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Description:

After four months of training, Party Zero is ready to join up with the Stone Raiders and test out their newfound power.

Forces have their eyes on the Stone Raiders for their own reasons. The Stone Raiders and Party Zero will be vital to the plans of higher powers and the future of Emerilia. They just have to survive long enough to make it there.

A series of events are set into motion that will change the world, and just maybe the Universe.

 

Sneak peek:

Prologue

 

A flash of light illuminated the pitch-black room for just a moment. Runes along the walls started to light up, lines of blue light leading from the walls to a sphere in the center of the room. The sphere’s surface changed; millions of runes moved across the surface, forming different circuits.

Slowly the runes started to glow with more power. Anyone from Earth would have thought it resembled an old desktop computer booting up.

Bob stood perfectly still where he had appeared in the original flash of light. Enchanted and repeating heavy ballista were pointed at him.

The walls started to reduce their glow as the sphere slowed its rapid boot-up.

A rough-looking humanoid hologram made from blue light appeared in front of the massive sphere centered in the room. Faint runes seemed to move around his form.

Just from looking at him, one could sense his weariness.

“State your identity and purpose,” The fractured blue form’s voice came from the walls.

“Hello, Shard. Brought these for you.” Bob held out several grand soul gems.

An automaton walked into the room, took the soul gems, and left.

“Thank you, Lo’kal,” Shard said, sounding relieved.

“Took on a new name, you can call me Bob.”

Bob walked toward Shard; only one of the ballista followed him. Bob and Shard were good friends. Bob had been the only person Shard had talked to in several centuries. He’d also been the one keeping him active as his power sources started to fail.

“I have updated my logs,” Shard’s voice continued to come through the walls.

“So, my rune-made AI, how are you doing?” Bob asked. Up close, Shard looked even worse. He was undetailed, giving him an ethereal look.

“I have lost contact with the majority of Aleph facilities and I do not have sufficient power reserves to do more than routine scans. With your power, I can possibly have a few scout automatons ready to deploy and check out the cut-off facilities. I don’t have the technical abilities to look over or repair my various systems.  I’m sorry, but I still can’t let you within my cities because of the Aleph Council’s mandate to suspect all members of the Pantheon.” Shard sighed and looked to Bob. “I’m powering down, Bob. I can’t protect my people’s home anymore.”

Bob wanted to pat Shard on the shoulder to comfort him but his hand would go right through the holographic presentation of the Aleph’s AI.

“Well, I need you to hold out for a bit longer. I have an idea and if it pans out, then maybe—just maybe—I can help the Aleph once again return to Emerilia,” Bob said.

Shard scrutinized Bob, his eyes coming into focus. Bob saw hope and excitement shift around Shard’s features. His spherical core moved erratically before it slowed down and Shard’s face fell.

“Bob, I can’t do anything to help them. I barely had enough power to keep myself active for more than twenty minutes before you came with those soul gems.”

“Leave it up to Uncle Bob.” Bob grinned and winked at the Aleph AI.

Shard smiled tiredly. “I trust you, Bob.”

“Good! Then I have a few things I need to get to work on! Conserve that power for now—you’ll need it later!” Bob clicked his fingers. He disappeared from Shard’s hub in Alephir and re-appeared in an office.

Bob’s smiling grin disappeared as he became more serious and focused. He now had the power to get the Aleph back to Emerilia, but he was bound by the rules that the Emperor had made.

He cracked his fingers and opened his interface.

“There’s only one group I can think of that can help Shard start to get Alephir and the rest of the Aleph facilities back online. Now just how am I going to lure them into an Aleph facility?” Bob looked up maps, thinking through his options.

 

 

 

Chapter 1: Selhi Capital

 

Selhi wasn’t as big as Nadorf, but it had almost the same amount of traffic.

“Why the hell are there so many people?” Dave asked.

“Nadorf is the only place in Opheir with a transport hub. Also, Nadorf might have one of the larger populations of other cities due to how safe it is. In Heval, there are seven cities with transport hubs. Selhi is connected to two Dwarven mountains and has two large port cities. These outlets means that goods constantly flow through the land. In addition, Selhi is the sole location for several different herbs not found anywhere else in Emerilia. Selhi Capital, often referred to as SC, might be the capital but it is by no means the largest city within the Selhi Kingdom. The port city of Valori gets that honor,” Malsour said.

