I turned to my inventory and had another look at the little yellow flowers I’d been collecting. I pulled up the tooltip for the Nhewb’s Blessing and realized there was a little “…” at the bottom. I thought of that spot and it highlighted with a flash and brought up a new menu.
Well then. I guess if anything the menu was going to be consistent in its operation.
Why don't you put it in your mouth? See how it feels?
I blinked a couple of times. That seemed almost like the game was hitting on me, and not in a good way. Though admittedly most of my experience with being hit on were some of the tweakers on our level shouting the kind of things I’m not going to repeat here when they were lucid enough to think about attacking some poor kid just trying to go from his house to school and back.
“That’s helpful,” I muttered, pushing the thoughts of tweakers and what they might do to some kid they caught out all alone out of my head. “And fucking creepy.”
I didn’t think something I found in a starter area would kill me, but stranger things had happened in games. Sure most asshole game design had gone out the door along with the first death of the adventure game genre in the ‘90s, but there were devs who grew up on those games, fondly remembered how they hurt players so good, and tossed in the occasional reminder for the kids these days.
“What’s wrong?” Kristoph asked.
I jumped and looked up. Kristoph was right there staring down at me wiggling his eyebrows. He knew he’d startled me, and he was loving the fuck out of it.
“Aren’t you supposed to be fighting wolves in there?” I asked.
Though come to think of it I hadn’t heard him calling out to those wolves for the past couple of minutes. I probably should’ve been paying more attention to that considering his silence could’ve meant our buddies Kravos and Gregor had returned to dance with us again.
“I don’t think they spawn this close to the edge of the forest,” he said. “That or they only come at you when you’re brand new to the game or something. I don’t know. I’m not a scenario designer for Lotus.”
“Probably a good thing too,” I said.
“Whatever,” he said. “I can’t find any wolf heads to bash, so that means I can come out here and bother you again! We both win!”
“For certain definitions of winning,” I muttered.
“Stop grousing,” he said. “So what’s the problem?”
“If I want to find out what this flower does I have to eat it,” I said. “And I’m not sure that’s such a good idea.”
Kristoph laughed. A deep laugh that had his shoulders shaking and tears streaming down his face. I thought he was overdoing it just a little, but Kristoph seemed to really be enjoying himself so I figured I’d let him have his fun considering he’d been such a good sport about keeping those wolves off me while I was picking the damn flowers in the first place.
“Fun little profession you picked there man,” he said. “I'm not sure I'd go eating random stuff in the middle of a forest. Seems like a bad idea. Those flowers are probably covered in wolf shit, and who knows who they ate before shitting them out.”
I rolled my eyes. Something told me Kristoph wouldn’t be all that unhappy to see me die the game equivalent of a painful death, or at least deal with some painful side effects, as payback for all his precious time I’d just “wasted” picking flowers.
That also got my back up. If he was going to be an ass about this then I was going to show him what I was made of, damn it.
“I’ll show you,” I muttered.
I focused my mind on one of the stacks. It brightened and then I held a petal in my hand as though by magic. Which it sort of was, in a virtual reality sort of way.
Well then. That was a neat trick.
I stared at the petals. I figured most games had a mechanic where you figured out whether or not something was useful, at least when it came to brewing potions, by tasting it. So it’s not like this was all that different. Not to mention the game had been pretty forward about what the fuck I needed to do with that cheesy line about putting it in my mouth and seeing how it felt.
I shivered as I thought of a few times when I’d heard something similar from some of the tweakers. The less I thought about that the better.
I weighed my possible death from eating these flowers against Kristoph’s annoying but reasonable warning about eating random things I found in the game world.
Sure there was a chance it could be a negative experience, but once again I was putting faith, perhaps a bit misguided, in the hope that the developers wouldn’t put something too dangerous in a starter zone, and certainly not in an item that was clearly designed for new players to find.
Not to mention there was more than a little annoyance at Kristoph and his attitude that was pushing me at this point. Once that happened there was nothing that would stop me.
