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    Thread: MMO World Avalon

    1. #1
      TXU Hero kevin398's Avatar
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      Thumbs up MMO World Avalon

      MMO World Avalon

      Intro: yes ladies and gentlemen, I’ve decided to lower myself to write a story about a world where our MMO experiences are real. The world of Avalon, where towns are built on or near openings to underground chambers and labyrinths hundreds of miles long. Some say they all connect...somewhere... but none can say for sure because no one has ever seen it.

      In the depths of those caves live monsters, animals that time forgot, or God refused to let see the light of day. Bats as big as men, snakes that eat the unwary, and lizards and spiders big enough to kill a man, or woman if they aren’t careful.Animals of lure and legend, all alive and very well indeed, and for some reason no one understands, they never die...they can be killed for sure and have been many times...but there’s an unwritten rule in the caves...animals rule supreme there and they are immortal.

      The gold and silver they drop are gifts from the Gods for bravery and cunning, so they say, and many a town is built near the mouth of the cave to make a living from it.Now think about being born here, a young man ready to begin a life on his own, and make a serious decision. What to become...a scholar studying everything that comes from within the world...a healer...much in demand but still a warrior of lesser repute than others. Or an Adventurer...a jack of all trades that seeks gold and fame and will go anywhere or try anything to get it. Many famous names adorn the halls of Gilds and Societies that claim them as members, and getting into one that is worth their salt isn’t easy at all.

      Everyone, in one way or another, depends on the caves and the gold that comes out of there, gold, silver, and gemstones that make up the immediate economy of these towns. Every town has gilds for members and information areas where gems and other rare things can be traded for coin. Growing up here would be tough, and his next choice, even tougher.

      Chapter 1: Growing Up

      Jason was just turning 15 now and his mother and step father were proud of him. He had lost his first father to the caves, and his mother went to work at the local merchants gild to make ends meet, and there she met and married Frank... a weapon smith... and he adopted Jason as his own.

      Try as he might, Frank could not get Jason interested in making things, not things that would sell anyways. He made a flute that was said to be great to listen to, and he practiced until it sounded pretty good too. Then he made a small belt knife, and when Frank cheered for him at the look of it, he reminded him he needed one for his part time job...hunting herbs and mushrooms for the Apothecary in town... and Frank saw that maybe he was just trying too hard.

      But Jason appreciated his thoughts, as a young man soon he’d be out on his own. In small towns such as this it was rare to see a young man over 16 living at home, especially since the caves were calling and many needed to make a living for themselves. But Jason was dragging his feet, perhaps a little too hard. He took a few lessons from Lady Jacobs, the Apothecary he worked for and could make a few lesser potions and tonics now. That was more his speed...growing things or gathering and spending a day grinding and adding other ingredients...until something wonderful was made, and could easily save someone’s life.

      The best ingredients were inside the caves though, and while he snuck in and out a few times, he had successfully kept himself out of any fights while there. It was well known that the few that successfully made a living there were marked...a magical ‘tattoo’ showed up on their backs after they started getting kills and rewards. Each one was different and it was said that a God had to claim you for you to get one, and the God ‘signed’ it with his name and your status showed there and changed as you grew stronger...until the day you died.

      Something many showed off at every opportunity, and people would laugh and talk about their first time and what great creature they had killed to earn it. Usually while sitting in a bar and doing a lot of drinking...something all Adventurers seemed to have in common.

      Today Jason helped carry coal for his step father and when the bin was full he excused himself to go to work as Frank waved and thanked him for the help. Jason ran down the street and into the shop as Ellen looked up from mixing something and declared he was late, and he nodded and apologized saying his father needed help, but he’d stay later to make it up.

      “I need a lot of things today, so get going! Saw grass, dandelion,acidic mushrooms, just to name a few, I have a big order from the Adventurers Gild...they’re going on a two day dungeon crawl this weekend, so hurry it up!” She called after him as he went out of sight... and then she left herself smile. Jason was a good kid and he worked hard, and she didn’t mind him coming and going a few minutes late. His skills at gathering herbs was very good, he learned fast and seemed to find more than she could in the same length of time.

      Her lessons had been well received and she tested his potions herself and they were top notch. When his time came she might offer him a job here full time as her Apprentice, but that was for another day, and she went back to getting an order of 50 manna potions ready before the Gild Treasurer came to pick them up.

      Jason ran to the stream next to the town and walked along it gathering grasses and even a few toadstools that he thought she’d need. Then as he rounded a corner he found the gate guard for the nearest cave entrance and the big man waved as Jason walked up.

      “Going inside today?” He asked as Jason nodded saying he needed some stuff for his boss.”Be careful, some new Adventurer went in there and got chewed up, and got the rabid rabbits all fired up today.” he said as Jason just shook his head sadly. They were called ‘rabid rabbits’ because normal rabbits don’t attack people...these ones do. They scratch and bite you, not enough to die but it can leave a nice scar if your not lucky, and they were the smallest animals in the caves...starting right inside the door and down to the next level.

      “I’ll be carful...” Jason mentioned as the man opened the metal gate and left him in and he snuck inside, using the many torches lit by others that went before him to see. He knew this first area well and found a lot of good mushrooms in here. He got a huge red one and put it into his bag and then two bright yellow ones too. He was doing OK when he heard coughing and grumbling, and he snuck down a few more yards to see a new Adventurer, not much older then he was, fighting with a hoard of small animals... and his stamina seemed to be running out. There was silver laying all around him and it was clear he had walked into a real mess, and either greed...or ego...was holding him here, as he dropped to his knees panting and a few animals just a few yards away saw weakness starting to show.

      “Here take this...” Jason called and threw two small vials to him as he grabbed them to see red liquid and looked around to see another mans back as he walked away.He chugged one down right away and started feeling better and as he sliced up another Fox that rushed him he asked loudly ‘who do I have to thank for these?” and a voice off in the distance said ‘Jason the Apothecary’s Apprentice’ and the young man smiled and went on to clean up the area and gather his loot as Jason walked out to see something that had never happened before.

      Between him and the sunlight just a few yards away was a rabbit...large and white...and growling like mad at him for trying to escape.

      “****...” Jason whispered and looked for a weapon and found none. But the little animal was sure of itself and rushed him and out of sheer panic he kicked it...across the room and against the wall, and it fell and tried to get back up, as he ran over and stabbed it with his knife, and it disappeared into a cloud of dust, and a shiny silver coin was laying there in its place. “Hmm...not bad for a few minutes work.” he said and slipped it into his pocket and walked out and took his bag full of goodies back to the shop for the boss to check and see if that was still enough or not.

      He finished work for today and went home, and after a good hot bath went for dinner, and as he sat there he kept fidgeting, and his mother and father asked why, and he laughed saying that some mosquito had a feast on his back today, and as his mom took a look...she gasped and stepped away...as Frank rushed to see himself, and there...was a Golden page of writing and status showing .5 of everything, and at the bottom was a fancy signature that read...Hermes.

      Chapter 2: Chosen

      “Did you go into the caves today?” Frank asked as Jason agreed saying the best mushrooms were in there and Frank dropped his shirt and smiled, as his wife looked shocked.” And did you kill something today?” he added, as Jason laughed and said ‘one lousy rabbit that wouldn’t leave me alone’ and his dad nodded happily and his mom looked faint.

      ‘Congratulations son...you’ve been chosen.” he said all smiles as Jason looked around slowly to see his fathers wide smile and proud look.

      “You are ****ting me...right?” he asked as Frank shook his head no and his mom got a mirror and held it for him to see and Jason nearly fainted in shock.

      “The God Hermes...it all makes sense now.” Frank mentioned and went on about Hermes making musical instruments and playing them, and he was the God of Commerce.” He added, as Jason had to think about that.” Its a good sign, you’re chosen to succeed in business I’d wager.” He added as Jason thought that didn’t sound too bad then, and they had a celebration for him, and his mom ran out and got a nice cake from the baker for it, and started bragging all along the way that her son had been chosen, to the surprise of many that knew him.

      “That Little runt that works for the Apothecary?” One big man in the local bar asked and many agreed.

      “She said he goes in often to gather herbs for making potions,and today was attacked by a rabid rabbit and killed it with his belt knife. The tattoo is supposed to be solid gold.” One went on and many nodded that they had heard it too.

      “Hmm... mine is black,” The big man said as another man said his was red...and someone at the table next door spoke out and they looked to see Cynthia, a young Adventurer sitting there eating stew.

      “Mine is golden...” She said as everyone waited to hear.” I was told different Gods use different colors. Gold is for Hermes the God of Commerce.” She said as a few laughed saying she fit right in then. She went on trips into the caves in groups and alone, coming out with hundreds in Gold and Silver, and she spent nearly nothing.

      “Good equipment is expensive...” She added as everyone agreed with that. And she was right...one good quality sword could cost 10,000 Gold, if the maker had a good reputation. Magical items even more, and some high end things were out of everyone’s price range.

      “His father is a weapon maker..probably made the little knife for him too. He’s getting an easy start.” Someone said as Frank walked in just then and stepped up to the bar as things got a little quieter.

      “He made his own knife...I taught him how and so far it was the only blade he’s ever made.” he said after getting a draft and many there smiled wide. Having one good weapon smith in town was nice but maybe having two? That would be something. “ But he likes Apothecary work too, so who knows...he learns quickly my son does.” He went on and everyone smiled to see some pride showing for his step son.

      “You’re his father?” Someone asked as Frank agreed and a young man stepped up and handed him 20 silver and he asked why, and he told the story.”He didn’t even wait to see if I’d pay him.” he said and told the story to everyone there, as Frank smiled wide thinking that Jason was growing up faster than even he had thought.

      “A few more like this and he’ll be ready to get his own place.” Frank said, jingling the coins as many laughed,” Or when his mother lets him.” he added as a good laugh was gotten by all. Mothers were like that, and they all remembered theirs.

      Jason went to work the next day to see Ellen waiting all smiles and he asked what she needed today, and she stopped him cold.

      “Is it true that you were chosen?” She asked as he sighed heavily and looked tired and she got a big grin from it and demanded to see, and he showed her his back as she nodded approvingly.”Then take this...” She said and handed him a small book, pocket sized that said potions and Poisons, on it and he asked why.

      “Now that you’ve been chosen I cant use you for my own needs anymore. If anyone asks, tell them you’re an Apothecary now, and you’ll make more in a day even on level 1 in the caves than I pay you for a week here.” She said as he looked sad and she tried not to tear up.”Become someone we can all be proud of, Jason and stop by to visit sometimes.” And with that his adult life began, like it or not, and he went home to study and learn new things, like clouds of dust that killed everything it touched, and fire bombs and smoke for escapes, if not in the book in notes found inside, and Jason knew people expected a lot from him and he hoped not to disappoint them.

