Chapter 29 – Escape from Swordbreak!

Editors: genericIntent, Scott
Author’s notes: I would first like to give a big round of applause and thank you all for helping this site break through the 700k view mark the other day, that was quite exciting for me. On to the second and most important piece of news, which will considerably effect End Online future releases. I am leaving my current job (in about 5 weeks from making this post) to focus on being an author full time. As such, I am sure that the writing stage of chapters will be completed much faster than normal. Probably writing and planning at least 1 chapter a week. I hope that you can all continue to support End Online and myself in my endeavours. Also, the editing speed of each chapter is still up to the editors and how much time on their hands. ^.^
I will be updating chapter 28 with a few edits that Scott made later tonight. For any of you that wish to re read the chapter once the final edit is updated, keep an eye out for when the editors section is updated with Scott’s name, then you will know that all changes have been applied.
As another full chapter release. It is greatly appreciated if you can show your support to take a minute of your time to follow the link and vote for End Online at TopWebFiction.com! Votes are reset weekly so even if you have voted before, please do so again! ^.^
You can now view the original plan for chapter 29 on my Patreon page along with my explanations of the plan and thoughts. I will warn you now though, there are potential spoilers hidden there ^.^
Editor’s notes:

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-Lost-

The evening grows dark and night falls on the world. Footsteps and shouts echo in from the open doorway of the ‘Honey Tree Inn’ as players try to find their way through the crowd or hawk goods. I see the light from glowing torches in the room flicker as another handful of players enter the inn.

“Lost, Lost!” I am brought back to attention by Mason’s shout. “I was just asking, where should we set off to next?”

Mason, Matrix, Verde, Sir Laurence and Fen all look across the round, wooden table at me expectantly. I also am feeling slightly unsure of where to go next. We have spent so long travelling, challenging multiple dungeons and areas along the way, and have already managed to visit all three kingdoms and their capitals.

Suddenly, an idea flashes through my mind. “Actually, there is a quest I received that may interest you all. As you are aware, I interacted with the dragon, Grael, when I was cornered and PKed before the tournament. After the tournament, I gave him the strange stone tablet I got as the reward.”

Everyone apart from Sir Laurence leans forward slightly to hear me better over the surrounding crowd. The prince, however, continues to sit ramrod straight, maintaining his elegant poise.

“He seemed quite pleased with the tablet, and even gave me a quest to find the other six.  Well, he forced it on me at the time and I wasn’t permitted to turn it down, but it may be good for all of us to do! It’s a ‘Legendary’ rated quest!”

“So, you want us to circle through the whole continent again on some kind of treasure hunt?” Verde asks, looking much less enthusiastic compared to before.

The fact that it is a quest of the ‘Legendary’ rarity piques the interest of the two brothers, but even they appear to have some doubts in their minds.

“Hardly, it is much more interesting than that,” I wickedly grin at them as I prepare to reveal the most surprising aspect of the quest. “The quest can’t be undertaken until the server expansion ‘The Seven Realms’ is released. Even Grael said he suspects them to be on these other continents!”

They all listen to me non nonchalantly as I speak about the server expansion coming and other continents. It takes them a few moments for the words to sink in before they collectively shout.

“WHAT?!!”

The sudden yell of the party drowns out the voices of every player in the near vicinity of our table, causing a few glances to turn our way wondering what the commotion is about.

“Hey! It’s Lost! The winner of the Royal Summer Tournament!” One person in the crowds shouts while pointing at me.

The entire inn goes silent as every set of eyes turns toward me. Many are full of disbelief at first, but are soon filled with surprise and something akin to worship.

“Lost! Lost! I can’t believe I would meet such a famous person here!”

“W-w-would you please sign this notebook!? I-if you do, make it out to T-TigerRaid. No, please m-make it out to Ryan Dunmore!”

“Such an attractive young man. Tell me, are you single?”

A wide variety of people crowd in around our table, trying to get as close as possible, grab me, get my autograph, send a friend request, or become intimate with me. It is the last of these things, when a female player with average looks tries to force herself on me that the temperature in the room suddenly drops.

Following the drop in temperature, spears of ice erupt from the ground around me like a flower at the nearby players. Several people are instantly impaled, including the flirtatious girl, and more are pushed away. Fen also immediately moves to my side and hugs onto me while glaring at the crowd aggressively.

“Ah, it’s Fen!! Please marry me!”

“Allow this gentle one to melt that ice cold heart of your with his warmth!”

“Please step on me!!”

Even despite the heart chilling aura she is giving off at the moment, many of the male players shout out jubilantly toward the wolf girl. Several move forward and impale themselves on the ice spears with looks of pleasure on their face.

“Oh my god, they are even more aggressive than before…” Mason speaks from next to me, his voice a low whisper.

Swiftly turning my head around, I see the entire party has lifeless eyes covered in shadow. Seeing other players voluntarily jumping onto Fen’s ice spears is clearly too much for them. Even Sir Laurence is at a loss, his devotion toward Verde completely incomparable to these fanatics.

