A note from BlaiseCorvin

Book 2, Airship Privateers

Vale dePardon squared off against Bartholomew Holstings in a rented dueling chamber, a popular feature in Secret of the Old Ones. Sword point forward, he stood in an Italian rapier fencing stance, weight on his back foot. His current costume was flashy, but also practical.

Vale had been experimenting with ruffled shirts over the last week. The baggy arms sometimes seemed to confuse his opponents when he fought. Bart looked like some sort of gothic agent of death, as usual--all spikes, dark leather, and skulls.

This dueling chamber didn’t have an audience section. Some had them. All dueling chambers cost in-game money to use, though. Luckily, free access to dueling chambers were just one perk of being affiliated with a large company like Vermillion Entertainment.

The company had its own in-game city.

“Don’t you ever get tired of taking your frustrations out of me?” asked Bart.

“Not really, no. And you need the practice anyway. You can’t always rely on potions to throw around, even though you do carry a fuck ton of them.”

Bart sighed. “Trent, you’re always so easy to read.”

“Dude, don’t use my real name. What’s wrong with you? I’m already fighting with a handicap. You don’t need a penalty too.” Vale frowned and moved the tip of his rapier around for emphasis. His physical body was lying down on his bed back in the secure compound he lived at with his best friend Steve, aka Bartholomew.

The creators of Secret of the Old ones took role play in-game very seriously. In fact, they took it so seriously that anyone with too silly of an in-game name might be banned. And using someone’s real name in-game too many times could result in a crippling debuff. Nobody was quite sure how the game or the devs kept track of such things. It was a well known fact, though.

And after the game had launched, most players began to enjoy the added immersion.

Bart shrugged. “Whatever. It’s not like I don’t understand part of what’s eating you. I’m annoyed and curious too.” Without warning, the moment he stopped speaking, Bart whipped a potion from his coat, throwing it at Vale’s feet.

Shit. Vale appreciated Bart’s growing tool box of nasty concoctions, but not when they were used on him. He barely managed to dodge far enough to avoid being caught in the sticky tar trap. The move would have been far easier if he used magic, but he was trying to rely on it less lately.

After all, solid skills would make his magical abilities shine that much more. At least that was what Minerva had said in-game a week ago, before she and her brother had flown to the US, arrived at the compound in the middle of the night, and hadn’t been seen since.

“It’s bullshit that the company hasn’t told us anything yet,” Vale groused. He almost casually produced a flintlock pistol from the small of his back and shot his best friend. His Mystic aura made guns less accurate and do less damage, but he might still get a solid hit in.

Unfortunately, Bart didn’t stay still, though. He was moving, and his dark duster wasn’t for show. The bullet struck shoulder but didn’t penetrate his defenses. Even if it had, he would have lost minimal health. Bart had been getting a lot more tanky lately.

Vale barely dashed out of the way before another thrown potion could envelope him in a cloud of green gas. But then Bart produced a little, simple-looking pistol and Vale tried evading again. He wasn’t fast enough to dodge what his friend was trying to actually do.

The pistol belched flame and the fire ignited the green gas, throwing Vale to one side like a rag doll. He rolled and kept rolling, barely avoiding another thrown vial.

“This is bullshit! I can’t even use my regular magic but you’re using yours like crazy!”

“It was your rule,” said Bart mildly. He threw two more bottles at Vale. “I just said it’d be enough if you didn’t use your Wind magic.”

“Fuck,” was all Vale said. He ducked and knocked one bottle aside softly enough with the blade of his sword, Yarikh’s Will, that it didn’t break, just careened to the other side of the room. The other bottle zipped over his head.

He grinned. Time to go on the attack.

Bart leveled his special, quest reward pistol and tried to fry Vale with fire as he closed, but even without his magic, Vale still had a very solid Agility stat. He managed to spin around, juking Bart’s aim and delivering a savage, but graceful stab to his friend’s wrist. This sort of light wound didn’t actually do much damage, but the pistol dropped.

But Bart had unsheathed his sword cane now, and he managed to knock aside Vale’s killing blow. It was a good block, and Vale grudgingly complimented, “Nice.”

“Yeah, Minerva taught me that one.” His face fell. His friend must have known that mentioning their missing teammate had been the wrong thing to say.

Vale growled and delivered a blistering series of strikes. Some were turned aside, some only partially penetrated Bart’s armor-like coat. But others solidly connected. By the time Vale finally delivered a killing critical, Bart’s health had already been whittled down near zero anyway. He’d never managed to get out another potion.

The lights in the combat room changed and Bart floated upwards, a green, spinning cloud around his form before he was set back on his feet again. Both of their expended stamina were restored.

Vale still felt antsy and also had a sudden flash of guilt for beating up on his friend. He glumly sat on the floor. If he’d been footing the bill for the room, he wouldn’t have wasted the time--the rooms charged every 5 minutes. Vermillion Entertainment could handle it, though, he was sure.

“Are you sure you don’t want to just talk about it?” asked Bart. “That’s what normal people do, you know.” He scratched a cheek. “Actually, maybe you just need a girlfriend.”

Vale glared at him. Ever since Bart had finally admitted to dating Abbey IRL, he’d been insufferably smug about it. “Stow it, Cassanova.” He turned to stare at the wall. “It’s not like I can’t talk, it’s just a lot of different things, you know?”

“Yeah, I know.” Bart sat against the wall and put his sword cane across his knees.

“Like, this, all of this,” Vale gestured around and continued, “it’s all bullshit. I should be fighting you at max power while you have elemental magic, too. You’d be on my level once you get to the World Tree. But I need to wait on the fucking Euro siblings, and they haven’t come out of their rooms for a week. I need Minerva to get her ass back to work so I can take everyone to the World Tree at once.”

