“Where is he going?” Michael asked as James re-joined his party.
James smiled, “Frode is going back to the village. He has to give them the news.”
“I am sure the Martyr’s will be happy to hear it, but are we sure the Oana threat is really dealt with?” Michael followed up.
James nodded as he watched the Oana hut burn, “Yea, Frode confirmed it. He said that the Oana where always a part of the Great Savanna, but were never hostile. It wasn’t until the Mystic arrived that they started getting intelligent and trying to take over the Great Savanna. Frode said he could tell with his shamanistic abilities or something that things returned to normal.”
Michael blinked and swept his hand over the village, “Okay, well what do we do with the villagers? If we leave them here they will be burnt to death when the hut collapses. Do we want them to die?”
James shook his head, “I suggested to Frode that we kill them just in case, but he forbid me to do so. He said the unintelligent villagers were once a part of the ecosystem, and he needed to return it to equilibrium. He also said that they make great workers and he would try to convince the other Martyr’s into accepting them into the village,” James paused, contemplating the plan. He had forgotten to ask Frode how they should move the villagers out of danger, “Umm, Torunn can get the villagers to follow him back to our village with his controller class, but you are right. I’m not really sure how we are going to get them out of danger.”
Suddenly, Patrick burst into the conversation, “Forget the villagers. What about our mounts!”
James reluctantly broke the devastating and obvious news to Patrick that they wouldn’t get the mounts until they turned the quest into Frey.
The redhead’s skin flushed so thoroughly from his anger that it matched the color of his hair. Patrick put forth a logical debate about how they would actually save time if they went back to get the mounts, due to their increased speed. James wasn’t outright opposed to the idea, but argued that they had no information at all about mounts. They didn’t know if they would have to complete any certain quests to make the mounts obey commands and they didn’t know how fast the mounts moved, so it was impossible to know for sure if going back to the village would actually save them time.
“What do you guys think?” James asked the party.
“Well, you said earlier that Frey would have given us the mounts before if she had them. What really changed? I know we destroyed the Mystic that was spawning aggressive Oana, but what does that have to do with mounts?” Michael asked.
“I’m not sure. I imagine that it wouldn’t really be Frey that gave us the quest reward, but the game interface itself.” James replied with a shrug.
Omero coughed, causing James to turn to him. “Have you guys received items as quest rewards from the interface before?”
James shook his head and watched each member of his party do the same. Suddenly, a large portion of the hut collapsed, sending waves of embers barreling into the party. James reflexively dove backward and scrambled for cover.
“Everyone alright?” James yelled as he stood up and brushed the dust from his eyes. Everything was blurry, except for the party member icons in the upper left corner of his vision. Even though he couldn’t see his party members, he could tell from his interface that no one died.
Omero and Patrick took a decent amount of damage, but their health was slowly recovering. That meant no one was taking any sustained damage.
Finally, someone broke the silence as James continued to clear his vision.
“Um yea. We are fine. Are you okay?” Michael asked. The tone of his question immediately put James on edge.
“I am fine. I got a little dust in my eyes that is all. Why?” James asked his brother. He knew that Michael’s question was a normal one considering they all just barely escaped a burning building collapse, but he wanted to know why his brother asked in the tone that he did. The fact that James couldn’t see anything made him worry all the more.
“Are you sure?” Michael asked again with the same concerned tone.
James heart began to beat faster. The only time he could remember his brother talking to him with that tone in his voice was when he caught James on a drinking spree on the anniversary of their parent's death. That, and the one time James broke his arm.
“YES!” James replied, much louder than he intended, “I can’t really see anything. Just tell me what’s wrong!”
Silence spread around James as he blinked with increased fervor. He just wanted his party to tell him the problem.
Why are they all being quiet?
James could almost hear his party members exchanging glances with each other, silently considering how they were going to break the news to him.
“WHAT IS IT!” James yelled as his panic peaked and exploded from him.
Michael spoke up in a calm voice, letting James know that nothing too serious was happening, “Sorry man. Everything is okay. It’s just that… you are on fire.”
