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“Welcome to the Knight’s…” Like the first time Thorn had entered, the shopkeeper was so stunned by the sight of Thorn squeezing into his shop that he trailed off in the middle of his sentence. “Uh...Shield.”

“You do repairs, right?” said Thorn, laying his armor on the counter.

“Yeah, yeah, we do repairs. We can repair anything.” Nodding, the armorer spread the massive suit of armor out, tsk-tsking to himself as he saw the extensive damage. Most of the hardened leather plates were covered in deep gouges or split from where Gargish’s claws had cut through them. Likewise, the plate metal was either punctured or crumpled in on itself, and the chain portions were bent and ripped from where the earth elementals’ stone fists had smashed into them.

“I take it back. We can’t repair this. Okay, we could, but it would cost more to repair it than to make a whole new one. What did you do, walk into a nest of elementals? I would recommend scrapping this and getting a new set. I still have the plans I drew up for these, so I’d be happy to make you another set.”

“That sounds good.” Thorn nodded.

“Excellent. I thought you might come back, so I already have a couple of pieces I was going to use to repair any damage. The design is already done, so it shouldn’t take me long to put the new suit together. Stop back tomorrow morning, and I’ll have it for you.”

Thanking the armorer, Thorn ducked out of the store and made his way over to the mercenary supply store to pick up some more bolts for his arbalest. It had served him very well when he was fighting the corrupted wolves, and he imagined it would serve him even better when he was working as a porter for Ouroboros and the rest of the group. The last time he had worked with them, he spent a lot of time at the back doing nothing. This way he would at least be able to contribute a little.

Then again, they worked very well as a group and, so far, had shown no need of any help. The more he learned about Nova Terra, the more clearly he realized the powerful impact that classes had on the game. Without a class, Thorn was still very strong. But imagine if he had special abilities on top of that? Just a single category class would have made his fight with Gargish a hundred times easier.

Even something as simple as a Warrior’s [Charge] ability could have allowed him to close the distance when Gargish attempted to jump away, or a Knight’s [Armor Mastery], which would have made his armor ignore 30% of Gargish’s damage. To say nothing of the abilities of a Mage or Warlock, who had various means of crowd control at their disposal.

If not for Ouroboros mentioning that the new quest would have a dual category class, Thorn would have gone and gotten a basic class ages ago. Plus, Mina had mentioned that, to join Ragnarok, the minimum requirement was to have a dual category class. Few elite players had earned theirs by mastering their first class, so the guild mostly accepted people who started with a dual category class.

Though Ouroboros had never explicitly mentioned anything to Thorn, he had hinted that, if Thorn were to meet the basic requirements of the guild, Ragnarok would love to have him. It seemed that dual category class players who could still act as a porter were rare, which put Thorn in a great position. After all, who wouldn’t want a porter who could also fight?

The next morning, Thorn picked up his armor from the Knight's Shield. This time the armorer had added thin metal plates under most of the hardened leather plates to try and give Thorn a bit more protection from whatever had slashed through them last time. The darkened metal pieces of the armor and the chainmail underneath were new. The armorer had offered to upgrade the materials to a stronger alloy, but Thorn did not have the money for it, so they were still steel.

Putting the armor back on, Thorn left the Knight's Shield and went to turn in his bounty. He had killed a huge number of corrupted wolves, and his bags were stuffed with stacks of their tails. Once his quest was turned in, Thorn still had a bit of time, so he decided to swing by the Forge Quarter and see about getting his tetsubo repaired. While it was still in good shape, breaking apart earth elementals had put some strain on it. Somewhere along the way, it had developed a slight bend.

When Thorn first pulled it out, he placed the head of the tetsubo on the ground and held it up straight to show the bend. Nodding, the dwarven smith grabbed the handle and tried to lift it off the ground, only to stagger under its weight. Thorn had been handling the weapon with ease so the smith misjudged the weight of the pure metal tetsubo.

Looking at Thorn in respect, he called a couple other smiths over, and between them, they got the tetsubo into the forge and started heating it. It took three dwarven NPCs almost four hours to straighten it out and re-anneal it to make sure it was as strong as before. Once they had finished, Thorn paid them and picked it up as if it was a stick, swinging it a couple times before putting it away in his inventory.

Now that he was dressed in armor, not the beginner clothes, Thorn looked like an experienced player, and he found it much easier to walk through town. It was subtle, but the presence he gave off since fighting Gargish and the earth elementals was stronger than when he had started the game. This new aura caused people to instinctively move out of his way when he walked.

The meeting at the tavern was scheduled for lunch, so Thorn went ahead and ordered when he got there. By the time the others arrived, there was a steady stream of dishes coming out to the table. Used to seeing the mounds of food that Thorn consumed, Jorge and Velin sat down and started digging in, after waving a hello.

Mina, on the other hand, bounced over to him and tried to give him a hug. Startled, Thorn patted her on the back. Due to their size difference, Mina's arms didn't make it much more than halfway across his chest. Like the others, she soon quieted down and started shoveling food into her mouth. Smiling at the other three, who had descended on the table like they were starving, Ouroboros clapped Thorn on the shoulder before sitting down.

"You're looking good, Thorn," Ouroboros said, filling up his plate. "The armor looks great on you."

"About time ya stopped looking like a noob," mumbled Jorge around a mouthful of food.

"Yeah? When are you going to stop acting like a jerk?" Mina jumped in to defend Thorn before he could respond. "Forget him, Thorn. He's mad because he ranked last in our guild quest."

"Oh, come off it. You only beat me by two points, and only because I let you."

"Enough, you two. You are giving me indigestion." Velin silenced them with a glare. Giving Thorn a small smile, she sighed. "It would have been much easier if you had come along, Thorn. I never missed having a pure support class so much."

