The fire crackled as the wood inside the pit popped, embers fluttered slowly into the clear and star-filled night sky above. A fair-skinned girl sat on top a small rock at the edge of the pit as she stoked the fire with a glimmering blueish sword out of bored. The wood within the pit didn’t move at all when prodded, but she did so mainly out of boredom. She sat while leaning forward, her right elbow on the corresponding knee and used her hand to prop her head up listlessly. Her eyes were half closed with two dimly glowing irises peeking out from beneath her long eyelashes – two deep gold feline eyes.
Her snowy white hair cascaded off her head as if a curtain of silk. Dressed in an equally white and beautiful sleeveless dress that draped over her crossover legs. Her soft pink lips were slightly parted, allowing a view of her small pink tongue playing with a single fang out of boredom. A single sandal hung from her right foot as it dangled mindlessly. The girl looked like a fairy, alone in a large glade as ancient oak trees towered high on the edges. In the distance, a large monolithic mountain stood; illuminated by the snaking rivers of lava flowing down its side.
The howls of the distance Demon army echoed through the forest, scaring any all life that was not demonic or an idiotically brave adventurer like the girl.
From the shadows came a lion-sized wolf. Its fur was as white as it’s master’s hair with black eyes. It padded over to the girl before it laid down beside her and then only stared off into the distance. A holographic screen appeared before the girl. The sight of it perked her from her uneventful wait and read its contents. It was a scouting report from her familiar. Her eye lips slid back, revealing her eyes in full as they ticked side to side as she read.
A few minutes slipped by as she read the wolf’s report. Just before she was finished, she heard the rustling of branches opposite the mountain. Her head perked up and her eyes scanned the tree line before a pale figured stepped out into the glade. “Making yourself at home already?” A male’s voice that cooed with mirth. “I always make myself at home when I have to wait for you slowpokes.” The girl’s lips formed a sweet smile.
Once the figure stepped closer, the firelight revealed the hauntingly beautiful face of a Moon Elf. His skin was as pale as fresh snowfall with a tinge of blue. His eyes were two dimly glowing rings of silver but were normal irises aside from that. His hair silky ink black hair was groomed back into a tight, but complimenting ponytail to his slender figure. A trait of all elves.
“So, did you wait long?” He asked, his voice not as elegant as his body, but the girl didn’t seem to mind the contradiction. “For?” She asked, her voice trailing off as her eyes returned to the fire in front of her. “Here. Did you wait a long time.” The man said as he summoned an elegantly carved wooden chair beside her and sat. “Technically speaking, yes. I live in this world you know so of course, I’ve been waiting here for a while.” The girl spoke solemnly and the elf gave her a cramped smile, understanding he stepped on a land mine again.
“Sorry, Cyril. I tried to get here as quick as I could.” The elf said as he reached out, patted her knee and gave it a small comforting rub. “Sorry, Jax. I know you have things you have to do… Its…” Cyril trailed off as she became unwilling to finish her sentence. “Yeah, you don’t have to remind me. I wouldn’t miss it for the world” Jax replied – his eyes never leaving the beautiful girl beside him.
The peaceful scene lasted for a few seconds longer before more people broke through the shadows. “O snap! Jacky over here trying to put the moves on!” A human paladin whooped as he wagged his finger playfully at the moon elf. Nearly ten people trailed after the paladin. Priests, clerics, fighters, and on. Soon, even more, people followed after until tens of campfires and torches were lit. The number of people was so great that people had to make camp in the forest, beyond the glade.
After everyone had assembled, the forest canopy shined like the starry sky above it with orange lights from the fires and laughter danced through the air. While most were out keeping with their friends. The rowdiest bunch gathered at the glade’s center, where the original fire had been placed. “Ho! To our goddess!” Cheers erupted from the group while a few people listening to the festivities joined in. “Who knew we’d get to slay a god today! Ha’zaah!” Another cheer was thrown up as the leader of the festive mood was the Moon Elf, Jax.
