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A note from James Northman

Quick Note: Yesterday I released Chapter 17 - Part 3, which led to some really good engagement from commenters. I realised that I had moved a subplot in the wrong direction, so I went back and edited it. I'm still learning as I go along, and after reading it over, I'm much happier with the edits that I created with input from you. So thank you for that. For those that are wondering if they read the current version. See below. 


Spoiler: Spoiler

I went back and edited Chapter 1, back on July 31st. It added a new character, Darius, who runs the slum arcades. I just wanted to point this out to people as it has had a ripple effect and changed some of the finances in later chapters. 

I've received some new Patrons! Their characters will be making appearances in the chapters to come! 

Thanks again all of you for reading this. It's so heartwarming to know that there are people that enjoy my story. :) 

"Jackal, can you give me the main points about character creation in Abidden from the Loremaster file?"

James asked as he stared longingly at the coffee machine in his kitchen. If he was going to be spending prolonged time in the game, he didn't want to test fate by drinking a diuretic just before logging in.

Certainly. Your Abidden Character consists of two different sets of data. Your tutorial assessment in addition to records of previous gameplay will account for 20% of your overall stats. Your interview in the Pantheon of the Gods will determine the remaining 80% of your beginning stats.

"Okay, and what are the main stats?"

Strength, Charisma, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity and Luck. These stats are represented by Lesser Gods in Abidden.

James paced around the kitchen, his eyes repeatedly being drawn towards the coffee machine in the corner.

"Are there any correlations between the stats and success ratings?"

He asked as he looked at the list of Threats on the window-screen. If he was going to be successful in Abidden, he needed a reliable character that was tied to his strengths.

The most popular combination has been Strength and Intelligence. The best available example was Greaves as the General of Light. Strategic leadership combined with solo combat capability made him the most statistically successful player.

"What other type of success is there?"

James laughed as his eyes scanned through the list in front of him, wondering about all the different stat combinations.

The most successful player in Abidden, was Scarr.

The E-Classer paused, not sure if he had just heard that sentence correctly.

"Scarr? You're telling me that Don Orso was the most successful player? How?!"

James asked incredulously.

Scarr's relationship ratings were the highest amongst the NPC's in the game. In the role of a Hero in the world of Abidden, Don Orso was the most successful.

"What were his main stats?"

Scarr played as The Monk. He was a mix between Charisma and Strength.

"He never used to play as a strength based character, I wonder why he chose it."

James answered in genuine confusion. Back when they played together, Scarr was a stealth type character that preferred to avoid confrontation.

A point of heated debate around the game was that Scarr would have been a great player if he took it more seriously. Others believe that he was set up to fail by the game allocating him a strength based character.

"Allocated, I thought it was an interview?"

James walked over to the screen which contained all the files from the Loremasters.

A character is created around the choices made in the Pantheon. The Player can decide to keep the resulting character, or they can start again from the beginning.

After seeing that Jackal's words were correct, James sighed and shook his head. He was even more confused than before.

What are you thinking?

"Don was the most successful character because he played the role. I need to do the same, and be a successful Villain on paper. Nox will definitely be wanting the statistical information... so I'll need to focus on building up relationships like Don did."

Jackal remained quiet as James once again paced around the room.

"I think that Intelligence is a must-have for the game. As for the secondary stat, I'd probably lean towards Wisdom."

What is your reasoning for that?

"Intelligence and Wisdom would enable me to become a magic based character. It would allow me to lead groups of people too. I already know how to fight up close and personal, so I might as well add skills that I don't have. Magic is something I definitely don't have."

That is a wise choice.

James paused for a moment as he heard Jackal's words.

"Why do you think so?"

He queried, hoping to get a better insight into whatever logic she had just applied to the situation.

I am from the same programming as Locke. I saw the same data from your tutorials as well as the footage of your fights from a decade ago. The conclusion I would come to, as would Locke, is that your dominant stat is Intelligence.

"Excellent, so it's decided. I'm going to be an Intelligence and Wisdom orientated character. This is good."

James smiled as he looked at the awaiting rig.

"Is it almost time, Jackal?"

