Startled, I reach for my sword. The stream of motes keep coming as I manage to get my fingers around the handle. Drawing it, I start stabbing into his side. His body shudders from each strike, but I’m unable to throw him off. As the stream finally begins to thin, his strength seems to wane and I manage to toss the dry bones away from me. I grab a rock next to us, and unceremoniously smash his skull, bringing a definitive end to his creeper ways.
You have been infested with Dark Motes
And now I have elemental lice. Another physical embarrassment to deal with. At least it doesn't itch, there's no smell, no negative stats that I can see. Maybe the motes aren't used to dealing with a sentient host. I get up and shake off some water. My health is regenerating, my exhaustion is going away, Mana is climbing. I feel much better. Gathering some branches from the area around me, I roll my shoulders and try to loosen up a bit. Building the fireplace lets me feel how bone tired I am. As I light the fire, a wave of soothing heat washes over me. While waiting for my clothes to dry a bit, I sit down and examine my loot.
Inventory Makeshift Club 1 Bow 1 Dark Bronze Gladius (Lightstealer) 1 Decent Cloak 1 Poor cloak 1 Decent boots 1 Clothes XX Firestarter 1 Feathered Locket 1 Bronze amulet Green stone pendant. 1 Weapon Maintenance kit 1 Field dressing kit 3 Soft leather pouch 2 Dry rations 3 Tent 1 Backpack 1 Soap 4 Scrolls (Unidentified) 4 Green potion 2 Red Potion 4 Enlightened core of Dark Elemental 1 Shattered Darkshard 1 Rainleaf 3 Sugarharness 8 Rotwood 1 Book (Unidentified) 1 Leather satchel 1 Dark Leather Boots 1 Leather box 1 Moonsilver roses 5
The gemflowers are beautiful. The crystal is almost clear, but when I look at the flames through them, I can see the tiny capillaries that let nutrients move through it. They feel hard, almost brittle in my hands, but there’s an undercurrent of power in them. I put them aside and focus on the boots. The quality is incredible. They look a bit small, but when I try them on they fit perfectly. Maybe a magical effect. I walk around for a bit without feeling any enhancements, but they are so much more comfortable than my old newbie footwraps or the cheap leather boots, so I decide to keep wearing them. The book is a large tome, about as big as an A4 piece of paper, leatherbound with rigid covers. By some luck, it’s not soaked from the dip in the river, unlike the scrolls I had. On the front is the symbol for the game, a sphere, with three orbs around it. I open it up, and as I do, I get a progress bar at the bottom of my view.
I guess it'll keep my position as I read it. The words make absolutely no sense to me. I can read them, but it's mostly gibberish. I try to get through a few pages, and notice the progress bar increases. About 5% per page. I decide to keep going, it's only a few minutes of gibberish per page anyway. As it reaches 100%, the progress bar blinks and fades away
You are attempting to learn a new skill.
Chance of success: 10%.
Do you wish to proceed? (Note, critically failing the check might result in the book being destroyed. Chance of destruction: 0.1%)
Oooh... Special skill, eh? Squiddomancy? Dark Elemental Control? As I approve the attempt, I scratch an imaginary itch that appears when I think of the motes.
You did not learn the skill.
Your chances of learning the skill have increased.
The chances of destroying the book have increased.
New stats: 20%/1%
Hmm. Double the chance of success, ten times the chance of failure. I try again, reading the book from the beginning. This time, the progress bar moves much quicker, and I get through the book much faster. The same popup is displayed, and I approve.
Success: You have learnt a skill from the manual.
Skill discovered: Planar Shifting.
Failure: The book has been destroyed
The book crumbles in my hands as I take in the information. I got the skill at least. I wonder what it does.
The ability to exploit the thin places between planes. Higher levels allow the user to access different planes.
This skill is part of the composite skill Planeswalking. Unknown number of skills remaining in the set.
