I stare at Bonesy. He just told me that his treasure wasn’t actually treasure. This talking skull and bird infested forest are playing with my nerves like guitar strings on a heavy metal front man’s axe.
“I want the pile of gold Bonesy. I just stood in a dried out river basin looking at hundreds of useless gods. What do I care if your enclave was birthing a new god? What a ripoff, right after your speech about not being a welcher too.” I pull back my arm to throw Bonesy as far as I can into the forest. Screw his fake treasure quest.
Dan reaches out and grabs my arm, making a calming gesture with his other hand.
“Wait a second Samantha. I know gold sounds really good, but the birth of a god is a special thing in Incrementum. If what he’s talking about is what I think he’s talking about, Bonesy really is offering you a treasure.”
I put my arm down and hold Bonesy in front of me at stomach level.
“Ok, sorry about that Bonesy. Tell me about your new god, but please, please, please, keep it short and sweet.”
Bonesy pulls his affronted skull trick again, I still hadn’t figured out how he was doing that, skull plates didn’t move but somehow Bonesy’s expressed emotion.
“No, no, just toss me into the forest like some giant useless pine cone. Just an animated piece of bone I am. Don’t mind the decades of research, foremost in my field, not to mention the brilliance which allowed me to still be amongst the living. Bonesy the welcher she says. Throwing me into the brush to sit there for some bear to sniff at my eye socket. Can you imagine!”
I shake Bonesy.
“Come on Bonesy, I said I’m sorry. Can we put the drama aside?”
“Drama she says! Why I...” Bonesy sputters for another minute and then finally settles down with a sigh. “I guess my current form should put some limitations on my expectations. It sounds like Dan here knows the value my offer. All beings place special value on those that birthed them and the gods are no exception. You know about the benefits of choosing a particular god?” I nod my head and Bonesy continues. “Imagine that, but double it and then some. You know you discuss your boons with the gods? Well, they are constrained by what boons they can grant. They have many factors to consider, the first being whether they want to grant you the boon or not. That’s affected by your faith in them, but it could also be a capricious decision based on whether they liked their lunch that day or not.”
Or perhaps in the Monkey King’s case, whether he was hoping you would stop believing in him so he could disappear. Bonesy keeps rattling off information, I’m not sure he realizes how impatient I am.
“The gods also have to consider if the boon is within their domain and not another god’s. After all, if every god could grant any type of boon, what would be the point? Each god jealously guards their domain, bringing disputes to Vitalia and Decrepit, or perhaps attacking another god’s followers if they feel slighted. Be careful of that by the way. You do not want to anger a god, they can and will retaliate through their followers or even directly.”
Got it. Do not anger the almighty gods.
“Ultimately, each god is also constrained by your faith, as well as the amount of faith they have across all their believers. Decrepit was able to grant my miracle of eternal life because he has an infinite amount of faith from those throughout this world that see the power of death on a daily basis. I myself had amassed a large amount of faith in Decrepit over the years, which allowed me to request the miracle, but if Decrepit has been some obscure no-name god he would not have been able to grant such a powerful miracle, regardless of how much faith I had in the god.”
I drop my head to the side and make a snoring sound.
“Come on Bonesy, let's go here. I get it, so if we birth a god, they will be more willing to work with us on boons, we will get boons for less faith, but we might not have access to the ‘uber boons’ that a more powerful god might be able to offer. So what’s the deal with your god and how do we get him or her out of the womb? If he’s a god of rabbits I’m not going to bother.”
“God of rabbits she says! Like I, the finest scholar this land of dullards has ever seen would research a god of rabbits.” Bonesy sputters for a few seconds. I smile, it’s too easy to get him worked up, and fun.
“You were about to throw me in the bushes. Now, you can imagine that if you had thrown me, I would have careened through the air and gradually dropped down onto the earth or bounced off a tree. Have you ever stopped to think of why that is? Why wouldn’t my skull just keep moving, flying through the air forever? If my skull hit the tree, why would it bounce off the tree instead of just stopping right next to the tree, exactly where it met the tree?”
I cut in, not wanting to waste time.
Bonesy’s empty eye sockets stare at me.
“Because physics? What are you talking about and why are you interrupting me? I’m about to divulge some of the most powerful secrets about the natural world and here you go. ‘Because physics she says!’”
“Physics Bonesy. Oh, you aren’t up on physics? It’s the study of the basic laws of the natural world, primarily how matter moves through space and time. Really common stuff from where I come from. Your skull would have moved towards the ground because of gravity, or the force observed to bring objects towards each other due to relative mass. Another way to say it is that big things make little things move closer to them. The big thing, “ I pointed at the ground. “ the land, pulls the little thing, “ I pointed at his skull “towards it.”
Bonesy’s eye sockets were nearly vertical slits, and his jaw looked like it might fall off. It is kind of nice to show up this pretentious skull. He reminds me of some of my college professors which took delight in showing they were smarter than their students. I had chosen to prove them wrong, which had not gone well for me. That will not be the case with Bonesy, I hope.
“The reason your skull wouldn’t have just stuck to the tree is explained by the law of conservation of energy. The energy which I put into throwing your skull, and gravity amplified, cannot just disappear the moment your skull hits the tree. The tree absorbs some of it, but since it is a non-elastic surface, it deflects the force of the skull to go in the opposite direction.”
Bonesy stares. Eventually, his jaw clicks back into the place before saying, “We do not even have any of those words. Gravity. Elastic. Mass. I know the concepts you speak of, but we just have symbols. You have the mathematics worked out?”
