“Uh, sir?” a polite cough brought Thorn back to the present. Tugging gently on Thorn’s sleeve was an intimidated city guard whose nervous companion was behind him, clutching a wooden nightstick.
“Um. Would you, uh, mind moving, uh, to the side of the street?” stammered the guard, pointing to the side. “You. Er. You’re kind of blocking the traffic.”
“Oh man, I am so sorry!” Thorn exclaimed. He had been so engrossed in his status that he hadn’t realized that he was standing in the middle of a street, a long queue of carts bunched up behind him. While they could have squeezed by, the sight of his 8’ 9” frame had scared the drivers enough that they called over a guard to deal with the giant.
“No, no,” reassured the guard. “It is no problem at all.”
Stepping to the side, Thorn took the opportunity to ask the guard some questions. “I’m new to Berum and was a bit lost. Could you point me toward the town hall? I need to see someone for my starting quest.”
“Uh, you are a traveler? Sheesh.” Relieved, the guard put a hand to his chest. “I thought you were one of those barbarian frost giants. You had me worried there for a minute.”
“Yeah. They’re huge like you, but people say they have terrible tempers. I heard one of them got mad and froze a whole city full of people. Everyone in the city, dead, just like that. Anyway, city hall? No problem.”
After getting directions, Thorn left the guards and made his way to the large building that dominated the center of the Public district. Berum was split into four main sections, each focused on a particular grouping of businesses.
The North district was residential, and had the largest number of restaurants and businesses for entertainment. To the east of the city center was the Public district, where the majority of the business was conducted, based around city hall, while to the south was the Canal district, which was where all the goods going in and out of the city passed. The western part of Berum was called the Forge district, where the majority of businesses that had to do with crafting were located.
City hall was a large, multi-story stone affair that gave the impression of a beehive as uniformed clerks ran around, this way and that. Players streamed in and out as well, eager to hand in their quests and get their rewards. Thorn made his way up the steps, ducking his head to pass through the door. Players instinctively moved around him, looking at him with curiosity. The guards, however, grew nervous as Thorn’s shadow fell over them.
Ignoring the guards who were readying their spears, Thorn passed by them into the spacious main hall, taking in the marble floors and pillars with glee. Thorn loved buildings that had enough space for him to stand. In fact, because of that, he had spent quite a bit of time studying architecture. He had always held the ambition of creating living spaces customized to his personal needs. A big smile on his face, he walked over to one of the secretaries who was staring at him wide-eyed.
“Hello, I’m Thorn. A new traveler. I was told I could get my first quest here?”
“Uh, yeah.” Spellbound, the secretary, a pretty brunette with a button nose and deep dimples had to look almost straight up to look Thorn in the eyes.
With a chuckle, Thorn crouched, reveling in his freedom of movement. In the outside world, this simple movement would have ended with bloody cuts in his skin and lots of pain. Nova Terra was different and Thorn was free to move as he wanted. Crouching brought them almost eye to eye, a position much more comfortable for the secretary.
“You are big.” Still stunned, the secretary couldn’t seem to get past Thorn’s size. She stared at the hand he had rested on the edge of her desk. It was easily twice the size of hers.
“I am,” agreed Thorn, amused as always by the sheer unbelief on her face. “So… about that quest?”
“Hm, oh, right. Oh, I’m sorry, you surprised me,” the secretary stammered, embarrassed by her staring. Straightening herself out, she launched into the standard announcement for the first quest. “Welcome to Berum, traveler. Please hold for a moment while I scan you in. Once I’ve done that, I’ll get you the opening quest.”
Welcome to Berum
Welcome, traveler! You have arrived in Berum and are ready to start your grand adventure. To begin, visit the following places:
After agreeing to the quest, Thorn thanked the secretary and strolled out past the worried guards, giving them a friendly nod on his way. Before he had started the game, Thorn had been nervous about all of the social interactions that he was going to be forced into; after all, most of his life had been spent alone. Thankfully, his friendly and cheerful disposition seemed to serve him well, and, so far, it had not been an issue.
Opening up his map display, Thorn realized that each of the places that the first quest had him going was in a different section of the city. Obviously, the point of the quest was to get him used to the area. Though, if he had known that, he wouldn’t have spent two hours wandering around the town. His random stroll had taken him by all of the locations he needed to visit with the exception of the McCarthy Farm, which was located right outside the city.
Retracing his steps, Thorn headed off to his first destination, the City Library. Located in the northern district near some of the upscale neighborhoods, the City Library looked similar to City Hall. Much of the architecture in Berum was similar, and the buildings, comprised of large stone blocks, gave a sense of longevity and stability. Unfortunately, Thorn still had to duck when going in.
The library was split into three floors, with a large open courtyard in the middle, covered by a stained glass roof, creating a charming picture in the streaming sunlight. Players stood or sat in various library nooks, browsing through books they had taken off the shelves. Seeing that there was a central desk, Thorn headed that way, only to experience a repeat of his interaction with the secretary at City Hall.
“Hello, I’m a new traveler and this is my first time here at the library.”
“Wow, you are big,” said the wide-eyed elf after a brief moment of stunned staring.
“Uh, yeah. So, can I get a library card or something?”
“Library card? Oh, right. Yes, yes.” Pulling out some forms from underneath the desk, the librarian helped Thorn register himself, explaining the rules and regulations as he did so.
“You can borrow a single book at a time but only for a week at a time. Once that week is up, the book will automatically be returned to the library through the enchantment on the back. While at the library, you can read as many books as you would like, and if you want to return them, stack them on the return table. Make sure you don’t leave anything in the books like bookmarks, as they will be returned with the book as well.
