A note from James Northman

Happy Friday Everyone! 

Here's Chapter 34. I've just hit publish on Chapter 36 over on Patreon, which officially ends Act 2 of the story. It's an incredible milestone for me, and Wildcards is now sitting at 114,497 words as we move into Act 3. I'm really excited about it and just wanted to say thank you again to everyone that has made this possible for me. Your support and feedback has been invaluable to me. 

Thank you! 


James wasn’t exactly sure what he had expected when he walked into Pedro’s office in the warehouse. In some part of his mind, he had expected the room to be dingy, maybe with a few leaks in the ceiling and stains across all the walls. Yet when he walked in, it was as though the game had transported him to a palace. Luxurious pieces of furniture littered the room while beautiful artwork adorned the walls. James had to do a double take. It was just that surprising. Pedro, however, walked straight past him and took a seat at the desk. He furrowed his brow in concentration and had lost his trademark smile somewhere along the way.

It didn’t take a genius to figure out that his conversation with Fibber from the Vigo Syndicate had really soured his mood.

“So, are you going to tell me what that was all about?”

James finally ventured as he took a seat in one of the plush leather chairs that sat in the centre of the room. Pedro, however, had his head in his hands and looked as though he had aged considerably in the few moments since they had ascended the stairs.

“I didn’t intend for this to get so out of hand… We borrowed a little money from them in the past. Well, a lot of money. It’s the primary reason that we have issues with them at the moment. The hostility has stemmed from our inability to repay the loan. You said that you have a similar problem with them, do you owe them money too?”

Pedro finally opened his hands to reveal a hopeful expression.

James took a breath before shaking his head. Pedro sighed in exasperation before planting his forehead down on his desk. It was as though all remaining energy had just vacated his body.

“The reason they hate me, is probably because I shamed their Goddess, Calista.”

Pedro’s face shot up and stared at James in absolute horror. A moment of silence hung between the two men before Pedro burst into uproarious laughter, which echoed throughout the building.

“Are you serious? You met one of the Gods? And you shamed the worst one of all, Calista?!”

A whole new level of delight washed over Pedro’s face. He seemed to have completely forgotten about his previous woes with the Vigo Syndicate.

James figured that the confession had substantially cheered up the Butcher, so he added some more context.

“She took my eye and every point of intelligence I owned, so it’s probably not as impressive as it seems!”

That last sentence made Pedro pause for a moment. He raised a hand with a single finger as though gesturing for James to wait a moment, while he started rooting through the different drawers of his desk. After a few audible grunts and the sounds of rummaging, Pedro raised his hand triumphantly with a small locket clasped in his grip.

“It’s a piece of shit, but I think you’ll find that it’s better than nothing!”

With that said, Pedro threw the locket to James, who caught it in midair.

The Dread Pirate gave Pedro a look of confusion, but the butcher merely gestured towards James’s neck as if telling him he needed to put it on. James figured that he had nothing to lose, so he placed the locket around his neck. The effect was both instantaneous and incredible.

Pedro’s office suddenly blossomed with a newfound light. It felt like James had been looking at it through a lens this entire time, but now he could see it clearly and all of its secrets. What had once looked like an interesting painting on the wall in an indecipherable language, revealed itself to be a detailed map of the entire town of Rayth. Symbols that had once looked like hieroglyphics were now completely legible pieces of writing. He didn’t even need to look down to realise what had happened. The little necklace that Pedro had given him was the reason for his sudden intellect. James wasted absolutely no time in attempting something that he had wanted to do from entering the game.


In his excitement, he spoke the word aloud as he pulled the trinket closer to his eye.

You have received a new piece of Equipment!

  • Poor Scribe's Trinket (Common)
    • +1 to Intellect for 1hr per day.
    • Ability Granted: Inspect
    • Ability Granted: Learning
    • Ability Granted: Comprehension
  • Status: Active
  • Time Remaining: 58 minutes, 13 seconds

“Okay, I’ll admit that I did not expect you to be this happy!”

Pedro chuckled as he slammed his hand on the desk. His other hand withdrew a fancy-looking bottle from a drawer in his desk. Before James could say anything, the Butcher had taken two glasses from a nearby shelf and placed one of them in front of the Dread Pirate.

“Since you can use your brain now, let me explain how fucked we are!”

The Butcher pointed across his office to a hefty iron chest covered in intricate locks. James followed his gesture and saw the chest for the first time.

Much to his surprise, all the information he required appeared straight in front of him as though he had unconsciously inspected it.

