Orbs of Prestige: Chapter 4 – Death

Syn snapped back into existence and fell to his knees. Teleporting was always so disorienting. He looked around his new environment. He was in a small cave, maybe twenty feet wide and ten feet tall, with a Mana Crystal right in the center. A wooden door led out of the cave. An older man stood near the door; a glance above his head showed 10 bright Silver Orbs. Syn locked eyes with the man and time slowed down. He was under attack?

“W . . . h . . . a . . . t-” Syn snapped his mouth closed after the first drawn-out syllable. Syn watched the man unsheath a sword at his hip and walk toward him casually. Even with time being drastically slowed, the man was moving much too fast. He had an annoyed expression and was saying something about waiting too long.

The man swung his sword to cut off Syn’s head. Syn pushed himself back. His muscles burned from the strain he was causing his body. He even lost some Mana from his muscles tearing. The blade barely passed by his neck. Confusion shone through the man’s eyes, but he smoothly shifted his stance into a second decapitating blow. Syn saw it coming, but his body wouldn’t respond. He felt the blade slowly slice his neck, layer by layer. Pain. Then darkness.

A screen popped up:

<[Battle] You have died. All Orb Slots Progress has been reduced. Iron Chip x6 and Grass Rabbit Pelt x1 have been removed from your Inventory.>

Before Syn could process what had happened, Syn reappeared back in the cave. The man stood over him with a vicious grin. Once again, he swung his sword. Syn tried to dodge out of the way, but the man was expecting his higher Perception. The strike cleaved his head off slowly.

<[Battle] You have died. All Orb Slots Progress has been reduced. Iron Chip x6 and Failed Meal x1 have been removed from your Inventory.>


<[Battle] You have died. All Orb Slots Progress has been reduced. Iron Chip x6 and Forest Rabbit Tail x1 have been removed from your Inventory.>

<[General] Short Spear has lost 1 Level. You have lost 1 Level. Each Attribute has been reduced by 1.>

The next time Syn respawned, he was 12 years old. The man nodded once in satisfaction as he once again chopped off Syn’s head. Syn could barely move with his reduced stats.

<[Battle] You have died. All Orb Slots Progress has been reduced. Iron Chip x4 and Raw Meat x1 have been removed from your Inventory.>

The next time Syn spawned, he knew his only option. While his body could barely move, he could still access his menus. As the man was lowering the sword, Syn forced his fingers to move quickly to access his Inventory and retrieve the Teleportation Shard he’d received from Lola. A crystal appeared in his hand with a button inlaid into it. Right as the sword scratched his neck, Syn pressed the button and dematerialized.

Eric fell to his knees clutching at his neck while he gasped for air. He was no longer in slow motion. The world was blurry around him as his mind adjusted to not being in pain. Slowly, he calmed down and thanked Lola for her gift. She must have known what was going to happen, though he wished she would have given him some warning.

He sat up and looked around where he was at. He was on top of a ten-foot-tall stone tower. It was about five feet across; the only object on the tower other than Eric was a Mana Crystal. Eric peered over the tower’s edge cautiously and found eight medieval buildings made out of wood and stone surrounding the tower. A twenty-foot stone wall surrounded the buildings in a large circle with a huge domed Mana Shield covering the entire settlement. Stairs wrapped around the tower leading down to the ground level. Nobody was outside on the street, though he thought he saw some people standing on the wall looking out. Guards, probably.

Outside the walls, he saw a large forest with mountains in the distance in almost every direction. Sections of the forest appeared different; parts were more green and tropical while other parts looked like it was on the verge of dying. He saw a tower in the distance. Another town?

Eric leaned back and stuck his head between his legs. What had just happened? A man had been spawn camping him. He chuckled wryly. It sounded so trite compared to having his head continually cut off. He felt his neck; he had gotten cut right before teleporting. He was still healing. He checked his flashing notifications:

<[Battle] You are Bleeding. You will receive damage every second. Time remaining: 14:32>

<[General] You have used Teleportation Shard x1. You have been transported to a random settlement: Wellspring [Town].>

<[General] You have secretly entered Wellspring [Town]. No restrictions. If you are caught, you will be marked as an Enemy.>

<[General] Congratulations! You have snuck into a settlement without being noticed. You have gained a new Skill: Infiltrate.>

<Skill: Infiltrate [Level 1]

  • Effect: While an Infiltrator, Speed increased based on the number of Settlements infiltrated: Speed +1.
  • Settlements infiltrated: 1 (see all)>

Eric drew back from the edge so he wouldn’t accidentally be seen. Infiltrate? Enemy? This game had some sort of stealth mechanic. It seemed rather limited though. He smiled; Todd would love to play the spy. His head shot up. Todd! Ben! Everyone! Were they fine? He checked his friend list and tried to send a message to Paul.

