Jacinda stopped as the trees thinned to a clearing. She knew her quarry lurked in the plains ahead. The dragon had been terrorizing the area for far too long, and the mage remained determined to put an end to it. It would be easier if the rest of her group had survived with her; one by one, they succumbed to wounds. The serpent had allies, enough to toss at her and her friends to slow them down. With a determined look on her face, Jacinda stepped out into the open. The beast would pay for its ravages.
A lone man came running from the distance. "Flee! It's unstoppable!"
Jacinda stopped. The wind teased her long golden hair and her light robes. The foul creature had found a new victim. Jacinda vowed that the man running would not fall to the dragon. "Over here!" she called.
The sprinting man changed course and ran towards the fair magician. "Get out of here! Run while you still can!" Behind him lumbered an impossibly tall creature Jacinda had never seen before. "Go!"
Jacinda stood her ground. She held her hands in front of her, elbows bent outward, fingers taut. A wisp of flame appeared between her hands. The fire grew in size and intensity, but never burning the magician's hands. She released the flame. The fireball blazed overhead and struck the creature true in the chest. The beast kept moving, unaffected by the inferno that had hit him.
"It's immune," the man panted as he reached Jacinda. "I tried the same thing."
"We can't outrun it." Jacinda held her arms straight out, her palms facing the ground. The ground rumbled. Bits of earth erupted from the ground to form a human-like mass. Jacinda pointed at the approaching creature. "Delay that!" The elemental trod towards its target.
"That can stop it?"
"Hell no. It's buying us time." The magician held her left arm straight over her head. A green glow appeared, surrounding her hand. A similar glow enveloped the monster as the elemental neared it. "Do you have any spells that can help?"
"Everything I have is fire-based."
Jacinda eyed the fight. Her elemental traded blow for blow, but looked more battered than the creature. "Right." She brought her hands together in front of her. A pattern of energy zipped around her interlocked fingers before streaking at the beast. The whirling energy changed from fire to lightning to ice to raw magic, clawing at the monster. As the maelstrom ravaged the beast, Jacinda cast another spell. Blades fell from the sky, piercing the monster's hide. "It's weakening! Get it before the spells end!"
The man produced a shining sword and leapt at the creature. He swung his sword in a wide arc. The blade cut deep into the monster's chest. The elemental kept pounding its rocky fists on the creature's leg. Still away from the melee, Jacinda cast another spell, one that sent a stream of swords into the creature, stunning it. Unable to defend itself, the monster fell and lay unmoving.
I push the keyboard away. So much for the dragon. Damned newbies going around a new area and aggravating new monsters. I should have dropped an area effect spell on both the monster and the newb. Why I thought this game would relax me is beyond me right now. I should have played the Sims – no, wait, I wanted to keep track of time.
On screen, my magician, Jacinda, stood waiting for me to do something. There's times where I think she's annoyed with me for being so slow. Of course, those are also the times when I've had too much to drink. I probably should just shut down the game and return to my assignment.
A flash on my monitor catches my eye. I look closer; someone in the game wants to chat with me. What's surprising is that the gamer is using proper English. What the heck, why not see what he wants. If he wants to cyber, I'll just shut down anyway.
Are you still online?
Okay, not much to judge grammar by, but he did type out "you" in full. I type back that I am.
Sorry for dragging you into my mess. I should have been able to handle it without dragging anyone else in.
That's different. No one's ever been sorry for screwing up another player's plans before. I type back, That's okay. I was probably going to be killed tonight anyway.
The way you handled yourself? Most players I've seen would have kept using their most powerful spell and hope that it's enough.
He's got me there. Thanks.
Let me make it up to you. I've got an invite for a new game in development and they're looking for beta testers. I think you'd give the game a challenge. Interested? I can send the links by email.
Beta test? Oh, why not? Who knows, maybe I can get a job with the company when I finally get my Computer Science degree. I type in my throwaway Hotmail address. So who should I be expecting in my inbox?
Lance179. And thanks again for saving my bacon. And with that, he leaves the game. Not a bad idea, really. I quit as well. I stifle a yawn. Must be later than I thought. Before I can check the time, I hear the front door unlock. Probably my roommate, but I better check.
Padding on bare feet out of my room, I see my roommate, Tricia Halliwell, pulling her key out of the lock. I have no idea how she's remaining steady on her stiletto heels and not show her ass in that barely-there skirt of hers. Her cheeks are flushed rosy. "Did it turn cold out?" I ask.
Trish looks over to me, staggering a little, causing her red curls to bounce a little. She titters at her misqueue. "Jacqueline Hart, what are you doing home? I thought you were going to meet us at the bar." Her eyes are unfocused as she stares at me.
"What are you doing home so early?"
"What early?" Trish giggles. "It's past three." As I glance at the clock and see she's right, she continues, "You weren't playing online again, were you?" She shakes her head at me, then adds an admonishment. "Geez, Jackie."
I feel my cheeks grow warm. "I was going to, but my assignment took longer than I expected. Have a good time?"
Trish's laughter trilled. "Would have been better if you were there. You should have seen some of the guys there. Mmm. Oh, wait." She stepped out for a moment, then dragged a sandy haired guy into our apartment. "Jackie, this is Simon. Simon, my roommate Jackie."
Simon gives me a half-wave. "Hi."
I try to smile. "Hi." So much for getting to sleep right away. Trish is, how can I put it, enthusiastic in bed. Ear-piercing levels of enthusiastic. I head to the kitchen. "Anyone else want tea?"