Yes, you have another ten minutes before login. You've just received a voice message from Aliyah Dreyfus, would you like me to play it?"

"Please."

James answered as he took a seat. He wondered if this message was being sent to all of the Players, or if it was just for him.

"Hey James!"

Definitely just for him, he thought.

"I know you're probably excited to login, so I won't keep you too long. I just wanted to give you a few bits of information to put your mind at ease! You and the other two Wildcards are going to start the game in a protected state. Since Elvira and Kell don't have a gaming background, and you haven't been in any official games in over ten years, we thought it would be a good way to ease you into the new environment!"

Taking a seat, James glanced at the screen which now displayed the countdown timer into the game.

"You're probably thinking, Aliyah! Why would I need to be under protection?! Don't worry about it! Myself and Quentin felt it would be best for all the Wildcards to get on their feet first. You'll be able to explore a bit, build up some reputation... start on your quests, take it easy for a bit until you're comfortable. The protected state is only one-way. The Heroes won't know that you exist. You'll get to see them and everything they do. Sounds creepy, doesn't it?"

James couldn't help but smile. He could almost see Aliyah in front of him talking excitedly about the whole thing.

"The only way for the protected state to end, is to attack a Hero. Your sponsors have been informed that you'll have a brief adjustment period, so they'll know you're not going to hit the ground running!"

That comment caused James to actually bark a laugh.

There was no way Nox was going to be lenient.

If he thought he could envision Aliyah's happy communication style, he could definitely see Nox's uncaring attitude to his situation.

"Lastly, we spent a lot of time on all of the Villain Classes, each of them are balanced... even if they may not appear that way from the beginning. The Gods aren't going to be too easy on you either... ahh, I could end up saying too much! Remember to have fun!"

A moment of silence followed the message before Jackal spoke again.

That's the end of the recorded message. Would you like to hear it again?

"No thank you, Jackal. It looks like it's time to get ready!"

James exclaimed excitedly as he started to take off his clothing. Underneath was his bodysuit which he had been wearing in anticipation for hours.

Good luck, James.

"Thanks Jackal, I'll talk to you later."

With that said, James climbed into the rig and lay down. As each of the needles pressed into his back, he realised that it didn't hurt as much as he thought they would. The anaesthetic was doing its job and the pain was almost completely nullified.

Closing his eyes, he knew he wouldn't be able to wipe the smile from his face even if he tried.

"Log In."


When James opened his eyes, he froze completely. He was in an open area with cobbled stones beneath his bare feet. What caused him to stop in shock was the torrent of sensations that washed over his body. Warmth emanated from the torches that adorned the walls on either side of him. A gentle breeze brushed past his face to continue flowing behind him unobstructed. The soles of his feet felt damp, and upon looking down, James noticed that there was moisture on the stone.

Listening intently, he could hear the crackling of the fire... the breeze, a dripping from above and a deathly silence from the darkness in front of him. In all of his years playing games in Virtual Reality, he had never before witnessed anything like this. It felt like he was actually transported to another world.

Taking a step forward, James' eyes widened at the immediate sensation. There was no lag, he had to make absolutely no adjustments to the settings. Everything was ridiculously smooth.

It was terrifying.

Please make your way forward.

The Pantheon Awaits

The status screen melted away with a simple thought and James simply stood there, summoning it back before dismissing it and repeating.

James took a breath and was surprised to find that his chest rose as he did it.

Inspecting the basics, James was astounded to find that his character was blinking, breathing and moving all the way his normal body would react.

Laughing to himself like a child, James started to jump around and tumble. His reaction speed and balance was just as good as it had ever been in a game.

The tutorial had completely lulled him into a false sense of security. The missions he had carried out were basic and they had some beautiful graphics.

"But this is like another world."

James muttered to himself as he started to walk towards the darkness.

As he continued to enjoy each of the sensations that interacted with his body, James wondered what a fight would feel like. Would the pain be just as realistic?

The lights around him grew brighter as the once narrow hallway expanded out to become a large open space.

Gigantic columns of stone held up the dome shaped roof. In the centre of the room were a number of pedestals, eight to be exact.

