Chapter Twelve


Jason took it from her and after she had wished him luck, Jason opened the envelope.  Instantly, her face blacked out.  Everything blacked out.  It was just Jason alone in a shapeless black void.  Then, slowly, through the darkness that rose fear within Jason, was the soft kiss of wind tugging on Jason’s clothes and face.  Following that was a flash of light that was bright neon green mixed and sparked with deep maroon.  Then he was in the desert.

His winter garb had been traded for a light and airy handmade shirt with cutoff sleeves and a pair of cargo style trousers.  The borrowed elven sword hung at his waist next to the water canteen on a crude and cheaply made leather belt.  Jason looked around himself and nearly jumped as a loud booming voice spoke from nowhere in a deep artificial timbre.

“Player: Avenged underscore Thief.  Level: two.  First Quest.  Objective: Find and water the pistachio tree.  Do you accept?”  The computer asked to who Jason assumed was himself.

“Yes,” he said automatically, assuming, and hoping, that it was a voice operated confirmation.

“Verified.  You may begin now.”  And with that the voice was gone.  Jason waited a moment, then shrugged and looked around, trying to assess where to begin.

His feet crunched in the sand as he started walking.  He had materialized in a little hollow like thing, surrounded on all sides by a climbing slope of sand dunes.  Hot wind blew through the little hollow as Jason began to climb, and he began to sweat.  By the time he reached the top of the dune he was nearly drenched, and surprised at the resistance of the sand, of the way it tugged at your feet and the way it swept upwards with the wind to blow into your face and stuck to your wet, exposed skin troublesomely.  He was starting the have second thoughts about the quest.

It was hot, just as hot as the tundra was cold, but Jason preferred the cold.  It sharpened your mind and pinched your senses to give you more energy, where the heat just sapped it and made you tired, making you want to lie down and sleep.  Jason bent over his knees and panted once he had reached the top of the dune.  He never liked the heat.  Where he lived, thankfully, was often cool so he thought his dislike towards it might just be because he was not used to it.

When he looked up, though, the only thing he could think of was.  My god.  Bare earth stretched on for miles all the way to the horizon and probably well, well out of sight.  Parts of it were covered in sand dunes, mostly in the area he was in.  That was only a small portion, though.  The rest was peat, dry, and (in general) just open dead land.  The Sand, actually, ended rather abruptly about what Jason estimated to be a half mile.  Near that area, Jason thought he caught a glance of ruins buried halfway in the sand.  Some spires, it seemed, poked upward.  Beyond that was the cracked and dry earth.  It may have once been grassland, but probably had did from the heat and lack of water.

Stretching his limbs, Jason continued on.  Soon, the thought of water crossed his mind.  Where would he get it?  Probably his best chance would be on the peat, the water would sink strait through the sand, but I possibly could be held on the hard packed earth.  Crunch.  Jason’s foot slipped on some sand and he stumbled slightly, then tripped into the ground.

Grit and grainy said flared up over him, and peppered his skin mercilessly.  He yelped loudly as the grains scratched him and mingled over his skin.  It had already begun to turn bright pink, even though it had scarcely been ten minutes.  Before too long he would have sunburn and blisters all over, and the sand made the little rash hurt even now.

I will be so damned tan when this is over.  Jason thought as he grunted and pushed himself up with extreme fatigue.  He looked around, checking to make sure there was no water or shade yet.  Water. Just the thought of it began to make Jason thirsty.  He licked his cracked lips and walked slowly through the dunes.

The minutes passed slowly, Jason noticed that by the angle of the sun.  And soon the minutes turned into hours.  And Jason was still in the dunes.  The peat land appearing no closer than it had when he had first begun, and the sight of shade or another person were not even in his imagination at this point.

Jason walked in a stupor, hot and overheated, tired, and nearly defeated by the temperamental sand that was soft and weak in some points, yet hard and supporting in others. At the step of yet another pothole, Jason felt his sword swing, and next to it the canteen lurched.  And made a sound.  It actually slurped.  It was then that Jason realized that though he had left without water, it had been put into the canteen when he materialized the quest.

His hand lunged for the canteen and he pulled it from the belt in a swift desperate motion.  The promised of water sloshed and Jason raised it above his head, ready to drink.  Then he stopped, and lowered the water back down.  It had suddenly dawned on him that it was in there for no other reason than to water the tree with.

The weight of that knowledge suddenly collapsed on top of Jason devastatingly.  Water.  He could not have any yet.  He clipped it back onto his belt, suddenly down and depressed.  Wait! Jason remembered the food stashed in his knapsack and let it fall from his shoulder, then snapped it open and began to rummage for… Yes!  He found it, and pulled out the plump red apple.

