"We need to know more about them" said Gunnar.
Roka nodded. He had found the tavern that the group now inhabited in a small coastal town named Pirates Cove, set by the calm blue sea. The region was a haven for low level characters, with a variety of NPCs who were eager and willing to dispense pirate themed quests to eager adventurers in the level fourteen to seventeen bracket. As such, it was the perfect location for the guild to meet up to discuss their current predicament. The nautical theme, right down to the Jolly Roger flag pinned to the wall and the rat bartender's charming admiral hat, were merely icing on the cake.
"They're a guild of roughly forty members" said Aria. "Brakka's Bruisers have been recruiting across PvP boards mainly. Almost all of them are specced out for it."
The buffalo nodded. "What about the man himself?"
"Level forty-six frost knight" she said. "All of his gear is top of the range because he made it himself - seems that he spent a lot of time maxing out his armour crafting skill.”
Gunnar whistled. "That could be a problem" he said. "That puts him into the range of being one of the strongest in the game. What about his sword?"
Roka felt a wince, his paw drawing towards his shoulder. The injury was gone, healed almost immediately after they had fled from the ambush. But still, he noticed, a status ailment remained. He had not noticed it when he had been struck, the heady rush of the combat having closed his mind. But now he felt it hanging over him. He read the description again, pondering the words, 'frost-touched'.
"Frost class exclusive" said Aria. "I hadn't even heard about it until Exra explained it to me. It's what they call an artifice weapon."
Gunnar leaned closer, "What's that?"
Aria replied, "It starts off as strong as a starting weapon, like 'beginner's cudgel', the kind that you have at the very start of the game. But as they level up, it gets stronger. If you think about it like an object that levels up with you, scaling to how strong you are."
"So, by the time Brakka hits max level?" asked Roka.
"It means that he will possess one of the strongest weapons in the game" she explained.
The canine threw up a paw. "How could the developers leave something like that in the game? That's utterly..."
"Ludicrous?" came a voice. The dog turned, glancing towards the doorway. Exra stood there, but immediately Roka could see that all was not well. Rather than jumping eagerly, hopping to and fro as she normally did, she stood slumped, looking drained and weak. The cleric shot a quick glance to her statistics. The words 'frost-touched' sat there, pale and etched in blue.
The cleric was on his feet in a second, throwing a quick healing spell her way. Gunnar sighed, sadly. "They got you too? I thought that you and Biggie were doing a dungeon tonight?"
The fire witch nodded, staggering weakly towards a chair beside her guildmates. "We were clearing the Anthrax Bats out of Marshcrater Depths."
"Anthrax Bats?" asked Roka.
She nodded, "They're about as friendly as they sound. Teeth as big as a baby. Anyway, we had cleared the place of them, me and Biggie, and we had just taken down the Godfather Bat when six of the Bruisers jumped us."
"Six?" spat Aria.
Exra nodded. "Took my new cloak, all the gold we were carrying and the new crossbow that Biggie got from the boss."
"Where's Biggie now?" asked Roka.
"Rage-quit" she said. "Disconnected for the night after that."
Nodding, Gunnar added, "Can you email him tomorrow if you don't hear from him?"
She nodded, "Can do."
Roka paused for a moment. For the most part, he had never witnessed Gunnar drop character like that. The buffalo had always maintained a mask of perfect, flawless immersion, of giving himself over to the role as a warrior. The canine respected that, and often had thought of trying to emulate it himself. But still, he thought, these events have clearly distressed their leader.
Exra inhaled, and continued. "But yes, you were discussing artifice weapons. Initially, the developers intended each class to have one. This would mean that nobody had to seek out more powerful weapons as the game progressed."
"The idea was scrapped?" asked Aria.
"Mostly" said the fire witch. "The frost knights still have theirs. Because there are less than a hundred of them still in the game, the developers didn't bother to remove their weapons. If they had done, they would have needed to programming, design and code in a batch of new weapons specifically for a very limited number of players, and that just wasn't something they wanted to invest all that time into."
Gunnar looked around the table. Sternly he sat his paw down. "I'll level with you all; it's not only Exra who was caught by these guys. Two of them ganked me earlier today," he said. " I was barely able to get away intact. What about you?" he asked, turning his eyes towards Aria.
The assassin nodded. "I was able to hold off a few of them, but it's pretty clear that this is a concerted effort. I think it's fair to say that this Brakka guy has it in for us."
Gunnar nodded. "Any ideas why?"
She shook her head.
Roka looked up. "What else do we know about Brakka?"
"That he hates us?" Aria offered.
The cleric added, "Seems to hate Sycorax especially."
She nodded. "I don't think that Brakka is the type to roleplay a stubborn dislike of undead. Think there's more to this?"
Gunnar looked down, examining the table. "I think it's clear what happened here."
Roka gave him an uncertain look. "Where is Sycorax now?"
"Training up his pet abomination" said the warrior. "Fluffy was lagging behind, he's taking him out to feed him a few cats and kittens, get it up a few levels. I'll call him."
Roka perked his head. Gunnar barely ever used the game's instant messenger system. As far as he could remember, the buffalo had only ever spoken to others face to face, as it were. To see him like this, dropping all pretences of merely playing a charter, made Roka even more anxious.