“The three different library floors each contain different sorts of books. On the bottom floor, you will find histories, biographies, and books about the different races. The second floor consists of crafting, job-specific, and how-to books. The third floor is comprised of an eclectic mix of various ancient tomes and books in other languages.
“If you are having any trouble finding a book, you can use the scrying stones located throughout the library to search by title, author, or subject.” Pausing to scan the form that Thorn had completed, the librarian filed it away and then brought out a flyer. “We also offer accredited classes through NTU. They can be taken here in Nova Terra or in Fantasia where we have a campus. If you are interested in a class or a full degree you can sign up here at the desk. We accept in-game currency or universal credits.”
“I heard that degrees can transfer from the outside world, is that right?” asked Thorn.
“Oh yes. So long as the program was accredited, you can apply any degree to receive an equivalent in-game title. Would you like to apply a degree now?”
“No, I’m good for now,” replied Thorn, looking around at all the books. Reading was one of his favorite things to do, but now was not the time for that. In this new world where he could move, he didn’t want to spend his time cooped up inside.
Leaving the library, Thorn headed for his next location, the Training Hall. It was located in the Forge District near a large collection of smoke-belching smithies. The Training Hall comprised of a large open parade ground and a large gymnasium-style building located next to the city barracks. Inside the parade ground, a large group of local NPCs were running through sword training while a couple travelers smacked furiously at some scarecrows.
“Ho, traveler, are you here to unlock your true potential?” boomed a voice as Thorn entered the hall. Turning his head, he saw a man coming toward him dressed in a simple leather sleeveless shirt and brown pants. A large, thick metal studded belt with matching bracers and boots completed the classic look of the warrior trainer. “I can teach you to be the best warrior this world has ever seen! As long as you can pay, of course.” This last sentence was quite a bit quieter.
“Ah, you offer classes? What do they cost?”
“Haha! Of course I do! Best warrior training this side of the East Empire’s gladiator pits! The cost is 10 silver every three days for basic training, 50 silver for intermediate and 1 gold for advanced. You have to pay for a week at a time, and if you quit, I keep the money!” The large man tried to look down on Thorn, a task made difficult by the fact that he was a good two feet shorter.
“If you are interested, step up, and I’ll test you. This part is free,” said the trainer, walking over to a clear spot in the yard. Everyone else stopped what they were doing and looked over. Hamm, the trainer, would regularly invite people up to “train” for a fee, and then beat them black and blue in the name of testing before sending them to practice their basics.
“Here, take this,” Hamm tossed Thorn a practice sword while he readied his own. “Now, I want you to attack.”
Holding the sword that looked more like a dagger in Thorn’s massive hands, he swung it a couple of times before looking over at Hamm and moving toward him.
“Wait, wait! Not me, don’t attack me!” babbled Hamm while backing away from Thorn, his face white and his hands shaking. “Attack that dummy, over there. Actually, attack that one.” Hamm pointed to a training dummy farther down the line made of a strange black metal.
Shrugging, Thorn turned to go over to the other dummy as Hamm gulped in relief. Just now, when Thorn had swung his sword through the air, his arm moved so fast it almost disappeared. Though not close, Hamm could still feel the shockwave the training sword made as it whipped through the air! He had no desire to get hit by that. Even if he blocked it, a strike with that much force would break his arm! How strong was this huge traveler anyway?
Squaring up with the training dummy, Thorn concentrated. He had never used a real sword before, but he figured it was the same as the wooden practice swords he had used, right? The faster you swing, the more force should be generated. Taking a deep breath, Thorn twisted his waist and, drawing the sword behind his shoulder, swung hard at the training dummy’s side. His sword blurred through the air and impacted into the side of the dummy with a boom, snapping the blade into pieces and breaking the dummy off its stand!
Amidst the silence that blanketed the training hall, Hamm walked forward to examine the ruined dummy. The side of the metal reinforced body had been crushed in on itself as the force of the sword slammed into it. As far as he could tell, the cutting edge of the blade had been angled wrong and had not actually cut into the now-ruined dummy. Rather, Thorn had used brute force, crushing the dummy’s splintered wooden side and bending the metal bands beyond repair.
This strength was far beyond what any normal traveler should be able to generate, making Hamm extra thankful that he had not tried to receive the blow himself. He could only imagine what would have happened to him if Thorn had aimed that swing his way. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Thorn, who was examining the now busted training sword. He shivered at the thought of being on the receiving end of that swing. Aware that everyone in the building was watching him, anger overtook his embarrassment.
“I said attack it, not destroy it!” blustered Hamm, only to be met with quizzical looks from everyone who was standing around watching. Realizing how stupid he sounded, he stomped over and yelled to hide his embarrassment, “And what sort of warrior breaks their weapon like that? If you were surrounded by enemies and your sword broke, what would you do then?”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought!” interrupted Hamm, tossing Thorn the other practice sword. “Try again, but this time, no breaking the weapon!” And so began one of the strangest training sessions in the history of Nova Terra. Next to a growing pile of broken practice swords, Hamm yelled and blustered, berating Thorn for swinging too hard and damaging his weapon.
He yelled, “Power is fine, and speed even better, but the warrior’s most powerful advantage is based in control! Swing with speed, hit with power, but control your force, don’t let it control you!” Nearby, a couple of other native trainers stood watching, grins on their faces as Hamm got more and more frustrated at the inhumanly strong traveler who was making a mess of the training yard.
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Bio: My name is Seth Ring and I am a writer. I create worlds and tell the stories of those who inhabit them. I love exploring these new worlds with other people. I post a chapter every Friday around 12 pm EST. To get advanced access to chapters you can support me on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/SethRing.