Cyril only sat and smiled with a small cup in her hand. While she was happy that so many people had come, she was visibly distant from everyone, but no one let that stop the fun. They all danced, sang and laughed together, sure to make sure Cyril party’s mascot wallflower. At a glance, she may have seemed unsociable – but today was her last raid in the game.
And tomorrow, her life would end.
Stepping back, the world all these people resided in was nothing more than a digital world. An online Virtual Reality Massive Multiplayer Online Game Roleplaying Game – VRMMORPG for short. The game was a popular fantasy game that was played via Full Dive Machines that players connected to their body via a helmet to have full control over their characters. While massively popular and used widely in gaming now, the technology was not originally meant for videogames; though due to the novelty and experience, the player count reached close to a hundred thousand.
In the grand scheme of everything, the technology was created for Cyril – the white-haired maiden. Cyril, using her real name as her user, was the Head Administrator of the game as well as holding titles in another aspect of game’s company such as design, directing and the likes. With such freedom over the game, it was a shock for most people to know she was actually the sole prisoner of this game.
Cyril was born into the Bailey family, a large multibillionaire family that her father was the heir to. Being the sole child of her parents, she would be the heir of the company as well. However, with fortune came misfortune. With other uncles and aunts, the fighting in the family was constant but never violent. That was until her father’s brother delusions of grandeur became mixed with hard drugs. Her uncle was the definition of trust fund baby and drowned himself in alcohol, and women. He held grand parties weekly that was harmless for the most part.
For the most part, he was harmless as well if only just a drunk ass. That was before drugs became part of the equation. Soon, he was beginning to get into more and more trouble. Often hanging around bad people, he began to become bolder and bolder each time her father saw him until he began demanding her father turn the family fortune over to him.
Then the feuding became violent.
On the day her grandparent’s funeral, her uncle came with a few thugs to try and steal the family fortune. A bad idea when dealing with rich families with armed guards. Furious, her uncle had left and the family was able to finally finish the funeral. To the family’s dismay, that was not the end of their uncle’s rage. While they were exiting the church, her uncle plowed down half the family with his truck, taking a few lives with him and destroying even more.
In the end, her uncle was thrown in jail and the key was thrown away, but that didn’t change anything for the broken family. The attack left Cyril alive, but the attack left her in a coma. In the end, it became undisputed that no matter what happened, the fortune would not go to any other family member if any of the heirs died, effectively cutting off all further thoughts of the money.
On Cyril’s end, they had estimated she would have been in a coma for a few weeks, but weeks turned to months. Months turned into a year. Grief-stricken, her parents began to pour all their funds into trying to awake their beloved daughter. Without their child, the money was nothing but worthless paper. A few years after long extensive testing, they managed to wake Cyril up again. In the Virtual World.
Cyril had a unique medical problem, she was not awake, but she wasn’t actually asleep and by a one-in-a-billion chance – they found her in her own mind.
The attack had happened when she was nine and after five long years, her parents finally brought her back. For Cyril, everything happened in a blink of an eye. One moment she was with her parents walking to their car – then darkness. It was like a dreamless sleep, devoid of time before she found herself in a new void; Different. Her new darkness had a visible boundary with a single holographic screen that projected her hospital room.
From history’s standpoint, this was a historic moment. Here was the point where such a niche and underdeveloped tech had made such a large leap from obscurity, and into the mainstream of every sector in the world. However, this was the beginning of Cyril’s nightmare. Her uncles attack, her mother’s paralysis, and her father’s endeavors to bring her back. And that she would never mostly step foot into the real world ever again…
In the months after, Cyril was forced to come to terms with her new reality. Her world at first was but a small black room with a single overlook of her hotel room. Then it became a beautiful meadow where her parents came to visit her in their own dive drives. The world grew ever so slowly, with new additions every day. Yet, it was ever so lonely. The animals that roamed were lifeless buggy AIs. Aside from her parents and sometimes her doctor, no one else ever came.
In all accounts, this was her prison. Unable to die by her own hands, unable to live by them. Then, her father surprised her with a new life in a game, a game called EOS.