Suddenly, a terrible foreboding overcomes me. “Fen, get rid of the ice!”

“…No.”

The players impaled by Fen’s ice spears are constantly taking small amounts of damage, which is a considerable amount for even high level players, let alone this mob of fans. My past experiences have also taught me that any player Fen kills counts as me killing them. I can’t possibly afford to get a player killer’s status here in the middle of the busiest capital in the game!

“Fen, do it now!” I bark at the girl, startling her.

The ice around me immediately dissolves into the air, and the players stop taking damage. The wolf girl continues to sheepishly cling to my arm, a hint of a smile playing on the corner of her lips.

“Everyone, we are leaving! Please make way!” I call out while gesturing for the rest of the party to follow me.

We all stand up and start shuffling toward the door through the crowd. They may be massive fans of my character, but at least they don’t try to forcefully entrap us within the inn.

Outside the inn, the sky is dark with only a quarter moon shining down. All the torches and lamps in the city light up the buildings, pathways, and floods of people. Just like a strip of casinos, this place never seems to quiet down.

The commotion of seeing the champion of the recent tournament is completely isolated to the ‘Honey Tree Inn’, so none of the players in the street approach us as the others did before. Of course, I pull my hood up and over my head just in case.

“Y-you were saying about that quest, and that there are other continents?” Verde stammers out while we walk through the streets.

“Ah, yes! It appears there will be a server expansion that will include new continents. I suspect that there will probably be six new continents added, but I am not sure how big they will be.”

Sir Laurence casually drifts sideways until he is walking directly between Verde and I, “Considering they are called continents, at least that is what Grael called them, I would assume that each one wouldn’t be any smaller than any one of the current kingdoms.”

“It’s strange,” Mason says while grasping his chin in thought, “There are seven tablets and the expansion is called ‘The Seven Realms’. Surely I’m not the only one to see the connection. But this feels like a major quest, the kind of which usually impacts the entire game. I just can’t see how these seven tablets could have such a ground-breaking effect on-“

“Kyaa!! It’s Lost and the rest of his party! Oh my, Sir Laurence is even more attractive than in the videos!” A random female player screams immediately after recognizing us.

The sound of the wind rustling the shade cloths hanging between the buildings on either side of the road can finally be heard as silence overtakes the area. This is much worse than the incident at the inn only moments ago. This time we are out in a public, crowded street.

Players start grouping around us, calling out over one another to ask for autographs, playing advice, and information about our skills. I struggle through the crowd as much as possible, barely making any progress at all. My vision also fills with notifications of friend request, distracting me time and time again. I suspect the others aren’t faring much better than me.

“There is an narrow alley off to the side. We should be able to escape through there!” I call out through the party chat.

Everyone turns as one and spies the narrow space between two buildings that I am talking about. I command Fen to open a pathway by pushing the players back with walls of ice, which she happily does. A solid wall of ice rises from the ground in a straight line toward the alley way. This wall quickly splits in the middle, forming two walls which extend away from each other, pushing all the players back and creating a path for us.

Small clinks can be heard from the other side of the ice wall as players stab, cut, and bludgeon with their various weapons in an attempt to break through. A couple of heavier attacks cause shockwaves to penetrate the walls and small cracks appear as some of the more powerful players brandish their swords and axes.

Time is short and Fen’s defensive wall cannot possibly hold up against such a large crowd for long. We quickly slip into the alley one after another and disappear into the night. By the time the crowd breaks through the ice wall, we are long gone.

The rest of the night and early morning is spent trying to covertly escape the city. News of our presence in the city spreads and we spend a lot of time evading players searching the streets for us.

We finally manage to break out of the city and escape to the south as the sun reaches its apex in the sky. Several players notice us and try to sneakily follow, but we quickly lose them. Once we are finally free of our pursuers we log off for two days to wait for everything to settle down.

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I log back onto End Online five minutes prior the time we appointed. Despite being a few minutes early, Matrix and Mason are already online and waiting. Another ten minutes pass by as Verde and Sir Laurence show up one after another.

“It looks like they’re gone,” I breathe out with a sigh.

Sir Laurence harrumphs and turns to me, “This is your fault! You’re the one that won the tournament, not us!”

Despite his complaints, he does not object as we reform the party, everyone’s stats appearing at the side of my vision again.

“As you were pointing to earlier, Mason, we need to decide where to go next,” I sit down on a nearby rock, glancing from side to side, searching for the origin of the sounds of players somewhere nearby.

“I wanted to bring it up earlier, but Matrix and I recently discovered a new dungeon that we haven’t been able to clear as of yet. Shall we go there?”

“That sounds like a plan to me! Please tell me it is far from here?”

“Umm, no, it’s not. It is actually a little closer to the capital than here.”

“I am sorry Mason, but I don’t think we should go. We are currently still in the wolf’s mouth, so to speak, and we need to get as far away from here as possible.”

“Yeah, I understand. I still really wanted to finish it with everyone though.”