“Selhi makes their money trading different animal products to the Dwarves, who supply them with different forged items. They trade all across Heval. They also have strong ties with two of the five factions that make up the Markolm Empire, the continent between Heval and Ashal. The swamps and the woods give them plenty of materials to sell. Valori is not only the biggest city due to the number of traders that visit it, they are the fourth largest manufacturer of ships in Emerilia. They are only being beaten by Hoku and Melandi on Gudalo and the Olindar Port City of Ashal,” Suzy said.

“Someone has been hitting the books,” Dave said.

“Best to know what the different powers are doing,” Suzy said, her eyes telling him that she had a few things to discuss with him. He nodded; the two of them only needed to share a glance to know what the other was thinking. Years spent within tense boardroom meetings and the knowledge that someone was listening to them had only perfected their ability to read one another.

I wonder what she has in mind. Dave dismissed it as they got to the guards who were talking and checking everyone over.

“Reason for visit?” a bored guard asked.

“Meeting up with fellow Players,” Deia said.

“Affiliation?”

“Stone Raiders.”

This caused a stir as the guard seemed to get some life into his bones.

“Very good to meet you all. There is an adventurer’s tavern up that road, four blocks on the right. Thank you for visiting SC.” The guard bowed slightly and let them pass.

“Well, it looks like Josh and the others have been working on their reputation some,” Induca said.

“With big guilds like ours, it makes sense to spread a bit of goodwill around. Means more jobs,” Suzy said.

“Hopefully, they have a training square,” Deia said. Dave didn’t miss the glance she shot his way.

Anna nodded in agreement. “Though, I think it is time for some different training, not just dual-handed.”

“Come on, I’m just getting back in the groove of dual wielding axes again,” Dave complained.

“That’s the issue. Dual axes are good for hacking your enemy apart. If you’re going to be taking hits, we need to make sure that you know how to use something else,” Anna said.

Dave sighed at Deia’s look. It was readily apparent there was no way that he was getting out of their clutches any time soon.

“There are a lot more races here than in Opheir,” Suzy said.

“Well, Heval has many different climates—creatures of all kinds call it home. Heval and Gudalo are the highest populated continents other than Ashal, for that very reason,” Induca said.

“Seems that you weren’t just messing around when you were doing all of your travels,” Malsour said, with a little respect in his voice

“Well, I also know the best bars in every major city with a transport hub. The best one here was the Raging Serpent.” Induca smiled, ruining the moment.

Malsour just shook his head as the group continued to walk.

Dave saw lizard Demi-Humans, Humans, Dwarves, Elves, full on Argonians, Cat-People of all kinds, and even a few Orcs.

“I thought Orcs were one of the enemy races,” Dave said.

“Well, they used to be in some places. They are still a pain in the ass when they’re young. If they can get past their adolescent years, they can control their bloodlust and berserker states. They are some of the scariest warriors I have ever seen in battle when they’re organized,” Anna said.

“Why are they wearing collars?” Suzy asked.

“Those are their inhibitors used to regulate their emotions and keep them calm. Younglings have them from birth, but older generations usually wear them as a show of their dedication to peace. There was a time when Orcs were hated and hunted. There are only very few of them left,” Deia said.

“A number of Elven races fell to the Orcs when they were introduced to the world without control. Like the Elves, Orcs prefer the forests and swamps. Many of the older living Elves still harbor an anger toward them.” Anna sighed.

“Elves model themselves as being upstanding people and one of the most knowledgeable, which is true.  However, ageism and paranoia due to our long lives has turned us into a squabbling race where more effort is put into traditions and appearances than looking to grow with Emerilia.” Deia shook her head.

“You damn idiot!” someone yelled as a feline Demi-Human went flying out of the adventurer’s tavern. A brawny-looking Human who must’ve had some Giant blood in him walked out as the feline flipped in the air and landed on all fours.

“I’m sorry—did I happen to hit your beer? I’m sorry—just not used to being around big idiots like you.” The feline smiled as the large Human’s muscles flexed and shook in anger.

“Come here, you fucking plush toy!” The Human rushed the feline adventurer.

Others yelled their encouragement and advice from the tavern.

Deia moved first; the others followed as she barged her way past the spectators and into the place.

There were fireplaces on either side of the tavern. A long bar was at the back, with chairs around it. Tables and seating was all over the place as people were eating, discussing jobs, or commenting on the fight going on outside.

“Well, I say we get some breakfast and then see what there is to do around here.” Deia waved to a server as they moved for a table.

