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A note from James Northman

Hello Everyone, 

Here's an explainer post on Patreon of what's been happening with me with a look at the new cover for Book 2. 

TLDR: I'm now on the Recruitment team for the studio that's making Baldur's Gate 3 and the last few weeks have been me getting to grips with that.

Thanks for your patience! This Chapter is one of my favourites, so I hope you like it. :)

James 

James couldn't help but laugh as he watched the battle unfolding. The Void Kraken thrashed around violently in the middle of the maelstrom. Tentacles lashed out left and right to stop the onslaught of attacks that came from every direction. The spyglass allowed James to zoom in on each of the flickering lights before they faded and disappeared.
 
Each of the Guardians came with their own ships, of varying sizes and strengths, and James couldn't help but wonder if this turn of events had anything to do with him selecting the toughest opponent possible. Narratively, it made sense for all the Guardians to have an issue with the Void Kraken, since it was the big boss of the Dread Lake, but why did they only join the fight once it weakened?
 
All those thoughts and more ran through James' head. He still had a lot of work to do if he was going to come out of this fight victorious. Wolfsbane and Vetra were still on the top deck and needed to be dealt with. The Void Kraken wasn't dead yet either, and could still have a few painful phases remaining.
 
There were so many moving parts, so many things that could go wrong.... but James couldn't remember the last time that he had enjoyed himself this much. Sure, he needed to appease Nox and give a satisfactory showing, but... Abidden was a game, and he was a player.
 
"So let's play."
 
James said the words as he exhaled slowly. He took the spyglass away from his eye and turned back to the Dread Faction members that were still awaiting his orders.
 
"Focus your fire on the main tentacles and be careful not to hit the other Guardians of the Dread Lake, they're on our side!"
 
He ignored the notification about his Command skill being successful as he turned towards the ladder that led to the main deck.
 
"Sylvian, what should we do about him? Is he a target?"
 
James turned around to see one of his men pointing through the open hatch.
 
Taking a knee, James tilted his head so he could look upwards through the hatch.
 
Whatever thoughts had been going through the Dread Pirate's head until that point vanished at the sight of the Celestial Crusader flying overhead.
 
Jorgen Baw was hunting him.
 
In the half a second that it took James to recognise him, he knew what he had to do.
 
Swift Dash
 
In a flash of movement, he was back at his Unique Cannon, his eye immediately finding the Celestial Crusader in the sky.
 
He had made so many foolish mistakes in the game, because he wasn't used to playing against a computer.
 
But fighting against people?
 
That had practically become his speciality.
 
James aimed the cannon and readied his Crackshot ability as he waited for the right moment.
 
By attacking Jorgen first, he would be essentially revealing himself to the world as a Wildcard... but he would also set his own stage, on his own terms.
 
He knew he would have to start this quest again if he died in the game.
 
He also knew he would be at a severe disadvantage until he somehow leveled up.
 
But that was only if he lost.
 
He didn't need to outsmart artificial intelligence.
 
He just needed to beat one guy.
 
James really liked those odds.
 
"Let's see you pretend to be an underdog when you're beaten by somebody at Standard Rank."
 
As if providing an open-invitation, Jorgen suddenly stopped flying and turned around to face the ship.
 
James didn't hesitate.
 
"Crackshot!"
 

Quentin was on his feet, staring at the footage of the game as it unfolded in front of him.

The cheers for Helena destroying the Sky Palace had long since died down, but now there was a whole new phenomenon vying for their attention.

He wasn't alone in his excitement. The entirety of Abidden's headquarters were all together, watching the story unfolding. Rumours had swept around the offices like wildfire that Helena was going to face Jorgen Baw, which is what had caused the impromptu viewing party.

Yet, the reason they all remained was the spectacle on the overhead screens.

The Wildcard, James Sylvester, was attempting to jump from Standard Rank to Legendary Rank by taking on the Void Kraken.

Various screens were showing the different phases of the mission, from his conversation with the Siren... to his deep dive to get the Tempest. Curses and gasps of shock were common mutterings as the employees stood enraptured by the scenes.

Dario had his palms resting on the table as he tried to relieve the aching pain in his knees. There was no way he was going to be sitting for this.

"So we're the only ones who can see this?"