“Perhaps we can come back in the future and do it then?” I ask the question to everyone, but look at Mason directly while asking.

“Please do, I am itching to finish it but Matrix and I are lacking in skill to do so alone.”

“This brings us back to square one, where to travel to?”

“Actually, there is something I heard of a short while ago. I didn’t pay too much attention to it at the time, but the discussion about the new continents earlier has me intrigued,” Mason furrows his brows and seems to be entering a state of deep thought. “There are rumors of a large island to the south of this kingdom. Apparently, it is a complete wasteland, but it hasn’t really been explored properly as of yet either. There must be dungeons and treasure hidden all over!”

“I agree; ignoring the prospect of what treasure could be there, a new area to explore is interesting!” Sir Laurence joins as the first person to vote toward the new land.

One by one, we all agree to travel there.

“But Mason,” Verde ask curiously, “how exactly do we get there?”

Mason sticks his chest out in pride as he answers, “The town of Trope, in the south of the Dalbe Kingdom, is something of a gathering point for sailors and other ocean enthusiasts. We will surely find someone to take us!”

Coming to an agreement, I take the lead with Fen at my side as we begin our passage south. Our journey takes us through through fetid swamps, dark and humid forests, and open savannahs. Unfortunately, no matter where we are, the sun is scorching hot. I also don’t know if it is just my imagination, but the further we go the hotter it seems to get.

“What ‘ave we ‘ere, a party of six travelling through this grand kingdom?” A man dressed in cold steel heavy armour with a large double axe strapped to his back steps out from behind a large rock.

“I’m sorry, perhaps you are looking for someone else?” As the person at the front of the party, I am naturally the one to respond.

“No, I not be waitin’ for anyone in particular, but I can’t help but wonder if you be lost?”

I feel shocked at his question, his wording almost makes it sound if I actually am Lost, not simply lost for directions. I quickly recover and politely turn down the player.

“I know exactly where I am and where I am going. I will have to turn down your offer.”

The man gives me a toothy grin full of malice, “No, no, I must insist on ‘elping. Though, there be a small fee for our directions.”

Just as he finishes speaking, another ten people appear from concealed areas around us. Every last one of these other players have the player killer marks on their bodies, giving away their intent. Matrix glances around at them incredulously, while the rest of us only frown.

“I think it would be best for all of us to forget about this and move on,” I speak to the enemy party leader with no particular haste. If anything, I am more pleased that he hasn’t recognized me.

“I don’ think that’ll be possible.” The bandit leader draws his sword, which looks like it has seen better days. “Now, hand over your gold ‘n I’ll point you toward the nearest town.”

When he sees our reluctance to do so, he raises one hand and calls out. “Men, they do not value their lives. Kill ’em!”

All the bandits draw their swords, axes, or bows. The only person who doesn’t is the leader, probably because he is the only one without a player killer status. The bandits move to attack , but we strike before they even get the chance.

Arrows, throwing knives, flaming sword waves and ice spears pierce through all the enemies. The battle is completely one-sided and almost considered a slaughter. The bandit leader, this whole time, cannot help but stare with his mouth agape at the massacre. In mere minutes, the only enemy left is the bandit leader.

Fen turns toward the man staring at us dumbstruck, preparing the next volley of ice spears.

“Fen, No! You can’t attack him!” I call out at the wolf girl, attempting in vain to stop her.

Fen snorts lightly before sending all the ice spears through the bandit leader. Several more spears erupt from the ground and the accumulative damage quickly kills him. Along with his death, a large red skull appears on my back to let everyone know of my new player killer status. There is nothing I can do about it for now, so I can only bear with it and move on carefully.

Three more times we are attacked by groups of other players that more than double our party size. Fortunately for us, Dalbe has a low average player level. Fen plays a large role in crowd control while Mason launches arrows to take down any fleeing players. Sir Laurence is similar to an impenetrable shield in front of Verde, and coincidentally Fen, while I dart around the battlefield, attacking where I can.

I also manage to finally work out the trigger for my weapon ability that allows me to glide. All I am required to do is extend my arms with the daggers outstretched like a pair of wings.

Thanks to my extreme agility and speed, I am able to take off at a speed at which most people would be frightened senseless. I lose a small amount of speed while gliding, and it isn’t true flight so I slowly descend. After the eighteen seconds are up, gravity returns and I suddenly start to plummet toward the ground.

As we travel, the days blend together and the player population in the surrounding areas slowly decreases. A week in real life passes before we see the ocean and the town of Trope on the horizon.

It is late in the afternoon when we reach the top of a large hill and come into view of Trope. The town is built mostly of wood, and each house is raised three feet off the ground by wooden stilts. I can only assume this is to protect the town during high tides or floods.

Behind the town, the sun creates a rippling streak of gold with its reflection across the endless ocean. Several large docks are also built off to one side in the ocean, housing hundreds of boats along the sides of the algae-covered board walks. Each and every one of these ships belongs to a different player.

“We’re here!” Mason calls out, not the only one excited to see the ocean. “Now all that remains is to find ourselves a ship to take us there!”