<[Social] Paul is behind an enemy Mana Shield and cannot receive messages at this time.>

He tried the others.

<[Social] Ashely is behind an enemy Mana Shield and cannot receive messages at this time.>

<[Social] Piper is behind an enemy Mana Shield and cannot receive messages at this time.>

Eric’s heart thudded as each message came back negative. Was everyone captured except for him? What about Julia? Wasn’t she supposed to be there at max level and prevent this type of situation? He didn’t even have her contact information to send a message. Was this an attack against players or just happenstance? He remembered the look in the man’s eyes. No, it was targeted.

He was alone in a strange place. Sure, his real body was locked up in some pod back at Mythic Studios safe and sound, but he had no way . . .

Todd’s message went through.

Syn: <Are you there?>

Trist: <Eric? Man, it’s good to hear from you. What the hell is happening?>

Syn: <No idea. I teleported in and a guy kept on cutting off my head. I had a teleport item from the Trial, so I managed to escape. How’d you get out?>

Trist: <Lucky. I cruised through my Trial. An army was attacking the cave, and I found a back exit. They spotted me, but I managed to escape because I maxed out my Speed. Where’d you end up?>

Syn: <A random town. Not sure where. I think they captured the others.>

Trist: <Yeah, I tried contacting the others, but I couldn’t get any response. So glad you made it through. We should meet up somehow.>

Syn: <Agreed. Give me a minute to orient myself and get to a safe spot.>

Eric stood up. The town was still empty except for the guards around the wall. He glanced at the Mana Crystal. Ashley said some Mana Crystals connected to the real world; maybe he could get lucky. He touched it. A screen appeared with a menu in front of the Mana Crystal. He deflated when he couldn’t find any way to contact Mythic. He looked over his limited options.

<Map | Room>

Map showed a mostly blank white map with East [Zone], Realm 1 written across the top, and Gravity 5 beneath that. Eric found three locations: Alpine [Outpost], Windfall [Town], and Cela [Dungeon]. Windfall was located at the northwest part of the map; Cela was marked almost directly south of Windfall; Alpine was southeast of Cela. He had no frame of reference for the distance between each place, but Cela was about the same distance from the other two places.

Eric recognized Alpine and Windfall, but he had no idea why the dungeon was marked on the Map. The Map allowed for teleportation, but each place was greyed out, marking it unavailable.

Next, he checked <Room> and found other options: <Enter> and <Storage>. He selected <Enter>. His body dematerialized.

Eric’s eyes snapped open with a groan. Why was he teleporting so often? He was lying on a bed staring at a pure white ceiling. He sat up, hanging his feet over the edge of the bed which didn’t hit the floor. He was reminded again that he was a 12-year-old boy.

The Room was very simple. A bed, a nightstand with a small Mana Crystal, and a treasure chest at the foot of the bed. The walls and floor were pure white. No doors. Eric quickly touched the Mana Crystal and found a new menu.

<Return | Room | Orbs>

He selected <Return>, which sent him back to the tower in Wellspring [Town]; he immediately returned to his Room. Best to make sure he could freely move back and forth; it did wonders for his claustrophobia. Next, he selected <Room>. It had two options: <Upgrade | Storage>. He selected Upgrade first.

<Available Upgrades:

  • Storage – 10 Copper Chips
  • Small Kitchen – 10 Copper Chips
  • Small Crafting Room – 20 Copper Chips>

Well, there was the kitchen he wanted. The Crafting Room seemed interesting as well. Both were out of his price range. He still only had Iron Chips. He wondered what the exchange rate was between Iron and Copper.

He selected Storage next, but it was empty. He found an option to empty his Inventory into it. He did so. He had lost some items when he died, but nothing important. When he emptied his Inventory, he heard a thump in the treasure chest at the foot of the bed. He got up and opened it up. The inside of the chest lid had compartments with different categories. Within each category, a new screen appeared with more compartments with the items he had collected along the way with a picture of each item. Eric went through each of the categories.


