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  • 1

    posted a message on The Slaves of the Desert Mine (75 chapters released) [Side Story "Ascended" released]
    Quote from christ_stark2»

    no, you have the whole chapter backed up in your computer ?

    Yes, I have the entire story in one document. I also have documents with BB code templates so that I can just paste my chapters in there and have them completely formated.
    Posted in: Literature
  • 12

    posted a message on The Slaves of the Desert Mine (75 chapters released) [Side Story "Ascended" released]

    The Slaves of the Desert Mine

    This first post will be used for general information and for links and will change once in a while. The chapters are in my later posts.

    The protagonist may have my ingame name (although shortened). He is not me, he is a fictional character. The “real” world in my story is also not Earth but somewhat of an alternate universe where some things behave differently, so if you see some things that wouldn’t work in reality, that is why.
    This story has evolved quite a bit over the years. It took many steps to get it to what it is now from the near-unreadable wall of text it was in the beginning. I also did change some relatively minor things around so if you have read the story before and are now reading this again and things are different, that is why.
    If you do have any questions about the world or anything related, just go ahead and ask, I'll try my best to answer in a reply, if it's significant enough I might even work it into a side story or put it into dedicated section in the OP.
    While it may have started out as a Minecraft Fanfic, this story has also turned into a kind of playground for me to try out different things in writing, I like to experiment after all. So don’t be surprised if you see a sudden shift in style for a chapter.

    Side Stories
    These are short stories related to the main story, mainly this is for ideas that I couldn’t work into the regular chapters but I didn’t want to go without.

    Do not read them if you haven’t read the main story first, you may be spoiled and won’t understand certain aspects.


    ᅚI could feel the Void wearing down on my magic heavily, I was in was in the deepest reaches of Drandin’s mines, all but the most powerful magic was drowned out here. The room was plain, no engravings decorated the dark stone walls. The room itself was circular and empty, the only remarkable thing was a round stone altar in its center. The altar had trenches in it, leading to its center into a hole. Traces of old blood were on the altar, which had stuck to the rock despite efforts to clean them off.

    ᅚI was not alone, several other people were here with me. They were enchanters, mages and an alchemist. The seven mages were all human, one of the enchanters was an Air Mencur-Besh, the alchemist was my brother Fire. Fire was holding a flask with a potion, the Air Mencur-Besh held a knife made from silver.

    ᅚAfter taking a deep breath I walked to the center of the room and laid down on the altar. I was nervous, nervous was an understatement, I was on the verge of panic. I had seen several ascensions and none of them had turned out well and now they would attempt it on me.

    ᅚThe first few just died from the potion itself, which had been purely experimental at that point. Others couldn’t handle the magic being infused into them, they had crumbled to dust. They had experimented with blood from Mencur-Besh of different elements for the potion, none of it had worked. The only blood that seemed to influence the process was that of a Wither Mencur-Besh. Both of the subjects had survived but instead of fading, the runes on their skin pulsated black. The second one of those two had been a complete stranger to the Eye-and-Claws, it had been more a desperate attempt to see if the mark itself interfered with the ascension. Now they were just hoping to find a combination of circumstances that would lead to success.

    ᅚThe more I thought about the past failures of the Ascension Project, the less I wanted to stay on this altar but I knew that it was now too late to back down.

    ᅚFire came over to me and gave me the flask without a word. The potion had a dark color, red streaks swirled around inside as if they refused to mix with the rest of the potion, Fire’s blood.

    ᅚI put the flask to my lips and drank, the potion tasted absolutely disgusting, I suppressed my urge to vomit and forced it all down, then I dropped the flask. I knew what the potion did, I had seen it in effect enough times already. At first it would paralyze my body for the safety of everyone in the room, then it would drain all of my life force. This would normally result in death but the main function of the potion was to keep me alive no matter what happened. While I thought about the potion I could already feel myself losing control of my limbs. There was no numbness, just loss of control. First my fingers and toes went stiff, followed by my arms, legs and everything else, my eyes stayed wide open. I was used to this, this hadn’t been the first time I had been immobilized. However, nothing could have prepared me for feeling my own heart stop, I stopped trying to suppress my panic, I would have screamed if I had any control over my body. After my heart stopped, I could feel my life force slowly draining. I should have been dead, the only thing that was keeping me alive was the potion.

    ᅚThis was the point of no return.

    ᅚThe Ender mage cast a spell that lifted me up into the air, the yellow-eyed Mencur-Besh enchanter stepped closer, raising her knife. I knew her, her name was Gust, she usually worked in the mine and also enchanted tools for herself and the other workers.

    ᅚThe knife was made from silver and was enchanted itself, which wasn’t possible due under normal circumstances due to the very nature of silver, but the Eye-and-Claws enchanters had managed to do so anyways.

    ᅚThat knife was now used to carve a rune deeply into my upper arm, just below my shoulder. The pain shot through my whole right side, I heard my blood drip onto the altar below in the absolute silence of the room. Without hesitation Gust carved a crescent shape into my flesh, followed by lines connecting to it. Immediately after she was done with the first rune, she started another one just a little further down. I perceived all of this with a strange clarity, the panic had disappeared, the pain drowned out any thought.

    ᅚGust worked quickly and efficiently, the knife cut through muscles and sinews and not once got stuck. I felt more of my blood leave my body, very slowly since my heart wasn’t beating anymore. Gust turned my floating body around to access other parts of my skin, while I looked down I could see just how much blood I was losing, it was all slowly flowing down the trenches carved into the rock and disappeared into the hole in the middle of the altar. I knew that there was a bottle below to collect it, the blood of powerful mages was a valuable resource to alchemists.

    ᅚEven with Gust’s speed it still took over an hour to finish the carving, about halfway through, the blood had stopped flowing. Now every bit of my skin was covered in rune shaped cuts. I braced myself, I knew that the carving was the least painful of the steps.

    ᅚGust put the knife away, the other four enchanters stepped forward and surrounded the altar. The enchanters held stone tablets which had the same runes engraved in them that Gust had carved into my skin.

    ᅚThe enchanters began by gently humming, soon each hum split into many, the runes on the tablets started glowing white and duplicates floated upwards. They spent the next few minutes coaxing the runes in position above their carved counterparts with the same quiet hums. Once every rune was where it belonged, the enchanters’ voices began to rise. The sudden force of their combined voices hit me painfully. The runes slowly descended into the cuts in my flesh, as they touched my skin a burning, yet cold feeling radiated from the cuts outwards, much worse than the knife. I heard sizzling sounds as the runes fused themselves into my flesh but I smelled no burning.

    ᅚLiving matter outright refused to be enchanted and rejected any runes, only dead things could be enchanted. I, however was neither entirely alive nor entirely dead, my body did accept the runes but only very slowly and painfully. While fighting against the pain I sincerely hoped that none of the enchanters’ voices would slip like I had seen once, it would go unnoticed until the final step but then the result hadn’t been pretty. The image of a body torn apart by uncontained magic flashed before my mental eye. It was my own spell that had shielded everybody else in the room back then.

    ᅚAfter what seemed like a very long time, the burning stopped, the runes were where they belonged, still glowing brightly. The cuts were still there, the runes had just occupied the gaps.

    ᅚThe enchanters stepped back, the mages forward. I didn’t know their names but I knew that each of them only had one element at their disposal and that they were among best in their respective element. Their physical appearance greatly reflected their alignment, few of those changes were voluntary, some elements permanently affect their casters over the long term. Most mages only showed slight changes but the mages here had intensely practiced magic for over a millennium.

    ᅚThe first two mages to channel their energy into me were the Fire and Water mages. The Fire mage’s red hair and eyes stood in an intense contrast to the Water mage’s bright hair and deep blue eyes. The opposing elements collided inside my body, I could feel both the burning and destructive energy of Fire and the gentle yet firm altering Water magic. The opposing forces had stabilized, Air and Earth were next. Again, their casters stood in an intense contrast, the Earth mage had a strong, bulky physique while the Air mage looked elegant and slender. The crackling force of Air collided with the fortifying Earth magic.

    ᅚNow that the four primal elements had reached a very painful state of equilibrium, the fundamental elements could join in. Some elements did not change their users much, Life was one of those, the Life mage looked just like a regular woman, save for her almost white eyes. The Wither mage stood in a stark contrast, he barely had any meat on his bones and his face was sunken in, the only reason why he couldn’t be mistaken for an undead were his eyes, they glinted in the most attentive of blacks. The opposing forces of Life and Wither battled inside of me, one looking to create and heal, the other looking to destroy and control. Eventually even those two found an even ground, the pain all over my body was past unbearable.

    ᅚThe last mage was one of the Ender element, he was completely unchanged by his magic, he also didn’t have a counterpart since by its very nature Void magic couldn’t be controlled by any known mage. As soon as he started channeling his magic into me, the already excoriating pain exploded. This was not the familiar feeling of Ender magic surging through me, this was a pain that came from below me, from the Void itself. With all other elements in balance, the Ender magic too sought to be in balance with its counterpart. My perpetually open eyes noticed surprise and concern in the eyes of the mages surrounding me, it seemed like they too were sensing the reaction, their energy streams did not change in the slightest though. The pain from below me turned into a pull, yanking me out of the air, down onto the altar, I felt my ribcage and skull shatter from the force.

    ᅚOnly once before had I felt Void magic, now I felt it for the second time, only infinitely stronger. It was like a finger reaching up from the nothing below the world, through the bedrock and up to the altar. I knew it was now only a matter of seconds until it would reach me.

    ᅚI was prepared for death, nobody could survive direct contact with the Void.

    ᅚNo death came, just a strange and oddly comforting touch all over my body. The mages stopped their energy streams, all visibly distressed by what they too had just felt.

    ᅚI suddenly didn’t feel the pain anymore, just a feeling of… of what? Before I could think more about this feeling, my consciousness finally gave out.

    ᅚMy eyes opened. I was still lying on the altar, my body was in pain again but there was nobody else in the room. I sat up and touched my skin. I felt no irregularities, no cuts. I looked down to inspect further but what I saw was not the pale skin I remembered, my skin had turned pitch black, so black even that I could only ever see the contours of my body. My hair had turned white, just as white as the hair of a Mencur-Besh. I turned my head downwards, some of my blood was still fresh enough to act as a crude mirror. Though the crimson tint I could still clearly see that my own eyes were now entirely red, just like those of my brother.

    ᅚI sat there and listened to the absolute silence. Silence was not what I expected to hear, I at least expected my own heartbeat, it took a few moments to realize that my heart had not started beating again. Normally this would have concerned me but I was filled with a strange calm. I continued listening for lack of having anything better to do.

    ᅚThen I heard it, a giggle. It was hard to tell if it was malevolent or playful. Before I could wonder where it came from, my own shadow started dancing through the room with a strange joy, still giggling. A few minutes later, it had stopped and was now looking back at me. I extended my hand in an attempt to communicate. The shadow walked towards me and returned to the place where it was supposed to be. Whatever this was, I felt that it was part of me now. And while I didn’t know what my shadow was, I knew exactly what I was.



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    Posted in: Literature
  • 3

    posted a message on The Slaves of the Desert Mine (75 chapters released) [Side Story "Ascended" released]

    Chapter 41

    ᅚFire sprinted down a large stone spiral staircase leading down into the lowest parts of his base. He had no reason to go any slower as he was on his own now, no need to wait for anybody. His steps were precise and he didn’t have to worry about tripping or falling.

    ᅚWhen he arrived at the bottom of the staircase yet another large room with polished stone walls and ceiling was in front of him, not as decorated as the entry hall but still very appealing to look at. A large steel door was on one of the walls, a lever next to it.

    ᅚFire pulled the lever and the door slowly swung open without making a sound. Behind the door was a dark room with a huge metal structure that looked like an oven, it was cold at the moment. On the left and right side of it stood two large statues made from a dark metal, they were two times bigger than Fire himself. The statues were humanoid and finely crafted but lacked faces and had completely smooth skin. In one corner there was a heap of blaze powder with a pipe above it.

    ᅚAs Fire entered the room the statues came to life and took a few slow but by no means clumsy steps towards him and then came to a halt.

    ᅚFire gave them some orders, then they started moving quickly and did the task Fire ordered them to do. One of them positioned itself at a giant bellows located at the back of the oven, the other one started shoveling blaze powder from the heap into the oven. After the first statue had started working the bellows, the blaze powder started burning and the room heated up immediately.

    ᅚFire was satisfied and left the room and closed the door. This room was directly below his forge and now that the oven was running again the forge should start heating up, a few hours later it would be operational.

    ᅚFire proceeded to check his armory and potion lab and made sure that everything was in order. After that he met up with Shadow at the table in the living area.

    ᅚShe asked: “Everything alright?”

    ᅚFire nodded.

    ᅚShadow asked: “Now, tell me. How did you find a mage in the mine?”

    ᅚFire replied: “I only found out that she was a mage halfway through the journey by letting her use a blaze core that I activated. She seems to have a lot of energy at her disposal but her magic seems to have a very strong will of its own, it took over one time shortly after I was wounded and then another time a bit later. The second time was on purpose though.”

    ᅚShadow said: “I assume that is where the burns came from. What are her affinities?”

    ᅚFire answered: “From what the others told me, she managed to produce lightning bolts strong enough to outright pulverize a skeletal mage. She seems to have an easy time with fire too but she can’t produce it from thin air like with the lightning.”

    ᅚShadow raised her eyebrows. “Pulverizing a skeletal mage? Just guided by instinct? That sure is impressive. Better than when my magic took over the first time but then again, I had an affinity for Ender magic and not Air magic. I just ended up floating in the air awkwardly.”

    ᅚFire put down the blaze core on the table asked: “Could you unlock this blaze core and see how much energy is in there?”

    ᅚShadow replied: “Sure thing.”

    ᅚThe blaze core started floating up into the air and a purple sphere formed around it, a barrier to catch the escaping energy. The blaze core released an explosion of fire which kept raging inside the sphere, trying to find an exit but eventually was entirely absorbed. The blaze core floated down onto the table again, it had stopped glowing and now instead had turned grey.

    ᅚ“And?” Fire asked.

    ᅚShadow said: “That is indeed a fairly large amount of energy. I could also sense a lot of instability. I suspect that she will have trouble controlling her magic in the beginning but that is nothing that can’t be fixed with some good training. She has a lot of potential.”

    ᅚFire said: “Speaking about training. Could you prepare some projections for them to fight for the basic combat training?”

    ᅚShadow smiled and said: “Already did.”

    ᅚ“You are my sister after all.”

    ᅚFire then asked: “Could you also send one of your flying demons into the nearby swamp, there is a witch living there who saved my life on the way here.”

    ᅚShadow answered: “Aurone? Sure thing. You’ll have to instruct the demon though.”

    ᅚFire noted: “I did notice that we don’t have any demon tongue potions left.”

    ᅚ“Let’s just say I have been dealing with demons a lot over the course of the last year and used up the entire supply.” Shadow said.

    ᅚ“I’m not going to inquire further.” Fire replied.

    ᅚThey walked through the corridor to the hub and then took a staircase upwards towards Shadow’s summoning chamber.

    ᅚShe opened the wooden door and immediately the scent of burning herbs met their noses. The room itself was only lit up by eternally burning candles, the walls and ceiling were covered with pitch black Nether wool and the floor by a black carpet. The only space that wasn’t occupied by fabric was a spot in the center where a circle of runes had been drawn on black rock with white chalk.

    ᅚShadow immediately began the summoning ritual, making the chalk runes pulsate with Ender magic. Fire could feel energy flow into the center of the room where it condensed. After a few seconds a silhouette became visible in the summoning circle and a few more seconds later the demon fully materialized. It looked just like you would expect a flying demon to look, complete with long tail, bat wings and small horns on the forehead.

    ᅚThe demonic language wasn’t so much of a real language and more of a way to transmit concepts. Only if both participants of the conversation knew the language they would be able to understand each other. Lying in the language was possible but misunderstandings were not. This made it the only way to reliably give a demon orders. Most demons would follow regular orders as well but there were some of them that loved to deliberately misunderstand their instructions.

    ᅚFire started speaking in the demonic language: “Greetings.”

    ᅚThe demon replied: “Greetings, Fire.”

    ᅚThe demon then asked: “What is it today?”

    ᅚFire said: “I would like you to deliver the newest issue of my potion journal to a witch called Aurone living in the swamp nearby.”

    ᅚFire didn’t need to specify further as the language made sure that the demon knew which swamp and which Aurone he meant.

    ᅚThe demon nodded, then said: “Will do.”

    ᅚFire gave his sister a nod and she released the demon from the summoning circle, it opened the door and made its way into the library of the base.

    ᅚFire said: “I guess I’ll have to brew more of the demon tongue potion, it will be a good practice potion for Unchosen as well once he is a little more experienced.”

    ᅚShadow said: “Talking about that. Where will we go after the training is done, I mean in what order will we get the artefacts?”

    ᅚFire replied: “First we take the old underground railway to Drandin, I have some business there, I need to see how the drill is coming along. From there we’ll go to Rockhaven on foot, or maybe I can arrange some other means of transportation. We should be able to get the axe by diplomatic means. Then the hard part begins.”

    ᅚShadow said: “I’m guessing the dragon is next.”

    ᅚFire said: “Yes, we will restock at the base and then head towards the stronghold. The location of the stronghold is known but nobody has ever returned from the End alive or at all as far as I know. We’ll have to go in completely blindly and we just have to be as prepared as possible. If we succeed in getting the dragon egg, we’ll have to get the locations of the other artefacts. I’ll ask the other Mencur-Besh to keep their eyes open.”

    ᅚShadow said: “I’ll go to sleep for a few hours, that summoning was quite taxing, a disturbance occurred, someone else was trying to summon this same demon too but in the end my pull was stronger.”

    ᅚFire walked out the door and said: “Before you go to sleep, would you mind setting up some more powerful projections in the training room? I need to get back in the groove of fighting again.”

    ᅚShadow nodded and followed Fire to the training room.

    Chapter 42

    ᅚAs freeZe woke up she couldn’t tell how much time had passed, there was no way for sunlight to reach her room and there were no clocks in it either. The room she had chosen for herself was rectangular and had polished wooden walls and a carpet on the floor. The bed she was lying in was disproportionally large for her size, it could have easily housed four if not five people.

    ᅚfreeZe sat up and stretched, then she reached over to her right and after feeling for a few seconds she found and pushed the wooden button next to the bed. With a soft crackle the glowstone lamps in the ceiling turned on, illuminating every corner of the room.

    ᅚStill feeling sleepy, freeZe let herself drop onto her cushion again and just stayed there for a few more minutes. She then reluctantly threw her cover away and stood up. She wandered over to a tall wooden door with a glass pane in the middle. Behind the door was the room’s bathroom consisting of an expansive bath tub carved into a wall, forming a small cavern. The tub was fed by a hot spring at its bottom and the overflowing water followed a small channel and disappeared into a steel grate. There was also a sink with a mirror above it. Even though the air was very humid, the mirror wasn’t foggy at all as if kept dry by magic, which probably wasn’t far from the truth.

    ᅚfreeZe considered taking a bath but then shrugged.

    ᅚShe said: “Maybe later…”

    ᅚThen she wondered why she had come to the bathroom in the first place and went back to the bedroom. She walked over to the wardrobe and searched it for something to wear. She chose a simplistic Nether woolen outfit consisting of some white pants and a blue shirt. There were other things in there too, including an elegant black dress that freeZe would have loved to try on but she felt like going to a base tour in a dress would be a bad idea.

    ᅚfreeZe also took some white slippers from the wardrobe and proceeded to exit her room. The corridor was absolutely silent, she could only hear her muffled steps on the carpet and her own breath, it seemed like she was the first to wake up.

    ᅚAs she arrived at the end of the corridor with the rooms she went down the stairs to the area which resembled a lounge. Down there she stopped to admire a very detailed wooden carving in the wall. It showed multiple tall humanoids that looked almost exactly like Fire alongside some regular humans, all were wearing mining gear of some sort and held pickaxes in their hands. freeZe looked for a title and indeed found one in the bottom right corner, it were three words that didn’t tell her much, “Beginnings of Drandin”. It did however remind her of the mystery that Fire was. Even after spending months with him, she didn’t know all that much about him. When she thought about it, it hadn’t bothered her that much up until now.

    ᅚShe started walking down the hallway to the main hub. When she arrived there she looked at the different corridors and the symbols engraved above them. One of them had a book symbol above it, probably leading to the library.

    ᅚShe thought to herself. Didn’t Fire mention something about the Books of Knowledge? If anywhere they should be in his library. freeZe decided that taking a look couldn’t hurt. She started walking down the corridor, its walls were made from the same polished rock as those of the entry hall, of course covered in engravings. While walking freeZe took brief looks at some of them, the one that fascinated her the most was that of a robed woman standing on top of a mountain during a thunderstorm. Was the lightning coming from the clouds or from the woman? FreeZe moved on.

    ᅚThe corridor soon reached a tall wooden door with golden decorations, it didn’t seem to have a door handle. As soon as freeZe approached it she knew why, the door silently swung open and an intense smell filled the air. The smell was overwhelming, it was a mixture of wood, paper, old leather and burning candles. In short, it was the smell of knowledge. freeZe coughed but kept walking forwards into the library.

    ᅚThe library was much bigger than she had expected, the corridor had expanded into a huge, spherical cavern with dark oak bookshelves lining the walls on multiple levels. The whole room was only sparsely lit by candles which freeZe assumed to be magical simply because they hadn’t burned down in the slightest.

    ᅚThe bookshelves had labels with different categories, there were books about smithing, books about potions, books about geography and also some categories of which freeZe didn’t know the meaning of. She started wandering the rows and looked at books of varying sizes, colors and binding materials. Just as freeZe was about to take a strange book bound in metal from a shelf, she heard a voice that was awfully close to her ear.

    ᅚ“Are you looking for something specific?” It asked.
    freeZe was startled and turned around quickly. As soon as she had turned around, she was confronted with Shadow’s red eyes mere centimeters in front of her face. Had she followed her? For how long? Why?

    ᅚfreeZe stuttered: “N-No…”

    ᅚEver since she had seen Fire’s sister for the first time, freeZe had found her to be strange. She was quite friendly but there was also something about her that seemed uncanny, freeZe couldn’t quite put a finger on it.

    ᅚStill waiting on Shadow to say something freeZe backed up a step and looked around, something seemed off about Shadow’s appearance…

    ᅚShadow made a wide gesture with her hand and said: “There must be something you are looking for, just tell me.”

    ᅚSuddenly freeZe realized exactly what was so unsettling about Fire’s sister. While she had been moving her hand, her shadow had stood completely still. freeZe couldn’t help but stare at it, then suddenly the shadow was waving at her and she heard an otherworldly giggle.

    ᅚfreeZe pointed behind Shadow and said: “Your… shadow.”

    ᅚShadow replied: “I see, you have noticed her.” After a short pause she added: “She’s harmless, mostly. She was a byproduct of my… ascension.”

    ᅚfreeZe decided not to inquire any further and instead said: “Well, what I was looking for… there is this carving in the lounge that shows multiple people like Fire… who are they?”

    ᅚShadow said: “They are the Mencur-Besh. That is Fire’s species. I’ll not go into detail here, Fire will explain that to you four later. That and a lot more.”

    ᅚBefore freeZe was able to say anything else, Shadow had disappeared. No matter how fascinated she was by magic, she couldn’t deny that it could be creepy if not downright frightening.

    ᅚfreeZe shrugged and then reached for the book bound in iron again, to her surprise it didn’t have a title. It was a fairly large book and due to the metal cover it was quite heavy. She just sat down right on the floor and opened the book. On the first page there was a drawing of a skeleton, above the drawing was the title “Creatures of the Night, Book IV: The Undead”. The author seemed to be someone named Andras Thornhook.

    ᅚfreeZe started reading. The prologue told her a tale of the dangers of the night and referenced previous books and it confirmed her suspicion that Andras Thornhook was a hunter, it wasn’t clear of what kind. The text was written in fairly simple words but there was something freeZe liked about how everything was described in short but accurate sentences. The book explained where you could expect different kinds of undead, how they behaved and most importantly, how to kill them.

    ᅚfreeZe shuddered at the description of ghouls, it didn’t make it any less terrifying that it was accompanied by a drawing of a hulking, blood smeared monster that had adorned itself with various skulls. She hoped that she would never encounter one of them on their travels. A few pages later freeZe learned that ghouls weren’t the worst undead that could happen to her, not by a long shot.

    ᅚAs much as the book fascinated her with its simple yet accurate language and its content, she decided to put it back into the shelf, the iron binding scratched along the wood as she did. As she left the library she couldn’t help but suspect something jumping at her behind every corner.

    ᅚfreeZe sighed, she really needed to get her mind off that book. It wasn’t just the words or the illustrations, there was something else about it that left a lasting impression in her mind. She quickly walked back into the hub and from there into the lounge, where TehLulz and to her surprise Ambigious were waiting for her.

    ᅚShe smiled and shouted: “Finally you aren’t the last to wake up!” and then added: “And I do understand you now, magic is indeed creepy. But not as creepy as ghouls…”

    ᅚAmbigious apparently stopped listening after the statement about magic and answered: “Finally.”

    Chapter 43

    ᅚAfter some waiting everyone had gathered around the table in the lounge. A squadron of short, wingless demons wearing formal suits was in the process of serving them breakfast.

    ᅚOne of them asked: “What would you like to drink? Water? Milk? Tea? Or maybe something different?”

    ᅚMost of them just ordered water but Shadow, knowing the range of drinks, ordered a beverage called “tear fruit juice”. Fire ordered his drink in the demonic language so it was impossible to understand what Fire ordered exactly but it seemed to amuse the demon. After having taken all the orders, the demon waiters left.

    ᅚAmbigious asked: “Did you tell them to wear those suits?”

    ᅚShadow replied: “No, it was their idea. They seem to like something about that part of human culture.”

    ᅚThe conversation came to a halt as the demon waiter walked into the room again with a tablet full of glasses, it handed everyone their drinks. The tear fruit juice that Shadow had ordered was, to nobody’s surprise, blue. Fire’s drink on the other hand was hard to categorize, it was perfectly clear, almost like water, it was actually too clear to be water.

    ᅚTehLulz asked: “Fire, what is that?”

    ᅚFire laughed and said: “This? This is drandinian Heavybrew. It is made from mushrooms that grow near bedrock. Chemically reacts with just about anything that isn’t glass, obsidian or something similar. In combination with water it turns into alcohol. If someone happens to drink it in its pure form, it’ll kill them. If it’s a human that is. Mencur-Besh use it as the core substance in their metabolism, I’m drinking this because I need to get back into peak form after one year of malnourishment.”

    ᅚfreeZe asked: “You two keep dropping that word. Mencur-Besh here, Mencur-Besh there… Shadow already told me that that is your species, Fire. What is it all about?”

    ᅚFire took a deep breath and explained: “Just so you know, about ninety percent of the current population of the server is NPCs. They are controlled by the combined calculation power of the brains of everyone logged into the server, so they are not very different from normal humans. The Mencur-Besh were an idea the admins had when they finished making me what I am. They thought that they could implement an NPC species that works differently from humans, one that wasn’t dependent on the people on the server. It took them quite some time to figure out a way of making truly intelligent NPCs without utilizing a human brain.”

    ᅚFire paused.

    ᅚ“They figured out that it was impossible for a computer of our time to simulate multiple complex individuals at the same time. The admins succeeded in simulating a simple personality, it could make rational choices and operate on its own, the only thing that was missing were emotions. This could not be regarded as a full personality but it was simple enough to allow multiple individuals to exist at the same time. But they didn’t want emotions to be missing entirely so they linked all individuals together to form some sort of joined mind which then could have emotions. Every Mencur-Besh has a distinct personality but only limited emotions. Knowledge and skills are shared across all individuals, memories are not.”

    ᅚTehLulz said: “Fascinating.”

    ᅚFire continued: “Mencur-Besh come in seven different variations, one for each magical element, this is also what determines the color of their eyes. The element also influences which of the strengths of the Mencur-Besh are especially pronounced. Fire Mencur-Besh like myself have red eyes and are strong. Air ones have yellow eyes and are fast. Earth ones have green eyes, they are larger and extremely durable. Water ones have blue eyes and exceptionally sharp senses. Life ones have white eyes and are powerful mages. Wither ones have black eyes and are immune to magic. Ender ones have purple eyes, they are physically weaker but can teleport and have access to telepathy.”

    ᅚAmbigious, chewing on some bread, said with half-full mouth: “Wow, Fire. That’s a lot of information for breakfast.”

    ᅚFire chuckled: “You are probably right. Just let me finish this and then you can eat in peace.”

    ᅚAmbigious nodded: “Acceptable.”

    ᅚFire explained: “There are about two thousand Mencur-Besh on the server, so an extreme minority compared to humans. And as you know, humans, this includes the NPCs, tend to be quite mistrusting towards beings that are superior to them in some way. So the Mencur-Besh keep their numbers down to appear less threatening, we only reproduce when our population is low. In addition to that we try to get into positions of power in human society and, failing that, try to gain the favor of those in said positions.”

    ᅚfreeZe asked: “Basically a conspiracy of scaled superhumans trying to take over the server?”

    ᅚFire nodded slowly: “Yes, that is what it looks like. In reality that is just our way of making sure we don’t get wiped out. If an all-out war were to happen between the Mencur-Besh and humans, the Mencur-Besh wouldn’t stand a chance. So basically we try to keep any and all information about us hidden and if someone finds out, we try to recruit them. They get to benefit from the massive network of connections that we have all over this world and in turn they keep quiet and do us some favors from time to time.”

    ᅚUnchosen remarked: “So, I guess we are part of this too, now that we have heard the story.”

    ᅚ“Exactly.” Fire replied. “Every ally of the Mencur-Besh receives a magical mark on their body, comparable to a tattoo. They will then be able to identify other allies on contact. A handshake is all it takes to know if someone is trustworthy or not. We rarely have defectors… and if so, not for long.”

    ᅚfreeZe shuddered at the implication Fire made: “From what you just told us, I don’t want to be on the wrong side of the Mencur-Besh.”

    ᅚAmbigious said: “But that mark-tattoo thing sounds interesting, does that mean we get one?”

    ᅚFire nodded.

    ᅚShadow said: “But I think that can wait a few minutes. Like Ambigious said, we are still having breakfast.”

    ᅚAfter those words she emptied her glass of tear fruit juice. Only a few seconds later the demon waiter appeared again to bring her another one. She gave the demon a smile and the next moment it had left the room again.

