beast was right on top of me, slamming into my chest except nothing happened. It just went right through me. I stopped, stunned for a moment. Sera's words barely registered as the beast reappeared in front of me again. This time when it made contact with my chest, I fell backwards. I watched as the beast was suddenly engulfed in flames and then its avatar shattered into many different pieces, and disintegrated away. I looked up at Sera who had used her magic to kill the thing.
"What was that about?" I asked her.
"What was what about? You just stood there and took the hit." She giggled. "It's ok, you will figure it out. Let's find another one."
"But there were two of them." I protested.
"Two?" She asked, surprised. "I only saw the one, Lu."
I paused for a minute before looking at my mana bar. A small amount was missing from it and then it clicked. "Seer's have the ability to see into the future." I mused.
"They do?" Sera asked.
"I have an ability that allows me to foresee my enemy's attack, but it uses a substantial amount of mana." I explained. "I bet I willed myself to use that ability when I was trying to predict its attack."
"Wow, that's pretty awesome."
"Yea except that's going to be a problem if every time I try to predict a creature's attack, I see a ghost creature first. Not to mention running out of mana would mean a black out penalty."
"Black out penalty? I haven't heard of that."
"I read about it briefly. Apparently they wanted to have a couple of significantly stronger classes in the game, but there had to be severe consequences for not playing them effectively in order for it to be fair. So, if Seers or Dreamers run out of mana, they get a penalty that doesn't allow them to use any abilities for one minute." I replied.
"A full minute?" Sera asked with shock. "You might as well forfeit. How are you supposed to dodge enemies for a full minute?"
"I imagine it's worse for defending Dreamers. If they are out of commission for a full minute that means the rest of the group has to take the brunt of the attack, while they wait to get their abilities back. But, in hindsight, if you run out of mana, it's pretty much the same thing. Regeneration is so slow that you wouldn't be able to use many abilities at all."
"They would still be able to at least use their basic attack." Sera countered.
"That's true. Sometimes I get stuck in a healer's perspective." I laughed. "I'd be a pretty useless healer if I was out of mana."
"Alright well, let's get back to practicing killing boars without using that super special foresight, shall we?" Sera suggested. I nodded.
We spent the better part of the afternoon practicing our new skills. I had finally gotten a handle on what triggered the foresight and was finally able to choose when to activate it. After a few hours of practice, Sera and I easily took out the lower level creatures surrounding the forest. It was incredibly satisfying to watch our experience increase with each kill until a wave of bright white light flashed over us and our display read 'Level up!'
"It's starting to get late, do you want to take a break for dinner? We can get back on and meet up with Willoughby after." I suggested.
"Sounds good. Let's get back inside the city before we log off." Sera replied.
We walked together back towards Erugar. The commotion we heard coming from the gates was surprising.
"I wonder what's going on." Sera said a little uneasy. The unnatural screams and sounds of panic filled the air.
"I'm not sure. You think it's part of the game?"
"I guess we'll find out."
Once inside, the sights of hysterical, panicked, and angry elves were everywhere. I walked up to a man only slightly taller than myself. He looked dismayed, but not overly panicked. "What's going on?" I asked.
"You didn't hear?" He asked, his voice trembling. I shook my head in response. "We are all trapped in here! We can't leave. We are all going to die!" He shouted. I looked at him, my eyes wide with shock.
"What? That doesn't make any sense." Sera started, but the poor guy was now just as distraught as the others around him. We couldn't get any other answers out of him even if we tried.
"Sera." I started.
"We have to find Will. He'll know what's going on." Sera replied. I nodded and followed Sera's lead.
Willoughby was outside his shop, a quiet dismay plastered on his face. "Will!" Sera shouted over the distraught crowd that filled the streets.
Willoughby ran up to us. "Jesus Sera, I've been looking for you two everywhere!" He panted.
"We told you where we were going." Sera started.
"Did you not get my message?" He asked anxiously.
"The one I sent you an hour ago telling you to get the hell back to my shop!" Willoughby continued. He was losing his cool and it was making me very nervous.
"Alright, Will, I'm sorry. I must have missed it." Sera replied meekly.
Willoughby sighed. "No, I'm sorry. You don't know. I shouldn't be angry with you." He paused a minute, a look of pure terror on his face. "Come inside. You guys need to see the latest news feed."
A transparent screen now replaced the back of the shop. A middle-aged reporter stood in the center in front of BTI headquarters. Behind her were crowds of angry people and police officers.
"Is this a real time news feed?" I asked.
"Yea. It seems BTI linked a live stream to the in game news feed. Normally all that would be posted here is information about the game, such as updates, but this popped up about an hour or so ago." Willoughby said grimly. I looked to the screen as Willoughby turned up the volume.
"Again, as of 1:43 this afternoon, BTI's CEO Marcus Leary has confirmed the eerie message displayed on televisions across the country this morning. Approximately 50,000 people are currently trapped inside the virtual reality console system, the Mind's Eye. Sources say the supposed virtual intelligence that controls the Mind's Eye is actually an artificial intelligence that has gone rogue. Around 12:00pm Pacific Standard Time, the rogue AI sent out a message across the country that she had trapped the unsuspecting gamers in the system. She warned that unhooking the virtual reality system will cause electrical pulses to fire causing the destruction of the person's brain. She also stated that if a person's avatar dies in the game, the electrical pulses will be released and the person will die as a result. There have been reports of over two hundred fatalities so far including people that have been unplugged and those assumed to have died in the game. BTI is urging anyone that has family members or friends hooked up to the system to leave them alone while they work on resolving these issues. Coming up on Channel 7 News, we will hear from technical experts on why the AI cannot be the only one responsible for these fatalities and that something like this should have never been possible. Stay tuned. I'm Laura Michaels."
I saw out of the corner of my eye Willoughby pressing a button and then the screen flickered off. He turned to us, his facial expression dark.
"So we just have to sit tight for a while until BTI fixes this." Sera shrugged.
"No Sera. The message that MEVI, or I guess MEAI now, sent out suggested that the only way we can get out is by beating the game." Willoughby replied with a hint of rage edged onto his words.
"Bullshit! BTI wouldn't leave us in here like sitting ducks. They are working to find a way out." Sera argued.
"Maybe, but can we really just sit around waiting for them to break us out?" I could hear a drop of hope trying to shine through.
We stood there for a few minutes in silence. It was a corrupted silence that was filled with the cries and wails of the outside players. As hard as I tried to will myself to be positive, a creeping doubt was beginning to overtake me. Deep down I knew Willoughby was right. We were going to be stuck here for a long while.