"Whaaat the what?” James whispered to himself. He tried to replay what just happened in his head. First, a Huge-Ass Lion Dude, the biggest he had seen so far, comes out of the hut. Second, everybody eats, and Frey starts saying something to the other villagers. Then finally, the Huge-Ass Lion Dude doesn’t seem to like what Frey says and proceeds to whoop her ass.
James was astounded that the Huge-Ass Lion Dude would so casually beat his mate like that. He was even more astounded that no one else was doing anything about it! He glanced around as he waited to see when Frey would come down from the wicked toss. He honestly thought that she might have grasped onto a nearby tree.
Maybe she is too afraid to come down?
“He is going to catch her right?” James said to the pile of furs that covered the sleeping Torunn. He didn’t move an inch, nor did his soft snoring break in rhythm. “Little Cub is sleeping so good he doesn’t even realize his parents are about to get a divorce.” James laughed.
An eternity later, Frey smashed into the ground, leaving a small crater and showering the area in the disturbed dirt. She slowly stood up and let out a roar that covered James's flesh in goosebumps. Her fur took on a red tinge, and she closed the distance between her and her mate in a heartbeat. The two were locked in battle, trading swipes that were so fast James struggled to see who had the upper hand. He pressed his head further out of the tent and used all of his concentration to focus harder.
Time seemed to slow. Just in time for him to see the flesh on Frey’s back start to part. He could make out a lightning bolt pattern make its way down from Frey’s right shoulder, exposing her raw muscle. The wounds ceased to grow when they reached her lower back, and she landed a devastating strike on Dreng’s face. He stood stock still and stared at Frey who was still seething with anger. Dreng took a knee, signifying his defeat, and spoke.
“Very well my beloved Freydis, I will honor the wisdom of your request.”
“MAN CUB!” Frey called out, rage still racking her body.
Crap, that’s my cue; James thought as he shrunk back into the tent and made for the actual exit. He put on his false bravado and tried to muster a respectful gait. When he arrived next to Frey, he stared at Dreng in astonishment.
Oh man. If Frey was a mammoth then this guy must be an actual god. Straight outta’ Mount Olympus, James's thought, wondering when his little brother would enter the game, so he would have someone to appreciate his sense of humor. And then a tingle somewhere he couldn’t explain interrupted his musings. His eyes shot to Dreng.
“I, Dreng, Chieftain of the Clan of Honor, Savior of the sole remaining members of the Martyr race, accept you, as our cub,” Dreng recited. He then placed a single, but massive, finger on James's chest. Dreng closed his eyes, and James could feel a painless and sudden drop of temperature. He then noticed the exclamation point in his lower right come to life and shout for his attention with angry blinks.
Not trusting himself to respond appropriately, James just nodded respectfully at the Chieftain. He briefly considered giving a speech to try and make a good impression on the Chieftain but figured it would be too risky. The thought of him gracefully accepting the Chieftain’s gift with a short and captivating sentence or two sounded good in theory, but James didn’t think he was a skilled enough orator to pull it off. Besides, Freydis had more or less warned him that the Martyrs would not react well if they found out he could talk.
“We have much to discuss, my beloved Freydis, and you have much explaining to do,” Dreng said with finality. Immediately after, Frey whisked James away and back into the same tent he had just spent the entire day inside. Indignant about being shoved back into his jail-tent, James could only think of one response.
Nobody puts Baby in the corner!
James woke up the next morning to the sounds of a rooster.
“Seriously, you create an entire fantasy universe and still include FUCKING ROOSTERS!” he groggily complained.
His raised voice didn’t seem to affect any of the full-grown Martyrs that were sleeping in the tent, but it did affect some of the less mature ones.
Torunn heard the commotion and perked up immediately. He raised his head like a prairie dog from the pile of furs where he just spent the last 14 hours and scanned the room. Across the fire pit, he saw the man-cub leave the tent. Torunn could see that he now carried the imprint of the Martyr. Always one to seize an opportunity, Torunn snuck away to hunt his brother.
James carefully stepped out of the tent and realized no Martyr villagers were present.
They must be late sleepers, he thought.
“Cock-a-doodle-doo!” the rooster repeated. James noticed the sound come from the west. Or at least he assumed it was the west. He figured it could quite easily be the opposite in the game world. There weren’t any other humans around to compare with though, so he didn’t see the point in pursuing the issue.