I guess I can only use it in certain spots. Even if I don’t know how to find those locations. It’s still a pretty cool skill to have. I think. Stretching as I stand up, I try estimating how long I’ve been inside this time. The thought of logging out doesn’t appeal to me right now, so I search the area around me for a safe place to set up camp. Settling on a secluded spot between some trees, I do battle with the tent until it’s reasonably stable. I climb inside to settle down for the night.
Do you wish to go to sleep? Chance of random encounter: Low
I approve the message, and the world fades to black. After like 20 seconds, everything fades back in, and I open my eyes. It’s really creepy how that works, but it was a very satisfying sleep. I stretch, yawn and sit up slowly, considering my options for breakfast.
"Don’t move, abomination!"
A sharp pain in my chest makes brings me out of my sleepy state and into reality. In front of me is what I can only call a hairy hobbit. He stands less than a meter tall, holding a spear as long as he is in his hands and wearing a scowl that would make a habitual liar sweat.
"I don’t know how you got into valley, but when the elders are done with you, you’ll leave in small bits!"
His voice goes a bit shrill at the end of the sentence. I consider attacking, weighing my chances of success, but decide against it. My sword it too short, and I’m not skilled enough at combat. Probably best to follow his orders for a bit until I figure something else out. Hopefully these 'elders' aren't quite as mean as he makes them out to be.
"Can I stand up at least? This position is really uncomfortable."
He's visibly uncertain at this, scrunching his face up in thought. In the end, confidence wins out.
"Okay. Stand up, get your stuff. No need for it to go to waste."
I shrug and begin packing up my tent.
"So what's your name, little fella?"
I try to feel him out, a casual tone might put him at ease.
"I’m not little!"
Whoa, bad call. He’s practically foaming at the mouth.
"I’m the biggest the Weke has ever seen! Who are you, smelly girl!"
I stop what I'm doing, turn around and look at him, incredulously.
I walk to him, pushing his spear out of the way as I get closer. He seems staggered at my audacity.
"I've been prodded by squids, choked by shadows, damn near squished by boulders and infested with motes, but I am not smelly!"
The last few words were screamed into his face. He had already backed up to a tree, and it seems like he was trying to climb up it using his shoulder blades and knee pits. Sadly, that put him in a perfect position for a right verbal bollocking.
"I try to have a quick nap before I go on with this comedy of errors that is my life, I set up camp, I break my book, and to top it off I'm woken up by the love child of Harry the bigfoot and Frodo Baggins!"
His eyes are watering now, almost crying. I can feel my rage subside a little, replaced by a feeling of sheer joy at his discomfort.
"Now you listen here, you communal bathroom drain escapee! You pick up my stuff, carry it respectfully, and take me to your elders, and I will let them know exactly how you treat friendly outsiders. Then I'm going to spank you in front of everyone you've ever known!"
When I started that sentence, I had no idea where I was going with it. By the time I was finished, the forest had gone completely quiet, leaving us in the most awkward silence I had ever experienced. I summon the last of my indignant rage and scream.
"Get to it!"
He promptly drops his spear and runs to my campsite, packing it up completely, picks up the bundles, and runs off. I pick up his spear and follow him, grinning internally.
Skill discovered: Intimidation
Skill discovered: Bullying
My mood drops immediately on the notification. I’ve spent so many years as a victim, and not only do I slip right into the role of abuser, I enjoy it thoroughly. I make a mental not to discuss this with the doc later. The little guy is fast, and he knows the forest well. Following him is difficult, and I almost lose him a few times, but he always stops for a few seconds, until he sees my eyes, and then takes off again. It's an hour of this before we get to his village. I realise quickly that my hobbit comparison was more apt than I thought it would be. There are a bunch of hills, obviously artificial, in a big field. Every hill has a pipe, a window, and a door. There are some crops growing a bit into the distance, and a river nearby. In every direction is either forest or mountains in the distance.
you have discovered an unknown village. This information can be sold for recognition with the explorers guild, or for money in other guilds.