The characteristics of each of the Gods was incredible. James wanted to go up to them and touch them to see what their armours and materials felt like.

"Approach."

A resounding voice that sounded like thunder itself echoed out from everywhere at once. It's owner stood proudly on one of the smaller six pedestals. His body was adorned with full-plate crimson armour.

A gigantic greatsword hung from his back and a battle axe rested firmly in his grip as he spoke.

"I have judged you."

You have been acknowledged by the God of Strength, Brutus.

James instinctively started to walk towards the dais which held Brutus, when a flash of light momentarily obscured his vision.

Without thinking, James threw himself backward but it was too late, the blade had caught him in the left eye.

Your actions have greatly offended the Goddess of Intelligence, Calista.

Falling to his knees, James clutched at his eye in horror. The pain was dulled, but he definitely felt that attack.

Blinking his eyes, he immediately realised something was very very wrong.

A status window popped up and showed him what had just happened.

Calista's Rage:

  • Your Left Eye has been permanently Blinded
    • -50% Vision
    • -50% Awareness
    • -50% Balance
    • -50% Perception

James just stared at the screen in complete disbelief.

"I didn't even fucking start!"

He exclaimed in exasperation, but as he looked up he felt the air completely leave his chest.

"You dare to disrespect me further?"

Calista hissed at him.

The Goddess of Intelligence was covered in a golden robe which seemed to continually flow like a river. In her hand was a long and intricate quill made of metal.

"I apologise for... disrespecting you."

James answered in a strained voice. Why of all the Gods to pick a fight with him, did it have to be Calista?

Calista snorted derisively.

"As if I would believe those excuses. You're clearly scheming something... we'll have to put an end to that!"

Calista's Rage:

  • You have suffered a permanent reduction of -2 to Intelligence.

"This is balanced, Aliyah? What fucking part of this is balanced?"

James asked aloud, knowing that he had no choice but to completely restart the character creation.

"You dare to mock me?"

Your actions have greatly offended the Goddess of Intelligence, Calista.

"Of course they did..."

James muttered before he looked up at the venomous eyes bearing down on him. The quill that was in her hand started to detach piece by piece until it had turned into what looked like a flail.

With the knowledge that he was going to restart the character selection, James decided to go all in.

"Yes Calista, I'm daring to mock you."

A musical laugh echoed out from one of the other pedestals, but the flashing of light warned James that it would be very foolish to take his attention off Calista.

Leaping backward, James avoided the strike perfectly.

He stared at the Goddess defiantly.

Calista's Rage:

  • You have suffered a permanent reduction of -2 to Intelligence.

"Is that all you can do?"

James shouted in annoyance as he watched his starting stats dwindle in front of him.

"You could have been Revered with my people, but you threw that away..."

Calista hissed at James who was completely dumbstruck at how the situation had skyrocketed out of proportion.

Calista's Rage:

  • You have suffered a permanent reduction of -2 to Intelligence.

"Let me get this straight... because I moved a step towards Brutus, you've decided to blind me and take away all of my Intelligence stat?"

James asked in complete disbelief.

He knew that there was no way he could have prepared for this level of crazy.

Calista simply sneered down from her pedestal.

"I graced the Pantheon. You should have fallen on your feet to thank me."

James gaped at the Goddess, not sure how to process any of this.

"Instead of falling on your feet, you approach... that mindless brute!"

Before James could say anything, Calista waved her hand.

Calista's Rage:

  • You have suffered a permanent reduction of -3 to Intelligence.

"Unacceptable."

Calista shook her head as though she was genuinely disappointed.

Calista's Rage: (Complete)

  • Your intelligence has reduced to 0.
  • You will be unable to learn new skills
  • You will be unable to comprehend texts
  • You will be unable to perceive or inspect

"Now... I am satisfied."

Calista smirked victoriously.

James just stared at the screen in front of him.

"I literally took one step."

An old but strong voice carried out from another pedestal.

"Intellect is the gateway to the Arcanum. Without the ability to reason or learn, you'll never be able to achieve true Wisdom. You will never channel mana or wield magic... I would never wish your fate on anyone. Take care, my child."