  • Iron Chip x20>

<Crafting (6 / 25):

  • Grass Rabbit Skull [Wood, Copper] x1
  • Grass Rabbit Pelt [Wood, Iron] x4
  • Grass Rabbit Foot [Wood, Iron] x2
  • Grass Rabbit Tail [Wood, Iron] x2
  • Grass Rabbit Claw [Wood, Iron] x1
  • Tree Branch [Wood, Iron] x1>

<Orbs (0 / 10): (empty)>

<Shards (0 / 25): (empty)>

<Ingredients (1 / 25):

  • Raw Meat [Rank 1, Iron] x11>

<Meals (4 / 25):

  • Roasted Potatoes and Carrots [Rank 1, Iron] x1
  • Sauteed Carrots and Onions [Rank 1, Iron] x1
  • Fries [Rank 1, Iron] x2
  • Failed Meal [Rank 1, Iron] x28>

<Pills (0 / 25): (empty)>

The chest reminded Eric of a vending machine. He pressed a button. A Grass Rabbit Pelt materialized. Eric picked up the green fur. Soft with an earthy smell. He could touch his items here without them automatically disappearing. He placed it back into Storage by putting it on top of the chest and hitting a deposit button.

Eric chose <Orbs> from the Mana Crystal menu. Two options appeared. The first was to Upgrade his Orbs.

<Basic Tunic [Neutral, Rank 1, Iron]

  • None available.>

<Short Spear [Neutral, Rank 1, Iron]

  • None available.>

Eric shrugged. Upgrading his Orbs would probably be difficult, and it would have been surprising if he could do it already. He’d have to learn the specific method later on.

The next option he could do was to swap around his Orb order. He switched his spear to Slot 1 and his tunic to Slot 2. He didn’t want to get stuck out without a weapon again even if it meant his armor disappeared. The spear was back at Level 1; he hoped it wouldn’t take too long to level up again since it was at High. Eric looked over his Attributes; all of them were one lower. He groaned when he remembered the Gravity was 5 here; that’s why he felt so much heavier.

Eric knew full well he was distracting himself with the game from his current situation. He couldn’t help himself. The moment let his mind wander, he had flashbacks of his head getting cut off. So, he delved into the game so he wouldn’t get a panic attack.

When Eric opened his Quest menu, he was surprised he had automatically gotten two new Quests.

<[Quest: In Progress] Rank Up 1

  • Description: You are in a new world. The only way to survive is to get stronger. Strive to upgrade to Rank 2.
  • Complete the following (0 / 2):
    • Reach Level 10 (2 / 10)
    • Have 3 Orbs [Level 3, Copper] or higher (0 / 3)
  • Rewards:
    • Character: Rank 1 [Level 10] -> Rank 2 [Level 1]
    • 3 Orbs: [Rank 1, Level 3, Copper] Rank -> [Rank 2, Level 1, Iron]
    • Gain a Class>

<[Quest: In Progress] Saving Lola

  • Description: Hey, Syn. This is Lola. Mother thought I helped you too much and that I became corrupted. She rejected my return to her. I used the last of my strength to make this Quest and send my data into a Dungeon within your Zone. I marked it on your Map. Please, come and save me.
  • Complete the following (0 / 1):
    • Clear Cela [Dungeon] (0 / 1)
  • Rewards:
    • Lola will join you>

The first Quest he assumed everyone got. It answered a few questions about Ranking up. It appeared that Ranking up was like a soft reset. He was surprised he’d get a Class since nobody had mentioned that before. The second quest caught his attention even more. Lola was here? He felt a little guilty she had gotten in trouble for him, but he was grateful. It also explained why Cela [Dungeon] was on his Map.

So, what? Eric felt so weak and powerless. It was tempting to hole up here and wait until help came. They did say if trouble happened, they’d send help. But, no. He had no idea how he’d be able to contact them and tell them where he was.

Meet up with Todd? That seemed more viable. There was also the issue of Lola. Maybe he could kill two birds with one stone and meet Todd there? Cela [Dungeon] was about the same distance between Windfall and Alpine. He desperately wanted his Map to have more details.

Eric looked at his small hands. He was weak. But, this was a game, and leveling up would make him stronger. He was still living his dream of being in a game, just slightly different than he imagined. Eric found a digital notepad within the menu and listed his goals:

<Goals: Survive and Rescue

  1. Escape Windfall without anyone seeing me; don’t want to get caught as an infiltrator.
  2. Find another town and ask for information.
  3. Meet up with Todd.
  4. Clear the Cela [Dungeon] to rescue Lola.
  5. Rescue the others.>

Eric stared at the list. If he broke his goals up into smaller portions, they looked a bit more manageable. Eric wouldn’t be able to do it, but Syn hopefully could. It was better than doing nothing in his Room. He opened the chat and told Todd about his plan.

After a while, Syn lay down and closed his eyes. He’d start after he took a nap. He was physically and emotionally exhausted. Syn wasn’t procrastinating because he was scared of dying and being sent back to that cave to continuously be killed over and over. Definitely not.