    2. #2
      TXU Hero kevin398's Avatar
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      Chapter 3: Planning for a Profession

      Jason’s dad gave him a corner in the shop, and he worked all evening there and by morning he was ready. He didn’t have skills in weapons, but he had knowledge many didn’t, he also made some interesting things to try today, and he wasn’t even thinking of leaving the first floor yet.

      He walked to the gate and the guard waved him inside, as a few new people watched and smiled. Jason walked in and looked around and gathered what he could that he’d need later. At one point a whole family of rabid rabbits tried to block his way, but an exploding firebomb ended that and he gathered his loot and went on.

      By the end of the first two weeks he was doing pretty well, he had learned what worked best and what didn’t and even got to practice with his knife, something he didn’t like but had little choice in the matter, when one rabbit refused to die from his poison but crawled around looking pathetic and sick. One stab ended that and another small bit of loot again.

      He was nearly to the door to the second level when he heard shouting, and he walked to the side and up a slight incline and stopped to gather a mushroom he found there. But just then a team of 3 ran in from below and they were all out of breath and one girl was being carried.

      They saw him there and screamed to run, and he heard a hissing sound, loud and ominous and the leader of the little group said they were overwhelmed by snakes and had to retreat back the way they came.

      “I think the level boss is still chasing us, so run!” he screamed as Jason saw a large black snake coming up the path they just came from, maybe 20 feet long and very upset, but snakes hate cold and extreme heat, they like the caves where its always cool and he smiled and pulled out a larger vial and waited and threw it at the last moment and even before the beast saw him there.

      The fire was intense, and the team leader sat the girl down and pulled his sword, waiting to see, and after a second of screaming and hissing, the snake disappeared into dust and Jason walked back down to see if they were OK or not.

      “You a Magician?” The girl asked as Jason smiled wide.

      “Apothecary...” he said softly and handed her a small ‘sample’ vial with purple liquid in it as she looked curiously at him for a second.”Todays special, first one is free.” he hinted as she laughed and took it and drank it down as her leader thanked him for the assist.

      “We got beat up pretty good down there,” he admitted as Jason nodded he understood.” Once our forward movement was stopped they surrounded us and the potions we took weren’t nearly enough.” He admitted as Jason nodded agreement again.”You’re still working level 1? That was the level two boss right there, and you took it out like it was nothing. You can travel with us anytime.” he said as Jason thanked him saying he was in no hurry, everything he needed was close by and he made a living with his tonics and potions pretty well.

      “Here this is yours,” One young man said as Jason turned and he handed him a brass dagger, all engraved and with a 8 inch blade as Jason looked oddly at him.”Loot from the boss..they look nice but the blade is ****...these drop on all the top floors.” he hinted as Jason thanked him and checked it out and put it into his bag.

      “How do you feel now, Sara?” the leader said as she stood again and smiled wider than ever before.

      “Like new, that stuff really works.” She admitted as Jason said he had a good teacher, and they all agreed.” How many more of those do you have with you?” She asked and all three gathered around as Jason showed them his wares, and they decided that they weren’t done today yet, and away they went as Jason got his first Gold coin and turned and walked out a happy man.

      He went right to the shop and showed his dad the dagger and he admitted that they were a dime a dozen in loot.

      “It works, don’t get me wrong, on small animals and such... but not up to OUR standards!” he said as they both laughed and Jason spent some time bending his dads ear about what made it such a bad blade and it basically turned out to mean ‘temper’ that special something that gets added to a weak metal when its really hot and then cooled fast. It adds strength and Jason asked if he could fix it and his dad looked unsure of that.

      “The brass will melt before the blade gets hot enough, it would need completely remade, not really worth it to me.” he admitted but Jason was learning something new and he thanked him and went out to gather more stuff and Frank smiled a lot that Jason found something new to work on.

      Jason went down to the steam and followed it for a while gathering herbs and small bits of minerals he found there. He was digging around in some rocks in shallow water when he saw a rare thing, an odd stone that he recognized as a tortoise stone, a semi-precious stone found in the mountains nearby and, obviously in the stream from time to time. It had been rolled around so long it was round and smooth and looked pretty good, and Jason got a great new idea, and got a piece of wood and sat there for an hour sculpting and making a new handle design, not as flashy as the one his new dagger had, but more streamlined and smooth with a round hole at the top, and he took his creation home and started a new project while his dad went for dinner and when he came out Jason was sitting there outside catching his breath, and the little dagger was laying there, with no handle at all.

      “You...melted the handle off to fix the blade?” he asked as Jason just smiled and waved him to follow. Inside he had made a mold from the wooden handle he made and gently placed the stone into the head and now he carefully laid the blade back in and set the top on it, as his dad reminded him that being too hot would waste the temper in the blade, as Jason pointed to a water bucket sitting there waiting, and he poured the molten brass into the mold and after just a minute to let it set a little, he pulled it open and lifted out the red hot knife and dropped it into the bucket as steam rolled everywhere and Jason stepped way back for a minute, as his dad smiled that he had learned soo well.

      Frank took it out and checked it and of course had to say that little things like the stone wasn’t perfectly centered, and Jason just smiled but Frank admitted that the new handle was different, less wide and easier to handle and the blade was now many time stronger than it was before.

      “A level 5 blade...at least...” he admitted as Jason sat down now, exhausted, and Frank gave him a nice pat on the back for trying to save a ‘piece of junk’ and Jason just laughed.”I would have given you a better one if you ask.” he hinted as Jason just nodded he knew but took the new knife and started filing the odd edges away as his dad watched.

      “But this one is MINE, made and tempered,and now finished by me. It was a good experience, I think.” Jason said as he turned and his mom was right there looking like she’d cry, and shoved a sandwich into his hands and gave him a hug before disappearing into the house.

      “Stop by for dinner sometimes,and tell us your stories, it’ll make her worry less.” Frank said and patted Jason on the back again and went inside to tell her how proud they could be of their son.

      Chapter 4: Level 2

      Jason was getting his skills up, he didn’t need to see the score sheet on his back to know that, and he knew that deeper into the caves were creatures that he didn’t have a prayer of fighting as he was.

      But he did a lot of thinking and made some serious plans, and one entire day he spent working in his dads shop and when he was done he had a small, portable crossbow, less than a foot wide and maybe 18 inches long, but the little metal bow had some zip to it, and he made a dozen little 6 inch arrows with hunting blades on them and a quiver to carry them in.

      But that was just the start, and he did some research and gathered some dangerous plants and when he was done he had a vial that he wouldn’t sell to anyone, but he carried for his own purposes. If he soaked an arrow head with this stuff, it would kill damned near anything, and fast too, and he saw that as a weapon he could use when he went farther into the caves looking for the rare materials that he still had never found.

      He made a trip every few days and soon found himself standing at a doorway, just an open hole really, that led down a slope to the second level. He had been killing rabbits for a while and his reflexes were getting better and his potions and other equipment stronger than before. Now he was ready, and as he walked off the first floor and headed down, he knew that different dangers would await him there and he was finally ready.

      In an hour he killed 6 foxes and several small snakes, and his total for looting was looking good. He was nearly to the other side of the room when a sound caught his ear, and he saw a young girl, just a little thing, running into the room from the third level, and she fell and lay there gasping and got up and tried to run again.

      “Hey, need some help?” He called and ran that way as she looked around and saw him for the first time.

      “They’re after me, and they’re coming, please...” She got out and he stopped and heard a loud growling and saw a form walk through the door and he recognized it as a Pigman, nearly 5 feet tall walking on two legs and carrying an ax, he was not something Jason had seen before, and he was glad of it.

      “You can not escape woman...” It declared as she looked scared to death, but a minute after a tiny arrow hit him squarely in his right shoulder, and the pain made him drop his ax and scream as he pulled it out and tried to stop the bleeding as it ran down his chest.

      “You missed his heart, you cant kill him that way!” She screamed as Jason just smiled and the animal looked his way and roared in defiance.

      “Wait for it...” Jason whispered and the big pig fell face down and disappeared into dust as the girl looked shocked and a little confused.”Poison arrow.” Jason said as he helped her up and went to get his arrow back, and his reward in the form of a small red jewel.

      “Poison? Nice...who taught you that trick?” She asked as he smiled and said he was an Apothecary, and he learned from the best, and she smiled and thanked him for helping, and he nodded and asked why she was down there alone. “My worthless brother led a team of three down there today and got himself sliced up badly. Then as they retreated he dropped everything...his pack... his loot bag, even his weapon...my fathers sword. The *******...and he’ll live but already he’s thinking of borrowing money for more stuff, and we can’t afford to eat right now!” She demanded as Jason nodded he understood. If it was a decent blade at all he’d never be able to replace it like this, and hurt the way he is now, it will be days or weeks before he can work again.

      “How deep is it down there?” Jason asked as she looked shocked he cared.

      “Not far from the level three doorway. They barely made it inside when the Pigmen and some others caught them there. One girl might lose an arm yet, I hear.” She remarked sadly as Jason nodded he understood.

      “And you are?” he asked as she remembered they had never met and she apologized and shook his hand.

      “Karen James...and you?” She asked as he smiled back and said ‘Jason Harris’ and she looked a little shocked she met him. “I heard about you from my brother, he said you killed a snake for them and sold them some potions.” She added as Jason just laughed and said that he remembered them now.

      “Well if you want some help, we can try, there’s is lots of stuff an Apothecary like me could use down there, and if we work together we might get in and out fast enough to not get ran down by hoards of creatures.” he added as she thought about it and knowing she was less than a hundred yards from her brothers stuff she decided it was worth the risk.

      “OK, lets try,” She said as he armed his bow and she got her sword ready and they walked down the slope to peek around the corner to see two Pigmen standing looking at a pile of stuff on the floor.”There’s it is, Brothers stuff.” She said and Jason nodded, it really was just inside the door. He pulled out a vial and after a second getting into a good position threw it and it smashed nearly at their feet, and coughing and choking happened and then nothing and they waited for the cloud to clear and ran to gather what they could get.

      “Don’t breath the dust, ever...” He said as she grabbed the bag and shook it, holding her breath, and then saw the sword laying nearby and got that too. While that was going on, Jason got his loot and saw a small patch of oddly colored plants and mushrooms along one wall, and he made a dash for them, as she started back and called for him to hurry.