The voice was filled with a genuine sorrow that hit James squarely in the chest.

Following the direction of the sound with his remaining eye, James watched as a blue robed man with a short beard turned away.

Magnus' Disappointment: (Complete)

  • Your inability to learn has forced The God of Wisdom to reject you.
The God of Wisdom, Magnus, has left the Pantheon.

James stared emotionlessly at the now empty pedestal where Magnus once stood.

Without another word, James moved over to stand in front of Brutus.

"What are you offering me?"

James asked bluntly, he was no longer entertained by this selection process.

What he needed to do now was learn. He needed to know about each of the Gods so that this fiasco wouldn't happen a second time.

If James wanted to complete this assessment perfectly, he needed more information.

Would you like to choose Brutus?
 
You will gain:
 
Base Stats Change:
  • +50 Strength
Equipment Granted:
  • Sword of Holy Might (Legendary)
    • 35-52 Damage
    • +50 Damage Against Undead
Abilities Granted:
  • Cleaving Strike
  • Fists of Fire
  • Wall of Iron
Faction Reputation Change:
  • Human Starting Reputation:
    • Friendly
  • Beastmen Starting Reputation:
    • Friendly
  • Orc Starting Reputation:
    • Friendly

"Okay, I've no idea if that's good."

James muttered as he looked through the list. The main thing he rejoiced in seeing, was that Character Stats could be allocated as rewards.

"Wait."

Looking back at the group of the Gods, James' vision narrowed on Brutus.

"According to Jackal, 20% of my stats are determined already before I enter this room... and 80% of my stats are to be granted through this negotiation."

James locked his remaining eye on Calista.

"If I already had 9 points of intelligence that you took from me... and we assume that ALL of my stats were in Intelligence. That means my 80% gained during this shit show should be at least 45 stat points!"

Calista continued to glower at him from her pedestal, but James' attention moved back to Brutus.

"That's not true though, because the other Gods wouldn't have come to visit if I didn't have any aptitude in their areas. So lets add another 4 to my points, 1 for each additional God."

James was on a roll as he did the math in his head, trying to figure out the system in front of him.

"My 20% stats that I walked in here with is now 13, which makes the 80% you're supposed to give me... 52 stat points."

James smiled widely at Brutus.

"Yet, you're only offering me +50 to Strength?"

The God of Strength slammed his battle axe down against the pedestal at his feet.

"You scheming types deserve each other. There is no place for cowardice within my Tower."

Brutus snapped as he looked between James and Calista.

Brutus' Annoyance: (Complete)

  • You have ungraciously insulted Brutus' offer.
The God of Strength, Brutus, has left the Pantheon.

"Of course he did."

James laughed humorlessly as he looked at the other pedestals.

In front of him was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen in his life. Her smile was enchanting and he felt so at ease around her that he couldn't put it into words.

Snap!

James shook his head in confusion. Looking at the Goddess in front of him, he saw that her fingers had just clicked. Her slender form was covered in fitted leathers.

He couldn't explain it, but up until a moment ago he felt like he needed to make her happy. More than anything.

You have been acknowledged by the Goddess of Charisma, Locke.

"Wait... Locke?"

James' eye widened as he realised who was in front of him.

A shrill voice from his left side made him shudder in revulsion. Calista was once again speaking at him.

"It looks like your options are dwindling fast. Since you probably wouldn't figure it out without me, I'll let you in on a little secret."

Calista's venomous voice carried across the dome.

"That cowl covered freak beside Locke, he's a nobody... no race, no disciples, no temples. He's a forgotten God. And Locke, let me tell yo-"

James turned around to look at the Goddess of Intelligence with a wide eye.

"That's what you're doing!"

Calista faltered for a moment.

"The other Gods left... that's what you're aiming for, isn't it?"

James was amazed. This was all a virtual reality game, and he had almost been completely suckered by the scheming of an artificial intelligence. Not even a full AI, it was a segment of the real thing.

The One-Eyed man laughed as he looked at Locke with a bemused expression on his face. She really was incredible for being able to build all of this.