I put the petal in my mouth and chewed. I figured the negative consequences, if there were any, shouldn’t be too bad if I just ate the one petal. I hoped.
I swallowed. And for a wonder I felt invigorated. Like I hadn’t done anything in the way of combat since starting this game, but I suddenly felt like I could go through this entire forest with my starter sword and kill the fuck out of every wolf that dared to get in my way in a convenient one-at-a-time routine.
Along with that feeling of invincibility came another popup.
Nhewb’s Blessing: The goddess Nhewb, patron of those starting out on a journey or those who are too new to something to realize how little they know, has blessed you with a bonus to attack, health, and defense. The effect lasts for 0.5 hours. Try not to be in the middle of combat with something too dangerous when it wears off, noob.
I couldn't help but smile at that tooltip. Someone in the dev team had obviously had a little bit of fun writing that. Sure they were also insulting me just a little, but for a bonus like that I’d take some insults.
“How ‘bout that,” I said.
“What?” Kristoph said.
“This little flower petal gives a five percent bonus to everything when you chow down on it,” I said. I looked up at him with a smug smile. He might not be into crafting, but he certainly spoke the language of combat bonuses.
“Seriously?” Kristoph asked, looking down the trail we’d just blazed like he was thinking about going back to get some flower petals of his own. “Fuck! Would’ve been nice to have that while I was fighting off those wolves.”
“Yeah, but then you would’ve had to eat a flower covered in wolf shit,” I said. “Wouldn’t you rather risk becoming wolf shit than do that?”
“Shut up and let me try one of those,” Kristoph said.
“You sure?” I said. “I wouldn’t want you to lose your lunch smelling wolf shit or anything.”
“Yes I’m sure,” he said, rolling his eyes.
I looked into my inventory again. Stared at one of the flower petals until it came into my hand. I held it up and Kristoph tried to snatch it out of my hands, but I was faster than him and pulled it back before he could get the goods.
“What the fuck Conlan?”
“What do you say?”
He muttered something under his breath that was too low for me to catch. I pulled one of the petals out of my inventory and held it up. He tried to grab it out of my hand, but I pulled back.
“I’m sorry, but I didn’t quite hear that,” I said. “Could you maybe say it a little louder?”
I got an idea. I thought about recording something happening in the game the same as I would if we were in a Horizon module and sure enough a little icon came up that told me everything was now being added to my personal recording folder.
“I said you were right and I was wrong,” Kristoph growled. “Happy?”
I thought about the recording stopping and it dutifully did so. Then I thought about it playing and it appeared over my shoulder which had been how it worked in Horizon modules. I was starting to think those controls weren’t a Horizon thing so much as they were built in Lotus controls that Horizon had adapted.
“Maybe,” I said, handing him the petal as his face darkened while he watched the recording of his apology. “Chew it and tell me what happens.”
Kristoph eyed the petal suspiciously, then stuffed it in his mouth. He chewed slowly at first, but his jaw picked up speed as the effect hit. His eyes went wide, and the glare from moments ago was almost entirely gone.
“Holy shit,” he breathed. “Are they really giving us that kind of bonus?”
“And you said it was a waste of time for me to go picking flowers,” I said.
“I still think it’s a waste of time, but it paid off this time,” Kristoph said. “You got lucky.”
I shook my head and sighed. That was about what I’d expected, but at least my buddy and hetero gaming life partner could appreciate what we’d found.
“Yeah, well we’ll see what tune you’re singing when you want one of these from me before we go leveling,” I said.
“Keep telling yourself that,” he said. “I could always go out into the forest and collect them myself.”
I hit him with a look that said we both knew there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that he was going to do anything of the sort. Even for a bonus like that.
The bonus was pretty amazing. I could still remember a time when I was playing on a classic World of Warcraft pirate server that ran on a Lich King build. That was one of the more popular servers for pirate builds since it was considered by many to be the pinnacle of the game.