Syn sat on his bed with his hand on the Mana Crystal. He only took his Iron Chips and Meals from his Storage. Everything else only took up space in his Inventory.

“Ok, time to go.”

Syn teleported back to the tower and equipped his tunic. Syn stealthily moved slowly down the stairs, trying to not draw any attention. Granted, nobody was out on the streets, so his stealth skills weren’t put to the test. He stayed in the shadows of the buildings as he walked for the west gate. He decided to head toward the tower he saw in the distance.

Syn quickly reached the edge of the buildings where there was about a twenty-foot open space to the wall. He saw a bored man in chainmail with a heavy metal spear on top of the wall on top of the gate. A guard. However, he was watching outside of the town. Syn took a deep breath and bolted through the gate while covering his face and hair with his tunic. He felt his Speed decrease the moment he left the town as his Infiltrate Skill deactivated.

“Hey!” the guard called, but Syn was already out. The guard didn’t chase after him; his job was to keep people out, not in; though, he’d probably report it. Hopefully, he didn’t get a good look at Syn.

Syn ran off the path into the dense trees. After five minutes, his legs gave out and he collapsed to the ground breathing heavily. “Stupid . . . low . . . Stamina . . .” Syn pushed himself up to a sitting position and rested against a tree.

Time slowed. Syn bit back a curse. He looked around as fast as he could without breaking his neck or getting whiplash. Nothing. Then, something landed on top of his head and raked his skull with claws. Syn twisted around and threw the creature off.

Syn stared at the Level 4 black lizard as he climbed back to his feet. He glanced at his arm; he’d lost 27 Mana from that one attack. The lizard was about four feet long to the tip of its long tail and had spikes running down its back. It hissed at Syn. Syn paused only for a moment before equipping his spear. He eyed the creature, unsure about what to do.

The lizard sensed his hesitation and attacked. Syn rolled out of the way, dropping his spear in the process. He almost threw up; rolling in slow motion was extremely disorienting. He climbed back up to his feet while eying the lizard. He equipped his spear again, stepped forward, and poked it. He only dealt minor damage to the creature.

The lizard snapped back at him and got past Syn’s defenses. It latched onto his leg. Syn cried out in pain, but he slammed his spear down on the lizard’s back. Syn could barely deal any damage past the hard scales. The lizard squeezed harder and Syn saw his Mana drain rapidly. He slammed down again and again. His tunic disappeared as he lost his Orb. Finally, Syn got the notification he was looking for.

<[General] Short Spear has reached Max Progress. You may level up.>

Syn quickly leveled up. He felt his body shift as he grew older; it felt good to be 18 again. He quickly put one Attribute Point into each Attribute. If he wasn’t worried about dying, he would have put everything into Mind, but even he thought that would be too risky.

The lizard let go of Syn’s leg as he noticed the change. It backed away slowly. Syn backed up as well, offering no hostility. The lizard hissed and scampered back into the forest.

Syn leaned against the tree to catch his breath as time went back to normal. That was too close. He had gone down to 40 Mana. He opened his Quest results from the Trial and reviewed his options again: Fire Ball, Earth Shield, Water Blast, or Wind Gale. Each one appealed to Syn, but he had made his decision as he rested in his Room and discussed it with Trist. He took a look at his Orb Page after applying the new Orb.

Mana: 148 / 300
Carry Limit: 4 / 4

  • Slot 1 [Weapon]: Short Spear [Level 2 (Low)] – 48 / 100
    • [Neutral, Rank 1, Iron]
    • Stats: Weight: 2, Range: 5
    • Attacks:
      • Stab [Neutral, Piercing]: 24 (6)
      • Swing [Neutral, Blunt]: 12 (3)

  • Slot 2 [Body]: Basic Tunic [Level 2 (Low)] – 0 / 100
    • [Neutral, Rank 1, Iron]
    • Stats: Weight: 2, Armor: +6

  • Slot 3 [Spell]: Water Blast [Level 1 (Low) – 100 / 100
    • [Water, Rank 1, Iron]
    • Mana: 20 | Range: 10 | Cast: 3 | Cooldown: 30
    • Damage [Water]: 40
      • Effect: Knockback.>

Syn couldn’t keep the smile off his face. His first spell! Too excited to wait, Syn raised his right hand and pressed the new circle on his arm; it had a picture of a water drop behind the number. His palm began to get cold and wet as a ball of water about the size of his fist formed. It swirled and became denser. Three seconds later, it launched automatically toward the tree he was aiming at.

Syn felt like he had fired a shotgun. The recoil made him lose his balance and land on his butt. The Knockback went both ways. The water ball completely missed the tree and broke apart a short distance later. Syn lay down in the dirt and laughed. He could cast a spell!

