James walked slowly around the shoreline. The Dread lake looked so eerily calm under the moonlight, but he knew that was far from the truth. The monsters that he had seen and sensed during the time he was selecting his demonic contract made him sure that there were some fearsome beasts lurking in the Dread Lake, just waiting for their time to strike.
As James paced around his first battlefield, he noticed something odd. The corpses that had been left by Shari looked like they were forcibly dragged away. While that might not seem weird, the fact that the trails of blood led straight into the Dread Lake... felt a bit ominous. James decided not to think too much about what might have pulled the corpses into the water.
"Ugh, how long have you been here?"
Shari panted as she finally arrived at the shoreline. Her face was covered in a smile and James genuinely felt as though she would have been just as happy to win as she would be to lose.
"Not very long, well done on catching up!"
James praised her before gesturing towards the walls in the distance.
"I'm guessing that is Rayth?"
Shari followed his gesture to see a large wooden barrier that was haphazardly propped between two mismatched pillars. It was like someone had created a crude checkpoint that would require at least two men to move.
Her normally cheerful voice became quite subdued as she nodded her head and answered.
"Yeah, that's Rayth. It's a corrupt little cesspit filled with a lot of big personalities."
James couldn't help but smile at the description.
"Sounds like a great place for us to establish a lair and build up the Dread Faction!"
Shari merely nodded as she lifted her cowl to cover her face. James couldn't help but notice that she was quieter than her normally bubbly and happy self.
"Are you worried about the Escravo Cartel?"
James attempted to figure out what was upsetting the Rogue.
With her face now obscured, James was unable to read her expression as she spoke.
"I felt powerless because of them. If you hadn't arrived, I would have a very different life right now..."
Shari's voice was bitter as she steeled herself. She didn't want to go anywhere near Rayth, but she needed to overcome her fears, just like she did when she accepted the quest to become stronger.
"I was able to kill them in the forest with your help, but there's an army of them in there..."
The Rogue's true fear was revealed in that final sentence which caused James to sigh heavily in relief.
"Don't worry, Shari! We're going to destroy the Escravo Cartel together."
|You have created a Faction Quest.|
"Ugh, I'm literally the worst at this game."
James groaned as he saw the prompt appear in front of him. He had thought he'd be able to get away with saying at least one cool sentence before the game slapped him with an experience sucking quest.
"Fine, show me then."
He muttered angrily as Shari looked at him strangely.
The Dread Pirate has created a Faction Quest!
Do you wish to Accept this Quest?
|Shari has joined the Faction Quest.|
James paused when he saw how quickly she had accepted the mission.
"Only another 83% to go!"
He laughed as he accepted the mission.
You have officially launched an ongoing Faction Quest.
New Faction members can join the Quest while it is active.
Rewards shall be based on individual contribution.
"Okay, this is different from the last time. Did it take any of my experience?"
James spoke aloud as he quickly brought up his stats.
|Contracted Demon:||Otto (Void Demon)|
"No, not that one. The one with the attributes."
James muttered as he tried to find the character screen that would show him his experience and progress.
|Charisma||1||20 (Standard Lvl 5: +1)||21|
|Dexterity||4||72 (Standard Lvl 5: +2) (Aimpatch: +10)||86|
"Not what I was looking for, but... I got extra attributes for getting to Standard Level 5?"
James thought for a moment before looking up at Shari.
"Hey Shari, can you share your stats with me please?"
The Rogue didn't even hesitate before her screen appeared in front of James' vision.
|Shari would like to share her stats with you.|
James immediately accepted and was rewarded with her stats.
|Dexterity||5||9 (Standard Lvl 15: +9) (Sylvians Knife: +2)||16|
It didn't take long for James to see the pattern between the different stats. Because he chose Dervius and completed the quest with Locke, he had his attribute reward split between Charisma and Dexterity.
"So at standard level, we gain three attribute points every five levels. Mine are split, but you get them all into dexterity."
James spoke out loud to formulate his thoughts. He was surprised when he heard Shari's voice offer in another piece of context.
"Our health increases incrementally with each level, but gains a large jump if we get to a higher rank."
|Shari would like to share her status with you.|
James glanced at the wording of it and felt silly for constantly willing his stats to appear.
He repeated for himself, whilst also accepting Shari's offered window.
|The Dread Pirate Sylvian|
|Status Effects: Blessing of the Vampire God|
|Health Points: 200 / 200|
|Experience Bar: 72.3%|
|Abilities on Cooldown: None|
"Health is two hundred, but it was around one hundred and forty before. I'm getting twelve additional health points per level up. That's good!"
James sighed in relief as he realised that he wouldn't be at risk of constantly dying from a single attack.
|The Rogue Shari|
|Status Effects: Blessing of the Vampire God|
|Health Points: 375 / 375|
|Experience Bar: 46.1%|
|Abilities on Cooldown: Spectral Cloak (1 minute 12 seconds remaining)|
"Why do you have so much more health than me?"