      It all took less than ten minutes, and Jason had materials worth their weight in Gold and she had her dads sword and all her brothers stuff where he dropped it. Now they had to fight their way back up the levels and by the time they got to the gate they were both ready for a good nights sleep.

      “Thank you for the help...I got my brothers stuff back and even made enough on the way back to help keep us going until he recovers.” Karen said as Jason agreed they did OK.

      “If you like, come by my place sometime, in the Hovels, number 12...” He offered as her face went beet red.” I mean, we can talk... and maybe do another trip together. No reason your brother gets to have all the fun.” he added quickly and she gave a long exhale and agreed, and disappeared down the path towards the town.

      “Picking up girls in caves?” The guard asked and laughed as Jason threw a finger over his shoulder, all smiles.” the caves over there.” he said and went into town to show what he got to his old teacher.

    3. #3
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      Chapter 5: Rare Finds

      Jason got there just before Ellen closed and as the bell on the door chimed she walked out to see her favorite student walking back in.

      “Well look at you, a big time Adventurer now huh?” She asked as he just laughed at that.

      “I found something inside the caves I thought you’d be interested in.” He said as she waited to see and he pulled out a medium sized bright green mushroom, and her eyes popped to see it. She took in gently from his fingers and gave it a soft sniff and choked at the strong smell and looked at him like he was nuts or something.

      “You know what this is?” She asked and he admitted he didn’t, thats why he grabbed it and brought it straight to her.”These are very rare, you only find one in a blue moon and they can be used in many high level potions, higher than the book I gave you by a lot.” She said as he nodded seriously, he learned something new again today.

      “Want it?” Jason asked as she backed away a second and had to think about that one.”Give me whatever you think its worth and its yours.” he said as she looked a little embarrassed at that.

      “I cant afford it...thats the truth.” She said softly as he just laughed and she saw he was being kind today.

      “Sure you can, make me an offer.” he said again and she saw he was serious, and she went into the back and came out with a pouch full of Gold and dropped it on the counter.

      “5000 now and 5000 more when I sell it.” She said and Jason almost fainted to hear it.” And don’t you ever tell a soul...not even me...where you found it, and if you ever find another ...bring it straight here.” She said and her eyes said she wasn’t kidding and he agreed and she got her mushroom and he got a nice bank account, and he went straight there to make sure he didn’t get mugged carrying this much around.

      He walked in and the bank tellers all smiled and one waved from the side, and he walked over there, as a young woman he knew from town worked here and she always asked him how he was doing.

      “What can I help you with Jason?” She asked as he just smiled and looked kind of worried and asked to make a deposit, and she agreed, and he sat the bag on the counter and Gold jingled and she looked shocked.

      “5000 Gold to my account,please.” he said and she agreed and whisked it out of sight and back into the vault for safe keeping. Adventurers were a high paid lot by nature, but Jason had less than a year working the caves full time, and this was very rare indeed.

      “Did you kill a big boss or something?” One of the other girls asked as Jason just smiled wide.

      “Or something,” he said and left it go, and they saw he wasn’t going to tell them everything either.

      “All taken care of, heres your receipt,” Cathy said, as Jason thanked her and went home for the night and stopped at his dads house to say hi and tell them part of the story, and asked that they kept it to themselves, and they agreed saying that many people would walk right by something like that without knowing it was worth a fortune, and even his mom and dad didn’t ask exactly where he found it, and that was probably for the best.

      He got the best nights sleep than he’s had for a while now, since his immediate future was assured.It was nearly enough to buy his own place, and stop paying rent. But that was for a future time and he wasn’t going to let his good fortune ruin his training, and he was up at dawn and out again making more potions and gathering more herbs, even traveling farther now to find them. If he kept going his skills would be top notch and that was his plan, and he went again into the caves and did fine there too, all the way to the third doorway, where he turned and came back.

      Another trip to the bank and another hundred Gold after selling a few gems he got today, and his reputation around the little town went up a bit more, as his new friend was telling her brother how stupid he had become, to get caught by so many enemies while trying to protect a few new team members.

      “Look who’s calling me stupid, you went back for my things alone and nearly died.” He demanded as she pointed, nose in the air to his sword sitting against the wall.”OK you got it back, but you had help too. I swear I don’t want you doing dungeons anymore, thats a mans job.” he added and the ‘mans job’ thing was one step too far, and he knew it the second he said it.

      “You’ll be laid up for two weeks yet,” She demanded as he sadly agreed,” so how else are we going to eat? I’ll be careful just get better and then we’ll talk about your stupid masculine attitude about women.” She screamed and walked out as he lay there, knowing he owed her an apology, but just not ready to admit he might be wrong.

      Karen ran right to the Hovels and knocked on the door, but no one was home. It was the middle of the day so that meant he was working, and either at his families shop or in the caves. She went by the shop and peeked inside and he wasn’t there either and she went and asked the gate guard if Jason had gone in, and he admitted he had, some time ago.

      “He’s due to come out soon, he works alone so he wont stay for very long.” The guard said, and she decided it was worth it and sat back under a tree nearby and took a nap until Jason came out, and then begged to get another chance at Adventuring with him, as his mouth fell open and the guard looked away, smiling.

      “Things will be really tight until my brother gets better, and there’s no one else I can ask.” She admitted and bowed deeply and held it as Jason finally agreed, and she demanded right on the spot that she didn’t want charity, if he killed something it was his, and she’d do her own killing for her own loot, and he agreed and they shook on it, and Jason got a part time team mate and she got a chance to show her brother that she was an Adventurer too.

      The next day at dawn they were off, and Karen was standing in front of his house when the door opened, smiling wide and carrying her short sword.

      “Lets go partner.” She said and Jason laughed and they went to the caves and cleared the first level and most of the second before Karen was nearing exhaustion.

      “Let me see your sword,” Jason asked and she handed it to him while no enemies were anywhere near. He held it up and looked down the blade and nearly laughed out loud as she asked why the big smirk.”Who taught you to sharpen a blade?” he asked as she grumped at him and said her brother did, and he just smiled.

      “The brother thats laid up at home because he couldn’t kill enemies fast enough?” He asked as she said it wasn’t his fault, these things happen, and Jason reached into his pack and pulled out a file and as she watched for enemies he put a sharp edge on her blade, possibly for the first time.

      “There, try that, the sword isn’t supposed to be a club, if its sharp enough then just swinging it will cut anything in front of you. Its not the force you use, its the sharpness of the blade.” he explained as she nodded she did under stand...wither she did or not.

      But the next group of animals they found went down much faster and she cheered as her share went up a bit more and Jason smiled and decided that ‘I told you so’ wasn’t necessary today.

      They made it all the way to the third door, and as they peeked around the corner they didn’t see a thing this time,and they turned back to hunt a few more little things on the way home.

      And Karen was very happy. In her brothers absence she got enough money for food and to pay the rent and as she told him her tales of adventure, he finally admitted she had done well, and silently decided that he owed Jason a favor for helping them along while he was laid up.

      Chapter 6: Level 3 and Beyond

      Karen’s brother, Josh was up and ready again in another week, and when Karen went to Jason’s house that morning, Josh was right there too and Jason laughed as he finally introduced himself properly.

      “For the last couple of weeks I thought your name was ‘stupid’” Jason said as Josh gave Karen a dirty look.”My stupid brother does this my stupid brother does that...” he went on as Karen finally offered to punch him if he didn’t quit it.

      “You two have been doing the first two levels regularly, but I thought, and if you didn’t mind, I’d come along and we might make it into level three today. I have some pay back I need to hand out there.” he said as Jason agreed they might well make it then, and he agreed he could come, and Karen elbowed Josh saying she told him it would be alright, and Jason just got his pack and weapons and they walked to the gate together.

      “Team name...” The guard asked and Jason was stuck for what to say for a minute, it was the first time he had more than Karen with him, as Karen jumped in and said Team Flash, and the guard wrote it down and they were allowed to pass.

      “Team Flash, really?” Josh asked as Karen said he hadn’t seen Jason at work yet, and Josh reminded her he had, but the name seemed a little odd to him, but it stayed and the guard reported a new Team inside and everyone that came after laughed at the name and who all were in it.

      An hour later they were standing in front of the third level door, and even Jason was impressed. Josh had laid around for three weeks and today he was on fire to get back down there and get his revenge. And as they stepped from the gaping doorway, three Pigmen rushed them and Jason got one with his bow and Karen and Josh got the other two.

      “OK, we’re in...now lets go slow and see what all is here.” Jason said and everyone agreed and as they snuck around a hissing sound was heard and heads peeped out of a small pit just a few meters away.

      “Serpents...” Josh said and as they gripped their swords a cloud of gray drifted out of the pit and the sounds stopped dead, and Jason reminded them not to breath the dust, and Josh looked shocked. They waited a minute and walked over and there was 6 gems laying in the pit, and Jason gathered them and dropped them into his bag for safe keeping.”Damn, with this guy along we could go to the center and back.” He said as Jason reminded him even his tricks had limits, and they were basically the size of his bag and the materials he had to work with.

      “But you get it now right?” Karen asked as Josh looked at her oddly.” In a Flash...poof...and they are gone.” She went on and even Jason got a chuckle at that.

      “This time it was in a fog.” Jason added and she asked him not to rain on her parade, and Josh laughed at both of them.

      “I’m thinking you two get along too well.” Josh added as Jason just laughed some more and they went on.

      Things went just like that, and Josh got his revenge and Karen and him made some decent money too. They fought their way in, and then back out and when they reached the front gate everyone was tired but happy.

      “We did it! We cleared the third level!” Josh yelled as a few people there applauded for them and Karen gave them a big bow and Jason just laughed out loud as they walked back to town.”You know Jason...you can keep her if you like.” Josh added as Jason looked shocked and Karen nearly tore his head off for saying such things.

      “No I mean it...you two get along great, its easy to see... and she needs to get out on her own too, after all I cant have women coming over...” And that was as far as she left him go. He was...in no real order...a womanizer, a drunk, a *******, a fool...and a few others as Jason laughed at their antics as they fought all the way back into town.

      “You two act like an old married couple, not us.” Jason added as he waved good bye and went inside for the evening and Josh asked why she gave him such a hard time, it was easy to see she didn’t mind the idea at all, and she silently reminded him that it was her life and she’d do with it as she pleased, and that ended the talk right there.

      But in a town the size of this one, things don’t go unnoticed. Jason and his little team were seen and Josh’s announcement that they cleared 3 levels alone got some attention from the 4 Gilds in the area.

