I lost track of time as I got into the zone. It was a place my mind went when I was on autopilot doing crafting and gathering stuff.
Usually I’d pull up a separate window in my heads up display and watch something in the background, but with Keia there chatting with me it was far more interesting to talk to the pretty elf girl.
"So then I fire the arrow, and wouldn't you know it, the thing lands right between his ass cheeks!"
She threw her head back and laughed, and I laughed right along with her. Sure it was a painful story of one man’s unfortunate and very painful encounter with an arrow, but it’d happened to someone in Horizon Dawn, so my amusement outweighed the cringe factor.
“Did you mean to hit him there?” I asked.
She kept giggling. "That's the thing. I wasn't aiming for his ass, but you bet your ass once I hit there I took credit for it like I’d been intending to hit that brown bullseye!”
“I’d do the same thing!" I said. "That sounds like it’d be painful for the bullseye though."
Keia leaned in closer. She glanced from side to side as though she was making sure there was no one around to overhear her even though we were in the middle of a mine where we were the only two living creatures. Even so, she used a stage whisper.
"I'm not one hundred percent sure on this, but Lotus must've put out a patch that caused diminishing returns on pain and the sensory slider that lets someone more or less turn pain off after that incident. I'm pretty sure it was the reports Lotus got after Torian took an arrow to the you know what that caused them to put that new update in place."
I shook my head and wiped a tear from my eye as I tapped another ore vein. Through trial and error I’d discovered I didn't need to slam my pickaxe against the walls. Tapping a vein was enough to put the goblinsteel ore in my inventory. It might take a couple of tries considering I didn’t think I was a high enough skill level to be mining here, but whatever.
We had time in abundance since Horizon Dawn had been obliging enough to clear out the dungeon for us.
If the game didn’t think I had the skill to get a particular ore vein it was simply a matter of tapping it over and over again until whatever underlying math made the game world go ‘round finally decided it was going to give up the goods even though my skill wasn’t high enough.
I’d also been getting some other interesting things while I was mining. Like gems. I had no idea what they were used for, but I suspected there was some sort of crafting use for them that went above and beyond looking pretty.
Then again in a game like this I wouldn't put it past the designers to simply put gems in for no other purpose than they looked pretty.
I hadn't told Keia about those. Sure we were having a great time, but there was still a possibility she might try to double cross me. Especially if she thought she could get money by stealing the gems I’d been mining fair and square.
If what she’d said about Lotus gold being exchangeable for real world money then there was certainly incentive for someone to try and knock someone else over for potentially valuable items in the game.
I might share some of the goodies with her once we got back to town and I could rest assured she wasn't going to try and kill my ass and take all of them rather than allowing me to give her some, but for now I was playing it safe. Better to tell her about the extra goodies when I was surrounded by goblin guards who took a dim view of players attacking other players within city limits.
I figured a lack of trust was a good policy while playing a game where world PVP seemed to not only be enabled, but a tool that more powerful players used to enforce their will on lowbies and people who sucked at combat.
I looked around our current room. We’d done a couple of circuits of the place, I was able to find more and more veins as I got higher and higher in my mining skill, but it looked like we’d finally tapped this room out. At least there was no more glow, and no more striated lines in the wall indicating a vein that didn’t glow because my skill was too low.
"Probably time to move on," I said.
"Sure thing," Keia said. "I think the forge is beyond this room."
"You've been here before?" I asked.
"These ring mines all have the same basic layout," she said. "Maybe I haven't been to this one specifically, but they're all more or less the same in terms of what rooms go where."
I wondered what she'd done in these dungeons with Horizon Dawn. She seemed to have a pretty good idea of what had been done to the goblins in here, like maybe she’d been here for some of it, but I wasn’t going to dig too deep there. Not when there was still the risk she might give me a firsthand demonstration of what happened to those poor goblin bastards.
We stepped into the next room and sure enough there were crafting implements all around the edge, with a forge right in the middle. The place was amazing. I hadn’t seen actual crafting implements yet, and I felt like a kid in a playground.
I walked over to the forge and looked it over, wondering if it was possible to use the thing to craft or if it was something that was only available to goblins. The thing was cold, which was a contrast to other games where forges seemed to be forever hot and ready to go.