James asked in total disbelief as he looked at Shari's stats. He knew she was a higher level, but the difference was ridiculous.
Shari's smile returned to her face as she laughed at the outburst.
"I started with one hundred and fifty health, I gained an extra fifteen with each level up."
James looked back at his own and wondered why he was getting shafted by the system.
He initially was just curious about the difference in statistics, but now he was comparing his own progress with Shari. Despite the questions that filled his head, he was delighted that he had a follower that was growing in strength.
Shari's voice reached his ears once more and James looked up to listen to her.
"I think they recognise us."
James turned around and saw that a number of armed men appeared just in front of the gate. One of them had a longbow in his hand, with an arrow at the ready should they decide to start fighting.
Shari looked at James as if to ask what way they should best proceed with the situation and James gave it some thought. He wanted to be smart about how he did this. It was still his first day in the game and he hadn't really achieved that much. A part of him wanted to test out his Roguish Charm ability when selling the loot from the previous battles. Another part of him wanted to explore the streets of the town and interact with NPCs. Yet, another desire kept overriding all of those thoughts. The moon was high in the sky, casting the whole town in its glow. The Escravo Cartel were standing threateningly at the front of the gate, and James knew he was about to make a rash decision.
"Shari, how many Escravo cartel did you kill today?"
James asked suddenly as he studied the men in the distance.
Shari began to count on her fingers before pausing.
"Should I include the ones that you left for me on the beach?"
The Dread Pirate nodded, which Shari factored into her calculations. After a few moments, she had her answer.
"24 Slavers in total."
James' eye widened at the response. He hadn't expected it to be that many at all. He checked the Faction mission again before looking at the tiny yellow octopus on his shoulder.
"I know you killed at least five of them."
A tiny tentacle raised proudly into the air and James took that as an agreement from the little murder octopus.
"And I killed a few too. Which means that if we have seventeen percent already killed, that's roughly two slavers per percentage point..."
James sighed heavily as he looked at the gate again. He needed to be sure that this was the right decision to make.
Shari's laugh burst out from behind him.
"By Dervius himself, I thought you were going to suggest we fight the remaining eighty seven percent tonight."
James didn't share her mirth as he turned to look at her again.
"Otto, what do you think?"
As James looked at the little guy, he wondered why he assumed a murder octopus would have a moral compass.
A few more seconds passed before Otto raised his tentacle in the air, which loosely pointed towards the gate.
James grinned and spread his arms wide as he explained his idea to Shari.
"So... we need to get stronger. They keep attacking us. We're more powerful in moonlight, and Otto wants to kill some people. I say we go in and get rid of this Cartel once and for all. What do you think?"
Shari didn't even hesitate.
"Let's do it!"
James laughed as he shook his head.
"Yeah, it's only about... one hundred and sixty six slavers. No pressure."
With that said, he burst forward at high speed while raising his Moonlight Pistol in front of him.
Camila gave one of her girls a sly wink from behind the bar. The serving girl smiled in response as she subtlety emptied a small vial into one of the drinks on her tray. Her victim was unsuspecting as he flirted outrageously with one of the other girls that sat on his lap. His face was flushed red and his stories only became more and more outlandish in vain attempts to impress the young women. Each of their smiles was practiced and precise, their laughs were perfectly timed and their hands touched his face and arms at all the right moments to hint at a higher attraction. They were predators, and he was prey.
That man wasn't alone, he was simply a Patron of the Veil, a Brothel in Rayth. Many men, just like him, were in various states of undress throughout the building. Each of them went through the phases like a rite of passage. They walk into the bar on the ground floor and tell themselves that they're only in to look at the girls and to have a few drinks. They're either apprehensive or confident after the first round of diluted drinks, before they then attempt eye contact with a few of the more premier employees of the Veil. When their drinks eventually take hold, they start to desire any company that will listen to them. The rich ones would have their pockets emptied while the smart ones would be pressed for information. The Veil Network was for all intents and purposes, an information brokerage and spy network. Its Madame, was Camila. She handpicked the girls, be they bought or found. She trained the ones with promise, and sold the ones without. Her main priority was to know everything that happened in Rayth. She was only one of the many factions that existed in the town and the nature of her business and her smooth talking were what kept her in a position of power.
Camila tilted her head to one side and a server took the hint immediately. Setting her tray to one side, the woman pressed her body against the red faced man. Her fingernails traced against his skin as she whispered in his ear. As if by magic, the man was on his feet. The girl that had been playfully teasing him while sitting on his lap was completely discarded. A quick look to Camila sent the abandoned woman off to another target. The red faced man was waddling towards the staircase where the server was leading him. Camila smiled as she mentally ticked another item off her list. That man had only recently arrived at Rayth, so he had information about the world outside the Dread Lake. Things had been changing and people were becoming stronger. There was talk of new Villains and Heroes, and Camila thought this man might know something about it all. Snippets of information, that's what she wanted. Such a little thing had become quite the luxury, and Camila wanted that luxury for herself alone.