Huh. I've met one other player, how do I know about guilds? I lose my train of thought as I realise I'm being led to one of the few overground buildings in the village. It looks like it started as a barn, then decided to be a hotel, then a prison. Massive doors, lots of windows, half barred with iron. All around us are others of his kind, the Weke. I don’t know whether that's species, clan or smell. Inspecting them doesn't give me anything useful, so they must be some kind of sapient species, not the common mob classes. I smack him upside the head with his own spear.
He freezes, then turns around slowly, eyeing me with a mixture of fear and awe.
"Put down my stuff there, gently. Is this the place your elders are?"
He does as I say, nodding slowly.
I hand him his spear.
"Take this, go inside and introduce me. I am Shae, an adventurer seeking no trouble."
He nods again, and runs inside. Taking a deep breath, I try to calm myself. Angry bully might not be quite so effective against the leadership here in the village of fuzzy munchkins. After a 5 minute wait, the little guard comes back outside. He's defiant, but still terrified, nearly making eye contact before responding.
"The elders would like to see you now, miss."
Keeping a frown I no longer feel on my face, I steel myself and move past him. He flinches as I pass, and I feel another pang of guilt for being so mean to him. I make a note for myself to make it up to him later.
The inside of the building was about as expected from seeing the outside. The walls were poor quality planks with flaking paint. There are gas lanterns that must have broken ages ago, some of them with lit candles mashed on top. Dribbles of wax on the floor helped complete the picture, even though there was no noticeable dirt anywhere. And the entire place seems to suffer from rot and excessive moisture. The corridor led me past several closed doors before I got to one that looked used. As I gently push the door open, I’m met with a large, dark hole in the floor. This must be the main barn part of the building. It looks like at some point a large rock came crashing through the ceiling, taking down whatever was in the room and opening up the cellar underneath to the elements. Then, for some reason, the Weke fixed the ceiling through trial and, mostly, error. In far end of the room I can see a wooden structure raised from the floor. A pool of some sort. Several lumps and spheres float around the surface of the greenish, bubbling water.
Elder Spore Spawning pool
Elder spore brain node
I realise I'm just standing and gaping, so I carefully step into the room. There's an incline taking me down to the floor level. Wondering where exactly these elders are, my confusion is compounded by a thundering voice emanating from the pool.
"Who dares threaten the children of the Weke?!"
Startled, I shake off the worst of the effect and address the room in general.
"I am Shae, of the Undead. I came to this valley by accident, and was set upon by your patrolman. I had to defend myself against his aggression, but I made sure there was no damage done to him."
Besides, he was very rude.
"We understand. But reparations must be made. You will present us with an item of value, or you will be dissolved for the nutrition of the Elder Spores."
I blink, wondering if I heard that correctly. A bribe? While I have no idea of their attack capabilities, I decide not to push my luck as I check my inventory for something acceptable. Not giving up my boots. Not giving up any potions. Dark cores? No, gemflowers.
"Will this flower satisfy your honor, Elder Spore?"
I feel silly as I approach the pool holding a flower in my open hand. When I reach the side, a metal gauntlet flops towards me. I can see a mushroom of some kind has grown into it. I gently place the flower there, and it flops towards the pool, lobbing the delicate crystal into the broth. For a while, the silence is only broken by the bubbling pool.
"The gift has been judged ... Acceptable."
Oh, good. Maybe I can get some answers about this place then.
I clear my throat before addressing the elders.
"So, what's going on here? Are you the leaders of this village?"
The voice from the pool changes, being that of an older woman.
"We are Asphani, last of our kind, protectors of this valley, consumers of souls, and leaders of the Weke. We are... uncertain about what your presence here entails."
"I don’t understand what you mean. I got here through the tomb of Lesiraxan. It was a total accident, a bit of a shitshow to be honest."
A gruff middle-aged man's voice replies.