In the coming years, EOS gained a massive following with its backstory of being made for the CEO’s daughter to have some semblance of a life. The novelty of being the first VRMMORPG matched with its heart wrenching back story rocketed into the mainstream news for the first few months until it became a profitable business venture, easing the burden of the family funds. While EOS was the company’s flagship product, it mainly stayed in the medical and military fields.
Developing training simulations for the army and devices to help those who would never leave the hospital have some semblance of a life. But no device was like Cyril’s. Hers was interconnected with the company itself. That was how she managed to keep in the loop of what they wanted to do next with the game or her device. That was how she became the official mascot of the game, eventually earning the nickname “Firekeeper”, derived from a different game, due to her odd tendencies.
As the game’s one and only full-time resident or prisoner, depending on which side of the legal aspect you stood on. Cyril’s case was unique all around due to it being the first case of a medical patient living full time within the VR drive. No one could stay in the virtual world for a long time, even those who bought the drive for entertainment purposes.
In the end, it all seemed like Cyril would live a somewhat normal life, excluding having to live in the virtual world. That was until she was eighteen and the doctors said she wouldn’t live to nineteen due to organ failures, something she was somewhat living with already. The gods, or God – whichever resided over their world, did not see fit to spare her after all.
. . . . . . . .
Tents surrounded the glade as the rest of the players partied, their singing and laughter drowned out the distant howls of the demons and monsters. It was purely for immersion. NPC merchants stood stationary around the glade now. This was another unique feature within EOS. Raids could not begin immediately. There was a two-hour buffer period before the teams could even enter the instance. The first half hour was simply traveling to the secondary location to prepare and scout.
The next hour-and-a-half was simply preparations. While on paper, it sounded redundant and unnecessary, the raid exclusive merchants would spring up in the location set by the raid leader. These merchants sold valuable items that were not sold elsewhere such as Pheonix-Ups, Holy-Barrier Matrix, and as well as a plethora of other items that were useful in raids. This perk was only for the latest raid. Once a new raid came out, the merchants would never visit a raiding camp for a previous raid location.
Players buzzed around the NPC merchants, their faces hidden beneath thick black hoods that were devoid of any light or features regardless of how close you held a light to their faces. The Faceless merchants were officially called the Phantom Company, with no nation, no race, or gender, the Phantom merchants were almost as popular as the Diamond Shop’s Maid outfit.
Jax sat beside the unusually anti-social Cyril who clasped a small wooden cup of soda, one of the many Diamond store’s items. “Hey you. Ya’ gonna set up one in the boss room again?” He sat back on a simple wooden stool as he played with the silver wolf by her feet. “Mm. That’s the plan.” She said softly before looking at her lifelong friend and love. “Maybe we coul-” He was about to ask the same question that he had been rejected many times before. “You know I don’t want you tied to me. It’s better this way.” She smiled softly at him with the blunt rejection she had given him so many times before.
Jax felt his heart twist in pain but only smiled back, acknowledging her rejection. They loved each other mutually for years, though four years her senior, they were childhood friends and the only one that had stuck around since that day. Both were equally stubborn, one in loving her till her last moment and the other to trying to ease the pain of her death on her lover’s heart. Though they were not “Officially” together, those who knew the two already had them coupled in their minds. This simple interaction was something they were used to.
Jax slipped his hand into Cyril’s hand and gave a gentle, and comforting squeeze. His gentle expression understanding her intent. The two fell silent and left the other raiders party in peace without pouring their solemn moods over the rest.
. . . . . .
Lighting danced across the volcano’s rocky sides as the grey clouds swirled high overhead. The howls of the demons reverberated through the air, overpowering the howling winds. At the mouth of the volcano, high above the swirling clouds was a massive battle of the ages, beneath a fractured blue sky. Fireballs danced wildly over the heads of the fighters before exploding in an orange splash of death, wiping away any unlucky demon to have been in its radius while other mages made ice shards rip through the rock and burst from beneath the others.
