This week I’m going to mix things up a bit and give you a present just for being here.
I’m not going to write much of an update on my workings this week, because there isn’t much to talk about besides the dozens of mundane hours spent editing and revising. See? Update done.
Instead I’m going to give you a scene to check out from my latest novella, The Definition of Family. The scene shows what I think virtual reality will be like in the future. Well, it’s what I can hope virtual reality is like in the future. From chapter 4, here are Daniel and Henry as they boot up Eternal Conquest, a virtual reality video game, and go through a quest online. Enjoy.
“I’ll have a few hours in the afternoon to play. If you’re logged in, I’ll send you the results.”
“You got it, I’ll be online,” Daniel said. “Around four or five?”
“Yeah, around then,” Henry said.
“Sweet.” Daniel looked down the hall at the quickly approaching Math classroom. “Hey, did you do last night’s homework?”
Deep within the abandoned mine of Rockfort, where no one was foolish enough to enter for fear of gruesome death, the clan of undead warriors regrouped for a second attack. Their chieftan, a skeleton taller than all the others and with a crown of gold melded to his skull, waved his sinister looking scimitar above his head and howled at the jagged ceiling. His boney brothers responded with cries of their own as they charged towards the intruder.
Daniel raised his shield arm and waited for the oncoming attack. He knocked away the first warriors with a backhand from his shield, spraying bone fragments across the ground, then repeatedly hacked at the creatures.
The problem with undead skeletons, Daniel thought as he cut through two of them with a single blow. Their bodies were embarrassingly fragile. Isn’t that they’re too strong. Far from it. He ducked a clumsy attack from behind and shattered another skeleton with a kick from his armored boot. It’s that there are so freaking many of them to deal with! He clobbered his enemies more with mindless attacks than precise strikes, but the outcome was still the same. Daniel lashed out with both sword and shield at the horde around him until only the chieftan remained.
Daniel crossed swords with the towering skeleton and marveled at how real the VR setting on his Couldstation was. It masterfully transformed his bedroom into the unforgiving dungeon mine shaft that was the setting for his duel.
Daniel repelled the undead chieftan and activated his character’s special ability. His sword burned an intense emerald green and the blade gave off waves of heat. Daniel struck at the area before him and watched as a vortex of crackling green energy released from his weapon, soared across the mine shaft, and slamed into the undead chieftan. The creature bellowed in pain, then exploded in a cloud of dust.
Daniel checked all his stats after the brief skirmish; his health was in the green, he had plenty of mana left, and his shield’s hit point counter was still in high double digits. He glanced at the inbox icon in the upper left of the HUD screen. Still no response from Henry.
Daniel sighed, then adjusted his armor and trudged deeper into the mine. Questing for additional materials was an easy was to kill time and gather items for crafting later. The quest Daniel had accepted back in town claimed that an untapped vein of mythrill ore awaited any adventurer brave enough, and tough enough, to claim it deep in the heart of Rockfort mine. The quest details mentioned the mythrill ore was guarded by Melgor, something called a demi-lich. No further details were listed. Daniel assumed it was the dungeon’s boss.
As he continued further into the mine via cramped tunnels and dank corridors, Daniel pulled up a transparent map of the dungeon on his HUD screen so he wouldn’t get lost. It was much easier to navigate with the map, and soon he found his mind drifting to the type of armor he’d make with the mythrill. Henry was going to be so jealous. If he ever got online to play, that is.
Daniel glanced up at the inbox icon again, but it remained as empty as before.
Though he was mostly a solo player and preferred questing on his own, Daniel had grown accustomed to fighting with Henry at his side lately. Henry was a powerful spellcaster in Eternal Conquest and the perfect complement to Daniel’s brute strength and warrior build. The two had tackled quests normally meant for groups of four or more and were now quickly dominating the game’s more advanced dungeons.
Daniel entered an antechamber which, according to the map, lead to the final area of Rockfort mine. A band of undead skeletons armed with lances and longbows patrolled the torch-lit chamber in a slow rhythm. Daniel strolled into the room like he owned it. An archer immediately spotted him and raised a boney finger in alarm.
Daniel buffed his weapons with increased critical damage and charged his new opponents. He made short work of the dozen or so skeletons, even handling the one undead sorcerer among the bunch with ease. Daniel’s shield protected him from elemental magic and easily deflected the sorcerer’s spells. He ended the skeleton’s existence with a swift beheading.
Satisfied with his work, Daniel looted the small amount of coins from the piles of what remained of the undead soldiers, then progressed onward.
