Legend of the Sword Bearer
Tempest chronicles Book 1
Synposis Coming Soon
Legend of the Sword Bearer
Tempest chronicles Book 1
VILLAGE OF ORIGINS
My face rocked to the side as Slag's enormous fist connected with my jaw. Droplets of my blood glistened on his neck and face. He smiled. “Where is the artifact?”
Darkness crept into my vision, closing to a small tunnel. I wouldn't last much longer. Unfortunately, two of his biggest goons held me by my arms.
“Up your ass,” I said. My face rocked the other direction. The room began to spin as the tunnel shrank even more. “Listen, kid, I can do this all day. And once you pass out, I'll take a break, grab a bite to eat. Then come back and beat on you some more.”
“Fuck off, Slag. You aren't getting the artifact.” I spat blood in his face.
He grinned and attempted to wipe some of the red away with the back of his hand, smearing it. “You've got spunk, kid. I can respect that. But you're in over your head. Just give me what I want, and you won't need to suffer so.”
Considering I didn't have anything interesting to say, I decided1
Considering I didn't have anything interesting to say, I decided instead to throw my head back, smashing the back of my skull into one of the goon's face. A scream of agony followed the crunching sound of his nose breaking. Blood showered my neck. I freed my arm from his grip and pulled his dagger from its sheath on his belt, inverted the blade, and swung at Slag's face with an uppercut. Blood sprayed me as I slashed a deep gouge from his jaw to his eyebrow.
“Son of a bitch!” he bellowed. The goon whose nose I had broken grabbed my arm before I could stab anyone. Slag scowled, blood flowing freely down the left side of his face. “You know, I was trying to do this the easy way. Now I think it's time I teach you some gratitude.”
The rain of blows was ceaseless. He used me as his punching bag for what felt like an eternity. The tunnel closed in all the way, and my vision went black.
You are unconscious.
Well, shit. I just got my ass beat. So... You're probably feeling a little lost at the moment. It's understandable, coming into a story just in time to witness the protagonist getting his ass royally kicked. No, it definitely was not my finest moment. So, let's rewind a bit and get you caught up, shall we?
My name was Steven Benson. I was taught young that life was never easy. It was the struggle that defined us. Or at least that was what my dad had always said. If that was the case, I would hate to see my definition in the dictionary. Life wasn't always bad though. A few years ago, I was a network security engineer by day and avid gamer by night. Typical for us nerdy types, but I loved it. I even had a girlfriend for a while, too, but she couldn't handle my crazy hours at work, and by the time I had to stop working, she'd already married and had children.2
But those were the good times. One day, when I still worked for some large firm, I collapsed and was rushed to the emergency room. It turned out I had stage four pancreatic cancer. At least that explained the constant nausea and pain I had been feeling for the last several weeks.
Months went by, treatment after treatment. My insurance didn't cover all of it, and my savings were starting to run low. On the umpteenth day in the hospital, a nurse came up to me. “Mr. Benson, there's a Paul Nelson here to see you, should I send him in?”
I tried to think where I'd heard that name before, but nothing came to me. “Sure, why not? Not like I'm going anywhere.” The nurse gave me a small smile as she left. Damn, was she cute. Maybe if I wasn't dying, I'd have asked her to dinner.
A man, perhaps in his late thirties, with chocolate-colored skin and a sophisticated air about him, strolled in like he owned the place. For all I knew, perhaps he did. The man was wearing a dark suit, glasses, and a trilby.
The man projected an aura of confidence such as I'd never seen before. “Good afternoon, Mr. Benson. I am Paul Nelson, CEO of Tempest.” He removed his hat and set it and his briefcase on his lap. He sat in the visitor's chair, arms crossed but visibly relaxed.
Tempest. That's where I'd heard his name. “What can I do for you Mr. Nelson?”
He smiled. “You see, a few years ago, you did some freelance security consulting for one of our projects. You did very fine work, and I would like to offer you an opportunity to work for Tempest again.”