Dread Faction War Chest

  • Faction Weekly Income:
    • Quest Income: 0 Gold
    • Faction Membership: 0%
    • Territory Income: 0 Gold
    • Protection Money: 150 Gold
    • Sale of Slave stock: 0 Gold
    • Gambling Takings: 270 Gold
    • Bar Earnings: 64 Gold
  • Faction Weekly Expenditure:
    • Construction Costs: 126 Gold
    • Food & Drink: 300 Gold
    • Keeping Slaves Alive: 40 Gold
    • Repair of Slave Cages: 20 Gold
    • Butcher's Whiskey: 180 Gold
    • Loan Repayment: 250 Gold
  • Faction Current Balance:
    • -432 Gold (Per Week)
    • -3,743 Gold (Outstanding Debt)

Pedro poured the whiskey for James as he explained.

“The cartel is broke, we owe money to snakes, I lost in our battle and now we have a new leader who lost his eye to a God. If this isn’t a reason to drink, I don’t know what is!”

Even though the statistics of the Dread Faction War Chest looked to be very bleak, James was still incredibly excited to get started with it. The structure that he so desired was now available to him, and he had every intention of using it. It filled him with so many questions about the quest income, the faction membership percentage. What did the protection money mean? These things and more were running through his head. One thing that definitely caught his attention was the expenditure allocated to Pedro’s private stash of whiskey.

Turning back to the Butcher, James wanted to see why it was so expensive.

“At least I didn’t cause all of your problems!”

James laughed as he picked up the offered glass and brought the smooth amber liquid to his lips. This was going to be his first time experiencing the sensation of food or drink within Abidden, and he had absolutely no idea what to expect.

It was a pleasant surprise as the cool liquid touched his tongue. The whiskey tasted great!

As the Dread Pirate placed his glass back on the table he saw Pedro clutching at the bottle protectively. It didn’t take a genius to see that the Butcher feared his favourite vice being taken away from him.

James saw the label of the bottle that previously meant nothing to him. The locket around his neck had transformed the symbols on it into something legible.

Camila's Exclusive Reserve

One thing that was quite amazing to James, was that he knew he only received that necklace from Pedro because he had shared some information with him. He wondered idly if he would have got the same result without mentioning that the goddess Calista had taken his eye. James finally felt as though he was understanding what Jackal meant about role-playing in the game. It looked like so many avenues opened up to James, primarily down to the fact that he was conversing with non-playable characters. That a little necklace had completely changed his entire perspective of the game, James wondered what other elements of the game they hid and how he could go about discovering them.

As these thoughts rolled around in James’s head, he took another sip of the whiskey and turned around in his seat to look at more of the objects that littered Pedro’s office. His eye went towards the map of the town, which continued to shimmer as though asking for him to approach it and inspect its contents. James was conscious of the time that he had left before he had to log out for the evening. He also knew that he had a limited amount of time that he could use the intellect buff on his new piece of equipment. With those things in mind, James got to his feet and paced across the room until he was in front of the map. Names that he had never seen before popped out at him from every corner. While some names were in ink, others were lit up as though imbued in a magical print. Curiosity got the better of him and he pressed his finger against one of the highlighted texts. It rewarded him with an optional quest, but not for him… It was for the Dread Faction.

Dread Faction Quest Available

  • Recruit the Merchant:
    • Required Members: 1-3
    • Primary Attributes: Charisma, Strength
    • Difficulty: High
    • Reputation Bonus: None
    • Suitable Followers: Pedro

A merchant has appeared in the town with the number of exotic wares that he would like to trade with the townspeople. Rumour has it, he is looking to align with a Faction.

“Ah yes, this is our faction map. It’s a little overloaded at the moment, but I’m sure that we will get it down to a more manageable level in no time.”

Pedro laughed as he scratched the back of his head. He felt a little uncomfortable talking about the map as it had completely got out of control under his own leadership.

None of that mattered to James, who was still smiling widely as he looked at the giant map in front of him. He moved to town to another part of the town and pressed another one of the highlighted words. It rewarded him with yet another Dread Faction quest that was available.

Dread Faction Quest (Locked)

  • Investigate the Disappearance of the Town Mayor:
    • Required Members: 1-3
    • Primary Attributes: Intelligence, Charisma
    • Difficulty: Expert
    • Reputation Bonus: None
    • Suitable Followers: None

The Mayor has disappeared! Many speculate that someone has kidnapped him, and some even accuse the Escravo Cartel.

