Darkness. I try playing with my owlish night vision, but it was still as black as pitch. I scent a strange metallic smell. And hear someone's heavy breathing and the rustle of spider feet. I feel the ground and realize that I'm lying on rocks. That and that I have no memory after the swirl of whiskey. Sluggishly I attempt to rise to my feet.
The echo of my voice indicates that I'm in some sort of cavern. The rustling starts getting closer and I'm approached by a pair of green glowing eyes.
"Hey there, Freakhead! Any idea where we are?"
Of course, the chimera didn't grace me with an answer so carefully I begin walking forward, blindly waving my arms around. I hit something soft with my right leg. There came a list of profanities. I jump a few steps back and see a bright ball of light form in the air and fly straight up. I am able to see that I am trapped in a large dome-shaped cavern with a respawn point located in the middle. No passageways, no entrances - just a sealed bubble. The walls of the cavern seemed to be lined with streaks of red, like blood vessels. The floor was covered in heaps of cloth but closer examination showed them to be dried up skeletons in different types of clothing and armor. In front of me stood a young guy with a bewildered look and an impressive jawline. His flattop was all covered in dust and so were his black and burgundy robes. Right in front of him lay a handcrafted magic staff with a transparent crystal inserted into the tip.
Steve, The Abyss-caller, Eradicator Conjuror.
Just as I read the info a fireball appeared in the mage's hand.
"What's up? That thing isn't meant for me now, is it?"
I notice FreakHead silently flanking the stranger his stinger waving menacingly the tip of the crossbow bolt flashing int the darkness.
"I must kill you?"
Steve seemed really perplexed by my inquiry.
"Well, it's our Fraction's quest."
"And what does it say in the quest description?" - my new companion spaced out looks like he was reading the system notifications.
"Destroy Fillin, Bringer of Chaos, who dared to insult the Abyss itself. Expel him to the depths of hell and force the player out of existence. Inflicting additional pain and suffering to the target during the quest's execution will increase the amount of the reward."
"I still don't see how killing me fits in. I mean it doesn't further your goal anyway!"
"What about the pain and suffering?"
"And what if I'm a masochist?" Before Steve has time to react I pull out my dagger and cut deep into my hand. The mage turned pale instantly.
"Please don't do anything like that anymore, you hear?! And what race are you? Or is like a special ability?" - He exclaimed seeing my wounds quickly regenerate.
"That's my secret. So what do you say? Do we bury the hatchet? And where are we anyway? "
Steve gazed at the walls of the cavern, spaced out again and sagged down to the ground with a pitiful groan.
"We're royally screwed. There's nothing left but to reroll."
"This is an Adamantine cavern. It's impossible to get out. Teleportations are blocked, the walls are completely indestructible made from the rarest and most valuable element in the game. It's immune to everything there is. The cavern itself is located somewhere in the Crocodile Range. The monsters around here are so badass that raid parties won't grow the balls to raid here in two hundred years. The walls are like unbreakable. I mean like there's no way out of here! I spent a year leveling my character. And all for what? To get my ass beamed here with you!" The poor mage was shaking back and forth with tears running down his cheeks. FreakHead decided to crawl out of the shadows and put a sorrowful braid on the magician's arm.
"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" Steve flew three feet into the air, and by the time he landed, he sent like three fireballs into FreakHead, who was scuttering away deeper into the cavern.
"Easy, Man! Hey, Calm down! No need to scream your head off! We already have one running loose!"
"WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!"
"That's FreakHead. My loyal companion. He's quite charming when you get to know him better. And his diet is mainly Human so don't go aggravating him like that."
"I know what he is! Do even realize what you gave flesh to?"
"Wow-wow! Now, hey, giving flesh sounds pretty messed up. He's probably some malevolent spirit. Like from the Chaos plane or something."
"Some spirit? From The Chaos plane? Have you even read his characteristics?"
"Yeah, so?" I was growing a little uncomfortable because I realized that I never once opened my pet's stats.
"And? You're still oblivious as to what's going on?"
"Steve, I'm sick and tired of your overwhelming intellect play. Quit jerking yourself off. Tell me what's the matter pure and simple. It's like my third... no, fourth day in-game."
"Lvl 39 in just 4 days!!??"
" Yeah and I made the spear myself, I've got a tonne of impossible achievements, every game fraction hates me. Enough. I've heard it all a hundred times. Your excitement is turning into a serious pain in my ass. Please just try to explain what you find so crazy on like a kindergarten level.
"Jeeez..." Steve exhaled deeply, took a moment to gather himself, stared at the ceiling for a moment and proceeded to lecture me.