With Calista now in his sight, James tried to get to the end of it.

"You wanted to remove the competition so I wouldn't have anyone else to turn to? Was that it?"

Calista's face contorted in anger, but she didn't raise her quill to attack this time.

James knew he was right.

"Okay then, Calista... show me your offer."

A sinister smirk was all that he got back before a screen appeared before him.

You have been acknowledged by the Goddess of Intelligence, Calista.
Would you like to choose Calista?
 
You will gain:
 
Base Stats Change:
  • +60 Intelligence
  • +9 Restored Intelligence
Equipment Granted:
  • Quill of Destiny (Legendary)
    • +250% Writing Proficiency (Runes, Scriptures, Spellwords)
    • +75 Damage Against Humanoids
  • Monocle of Foresight (Heirloom Grade) - Level 1
    • Minor Precognition (Predict Attack Movements)
    • Steal Sight (Ability Acquisition)
    • Restoration of Sight 10%
Abilities Granted:
  • Linguist
  • Rune Reader
  • Quick Thinking
Faction Reputation Change:
  • Goblin Starting Reputation:
    • Honoured
  • Elven Starting Reputation:
    • Friendly
  • Human Starting Reputation:
    • Neutral
  • Beastmen Starting Reputation:
    • Neutral
  • Orc Starting Reputation:
    • Neutral
  • Demon Starting Reputation:
    • Hated
  • Vampire Starting Reputation:
    • Hated
  • Undead Starting Reputation:
    • Hated

James looked at the sheet for a few moments before a smile appeared on his face.

"A God leaves the Pantheon, and the stats reward goes up by 10?"

Calista folded her arms, but the musical laughter radiated again from Locke.

James looked at the pedestals for a moment before it hit him.

"8 Pedestals... 10 stat points each?"

The scowl on Calista's face only made James happier.

"Which means that you needed to get rid of the other Gods... so that you'd be able to give me up to 80 stat points?"

James looked at the screen in front of him as he tried to piece it all together.

"Magnus left. Brutus left. The God or Goddess of Luck didn't show up. Prime Evil and Prime Good didn't arrive either... so each of you can offer the stats those Gods didn't allocate?"

His remaining eye locked onto Calista again, but then more specifically. Her quill.

"The higher the stats you can give, the better the equipment?"

James asked as he looked at Calista's furious face.

"Ding, Ding, Ding..."

Locke was laughing now as she hopped to a closer pedestal.

Her beautiful eyes were locked on James, excitement written all over her face.

It was like everything suddenly clicked for James.

He had convinced himself that he wanted an intelligence based character from the very beginning. It was his main strength in his own opinion, even Jackal had suggested it to be a close match to his playstyle. What he hadn't anticipated was Calista's literal God complex which completely derailed his plans.

After a few more moments of thought, James decided that he needed to get rid of Calista to see what offers were on the table from the other two Gods. Once he saw what was on offer, he'd be able to make the best decision after restarting the character selection process.

James took a quick look at the offer one more time before he purposefully burst out laughing.

"Honoured with the Goblins? That cannon fodder race? Who the hell would accept that?"

The flash this time was much faster as Calista's quill screamed towards his face. Her high pitched shriek threatened to deafen him completely.

"Whoa, I wish you took my ears instead of my eye so I wouldn't have to listen to that damn pig squeal of a voice!"

James goaded the Goddess again and again as he dodged each of her attacks. His nimbleness allowed him to dance away from practically every attempt she threw at him.

You have been acknowledged by the God of Dexterity, Dervius.

He ignored the notification. He guessed his fancy footwork had impressed the God he had yet to speak to.

Calista's shouts of anger continued to rain down on him, and James decided it would be better to start twisting the knife.

"You know... you took my eye. You took my intelligence stats and you've alienated me from the Gods of Strength and Wisdom, all for your own selfish goals."

James shouted back at Calista as he pointed a finger directly at her.

"But this moment right now, is the weakest I'll ever be... so take advantage of it. Enjoy it, because I'm coming for you!"

You are creating a Quest.

