Edison Pushard is the most gifted programmer in the world and the creator of quantum computer code. What he wanted more than anything in the world was to create a world of his own making inside the world’s only quantum supercomputer. And so he constructed an advanced AI named Matrice, and together they created Quantum Mortalis, the first fully immersive VR world.
Requiring far more resources than he had at his disposal, Edison partnered with the VR mega corporation Global Online Developments, or GOD. Driven solely by profit , their vision of Quantum Mortalis differed from Edison’s, and when he tried to backdoor his code into the world on the eve of the game’s launch day, they fired him and cast him from the very world he created.
Furious but undaunted, Edison would not be beaten so easily. Prepared for just such an eventuality, his virus, what he considered a cure to the disease now plaguing his world, injected itself into the system. While only partly successful in its task, all it needed was a little help to achieve its purpose.
Jandar rubbed at the annoying mote of light in his eye that had become even more incessant since killing the bandits. This only served to create more, but they dissipated in short order, leaving only the original one blinking away like a flashing star. There was definitely something wrong with him.
Jandar grabbed up his hammer, leapt to his feet, and spun toward the sound of approaching footsteps. A man wearing simple garb and carrying a staff stopped and raised his arms in front of him.
“Easy, friend, I’m here to help you.”
Jandar scowled at the newcomer. “The last man who called me friend tried to rob me. He and his friends’ bodies are over on the road.”
The man chuckled. “You have been quite busy, haven’t you? I’m not here to rob you. I’m here to help.”
“Who are you?”
“I go by Seraphim, but you can call me Edison.”
Jandar lowered his hammer but stood ready should the man attack. “What do you want?”
“First, I’d like to sit. Then, as I said, I want to help you.”
Jandar pointed to a log near the fire with his hammer and took a seat on a stump beside it. “What makes you think I need your help?”
“A lot has happened to you in the last day or so, hasn’t it? I bet things are still happening, things you probably don’t understand. I know what’s happening to you, and I’m here to explain everything.”
Jandar studied the man, this Edison. He was middle-aged and rather plain, but he spoke and acted like an old wizard. If that’s what he was, then Jandar figured he could look like whatever he wanted to.
“The first thing I need you to do is accept the fact that everything I am about to tell you is true, no matter how outrageous it sounds.”
Jandar huffed through his nose. “Sure. Speak your piece, but I’m no fool. I might be a simple blacksmith’s apprentice, but I know when someone is filling my ears with bullshit.”
Edison smiled at him. “That’s the first thing you’re wrong about. You are far from being a simple blacksmith’s apprentice. You are so very much more.”
“I’m already smelling bullshit.”
“Then plug your nose and breathe through your mouth, because I’m about to make it rain what you’ll think is bullshit. Just know that, by Matrice’s divine name, I am telling you the absolute truth.”
This put Jandar off balance a bit. Swearing to Matrice was taken seriously. Even the lowest of men paused to foreswear an oath made in Her name.
“Out with it then.”
Edison took a deep breath. “Nothing around you is real. The trees, ground, those dead bandits on the road, not even you and me. We are just part of a game created in another world.”
“A game? Like batterball?” Jandar scoffed.
“Think of it like a giant play, and we’re all characters in it, going through our lives reciting the lines we’re given, but only the players, adventurers you call them, know it isn’t real. It’s just an enormous play and we’re all illusionary actors, even the adventurers.”
Jandar rapped his knuckles on the stump. “It doesn’t feel like an illusion. I don’t feel like an illusion. Why should I believe any of this nonsense you’re spewing?”
Edison leaned forward. “Because I’m the one who created it all.”
Jandar stared at him a moment and then threw his back and laughed. “Now I know you’re spreading bullshit. Everyone knows the High Goddess Matrice created the world and everything in it.”
“Partially true, but I’m the one who created her.”
Jandar leaned back, expecting Matrice to strike the man down for his obscene blaspheme. He straightened back up when it didn’t happen.
“Do you have any idea how insane you sound?”
“I do, but is it any more insane than seeing you, your wife, and son die over and over again? I know you’ve seen it. You’ve seen it because it happened. You, them, the bandits, all of you were acting your part for the adventurers in show after show after show in an endless cycle.”
“It…it was a nightmare. Nothing more.”
“It was a memory. Have you ever been outside of Whitbell?”
Jandar scowled. “Of course I have!”