Aliyah asked in a tortured tone, already knowing the answer.

Before Quentin could answer, Dario turned to him with a conflicted expression on his face.

"What if we changed the rules? Like... just reveal him as a Wildcard so people can see this?"

Quentin didn't even have to think about it as he shook his head.

"We'd essentially be killing his character if we did that. Jorgen would discover him immediately, and then it would be a very one sided fight between a Legendary and a Standard."

Dario opened his mouth to retort, but Aliyah's voice was the one that sounded out.

"Well... that's only if James fails, right? If he succeeds, then he'll be a Legendary Rank too."

Another voice popped up from the other side of the room.

"He boarded the Tempest by himself. It's only a matter of time before he dies."

Quentin glanced in the direction that the voice came from with a smile on his face. Another voice had already interjected.

"Didn't you see the stuff on the beach? I think he has a plan."

Eventually, even the Loremasters started giving their opinions on what was going to happen and Quentin couldn't stop laughing, even if he had tried.

Comments and theories were popping up left and right, with everyone discussing the battle, excitement written all over their faces.

Suddenly, a familiar voice entered the fray, but only in Quentin's ear.

You've finally noticed. We've made Abidden fun again.

Locke's tone was neutral as she spoke to him, which initially caught Quentin by surprise.

Quentin couldn't help himself as he blurted out the first thing on his mind.

"Is he going to succeed?"

Time will tell. So pay attention.

Quentin could only laugh at the response, when another thought popped into his head.

"You recommended we take on James Sylvester, even when myself and Dario watched his footage and saw nothing special. Did you know he'd try something like this?"

He's a variable. Statistically, his performance should have deteriorated over time as he became more mentally exhausted. The odds of a semi-professional team versus a single rookie should have been a one sided victory. Fear, uncertainty and doubt should have crippled him... and yet, he prevailed. His physical capabilities and performance were sub-par, yet his mental fortitude was unparalleled by any player I've interacted with. I wanted to see what a person like that would do in Abidden. How would James Sylvester defy expectations and logic? I wanted him in the game.

Quentin nodded as he listened to Locke's explanation. It made sense, but he still had concerns.

"I understand that his mental fortitude is worth mentioning, but you can't excel in Abidden with perseverence and patience alone. He's going to need to be proficient in combat too."

His combat abilities have grown significantly in the past decade, but that is a separate point. You're differentiating James Sylvester by comparing him to people you know, and the choices they would make. That won't apply to him because he is a true Wildcard.

Just as he was about to ask Locke what that meant, a cheer broke out on the other side of the room. Quentin realised he hadn't been paying attention and snapped his eyes to the screen to see what he had missed.

"What happened?"

He asked as he tapped Dario on the arm.

The engineer was just shaking his head with a broad grin on his face.

"Oh... I don't know, he only managed to TELEPORT members of his Dread Faction to the Tempest using a portal!"

Quentin just looked at the screen in shock.

Aliyah's shriek pierced through the air when Shari appeared in the teleportation circle.

"YES! THERE SHE IS!"

Quentin took that moment to look at the faces of everyone around him... and it delighted him to see that they were all just as excited as he was.

The entire room watched as James orchestrated the cannons to fight the Void Kraken. They gasped when they saw the sneak attacks from the Kraken, but let out an explosive cheer at the Guardians of the Dread Lake's arrival.

Jorgen broke through the wall!

The Dread Pirate has yet to be revealed as a Wildcard, so things should be fine, right?

What happens if Jorgen attacks Rayth?

Why isn't Helena coming to help James?

What's the name of the little yellow guy on his shoulder?

Countless conversations were popping up excitedly in the group, with everyone throwing in their own theories.

"Otto!"

Dario answered the last question loudly enough that it caused a few laughs to rumble through the crowd.

I've created a highlight reel to introduce the viewers to the Dread Pirate Sylvian. It includes his interview in the Pantheon, his battles with the Goblins and Escravo Cartel. I have multiple versions. Should I send them to Kell for review?

Locke's tone was quick and urgent, which only caused Quentin to frown.

"He's still protected by the PvP barrier, so we won't be revealing him to the public. It would give the Heroes an unfair advantage against him while he's still a Standard Rank."

The Dread Pirate is about to attack the Celestial Crusader.