A Beastwoman in the corner continued to sing a relaxing melody that washed over the crowd in the bar. A number of rowdy men continued to catcall at the girl and make lewd remarks. Camila's girls were trained to take care of themselves and to put down anyone that sought to take advantage of them, so Camila and the servers ignored the boisterous behaviour and laughed their remarks off with a smile. Short tempers didn't last long in the Veil. Everyone knew that the most valuable rewards came from playing the long game.
As Camila was about to start a lap around the building, the front door burst open with enough force to shock the hinges. The girls in training were slower to hide their distaste while the professionals all had a neutral and curious expression on their faces. A blood soaked Slaver stood in the doorway with his sword drawn as he frantically looked around the room to find more men. His eyes were panicked as he spotted Camila standing behind the bar. All etiquette that Camila demanded of her patrons was forgotten as this man trailed blood into the brothel. She knew exactly what he was looking for and she also knew that he was likely going to die if he made the request.
Before the Madame could even say a word, the Slaver interrupted her by raising a blood soaked hand.
"I don't have time for this shit, get him right now!"
Camila gestured for one of the girls to go upstairs, but after a moment she paused and halted the girl with a raised finger.
"Tell him that I'm about to kill one of his men if he doesn't get down here immediately."
Turning back to the blood soaked Slaver, Camila raised an eyebrow.
The Slaver cursed himself as he glanced back towards the open door. With the absence of the music and the chattering of the crowd having turned silent... the sounds of fighting could be heard distinctly outside.
"So, what is it? Goblins? Did you pick a fight with Alldark? I know you're idiots, but you're not that fucking stupid.
Instead of answering, the Slaver just gestured for Camila to go to the door.
Shaking her head in a gracious way, Camila smiled humorlessly but still looked just as captivating. Her clients would only ever see her as an inconvenienced victim in all of this, even if she held a bloodied knife in her hand.
As the Madame reached the doorway, she gave the slaver a theatrical gesture to show that she was straining to look outside.
The entire bar waited for her reaction and they were not disappointed.
All of the practiced expressions for every eventuality abandoned Camila in that very moment.
The Madame of the Veil gaped in amazement at the carnage that was taking place on the streets of Rayth. Onlookers held each other tight against the walls of available buildings, some of them looking at the fighting while others couldn't tear their eyes from the blood soaked cobbled streets. The Veil was a three storied converted inn that stood impressively in the centre of the entertainment district of Rayth. The buildings that surrounded it were typically well to do type patrons or impoverished members of fallen noble houses. The Slavers always kept to the industrial district, with the crafters, blacksmiths and warehouses. They did all their back alley dealings there, so why were they in the entertainment district?
Camila was horrified to see countless corpses polluting the street, all of them belonging to the Escravo Cartel.
"Just what is happening?"
Camila started to ask when she saw the answer. A Pirate with one eye was running along the rooftops and firing a pistol without pause. Each shot hit an enraged Slaver, sometimes it took two or three shots for his target to crumple to the ground... but they all hit the ground while he flitted from rooftop to rooftop, finding new targets hidden in the streets below.
The bloodied Slaver that stood behind Camila offered her a little more context in a hushed whisper.
"He's the one that ruined today's shipment of girls... one of em is working with him. She's a ghost that stabs people in the neck when they're running from him."
He gestured at the Dread Pirate with a mixture of fear and anger in his eyes.
Camila realised she had been holding her breath the whole time. When she finally exhaled and turned around to ask a question, she was met with one of the most disturbing sights imaginable.
Standing in the doorway, completely topless was The Butcher. His chiseled torso was adorned with multiple tribal tattoos. His black hair and beard were knotted wildly as though he had just been woken from hibernation. Around his waist was one of the Veil's pink towels that the girls would often wear to entice their patrons.
"Pedro, there seems to be a bit of a situation."
Camila started which caused the bloodied slaver to lose whatever colour had remained in his face. The Madame looked at him and what he was wearing before making another gentle suggestion.
"You might need your armour for this one. It looks like most of your men are dead already."
The Butcher sighed before turning back to the staircase where three women stood with disappointed expressions on their faces.
His deep voice carried across the whole bar as he spoke.
"Get some hot water ready. We're having a hot tub when I get back!"
Pedro laughed as the girls ran excitedly back up the stairs to do as he asked.
"Sorry about my stupid man here, Camila."
The Butcher said with a sad tone as he looked at the blood soaked floor that led directly to the slaver.
Before anyone could so much as blink, Pedro's fist connected with his subordinate which resulted in a sickening crunch of bone. The sound was followed by a despairing wail as the force of the blow carried the slaver out the door and onto the bloodied streets.
Pedro smiled apologetically at Camila as he gestured at the floor.
"I'll pay for this, don't worry."
Camila's expression didn't change as she continued to look at the pink towel around his waist.
"I'm not worried, Pedro... but I really do think that you should get your armour."
The Butcher laughed as he walked over to one of the tables. His large hand gripped a standard knife which he twirled between his fingers for a few moments.
Grinning at Camila, Pedro strode out the door.