Three days had passed faster than Rowan could nock his next arrow. He stood with his back straight, legs apart. A sweet breath sipped, he pulled on the sinew-woven string with all the strength twenty-nine Stamina points allowed. The line of sight was clear. A second was all it took to aim. He released.
The feather brushed against his thumb. The arrow quivered like a rattlesnake as it sped through dustless air straight at the straw dummy. A clean head shot to the forehead a few inches off center, the dummy fell backward. Dead.
The remaining 0.2% of Rowan’s experience bar filled. A glowing, golden window expanded before him, a rush of ecstasy alleviating the dull ache in his side for a second and no longer.
Congratulations! You are now level 10! You have 3 unallocated stat points.
*tip: You are now able to ascend to one of the seven base classes in the game. Visit your local master or activate a class tome to do so. You didn’t run off into the wilderness before doing so, correct?
*tip 2: Dummy training and friendly sparing will no longer yield experience. The required experience per level from now on will increment at an exponential rate, roughly tripling every ten levels.
Just as the ever-helpful forums had foretold. Rowan nodded and jogged to retrieve his arrow, glad that the monotonous grind was at last over. He wasn’t going to barge head-first into the wild as a novice, level one archer. No, thank you, sir. He counted the times he had partaken in archery or sword-fighting in the real world to less than a dozen fingers; that for sure would result in his quick death in any dungeon, in any fight.
Though fortunately, the game performed funky tricks behind the scenes that enhances one’s intuition and natural rate of learning all thanks to this new VR tech; many on the forums had speculated as such, and Synaptic confirmed moments earlier. He could now hit a target from fifty yards away every time. No wonder he had so easily crafted that masterwork unstrung bow the other day—with a bit of dumb luck thrown in. He hadn’t been able to replicate the achievement since.
Rowan removed his arrow from the bundled straw, sighing. That could’ve been one good longbow even if the quality only marginally improves the damage rating. The one he currently wielded was of…
Crude Birchwood Longbow
Item Type: Ranged Weapon (two handed)
Damage Rating: 11
Quality Rating: 523 (Admirable)
Admirable quality only. The entire Human population of this fjord had more than admired its sleek form and perfectly curved limbs, but the game evaluated otherwise. Clearly aesthetics weren’t the only factor counted. But aesthetics were important, nevertheless. No one wanted to look like a slob whilst charging into battle. Rowan’s tongue rolled as he focused on the description, commanding further information.
The game seemingly mulled over his request over three seconds.
Beauty Rating: 798
Nice. This longbow could go on his wall one day as his first crafted weapon. Perhaps a trophy room to go with the others.
Their cozy little settlement was growing nicely, more than doubled in size. In addition to their hovel, they’d erected a four by four room around the firepit as a temporary universal workplace. The game had suggested it to be a workshop, granting a not-useless buff. Rowan glanced downward with his eyes.
Workshop Fun (26 Quality): +1 Stamina when out of combat (23 hours remaining)
Bedroom Peace (19 Quality): +0 Flow when out of combat (21 hours remaining)
Minor Internal Injuries (rib, left lung): Not healing, needs treatment
Hunger: -10% maximum Stamina and Flow stat points
The Workshop’s quality had improved since he had last checked. Gabrielle must’ve made improvements.
He checked his character and equipment sheets, remembering to allocate those three points.
Name: Rowan LeMort
Level: 10 (EXP: 0/24,000)
Fate: The Demonborn
Active Equipment Slots
Torso: Linen Garb
Legs: Linen Pants
Right-hand Ring: Empty
Left-hand Ring: Empty
Main-hand Weapon: Crude Birchwood Longbow
Off-hand Weapon: Unavailable
Rowan still disagreed with only one active ring slot per hand as did much of the playerbase. The lore behind the design was as such: Activating more than one ring on a hand would cause mana currents to short-circuit in the body, disabling both—fair enough of an explanation.
Gabrielle called from inside the workshop, “Row! Lunch’s ready! I made apple syrup stew!”
Right on cue. He placed his good arrow into the makeshift bark sling on his back. “I can certainly smell it,” he called back.
“Hurry! It’s getting cold!”
“Okay, okay!” He laughed for once. Her cooking alone was worth the marriage.
The Workshop Fun buff refreshed ten seconds after he stepped inside. The loose floorboards were surprisingly clean, and the slits-for-windows let in ample daylight for Gabrielle to cook on her… She was cooking with a makeshift stove made of rough clay bricks, a clay pot, that mithril dagger, and her own longbow used to start fires. On a table three planks big rested a pair of bowls holding steaming apples swimming in liquid. Impressive. He hadn’t known she was so resourceful. He took a bowl, then nearly tried to sit on a non-existent chair.