“What?” James asked as he brought his hand up in front of his face. He could see just enough to tell that he was indeed, on fire. James immediately fell to the ground and rolled around. “Is it out? Is it out? Is it out? He asked repeatedly as he flailed around. He didn’t stop rolling and asking if the fire was out until he felt a pair of hands on his back. James let out a sigh of relief as he allowed the pair of hands to help him stand up.
“He he he he,” someone chuckled. James squinted his eyes and was able to focus just enough to make out the blurry outline of Patrick, who immediately doubled over in a fit of laughter. James would have given the red-head a scornful look, but his eyes were already as squinted as they could get without completely closing.
“What happened man? Did your health go down or anything?” Michael asked, his concerned tone taking on a forced seriousness.
James waved off his brother, “No, I didn’t even feel a thing.”
“Awesome. You are immune to fire damage!” Omero commented.
James turned to the Italian and nodded, “It seems so…”
James sat down on his pile of furs and took a moment to appreciate being able to blink without any pain. It really was a something that he took for granted. He looked around his camp without any blurriness and whispered a silent prayer to the game gods in thanks. His day had seemed overly long since he couldn’t see well for the majority of it. His party had to aggro the villagers and run away from them, essentially leading them away from the burning village. They all ran just fast enough so that the villagers stayed within reach and didn’t give up the chase. When their town was done burning, the party simple ran faster and left the villagers in the dust. They eventually went back to their homes, which were now just piles of ash, and went about their unintelligent lives. James had tripped numerous times during the mission because of his blurry vision and nearly ran out of endurance points multiple times. Because of that, his Will had increased two points.
“Yea, my will increased as well,” Omero commented from across the campfire.
“Anyone have any idea why we can level up our will from certain actions and not our other statistics?” James asked the group.
Noone had an answer, which made James slightly angry for some reason. He wasn’t sure if it was because the game mechanics were so confusing or just because he had a tough day, but he was certainly agitated. James reiterated his question to Alex, who was supposed to of been a designer that actually worked on the game. So far, Alex hadn’t managed to give anyone any useful information regarding the game, and that fact gave fuel to James’s anger. Alex simply responded with the same answer he always had, which was that he didn’t work on this area of the game.
After a few seconds, Alex picked up on James’s mood and offered more details, “I worked on a zone in the game that had weird NPCs. They were humanoid with spikes on their backs. Almost like human hedgehogs. The lore I worked on referred to them as Hegemons. Like I said before, I don’t recognize anything in the Great Savanna. I think I worked on an entirely different zone,” Alex paused, meeting James glare, “You know I would tell you if I had information that would help us.”
James let out a sigh, gave a curt nod to the veteran and laid back into his fur pile. He knew Alex was right and was happy that he handled James’s anger with tact, but James didn’t have the energy to apologize. His day had just been too much and all he wanted to do was sleep.
James closed his eyes so that his party wouldn’t bother him and brought up his interface.
James – Level 26 (1 level gained since last open)
Constitution, Level 18 – Controls how much health you have and the rate at which you regain health.
Strength, Level 15 – Affects your ability to use weapons, lift objects, and your size.
Endurance, Level 11 - Controls how much energy you have and the rate your endurance regains.
Agility, Level 10 - Controls your movement abilities in battle, dodge, critical strikes, and unarmed combat damage and your ability to resist character controlling abilities.
Will, Level 14 – Affects your ability to tap into health, endurance, and mana reserves.
Intelligence, Level 34 – Controls the data you can gather from your interface, the world, and how much mana you have.
Wisdom, Level 35 – Controls the rate at which you gain all types of experience, and more.
2 statistic points ready to distribute.
It didn’t take James’s much reading to realize that he was in such a pissy mood that he didn’t even want to go over his stats or notifications. He spent his two free stat points on strength, bringing it up to 17 and growing slightly larger.
Fuck it, James thought, before letting his thoughts, frustrations, and concerns float away and be replaced with dreamscapes.