Jason opened his eyes to the inside of the helmet and was gasping in pain. He twisted over to the side of the bed and yanked his head off. He moaned as pain shot sparks through his body, emerging like a flood from the wound in his back… wait…
Jason opened his scrunched eyes and had difficulty focusing his sight through bewilderment. He was back in his room, on his bed. He was no longer surprised with the carryover of pain, it was that he had been logged out, although he was not at his base. Did that mean someone had logged him out? Or did he die?
Jason let his fingers fumble on the floor for the helmet, and when he found it he tucked it back on and pressed the wireless transmission button, wanting to get back to the game and find out what happened. He forgot about the pain, trying to force his mind that it was not real, and he was fine, and partially succeeded as the log in screen popped up on the visor, now particularly familiar. He gave it his username, speaking in a rush so his words slurred slightly. It took it a moment longer than usual to remember him, but it finally accepted it and his iris scan, and Jason felt the anticipated rush of wind as he was transported back to Nox’s hut.
Only that it was not Nox’s house. It was outside, in the cold, and Jason found himself glancing up into the Face of a young woman. Actually, it was Wings-of-Eagles. Jason shifted and pushed himself up, feeling his body re-energized and full of health once more. He looked around, he was still at the fight scene, except the strange grey elf was gone and Wings-of-Eagles sat next to him.
She had been looking around, obviously with a worried and tense feeling, but she nearly jumped and looked at Jason with relief as he stirred. “Oh thank goodness!” She exclaimed and stood up stiffly. “You logged back in! I was afraid you would not, and I’d have to fight off some zombies from attacking you.”
Jason held a blank face as he stood up. He brushed off his clothes and looked up at her as she continued. “Thank you, by the way, for trying to attack Kenneth for me. It was very brave of you, but foolish I must say.”
“Kenneth?” Jason said, more than slightly confused. “And why would zombies come to get me? And why are you here in the first place? I thought you left a note for me back at Nox’s place, telling me that you would be near the bazaar.” Jason began to ask questions as quickly as they occurred to him, curious and slightly upset, he did not know why of course, at the same time.
Wings-of-Eagles smiled slightly and she calmly began to answer him. “I could ask you why you were out here also, could not I? Kenneth was that elf you fought a while ago. His real username is KennethSilver, but he prefers to go by Kenneth. Zombies are attracted to human blood, you see, and since you are half human, or at least, your avatar character is, they’d be attracted to you and would try to eat you while you were out. And as for why I am out here, it is none of your business. I will only tell you that I had my reasons and that is that. Now, any more questions?”
Jason had a few but he just shook his head, a little embarrassed and feeling guilty for suddenly lashing out on her. “No, I guess not. Sorry about that. So, um, do you happen to know how to get out of here? I kind of got lost earlier… so.. yeah…” Jason lowered his head slightly and Wings-of-Eagles giggled slightly.
“Sure.” She said kindly and nudged his arm. “Perk up, will ya?” She smiled and started to walk off in an oddball direction. Jason followed her and thought about what to say.
“Is it alright if I call you Wings?” he asked, referring back to the note she had left back at Nox’s. She nodded.
“And can I call you Thief?”
“Sure” he said and she nodded approvingly.
“Okay then. So what do you think Thief, are you going to take me up on that quest offer?”
“Yes.” He replied quickly, “But I’d like a little help with what to do… Nox hasn’t really gone over anything with me if you had not noticed.” Wings agreed.
“Yes of course.” She said as she led him through the city ruins. “And,, it is kind of obvious, you are right. It was really good of you to try and stop Kenneth, but he is a really strong and experienced player, I am sorry that you had to leave one of your lives over that little skirmish, It was really my fault, he caught me by surprise.” She did not elaborate any more, and Jason got the vibe that she wanted to drop the subject and regretted bringing it up. So he continued on.
“So, what can you buy at the bazaar?” he said.
She shrugged. “Nearly anything I guess.” Just then she led Jason onto a path that looked familiar at least and jumped over a largish pile of snowdrift. Jason did the same, and found himself examining her thoroughly for the first actual time.
She was the first half elf half human Jason had actually seen besides himself. She had wavy black hair that landed on the top of her shoulders, and she kept it parted on the side and there was a single lock braided, and it was highlighted a bright white. Her skin was well, rather unhealthily, pale, and freckles seemed to dominate most of the exposed skin, and it made her eyes stand out vibrantly. They were a bright blue and contrasted well with her hair, but the skin made them turn to ice and appear as if they were analyzing you. Jason, one again, got the sense of familiarity about her, but he could not truly place it to anyone.
Noise met Jason’s ears and he recognized it as people talking. “Is that the bazaar?” he said stupidly as, in the distance, a view of many, many homes could be seen.
“Yes, it is.” Wings said and quickened her pace. “Have you not been there before? She asked, slightly surprised.
Jason shook his head as he caught up to her and began to jog in stride with her. “No, Nox and I only went over titles and basic fight moves. When I had first joined there was a blizzard, so he thought it best not to go out.” He thought he heard her mutter something, but it was so faint he could have imagined it. They drew closer to the crowd, and the suddenly it was just upon them.