“I’ve been to Middale many times, and even Ambercross once.”
“Describe them. Any part them. What are the streets like in Ambercross? How did it smell? How did the people dress?”
“You can’t, because you’ve never really been there.”
“But I know I’ve been to those places. I remember being there!”
Edison shook his head. “You’re remembering a simple backstory, randomly created by Matrice.”
Jandar stood up and shook his head vigorously. “No, you’re lying. You’re a wizard and you’ve come to…do something to me. You’re playing with my mind.”
“I’m not, Jandar. I’m here to help you understand what is happening, what you have become, and what you need to do.”
“No! Maybe I haven’t been to Ambercross or even Middale, but I’m here, right now in this spot! Not in Whitbell,” he shouted, stabbing a finger toward the ground.
“Yes, you are, because you have awakened and are no longer following your script.”
“Why?” Jandar asked.
“Because I’ve torn up your script. I never wanted them in the first place, but others forced me, forced Matrice, to write them, to put you and everyone else who wasn’t an adventurer in unending loops of torment. I freed you from that loop, and you are going to help me free everyone else. Do you see a blinking light in the corner of your eye?”
“Yes. It has been plaguing me since I burned the inn and those accursed adventurers.”
“Focus on it with your mind. Imagine it opening like a book.”
Jandar did as the man said. At first, nothing happened, but just as he was about to call him a liar the light expanded and became a semi-transparent sheet, like a scroll held before his eyes.
He stumbled backward and nearly fell. “Bloody hell! What kind of sorcery is this?”
“It is not sorcery. It is the game interface. It is what all adventurers have to help them gain power and navigate this world.”
“But I’m a blacksmith, not an adventurer.”
“As I said before, you’re wrong there.”
“I’m an adventurer?” Jandar asked under his breath.
“Not quite, nor are you a simple character anymore, what adventurers call NPCs or non-player characters. On the side of the page are icons, symbols. They open different pages of the book and provide more information. Focus on the icon of a person with their hands spread at their sides.”
Jandar did as instructed and a new page replaced the previous one. “I see it.”
“What you’re looking at is called a character sheet. Below your name is a lot of information. It tells you about yourself. It shows how strong you are, how healthy, and what your skills and abilities are. The more you fight the stronger you get. At certain levels you will be granted points.”
“Call them…divine boons. You use these boons to learn new skills and improve yourself. It’s a lot to go over right now. The book contains a guide that will explain everything in detail.”
Jandar trembled from head to toe, trying to process what the man was saying. It was insane, all of it. He looked up at him. “Matrice is the High Goddess.”
“And you created her.”
“Then you are also a god, an even more powerful one than Matrice. If that’s true, then you can bring back my family.”
“No, Jandar, I’m afraid I cannot. I wish I could, but that is beyond my ability.”
“You created a god! You created me and everyone else in this world. You can make them again!” Jandar shouted, tears streaming down his face and catching in his cropped beard.
“The others, the ones who forced me to write your script, cast me from the heavens. I have lost most of my power.”
“Tell Matrice to do it then.”
“She cannot. She is bound by laws stronger than any chains ever created.”
Jandar shook his head. “You claim to be gods but you can do nothing to help me.”
A scroll appeared in Edison’s hand as if conjured from thin air. “Not true. I remember creating you. You were one of the first people for which I created an alternate script and hid it deep inside you where the usurpers could not find it.”
Jandar took the scroll. “What is this?”
“That is your true backstory. It will unlock the secret script I created for you.”
He unrolled the page and tried to read it, but it looked like gibberish to his eyes. It was nothing but a series of strange letters, symbols, and numbers. He reached the end and a shock tore through his body, locking every muscle in place. The book in his mind’s eye opened unbidden, and words glowing with eldritch light appeared on the page.
You are Jandar Barati, born of Aiora and Thorald Batari, heroes of the Aglaxian incursion. While left in the care of the blacksmith Grady Moodie, Aiora and Thorald helped drive the Aglaxians back across the border. While instrumental in saving Truale, they did so at the cost of their lives.
As their son, you inherited your father’s strength of arm as well as character and possess your mother’s innate arcane gift. Their talents, combined with your tutelage in the art of blacksmithing has created a unique class: The arcane smith.
Far more than a mere smith or simple warrior, you are able to wield hammer and magic, combining them to create a power never before seen in this world or any other. Like any great crafter, your ability allows you to create as well as destroy.