Nearly half of the players were fending off the Boss’s minions as they clamored over the edges as the rest fought against a large black dragon that had constructed a large ceremonial platform over the volcano’s mouth with twenty-four pillars. It was formatted in a clock fashion, glowing with black miasma.
The dragon was the Evil Dragon God Hades. His goal was to tear the magical weave that separated Heaven and Hell from the material world so that all the planes could exist in the same world. Why? because he was chaos and destruction in material form. He was the personification of every living thing’s hate and anger. He was the evil manifestation that lived in everyone’s hearts and he was the final boss.
Gods were immortal – ageless and unbound – but if other gods were to step in, mortals could still strike them down.
Tens of raids were sent flying off the platform, some landing lucky on crevices or on the edge of the bleeding mountain. A few unlucky landed in the lava below or off the mountain as Hade roared in anger. Sharp jagged spindles lined the dragon’s spine, semi-transparent as gems, glowed violet as the dragon inhaled. “Breathe attack!” Alarmed cried surged through the players as golden half-dome barriers blinked into existence seconds before a wave of black inky breath rushed over the platform, dripping down to the lava below like a large stormy sea wave.
While the players held their ground, shielded by their holy barriers – the pillars all around the summit pulsed with a chilling black light like heartbeats. Hades let out another roar as he channeled more miasma into them to push the spell forward.
Just as the miasma around the players had finally slithered away off the summit, the hairline fractures in the sky ripped apart with a large ear piecing similar to a large glass pane shattering. The sky dimmed; the daylight replaced with a beautiful hue of silver as heaven became visible through the large rift that had opened up above them where angels began to pour out to protect the newly made entrance.
Following this, the clouds that hugged the throat of the summit began to glow a hellish red as Devils exploded out from beneath the cloud cover, engaging the angels one by one with gleeful laughs. The two celestial forces clashed above the cloud cover until thousands of devils and angels danced across the sky in their own little deathmatches. The sight of these skirmishes caused a wave of astonishment to overcome the players, distracting momentarily as they tried to figure out if they were fighting these new forces.
Hades took advantage of the sudden distraction to awash the closest team of raiders in a thick miasma breath that cleared away a cone-shaped area to its left. “Team four is down!” the announcement was spread through the entire raid party within seconds as everyone quickly found their bearings and priests erected their holy barriers in time as Hades slowly turned his head towards the rest of the teams.
Once the remaining players were safe and Hades tried to direct more miasma into his reality-bending spell, Cyril quickly called out to Jax. “It’s time!”. The snowy-haired maiden, dressed in thin ink black leather clothing. This was topped with grey tinted mithril armor – breastplate, pauldrons, cuisses, gauntlets, and greaves. Each piece was elegantly simple with runes inlaid with gold. A thick black hooded cloak was clasped to her shoulders with a golden paw on the back as she held a blue-tinted sword.
She was at the front of the pack, defending the priest’s left while Jax defended the priest’s right from the devils that flew down at random to pick off the raiders.
The moon elf was covered head to toe in blueish metal armor and a scutum shield and held a spear. His armor was also adorned with the same magical runes and a single golden paw on his tower shield. In every way, Jax was her tank. Where ever she was, he was regardless of how people felt and at the sudden call from Cyril, the priest cursed and pulled some raiders from behind her. The two quickly parted from the team, making towards the center of the platform as Hades began to spread his wings. Just before the couple would have met with the feet of the dragon – it burst upward with an immense speed that downdraft created from his leathery wings was visible.
“Iron fortress!” Jax called out as he took the helm, Cyril clinging to his back. Both of them were outlined with yellow light, signifying that the skill had activated. The gust crashed into them with a sudden boom but never moved an inch. The gust took everyone by surprise, though she had warned them ahead of time while not spoiling the actual sequence of the battle -a lot of players had not taken her warning seriously.
Once Hades had taken to the air, the rift in the sky began to open wider and wider, finally bringing the gods to arms. Several large figures towered at the opening of the rift; their pure golden figures featureless as they rained down attacks at any devil that slipped past the angelic defenders. Hades let out a pained howl as one such attack had managed to hit one of his wings, sending him crashing back down to the platform below.
