Thursday. July 9, 2054. 12:30 pm.
Caw. Kacaw. Kacaw.
A large flock of black crows circled around the open desolate field like vultures. They awaited the start of the grand festival of free food. It was a meeting place between life and death where many would die or strive to survive. Standing amongst the high hills, an army of Hercules Guild members stood watch each thrilled for action.
Pacing back and forth on his white horse, Aldran gazed upon the distance: nothing. Empty land and heat waves distorted his vision. The summer heat was beaming down upon him, which left him with a slight sun tan. Drips of sweat encompassed his whole face, making his hair stick to him like glue. His horse pranced around anxiously. His silver-colored armor shined brightly underneath the sun, making it difficult to glance upon him. His gryphon-like helmet with its ruby inlaid design glistened mesmerizingly under the light.
Behind him thousands of his guild members stood quietly while they nervously anticipated the battle. They were bloodthirsty and excited for the war to begin.
Their large banner, painted with a rearing golden gryphon, a white sword, and a shield, drooped down sadly upon its pike. It was a hot summer day reaching well over 90°F. Wearing their stuffy armor made it more difficult to breathe and move. They pulled their collars as sweat dripped through. Each one of his guild members wished dearly to be near an air conditioner. They all knew that today was going to be a long day.
Steadying his nervous horse, Aldran stopped it in front of all his guild mates. Off in the distance, small specks of black distorted silhouettes were seen. Aldran squinted to see what it was. It was getting closer and closer as the black smudge-like silhouettes become clear. Whatever it was, it was coming towards them fast. He paced back and forth, steadying his horse.
“Bring out the Scorpions!” yelled Aldran as he wiped sweat off his face. This dreaded summer heat was getting to him. Sixty crossbows, each as tall as a human and mounted on stands, rolled forward, squeaking on wheels. A loud kathunk was heard as the metal stand legs gripped into the ground. Each was individually handled and used by one archer or a hunter type class.
“All archers and mages move to the back of the Scorpions in a single file line! First squadrons of melee attackers bring out your shields and pikes! Be ready to defend your comrades!” shouted Aldran as he directed each group fluidly. A continuous harmonious movement passed across the hilltop as the members became ready for battle.
Rows upon rows of almost identical silver-whitish armor were worn by his guild mates. They were each wearing a similar bird-like helmet that covered half their face. There were more melee fighters than mage class or archers. Just like their guild name, they were all musclebound freaks who enjoyed the taste of battle. It was a test of their self and spirit to see who was the strongest, fastest, or most powerful. Contests were annually held and rare prizes were given to the winners of the events. Each was proud to be a part of the guild. They all worked well together.
“Finally, we’re moving. I didn’t want to wait anymore. I get to try out my new magic spell,” a young female elven mage excitedly said to her friend.
“Our leader has always done crazy things. This is just one of the many. I’m surprised that his guild was posted on the world wide announcement when he completed the Seed Shard quest. That was so cool. Even our guild’s popularity has been boosted up in ranks,” a male archer replied to the young elven mage. He was a new recruit just like the elven mage. They continuously chatted amongst each other.
“Yeah, I know, right,” the elven mage said enthusiastically. “Its crazy how there is more to the Seed Shard quest.”
“Will we be the first ones to get a castle for our guild? So far in the fire continent not a single guild has been able to own a castle. We can only rent places; castles are usually for the nobility. But if we are able to create our own settlement, we will create a new legacy in Noriene.” This comment came from a veteran named Gullifer. He was one of the five top commanders that led and built Hercules guild from the bottom up. He was the second in command of the guild. Each of the five commanders even had their own unique jobs. For a hardcore gamer and a fantasy fanatic, this was literally a dream life that people escaped to.
Guild members chatted excitedly at the thought of owning land and a house and having a base to come back to, which would be a huge advantage in the large continent . Buying and selling land, creating settlements, owning castles and houses, exploring new dungeons, and even possibly finding new races or jobs. Even though the other continents made it difficult to even pass through without dying, the new level increase had given them an opportunity to be able to tackle the new bosses that were out there. The undiscovered rare items were probably too numerous to count.
“I’m going to build the biggest house ever,” one of the players said with a hearty laugh.
“Why would you do that to yourself?” said Gullifer, bewildered at the player’s words. “Don’t you know it’s best to start small when you barely have anything to scrape by with? It takes time and effort to maintain those large houses.”