James started sneaking in the direction of the god-awful noise. When he rounded the outermost tent, which took a while since they were so large, he noticed the rooster was not a rooster at all. It was one of those brown flamingo beasts, like the one he had skinned and eaten the day before.
Prepare to meet your maker, James thought, cognizant of the fact that talking in sneak mode was a bad idea. Just as he was about to pull out the skinning sword from his brown cotton pants, the earth came up and punched him in the face.
“What… happened…” James whined as he rolled onto his back.
James reached up to cover his bleeding nose. The pain told him that it was broken. That was when he saw it. Torunn’s… Little… Grin.
“You little-” James started to say as he stood up and ran at his adopted game brother. His ears perked up, and the smile on his face quickly died. Then Torunn did what little brothers have been doing since the beginning of time. He booked it. Got outta’ Dodge. Ran like there was no tomorrow.
James gave chase in the direction of the Flamingo-Rooster. Torunn was fast, but James managed to keep pace until they were deep into the Great Savanna, the village barely visible on the horizon. James’s anger faded as he used it to fuel his determination. They ran for what felt like an eternity. Long enough, in fact, for James's nose to heal, no doubt due to some in-game health recovery mechanic.
Finally, James spotted his opportunity. A sizeable fallen branch was lying in their path, dead ahead. Torunn slowed just enough to prepare to leap over the branch, but James did not. Instead, he jumped into the air without slowing. James straightened his body mid-air until it was parallel to the ground. His body formed the perfect spear, and he felt his hair ripple in the wind. Torunn’s back became a target, and James became a missile. Moments later, his shoulder impacted into Torunn, resulting in a panicked yelp. The two game-brothers landed in a heap and rolled apart, dissolving into fits of laughter that made it difficult for James to crawl forward and continue his attack. Likewise, it made it difficult for Torunn to run away appropriately.
As they lay there, laughing and trying to catch their breath, James heard a noise that allowed him a glimpse of the absolute rage Frey must have felt when she unleashed her terrible power.
James propped himself up into a crouch and looked over to Torunn, who was already in the same position. They nodded to each other and opened their senses to the surrounding land.
That was it; they now knew the direction of their prey. James quietly pulled out his skinning sword at the same moment Torunn pounced away on all fours. James followed him in silent pursuit.
When James arrived at a small clearing where he heard the noise last, he saw Torunn locked in battle. Not with one Flamingo-Rooster, but with a whole flock of them. He watched as his brother dodged, swiped, rolled, and swiped again with ferocity. James could see though, that soon they would overwhelm him. They were backing Torunn up into a small lake where James assumed they would have the advantage.
Not today, you little shits. Not today, James thought and then gave himself to the game, letting out his best impression of a war scream as he charged. He swung his blade at the first Flamingo-Rooster he met and left a 1-inch gash in its back. James could see his game brother’s face harden at his reprieve and they both picked up the pace. James slashed, Torunn swiped, and the Flamingo-Roosters pecked. The battle seemed easy now that they had the creatures surrounded. That was until one of the Flamingo-Roosters finally landed a peck on James's shoulder. He cried out in pain and looked over at the wound - A cone of flesh was missing from his shoulder. His eyes glazed over. In real life, he could count the number of times he had gotten injured this severely on one hand. The pain was indistinguishable from real life. Worse yet, it was James’s sword hand. He tried to lift his sword, but his wounded shoulder wanted nothing to do with the action.
James attempted to switch the sword to his other hand, but he fumbled and dropped it instead. As he bent over to pick it up, Torunn flew over him like a majestic missile. Torunn’s fur rippled in the wind, saliva trailed from his grin, and he tackled the Flamingo-Rooster that was sneaking up on James with flawless execution.
As James recovered, he realized what his game brother had done and joined him in battle with the final Flamingo-Rooster. Working together, they surrounded it and dispatched it easily; its long skinny legs collapsing as it fell to the ground. As soon as the final Flamingo-Rooster completed its dramatic death throws, the ground underneath James and Torunn began to quake. Behind them, they heard something disturb the water. They both turned around just in time to see a giant Flamingo-Rooster rise from the small pond.
“What the waht! Is this a boss monster?” James said, a little worried about how they would fair against it since he was fighting with his non-dominant arm and the other was useless.
Torunn didn’t have the same reservations though and charged the considerable beast. James took a second to read its name tag.