"There are no accidents of this magnitude. This valley has not been seen by the eyes of your kind since the earliest days of existence, when I was just a single spore. We have survived as we are in our isolation. Now that we've been discovered, I fear others of your kind will come and kill our children."
"What do you mean, my kind? Why would the Undead come and kill anyone?"
The voice changes to a little girl.
"No, silly. Other travellers, the tethered ones. They come and kill, practice their skills and take what they want, and the great weave of reality bends to their will and give them even more."
I feel a little uncomfortable at the implications here. This is an NPC, it's not supposed to be this aware of players. The old woman's voice returns.
"Yes child, we know. We were there when the first ones came. Our world was old even then, and still every day brought new wonders. Now, only your kind brings forth the new and the changed. We observed as they began to bind the world to their own will, when they created the rules which now govern in place of the eternal struggle, and how they placed the anchors, where all tethers connect."
I feel more worried than before. Did this thing just read my mind? The gruff man continues.
"Yes, I can read your mind. Anyone with the right ability can, and your defences are poor."
I keep quiet.
"As time passed, we found this valley, hidden from the view of your fellows. A tribe of pre-sapient creatures lived here already, set up to be another 'mob' for you travellers to destroy in your hunt for more and better experiences. We used the magics we learnt by watching the first ones, and locked this valley away from the tethered completely, allowing this race to live in peace and develop, under our guidance."
As I wonder why they're telling me all this, a more pressing question comes to mind, and I interrupt his answer to my initial question.
"If you're so peaceful, what's with all the nodes in your pool? They're Weke, right?"
The little girl answers.
"They are the elders of the Weke, the ones that grew old and wise, and were about to pass from this world. We let their souls pass, and took control of their bodies and brains."
Well, that's not creepy at all.
"When you found this valley, you broke the spells that kept this place hidden from others. Even now I sense many strangers searching for the long blocked passageways. Avatars who have long sought the secrets of my valley are sending their emissaries to find them. The first ones will fall to the spears of the Weke, but due to the nature of the tethered, they will rise again and bring the next wave, and the one after, and soon, this place will be a fallen village, the Weke no more than the other soulless creatures around the world."
"There is a way, however, to help us through this calamity."
Aand here's the pitch, I think to myself.
"Yes, a pitch, a suggestion, a deal. If you agree to undertake a quest for us, we will be able to defend ourselves much more easily, and your role in the loss of our valley will be looked upon with greater leniency."
You have been offered a Quest: Clean up your sh!##*Error*
The elders of the Weke have decided that your blame in the matter of outing the valley can be mitigated by your assisting in the defence. This is the beginning of a quest chain.
I mean, I guess I’m to blame for this, in a way. Not like I've got anywhere else to go right now. I accept the quest.
"I'll do my best. How can I help?"
The man replies.
"To begin with, you must craft a Crown of the Valley. You will need dryads hair, heart of the fieldrunners, fallen iron and the blessing of a Summerling."
Your quest Clean up your Shtuuuu*Error* has been updated.
Create the Crown of the Valley
Task: Obtain dryads hair. Seek out dryads in the old forest.
Task: Obtain heart of the fieldrunners. Fieldrunners live on the plains.
Task: Obtain fallen iron. Fallen iron is found in the Swamps.
Task: Obtain the blessings of a Summerling. The summerling is a mythical creature.
That’s a lot of stuff to do.
"What's my time limit for this?"
The little girl replies.
"We don't know for certain. The strangers coming towards us will be dealt with, but the closest settlement is two weeks away. When they rise again, you will probably not have much more time than that. If the strangers make it here before you finish the quest, it will be vastly more difficult to help us."
"And what sort of support can I expect from you and your people?"
The old woman answers.
"Only what you're able to solicit on your own. We will advise the Weke that you are friendly, and that assisting you will be in their best interest, but they may not go along with it just like that. The more you prove yourself to them, however, the more inclined they will be to help."