The closer we get to the town, the busier I realize it is. From a distance, it appears like there is only the occasional player going back and forth, with little foot traffic leading in or out of the town. But this is due to the majority of the people moving in and out by boat.

My feet sink half an inch into the moist dirt underneath me with each step, a squelching sound following shortly after.

We walk toward the center of town and find a large inn called ‘The Ocean Maiden’. The building appears to have seen better days with the paint faded and flaking, but at least the structure is in good repair.

I walk into the inn to the sounds of a rowdy cheering and each player shouting to be heard over the last. In the center of the inn is a female player or NPC, I am unsure which, dancing on the stage to an upbeat, merry tune. I stop to stare for a while, my eyes instinctively glancing at her lower half each time one of her legs sweep around and expose a milky white calf.

Fen sees what I am looking at and pinches the back of my arm, sending a jolt of pain through my arm and expressing her displeasure.

Averting my gaze from the entertainment, I order a drink for Fen and I while the rest of the party gather theirs. The availability of seats is completely different from the capital, with approximately thirty percent of them available. In Swordbreak, we would often have to find a spot to stand while scouting for the first available table.

With our drinks, we all look toward each other skeptically.

“It’s great that we are here now,” Verde points out. “But how exactly are we going to recruit a captain and their ship?”

“I… I’m not entirely sure about that. It is not something I have really done before,” I prop my chin onto one hand with my elbow planted firmly on the table. “Mason, this was your idea; how is hiring a ship usually done?”

Mason stands up slightly, glancing around the room briefly before bringing himself to his full height and calling out, “Looking for a captain to take six people to the rumored island in the south! Join us for a grand adventure! Private message Mason if you’re interested”

“Now, all we have to do is wait a moment,” Mason grins like he has accomplished a great feat.

While waiting for someone to send a message, we sit in silence with the occasional comment. With each passing minute, our hopes of someone volunteering themselves diminish. Eventually, Mason stands up again and calls out the recruitment message. This time, however, it sparks an immediate response.

“Hey, if ya’ wants to shout out ya’ spam, do it elsewhere!”

“We heard you the first time! Don’t disturb our night so take it elsewhere!”

“Who the hell wants to brave those seas!? If you want to sink a boat that badly, make one of your own!”

I am momentarily stunned at the angry shouts from around the room, and my face flushes red in embarrassment. Even the dancer on the stage has halted her performance and is looking down at the party in displeasure.

As I silently mull over our options, the atmosphere of the room slowly returns. The music picks up and everyone goes back to happily shouting over one another, trying to get the dancer to look their way and send a flirty kiss or provocative hip movement.

We stay the night at the inn, and head down to the docks the next morning.

I can smell and taste the fresh sea spray in the air, hear our boots causing the planks in the docks to creak underneath. There are a lot of players moving out from the pier to return to their ships, some carrying heavy loads of cargo up onto their boats in order to sell elsewhere.

“Looking for someone to take us to the rumored Isle to the south! Message Lost.” I shout out, following what Mason did last night.

A few sailors turn to look at us, but soon turn back and carry on with their business as if it has nothing to do with them. Seeing that sending a broad message isn’t very effective, I lead the party toward a random boat along the docks.

The captain of that boat, the ‘Judiciary’, comes running off the ship and toward us before we even reach it. He is a young man of a small stature. He isn’t wearing any armor, but instead some kind of fashionable three button coat over formal wear.

“It’s you! It’s you! You’re Lost, aren’t you? My god, I never thought I would get to meet someone as famous as you out here!!” The player bounces on his toes as he looks us over.

“Y-yes, that’s me,” I can’t help but feel nervous in front of such an energetic person.

“Wow, just wow! Oh, I know your name, but you don’t know mine! My name is HectorRevival! You got that? It’s HectorRevival!”

“Umm, HectorRevival, it is a pleasure to meet you.”

“No, no, I should be saying that! The pleasure is mine! Lost, Lost, how exactly can I help you? I heard someone shout about commissioning a crew for a journey?”

“That’s right. We are hoping to sail to the island that is rumored to exist south of here. Is that something you could help with?”

HectorRevival’s face sinks and his previous enthusiasm disappears. He pinches the skin between his eyebrows, fighting some internal conflict.

“You know,” he speaks much slower, “no one in this entire dock has actually seen that island. If there is anyone, they aren’t saying anything about it. It is nothing but an empty rumor, and there aren’t many people willing to risk the dangers of finding out.”

“What do you mean? What danger?”

“Once you leave the coastal waters, sea monsters start appearing. They aren’t overly frequent, but they are all incredibly destructive.”

“Can you not fight them?”

“Easily, we all have weapons on board our ships, some more so than others. But these ships are either bought with an enormous sum of gold, or built with endless hours and resources. A single encounter with a sea monster is guaranteed to at least damage the ship. After running into four or five, the damage accumulates. You run the risk of sinking, and have to make extensive repairs even if you survive.”