Final, Final Flamingo-Rooster
James sighed. He would need to find an ability that would allow him to learn the real names of the monsters he came across.
Torunn closed the distance quickly and engaged the boss monster. James flanked it. The Martyr cub acted like an agile tank, keeping the boss engaged but dodging most of its blows. This strategy allowed James to get behind it. He paused for a moment and had a thought. Then he crouched and snuck up to the back of the monster. With an awkward stab, he drove his sword deep into the unsuspecting Flamingo-Rooster. It bellowed in pain and turned to face James. Before it could attack though, Torunn pounced on it, climbed up onto its head, and sunk his teeth into its neck. The final bite, coupled with James's sneak attack, was too much for the Final, Final Flamingo-Rooster and it fell onto the shore of the small pond.
“Phew,” James said and gave his game brother a respectful nod - which Torunn returned in a surprising show of intelligence. Then James let out a sigh of relief, twirled his blade around and began to skin all the kills with it.
The skinning was difficult at first but got more comfortable as his shoulder slowly healed. Nearly finished, he piled the furs away from the water and started on the boss monster. As his sword sliced through the thin layer of connective tissue between the monster’s skin and muscle, he noticed something underneath the beast.
Excited at the chance of possible loot, he called Torunn over, and they lifted the creature onto its side. A satchel lay there, partly squished into the mud. He grabbed it, and a notification appeared.
You have received Adventurer’s Satchel.
James equipped the bag. The prompt in his vision minimized and traveled to his upper right peripherals, where it stopped and transformed into the words, “Inventory.”
“YES!” James exclaimed loudly, startling Torunn who seemed to be sniffing some herbs nearby. James couldn’t tell if his game-brother was inspecting them or looking for a good spot to mark his territory, but at the moment he didn’t care. James mentally reached out to his inventory menu, and a transparent grid appeared.
It had a seemingly never-ending number of slots available for items. The only one currently occupied was taken up by an object that looked to be a necklace. James decided to inspect it later as he was more curious about the bag’s capabilities. He walked over to his vast pile of furs and unslung the bag from his back. Loosened the drawstrings so the opening was as wide as it would go; James stuffed the collection into the bag. It didn’t seem to grow any larger as he worked. When he re-accessed his inventory, he saw it now contained 9 Ingo furs, each taking up a single slot. James idly wondered why they didn’t stack together in one slot like most games, but realized it wasn't a big deal since the bag didn’t seem to have a capacity limit.
“Well that is one way to learn a creature’s name,” James murmured to himself. “And much easier to say than Flamingo-Rooster.”
James finished skinning the boss Ingo and received ten more skins as a reward for his work, bringing his total to 19. He would have gotten more, but he wasn't used to the boss's tougher skin, and he ruined some of the pelts.
James then butchered the animals and received 40 pieces of Ingo meat, which he also added to the bag. Ready to set off back to the village, he then scoured the area for Torunn, who he found resting a few paces out of the clearing. James joined his brother who was, on closer inspection, mashing various herbs together in his hand like a makeshift mortar and pestle. Torunn stood up and smiled. James braced himself, but instead tackling him, Torunn reached out with his empty hand and placed it on his shoulder. The Martyr cub then presented his other hand, which was full of mashed herbs, and looked to James questioningly. The mixture seemed a lot like the green paste Frey had used to heal his wounds the day before. James nodded, and Torunn applied the mix to his shoulder. Then the two set off to go home.
James and Torunn returned to the village without any problems. James's wound had healed long before they reached the village, thanks to Torunn's paste. On the way back, James struggled somewhat with direction, but his half-animal brother instinctively knew the way to go. The villagers were all awake when they arrived and were stomping around as they completed various tasks. They didn’t pay much attention to James as he walked into the village, which he thought was excellent. He did receive the occasional glance, but, for the most part, they treated him like the other cubs of the village, which were all scampering about, doing their own thing. James noticed one unusually small cub, about the size of a human teenager, almost fall into a well. The closest adult Martyr simply picked it up by the scruff of its neck and placed it away from the well before going on about her business. James got the feeling that parenting roles were loose here and the whole village looked out for and raised the clan's cubs.
Entering their tent, Torunn jumped into his pile of furs and soon passed out. James settled into his pile and started a fire to cook some of his Ingo meat. He remembered wishing that he wouldn’t get hungry in the game, but now he was happy about the feeling. Eating the food was comforting to him. It provided him with some familiarity with the real world and kept him grounded. Besides, this batch of meat tasted substantially better than the last.
