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I am outside of Port Yarrow. There is a small and beautiful hamlet here called Tir Chonaill. The little town built into the hills has several interesting quests available on their town square board, but that is not why I am here. I determined I needed to do my advanced class quest so I can get my level up higher. Briar wanted to go to Port Yarrow and sell items and to shop for new ones. He has also decided he wants to try out being a fighter so he is going to buy a sword and try to do his initial level ups in the training ground. Kian wanted to see about working on his alchemy and also to see if he could learn basic healing skills by doing the cleric quest-line. I agreed both would be useful.

 

Before I left, we had joked that I could just tell them what to do for the rogue advanced class quest, if I do it. Now I am sitting here thinking I won’t have anything to tell them.

 

My quest led me here, but I am not sure where to go. There is a stream and a lake in the town, a mill, and even sheep. Near the sheep is a notice board with life skill quests. Shearing sheep, I will not do. The town square is a circle of large stones for seating and a speaker’s area in the form of a raised semi-circle resembling a band shell. Made of much larger stones, the band shell is fit into a steep part of a hill. Next to the speaker’s area is a large oak tree whose branches reach over the seating, shading it nicely. There is an old well under the tree with the classic crank and bucket. Additionally, there are leaves scattered among the weeds and broken sticks surrounding the base of the well. Above all of this, up on top the hill, is a small stone keep named Fort Kent. Most of the area’s quests involve coming and going to that fort. The quests all say to report to the commander there, some kind of local law enforcer.

 

That is not where I need to be.

 

I decide that for my particular quest I should wait until nightfall. To wait, I climb the large tree in the center of town and make myself comfortable. I sit on a branch and go through menus to see what options I have to reorganize my display so it stays out of my way. Nearly everything is thought-based and easy to control in the game menus; however, there are a few things which use your virtual hands. You wiggle your hands in the air, physically turning knobs or pressing buttons for locked controls. This is all done seamlessly, and you rarely mess with your settings this way. This being an entirely virtual world, part of your interface can be physically there and feel no different to your hands than an object in the game world. I move my interface pieces around so that my stealth-related items are on the upper right and my party and raid info is in the upper left.

 

I move my notifications and news channel to the lower left and dim it. I put my status icons along the right side, which includes Morrigan. Then, I delve into more of the fortress info. I have limited control from a distance, but I do have control and can increase building levels and hire new NPC’s from anywhere. Reading through the help docs takes a while, and the shadows lengthen and clouds move in from the east.

 

I see an old woman with a large walking staff approach the square below. There are NPCs running around all over, but this woman catches my attention. She moves as you would expect, shuffling and hanging onto her cane with one hand in what looks to be a painful grip. The staff is smooth from years of use. What catches my eye is her direct path to the speaking area. She comes to center of the square and stops, looks around, then drops a folded paper.

 

“For you,” she says quietly, then shuffles away.

 

Well, looks like I have found what I was looking for. I wait for a second to see if there was anyone else coming, and then I silently drop down to scoop up the paper into the shadows. I move back to the base of the oak to read it.

 

Carefully, I open the folder paper and see that it says,

 

Welcome.

You move in our midst. We know of you.

Stand in the stone shell tonight if you want to gain the knowledge you seek.

-The old man of the mountain.

 

My Rogue advanced class quest line increments to step two. Looks like I am on the right path. I will do as the note asks and hope it is not a trap. I slink to the stone shell and I look around. It is not midnight yet, but I want to make sure I am not being led to my death. All my tutors are whispering in my brain to check that I am not being set up. I inspect the entire structure and don’t see any specific issues. My perception picks up nothing besides a small mouse, which scurries away.

 

After checking everything, I feel better about not walking into a trap. I blend in and wait, my cloak’s clawing shadows getting brave with the sun gone and the moon rising. I notice the folder paper I had picked up moving in my pocket, and I pull it out and notice that the inside is glowing. I unfold it and see that behind the wording I had read there was a large rune painted in with water—the paper was becoming unstable.

 

Crap, I just walked into a magical trap!

 

Dropping the paper on the ground, I back up; the paper disappears as it touches the stone and I hear a grating sound and a nearby rumbling. One of the large stones on the side of the shell moves in. It is at an angle to not be visible from outside the shell. To a person looking from the town square, it would appear like I walk into the wall and disappear. I see a curved, torch-lit path into the hill.