I can’t help but feel depressed, “And no one wants to risk that…”

“No, they don’t. Unfortunately, I don’t either. If there is anything else, I am more than happy to help you, but I can’t do that.”

“It’s fine, think nothing of it.”

HectorRevival shuffles off back to his ship, his earlier mood completely gone. I see him bring out a hammer and some wood, kneeling down to do some work on the deck of his ship.

We walk around the docks asking several other people if they are willing to sail south. No one is remotely interested in discussing a price, let alone taking the journey.

I lead the party back toward the inn as the sun begins to set.

“Well, that was a waste of time,” Mason complains with a sigh. “I thought we would have more luck than that.”

Sir Laurence harrumphs, “Cowards, the lot of them.”

“I feel like breaking their little boats.” Even Verde is in a bad mood.

“Everyone, calm down. I’m sure we will find someone soon. How about we go back to the inn? We can work something out there.” No one agrees with me, but they don’t have any better ideas either.

I lead us all back to ‘The Ocean Maiden’ where the common room is already half full. The lady who was singing last night is no longer there, instead being replaced with a male and female couple. They are singing a popular duet song from the top music charts so I can tell that they are definitely players.

“There are a lot of strange players out here,” I think aloud while looking at the couple singing on the stage.

“There are a lot of different players in the game,” Mason chuckles. “We have spent most of our time in the main cities, which is full of the more mainstream players.”

“What’s a mainstream player?” Sir Laurence questions before giving a quick wave to call over a bar girl to order drinks.

“The mainstream players are those who focus on upgrading weapons, armor, skills, and aim at constantly becoming stronger. They don’t focus on skills that don’t directly affect battle.”

“So what about non-mainstream players? Ah, I will have an ale as well!” I say to Mason and the barmaid in turn. I gain two points of infamy from talking to the bar girl directly thanks to my intimidating aura, but I have accumulated enough fame that a few points of infamy won’t hurt.

“A pint of ale for me! Non-mainstream players are often somewhat capable of combat, but spend most of their attention on secondary skills. Things such as painting, carpentry, construction, sculpting, smithing, wood craft, and many others. I personally have ‘Wood Crafting’, ‘Stone Crafting’, and ‘Fletching’ which allows me to make high quality arrows from the most mundane of items that I can find anywhere.”

“Three skills just to craft arrows? That’s a bit much, isn’t it?” Verde asks with a wry expression.

“At first, but once they all get above skill level 20 they will ‘Skill Up’ and merge into the new skill ‘Arrow Craft’. There are innumerable ways that secondary skills can ‘Skill Up’ and merge together, and players are constantly looking for new combinations. Some even contribute to new class skills.”

“If so many players are doing that, then why isn’t more information on these skills available?” I ask curiously.

“It is, but you need to pay for it. Surely you have seen the ‘Information Bazaar’ sub section of the End Forums?”

“I have, but you have to pay to open each sub topic, and I don’t want to know that badly, even if each sub is only a dollar or less. Besides, how do you know people aren’t just posting false information?”

“This is where these people post their information on skills, class skills, dungeons and the like. It’s enforced by the game system itself so it can automatically sift out all the false ones.”

Right at that moment, the door to the inn crashes open with a sound resembling the splintering of wood. A scrawny man with a big, toothy grin walks in. He has a bandana tied around his head, several silver and brass ear cuffs on each ear, and a partially developed beard on his face.

He wears several loose and unkempt layers of clothing under a large black coat. The hilt of a single sword is visible from beneath his coat. If I was to describe him in one word, it would be-

“Pirate,” Sir Laurence frowns.

“Well, well, if it isn’t the most useless pirate of them all! Everyone, it’s Gordon!” The entire room breaks into a roaring laughter.

The man who just entered raises his nose to everybody and calls out, “The name’s CaptainGordon! How many times do I ‘ave to shout that out for y’all pathetic people to remember?!”

“More like Gordon the snail! The last time I met the great pirate Gordon on the waters, I raised my sails so that at least he would have a chance to catch me!” At this, the crowd laughs even harder, and several people even fall off their stools.

I don’t blame everyone for laughing at a pirate with such a scrawny build, but it seems a little cruel.

CaptainGordon stands at the entrance fuming, but still looks for an open seat rather than leaving. Spotting an open seat at a nearby table, he quickly moves over and sits down grumpily, cursing under his breath and muttering about revenge on all the mockers by sinking their ships and such. It just so happens that the table he sits at is ours.

He is sitting in the only open seat around the table, directly between Fen and Mason. I feel a little nervous as I look at Fen’s reaction, but she either doesn’t notice his presence or simply does not care.

The pirate looks up at all of us and lowers his eyebrows in a scowl, trying and failing to be intimidating.

“What are y’all lookin’ at?! There something on me face?” He says with a few extra curses.

“Go sit elsewhere,” Verde says in an ice cold voice, stunning me.

CaptainGordon visibly gulps and seems to be trying to think of a retort. The blatant hostility in Verde’s voice makes even me feel a little scared.

