“O-Okay.” Desmond raised the orb, pressing it gently against the barrier. Randol and Navara wanted to ask Desmond about the orb, but with the undead within sight, they pressed him to do whatever he was doing quickly.
The orb shimmered before it started sucking in the barrier. The hordes clanked with laughter as they were almost upon them. The Giant saw what was happening, and charged at them, throwing the skeletons at its feet at them to stop it. “No!” But it was too late as the orb finished absorbing the barrier and an explosion of gold erupted from it.
A wave of gold rushed past them, filling them with the euphoric warmth of holy magic. Golden feathers fell weightlessly around them before fading away just before touching the cobblestone stairs at their feet. They felt their bodies fill with energy and their minds become crystal clear. Desmond felt the orb shoot from his hands, but at the moment, he was basking in that addicting feeling of pure unadulterated holy mana – purer than the highest priest could even summon.
Holy and Fire elements, he could feel it right now. Filling him with hope, sense of belonging, contentment, and love. It was similar to the feeling of someone casting a high-tier healing spell, but it was far better. As if a goddess had blessed them all, but only the fading silvery figure stood in the archway where the barrier once stood before the orb absorbed it and flung inward towards the summit. For a moment, a single thought filled his head.
The feeling ended just as soon as it came. Randol was able to watch the wave of gold rush past them, annihilating the unholy beings. Row by row, the skeletons were turned into tan clouds of dust that blew away in the faint breeze. The Giant, however, was replaced by a black figure that only stared with thick killing intent in its non-existent eyes before it disappeared in a black mist. After it left, the four fell over in relief that they barely escaped by a miracle…
. . . . . .
Lush green oak trees bordered the summit’s relatively flat edge with a short stacked-stone wall. Strange and beautiful plants grew bountifully and unrestrained all around. A stone path led through the summit past large gardens full of herbs and flowers. No sunlight existed here as stone braziers burned with burning fires. The paths then skimmed by a large pond. The pond’s water was calm and still, but a thin film of silver mana coated it.
The golden orb that Desmond had carried with him up the mountain path hovered down the paved stone path, wrapped in a faint silvery mist. It slowly positioned itself over the center of the pond before the mist began to lick at the film covering the water. For a few moments, nothing happened. Then, the film began to peel itself up, sucking in the mist, orb and all. The water began to bubble when the orb touched it. Steam rose as the orb became completely submerged, its beautiful glow visible from above before it disappeared in the pond’s murky bottom.
Suddenly, a column of golden light surrounded by streaks of dancing silver erupted from the water, spraying it as it pulsed into the starry sea above. The column was no thicker than a man’s head and lasted only for a few minutes before it left as abruptly as it came. When the water settled, it was clear as crystal. The water was almost translucent as golden feathers floated down, gently landing on the surface.
Down in the pond’s depths was a single young woman. Her snow-white hair fanned out like angelic wings, almost blending in with her deathly pale skin. Garbed in a pristine white dress that fluttered in the water, she was like a ghost. The orb hovered just above her chest, its glow illuminating the young woman. Not a single shred of silver could be seen, only pure gold as it sunk slowly into her between her breasts. Mana began to slowly slip into the water and towards her, filling her with life. Then after another few minutes, the mana disappeared – leaving the water glowing with a light blue hue.
Desmond, Navara, Randol, and the Second Commander all wearily chased after the orb before they watched it plunge itself into the pond off in the distance. Then when the column of golden mana burst from the pond, they hid behind some stone planters until the golden light disappeared. “It’s clear!” Randol said to the ground as they exited their cover to continue investigating what caused the beam of mana.
The group then slowly moved up, checking their surroundings as they moved closer to the pond’s edge. Desmond kept to the back of the group, his face ashen. He felt lethargic since the golden orb had left his hands. Navara kept a worried eye on him since they had passed the archway into the garden. The closer they got, they noticed the small glowing gold feathers floating gently on the water’s surface.
