Hunching down behind the large boulder with Aria, Roka watched as people swarmed across the battlefield.
The dog was wondering how he had ever been talked into this again. It had been as simple as being asked to come along and heal his guildmate, but Roka had no real desire to find his way into a PvP battleground once again. He closed his eyes and said "You know, the game has a really nice tropical island off the coast of the Emerald Peninsula."
"So?" asked Aria, her eyes fixed firmly on the battle playing out before then.
The cleric shrugged. "We could have gone there instead. It has a beach."
"Full of bloodthirsty enemies?" asked the assassin.
Roka shook his head, "Full of sunbathing, cocktails and relaxation."
"Sounds awful" stated Aria. "Okay, are you ready?"
A sense of panic rose in the dog. "No. I still don't understand."
The assassin gave a sigh. "Okay, I'll explain again. See that guy with the flag?"
The dog peered down into the fray. "The one that everyone is chasing after?"
Aria nodded. "The aim is to steal your enemy's flag like that and take it to your base. So it's kinda like football."
Looking into the battlefield, Roka said "They're murdering the guy with the flag" he said, watching as an entire team descended upon the man with the flag and proceeded to trample him into the mud.
"Yes" said Aria, "a more interesting version of football."
"And you want me to heal you while you steal the enemy flag?" asked the dog, unsurely.
The assassin nodded, "Simple."
Roka peered down onto the field. The fighters had become a scrum, a massed glut of forms that had coalesced upon the poor, nigh-defenceless flagbearer. As the dog watched, the flag was thrown, bloodied and discarded, to the side of the mass of forms, followed by something that looked entirely like the flagbearer's left foot. The dog looked at the assassin. "And that's fun for you?" he asked.
She nodded, eagerly.
Roka sighed in despair as the two left their hiding spot and rushed down into the main battlefield. Keeping close to the assassin, Roka began to skirt around the edge of the arena, hurrying his way along the tree line. Beyond them, no more than a few minute's sprint was the enemy camp. Arrayed behind a number of sharp wooden barricades, it appeared to be a resilient brick edifice perched atop a small hill, its grim battlements overlooking the shrub-strewn valley with a joyless expression.
The dog pulled up beside Aria and whispered "How do we get in?"
The assassin didn't turn to look, her cool composure utterly unruffled. "There are four possible ways in" she said, "the main gate, the side entrance, the tunnel through the basement, or by assailing the tower from above. Plenty of choices."
The dog blinked. "Do the enemy know that, though?"
Aria replied "Of course. Our team also has four entrances to our fort. It's pretty balanced."
"Sounds like a bit of a contrivance" said the cleric.
The assassin shrugged. "In either case, is your main channel on?" she asked. Then, not waiting for the dog, she slipped her way down from the trees.
Uncertainly, Roka followed, hurrying to keep up. The assassin pushed on, quickly working her way down onto the battlefield. With smooth, expertly practised movements she slipped easily past a broken ruin of a large siege engine, using its hefty dark structure as a barrier between herself and the assault that raged less than a minute's steps from her. Roka hurried to catch up, stumbling and sliding on the wet mud as he did. "The conversation channel?" he asked. "I have it turned off."
"Turn it on" she said, her eyes focused ahead of her, scanning the space between herself and the side entrance to the fort. "It can be useful."
With a groan, Roka turned it on. He generally did not care to hear the discussions that passed among people in the PvP arenas, and he was reminded exactly why this was the case the moment he turned the channel active again. A character called Epikkill screamed "Stop fighting in the middle of the field! Go and get the flag, guys!!"
Ignoring him, just like most of the people in the battlefield, Aria instead made a sprint for the side entrance. The dog had been so preoccupied with staring in disbelief at the torrents of abuse and insults that people traded in the channel that he almost forgot his companion, and rushed to keep pace.
As the pair slid into position at the corner of the entrance, Aria poked her head around to scan the entryway. Behind her, Roka inhaled. "Does this get you a lot of gold?" he asked.
The assassin slunk back against the wall. "Not much" she said, "a few gold if we win, that's all. There's two guarding the flag, the rest must be out fighting."
Nodding, Roka looked at the assassin. She seemed to radiate a sense of cold, almost methodical confidence, like a very relaxed professional, if the professional was a ruthless killer. Somewhere in his mind, his memory slid back towards what Brakka had said.
He shook his head, trying to free the thought, but still it lingered. Was it possible that Aria had given the gold to Brakka? As he thought about it, the dog realised that he wasn't sure. He knew so little about the assassin. Was his trust in her ill placed when she was little more than a stranger?
As they slipped into the entrance and along the dim hallway, Aria slid into the shadows. She motioned for the dog to hang back, and he did so, keeping a strong distance between himself and the crimson avenger. Roka hazarded a glance at the game's text channels. Epikkil was busy telling everyone how fantastic he himself was at the game, and how poor the rest of the team were in contrast. The dog rolled his eyes, and looked to Aria. "Can you take the two?"