“This ‘ere be an open seat. Y’all don’ like me ‘ere, then deal wit’ it,” he finally barks back.

I don’t feel much like arguing, and neither do the others, apparently. We all go back to our previous conversation and ignore the extra person at the table who calls out for a honey mead.

“Like I said, we still need someone to take us to the island in the south. There is bound to be someone who can help. We must just be looking in the wrong spot,” I remind everyone, trying to bring us back on topic.

“Wait, y’all are lookin’ to explore south based on some rumor?” CaptainGordon asks us curiously.

Sir Laurence speaks to him this time, “Yes. What is it to you?”

“I can take y’all if ye want. Well, for a price, of course.”

His words leave us all momentarily stunned. All day looking for a single sailor to take us on our journey with no luck, yet someone willing appears right in front of us?

“What’s the price?” I ask, still trying to determine whether he is being honest or not.

“100 gold, a piece. There is six of ye, so 600 gold total.”

I am about to laugh at him for asking for such a cheap price, but suddenly realize I have gotten used to the prices in Swordbreak. Normally, the price he is asking is actually considered quite high for mere passage on a ship.

We all look at each other, confirming each other’s thoughts. Sir Laurence, Verde, Matrix and Mason nod their heads toward me. There is no need to consider Fen’s opinion, who just looks at me nonchalantly.

“Agreed, 600 gold it is,” I say to CaptainGordon who beams at the sudden income of gold.

“Excuse me, I am also curious about this southern island. Would I possibly be able to join?” A player at a nearby table comes over and asks.

The player is wearing a light yellow set of half-plate armor which gives off an incredibly sturdy feeling. One of his arms is covered in thick layers of overlapping armor, jutting up at the shoulder and protecting his neck as well. While the other arm is exposed from the shoulder to his gauntlet, showing off an average sized arm which is covered in dense muscles. On his back, he carries a mid-sized, silver kite shield inlaid with ebony thread and a golden longsword.

I try to get a look at his face, but he is wearing a full face knight’s helm with only a few holes in the visor to see out of, but prevents anyone from seeing in.

CaptainGordon also looks up at the new player and enters a state of thought.

“Aye, I can bring ye on as well! The price be 200 gold,” he finally says.

The heavily armored player, who at first seemed to be polite, takes half a step forward and leans in on the small pirate and speaks in a low voice, “That’s twice what you asked from them. Don’t try to rip me off.”

“It’s a bulk discount. Ye be on yer own. 200 gold, or no ship.”

Just as the situation is about to become hostile, a group of five players walk up and stand next to the person trying to intimidate CaptainGordon. Their leader is an extremely tall woman wearing heavy armor colored similarly to the knight’s, only with much more skin exposed. She has average looks, with brass-colored skin, olive eyes, and slightly bushy eyebrows.

The woman places a hand on the knight’s shoulder and gives him a cold smile, “How ’bout if us five join you. That will make a full party of six, and we can all get the group discount and venture to this land in the south. What do you say, guildmaster?”

Even without being able see under his helm, I can see how stunned the knight is.

“Y-you! W-what are you doing here?!” He exclaims disbelievingly.

“Surely you didn’t think you could simply leave the guild which was created just for you. What would we do if you were gone?”

“You followed me all the way here?!”

“Of course.”

The knight’s head drops in defeat. I guess these people must be pretty relentless.

Taking the opportunity, CaptainGordon grins wickedly. “How ’bout it? 600 gold for six of ye?”

“Fine,” the guildmaster sounds depressed.

“Great! So what’re yer names? May as well know who we all be sailin’ with.”

“My name is Mikhail the Stalwart, and this is-“

“Moonkite,” the woman cuts the knight off. “The others are JohnSmite, Lockon, Somahealer, and RenegadeRam.”

“Ye guys speak up too. This be for all of us,” CaptainGordon nods towards our party sitting around the table.

I follow what the other party leader does and introduce us. “Going around the table, this is Fen, Mason, Matrix, Sir Laurence, Verde, and I am Lost.”

“What? You be lost?” The skinny pirate looks at me confused.

“My name. My name is Lost.”

“Hah, that be a confusing name,” he nods his head, finally understanding.

“Wait! You’re that Lost?! The one from the tournament?!” Moonkite exclaims in surprise.

I turn my sight away from the woman, unsure how I am supposed to respond.

“Oh, I’m sure you must get that everywhere. Pretend I said nothing! Anyway, we will be off now, right guildmaster? Shall we meet tomorrow morning?”

CaptainGordon clears his throat to get everyone’s attention, “Right, regardless as to who be who, I will meet y’all at sunrise tomorrow morn’, in front of this ‘ere inn. Don’t forget to bring yer gold!”

Just like that the other group leaves, Moonkite dragging their guildmaster, Mikhail the Stalwart, away. I notice him staring at Fen as we leave and feel a little concerned. Not for Fen, but for him. Nobody has made a move on Fen without getting hurt.