Remembering where he was, he quickly stood up and took stock. The spell had indeed used 20 Mana. It wasn’t filling up yet because his lower Orbs were still damaged. A small timer appeared on his arm around the spell circle saying the spell was on a thirty-second Cooldown. He tried pressing it again while it was under Cooldown, but, predictably, nothing happened.

Out of curiosity, he switched to slow time. Syn grinned. To his perception, the Cooldown timer count was the same, which meant it was decreasing a lot faster in the outside world. He was finally able to take advantage of his Perception Stat. Once the Cooldown reset, he tried casting the spell again. Like his Cooldown, his Cast went faster while he was in slow time. He’d be able to cast more spells faster.

However, Syn’s Mana Regen did not follow the same rules. It did not matter if he was in slow or normal time. In normal time, he restored 1 Mana about once every 5 seconds. In slow time, it was about 1 Mana every 20 seconds. This meant he’d have to be a lot more careful casting spells in while in slow time, which would be most of the time. After a quick calculation, each Water Blast spell would take about six and a half minutes to recover the Mana in slow time. If he cast five spells as fast as possible, it would take about four minutes before he could cast another spell. It was too long for most fights, so he’d have to work with his five initial shots. Granted, he’d have to switch his spell to Slot 1 for it to really matter.

Despite the danger, Syn couldn’t help but smile. He always loved being able to figure out the best way to manage spells and abilities for maximum efficiency. In the menu, he created the shortcut for the spell to be crossing two fingers on his right hand. He ate one of his Fries to increase his Stamina by 3. He only had a couple of meals left outside of the Failed Meals. He needed to find more food and buy a kitchen to make more.

Time to start his journey.

Syn was lost.

All of the trees blended to look the same. He was in a tropical forest with absolutely no experience hiking without a trail. He didn’t even know exactly what direction the town he came from was.

Since his Speed was so far below the Gravity threshold of 5, his progress was incredibly slow. It wasn’t quite the same as when his Perception was high. He was just slow. His fastest run felt like he was moving as fast as a casual jog; his Stamina drained whenever he moved faster than a walk.

Despite the danger and difficulties with his stats, Syn was enjoying himself. He would stop along the way and pick up anything he could. Herbs, rocks, and branches, among other things. He even managed to harvest a bush. Some items would turn to mist if he didn’t pick them up properly or if they weren’t large enough. However, all of his items were Iron rarity. He gradually learned better techniques through trial and error. After his tenth new item, he received a new notification.

<[General] Congratulations! You have harvested 10 items. You have learned a new Skill: Harvest.>

<[Skill] Harvest (Level 1)

  • Effect: Iron harvested items in the world will be highlighted.
  • Items Harvested: 10 (see all)>

Syn opened up the harvested items and found the list of plants and materials he had collected along with details of the techniques he learned to harvest them. No new information, but at least he could reference them in the future. He looked around the forest; multiple areas were highlighted in grey for things he could collect, though only if he’d been able to harvest them before.

As he knelt to pick up a new plant, time slowed. Syn groaned and rolled away into a crouch as he snapped his finger to equip his Short Spear. Success! He didn’t stab himself this time. A large black lizard landed where he’d been a second ago. He’d been ambushed four times in the last hour; however, the lizard was the largest one so far at about eight feet long. Level 6 with one grey Orb; the lizard had one ability, which Syn had not learned yet. Syn kept his spear pointed at the creature as he climbed to his feet.

“Rah!” Syn yelled, taking an aggressive step toward the lizard. The lizard backed away to stay out of reach, but it did not retreat as the others had. “Go aw- Ah!” Syn felt slicing claws against his back.

Syn reached behind his back and pulled off the second lizard attached to his back. And there was a weakness to his Mind Dampener skill. If he was already in combat, he couldn’t use the skill like a danger sense. He’d have to get used to watching his back while fighting.

The two lizards surrounded him, a Level 4 and a Level 6. Syn tried to keep them both in front, but they kept trying to get in his blind spot. Syn hit a tree as he backed up. “Ok, nice lizards. Do you guys want a treat?” Syn took out a Failed Meal and tossed it to the ground. The larger lizard sniffed at it, pulled it back a few feet, then ate it. Syn grinned. He crossed his fingers to activate his spell.

The lizard made a squelching sound as the poison took effect. The smaller lizard glanced at its companion to see what was wrong. The moment the lizard looked away, Syn blasted it with his water spell; the lizard launched backward as Syn was pushed against the tree. Syn booked it. He didn’t think he had enough Mana to kill one of those monsters.