 

Nothing jumps out to attack or anything, so I guess I am good to go. The path curves in to the left. Ahead, I can spot an opening and see more torches. There is a noise ahead, like dripping water. I enter the open area and see that it is a natural-looking cavern with a door on the other side from where I am. Checking with my perception and notice that there is something different about the door, and to my right I see what looks like a small lever under some brush. I check the door again and then go back and pull the lever. A secret door opens to my right, smaller than the entrance. Given my options here, I think the new passageway is the right way to go. The secret door closes behind me and my path forward turns left. Following along the dark path, I see it goes up and to the left ahead. This will place me behind the door.

 

What is this passage for?

 

After stepping out, to my left I see a massive set of spikes on a spring system for the door I would have gone through. It is meticulously crafted and would have been inescapable in the previous room—likely turning me into hamburger. To my right the tunnel continues in darkness, with a spot of light far down. I sense movement there.

 

“The obvious path is not always the wisest one,” a male voice says. I cannot tell where it comes from as I look around and try to gauge the source of the words.

 

“I can see that,” I say, still scanning my surroundings.

 

“I believe you are looking for me,” he says. Then, a match is struck, and I see an old man lighting his pipe, sitting on a rock not fifteen feet away. “I am known as the old man of the mountain,” he continues. “This is no mountain, but I am indeed an old man. And I believe you are here seeking knowledge.”

 

“What knowledge can I learn?” I ask.

 

“The kind that you need—the kind that will help you to win the fights that are coming for you.” He jumps off the rock, landing lightly, and I see that he has multiple daggers on his person. “Come with me, I’ll show you.”

 

We walk forward in silence for a moment and he turns to make sure I am still there. From a high point, we enter a large domed area with a pit in the center that has water several dozen feet below the edge. There is a spiderweb of wooden catwalks all around the sides of the pit. Along the catwalks I could make out merchants, and what looks like a makeshift inn and multiple side paths leading into the dark.

 

“This is one of our recruiting and training facilities,” the old man says. “We put it right under Fort Kent and the commander who is looking for us. Our main, and much cleaner, facilities are in the actual mountains. There, my name is much more fitting.”

 

I follow the old man down to an open area and several of the NPCs stop and watch us. He turns to me and says, “Because of your… interesting predicament,” he says. “You are limited in your options.” He points to the tombstone on my back.

 

“I can train you in the following advanced classes.”

 


Class advancement: select at least one option, maximum two.

Shadow - A shadow is an assassin who bends shadows to their will. -25% damage in daylight.

Scout - A scout gains speed and accuracy, as well as the ability to teleport short distances. -15% health

Gambler - Gamblers can double (or halve) their damage randomly. They use a set of dice for buffs (or debuffs).

Bandit - Bandits can tame wild animals and gain speed and accuracy. -15% health


 

I look over the options. There are a lot less than I expected.

 

“What does maximum two mean here?” I ask.

 

“You can select two of these advanced classes to combine them; however, the negatives stack, so you need to be careful about how you combine them,” he says. “For instance, you could take both scout and bandit, but you will lose 30% of your health pool. That is something you probably would regret.” He waits patiently.

 

I weigh my options. Shadow is something I know I want—it’s exactly what I am interested in. But these others also seem good to mix with shadow—scout , for instance, being able to teleport, and bandit with wild animals with speed and accuracy bonuses. Gambler looks interesting also, but it seems like the negative effects outweigh the benefits.

 

“I will take Shadow, and I pick Scout for secondary,” I say.

 

“Excellent choice,” the old man says. “Complete the following tasks and we can begin training.”

 

I get a new quest:

 


New quest: An emissary from a faraway land

Eliminate Rogun Ratcliffe in Port Yarrow, an emissary from a faraway land. Rogun has traveled here to open trade agreements with the steward of Port Yarrow, Racine Garriott. The delegation is staying at an inn called the Rampant Cat.

Completion reward: Advanced class trainers and class quest line unlocked, thieves guild merchants unlocked.

*Bonus for killing all guards.


 

“Guess I am killing all the guards,” I say.

 

“You can go about this however you desire. Your exit and entrance are now the well,” the old man says. Then he points up to a ladder that turns into iron climbing rungs in the stone.

 

I climb up and out of the well, murder on my mind.

 

***

 

Entering Port Yarrow, I pull my cloak tightly around me and dip into the shadows. It is night in Port Yarrow, though the cycle in the game seems to be about a six-hour cycle of real time. It’s the middle of the day at school so the streets are bustling. Coming from the south, my easiest path is along the waterfront.