You do not meet the eligibility criteria for this Quest!

James started tapping all the shimmering lights on the map. He wanted to know every single quest available to them.

Dread Faction Quest Available

  • Subjugate the Goblins!
    • Required Members: 5+
    • Primary Attributes: Strength, Dexterity
    • Difficulty: Normal
    • Reputation Bonus: None
    • Suitable Followers: Pedro

Goblins are acting strangely in the woods. Instead of killing each other, they've banded together to hunt down travellers.

Dread Faction Quest Available

  • Establish a Foothold in Rayth
    • Required Members: 25+
    • Primary Attributes: Strength, Dexterity
    • Difficulty: High
    • Reputation Bonus: 25%
    • Suitable Followers: Everyone

The Escravo Cartel previously had strength in numbers, but their force has dwindled after their battle with the Dread Faction.

Many see this new Dread Faction as vulnerable. Secure your territory!

Dread Faction Quest (Locked)

  • Rebuild the Shipyard:
    • Required Members: 100+
    • Required Artisans: Shipwright, Architect
    • Primary Attributes: Intellect, Wisdom
    • Difficulty: Expert
    • Reputation Bonus: 25%
    • Suitable Followers: None
  • Prerequisites:
    • Subjugate the Goblins (Incomplete)
    • Establish a Foothold in Rayth (Incomplete)
    • Dread Faction War Chest must contain at least 25,000 Gold (Incomplete)

With the Goblins cleared out of the Forest, you can start cutting down its lumber.

Your foothold in Rayth will allow you to Recruit volunteers to your construction efforts.

You do not meet the eligibility criteria for this Quest!

James read through dozens of quests that were available, and even more that weren’t. His remaining eye scanned all the ones that seemed somewhat achievable before he finally settled on a few to take action on.

“Pedro, I need you to get me a list of all of our followers’ attributes. A lot of these missions require a follower to have either intelligence or charisma. As it stands, It’s not sustainable for you to single-handedly complete those Quests, which is why we need to delegate them to the faction!”

The Butcher did not move. He merely squinted his eyes and tilted his head as though he was deep in thought.

“I don’t think I need to make a list for this, I can probably tell you what skills all of them have. Most of them are strength based and none have any attribute in intelligence or charisma.”

The answer didn’t discourage James. He continued to stare at the map and all the quests that were still available when an idea suddenly occurred to him.

“What about the slaves? I saw one of them earlier using magic in your fighter pit, which would mean they would need to have a high attribute in either intelligence or wisdom?”

Pedro looked at James as though he was crazy.

“Do you know… What’s the word slave means?”

The Butcher attempted to choose his words carefully, but he couldn’t hide the amusement in his voice.

James shook his head, his eye not leaving the map.

“They were slaves when this faction belonged to the Escravo Cartel, which no longer exists. Dexterity and strength-based users dominate our faction. To really make an impact in this town, we’re going to need to diversify our skill set!”

The Dread Pirate looked down at the War Chest for a moment.

“Our first point of business is to clear our debts and to increase our generated income per week. Why is there no revenue coming from the territory management? I thought the cartel controlled a high percentage of the town?”

A guilty look crossed Pedro’s face as he shuffled closer to the map. His muscular arm stretched out and gestured roughly at what looked like a barren wasteland surrounding a single construct at the edge of the map.

James suddenly remembered the journey to the warehouse with all the demolished and abandoned buildings.

“Okay, I’m going to be honest with you. Gaining territory was maybe not our strong point. We lacked a certain… Finesse. We give the residents and businesses in the area are very simple ultimatum. Either they pay for our protection, or they have nothing to protect. Unfortunately, after a period, it appeared many of our boys enjoyed destroying buildings and ruining businesses. Apparently, they weren’t giving people the first option and were just indiscriminately destroying their things. That’s why we don’t have any income from those areas.”

Pedro explained in a matter-of-fact tone.

It was as if the Butcher could feel the Dread Pirate staring at him, that he continued.

“On the upside, we own quite a lot of free land for future construction projects…”

James continued to stare at the map for a few more moments before finally deciding.

“Get me the list, Pedro. We need to get started on these quests.”

This time the Butcher moved with no complaint or hesitation. He just nodded in affirmation before withdrawing from the office and charging down the stairs outside. It left James with his own thoughts and the board filled with options for his new faction. A welcome little visitor suddenly appeared on his shoulder, stretching out its little yellow tentacles as if in an elaborate yawn.

James smiled as he looked down at the little octopus.