"I'm going to start my journey in Abidden, and I'm going to find your little fucking Goblins."

James laughed in a sinister voice.

"I'm going to kill every last one of them..."

Calista hesitated and her quill slowed for a moment at those words.

"Then I'm going to find all your temples, and I'm going to burn them to the ground."

The Goddess of Intelligence was completely white in the face, and James couldn't tell if it was from shock, fear or unadulterated rage.

"You can send your Disciples and Worshippers. I'll kill them too."

Her grating voice, now crackling in fury never sounded sweeter to James.

"You wouldn't dare!"

The E-Classer grinned up at the Goddess and laughed.

"Then I'm going to find you, Calista, and I'm going to kill you too."

User has created a Quest!
  • Kill all the Goblins - 0% Complete
  • Kill all the Disciples - 0% Complete
  • Kill all the Worshippers - 0% Complete
  • Destroy Temples of Goddess Calista - 0/8
  • Kill the Goddess Calista - 0/1 Complete
Do you wish to Accept this Quest?

"Yes, I'd love to accept that quest."

James practically sang as he confirmed it with his mind.

Calista's quill began to glow an electric yellow for the briefest of moments before she threw her arm forward with a wild-eyed expression on her face.

Lightning coursed through her and bolted directly at James who merely laughed in response. Maybe his goading was a little too much.

James closed his remaining eye but felt absolutely nothing from the blast. When he looked up, he saw an incredibly handsome man standing in front of him wielding a crescent moon scythe in his hands.

The pedestal where Calista once stood was now vacant.

You have shamed the Goddess Calista.
The Goddess of Intelligence, Calista, has left the Pantheon.

"Success! I thought she'd never leave."

James laughed as he moved closer to the pedestals. Before he could even blink, Dervius was back on the dais beside Locke.

"I don't suppose either of you Gods know how to grant me intelligence or give me back an eye?"

He asked as he took a seat on the ground. James didn't know if there was a stamina bar, but the constantly evading Calista's attacks had been an annoyance.

The God Dervius is grateful towards you for shaming the Goddess Calista.

"Thank you for not selecting Calista."

Dervius spoke in a gentle voice as he pulled down his cowl.

Whatever James had anticipated, it wasn't for the God of Dexterity to be a Vampire.

"I hope it will be enough to entice you."

He offered with a slight smile.

Would you like to choose Dervius?
 
You will gain:
 
Base Stats Change:
  • +70 Dexterity
  • +50 Aim (Trait Granted via Heirloom)
Equipment Granted:
  • Aimpatch (Heirloom Grade) - Level 1
    • Restores Sight - 20%
    • +10 Aim
    • +10 Dexterity
  • Moonlight Pistol (Heirloom Grade) - Level 1
    • 25-38 Damage
    • +25% Damage vs. Goblins
    • +25% Damage with Crackshot
    • +25% Speed with Quickdraw
Abilities Granted:
  • Crackshot
  • Quickdraw
  • Swift Dash
  • Swift Dodge
Faction Reputation Change:
  • Demon Starting Reputation:
    • Respected
  • Vampire Starting Reputation:
    • Honoured
  • Undead Starting Reputation:
    • Neutral
  • Remnant Starting Reputation:
    • Unknown
 
Unique Quest Line:
  • Unlocked: Quest to become a Disciple of Dervius

"It's like I can see your resolve to restart your character breaking piece by piece."

Locke teased from her pedestal.

James was about to protest, but Locke wasn't done.

"I'm about to make it even harder on you."

You have received a Special Quest from the Goddess of Charisma, Locke.

 

 

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A note from James Northman

Thanks for reading! If you've enjoyed the story, and you'd like to help me out, please feel free to leave a rating. Alternatively, if you have a look at the reviews, if there are any of them that you agree with, could you give them an upvote? It'll help the users that took the time to leave reviews on the story. 

The next chapter will completely depend on how I feel after binge watching all of Umbrella Academy. 

James


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About the author

James Northman

Bio: Irishman struggling to get through the #LitRPG Tutorial Island.

Currently writing Wildcards: Book 1 - The Dread Pirate

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