Repeating myself, but… I actually wrote a book last year that I am waiting to go back and edit. I’m not sure if I will publish it. So, I’ll drop the first chapter here and let you all decide. If you like this, drop a comment or check out some of my other books on my Bibliography page.
ETHRIC STORM Book 1
A Lit RPG
Ethric Storm Copyright © 2020 by J.G. Johnson. All Rights Reserved.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
“Alain, you waste of a good meal, get lazy butt over here!”
“Yes, Mama.” Alain bit her tongue and locked her eyes on her feet, lest Mama catch her rolling her eyes. It was bad enough only getting the scrapings of each meal; she didn’t need to give Mama any reason to decide that the dog was more deserving of the scraps. Being the youngest out of four brothers and five sisters sucked, but it was better than the alternative. It beat being sold off as a babe for parts, into slavery, or left to the woods. But her family was nothing if not economical. They had decided that having a free slave at their beck and call was a better use of their youngest child.
Alain didn’t miss Annabeth’s sniggering, but like her lot in life, there wasn’t much she could do about it. Mama’s beatings were bad, but Annabeth had Father’s ear, and his were worse. And that was only if the sadistic cretin didn’t take it upon herself to administer a beating just for the fun of it. “What would you like me to do, Mama?”
“Well, you haven’t died yet, so you might as well make yourself useful. The wash needs doing. See to it,” Mama dismissed her. Her glare returned on Alain as she didn’t immediately hop to. “What are you waiting for!”
“The Nutragarot are in their way right now. I’ll need the washtub, Mama.”
Mama’s eyes narrowed as she listened to Alain’s backtalk. “What you need is a good switching, but we don’t have time for that with the young lord on his way to visit Annabeth.” She turned gave Annabeth an approving smile. If she could sway the young lord, they could gain his favor, coin, and everything else that came with it. Her smile turned back into a scowl as she looked back to Alain. “Not that that’s important to a wast like you. Now get to it, and if you’re later than noon, you slacking parasite, then you can kiss your meals for the remainder of the week goodbye!”
Alain gritted her teeth, bowing her head lower to better conceal the hate in her eyes. “Yes, Mama.” She left before Mama thought better of letting her go with only missing dinner.
Four heaping baskets of laundry awaited her behind the house, and it was already pushing ten. With a thirty-minute walk to the river, she would be lucky to get all of the laundry there, washed, back, and hung to dry in time. Worse case, she’d have to find her own dinner or break into her stash to hold her over until she started getting the scraps again.
Rolling her shoulders, she grabbed the sled and loaded everything up. As she set off, Annabeth came around the corner, blocking her way. All it took was one look into Beth’s twisted blue eyes to know that she could kiss the scraps goodbye. Beth would remind everyone that Alain was late and see that it was more than just until the end of the week and switching that she earned.
“It would be better if you don’t come back,” Annabeth taunted as Alain moved to go around her. “You stop and look at me when I’m talking to you unless you prefer I tell daddy!” She sneered as Alain stopped and turned to face her, basking in the power she held over Alain.
Alain’s heart ran cold. Last time she had drawn Daddy’s ire, her arm had gotten broken, she’d suffered a concussion, and she hadn’t woken up for two days. They had left her out in the woods, thinking that she was as good as dead, but she had recovered and come home to their dismay and disgust. She would have run away, but with the surrounding area being Level 10, she had little hope of reaching anywhere else before something made her family’s’ wish come true. And they would still probably complain that she had taken a set of clothes, little more than rags, with her. So she stayed bidding her time until she could escape this prison of a life. If I can just make it until I’m sixteen. “Yes, Beth.”
Annabeth’s nostrils flared as Alain dared to talk back and, worse, called her Beth. She hated being called Beth; it made her sound like a cow. “You better hope something out there get you,” she said, driving her fist into Alain’s stomach, doubling her over. Father had paid to let her use a Builder-Post, and her Strength was enough to make a weak Level-Zero’s bones comparable to twigs. After putting a kick into Alain’s side as she collapsed to the ground, she kicked the sled over, breaking a runner and spilling the laundry everywhere as she skipped away. “Watch where you leave things. Daddy is sure to be upset when he hears that you broke the sled.”