    ᅚThe next minutes were quiet as everyone except for Ambigious hadn’t been eating while they had been listening to Fire’s monologue. They hungrily put food on their plates and started eating. After the breakfast was over, Fire told them that he had preparations to make and they should meet him in the hub an hour later.

    ᅚUnchosen was the first one to arrive at the hub, Fire and Shadow were already standing in the hub’s center, waiting. It didn’t take long for the others to arrive.

    ᅚFire said: “The first thing we have to do is give you your mark. Besides being recognized as an ally of the Mencur-Besh the mark has the added benefit of serving as a key to most of the magical doors in my base. Who wants to be first?”

    ᅚAmbigious stepped up before anybody else had the chance, he walked up to Fire and then didn’t quite know what to do. He looked at Fire questioningly.

    ᅚFire just said: “Hold still, okay?”

    ᅚWith those words Fire reached forward and grabbed Ambigious’ right arm by the wrist and lifted it up. He pointed his index finger at the back of Ambigious’ hand, a slight glow surrounding it. As Fire’s finger touched Ambigious’ hand, a surge of pain went through Ambigious but before he had any chance to react, the pain was gone again, Fire let go of his hand. Ambigious looked at his skin and found that there now was something printed onto it. A plain red eye without visible iris and pupil, it looked much like Fire’s own eyes. Below the eye were two sets of stylized black scratch marks. As Ambigious stared at the eye, the eye stared back and suddenly blinked, making Ambigious recoil in surprise. A few seconds later, the eye started to fade and blended in with his skin perfectly.

    ᅚ“Freaky.” he said.

    ᅚFire said: “If everyone allied with us would have a giant eye on their skin, it would be quite silly. That’s why it fades.”

    ᅚAmbigious just nodded and stared at his hand for a few more seconds. Unchosen was the next one to receive the Eye-and-Claws mark, after him was freeZe and then TehLulz.

    ᅚFire said: “Alright, shake hands with someone now.”

    ᅚAs Ambigious shook his sister’s hand, he felt a subliminal feeling that he had never experienced before, he assumed that this was the sign by which he could tell other wearers of the Eye-and-Claws mark.

    ᅚUnchosen asked: “So, how many allies do you have out there?”

    ᅚFire thought for a moment and then said: “It should be around nine thousand, not everyone friendly to us gets the Eye-and-Claws, only those who prove to be reliable and trustworthy.”

    ᅚShadow smiled and announced: “Alright, today we will begin the training. For today everyone goes with both of us. In the future you will attend only the lessons that you have chosen. Today will be a bit of an introduction to the base.”

    ᅚFire walked into a tunnel and made an inviting motion with his hand: “Come on, let’s go.”

    Chapter 44

    ᅚIt was early in the morning when Phoebe opened the front door of the apartment block she lived in and stepped out onto the snow covered sidewalk. She pulled up the zipper of her winter coat all the way and put the hood over her head, the air was biting cold and a strong wind was blowing through the streets.

    ᅚWith fast steps she walked down the sidewalk to the next tram station. Phoebe never had to wait for the tram if it was on time, she had been taking this route for years and she had the exact timing down. The doors slid open and she stepped on in, on the inside of the tram it was no less cold than on the outside, but at least there was no wind. After sitting down near the door Phoebe relaxed and closed her eyes, she hadn’t gotten nearly as much sleep that night as she had wanted to.

    ᅚWhen the announcer said the name of Phoebe’s destination she opened her eyes again and stood up, a minute later she was walking on the snowy sidewalk again.

    ᅚShe said to herself: “Can’t even keep the sidewalks snow free… Mayor Scrooge strikes again.”

    ᅚShe was now in the city’s office district where skyscrapers were the dominant type of building. Phoebe was walking towards such a skyscraper, this one in particular wasn’t tall enough to stand out but not short enough to be remarkable for that either. After walking in through the front door the keen eye would notice that this inconspicuous skyscraper had less than inconspicuous security.

    ᅚPhoebe walked up to a door that had a whole array of biometric scanners and two armed guards beside it. She routinely entered her codes and let the devices scan her hands and her eyes. After her identity had been confirmed, one of the guards gave her a friendly nod and opened the door for her.

    ᅚShe rode up an elevator to about the middle of the skyscraper. As the doors opened, Phoebe’s workplace came into vision. The entire floor was one big room and didn’t have a single window. There were huge computers standing out in the open, dominating most of the room. There were a few desks scattered through the room, some were empty and some had people sitting at them.

    ᅚNo, Phoebe’s workplace wasn’t ordinary in any way. In fact, it wasn’t even officially a workplace. Phoebe worked for a private, that part was important, intelligence agency, it didn’t have a name because it was an intelligence agency that was still truly secret.

    ᅚPhoebe hung her coat onto a rack on the wall. Below her coat she was wearing plain black clothes that looked very practical but also carried a casual look. Phoebe was averagely tall, had brown hair with occasional blue and red wisps in between, her eyes were green.

    ᅚJust those green eyes were now scanning the room for a specific man, Gerald, also known as Big G. He was the one who did most of the IT related things, not because he was the only one who could do it but because he was the one who could do it best. And he made sure to make it known to everyone that he was in fact the best. Phoebe had found him to be an insufferable genius type of person, fortunately the genius part took priority most of the time.

    ᅚA few moments later she spotted him, which was quite easy, seeing that he was wearing a shirt that had “Big G” written on it in neon letters. Gerald was a tall but very skinny man, not unlike a stick figure. His hair was short and blonde, his eyes were blue. Usually Gerald was quite cheery but today something seemed to deeply trouble him. As he saw Phoebe walking towards him he got up from his chair to meet her half way.

    ᅚWith a hand on the back of his neck he said: “Something very bad happened.”

    ᅚPhoebe just raised an eyebrow, signaling him to keep talking.

    ᅚ“Someone somehow got into our database and was searching for… something.” He quickly explained.

    ᅚPhoebe’s jaw dropped.

    ᅚGerald continued: “I don’t even know how that is possible, on multiple levels. Our database servers are on an internal network without connection to the internet. None of the computers in here have ever had any sort of connection to the outside. But you know what worries me the most? Whoever that was, they got through our prime number encryption within mere seconds. In other words, I have never seen this kind of attack before. Anywhere. Ever.”

    ᅚPhoebe asked: “What now?”

    ᅚSuddenly Gerald grinned. “I have no idea why but they did nothing to mask their location, Hannah and Josh left to their address just half an hour ago. I still can’t shake the feeling that they did that on purpose though, it seems like too easy of a mistake to make.”

    ᅚPhoebe nodded: “Yeah, I’m with you there G. Let’s hope Hannah and Josh will be fine. If everything goes to hell, I’ll go there myself with some of the guards, using brute force if needed.”

    ᅚPhoebe went to her desk and just sat there, she reasoned that doing anything with the computers would be risky as they had a potential security leak somewhere.

    ᅚEveryone was relieved as they saw Hannah and Josh come in with three other people, two women and a man in a wheelchair. One of the women had short black hair and brown eyes. She was wearing blue jeans and a plain green shirt. The other woman had long red hair and blue eyes. Her clothes consisted of blue jeans and a black leather jacket. The man in the wheelchair had short brown hair and brown eyes. He was wearing yet another pair of blue jeans and a white shirt.

    ᅚHannah, a short woman with blonde hair and green eyes, announced: “Those seem to be the people who attacked us.” She paused, then spotted Phoebe. “Oh, hello Phoebe. We should interrogate them, pick one.”

    ᅚPhoebe smiled at the fact that, as usual, Hannah kept everything as short as possible, even in this very unusual situation. When you work in a truly secret intelligence agency being hacked wasn’t the norm, that was reserved for the non-secret ones.

    ᅚThe interrogation rooms were simply office rooms one floor higher, which had been outfitted with microphones and cameras. Phoebe had decided to interrogate the black haired woman with the green shirt.

    ᅚPhoebe began: “Name?”

    ᅚThe woman answered: “Sarah.”

    ᅚNeedless to say, this wasn’t a standard interrogation, it was more of an informal questioning, the agency wasn’t big on formality.

    ᅚPhoebe continued: “So, Sarah… who of you three launched that attack?”

    ᅚSarah folded her hands in her lap and answered: “That was me.”


    ᅚ“We hoped that we would find information about some people we are looking for in your database. We didn’t.”

    ᅚPhoebe was somewhat surprised by her directness and asked: “We’ll come back to those people later, now tell me about who you three are. From what Josh told me you had some sort of research setup in that warehouse of yours.”

    ᅚSarah replied: “Yes, we were researching there. Before you ask, we are researching brain-computer interfaces.”


    ᅚWith a smile Sarah added: “And we were actually successful.”

    ᅚPhoebe raised an eyebrow: “How successful?”

    ᅚ“So successful that we aren’t merely researching anymore, we are testing. We can freely transfer data between the human brain and any computer. All that is needed is the translation software we developed.”

    ᅚPhoebe was honestly taken by surprise by this. Reading brain patterns using sensors and interpreting them was one thing, free data transfer was another one. She didn’t have to think long to see the potential applications for this technology. A cold shiver ran down her spine.

    ᅚSarah continued: “That was also how I managed to get into your database, it was only a matter of using the electricity lines for data transfer, it’s been done before. Once I was inside, the prime number encryption wasn’t a problem either. The human brain has fascinating calculative capabilities.”

    ᅚPhoebe tried her best not to sound absolutely unprofessional: “Okay… so you hacked our database… with your brain?”

    ᅚSarah lifted up her hands, she had been hiding them under the table up until that moment. On her fingertips, no, inside her fingertips were black, metallic objects.

    ᅚShe explained: “Those are interface devices with the software on them, I’ve had them grafted onto my bones and connected to my nerves. They allow me to interact with any electronic device I touch. They also allow me to connect to other people’s brains.”

    ᅚPhoebe wasn’t sure if she should recoil in horror or lean forward in fascination, so she just remained in her current position. This interrogation was going in an entirely different direction than she had intended.

    ᅚShe asked: “Alright. Just… just tell me the story of this invention from the very beginning, maybe I’ll understand your motivations then.”

    ᅚSarah began: “From the start? Alright. So, we met each other about nine years ago, back then we were six people. Harald, Anna and I are here today. Then there were Louis, David and his girlfriend Daniela. We all had just finished studying at our university, our dream was to create a brain-computer interface, much like the one we have now. But as there are only three of us here you might be able to tell that not everything went as smoothly as we had wished.” She sighed. “We built up on research that had already been done, the professors from the university were a great help back then. They supplied us with all the information we needed. In the first two years we made some progress formulating theories, we had everything figured out, then the money started running low. We knew that we needed to get some kind of prototype to get some funding or else we would have to abandon the project. Let’s just say that this prototype was by no means as elegant as the devices in fingertips. It needed to be implanted directly into the brain, David had volunteered to be the one getting the implant. We used up the rest of our money to pay the surgeon.”

    ᅚPhoebe interrupted: “The surgery went wrong, didn’t it?”

    ᅚSarah bitterly replied: “Cliché isn’t it? So now we were sitting there with no money and with one of our team dead, we were on the brink of giving up.” Her face brightened again. “That was when Peter came in.”

    ᅚ“Who’s that?”

    ᅚ“We didn’t know that either in the beginning, he said that he had heard about our project from a professor and wished to support it. He seemed to have a lot of money at his disposal, he became the sole funder the project. We bought an abandoned warehouse, the one you found us in, and proper equipment, an MRI system for instance. Despite having lost David to our research we kept going, we had already come too far to give up, especially now that money wasn’t a problem anymore. We decided that an implant was the wrong way to go if we ever hoped our interface to be available to the general population.”

    ᅚPhoebe said: “Reasonable. So that is how you came up with the contact thing?”

    ᅚ“Yes, after half a year of research we found that we could use the way our computers work to connect brain to machine only using special software. Making the software was a different story, it’s the human brain we are talking about here, one of the most complex systems in the known universe. The whole process took another two years, then we were finally able to connect. But yeah, as you see there are still two people to many in our group so something must have gone wrong, right?”

    ᅚ“So, what happened?” Phoebe wasn’t sure if she really wanted to know.

    ᅚSarah continued: “The first test was a success, we were able to pull a live feed from Daniela’s eyes onto our monitor and Harald managed to create an abstract painting with just his thoughts. Needless to say, it was a lot of fun. Over the course of the next months we refined our software and discovered new ways to interface with our brains. In the end we were able to have complete control in both directions. We knew that we could outsource the control over certain things in our body to a computer, like vital functions. The thought was that while the ‘weaker’ computer took care of keeping us alive the ‘stronger’ brain could be used to make calculations at insane speeds. We performed some experiments and everything went according to plan. Now we needed to verify that what we were doing actually did what we meant it to do and not just produced the same effects. So Louis got into the MRI system and we connected him up. Halfway through the experiment the power went out, in the few seconds that it took the backup generators to come live we lost the connection. It was horrifying to see how Louis’ brain reacted, it didn’t have control over his vitals and desperately tried to regain it… then we had to watch how his brain activity slowly stopped from the lack of oxygen. Daniela left our team that day, she said that she couldn’t take watching more of us die.”

    ᅚPhoebe said: “I think I would have done the same.”

    ᅚSarah replied: “I don’t blame her. Anyways, the rest of us kept going, we had to, we knew that we were close. Over the remainder of the year we discovered that the software still had its bugs. I noticed that when I woke up one morning and every time something touched the back of my hand I got a strong taste of mustard in my mouth. It took us some time to track down those bugs and I’m sure over the duration all of us suffered their fair share of brain damage. It was Harald’s that was permanent. You probably saw him earlier, almost his entire body is paralyzed, everything except his head and right arm. He also lost the ability to speak, he communicates with everyone else in text.”

    ᅚPhoebe asked: “So, in the end you succeeded in making the interface, why keep it secret?”

    ᅚSarah explained: “We knew that the software was free of dangerous bugs as far as we had tested but there could always be something that slipped through, we needed to be absolutely sure. It was our generous sponsor Peter who suggested a way of testing our software. We should use the software to simulate an environment and let people from all over the world access it, the software was safe enough at that point. In the end we came to the conclusion that the video game Minecraft would be best suited. We went around the internet and started recruiting people, they were told exactly what they were in for. Peter was one of the first people to join. Now, he also wanted to see how much anatomical differences the human brain could tolerate and still be able to control a body. Peter volunteered for this and in short, we changed his body in the world into a tall, scaled superhuman with red eyes and claws.”

    ᅚ“Interesting…” Phoebe remarked.

    ᅚSarah said: “We had also known that Peter had dealt with an emotional trauma a long time ago and was still suffering from it. Usually he didn’t let anything show but fairly recently he requested that we would ‘fix’ this trauma permanently, we managed to do it but we had to make a sacrifice. The fix was to remove most of his more complex emotions or at least weaken them. Apart from that it went quite well.”

    ᅚPhoebe replied: “Wow, that’s actually quite creepy, just being able to cut emotions from somebody.”

    ᅚSarah said: “Anyways, the thing with the server went quite well, a lot of data was being collected and the people on the server enjoyed themselves. That was until a group of very skilled hackers seized control of it. Now the extensive security mechanisms in our software are working against us and we have no way of retaking it. We can’t take it offline either because that would mean that everyone logged into the server would lose connection and… I told you already what happens then.”

    ᅚ“So that is who you were looking for in our database?” Phoebe asked.

    ᅚ“Yes but it looks like they are really as good as they seem. We tried to identify them ourselves but weren’t able to. In the end we were forced to look into your database. Just so you know, we only found your agency because of our software so you should still be undercover. Now, only a few days ago the hackers tried to blackmail us by keeping people captive in the server.” Sarah sighed and continued: “They want the software to do who knows what. And they are not getting it. At least for as long as Peter is alive… his presence on the server stops them from taking over. He only has a few days before he dies of dehydration.”

    ᅚPhoebe said: “Now that you told me all of that I’m quite sure that all of us will be in big trouble if Peter dies. I know, I only just met you but I’ll try my best to help you. We simply can’t afford not listening to you, we saw what your software is capable of.”

    ᅚSarah seemed relieved: “Thank you, I really appreciate it.”

    ᅚPhoebe left the interrogation room and told Sarah that she would be back soon. She had to talk to the others, this was a very serious threat. Phoebe sighed, she had expected her day to be stressful in a lot of ways but this clearly wasn’t one she would have ever thought of.

    Chapter 45

    ᅚThe first stop of the tour through the base was the armory, it was located deeper inside the rock than the living quarters but still above the room with the oven and the golems.

    ᅚThe armory was a huge open hall with neatly organized weapon racks and armor stands. The weapons and armor sets had all kinds of different sizes, from a very small set, which only someone of the size of a child could wear, ranging up to huge sets of armor that presumably were made for Mencur-Besh. Most of the equipment was made from very dark, almost black, steel.

    ᅚTehLulz asked: “Fire, Aurone had a knife that was made from the same kind of metal as most of the stuff in here. What’s up with that?”

    ᅚFire answered: “This is a special kind of steel, some just call it dark steel but the closest translation from its real name in the demonic language would be something like ‘firesteel’. It is made by mixing regular steel with obsidian and blaze powder, then the metal is woven into the right shape.”

    ᅚ“Woven?” Ambigious asked.

    ᅚFire took a chestplate from an armor stand and handed it to Ambigious, who was surprised that it didn’t weigh nearly as much as he had expected, the texture of the armor also felt strange.

    ᅚFire explained: “The metal isn’t solid, there is a lot of air inside. Firesteel armor combines the advantages of leather armor and plate armor, being lightweight, flexible and highly protective.”

    ᅚFire demonstrated this by taking a bow from a weapon rack and shooting a set of armor point blank. The arrow stopped as soon as it hit the metal and then fell down. The spot where the arrow had hit was now dented slightly inwards but straightened itself out within the next few seconds.

    ᅚAmbigious was impressed: “Wow, some people would give a lot to have something like this in real life.”

    ᅚFire just nodded and led them along further, passing racks with all kinds of weapons on them. They entered another section of the armory, this one was in a separate room and a lot smaller than the first one.

    ᅚShadow explained: “This is where we store some of the stranger weapons Fire has created or found.”

    ᅚfreeZe pointed at something that looked like a shield with a drill coming out of it, she asked: “What the hell is that?”

    ᅚFire smiled: “Exactly what it looks like, a shield with a drill. It’s as bad as it sounds.” He shrugged. “I was asked to make three of those, the commissioners paid good money. In the end they themselves noticed that it wasn’t that good of an idea but a group of crafty enchanters were able to turn it into a somewhat decent mining tool.”

    ᅚThe rest of the room had similarly strange weapons and pieces of armor in it, Fire walked past and said a few sentences about each one.

    ᅚ“This armor has an intricate system of small pipes and needles inside that supply its wearer with potions automatically. It worked great but it was a pain to maintain, the pipes just kept gumming up all the time.”

    ᅚ“This ball of dark orange goo may not seem like much but it was one of the more successful things in this room. It is able to transform itself into any shape its holder wants, the only limitation being its total mass. This was more of an experiment, a very resource intensive experiment, which is why I will never make another one of those.”

    ᅚFire added: “Unchosen, TehLulz, Ambigious, on the way out you can take a look at some of the weapons, you will choose some of those when the training begins.”

    ᅚAfter they were done with the armory Fire and Shadow lead the others into a different room, this one seemed to be a long corridor with a polished stone floor. On one side the walls were lined with tanks that had different liquids of all colors in them with taps underneath, everything was neatly labeled. The other side had drawers with various materials in them.

    ᅚUnchosen said: “I assume that this is the potion area.”

    ᅚFire replied: “Yes, actually this is where all of the ingredients are stored. The potion storage is a bit further ahead, come.”

    ᅚAs the group came into to the end of the corridor they stood before a tall wooden door which swung open without a sound. Behind the door was a fairly large circular room, the floor, walls and ceiling were made from obsidian and all around the walls were different apertures. The room seemed to be the laboratory where Fire made his potions. Three more doors led out of the room.

    ᅚFire explained: “The potion storage is behind those doors. The first one is where beneficial potions are stored, the second one is storage for poisons and the third one is where I put potions that don’t really fit into the other two categories. For example there is a potion that turns into a sentient slime when spilled. It’s a pet of sorts but its main function lies in testing liquids for harmful substances, you just put one drop into the slime and if it turns red you know you shouldn’t drink whatever you tested.”

    ᅚUnchosen replied: “So, this is where I will learn to brew potions?”

    ᅚFire nodded.

    ᅚAfter leaving the potion area Fire and Shadow showed the others different parts of the base like the enchanting area or the smithy.

    ᅚThe last room they went to was a simple, fairly small room with a wooden floor, the walls lacked the usual engravings, it was in general much simpler than the rest of the base.

    ᅚ“Seems underwhelming.” Ambigious noted.

    ᅚShadow said: “Don’t let the first look deceive you, this is probably the room that contains the most magic in the entire base, just watch.”

    ᅚBefore Ambigious could complain about more magic, the entire room seemed to expand. The door behind them disappeared, the walls and ceiling seemed to fade out into blackness, the wooden floor turned into grass, trees and rocks grew out of the ground, lastly the blackness around them turned into a blue sky with some clouds in it. They were suddenly standing in the middle of a forest.

    ᅚBefore anyone could properly react to the sudden scenery change, they saw a group of five armored, mounted warriors charge them from between the trees.

    ᅚUnchosen tried to evade the lance that was pointed directly at him but he was too slow. Just when he expected an impact, the lance went right through him and its owner followed. A few moments later the warriors and their horses disappeared into smoke. They were just incorporeal projections.

    ᅚAmbigious, freeZe, TehLulz and Unchosen couldn’t do anything but stand there with open mouths.

    ᅚ“Okay, that is really impressive.” Ambigious admitted.

    ᅚFire said: “You do not want to know how long Shadow worked on infusing magic into this room so that this would be possible. Granted, that was a few thousand years back but still. This will be where you will have your combat training, this room enables us to train under different circumstances and against realistic enemies, next to the intangible projections you have seen, there are also ones that are solid.”

    ᅚ“This is awesome.” TehLulz replied, the others agreed.

    ᅚThe room shrunk down to its original size and shape, Fire and Shadow turned to leave.

    ᅚUnchosen wanted to know: “I still have one question, how will we learn all of those combat and crafting techniques in this little time? I once read that it takes years to master sword fighting.”

    ᅚFire smiled and answered: “By doing just that, reading.” He got some confused looks. “The books in the library are no different to issues you would buy anywhere else on the server. In content that is, the books themselves are different. The books in the library are enchanted so that the reader learns what the book is about just by reading it attentively.”

    ᅚShadow continued: “This can sometimes lead to unexpected effects, right freeZe? I hope you liked Thornhook’s book, did you reach the section about ghouls?”

    ᅚfreeZe replied: “Yes I did.” She shuddered at the memories.

    ᅚFire said: “Anyways, it’s getting late. Time to eat something.”

    ᅚThe others wondered how Fire knew it was getting “late” since they were underground but they all agreed on the second part of his statement. Hungrily they followed Fire into the lounge.

    Chapter 46

    ᅚIt had been a few days since the tour through the base, Unchosen and Ambigious were walking down a corridor towards the training room. Unchosen couldn’t really tell how much time had passed since there weren’t any clocks in the base and without any direct view of the sky he could only guess how long it had really been. After the tour he and the others had slept a total of four times but he knew that the human body followed a different rhythm when there was no sun serving as a natural clock.

    ᅚIn the time between then and now they had undergone a basic training in unarmed combat and also in using small weapons like daggers. It had been quite exhausting but it was nowhere near as much as the work in the slave mine. Today would be the first time Ambigious, TehLulz and Unchosen would train with the weapons they would be using on their travels.

    ᅚUnchosen asked: “So, what weapon do you have in mind? I’ll probably take a bow.”

    ᅚAmbigious replied: “Preferably some heavy weapon that packs a punch, maybe an axe or a great sword.”

    ᅚUnchosen chuckled, he had expected no different from his friend.

    ᅚHe then said: “TehLulz said that he would go to the training room a bit earlier to talk about something with Fire. He should be there already.”

    ᅚAmbigious nodded and said: “freeZe has her first magic lesson today, she wouldn’t stop talking about it yesterday. Shadow seems to be a good teacher from what I have seen in the basic training, she is Fire’s sister after all so that should be expected. But dude, there is something about her…”

    ᅚUnchosen raised an eyebrow: “Hmm?”

    ᅚAmbigious said: “I really don’t know, she seems kind of bossy sometimes but in a subtle way. There is more to her than that, she is giving me some creepy vibes.”

    ᅚHis friend couldn’t help but smile, he asked: “Sure that is creepy you’re feeling?”

    ᅚAmbigious was slightly caught off guard: “What? You mean I have a thing for her? Nah. And even if I did, Fire’s advice is still strong in my head. You know, the one where he said that I should be careful around her.”

    ᅚBefore Unchosen could reply he noticed that they had arrived at the door to the training room. As he opened it, he saw that it had taken the shape of a fairly expansive room, the walls and the floor made from what looked to be marble. There were weapon racks lined up along a wall. In the middle of the room stood Fire, next to him was TehLulz. Both raised their hand in a greeting.

    ᅚ“Morning.” Fire shouted over to them.

    ᅚThey also greeted Fire and TehLulz and then walked over to them.

    ᅚFire explained: “As you can see, there are some weapons you can choose from. You can try out different ones but be careful, those are regular sharpened weapons. Don’t cut yourself.”

    ᅚAfter that Fire made a few gestures with his hand and a couple of figures appeared in the middle of the room. They looked like mannequins but their bodies were semitransparent and blue. Vital organs and blood vessels were visible through their skin in red, bones were a darker shade of blue.

    ᅚFire said: “Those are the projections you will be training with for today. They are exactly as durable as an average human. After you ‘kill’ them new ones will appear. I will demonstrate it for you.”

    ᅚFire walked over to a weapon rack and took a halberd, to his friends it seemed enormous but due to Fire’s size it was perfect for him. He then proceeded to cut down the projections with his weapon. Unchosen was familiar with Fire’s strength and speed but what he honestly didn’t expect was the way Fire fought here. Fire’s movements weren’t flashy, none of them were unnecessary but still there was an undeniable elegance about it. First Fire beheaded one of the projections with the axe blade of his halberd and then fluently transitioned into impaling another one with the spear tip. This dance of death continued until no more projections were left standing. As soon as Fire put down his weapon onto the rack again, a new set of projection appeared.

    ᅚUnchosen noticed that something had changed about Fire, there was a red glow coming from between his scales, he asked: “Fire, why are you glowing?”

    ᅚFire explained: “Mencur-Besh can send their muscles into an overdrive of sorts, this uses substantially more calories but it allows for more strength and speed. Normally our internal body temperature is around eighty degrees Celsius. If it rises above a certain threshold, our metabolism changes to use a chemical reaction that produces a lot of energy and heat but is less efficient than normally. That way our internal temperature can reach up to five hundred degrees. When our body temperature drops below another threshold a different another reaction takes place, which is slower but more efficient. This allows us to spend extended periods of time in a state of suspended animation.”

    ᅚUnchosen replied: “Interesting. Why didn’t you use that in the quarry or on our journey?”

    ᅚ“To do anything except normal metabolism I need drandinian Heavybrew in my body, the food in the quarry wasn’t nutritious enough for me to metabolize my own.”

    ᅚFire gestured for them to choose a weapon. Unchosen proceeded to walk over to the weapon rack and take a sword.

    ᅚFire commented: “A one handed longsword? Good choice. But I’ll tell you right now that you will not be using a single type of weapon only. While swords are effective against unarmored opponents they do next to nothing against metal armor, which is where axes, hammers and maces are effective.”

    ᅚAmbigious took a look at the weapon rack and then picked out a fairly long two-handed sword, TehLulz decided to use a two-bladed battle axe.

    ᅚEach of them positioned themselves in front of one of the projections, Unchosen lifted his sword to strike but then stopped.

    ᅚ“It does feel kind of strange to attack this projection, it is almost like a human. Very different from the things we were up against so far.” He said.

    ᅚFire replied: “You will inevitably have to kill people too, better get used to it now than hesitate in battle and lose your life to some thug.”

    ᅚUnchosen shivered at what his friend had just said, it sounded cruel but he knew that it was true. Again he lifted his sword, this time he struck, going for a diagonal cut. The dark blade went across the projection’s chest, leaving a glowing, deep, red wound. Ambigious went for a similar attack but despite being larger, his sword seemed to bounce off the projection, only leaving minimal wounds and pushing it back.

    ᅚ“What the hell was that?” He cried out in confusion.

    ᅚFire explained: “You need to align the edge of your sword with the direction you are striking in, otherwise that will happen. Using a sword takes more than just swinging in the general direction of your opponent.”

    ᅚAmbigious struck a few more times in rapid succession, only one of those strikes left a deep wound. Frustrated he took a step back and then thrust his sword through the ribcage of the projection.

    ᅚHe said: “Well, that works too.”

    ᅚIt was TehLulz’ turn to try out his weapon. The axe was a lot more unwieldy than even the stone swords he had used in their travels. A lot of the weight was in the tip so it took considerably more strength to swing it. He assumed that it all was a matter of practice. He took the handle of his axe in both hands and struck the projection’s chest. Bones shattered under the force of the impact and a sizable wound was left behind.

    ᅚFire said: “Quite nicely done, all of you. I can’t expect you to be experts in this amount of time. I now suggest that you try all manner of different weapons to find out which one suits you best. As you will be wearing full plate armor, you can choose any weapon you like since you don’t really need a shield when you have armor. Also try some of the daggers, it is always handy to have one or two of those on you if your opponent gets close. Let me show you.”

    ᅚFire picked up his halberd again, he also affixed a longsword and a dagger to his belt. A projection in chain armor appeared on the other side of the room, it was holding a one handed sword and a shield and it was as tall as Fire. Fire approached it and the projection attacked him. It was clear that Fire wasn’t using his full combat capabilities, he wanted to demonstrate something after all.

    ᅚThe projection quickly ran past Fire’s halberd, making it hard for him to use it effectively. He dropped it and instead took the sword from his belt, using it to parry some incoming strikes. Fire’s own strikes were effectively blocked by the projection’s shield. The projection used this to move in even closer, now close enough to Fire where even his sword was ineffective. The projection lifted its shield and went for a center of mass stab against Fire. Fire used his dagger to parry the attack and now he stepped into the projection’s guard and stabbed it the throat with the dagger. The projection immediately dematerialized.

    ᅚFire said: “I hope you understand what I meant.”