I burst out laughing. Literal gut-wrenching laughter. It was pure agony as pain wracked my body, but I couldn't stop. Even as the coughing started, I continued to laugh until the nurses had to come in and calm me down. Maybe I was high from all the morphine and everything they were pumping into me. After a few moments, I was able to speak again. “I'm sorry, sir, but if you hadn't noticed, I'm a bit tied up.” I lifted my arms, IV lines and sensors trailing from my body like spiderwebs. “Even if I wasn't stuck in here, I only have a few weeks left. I'm not of any use to you.”3
Mr. Nelson let the silence hang in the air for a few long heartbeats. He leaned toward me with a conspiratorial look about his features. In a low voice, almost a whisper, he replied, “Son, it's your mind we need, not your body.” I must have flinched because he sat back apologetically, hands outstretched in a placating manner. “Your consciousness really. We've developed the technology to transfer a person's consciousness into a computer system. A person can literally live forever as a construct within a digital role-playing game. Imagine it, Mr. Benson, living as one of your characters would. Magic, swords, bows, catapults, even ancient technology from an era long since passed.”
At this point, I think I was in shock. I mean, what gamer hadn't been dreaming of precisely that idea since the very first time they saw Tron? “I don't know, it seems too good to be true. What's the catch? And why me? I'm sure there are plenty of other people who would pay anything for something like that.”
“You're right. This technology is beyond price. But I have a net worth of twenty-five billion. I don't care about money. What I do care about is helping people become more. What better way than making them immortal and giving them the opportunity to start over?” He could tell he almost had me convinced. “The catch, Mr. Benson, is that the transfer is permanent. It is definitely a one-way trip. And there will be tasks to complete before you're free to do as you please. That's the job offer. As for why you? Let's just say that between your accolades in the gaming community and your previous work for us, you are uniquely qualified for the tasks we have in mind. The real question, Mr. Benson, being that you're already dying, is what have you got to lose?”
Anything was better than dying of some stupid disease, right? Besides, for me, this was a dream come true. “Where do I sign?”
I opened my eyes, or at least I thought I had. It was pitch-black. Text blinked to life in front of me, blindingly bright:pg 4
WHAT IS YOUR NAME, ADVENTURER?
There wasn't any kind of keyboard, but the first thought that came to mind typed itself in the box.
WELCOME, ABALONIOUS! YOU HAVE CHOSEN THE CLASS OF
“Wait, I didn't choose my class!” I blurted out into the nothingness.
A small note appeared below the floating text:
NOTE: Character classes are chosen based on the personality profile of the player. Some things in Tempest Online are automatically selected while others are your choice.
I sighed. I guess this wasn't entirely like other games I'd played. “I'm ready.”
I woke up in an old-fashioned bed, layered with sheepskin blankets. Rays of sunlight stabbed at my eyes through dusty, crosshatched windows. I seemed to be in some sort of log cabin. A fire burned in a nearby fireplace, warming the room. Waves of heat rolled through the atmosphere, warming my face and the blankets weighing on my body. It all felt quite real. I noticed food and drink sitting on a nearby table along with a note. My stomach rumbled with hunger, and I read it as I ate.
Good morning, Abalonious! I hope the food helps, the transition can be a bit unsettling at first. After you've had a chance to get used to things, seek out the village elder, Agamor. He will help get you acclimated to your new life. —Paul
Just as I'd pocketed the note, a glowing dialog box materialized right in front of my face.
Quest Received: Meet the Elder5
Meet Agamor, the village elder.
“Yes?” I said to the empty room. The notification faded to nothing.
I stepped outside into a quiet little village. Quaint log cabins filled the immediate area, separated and sectioned off by worn dirt paths. Smoke curled from several stone chimneys, a contrast against the bright morning sky. It was noticeably cold, and I could see my breath, but the cloth shirt, pants, and leather boots I wore seemed to insulate me sufficiently. In the real world, I think I'd have been shivering already, but here, it was just mildly uncomfortable. I started to wonder where the elder might be at, and in an instant, a map of the village appeared before me. It showed a simplified layout of the village —simple squares and other shapes littered the screen—but what had caught my attention was the bright green dot that seemed not too far away from my current position, which I assumed was the white dot in the middle.
I started toward the waypoint on the map. As my attention was directed toward the path in front of me, the map shrank to a small icon in my peripheral vision. I passed a few older people who were resting and watching from among their porches. Some knitted, and some sewed leather pieces together into clothing. Some bounced small children on their knees while others watched the little ones running to and fro, tossing a small leather ball. Many waved at me and smiled. I waved back. It was odd to think that these weren't real people but NPCs. The only things unreal in this world that I'd seen so far had been the menu screens. These people had wrinkles, scars, tan lines, and a uniqueness each their own.