“Hello. What guild are you from?” the server asked.

“Stone Raiders.” Deia pointed to the simple emblem on her shoulder.

He looked at it, taking a few minutes. “It is great to be serving you today. What can I help you with?”

“Six breakfast meals, please.”

“You got some Xer as well?” Dave asked.

“Certainly, just made a fresh pot,” the server said.

“What is Xer?” Suzy asked.

“Coffee.”

“I’ll take one too. Sugar and cream please,” Suzy immediately snapped out.

“Coming right up.” The server walked away.

“Why the hell didn’t you tell me this place had coffee?” Suzy demanded.

“Well, you never asked. I thought that you would figure it out.” Dave shrugged.

“It better be good. I need my caffeine,” Suzy said.

Dave snorted and shook his head. The others talked about different things as Dave looked around. He spotted a map on one wall with a board of different notices pinned next to it.

“So, what’s our plan?” Dave asked, looking to Deia.

“The rest of the guild won’t be here for another week and a half. Suzy, Lucy wants to talk to you on some matters; you can go through my friends list to get her contact details. While we do have to take care of some things, I think we’ll have time for everyone to be able to do what they want. Mornings, we train. Afternoons, you can do with as you wish.

“The guild is registered to the adventurer’s guild and we don’t have all that much free gold running around. If you are all interested, we could go and do some adventurer quests for a bit of gold.”

“I’m interested in trying out some new skills on a few kill quests,” Malsour said.

“Might as well try out my new spells on something.” Induca smiled.

“I have some work to do in town and I’ll have a talk with Lucy to see what she wants. I’ll let you know.”

“Well, Dave and I will be training for a few days at least,” Deia said.

“I’ll help out with that where I can, but would you two be interested in having a big sword swinger running with you?” Anna looked to the Dracul siblings.

“No, that would be perfect. We were hoping that one of you melee types would be interested in joining us for a bit. Makes it a lot easier to deal with different types of jobs,” Induca said.

“Well, it sounds like we have a plan, and that looks like food,” Dave said as the server dodged through the masses of people coming back inside. It seemed the fight outside had been wrapped up.

Players logged back on, appearing in the middle of the tavern. They went straight to the quest board, checking out a few things before taking a posting and giving it to a strong-looking woman behind a desk. After a few words, they were on their way out. The POEs got out of their way, knowing Player temperament was a risky thing.

Dave looked to the arriving food, feeling his stomach rumble.

 


 

Dave found himself in an Alchemy shop. For training today, Deia had asked him to make the weapons he was going to use for the rest of Emerilia. Seeing as he still needed to make them, he’d gone off to the Alchemy store for his required materials.

“Aspiring Alchemist?” the store owner asked, a skeptical look on her face.

“Just doing a bit of tinkering. Do you have any eyes of Elmeur?”

“I do have a few.” She moved to the wall of boxes behind her.

They were all warded, some of them more than others. She quickly pulled out two red eyes that almost looked like rubies.

“Anything else?” She put it with the pile of other alchemy ingredients.

“That should be all, thanks,” Dave said.

“That comes to”—she looked through the items—“one gold, eight silver.”

“Are you kidding me? This isn’t worth more than nine silver altogether. Most of these ingredients are native to Selhi, as well. Shouldn’t they be cheaper?” Dave said, annoyed at how much she was trying to rip him off.

“Well, these are the finest and rarest of ingredients,” she said, trying to fight the good fight.

Dave shook his head. “I’m not going higher than a gold coin for all of this.”

“Are you trying to steal from me?”

“Are you trying to rob me?”

“Dear customer, those are the prices. I cannot change them. Not paying the price is just stealing.” She smiled.

“Well, guess I’ll have to do it the hard way,” Dave muttered to himself and turned, leaving the store.

“Don’t you need these?” she asked, seeing her sale walking away.

“Not for that price,” Dave said.

“I can do a gold and five silvers,” she said sweetly.

Dave didn’t even pause as he walked out of the store.

He walked through the city and spread his Touch out, pushing it down into the ground to find what he needed. He couldn’t get the ingredients he needed for a rechargeable soul gem, so he was going to have to try out a different idea he had been thinking of.

He found most of what he needed and headed to a secluded spot of Selhi Capital. No one who lived in the capital actually called it that, instead referring to it as Es-cee.

Dave moved between buildings and finally got to the hidden away spot between a tannery and SC’s wall. The smell was enough to keep most people away. After Boran-al’s Citadel, Dave wasn’t all that affected by the smell.