I’d started a new priest. Not exactly a class known for its combat prowess. Especially at lower levels. Some joker had gone and killed Onyxia because there were still some geezers on those pirate servers reliving their college days in the early ‘00s.
Those types never ceased to be amazed and amused that they could kill vanilla raid bosses all by their lonesome. Especially considering they used to have to walk uphill in the snow both ways to even collect the reagents to allow them to successfully enter the raid instance with thirty-nine of their best buddies. At least to hear them tell the story.
The point is I happened to be in the capital city when the dragon’s blessing hit. Sure it was an old buff, but it still checked out. And for the couple of hours while I had the dragon’s blessing on my new priest character I could one shot anything with my puny hammer, which was impressive considering priests didn’t have any physical attack abilities.
It lasted up until I got to about level ten. Which I did in record time thanks to that blessing. I wasn't going to sneeze at any bonus that gave us a leg up in this new world. Especially not a bonus that seemed that good.
Admittedly I didn’t know enough about how the game’s mechanics worked, practically speaking, to know whether or not this was as good as it seemed. Still, it was an exciting discovery. I wondered if anyone else knew about this.
And not knowing how well this worked practically wasn’t going to stop me from lording my discovery over Kristoph for a little while.
“Admit it,” I said. “I found something pretty fucking impressive. This is going to make leveling a breeze.”
Kristoph rolled his eyes. “Whatever. Can we finally go into town now?”
I tapped my finger against my chin as though I was thinking about it, then grinned when Kristoph looked like he was about to pull out that two handed hammer and see whether or not PvP was enabled in this area.
Given the way those two assholes had been threatening us earlier I figured the answer to that was a definite yes, and I wasn’t in a mood to feel that hammer slamming into my skull. Not when I’d seen what the thing did to any wolf skulls it came in contact with.
“Yeah, I think it’s time to get a move on,” I said. “We’ve been spending way too much fucking time killing wolves and picking flowers in the forest anyway.”
Not that I really thought we’d been wasting our time. I had a familiar tingling running along my scalp that told me I was onto something here. That these flowers were the first step towards figuring out how to break the game.
Oddly it felt like a lot more time had passed in the game world than in the real world if the clock was anything to go by. I figured maybe it was just that I was having so much fun I’d lost track of that time. Either way it was time to move on and see what there was to see in Nilbog where the Horizon assholes dwelled.
“Great,” Kristoph said, turning towards Nilbog. It’d still be a bit of a walk to get there.
“Come on,” I said. “At least we won’t have to worry about any more rabid wolves coming at us while we’re walking through cultivated fields.”
“Yeah, but we might have to worry about those assholes finding us,” Kristoph said.
I sighed. Kristoph had a point. What we were about to find in this town might be way worse than anything we’d faced out in the woods, but we had to go in there and see what there was to see.
“Come on,” I said. “There’s only one way to find out. Besides, something tells me trying to find the next nearest town is only going to get our asses killed as we stumble through some really scary shit out there in wilds filled with scary monsters.”
“You’ve got a point,” Kristoph said.
So we stepped out into the fields surrounding the town that I hoped would be our base of operations as we took our first steps into this brave new gaming world. Assuming it wasn’t already overrun with so many Horizon assholes that we could make it our home away from home in this digital world.
Hi! I'm a working writer who's been doing this full time since early 2015. I got my start in the Kindle romance boom, and I'm finally getting around to publishing stories under my own name!
I live in the Midwest with my wife, kids, and cats. Most days find me sitting in front of my computer typing out stories for your enjoyment!
I'm currently releasing Spellcraft. The tale of Conlan, a gamer who loves finding ways to exploit game systems, and how he uses those unique skills to battle a soulless multinational entertainment conglomerate who killed his sister and is trying to take over the gaming world!
Spellcraft is currently released on a chapter a day schedule.
I hope you enjoy my work. Thanks for reading!