Alain listened to Annabeth’s barking laugh, waiting until she was out of sight before getting up with a tired sigh. She may have only been a Level-Zero, but years of her family’s “loving ministrations” had done wonders for her Strength and Endurance stats.
Sighing, she gathered the strewn laundry and checked the sled to see how bad the damage was. She took a moment to look over her stats – appearing as a blue box in her hud overlay, which only she could see. She could detect some basic information, like name and level, on creatures weaker or within ten levels above her. For everything else, she could only identify its name. This extended to things she had learned about, such as plant names and uses, and appraising items she understood or had explained to her. The information was stored in her codex, where she could review and edit it or share it and other information -like her map – through touch. Supposedly, Adventurers had an additional ability, known as “Chat,” but she wasn’t sure about it.
The fairytales said that Ethric Nits, predating the Ethric Dawn – within her body and everything in the world – made this possible. She highly doubted the merit of such outlandish tales, but they were interesting to think about. How people could have ever been expected to survive, even weaker than a Level-Zero and unable to wield Ethric Energy, was hard to imagine. Even a common rat would have spelled their doom.
|Name: Alain Alexandra Amber||Age: 13||Lever: 0||Race: Human||Class: None|
|Mana:||325||Regen:||(Base 1) + 1.2/s||Output:||127|
|Vitality:||(Base 8) + 0||Endurance:||(Base 10) + 0|
|Intelligence:||(Base 7) + 0||Willpower:||(Base 12) + 0|
|Strength:||(Base 9) + 0||Agility:||(Base 6) + 0|
She may not have been able to level like Annabeth or her other siblings, but a life of hard work and harder knocks had done wonders for her base stats. If she was ever able to level, her work fighting off the vermin around the farm and a few lucky kills in the woods would see her off to a strong start. But for now, she needed to stay alive long enough to even have a hope of someday having a chance to level.
And to ensure that that day came, she needed to get the filthy laundry done and scrounge up some food while she was at it since she wasn’t going to get any here. At least the barn wasn’t too cold at this time of year, and the rats knew better than bugging her. Even better, her “family” wouldn’t bug her out there after dark for fear of the critters that came out at night.
Thankfully, the runner wasn’t truly broken but simply snapped out of its groove. “Barbarian Beth can’t even tell the difference between a busted and a bent runner. She should have put more points into her Intelligence instead of Strength, Agility, and Endurance. Then, maybe, she’d have two brain cells to rub together to spark an original idea!” she muttered. She exhaled some of her frustration through her clenched teeth as she pried the spring steel runner back into place. Cocking her head to the side in thought over Beth’s point application. “Then again, given her character, and the life she is leading, her choices make perfect sense.” She chuckled darkly, figuring that the young lord would get more than he bargained for from Beth.
With the sled fixed, she glared at the scattered laundry. All of this would have been so much easier with an item of holding. Sadly, only Adventurers, Merchants, and nobles could afford such wonders.
With no time to waste or hope of being done in time, she stuffed the last of the spilled and now dirtier laundry – mostly Beth’s – into the baskets and set off. She made a brief stop after entering the tree line to grab the “lost” dagger she’d hidden there.
She’d gotten beat for its disappearance – for once for something she’d actually done – not that they had thought she had. They’d assumed one of the others had hawked it in town for some coppers. It had been worth it over the years as it saved her life. She stashed it in the hidden pocket she had made for it and other things in her clothes. Its sturdy weight made her feel more comfortable going into the dark woods around her family’s farm.
The walk was easy enough today; even the Rasselbock, with their fangs and knife-like antlers, had been quiet. Better still, the Roe Squirrels hadn’t attempted to brain her with pinecones. Not that she let her good-fortune lull her into lowering her guard as she minded her surroundings and the deceivingly calm and fridged river as she worked. The Nutragators weren’t very bright, but they were tough and had a quick initial attack that was easy to overlook as they snuck up to the bank to ambush you.