    ᅚAmbigious replied: “Makes total sense. Different weapons for different ranges and as emergency plans.”

    ᅚFire nodded and summoned a few more projections wearing different kinds of armor, this time they had regular human size and stood completely still. His friends figured that those would be for testing weapons against armor.

    ᅚThey spent a few hours trying out weapons and getting better and better at cutting up projections. Unchosen ended up settling with a sword and a mace for backup as well as a dagger. Ambigious had quickly changed over to using exclusively maces since he was getting frustrated with the edge alignment of swords. TehLulz had chosen a slightly smaller version of axe he had begun with.

    ᅚAt the end of the training they were all covered in sweat and completely exhausted.

    ᅚAmbigious noted: “I guess freeZe has the less demanding lesson. I wonder how she is doing.”

    Chapter 47

    ᅚfreeZe was walking down a corridor she had never seen before, she was on her way to her first magic lesson. She had dressed appropriately, wearing the blue and black robe she had picked up from the skeletal mage. Next to her walked Shadow, as per usual dressed in her pitch black robe.

    ᅚfreeZe asked: “Where exactly are we going?”

    ᅚShadow replied: “To my summoning chamber. Fire is training the others in the regular training room, it’s the next best thing we have, it is extensively shielded against stray magic.”

    ᅚShe then asked: “By the way, where did you get this robe? It seems familiar.”

    ᅚ“I got it off the skeletal mage in the Graveyard of the Forest that wounded Fire.”

    ᅚ“Oh, so that is what became of Ganur. He was one of my apprentices when I worked at the University of Magic in Rockhaven. Always wanted to meet Oalrhm… it seems like they got off on the wrong foot.”

    ᅚfreeZe wondered: “What’s with all of those names? Aurone, Runa, Andras, Ganur… are those traditional names here?”

    ᅚ“Yes, in a way. People born here, so NPCs, are named by their parents. Players often choose an alias for themselves that fits in, real world names or shortened ingame names aren’t unusual either though. Here on the server we also follow the principle of earning your second name, which is where Andras Thornhook got his second name, he is an excellent artefact hunter but as you might expect, that is not without dangers. After losing his right hand he installed a hook in its place, it didn’t hinder him in the slightest, some even say that he got better after the incident.”

    ᅚJust after Shadow had finished talking they had arrived at the door to the summoning chamber. Shadow signaled freeZe to go in first. After hesitating she pushed open the pitch black wooden door. freeZe had expected the smell of incense to hit her but instead there was nothing, no smell, no sound, only the dim light of candles. After her eyes had adjusted to the darkness she could see that there was already someone standing in the room… it was Shadow. freeZe quickly turned around to see if she had teleported into the room but no, there were two Shadows.

    ᅚ“What the hell?” freeZe asked.

    ᅚThe Shadow standing in the room just smiled, the other one walked past freeZe and stood next to the first one.

    ᅚIn a creepy unison they said: “Projections, freeZe.”

    ᅚAfter that the Shadow that had accompanied freeZe vanished without a trace.

    ᅚfreeZe was fascinated: “Wow, will I learn how to do that too?”

    ᅚ“Probably not.” Shadow answered bluntly.

    ᅚfreeZe stared at her for a couple of seconds, then Shadow added: “Well, that is because your magical elements aren’t the ones needed to create projections. Fire said that he gave you a brief rundown of how the magical elements work but that was just a very superficial overview. Make yourself comfortable.”

    ᅚWith those words Shadow sat down on the carpet. freeZe closed the door behind herself and then sat down. The carpet was quite soft and very nice to sit on. She was sitting on the opposite side of the summoning circle illuminated by the candles, everything else around her was black and the only thing she could properly see of Shadow was her white hair and her red, glowing eyes.

    ᅚShadow began: “Fire probably told you about the seven elements, Fire, Water, Earth, Air, Life, Ender and Wither. They are all ‘flavors’ of the same magical energy. While Fire and Air magic do pretty much what you would expect them to do, Water and Earth magic don’t. Their names can be quite deceptive, to be honest, whoever named them didn’t think too much about more descriptive names and just went with the four elements theme. Now, Water magic and Earth magic are quite similar, they are both used to change the properties of things. While Water magic is more focused on the environment, Earth magic focuses on the caster. Ender magic defines the laws of physics and matter, so an ender mage is capable of, for example, making things float or animating golems. Summoning demons or teleporting is also in the domain of Ender magic. Life and Wither are exact opposites and counteract each other. While Life is used to heal, Wither is used to harm or perform necromancy. Earth and Water can be used to heal as well but those types of healing often require more concentration.”

    ᅚfreeZe asked: “What about Void?”

    ᅚ“Right, Void. In practice Void is pretty much irrelevant. It is to Ender what Wither is to Life, inverted energy. The only difference here is that because of its very nature it destroys all Ender magic it comes in contact with and that includes matter since matter is just condensed Ender magic. It is hard to even create Void magic since it is just neutralized upon coming into existence and even if a large amount of Void magic was created, it is impossible to control except in very specific circumstances. If you wander around for a while you may notice large, perfectly spherical holes in the landscape, which is what happens when Void magic is created and not controlled.”

    ᅚ“Alright, I get it. Void. Don’t touch that.”

    ᅚ“Exactly. Now to you.”

    ᅚfreeZe was a bit surprised by suddenly being in the focus, she asked: “What?”

    ᅚShadow said: “As far as Fire has told me you have large quantities of life force at your disposal, the energy from the Blaze Core confirmed this. That and the magical pulse I felt a day before your arrival, I assume that that was you evaporating that slime.”

    ᅚfreeZe awkwardly looked away from Shadow, she remembered her total loss of control and absolute helplessness after her life force had taken control.

    ᅚ“From what I have heard your main elements seem to be Fire and Air. While your combination is phenomenal in combat, outside of it it can become somewhat of a burden. Both of those elements tend to be quite unstable and their users tend to use them, mostly involuntarily, when affected by strong emotions, especially the Fire element is prone to this. Some people don’t like us mages in general but for pyromancers this is doubly so. Let me give you an example, there is a joke…”

    ᅚfreeZe interrupted: “Seriously, there are jokes about pyromancers?”

    ᅚShadow laughed. “Oh, you would be surprised how many mage, alchemist or enchanter jokes there are, people tend to ridicule things they can’t understand and trust me, jokes aren’t where it stops. However there aren’t any Mencur-Besh jokes I am aware of… suspicious, isn’t it? Anyways the joke goes like this: ‘A recently married pyromancer couple rents a room in a tavern for a night, how does the room look the day after?’ ‘What room in what tavern?’ You get the gist. I just want you to be aware of this beforehand so that you can actually keep your magic in check before you accidentally turn your brother into charcoal.”

    ᅚfreeZe was caught between smiling at the joke and thinking about what might happen to her, she asked: “Why is that?”

    ᅚ“In the beginning of your training you will work on fusing your consciousness with your life force, that way you gain control over your magic instead of it being something that awakens in certain situations. Of course, this will affect you in some way, for some it is a radical change of personality and for some others it is barely noticeable. In general though, Fire is still the most unstable element and is the most prone to accidental use, Air follows right after. I hope you are ready for that.”

    ᅚfreeZe thought for a moment, then said: “Yes, I am ready. Probably. Anyways, it is better than having my life force just sit there having its own will.”

    ᅚShadow rose up in one fluent movement, she announced: “Let’s start then.”

    ᅚfreeZe stood up as well. Shadow reached into a pocked of her robes and pulled out a small flask with a bright blue liquid in it, she handed it to freeZe.

    ᅚ“This potion will forcibly put your life force into control. Drink it. When you feel yourself losing control, try to fight it with all of your willpower, try to get back into control and command your magic yourself. Don’t worry about me or this room, everything in the room is protected and I will be able to defend myself against anything your life force may throw at me.”

    ᅚAll of a sudden freeZe wasn’t so sure if she was in fact ready, her hands were shaking as she uncorked the flask. Before finally bringing herself to drink the blue liquid she took a deep breath. As it ran down her throat she wasn’t exactly able to identify what it felt like, it wasn’t cold or hot, it was a sensation unknown to her. Suddenly freeZe felt herself losing control over her limbs and then finally over the rest of her body, she felt like she would fall over but she stood perfectly still. No feeling got through to her anymore, she could only see like through the eyes of a stranger. Then she felt something, a very distant feeling, it was exactly what she had felt in the Graveyard or in the swamp. She tried to suppress it but her efforts had no effect. She saw her right arm rise up, she couldn’t feel it. She saw how her head turned around to inspect the surroundings, then she heard her own voice, it was distorted and it seemed like the one speaking only barely knew the words.

    ᅚIt said: “What… this?”

    ᅚShe saw how her hands were now being moved more aggressively, pointing towards Shadow whose facial expression hadn’t changed in the slightest. Small sparks started flying from her palms, rising up into the air. She suddenly felt how energy started flowing through her. She clamped onto this feeling, trying to control the flow, still to no avail. The sparks quickly became small flames, when they had grown a little bigger, she saw her palms being pointed at Shadow. A jet of flame shot from them, however it seemed to be distorted by something just before it reached Shadow, bending the flames around her.

    ᅚfreeZe heard Shadow calmly say: “Come on, fight it.”

    ᅚThe flames got stronger, so did the energy flow. freeZe still felt absolutely powerless. Suddenly the flames stopped, her hands were now at her sides. Just as freeZe was about to wonder what was happening a deafening explosion originated from her body, only that it wasn’t deafening to her, it was more of a muffled bang. freeZe was in the center of an ongoing nova of red flames, she couldn’t see any of the room.

    ᅚIt was now five minutes after she had drank the potion, she was starting to panic, even when she killed the skeletal mage it had been over sooner. She needed to do something, anything.

    ᅚIt was easier said than done, she felt like she was an insect encased in amber, no room for movement and no weak point that could be used as leverage. The flames still seemed to have no end, they had changed from red to bright white. All of a sudden freeZe felt how the energy flow broke in for a moment, a crack in the amber prison that was her own mind, her life force was losing control. freeZe used this gap, she mentally clawed her nails into it to enlarge it, she could feel the feeling in her skin returning, her hearing getting clearer. She thought back to when she held the Blaze Core, now she did the exact same thing to limit the energy flow. The flames started turning red again and became less dense and continued to lose energy. Just before they were gone completely, freeZe suddenly snapped back into control. She felt an intense heat upon her skin and closed her eyes to protect them from the flames that were still coming from her body. The heat started turning into pain, just when she thought that it became unbearable, the flames stopped. The pain remained.

    ᅚWhen she opened her eyes she was lying on the soft carpet, Shadow was leaning over her with a smile on her face.

    ᅚ“You did it.” She said.

    ᅚfreeZe sat up, then she noticed that she had burns all over her skin, not as bad ones as the ones she had gotten in the swamp but they still hurt like hell. Her hair also hadn’t taken kindly to the flames. With each moment the pain subsided more.

    ᅚWith a raspy voice freeZe said: “Normally it doesn’t stop hurting that quickly.”

    ᅚShadow explained: “Now that you have established a weak connection to your life force, your body will heal much quicker than normally. If you want I can heal you completely so that you don’t keep scars.”

    ᅚfreeZe thought for a moment, then replied: “No, I don’t mind the scars. They will remind me of this struggle. I also think I’ll also be burned more often.”

    ᅚShadow looked at freeZe, then she started laughing: “Now, you aren’t the first to say that. You are already starting to think like a pyromancer.”

    Chapter 48

    ᅚFire was walking alongside his friends as they returned to the hub area, he was highly satisfied with the progress they had made. They really were quick learners, especially TehLulz was already quite adept at handling the weapons he chose. Ambigious by far was the one with the least refined technique but he compensated for it with raw speed and strength. In that regard he was the opposite of Unchosen who was weaker but more precise. With more training all of them would make quite formidable warriors, Fire was sure of it.

    ᅚWhat did concern him however were the faint energy pulses he had felt about halfway through the training, which he assumed to come from Shadow’s summoning chamber. Their cause must have been an incredibly strong release of magical energy, otherwise nothing would have escaped the heavily shielded room.

    ᅚFire thought back to when freeZe had used the blaze core in their mountain shelter, still cursing his carelessness for letting her use the core in the first place. Then again, if she hadn’t discovered her magical potential there, the skeletal mage would have been more of a problem than it already had been. It was one of those decisions where it was very hard to judge if it was right or wrong and sadly a lot of the decisions he had made and would have to make were of this nature.

    ᅚFire’s thought process was interrupted by TehLulz speaking: “That last one was especially brutal Ambigious, you just caved that thing’s head in.”

    ᅚAudibly proud, Ambigious replied: “I do try.”

    ᅚThe three of them laughed, then they turned to Fire. Ambigious asked: “So, what do we do now?”

    ᅚFire replied: “Judging by how you look and smell I suggest taking a bath. And remember: Don’t touch the black soap.”

    ᅚAmbigious said: “Yeah, yeah. Lesson learned.”

    ᅚThey exited the stone tunnel they were in, went through the hub and then walked towards the living quarters through the much more homely wooden corridor. To their surprise they saw Shadow and freeZe sitting at the table in the lobby and talking.

    ᅚShadow was wearing her usual robe but freeZe had changed into a very casual outfit consisting of black pants and a short blue shirt. However, on second look, she didn’t look all too good. Her hair was singed and what was visible of her skin was covered in scar tissue, which surprisingly had the same pitch black color as her usual skin but nonetheless looked terrible.

    ᅚAs soon as Ambigious spotted this, he rushed over to freeZe and asked: “What happened? Are you okay?”

    ᅚfreeZe smiled and said: “I am okay, just don’t touch it. As for what happened… I set an entire room on fire. For ten minutes straight.”

    ᅚBefore Ambigious could say anything Shadow interjected: “freeZe needs to learn how to control her magic, to teach her that I brought out her life force using a potion and she had to fight her way back into control. While her life force was in control, her body was shielded from the heat, mages are usually immune to their own spells unless they are inexperienced. That explains why she got burned, after she got back into control there was still a lot of heat lingering in the room and her life force wasn’t shielding her body anymore.”

    ᅚAmbigious was probably about to make a snappy comment about magic but was silenced by a look from his sister. Instead he sat down on a chair next to her and sighed.

    ᅚfreeZe asked: “So, what have you guys been up to?”

    ᅚUnchosen explained: “We have been training with melee weapons. Fire summoned projections and we killed them.”

    ᅚTehLulz didn’t sit down and instead walked towards the stairs, he said: “I don’t know about you but I’ll take a long, relaxing bath now.”

    ᅚThe others silently agreed and followed him, only Fire and Shadow were left behind.

    ᅚ“So, how are the prospects for her?” Fire asked.

    ᅚHis sister replied: “As you know she has an affinity for Fire and Air. I haven’t tested other elements yet but I don’t think that there will be anything major. Average mages usually don’t have more than two. Maybe there will be some minor affinity towards any of the other elements, that way she could use her magic for things that don’t involve destruction.”

    ᅚFire nodded: “How about her further training, those scars look pretty bad.”

    ᅚShadow smirked and answered: “It was actually her own decision to keep them. It shouldn’t surprise me, really. Most pyromancers run around with completely scarred skin, the one advantage it has is that it is quite fireproof.”

    ᅚ“Tell me about it, you would be surprised how many hair growth potions are sold in the Mencur-Besh potion shop in Redwater, most of them to pyromancers.”

    ᅚShadow chuckled at that thought, she said: “Anyways, how are you holding up?”

    ᅚ“I’m doing fine, but even if I wanted to feel nervous, I couldn’t. I still don’t know if it is the right approach I’m taking. At this point it’s too early to say anything. Once we get the first few artefacts we’ll see how everything pans out.”

    ᅚ“I talked to a few of my friends in Rockhaven via demon, we already have our entry permit. That is, our friends have their entry permit, we two are already citizens. Luckily the Eye-and-Claws have a lot of power in Rockhaven so we came to an agreement quickly.”

    ᅚFire remembered something: “There are also those rumors about an enigmatic group in Rockhaven plotting to dethrone the king. I don’t know if that is relevant to us though.”

    ᅚ“Right, I remember you telling me shortly before your capture. Do we really have no idea on who it is?”

    ᅚFire shook his head: “No clue. That’s what puzzles me the most about this whole affair in Rockhaven. None of the powerful people should have any reason to want a new king, even the Mage Guild is quite satisfied with him.”

    ᅚShadow sighed. “We’ll have to look into it when we arrive. Right now the preparations for the journey have top priority.”

    ᅚA few minutes later freeZe came down the stairs, visibly having trouble moving due to the pain her fresh scars caused her.

    ᅚShe groaned: “Okay, keeping the scars was a mistake. Can you heal me Shadow?”

    ᅚShadow threw her brother an amused look before standing up. She closed her eyes to focus and raised her arms towards freeZe. As she prepared to cast her spell, white runes started glowing all over what little of Shadow’s skin was visible. A moment later freeZe’s scars started slowly turning into normal skin again and her hair was restored to its original condition.

    ᅚfreeZe touched the skin of her arms, she said: “That felt… interesting. But really, thank you. I better work on not getting burned in the future.”

    ᅚShadow looked a little exhausted, she explained: “This spell is very energy intensive, healing fresh wounds is just a matter of speeding up natural regeneration and making sure that scars don’t form… but healing already formed scars is more complicated. Fortunately there is enough ambient energy in the base that I don’t really have to worry about burning myself out, not that it would have been a problem normally but I am still recovering from casting the barrier to protect myself from your flames.”

    ᅚfreeZe nodded in acknowledgement and then asked: “Interesting. By the way, what’s up with those runes?”

    ᅚ“I did mention a few times that I ‘ascended’, right? That is the reason I have those runes on my skin.” Shadow said, making her runes glow demonstratively. “When I joined the server and discovered my talent for magic I was purely an Ender mage, this is also why I know so many demons, I have been summoning them from the start. After around a thousand years, the understanding of magic here was great enough that so powerful and thus costly spells were created that even the most powerful mages couldn’t cast them on their own. Casting spells as a group is always an option but it is difficult and could end in disaster at a moment’s notice. So that is why mages from all over the world worked on a way to augment the magical capabilities of an individual. The Mencur-Besh were the ones who actually achieved a breakthrough, they have a huge interest in research and the acquisition of knowledge.”

    ᅚfreeZe asked: “So you were the first one to ascend?”

    ᅚShadow shook her head: “The only one in fact. I was the only one where it worked. As for those before me… some survived, some didn’t. The procedure itself required the cooperation of all three supernatural crafts, that being magic, enchanting and alchemy, which on its own was a challenge. An alchemist, in this case Fire, brewed a potion that allowed my body to accept the magic that would be used in the ritual. After drinking it, the runes would have to be carved into my skin using a special knife made from enchanted silver, which is hard to make since silver naturally repels all magic. Let me tell you, it was a very painful process but nothing compared to the last part. It involved seven mages, each a master of their own element, channeling their magic into me and at the same time several enchanters infusing actual runes into the wounds carved into my skin.”

    ᅚfreeZe involuntarily rubbed her skin, remembering the pain from being burned.

    ᅚSeeing her motion Shadow said: “Yes, it was more painful than that. Anyways, after the procedure everyone just had to wait and see. When I woke up my skin had turned black, my hair white and my eyes red, which was presumably because the potion required some Mencur-Besh blood, in this case Fire’s, which explains the red eyes. That and I had a living shadow. Besides my appearance being different, I felt an immense power within me but I knew better than to test it out on the spot. And I was right in not doing so, I had to re-learn everything I knew about magic but afterwards I had incredible power at my disposal, in all elements. The only thing that didn’t proportionally increase was my life force, it is the main limitation to my magic.”

    ᅚFire got up and said: “I would love to stay and talk with you two but I’m going to have to sleep now, I stayed up a long time preparing for the training.”

    ᅚ“Night… I guess.” freeZe said.

    ᅚFire replied: “Night.”, so did Shadow.

    ᅚfreeZe turned to Shadow again and said: “That’s amazing. So, there are no other ascended mages?”

    ᅚShadow answered: “No, they did attempt a few more but they all failed, I must have been quite lucky. But I have a suspicion that it was because Fire is still my brother after all, using his blood in the potion may have made the difference. It could have been any number of things really, there is no way to tell for sure.”

    ᅚfreeZe said: “Hmm… I know I should sleep right now but I am not tired at all. Ever since the training a passion has been burning inside of me, in more ways than one. I want to learn more about magic!”

    ᅚShadow smiled: “Then I suggest that we go to the library together, there are plenty of books there. Come, I’ll show you.”

    ᅚWith that both got up and made their way out of the lobby, walking towards the library, still talking.

    Chapter 49

    ᅚJack had made a decision, he would go to Rockhaven. From what he knew a very powerful artefact was locked away inside of that city, some kind of axe. He didn’t think he would be able to get the axe himself but he was fairly certain that Fire would show up in Rockhaven eventually, that axe was just too perfect of an artefact.

    ᅚJack left early in the morning after ensuring that he had enough supplies to make it a long way. Judging by the map the road from Redwater to Rockhaven was not a very direct path and he also saw why. The direct route went through a snow biome and a strange, fairly circular valley surrounded by jagged mountains that all roads seemed to avoid by a large margin. He would later decide if he wanted to take the long road or the “fun path” since the first bit of the road ran along the direct route.

    ᅚAs Jack left Redwater, he ran into Nathaniel again and was surprised and a bit suspicious that he too was on his way to Rockhaven. They promptly decided to travel together, they both agreed that going alone was risky, especially in the lawless wilderness.
    After walking for a bit Nathaniel asked: “Why do you want to go to Rockhaven?”

    ᅚJack answered: “I have been tasked with delivering a message to a Mencur-Besh called Fire. No idea who my client actually is, the pay is good though.”

    ᅚNathaniel said: “Hmm… a message for a Mencur-Besh, I see. No idea why anyone would contract someone like us for it though, probably because we get around and nobody suspects a thing.”

    ᅚJack nodded: “Most likely. Finding this Fire won’t be easy though, from what I have heard some of them have identical names… and they all look pretty much the same.”

    ᅚ“True. Nobody really knows a whole lot about them. You can only see one running a shop here and there, sometimes I meet one of them on my travels. They are interesting to talk to, if you get the opportunity that is. But I wouldn’t want to face any of them in battle. Have you seen how they fight? I heard some of them are mercenaries as well, never met one of those though.”

    ᅚJack replied: “I honestly didn’t know about them until I got this contract, I mostly did jobs in the Deepsand desert and the surrounding areas. Then that slave mine showed up.”

    ᅚNathaniel raised an eyebrow: “Didn’t know there was one there. Who’s running it?”

    ᅚ“Don’t know. But they seem awfully good at keeping everybody in check. They are mining the rock of that old volcano in the middle of the desert and sell the resources.”

    ᅚ“I assume that is why you left.”

    ᅚ“Yes, the risk of being enslaved does outweigh the fact that everyone suddenly has diamonds to pay me with.”

    ᅚIt had been Q’s idea to not only capture new players but to also take in some of the surrounding population to make the whole slave mine thing more believable. It seemed like nobody on the server had noticed that they were actually hackers, Fire being the only one knowing what was going on. He and the people he escaped with presumably. And that one guy who showed up to save Fire in the arena. And a lot of the people in the arena who had listened to what Fire had said. Jack realized that more people knew about them than he would like to.

    ᅚJack changed topic: “So, have you ever been to Rockhaven before?”

    ᅚNathaniel replied: “Yes, once. It was before the current king’s election, I was hired to act as a guard during the festivities after the election. Normally they don’t bring in outsiders or interact at all, except through trade of course. It seems though that there was some unrest during that period and the city guard was concerned that something would happen. When you look at Rockhaven from the inside it is really hard to believe that ‘unrest’ is even part of the vocabulary there. The streets are wide and paved with… no idea what exactly it is but it looks really good. There are all kinds of people walking around in clothes of… again, no idea. After I was relieved of my duty I was free to stay for another two days before having to leave. I spent hours walking through the streets and visited every shop I thought was interesting. I’ll tell you, the things you can buy there! Weapons made from diamonds. Not the cheap ones where you just slap two gems onto a stick and it becomes a sword. Those ones were proper weapons, the shop owner demonstrated it to me by slicing straight through a chunk of rock. They were expensive as all hell though.”

    ᅚJack nodded: “Seems like it really is as unbelievable as others have told me. How did you get there the last time?”

    ᅚ“I came from Redwater too, this here is my home turf. I took a shortcut through the snow and then followed the road again. Turns out that I saved a fair bit of time that way, a caravan driver that departed at the same time as me arrived weeks later. That and it was better than being ambushed, like you said, bandits are everywhere when you travel on your own.”

    ᅚJack stopped and unfolded his map, then pointed at the strange round valley.

    ᅚHe asked: “What’s this?”

    ᅚNathaniel remarked: “Nice map.” He continued: “That’s the Witch’s Cauldron. Some mage screwed up and now there is magic going wild inside of that valley. I heard that the mountains formed because of that too. In short, don’t go there.”

    ᅚJack said: “Interesting. So we will follow the road until we hit the snow, then go through?”

    ᅚ“Yes. But really, where did you get that map?”

    ᅚ“It was part of what my latest client gave me. I was told to consider it as a bit of upfront payment.”

    ᅚ“I can understand that, you rarely come across a map like that. Anyways, the reason why I’m travelling to Rockhaven is not because I want to go to the town itself but to a nearby other town, Rockhaven Port. It started off as a trading post for Rockhaven because Rockhaven didn’t have sea access. Due to its flourishing economy it eventually became independent. Naturally pirates are a problem on the sea trade routes so I can imagine that capable fighters are always welcome on trade ships. And if I don’t find work on a ship, there is still plenty of demand for mercenaries, just like everywhere else. Maybe I’ll even go to one of the pirate towns overseas and see what kind of trouble I can get into there.”

    ᅚJack looked at his map again and indeed, just a few kilometers away from Rockhaven was a city labelled “Rockhaven Port”, it wasn’t quite as big or fortified as Rockhaven but it was easy to see why it flourished.

    ᅚJack put away his map and they started walking again. They were walking along the cobbled road silently but not after long it turned into a wide path of dirt, hardened by the feet of countless travelers. The path followed the stream of Redwater through the dense woods that surrounded it. Branches covered it entirely, shielding them from the sun.

    ᅚJack thought about his plans for when he would arrive in Rockhaven, hopefully he wouldn’t miss Fire entirely. He could set up camp at one of the roads near the city and just wait, maybe under the guise of a hunter, that way he could also ask people who were leaving Rockhaven on what was going on inside.

    ᅚThe world on the server was really a whole lot more complex than he had originally thought but he wasn’t surprised, it had plenty of time to develop. Jack shuddered involuntarily, another world, simulated by a computer program… a couple of weeks earlier he would just have laughed off the idea but now that he had experienced it firsthand he was both impressed and intimidated by the thought that technology could do something like this.

    ᅚQ had recruited him and the others over the internet, unsurprisingly. Most of the others were no big deal. Q and Jack himself were the only big fish involved in the operation. Them and Jack’s friend Alice, who had joined the operation late but was no less competent. Although Jack often disagreed with Alice’s way of going about things, he couldn’t deny that she was a valuable member. She was also his way out of his quest for finding Fire, he had arranged a meeting with her in the general area around Rockhaven so she could pick him up should anything go wrong. Assuming that nothing went wrong on the way there.

    ᅚJack shrugged the thought off and continued walking down the dirt path.

    Chapter 50

    ᅚUnchosen and Fire were standing in the circular obsidian room that was Fire’s potion lab, today would be Unchosen’s first brewing lesson. Fire had set up a schedule for Ambigious, TehLulz and Unchosen himself. Unchosen still wasn’t sure what he would call the “days” passing in Fire’s base, “sleep cycle” seemed the most fitting, in the end he decided to simply refer to them as days and be done with it. The schedule was that each day someone else would come with Fire to train in their specialized field, the others were encouraged to go to the library or train in combat. Ambigious and TehLulz had told Unchosen that they would be sparring in the training room until he was done.

    ᅚFire began his lesson by asking: “So, you are a doctor in real life, right?”

    ᅚUnchosen nodded.

    ᅚ“So I assume that I don’t have to tell you much about the more basic safety precautions you need to take here but I’ll just be on the safe side. Always wear your alchemy clothes when doing any work with potions or ingredients, I’ll give you yours shortly. Also, when you mix things together, always make sure to know what exactly you are mixing. Many things don’t react at all but those that do aren’t very pleasant. Also, before trying out a new potion on yourself, use it on a projection, they react in the same way humans do. This is important because some potions have almost irreversible effects, I do have many antidotes here but by far not every possible one.”

    ᅚUnchosen replied: “Got it.”

    ᅚFire said: “Good, now let’s give you some clothes to wear.”

    ᅚWith those words Fire opened a drawer and took out a white coat and white pants, similar to the clothes he was wearing. In addition he took out a pair of gloves and a face mask.

    ᅚ“Those should fit you. Wear those every time you have a lesson here or do alchemy in general. The face mask protects your eyes and in addition filters out hazardous gasses.”

    ᅚAfter Unchosen had changed into his new clothes they were ready to begin.

    ᅚFire explained: “You can keep your gloves and mask off for now, today I’ll mostly teach you about the basics and brew a few potions that are safe.”

    ᅚFire then lifted several large books onto the central table of the room. One design was familiar to Unchosen, the book was titled “Fire’s Potion Journal Fifth Edition”, the others were completely new to him. One had the title “Standard Ingredient List”, another one “Extended Ingredient List”, several more had similar names, different lists of ingredients or reactions and one book which seemed to contain information about brewing techniques and equipment.

    ᅚ“Those are quite the books there.” Unchosen said.

    ᅚHe was no stranger to extensive specialized literature but this was very specialized and there was a whole lot of it.

    ᅚFire answered: “Yes, a large part of an alchemist’s work is documenting what they are doing and reading through other alchemists’ documentations. Those documentations are called ‘Potion Journals’, as you can see, one of mine is here. In it I wrote down different recipes, experiments and other things that could be useful to another alchemist. It has been revised and extended multiple times, replacing old recipes with new, more efficient or easier ones. The old ones are still in there in case someone doesn’t have the ingredients for a new one. This also means that with each edition the book gets larger.”

    ᅚUnchosen asked: “Are those published as well?”

    ᅚFire said: “They certainly are. Experienced alchemists earn a surprising amount just from the sales of their journals and even the journals of novices are sometimes useful since their lack of experience can lead to discoveries that a more experienced alchemist wouldn’t have made. The journals are mostly sold to other alchemists but also to people who aren’t alchemists themselves but want to make their own potions. All at their own risk of course.”