The pirate’s honeyed mead arrives at the table and he cautiously blows on it to cool it down before taking small sips. Seven of us sit there for several hours, discussing humorous moments we have been through before. The only ones who don’t join in are Sir Laurence maintaining his regimen of silence, and Verde for reasons only obvious to Sir Laurence and I.

We make sure to add each other as friends before parting ways and heading up to our rooms for the night. This inn is nowhere near as full as the ones in Swordbreak, so we easily rent four rooms between us for the night. Verde in one room, Sir Laurence in the second, Mason and Matrix in the third, and Fen and I in the last one.

***************************************************

I wake up feeling much more clear headed than last night. Thankfully I did not drink too much so I don’t have any residual effects. Alcohol in the game will gradually increase the Strength while decreasing Intelligence, Dexterity, and Agility.

Despite my clear head, I am incredibly uncomfortable. The air in the room is incredibly hot and humid, even though it’s only sunrise. I have long since kicked the bed sheet off, yet perspiration is still covering my body and causing my clothes to stick to me. To make matters worse, Fen is practically on top of me with her arms wrapped around me in a steel grip.

I wriggle from side to side and finally manage to make her roll off of me. At some stage of her rolling off, the cord tying her holster dress around her neck comes loose and the already dishevelled dress falls down from her movement. My eyes turn alert as half her breasts are exposed, the skin especially pale and pure. I also feel a tingling on the back of my right hand as her womanly curves are partially exposed less than half an arm’s length away.

Fen grumbles as she awakens. I hurriedly try to prevent her from moving, but she sits straight up before I can stop her and rubs the sleep from her eyes with one hand. Gravity takes hold on the dress as she does so, and the top of the dress slides down and collects at her hips.

I stare wide-eyed at her perfect figure from the side. The way the base of her back gently curves. Her waspish waist devoid of the slightest imperfection. The way she props herself up on a single slim arm. The profile of her breast, a small rosy nib on the end suggestive of forbidden fruit. I can’t help but feel lust rising in me as I stare at the figure of a creature that men would wage war over.

Fen looks down at her body, her face turning as pink as the tips of her forbidden fruits in embarrassment. She then turns to look at me in shock, giving me a frontal view. Her peaks bounce slightly as she quickly wraps her arms around my waist, pulling herself into my chest and hiding her body from my view.

“Don’t… look,” she mumbles so quietly I nearly miss it.

“Ah, umm, I’m sorry, I really didn’t mean to.”

Her proximity is even more intoxicating, and I gently place one hand on her back, reveling in the softness of her skin. Without thinking, I gently run my fingers down her spine, feeling the small bony ridges under the skin. The girl quivers in response to my touch and her breathing increases slightly.

“No… don’t!” She cries out suddenly.

Before I realize it, a miniature ice spear stabs into my shoulder. A shocked moment later I experience the pain of actually getting stabbed and scream in agony. .

Sound carries through the walls apparently, as Mason and Matrix come rushing from the next room and start banging on the door and asking if I am okay. I try to call out but even moving my jaw causes the pain in my shoulder to increase greatly. Luckily the door is locked, since I don’t know how to explain this situation.

“Verde, he isn’t responding. Can you pick the lock?” Comes Mason’s voice from behind the door.

“Umm, I’m not sure. Let me try.” The clearly recognizable voice of our other female companion speaks uncertainly.

I hear something rattling in the lock and begin to panic. Forcing my body to move through the pain, I grab the small sliver of ice sticking into my shoulder and pull it out, the shard crushing in my hand as I do so. Despite the pain that the ice shard caused me, I did not lose much health.

‘Having a decent strength stat pays off!’ I happily think as the pain quickly fades.

I hastily grab Fen by her bare shoulders, sitting her upright. She protests at being moved, but neither resists for long nor  stabs me with another piece of ice. I hastily pull her dress up and help her tie it up behind her neck before Verde can unlock the door.

“I’m fine!” I call out in a panicked voice. “There is no need to come in!”

I don’t know whether they are unable to hear me or are pretending not to, but the noise of the lock rattling doesn’t stop. I get up off the bed in a rush, opening the menu to equip my armor and cloak as I do so, and rush over to the door.

“Sorry, I don’t think I can. It is a private room in an inn after all. It must be unpickable. Strange, for some reason I thought it was possible to break into a room in an inn,” I hear Verde say behind the door as I reach for the handle.

I pause momentarily, before calmly opening the door to greet the others outside. I find that it isn’t just Verde,  Mason, and Matrix there, but Sir Laurence and even CaptainGordon are also gathered around the door.

They don’t look directly at me, but poke their heads in and look around the room. Mason and Sir Laurence adopt short, semi-concealed smirks on their faces. Verde and Matrix blush slightly and avert their eyes. CaptainGordon is busy craning his head around the others, trying to get a better view of the room.

I follow their line of sight behind me, and see Fen blushing extravagantly while seated on the bed, her dress still twisted around her waist and revealing her long, slender legs. I’m not completely thick headed, of course I can tell what they are thinking while looking at this scene.