A short while later, Frey lumbered into the tent and pulled up a pile of furs next to the fire. She let out a sigh of relief as she leaned back and stared off into the flames. James figured the ability for people to sit by a fire and silently bond must have been a universal truth. He often did just that with his closest friends in the real world, not that he had many. It was a nice change of pace for the game and made him feel even more relaxed. He decided this was a good time to check his notifications.
Congratulations! You have earned the new mark - Martyr Level 1.
Sneak increased to Level 2.
Short Swords increased to Level 4.
Ingo activates Peck, 10 damage received.
You have performed a sneak attack for 30 damage.
Congratulations! You have reached Level 2! Character points available to be spent.
Skinning increased to Level 6.
Fire increased to Level 2.
Congratulations, you have cooked Perfect Ingo Meat.
Cooking increased to level 3.
James dismissed the prompts letting him know that he had received the Ingo skins.
He figured that the mark he received must have been from when Dreng shot the power through his body the night prior. He decided that he needed to do some investigating and get some useful information from his interface for a change. There was so much he didn’t know, including how much health he had, what his statistic points like Endurance affected, and how his skills and character gained experience.
James focused on his skills tab and noticed it changed to a status tab. Pulling it up he found it now contained more information, but it was still not providing him with all the information he needed. His stat points were now listed, as were his equipped items, but there was no description for any of them. He pulled up his inventory bag to learn more about the necklace he received when he killed the Ingo boss. No details presented themselves, so he hung the necklace over his head. Clarity overcame his body seconds later. Cobwebs that must have gathered in the deep reaches of his brain were all suddenly burnt away in a flash. He couldn’t put his finger on the specific change, but he knew he felt better. Sharper. A prompt appeared in the center of his vision.
Congratulations! Your intelligence has surpassed Level 10. You can now gather more information from your interface.
“Now we’re talking!” James said out loud. He quickly glanced at Torunn to see if his sudden outburst would awaken the cub, but the pile of furs remained motionless. Freydis, however, did react and didn’t seem too happy that James broke the enchanting silence of their time by the fire. James whispered an apology. When Freydis drifted back off into her thoughts, he pulled up his status tab. James now had pronounced and detailed tabs on his menu. He took a moment to look at every entry and focused on bringing up additional details.
James – Level 2
Constitution, Level 6 – Controls how much health you have.
Strength, Level 4 – Affects your ability to use weapons, lift objects, and your size.
Endurance, Level 5 – Controls how much endurance you have.
Agility, Level 4 – Controls your movement abilities in battle, dodge & critical strikes, and unarmed combat damage.
Will, Level 4 – Controls how low your HP can drop before you go into shock or pass out, and more.
Intelligence, Level 13 – Controls the data you can gather from your interface, the world, and more.
Wisdom, Level 2 - Controls the rate at which you gain character experience, and more.
2 statistic points ready to distribute.
"Awesome. Wisdom can make me gain extra experience,” James mumbled.
He decided he should focus on increasing that statistic so he could level faster, while his second priority should be raising his Intelligence. That way he could get a boost of experience from Wisdom and could leverage his Intelligence to learn more about what each stat did. Once he got a feel for how things worked, he would revisit his strategy.
He was admittedly a little disappointed that he had only received two stat points to distribute upon leveling up, but he shrugged it away and dumped them both into Wisdom, bringing it up to Level 4. After a quick calculation, he also realized that his Health and Endurance points were both ten times their controlling stats. 6 Constitution gave him 60 Health Points and an Endurance of 5 granted him 50 Endurance Points. He noted the red health bar and the green energy bar at the bottom of his peripherals and continued digging into the menu.
Sneak, Level 2 – Visibility & sound decreased by 2% while sneaking.
Skinning, Level 6 – Time to skin & error rate decreased by 6% while skinning.
Cooking, Level 3 – Food is 3% more delicious. Stat buffs from meals that award them increased by 3%.
Fire, Level 2 – Your mastery of fire is increased by 2%.
Short Swords, Level 4 – Damage done with short swords increased by 4%.
James noticed that everything in this tab was pretty straightforward, besides his fire mastery. He wondered about what fire mastery did for him, exactly. However, a quick search throughout his menu didn’t yield any further information.