    ᅚFire then continued: “Anyways, it’s time for your first potion. It will be a fairly simple one that is safe to brew. This particular potion is plainly known as the ‘Novice Potion’ because its only application is to teach how to brew. It doesn’t have any special effects, it just tastes like oranges if done right.”

    ᅚUnchosen laughed. “Let’s get to it then.”

    ᅚFire turned a crank and an opening appeared in the middle of the table. Fire also opened a cupboard to get a medium sized, cauldron shaped container, apparently made from glass, which he placed next to the hole. Then he poured a glowing powder from a pouch into the hole and put the glass container on top. Fire then poured water into the container until it was half full.

    ᅚHe explained: “The instruments and containers used in alchemy are made from diamond glass, which is nearly indestructible. I’m using blaze powder to heat the water since it gives off a much more stable temperature than burning fuel. It’s basically this world’s substitute for a Bunsen burner, only that its acquisition is a bit more difficult.”

    ᅚUnchosen nodded.

    ᅚFire continued: “Every potion needs a base, in normal Minecraft the only base available is the one using Nether wart, the Awkward Potion, but here we have many more. The quality of the base determines how complex the potion can be. Nether warts can be used as a base for almost any potion but more specialized bases often achieve better effects. For this potion we will be using Nether warts though since it is only for demonstration.”

    ᅚFollowing Fire’s instructions Unchosen carefully cut some Nether warts into small pieces and threw them into the now boiling hot water. The pieces slowly dissolved, losing their red color. The water largely remained unchanged apart from a small change in how it bubbled.

    ᅚNext Fire instructed Unchosen to go and find two ingredients in the storage. Unchosen walked out of the laboratory into the storage corridor, he was supposed to look for “dried swamp blossom” and “dungeon moss”. The moss was quickly found since Unchosen had seen the label earlier. The blossom did prove to be a little more difficult but since the ingredients were alphabetically sorted it also didn’t take him too long. As he looked into the drawer, he recognized them as the round blossoms of the plants he and the others had eaten in the swamp. He returned with each ingredient in a separate bowl.

    ᅚFire said: “Great. Now you need to powder the swamp blossom and slowly add it to the base.”

    ᅚUnchosen asked: “Just a question, back in the swamp Aurone said that those blossoms contain a weak poison… paralysis I think. What about that?”

    ᅚ“That’s what the dungeon moss is for. It is resilient enough to grow near active mob spawners, most other plants are affected by the strong magical aura of spawners but dungeon moss isn’t. Along with this it also is resistant to most poisons. It absorbs them and turns them into something that isn’t poisonous anymore, in the case of swamp blossom this results in the orange flavor. It’s remarkable that this conversion works even long after the moss has been harvested.”

    ᅚUnchosen nodded: “Interesting.”

    ᅚUnchosen then used a diamond glass pestle to turn the dried swamp blossom into a fine powder, then he slowly tilted the bowl while gently stirring the base potion. As the powdered blossom came in contact with the liquid below, it quickly turned green.

    ᅚOnce all of the powder had dissolved, Fire gave more instructions: “Next you must wait for the liquid to cool off, just take the cauldron away from the blaze powder. For this you should wear your gloves, the glass is very hot. By the way, the green color comes from the strong pigments of the blossom, normally they are used to create green dye if cactus isn’t available… Or too expensive in the area.”

    ᅚAfter following Fire’s instructions, Unchosen waited for the liquid to cool off. Once cold, Fire told Unchosen to just dump the whole bowl of moss into the potion. As the moss touched the liquid, it dissolved quickly, changing the hue of the liquid to a darker green.

    ᅚFire announced: “It should be done now.”

    ᅚHe then proceeded to use a large pipette to put some of the potion into a vial, then he drank it. Fire gave Unchosen thumbs up and then gave him another vial with the green substance. As Unchosen drank, the expected orange taste filled his mouth and fortunately no numb feeling was in his tongue afterwards.

    ᅚHe laughed. It seemed like he had successfully made a green liquid that tasted like oranges. It was a start for sure.


    Posted in: Literature
  • 2

    posted a message on The Slaves of the Desert Mine (75 chapters released) [Side Story "Ascended" released]

    Chapter 31

    ᅚTehLulz opened his eyes to close them again right after, his vision was blurry and he was still very sleepy.

    ᅚ“Dude.” A familiar voice said, he wasn’t sure but it seemed to be Ambigious.

    ᅚTehLulz was about to sit up as he heard the voice again. “Stay down, I need to get her away from you first.”

    ᅚAfter hearing that he noticed that the witch was lying right next to him, half leaning on him would describe it better. Any movement TehLulz would make now could wake her up. Ambigious reached over his friend with his hands and tried to push the witch away from his friend without waking her up. Suddenly a sting of pain went up Ambigious’ arm.

    ᅚ“Damn it! I almost forgot that wound was there.”

    ᅚTehLulz carefully pushed the witch away from him, moving her a little to the right.

    ᅚAmbigious started to grin.

    ᅚ“You know TehLulz, there are enough witches in Minecraft already, you don’t have to make more.” He said with a half-straight face.

    ᅚTehLulz stood up and stretched, making a lot of his joints creak.

    ᅚ“I wasn’t doing… that.” He said, yawned and then added: “I think I will never get fully used to sleeping on the ground… And by the way, she saved you.” He said.

    ᅚHe then pointed at the witch who was now lying where he had been lying a few seconds earlier, he yawned again.

    ᅚAmbigious answered: “Oh… Don’t tell her what I said, okay? But how did we get here anyway?”

    ᅚTehLulz told Ambigious everything from him falling asleep in the boat to the strange euphoria after leaving the boats. He stopped when he was about to mention Fire.

    ᅚTehLulz asked: “You noticed Fire here, right?”

    ᅚ“Yeah, has he been waiting here?” Ambigious wanted to know.

    ᅚ“No. Look at his chest.” TehLulz answered.

    ᅚAmbigious turned around and in the face of Fire’s gaping wound every bit of humor disappeared from his look and his face turned dead-serious.

    ᅚ“Holy crap! What happened to him? And how didn’t I notice that?” Ambigious asked.

    ᅚ“I don’t know either. At first we thought that he was dead but then he wasn’t… entirely. It is still not certain that he will survive.”

    ᅚ“Man, that is bad.” Ambigious said. “Is there anything we can do?”

    ᅚ“The witch put a drop of Fire’s potion into the wound, let’s hope it helps.” TehLulz answered, then he added: “I don’t want to talk about that anymore.”

    ᅚAmbigious looked left and right and promptly changed topic: “This is one strange hut.”

    ᅚAfter a standing up and walking around a bit he asked: “How did she save me anyway?”

    ᅚTehLulz replied: “That illness you had is called blaze fever, you seem to have caught it in the Nether. She cured it by giving you a Fire Resistance potion.”

    ᅚ“That seemed logical.” Ambigious commented.

    ᅚHe removed the bandage Unchosen had made him, looked at the wound and his face changed to a disgusted look. The wound hadn’t gotten any better, it was about the same with the only difference being that a hard red-brown crust had formed on the wounded flesh.

    ᅚHe didn’t comment on the wound but instead asked: “Should we wake up the others?”

    ᅚTehLulz asked: “The witch too?“

    ᅚ“Not yet, we need to talk about things first. By the way, do you know her name?”

    ᅚ“No… She didn’t tell me.”

    ᅚ“Whatever.” Ambigious said and proceeded to poke freeZe in the shoulder.

    ᅚ“Hmmm?” freeZe muttered.

    ᅚ“Wake up.” Ambigious said, a winning smile on his face. “By the way, I woke up before you.”

    ᅚfreeZe pushed herself up from the ground, but after she saw Fire, she dropped herself to the floor again.

    ᅚTehLulz demanded: “Come on, stand up.”

    ᅚ“But Fire is dead… and Ambigious, how are you talking, you have fever.” freeZe said, still very sleepy.

    ᅚ“I got cured.” Ambigious said short.

    ᅚ“Fire is not dead, not yet at least.” TehLulz said and immediately regretted adding the second part.

    ᅚ“Not dead?” Unchosen muttered, who woke up because freeZe moved.

    ᅚTehLulz explained: “The witch gave him a bit of his potion, the golden apple concentrate, you know.”

    ᅚ“Which witch?” freeZe asked.

    ᅚ“Okay, time to tell that story again. Are you really awake? I don’t want to tell you twice, I’ll make it short this time.”

    ᅚfreeZe and Unchosen sat up and said: “We are awake.”

    ᅚTehLulz quickly explained: “Okay, right after we saw Fire I heard the witch coming up the ladder, you two had fallen asleep for some reason. I explained the situation and she gave Ambigious a Fire Resistance potion to cure his illness, then she put a drop of Fire’s golden apple concentrate into the wound. Remember how Fire did that to Oalrhm? Oalrhm wasn’t really dead either, he was just something like a very deep sleep, let’s hope that it is the same for Fire. But I still don’t understand how he would be able to live with his heart lacerated like that… Also she said that she knows Fire, or at least her mother knew him.”

    ᅚ“Hold on now.” Unchosen said. “So Fire might be alive. Ambigious is cured, well except his wound. We might actually be in good shape... If we find a way to repair Fire’s heart that is.”

    ᅚAmbigious asked: “So, will we wake up the witch now?”

    ᅚ“I think so.” TehLulz answered and gave Ambigious to remind him not to say anything.

    ᅚTehLulz knelt down next to the witch and tried to wake her up by poking her in the shoulder, she didn’t show any reaction.

    ᅚ“Wake up.” He said half loud.

    ᅚ“Let me do that.” Ambigious said.

    ᅚHe pushed his friend aside and easily lifted the witch up on her arm using his healthy arm.

    ᅚThe witch opened her eyes as she was quite violently lifted up, at first she seemed to be scared but then she saw who was lifting her up.

    ᅚ“You seem to have recovered from the blaze fever.” She said dryly and yawned.

    ᅚAmbigious lifted her up until she could stand on her feet and then let go, then he took a closer look at her, followed by a nod and a suppressed grin, which earned him an angry look from his sister.

    ᅚTehLulz broke the awkward silence: “Time to properly introduce ourselves. This is Ambigious, that is freeZe, that is Unchosen, I am TehLulz.” He pointed at his friends in order.

    ᅚ“Nice to meet you…” She said, rubbing her arm that was still hurting form being lifted up.

    ᅚfreeZe asked: “What is your name?”

    ᅚ“My name? I am Aurone.” She said.

    ᅚfreeZe smiled: “Nice to meet you Aurone.“

    ᅚAurone demanded: “Now you need to tell me all about your journey, you owe me that after breaking into my house.”

    ᅚThey looked at each other, not sure what to do as they didn’t want to mention the server or the hackers. It didn’t feel right to lie to a person who more or less saved them but they were not sure what the witch, an NPC, would do if they talked about the server.

    ᅚ“I’ll start.” Unchosen said, everybody else sighed in relief.

    ᅚ“Okay, so until a few days ago we were slaves in the Rockbane Quarry in the Deepsand desert, which is also where we met Fire.”

    ᅚ“There is a slave mine in the Deepsand desert?” Aurone asked, obviously surprised.

    ᅚ“Not since long, only since one year.” freeZe explained.

    ᅚUnchosen continued: “We spent months in the quarry until one day Fire said that he had a friend who would bring us potions to help us break out. That friend came and we jumped into the volcano with the potions protecting us.” He paused and added: “Don’t be surprised by that, there are much stranger things on our journey.”

    ᅚAurone asked: “Where did you live before you were made slaves?”

    ᅚAs Unchosen didn’t answer at first, Ambigious quickly made something up: “We lived in the area around the edge of the desert… farmers, you know.”

    ᅚUnchosen gave Ambigious a thankful look and continued: “At the bottom of the volcano was a Nether portal, after going through we had to walk a long distance to get to a Nether fortress.”

    ᅚfreeZe said: “We got attacked by a magma cube on the way, Fire saved us from it but the cube swallowed him, he survived but as you can see his scales are still deformed from the heat.”

    ᅚTehLulz continued “In the Nether fortress we met Wither cultists that were friends of Fire, they gave us food and the bow Fire has on his back right now.”

    ᅚAurone commented: “You didn’t lie when you said that there strange things on your journey. Wither cultists that aren’t out to sacrifice you, I didn’t think that was even possible.”

    ᅚTehLulz continued: “We exited the Nether through another portal and climbed a mountain.” He left out the part about them discovering that freeZe was a mage and moved on with the story. “After climbing down on the other side, we made ourselves some wooden armor in preparation for the Graveyard of the Forest.”

    ᅚfreeZe continued explaining: “In the forest we met Oalrhm…”

    ᅚ“You met Oalrhm?” Aurone interrupted, she seemed to be very excited.

    ᅚ“Yes… What about him?” freeZe asked.

    ᅚ“Every witch should visit Oalrhm at least once in her life, I have yet to go there. How is he?” Aurone asked.

    ᅚ“I don’t know. He is friendly but he clearly explained that he can and will kill if he has to. He seems to be much more powerful than you would think.” freeZe said.

    ᅚAurone answered: “Oalrhm is one of the most powerful creatures of Earth in existence. Anyways, continue.”

    ᅚUnchosen started talking again: “Alright, where did we stop…? After Oalrhm opened the passage we had to fight us through the Graveyard, that is where Fire got hit by some spell from a skeletal mage, he just disappeared, no idea how he ended up here. After that, we walked through the swamp. So, that is how we got here.”

    ᅚAmbigious said: “Now, we told you about us. Who are you?”

    Chapter 32

    ᅚ“I am a genius!” Jack exclaimed while he was waiting on Q to pick up his call.

    ᅚ“How is the situation Q?” He asked.

    ᅚ“The police showed up again, this time I had the entrance sealed. They talked about leaving this area alone… don’t know if they meant it or if they are bluffing and want me to feel safe enough to come out, which isn’t going to happen. Anyways, have you been making progress with reading the code?”

    ᅚJack grinned. “I indeed have. I have been reading the code for five hours now. Most things that we assumed are proven. The software establishes a direct connection to our brains, although I have no idea on the specifics, the exact process seems to be in separate files in a low-level language I have never seen before. As far as I could tell the software can read and write fairly extensively, it seems to be limited to transferring sensory data and signals for muscles though.”

    ᅚ“Excellent. Anything else?” Q wanted to know.

    ᅚJack said: “Yes. I am certain now that we can’t separate the code from Minecraft without the admins giving it to us. Sadly we need to kill people until they give it to us. I hoped that we could avoid that.“

    ᅚ“That is not good. If we start killing them and the police gets us we all will be in jail for life. But if we stop now Fire knows where we live, especially where I live, he got to look at our data after all. We already crossed the line and now we need to keep going.”

    ᅚJack sighed. “I guess you are right. I really hoped that we wouldn’t have to do this. I’ll tell you some more things I found in the code. Maybe that will help us find Fire.”

    ᅚQ answered: “Go ahead.”

    ᅚJack explained: “I found a file with all kinds of objects hidden all around the map that may be able to help Fire remove us from the server. I don’t know what they are, I don’t know where they are and I don’t even know how many there are. They could be a key made from redstone, a gem shining in rainbow colors, anything really. There are a lot of them and only some may be relevant to Fire.”

    ᅚ“And Fire is searching for those objects.” Q said.

    ᅚ“Exactly. Even if Fire is the only one who knows what those objects do, chances are that more people know about them. If we could extract information from somebody we could be one step ahead of Fire and prevent him from collecting those things. We even might collect them ourselves.”

    ᅚ“Let’s not get too greedy. I will inform everybody about what you found out. Bye.” Q said and immediately hung up.

    ᅚJack looked at the code again. He knew what he had to search for but he didn’t know where. He needed more information about those objects, it would be hard to find out where they were from the file because they were not stationary.

    ᅚJack thought to himself: “Somebody could just have picked up one of those without knowing what it actually is. If they serve any purpose besides removing us… at least one of them should be in a vault of a big town. Too bad I don’t know where the big towns are.”

    ᅚThen he had an idea. Andreas and his brothers were on guard shift most of the time, they should know where to look.

    ᅚJack opened his communication app and double clicked Andreas’ name and hoped that he wasn’t on the server.

    ᅚHe was in luck, Andreas picked up after thirty seconds later.

    ᅚ“What’s up?” he asked.

    ᅚ“Andy, I need your help.” Jack said.

    ᅚ“It’s about that broadcast text from Q we got a minute ago, right?”

    ᅚ“Yep. You need to inform me about the important locations on the server. I figured one of the objects might be there.”

    ᅚAndreas asked: “So, towns or general locations?”

    ᅚJack replied: “Towns.”

    ᅚ“We’ve only been on the main continent but from what I have heard there isn’t much along the lines of civilization overseas. For the main continent, first and foremost there is Rockhaven, it is something like the capital town of the server or at least a lot of the trade seems to converge there. Its walls are made from a material I have heard to be called ‘artificial bedrock’ and it is protected by many magical spells. I have only seen it from the outside but from what I have heard the king possesses an axe capable of splitting almost anything. If the name Threepeak Mountain tells you anything, that is near where it is.”

    ᅚ“I know where that is, go on.” Jack said.

    ᅚAndreas continued: “Rockhaven is the only really fortified town I know of, the others are just large settlements. I’ll tell you what the five biggest ones are. Firstly there is Redwater, located by a large stream with the same name. Mostly a fishing town but I heard that they also brew potions there. Then there is Oakington. As the name suggests, it is in the middle of a forest, this town has specialized in cutting and manufacturing wood, they also breed and sell hunting wolves.”

    ᅚ“I will surely check those two out. Go on.”

    ᅚ“Okay, next there is Drysprings, located at the edge of an unnamed mountainous desert, it is like a town from a wild west movie, complete with sheriff and saloon. They breed very fast and durable horses there, they also produce weapons and armor from imported steel. Now, I don’t know where the next town is, I have only heard stories about it. That town seems to be where most of the mined resources on the server come from, it is called Drandin.”

    ᅚJack interrupted “That name is different from the others…”

    ᅚ“I know right, it doesn’t say anything about the location of the town. Some say that it is high up in the mountains, some say it is in a hidden valley, others say that it is entirely underground. The only other thing about that town is that not only a lot of the mined resources come from there but also a considerable part of the alcoholic beverages. They also seem to pretty much have the monopoly on diamond tools and armor. On that and on something that is called ‘drandinian Heavybrew’, some sort of alcoholic beverage I assume.”

    ᅚ“I would bet that at least one of the objects Fire is after is something related to drinking or brewing…” Jack assumed and then asked: “What is the last town?”

    ᅚ“The last town is Treetop, it is in a jungle and consists of mostly treehouses. The people there are excellent hunters, there are also a lot of mages and enchanters there from what I have heard. I think that is why none of the houses has ever fallen down, the magic is holding them up.”

    ᅚJack smiled and said: “Thanks for the info Andy. I can assume that your shift is over now? Just in case I need some more information.”

    ᅚ“It is not exactly over but I can tell Jonathan to take the rest of my shift.” Andreas replied.

    ᅚ“Thanks. I’ll be looking at those towns now, one after the other. Bye and thanks.”

    ᅚ“Actually, wait. I’ll log onto the server right now and draw a map for you, just wait a few minutes and then log on, I think I’ll be done drawing by then.”

    ᅚJack thanked Andreas: “A map would surely help, see you soon on the server.”

    ᅚBefore hanging up Andreas said: “No problem, see you.”

    ᅚJack pushed his chair away from his desk and stood up. Before going onto the server again he quickly wanted to eat and drink some more. He quickly walked into his kitchen and opened the fridge again. It was pretty empty since he never stockpiled food. There were just a few apples, some cheese, some milk and similar things. The thing he was looking for was a blue plastic bottle, which he found almost immediately. In the bottle was a mixture of different nutrients and water. He had prepared it for situations like this where he didn’t have time to eat and needed nutrients. He would be on the server for a long time.

    ᅚHe opened the full bottle and drank half the liquid inside, he shivered at the cold and the bad taste and put it back into the fridge and muttered: “Bah… disgusting.”

    ᅚBack in his computer room he logged into the server, which was now a little creepy as he had gained somewhat of an understanding of how it worked.

    ᅚHe thought: “It is kind of creepy now that I know it for a fact, connecting my brain to software. Fortunately it is just Minecraft I am connecting to.

    ᅚHe woke up in his spawn bed, which he hadn’t left since he died. He stood up and exited the room that had a good forty beds in it.

    ᅚOn the server Jack looked like a tall man with very short brown hair, grey eyes and pale skin. He was wearing a black business suit and a tie.

    ᅚHe now was in a hallway with wooden walls, he sprinted to the very end of it and opened the door to the processing building. The people there greeted him as soon as he entered.

    ᅚA person sharpening an iron sword at a grindstone told him: “Andreas told me to tell you that he is in Room 26.”

    ᅚ“Thanks.” Jack said short and ran over to a hallway and then to said door.

    ᅚOn the inside he saw Andreas sitting on a wooden chair and bowing over a pretty large piece of paper. Andreas was a short and thin man with short green hair and eyes, his skin was almost white, he was wearing wide red shirt and black, baggy pants.

    ᅚ“Hi Jack!” Andreas greeted him. “The map is done.”

    ᅚ“Thanks again for drawing it.” Jack said.

    ᅚAndreas answered: “No problem, take a look.”

    ᅚThe map was very detailed, displaying the exact biome borders and important cities, everything that had a name was labeled accordingly.

    ᅚ“See, there is Drysprings… there is Oakington… there Rockhaven and here are Treetop and Redwater.” Andreas explained and then continued: “But you with your appearance won’t really have much success with asking the population, you will need to disguise.”

    ᅚ“Disguise as what?” Jack asked, a little surprised.

    ᅚAndreas replied: “Merchant, warrior, farmer, explorer, hunter… Whatever you want. We have a whole cabinet of clothes and equipment we found. Or stole for that matter.”

    ᅚ“I didn’t know that. Where?”

    ᅚ“Room 34. Take the map and we’ll go there.”

    ᅚAndreas stood up from his wooden chair and went out of the door. Room 34 was in fact only a few doors further down the corridor.

    ᅚAndreas opened the door and said: “You go first, the light switch is to the right.”

    ᅚJack nodded and entered the room, he couldn’t see much in the light that came in from the door. He turned right and flipped the light switch, he heard an electric crackle caused by the redstone in the wall, the lamps on the ceiling turned on one after another. What he saw impressed him. Dozens of mannequins wearing different clothes, ranging from solid iron plate armor over light and ragged travelers’ clothes up to wide black mage robes and hat.

    ᅚ“That is impressive, I never knew we were hoarding this here.” Jack said in admiration

    ᅚ“Well, officially we aren’t, it was Jonathan’s idea to collect clothes, in the end it came in very handy. When you are disguised nobody knows you are one of us.”

    ᅚJack smirked: “Right. Now for the difficult part. Who will I be?”

    Chapter 33

    ᅚAurone talked in length about her life, she spent hours explaining everything. She began with what her mother told her and ended with her finding TehLulz in her house. It turned out that she had been living in the swamp for about twenty-five years. She told them that many more witches used to live near the village before she was born, her mother didn’t have a tree house back then, just in a small hut on the ground. Everything had been good until a group of artefact hunters came to the area to hunt the witches, they killed all of them and then burned their huts down. Only Aurone’s mother Runa survived because she hid in a cave below the tree the hut was on now, a newborn Aurone in her arms. In the months after that Runa lived in the village and raised Aurone there, hoping the hunters wouldn’t come back.

    ᅚHalf a year later the villagers helped Runa build the hut on the tree. Over the months a number of traders passed by, they came there to trade goods to the villagers in exchange for emeralds and mostly ignored the witch hut unless they were wounded and hoped that the witch would heal them. Aurone said that her mother told her that one day there was an unarmed tall man with scales like a lizard, a vagrant who didn’t tell his name. It seemed like the villagers didn’t want to trade with him because they were afraid of him. He had asked if he could stay in the hut for one night and offered a book with potion recipes as payment. Runa let him stay in the hut for the night and it soon turned out that she had been right in doing so. That night the hunters returned.

    ᅚAurone explained how their torches were lighting up the night and their shouts filled the air. Just when her mother thought it was over for her, the strange man suddenly rose up, jumped down to the ground and fought the hunters, one against a dozen. The hunters however quickly found out that their own viciousness was nothing against the ferocious fighting style of their opponent. Runa watched the massacre from her balcony, a crying Aurone in her arms. All hunters were killed except one that the man left alive to tell the tale. After that, he climbed up into the house again and laid down as if nothing had happened.

    ᅚThe next morning he had thanked Runa for the stay, introduced himself as Fire and left, Runa would have thought the events of the night were a dream if there wouldn’t have been corpses lying all around the hut. Aurone’s life after the attack went on without any bigger events besides her and her mother healing the wounds of travelers passing by and curing diseases in the village.

    ᅚAurone explained how she learned how to brew potions and survive in the swamp and also went into detail about the different potions, which only interested Unchosen, he asked one question after the other, much to the annoyance of the others. She told them about a potion that would make the one drinking it fall into a deep sleep and stop all their body functions, which would normally lead to death, however the potion also supplied the drinker with energy, keeping them alive for about four days and a half, then they would wake up again. They imagined that it was similar to the potion that Fire had used on the Shop Guy.

    ᅚAurone stopped as she was about to tell what happened when she was twenty years old and then sighed. She told them that one day she woke up and her mother was just gone. She knew that her mother was dead because Runa wouldn’t leave without telling her, Aurone said that she never found out what happened to her. After that she continued living in the hut for five more years up until the day she found the group.

    ᅚIt was already afternoon when Aurone finished telling her story.

    ᅚPromptly leaving topic Ambigious said: “Do you have anything to eat here, I am hungry.”

    ᅚfreeZe was about to say something but was cut off by Aurone: “Of course. If you like herbs that is.”

    ᅚ“I am not picky when I am hungry, just give me something. Don’t worry, I have been living in a slave mine for the last few months after all, I am used to eating plants.” Ambigious answered and gestured towards his mouth with his unwounded arm.

    ᅚfreeZe slowly agreed: “Yes, I would like something to eat too… I think all of us do. Let’s find out what the usual diet of someone living in a swamp is.”

    ᅚAurone stood up and started walking towards the door, she said: “We will have to collect some food, I never store much.”

    ᅚThe others stood up and followed the witch through the door and down the ladder. Getting Ambigious down to the ground was a bit troublesome as he could only use one arm but with the help of TehLulz he finally reached the ground.

    ᅚ“What do the plants look like that we are searching for?” Unchosen wanted to know.

    ᅚAurone replied: “They grow on the ground and are about as tall as your arm, they have four leaves and a round, green blossom on top.” She looked around for a bit and then pointed towards a willow tree nearby. “There are some over there.”

    ᅚAurone went first, then Unchosen and then the others. freeZe noticed how Aurone was barely visible with her grass clothes, Unchosen was similarly hard to see, the leaves all over Unchosen’s body had almost the same color as the grass which made it hard to spot him from a distance. freeZe looked down to her feet and smiled, she herself was very visible in comparison, a pitch black silhouette with green eyes standing in the middle of the grass.

    ᅚAurone reached the plant and cut the stem with the knife she had shown TehLulz the day before.

    ᅚ“I am leaving the roots in the ground so it can grow back.” She explained and handed a leaf to each of the others.

    ᅚThe leaves tasted very sour and a little bitter but it was far better than the tasteless salad leaves they had been eating in the quarry.

    ᅚUnchosen asked: “How many do you need to eat every day?”

    ᅚ“About twenty for me, for you three I would say… thirty and for… what was your name again?” She looked at Ambigious questioningly.

    ᅚ“Ambigious.” He answered.

    ᅚ“Ah, right Ambigious. For you I would say thirty-five, you seem quite strong.” She said and then added: “You can go around collecting those on your own now but don’t eat the blossom, it contains a weak paralysis poison, just give them to me, I might use them for some potions.”

    ᅚ“Alright then.” freeZe said.

    ᅚShe started looking for more of the plants, there were none in her vicinity but she could see a big patch of them about fifty meters away.

    ᅚShe pointed in the direction and told her friends: “Look, over there. There are some.”

    ᅚfreeZe, TehLulz, Ambigious and Unchosen walked towards the patch while the witch wandered off in a different direction, probably looking for different herbs. Ambigious took the lead and then took his stone sword out of his inventory and slashed at the tall grass in front of them, clearing a path. Even though he was using his left hand it didn’t seem like he had trouble using the sword.

    ᅚWhen they arrived at the patch they carefully started plucking the herbs. TehLulz immediately ate one of the leaves and then shivered, he wasn’t used to the strong sour taste but ate another leaf as he was hungry.

    ᅚ“I could get used to this.” Unchosen stated as he removed the blossom from an herb and put it into his inventory.

    ᅚAmbigious agreed: “Much better than the crap we got in the quarry, was probably spawned in, everything tasted exactly the same.”

    ᅚThey didn’t talk much after that, they were too busy plucking and eating herbs. About ten minutes later they had eaten a good part of the patch and started walking towards the hut again on the path Ambigious had cut through the swamp.

    ᅚUnchosen looked at how much of the patch they had eaten and assumed: “I don’t think that the swamp can sustain five people with food for a long time, one maybe but not the five of us.”

    ᅚ“You are probably right.” Ambigious said.

    ᅚThey were almost at the witch hut as they saw Aurone waiting on the lower end of the ladder, a worried look on her face.

    ᅚ“What is it?” freeZe asked.

    ᅚ“I think there is someone or something in the hut, I heard heavy steps a minute ago.”

    ᅚ“Interesting… let’s check it out then.” TehLulz said and proceeded walking towards the ladder.

    ᅚHe was already halfway up the ladder when freeZe said: “Be careful, you don’t know what this thing is.”

    ᅚTehLulz reached the platform and took a deep breath. He pressed his ear against the wooden door, at first he didn’t hear anything but as he listened more carefully he heard a slow rattling breath and the sound of a chest being opened.

    ᅚUnchosen asked: “What is it?“

    ᅚTehLulz replied quietly: “I don’t know but it seems to be searching for something in your chest Aurone.”

    ᅚAs he didn’t get an answer TehLulz slowly opened the door and peeked through the small opening. He could barely see anything, the only thing he could see was a tall figure bowing over the chest next to the furnace. Suddenly he realized something. The figure could be Fire who woke up. It was still a mystery to him how he could live without a working heart, maybe the potion was keeping him alive? He opened the door completely, which flooded the room with light and surprised the figure, which stopped searching the chest and now faced the door. TehLulz looked at the figure’s face and was relieved to see that it was indeed Fire. However when his gaze went lower he saw the wound in Fire’s chest. The wound looked bigger than before as Fire was now standing and not leaning against the wall, in front of the heart TehLulz could see a piece of Fire’s lungs, which were now operational. It gave the wound an even more gruesome look as it moved, every movement seemed to cause him pain.