He sat down and focused on his Touch, locating the minerals lying under or around SC that he needed. He pulled out a brick of ebony as he pulled the iron and small amount of silver he would need for his project. The metals raced toward him as he used what Kol had taught him. He put his hand down, grabbing the iron and then silver ores from the ground.

“Time to start.” Dave made a series of Mana barriers and floated the iron into it first. He focused his fire through the Mana barrier, quickly melting the iron. He poured in other elemental metals, turning the iron into steel and removing the impurities.

Dave did the same in another barrier to the silver ore.

“Last and not least.” Dave tossed the chunk of Boran-al’s Citadel ebony into the steel crucible. Dave connected the silver and poured it in as well. The ebony quickly melted.

A Mithril glove formed on Dave’s hand. He opened the Mana barrier enough for him to get his hand in. He touched the Metal and commanded it into a form. Two rods the length of a person’s forearm and about a half-inch thick appeared. The metal seemed to twist and open up at the end, hollowing out as if waiting for something.

Dave pulled the heat of the metal into himself, using it to generate more Mana. He looked at the two steel-looking rods; the ebony and runes were hidden inside. The air seemed to shimmer around Dave as he called on his Mana reserves. Shadows spread through the open ends of the rods. After a few moments, they solidified into slightly glowing crystals.

“Well, they should stay together as long as they have a charge.” Dave looked at the two rods now with an inset crystal. “Could have just done this at the training square.” He sighed and stood. A few hours had passed and the sun had sunk lower.

He cracked his back after sitting for so long and headed off to find Deia.

 


 

Deia moved through her training moves. She’d sent Dave off to go and make—or get—whatever he was going to work with all of Emerilia.

I hope that he realizes what Anna and I have figured out. It’s going to be a pain in the ass trying to teach him everything he needs to know.

“Hello, Deia. Me and my friends are off to go and hunt swamp snakes. We were wondering if you would like to join us. We’ll let you keep whatever you kill,” a Player asked for his party.

Deia didn’t miss the way that they were looking at her. How many times have I seen a group of Players who want to have some good-looking girl on their team just to brag to others?

“I have my own party, thanks.” She continued her practice.

Anna wandered over from her own workout. “Deia, want to spar?”

“Sure.” Deia turned and left the party alone.

“It’s probably some guy playing a girl. Let it go, Andur,” one of the party said.

“Man, a Demi-Human and an Elf—we’ve got to have them,” Andur said.

Deia rolled her eyes as Dave walked into the square, looking pleased with himself. “Did you finally figure out your weapons?” Deia yelled.

“I think so. Alchemy woman haggled the shit out of me, so I had to make most of it myself. As long as it works, it doesn’t really matter.” Dave wrapped his arm around her side and kissed her.

Deia heard the other party making rude noises and comments, trying to salve Andur’s pride.

“Well, you going to leave us in suspense or show us?” Anna asked.

“Well, since you asked so kindly.” Dave unhooked two rods from his belt.

They turned into longswords, and then one into a shield, the other an axe. He brought them together and they formed into a massive shield, and then a warhammer. He held one out in front of him and it turned into a compound bow.

“Well, looks like he isn’t a complete bonehead.” Anna smiled to Deia.

“He has his moments.” Deia laughed.

“What are you two talking about now?” Dave asked. The warhammer turned back into two rods.

Anna looked around as Deia talked.

“With your ability to make any kind of weapon, having just one kind just doesn’t make sense. You have so much versatility that just using one weapon would kind of slow you down. It’s going to be hard as hell, but with your skills and the right training, you can fight anyone in any role. You’re going to have to learn to fight in multiple styles and it’s going to take probably years in order to get to that skill level, but it would be great. You could block a massive magical attack with your big shield, then have two axes to cut down close combatants, then pull out a bow and shoot up the mage trying to kill you,” Deia said.

“Well, I have a few more weapons I want to try out.” Dave took his time looking around now. “Though, I can’t show you them here. They’re kind of super damn powerful and the thing I don’t want other people knowing about. Kind of like a last, last resort.” Dave held her and Anna’s eyes.

“Well, it looks like we will have to go on one of those quest hunts to test it out,” Deia said.

“Let me know when you do. I’m interested in what you’re thinking,” Anna said.

Dave simply smiled.

“Sometimes, you’re a pretty sinister guy, babe,” Deia said.

Dave shrugged.