As I reached the heart of the village, I was greeted by a charming Tudor-style cottage. Moss was growing along the roof shingles, butterflies floated among the various hydrangea bushes, and the entire house seemed to lean to one side in a comical, fairytale fashion. An elderly man sat upon a rotting log in the front garden, tossing cornmeal-like grains to the chickens that clucked and strutted at his6
feet. I could only assume that this kind old soul was the village Elder. His weathered eyes raised from the hens to meet my face. “Good morning, Abalonious, how are you feeling?”
I stretched my shoulders a little. “I'm a bit stiff, but otherwise, I feel amazing if a little disoriented.”
The Elder smiled knowingly. “Yes, the Caretaker mentioned you may feel that way. Apparently, crossing over from your world to ours is a bit...taxing.” He wore a fine heavy robe made from some sort of brown-haired animal. I couldn't tell how old he was just by looking at him; he was quite fit and carried himself well. Having finished feeding the chickens, he stood. “Walk with me, my son.” We circled to the back of his home, greeted by a gorgeous oak table with matching benches. On the glossy tabletop lay a massive sword. The thing must have been about six feet long. “This will be your sword, I'm afraid it doesn't have the greatest stats in the land, but it's the best our blacksmith could forge with the materials we have in the area. Go ahead and pick it up.”
I reached for the sword with one hand and picked it up, careful not to accidentally leave a gouge in the table as I did so.
The damned thing was much heavier than it looked. I gripped it with two hands and tested the swing. It felt like it took ages to get it moving. “Will it always feel this slow?” I asked.
The Elder chuckled to himself. “It's not the weapon that feels slow, it's your arms. That sword requires at least a five in the strength7
attribute. Currently, you have three. You're able to wield any weapon you want, but there's a penalty if you don't meet the attribute requirements.”
“How do I see my attributes?” As if on cue, a dialog popped up in front of me, listing all my attributes.
The Elder smiled. “You catch on quick!” he said as he started walking again. I followed as best as I could with the great-sword in both hands. “Once you level, you'll be able to use that sword effectively. You will also learn to equip a weapon latch. It will let you carry your sword on your back. The blacksmith should be finished with it soon.” He paused next to a particularly vibrant display of flowers, taking a8
moment to admire them before going on. “Next, you will need to learn some basic skills. Normally, you would have to find a trainer, but I can teach you some basics.” The Elder raised his wrinkled palm to my forehead. I could feel his strength pulsating from him. “Close your eyes and clear your mind, Abalonious.”
I did as I was instructed. At first, nothing happened, and then suddenly a droning sound filled my head for just a second, like a swarm of bees. I opened my eyes to see several messages before me.
You have learned a new skill: Basic Herbalism!
“Huh.” I stood there like an idiot. Is this what an epiphany felt like? I wasn't sure.
The Elder burst out laughing, “Forgive me, you have the look of one of the addled children about you!” He wiped a tear from his eye as his fit of laughter calmed., “All right, it's time for your second quest. There is a village to feed and our hunters are exhausted from helping mine the ore which made your sword. Please head out into the forest before us. I want you to kill six forest animals and collect ten heal root plants. That should keep you busy for a bit as well as give you a chance to learn some of the fighting mechanics.”
I thanked the Elder and accepted the quest. With my massive blade in tow, I set off for the forest, determined to hit level two in short order.
The forest was gorgeous. I'd been camping in a few different states before, but nothing I'd ever seen compared to this. Giant trees, thicker than five of me, stretched for at least a mile, but the forest was too dense to tell how far it really went. The crisp breeze carried the smell of pine and moss and decay. Leaves and twigs crunched under my feet as I walked. Was this real? It certainly felt real, but for all I knew, I was9
in a morphine-induced dream or hallucination; I honestly couldn't tell.
Movement caught my eye, instantly bringing me out of my thoughts, and I froze. A pig-like silhouette flashed behind a nearby tree. I slowly snuck around the gigantic trunk and peeked at the creature. As I stood there wondering if I could take it in a fight, a dialog appeared.