With a snap, a thick spear of light jarred its way through the central area of the tavern. The light seemed to flex, writhing with a preternatural malignance, dense clouds of smoke pooling around the floor. Quickly, the light peeled backwards, like pages opening in a book, revealing the warlock's portal. Unceremoniously, Sycorax stepped through. The bartender in the naval hat barely even looked up. "You need me?" asked the skeletal figure.
Gunnar motioned to a chair. The warlock stepped over, sliding down into the chair as the mystical portal blinked out of existence behind him just as smoothly as it had opened. "We need to talk" said the warrior.
Sycorax nodded. "What about?"
"About you and Brakka" said Gunnar.
The warlock looked at him, a sense of disquiet settling throughout the room. "What about him?" asked Sycorax eventually.
The warrior leaned closer. "How do you both know each other?"
The skeleton replied, "He tried to kill me last week. So I wouldn't really keep him on my Christmas card list, if that's what you mean."
Gunnar nodded. He looked Sycorax over, as if assessing the tall, deathly figure, moving his eyes along to take in every motion, every detail. Finally, the buffalo said "He knew you, though."
Sycorax returned the buffalo's gaze, not blinking the haunting glow that constituted his eyes for a moment. "Lots of people know me."
"But not all of them have any real desire to hurt you" replied Gunnar. The buffalo drummed his fingers against the chipped, beer-soaked wood of the table. "Where did you get the gold?"
Aria looked over, speaking now. "What gold?"
"When you joined us" said Gunnar, speaking to the warlock directly, "you deposited a large amount of gold into the bank. Money we've used to get the guild established, decorate our house, and to train up our profession skills. Where did you get that money from?"
The undead figure looked around the room.
The sound in the tavern crawled to a hush. Whispers seemed to cease. Even the sound of the old drunken lizard who sat in the corner, whistling away on his harmonica, grew deftly silent.
Roka said, quietly, "You were with the Bruisers before you joined us, weren't you?"
The warlock gave an annoyed, rattling sigh. He threw up his hand, dismissively. "They kicked me out! Said that I wasn't strong enough. Couldn't play my class right."
Gunnar let his paw reach up to touch his palm to his forehead, leaning downwards wearily as if his body sagged under the strain.
"They called me a noob" snarled Sycorax, angrily.
Roka closed his eyes. For a moment, he felt something, a sense of familiarity.
Gunnar looked up. He opened his mouth, about to speak, when Exra leaned in and said "You heard that they were going to do this, and swiped their whole guild bank?"
Sycorax nodded. "It wasn't even theirs to begin with. Not really. You can't steal from thieves, can you?"
The buffalo looked towards Aria. "Did you know any of this?"
She returned his gaze. "I had a small inkling" she said, "that something had happened with his former guild, but I didn't know the details."
Nodding, Gunnar turned his gaze downwards again. He looked, thought Roka, like a man straining to balance all the worries in the world.
Finally, the warlock said "So now what? Do you want to throw me out?"
Gunnar looked up. For a few moments, silence hung over him. A knot of confusion crossed his lined brow. He exhaled his sigh full of woeful indecision. With a troubled look in his dark eyes, he turned to the cleric. Roka met his gaze, and for just a moment he felt a share of that grief, of a powerful and deeply unpleasant responsibility. This, thought the canine, was what leadership felt like. He did not like the feeling, not one bit.
The Canine turned towards Sycorax and said, through a voice that struggled to hold a quiver of uncertainty silent, "No. No, of course not."
The warlock looked up, meeting the cleric’s eyes.
Roka said, a little more certainly, "You are part of the guild. Even if Brakka and his thieves were to leave us alone and pursue you instead, we cannot abandon you to them." The cleric looked around the table, his eyes passing from each person sat around him, lingering before moving on. "We are a guild. We take care of our own."
The buffalo nodded. Roka looked back at him, and caught a definite sense of approval in the bob of his head.
Aria smiled, seeming to relax a little there and then. "So, what now? I mean, I can fight off several of Brakka's cronies, might even be a match for the guy himself, but I can't be here all the time."
"No" said Gunnar, "we need to focus. We need to get stronger. We need to be ready not just to take on Abbadon in the secret dungeon, but hold our own against Brakka as well."
"What do you suggest?" asked Sycorax.
Gunnar turned to Exra. The fire witch's rabbit ears twitched slightly. "I have an idea" said the warrior, "and, if you're up for it, it's going to hinge on what we need you to do next."
Welcome to the next chapter of "Realms of Valeron". A new chapter twice each week!
It was the biggest MMORPG ever created, and took the world by storm. With billions of players from every corner of the planet, 'Realms of Valeron' allowed anybody to interact with one another within the gloriously realized online world.
But for Roka, a young healer, it was more than that. It was a gateway to make friends. Friends like Exra, the hyperactive rabbit rogue; Gunnar the loyal buffalo, Sycorax the maniacal warlock, and many more.
What adventures lurk within the game? In a world full of quests and dangers, the truest and greatest loot is yet to be discovered. Bound together by the oaths of their guild, they would face brutal trials, savage enemies, and more than a few bugs that the game's play-testers really should have caught before release... But this is no trite story of players trapped inside a video game! Our heroes can turn off the game and leave at any time. But why would they, or any of us, ever want to leave when you have friends like these?
Realms of Valeron is a comedy fantasy, part sit-com and part epic adventure, which explores the bonds of friendships in a digital age.
Look here if you would like a story commission of your very own! - https://www.furaffinity.net/view/30458500/