There were no goblins in here to keep the forge going, so of course there was no heat coming off the thing.
I had enough ore on me that I figured I’d give the thing a try. After all, so far the game had struck a balance between game design and realism, and it didn’t seem likely the devs would put a forge in here purely for decoration.
"Any idea how these things work?" I asked.
"No idea," Keia said with a shrug. “I already told you. The whole crafting thing was never really my bag."
"Got it," I said.
I reached out and touched the forge, and a menu popped up as the thing sprang to life with heat and flames. Okay then, so much for too much realism when it came to forge design.
The crafting menu gave several options for creating things, but unfortunately the supplies I needed to create those things weren't the kind of materials I was mining in this dungeon. There were options for iron, steel, all of that sort of low level stuff, but I’d been gathering goblinsteel.
I waved my hand and the menu scrolled down until I finally came to goblinsteel. Which was greyed out. Damn. I guess the ore I’d been gathering was way above my skill level when it came to crafting, even if I could fudge the whole skill level thing when it came to mining it.
I could mine something by tapping it over and over again and winning through shear stubborn persistence. I couldn’t craft something when I didn’t have the right ingredients.
"Damn," I said.
"Something wrong?" Keia asked.
“I’m seeing goblinsteel stuff on the list of stuff I can craft,” I said. I totally intended to go on and tell her that it was greyed out even if it was on that list, but she totally misunderstood my meaning and talked right over me before I could clarify.
"Really?" she asked, her face lighting up. "Goblinsteel stuff from dungeon raids is pretty expensive. You could make bank if you could figure out a way to sell that stuff without going through the Goblinsteel Mines raid to get it.”
“You seem to know a lot about how goblinsteel was farmed,” I said, trying to sound casual and again not sure I was doing a good job of it.
"What are you talking about?" she asked.
"You seem to know an awful lot about that guild and how they operate. How much did you have to do with those terrible things they did?”
Keia stared at me. I was painfully aware of just how many ways she could poke numerous holes in my body which would turn this into a very bad day.
Finally she sighed.
"I suppose I deserved that."
"You did?" I asked.
"I did," she said. "I know Torian and some of the other guys who started that guild in real life," she said. "They're the reason I got into the game ahead of the launch date, they got me in with Horizon, but that was before I realized what we were doing."
"So you never really hated Horizon?" I asked.
“Before I realized what they were doing in this game I didn't think anything of them," she said. "I'd seen the news reports the same as everyone else about them maybe killing people, but that didn’t have anything to do with me."
"No one ever thinks it has anything to do with them until they're the ones getting their brains fried," I said. “And they definitely did it. My sister is proof of that.”
“Like I said, I figured that was all rumor or people making stuff up so they could sue Horizon and get a payday.”
I glared at her and she held a hand up to stop me before I could really lay into her. As though she was suddenly afraid that I was the one who was going to hurt her and not vice versa.
"I know that was wrong. You don't have to look at me like that. Some of the things I saw them do… The way Torian moved in and took over and started acting like king asshole… I had enough, so I disappeared into the forest and I've been spending most of my time trying to do whatever quests I can without getting involved with them, and killing those assholes whenever I can."
“Did you have anything to do with clearing out the goblins?" I asked.
Another deep breath. "I did, at first, but that was back when the game was new. That was back before I realized how real everything was. How terrible it was to treat the goblins like they were trash mobs in an old MMO."
"And so you've been spending your time trying your best to do to Horizon what they were doing to the goblins?" I asked.
"That's the idea," Keia said.
"I suppose that's good enough for now," I said.
She laughed. It wasn't exactly a pleasant laugh, but it also wasn't exactly an unpleasant laugh.
"That's an awfully big attitude from a lowbie I could kill over and over again if I wanted,” she said.
"Maybe," I said. "But if you were the kind of person who’d do that to me then that means you're not who you say you are. I guess that’d be a lesson well learned even if it did involve my messy painful death. And losing all the shit I’ve been gathering. That’d hurt more than the messy painful death. I think. I turned my pain sliders down.”
She nodded and grinned.
“That’s a good idea. And I guess you're right. I’m not that kind of person. Not for you, at least.”
“That’s a relief,” I said, grinning back at her.