The other players nodded in agreement. They knew that living in Noriene was already difficult. Money didn’t easily come and go like it did in other games.
“Killing monsters doesn’t get you just gold. They may possibly drop items and sometimes they are guarding treasures. Selling monster parts and taking job requests gives you more gold than hoping to get gold from killing monsters,” stated Gullifer. He had been playing since the game went live.
“Either way. This is going to change everything.” Gullifer smiled happily. “I’m going to buy land and build my dream house here in Noriene.” The other players loudly agreed with his statement.
Thousands of thunderous roars and loud screeches were heard coming towards them. The Hercules Guild players’ chatter stopped as they turned their heads towards the inhumane screeches. Four-legged beasts with shark-like heads rushed forwards. They were known as land sharks. Their pearly white teeth with serrated edges and their blue but multi-colored snake-like skin glistened brightly underneath the sun.
A couple players stepped back as their eyes widened with unease. They had never seen such monsters before in the Fire Continent. They noticed the monsters’ levels were 160, while the average levels of the Hercules guild were around 148. The worst part was that there were thousands and thousands of them running towards them non-stop.
Aldran steadied his horse. “Scorpions and mages, ready! Fire!” yelled Aldran with a stern voice. He pointed forward. He was not going to let land sharks defeat him today. He was the leader of Hercules. His guild’s name hung on his victories.
One after another, large arrows were shot from the Scorpions and sped towards their targets. The monstrous arrows impaled the creatures perfectly and were the land sharks were thrown back amongst each other.
“Keep firing! Don’t give them a chance to stand up. Mages and archers, fire at will!” shouted Aldran with a hoarse voice. He pulled out his white sword that had large rubies inlaid on the hilt. He too prepared to clash with the oncoming monsters. His sword glistened red waiting for the fresh taste of blood. A rain of fiery arrows and fireballs fell upon the enemies. Half of the monsters fell like flies. Already the land sharks were about 10,000 meters away from them.
Magical landmines that were planted near the base of the hill went off. Large mushroom-like clouds erupted from the ground as hundreds of land sharks were shredded into millions of pieces. Many lost parts of their bodies but kept running forward while others died on the spot. Land sharks’ guts and dirt splattered against Aldran’s face. He wiped it off with the white gloves he was wearing.
“All mages, archers, and Scorpions pull back! All melee, attack!” Aldran brandished his sword forwards as his white horse reared. The front line moved back as all the melee attackers sprinted forward screaming at their top of their lungs. It was as if two opposing forces of black and white converged with one another and made a single palette of gray.
With several cuts of his sword, Aldran sliced through hordes of monsters. It was child’s play to him now. After getting his special armor and sword from the Seed Shard quest, these monsters were easy. He was the wielder of the Holy Armor of the Gryphon and the Sword of Gryphon’s light.
“Kill them all! Glory to Hercules!” Aldran yelled as he kicked an oncoming land shark. With multiple swift slashes, he decapitated a land shark that jumped towards him. Each monster fell to his blade and hundreds of land sharks lay dead behind him. With his white horse, Aldran rushed into a crowd of land sharks.
With a powerful swing of his sword, a large white aura resembling a gryphon appeared. It flew toward the land sharks, decimating them in a single swipe. Its sharp claws shredded their bodies as its beak tore through their skin. Land sharks flew left and right as the gryphon’s paws swatted them like flies. With a powerful shriek, an energy wave blasted through the land sharks and they flew backwards. The gryphon dissipated and disappeared into thin air.
Already the fight had become one sided. Aldran rode at the lead, bearing his silver sword, his banners flapping around him as he hacked his way through. Blue blood and guts flew by as he snarled. Today was the day he was making history in the game of Noriene. Nothing was going to stop him.
His guild mates attacked with crossbows, lances, swords, and bows. Fire magic filled the sky like falling stars. The trees burned. Blood and gore painted the landscape. The war was like a painting between white, gold, and black, the colors swirling, clashing against one another where the black struggled to overpower the white and gold.
Scorpions lay trashed. The trees smoldered. Bloodied land shark bodies covered the field, and vultures and crows gnawed on them.
Only a quarter of his guild mates fell to the onslaught of monsters, and the rest picked off the land sharks that remained.