“Hehehehe. Did ya just—”
“Nah. I was stretching."
“Kay, if ya say so.”
He shook his head and drank a sip. The thick liquid was quite sour but nice enough. Warmth filled his stomach and seeped into his limbs as he drank two mouthfuls, and the pine syrup had a minty aftertaste. He could get used to this, but no buffs were granted, unfortunately; this was only a two-ingredient meal. He downed the bowl, then asked, “How’s Tasha doing?” He couldn’t be bothered opening his friend list and typing out a message.
“Almost level ten. She died a couple of times.” Gabrielle was trying to not laugh, sitting with her back against the wall. “They’re having lotsa trouble in the mines. She’s never played Archery either.”
“Should’ve just trained on a dummy.”
Her eyes rolled. “Row, that’s so boring. I can’t believe ya did that for two days straight. You’re like a robot sometimes, ya know?”
“It was well worth it. Level ten now. What about you?”
He almost believed her for a second. He focused on her playful grayish-blue eyes.
Gabby LeMort: Human (Level 7)
“Level seven? How’d you do that?”
“I got experience from chopping the trees, silly. They’re basically just really tall dummies. I’ve been killing two dummies with one axe while you spent days making longbows.”
“I should’ve known.” He refilled his bowl with her clay ladle.
“Row,” she said seriously.
“Where will we respawn if we die?”
He slowly drank while looking into her concerned eyes. It was obvious she was worried about going back to the Orcish jail. He wasn’t a fan of that place either, and he doubted Zachery was still alive and fibbing. He softly placed the bowl onto the table. “Why do you ask?”
“Cus Tasha says Mages need a Town Hall room for their group portal.”
His left brow arched. “Then we’ll build one?”
Her face deadpanned. “Ya didn’t read the town-building section of the forums, did ya?”
“I was busy training, you know? Things us manly men do during the day.”
She chuckled a few breaths. “A basic Town Hall room needs at minimum a Simple Gold Idol dedicated to one of the gods.”
Oh shit. “How much gold?”
“A hundred units, abysmal quality.”
He drank from his bowl before asking, “A hundred units in metric is?”
Her tongue poked into her cheek. Her eyes stared off into the distance for two of Rowan’s thumping heartbeats. “Some guy calculated that to be around eighty kilograms of one-karat gold alloy.”
He nearly choked on her stew. “That’s like three and a half fucking kilograms of pure gold! We could buy a small house with that in the real world!”
“Wow! You’re good at math!”
He massaged his brow with his free hand. “What about the dedication? Does that need a special—”
“Nope. Just pick a god, and the god will do the rest. There’s a list on the main website.”
“Does the hall need anything else?”
“A few pieces of furniture we can easily make. It has to be at least six cubes wide, ten long, and three high though.”
“Oh man. Shit.” He settled her well-crafted bowl on the table, careful to not break it. His mind was a volcano of stupid ideas as he stretched his back, large breaths cycling through his lungs. But one of those ideas was not too stupid. “Okay, let’s visit those Woodland Trolls. Maybe we can use theirs, if they have one. Tasha should hit level ten by then. We’re on friendly terms with them right?”
She grinned widely. “I thought ya’d say that! And we’re more like neutral.”
He whistled. “Ten miles through the woods. This is why you’re worried about dying?”
“Okay. We should get going now while the day’s sun is young.” He picked up the mithril dagger off the table. “Unless you want to train for the rest of today?”
“Nah. What difference does three levels make?”
He was all business. “Quite a lot actually. I’m way more accurate than I was at level seven. I can see further, and I can hear better too. It’s not really something I can describe.”
Her jaw dropped two inches, and her eyes went crazy-wife mode. “Row.”
“Did ya put all your points into Stamina?”
“Yeah. I'm going to a Swordsman.”
Her features abruptly squeezed, her eyes closed tight. She jumped to her feet and took a massive breath. Her arms spread wide. “It’s kay. Let’s go for an adventure!”
“Then off we go. Got your bark arrow sling?”
“Yupppers! It’s in our happy little hovel.” She skipped out the door, her longbow in hand. “I’m taking the axe and the iron bars too!”
He shrugged. “You do that. Don’t trade Moonfyre though.”
“I’m serious. Those bars have sentimental value.”
“Don’t you trade him away.”
“He’s been with us since the beginning. If we get famous their value goes as well”
“Kay.” She giggled her lovely mirth.