When they reached the pond’s edge, the golden feathers that floated and slowly bobbed on the water’s surface had already melted in wisps of mana that sunk into the water. Now that Desmond stood on the edge, he could feel the power of the orb he held before swirling somewhere from within it. He tugged at the edge of Navara’s cloak insistently until she turned to look at him. “What?!” She hissed in a low voice.
“The orb! I feel that it’s power from somewhere in this water!” He whispered excitedly to her, his eyes shining in the pond’s glow. But his expression didn’t look right to her. She kept note of it, as she turned back to the pond for that golden orb. “I don’t feel it.” She muttered. She didn’t really care about it, so her eyes lightly scanned the water. She and the others’ attention was actually focused elsewhere.
At the center, bubbles, and steam rose like a dense fog. For a moment, she thought maybe that was the reason for it. “So what do you-” Randol’s question was cut off by the sound of a loud gasp followed by water being slapped frantically. “Shit! Someone came out of the water!” Ter-Yut leapt into the water in full armor. “Ter’Yut!” Navara called out trying to grab him but missed him. The orc-man sunk like a rock in the water with a large splash that jumped up at the three.
They reeled back and after the water cleared, they found their friend powering through the crystal-clear water with it only reaching up to his broad shoulders. “By the Gods, I forget how tall that man is…” Randol sighed, placing his right hand on his hip while kicking a nearby glowing flower only to freeze “H-Hey… Navara… Isn’t this Goddess’s Tears…?” His eyes locked on the flower he mutilated with his foot, she looked at it before stiffly confirming it. “Y-Yeah.”
They both turned back to watch the orc save the person, ignoring the priceless flower he had kicked in frustration. ” Pretend it never happened.” Both of them thought.
“It’s okay! Calm down! Calm down!” Ter’Yut picked up a white-haired human from the water, but was repeatedly scratched for his efforts! It took a good minute before the human in his arms stopped squirming. He could feel their frantic heartbeat with an ungloved hand that held her back. It wasn’t until the human combed away their wet hair did he realize it was a young female human! A gorgeous one at that!
He averted his eyes quickly seeing their sickly looking skin, but when he looked at their face – two golden-feline eyes looked up at him. Emotions swirled and clashed in those eyes. Then he noticed another thing… Her eyes glowed! Not like fires, but like soft magical runes did. Clear as the night he saw every detail in her irises in the low light as they looked up at him. “Er.. Take my cloak and warm yourself. Please.” He asked her.
Even sickly looking, she was a beauty. Orcs didn’t have the same standard that humans did, but even she caught his eye. She did as he asked, him looking up at the starry night to avoid getting an eyeful of her womanly figure as she pulled it off and wrapped herself. She felt like a small kitten in his hands. She wasn’t child size, but she was smaller than most young girls he had ever embraced. She didn’t look older than Navara, but she was small compared to that beast girl.
“May I know your name? ” He asked softly while carrying her back to the pond’s edge, careful not to splash her with the displaced water. “Avery.” She said, her eyes like beacons in the dark turned to where he was carrying here. “Did you see anything…?” Avery asked him, but he felt the danger bells ringing in his head from that question. He could almost see the scythe of Death above him, waiting for a yes. “No, Lady Avery. I hadn’t seen anything.” And like that, it all disappeared like an illusion.
When they got back, Navara helped Avery from the man’s arms while Randol helped Ter’Yut out of the water, careful not to destroy any more flowers. “So how did you, um, what’s your name?” Navara asked. Her tail flicked side to side with tamed curiosity. “Avery.” Avery replied as she pulled the cloak tighter around herself. “Avery. Say, how did you end up in the pond?” Avery only shrugged to the question, unsure of it herself, but unwilling to express it to them.
Before Navara could ask anything more of her, Desmond shoulder his way forward. “Um, Lady Avery, did you happen to see a Golden orb down there?” Avery shook her head, slightly confused to the sudden inquiry. With a sigh, he looked out at the pond, feeling like it was close. He liked the feeling it gave. It piqued his scholarly curiosity even more so. His complexion was looking better now that they had a few moments to rest along with the others. Only the new member of the group, Avery, looked sickly.