"He's going to attack him?!"

Quentin wasn't aware of how loud he answered Locke, but realised the moment that every person in the room turned to look at him in shock.

"He's still in Standard! Jageranimus is at Legendary! Is he insane?"

Would you like to know his predicted chances of success?

Quentin opened his mouth to answer, but paused when he looked at the screens displaying the epic battle.

"... I actually don't want to know."

So will I send the compilation to Kell?

Quentin looked at the Dread Pirate aiming the cannon up at Jageranimus when a thought popped into his head.

"Add in Greaves' comments from the Samantha Show, and put in some footage from his fight against the Scumlords in the District One Invitational. We can deal with whatever Elisabeth Volte throws at us later."

That's done. I sent it to Kell, Dario, and you. Just let me know when you want me to launch it.

Everyone in the room held their collective breaths as the Dread Pirate roared the word, 'Crackshot'.

"Launch it now and push it to every channel we have available. I want the world to see this!"

Are you sure you don't want to know his chances of winning?

Quentin didn't even answer as a blast of lightning shot from the cannon in James' hands. It skewered across the sky with a thunderous roar to strike the unsuspecting Celestial Crusader.

The explosion of light filled the screen, followed quickly by a system-wide announcement that everyone had only seen once before.

A Wildcard has been Revealed!

 


 
"That's odd!"
 
Billy frowned as he tapped the interface again, trying to navigate back to the original display of Helena destroying the Sky Palace.
 
Roars and shouts of disapproval sang through the bar at the sudden disappearance of Helena from all the screens.
 
The only person who seemed to be happy with the sudden change was Sam, who slid past Billy with two huge handfuls of empty glasses.
 
"Hey, if it's finally a break from everyone fawning over Helena, I'm okay with it!"
 
Billy's glare caused her to chuckle before slipping away to take more orders.
 
His new Abidden Platinum Pass allowed him to host Raid Nights at the Neophyte Bar, which had attracted a lot more regular customers.
 
It was now rare for him to have slow days, where he would have people in the bar from opening until closing, buying drinks and just watching the screens.
 
Billy certainly wasn't complaining.
 
He could legally stream and view the premium content on all the bar screens, which alone would have been amazing, but because of some partner programme, they installed some state-of-the-art entertainment systems for him.
 
"Would you prefer if I put Ethan Davenport on every screen?"
 
Billy retorted to Sam as he tried to navigate away from the Abidden loading screen that had suddenly appeared on all of his displays.
 
Sam's only answer was to laugh with a shake of her head, waving at Billy to continue playing with the interface.

"Yeah, I thought so!"
 
A moment later, all the screens displayed a new message and many personal interfaces vibrated as everyone that followed Abidden got a notification.
 

A Wildcard has been Revealed!

Countdown: 00:00:07

 
Billy's eyes widened at the message as he stopped tapping the interface and instead found himself just staring at the screen.
 
His mind was racing as he thought of what it could be. James had told him he wasn't likely to be revealed for another few weeks, so it had to be somebody else.
 
Despite that knowledge, Billy held his breath in anticipation. He wanted it to be James.
 
When the countdown had only a second or two remaining, the cacophony of shouts and excitement in the bar evaporated into a respectful silence. The only sounds being a few people shushing others and some regulars that continued their drunken nattering to each other.
 
Finally, the screens all went black before they could hear a single voice, talking over the darkness.
 
It was Greaves.
I had failed as a tank, as a teammate, and as a friend. Why did I fail? Because I wasn't good enough to protect them. Anyone can tell you it was only a game, but it was one of the greatest tests I've ever endured. How do I know I failed? Because I felt relief when it was all over.
Billy didn't recognise the quote, which confused him as he had watched all of Greaves' interviews.
But it wasn't all over. Travesty wasn't dead.
"No..."
 
Billy whispered as he looked at all the black screens.
 
"You can't be serious..."
When it was finally just him left standing, I prayed for his quick death so we could put the entire experience behind us.
Billy could feel a lump developing in his throat as he looked away from the displays. He had never heard such emotion in Greaves' voice, and it was really resonating with him.
I can't remember exactly how long Travesty had been in the game when Helena called to my dorm. Her eyes were bloodshot, and she came with a case of beer. Apparently Kincsö and Khance were watching it together too. Scarr was off the grid, but he did that sometimes after a defeat.
 