"Okay, where to start? So first, a little backstory. In-game in addition to this world there are the Planes. Three loosely evil ones and three loosely good ones and each of them is contained in insanely large locations. So the good ones are Light, Life, and Water (it's the same as Ice). The Evil planes are Inferno (same as fire), Death and Darkness(a.k.a. blood, pain and etc.). Together all of them form the Ring of Equilibrium. That's what our game world is called by the way. It goes something like this:" Cold births Light, Light brings Life, Life ignites the Inferno, The Inferno brings Pain, Pain leads to Death and Death makes everything cold again." - Steve drew a little hexagon in the dust and connected every point in a dot in the center.
"And it goes back the same way, but that's beside the point. So every class is based on a connection to one of these Planes. Healers Connect to the forces of Life, all the lawful players, including the Inquisitors, work with Light, Necromancers and Leeches connect to Death, Blood magic is linked to darkness and so on and so forth. I'm a Conjurer, so I'm connected to the most abundant Plane -the Inferno. So I'm capable of summoning various demonic entities to serve me, and I have access to Fire spells. But there is another plane. One outside of the Ring. The Chaos Plane. And that's the one we know almost nothing about. There are rumors that the game world is a place where the energies of this realm came into harmony. They're balanced and obey systematic laws. And Chaos is a place where they're just unbridled ideas and energy, where no laws can even exist. The concepts behind the so-called Primordial Synergies are the company's most closely guarded secret. They've got everything watched over so tight, that even the security that they have on their real accounting data look like child's play. So anyways sometimes rifts into that primordial whirlwind of a world appear. A random firestorm in the sky can some times trigger a fusion reaction, and half the continent winds up respawning indefinitely until the tech support manages to sort things out or two colliding spells can cause a glitch in the space-time equations. One time there was a small war between the Light guys and the Necro's and the field they were battling on was crushed by a three hundred-foot glacier. Or there was that one time when a Leech summoned a "Starving Spirit" but what showed up didn't register as anything even loosely resembling apparitions of the Death Plane. So Chaos like corrupts and distorts everything around it, the balance it upset, the rules are broken and the world starts changing in weird and unnatural ways even by fantasy standards. And now you show up, and summon a Being who's Chaos rating is way above one! And not only that you let the thing stay here under the guise of your pet!"
"And what does it all mean?"
"Christ... If you will imagine a guy, who considers himself to be a bonified chaotic. He does good stuff and bad stuff unpredictably just as he sees fit. He can help an old lady cross the road and then violently murder her. He can cure a sick NPC but then rob him blind. In time and he'll become a homicidal maniac which means he'll connect to the Blood or Death Planes, or like a Healer and a do-gooder through the Plane of Life. Because in the end one of his traits will outweigh the others, and he will finally find his place in the established order. So the Chaos rating defines how long a person is prone to conflicting actions. "
"Wait a second, what you're saying is that all people are inherently chaotic in the beginning? They do good or do evil judging by what suits them best in the present moment, or by what they feel like. Isn't that considered Neutral?"
"It is, but it's no that simple. The key lies in the motives. Or should I say, in the Motivation Model. A person can't be purely egoistic one moment and just as altruistic the next. He's either self-centered, and he gets self-affirmation by helping others or his an altruist who believes he can serve the common good through selfish actions. There always is that core drive. A true Chaos player doesn't have this center. They can be the best teacher in the world, they can love children whole-heartedly, but they can throw a simmering cigarette into a baby stroller. And our world rejects such madmen. And forces us the players to battle any and all manifestations of such behavior. But the players and entities with a high Chaos rating can't be coerced or forced into taking sides. Instead, they tend to contaminate their immediate surroundings with their madness. And with them - the World itself.
"And your PET, if I'm not mistaken has a rating of just a little over One. It clearly isn't undead, and for the love of God, it's completely immune to Death and Darkness spells. This isn't your baseline chimera with a mutated Life essence at its core. And it's definitely no demon because they are capable of taking on any form and they're souls are fire-based. You see death and prosecution and torture, and the lot serve as catalysts. The suffering changes the players, and in the end, they all come to choose a side. Every time they respawn, their thought process is altered. But you are bound to this thing, and it's like IT can't keep existing without you, so what I'm saying is that your head here is keeping you grounded in chaos. Anyway, what's your rating? They don't show that info next to your name, It's a little more private info."
"How do I tell?"
"Ask for a System notification."
Chaos rating: 2 (Plague of Madness)
"How bad is it? Is it more than one? "
"I think I'll keep the number to myself."