      The largest structure in any town is the Gild Hall, and inside all the meetings of the local Gilds gets done, as well as their own private banking and weapons masters. They were like a small town alone, and they liked having one of everything in their ranks, and seeing a new Apothecary just pop up overnight, and a Combat Apothecary at that, got some people talking.

      “Anyone ever meet this new man yet?” The Gild Master asked as a few said they had, and that Jason was a good man and not to be confused with some wimp just because he made potions.

      “I saw him inside twice, once he saved a group of three with some fire bomb or something and got himself a level 3 dagger while still on the second floor.” One man yelled as many there whispered between them.

      “Fire bombs huh? Area effect weapons then...thats interesting.” The man said as others nodded as well.” How about potions and poisons, anyone know about that?” he went on as one team said they purchased a dozen from him and they were top notch, and he smiled and nodded approvingly.

      “He’s staying in the top 3 levels right now and has his own 3 person team, but does anyone know what his stats are, or what his current level is?” He asked and the room grew silent.”Well then its something we need to know.” he whispered as one person said an Apothecary was a Support Class, basically a Healer, and his levels in combat might not be that important.

      “But he cant be dead weight either, and this team of his are all low level players too...will he leave them to join us?” Was asked and many there waited to hear.

      “Levels ARE important, a level 3 Apothecary has skills and potions a level 1 will never have.” The Gild Master added as many agreed.” So...we need to see what he thinks about all this...lets invite them on a Quest... just some little thing to see what they are made of. Then we can see their skills and levels and maybe get them to sign up. A new team is never a bad thing, and 3 new Adventurers would help in many lower level fights we’ve had to walk away from lately.” he hinted as one man screamed ‘or run away from’ and everyone laughed as even the Master nodded agreement.

      “Yes...level 1 people can do the top 2 levels of the cave without too much trouble and he’s done those for weeks now, so we can safely assume he’s at least level 2.” Cynthia added as many looked her way and agreed.

      “Level 2 Apothecary might be our absolute minimum,” The Gild Master added as many agreed,” Level 3 people can do 5 levels without much trouble all alone, so in a group that would be extended to level 8 easily, and we seldom go beyond level 12 right now, but we certainly would like to.” he added as many there laughed. At level 12 every animal that died dropped Gold and some nice weapons and armor too, beyond that...for them at least...was just speculation.

      “So who will invite him then? He doesn’t drink so we never see him in the local bar.” One man added as the Master just smiled wide and turned and gave Cynthia a big grin...and she tried to ignore him.

      “To get a young man, send a pretty girl...” he said as many laughed and she insisted that he was being ‘sexist’ and he disagreed saying it was obviously true. “Its worked before...” he added as many nodded it had. They were a Gild of 12 members, half of which Cynthia had asked to join and they had, she was their best recruiter.

      “Then its settled...one week from tomorrow...we’ll make it a weekend trip down to level 10 and back.” he announced as many cheered, and Cynthia looked upset she got the job again.

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      'remember me' on this site doesn't work. every day I have to log in again, no matter how I do it.

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      Chapter 7: Getting Noticed

      Cynthia walked from the meeting looking a little upset. Yes she was a member, but not the Master there, but James, the real master knew people very well, and sending a girl to ask men to join had worked several times before, and his little Gild grew from 6 members to the 12 it was now. Not the biggest Gild in town but enough to get some respect.

      And she wasn’t bad looking, girls know that too as well as guys looking on, but she didn’t like using her looks to get people. The Gild should stand on its own merits, and not use cheap tricks.

      She was 5‘5“ tall, was not thin or big just average and had medium length blond hair. Her skills were swordsmanship and she was without a doubt the best in the Gild, and she practiced daily to keep it that way. But with her sword by her side today she wasn’t going after a monster or gaining Gold, she stood in front of a small house and knocked and looked embarrassed and a little shy standing there.

      But no one answered and she automatically knew that he was in the caves. It was nearly noon and if what they heard about him was true, then he had been in there for hours now and would be returning soon.She went to the local gate and asked the guard if he had seen Jason today and he checked and said that Team Flash entered hours ago, and was due back any minute.

      “Flash?” She asked as the man chuckled and said the girl named them and it stuck.

      “I hear his bombs kill things in a flash.” he repeated as she just smiled and said she’d wait, and the guard saw that Jason’s team was getting watched now that their skills were improving.

      She timed it pretty well and less than an hour later, Team Flash came walking out, laughing and shaking their coin purses saying they did well today.

      “Are you Jason Harris?” Cynthia asked as they stopped for a second and Josh gave a soft whistle that Cynthia had learned to ignore by now.

      “I’m Jason,” he said and stepped forward and they shook hands.

      “I’m here representing the Empire Gild. We’re having a Quest Weekend this coming weekend and wondered if you and your team would join us?” She asked as Josh and Karen cheered, saying they were getting noticed, and Jason saw that he had little chance of refusing after that.

      “When and where?” Jason asked and they made plans to meet in front of the Gild Hall at dawn Saturday morning and he agreed and she walked away and went to report that they’d be there, as Josh went on and on about getting into a Gild with pretty girls in it, and Karen asked if she was chopped liver or something, as Jason didn’t even laugh at their squabble this time, because he saw some trouble coming if things didn’t work out.

      “Get those swords sharpened too..” he whispered as Josh said they were great, and Jason asked to see one and Karen smiled and waited as Josh handed him his and Jason looked tired just looking at it.”Come on...” he said and they all went to the shop and got a proper lesson in sharpening blades from Jason’s dad and when they left they could cut paper, and Josh looked properly embarrassed by his bragging before.

      Saturday came and Jason made sure they had some food and a blanket each. It was going to be an overnight trip and they smiled that he worried about them but they claimed to be just fine. They walked down the street and joined a group by the Gild Hall and Cynthia introduced them to the members there.

      “Team Flash...really?” one big man in armor asked as Cynthia gave him a dirty look and he looked away smiling.

      “I use bombs sometimes.” Jason added dryly and the Gild Master stopped the talk and introduced himself as well.

      “I’ve heard good things about you, and as a Gild we always need new members and one with your skills is hard to find. By the way...what level are your skills anyways?” He asked as Jason just shrugged and everyone there looked shocked. They checked theirs daily to see what they gained, but he didn’t even know?

      “I don’t worry about that, if I feel I can do it, I do, its that simple.” Jason said as the man smiled and agreed. He didn’t have any idea what his levels were, he just knew that he had never found a challenge he couldn’t beat...a lesson for them all.

      “I’m a level 2...” Karen added as the man smiled,” my worthless brother is a 3...and Jason...makes us look sick.” She added as everyone just smiled wide.

      “Then things should go well for us today, we’ll fight our way to the Safe Zone between levels 6 and 7 then rest for the night, then go on until we get tired then return there. If things go well we’ll be back by Sunday night.” He said and everyone agreed and away they walked, now a group of 15...and a new level for both the Empire Gild and Jason... since he had never fought with soo many before.

      The first three levels weren’t worth mentioning, and Jason and his Team barely got any kills, walking along with a team so large. But as they entered the fourth level things changed and more and bigger animals appeared in more numbers.

      Soon they found themselves getting stopped cold and the Master set up a two line system where someone fresh was always up front, and they all got turns killing things and gathering their loot after.

      They even named one young girl,as official gatherer, and when things got too hard and fast to stop for long, it was her job to grab everything, and then they’d sort it out later. The level was finally beaten and they took a break on the ramp going down to the next level, but a group of reptile men saw them from the doorway and stood down there, challenging them to try and enter, but a minute later a fireball went off and 4 more animals went down and Karen rushed down and gathered everything there for her ‘Boss’ and the Gild Master saw that the rumors were true.

      “I really would like to know your level specs if thats not too much of a bother.” he asked softly as Karen rolled her eyes and jumped in and pulled up his jacket and shirt and stood there, eyes open as the Gild Master and Cynthia ran over to see.

      His play style made them all different but he had skills in Apothecary..52,level 5...Strategy 32...level 3...Combat 30..level 3...Healing...40..level 4...and one that was very faint, and could not be read yet.

      “A level 4 Healer and a Level 5 Apothacary..” he said loudly, as many there smiled really wide.”You have a new skill coming soon too, but it cant be read yet, you better keep better track of these numbers from now on, they are really important.” he added as Jason agreed and slid his shirt back down to where it should be.

      “Hmm a mystery...a new skill that matches his other skills.” The man whispered as many there tried to guess.

      “Aura Healing?” Someone hinted as they just shrugged saying it was possible, he was a Healer after all.

      “Magic?” Another asked as they had to admit, using chemicals and poisons was close to a Magical Ability.

      “Guessing is pointless.” Cynthia added sourly as many smiled, she hated sitting around and doing nothing and they had sit too long for her taste.

      “Come on people, Cynthia’s sword is getting thirsty.” the big man said as she grumped, and everyone got to their feet and started down again.

      Chapter 8: Mid Levels

      By the time they got to the sixth level they were ready for a meal and some rest. They got to the Safe Zone and set up camp, complete with tents and camp fires and food and coffee and tea were made. Jason and his Team were Guests and so got to eat with the rest of the Gild, and it was clear that many there wanted them to join, especially since Jason’s Apothecary skills were better than expected.

      But even though Karen and Josh were ready on the spot, Jason hesitated, and Carl..the Gild Master saw it immediately. Jason was in charge of his little Team and they worked slowly and carefully. A trip like this probably looked fast and hazardous, and in some ways it was. But they were well organized, and his leadership kept them together and moving forward, and Jason would see soon enough that the mid to lower levels can not be taken by a small team. There were Gild Weekends where up to 30 people went in together, and no one even had a map past level 25...even though rumors and legends of levels as deep as level 50 were talked about around camp fires at night.

      “What kind of creatures would be below level 25 I wonder?” Karen asked as they sat by the fire with the rest of the group and it got really quiet all of a sudden.

      “Minor Gods and Deities...” Someone guessed, and she choked on her drink as the entire group saw how very weak they and their weapons, really were.

      “Creatures from Legends, maybe...” Jason added too and soon everyone had an idea, and it wasn’t so scarey anymore.

      “All we know for sure is that any group that ever forced their way into level 25, never made it out alive.” Carl added as many agreed.

      “They forgot that once in, you need to turn and fight back out again.They forgot the most important part..re-spawn rates of the creatures behind them.” Jason added like it was nothing, and even Carl smiled to see why he had several levels in Strategy.

      “Well said...I see why you’ve been doing so well alone. Jason plans every little thing..maybe better than me.” Carl added as Jason just smiled and waved the compliment away but it didn’t go unnoticed by the rest of the group, because Carl was a serious Leader and he just might have said Jason was even better.