“Do you happen to have clothes?” Navara asked, not putting any weight into the question, but to her surprise, Avery nodded and gestured with her head to the row of three buildings on the far edge of the garden. Nearly covered in overgrowth of vines, moss, and other curious plants. Avery then took the lead while the others followed behind her trying to figure out her origins.
Their thoughts didn’t matter to her right now though. Her mind raced trying to figure out what was going on. These strange people were in her domain, where only her parents, close friends, followers, and assigned NPCs could venture in. She hadn’t seen these people before. Then that there were the almost realistic feelings she had right now.
The cool sensation of the paved stone against her bare soles. The kiss of the air on her cheeks and the feeling of the wet cloak that plastered her figure down to her knees. It was all so real. She thought she had come back to the real world when she found herself drowning in the pond! There was no way she could have drowned in game. In fact, there wasn’t even a system implemented on her for the water.
That was when she noticed that the user interface was completely gone as well. The map, quest, and skill bars were gone. Not even the mini-map. She peered nervously back at the group that followed behind her and found they didn’t have usernames above their head. Even the sound of the knights’ clanking armor was better than what she remembered.
She passed a burning stone brazier and stopped. Her eyes glued to the fire, mesmerized. “Um… Avery?” Navara asked nervously as she watched her reach her hand towards the fire. “Hey! You’re going to- ” Burn yourself, Randol was about to say – only to bite down those words as her sickly hand plunged into the fire.
With a slow hand, she scooped up a handful of the dancing orange and yellow fire. Her hand remained unscathed as she brought the fire to eye level. They all looked at her in shock. A slight tinge of fear grew in them as well.
Avery, on the other hand, was too engrossed in the fire in her hand. The moment she drew near the fire. She felt like embracing it. A deep-seated desire that moved her body unconsciously towards it. When she died, she fell into darkness, but she awoke under water. However, she felt she hadn’t seen light in an entirety. That the warmth of life hadn’t lived in her for thousands of years. It wasn’t until the fire nearly touched the tip of her nose did she snap out of her trance.
Feeling strange, and wondering why she could pick up the fire, she poured the fire back into the brazier. Confused to how she could just pick it up and drop it without it dying, she continued down the path silently. The four behind her were even more confused!
. . . .
The group followed Avery into the elven house. The march of time was apparent on the outside of the home as nature slowly tried to claim the structure, but the inside was spotless. The wooden floors were without dust, the fur rugs were almost fresh as the year they were claimed and a fire burned in the hearth – awaiting its master for thousands of years.
A couch sat across from the fireplace, with random furs and clothes were thrown on it. Decorations such as carved table-top statues, art pieces, and trophies littered the room. Skulls of dragons and wyverns; Swords of Demon captain and notable raid bosses; Small glowing cubes and spires from notable raids. The home was filled to the brim with items from Avery’s time in the game.
The four meekly wondered through the living room where Avery had left them with a stern warning to not break anything. Desmond pondered over a floating red cube the size of his palm. It floated and twisted in place above a base made of twisted-black steel that seemed to whisper something incoherent, faint and dark. He wrenched himself away feeling his body shudder in fear before moving onto the next piece.
Randol looked over the largest sword mounted on the stone walls. A large great sword made from adamantium. The sword was bigger than Ter’Yut who stood beside him in awe before they read the polished silver plate mounted under it. “Troll King BlueBlood’s Great Sword”. The two looked at each other hoping they weren’t going to be mounted next to it if they ever offended her.
Navara plopped her rear on the couch with a sigh. She, by nature, was a lazy person. Yet, to chase after her crush – Desmond – she worked hard to become a full blown mage. She was well suited to be a warrior, but then she would have to attend a warrior school. If she was a human. Navara was part of the beast-kin clans, of the Peach-Fangs. By tradition, she would have had to attend the Clan’s warrior school.