“Hurrah!” shouted all his guild mates. They cheered joyfully in unison. Every single land shark lay dead upon the ground. It was a completely one-sided victory.
“A wipe out!” squealed one of the new girls with excitement. “I can’t believe this. This is my first time seeing a total large scale wipe out!” Her eyes sparkled with awe as she cast her gaze upon Aldran.
Aldran glanced around the dead. All around him was destruction, blood, and fire. The strong smell of burning land shark flesh permeated his nose. This was too easy, thought Aldran. The victory didn’t satisfy him—it only made him wary. The first part of the Seed Shard quest was five times more difficult than this. Have I leveled up to the point where the Seed Shard quest is barely anything to me?
Aldran clicked his sword into his belt. Even without the sword he believed that he could have slain many. When he dismounted his white horse, Gullifer walked over to his side and held the reins for him. Walking among the fallen, Aldran looked around for possible life. This wasn’t the end. He knew there was possibly more.
With a slight push with his foot, he uncovered one of his guild members lying slain underneath the carcass of the land shark. When players died, their bodies decomposes rapidly during the twenty-four hours before they could be resurrected and then refreshed upon resurrection.
“The stench is awful.” Gullifer stated. “Whenever there is war the aftermath is always so putrid. The dead leave behind their shells to rot on the plains of the living. It takes a while for the body to decompose till the player gets resurrected. This is one thing I wished the creators would have not put in. I smell so horrible. It would be great if the city’s special cleanup crews could be here right now.”
Squatting down near his guild mate’s body, Aldran noticed a gold ring around one of her fingers. He reached over and pulled the ring off. Holding it up to the sun, he noticed an intricate design of leaves circling the ring. The guild mates of Hercules had decent gear. It was a known fact that high-end accessories and equipment were worn by the strongest.
While he looked through the ring, dark shadows fell upon it and he noticed an eclipse had slowly begun to encompass the sun. Heavy dark fog encroached upon the plains. Black, shadowy creatures crept into the skeletons of the dead land sharks. The dead rose.
The land sharks’ bodies ripped apart as the skeletons clawed out. Pieces of muscle still stuck to the skin like glue as they lurched forward. The battle was not over.
Aldran grinned from ear to ear. This was what he was looking forward to. This was the true battle he was seeking for. The game of Growth made it as realistic as possible. Their motto was bringing fantasy into reality.
Aldran dashed forward as he swung his sword through a land shark’s skeleton, shattering it completely. The bones clattered onto the ground, and Aldran stepped forward and parried another incoming attack. The sword broke through bone, smashed it into a thousand pieces, and scattered its remains all around him. The shards flew around him like confetti as he laughed joyfully with each swing. This was the thrill that he missed. He laughed in pure ecstasy even when he was drenched in enemy’s blood.
People had named him the Blood Knight. He was the only human so far that was given such a title. He did not mind the title at all. In actuality, he secretly loved it. It kept people at bay. This is where he was born to live, where constant war raged. Who would have thought that he would be able to live in the world of his dreams: a society where magic was real.
Loud chattering bones clanked against one another as they rearranged themselves to become one. The once defeated undead land sharks were whole again. Aldran’s eyes widened. Can they not be killed by physical means? Perhaps magic will work instead, he thought as he once again swung his sword, and a large gryphon sprung forward. Its golden wings stretched out as it rushed forward with beak gaping open. It screamed in anger as its wings cut through the bones. The skeleton shook and fell into many pieces as the gryphon disappeared.
But once again, the bones picked themselves back up and rearranged themselves into their former shape. Bewildered at what was happening, Aldran quickly looked around and saw the same thing happening all over the field. All the different varieties of magic that were known to man, elves, trolls, and dwarves could not harm the apparitions inside the skeletons. Instead they flickered in and out.
“Gah!” yelled one guild member. He fell to the ground dead.
“No! Someone help me!”
“This can’t be happening. This can’t be happening!”
His teammates fell one by one.
Aldran was shocked. How are we supposed to defeat the ghosts that inhabit the bones of the once dead? Even light magic is not effective? He looked around searching for answers. There were a couple of priests that were holding them at bay, but damaging them was not possible. Something was wrong. Usually in games apparitions should easily be pushed away by priests. Light elemental magic was useful in this situation, but even a normal priest could not damage these shadowy monsters.
If he didn’t find a solution soon, they would all die. He was running out of time.