      “Lets set the alarm for early and get breakfast and then pack up.” Carl said as everyone agreed,” then we’ll see how well we do tomorrow.” he went on, and went inside his tent with a few of the other men and the ladies went inside another and Jason sat there poking at the fire for a while as Carl came back out and joined him for a minute.

      “You don’t like Gilds then?” Carl asked as Jason just smiled.

      “I see how they are necessary for the lower end levels.” Jason added as Carl agreed,” But I don’t want to see my friends lose everything if they die. Yes...we get reincarnated back at the Cathedral...but everything they own, armor,swords, everything they carry they lose, and for many thats all they own, period. Its hard enough starting out, but to have to do it again, and again...just to say you’ve closed out a level?? I”m not sure its worth it.” he admitted as even Carl had to consider that.

      “We do these things to get stronger,” Carl admitted as Jason agreed,” If we don’t move forward, we move back, its that simple. To not even try, is to surrender to what has already happened. But to live a life of adventure and excitement...thats worth it for us. And if we lose someone they are not alone, we take care of them... they are Family here. They’ll get a new start, we’ll see to it.” he added softly as Jason smiled and agreed.

      “But having a skilled Healer around might save some lives you know, so don’t think I’ll give up soo soon.” he said and chuckled and went inside and Jason smiled and went in too and everyone got some sleep.

      The next day was level 7, and it was not going well. The Reptile creatures there were many in number, and there were large spiders bigger than a man, and they were fast and agile.It didn’t take long before the team was against one wall and panting, as Jason handed out a few small healing potions that the people needed, and they took refuge behind some large boulders against the wall and tried to get some rest, while creature after creature rushed in and people swung swords and knives until it felt like their arms would drop off.

      “What the Hell!” The big man, Stanley, with the heavy armor screamed as two more creatures went down. “Whats going on, level 7 has never been like this before.”

      “Something is wrong today, something big is happening, we need to get back to the safe zone as soon as we get a break here.” Carl screamed as everyone agreed.But less than 10 minutes later a huge roar was heard, and the ground shook slightly as a big shadow walked their way with its head 20 feet above them.

      “****! Its the level Boss, and its a serpent, maybe even a dragon.” he screamed as Carl declared they had beaten the Boss here before...and this was definitely not it.

      “Something is wrong here, very, very wrong!” Carl screamed as the big animal came into view and it was clearly a young dragon, and it had a dozen reptiles with it and everyone that could still stand jumped back up to get ready.

      But just then a cloud of gray lifted around them and coughing and choking was seen, and Jason screamed ‘don’t breath the dust!’ and everyone grabbed a piece of cloth to breath through and one by one the reptiles went down and the Boss slowed to a crawl, and looked sick.

      “How long?” Carl asked as the dust settled and Jason said that so long as they didn’t breath it in they were fine, and as it fell to the ground he nodded it was OK.” Alright then its weakened, lets not make our guests do it all!” He screamed and they all rushed in and Karen, Josh, Stanley and Carl all sliced the monster up until it fell dead, and a cloud of loot drifted to the floor and cheers went up because the second that monster died..all the other creatures ran away.

      “Lets gather this all and get back to the rest area,” Carl said as everyone ran in and they ran back and set up camp again, and Carl went over all the fine things the monster dropped, and in it he found a thick long tan colored robe like a wizard might wear, flame retardant and slice resistant, and he smiled and handed it to Jason, who looked shocked.

      “You earned it, without your help that last group might have finished us.” he admitted as the room cheered and Jason accepted and put the robe on and it dragged on the ground.

      “It might need a little tailoring,” Karen added and they all laughed and Stanley got a new sword, and Carl a new piece of armor, and Josh got a heavy dagger for his gift from the trip, and Karen got some new cloths from the loot too. It had been a heck of a trip, and they rested for a couple hours then started back, and still no one knew why some monster from the lower levels was raiding in level 7, but it would be reported more than once on their return.

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      Chapter 9: Skills

      As they rested back home for a few days, Jason was called into the Gild hall for a meeting... and he came in wearing his new robe properly shortened not to drag anymore... and Carl smiled and nodded towards him and he walked over and sat.

      “This is James Collins, Gild Master of Fallen Angels...” Carl said as Jason shook the mans hand.” and this is Janice Hollingsworth, Gild Master of Hells Revenge.” he went on as Jason shook her hand too.

      “This meeting is about that fight we had the other day, and our friends here have been saying its not that unusual anymore.” he went on as Jason just nodded and waited to hear more.

      “We found a Cyclops in level 17,” The big man said as Jason looked shocked.” We had never seen one there before and only having a lot of men there made us victorious. It was truly a terrible fight.” he added as Carl agreed it would be.

      “We found flesh eating bulls running together in level 16,” The lady said as even Carl looked shocked.” we killed 6 before we cleared the room, but they were never there before, its like the creatures are mutating or something.” She went on as everyone agreed.

      “Perhaps...” Jason started as he noticed he wasn’t asked to speak, and Carl asked him to continue, and the others agreed.” Perhaps, something deep down inside the caves is making them move closer to the surface. We all asked what lived further down, maybe now we’re starting to see.” he added as everyone sat back to think about that, and they weren’t smiling.

      “Then any trip below level 7 might be very dangerous now.” Janice said softly as Carl nodded agreement.

      “Or we finally get to fight some serious opponents for once!” James said all smiles, as even Jason thought he was nuts.

      “I think we need to make sure no small groups go down that far for a while. Can you imagine a group of 2 or 3 meeting a dragon alone?” he asked as everyone looked sad thinking it.

      “The Reptilians were definitely following it around, either because it was stronger, or because it was leading them...could level bosses fight amongst themselves for territory?” Jason asked and the room got really quiet.

      “I’ve never seen them fight...but then there are weeks on end that we aren’t down that far either.” James added and Jason nodded he understood.

      “I was told recently that we all fight to get stronger...” Jason went on, as even James agreed,” what if...they do too? What if they test each other and fight and take over new territory from each other? They are immortal, so they just re-spawn later and the loser submits to the winner...so if they are migrating towards the surface then it would make sense to see new Bosses.” he said as everyone looked oddly at him and he looked up and asked what.

      “ A Migration!” James screamed as everyone looked oddly at him for suddenly screaming out,” I read somewhere that the levels get all upset over a migration every hundred years or so. If thats it, even the top levels might get effected.” he added as Carl said they needed to check this out more and the meeting was ended, as they ran all directions looking for some mention of a Great Migration, or anything close to it.

      Carl had Jason stay a while as they combed through book after book looking for any mentioned of it and finally they stopped for some rest, and as they drank tea and talked... Carl asked if Jason could take a few things to his dad on his way home,and Jason asked what they were.

      “We get in dozens of odd pieces from loot, mostly just junk, so we give a lot of it to your father in exchange for starter weapons for some new members.” Carl added as Jason nodded he understood.”We try and keep some weapons around that are alright for when someone gets killed and comes back with nothing. They aren’t prime pieces but they are better than nothing.” he went on and waved as Jason followed him to a storeroom and there were dozens of pieces, some swords, daggers, knives and spears... many very decorative but cheesy to actually use.

      “We give some away sometime because we just get too much here.” he said as Jason asked why he didn’t fix them...and he looked oddly at him.”They can be fixed?” he asked as Jason handed him his dagger to see and after a minute he agreed that was probably from level 6 or so.

      “That...” Jason said pointing as Carl nodded,” started out as this.” he said and held up one of the little daggers they had a whole box of and Carl looked shocked.

      “From level 2 to level 6, in a repair?” he asked as Jason said that the blades were pretty well made but they were never properly finished.

      “Let me try a few of these, maybe we can save some and get your people something better to use.” Jason added and Carl agreed, and didn’t mention that Jason was settling right in at the Gild Hall... and he wasn’t about to mention it either.

      “One of my people is a spear man, or woman,” Carl added.”her spear is getting pretty bad too, can you fix one for her?” he asked as Jason told him to choose and he did and Jason smiled and chose a bright little short sword saying he knew someone who needed that too, and Carl agreed. The negotiations went on and soon Jason went back with 4 pieces to work on, and when his dad heard the hammering out in the shop he just had to go see.

      “Making something new again?” he asked as Jason just laughed and said he wasn’t ‘making’ anything he was just ‘playing around’ and his dad smiled wide and didn’t argue.

      “And I figured out how to re-temper the blades without melting the handles.” Jason added as his dad laughed and said that was a trick, and Jason smiled and said ‘yes it is’ and he showed his dad a short sword with a big rag wrapped around the handle and he soaked it in water and then stuck the blade into the fire. Then a few peddles to get the flame really hot, and a red hot blade comes out and the rag keeps the handle from getting hot enough to melt, as he dropped it into a tub of water, and after a few minutes pulled it back out and handed it to his dad.

      He gave him a good serious look and tested the blade, then tried something else and finally a third time and finally got a small dent in it, and he smiled wide.

      “Level 8...” he announced as Jason took a scribe and engraved an 8 on the blade and laid it aside.

      Father and son ‘played’ in the shop for a while and Jason got to stay and eat a hot meal with the Family, and when he left his dad was all smiles saying that he wanted Jason to work on weapons, but he didn’t want too.

      “Now he comes in and ‘plays’ with them instead...” he said laughing as Jason mom got a big grin,” maybe I worded it wrong.”

      And Jason took the weapons home with him and as he walked along, his back itched once again... and he swore...because he hated that.

      Chapter 10: Upgrades and Downfalls

      The next day when Josh and Karen stopped by Jason stepped out all smiles and asked Karen for her sword and as she pulled it out, he shook his head and said he wanted the sheath and all and she looked lost, but she handed it to him.

      He stepped back inside and a second later came back out with a new sword... a very nice looking sword... and handed it to her as her eyes swelled up a bit, and Josh got a big smile.

      “Its not my birthday...” She whimpered as Jason said she earned it and that he’d do something later with her old one, and she nodded and turned away so he didn’t see and Josh gave him a big thumbs up, as they went back towards the gild hall with Jason carrying three more weapons and Josh asked if he was getting paid for doing all this, and Jason just smiled, because he hadn’t ask for anything.

      Carl was having another meeting when they got there and one of his men took the weapons and thanked Jason and led him inside to see what was going on.James had a message with him he got since the last meeting. He sent a bird to the Capitol and asked there if they knew anything and had gotten a message back, and he called for this meeting.