"What does it matter anyway? We still have no choice but to reroll. I'm not gonna spend years waiting in this hole for some miracle like a tectonic shift or a bunch of greedy miners digging their way in here. You'll grow bored too. Look around, dozens of players have been dumped here, and not one of them has made it out. Their dry bones and trinkets are all that remain. Hell, there's some top-notch stuff lying around here."
I examined the interior of the cavern once more. I strolled beside the wall taking making several stabs with my spear. I cut my hand, covered the pointy end in my blood, and jabbed so more. The walls did morph a little but not for long. Lush bushes of grass, walls of flesh, swarms of crawling insects all reverted into the veiny metal in a matter of seconds. I was soon distracted from my thoughts by Freakhead chewing on someone's bones.
I was blessed with another idea.
The pesky chimera kept evading me for quite some time running around the cavern and in a desperate attempt to get rid of me accidentally ended up spitting into Steve, who remained sitting in the center of our prison. When the acid hit his face, he let out a fierce wail, and the ball of light under the dome of the cave went out. In the pitch-black darkness, I tripped full speed on a heap of bones and flew headfirst into a wall. I came to in a minute or so. Hovering above the respawn point in an aura of fire, I saw the summoner lighting up the whole cave. Steve was concentrated on showering the agile apparition with fireballs, and at his feet, I saw a gnawed naked corpse.
"Try to get him into a corner!"
With air support from Steve, I managed to catch the beast, and once I wrapped its tail around my fist, I carried my raging FreakHead towards the wall.
"C'mon, Freakhead! Be a good glitch and spit at the wall for me, okay?"
The chimera obliged, and I saw a green dense and chunky liquid mass ooze down the metallic wall with no effect. I poked it with my finger. There was a nasty hissing sound as my finger began rapidly dissolving. I yawled in pain.
"Right, let's try something else. You gotta eat it. C'mon, open wide! Isn't that Adamantine just scrumptious?"
Apparently, FreakHead didn't think so. I was forced to resort to old fashioned methods of persuasion. I carefully removed my companion's spectacles and started whacking him viciously against the wall. After ten head-on collisions, my pet gave me a sad but faithful look and purred pitifully. I was ashamed as hell, but I repeated the procedure. Finally, the chimera opened it's mouth so wide I thought I broke him, but much to my relief he dug his teeth into the wall. With a most unpleasant sound, the teeth raked against the metal, setting off sparks and crumbling under pressure. I carefully placed Freakhead back on the ground, and apologetically began stroking his hair. Then his jaws snapped shut, and I was blankly staring at a bloody stump that ended half way towards my elbow.
"YOU SHIT CURSED CLUSTER FUCKED CUNT SLIME!"
I kick the dastardly head with all my might, or I try to anyway. The tip of the bolt finds it's mark in my ankle, and I'm blinded as my face begins to burn. I feel as though my body collapses under one massive cramp that spread through every muscle. I fall to the ground, and the last thing I feel is how I bite off my own tongue. I can't scream, not even grunt. Suddenly it all stops.
I awake next to a very sick looking Steve and see Freakhead slurping up my entrails helping himself from time to time with his braid. I soon notice that the body's head is burnt to a crisp.
"Don't mention it. I thought I was gonna pass out just by looking at the things."
"Hey, don't be rude! We're not things!"
"I... No, I mean the things you were doing to each other. I feel sorry for him too, it looks like he really does love you."
I sneered at the mage. Looks like in here madness really is contagious. The guy was feeling sorry for a head on spider legs that just burned it's owners face off and proceeded to munch down the remains. And now he says that the thing loves me! Not that I disagree, I know he does! But Steve was a sane and rational person, at least he was ten minutes ago.
"Hey, Fillin! If you ever escape that hole you'd do well to stay away from me. I'll be killing you thoughtfully, methodically and at least three dozen times!"
"Sup" Morgen. What did I do?"
"You, fuckface, gave me a second name! Now my character shall forever be remembered as Morgenhand the Epic Murderator! "
"That's a great name! What are you complaining about? "
"Are you kidding me?"
"Kinda, just a little nervous. I'm a little screwed at the moment. I'm brainstorming ideas on escaping an adamantine cavern."
"Yeah, I know. Your new pal is streaming your attempts live. There's an inter-continental bet going on whether or not you make it out. "
"And what are the odds?"
"Very slim, It's one to three hundred."
"Daaaaaamn. Bet my half of the cash on me breaking out."
"Your half? You're giving me seventy-five thousand gold pieces?"
"Yeah, something wrong?"