"What did you do on the guild quest?" Thorn took the chance to ask.

"An ore run," said Ouroboros, taking over the conversation. "Ragnarok has a production class wing, and they need huge amounts of resources to do their thing. But, because they are squishy, they get PK'd all over the place. So, every month, the guild assigns a day for teams to help the production squad gather materials. This time we were on an ore run. We had to collect a metric ton of ore of various types from drops. It’s pretty boring, but it has to be done."

"PK?" Thorn had never run across the term.

"Player Kill. People attack them and take all their stuff."

"Seriously? How is that allowed?" Thorn asked, shocked.

"What do you mean, how is that allowed?" Mina asked, looking at him. "Nova Terra is a full player versus player game. People kill each other all the time. Have you never been attacked by a bandit before?"

"Does Thorn look like someone a bandit would attack?" asked Jorge with a chuckle.

"Good point," Mina conceded.

"So, killing people is okay?" Being new to these sorts of games, Thorn was having trouble wrapping his head around this change in perspective.

"It depends," Velin cut in before Mina could respond. "There are a surprising number of players who use their freedom in game to attack others and steal their belongings because there is no permanent penalty for death. The only negative consequence, apart from a twelve-hour logout and some dropped loot, is that you lose some of your class mastery, so death has very little weight. There are much worse things than death."

For a moment, the table was quiet, as Thorn tried to work through the logic behind this. His aunt had always taught him to treat people well, so the idea that it might be okay to fight and kill without regard for others was a bit difficult to deal with. Seeing his frown, Ouroboros patted him on the shoulder.

"Not everyone plays that way, Thorn. There are some bad apples in every bunch, but that’s why we protect those who can't protect themselves. In fact, there were three attacks while we were hunting for ore."

"Better to kill bandits than the stupid elementals." Taking a deep drink, Jorge wiped his mouth off with the back of his hand before continuing to complain. "I've put in who knows how many requests that they don't assign us to fight those stupid rocks. Why can't we get a herb run or something like that? At least I could stab the bandits who try to steal from us."

"He is sore because his knives don't work on elementals," laughed Mina.

"Anyway, we are one of the only groups without a porter, so it takes us a couple of trips to get enough ore." Ouroboros patted Thorn on the shoulder again. "Hopefully we can change that soon."

Seeing that Thorn was still consuming the food on the table at a fantastic rate, the others settled into eating. Dish after dish came out under the astounded gaze of the other patrons, but Thorn never slowed. It was not that he ate quickly; rather, he consumed whole plates of food in a couple bites. He could eat half a chicken in two bites and a loaf of bread in three. Whole plates of pasta were swallowed down in less than a minute. Even if he took his time, the food disappeared at break-neck speed.

It was almost an hour later when the group finally finished their meal and settled down to business. Mina had ordered a desert, and Ouroboros and Velin were drinking coffee while Jorge stuck with another ale. Thorn was drinking water, since alcohol had next to zero effect on him, given his size and the speed with which his metabolism worked. He did not mind alcohol, but the water was free, and he had already spent almost a whole gold on food today.

"Let's get down to business." Putting down his coffee, Ouroboros pulled out a small, white sphere and set it up on the table. Pushing a button on the top, a translucent force field expanded from it to surround the table, cutting off the sound from the rest of the tavern and blurring them from view with a swirling mist. Pulling out a map, he spread it across the table and pointed to a large valley to the north of the city.

"This is where we completed the kobold extermination quest. It went much faster than expected, thanks to Thorn here, and we not only managed to clear some villages, but we also took down the kobold chieftain and a Greater Shaman. We all know - well, most of us know, that a mob Shaman doesn't become a Greater Shaman without there being an inheritance of some sort nearby. Well, I did a bit of digging, and I've figured out where the inheritance is based.

"You'll notice that the valley is a large cul-de-sac with only one entrance, right? Actually, if you check old maps, that doesn't seem to have always been the case." Pulling out another map, Ouroboros laid it over top of the first map. Drawn on transparent paper, it soon became apparent that there was a small canyon running off of the valley to the northeast.

"I'm not sure what happened to close the entrance, but, according to my research, this is where the Shaman found an inheritance to turn into a Greater Shaman. At the worst, we should find a class change altar and some loot. However, that brings us to our next piece of research. Take a look at the name of the canyon."

"Davyos' Fall?" read Mina. "What does that have to do with anything?"

"Nothing, except that Davyos was a famous Devil Blood Berserker from the God's Era." Seeing Thorn's confused look, Ouroboros smiled and explained. "The world of Nova Terra has gone through three different eras. As you can imagine, they are named in order. We are currently living in the beginning of the Fourth Era, the Traveler's Era. However, Nova Terra has a lot of history from before players ever entered the game. Each Era was long. Like, thousands of years long.

"The First Era is also called the God's Era. It was a time when warlords rose and fell, and massive creatures roamed around eating everything in sight. Countless powerful people and creatures died during that time, leaving their inheritances behind. During this time, the basics of civilization started to be built out of the wilderness. It’s called the God's Era because it is said that the gods played a monumental game with the races of the world. They chose members of the various races to become their avatars. They blessed them, granting their avatars fantastic power and pitting them against each other.

"After the God's Era came the Dragon's Era. Powerful elemental dragons emerged and brought the land under their spurred heels. They enslaved the other races and waged massive wars on each other. Most of the gods’ avatars had fallen, by this point, and the dragons plundered the inheritances for their own followers. They took the inheritances of the chosen and granted them to their own chosen. The dragons began to behave like the gods before them, sitting high above the world while pitting their chosen against each other. But the races couldn't be kept down forever, which led to the Third Era.”

 

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WildCard

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.

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