“Okay Otto, which of these missions do you think we should start first?”

Much to his surprise, Otto teleported to the frame of the map and allowed a single yellow tentacle to fall down and gesture at one of the highlighted names. While James knew that his contracted Demon was intelligent, he felt as though he wasn’t giving the little murder octopus enough credit. He clearly understood exactly what James asked, and better yet was providing feedback and a suggestion. James looked closer at the mission that Otto was pointing at. Separated from the town in the top corner of the map, it looked like he was pointing at the edge of the lake.

James tapped his finger against the mission and had a look.

Dread Pirate Class Quest (Locked)

  • Breaking The Wall:
    • Required Members: Dread Pirate
    • Primary Attributes: Dexterity
    • Difficulty: Insane
    • Reputation Bonus: 100%
    • Suitable Followers: None
  • Prerequisites:
    • Captain the Dread Ship (Incomplete)
    • Assemble the Dread Crew (Incomplete)
    • Align with a Dread Lake Faction (Optional)

The God of Wisdom, Magnus, built a wall around the Dread Lake to contain its horrors.

He believed that locking the island of Rayth off from the rest of the world was a small sacrifice to save countless lives.

Breaking the wall is the only escape from Rayth.

After reading about the quest, James collapsed into the chair and stared at the map. The objectives really put his efforts into perspective. Whilst he thought it was great that he had almost reached the next rank in a single day, he could now appreciate that these missions were going to involve a lot more work. He needed to assemble a crew. He needed to create a shipyard. He probably needed to construct a ship for himself, but that was likely going to cost a lot of gold too. Gold they didn’t have.

James idly wondered what would be the most efficient method of carrying out these tasks. On one hand, he could construct the shipyard after saving quite a lot of gold, and maybe that way he’d be able to start construction on the Dread Ship. However, for that to work it sounded like he needed to recruit certain artisans such as an architect and a shipwright. Let alone eradicating all the goblins from the forest to access its lumber.

If it had been a few hours ago, James would have immediately rushed to the forest with all of his faction to eliminate as many goblins as possible. But now, he had a much wider perspective on how he could best use his skills in the game. Alternatively, he could start by establishing a foothold in the town, which would probably be the first step in solving their gold issue.

The endless list of possibilities and variables was no longer stifling to James. He enjoyed the game and the challenge of figuring out the best way to proceed. He noted that none of this would be possible without the little trinket that hung around his neck. James needed to figure out a more long-term solution because having intellect for a single hour of the day wasn’t enough.

“Thank you, Otto... For picking possibly the most difficult quest that exists on that board.”

In the blink of an eye, the little octopus was back to his normal perch on the pirate’s shoulder.

“Maybe we should work on recruiting that merchant? We need to get money from somewhere and that could be a good start?”

James mused as he looked at Otto.

No tentacles raised to support the idea, so James dismissed it.

The sounds of shouting and commotion suddenly reached his ears. It didn’t sound like a battle, but it was distracting enough to draw his attention.

With one last look at the map, James stood up from his chair and walked out of the office to see what was going on. Pedro’s shouts continued to carry across the warehouse floor as all the Dread Faction members stood at attention. Even without the ability granted by the Slaver Captain’s Greatcloak, Pedro could command them flawlessly. Where most followers stood to one side, there were a few little collections of people in separate groups. Their equipment and appearance looked different to the majority..

“Pedro, what are you doing?”

James called down to him.

The Butcher looked up with a wide smile on his face and pointed at the groups that James thought looked slightly out of place.

“It looks as though you were right!”

The response confused James until his eye caught sight of the far wall. All the slave cages were completely empty.

Your Follower has levelled up!
Your Follower has levelled up!
Your Follower has levelled up!

A torrent of new notifications appeared at the side of his vision, showing him he had both new followers and that they had subsequently levelled up.

One notification caught him off guard.

A Follower has become eligible to join your Crew.
A note from James Northman

Next Chapter is available on Patreon.

Chapter 35: Paragons in Action

We're going to have 3 new Wildcards joining who purchased the Villain Tier on Patreon. There are no more slots available for Villains, but you still have the opportunity to be a Hero in Abidden. You'll see in the coming chapters that the Heroes are going to have a big part to play too.  

Thanks for reading! Next chapter will be on Friday! 

Support "Wildcards: Book One - The Dread Pirate"

About the author

James Northman

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

Currently writing Wildcards: Book 1 - The Dread Pirate

If you'd like to support me, here's a link to my Patreon:

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