Magnificent double doors of heavy grey stone stood in the back of the room and led to the final chamber. As Daniel approached, the doors rumbled open and permitted him access.
Daniel surveyed the room past the towering doors before stepping inside. The chamber was large, circular, and had the highest ceiling of the mine so far, reaching up far enough that it eventually turned into darkness. A ring of torches encompassed the room and painted the area in shifting orange light. Massive chunks of rubble littered the floor, giving the impression of a near cave in at some point in the past.
But nestled in the far wall of the chamber, appearing to dance in the torchlight, sat a collection of mythrill stones, some the size of Daniel’s head.
Daniel grinned and sauntered into the room. The pile of mythrill against the far wall was a spectacular find, and he could see still more ore in the walls around the chamber just waiting to be mined.
Daniel stopped walking suddenly, coming to a halt just short of halfway into the cavernous chamber. He scrutinized his surroundings, tense and wary of unseen enemies. No red dots signifying monsters appeared on his map, but he wasn’t entirely convinced and continued to scan the area.
It couldn’t be this easy, could it? he thought. He raised his boot to take a step forward, then froze with his foot in midair.
Dangling from the ceiling, like a giant spider descending from its web, hung a dark-skinned humanoid creature. It watched Daniel with colorless eyes the size of baseballs. Slowly, and with deliberate movements, the humanoid monster lowered itself on a pale, slimy cord to ground level. In landed before Daniel, effectively blocking his path to the mythrill ore.
The creature wore nothing more than rags that covered its groin and wrapped around its waist and over a shoulder. Its head was abnormally large, elongated, and with pulsing arteries clearly visible in its temples. The creature looked gaunt, but Daniel suspected a fierce strength hidden in its muscles.
The humanoid smiled at Daniel and spread its arms wide. “I am Melgor the demi-lich,” it hissed.
Daniel gave one last look at his inbox, saw that it was still empty, and prepared for battle. He double checked his health and mana bars, then the hit points for his armor, and lastly his supply of potions. As the monster before him took in another breath to speak, Daniel added his best buffs to his weapons. He had a bad feeling about this demi-lich creature.
“Welcome to your tomb!” Melgor shouted, then raised his arms to the ceiling and called forth a small army of undead skeletons from the rocky floor of the chamber.
“Well,” Daniel said, as almost one hundred red dots appeared on his map. “Crap.” Then he was immediately struck from behind.
The blow barely damaged his health or armor, but as Daniel turned to dispatch the lucky attacker, he took in the rest of the chamber, and the view did not thrill him. His earlier thought came to mind and he shouted it at the shuffling horde around him in frustration.
“The problem with you undead skeleton guys isn’t your strength.” Daniel bashed through a pair of skeletons, ducked an arching battle axe, then destroyed its wielder. “It’s that there’s so. Freaking. Many. Of you!” He emphasized each word with a savage blow.
Daniel pummeled and plowed through wave after wave of attacking skeletons, always keeping an eye trained on Melgor for more tricks. After a time, he fell into a fighting rhythm and saw only shambling bones in one form or another. Using every part of himself as a weapon he decimated the undead monsters, and with the last of his mana dispatched two undead chieftans, their bodies crumbling to dust.
Daniel turned and faced Melgor the demi-lich where it stood before the mythrill prize. Daniel was panting and sweating onto the VR nodes taped to his chest, but he wasn’t going to pause the game now.
“What’s up now, you stupid necromancer?” Daniel said. He taunted the half human, half lich with an obscene gesture. “I took care of all your precious little soldiers. No more skeletons. What’chu gonna do now, huh? Huh?! I bet you-“
Melgor raised a hand at Daniel and a searing jet of flame erupted from it. Daniel yelped and took cover behind his shield. The flames licked the shield’s magic edges, but didn’t burn him. He lowered his defense when the attack was spent.
“Ha!” he said at Melgor. “Blocked it. You suck.”
A harsh crack echoed throughout the chamber and Daniel felt his arm tremble. He looked down in time to see his shield splinter then crumble into a pile of enchanted pieces on the floor. He frantically pulled up his equipment’s stats and saw that his shield had no more hit points left; Melgor’s flame had dealt enough damage to bring it all the way to zero.
“Well,” Daniel said, looking at the demi-lich. “Crap. Again.”
Melgor spewed a bolt of flame that struck Daniel square in the chest. While he was flung across the chamber and thrown into a pile of rubble, Daniel’s view became distorted for a moment as the VR compensated for his character’s rapid movement. Daniel sprang to his feet quickly and glanced at his health bar. Another hit like that would bring his health down to critical, a second hit would finish him. The VR settings on his Cloudstation had only sent a mild jolt through the nodes on his torso to register the hit, but it still jarred him into swift action to prevent anymore.