She was about halfway through the wash when a frilly fellow and his guard approached down the seldom-used road she was washing by. They had already seen her and were far above her level, so there was little to be done but wait and see if they would pass. Depending on their action, she would have to act fast.
“Excuse me, miss, but might you be able to tell me how far off the Amber residence might be?” the younger of the two called out, stepping off the road and drawing closer to her.
Alain didn’t much care for him or the way his eyes lingered and roamed over her. That he was specifically looking for her family’s home only added to her low opinion of him. This was apparently the young lord who was calling on Beth.”It’s about another fifty minutes by the road or a half-hour through the trees, that way.” She pointed through the forest and along a narrow path.
“Hmm.” He studied her closer until her name popped up. “Ah, I guess that would make sense. Ann has told me so much about you. Tiss providence that has brought me here now. You look much like her. I wonder if you are similar in other ways, also?” He stepped further off the road, coming closer to her.
Alain’s eyes narrowed at his words, and she took a step back to open more space between them, buying time and giving her a chance to inspect him as he advanced on her with a twisted smile.
(Davian Kadwell Lvl. ??)
He was at least a level eleven, by the question marks and the fact that she couldn’t see his level, and probably higher. That he was acquainted with Beth, and rather closely by his comment, made her sure of his intent.
In a blink, he rushed her, restraining her right arm and driving her to the ground. “Scream if you like, my guard will protect us from any wild beast that may be about,” he whispered into her ear.
“You first,” Alain retorted, watching the flash of confusion in his eyes before it turned to pained shock and then nothing. She heaved, rolling his lifeless body off her. She gave her dagger a twist to free it from between the second and third ribs of his lower back. He may have been stronger than her and a higher level, but a stab to the heart was a stab to the heart, and her level and stats told very different stories.
Shaking as she stood and wiping the blood from her dagger on his frilly clothes, she glared at the bodyguard who was still standing on the road looking at her appraisingly. “You want some of this too?” she challenged, waving over herself.
“Eh, he was a prick,” he retorted. “But we’ll need to make things look good to keep his family coming down on us.”
“There’s a Nurtragator den a hundred meters on. They are in their way right now,” Alain suggested, fleecing Davian’s corpse, pocketing his pouch of holding after dumping half his coins out for the guard.
“Give me his sword, rings, you lead the way, and we have a deal.”
(Dilan Greenwater Lvl. ??)
“All yours. I can’t do much with them as a Level-Z anyway, ” she agreed, ignoring the fact that she – a Level-Z – had just killed a level twenty-one.
“Right,” Dilan agreed, knowing better than to judge a person by their level.
They were halfway to the warren when a bush ahead of them rustled. Alain didn’t miss a beat, dropping Davian’s hands and pulling her dagger as a blur launched out of the brush. There was a high pitched squeal as she sidestepped, turning to track the blur as it crashed to the ground. The Rasselbock twitched twice before going limp. Not seeing a death notification, she lunged forwards, giving it another stab to the base of the skull to make sure it was dead. This time, she received the notification and picked it up, throwing the whole thing into the pouch of holding she had liberated from Davian with a smile. You wouldn’t receive a death notification until you, or a member of your party, physically verified it. In a knife fight, it usually came with the killing blow, but not always.
The pouch really was amazing. It allowed anything stored within it to remain unchanged for as long as it was contained within. It also reduced the weight to a third of its actual and had close to six cubic meters of storage space. “And it’s so much easier to hide than a backpack,” she thought to herself. Her plans for the future took new shape as they develop around this treasure. She was smiling happily as she gathered Davian’s hands and continued leading the way.
Dilan watched her closely after her casual display of Strength and Agility. The Rasselbock had only been a level five, a simple enough opponent for someone of his level. Still, it should have been far beyond a Level-Z’s ability to deal with without any aids beyond an old dagger. Combined with Davian’s death, he had to wonder just who she was and what her life was like to have developed such ability and Strength.