She nodded. "I'm going to grab the flag and run" she said, "stay close behind me and keep me alive."
Easier said than done, thought Roka.
As silent as the still night, the assassin moved into the main chamber. The centre of it was occupied by a large, shimmering flag, which seemed to exist for no other reason than to shimmer and occasionally be stolen by a rival team. Beside it stood two players, unfortunate members of the rival team who had been lumbered with the tedious duty of guarding the flag room, no doubt browbeaten into it by the rival team's own version of Epikkil. As Roka watched, Aria slid her way around the corners of the room, weaving effortlessly through the shadows.
Then she struck, a blinding haze of motion that left the cleric dazzled. First she struck one of the guards, sending him collapsing into a dazed heap on the floor. The second guard turned, already weaving a potent spell in the air. For all his speed, Aria was faster, slashing her daggers through the air and disembowelling the man with a wet splash where he stood. He collapsed in a heap just as his colleague was picking himself back up, his paw moving for the sword that hung limply from his belt. Aria wasted no time, leaping over the man in a single move. Landing fluidly behind him, she drove her blades through him. Roka winced, watching with a revolted look on his face.
Grabbing the flag in one paw, Aria tore through the chamber and back into the hallway. She sped past Roka, moving so quickly that the dog barely had a moment to recognise that she had moved past him. He turned and sprinted after her.
She was out of the entryway by the time the cleric was almost caught up to her. Roka was gasping for air, all the while Aria ran with barely a staggered breath. The cleric looked around. He observed the enemy team. "Oh crikey" he said, "that's a lot of them." It was. "Are they all meant to be coming this way?" Roka asked, because they were.
Aria didn't stop to talk. Instead, seeing the massed glut of figures rampaging at her, she merely responded "right" and sprinted at full speed away. With a panicked mewl, Roka rushed after her, clutching onto his robe as it threatened to trip him up as he ran.
The assassin charged along steering herself to the left, trying to outflank the mob of enemy players. Roka hurried in her wake, feeling a great sense of relief as the swarm charged after her, seeming to completely ignore her. As she ran, Aria turned her head and noticed Roka. "No" she shouted, right! "
"What?" he asked.
"Go right" shouted the assassin, as a particularly unfriendly looking golem descended towards her. She dove smoothly beneath the swing of the brute's sword, readying herself back up into a jog.
Roka glanced to his right. Two Buffalos and a rabbit person had sealed off his route to the right. "I can't" he wailed. He looked around, realising that they were all but surrounded.
Deftly Aria rushed in a large circle around a rival assassin. She dug her fingers into her boot in mid-step, pulling free a small dragged and hurling it at a nearby undead fire mage with all the strength to stop him channelling his spell. In doing so, she lost her grip on the flag. With a flutter, the shining banner collapsed into the dirt.
Without even thinking, Roka pushed closer. He reached out, flexing his thin fingers towards the flagpole. He grasped it, and felt a rush of confidence. He had the flag. Roka was amazed. He had the flag. He could win this game. He could be the hero. He could...
Then he realised that the swarm were no longer looking at Aria. They were looking at him.
Fourteen seconds later...
"Well, you got the flag to the gate of our base" said Aria.
Roka rubbed his head, and sat back, resting against the soft figure of the Buddha Fox. "Now I know how a rugby scrum feels" he said. "Do you really get a lot of gold doing this?"
"Not a lot" said Aria. "Mostly I just do it for the fun."
Shuffling up to his feet, Roka said "Tell me something about yourself?"
"What like?" asked the assassin.
The dog shrugged. "Anything. It feels like I know so little about you."
Aria grinned. "I think you'll find that you know more than you think."
"Like what?" he asked.
"Try listing something?" she suggested.
Inhaling, Roka thought for a moment. "Sycorax is your little brother in real life. You play PvP. You have a sarcastic streak and don't like to wait."
She nodded, "You're wondering about the voice chat thing, aren't you?"
Thinking about it, Roka shrugged. "I guess I am" he confessed. It seemed logical to him. He couldn't imagine that anyone in the guild could have stolen the gold - anyone except for Aria. Was it any coincidence, then, that the only person whose voice he hasn't truly heard was the one that he found the hardest to trust?
She looked at him, her expression blank. It was her avatar's face, without empathy, without emotion. A face that reminded Roka that in the world of this game, their bodies were little more than digital mannequins. He wondered what she was thinking behind the character's genetic, emotionless face. Was there any emotion there at all?
"I want to keep some of my secrets to myself" she said. "I'm sorry, but that's just who I am. I'm sorry if that makes it harder for you to trust me, but that's just who I am. Is that okay?"
"Good" she said, "now, want to give the flag another go, partner?"
"Definitely" said the dog. He was happy to fight side by side with Aria, his crimson assassin. If she wanted to be an international woman of mystery, he thought, let her. He could respect that.
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/