    ᅚ“Fire? Are you okay?” TehLulz stuttered.

    ᅚFire recognized his friend’s voice and faced the chest to continue his search with a rattling sigh, then he raised one finger to a gesture that meant “later”, he seemed to be unable to speak.

    ᅚTehLulz turned around and told the others: “It is Fire, he doesn’t seem to be in very good condition though.”

    ᅚ“Let me up there!” Aurone yelled and pushed Unchosen aside and then climbed the ladder.

    ᅚAs she saw Fire searching in her chest she walked up to him and asked: “What are you looking for?”

    ᅚFire once again made a gesture, this time he drew a crescent shape into the air with his fingers, then tapped a yellow stain on his coat. Aurone seemed to understand what he meant and pointed at a satchel.

    ᅚ“There.” She said.

    ᅚFire nodded and opened the satchel, inside were melon slices, only that they were golden, glistening melons. Fire also had found some bottles and filled them with water, then put them into the brewing stand. He searched the satchel again and fished out a Nether wart, which he cut in three parts with his claws and put them into the bottles brewing stand and stuffed the melon slices in afterwards. Then Fire waited, pressing his left hand against the wound, it seemed like the wound started to hurt even more now.

    ᅚTehLulz just stood there and observed what Fire was doing, unable to do anything himself. Judging by the ingredients he used he was making health potions. Fire’s rattling breath sped up as the pain in his chest increased, TehLulz assumed that Fire had just woken up and his potion was wearing off.

    ᅚTwenty long seconds later the water changed its color from transparent to a bright red. Fire didn’t even wait for the potion to cool down, his shivering hands took a bottle from the stand and emptied it into his mouth. Fire’s half-closed eyes suddenly were wide open and his hands dropped the bottle, making it shatter on the wooden floor. Fire followed the bottle and dropped down to the ground where he was lying with his eyes wide open and his hands in a strange angled position. At first nothing seemed to happen, then suddenly black bones started growing from the sides of his wound, closing up his ribcage again. Muscles grew over the bones at a rapid speed, followed by black skin and scales. At the same time the scales that had been deformed by the magma cube fell off and were immediately replaced with pristine ones. A few seconds later a twitch went through Fire’s body, his eyes closed and his body relaxed, he was just lying there peacefully like before, just without the wound.

    Chapter 34

    ᅚFire’s body shot up, his claws were extended and ready to fight off the skeletal mage he had been fighting a few moments ago, his perception was slowed.

    ᅚSuddenly Fire noticed that there was no skeletal mage, he wasn’t in the dark Graveyard of the Forest. He noticed that he also wasn’t standing anymore, he was sitting on a wooden floor, in front of him was a familiar face, distorted in shock. Fire realized that he wasn’t in danger and retracted his claws, then he took a few moments to examine his environment. He was in a wooden hut, judging by the smell located in a swamp. There were two people standing in the room, first TehLulz, whose face looked normal again now that Fire had retracted his claws. The second one was unknown to Fire, it was a woman with long black hair clothed in what seemed to be grass. Fire’s sense for energy kicked in, he felt fairly large amounts of magical flowing in the area, this seemed to be a witch hut.

    ᅚ“Are you okay Fire?” TehLulz asked and made Fire snap out of his observation.

    ᅚFire replied: “Yes… but where is this?”

    ᅚFire just now noticed that his coat was completely torn and a numb throbbing filled his chest.

    ᅚHe asked: “What happened?”

    ᅚ“I hoped you could explain that to us.” TehLulz said and added: “To sum it up, you got hit by some magic missile in the valley and disappeared, freeZe pulverized the skeleton with lightning, Ambigious took an arrow in the arm and later got blaze fever, we found you here in this hut with a huge hole in your chest, Aurone helped us and just a few minutes ago you woke up and made health potions and drank one.”

    ᅚ“I don’t remember that… just let me think about it for a bit, maybe I can make some sense of it.” Fire muttered, audibly puzzled.

    ᅚTehLulz turned around and called the others, who came up the ladder one by one, Ambigious with the help of TehLulz. The look on their faces was a mix of disbelief and joy.

    ᅚ“I thought it was over.” freeZe said.

    ᅚFor the next few minutes they just stood there, thinking about what happened.

    ᅚFire broke the silence: “You said Aurone earlier, right? I know this place… wait. I remember now, I was here twenty something years ago.” Fire looked at Aurone. “So you are Runa’s daughter?”

    ᅚAurone replied: “Yes… that’s me.”

    ᅚ“I think I have some things to explain to you all, this may take some time.” Fire said and took a deep breath. “I think that spell from the skeletal mage triggered a survival mechanism I have, when I suffer a heavy wound or a critical loss of life force I get teleported away to the closest source of magical energy, which was this hut. The teleport must not have only partially worked because the spell interfered with it, I guess that is why I had that wound.”

    ᅚ“Seems very handy to have such an emergency teleport.” Unchosen commented, then he added: “That doesn’t really explain how you were able to live with your heart gone.”

    ᅚFire explained: “I am sure you noticed that I am quite different from normal human physiology. I have three hearts, which is kind of necessary, my body has a high demand for oxygen when I use my muscles at full capacity.”

    ᅚAmbigious said: “I know I said that before but… man Fire, the admins really did give you one hell of a lot of advantages.”

    ᅚFire simply replied: “They had their reasons.” Then he changed topic by asking: “On a side note, what moon phase do we have?”

    ᅚAurone answered: “Full moon.”

    ᅚ“That is less than idea.” Fire said. “Now we have to deal with slimes as well.”

    ᅚfreeZe said: “Slimes? We haven’t seen any on our way here.”

    ᅚ“That means that they have piled up in some part of the swamp and are hunting for meat… and I am very sure that we will run into them.”

    ᅚ“What makes you so sure of that?” Unchosen wondered.

    ᅚFire wanted to say something but Ambigious answered instead: “Remember what happened in the Nether? The only thing that could be seriously dangerous to us were magma cubes. And what happened? Magma cubes! And in the Graveyard of the Forest? Skeletal mage! Here in the swamp? Probably a pile of slimes wanting to eat us alive!” Ambigious then added: “Also… Aurone, mind handing me one of those instant healing potions? My arm could really use one of those.”

    ᅚAurone took one potion from the brewing stand, Ambigious took it and carefully took a sip as the potion was still hot.

    ᅚ“Doesn’t even taste that good.” he remarked and slowly drank the rest.

    ᅚHis arm started tingling and new muscles and skin grew over his wound.

    ᅚUnchosen asked: “Those potions seem to be very useful, why don’t we take some of them with us?”

    ᅚAurone gave him an answer: “They spoil within a few hours after being brewed, they lose their effect and just become mediocrely tasting pink juice. Regeneration potions don’t perish that quickly but they are not practical for dealing with wounds… say in the middle of a battle as they make you fall asleep. With better ingredients it is of course possible to make health potions that don’t perish. However the frequent use of health potions weakens the user and can drain their life force…”

    ᅚAmbigious interrupted: “Sorry Aurone but you don’t have to recite one of your potion speeches again, I get it.”

    ᅚShe stopped when she noticed what she was doing: “Oh… I apologize, I always get so carried away when talking about potions, I know the recipe book Fire left us here by heart.”

    ᅚ“You still have it?” Fire wanted to know.

    ᅚAurone answered: “Yes, hold on…” She walked over to her chest and started searching it for the book, a few seconds later she found it. “Here it is.”

    ᅚThe book was bound in thick, blood red leather and had an image of a bubbling potion on the cover. The title said “Fire’s Potion Journal Third Edition”. Fire was impressed by how good the book looked, even after all of those years in the humid swamp. He let his fingers slide across the cover and started turning the pages, the others could see illustrations of herbs and other ingredients but also gruesomely detailed drawings of the effects of poisons.

    ᅚFire gave the book back to Aurone and said: “When we arrive at my base I’ll make sure that my sister sends one of her demons to your hut with the newest edition.”

    ᅚ“Your sister has demons? Tell me more.” Aurone said with a light in her eyes.

    ᅚAmbigious made a movement with his eyebrows towards freeZe, grinned and whispered: “Let’s leave those two to their magic-alchemy-stuff talks, it is almost sunset again, let’s go to sleep.”

    ᅚThe next morning, just after sunrise, Fire woke up the others. After Ambigious was finally able to move, they had breakfast with Aurone that consisted of some of the steak Fire still had with him, Aurone also gave them some leaves like those they had eaten the day before. Before leaving, they made sure that they had enough water, food and other supplies in their inventories. Aurone wished them good luck as they walked away from her hut.

    ᅚThey had many less problems than before, they were on a larger landmass now so they didn’t have to jump over little streams all the time. Fire told them that if they marched during the day they would be able to reach his base within a few days. This motivated the group further, partially because Fire’s base was the first big goal on their journey but also because they really wanted to eat a real meal and sleep in a real bed.

    ᅚAfter a few hours of walking, the sun was high up in the sky, the temperature was fairly high and they needed to rest every once in a while. The grass below their feet was lush and dark green despite the hot sun. They decided to take a break under a large willow tree and wait until the sun would sink deeper in the sky so they could continue walking until dusk.

    ᅚFire pointed in the distance and asked: “Do you see that? If you look closely, you can see the crowns of the trees of the jungle. You do know what that means, right? It means that we’ll leave this swamp tomorrow.”

    ᅚ“About time.” Ambigious said and leaned against the trunk of the willow tree.

    ᅚAbout one hour later they were ready to depart again, they drank some water and ate some of Aurone’s leaves and started walking towards where they could see the tall jungle trees. They made a lot of progress towards the jungle in what was left of the otherwise eventless day, they were all glad that they could just walk without something trying to kill them at every corner.

    ᅚWhen the sun once again turned the clouds blood red, they were tired from the walk and just wanted to sleep.

    ᅚ“I don’t want to push our luck with the slimes, if we keep walking in the darkness we risk being ambushed by them. We should set up camp right here.” Fire suggested and looked around.

    ᅚfreeZe had an idea: “How about we build a pillar and a platform where we can sleep on, I don’t think they can reach us up there. Ambigious, don’t you still have a whole lot of sandbasalt with you?”

    ᅚ“That I do.” Ambigious replied and tossed everybody a stack of the black and yellow rock.

    ᅚEveryone stacked up a pillar with a height of sixteen blocks, then they started building a big platform where they could sleep. When the platform was done, Unchosen added a rim to it.

    ᅚHe just said: “Safety rail.”

    ᅚWhen he was done he laid down next to the others, soon they were all sleeping. Only Fire was standing guard with his ghast bone bow in hand, hoping that nothing would attack them.

    Chapter 35

    ᅚFire let his gaze sweep over the swampland, trying to spot potential danger. Fire’s friends were sleeping, using their Nether wool clothes as makeshift cushions. Fire knew all too well what the server had in store for them and he hoped that they would encounter nothing of it this night. Occasionally a zombie or a skeleton showed up in the tall grass but they didn’t pose a threat.

    ᅚAfter a couple of hours Fire sat down on the rim Unchosen had built, he knew that he shouldn’t let his guard down but the night had not been eventful until now and he hoped that it would stay that way. Fire opened his inventory and brought out the enchanted iron sword he took from the armored zombie in the graveyard and inspected it more closely. It was definitely the product of a smithy and not of a crafting table, it was quite long but for Fire’s size it was a short sword with a tiny handle. At the first look it seemed to be quite dull but on inspecting it more closely you could see a purple sheen along the edges of the blade, the Sharpness enchantment. Fire could also feel small amounts of Fire energy leaking from the blade, indicating an imperfect Fire Aspect enchantment.

    ᅚFire tried swinging the blade a few times and was satisfied with how well the blade was balanced, at least the blacksmith had done better work than the enchanter.

    ᅚFire stood up and put the sword back into his inventory, then he took another look around the area. Again, he found nothing of significance.

    ᅚA bit later Fire spotted a blue light a fair distance away, the source of the light was what seemed to be a translucent blue floating dress. Fire recognized it as a ghost light, a minor creature of Air. Although it was sentient, it was not intelligent enough to lure somebody into drowning, at least not on purpose, it was practically harmless. Fire relaxed since no real danger was present.

    ᅚThe ghost light remained the most exciting thing Fire saw that night.

    ᅚThe next morning Fire woke up his friends after sunrise and they took down the platform again. Everybody was refreshed by the sleep, even though Ambigious was still a bit groggy. Even though Fire had been up the entire night he didn’t feel tired.

    ᅚThey started marching in the direction of the jungle again, which now was a whole lot closer. Fire could already see individual vines and leaves while the others just saw a mass of green and a bit of brown.

    ᅚUnchosen asked: “So, Fire. How big is your base actually?”

    ᅚFire replied: “It depends on how you see it. For normal Minecraft standards it is giant. It is all underground so it is hard to estimate its size but I would say that it is still fairly big, even for the server standards.”

    ᅚ“Underground, hmm?” Ambigious said, then added: “Makes sense, you want to hide it from unwanted looks after all.”

    ᅚFire laughed and replied: “No, a simple projection and a not so simple ender field warp could hide an above ground base just as easily. You don’t need hideouts when you have magic. I have both of those spells active on my base but it being underground is just another layer of security.”

    ᅚ“You and your magic.” Ambigious said and shook his head.

    ᅚAfter walking for about three hours they sat down under a willow tree once again to eat some food and drink some water. While they had enough water, they were almost out of steak and only about half of the leaves were left. Fire assured the others that the food would last them until they were in the jungle where they could eat some of the fruits and berries that grew there.

    ᅚThey started walking again at noon. It wasn’t nearly as hot as the day before, the sky had been covered by a thin layer of clouds that scattered the sunlight. This unusual lighting gave the swamp a whole new atmosphere, it seemed like an unreal landscape where nothing would cast shadows. They didn’t mind the change and continued walking, glad that the sun wasn’t burning down on them.

    ᅚThey were drawing near the edge of the swamp, which was easy to notice since they weren’t on the big central landmass anymore. Their path was interrupted by small black streams again, they had to maneuver their way around them or jump over, which was easier now that they were worn out from battle.

    ᅚWhile they were walking on a bigger stretch of land freeZe asked Fire something, she sounded uneasy as she spoke: “There is something I want to know. Back in the graveyard after the skeleton hit you with that spell. Something happened to me, it was a feeling that was slowly growing and in the end I don’t think that I was really in control anymore. The more I lost control the stronger the lightning in my hands would become and when it took over I just zapped the skeleton like it was no big deal. Do you have an explanation for that?”

    ᅚWhile avoiding a root Fire answered: “You know how I told you about magic back in the cave, right? Magic has of a mind of its own if there is enough of it. So if you pile enough magical into something it will become sentient. This is the whole reason why magical creatures exist and also the reason why the minor creatures aren’t very smart. After you activated the blaze core, you also activated your life force reserve for the first time. I don’t fully understand the process myself but this triggers some kind of reaction, your life force gets a mind of its own.”

    ᅚTehLulz asked: “Kind of like a second personality?”

    ᅚFire replied: “That describes it quite well. The mind and the life force share the same body but only one of them can be in control. This is usually the mind of the mage. When the mind is affected by strong emotions it loses control. In freeZe’s case that emotion was anger. When this happens the life force can take over the body temporarily. Mind and life force are still somewhat connected though, which is why your life force avenged me for you. When someone first discovers their magical potential and doesn’t train it, they will stay extremely unstable because their life force will always try to use its power when gains control. Becoming a mage involves a lot of strengthening the connection between mind and life force so that they eventually become one and the same.”

    ᅚ“Good thing I am getting training from your sister then.” freeZe said and smiled.

    ᅚAmbigious said: “Careful, water right up ahead.”

    ᅚIn the afternoon the edge of the swamp was very close but still a few kilometers separated them from it and that distance consisted mostly of a large lake.

    ᅚThey decided to build some boats again as the water was largely deep enough to use boats. Fire was impressed by Unchosen’s idea of using wooden shovels as paddles, claiming he would have never come up with that. Unchosen seemed to hear a little joking spark in the way Fire said it but he knew that the compliment was genuine.

    ᅚThey paddled away silently, pushing aside lily pads that were in their path. The water in the middle of the lake was fairly deep, Fire estimated it to be at least twenty meters with another ten meters of sludge below. When they arrived at the other end of the lake the jungle was just a few hundred meters away from them. After exiting the boats they started walking towards the giant jungle trees.

    ᅚFire stopped the group fifty meters before the biome transition: “I think we should camp outside the jungle on a platform again. Camping inside the jungle can be dangerous as there are things like snakes that drop onto sleeping travelers. Ideally we won’t have to camp again after this night, no promises though.”

    ᅚ“Seems like a good idea to me.” TehLulz agreed and already started stacking up with sandbasalt.

    ᅚOnce the platform was built they gathered in the middle as Fire wanted to say something.

    ᅚHe explained: “I can stay up another night to guard but that won’t be ideal because even though I don’t need much sleep, two nights without it is when I start getting tired. So it would be good if you could guard through the night in shifts. You can discuss the order yourself.”

    ᅚ“Totally understandable.” Ambigious said and then added: “I take the first shift if you don’t mind. Because if you wake me up in the middle of the night I am about as useful as no guard at all.”

    ᅚfreeZe said: “I’ll go second then. Everybody okay with that?”

    ᅚUnchosen asked TehLulz: “Should I go third or do you want to?”

    ᅚTehLulz replied: “I’ll go last.”

    ᅚFire seemed pleased with how quickly they had resolved the order, he said: “The sun is setting, I’ll go to sleep then.”

    ᅚBefore laying down he gave Ambigious his bow and arrows, the he said: “Even if you don’t have any experience with the bow it is still better than nothing.”

    ᅚAmbigious replied: “I got this, don’t worry. Now go to sleep everybody we need to be fit for tomorrow.”

    ᅚAmbigious started patrolling the edge of the platform with the ghast bone bow in hand. Everybody else fell asleep with Fire being the last one. Fire’s sleep was deep and dreamless so when he was woken up by TehLulz it only seemed like a few seconds had passed. The sun was just creeping up above the horizon, dying the whole swamp in a reddish color.

    Chapter 36

    ᅚ“Fire, we may have a problem here.” TehLulz said.

    ᅚFire stretched his arms and replied: “Which is?”

    ᅚTehLulz just said: “Look over the edge.”

    ᅚFire walked up to the rim around the platform and looked over. But instead of green grass he saw something else green below them, it was a slime. This was no regular slime however, it was a slime of enormous proportions. It was a huge flat blob of green material that had a diameter of at least fifteen meters. It had positioned itself directly below their platform, cutting off all possible escape paths.

    ᅚFire said dryly: “That is a problem.”

    ᅚTehLulz asked: “What will we do now? I assume that normal weapons aren’t going to do damage.”

    ᅚ“Nope, they won’t. There is practically nothing that can harm a slime apart from extreme heat or anything else that makes it dry up.”

    ᅚTehLulz chuckled: “I don’t suppose you have a few tons of salt in your inventory for an occasion like this.”

    ᅚ“I am always prepared but not that prepared.” Fire answered.

    ᅚTehLulz said: “I guess I’ll just wake up the others and maybe we’ll be able to come up with a plan together.”

    ᅚIt took a few minutes for everyone to wake up and a few more for Ambigious to be able to form a full sentence outside the topic of being tired. After seeing the slime they got together in the middle of the platform to discuss what they would do.

    ᅚfreeZe asked: “We are not in danger up here, right?”

    ᅚFire explained: “This slime doesn’t have enough surface tension to form appendages that could reach up here, it absorbed too much water to be able to do that.”

    ᅚAmbigious said: “I assume that if we try to build a bridge outwards it would just follow us. So we need to kill it. Damn it!”

    ᅚUnchosen asked: “Fire, don’t you still have that bottled fireball that you caught in the Nether?”

    ᅚ“Yes but that is by far not enough to evaporate the water in the slime. The only other thing that we have that could do such a thing is the blaze core and that’s sealed right now.”

    ᅚfreeZe flinched at the mention of the blaze core, probably not wanting to repeat her experience with it.

    ᅚTehLulz asked: “Can we outrun it?”

    ᅚ“That would make as much sense as trying to outrun a storm tide. The bigger a slime is the faster it can move.” Fire replied.

    ᅚThey were out of ideas. There was nothing they could do except sit there and try to think of ways to kill or avoid the slime. The sun had proceeded to rise and now was already a good bit higher up in the sky. freeZe was constantly walking around on the platform and in general seemed nervous.

    ᅚ“Are you alright freeZe? Is there something you need to say?” Fire asked.

    ᅚShe replied: “I have an idea how we could get out of this but it is risky and I am not sure if I want to try it.”

    ᅚFire turned to her and said: “Let’s hear it.”

    ᅚfreeZe took a deep breath and said: “Yesterday you talked about this whole thing with my life force being able to take control over my body. What if I could willingly give it control so that it can exert its power? It should attack the slime, right? Seeing that it is in a similar mind as me.”

    ᅚFire answered: “Giving it control you say. Yes that is possible. But as you said it is also very risky. We don’t know what ‘you’ would do.”

    ᅚAmbigious threw in: “If we have no other way we might as well try it.”

    ᅚFire scratched his chin and said: “That is very true.” He turned to freeZe again and said: “I’ll teach you how to give it control. To do this you need to be perfectly calm. First you must lay down on the ground.”

    ᅚfreeZe did as Fire said but then asked: “I thought you were no magic user, how do you know how to do this?”

    ᅚFire replied quickly: “That is not important right now.”

    ᅚ“Alright.” freeZe said.

    ᅚFire explained: “Okay, listen. Close your eyes. You need to relax your entire body, try not to use any of your muscles at all. Good… Now do the same with your thoughts, just let them be. You may be familiar with this if you have ever done any meditation.”

    ᅚAt first nothing happened but then freeZe’s eyes opened and just like in the Graveyard of the Forest her entirely green eyes had started glowing. It wasn’t quite as noticeable since the sun was shining but the light was still clearly visible against her pitch black skin.

    ᅚfreeZe, her body now under the command of her life force, rose up and looked around, then went over to the edge. Upon spotting the slime she made a gesture with her hand but nothing happened. She tried it again with the same result.

    ᅚShe slowly turned her head towards Fire and said a single word. The voice he heard was nothing like her normal voice, it was distorted and multilayered, similar to that of the Wither cultists.

    ᅚ“Flames.” she said.

    ᅚFire gave her a confused look.

    ᅚShe said again: “Need flames.”

    ᅚFire now understood what she demanded, he closed his eyes and opened his inventory. He dragged a bottle of fire to his hotbar and as he opened his eyes again the bottle was in his right hand.

    ᅚ“Yes.” freeZe said.

    ᅚFire walked over to her and uncorked the bottle and handed it to her. She took it in her left hand and held her right hand like a bowl. She then proceeded to pour the liquid flames over her right hand. The smell of burnt flesh filled the air but freeZe didn’t even flinch. The flames had now gathered into a ball that was floating above her open hand. She just dropped the bottle, making Fire dive for it so it wouldn’t shatter.

    ᅚGoing back to the edge again freeZe held the flame up above her, the ball of fire seemed to have gotten bigger. She leaned over the railing and pointed her hand downwards. Fire could feel how large amounts of energy were being focused into the flame in freeZe’s hand.

    ᅚ“Down!” he shouted and threw himself to the ground.

    ᅚThe others were a bit confused but immediately did the same as the air around them started heating up.

    ᅚSuddenly there was a bright flash and a heat wave washed over them. They could hear sizzling and smelled burnt plants along with another strange scent, which they assumed was the slime.

    ᅚMoments later the heat was gone and was replaced by silence. The silence got interrupted a few more moments later by freeZe screaming in pain. Fire stood up and rushed over to his friend. A good portion of her skin was scorched, so were her clothes. Her already black hair seemed to have gotten even blacker and her skin was riddled with blisters. Tears of pain were streaming down her face.

    ᅚAmbigious was the next one to arrive, he asked: “Damn, that looks nasty. Are you alright?”

    ᅚfreeZe forced a smile and said: “It’s pretty bad but you should see the other guy.”

    ᅚUnchosen looked over the railing and discovered that freeZe’s spell had burnt all plants in the immediate area, only leaving scorched earth. The slime had been reduced to a layer of semitransparent goo, it didn’t move anymore.

    ᅚUnchosen announced: “The slime should be dead.”

    ᅚFire also took a look and said: “It is most definitely dead. This will also give us a safe landing if we jump down. In fact I will go down there right now and collect some of the slime, it’s pretty valuable.” After a small pause he added: “freeZe, you’ll get a potion when we are at my base.”

    ᅚ“I don’t think I can walk.” freeZe said weakly.

    ᅚ“I’ll have to carry you then.”

    ᅚAfter those words he jumped down. His impact was cushioned by the now almost solid slime. He started mining the layer of slime with his pickaxe, leaving a landing zone for the others.

    ᅚAbout half an hour later the group was standing on the scorched ground, Fire had quickly mined all the slime and was now carrying freeZe in his arms, she was still plagued by the pain from her burns. Fire asked Ambigious and TehLulz to go in front to clear away the plants in their path, Unchosen formed the one-man rear guard with Fire’s bow in hand.

    ᅚ“We’ll be at my base in just a few hours. Just try to keep yourself together freeZe, you’ll get all the rest you want.” Fire reassured her.

    Chapter 37

    ᅚAmbigious’ stone sword cut through the vines and fern in front of him with powerful swings, clearing a narrow path. TehLulz, who was walking to his right and slightly behind him, widened this path with similarly powerful movements.

    ᅚAmbigious thought about the situation they were in and came to the conclusion that it was not too bad and it was clearly not the worst thing that could have happened. Of course he was worried about his sister but from his own experience he knew that the kind of burns she had wouldn’t do more than hurt like hell and leave some scars.

    ᅚHe chuckled to himself while he thought about if the magic on the server could also remove scars, probably yes. If magic could hide things in plain sight or teleport people, removing scars seemed like something trivial. But you never knew.

    ᅚFreeZe herself had fallen asleep in Fire’s arms while they were walking. Ambigious couldn’t help but grin at the fact.

    ᅚHe thought about what he would do in Fire’s base. The whole magic thing didn’t interest him very much and brewing just seemed like a very dry subject to him, he wanted to know about fighting with swords or axes, up close and personal. He had tried to fire a few arrows with Fire’s bow when it was his shift and came to the conclusion that archery wasn’t his thing either.

    ᅚTehLulz asked Fire: “Are we still on the right path?”

    ᅚFire replied: “Yes. There shouldn’t be any obstacles in our way aside from maybe large rocks or trees. From here it’s basically a straight path to my base.”

    ᅚ“Good to hear that.” TehLulz said.

    ᅚAmbigious remarked: “Good, crossing another river is the last thing I want to do right now. Especially with all the leeches and other jungle things…”

    ᅚFire said: “Talking about that, carnivorous plant dead ahead.”

    ᅚHe pointed at an inconspicuous looking formation of fern.

    ᅚHe explained: “Don’t touch that. The fern is very sticky and hidden in the middle is a funnel leading to the main part of the plant, which is underground. If something organic touches the fern it is pulled in and digested. You can distinguish it from normal fern by the shape of the leaves.”

    ᅚTehLulz shivered and said: “Nasty.”

    ᅚThey kept their distance from the plant and continued walking in the same direction as before.

    ᅚNothing remarkable happened in the next part of their trek, in the late afternoon they decided to take a break in a small clearing. They sat down on the soft long grass.

    ᅚAmbigious asked: “Are you sure there aren’t any ants around here? I hate ants…”

    ᅚFire laughed and replied: “I can’t guarantee anything but I don’t see any.”

    ᅚAmbigious was satisfied with that answer and said: “You are the one with the eagle eyes around here.”

    ᅚUnchosen asked: “How long will it take until we reach your base, Fire?”

    ᅚFire answered: “I wanted to bring that up actually. I don’t think we can reach it by sunset and as I said, being in the jungle at night is dangerous. This clearing is fairly safe as there are no trees for snakes to drop on top of us from. I will also be standing guard this night again.”

    ᅚ“Alright.” Unchosen said.

    ᅚFire continued: “Another thing. Now that we have time I might as well talk about what you will be doing in my base. You all will learn some skills that will be useful when we go on the hunt for the other artefacts. Every one of you will have one type of combat and one other skill. At first all of you will of course get training in how to use the most common weapons, in case we don’t have our own at any point for some reason.”

    ᅚFire paused and then carried on: “I assume that Unchosen will choose archery for combat and brewing for the other skill, is that right Unchosen?”

    ᅚUnchosen nodded.

    ᅚFire turned to Ambigious: “Ambigious, you probably want close combat.”

    ᅚ“Yeah.” Ambigious said.

    ᅚFire asked: “How does smithing sound to you?”

    ᅚAmbigious replied: “Smithing? Hell yeah! I’ve always wanted to do that.”

    ᅚ“Good.” Fire said and asked TehLulz: “I am fairly certain that you’ll want to do enchanting but what for combat?”

    ᅚTehLulz said: “I guess close combat but a little bit of archery couldn’t hurt either.”

    ᅚ“We’ll get to that when we are at my base, no hurry.” Fire said.

    ᅚUnchosen shifted around on the grass to get into a more comfortable position and said: “I guess freeZe will do magic. From all that you have told us, magic is very versatile, so that counts for both?”

    ᅚFire replied: “Yes, not only versatile but also very time consuming to learn, she wouldn’t be able to do a second thing on the side.”

    ᅚAmbigious chuckled to himself and said: “I’ll have to enjoy the time I still have before she can zap me at will when I say something that she doesn’t like.”

    ᅚFire suddenly turned his head towards a bush on the edge of the clearing.

    ᅚHe whispered: “There is something in that bush… doesn’t seem to be very big.”

    ᅚA few seconds later an ocelot burst out of the bush, Fire’s tension was immediately blown away.

    ᅚ“Oh, it’s you.” He said.

    ᅚThe ocelot stopped and then slowly walked towards Fire, he reached out with his hand and proceeded to pet the jungle cat. The ocelot started purring and pressed itself against Fire’s hand.

    ᅚ“Awww.” TehLulz said.

    ᅚFire explained: “I know him since he was little, me and my sister take care of the animals around the base as best as we can.”

    ᅚUnchosen was now petting the ocelot too, he asked: “Do you have a family, little guy?”