Jason bit into the apple and moaned with satisfaction as the juices flooded his mouth like the forbidden water.  Energy flooded his limbs and the fruit is juice soothed the edge of this agonizing thirst.  Jason finished the apple in a series of quick bites that left his energy only half way replenished, and his hunger and this in no way satisfied to completion.

He sat on the dune, resting and letting his body adjust to the new nutrients.  After a long moment, he pushed himself up and brushed the sand and grit from his knees, and shouldered the knapsack once more.  He took a deep breath and kicked some sand over the scant apple core.  Walking slowly at first, then mustering strength against the heat and speeding his pace up, Jason descended and shortly neared the end of the dunes.

By the time that Jason had finally reached the peat, the sun had slowly descended across the sky and evening was fast approaching, making time move more quickly with Jason’s urgency.

Jason’s guess about a half mile of dues was way off.  It was nearly two miles that he had suffered through, and there was the promise of sunburn on his skin, but he luckily remembered the clothes in his knapsack and had wrapped a shirt around his head like a turban and the trousers had been slit to war around his arms like sleeves.  Though it was hot, it helped his skin quite a bit.

To make matters worse for Jason in his hot suit, the sand reflected the light and heat of the sun, increasing it tenfold.  Now Jason was just relieved to be free of the hard trek.  He was not sure if he was imagining or not, but the temperature felt incredibly cooler, although it was still stifling hot and rather uncomfortable.

Jason found a small dip in the land.  Actually, he nearly fell into it.  And after spraining his ankle, he decided that it would make a good place to rest and grab something to eat.

As Jason set the knapsack down and pulled out the package of meat, he found out what he had forgotten to pack.  He was without a hand held knife.  It was a simple but very necessary tool for eating and quite helpful in close quarter combat also.  Stumped, at first, on what to do, Jason hesitated while holding the cured meat.

He could wait to eat it, but the foods he had packed with it were almost gone (as a result of his snacking), and they were best for short term energy anyways.  They would not be good as a meal to completely fulfill his hunger, which he needed right now.  In the end, Jason decided to use his long sword to cut strips of the meat, and when he was finished with it, he put the elven sword on a scraggly and nearly dead bush that the knapsack had been laying against.

Jason leaned back and began to eat the cured, meat.  It was then that he gave a sudden shiver and realized that the temperature had been going down.  Jason finished the meal with a sigh and pushed himself upwards stretching before looking around.  Since he had ruined his extra clothes, he needed to make a fire... but with what?  His eyes rested on the bush containing the sword and Knapsack.

“Of course!”  he mumbled and walked over to a similar bush not too far away.  He examined the thin bristles and snapped a branch from the bush.  It broke easily and Jason smiled and picked up a smooth rock from the peat next to it.  “Perfect.”  He tossed it in the air and grasped the long sword.  Piling up a few more broken branches Jason crouched down and swiped the stone across the blade quickly.  It took a little bit before Jason got a spark, but when he did the little pile ignited in a roar.

“Woah!” He exclaimed and leaned back to admire his work.  After that Jason went and gathered more bushed and stored them either on the fire or nearby so he did not have to go and hunt for more in the dark.  Night had come fast and quick, and let her deceiving fingers cloak the sky and black out the light around.  Jason watched his fire roar with satisfaction, and he twirled his sword in the dirt as suddenly he heard a growl behind him.

“Think fast.”  It hissed lowly and Jason jumped around, brandishing the sword.  He saw nothing in the dark and raised the sword in a fancy parry.

“Show yourself!”  He snarled and raised the blade, cutting the air almost comically.  No one answered but there was a soft chuckle and Jason ducked from instinct and where his head had just been, a blade cut the air and someone cursed loudly.  Jason turned around and jumped up, swiping his blade.

It made contact hard and his assailant grunted.  The other player twisted both Jason’s and his blade to lose the contact and he moved into the light of the fire.  Jason saw who was attacking him and took it upon himself to charge forward to catch them off guard while he surveyed them.

It was actually another half elf, and his skin was a dark mocha color, his hair dark brown and there was a hint of a mustache and five o’clock shadow grazing his chin and cheeks.  He had wide, dialated green eyes and smiled as if he were having fun.  He blocked Jason’s attack and jabbed the blade at him.

“Woah!  You nearly got me there, good job!  Next time, though, use less fluff and more power.”  He laughed and lunged forward to Jason. Jason blocked his attack and jabbed at him and the blade cut into the other person’s upper bicep.  He stumbled slightly and clamped his unarmed hand over it tightly.  “Ouch!  Good shot there.  My name is Rapid, by the way.”  He twirled his weapon, which Jason now observed to be a long sword very similar to his own.