Syn slowed only after time returned to normal. He was out of breath after only running a minute; it was hard to control his Stamina while under slower time. He’d lost about 80 Mana in that ambush, with about a quarter of that from his spell. At least he’d be completely healed in a little over 10 minutes.

Syn looked around the forest. “Ok, I’m still lost.” One of the problems was that he’d run away in a random direction each time he got attacked, getting completely turned around. He looked up at an especially tall tree. “Time to find out where I am.” Syn began to climb.

Syn wasn’t a horrible climber, but it did take him a few minutes to get high enough to see over the canopy. The branches were too weak to support him at the top, but he was still able to get a good enough view of the area. A sea of trees spread out in every direction except the large mountain looming in the background to the east. Windfall [Town] broke through the canopy of the forest. Only a mile away, maybe two; he hadn’t gotten that far. Syn sighed as he looked the other way.

Less than a mile to the west, the forest changed. The bright green trees turned to a murky brown. Syn remembered what Lola had said about dungeons and their territories. Syn’s current area was dominated by those stupid lizards. The dark creepy forest probably belonged to another creature; he had an uneasy feeling about what belonged there. A bit further south he found dense jungle trees. Where the territories met, there looked to be a clearing, like a road. Even better, as he scanned the scenery, he saw a wall with a tower behind it about five miles away. Syn grinned; he had a heading again. He was worried he’d be wandering forever with no clear destination. His smile slipped as time slowed.

“Oh come-” Something hit him hard on the back of his head. Syn fell twenty feet in slow motion. The branches on the way down broke his fall while doing additional damage. He hit the ground with a thud, landing on his shoulder.

<[Battle] Your right arm is Immobile! You won’t be able to move your arm. Time remaining: 4:53>

Syn groaned, though falling over thirty feet should have hurt much more. He pushed himself up to his feet and looked at his arm. It hung limply at his side bending at an odd angle, though it didn’t hurt. He glanced up at a large eagle circling above him. “Leave . . . me . . . alone!” Syn called up in frustration. A few seconds later, the eagle left, and time went back to normal.

Still in a bad mood, as he cradled his broken arm, Syn waited for his arm to heal with his back to the tree; he’d lost about 90 Mana from that fall. He took no chances and was prepared to bolt if he got attacked; he couldn’t use his spear or spell with his broken arm. Thankfully, the timer for his broken arm ran down without any incident. Syn watched in fascination as his arm twisted and snapped back into shape. He flexed it experimentally. Good as new.

Syn got his bearings and headed toward the end of the territory. Time slowed.

Syn spun around and found a black lizard in midair jumping right at him. Syn wanted to hit something. He dug his spear into the ground with its point toward the lizard. The lizard impaled itself on the weapon. However, the lizard crushed Syn on the way down. They toppled to the ground in a heap with the lizard clawing at his armor and flesh as Syn lost his weapon. Syn pushed it off and put some distance between them. The lizard struggled to get up.

Syn stood over the creature with anger in his eyes. He extended his right hand with crossed finders directly above the Level 4 lizard. “Why won’t you leave me alone?!” A blast of water pulsed out of his hand and crushed the creature to the ground. Syn was almost launched into the air but kept his footing. The lizard looked stunned, so Syn brought out his spear and got to work.

Syn let his fear, anger, and frustration take over. He slammed the weapon into the animal. Over and over and over. It was tough to get past the hard scales, but his piercing damage was able to drive through the armor little by little. Even when the lizard began to slowly crawl away, Syn followed it and stunned it with another Water Blast. Finally, the lizard stopped moving and faded to mist, leaving Syn heaving for breath as time returned to normal. Syn had to collect himself before he could collect the loot. He checked his notifications.

<[Battle] You have defeated Obsidian Monitor [Level 4]!>

<[General] You have found Obsidian Monitor Loot. Iron Chip x4, Raw Meat [Iron] x1, and Obsidian Monitor Claw [Iron] x1 have been added to your Inventory.>

Eric shivered as time returned to normal. Had he just done that? Usually, he just dealt a little bit of damage to drive the lizard off or enough to run away. This was the first time he killed one. It felt like he was watching another person. He didn’t know he was capable of doing violence like that. Against the Forest Rabbits, Lola was there to help him do more damage. It felt easier to attack in a group. Spread of guilt or something like that. This last attack was all him. Eric remembered the heat of anger, then the coldness of contempt.

Eric breathed. In and out. His nerves calmed down. He could do this. He’d have to do a lot worse if he wanted to save his friends. Syn smiled grimly.