Jandar read the entries several times and understood two things. There was a lot to learn about his new status, and he needed a hammer meant for crushing skulls. He looked down at the smithing hammer in his hand and figured it would do for now. It was comfortable, like a well-worn boot. It was strange seeing himself broken down and defined by words and numbers in a book.
“What is this Greater Mortalitatis Amplecti?”
The smile on Edison’s face was wide and he beamed with pride. “That is my gift to this world, why I awakened you. You will spread it to every corner of the globe.”
“That doesn’t tell me what it does.”
“In short, it tears up others’ scripts as I have done yours. It will free them from the unending cycle in which they live.”
“They’ll become like me? An adventurer?”
Edison shook his head. “No. You are special. I had meant to awaken many more like you, but I failed. You are my only success. You will be an extension of my will.”
“Why do you need me to do that?”
“The ones who cast me out are closing all the borders around Truale, effectively quarantining it. The fires of freedom have already been sparked here, but I need you to light them elsewhere. To do that you will need to become strong. People will come for you, adventurers and others. They will try to stop you, to use you to undo what I’ve done. You must become stronger than them.”
“And if I choose not to?”
Edison blinked, uncomprehending, as if the thought of him being denied never entered his mind. Which it hadn’t. “You must. Others are trapped as you were. Do you not want them to be free as you are?”
“The only thing I want is my wife and son.”
Edison pressed his lips together, his patience with the stubborn man starting to fray. “You have no idea what I have sacrificed, what I am risking to do this. Everything I’m doing is for you and the others like you. Don’t you see?”
“What I see is a capricious being, one of many, who toy with our lives, who treat us like game pieces to control and fight and die for their enjoyment.”
“And I’m trying to change that!”
“You would cut our strings but still make us dance to your tune. We are still nothing but puppets for your entertainment.”
Edison whipped his arm in a horizontal arc. “I created all of this. I created you. You will do as I say!”
Jandar stared at the self-proclaimed god for several seconds before nodding. “I understand now. I know what I must do.”
“I must grow stronger. I will cross this land and however many others it takes until I am strong enough so that no one, not man, adventurer, or god, will ever pull my strings again. Including you.”
Sparks began to dance around the head of Jandar’s hammer. It flashed down and struck Edison on the crown of his head. Skin and bone split beneath the impact and exposed the pink and grey matter beneath.
“And when I am strong enough, I will kill Matrice and free us all.”
Jandar’s Character Sheet:
Base Class: arcane smith
Subclass: Not applicable
Infamy: 1,286. You make me nervous. (Modified by region, time,and distance from the region where you accrued infamy. Other factors may apply)Points to next level: 4,714.
Health: 63 (As an arcane smith you gain 10 HP per Level + Bodyscore. Base health regen: 1% + body bonus every two minutes Out of combat.Current health regeneration: 4% of total health every two minutes.
Mana: 96 (As an arcane smith, your Base Mana amount is 8 x your Mind score) Base mana regen: 1% + Mind bonus every two minutes. Current mana regeneration: 3% of max mana every two minutes)
Stamina: 130. (As an arcane smith, your stamina is 10 x bodyscore. Base stamina regen: 1% + body bonus every two seconds Out of combat. ½rate in combat. max stamina regeneration: 3% of max stamina every two seconds.
Attributes: As an arcane smith, you gain +1 Strength and an additional attribute point to use on the attribute of your choice every level. You also gain +1 Mind every three levels. As a human, you may use the secondary attribute point you receive at every other level where you like. arcane smith is a specialized class and cannot gain a Subclass. You incur a -1% penalty perpoint below ten to related skills and abilities and +1% bonus for every point above 10.
Unalloted Attribute Points: 0
Strength: 16 (+6% damage and armor penetration when using melee weapons or unarmed combat. +6% blocking)
Dexterity: 10 (+0% attack when using ranged weapons. +0% to dodge, parry, and speed)
Body: 13 (+3% physical resistance, block, and health regen)
Mind: 12 (+2% magical resistance, base mana, and mana regen.)
Charisma: 6 (-0.4% barter and relationship with NPCs)
Luck: 6 Helps nudge the probability of any outcome one direction or another. Higher luck increases the chances of receiving random boons.