"No not at all, just that in the real world with this amount of cash I can buy the latest model of a deep orbit flyer."
"Morgen, I don't know what money in your world can buy so just consider it as compensation for your new nickname."
Freakhead was soon finished with my corpse and happily made his way towards Steve's lifeless body. When only one leg remained, he took it into his jaws and brought it to me.
"So, my little glitch, live, and let live?"
The head closed its eyes in agreement. I carefully petted him a few times. It rubbed against my hand and uttered o low purring sound.
"Steve! You want a bite?"
" No way! You're crazy!"
"If you say so."
I bit into Steve's calf. He threw up.
"Hey, what's a matter with you? It's quite tasty. And what are you gonna do? Die from hunger from time to time."
"I'd rather die from famine that resort to eating myself!"
"I can kill myself, and we'll be eating me. I'm not greedy."
"Fillin, I'm this close to rerolling, My mental state has quite some sentimental value."
" No, you're not. You're streaming your gameplay for the Bet. And I'm sure you're not doing it for free. "
"I've got a deal for a month of streaming. And I can put the capsule on autopilot. They can watch you without me as much as they like."
"Yeah I'll just kill you and to restart you'll have to re-enter the game; otherwise, your stream will only show bits and pieces. "
"Stop blackmailing me!"
"Alright, don't get your panties in a twist. Can you summon food or something?"
"I'm not a Druid, so no, I can't."
"Okay, we'll figure something out. Now I've got a wall to break."
Everything I did didn't even leave a scratch. I walked all around the cavern and collected the weapons and armor of the previous prisoners. Several hours of beating the wall with all the thrust and cut inventory gave no results. I threw all of this useless scrap metal into a heap, noting to myself that half of the stuff was legendary. Then I remembered my blood magic spells. So I cut my finger and began writing "Perditionis" on the wall (Demise).
The next instant I'm taking in the view of my mangled body which is somehow broken in half. Freakhead giddily went on to perform his disposal duties.
"I think I messed up the translation, I'll try again."
Now all that's left of me is a pile of ashes.
"Messed up again?"
"As you can see."
The room was filled with a rain of blood, and only a pair of feet was left on the spot where I stood a moment ago.
My organs were сarefully assorted in piles across several square feet and in the corner lay my neatly folded skin.
"Wow, That's interesting."
"Yeah, I'll remember this for hunting."
Several hours passed. Freakhead seemed filled to the brim but continued lazily finishing up with the results of another failed experiment.
"Right, we need to change the game plan. How many viewers have I got?"
"Almost eight million."
"That's what I call fame."
Do you wish to create an incantation?
State the desired effect.
Attention, this spell belongs to the school of Space magic. The strength of the effect and Mana cost increased x 10.
Generating spell. Spell generated: "STEP"
Effect: Teleportation of the caster in any direction for a distance no further than 3 feet. Materializing in a living subject is prohibited.
Mana cost: 2000 points.
What a surprise! Bummer-Bird, has taken me under its wing once again. I studied my stats and spent all my do points on increasing my intellect. When I finished, I was still nine hundred Mana points short.
"Steve! Have you got any bling that boosts the intellect stat?"
"Yeah, but they're designed specifically for members of our order. Why?"
"I have a new idea. Let's search the remains of the players. I'm 45 points short."
After five hours of digging around in the dead bodies of the sissy players, we finally found what we were looking for.
Great Ring of Intelligence
INT + 20
"Is there anything else?"
"No such luck. Of course, we can rummage in the stuff for the eighth time, but I doubt we missed anything. I need five more levels."
"And how are you planning on getting them?"
When Steve saw the look on my face, he began waving his hands in panic.
"No! No! No! Don't even think about it! You can get XP for killing a single player only once a week!"
"I've got plenty of time, besides..." - I drove my transformed claws into Steve's face. The light went out. - 'I've only got to kill you one hundred and eighth nine times."
The next second and angry conjurer appeared in the respawn circle.
"Right. Firstly it'll take three years, and I bet you didn't take into account that the amount of experience you'll get for killing me will be slowly decreasing because of your higher levels and a lack of any resistance from my part. Secondly, there's no way in hell I'm sticking around here for that long!"
'Okay, you got me. But hey, I don't even need to kill you, you can conjure up demons, can't you!?
"I can. Wait, are you suggesting that we farm my demon? MY demon!? I can't even imagine the restrictions and fines I'll get for doing that!"
"But you're gonna reroll anyway, and you'll help me out a great deal. If this works, I'll give you five percent of the take. With those kinds of odds, I stand to get filthy rich!"