By running away from the Scumlords, he was essentially showing every scout in the city, that we were Rookies that didn't deserve to be there.
 
Imagine my surprise when he killed one of them.
Billy felt a hand on his elbow, and he turned to see Sam looking at him with concern written all over her face.
 
He didn't know what to say to her, but she was pretty fast on the uptake.
 
"Is this your slum arcade friend, Travesty?"
 
Billy didn't know if his voice would work as he turned back to the screens and took a steadying breath.
 
Nodding his head, he tried it.
 
"Yeah. It's him, Sam. It's... James."
 
Recognition crossed Sam's face as she turned and watched the displays with Billy.
Travesty was single-handedly hunting down the Scumlords.
Greaves' confession stupefied everyone in the Neophyte.
It took him forty-three hours to kill them all.
Practically everyone took a sharp intake of breath at that revelation. It was a terrifying number to hear, but it didn't devolve into chaos as everyone was hanging on every word from the Paragon.
 
The raw emotion in his voice was so earnest that nobody could help but feel for Greaves as he spoke.
Travesty went past the point of no return and paid the price.
 
After finishing the fight, he never logged back into his account.
The darkness on the screen gradually brightened, revealing a large room filled with enormous podiums.
 
It was the first time that they had shown the world the Pantheon, but it was only highlights that moved in quick bursts.
 
Billy watched as Calista took his eye before three of the Gods left the Pantheon. Even though he knew what class James had, it had only been words until that moment.
 
The visuals of seeing him become the Dread Pirate flashed past, followed by a terrifying snippet of Maris the Siren trying to get through his barrier. Next was Otto on his shoulder, which led to the fight on the beach.
 
Sam's grip on Billy's shoulder grew tighter as she watched the collection of highlights, this time showing the fight with Pedro and the establishing of the Dread Faction.
 
The movie switched to the beach with all the factions of Rayth standing on the shore in anticipation, before shifting to James, diving through the Dread Lake and weaving around the Void Kraken.
 
To say that the audience was enchanted was an understatement. There were hundreds of questions, but nobody dared blink, lest they miss something.
He's the reason we're the Paragons.
Greaves' voice still carried over the highlight reel as it played.
 
Billy was simply awestruck as he watched the Tempest rise from the bottom of the Dread Lake. When the maelstrom appeared with the Void Kraken at the very centre, he realised he was holding his breath.
 
Suddenly an unfamiliar voice appeared in the narrative. It was from a video that had gone viral in the last few days. Quentin's voice was the first to speak.
I can't imagine they found someone better than Helena, but I'll humour you, go on
Billy recognised it immediately as the closing statements of the press conference where Helena had kicked up a storm.
 
Just as it had happened, the reporter's confident tone followed crisply.
The Heroes have signed Jørgen Baw. Former Leader of the ScumLords... who killed Helena in-game the last time they met!
Billy couldn't help but laugh as Helena's voice snapped right back.
 
He loved this part.
Good thing one of our Wildcards is the guy who killed him!
Suddenly, the whole screen faded to darkness for the briefest moment... before everyone heard a whole new voice roaring a single word.
 
"Crackshot!"
 
A handful of people in the Neophyte Bar recognised the voice immediately, and Sam's face was pale as realisation washed over her.
 
Greaves' voice was back with a bit more of a jovial tone.
James Sylvester
If there was ever a catalyst for an explosion of cheers, it was Greaves' next words.
E-Class.

A deafening roar of excitement and disbelief accompanied the visuals of James firing the cannon at Jorgen Baw.

The most anticipated fight in Abidden's history was about to begin.

 
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A note from James Northman

Here's: Chapter 47: Remember Me? - Part 3 

Some of you might have noticed that I started another story, but it'll be just a side-project unless it becomes popular. It's a fun one to write. 

Here's that one: Shadow Sect 

It's absolutely nothing like Wildcards. It's an Isekai GameLit with an OP MC, and hopefully a little of my sense of humour. Check it out if the tags look like something you'd enjoy. 

Thanks for all your patience and support! 

James


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: https://www.patreon.com/JamesNorthman

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