Name: Wild Boar
I raised my sword overhead and crept forward. As soon as I was in striking distance, I swung the sword in a downward arc as hard as I could. It connected across the boar's back, and it let out a shriek of pain, jumping forward and turning to face me, murder in its eyes. The weight and inertia of the sword brought me forward, and I dropped to my knees, almost losing the sword.
Well. This was going well already... I managed to get up just in time for the boar's charge to plow me over and toss me about ten feet. I landed on my ass rather ungracefully, the sword at my side.
It wasn't debilitating pain, but I felt like I had been kicked by a horse. I quickly grabbed the sword handle as the boar ran in an arc, ready for another bout. I noticed a red bar in the top left of my vision, showing my hit points; I was down to 75 HP.
I readied my sword and held it behind me, parallel to the ground. There was a moment of complete stillness as my gaze locked with the creature; then we were whistling through the air toward each other in a flash. I swung with everything I had, adding10
my momentum to the swing as I dodged to the side at the last second.
Critical Hit! 10 + 5 Dmg
With a wailing squeal, the boar collapsed, motionless. I wondered how long the corpses would hang around for before decomposing or being removed by some trash cleanup routine.
Quest Update: 1 / 6 forest animals killed
I stood there, shaking, adrenaline pumping through my veins. “Yes!” I screamed out as loud as I could. Birds exploded from the trees, scattering in every direction. As I realized that I was celebrating killing the easiest enemy in the game, I got myself under control and steadied my breathing. Luckily, no one was around to notice. As I glanced back down at the motionless creature, something caught my eye. A gathering of bright green leaves adorned with purple stripes sat at the base of a nearby tree. I gathered my fingers around the tangled stalks and yanked it out of the ground.
Acquired Heal Root: A Useful ingredient in first aid and alchemy
I wasn't entirely sure what to do with them, so I piled them next to the boar carcass. Now that I knew what the heal root looked like, I quickly gathered the rest that were in the immediate area and then set off to find some more boars to kill.
After a few similar kills—and close calls—I was starting to run low on HP. I was down to 25HP. Another hit and I'd get to find out what death felt like in Tempest Online.
I continued on, not straying too far from my ever-growing pile of bacon, and dispatched another boar. As I successfully landed another fatal blow, my body began to tingle, and an aura of lightning surrounded me, arcing off trees and branches in every direction. I11
totally took advantage of the situation, thrust my sword toward the heavens, and yelled, “There can be only one!”
Congratulations, you've reached level 2!
Ability Unlocked! You have learned a new ability: Dash! Quickly close the distance to a target
My HP bar filled to full and faded away. I still felt a little tingly but refreshed. I tested my swing, and this time, the sword felt nearly weightless. I could wield it as if I had been my whole life.
I found another boar to test my new skill on. Once again, I leveled my sword behind me and to the side. I focused on my target and triggered Dash. My legs felt like they rippled, and I exploded forward, a giant rooster tail of dirt and leaves flying into the air. I was nearly on top of the boar in an instant and almost forgot to swing. The momentum carried through to the sword, and I cleaved the creature in two, blood spraying everywhere.
Surprise Attack! Critical Hit! 10 + 15 Dmg
Everything happened so fast I wasn't even sure it was real. One moment I was standing there, and the next, the boar was dead at my feet. I'd never felt as strong as I did now; my muscles did look a little more defined but I wasn't Hulking out or anything.
I finished up the quest in short order and was returning to the pile of animals when I saw the Elder and a few other villagers already12
there, cleaning and prepping the animals. I added them to the pile. A notification informed me that I'd reached the requisite quantity of items.
“Well done, Abalonious, thank you for providing for the village. Everyone working together in harmony is our key to survival. Everyone contributes, even the children. You've done very well, and I see you're a bit stronger as a result.” He smiled like a proud grandfather, “Here, put this on your back. You've earned it.”
Item Acquired - Weapons Latch
I swung the sword experimentally up and over, resting it against the latch. It closed with a snap and secured the giant bastard sword to my back. “Whoa! That's really nifty!” I reached for the handle and pulled it into a swing. The latch immediately released the blade, and it might have been my imagination, but I could have sworn it felt spring loaded, making the overhead swing just a little bit faster. I grinned. “Thank you, this will make things a lot easier.”