People were everywhere. The roads had been cleared of snow and bare earth mixed with frozen mud as people of all races and genders, humans, elves, half humans and half elves, converged, traded, and mingled. There were wooden carts and stands exposed to the elements, then there were some enclosed shops. The air was thick with the sound of bustle, and numerous amounts of people shouting to advertise their goods.
Jason glanced at everything all at once and nearly got lost as he followed Wings past a clothing shop, an exotic foods market, trust bonds stall, and a magic and spells shop run by a rather intimidating female elf. But what really caught Jason’s eye was at the end of the street strip. It was the battle and weapon blacksmith. A large shop accompanied with and exposed stall in a horse shoe shape was filled to the brim with swords, shields, and the most deadly and recently invented mechanical weapons of the twenty third century. There was a large revolution gun, which traced and aimed at targets with deathly precision, on the same table and directly next to the normal, and rather crude, hand held pistol from about the twentieth century.
Jason wandered over to that table and traced his hands over the metal death toys. Wings had left his side and walked up to a building from his sight, but Jason neither noticed or cared at the moment. He picked up the revolution gun and looked through t he scope, scanning around him, the vivid cross giving him a sense of power and displacement from everyone and thing, except the object in the middle of the scope.
Jason moved it slightly until he had it trained on a target, placed conveniently across the road from testing of buyers and their weapons. It was a large scarecrow with a red and circular bull’s eye placed on the chest. Jason moved his finger to the trigger, not able to resist the instant urge to fire, and he nearly jumped as an eyeball appeared at the other end of the scope.
“What the hell do you think you are doing?” Came the voice of a very burly and dark skinned human man. The blacksmith yanked the revolution gun from Jason’s hands and placed it on the table. Jason lifted his hands in show of submission and backed up until the small of his back was pressed against the table of one side of the outdoor stall. The blacksmith lifted up a meaty finger and pointed at Jason, who noticed that the man’s skin, which Jason had thought was stained with soot and dirt, was actually a natural mocha black. Not dark as the elf Jason had encountered, but the black that seemed natural as some of the people of his village and others of the prosperous city had.
“No touching the weapons unless you intend to buy!” He snarled into Jason’s face and waved his meaty finger around wildly in front of Jason. “And I seriously doubt someone like you can buy that, so quit touchin it!” Jason nodded and tried to scoot away from the blacksmith, but he moved much as Jason did and blocked off his intended escape. “So, if you do not intend on buying it, you must be trying to steal it. And I do not care how much someone bribed you to, no one steals from me or my shop. Jason opened his mouth to protest, but someone behind him spoke instead.
“Thief! What do you think you are doing over there?” Jason looked over his shoulder and noticed a rather amused expression on Wings’ face. She waved at the blacksmith who tilted his head at Jason.
“Y’know him?” He huffed, referring to Jason, who appeared to be cowering beside him. Wings shrugged.
“Yeah, sorry about that. It is his first time at the bazaar, and I am afraid he doesn’t quite know the rules yet. Leave him alone now Dusty, I will make sure he knows not to let it happen again, okay?” ‘Dusty’ the blacksmith slitted his eyes and looked from Wings to Jason, then finally backed up and let Jason slither past him like a mouse from a cat.
Jason went up to Wings, who stood outside an interesting little hut. Jason recalled that it was vaguely familiar, and realized it was the hut Wings had talked about in her letter that she had left for him. It looked rather skinny up front, but it moved up at least three levels. It was made from wood, as all the huts in and out of the city were, and mud caked between the planks to prevent the chill and wind entering through the cracks to the inside. There was one door that Jason could see, and only two windows up on the topmost floor, but they were covered with blankets or curtains of some kind. Next to the door was a keypad, which Jason remembered that all the houses had, as to only let the residents enter into that player’s base. The top of the hut was the really unique thing, though.
Unlike the distinctive and usual flat or triangular tops to the huts, this one had a very irregular and uncircular dome, that appeared to be set on a base of a rounded triangle. The shingles to the roof varied from stones to wood to clay and glass, making light dance around it in an array of color. Jason observed this with mild interest and Wings began entering a code into the keypad, then cursed at it failed to accept it on the first try.
“He your apprentice?” Dusty asked and attracted both of Jason’s and Wing’s attention.
“Who, me?” Jason said instinctively, but both the other players ignored him.
“No.” Wings said softly. “You know that I can not have an apprentice yet, I am not on level eleven yet.” That surprised Jason and he raised an eyebrow as he watched her. He thought nearly everyone was past the ‘introduction’ stages, as Nox had put it. Wings especially struck Jason as a higher leveled play, since she seemed so… wise… on the ways and people of the game.
“Then who is he?” Dusty said, sounding neither interested nor disinterested. The Blacksmith had taken to rearranging the weapons and talking to Wings at the same time.
Wings hesitated before responding, Jason did not know why and thought about replying for her, but did not as she answered. “He is Nox’s Apprentice, and goes by Thief.” At that she punched a code into the keypad rapidly, and the door clicked open, and Wings fled inside the base before Dusty could say something else, and Jason followed her.