But the damage had already been done. The spell had run its course and the rift could only grow and grow, taking all the gods’ attention away. Hades thrashed on the platform in pain as the players quickly evaded in every direction to escape the dragon. However, the couple stood their ground as Cyril waited for the final piece to finish off the Dragon. A heartbeat later, a lightning bolt struck the ground a few feet from them.
On the stone platform before them, a golden spear was stuck in the ground. It was a Celestial Spear with the holy attribute “Kill the scourge young demi-gods while we try to stop the spell!” A voice boomed over their heads as more strikes poured down, only this time they were attacking the black pillars that held the spell. “Finally!” Cyril said with a grin as she jumped forward and grabbed the spear. “Show off…” Jax huffed, but the elf kept protected her as she pulled at the spear with all her might – stabbing any demon that tried to attack her. It took a few pulls before the spear pulled itself from the ground, and Cyril saw her skill bar change suddenly.
All her skills vanished, replaced with two skills – Flight and Helios’s Wraith.
She knew how the raid battle would play out. Up until the spear crashed down, however, she was only told to go all out once she had the spear. Her character pulsed as golden power flowed through her and a pair of pure white wings sprung from her back. She quickly activated the flight skill and the wings reared back before pushing forward, sending her high into the sky.
Hades had finally regained himself just in time to see the change in the girl. “No! That’s against the rules! You cannot create an angel from a mortal without the ceremony!” The dragon’s anger colored his howl to the gods above before he got a mocking response. “We did not create an angel; we created a goddess.” The dragon was momentarily stunned, his eyes bulged in shock as he watched the lone figure hovering overhead as she glowed with golden power. The power of a god.
Before the dragon could utter another word, Cyril activated the Helios’s Wraith. The spear leapt from her hand like a hungry leopard, leaving a strike of gold in its wave before it pierced through the dragon’s forehead and out the back of its upper neck. A black concussive wave erupted from him and it washed over everyone, nearly flinging Cyril away, but she managed to recover after flying end over end a few times.
The black wave washed over the mountain, easing its raging magma flows and erasing the demons away in small pitiful puffs of black dust that fluttered away silently into the brimstone. The Devil’s quickly became panicked. They loved destruction and chaos, but they loved themselves more. With the loss of its power and the attacks from the gods above, the pillars exploded into millions of pieces, the wisps of miasma cleansed by the golden lights of Heaven.
. . . . .
The night was slowly coming, the game world’s clock set on an hour day cycle and the players had once again set up their tents around the large blackened sides of the now dormant volcano. Cheers, singing, and laughter filled the air as if they were back in the Adventurer Capital of Bastion. No longer was it just the raiders now, but most the active players who wanted to be a part of the final festival of the game. Every end-game merchant was posted around the mountain for the players to drown all their saved fortunes to finally get the most coveted items.
There were tablets with drinks and food where players could party to their heart’s content and the music flowed freely at every nook and cranny, despite the unusual decor of the mountain.
Cyril and Jax stepped back onto the stone platform. Nothing had changed, aside from the dead god and the broken pillars of course. While the game was rather groundbreaking in many aspects, they still couldn’t change the terrain during battles. Only when they were scripted during boss fights and those were used sparingly due to the about of processing it took.
The two stepped up to the dragon’s head, looking over the body with raised eyebrows. They waited a few seconds before Cyril kicked the dragon’s head with all her virtual might. “Ouch!” The dragon barked, howling out dramatically as it rose up and held its forehead with its right paw. “Well, don’t make us wait!” Cyril pretended to be angry and folded her arms over her breastplate while Jax only snickered. “You didn’t have to resort to violence!” The dragon whined, ignoring the large hole in its head.
Both the elf and maiden broke out in laughter at the irony of his whining. The dragon joined in the laugh, tired of its own antics, it lowered its head until its eyes were level with Cyril. “Did you enjoy your last raid, sweetie?”