“Guess I will have to wait until I increase my Intelligence for that one,” James noted. He also predicted that big things would happen after you surpassed Level 10 in a skill or stat. When his Intelligence exceeded Level 10, a good deal of beneficial information was unlocked. It was possible that he would get other useful abilities when things reached Level 10.
James’s eyes grew heavy, and he leaned back onto his furs until he was utterly prone. He wanted to get through the last two menus, but sleep took him before he had the chance.
A horn sounded and violently woke James from his nap. He wiped the sand from his eyes and stretched before being bombarded by an excited Torunn. The Martyr cub jumped up and down, presumably signaling that he wanted to eat.
“So you like eating more than you like sleeping, huh, Torunn?” James asked as he moved to follow the cub out of the tent. He was unsure of how to join the feast, but Torunn simply lead him to the nearest open seat and motioned for him to take it. Some comparatively smaller adult Martyrs brought out the food. It looked like roasted Ingo meat with vegetables that James had never seen before. The Chieftain entered the clearing with his aide and signaled the start of the feast. James dug into the meal with gusto, noting that the Ingo meat tasted much better than the Ingo meat he cooked earlier in the day. He mentally added leveling the cooking skill to his list of priorities, and then opened his menu to continue exploring the new information.
James’s inventory was somewhat lackluster, only containing a handful of Ingo skins and Ingo meat of common rarity. His equipped items tab was much more interesting.
Left Hand – Empty
Right Hand - Martyr Skinning Knife (Widespread)
Feet - Cracked Leather Boots (Widespread)
Legs - Dirty Cloth Pants (Widespread)
Chest - Dirty Cloth Shirt (Widespread)
Shoulder – Empty
Wrist – Empty
Back – Empty
Head – Empty
Neck - Necklace of Lucidity (Uncommon)
Ring 1-5 - Empty
Sheath 1 & 2 – Empty
Bag - Adventurer's Satchel (Common)
When James focused on the items, it brought up their stats. The clothes he was wearing gave him only 1 Armor a piece, the necklace granted him 10 points to Intelligence, and his bag did several things. Upon further inspection, James found that it had an infinite number of slots, but the items contained inside would drop upon his death - depending on the rarity of the bag and the rarity of the item inside it. That must be why the bag didn’t have a limited amount of slots and items inside didn’t stack, he figured. Each item was at risk of being lost when he died. Each item had its slot and therefore its own probability of being dropped. The items inside didn't stack so that if he died, it was possible for him to only lose a portion of similar items, instead of the entire group of them.
James focused on the 50% drop chance text next to the Necklace of Lucidity, and a chart appeared. The horizontal axis was labeled 'Item Rarity,' and the vertical axis was labeled 'Bag Rarity.' If you followed the rarity of an item along the chart until it intersected with the bag rarity you got the drop rate of the said item. Widespread items were grey and the most common of items. His Adventurer’s Satchel was of common rarity, so that gave him a drop chance of 70% for widespread items, according to the chart. Common items were white with a drop chance of 60%. Uncommon items were green with a drop chance of 50%. Rare items were blue with a drop chance of 40%. Purple Extraordinary items had a drop rate of 30%, and the Legendary orange items had a drop rate of 20%. James noticed that each higher bag rarity level lowered the drop chance of all the things inside it by 10%. If he was to ever to acquire a legendary bag, any rare items and above he kept inside it would never drop. Right now though, he had a chance to lose anything in his inventory if he died.
"Do monsters follow the same drop rate rules?" James wondered. He didn't think the boss Ingo carried a bag, but maybe it did have its own drop chart. It was entirely possible that different monsters had different drop rates for each different rarity level. It didn't matter right now, but James added it to his mental list of questions that needed answering anyway. After all, the people that ran the game told him everything would make sense eventually, as long as he kept exploring and learning.
James finished his meal and glanced around at his surroundings. Martyrs of all different sizes sat around tables with a massive fire in the center of them. The chieftain sat at a seemingly random table amid the crowd. Most of the adult Martyrs showed no signs of being satiated yet, so James resigned to play the waiting game. If he remembered correctly from the last feast he witnessed, right before that crazy fight happened, no one left the table even when they were all finished, so he wouldn’t either. James focused on his menu and gestured to his final tab, 'Marks.' Before he could read what was inside, he was lifted from his chair.