      “They say its not a migration...” he said as everyone waited,” its a transformation...every 50 years or so all the animals go crazy, they mate with each other and fight for territory. When its all over the remaining creatures live in that area again for another 50 years, until the urge strikes them again.” he explained as everyone looked surprised.

      “They are all in heat...” Jason hinted as everyone looked sad thinking it. That meant they’d attack anything and anyone with great ferocity, even more than any other time.

      “We’ll send out messages explaining it all, and make sure no groups smaller than ten go inside alone. Thats about all we can do I’m afraid. They mentioned that its a seasonal thing and that it’ll be over in a few weeks, until then we exercise extreme caution.” Carl added and everyone agreed.

      “Then if you’ll excuse me, I have a dragon to kill...” James hinted and laughed as he went and even Carl smiled at that.

      “It was a good fight,” he admitted as Jason agreed with that too.”If we’re careful it might be a good way to get some really high level equipment from animals that have come out of the lower levels to breed.” he explained as Jason looked a little worried, but finally said that a full team would be OK, and they set up a new trip into the closest levels for the next day.

      Josh made sure both their swords were in tip top shape and Jason made some new potions and surprises just for the trip. That dragon was harder to kill than he had ever seen before, so now his cocktails were stronger than before, and he hoped they would be enough if they found more animals like that one.

      They made it to level 6 in record time and did alright too, but no large animals were seen and they saw James and his team coming back, and they looked pretty tired too.

      “No dragons this trip,” James said as they stopped to talk,” but some monstrous reptile men, over 8 feet tall, definitely Old Alphas.” he said and showed off a new set of armor leggings and Carl nodded agreement that they were nice.

      “How far did you go?” Carl asked and James said all the way to level 10 and they still hadn’t seen what he was looking for yet, but his team was tired and they were going to rest a while and get a good meal in them. Carl offered to let them eat with his team and they agreed and shared ingredients and a nice pot of stew was made. They talked and ate and soon enough Carl said goodbye, as James and his people started back out.

      “Big reptiles and good armor...” Stanley whispered as Josh got a big grin from that too.

      “OK then lets get ourselves some, everyone stay close together and avoid the pits, snakes like those a lot.” Carl added as they picked up their things and went down again, this time to level 10 and did see some big reptiles and killed a few and everyone seemed to be having a good time doing it.

      During one fight, a reptile took a hit from Jason’s arrow and fell backwards down a hole and after the fight he walked over to look and didn’t see anything there, as Carl told him some of these go down to the very center of the Earth, and Jason laughed... but Carl didn’t.

      “Well just stay away from them thats all, they are very dangerous.” he hinted and they went back to hunting and moved down another level and Jason and his Team saw level 11 for the first time.

      By now they were getting tired and Carl said that there was another Safe Zone nearby, and they made for that and set up camp again, as sounds of fighting and growling came from both sides and some of the guys laughed saying that someone was having a good time, and the girls gave them dirty looks the rest of the break.

      Jason asked Carl if there was fresh water nearby and the cook said there was a small stream running down the side of the room below them, and they used it all the time. Jason snuck down to get some fresh water for his canteen, but when he stopped to fill it up a roar was heard and even the rest of the team ran to see what it was.

      There right across from him was a huge apelike creature, and Jason was interrupting his recreation, and as Jason made a run for it, a huge hand slapped him and he flew for yards, and slid to a stop, with his legs hanging out over a cliff, of sorts, and Jason carefully started pulling himself back up and out of the way, when a huge foot slammed him... and him and his pack... disappeared down a lava tube and out of sight.

      The Team made a good fight out of it, and after a while the monstrous ape fell dead, and Josh and Karen ran to see what happened to Jason, and found his knife by the stream, and a few drops of blood at the edge of the lava tube, and Carl looked sad for him, as Karen screamed they needed to go get him from down there, and Carl just looked sad and said ...

      “Down where? There’s no way of knowing where that even goes.” he said as she looked like she’d cry,and the rest of the team wasn’t much better.

      “Down where?” They heard as James came walking over and Carl said he thought he left, but after a good meal and a nap, he was ready to go again.”That tube... we DO know about. It comes out in the level 17 room, along the far wall from the Juggernaut’s Lair.” he said and even saying it made him wince.

      “What’s a Juggernaut?” Josh asked as Carl said it was a man eating ape, 30 feet tall and it ruled that level and ate anything that it caught there.

      “Was he alive when he fell?” James asked and they had to admit they weren’t sure, but after looking around they admitted there wasn’t much blood here.”He’s no dummy but he doesnt know the area either. He has 2 chances, one leads him back towards us, and the other leads to level 18...luckily level 18 is a full level Safe Zone with fruit and trees and grass there.” He said as a few people looked like he was crazy to see all that underground.

      “You have to see it to believe it.” he said ,” but if he survives to get there, he can hold on for days, no problem, and with these odd animals around it might take days to get there.” he said as Carl thought and after a meeting everyone decided, if there was a chance, they’d go see, and James joined them too and now with 25 men and women, they started back down again.

    8. #8
      TXU Hero kevin398's Avatar
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      Chapter 11: Safe Zone

      Jason was really, really sure he was dieing. His head hit something and his legs took a beating on the way down. This tube was not that smooth, but in a full minute or so he saw light coming and suddenly dropped 6 feet to the ground on his butt, and that hurt a lot.

      But even before he could complain about the pain, grunts and growls were heard and he got up slowly and waddled over to a crack in the wall and slid inside as far as he could, until he thought he might get stuck there and waited, as three reptile men walked by, armed of course, and after sniffing around a little they finally walked away.

      “OK...” he thought to himself,” I’m alive...for now.” And he suddenly realized that the only thing he knew for sure was that he went down, so this was a lower level, what level? What number? It didn’t matter since he had no way of knowing where he was anyways.

      He crawled slowly back out and looked around, The nearest doorway was heavily guarded and so that seemed out. He got a healing potion out and drank it and started away, hiding behind rocks or in cracks along the wall, if he found one, until he was near the other door and only two reptiles were there, and he felt that was better than the alternative, and he tossed a bomb over there and the gray cloud killed them instantly and as they fell he hobbled over and gathered his loot and went through to see where he was going now.

      He might not have known it the way it started, but this was his lucky day. He walked into a new area, and it was well lit from above, like a small sun was up there and there were trees and plants and even a small stream down the center. It was hard to believe that this was under ground, but he knew it was, and he hobbled out to see a huge crystal in the ceiling, and what appeared to be sunlight shining through it from above, and the crystal reflected it in all directions, making the place nice and bright, for as long as the sun hit that crack, and he knew it wouldn’t be for too long and he set to gather some wood and set up camp by the trees, hoping they gave him some place to hide when he needed it.

      But an hour later it was still pretty bright and he had enough firewood for the night, when that came. He sat back against a tree thinking and suddenly realized that he hadn’t seen any animals since he got here, and that was something. Of course with them breeding and traveling they might come by any second and he would watch out for that, but he obviously was in a Safe Zone. Maybe not completely absolutely safe, but good enough for now.

      The first Safe Zone was between level 6-7, the next between level 12 and 13...so if that was logical...he looked around and smiled.

      “ level 18...” he thought and he was surprised to see it this soon, much less alone. But now his leg was hurting really bad, and he realized that his healing potion didn’t do it this time, and that meant it wasn’t a bruise, it was most likely broken, and he didn’t like the sound of that.

      But then he did walk on it so maybe not broken too badly, and he found himself giggling that he would set here and work this out so logically while he was in such pain, and a second later, he passed out.

      By now the Rescue Team was hitting level 15 and it was slow going. Without Jason’s healing potions people were taking damage and getting slower, and Carl and James talked about wither they would make it all the way today, but Josh and Karen would scream any time they heard talk of stopping for more than a rest.

      “The Boss is alive, I know it!” She’d scream and Josh nodded right along.” If anyone can survive all alone for a few hours its him. He gave us a chance, real hope for the first time...” She said and wept.” I wont stop looking until I find him, one way or the other.” And Carl agreed, but said they needed some rest and food, it would only get worse from here, and they stopped for a bite behind some huge boulders and filled their canteens with fresh water before going on.

      “We make it to level 18 Safe Zone by hook or crook.” Carl said loudly as everyone agreed,” Then we can set up camp and get some rest.” And Karen decided that was the best they could do, and she sat sharpening her sword while everyone else got a drink, and ate whatever they had dried for a snack, and then they went on from there.

      Jason woke up a while later, still alive, and still hurting. He hunted through his bag and got something different and mixed them together and drank that and in a little while the pain started to fade a bit.

      Now it was getting a little dusky looking and he felt really hungry too. He got out some jerky and ate some of that, and an apple that had now seen better days. But it tasted good going down and as the light started to fade he started his fire and sat there poking it with a stick until he fell asleep from the drugs and pain.

      He was in and out every few minutes but managed to keep the fire going now that night had fallen. He also heard rustling in the distance and that woke him up right away. He could barely see some odd shadow in the night, but it looked big and it was standing right over there, and without his bow...which went somewhere during his fall... he had only one choice, he pulled out a vial and called out loud.

      “If you’re Human say something or I wont be held responsible.” But the growl he got back told him not to worry...about it being Human...and his fireball lit up a huge reptilian... and as it screamed the air shook from it and it fell to the ground and disappeared into dust... as Jason finally left himself breath again. But one thing was for sure...he was awake now...and would be the rest of the night.

      The Rescue Team had just finished level 16 and got a break and started in again. One more then the Safe Zone, and even their gatherers were getting overloaded by now. They walked out to meet half a dozen reptile men and the fight began and as fast as they fell a few more ran in and after a while the path looked clear, and even James was gasping for breath.

      “I’m taking a week off after this..” he hinted then thought better of it,” No a Month!” he said and even Carl got a laugh about that. They walked halfway across the room when the roar came and the floor shook and Carl screamed ...’here it comes’... and his archer sent arrows flying and the massive ape walked towards them like they were nothing.

      “God Damn it!” Carl screamed and pulled his sword out of its sheath,” When this is over I’m buying a dozen of those fire bombs from Jason!” he screamed and they ran in and the fight began, and with screaming and yelling all around, even the man in the room next door heard it, and he hobbled over to the doorway to hear and the sound was terrible and he knew why, he saw the beast from a distance and that was good enough for him. But these men were in trouble and his pain medicine was working overtime, and he got his pack back on and went up to see, and in a few minutes a wall of fire toasted 6 reptile men that were fighting along side their King and Carl screamed that ‘the Wizard lives!’ And everyone cheered and finished the monster before them... as a man walking very, very slow walked up... and saw a pile of loot that made even him laugh.