Syn finally found the border between the two territories. There was about a five-foot empty space between the two forests, which created a sort of pathway or trail. It was odd to see such a drastic difference in the forest. Close up, the creepy forest was even more creepy. He looked both ways down the border. Empty. Syn shrugged as he hiked away from Wellspring [Town] following the trail.

The trail was boring. The creatures stayed away from the border, for the most part. After about a mile, the trail forked and he took the pathway away from the lizards. The creepy forest was on his right and the new lush jungle was on his left. The jungle monsters were large green cats; their fur looked like moss and they had three tails made out of vines. A quick Water Blast chased it away. Every once in a while, Syn would collect plants if he could easily see them, but he tried to be as careful as possible. He had gotten sixteen unique items in his harvest collection. He only collected ten of each item so he wouldn’t run out of Inventory.

During one escapade into the creepy forest, time slowed. He looked up and found a large spider the size of a small dog. It had thick legs and a bulbous body, but its front two legs ended in blades like a praying mantis. Its multiple eyes stared hungrily at him. Syn’s heart nearly stopped and before he knew it, his legs were moving. Once back on the trail, Syn gasped for air as time returned to normal. “Never again,” he muttered.

He heard a cry above and found a large bird circling him above, probably that eagle that attacked him before. Time hadn’t slowed, so it wasn’t attacking, but Syn still eyed it suspiciously. He wondered how the territory of flying creatures functioned.

A man stepped out of the jungle in front of him. Level 7, all of his Orbs were Iron. He had slicked-back black hair and a narrow rat face. Ratface stopped in the middle of the road with his hands on his hip. “What do we have here? A boy traveling alone? It’s a 10 Copper fee to travel this road, boy.”

Syn licked his lips. “Is it now? I didn’t know.” He heard a sound behind him as another man blocked off the path behind him. He was larger, though he sort of had a dense expression on his face. Level 5, all Iron. The brute had an ax in his hand and held it menacingly. Time didn’t slow down. Yet. “I don’t have that much money.”

“You don’t? Well, what do you have?” Ratface sneered, as a dagger materialized in his hand; he idly played with it. “You’re going to pay one way or another.”

Syn groaned. Bandits. He guessed another reason not many people traveled the road. Even if he gave away everything in his Inventory, he’d still probably end up dying. He might have an idea that might work, but it was risky.

“I’m, um, an aspiring cook. I was out here collecting potential ingredients and got lost,” Syn said meekly.

“A cook, eh? Got any meals for us? I could use a good buff,” the Ratface said. “Give me a meal. No funny business.”

Syn took out a plate of Fries, one of his last meals. He set it on the ground and stepped back. Ratface picked up the meal and tried a couple of the fries. Then he quickly scarfed them all down. “This is good!” Ratface exclaimed. “Can’t say I’ve had it before. +3 Stamina? You might be worth something alive after all. I guess I could allow you to come back to the base with us.”

“Hey, I want some too,” Brute said. He had a deep but kind of dumb voice. He pointed his ax at Syn. “Give me some!”

“That-that was my last plate of that meal,” Syn said, not having to fake his fear. “I do have another meal.” He slowly took out a meal. Brute snatched the meal from Syn’s hand and scarfed it down. As he did, Syn equipped his spear. Time slowed.

“Hey!” Ratface said. “What did I say about your weapon?”

Syn ignored him and focused on Brute. Brute’s face started to turn green. Syn used that distraction to stab Brute’s foot. He let out a scream as he fell to the ground clutching his foot while vomit came out of his mouth in a pixelated mess.

Ratfaces’s eyes opened wide, but he didn’t hesitate. Syn tried to turn, but Ratface was too agile. He stepped past Syn’s spear before Syn could get it in position and sliced Syn’s belly. Syn screamed and reflexively swung the butt of his spear around, but Ratface was already out of range.

Syn held his belly as he stepped away from Brute. He didn’t know how long he’d be out of the picture. Ratface bounced on his toes as he waited for an opening. Syn raised his hand and cast Water Blast. Ratface looked surprised at how fast Syn cast the spell, but he easily jumped back and dodged the spell. Ratface smirked as the spell harmlessly struck the air, but Syn took off running into the creepy forest.

“Hey, you big oaf, he’s getting away!” Ratface cried out. “Get after him!”

“You go after him,” Brute groaned. “I don’t feel so good.”

The conversation faded into the background as Syn dashed through the trees. Once time resumed back to normal, he found a tree and hid behind it to catch his breath.

He waited. Nothing. They weren’t chasing him. Syn reoriented himself and started following the trail about a hundred feet into the forest. The wound on his belly was gradually healing. Syn caught glimpses of Ratface and Brute looking for him, but they were still on the trail.