The Elder nodded and motioned me over to a trunk sitting on the table. “There's actually one other thing here for you. The Caretaker entrusted the village to guard this until you arrived.” He opened the trunk and pulled out a solitary bracer made out of some metal I did not recognize. “This bracer was worn by the Caretaker when he was still mortal. There was once a great battle, and most of his armor was destroyed in a massive blast. We've handed it down from generation to generation waiting for the day when we can pass it on.”
I took the bracer being offered and examined it.
Item Acquired: Ancient Tech Bracer
The metal looked like it was made from white gold. What looked like a combination of runes and circuitry was etched into the surface with some kind of iridescent blue material, all intricately flowing from one into the other. I put the bracer on, and it began to hum. A sharp pain stabbed my forearm and I cried out.
Neural Link Established
“My apologies,” said Agamor. “Part of the process, unfortunately.”
“What's it do?” I asked.
Agamor smiled. “Unfortunately, I do not know. You will have to figure that out as you progress. For now, know that it will give you great power. Eventually.” I frowned. “What is wrong?” he asked. “I thought you would be happy?”
“I am,” I said. “It isn't that. This just all feels...”
“Like a dream?” he asked.
I nodded. “Exactly.”
Agamor's smile broadened. “Then the next part will, how do you say it? Knock your socks off?” That caught me off guard, and I chuckled. From his robes, he pulled out a tablet. And I don't mean a stone tablet. It looked like one of the newer digital tablets that they sold in stores. He handed it to me.
“How does this exist here?” I asked.
Agamor shrugged. “It is not my custom to question a god,” he said with a chuckle. “I was simply told to present you with it should you show doubt in regards to your surroundings.”
“I see.” I turned on the tablet. It booted instantly, and I had five bars of Wi-Fi. How the hell? The desktop screen loaded, and it instantly starting beeping. INCOMING CALL was written in huge letters across the screen. I hit accept. A video chat window popped up then went full screen.
And there stood Mr. Nelson in his nice black suit. And it looked like he was in my hospital room. “Good morning, Abalonious,” he said with a huge grin. “How are things on your end of reality?”14
“Confusing,” I said. Agamor looked over my shoulder with a satisfied smile.
“Understandable,” said Mr. Nelson. “I take it you aren't sure if you can separate reality from fiction?”
“That's an understatement,” I said. “It all seems so real.”
“I have someone here who would love to talk to you,” he said. I knew what was coming...
“Yeah, I think I can do that.”
Mr. Nelson handed the tablet to... me.
My corporeal self and I stared at each other, mouths agape. Then he smiled, and it turned into a grin. It pained him to even move, but he didn't seem to care anymore. His face lit up like a Christmas tree. “So?! How is it?” he asked, eyes as wide as saucers.
“It's amazing,” I said. I actually can't tell what's real and what's not.”
“That's awesome,” he said. “I wish I were there.”
I smiled. “You are,” I said. “We are.”
His face grew serious. “I don't have much time left. But,” he said, “I'm glad a part of me gets to live on.” He started coughing and a nurse ran to his side. He waved her off and then wiped blood from his other hand. “Not long at all, apparently. Anyhow, you're getting to do everything we ever dreamed of. Go out there and show them how much of a badass we are.” Tears started to stream down the side of his cheeks. “Make us proud.”
“I will,” I said. “I promise.” He nodded and handed Noslen back the tablet. He left the room as the nurses rushed past him. I heard them call a code blue over the loudspeaker in the background.
“I'll see you soon,” he said. “Meet up with Garstil in Pinewood. He'll help you along the way.” He turned from the screen and told someone he'd be right with them. “Listen, I have to go deal with some more paperwork. I'll be in touch soon.”
The tablet went dark and then vanished from my hands. “Huh,” I said.
“Do you feel better?” asked Agamor.
I thought about that for a moment while he patiently awaited my15
answer. “Yes, actually,” I said. “It's rough seeing yourself basically die, but it's like a weight's been lifted from my shoulders.”
Agamor smiled. “Excellent,” he said. “I have one more quest for you before you depart. Merchant Evans was due to arrive a few hours ago. Yet, he has not. I fear that he may have been waylaid on his journey here. When you travel to Pinewood Village, keep an eye out for him.”