“Yeah, I know. The Trace.”

Vale hit the ground with a fist. Taking everyone one at a time to the World Tree would not have been a problem if not for the Trace. Someone had put magic on him, probably more than one person because it came back immediately, even after a long, and tedious process to remove it. The amount of energy and resources someone was spending on an incredibly powerful [Trace] spell was mind-boggling. It had to be another streaming company. They might be going specifically after the World Tree, but they were also monitoring him. At least there was a delay of a few hours or he’d be an easy target for assassination, too.

It was still a pain in the ass, though. He wasn’t sure how they’d even been able to put the spell on him in the first place. It usually had to be consensual.

An unfortunate result of the Trace was that Vale was locked down. If he went to the World Tree to help his friends get a Legendary Class, whoever was tracking him would likely also be able to find it.

And his friends needed him as a guide to get there. At least Vale could return to the tree without losing any more from his Intelligence stat. He actually visited the tree again, with Vermillion Entertainment footing the bill of his expensive magical reagents to do so. It’d been necessary to find out if he could actually even return.

Three weeks had passed since the group’s daring attack on the massive boss monster Hygon. And a lot had changed in three weeks.

All of his stamina was reset now from the duel. Vale idly opened his character sheet. It read:

Name: Vale dePardon

Class: Occultist

Subclass: Explorer

Hero Class: *At level 20*

Legendary Class: Air Adept

Level: 16

Experience: 1710542

XP to next level: 389458

Stamina: 76/76

HP 76/76

Mana: 120/120

Stats: (Total/Original/Level Ups/Bonuses)

Strength: 4/2/2/0

Agility: 11/3/5/3

Stamina: 6/4/2/0

Intelligence: 10/7/0/3

Willpower: 9/6/1/2

Luck: 16/8/5/3

Class Skills: Fencing, Ancient Body Magic, Paranoia, Ancient Occult Lore, Map Reading/Cartography, Elemental Magic: Air, Spirit of Adventure, Mystic Alignment

Permanent Bonus Source: Mystic Clover (Luck +3), World Tree Tithe

(Int -5), World Tree Boon (Int +8, Agi +3), Ring of the Unknown Saint (Will +2) Auras and Status: Mystic. A mysterious status that confers additional magical mastery. Not compatible with tech skills.

Dealing with Hygon had imparted an absolutely huge amount of XP. The days following had been a blur, just a carnage of grinding that he’d lost himself in to deal with what was going on in real life. As a result, he’d barely made level 16. He’d improved three levels over where he’d been before the big boss fight...and his family’s life changing.

The choices he’d made for his stat increases had been difficult, but he’d actually gotten some good experience after fighting higher level enemies. While he’d wanted to put more points into Luck, he’d needed to concentrate on survivability first. And sometimes a good offense was its own form of defense. Magic was such a huge part of his kit, he’d finally invested another point in willpower to handle his [Ancient Occult Magic]. Another point in Agility had been noticeable across the board.

What to choose for his next two skills had been even more difficult.

He’d actually considered taking [Athletics], a general skill that would help with Stamina and physical stats. But he’d taken [Spirit of Adventure] instead, a skill he’d only been eligible for based on a hidden prerequisite, probably being first to enough ruins or dungeons. The skill was situational, but powerful. It activated whenever Vale was exploring a new dungeon, or relatively unexplored area. He would get a boost to one or more stats, or at least that was the best he could tell. The level of increase was greater the earlier he was to the location relative to other players. This skill had been how he’d managed the last bit of XP to level 16.

Vale had actually considered taking [Basic Technology]. That skill would help him drive things, and actually use his newfound real-world firearms experience. But his “Mystic” status had actually prevented it. He hadn’t wanted to try removing it, either. The stats it came with were too good.

So ultimately, he’d chosen [Mystic Alignment], a skill available for having a 6 in both Intelligence and Willpower, for the same reason as he’d taken a point in Willpower. One reason players took [Mystic Alignment] was to see supernatural signs or messages in-game. But another passive benefit was a general buff to all magic skills. This meant he could control [Ancient Body Magic] much, much better now.

He should feel excited that he was getting so close to level 20, to choosing a Hero Class, but the last week had just felt like he’d been sitting still. Waiting on other people had never been one of Vale’s strengths.

To one side, Bart quietly said, “I’ve said this before, but you know that your parents being threatened wasn’t your fault, right?”

“That’s what they tell me.” Vale traced the beautiful design of his rapier’s hilt. The weapon had become something of a symbol for his character. And that was a problem, too. As a famous streamer, he was so recognizable that he couldn’t just wander around the same way he used to in-game.

Everything was more complicated now.

Suddenly, a light blinked in the top corner of his vision. He had a message. And to have bypassed his filters, it would have to be marked urgent. Bart must have gotten one too, because his friend turned and smiled slowly. “Dude, I think you should take a look at the message you just got. I was copied. Actually, let’s just Surface.”

“That important?”



Vale closed his eyes and mentally reached out to his persocom connection. Dueling areas were considered safe zones, so he wouldn’t suffer any penalty from leaving immediately. His consciousness swam back to his body in the real world.

When he woke as Trent, thirsty as usual, he scanned his messages and slowly grinned. Bart had been right. “Finally,” he hissed.

A note from BlaiseCorvin

Alright folks.  I'm not sure what my release schedule is going to be like, but this book will be done by the end of this month.

And again, I don't plan to take these books off of Royal Road if I can help it.

Please support the official release.

Support "Secret of the Old Ones"

About the author



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