"Yeah, like how much did you bet? A hundred gold pieces? I'm not about to spend a month locked up with you for a measly fifteen hundred."
"I bet seventy-five...
"That makes even less!!"
"You didn't let me finish. I bet seventy-five THOUSAND gold pieces."
Steve spaced out. First, to count the amount of cash he stood to make and then because of realizing just the number that could be seen on his bank account.
"For that amount of cash I'll... Shit! You know simple chalk isn't that great for drawing a quality pentagram. But I'll manage."
"So what are we waiting for?"
In about an hour, the Conjuror was standing at the edge of a summoning glyph drawn with dried blood. I was dragging two bloodless bodies of my new partner in crime away to the wall.
After several verses of throaty chanting, a six-foot tall horned creature rose above the pentagram.
"What is your bidding, mortal?"
"Can you get us some regular human food?"
"You insult me, human."
"Okay, Dig a tunnel out of here."
"You fools. How can I dig a tunnel into the heart of a dead God?"
"Can you get me out of here? Me and my friend here?"
"Only into my realm, mortal." The demon gave a gleeful smile.
"Well then accept our condolences."
My and FreakHeads dual stealth attack didn't leave him any chances. The chimera's tail went into the back of his skull, and my spear went straight into his privates.
"We've got demon on the menu. Steve, can you roast this stuff?"
"Yeah, no problem."
"Can I tempt you with a bite?"
"Let's just wait until it's cooked, okay?"
The taste of the demon roast was superb. The thick blood went well with the aroma, and it was just the right kind of spicy. That was one hell of a barbeque.
The scent of the meat was irresistible, and the mage ended up helping himself to a serving. As it turned out, demon meat worked wonders for restoring Mana. In two hours, we repeated the ritual.
"You forget yourself, Worms!"
FreakHead utilizes another two hundred pounds of dead meat.
After the fifteenth time, the demon appeared with a neat picnic basket. And we were able to wash down the demon roast with dry wine.
After the fourteenth time:
"Gentlemen, please don't hurt me anymore, I'm just a little fiend. I'm just over two hundred years old."
We found some mercy on our hearts and let the poor historical beast go in peace. After that, I lent Steve my shirt and shit started to get real interesting. The next demon we were we to summon swatted us like flies. But to be sure about our experimental results, we repeated the ritual. The next beast was different, and we were able to take him out. Now things were getting interesting. We were able to kill just one out of every five, but the amounts of XP we were getting were twice as large.
On the next day, Steve happily announced that his live translations gathered roughly twenty million followers.
Our demonic diet didn't just bring enlarged quantities of XP. Every kill increased my reputation with the Cryomancers thanks to my "Demonslayer" tittle plus increased my damage against all creatures from the Inferno realm. In a few weeks, I got a system notification.
You have gained the title "Infernal Lion." The Plane of Inferno acknowledges only brute force. The power hierarchy in this dangerous and violent realm is one with the food chain. You have proven that you are not a simple foe, but are in fact a predator, who slays demons for food, and not for the glory of his gods. Reputation with the Order of Conjurers has been changed to Suspicion.
Gained 70 000 XP
Fire resistance increased by 50%
I was baffled. There wasn't a smidge of logic in all of this. Steve said that he got a similar message and that even his nik changed to "Steven the Dominant." FreakHead grew a sizable pair of cheeks and a second chin. He looked really adorable, and Steve took in the habit of gently slapping those massive decaying cheeks and calling him a cute little hamster. Usually, he turned soft after a bottle or two of the fine Brandy that his original demon kept serving us. The poor creature was ready to bring us drinks and appetizers by the truckloads just so we wouldn't kill him anymore. As it turned out when demons keep getting killed, they're lowered in rank which leads to all kinds of bad stuff happening to you including bodily metamorphosis.
Another three weeks passed, and finally, Day X was upon us. At last, I got my long-awaited forty-fourth level.
"So are you finally going to show me what we needed all those levels for?"
"For this! "
I activated the spell and was jet-propelled three feet in front of me.
"That's it!?" - Steve's eyes first showed bewilderment but then switched to utter disappointment
I took a drink of demon's blood, quickly restoring my Mana and approached the wall.
"What happens when an unbreakable indestructible metal from the heart of a dead God" - I jammed a knife into my skull meeting the gaze of a freaking-out-Steve - 'meets an unkillable invincible jet-propelled body?"
I hit the Teleportation spell and jumped towards the adamantine wall. In the last seconds of my immortality, I witness a glorious bright white flash of searing light. The flame of freedom.