“So tell me more about all the goblinsteel stuff you're going to be making for me when you get the right ingredients,” she said. “That stuff seriously goes for a lot! Horizon controls the supply by killing goblins for it and regulating the supply from the Goblinsteel Mines raid dungeon.”
Right. She misunderstood me and totally thought I could craft goblinsteel stuff because I hadn’t had a chance to clarify my admittedly ambiguous statement on the subject. Well it was time to nip that little misunderstanding in the bud.
I looked at the greyed out stuff on screen again. I felt a twitch. There was something to what she was saying. Something I could use against those Horizon Dawn assholes. Assuming I could figure out how to craft something at a damned forge, and find lesser metals that I could use to level my Smithing skill to the point that I could do goblinsteel stuff.
"I can't make anything right now," I said with a sigh. "That's the problem. Goblinsteel looks like it’s beyond my skill level right now as far as crafting is concerned. I probably have to start working on lower-level stuff like iron and work my way up. I'm honestly surprised the game even let me mine the stuff."
"That's how the game works," Keia said. "If you try to do something that’s above your skill level it’s not impossible. It just might take a little longer. Think about all those failures you had when you tried mining."
"You mean failures where you insinuated you were going to kill me if I didn’t succeed?” I said. “Either way, it looks like it doesn’t work that way with crafting. Goblinsteel stuff is greyed out. So’s the lower level stuff, for that matter. Maybe this forge is busted, but I think it’s beyond my skill level. I bet if I had some iron I’d be able to make something. It wouldn’t be worth anything, but I could make it.”
"Hey, those death threats were only motivation! Also that’s totally weird that crafting works like that. Literally no other skill in the game works like that. Lotus doesn’t put invisible walls in front of players.”
“Maybe,” I said, glancing at the crafting menu again and wondering if I was missing something. “Whatever. I’ll figure it out. In the meantime what else do we have in this room?"
“More crafting stuff," Keia said with a shrug. "Like I keep reminding you…”
"…That's not really your thing," I finished. "I know. You keep coming back to that."
“You came back to it last time, and it's the truth," she said.
I looked around the room. Most of the stuff I could figure out based on what it looked like. There was a universal language in games like this when it came to crafting. The forge was pretty obvious. There was something that looked like a fletcher’s table in one corner based on the arrows above the thing. There was a leather working station if the animal hides over the thing were anything to go on.
Something caught my eye as I assessed the room and all the possibilities this workshop offered: a table with jewels spread across it that glowed faintly. Jewels like what I’d been getting as I mined goblinsteel. That table called to me.
“What's that table there?”
She looked at the glowing table and then back to me. She shrugged as though to remind me what she'd already told me repeatedly.
"Right," I said. "You have no idea what any of this stuff does.”
Only I figured I had a pretty good idea what to do to figure out what that table was for. I walked over and grabbed a gem to inspect it.
"Those gems are useless," Keia said. “Don’t even bother.”
"What's that?” I asked.
"Trust me," she said. "There are plenty of people who raided those tables thinking they'd found a fortune, but none of the merchants won’t take anything for them. They’re worth less than the scrap you loot off of trash mobs.”
"Interesting," I said.
When I inspected the gem it was the same as the gems I’d picked up mining. I grabbed them and tossed them in my inventory, ignoring the noises Keia made. I couldn't shake the strange tingly feeling running through me. A feeling I only got when I had a sneaking suspicion I was on to something.
"Here goes nothing," I said as I placed my hand on the table.
A menu popped up letting me know I’d discovered a crafting table of some sort. I had high hopes based on the gems I’d picked up that I was onto something interesting here. Something everyone else playing the game had apparently either overlooked, or if they had discovered it they were keeping it to themselves.
I figured I was golden either way. If it was something no one else had discovered, unlikely considering the game had been going for a month now and there were plenty of people exploring, then being the first to find something like this would be unlikely but amazing.
And if it was something someone had discovered, but they were keeping it to themselves? Well then I still had an advantage because if somebody was keeping something to themselves there was usually a good fucking reason for it.
I felt another tingle as I saw the title up at the top of the interface. My breath caught. This was everything I’d hoped for and then some.
"What is it?" Keia asked.
"Something wonderful," I breathed.
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!