 

There is ship arriving from the newbie isle and I hear an NPC crier.

 

“Join the [Art of War] clan and fight the [Nightfallers] in the mountain fortress. Join the clan that will take over this region and dominate the western lands.” He finishes and hands out custom maps to the new players saying, “This will add a map marker so you can locate the guild.”

 

I wait until the players leave and the crier sits back down. I sneak up behind him, and after inspecting the crier, realize he is low level. My 3x backstab damage makes short work of him and I pull him back behind some crates and look at the map and flyer.

 


Clan leaders Alanenon, Braneton, and SilverBtch invite you to join the [Art of War] clan.

Currently raiding the Leviathan Fortress, soon also raiding the Jade Fortress in preparation for taking Eagles Crest Fortress from [Nightfallers].

Join us.


 

What the… how come I didn’t know about this? I check the region chat, which I have had closed, and see them doing active recruiting there as well. We thought we were going to have more time. Damnit, Josie.

 

I need to finish my quest and then get back to the fortress so we can plan. I throw their flyers into the water and dash through the darkness to the center of Port Yarrow.

 

***

 

Reaching the Rampant Cat inn, I notice the building is three stories, painted red, and has a sign in the shape of a hissing cat. There are several guards milling about outside and the windows are nearly all lit up. Climbing up to the roof of a building across the street, I can see there is a guard on the top of the inn with a crossbow. Using my perception, I spot a second roof guard on an adjacent roof who is covering the first guard. I move farther down the street and cross hand over hand on a clothesline to the other side, then I slide through the darkness to the watcher. I dispatch him easily; he was low level and was there to make noise if he spotted anything. He didn’t. Morrigan lands on a railing and cocks her head at the dead guard.

 

The next guard is patrolling. He is keeping a close eye on the surrounding buildings, so I must time my strike just right. I maneuver closer to him, slowly making my way from the adjacent building to the top of the inn. Slinking in I am close enough for a backstab. I leap. This guard must have a perception skill as he spins around and my backstab grazes him. As I land, I duck and roll and try to turn around as I hear a click sound.

 

Guard critically hits you for 8(+6) damage.

 

Ouch, that was a crossbow bolt! I dive in, slashing at the guard.

 

You hit Guard for 56 damage.

You poison Guard.

Guard takes 6 poison damage.

Guard dies.

 

The poison from my knife, Yaoguai's Finger, finished him off. Luckily, he didn’t have time to yell for help. I see also that I auto-loot 20 gold from each guard killed here. I drag the body to the next roof, near first watcher I killed, and make sure it is out of sight. Returning, I check the stairs along the side of the building—no guards on the third floor. I extinguish the lamps to give myself more darkness and step down to a platform with a door that enters the building. Once inside, I peer into the hallway. There are two guards in the hall in front of me, one coming my way. I duck to the side of the door so that when it opens, I will be on the back side of it. The guard opens the door as expected, and then he steps out and begins to go up the stairs.

 

Moving quickly, I slip behind him. I work my knife into his neck a few times. I move his body to the adjacent roof as well and slip back down the stairs. The other guard is still standing in front of a door. I backtrack to climb down the side of the building. Luckily, climbing was not as difficult as it should have been, as the lumber and stone leave plenty of easy footholds. If the tombstone on my back was not incorporeal it would have complicated any kind of climbing, so I am thankful for that. There is light coming from the open window of the room the guards are outside of. Looking inside, I can see a man bent over a desk and facing away from the window. I slip in and keep him in my sights. I made no noise and my perception picks up nothing that could be a surprise. I slide Yaoguai's finger into his back, under his shoulder blades twice, and the final hit slides into his temple in one fluid motion. He was dead on the second hit. I retrieve my knife and set him down so that he does not fall.

 

I check the books and his bags. I loot 200 gold, several scrolls and curiously, a quest item. The book he was writing into has the words Guiding Hand written inside the cover, and the quest is “Yarrowland Sabotage.” I add the quest.

 


New quest chain: Yarrowland Sabotage (1)

You have killed the emissary and found a book detailing his contacts and plans.The steward of Port Yarrow would be very interested in the contents of the book.


 

I hear the guard cough in the hall—I need to deal with him then the ones downstairs.

 

I ready my knife and ease the door open; he is still the only one there. I dispatch the guard, throat wound first, and drag him back into the room collecting another 20 gold in the process.