    ᅚSurprisingly, the ocelot looked at Unchosen and made a sound that sounded like something between a meow and a soft grunt, then it disappeared into the bushes but only to return with several more ocelots, one adult one and three smaller ones.

    ᅚ“Well, that is new.” Fire remarked.

    ᅚThe other ocelots were equally fine with petting, which was unusual for wild animals. Even freeZe had gathered enough strength to sit up and talk a bit with the others, she was still weak and her burns still hurt but she claimed that it was getting better.

    ᅚAs they sat there with the ocelots and talked it quickly became night, darkness enveloped them until Fire used his flint and steel to ignite a small campfire, surrounded by rocks he had picked up.

    ᅚFire then proceeded to stand guard while the others slowly fell asleep, leaving him only with the ocelots. Around midnight the ocelots ran off too, Fire assumed that they were going to hunt.

    ᅚEverything was quiet until in the very early morning Fire heard something in the bushes again, it seemed to be bigger this time. He was sure that it wasn’t the ocelot family returning. Fire was instantly alert and ready to fight off whatever was trying to attack them, an arrow already on the string of his bow.

    ᅚOut of the bush leaped a spider which was very well adapted to the jungle. It was smaller than normal Minecraft spiders and its chitin shell had a green tone, making it harder to spot in the leaves. This type of spider lacked raw attack power but made it up by being substantially faster than normal spiders.

    ᅚFire’s perception slowed down but he still only barely had time to aim his bow at the eight-legged creature’s head and release the arrow. The arrow left the bow and only after a few centimeters of flight it hit the spider dead on, it pierced the arachnid’s shell with a crack, killing it instantly. The spider’s dead body hit Fire’s chest and still had enough momentum to throw Fire onto his back.

    ᅚFire pushed the spider off his chest, stood back up and put down his bow. He sat down next to the spider and used his claws to cut open its head to remove its poison glands.

    ᅚ“I’ll use those for brewing.” He said to himself, after throwing the dead spider into the bushes he added: “No reason to tell the others about this, they are stressed enough, even if they don’t admit it…”

    ᅚFire then went back to his guard position with his bow in hand, ready to fend off any more creatures that the jungle would throw at him.

    ᅚWhile guarding he thought about his plans for what he would need to do to prepare his friends for the long and hard journey ahead. Make some weapons and armor for them, brew some potions… then he decided that he would have more than enough time to think about those things when they were safely in the base. The one thing Fire really did look forward to was meeting his sister after one long year of slavery.

    ᅚThe rest of the night was unusually quiet, Fire surely didn’t mind.

    Chapter 38

    ᅚFire could see the first sun rays shimmering through the leaves of the jungle trees. Normally he would wake up his friends now but Fire decided to let the others sleep a little longer this day, his base was only a few hours of walking away so they would arrive there a little bit after noon.

    ᅚBecause the night was over Fire decided to take a quick look through his inventory again, seeing that there was not much danger during the day. Fire was satisfied with the things he had collected while they were travelling, the blaze core and the liquid flames would surely come in handy and so would the steelwood and the dried slime.

    ᅚWhile there were already a lot of weapons and armor in Fire’s armory, he would still have to make gear for his friends, seeing that good armor and weapons needed to be custom fit to their owner. He would have to reignite his forge so that he could make the gear for the others, the forge was sure to have cooled down over the year Fire had been away.

    ᅚFire woke up his friends when the sun was a good bit above the horizon already, he woke up Ambigious first and ten minutes later the others so that they would be fully awake at about the same time.

    ᅚTheir breakfast consisted of the rest of the leaves Aurone had given them and some water, then they were ready to go. FreeZe still didn’t feel good enough to walk on her own so Fire had to carry her again.

    ᅚTehLulz asked: “Did anything notable happen in the night?”

    ᅚFire had already decided not to tell his friends about the spider attack and answered: “Everything was quiet.”

    ᅚ“Good to hear.” TehLulz said.

    ᅚAfter leaving the clearing, Ambigious and TehLulz took the lead again and cleared a path, the work didn’t seem exhausting to them in any way, which was no wonder seeing that they had been working in a slave mine for the last few months. Unchosen had assumed the role of the rear guard again.

    ᅚThe path they were taking was almost completely free of danger, they had to avoid another carnivorous plant but that was the only thing. The closer they came to Fire’s base the more lighthearted they became, they all were happy that the first part of their journey was over soon.

    ᅚFire told them: “Travelling will be much easier when we depart to get the first artefact, we surely won’t have to use wooden shovels as paddles anymore. But I can’t guarantee that getting the artefact itself will be such a cakewalk.”

    ᅚUnchosen said: “That is for certain. Getting them won’t be easy.”
    Ambigious asked: “Remind me again which ones we know of. There is a potion in your base, then there is some axe… and something”

    ᅚFire replied: “The ones I know of are the Ultimate Base Potion, the Dragon Egg and the Axe of Eric the Viking. The potion is in my base, the egg is in the End, obviously, and I assume that the axe is in Rockhaven.”

    ᅚfreeZe asked: “So we are going to Rockhaven? From all I have heard it’s going to be hard to get in there.”

    ᅚFire laughed and replied: “Not if you have connections in there.”

    ᅚfreeZe said: “You said that you had to sneak in there when you stole the books.”

    ᅚ“That was when Rockhaven was still a relatively young city and I didn’t have said connections. That was a couple of thousand years back.” Fire answered.

    ᅚAmbigious said: “Wow, I still find it hard to believe that time passes so much faster in here compared to outside… for how long have you been here Fire?”

    ᅚFire explained: “You must know, the hacker’s attack on the server is slowing the simulation speed down quite a lot, normally it is even faster. In real time I have been on this server for about three to four years but in here… it has been a little bit over five thousand five hundred.”

    ᅚAmbigious sounded very impressed: “Holy crap, that is a long time.”

    ᅚFire nodded and said: “Oh yes, it is.”

    ᅚThe conversation ended and they just continued to walk silently, the sun was now exactly in the middle of the sky but the leaves above protected them from most of the direct heat.

    ᅚAmbigious turned around and said: “Hey, Fire. There is a small wooden hut on a clearing ahead.”

    ᅚFire simply said: “We are there.”

    ᅚAmbigious and TehLulz cut through the last bit of plants and stepped out onto the clearing. They waited for the others to catch up and then they approached the hut together, they were not sure what they should think about Fire’s ominous claim that they “were there”.

    ᅚAs they walked towards the hut, Fire spotted a tiny yellow symbol above the door of the hut, the others didn’t seem to notice it as it was too small. When the hut was only twenty meters away from them, the symbol suddenly flashed. Fire sighed.

    ᅚThree lightning bolts erupted from the symbol, each one hitting a different member of the group, it seemed to ignore Fire as well as freeZe in his arms. Ambigious, Unchosen and TehLulz weren’t even able to say anything or react at all before the lightning bolts struck them, they fell to the ground paralyzed. The yellow symbol had changed its color to grey and was now slowly pulsing.

    ᅚfreeZe screamed: “Fire! What the hell was that?”

    ᅚFire just wanted to answer, then he felt pulse of energy nearby and a relatively low female voice spoke first: “Base defenses. I am sorry for what happened, I just had to make sure nobody finds this on accident.”

    ᅚThe owner of the voice stepped out from the door of the hut. It was a short woman with pitch black skin, similar to that of freeZe. Her hair was completely white and very long, her eyes were entirely red. She was wearing a wide black robe making it hard to guess her figure, overall she was very beautiful but there was an undeniable feeling of power in her presence.

    ᅚFire smiled and said: “I expected no less from you.”

    ᅚHe carefully put freeZe down on the ground and walked towards the woman. He knelt down and opened his arms to hug her, this emphasized the size difference even more, she seemed like a child next to the three meter tall Fire.

    ᅚAmbigious was the first one to recover from his paralysis, he slowly got up and said: “Ugh… That’s your sister, right?”

    ᅚFire stood up again and replied: “Yes. If the matching skin, eye and hair color haven’t made it obvious enough.” He then added: “And just as I said earlier, be careful what you say Ambigious…”

    ᅚFire’s sister looked at him questioningly but then she seemed to understand. She then proceeded to send out three floating dots of light to the victims of her lightning rune. Once the dots reached them they seemed to instantly recover.

    ᅚShe said: “I am very sorry for this but as I said, I need to keep the base safe. Fire, would you mind introducing us?”

    ᅚFire nodded and said: “Of course. Friends, this is my sister, her name is Shadow. Shadow, this is Ambigious, TehLulz, Unchosen and freeZe.”

    ᅚShadow said: “Nice to meet you.” Then she took a closer look at freeZe and said to Fire: “I see you found a mage too.”

    ᅚFire replied: “Yes, would you mind healing her?”

    ᅚShadow nodded and said: “Will do. I assume that you’ll tell me the whole story later.”

    ᅚShadow walked over to freeZe and inspected her wounds and a few moments later the wounds already started healing rapidly. Half a minute later freeZe looked like she never had been burned.

    ᅚfreeZe looked at Shadow and simply said: “Thanks.”

    ᅚFire said: “I guess I’ll show you our base now. And just so you know, this hut is only the entrance.”

    ᅚFire went into the hut first, crouching through the low doorframe, his friends and his sister followed right behind him.

    ᅚ“Ready to be impressed?” Fire asked.

    ᅚBefore anyone had the chance to answer, they started sinking into the floor. The floor, however, turned out to be only a projection covering an elevator. The round elevator was richly decorated with iron, gold and a variety of gems.

    ᅚThe elevator descended into the depths of the world, slowly at first but then progressively faster. After a few minutes they felt how the elevator was slowing down again. A few seconds later the shaft opened up into a grand entrance hall, the wall and ceiling were made from polished stone engraved with various scenes. The hall was lit up by artfully cut glowstone crystals.

    ᅚThe apparently floating elevator came to a halt on a pedestal, a red carpet leading down some stairs onto the dark oak wood floor. Fire’s friends were too impressed to say anything, they just followed Fire and Shadow through the hall, each of them looking at a different engraving but all wondering what would really await them here.

    Chapter 39

    ᅚJack had exchanged his suit for light chainmail armor with cloth underneath. On his feet he had sturdy leather boots. A light battleaxe was hanging on his leather belt on his left side and a round wooden shield was on his back. He was also carrying two daggers, one on the right side of his belt and one in his boot on the same side.

    ᅚIt was late afternoon, he was travelling across a wide meadow with tall but not very dense grass, the town of Redwater was just ahead of him. Jack had disconnected from his hacker client to be as undetectable as possible, this also meant that he wouldn’t be able to use his powers in a pinch but that was a risk he was willing to take. After choosing his disguise he had spent several more hours reading various books about the world he was in.

    ᅚHe had assumed the identity of a mercenary. He still went by his real name since that would make playing his role easier, he figured that Jack was common enough of a name. Andy had dropped him off in a dense forest near Redwater. From there on he was on his own as he didn’t have the means to communicate with his fellow hackers.

    ᅚJack took a look at the town ahead of him, it was surrounded by a wooden wall that only offered protection from naturally spawning mobs and wouldn’t last long in a siege. After a few more hundred meters of walking Jack stood before the open gates of Redwater. One of the two guards on duty greeted him with a lazy gesture of his hand. Jack had at least expected some questioning but the security of Redwater was surprisingly lax.

    ᅚHe quietly said to himself: “There is nothing of value to get here either, just fish and potions.”

    ᅚAs Jack walked along the road paved with cobblestone, he decided to take his chainmail headgear off seeing that he wasn’t in any danger. After a few more steps he reached the town proper. In the outer regions of the town only private houses lined the busy street but the closer he got to the center the more stores or taverns replaced them.

    ᅚJack could already hear the loud noise of the central marketplace as a particular store caught his eye. It was built into a normal house but the sign hanging from a pole by the door didn’t have any letters on it, just a symbol of a red eye with some slightly curved diagonal white lines on both sides. After stopping and looking at the sign some more Jack recognized the white lines as stylized scratch marks from huge claws. Those symbols together reminded him of Fire, red eyes and claws. Jack decided to start his search for information in this very store.

    ᅚAs he opened the door he expected some bells to ring but he only heard a deep and dull sound from a gong that was being held in place above the door. The inside of the store wasn’t very well lit, the only light sources were lanterns filled with water that had glowstone dust in it, all the walls had been painted in dark colors. After taking a quick look through the store Jack noticed that this must be a store selling potions judging by all the vials and bottles that were lined up neatly on long wooden shelves.

    ᅚJack also noticed that he wasn’t the only one in the store, there was one other customer, currently talking to the shopkeeper. After taking a closer look at the shopkeeper Jack’s jaw almost dropped. The shopkeeper was Fire! At a second look Jack however noticed that the shopkeeper’s eyes were yellow instead of red but otherwise he looked just like Fire. After regaining his composure Jack slowly walked towards the counter the shopkeeper was sitting behind and listened to the conversation.

    ᅚThe shopkeeper asked in a deep voice, similar to that of Fire: “You know what you are buying, right? That is a poison strong enough to kill several dozens of people with what little is in this very flask I am holding.”

    ᅚJack took a closer look at the customer, he was wearing clothes that seemed to be both fit for going to a fine dinner and traveling through the wilderness.

    ᅚThe customer answered: “I know very well that I am buying concentrated Shineroot essence and I plan to do just that.”

    ᅚThe shopkeeper chuckled and said: “I figured. What are you offering?”

    ᅚThe customer replied: “I assume gold coins aren’t going to cut it. How about this?”

    ᅚWith those words he pulled out a strange crystal from one of his pockets, it was pulsing with energy and slowly changed color.

    ᅚThe shopkeeper’s facial expression didn’t change in the slightest and he simply said: “That’ll do.”

    ᅚWithout any further words the customer took the poison from the shopkeeper’s hands, stored it in a small padded box and left, rushing past Jack.

    ᅚThe shopkeeper looked at Jack: “Anything in particular you are looking for or are you just browsing?”

    ᅚJack replied: “I am looking for someone.”

    ᅚ“I may be able to assist with that. Who are you looking for?” the shopkeeper inquired.

    ᅚ“His name is Fire…” Jack begun.
    The shopkeeper cut him off: “If you are looking for the Fire who is the owner of this shop I don’t know myself where he is, I’m not him, that much should be clear. There are plenty of other Fires around though.”

    ᅚJack was somewhat confused: “You mean people that look like… you and are called Fire?”

    ᅚThe shopkeeper laughed. “You’ve been living under a rock, haven’t you? Of course there are multiple red eyed Mencur-Besh named Fire, there are only so many words for the flame element in your language. But as you are physically incapable of speaking or understanding ours, you’ll have to settle with that, sorry.”

    ᅚIn this single statement the shopkeeper had opened up more questions than he answered. What are Mencur-Besh? Jack assumed that there were more people like Fire, which would make everything more difficult. And what language was he talking about? Jack decided that it was best not to ask further questions and to instead buy some potions.

    ᅚHe said: “I think that may have helped me in some way.” He then pointed at a potion and asked: “How much is this one?”

    ᅚJack ended up buying several speed potions, some regeneration potions and a single strength potion, which had cost more than all the others combined. He spent the rest of his day wandering the streets of Redwater and stocking up on supplies. He decided that his current method of looking for Fire wouldn’t lead to much, now that he had found out that not only there were multiple Fires that presumably looked almost the same, no there was an entire species of them, apparently called the Mencur-Besh. Jack wondered if that name had any deeper meaning to it besides sounding somewhat intimidating.

    ᅚIn the evening Jack decided to take a room in one of the better looking taverns, if there was anything he had a lot of it was gold coins. After renting a room for one night he decided to stay down at the bar for a bit and listen. If anyone would have any rumors, he would hear them. Bars were the go-to place for that after all.
    He ended up sitting at a table with two town guards and another mercenary called Nathaniel who seemed to already know the guards. All of them were still wearing their normal equipment, for the guards it was their armored uniform, Nathaniel’s outfit was similar to that of Jack, only using a longsword instead of a battleaxe.

    ᅚNathaniel asked: “How’s business been for you, Jack?”

    ᅚJack remembered the backstory he had set up for himself and replied: “Not good, not bad. I spent the last few weeks trying to get to this town. You would not believe how many bandits are in the woods south of here. I wonder where they were when I was hired to escort some empty caravan, don’t ask me why, as long as I get my gold…”

    ᅚNathaniel nodded and said: “Seems like we are in the same boat. The coin is coming but just barely enough to keep this stupid chainmail and sword from getting rusty.”

    ᅚOne of the guards took a big gulp from his beer and said: “I used to be a mercenary just like you but then I took this post as a guard. And let me tell you, being a guard is no better. It’s trading action for more secure pay…”

    ᅚThe other guard just nodded.

    ᅚJack spent the rest of the evening talking to Nathaniel and the guards over a game of cards until they all got tired, the guards were the first ones to leave, then Jack himself went to his room where he took off his chainmail and weapons and dropped into his bed.

    ᅚBefore falling asleep he thought that he would just have to find Fire another way, just asking random people wouldn’t get him far…

    Chapter 40

    ᅚFire and Shadow led the others into an expansive corridor with a polished dark oak floor. The walls and ceiling were made from rounded and polished rock, more engravings covered them. The engravings pictured various things. One showed plants with incredible detail, another one showed two warriors in a fierce duel, a third one just showed a calm meadow with some mountains in the background.

    ᅚUnchosen said: “These engravings are beautiful. It must have taken a long time to make them all.”

    ᅚFire chuckled and replied: “This base is about four thousand years old, let’s just say I have had a lot of time on my hands. Me and many others, some of those engravings are made by guests, others by demons.”

    ᅚThey were now at a round intersection with corridors and staircases going off in different directions, each of them was labeled with letters engraved into the rock.

    ᅚShadow said: “We will give you a tour of the base later, I think now it is time that you all get cleaned up and get proper clothes… especially you Fire, that coat may as well not be there at all.”

    ᅚFire explained: “We’ll head to the living area.”

    ᅚHe went through an entrance and the others followed. Only Shadow went another way, she said that she would prepare something in the meantime.

    ᅚThe corridor they were in didn’t have engravings, the walls and ceiling were covered in large polished wooden planks and the patterns in the wood were interesting to look at by themselves. After walking a few steps you could almost forget that you were deep underground. The corridor ended in a large room, which also had wooden walls and ceiling.

    ᅚFire led his friends up some stairs to yet another corridor. This one had doors along both sides.

    ᅚHe explained: “This is the area with the living quarters, each of you gets one. The rooms aren’t all the same so take a look first and take the one you like best. All rooms have a hot spring in a separate room. It’s as close to a luxury hotel as it gets. After washing yourself you can choose some clothes from the wardrobe. When you are done, come back to the room we were just in, just sit down at the table.”

    ᅚAmbigious replied: “Alright, will do.”

    ᅚFire started walking towards the room at the end of the corridor, which was his own apparently, then he remembered something.

    ᅚHe warned his friends: “And don’t use the black soap, it’s caustic and contains razor sharp metal splinters. It’s made to clean scales, not skin.”

    ᅚ“I’ll remember that.” freeZe muttered.

    ᅚAbout half an hour later Fire, Unchosen and freeZe were sitting at the table in the entrance room and waited for the others. Fire’s clothing hadn’t changed much, he had only switched his ruined old clothes for identical new ones. freeZe was wearing black Nether wool clothes with red patterns on them. Unchosen had removed the vines on his body and was now wearing plain white clothes.

    ᅚfreeZe said: “I still find it amazing that you have all this luxury in your base. You sure had plenty of time to build this but how hasn’t anybody found it yet?”

    ᅚUnchosen agreed: “Yeah I was wondering about that too.”

    ᅚFire explained: “On the way here I briefly mentioned that this base is hidden by magic. The clearing with the wooden hut has a projection above it. From the air it looks like there isn’t even a clearing there. To prevent people from tunneling into my base there is also an ender field warp active, this means my base exists in a pocket dimension of sorts. The elevator is the only way in and out and serves as a portal to this pocket.”

    ᅚfreeZe said: “That sounds logical enough. I suppose setting it up isn’t easy though.”

    ᅚFire smiled and said: “Yes, multiple mages had to work together to create a stable pocket dimension, there is no way a single mage can create a dimension this large. The dimension is actually much bigger than my base so that I have room to expand. Basically, my base is inside a giant Bag of Holding.”

    ᅚWhile Fire was talking Ambigious came down the stairs and took a seat next to his sister. He was wearing blue pants and a red shirt with a black leather jacket above. Fire also quickly noticed that his right index finger was slightly red.

    ᅚFire said: “You touched the soap, didn’t you?”

    ᅚAmbigious readjusted his sunglasses and said quietly: “Yeah…”

    ᅚTehLulz arrived just a few minutes later, his clothes were a little more formal than the others’ but not as formal as the suit he had been wearing before that.

    ᅚFire announced: “Now that we are complete, I’ll show you something.”

    ᅚHe then proceeded to lead them through a large door into a round room, in the middle of the room was a table with eight seats around it. Above the table was a strange wooden device with all manner of pipes and levers.

    ᅚTehLulz wanted to know: “What is that?”

    ᅚFire replied: “That is a machine from the first era, that’s from year zero of this server’s timeline to about six hundred years after that. It is a masterpiece of redstone engineering and applied magic and as far as I know it is the only one of its kind that is still functional.”

    ᅚ“And what does it do?” TehLulz asked.

    ᅚFire said: “It makes food.”

    ᅚAmbigious said: “That’s good because I am hungry like a wolf.”

    ᅚFire walked over to the machine and sat down on one of the cushioned seats. He pulled a lever and the seat he was sitting on automatically adjusted itself to his size.

    ᅚ“Nice.” freeZe commented.

    ᅚAfter the others also had taken a seat Shadow came in through the door with a big plate in her hands. On the plate were all kinds of food. They could see meat, fruits, vegetables, cheese and also things that they had never seen before. Shadow put the plate in the middle of the table and took a seat for herself.

    ᅚFire quickly explained how the machine worked, you took a bit of food and then you could cook it in many different ways. The machine also served as a dispenser for various beverages.

    ᅚAmbigious took a piece of cheese and roasted it in a stream of flames coming out of one pipe, then he wrapped it in some bacon and put it on his own plate.

    ᅚHe said jokingly: “Hey, freeZe look. I can cook too.” Then he asked Fire: “Does this thing have beer too?”

    ᅚFire laughed and answered: “Sure, but not only beer. It has virtually every beverage you can think of. Just make sure to ask me about those you don’t know. To select one just push that button.”

    ᅚAmbigious pushed and suddenly a projection appeared in front of his eyes, it had different kinds of beverages on it. Ambigious selected dark beer and a few seconds later the machine had dispensed a large glass of it.

    ᅚAmbigious said: “Wow, fancy interface. I’m starting to like magic more and more.”

    ᅚAfter about an hour they were done eating and Ambigious was starting to get drunk.

    ᅚHe said: “Dash good stuff. But I think I shouldn’ drink mor…”

    ᅚShadow remarked: “At least you are noticing it… I know some people who would deny being drunk even if they are lying on the floor.”

    ᅚAmbigious answered: “Know shome of them too.”

    ᅚ“I think we should go to bed now…” freeZe said who had also been drinking a fair bit but by far not as much as her brother.

    ᅚFire stood up and explained: “You can just go to your room and sleep for as long as you like. After you are done sleeping I will give you a tour through my base, after that we’ll start the training.”

    ᅚTehLulz said: “Something just came to my mind, the training seems like the character creation when playing an RPG and us getting here is just a very elaborate you-all-meet-in-a-tavern plot.”

    ᅚFire laughed and replied: “Interesting point of view. Anyways, you should sleep now. I’ll go take care of some things in the meantime.”

    ᅚFire’s friends gladly went to their rooms and laid down in their beds that were so much more comfortable than anything they had slept on so far on the server. Meanwhile Fire and Shadow walked off into different parts of the base to do different things, lots of preparations still had to be made before the training could start.


    Posted in: Literature
  • 4

    posted a message on The Slaves of the Desert Mine (75 chapters released) [Side Story "Ascended" released]

    Chapter 21

    ᅚFire was the first one to wake up, it was still very early and the blaze core was the main light source in the tree. He sat up and made sure everybody was sleeping. He jumped out of his hammock, down onto the soft ground, not making a sound, ready to fight off any monsters that might be left from the night. When he realized that there were no monsters, he relaxed. The thing he needed to do now was make equipment for the whole group and in this case equipment meant stone swords and wooden plate armor and wooden plate armor meant wood and wood meant trees. After chuckling about this stupidly simple chain of conclusions he looked for a small tree and found one right away.

    ᅚAfter cutting down a few trees in Minecraft fashion using his claws he crafted some of the wood into planks and those planks into a crafting table, which he put down. Fire put a hand on the block, closed his eyes and the crafting grid appeared in front of his mental eye. In this case it was easier to make a regular Minecraft stone sword than to use the materials to construct it physically. He would need bindings, a handle and several other things that would just make it more complicated and less effective. You could do this with stone tools but for iron or diamond it would be a complete waste of materials to use a crafting table. To make proper tools you would have to smelt the iron and forge a blade or tool head, which would take longer but the tools would be a lot better. For diamonds the process was even more complicated and only few people knew how to turn diamonds into armor or tools and while Fire was one of those people, he did not have the equipment necessary to do so in his base. If you succeeded in completing the diamond forging process however, the tools and armor would be nigh-indestructible.

    ᅚAfter making ten stone swords the difficult part began. The wooden plate armor had no recipe in Minecraft so he had to make it himself. First he had to cut the wooden logs into fitting pieces meant to protect the wearer’s chest and back. That was the easy part.

    ᅚFire spent the next two hours shaving tiny strips off logs and bundling them together into a tough rope.

    ᅚ“Fire, what exactly are you doing there?” A voice said, Fire recognized the speaker as Unchosen.

    ᅚ“I am ensuring that we don’t get slaughtered by the mobs in the first hundred meters of the valley. Why don’t you come down, I could use someone helping me bundle those ropes.” Fire explained.

    ᅚUnchosen hung down from a branch and dropped down to the ground.

    ᅚ“Ouch!” He said as he felt a sting in his feet.

    ᅚHe got up and walked over to Fire, who looked pretty funny with all the tiny wood pieces scattered around the area.

    ᅚ“The workbench log massacre.” Fire joked.

    ᅚUnchosen smiled and asked: “How can I help you?”

    ᅚ“You just take those thin strips and do this.” Fire took a handful of strips and quickly wove three together to a very thin rope.

    ᅚ“Good, I know how to do that.” Unchosen said and sat down, took some strips for himself and started working.

    ᅚAfter a good thirty minutes most of the strips were woven to thin one meter pieces of rope, then they took three of those and wove them together to thicker ropes.

    ᅚIn the middle of work Unchosen stopped and asked: “Fire, how do the mobs here work, are they still about the same only with more details?”

    ᅚFire laughed and replied: “No, they are completely different. The creepers still do what they can do best, they explode. Spiders are also quite similar, they jump you and try to eat you alive. But there are no zombies or skeletons, there are just the generic category of ‘undead’, this can reach from a standard zombie over ghouls, and let me tell you, those are no joke, up to the very rare Lich Lords. Lich Lords will most likely kill you, even with best equipment. They are powerful mages without life force, they just drain the energy straight out of the environment.”

    ᅚ“Sounds pretty nasty.” Unchosen commented.

    ᅚ“It is, trust me. Remember me saying that combat a lot harder here? You will really see what that means when we reach the valley, the skeletons that have bows aim where they will do the most damage, so for heart and head. They are not very accurate but when they do land a good hit, you will be wounded pretty badly.”

    ᅚ“About how many mobs will there be?” Unchosen wanted to know and shivered.

    ᅚ“There won’t be that many, the spawn rates tend to be pretty normal, but we will sometimes have to fight five to ten at a time.” Fire calmed him down.

    ᅚThe sun was just rising over the trees, which looked amazingly different from the desert sunrises, which only were red, orange and yellow, this one also had the green from the trees mixed into it.

    ᅚAn hour later freeZe and TehLulz joined them. freeZe, TehLulz and Unchosen were making rope while Fire was carefully drilling holes into the wooden plates using his claws.

    ᅚ“How much of this rope are we going to have to make?” freeZe asked.

    ᅚFire answered: “I’ll make one chestplate and we’ll see.” He took four wooden plates and a piece of rope, put the rope through the holes and used more pieces of rope to make a crate of log pieces without top and bottom.

    ᅚ“Mind trying this on Unchosen?” Fire asked.

    ᅚUnchosen nodded and got up, Fire handed him the crate and he put his head through.

    ᅚ“It is a bit heavy but it fits. Sort of.” Unchosen said.

    ᅚ“That sounds just great.” freeZe commented.

    ᅚFire took the suit again and put additional small plates on some holes and a bit later it looked much better and more like actual armor.

    ᅚ“Now try this.” He said.

    ᅚUnchosen stood up and put the wooden plating armor on again, this time he didn’t have to hold it up with his hands.

    ᅚ“Better than before, I actually feel a bit protected but it is even heavier now.” He laughed.

    ᅚ“Move your arms as far as you can.” Fire commanded.

    ᅚUnchosen was a bit limited by the wood but he was able to move his hands pretty freely. Fire gave him one of the stone swords, which looked exactly like you would expect a sword to look like, only made out of stone.

    ᅚ“Try swinging it.” He said.

    ᅚUnchosen was surprised by the weight of the sword and it fell out of his hand, he tried to pick it up again but couldn’t because the wooden armor was limiting him. freeZe chuckled, picked up the sword and gave it to Unchosen again, he was visibly embarrassed.

    ᅚ“Attack me with the sword.” Fire demanded.

    ᅚ“Isn’t that dangerous for you?” TehLulz asked.

    ᅚ“No, he won’t be able to hit me and if he does hit me, it is only stone, which means it will just bounce off my scales. Just go for it Unchosen, I won’t attack back.”

    ᅚUnchosen ran towards Fire, who readied himself. As Unchosen was charging at him, Fire’s perception slowed down, not as much as when the Shop Guy attacked, only to about to one third of normal speed. Unchosen prepared to strike but to Fire it looked hilariously slow, he could easily take a step to the right and make Unchosen hit the air. Unchosen almost fell over because of the weight of his wooden armor and his stone sword but he managed to stay upright.

    ᅚ“Again!” Fire commanded and smiled a little.

    ᅚUnchosen attacked again, this time he didn’t slash vertically but horizontally. Fire saw the swing coming and jumped back a few steps, this time Unchosen could compensate for the momentum a bit better.

    ᅚ“Try a little less powerful swings.” Fire advised and readied himself again.