“I-it’s not what it looks like!” I stammer as my eyes frantically dart around in search of an escape.

“Ahem,” Mason clears his throat, his grin deepening, “it’s not like what?”

“Y-y-you…” I begin, but cannot find the right words to say.

Sir Laurence’s eyes flash as he stares directly at me, “Forgive us, we heard a cry and thought there was some danger. We immediately rushed over in a panic, but it appears we interrupted you.”

“N-no, like I said, there was nothing going on!”

Mason places his hand on his chin, staring at me as his smirk becomes utterly wicked, “But you did tell us not to come in. You also sounded quite flustered.”

‘So you did hear!’ I inwardly curse and staring daggers at them.

***************************************************

Mikhail the Stalwart, Moonkite and their party have been waiting for us in front of the inn since sunrise as we had arranged. Due to the morning commotion, however, the rest of us are slightly late in meeting them. Despite this, they don’t seem to be displeased in the slightest and greet us as if they didn’t even realize.

“Good morning. Hmm, something seems strange,” Mikhail the Stalwart says from beneath his visor while looking across our party.

I can’t exactly blame him for thinking the scene is strange. My chagrined expression. Fen standing extremely close to, but not touching, me. Mason and Sir Laurence sporting mischievous expressions. Even a complete stranger could tell something had happened.

CaptainGordon clears his throat, and holds an upturned palm toward each of our parties. “Now, per the agreement, tha’ be 600 gold each.”

Moonkite hands over all the gold from her side, while we each pitch in from our side to cover the cost. I pay for Fen as she is my companion as has no gold, and Sir Laurence pays for Verde for some reason.

“Aye, it be a pleasure doing business with ya. Now, if ye follow me, I will lead ye to me ship.” The pirate waves his hand and motions for us to follow as he begins to walk toward the eastern exit of the town.

Most of the players here don’t know me, but a few call out to CaptainGordon with mockery and laughter. Apparently, he is quite infamous in this town. I wonder what his story is.

We leave town and start walking through a thin forest with the trees spaced so far apart that I am unsure whether it even deserves to be called a forest at all. My cloak has the ability to regulate the temperature around my body, but even that can only do so much. I still have light perspiration covering my face from the stifling humidity.

We slowly veer south and I think I spot a few markings on some of the trees that CaptainGordon is using as a guide. After two straight hours of walking, we reach a rather wide section of a river where a large number of ships are anchored along the shore, each and every one of them bearing a different pirate flag.

There are several hundred players around as well, tending to the boats, smithing weapons, or haggling over stolen goods. Off to my right, I see the river narrows off to the north and south. I imagine that this river connects to the ocean; there is no other reason for so many pirates to be anchored here.

“Welcome to ‘Smuggler’s Bay’, where all pirates from this ‘ere area gather,” CaptainGordon lifts his chin and says proudly.

“Umm, is it good to show us the location of this place?” I ask him while still looking around at everything. “I mean, isn’t a location like this supposed to be a secret?”

“This close to that ‘ere town? Nay, it not be a secret. Most players from the area know of this place. There be several other pirate bays as well. As long as we don’t tie our ships up next to the merchant’s, they don’t mind much. This be only a game.”

I nod my head just to drop the subject, even though I still don’t understand. We walk along the shore toward the north, where I assume CaptainGordon’s ship is.

“Gordon, headin’ out with a new crew? Make sure to catch some big ones this time!” One pirate calls out, following up with booming laughter. The captain only clicks his tongue, ignoring the comment and moving on.

We eventually reach a ship anchored along the shore of the river which I can only describe with a single word; strange.

The boat is about thirty meters long and ten meters wide, not the smallest boat in the immediate area, but also far from the largest ones that seem to be almost twice its size. What is really eye catching about this boat and makes it unique is all the tarnished grey-iron plates attached all over the sides of the bow like patches. The hand railings around the deck of the ship and even the two masts are made from some form of black cast iron. I can’t see properly from ground level, but I can vaguely make out more cast iron supports on other sections of the pirate ship.

There are seven holes in the side of the boat with cannons sticking out, and I assume there are an equal amount on the opposite side.

The two large triangular sails seem ordinary enough, and the black pirate flag billowing in the wind at the top has the image of a strange cannon with three barrels. The figurehead is a bowed piece of polished wood, with nothing carved into it yet.

CaptainGordon stares up at the ship with boundless pride, “This ‘ere be my ship, the ‘Bastion’.

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25 Comments

  1. I am disappointed that Verde is moving more and more in the background. I would prefer her to start to remember and start to move against Fen. At the moment this plot is not moving forward at all.

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  2. Nice especially like the scene with Fen and Lost. Though lost should treat her a bit better. Though I’m confused as to why fen would be embarrassed to be seen naked in the first place.

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    1. “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”
      –Mark Twain

      In an MMORPG like End, clothes are a status symbol. You get richer, more ornate, better looking clothes from the end game raids. To be naked usually marks a person as the rawest noob, someone yet unable to advance far enough to even pick up some low level vendor armor.

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