You have received a new quest: Proving yourself
You get more assistance from the insular Weke, you will have to prove yourself to them on an individual level.
Rewards: Variable. Each Weke convinced will reward you with their assistance. This quest ends when [Clean up your *s#h&iiiii1111||!!*Error*] ends
What on earth is going on with that questname...
"Very well, I'll do this, and we're even, right?"
All three of them answer in harmony.
Making my way out, I realise how much I've missed breathing fresh air. The place reeked of old feet and apple cider vinegar. The sun is out in full force now, but the village is nice and temperate. Pathways separate the burrows, giving a more ordered appearance to an otherwise chaotic spread of living space, and people are going about their business, unaware of the looming threat of players. I see my old friend sitting on the grass near a mound, and I head over to him. He's busy enjoying a lunch of what looks like bread and fruits, and doesn't notice me until I'm almost on top of him. As he scrambles to his feet, I put my hand out to calm him down.
"Hey, hey. I just wanted to apologize for earlier. You were a bit of a dick about it, but you were just doing your job, and I shouldn't have pushed you around the way I did."
His fuzzy little face scrunches up a bit, as he considers his reply. After a moment, he puts out his hand, and we shake.
"It’s alright. I’ve never seen one like you, so I was scared. Please forgive me."
"Let's start over. My name is Shae. What's yours?"
"I am known as Lo'yahé."
He smiles, as if very proud of the name.
"Uhm.. What does that mean?"
His pride falleth, and he despondently replies.
"In the old tongues, it means 'He who masters sleep'. I've spent many years on this skill."
"I see... you weren't on patrol when you found me, were you?"
He looks around, then replies in a conspiratorial voice.
"I was looking for practice time"
"So I'm going to call you Loe, is that okay?"
He nods with a smile.
"I wanted to ask you a favor. Could you show me around the village? Introduce me to some of the important people in this place?"
As I finish speaking, he gets up, brushes his fur, and leaves, beckoning me to follow.
“Poroto Village is bigger than you can see. We build down, keeps us cool when the weather is too warm."
"Oh yeah, because of all the fur?"
These creatures didn't wear much in way of clothing. Simple coverings over strategic spots was all they had.
"Yes. Fur can get warm in the summer."
We climb a small mound, and on the other side the grand majesty of the village is revealed entirety. One castly barnprison, three wooden lookout towers and six mounds with entrances. In addition, there was a large field with trodden grass which seems to be used for a gathering place.
"Wait... This is it?"
I try not to sound incredulous, but by the look he gives me, I'm not particularly successful.
"Yes. The majestic city of the Weke, Poroto."
He takes my silence for encouragement to keep speaking.
"Long, long ago, those who came before me met with the wise one in the seat of power."
He points to the ... building.
"And the wise one told us to abandon our caves to the south."
He points towards a mountain to the south.
"They told us how we could live above ground, even during the brightest, warmest days. How we could make food when the animals were away, and how to keep the animals close, to get from them the things we need. They taught us togetherness and tribe, instead of fighting and killing. And they taught us the way to stop the bad cycle of existence and non, how to begin the good cycle of birth, life and death, letting us change as a people."
"How many of you are there now?"
"Nearly two hundred, and half that in pups."
"I need a place to rest, and something to eat. I think I need to process this for a bit."
"Okay. You will stay as my guest."
- Stranger in a strange land
Software developer by trade. Games developer by uni course. Shopkeeper in a previous life.. don't ask.
I took a look at my life recently, and realised I read too much. I watch too much tv. I play too many games. I consume too much. It was time for me to create instead, improve the balance of things. So I wrote, and I wrote, and I managed to finish a first draft. Then I went back to the beginning and started rewriting it, while working on the sequel.
If you like my work, or are a fan of litRPG/Gamelit, please check out https://greatlitrpg.com
You'll find my book there, and a bunch of other authors worth your time. Vote for what you like, and help make it a definitive collection of unbiased reviews.