He scurried over the pile of rubble and leapt to safety as another bolt of flame rocketed across the chamber at him. He jumped over a large boulder, which in reality was actually his bed, and took cover from a hail of continuous elemental fire. Looking at his options for defense, Daniel wasn’t pleased.
The onslaught of magical energy stopped and Daniel chanced a look over the boulder. Melgor was facing the entrance to his chamber as another adventurer stepped forward. The person wore a long brown robe trimmed in crimson, and carried a spellcaster’s staff that was taller than they were.
Daniel heaved himself onto the boulder, messing up his comforter and bed pillows as he did so, and shouted, “It’s about time you showed up! I was starting to get worried.”
Henry smiled at Daniel. “I sent you a message, but when I saw where you were I figured I’d just come and see what you were up to.”
Daniel looked at the inbox icon in the upper left of his HUD screen, and sure enough it showed one unread message. “Yeah, I haven’t really had time to check my mail,” Daniel said, gesturing to Melgor who stood in the middle of the chamber.
“I see that. What are we up against here?”
Melgor spread his arms wide and introduced himself to Henry. “I am Melgor the demi-lich.”
Henry made a face at Melgor. “That doesn’t sound fun.”
“He’s a necromancer,” Daniel called to Henry. “I think you reset the boss fight when you came into the room, because he said the same thing to me before-“
“Welcome to your tomb!” Melgor shouted, and summoned a second army of undead soldiers.
“-he did that,” Daniel finished.
Henry immediately back peddled to a safe corner of the chamber while multi-casting spells. “Holy cow! That came out of nowhere,” he said. A transparent blue glow surrounded him as he shielded himself in magic, then unleashed a wave of cold frost and succeeded in freezing several skeletons in place. He bashed them to icy pieces with his staff.
Daniel leapt from the boulder and into the fray with his friend. He cut a deadly path to where Henry was defending himself. Daniel kneecapped an undead archer aiming at Henry, then shattered its skull with a swift cut and moved closer to his friend.
“Tell you what,” Daniel said. “It’ll take care of the small fries; you take care of mister spider over there.” Daniel pointed with his sword and Henry watched with a horrified expression as Melgor climbed up his pale, slick cord again and dangled from the ceiling to watch his prey.
“I am terrified of spiders,” Henry said. “I hate them. Like really, really hate them.” He cast a healing spell on Daniel, and his health bar jumped back into the green. “Alright, you’ve got a deal,” Henry said, charging up his mana for an attack. “You thin the numbers; I’ll deal with that thing. I’ve always found it therapeutic to face my fears head on anyways.”
With renewed vigor, Daniel charged into the battle once again, hacking and slashing his way through a never ending swarm of digitally reanimated bones. His mana was depleted, his shield in pieces, and he was out potions, but with Henry’s expert spell casting Daniel managed to mop up the last of the skeletons in time to watch Melgor fall. Henry dealt the last blow with a powerful summons of lighting, causing Melgor’s body to twitch occasionally even after his demise.
“You are the sorcerer of sorcerers, my friend,” Daniel proclaimed. He patted his partner on the shoulder, and the VR setting of the Cloudstation simulated the resistance of a human shoulder seamlessly. “Now for our prize. Oh wait, what did your parents say?”
“Read the message,” Henry said as he placed his staff against a boulder and began adding massive stones of mythrill into his inventory.
Daniel opened up his inbox and read the message titled, Good News! It read: Good News, they agreed to the dinner! It didn’t take long to convince them, and my parents are totally on board now. For some reason they don’t want my sisters to come, just my parents and I. But that’s still pretty cool, right? Turns out my mom had a hunch you were the friend I was talking about, and believe it or not, she wasn’t that angry.
Daniel beat his chest armor and the sound reverberated throughout the chamber. He was ecstatic at the victory, both against the demi-lich and Henry’s parents. “That’s awesome, man! We are all set to go. You know what? This calls for a celebration. A celebration, I say!”
“What kind of celebration are you thinking about?” Henry asked.
“It’s been a while since we killed a dragon,” Daniel said. “Let’s go to the Dagdar Mountains and get another quest. We’ll go impress the noobs.”
“I’m game for that,” Henry said, picking up his staff.
“But first,” Daniel said, moving towards the shiny ore of mythrill like a food addict towards a buffet. “I gotta get me some of this booty right here.”
There you go. Stick around for more from yours truly.