    ᅚTehLulz had stopped making ropes and was now standing closer to the two watching the fight, so did freeZe. Unchosen rose his sword for a vertical attack, Fire took a step to the left but then Unchosen suddenly redirected his sword forming an arc. Fire’s perception was half as slow as before now, he barely managed to evade the incoming hit by jumping backwards again.

    ᅚ“That was much better!” Fire congratulated as he saw that Unchosen could manage the weight of his gear even better. As he saw Unchosen preparing another attack, he added: “But we should stop now, we don’t want to exhaust ourselves before the actual battle, right?”

    ᅚTwenty minutes later they heard a sound, which sounded like something heavy falling from a high place onto something soft.

    ᅚFive seconds after that they heard Ambigious’ scream: “I told you these are not safe!”

    Chapter 22

    ᅚ“Seems like Ambigious finally woke up.” freeZe noted.

    ᅚ“And it seems like fell out of the tree.” TehLulz added and smiled.

    ᅚAfter a few seconds of silence Fire asked: “Would somebody go over there or should I?”

    ᅚAs he didn’t get an answer he stood up and ran over to the tree, where Ambigious was lying on the ground.

    ᅚ“Are you alright?” Fire asked.

    ᅚAmbigious answered: “My backside hurts but everything else is fine.”

    ᅚ“You finally woke up, get over there and help making some armor.” Fire said without asking further.

    ᅚAmbigious stood up and made his way over to his sister, Unchosen und TehLulz, all three were smiling at him as he arrived.

    ᅚ“What?” He asked.

    ᅚ“You overslept by two hours.” TehLulz replied.

    ᅚ“And? I once overslept by a day.”

    ᅚfreeZe explained: “He actually did, I wondered where he was the whole time but you should have seen him the next morning. I pretended he didn’t oversleep until he noticed that the TV program was different.”

    ᅚWhile they told Ambigious what they were doing, Fire made another suit of wooden armor.

    ᅚ“freeZe, this is yours, try it on.” He said.

    ᅚThe armor wasn’t much different from the one he gave to Unchosen, the only difference was that it wasn’t quite as wide. freeZe got up and put on her armor.

    ᅚ“Fits pretty well.” She commented but as she wanted to take it off again.

    ᅚFire interrupted her: “Take one of the swords and attack me.”

    ᅚIt was almost noon when Fire made the last set of armor, his own. Everybody ate some of the leftover steaks and drank some water.

    ᅚ“So, where is this valley?” Ambigious asked.

    ᅚFire pointed into the forest and replied: “Somewhere in there.” He then asked: “Everybody ready?”

    ᅚAfter he received four positive answers he started walking into the forest. He took a brief look at his inventory. A diamond pickaxe, water buckets, the bottled fire, some arrows, two stone swords and the blaze core, those were the most important things. His bow was on his back. Fire stopped to look for a certain tree, one without leaves but still healthy, as he didn’t find it he continued walking, his friends right behind him.

    ᅚA little later, he spotted the tree, it looked like its leaves had fallen off a long time ago, the tree itself was giant very branched.

    ᅚ“There.” He said.

    ᅚHe then carefully walked towards one of the roots at the trees base.

    ᅚ“This isn’t an ordinary tree, you know. It is an elemental creature of earth, a pretty powerful one, it’s kind is also known as ‘Treeguards’ or ‘walking trees’, which mostly applies to the smaller ones, they get less mobile as they grow older and bigger. This one has been asleep for a long time but I will have to wake him up to get to the valley.” Fire explained in a quiet voice.

    ᅚ“How will you wake him?” freeZe asked.

    ᅚ“Watch, and be quiet.” Fire answered.

    ᅚHe walked over to the trunk, took a deep breath and made a small cut into the bark using a claw, then he took out the golden apple concentrate and let one drop drip into the cut. Suddenly, the tree started shaking and so did the ground above where his roots were, it was like an earthquake.

    ᅚ“What is happening?” freeZe said with panic in her voice.

    ᅚAmbigious tried to calm her down but didn’t sound all that confident himself: “I think Fire knows what he is doing.”

    ᅚFire himself had stepped back a few steps and was now watching the tree. All of a sudden, the tree stopped shaking. A few seconds of silence later, a voice spoke to them, it was a very loud, rumbling bass voice, it was calm but it sounded so present, distinct and awake that it sent a cold shiver down their spine with every letter.

    ᅚ“Who awakens me from my sleep?” The voice asked.

    ᅚOf all of the five, Fire had the most reasons to be scared, even though he seemed perfectly calm from the outside, he knew who was talking and what he was capable of. Fire knew to be careful about what he said.

    ᅚHe answered in a respectful voice: “I woke you, Oalrhm, guardian of the forest, creature of earth.”

    ᅚ“At last someone knows the right words. What is your name, awakener?” The voice replied.

    ᅚ“My name is Fire.” Fire answered and then added: “I seek entry to the Graveyard of the Forest.”

    ᅚThe voice laughed, which sounded like wood creaking and the wind rushing through old branches. “What do you desire to do in that place?”

    ᅚ“I want to use it as a hidden passage to shake off pursuers, I am aware of but not interested in the treasure of that place.”

    ᅚUnchosen, still a bit intimidated asked a question: “Who is speaking there?”

    ᅚThe voice answered: “I am Oalrhm, the guardian of trees, I am the old tree in front of you but I am much more than a tree, I am the forest and the forest is me.”

    ᅚFire explained to Unchosen: “You can’t enter the valley without the permission of Oalrhm. The real name of the valley, the Graveyard of the Forest, comes from all the corpses of the all too brave adventurers who tried their luck getting through it without permission. Now they are skeletons impaled by thorns, choked to death or crushed by vines.”

    ᅚOalrhm said: “Yes, that is true, I do not want greedy humans in my forest, they cut down all my trees, take all the ore that gives me energy, steal all the ancient treasure in ruins or just are foolish enough to think they can fight their way through. You five, you have used the forest as your protection, I am always surprised how much trust humans put in wood, they use it for everything. I have nothing against that as long as they take it from a spiritless forest without a Treeguard of its own.”

    ᅚ“So, you are not angry that we cut down your trees?” freeZe asked slowly.

    ᅚOalrhm answered: “No, I am not. I can accept the loss of half a dozen trees if they are put to good use. What I cannot tolerate however, are hordes of lumberjacks coming to rode hectare after hectare, I kill them and throw them into the Graveyard of the Forest with the other corpses to rot. Sadly the valuables that have amassed over time attract even more adventurous people. I like the humans’ trust in wood, they build their houses out of it, the places where they live and sleep, but if they take more than they need, it puts me in a fury.”

    ᅚfreeZe asked another question: “There are more powerful creatures of earth than you, right?”

    ᅚOalrhm laughed. “Of course there are, but not many. However those who are, are far more powerful.” He made a small pause and then continued: “Now it is my turn to ask questions. First, Fire, how did you find out about me?”

    ᅚFire, not speaking in the very formal language he used before, answered: “I read a book about the elemental creatures of earth.”

    ᅚ“Hmm, where did you get that book? It is rare, that humans write about us, they prefer creatures of fire or air, perhaps because they are more common and easier to notice and apparently more interesting.”

    ᅚ“The book, along with many others, is, or was, found in the Great Library of Knowledge of Rockhaven, the capital town of this world. The book is not somewhere between the books for mere mortals, it is located in a section exclusively mages have access to.”

    ᅚOalrhm said: “Rockhaven hmm? You also do not look much like a mage to me, I can feel burning energy inside you, the fiery sort of your species is not known for magical feats…”

    ᅚFire smiled and answered: “I might not be a mage myself but my sister is one, that way I could get into that section.”

    ᅚAmbigious asked: “So, you just walked into the library and she opened it for you?”

    ᅚFire shook his head and explained: “Oh no, it was not as easy as that. The thing with Rockhaven is that only people living in the town can enter. This city is a fortress, guarded by well-trained guards in indestructible diamond armor, protected by several magic shields and wards. The city walls are almost as hard bedrock and continue underground. We had to get into that fortress to get to those books, it would take way too long to explain it all. After we were in the section, I took the books I needed and then we escaped using magic. That all happened very long ago.”

    ᅚ“So, you can just teleport out of this fortress?” freeZe asked.

    ᅚ“Sure, the spells only protect one way, this is because if the city needs to be evacuated, they can just teleport everyone out. Anyways, now the books are in my base.”

    ᅚOalrhm wanted to know: “That was very brave, Fire. Why did you do that? Why are those books so important for you? Greed? The thirst for knowledge? Or perhaps something else?”

    ᅚ“They are important because at that time someone of high rank in the town might have abused them, I have carefully studied the hierarchies and the power relations in the town and came to the conclusion that in the wrong hands they would be devastating. It cost me hundreds of diamonds to pay all of those spies…”

    ᅚ“So, you stole them to protect? Not unusual for your kind…” Oalrhm said.

    ᅚAfter nobody said anything, Oalrhm spoke again: “Well, travelers, I will open the passage to the Graveyard of the Forest now. But before that, I have a gift for you. Even with your trust in wood, you would not make it through.”

    ᅚAfter he had spoken the weight of the armor was taken off their shoulders. Fire looked down to see what was going on. The wood was changing color from its bright brown to a darker, blueish grey. The armor of all of them changed shape, the ropes disappeared and the plates grew together forming an all-around protection.

    ᅚVines grew out of the shoulder pieces and wrapped around their arms and legs, protecting them while remaining flexible.

    ᅚ“This is the gift of the forest, an ancient kind of wood, steelwood. It used to grow in large underground caverns but all of them collapsed by now. My kind still knows about it and I gave it to you. This may not be the best decision but I feel that you five carry a great burden.” Oalrhm explained.

    ᅚThe earth was shaking again and a gap opened at the base of the tree, stabilized by little vines and roots.

    ᅚ“This is the entrance to the Graveyard of the Forest. I will sleep now, the tunnel will close soon.” After these words Oalrhm sighed and didn’t say anything else.

    ᅚ“Let’s go, I guess…” Ambigious said, everyone else nodded.

    Chapter 23

    ᅚFire explained while walking through the tunnel: “For zombies it works like you would expect. If you kill the brain, the zombie dies, so go for the head. Skeletons just need to be smashed to pieces. If you break one of their arms, they can’t harm you, they don’t have much physical strength. For spiders, pierce the head with your sword and avoid being bitten. For creepers it’s the usual tactic. Charge, hit, retreat but should never attack the head, this makes them instantly blow up. For enemies you don’t know, like higher undead, just let me handle that. And most importantly, don’t stand right behind me, skeletons will focus on me and I will have to dodge the arrows and if you are standing behind me, you will be hit. Don’t look at endermen under any circumstances, they will destroy you. Everyone gets three drops of the Golden Apple Concentrate, I am not kidding, three drops, that’s close to the amount that would kill a normal human. freeZe should be safe since she is a mage.”

    ᅚ“Seriously?” TehLulz asked.

    ᅚ“Yes, seriously.” Fire answered “Any less would leave us at a disadvantage in battle, I need to go for the highest safe dose here. If we drink too much, we die from the potion but if we don’t drink enough, we die from the mobs.”

    ᅚ“Okay, then…” TehLulz replied.

    ᅚ“Hey, Fire, mind stopping the talk about death, it makes me even more nervous.” freeZe said.

    ᅚ“Hey, you are the one with the black belt here.” Ambigious said to his sister.

    ᅚFire explained: “It would be better if you were using the sword, punches don’t do anything to zombies as they don’t feel pain and are pretty… tolerant to wounds, just cut their head off and be done with it. You can still smash skeletons to bits if you want.”

    ᅚThe end of the tunnel was coming in sight, they increased their pace.

    ᅚ“Another thing.” Fire said “Skeletons don’t always have bows, sometimes they have swords or battleaxes and sometimes they don’t are unarmed. Anyways, we are almost there.”

    ᅚHe pulled the bottle of Golden Apple Concentrate out of Brad’s bag and gave everyone three drops, including himself. Unchosen started stepping left and right, as if he couldn’t keep himself upright anymore, then he fell to the ground.

    ᅚ“Crap!” Ambigious shouted and knelt down next to Unchosen. “You alright buddy?” he asked.

    ᅚ“Wow, what just happened?” Unchosen asked, he was very confused.

    ᅚ“You drank the potion and fell.” freeZe said and then added: “Almost had my heart stopping.” Then she turned to Fire. “What exactly happened? You said that an overdose results in death, so what exactly happened?”

    ᅚFire scratched his head and replied: “Not really sure but I suspect that he got very close to being killed by the potion. I think any more would have killed him.”

    ᅚUnchosen was on his feet again and said: “Good thing I didn’t die, so let’s go.”

    ᅚUnchosen was the first to step out of the tunnel, which had started making strange noises.

    ᅚ“Get out of there, it is going to collapse!” he shouted.

    ᅚHe was right, a few seconds after they ran out of the tunnel, the first bits of dirt and stone started falling down from the ceiling. They were now standing in the Graveyard of the Forest. Trees completely covered it in a thick layer of wood and leaves, it was very dark but courtesy of the potion they could see very far, even without much light. At the first look it was a beautiful place but if you looked closer, there were skeletons and rotting corpses lying around in the dark, some were badly damaged as if something heavy had crushed them, other ones were caught up in arm thick vines with sharp spikes on them, impaling their ribcage and skull. At the third look, there were also all kinds of shining and glistening gems scattered around the floor, diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds were only a small part, most of the gems were less valuable. Also there were swords made of iron and armor made of gold and iron lying everywhere, some still on their former, now skeletal, wearers.

    ᅚ“That’s disgusting.” freeZe commented.

    ᅚFire said: “Yes, it sure is but we now need to focus on where we are going. And don’t pick up any treasure, I promised Oalrhm not to take any, he draws his energy from it.” He then pointed over into the valley. “There, five zombies, two skeletons, a creeper and three spiders. Remember what I told you about attacking a creeper’s head? I will demonstrate it to you.”

    ᅚThe monsters were still a good fifty meters away and hadn’t spotted the group yet. The skeleton and the zombie looked the most shocking as they were basically human, only skeletal or rotting. Fire took the bow from his back and put an arrow on the string, pulled it back and shot it at the creeper, it was a perfect headshot. At first nothing seemed to happen but then the creeper began to swell and exploded with a loud bang, echoing from the walls of the graveyard and ripping a large crater into the dirt. The blast killed three of the zombies, one skeleton and all three spiders.

    ᅚ“Oh, I see why…” TehLulz said.

    ᅚFire nodded and put his bow onto his back again, instead he pulled out one of his stone swords and slowly walked towards the group of mobs in a crouching position, the others instinctively followed his example.

    ᅚ“Remember.” Fire whispered “Don’t stand behind me, the skeleton will try to take out the most dangerous enemy first, which is me. I will have to dodge the arrows.”

    ᅚThe others didn’t say anything but nodded.

    ᅚThey were now only a few meters away from the group of mobs who were just standing around the crater the creeper had ripped into the ground. Suddenly the skeleton turned around and spotted them, put an arrow on the string of its bow and shot at Fire, he dodged the arrow with ease but the skeleton was already shooting the next one. Meanwhile the zombies walked towards Fire in their sluggish way of walking. But right before they reached the arrow dodging Fire, their heads fell off, behind them appeared Ambigious and TehLulz, grinning.

    ᅚAfter seeing that, the skeleton stopped shooting at Fire and shot at Ambigious instead, the arrow just got stuck in the wood. With a hiss of rage the skeleton shot another arrow, which hit a little higher, right under Ambigious’ neck, but that was the last arrow the skeleton would shoot, Fire had already crushed its skull and broke its ribcage with a huge downward swing of his stone sword.

    ᅚThey didn’t have much time to rest after that, they heard freeZe scream and as they turned around they saw that a spider had knocked her off her feet and was attempting to bite her head off. Unchosen, who was the closest to her, cut off two spider legs in one swing. Crippled by the pain the spider turned around to attack Unchosen, he ended its life with a well-placed sword stab through the arthropod’s head.

    ᅚ“Thanks Unchosen.” freeZe said while standing up.

    ᅚ“No problem.” He answered quickly while looking for more mobs.

    ᅚFire said: “The next mobs are over there.” And pointed over to the other side of the graveyard, where a few skeletons were standing, then he said “We don’t care about them, just continue walking towards the other end.”

    ᅚFire walked over to Ambigious and pulled the arrows out of his armor. They continued walking until freeZe spotted three creepers and an iron armored zombie.

    ᅚ“That will be difficult, we can’t pierce his armor and I can’t use the arrow again because there might be monsters capable of sensing magic in here. The enchantment I used on the Shop Guy sends out a strong pulse. I will need to go with a regular arrow or a lightly enchanted one and hope that it works. You four take out the creepers. And remember, no head hits.” Fire explained.

    ᅚThe zombie looked just like a regular human in its iron armor, the visor was down, it was also holding an iron sword in his right hand, which seemed to be enchanted. Fire didn’t take any chances and started firing away at the zombie but after three arrows he noticed that the armor was enchanted too.

    ᅚ“Damn.” He said to himself and sighed.

    ᅚIf the zombie’s armor was enchanted, he absolutely had to use enchanted arrows. He went through his mental list of enchants with low energy pulse and found two suitable ones. One that drained magic and one that pierced armor. He couldn’t use them both on the same arrow as the first one would neutralize the second one, the armor piercing one also was not guaranteed to work. In the meantime the zombie had come closer and was about twenty meters away from Fire. Fire couldn’t see the others but he was assuming that they were doing well since he hadn’t heard any explosions. Fire focused and put the arrow on the string, then he made a short low-pitched sound, a single enchantment rune appeared on the arrow. After being shot, the arrow was faintly glowing, nowhere near the light flash of the powerful armor shattering arrow.

    ᅚAs the arrow hit the zombie’s helmet, there was another flash and the helmet was not shining anymore, the zombie didn’t care about that and continued walking towards Fire, it was now only a few meters away, not enough time for Fire to shoot another arrow. Fire circled around the zombie at high speed, he then suddenly attacked.

    ᅚHe didn’t attack the body, he attacked the right hand of the zombie. It fell off after Fire had placed a quick cut with the claw of his left index finger. The zombie tried to pick up his weapon again but failed as its hand was missing. Fire jumped into the air and kicked the zombie in the chest, making it fall over, then he picked up the iron sword. It was a bit damaged but enchanted with Sharpness III and Fire Aspect I, he was glad the zombie didn’t hit him with it because it would have burned right through his wooden armor. Now Fire was using the zombie’s sword against its former owner, cutting its head off.

    ᅚWhen Fire looked for the others, he suddenly heard a high pitched sound, similar to that one when he threw the ghast fireball. A projectile hit the ground one meter to Fire’s right, it seemed to be some kind of spell since there was nothing at the impact spot. Fire turned around and then he saw it. A skeleton, taller than the normal ones, it was wearing a blue and black robe with fitting cowl, a dark aura surrounded it, its eye sockets had blue glowing flames in them.

    ᅚ“No, please, no!” Fire said to himself “Not a skeletal mage, not here, not now.”

    ᅚThe skeleton raised its hand, moving its jaw like it was whispering unheard spells, a blue dot appeared above the hand it held up, growing into a glowing and pulsating ball. Then, suddenly the ball zoomed towards Fire, his perception slowed but still, the projectile was moving at a huge speed, he was unable to dodge it…

    Chapter 24

    ᅚThe projectile was only an arm length away, Fire could feel it emitting massive amounts of energy. He knew what kind of spell this was, it absorbed energy from its target until its own energy was depleted. It was mostly used by mages against weaker targets, it was useless against other mages since their life force was too high for the projectile to have much of an effect. Fire though, he didn’t have all that much life force. The projectile was now only a few centimeters away from his chest, at the corner of his eye he could see the others, practically frozen by his slow vision.

    ᅚThen suddenly, Fire disappeared and so did the projectile. freeZe, Ambigious, Unchosen and TehLulz stood there with their mouths open, their friend had just been disintegrated by a skeletal mage.

    ᅚ“Why did this have to happen?” Unchosen asked, a desperate tone in his voice.

    ᅚ“I don’t know…” freeZe said, she sounded very sad, then she spoke again, this time with anger in her voice: “But this pile of rotting bones will pay for it!”

    ᅚEveryone else stared at her, partly confused by her reaction, partly agreeing.

    ᅚAmbigious was the first one to speak: “You are right, sister, let’s show this thing who is boss!”

    ᅚ“Just let me handle this… just me.” freeZe said.
    Ambigious had never heard her so cold and determined. He instinctively backed off. freeZe’s eyes started glowing, not their normal lightless neon green glow, it was a deadly, brighter glow, a stare that would kill.

    ᅚ“I have no good feeling about this.” Ambigious whispered to Unchosen “I have never seen her this angry.”

    ᅚfreeZe took a deep breath and slowly started walking towards the skeletal mage, she noticed the runes carved into its bones and skull, she felt the anger inside her but besides the anger was another feeling, it was weak but it was there. Now the skeletal mage noticed her walking towards it, it was charging up another sphere. freeZe didn’t even attempt to dodge it, it hit her right in the chest but she only felt a slight tingle.

    ᅚThe skeletal mage noticed that its attack was useless and instead whispered a few more unheard words, pieces of dirt were ripped out of the ground and formed a battleaxe made from bound magic. It grabbed the axe that was floating in front of it and moved in to attack, not very quickly, it was a skeleton and therefore not very strong. freeZe looked directly at the skeletal mage, her eyes were as brighter than ever before and even emitted light. Blue lightning was jolting between her fingers, the skeletal mage stopped for a second, reconsidering its attack but then continued moving.

    ᅚfreeZe couldn’t think a clear thought, everything was blocked by one thing. Revenge. She had stopped moving on her own, her rage was guiding her but there was also this other feeling, which had become much stronger now. The lighting between her fingers became more frequent and more powerful, then suddenly, she jerked her hands upwards and let out a terrifying scream. A storm of fine lightning bolts, came out of her fingertips, searching for the skeletal mage. The mage noticed what was going on and had already built up a blue semitransparent barrier.

    ᅚOne of the fine lightning bolts found the shield, freeZe’s mouth formed a devilish grin, a lightning bolt shot out of her left hand, making the barrier shatter into thousands of blue drops. freeZe put her hands together in front of her and an even larger lightning bolt hit the skeleton directly. The skeleton had its hands in a defensive position, which was more an instinctive reaction than real protection. Its bones shattered to dust, thunder echoed through the whole graveyard. The mage’s robe, which seemed not to have taken any damage slowly floated down to the ground. In the middle of the dust cloud stood freeZe, her eyes were glowing and she was laughing a demonic laughter.

    ᅚSuddenly, the light in her eyes disappeared, freeZe broke down. Ambigious was totally perplexed.

    ᅚ“What the hell did just happen? What the hell?” he muttered and ran over to freeZe and asked: “What the he…” then he noticed that freeZe was crying.

    ᅚ“No… Fire… Why…?” she sobbed.

    ᅚAmbigious knelt down next to her and put his arm around her shoulders, he didn’t say anything because he knew it would be pointless. Unchosen and TehLulz were running over to them, both not less surprised than Ambigious but not nearly as overtly sad as freeZe.

    ᅚ“That is it then.” TehLulz sighed. “The world is doomed.”

    ᅚ“Shut up!” freeZe shouted while tears were running down her face.

    ᅚ“TehLulz is right, without Fire we don’t have a chance of saving the server or the world by extension.” Ambigious agreed, only Unchosen remained silent, apparently thinking about something.

    ᅚSome minutes of silence later, occasionally interrupted by freeZe’s sobbing, Unchosen spoke, his voice was sad but it had something to it, that made them listen.

    ᅚ“I know that it is hard for you freeZe, also for you guys but we need to move on, we just can’t give this up, we just can’t. Remember when Fire said that it doesn’t save the world when we just sit around? We need to get to the end of this valley, or graveyard. If we die, we will be in the quarry again, there is nothing we can do against that. But if we survive and make it to Fire’s base, his sister can maybe help us get him out of the quarry.”

    ᅚ“You have a good point.” Ambigious said.

    ᅚfreeZe stood up, wiping some tears from her face.

    ᅚ“Okay, we can be sad later, we need to keep moving.” She said.

    ᅚAmbigious raised an eyebrow towards Unchosen and TehLulz, surprised by the sudden change of emotion freeZe had undergone, but he didn’t say anything.

    ᅚfreeZe apparently decided to take the lead, still occasionally sniffling but dedicated to get out of the graveyard. As she came past where the skeletal mage had been, she picked up its robe. As soon as she touched it, a shiver went through her whole body, she heard ancient voices speaking words of wisdom, or was it complete nonsense?

    ᅚfreeZe dropped the robe.

    ᅚAmbigious looked at her and asked: “What?”

    ᅚ“There are voices… in the robe.” freeZe said toneless.

    ᅚ“What do you mean?” Ambigious asked, a little confused.

    ᅚ“I touched the robe and there were voices talking to me.”

    ᅚUnchosen scratched his chin. “That is not surprising, it is the robe of an undead mage after all.”

    ᅚfreeZe said: “We shouldn’t get caught up in trying to listen to voices in a robe, we need to keep moving. We need to reach Fire’s base as quickly as possible.”

    ᅚWith those words freeZe picked the robe back up. Just as the voices started talking again, she packed the robe into her inventory, immediately silencing the voices.

    Chapter 25

    ᅚThey were suddenly interrupted by arrows being shot at them, a group of five skeletons stood at a distance, lined up like a firing squad.

    ᅚ“Sister, do your lightning thing again!” Ambigious said.

    ᅚ“I don’t know how!” freeZe replied as three arrows impacted her chestplate and got stuck in the wood.

    ᅚUnchosen commanded: “Surround them!”

    ᅚNobody questioned why he suddenly was calling the shots, they spread out. More and more arrows got stuck in their armor, it was only a question of time for one of the skeletons to hit an unprotected head.

    ᅚAmbigious charged into the group of skeletons, smashing one skeleton’s spine in half, separating torso and legs. He knocked another one to the ground with his weight. With him being very close to the other skeletons he was an easy target, all three had their bows pulled back, ready to shoot him. Ambigious dropped to the ground just in time to dodge the arrows. TehLulz and freeZe had already beheaded two of the skeletons by the time he was back on his feet.

    ᅚThe skeleton Ambigious had knocked to the ground had ran away at a speed unusual for skeletons and put another arrow on the string as the other remaining skeleton got crushed between Unchosen’s and Ambigious’ swords. The last skeleton shot its arrow just before freeZe cut off its arms with two slashes and then put an end to its un-life. The arrow however hit its target, or more accurately, a target. The target was Ambigious’ right arm.

    ᅚHe screamed in pain and dropped his sword as the tip of the arrow pierced the vines around his upper arm and the flesh below it, it stopped as it hit Ambigious’ upper arm bone. Ambigious stopped screaming but stomped on the ground to give the pain another exit. With tears blurring his vision he reached over with his left arm, grabbed the shaft of the arrow and pulled it out of his arm, which sent another wave of pain through his body. His knees felt weak but he managed to stay upright, blood was leaking from the wound and ran down his arm, dripping onto the ground. His sister was the first to get to him, Unchosen and TehLulz followed. The steelwood vines grew back together, stopping the blood from flowing but not the pain.

    ᅚ“Damn, that hurts!” Ambigious pressed out between his teeth.

    ᅚ“Can you keep walking?” freeZe asked.

    ᅚ“Yes but I won’t be able to fight anymore. Let’s get out of this damned place.” He answered.

    ᅚfreeZe pulled the arrows out of Ambigious’ armor and more out of her own, Unchosen collected the arrows and put them into his inventory.

    ᅚWithout further words they started walking again, Ambigious with his right arm hanging down. They could already see the exit, their hopes went up again. Then they saw what was in front of the exit. A horde of about a dozen and a half zombies, none had armor or weapons but the amount of them was deadly enough.

    ᅚ“What now?” TehLulz asked “We can’t run past them, they are too close to the exit.”

    ᅚ“You are right.” Ambigious agreed.

    ᅚ“Does anybody have something that could be useful?” TehLulz asked.

    ᅚ“I have… a diamond pickaxe…” freeZe said “Couldn’t we just dig below them?”

    ᅚ“Oalrhm wouldn’t like us digging through his roots.” Unchosen warned and then said: “But I have some gunpowder from those creepers we killed. If we had some sand we could make TNT.”

    ᅚAmbigious looked into his inventory and said: “I don’t have sand but I still have a ton of this sandbasalt, why did I even take that with me…?”

    ᅚ“That could work, I have the crafting table we used.” TehLulz said and put it down.

    ᅚ“Give me the sandbasalt please.” Unchosen said.

    ᅚHe laid his hands on the Crafting Table and opened the crafting screen. He put the gunpowder in a cross shape and sandbasalt into the remaining slots.

    ᅚ“Wow, it even gives me two!” He said and held up a block of TNT. “Does anybody still have flint and steel?” He asked.

    ᅚfreeZe gave him her flint and steel and asked: “How will you ignite it without being lunged at?”

    ᅚ“Stand back, you will see.” He said in a mysterious voice.

    ᅚAmbigious, TehLulz and freeZe backed up a few meters. Unchosen placed the TNT on the ground and took some wood strips from his inventory, he tied them to a stick that he crafted from a log. He put one end of the stick into the ground and lit the other end on fire, then he picked it back up. He blew against the flames to make sure they didn’t go out and walked towards the zombies. As he got close they noticed him and slowly walked towards him with their hands in front of them.

    ᅚUnchosen let them come close to him and then sprinted towards the explosive block he had placed on the ground before and waited. When the horde was a few meters away from the TNT, he threw the burning stick onto the TNT, which started burning. He backed off to his friends and waited. Four seconds later, the zombies were at the height of the explosive and a moment later another loud bang echoed through the valley, body parts were flung through the air.

    ᅚ“Gross…” freeZe said as a rotten eyeball landed in front of her feet.

    ᅚ“But effective.” Unchosen said with pride in his voice, he added: “Now let’s get out of here!”

    ᅚThey were halfway through the tunnel as they saw light on the other end, they didn’t know how long they had been in the valley, but it had felt like an entire day to them.

    ᅚ“Look, light!” freeZe said, noticeably relieved.

    ᅚ“Now, that we are out of danger, let’s get a move on.”

    ᅚA few minutes later, they were at the exit of the tunnel, which was mostly grown over by vines. TehLulz cut a hole into the plant wall using his sword and went through first. The light blinded them at first but then they could see where they were.