“Of course, if you are nice to me I’ll even show you some time.”
“I don’t think you understand. My life’s work was to discover just a tiny piece of the knowledge you have. If you are willing to teach me these concepts, I will be in your debt for my substantial undead life.”
A system message appears in my view.
Undead Friend or Foe - Part 2
Saving Bonesy from Archibold’s wrath allowed you to learn about the god that was nearly created by Bonesy and his followers. Discover how to complete the process to become the new God’s creator.
Creation of a new god.
Wow, that’s a lot of experience. I close the prompt but before I can question the shocked Bonesy anymore, Dan cuts in.
“That sounds like some boring lecturing to me Samantha. What is ‘Mrs. I Can’t Wait Five Minutes To Learn About The Game’ doing lecturing other people about physics? You mentioned your suspicious boss but what do you do?”
“Oh I’m a residential skyscraper solar technician in Chicago.”
Dan pauses after hearing my position, his eyes going wide.
“There’s funny business with the power in a residential skyscraper in Chicago? That’s bad news, honey. You know some people don’t know how to live without power now right? Like emergency calls, panic attacks...”
“Please don’t remind me, Dan. I’ve done absolutely everything possible to avoid the people in my building losing their electricity. Absolutely everything. Including working myself to the bone. I can’t do anything else and I’m still probably going to get fired, so, here I am.” I say, gesturing at the world around me. “It’s really not fair either, this is my first job out of college and I wanted to do so well. I’ll probably live in the game for awhile too. I don’t think it will be easy to get another job after my Technician’s ranking takes such a hit so I’ll probably have to rely on my Universal Basic Income for some time. And that’s only good enough to keep the lights on and stay fed, so I’ll be in here for a bit.”
Dan stood there for a few seconds, thinking about what I said.
“Remember to give me a call sometime if you want help with that. I’m not sure things are as dire as you think but that’s ok. I’m going to be playing for quite some time myself. Hey, what do you think about going to Brighthollow? I heard good things about it. And you are what, level 8 now? You could probably use some new leather armor and maybe even try to learn how to use that staff? Bonesy isn’t going anywhere after all.”
My hand starts shaking.
“Here we are on the doorstep of creating the mightiest, purest, most wondrous god this land has ever seen and this cretin wants us to walk over some dirt to a collection of sticks and manure to buy bits of dead animal sewn together with other bits of dried skin before hitting someone with a giant branch?” I look down and remember I’m holding Bonesy. I’m beginning to think Bonesy is a touch dramatic. He keeps going.
“You Vitalia loving fool. You would lead this wondrous repository of knowledge, the foremost sage in our land, which was previously myself but is quite clearly the Great Samantha, to a silly little settlement in the middle of nowhere. Please, do us both a favor, climb the tallest pine tree in sight, then jump off it and apologize on the way down before perishing. We would all be better off without your miserable misdirected advice poisoning...” I put my hand over Bonesy’s mouth and look over at Dan in apology.
“I’m sorry Dan, apparently Bonesy is a bit of a drama queen. He does have a point though. Why not pursue the birth of a god? That sounds like a lot more fun than walking to a town.”
Dan taps his foot as if he’s thinking, “Ok, fine. Inventing a god sounds awesome, but I really want you to stop at Brighthollow first. Remember that boss I’ve been mentioning?”
He waits for a response instead of just continuing. “Yes.” I make a hurry up motion with one of my hands.
Dan rolls his eyes. “You really are impossible. My boss is the head honcho of that town. She bought a Homesteader Package and her and the families that came with her package built that town. She made it my job to find promising players to recruit to join her at the town. And I know that is a whole four sentences so I’ll be quiet now, ask your questions.”
I have never met someone who works in a virtual game before, but I know it’s quite common.
“What’s a Homesteader Package and what do you mean recruit? I don’t want another boss Dan. I’m playing this game because of the one I have back home.”
“A Homesteader Package means you pay a metric ton of bitcoin to start the game with families of villagers and a lot of resources. Enough resources to start a small town and be well on your way towards creating a village. I can’t tell you her long term plan, that is hers to divulge when she wishes it. And she doesn’t want employees, she wants elite partners. She can’t manage her town and some day cities, and adventure at the same time. Besides that, Homesteaders aren’t allowed to expand their dominion unless other players, adventurers like yourself, conquer objectives for them. That is where we would come in. She is making the following offer to players I deem appropriate to join her elite first group...”
I wave my hand at him.
“Save your breath. I’m interested enough to detour through the town. Conquering objectives sounds fun.” I look down at Bonesy. “Don’t worry, we’ll focus on your God as soon as we speak with Dan’s boss. Where do we need to go to create your God anyway? Does he have a name?”
“We called him Chronos, Master of the Unwritten Rules. But perhaps God of Physics is more appropriate, your term is quite refreshing. We simply need to travel to a cave, tucked away in a deep ravine, roughly one mile to the north, deeper in the forest. We got quite close to completing the requirements for his birth, there is just one ritual to complete. It will only take three human sacrifices to wrap up, quite the coup I might add.”
Now it’s my turn to drop my jaw and stare at Bonesy.
“Ok we aren’t going to sacrifice anyone, why do we need to sacrifice three people to manifest Chronos?”
“That’s just how things are done. We can try it without the sacrifices but it’s going to be quite the bother. Best to just seal the deal with sacrifices I always say.”
I look over at Dan. “Let's never put Bonesy in charge of making decisions. Or giving advice. Alright, Dan, you win. Lead the way to Brighthollow. ”