“Stupid people in this world,” he muttered under his breath. “They either want to kill or rob me.”

Syn cursed as his foot hit a spiderweb. He tried to kick it off, but he just got more tangled. Time slowed. One of those creepy spiders with razor-front legs crawled out of a nearby tree. Level 3, and one Orb was Iron. “And it’s full of monsters who also want to eat me!”

Syn stepped back, but the web made him stumble. Syn tossed out his Failed Meal. The spider ate it, but the meal didn’t seem to have any ill effects. Poison resistance, most likely. One of Syn’s weapons was down the drain.

He held his spear to hold it back, but the spider didn’t look to be in any hurry. It shot a web out of its abdomen. The sticky web hit the spear. Another web hit his right arm. Syn tried to pull it off, but his left hand just got entangled in the web.

Syn dropped the weapon. The spider shot another web; Syn managed to get his arm in position and crossed his fingers. Water Blast burst from his hand. The water destroyed the web and struck the spider. The spider screeched as it launched through the air and struck a tree with a dull thump. It fell to the ground unmoving.

Syn quickly unequipped his Tunic, which caused most of the webs to fall to the ground. He gingerly stepped around the webs so he wouldn’t get stuck again until he was right over the spider. He equipped his spear and stabbed it. Again and again. When it tried to escape, Syn crushed it against the ground with a quick Water Blast. Syn had a lot less sympathy for killing the spiders as opposed to the lizards or rabbits. After stabbing it a few more times, the spider dissolved and left behind an iron cube. All of the webs dissolved. Syn collected his loot.

<[Battle] You have defeated Grim Weaver [Level 3]!>

<[General] You have found Grim Weaver Loot. Iron Chip x3, Raw Meat [Iron] x1, and Grim Weaver Claw [Iron] x1 have been added to your Inventory.>

Syn continued his trek through the creepy forest; he wasn’t sure if it was safer to be attacked by bandits or spiders. But, he could kill the spiders, so he chose that route. Syn could easily see the spiderwebs hanging between the trees if he paid attention. Once he found the webs, he had to look around for the spider, usually up in the tree. He’d shoot his spell, and the spider would get knocked out of the tree and fall in a daze, where Syn would easily kill it.

After the fifth spider, Syn was feeling pretty good. Water Blast was already at Low-Mid experience until the next level. Plus, he was getting closer to his destination. He was leery of the ability it had, but the ability appeared to be its webs, something he could easily manage with Water Blast. The bandits were still following him, but Syn thought he could lose them if he went deeper into the spider forest.

His good mood lasted right up to the point he heard a loud chittering noise and scraping like metal on metal. It came from deep within the forest. Spiders! Hundreds were racing in his direction! Syn turned and ran as time slowed. His fear propelled his legs.

Syn reached the path in record time and dashed down it. Ratface and Brute were down the trail a short distance in front of him.

“Looks like our friend-” Ratface said, but Syn didn’t slow down. Both bandits tried to attack him, but Syn’s increased Perception and adrenaline made it easy for him to dodge. When he passed them, Syn shot a Water Blast right into Ratface’s face and knocked him over.

Syn was down the trail before they could recover. Seconds later, Syn heard shouts of surprise and fear. Then the shouts turned into pain. Then silence except for the hum of chittering behind him. Syn smiled grimly; at least the bandits slowed them down a bit.

Syn’s lungs burned as his legs failed. The trail suddenly split as he found a new territory. The new environment was still a forest, but much more swampy with many pools of water visible through the trees. Syn ran straight ahead into the swamp. The ground was springy underneath his feet. His endurance wouldn’t last much longer, and he could hear the spiders chasing him into the swamp. So, Syn picked a tree and climbed it, but he was careful not to go up too high so those eagles wouldn’t attack him.

Syn tried to blend into the opposite side of the tree. He held a hand over his mouth to keep his heavy breathing down. His hands shook and his heart thrummed in his ears. The front spiders rushed past him. The vast bulk of the spider horde crawled by.

A brownish-green toad hopped out of a pool of water and tried to escape the hoard; it didn’t make it three hops before a spider launched its web and wrapped up its legs. The spiders swarmed the toad, and it was over in an instant. The spiders ripped it into pieces. The toad dissolved, and its iron box immediately disappeared when a spider touched it. Syn nearly threw up.

Syn felt a glimmer of hope he wouldn’t die when the hoard kept running past him. But, a spider paused. It looked up. A screech echoed through the forest. Hundreds of eyes turned up.

Chapter 3 | Table of Contents | Chapter 5

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s