"No, thanks." Trish still has a hold on Simon. It looks like they're trying to merge into one. Simon's hand disappears behind Trish, eliciting more giggles from her. I turn away so I can roll my eyes. "Don't be that way, Jackie," Trish admonishes.
I make a show of getting out a mug and a teabag. "What way, Trish? I just want a tea before I go to bed." I hope that Simon won't last longer than it takes me to finish drinking. Without turning to see either Trish or her boy toy, I fill the kettle and put it on to boil.
"We'll talk tomorrow, Jackie."
I hear Trish's bedroom door slam shut. My shoulders relax a little. Maybe she's drunk enough that she won't remember wanting the talk. A shriek of laughter erupts from the bedroom. Simon isn't wasting anytime. By the time the kettle boils, Trish is already moaning in rhythm.
All right, I'm being hard on her. Naturally curly hair, good figure, legs that won't quit, and constantly being hit on by men. The only thing I have on her is height and cup size, and she even manages to beat me out on the latter by being perkier. If Trish wasn't my best friend since kindergarten, I'd probably hate her.
Trish's moans have climbed up an octave and have grown louder. I give up on focusing on my tea. There's no way I can pretend I don't hear the chorus coming out of her bedroom. With any luck, Simon won't be able for another go. I pray that he won't be. I just want to go to bed. Trish reaches her loudest, then stops.
I finish the last few drops of my tea and trudge back to my own room. At last, quiet enough so I can get to dreamland. Trish starts her moaning again; this time I can hear her louder and clearer through the thin wall between our rooms. I groan. Fine, Trish can get her groove on all night. I've got something else I can do. Lance179's email. I can grab his link, download the play test files, and see if the game is decent. In the meantime, I set my iPod to shuffle and try to isolate myself with music.
The earphones don't completely muffle Trish's cries. Please, Simon, do give her more so I can get to sleep sometime before the sun rises. I refrain from hammering the wall. Never has helped before. As the download completes, I stare outside. Fat snowflakes float like autumn leaves, settle on the window, and melt. Odd, since the forecast called for clear and well above freezing. I bring up Environment Canada's webpage and check the conditions. The forecast hasn't changed, but the current weather does say light snow. Not to mention that Trish didn't complain about the cold, especially in her outfit. Weird. Global warming, go fig.
The download finishes and I start the installation. Nice and smooth, no glitches, no odd questions, registration is painless, and five minutes later, the game is running. Graphics are impressive, but that's a given these days. The title screen calls the game "Valor Quest: The Test of Lord Tottenheim". A nice intro movie explaining the world starts; I watch it to see if anything inspires me. The back story could use some work. Right now, it's a Tolkien rip-off, with a great evil threatening to spread throughout the world. I suppose it's good enough for now, but I'd be disappointed by it if I had, you know, paid money for this.
I'm jarred out of the game when Trish climaxes. She should have gone into musical theatre; wouldn't even need a microphone. I turn down the volume on my iPod and wait to see if there's another encore from next door. With no sounds of love making coming after a minute or two, I leave the iPod's volume down and let a out a sigh.
Back to the game, I check what options I have. Looks like the usual: warrior, wizard, rogue, priest, and variants of each. I'll try my favourite character type, the sorceress, like Jacinda, to see how well she can be done.
Navigation is nice; the choices are easy to find and easy to click. I have several choices of wizard; generalist, summoner (here, Spot!), necromancer (ew, no), invoker (hmmm), and illusionist (maybe if I was fully awake). Jacinda has always been a generalist, using all sorts of spells, so that's what I'll try. I can modify her appearance, but the selection of hair styles and robe colours isn't that big. That's something that the developers can change, though. It could be that they're trying to test game play and will worry about details later. Still, something to bring up. I get Jacinda version nine done. Yeah, I've played her in many games, including The Sims; she was a little vixen there and now has far too many grandchildren to keep track of in Veronaville.
Off to the virtual world I go! Jacinda Nine materializes in the middle of a city near an ornate fountain with streams of water coming out of a trio of dolphins. Nice touch, that. I'm not overly happy with her grey robe and the plain staff in her hand I get Jacinda to walk around the the market to see what's there and to see how well she moved. Her hips have a bit of a wiggle to them. The boys will enjoy that touch. Me, not so much, but I've seen worse. Walking and running animations are flawless, though, wiggling notwithstanding. Time to see if she can talk to the locals and spend some of the gold in her belt pouches.
As I start to click on a local merchant, my finger slips somehow and an options menu appears on screen. I read through the list of changeable attributes, looking for something that won't cause a fatal crash before I've saved anything. Colour looks to be the safest. I try entering a number in the field then apply it. Jacinda's bland robe turns pink. She is so not a pink. I change the number again, trying to remember my colour codes. My memory isn't so good at this hour. Whatever this hour is. I check the time on my alarm clock. The glowing numbers are trying to tell me it's 4:07. Or the secret of the universe. Way past bedtime, at least. I type in what I hope is the correct code for light blue and apply the change. Jacinda's robe is now a deep blue. Close enough. I close the attribute screen and think about sending an email to the development team. Of course, what could I say? "This screen popped up and I changed my character's outfit colours but I can't say how I did it?" Tomorrow, I'll try getting the pop up again and make note of how I did it. For now, though, I exit the game and turn off the monitor. Without changing, I drop on to my bed.