 

There is nothing else in the room, so I leave and extinguish the lights in the hall. I make my way down one floor and find no guards. Just as I am about to go down another floor two guards start up the stairs. I dive around the side of the bannister and make my way above the stairs. I climb over the railing to be above the guards as they come up. After dropping down behind the closest one and dispatching him quickly, I move to the second and drop him as well. I need to move these bodies; I grab the first one and drag him up the stairs and dump him inside of the room. Then I do the same with the second while barely avoiding some player characters who had logged in and come out of their room. I check the quest, there is one more guard to kill if I want the bonus.

 

I go back downstairs, the lower part of the inn has a bar in one side, an office, and a common area—probably used for food. I stick my head out of the front door and see my last guard. I step next to and behind him, and my knife slices through leather armor three times. Before the body falls, I see my quest is complete and I am to return to the old man. I melt into the oil of night.

 

***

 

My deed done, I find myself in the alley next to a clan house. On my map it is shown as [Art of War]. This is her clan, this is Josie’s clan. I wonder if I can find out what they are doing. If they see me, most will have an eye-for-an-eye consequence-free kill on me, and I could end up with a mob chasing me through the town. I will need to be careful.

 

I move to the rooftop across the street, dashing through the shadows in a blur. I get to a spot on the peak of a roof, my cloak dripping grasping shadows over the edge. I need to observe. This is a new danger I was not expecting just yet and if I want to win, I need more information.

 

What happened to that spy I sent here, anyway?

 

Examining the front of the clan house, I see they have a huge battle axe cutting into the front of the building. The axe head is buried into the building over the front door and there is a group of new clan members out front. I quickly possess my familiar Morrigan, who is above, and swoop low to land on a crooked light pole near the entrance. I try to blend in, at least as well as a raven on a lamppost can

 

“So, we are going to take out the [Nightfallers]?” a rogue player asks.

 

“Not until we take Leviathan Fortress,” a mage says. “And that will not happen soon. Nobody but the top team can get past the first mini-boss yet, and we suspect there are three more before the last boss.”

 

“So, how long do we have? How many levels?” the rogue asks.

 

“We figure our average player level needs to be 24 to claim the fortress,” he sighs. “Nobody is close, our highest-level group can sometimes get past the first guardian, but the trash mobs after demolish them. We need to find a faster way to level.”

 

This gives me a window of time. I leave Morrigan to fly into the night sky as I return to my original viewpoint from being within the familiar.

 

I leave and make my way back to the fortress as stealthily as possible. I need to find out what we can do to get recruiting started in Port Yarrow. We need to stop the [Art of War] clan from getting too strong too fast. I check the interface and find that I can get a recruitment office in Port Yarrow and I can also hire guards for it. The clan recruitment office is 100 gold and includes a fast-travel point inside of the building. I buy the office and set the clan house sign out front to be a large dagger shape stabbing into the ground. The letters of our clan name make up the hilt of the dagger. The clan house is on the other side of Port Yarrow from the [Art of War] clan house and is next to an adventurer’s tavern and inn named Gilgamesh’s. I purchase ten level-fifteen guards for twenty gold each and one clan house manager for fifty gold. The manager can invite new players to the clan as entry-level members who only have fast travel rights and can talk in our communications channels. I spend another one hundred gold on five town criers who will work for the clan house manager.

 

I notice that the spy I had sent to Port Yarrow had submitted a detailed report which I had missed. The report covers what I just found out and that there is a group of players who didn’t join [Art of War] and have their own clan—all currently nearing level twenty. Already? They are grinding an instance dungeon in a forest near the eastern border. I re-task the spy with collecting information on this new group. The scouts I sent out have done their work, and the map table has filled in much more with neighboring regions. I know it is time I send spies to the connected regions.

 

For now, I sleep. Tomorrow, I am going to recruit this clan in the forest.

 

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A note from joeldg

Follow + favorite in the upper right if you are enjoying the story.

Note: Tir Chonaill (Donegal) is used here as a reference to the early game town in Mabinogi,the incredibly long-running and popular, 'Life' MMO.

 

 


About the author

joeldg

  • Portland, OR

Bio: Joel lives on the side of an extinct volcano with his family, and a cat with markings of a ghost, named after a Roman general. He writes ongoing LitRPG, as well as short-form GameLit and SciFi. He has played nearly every single MMO/MMORPG.

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