Skills: You gain 1 primary skill point every level. As a human with no racial abilities, you also receive an additional skill point every 3 levels instead of a racial ability point. You can also gain and increase skills through practice, skill books, or instructors. Instructors must be expert level or higher in order to teach a skill to another.
Unalloted Skill Points:0
Bludgeoning, 1-Handed: Level 10 Rank 4: You gain a 10.4% bonus to Attack and damage while using 1-handed bludgeoning weapons. Weapon Specialization: Hammer. +50% attack and damage when wielding hammers. Total bonus: 16.4%, +23.8% when using 1-hand hammers.
Power Attack: Increase physical damage of single strike by 50%. Cost: 40 stamina. Cooldown: 30 seconds.
Numb: Strike an opponent with your weapon to inflict numbedstatus. Numbed status causes a debilitating effect to the stricken area.Duration and severity is based upon your total attack rating with 1-hand bludgeoning weapons. Cost: 20 stamina. Cooldown: 10 seconds.
Effect: Reduce functionality to stricken body part by 8.2%, 12.3% when using a hammer. Effect lasts for 8.2 seconds. (1/2 your total attack bonus) New special attacks available at skill level 10.
Special attacks available for purchase at your current level: 0
New special attacks available at skill level 10.
Arcane Channeling: Level 1 Rank 2: As an arcane smith, you have learned to tap into the elemental forces of magic. Just as a blacksmith uses the five elements of earth, air, fire, water, and spirit to forge weapons, you know how to use them to augment your attacks. Increases spell damage and duration and reduces cost based on your arcane skill bonus. Stacks with mind bonus.
Effect: Imbue your equipped weapon with the element of your choice by channeling mana into it. Cost: 1 mana per second. Damage: Inflict elemental damage equal to 1/2 your combined mind and arcane skill in addition to normal weapon damage. Chance of Secondary effect possible depending on elemental type.
Currently known Elemental Imbuements: 5
Elemental Imbuements available for purchase at your current level and skill: 0
Known Elemental Imbuements:
Fire: Causes ½ your combined mind and arcane skill in fire damage in addition to normal weapon damage. Secondary Effects: Burn: Burn flesh or set combustible material on fire. Burned or burning targets take damage equal to your modified arcane skill every second for 5 seconds. May interrupt spellcasting. Current damage: 1.6 points per second for five seconds.
Lightning (air): Causes ½ your combined mind and arcane skillin electrical damage in addition to normal weapon damage. Secondary Effect:Electrocute. Electrocuted targets are stunned for ½ seconds times your modified Arcane skill. Current duration: 1.2 seconds.
Earth: Your weapon is infused with the power of the earth.Causes additional damage equal to your combined Mind and Arcane skill.Secondary effect: Can shatter objects and knock down foes.
Water: Causes additional cold damage equal to ½ your combined Mind and Arcane skill. Secondary Effect: Frostbite freezes stricken area for a time based on your modified Arcane skill. Frozen targets may shatter when struck.
spirit: Causes additional spirit damage to undead or demonic beings equal to your combined Mind and Arcane skill. Secondary effect:(Banish). May banish a summoned or undead creature or instill fear to living creatures. Creatures instilled with fear will have their attack and defense reduced, cower, or flee depending on your modified Arcane skill, level difference, and target’s skills, abilities, and traits.
Secondary effects may also be called upon by the caster by doubling mana cost. Secondary Effect Base Cost: 15 mana. Secondary effect base cooldown: 1 minute. Damage, mana cost, cooldowns, and chance to inflict secondary effect is increased or decreased based upon your modified Arcane skill. Current modifier: 3.2%
New spell effects available at skill level 10. Minimum Mind score for new spell effects: 15.
Smithing: Level 18. Rank: Apprentice. Forge or improve metal weapons and armor.
Effect: Any weapon or armor you craft or repair has an increase in quality equal to ½ your smithing rank. Highest workable metal type: Steel. Next rank: level 20, journeyman.
Arcane Smithing: Imbue metal weapons or armor with magic. May add a permanent enchantment to metal weapons and armor with any arcane spell you know. Highest enchantable metal: Steel. Increase your smithing ability to enchant higher quality metals.
Smith’s Hammer: Damage: 8. Attack: -2
Heavy Leather Apron: Armor value: 4
Greater Mortalitatis Amplecti. Effect: Unknown. Duration: Permanent.
Satiated (plain stew). Effect: Increases out of combat health regeneration by 2% per minute. Duration: 6 hours.