      “I knew it, I said he wouldn’t die so easily!” Karen screamed as she ran in and gave him a big hug, as everyone looked away all smiles, but the only thing Jason said was..’I need to sit down now’... and he almost fell on his butt before Carl and James grabbed him and together they went to his little camp and set up there, and his healer worked on Jason’s leg until he could walk again, and then they split up the loot, and was surprised to see Jason had some too. A set of light armor, silver and red, laying where the monster had stood, and Josh hinted that it might fit him since Jason was so thin, and the room laughed and Josh got his wish, while Jason was still in a really, really good mood from the drugs.

      Chapter 12: Home Again

      24 hours later a tired and rich Team made it to the gates and many people there were shocked to see them coming out, some carrying more than they should, and others barely walking at all. The guard sent a message and wagons came out to get them, and Jason was laying on his straw mattress getting some real rest for the first time in a while the second he got home, and he felt great getting this chance.

      His dad and mom came over a while later, and she brought an apple pie, and Jason was more than willing to eat some of that, and tell them his story. She looked scared and a little shocked, but when she found out the entire Gild ran in to save him, she nodded and looked a lot better now.

      “You made some good friends,” She managed to get out and Jason agreed, and said he’d be moving a little slow for a day or two but he was alright now.

      “Then get some rest, I don’t think you need to worry about work for a few days at least.” His dad said as Jason agreed, and after they left he went right back to bed.

      The combination of being beaten to a pulp and drinking some serious narcotics had hit him pretty hard. Not to mention walking around on a broken leg for half a day. Now that his leg had been healed, his muscles left him know that he had overdone it...in more ways than one...and he walked really slowly around the house for that first day or two, as friends stopped by to check on him, and he got a free meal or two when they did.

      But soon enough he was back up and around, and had orders that he knew were coming. After seeing 4-6 reptiles go down at a time, James and Carl both wanted some bombs for themselves, and Jason said that was OK, but he gave them both lessons in how they worked, and made sure they knew if they messed up someone was getting hurt, and he wasn’t going to be responsible, and they both agreed and he gave them 3 each to try, and they looked a lot happier thinking of going underground again after that.

      Jason was standing there talking when a tall, brown haired young woman walked up and Carl smiled and introduced them. She was Caitlin, the woman on the Team that used a spear, and Jason had ‘made’ her a new one right before the last trip, and she was really sure it had saved her life, as he just smiled and said it might have been a better weapon, but her skill saved her and she thanked him and walked away again.

      “If I’m not careful you might take over my Gild...” Carl teased as Jason left him know he didn’t want it, doing a few repairs and going on a few trips was enough for him. “How far did your skills jump after that last trip? It had be make a big difference.”

      “You know I never check those.” Jason said softly as Carl just shook his head and lifted Jason’s shirt and the biggest smile came over him.

      “Remember that new skill we couldn’t see?” He asked as James leaned in and got a big grin too.” It says: ‘Weapon smith...level 2’ “ Carl said as Jason actually smiled at that for once. His dad would be thrilled. “Apothecary, level 6...Combat level 4...Strategy level 4..and now Weapon Smith level 2...thats a fine line of skills you have going there.”Carl hinted as James said that he could get into any Gild he wanted, and Carl added right then that Jason was his Second, as Jason’s mouth fell open, since he never said he’d even join.

      “Can you make me a new sword then? I got mine ages ago in a level 12 raid, and it’s been through Hell and back.” James mentioned as Jason said he hadn’t done any higher level stuff yet, but Carl reminded him that his skills made a 4 level jump in quality possible, as James’s face lit up to hear it.

      Just then a message came and Jason excused himself. He went to see Ellen and as he walked in she gave him a big smile.

      “I see you’re back on your feet now.” She added as Jason laughed and said it was a Hell of a ride down that tube, and he didn’t want to do it again anytime soon.”Well here you go.” She said and sat a bag of Gold on the counter as Jason looked oddly at her for it.

      “ 5000 Gold, the other half for...you know what...” She whispered as he laughed and thanked her.” And a bonus gift.” She added and laid a small pamphlet on top that read Advanced Herbalist...and Jason smiled and thanked her.”I had to go all the way to the Capitol to sell it and they have a great Library there.” She hinted as he nodded he understood.

      “You’re doing very well, keep up the good work, you’re making all us old people proud of you you know.” She said as Jason got embarrassed and walked out to make another deposit into his bank account.

      By now the word got out that Jason had money and people popped up asking to sell him all kinds of things, and he laughed many of them off. But Mr. Hanson the man that ran the cookware shop mentioned that the house right down the road from his dads shop and ‘out building beside it’ were for sale, with 2 acres of land and running water from a hand pump in the kitchen...all for only 7 thousand Gold, and Jason said he’d think about it, and walked away as the man looked disappointed.

      Sure Jason was paying rent right now...and he wanted a building to raise his own mushrooms and herbs in someday... but he wasn’t sure and went to his dad and told him the story, and he motioned for him to follow and they walked just a quarter of a mile down the road from his shop. The house wasn’t in bad shape...the ‘out building’ had been a chicken coop and was full of manure and smelled bad, and had a big hole in the roof. They stood there talking and Frank mentioned he had all the fertilizer he’d ever need, and Jason got a good laugh at that.

      “How much land goes with it?” Frank asked as Jason said 2 acres and Frank growled.

      ” What?” He asked as Frank waved his hand around at the houses that were within sight and asked if he saw 2 acres, and Jason had to admit he had no idea.

      “Come on, a free lesson in dealing with friends that get greedy.” Frank said as they walked back into town and the man looked less than thrilled to see them together walking into his shop.

      “Hello Frank...” The man said sheepishly as Jason saw and Frank gave him a big grin.

      “How much land goes with the old Jones place?” He asked as the man grumbled and whispered to himself... then admitted it was 1 acre... and Jason got a smile at that.”We were just out there, the house is usable but needs work, and the chicken coop is ready to fall down. So...what do you need to get for it?” he asked as the man decided then and there that a little profit was better than none and he offered to sell it for 5000 and Frank gave Jason a look and he nodded agreement.

      “While we’re all in a good mood...lets go to the bank and settle this then.” Frank said and they all walked in and a few minutes later Jason owned land, and Frank left him know that even friends need money and exaggerate a little to get it.

      Jason now had another job, on top of Apothecary work and doing a few missions, he had Josh and Karen over and they offered to help, and they fixed the roof on the little building and Jason closed off all the windows to keep it dark. Then he got some old boards and made ‘flats’ filled with dirt and manure..lots of manure...and dried one red mushroom to dust and a yellow one too, and spread their spores all over the boxes of dirt, and left them go for a while. If he was right this would save him a lot of work and time, and when Ellen heard about it she smiled, because she might not need to go hunting for materials as often now either.

      With the help of his friends, Jason had the house ready before the rainy season, and it was nice having a warm place to come home to. He got a better mattress and warm blankets and paid for a load of firewood, since he just didn’t have time to gather any. But he was happy now and with all the work on the house done, he could finally focus on his other ventures, and started going back to the Gild Hall more often again.

    9. #9
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      I can remember finishing a dungeon and heading home to unload goodies, restock potions and ammo etc and head down to the tavern to chat with other players.

      Excellent story Kev .. really brings back good memories of many years of MMO :-)

      I can actually see the dungeons and remember the guild hunts. Ive put this one to the top of my list KEv because of the warm feeling i get when reading it .. oops that was the tea Thanks for this yarn mate.

    10. #10
      TXU Hero kevin398's Avatar
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      Chapter 13: Back to Level 18

      When he walked in that first day after his absence, Carl smiled wider than normal and when Jason asked what had been going on, a new trip was planned right away.

      “Things are still a little crazy in there,” Carl mentioned, “But there’s has been a lot of great loot coming out for the past few weeks. James has a full set of new armor now...and he’s been waiting for you saying you owe him a new sword.” he said, laughing and Jason saw he wasn’t getting out of it either.

      “Is there anything in storage he likes?” Jason asked as they went in digging around and he found a broadsword, 4 feet long and with a nice decorated sheath for it and Carl said James might accept this one, it was a level 14 sword now, and Jason nodded and put the strap over his shoulder. The trip was planned and James and his crew were invited. Jason had 3 days to get the new sword ready and with his dad watching over him, and 4 tries, he had something special to give to an old friend.

      The day of the trip, everyone was waiting as Jason and his team walked up, and Carl got a big grin as Jason handed James his new toy, and as James slid it out for the first time, there was a number 17 on it, and he cheered that he had never used a sword this high a level yet, and Jason left him know it wasn’t free either, and everyone laughed.

      “You can pay me later, after you see how it works.” he added as they agreed and James left his old sword in the Gild Hall and they all went in together to see what was happening today.

      The first few levels were, of course, a walk through zone now, and as level 5 came up things got a little tougher. Hoards of animals attacked them and everyone had their hands full getting through, but they did and when level 6 fell they stopped for a rest and food at the Safe Zone and Karen said it was nice being back after a break, and Jason said they could come in with anyone they wanted, they didn’t need to wait on him, and everyone smiled and looked away as Karen never answered, and many wondered how long it would take for Jason to see the obvious.

      Now on to the mid levels, and many really nice big animals waited. They were in no hurry today and Jason bombed a few groups that were gathering together to charge, and never got the chance. This would help him pay for all the work he had done on the house and his new furniture, and as they walked along between fights, James asked if he had a girl yet, and Jason laughed out loud, saying he hadn’t even considered it yet because he had been too busy.

      “You should.” James hinted as Jason asked why.” We can be killed any time out here and leaving a part of us behind makes it feel worthwhile.” he added as Jason looked at Carl who smiled and said James had gotten married this past summer and was a happy man now for it.

      “I really don’t know that many nice girls...or girls at all for that matter.” Jason went on as everyone nearby smiled.” There’s Karen of course, and Cynthia and Cathy at the bank, but...thats about it for me... and none of those would want to date me I’m sure.” he said chuckling as both Karen and Cynthia looked his way, and to see Cynthia respond to that comment surprised Carl badly.

      “You wont know until you try.” Carl mentioned as a growl was heard and they went right into another battle.

      But the fact that Cynthia gave him a look too made Carl curious. With her figure and nice blond hair she turned down every man in the Gild at least once, and the few men she had dated were high ranking Adventurers and they didn’t last long either. Her standards were incredibly high, and he started wondering if she too wasn’t waiting on Jason to notice her.