His opponent, Rapid, Lunged into a flurry of swipes, and almost caught Jason on the side.  After crouching, and cursing lowly to himself, he jumped up and returned attack.  Much to his surprise, and Rapid’s, he made contact with the other blade, and the force of his blow knocked Rapid’s weapon from his hands.

It took a moment for that to sink in for both of them, and when it finally did take effect, Rapid was trying to edge away from Jason and get near his weapon.  Jason stuck his sword out until it was nearly touching Rapid’s throat.  “Freeze,” Jason commanded, and Rapid did so, raising his hands in a comical way of submission.  One of them, the left one, was  stained and dripping in blood where it had been clamped over his wound that Jason had inflicted earlier.

“Good job!” Rapid said, smiling in a way Jason was not sure if it were mockingly or not, but it did irritate him.  “I guess you beat me, newbie, so now whatcha going to do?  Certainly not going to take away one of my lives are you?”  His eyes glinted with some hidden, unknown knowledge that Jason did not notice.

It had not crossed his mind to ‘punish’ Rapid yet; he was just going to tell him to get lost… but that idea… it seemed perfect.  “Well, now that you mention it,” Jason said, smirking as he raised the elven long sword higher to give it momentum.  “I think I will.”  He swung hard and yelped as his attack was blocked by his seeming injured opponent.  His arms jarred painfully and his grip on the hilt slackened considerably.

Rapid sensed the surprise in Jason and he twisted the knife until the blade was yanked from Jason completely and it began to fall to the ground.  Rapid tossed his hidden knife to the side and lunged for the long sword, the stinging pain in his arm forgotten as if it had never been.  He twirled his newfound weapon to gain comfort from the familiar blade.  He smiled as he remembered something he had heard long ago, and he turned to face Jason, this time the other player was at his mercy and without a weapon.

“See?  I told you not to try and attack me.”  He shook his head.  “Tut tut tut.  That was the oldest trick in the book.”  He waved the sword in a ‘that was naughty of you’ kind of way.  “You should have known better.  Now, tell me your name.”  Jason stayed silent and Rapid rolled his eyes.  “Come on chicken.  I told you mine, and I do not mean your full name, but what people call you, that way I do not feel like I am talking to thin air when I am around you.

“Thief.” Jason croaked out, his voice was scratchy and squeaked because of his fear, but he cleared it and spoke deeper and less scared now.  “My name is Thief.”

Rapid nodded and put the sword into the dust and leaned on it.  “Well hello thief.  Good fighting skills you have there, your master must’ve done well in teaching you.”  Jason stayed silent instead of responding.  Rapid continued anyway, “Aren’t you wondering why I am here?  Or why I am just ignoring you?”  Rapid asked in a fake tone, making it sound like he was hurt by Jason’s no commentary.

Jason stayed silent and Rapid went on, trying to fill the silence.  “Well, I am your assassin.  Gosh, I never tire of saying that!  Anyway, I am not going to ‘finish you off’ as you probably heard I would.”

“Why not?”  Jason asked, curious and surprised that he was not about to lose the quest; along with the fact that it seemed odd that Rapid would be so... kind… for someone who is suppose to want to kill him.

Rapid shrugged.  “To tell you the truth I do not get many points for it, I was just bored of watching you struggle.  The desert is so harsh, especially if your base is in the Tundra.”  He shook his head.  “I have never liked the heat, that is why I chose to huddle up there.”

“Your base is in the tundra?”  Jason said, surprised that he and his friendly assassin had something in common.

“Yeah, did not I just say that?”  Rapid rolled his eyes and tapped his head.  “That is why they gave you those pointy ears, so you would listen for once in your life.”  Though his words were harsh, his tone was light and kind.

Jason shrugged.  “Sorry, I was just surprised, mine is too.”  Rapid nodded only the slightest.

“I know. I have been stalking you.”


“Haha, gotcha!”  Rapid laughed and Jason seethed.  Shrugging, Rapid pulled the elven long sword from the earth and tossed it Jason, who caught it as the glint of the metal flashed by firelight.  Jason grasped it tightly.

“Er, thanks... I guess…”

“There is no ‘guessing’ about it!  I just gave your weapon; if I were you I would take it and run.  But since I am obviously not you, and I am me, then I guess I will tell you what you really want to know.”

Jason smiled and walked over to rapid until their eyes were level. He then stashed the blade in his belt and motioned to where he had been sitting earlier.  “Take a seat by the fire then, and we can talk.”

The End

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