They reached the cliff overlooking the Nutragator warren quickly enough. If Davian stank before, it was nothing compared to now, as his body relaxed. Dilan apparently agreed as he made to shove Davian over with a grimace of distaste.
Alain stopped Dilan from tossing the body into the warren, tucking a bundle of herbs into Davian’s clothes. With a heave, they threw him over into the writhing ball of Nutragators. The latter quickly ripped into the uninvited guest to their mating pit.
“What were the herbs for?” Dilan asked as they watched to make sure that the job was done. Nutragator really didn’t take kindly to interruptions.
“Pokeweed and Death Camas. I still need to do the laundry, and this warren is getting a bit too big,” Alain commented, walking away from the scene of Davian being torn to shreds.
Dilan looked between the writhing horror show and the back of the world-weary young lady. “That would do it.” He walked away, following her back to the road. As an Adventurer, he usually would have stuck around to collect the hides. But, with Davian’s “tragic” passing, he was flush, so it wasn’t worth getting dirty just for the pelts. The musk glands were the most valuable part of a Nutragator, and the poison would make them worthless.
Alain was glaring at the spilt and muddied laundry as Dilan walked up. With a grin, he waved his hands. “Water dragon!”
Alain flinched as the river jumped free of the bank in a writhing spout. It collected the laundry and quickly washed it out before depositing it back in her baskets, draining most of the water from it as it withdrew. “You’re a mage,” she observed, having assumed that he was a warrior given his armor and the morning star on his hip.
Dilan chuckled at her lack of surprise. “I know a little,” he hedged, returning to the road. “I hope you someday find your own way,” he said, waving and departing back the way he had come.
Alain took a snapshot of him before he turned away, adding it to her notes on today. Someday they may cross paths again, or she might need to remember some details. Her notifications were flashing at her, so she pulled them up while she was at it.
|Experience award exceeds the maximum Experience threshold. Exp award: 7,875|
She had long since adjusted her Log so that it didn’t alert her to every little detail. Having a blow by blow account of the daily minutia or a fight was only useful for training. For things like today’s events, there was little reason to look at those finer points. Though the massive dump of experience, almost maxing out her experience pool, was nice, even if she couldn’t use it. Had she been a higher level, the 2x Experience perk for defeating a sapient creature would have been nice. She’d take what she could get, and if her lot in life had taught her anything, it was that life was seldom fair or just.
|Intelligence Base +1|
Double-checking, she pulled her stats back up.
|Name: Alain Alexandra Amber||Age: 13||Lever: 0||Race: Human||Class: None|
|Mana:||350||Regen:||(Base 1) + 1.2/s||Output:||128|
|Vitality:||(Base 8) + 0||Endurance:||(Base 10) + 0|
|Intelligence:||(Base 8) + 0||Willpower:||(Base 12) + 0|
|Strength:||(Base 9) + 0||Agility:||(Base 6) + 0|
Using her head and her brawn to overcome an opponent far above her level had its perks. One point may not have seemed like much, but it was a significant gain for someone who couldn’t level and brought a smile to her lips and a spring to her steps, despite everything that had happened.
Rolling her shoulders, Alian grabbed the sled and started back, her mood mellowing as she set off for what she figured would be a thorough switching for being late. “I could do without the Vitality and Endurance gains that the beatings have earned me,” she grumbled as she trudged back, browsing Davian’s pouch as she went. She’d have to be careful not to let the family catch her cooking the Rasselbock, meaning she’d need to return to the woods tonight if she wanted to eat. The woods after dark were a whole nother level of danger compared to during the day. The thought of an entire Rasselbock all to her self was enough to subdue such concerns. The next items only added to her anticipation as her eyes lit up at the unexpected find. “Why Davian, what would a dullard like you be doing with these beauties,” she airily thought aloud as she pulled out one of the books he’d had.
She didn’t know much of her letters, but with eight Intelligence and a Willpower of twelve, she wasn’t about to let that stop her from learning. Knowledge was power, and power meant freedom.
“Sleeping outside isn’t so bad after all.”