      “Damned dense kids...” Carl whispered when no one could hear and laughed to himself that this was going to get entertaining very quickly he was sure.Now down to level 8 and on to level 9.

      Things went smoothly and everyone got something new and lots of cash for their troubles and now into level 12 and Carl said they’d rest at the next Safe Zone, and everyone agreed.

      They were making good time and no really massive enemies had arrived. So either the mating season was over, or they were hold up down deeper, and after a meal and some sleep they decided they had lots of supplies and they would go on to level 18 and stop there.

      Another level, more treasure and more good fights. The new Boss at level 14 was a pain, and two people got hurt fighting it. But Jason’s healing potions fixed them up in a jiffy and onward they went again.

      Now down to level 16 and another big battle and it ended with fire bombs and a lot of screaming and then gathering a ton of new items.

      “Damn I wish we could bring a wagon along sometime.” Carl mentioned and Jason said it wasn’t impossible, just no one had tried it yet, and that discussion went on hold for a while again.

      More walking, more fighting and more loot, and finally the end was in sight... and they walked out into level 18 Safe Zone and quickly set up camp.It was just the thing everyone was waiting on, and some were seen getting cleaned up down by the stream and others just laid back in the green grass and looked towards the light.

      A great meal was cooked and everyone got some, and as the Team Leaders sat around the campfire talking, Jason asked if anyone had been into level 19 yet, and what was there, and even James looked surprised that he brought that up after the day they had.

      “Reptilians, big ones.” he added as Jason sat back and nodded.” We checked it out once but didn’t fight them, after making it this far we just wanted some rest.” he explained as Jason agreed and the thought was forgotten for now.

      But Jason was getting back into this Adventurer thing again and after a good nights sleep when everyone was talking about heading back, he started over to the doorway to get a look for himself, and Cynthia saw him and ran over to ask what he was doing.

      “If they’re just more Reptiles then I want to see them after coming this far.” he explained as she admitted it didn’t sound too bad. They snuck down the ramp and as they got close to the bottom two guards were standing there, looking all around, and big was right, they were 8 feet tall at least and Jason figured this was what he killed and got the armor that Josh wore now.

      “OK then one more time...” he said smiling as Cynthia looked at him like he was nuts. Jason walked down part way and just as she pulled her sword getting ready, he called out loud...”Hey guys whats happening down there?” And the guards turned and stepped inside and were growling and complaining that he had the nerve to talk to them , as a 6 foot fireball brought them down, but their spears fell loudly to the ground after they were gone, and Jason looked around at Cynthia and shrugged. They ran down and gathered his loot and he grabbed one spear and carried it back with him as Carl saw him coming and asked where he got it.

      “We went to see the new reptiles...” Cynthia added as Carl smiled and nodded,” But when Jason burned two, they dropped a pair of these spears instead of them disappearing when the creatures died.” She explained as Jason handed it to Carl who checked it over and smiled as James saw it too.

      “Level 19 weapons don’t disappear anymore.” Jason mentioned as both Carl and James looked shocked and surprised.

      “Maybe...” James started as Carl smiled and grabbed his sword.” Just one raid, no trying to kill the Boss, just in and out, leave the majority of the people here with the camp.” he said and everyone agreed.

      Their raid party was Carl, James, Jason, Cynthia, Karen, Josh, and Stanley. They all agreed that they would not stay if things got bad, and Jason gave each of them a healing potion to carry with them, and they started down the slope.

      “We gather everything then?” Karen asked as they neared the doorway, and James asked if she knew what level 19 weapons were worth, and she just smiled back.” Everything then.” She said and as they stepped in 3 more ran towards them and the fight for the doorway started.

      Swords, spears and axes... thats what fell and laid there. 12 reptiles died there and when the Boss started to notice, they grabbed everything and retreated back the way they came. They made it back to camp and as they neared everyone cheered for them, and they shook the new weapons they had gathered in the air for them to see.

      “NO shortage of new weapons now!” Carl screamed and laughed loudly, and Jason saw they were really having a good time this trip, and he was glad he came along.

      “I think...” James said all smiles,” That I’ll just carry this myself.” he said and he leaned a big golden ax on his shoulder and everyone laughed saying he wont need new weapons for ages again, and he agreed.

      They started back and everyone helped carry all the loot, their little gatherer was loaded to the maximum and she would never make it back like that, and when Jason offered to carry some, a few others jumped in too and saved her for sure.

      When they finally walked out the gate, the guard laughed at them for being greedy, and Carl and James announced ‘free drinks for attacking level 19‘ and everyone applauded, and Cynthia leaned in and whispered to Jason that the bar sold good coffee too, and he smiled and thanked her for saying so, and Karen started wondering what the Hell was going on now.

      Chapter 14: Growing Up

      When they got back to town they walked in and filled the bar themselves. But some of the regulars just sat back laughing at their stories and some of the nice weapons they brought back with them. Most of the Team was here, and Josh, Cynthia, Jason and Karen shared a table and drank coffee while the others chugged their beers, or other drinks and went on and on about the fighting and the size of the enemies they killed.

      “I’ll be happy now for a week.” James said as someone said his wife would be too, and they all laughed.”Hey...a married man has to support his Family.” he admitted but with the load they brought back today no one was going to be hungry or broke for a long time now.

      “Lets just sit back and enjoy the memories of these few days for a while,” Carl said and someone said he was starting to sound like an old man, and even he agreed. But being head of a Gild and in his late twenties, he had seen a lot of battles, and maybe nights like this made him consider when his luck might run out.

      “A warm bed... and I can sleep in tomorrow, too...it doesn’t get any better than that.” Jason chimed in as James said ..

      “Oh yes it does,” And gave Jason a big wink and the room laughed.

      “Well...” Jason stammered with a huge grin,while everyone turned to see,” I wouldn’t know about that.” And he got teased for not ‘being a real man yet’ and he admitted it might be true. “I’m not ready for that kind of responsibility yet.” he admitted and many there just smiled and nodded. Being single you had only yourself to worry about, being married added another whole person to the mix, and even at that James obviously wouldn’t have it any other way.

      “Having a partner doesn’t necessarily mean you have more responsibilities either, partners share those things.” Cynthia dropped into the conversation, and Karen looked upset she didn’t get to say it first.

      “I have two partners already,” Jason said and pointed as Josh nearly choked on his drink,” I’ll worry about getting more than this when I get older.”

      “Its not the same thing, moron...” Karen said as many laughed and Jason actually smiled and agreed.

      “But not yet...thats my final word on the subject.” he said softly and everyone knew he meant it.

      “How old do you have to be to like girls?” Karen whispered , but not quiet enough, as Josh turned his head away, laughing as quietly as he could, and Jason tried not to hear.

      “Come on ladies lighten up..the mans just 18 he’s got a long life ahead of him.” Carl added as everyone did smile and agree that it was true.” and besides..he doesn’t have to tell everyone if he’s seeing someone. Thats his option, I heard he has someone at the bank he talks to all the time.” he hinted as Jason hid his face behind his hand and the room got a big laugh at it.

      “Thanks Carl I appreciate the help.” Jason said as Carl toasted him with his drink and Jason decided that he had had enough teasing for the night, and went home while Karen asked if that was really true or not, and Cynthia sat back and left her make a fool out of herself...but waited to hear too.

      Of course it was true...up to a point...Cathy had been Jason’s friend since childhood and now as young adults they were still friends, and talked all the time. He didn’t think twice about walking into the bank and waiting just to let her deal with him, and the other girls there knew it and left them alone. But they were just childhood friends, as Jason told everyone, as the young half elf with the perfect body and medium length black hair agreed but looked sad he thought so, after he walked away.

      But now the word had gotten out that something might be going on...behind the scenes...and she got asked about it the next day at work, and she looked shocked that she found out this way. But she admitted she had liked him for a long time, and everyone in the bank congratulated her for finally getting noticed, and she smiled a lot that day and waited for Jason to come in again to ask him personally.

      He did sleep in the next day, but he had a load of stuff to sell and cash to deposit, and when he walked in all smiles, the room lit up like a hundred fireflies. He went to Cathy’s counter space and laid out all his treasures and she checked each and gave him the full amount they were worth, another few hundred Gold into his account, and he smiled and asked how she was doing, and she smiled a lot and said she was doing better now that the word was out, and she gave him a smile that made him wonder what ‘word’ that was.

      “You could have just told me you know...I didn’t need to hear about it from your friends.” Cathy said and shook her finger at him and smiled some more.

      “Hear....what?” Jason asked as she saw he hadn’t been ready to admit it yet, but the word got out anyways.

      She took him to the side and looked around as her friends pretended to be working hard, and she admitted she liked him too and that she just found out yesterday that he had admitted it to his friends but hadn’t mentioned it to her yet... but she understood... because he was always a little shy around girls.

      “Oh... my... God...” Jason whispered as she gave him a quick little hug and he said he needed to go, and she nodded saying they could talk later, and he walked out looking shocked and surprised, and he took his deposit slip, stuck it into his pocket, and went straight to the Gild Hall and gave Carl a sound talking to while he nearly threw up laughing.

      “Thanks to you, a good friend that I’ve known for years just confessed to me!” He screamed as Carl all but fell off his chair laughing so hard.” Its not funny! We’ve known each other forever, and I know her family as well as my own. If she tells them then my life is over, either we get married or I run away forever, and that was not my plan.” Jason went on as Carl said he was getting upset over nothing, but Jason did not agree.

      “You’re not a fool...” Carl finally said as Jason looked upset even now,” There are ladies around here that like you, some a lot...and this Cathy is just one of them, so whats the problem? I’d feel pretty happy to have so many choices and nice young ladies to choose from if I were you.” He added as Jason heaved a big sigh and said he knew he had people who cared for him, but he wasn’t ready for a real relationship yet.

      “So...don’t have one...tell them all that dating is fine, see one then another and finally decide.” he added as Jason said he’d fell like a jerk using people then telling half of them they didn’t win the contest.

      “Its called dating...” Carl said slowly,” and its happened this way for centuries, so don’t feel special. You’re at that place in your life where the decision needs to be made, and they under stand too, believe me, they aren’t fools either, and they know only one will keep you forever.” he added as Jason nodded it was probably true.”Then treat them with respect and kindness... if they ask be honest... but don’t hurt their feelings by throwing them out with the bathwater...” Carl added and the discussion ended with Jason nodding silently and walking out looking tired and worried.

      “You cant hide forever,” Carl whispered and went back to his work and shook his head smiling. Three young girls all watching Jason for a sign, he hoped they didn’t all decide to rush him at once, and the image of that in his mind made him laugh out loud again.

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