    ᅚIn front of them was a large flat area, shallow, brown water streams were flowing in the lower areas, sometimes interrupted by deep black ponds. Tall, dark green grass and sugar cane was growing all over the areas that were not under water. Huge willow trees were growing here and there, casting shadows where they were standing, in the distance they could see a witch hut, dramatically illuminated by the setting sun.

    ᅚ“Let’s go there and hope that witches are not hostile by default here.” freeZe suggested.

    ᅚ“Good idea. And I really need to take this armor off…” TehLulz said.

    ᅚ“Mind helping me out with my armor?” Ambigious asked.

    ᅚThe moment freeZe tried pulling her arms out of the vines, it seemed like they were growing backwards, disappearing into the chestplate again, so did the vines at her legs.

    ᅚ“Well, that is handy…” she muttered.

    ᅚAfter pulling the chestplate over her head and storing it in her inventory she helped her brother out of his armor. Ambigious tried not to show that his arm was hurting but the look on his face changed a little as freeZe put her brother’s arm through the side of the armor.

    ᅚUnchosen looked at the gaping wound, which had stopped bleeding and said: “Let’s also hope that this witch us willing to give us some regen potions or at least some bandages…”

    Chapter 26

    ᅚNavigating the swamp terrain was harder than they thought. The swamp was divided into islands by the shallow brown water channels, which made it hard to travel in a straight line. They could not walk through them since there were several meters of sludge at the bottom of the channels, going by boat also was no option as the water was too shallow in most places. They had to find their way on the land, sometimes jumping over narrow water streams. The tall grass was thick and their feet got caught in it more often than not, so they had little time to look at the beautiful scenery of lily pads drifting around in the currents and the willow leaves being gently moved by the wind, they instead looked down at their feet looking out for roots and grass knots.

    ᅚTehLulz, who had taken the lead, said: “That witch hut isn’t really coming closer either, the sun is setting and we still haven’t found anything for Ambigious.”

    ᅚ“And my arm feels like it will fall off any second…” Ambigious complained.

    ᅚ“And Fire has all the food and the water…” freeZe added.

    ᅚOnly Unchosen didn’t say anything, his gaze went over to the witch hut, which was still pretty far away and seemed to be between the branches of a big willow tree. He wondered how their encounter with the witch would be. Would the NPC communicate with them, or more importantly, would they would die from an Instant Damage potion to the face.

    ᅚ“You are right TehLulz, it really is getting dark.” He said after about two minutes, then he added: “If it gets any darker, we will be at danger of falling into a pond without even knowing.”

    ᅚ“You’re damn right, we need to get to that hut.” Ambigious said and pressed his teeth together, apparently because of another wave of pain from the wound.

    ᅚTehLulz stepped around a root that was sticking out from the ground and asked: “Ambigious, how are you still walking with that wound in your arm?”

    ᅚAmbigious replied: “Hah, if you mean that I don’t feel pain, you are wrong, I feel it but I can ignore it. If the pain stays the same, I can ignore it, but if something touches the wound, it hurts a lot.”

    ᅚThey walked through the swampland for another hour without saying much, meanwhile the sun was setting and the stars came out. Luckily it was almost full moon this day so that they could keep walking with the amount of light it gave off. They had come significantly closer to the witch hut but it was still pretty far away.

    ᅚUnchosen said: “We need to sleep, I am tired from the fighting and the walking.“

    ᅚ“We all are.” freeZe agreed “Let’s build a shelter if we can.”

    ᅚ“I have some wood.” Unchosen stated and promptly started building a wooden box.

    ᅚ“This will do, I guess…” TehLulz commented on the five by five box.

    ᅚThey laid down on the wooden floor and left Ambigious the biggest space, Ambigious himself instantly fell asleep and even missed the opportunity to make a dirty joke about his sister having to sleep right next to TehLulz and Unchosen.

    ᅚThe next morning they were woken up by a scream. The one screaming was Ambigious, he was pressing his left hand against the wound in a reflex reaction.

    ᅚ“Aaah… Okay, I was wrong yesterday. I can’t ignore… Aaah… the pain, it was Fire’s potion…” He said with his teeth bared, trying to suppress the pain.

    ᅚ“That is bad news.” TehLulz said, who was still sleepy, then he looked around in the box and asked: “Where did Unchosen go?”

    ᅚHe stood up and went outside while freeZe helped her brother stand up. The first thing he saw when he was outside was Unchosen leaning over a crafting bench, the second thing were three boats still lying on the land that Unchosen hat apparently crafted.

    ᅚ“Morning.” Unchosen said shortly.

    ᅚ“Morning Unchosen… Why did you make boats, the water isn’t deep enough.” TehLulz wanted to know.

    ᅚUnchosen looked away from his crafting bench and faced TehLulz, he said: “Take a look below the water! It’s deeper here, it seems like somebody has dug out a decent portion of the sludge. It was too dark to see it yesterday.” Unchosen walked over to the edge of the water and said: “Look.”

    ᅚThere was in fact a narrow passage where the water was deeper, deep enough for boats to go through.

    ᅚ“That is great!” TehLulz said, notably relieved.

    ᅚUnchosen replied: “We only have one problem.“

    ᅚ“Which is?” TehLulz wondered.

    ᅚUnchosen explained: “Paddles. We don’t have a way to make paddles with a crafting table. I was waiting for you to wake up to help me make some. However, it seems like Ambigious needs some medical attention soon. I am certain that if he does not get anything he will die.”

    ᅚ“Dying is not fun. I don’t want to do that.” They heard Ambigious shout from the box, he was trying to make it sound funny but failed.

    ᅚUnchosen asked: “Mind coming to me Ambigious?”

    ᅚAmbigious, supporting himself with his left arm on freeZe, slowly came towards Unchosen, who quickly walked over to him as he saw that even walking caused him pain. Unchosen took a look at Ambigious’ wound and worry came to his face.

    ᅚ“It looks like it is infected. No wonder, those arrows must have been lying in a place filled with corpses and undead for quite some time.”

    ᅚ“So, I will become a zombie now or what?” Ambigious asked, a little confused.

    ᅚ“That would be one possibility, the other one is that you just die.”

    ᅚAmbigious asked: “Okay Unchosen, how do you know that and how do you manage to say that I will die without even sounding worried.“

    ᅚUnchosen put his right hand to the back of his neck and replied: “I am a doctor, it’s my job. I have to tell people that they will die on a weekly basis. That is why.” He paused for a few seconds and then added: “But now it is important that I give you something that at least keeps the wound from getting even worse.”

    ᅚUnchosen took a long flexible willow branch from his inventory and started wrapping it around Ambigious’ arm, covering the wound in the leaves. Ambigious tried his best not to flinch as Unchosen tightened the makeshift bandage.

    ᅚUnchosen said: “That will keep dirt from getting into the wound, sadly I didn’t find any plants with healing properties nearby, most plants that are not grass seem to have been trampled or eaten by something.”

    ᅚUnchosen pointed at the boats and explained: “As you might have heard, the water is deep enough to ride a boat through, but we still need paddles.”

    ᅚTehLulz called: “Hey, I have an idea!“

    ᅚ“Which is?” Ambigious wanted to know.

    ᅚ“We could craft wooden shovels and use those as paddles.” TehLulz said with a grin.

    ᅚUnchosen answered: “That is actually a very good idea, let me quickly make those.”

    ᅚAfter these words he went to his crafting table again and quickly made three wooden shovels. He gave one to freeZe and one to TehLulz, keeping one for himself.

    ᅚAmbigious asked: “And what boat will I be in?”

    ᅚUnchosen explained: “You will be in a boat with TehLulz, he is the strongest of us besides you, freeZe and I get a boat each.“

    ᅚThey pushed the boats into the water one after the other, TehLulz and Ambigious got into the first one, freeZe into the second one and Unchosen jumped into the third one. They started paddling along the waterway slowly, always careful not to run on ground. The splashes of their improvised paddles and the quiet sound of their boats gliding through the water were the only sounds they heard for the next half hour.

    ᅚPaddling along the narrow water way was not a very exciting task, they only had one way to go and they weren’t going very quickly. They were moving past willow trees and lily pads, oddly enough, they didn’t see a single living creature besides plants in the swamp. The witch hut had come significantly closer and they now could clearly see that it was built on a willow tree, even though there was plenty of flat space right next to the tree.

    ᅚfreeZe broke the quiet: “Something is strange about this swamp…”

    ᅚTehLulz asked: “What do you mean?“

    ᅚ“I mean, no animals, trampled plants, which should not be trampled without animals…” She answered.

    ᅚ“Now that you say it, it is pretty strange indeed.” Unchosen muttered.

    ᅚAfter a few minutes of silence, they came to a large deep pond. Several more waterways were extending from it into different directions.

    ᅚ“Okay, where to go now?” TehLulz asked, looking at Unchosen.

    ᅚUnchosen replied: “To the witch hut, that is where we can at least get something for Ambigious’ arm. If we’re lucky…”

    ᅚThey paddled over to the water way, which seemed to lead towards the witch hut. They moved towards the hut in a straight line, following the water way, hoping they would find something there. Unchosen looked over to Ambigious, who had fallen asleep, his worrying gaze on his friend’s feverishly red face.

    ᅚ“If we don’t find something in the next few days, the fever will kill him… If not today.” He thought to himself.

    Chapter 27

    ᅚAn additional hour of paddling later only a few hundred meters separated them from the witch hut but those meters seemed to be a very long distance to them. Fire’s potion had completely worn off, their whole bodies were hurting. Wearing the wooden armor had left its marks on them, dozens of small splinters that they hadn’t noticed before were all under their skin. Their shoulder muscles were bruised by the weight, the constant paddling didn’t make it easier on their arms.

    ᅚAs if to make their situation even more desperate, Ambigious’ fever had increased even more, he had started muttering words and names they couldn’t understand. Each and every paddle stroke was painful to them, they progressed at a snail’s pace. The witch hut was growing on their horizons at a slow, almost torturing speed. Every time they forced themselves to draw their wooden shovels through the water an additional time, they pressed their teeth together in pain but without making a sound.

    ᅚSeemingly endless minutes of paddling later, freeZe broke the silence, her voice was tired and weak: “How far is this going to be? TehLulz, how far? Any idea? My vision is all blurry.”

    ᅚTehLulz’ voice was in a similar condition, he answered: “About one-hundred and fifty meters, I don’t know.” He sighed “Even if we can find Fire, we won’t be able to carry on like this.”

    ᅚ“How is my brother?” freeZe asked.

    ᅚTehLulz interrupted his painful paddling and knelt down to look at Ambigious. He put his hand on his friend’s forehead and pulled it back immediately.

    ᅚ“It feels like he is burning!” he said.

    ᅚ“That doesn’t sound like an illness I know.” Unchosen replied, did a paddle stroke and added: “I would not be surprised if there are more illnesses in here too. As Fire said, everything is harder… If only Fire would be here right now.”

    ᅚThey stopped talking and focused on moving their boats towards the witch hut. Every additional stroke of their paddles, every movement, seemed to take an eternity to them. They were so focused on doing their task that TehLulz didn’t notice at first that the front of his boat had hit land. He did one more paddle stroke before he realized that they had arrived. A numb feeling of triumph filled his body and made the pain go away, he almost forgot to get Ambigious out of the boat. He put his arms below his sleeping friend and lifted him up with ease, in any other situation it would have surprised him how easy it seemed to him but his vision was blurry and he could only think about one thing: Get to the witch hut.

    ᅚfreeZe and Unchosen seemed to have the same feeling as they hopped from one boat to the other and to the land as if they hadn’t walked through a hellish world, as if they hadn’t climbed a mountain, as if they hadn’t gone through all what they did go through. With a feeling of euphoria, all three ran towards the tree with the witch hut on it with long elastic steps.

    ᅚThe witch’s house, despite being on a tree, was more a hut between the branches than a real tree house, as if it had been lifted up there by giant arms. It didn’t sit on any supporting structures or had any ropes that held it in the tree. It was simply built, a square house with a flat roof, a window on each side, the only way to get up was a rope ladder hanging down from a small balcony in front of the door.

    ᅚTehLulz went up first, with Ambigious over his right shoulder, climbing with only his left hand, once he was up, he broke the simple wooden door lock with ease and went inside. The inside was not very well lit and barely decorated, just a crafting table, a furnace with a brewing stand on top of it and a chest beside it, the rest of the house was hidden behind a separating wall. freeZe and Unchosen came up after him, they walked past the wall, they couldn’t see much because their eyes had to get used to the light, but then they saw something. Suddenly TehLulz felt Ambigious’ weight on his shoulder, he almost threw him down to the ground, so fast did he put him down. Their minds cleared, they felt the pain in their arms and all over their bodies again, something had knocked them out of their trance violently.

    ᅚOn the ground was a figure lying on its back, clothed in torn white clothes, the figure was very tall and had a black scaled skin, pieces of shattered wood and torn vines were lying all around it, on a closer look they could see that the figure had a bow on their back. Finding such a thing inside a witch hut wouldn’t have surprised them the tiniest bit, but the reason their trance had been broken was the chest of the figure, a deep gaping wound was right in the middle, where the heart was.

    ᅚ“F…Fire?” freeZe stuttered and knelt down next to the body.

    ᅚThey expected their reunion with Fire to be better, happier or at least a little more glorious. They hoped that Fire would make everything better again, Fire would help them.


    ᅚFire had always been a bright light in their lives on the server, he seemed do know everything and have a plan for every situation. Wasn’t it Fire who guaranteed them not to be hungry in the quarry, who guided them through the Nether, who risked his life to protect them from the magma cube, who helped them climb the mountain, who made their armor, who convinced Oalrhm to open the gate, who fought mobs with them… who died, trying to save the world.

    ᅚNow that they saw what happened, they knew that they wouldn’t be able to save the world on their own, they were tired, hurting and Ambigious was close to death. Fire would respawn in the quarry and the hackers would put him in some jail, where he would just have to wait to die in the real world.

    ᅚ“No pulse, no respiration… dead.” Unchosen confirmed, trying not to look at the wound in Fire’s chest, fighting the tears.

    ᅚAlso TehLulz and freeZe tried not to cry but then, all of them gave up their resistance and threw themselves to the ground. Even Ambigious seemed to have noticed something, he started rolling around in his fever, muttering words nobody could understand.

    ᅚAfter lying there for a few minutes TehLulz heard something, someone was going up the ladder, without a doubt the witch. He forced himself to stand up, ignoring the pain and sadness, now it was important not to anger the witch and maybe get her to help them, maybe there was some hope left. Unchosen and freeZe were still on the ground, apparently not noticing that he got up. TehLulz heard a female voice cursing, the witch had noticed that somebody had broken into her hut. He heard the door open and took a peek around the corner and then instantly pulled his head back to avoid being seen. The witch didn’t really look like the usual witches in Minecraft, she seemed to be much younger, also her clothes weren’t purple and she wasn’t wearing a hat. Her clothes were green, too wide to be normal clothes and not wide enough to be a robe, they seemed to be woven from grass or reeds. TehLulz heard her voice, it sounded like a normal female human voice, she sounded angry but also a little scared.

    ᅚShe said: “Who is there?”

    ᅚTehLulz had to force himself to answer, his knees were shivering, so was his voice: “Please don’t kill us.”

    ᅚHe couldn’t come up with something better but it seemed to have worked, he heard how the witch breathed out in relief. TehLulz slowly came out behind the wall, it came to his mind how funny he might look, a man with messy half long brown hair in a black suit, which was completely ruined. A thought crossed his mind and despite the situation he chuckled to himself, he almost looked like a secret agent lost in the wild. But of course the witch didn’t know what a secret agent was, she only saw that he needed help. However she first wanted to know a little more about the intruder inside her house. TehLulz took a closer look at the witch, she was slim and tall, her dark brown hair was very long, it almost reached down to the ground. Her eyes were as green as her clothes, her skin was pale, almost white. She was also missing the wart on her nose that the witches in Minecraft had, her face was actually beautiful, in a strange way.

    ᅚ“Who are you?” she asked, still with a fair bit of distrust in her voice.

    ᅚHe answered, still with a little bit of insecurity in his voice: “I am a traveler, my friends are in here too, one of them is mortally wounded and one is sick.”

    Chapter 28

    ᅚ“How did this mortally wounded friend and this sick friend get up here?” The witch asked.

    ᅚ“That is hard to explain.” TehLulz said with a weak voice, then added: “We found the wounded one up here, we don’t know how he got here. We came through the Graveyard of the Forest…”

    ᅚShe interrupted him: “What? You went through there? Why would you do that? That is suicide!”

    ᅚ“I will explain everything to you later, please help them.” TehLulz begged.

    ᅚThe witch noticed that TehLulz was very serious and asked: “They are behind the wall, right?”

    ᅚTehLulz instinctively grabbed her hand and pulled her behind the wall, he was surprised how soft her skin was for somebody living in the wilderness. She followed him and took a sharp breath as she saw the scenery behind the wall. freeZe, her brother and Unchosen were lying on the floor, all three with scratches all over their skin, only that Ambigious’ skin was all red and sweaty, freeZe and Unchosen seemed to have fallen asleep. Fire looked the worst with the gaping wound in his chest and his shattered wooden armor all around him. His peaceful face and his relaxed position were an intense contrast to the rest of his body.

    ᅚ“By all the herbs of the forest… How did that happen?” The witch whispered.

    ᅚIt was easy to notice that the witch hadn’t expected something like this, maybe she expected a broken bone or a spider bite but she definitely hadn’t expected a hole in the chest.

    ᅚTehLulz answered: “We don’t know… But can you help him?”

    ᅚShe swallowed and answered: “I can’t do much but I will try my best. What does the sick person have?”

    ᅚTehLulz noticed that he was still holding the witch’s hand and quickly let go.

    ᅚHe explained: “His skin is burning hot, he got hit by an arrow in the Graveyard, see that bandage? Unchosen made that… err that is him.” He pointed at his friend.

    ᅚ“I know what it is, at least I can save him. It is blaze fever. Please don’t tell me you have been to the Nether too.” She said, looking at TehLulz as she began to realize the extent of what they had been through.

    ᅚ“We have been to the Nether, yes.” He replied.

    ᅚWithout saying more she walked into the first room again and searched her chest for a potion, muttering words that sounded like curses. After half a minute she found what she was looking for, a glass bottle that look looked like its creator had made it in haste. It had a glowing orange liquid inside it. She walked over to TehLulz, gave him a nod and knelt down next to Ambigious, careful not to step on anybody else.

    ᅚShe commanded: “Please hold his mouth open and make sure he swallows.”

    ᅚTehLulz knelt down next to her and lifted Ambigious’ body up into an upright position, trying not to flinch as his already hurting skin was exposed to the heat of Ambigious’ body. He tilted his friend’s head backwards and opened his mouth. A single nonsensical word escaped Ambigious before the witch poured the potion into his mouth, luckily nothing got into Ambigious’ lungs. The potion instantly seemed to take effect.

    ᅚ“What potion was that?” TehLulz asked.

    ᅚ“Fire Resistance, easy as that.” The witch replied, not without pride.

    ᅚ“How will we save Fire now?” TehLulz wanted to know.

    ᅚ“Fire? His name is Fire? I know that name from somewhere…” The witch said and scratched her chin.

    ᅚTehLulz was puzzled, he asked: “From where?“

    ᅚ“Wait… Wait… I know! My mother told me that a Menc… someone named Fire had been here a long time ago.” She answered and added: “You know, when I was younger”

    ᅚ“Where is your mother now? And who was your father?” TehLulz asked, a little bit too curiously.

    ᅚ“My mother is dead, I don’t know who my father is, might be somebody from the village near here.” She answered, paused and then said: “I can’t guarantee you that Fire will live but I can try at least.”

    ᅚTehLulz was baffled, he said slowly: “Wait. He is not dead? I though he was and hoped that you could revive him.”

    ᅚShe replied: “He looks like he is dead but there is something inside him keeping him alive, I can feel it. Do you have any idea what it could be?”

    ᅚTehLulz realized something: “Aaah! It might be the Golden Apple Concentrate we drank.”

    ᅚ“You have Golden Apple Concentrate too? You can’t go a minute without surprising me…” She muttered.

    ᅚ“Yes, we have that. Fire always has it on him, it should be in his coat.”

    ᅚThe witch knelt down next to Fire and pulled the ragged rests of his coat away from the wound in his chest. Her head was now right above the wound, TehLulz didn’t know what she was doing but he assumed that she was inspecting it. She sighed and raised her hand above the wound, pointing middle and index finger in its direction.

    ᅚ“What?” He asked but didn’t get an answer.

    ᅚSuddenly a cold wind seemed to blow through the hut as the witch whispered a single word. At first nothing happened but then the light inside the room seemed to come alive, it left its place on the walls and was drawn to the witch’s fingers, illuminating the wound with all its gruesome details. Fire’s skin looked like it had been torn apart by an immense force, the same force had also torn away the muscles and parts of the ribcage below. At the bottom of the wound TehLulz could see something that looked like a lacerated heart, strangely no blood was in the heart or in any other part of the wound. TehLulz stared at the wound for a brief moment that seemed to be an eternity to him, then the light snapped back into its place without a warning and shadows covered the wound again.

    ᅚThe witch seemed to be as horrified as he was, judging by the part of her face he could see, her eyes were still wide open. She held her hand open above Fire’s chest and seemed to be looking for something, then she reached inside Fire’s coat and pulled the bottle with the Golden Apple Concentrate out.

    ᅚ“That wound is worse than I thought… Did you see his heart?” She said with a shivering voice.

    ᅚTehLulz wanted to know once again: “Can you help him?”

    ᅚ“I may be able to. Now that we have this potion I can try… Where did you get it?”

    ᅚ“Fire made it. You seem to know what it does but I don’t know the whole story behind this potion, only Fire can answer that question.” He replied.

    ᅚShe sighed again and uncorked the bottle, which was so much more beautiful than her own potion bottles. Now TehLulz noticed the fine decorations in the glass, they looked like vines winding around the bottle from the bottom up. They were not carved into the bottle, the vines were made from fine strips of glass. The witch also seemed to notice that and slid her hand over the bottle to feel the fine structures.

    ᅚWithout a word, she let a single drop drip into Fire’s wound. That reminded TehLulz of something, Fire had done exactly the same before they talked to Oalrhm. A sudden thought flashed through his mind. What if Oalrhm had been dead or at least without life? Didn’t he say that Fire “awoke” him? Didn’t he hear Fire saying something to freeZe about life force in the cave on the mountainside? He had been half asleep but he generally understood what Fire had been talking about.

    ᅚThen he knew it: “The potion increases life force. That is why Fire is still alive… or not dead… and now it will bring him back to life.” He muttered to himself.

    ᅚThe witch heard that and nodded. She stood up and sat down next to him, staring at Fire. She had tears in her eyes, it made him want to cry again as well. He put his arm around the witch’s slim shoulders and they both hoped for the best.

    Chapter 29

    ᅚA few minutes had passed since the witch sat down next to him.

    ᅚTehLulz asked: “How is living here, in the swamp?”

    ᅚ“It is a quiet and calm life, I can say that.” She answered. “During the day I go around collecting herbs, during the night I am here, sleeping or brewing.”

    ᅚ“How often do play… people pass by?” He asked.

    ᅚ“Not very often and they generally leave me be, they are just passing by on the way to the village near here.” She stood up and walked over to her chest and searched it for something.

    ᅚTehLulz wanted to know: “What are you looking for?”

    ᅚShe replied: “You’ll see.”
    “Okay…” Ae answered, a little confused.

    ᅚHe looked over to his sleeping friends and a smile went over his face, they were together again. Seeing Fire however caused a sting in his stomach, he was not sure if he was going to make it, but on the other hand he knew how powerful the golden apple concentrate was.

    ᅚHe heard the witch say: “Found it.”

    ᅚShe came into the room holding a pointy metal object in both hands.

    ᅚ“Look.” She said and sat down next to him again.

    ᅚTehLulz asked: “Is that a… knife?”

    ᅚShe demanded: “Yes, take a closer look.”

    ᅚTehLulz took the knife from her hands and looked at it closely, it was about as long as Fire’s claws but shaped like most normal knifes. It seemed to be made from a dark kind of metal, it was etched with ornaments of herbs and other plants.

    ᅚ“Those ornaments are like the ones on Fire’s bottle…” TehLulz mumbled.

    ᅚ“Yes, that was why I was stopped after seeing them. They reminded me of this knife.” She said.

    ᅚTehLulz wanted to know: “Where did you get that?”

    ᅚ“A travelling merchant gave it to me after I healed someone from his caravan convoy, they were bitten by a spider, a very nasty bite but by far not as, you know, Fire’s wound.”

    ᅚHe answered: “Don’t remind me of in what danger he is, you have done everything you could.”

    ᅚ“You are right. Let’s talk about something else.” She replied.

    ᅚ“About that knife, did the merchant say where he got it from?” He asked.

    ᅚThe witch answered: “He said that he bought it from a blacksmith in Rockhaven.”

    ᅚ“Hmm… That might be the same person who made the bottle.”

    ᅚFor the next few minutes they just sat there and looked at the knife, partly because the patterns were so detailed that TehLulz discovered something new every time he looked at the knife. The other reason was that if they looked at the knife, they didn’t have to look at Fire.

    ᅚTehLulz was just looking at the metal image of an herb he had never seen before as a thought flashed through his mind.

    ᅚ“Do you think that Fire uses bottles somebody else makes for his potions?” He asked the witch.

    ᅚShe scratched her head and replied: “Hmm… I don’t know much about Fire but he doesn’t seem to be the kind of person who trusts other’s work.”

    ᅚ“If I think about it, you are right… especially with all the knowledge he has…”

    ᅚ“What knowledge do you mean?” She asked, a little confused.

    ᅚTehLulz answered: “He’s been around for a long time. And, you know, the knowledge from the Books of Knowledge.”

    ᅚ“Aren’t those in the Great Library of Rockhaven?”

    ᅚ“Oh right, you don’t know about that…” TehLulz said and then explained: “Fire stole them from there, he said that somebody might abuse them.”

    ᅚShe asked: “How did he get into that town? I have never been there but from all what my mother told me, that town is a fortress.“

    ᅚ“When I think about it, we don’t know a whole lot about Fire.”

    ᅚTehLulz wanted to say something but he wasn’t sure how the witch would react when he talked about the server, she was an NPC after all.

    ᅚShe looked outside through the open door and said: “Look at the sunset, isn’t it beautiful?”

    ᅚIt took him a few seconds to realize that it was already evening.

    ᅚHe just said: “It is.”

    ᅚShe suddenly said: “We should go to sleep.”

    ᅚ“Where do you sleep here, I haven’t seen a bed in here.”

    ᅚShe chuckled: “I sleep on the floor, those plants I am wearing keep me warm.”

    ᅚTehLulz looked at her and replied: “I have been sleeping on hard ground since we started, why not sleep on hard ground for one more night?”

    ᅚHe laid down on the floor, careful not to poke any of his friends with his feet and fell asleep within a few minutes. The last thing that he saw was the witch storing the knife in the chest and walking over to him.

    ᅚThe second TehLulz fell asleep, he woke up again. But not in the witch hut, he woke up at the campfire in the quarry. He stood up and looked around, his friends were nowhere to be seen. Suddenly he heard a very loud sound, it sounded like thunder but longer, he also saw a bright purple light, illuminating the quarry dramatically. The source of the light was a large purple thing moving across the sky, followed by a trail. The noise kept getting louder up to the point where everybody in the quarry pressed their hands against their ears. Nobody in the quarry had ever seen such a thing before but TehLulz was fairly certain that it was a comet of some sorts.

    ᅚAll of a sudden TehLulz was not in the quarry anymore, he was in a forest, the light and the noise had disappeared. The forest wasn’t quite like the one they had recently crossed, it had fewer trees but those trees were at least forty if not fifty meters tall. At first he thought that he was standing on a hill but then he noticed that he was hovering above the trees. Before he could even wonder about why he was floating, the light and the sound appeared again, stronger this time. A good ten seconds later the comet impacted a hundred meters to his right. Surprisingly nothing exploded, the comet seemed to have sunken into the ground without causing much damage. It was made of yellowish-white stone that reflected the sunlight.

    ᅚThe next moment TehLulz hovered closer to the meteor and noticed that there were six people standing on top of it, two were wearing black robes, the other four had dark metal armor. The material the armor was made of reminded him of the knife the witch had shown him. He was not close enough to make out any more details. He could hear the persons talking unnaturally clearly for his distance to them.

    ᅚA robed woman with long white hair was talking to a tall, armored person, probably a man: “I almost lost control on the last bit.”

    ᅚThe tall person gave her a nod and started walking off the meteor.

    ᅚA shorter armored man said to himself: “About time we get off this damn rock.”

    ᅚSomething about the man’s voice was familiar but TehLulz had no time to think about who it could be, he got transported to another place once again.

    ᅚThis time it was the Nether, he was floating above a massive lava lake. After looking around for a few seconds, he knew where he was. The area of the Nether they had walked through. He suddenly spotted people walking on the netherrack, his vision suddenly zoomed in on those people. Without doubt, he was watching his past self and his friends walking in the Nether. He knew what would come now as Fire was still holding the remains of the ghast fireball he caught. A short while later he saw a huge magma cube hopping towards the group and the battle he had already witnessed once played out before his eyes once again, this time from a different perspective.

    ᅚHe was concentrating on Fire dodging the cubes as once again one of the cubes landed on Fire. TehLulz got transported away a fourth time, this time into the last place where he wanted to be in this very moment, Fire’s body. He felt the pain Fire was experiencing and the relief after he got free.

    ᅚThe next thing he heard was Unchosen saying the familiar words: “Pretty impressive place, the Nether…”

    ᅚHe heard his past self answering: “But also very dangerous.”

    ᅚThen he woke up for real, in the witch hut.

    Chapter 30

    ᅚThe bus had been driving for six hours now, Irene was leaning her head against the window, it was around ten in the evening. It was dark outside, the only things she could see were the red tail lights of cars overtaking the bus.

    ᅚIrene was tall and slim, she had long blonde hair and blue eyes. To her right side sat Mary, her best friend and classmate. She was shorter than Irene but just as slim, her eyes were brown, so was her fairly short hair. There were eleven more passengers in the bus, their classmates. They were playing games, talking, sleeping or just sitting there staring at the seat in front of them.

    ᅚThey were on the trip back from a two-week holiday the teachers had booked for them, the reason for this unusual gesture was that they were the best class their school had ever had, every single person had perfect marks. This didn’t mean that they were the most united class the school had ever had, their success was greatly based on rivalries and competition. Everyone had at least one person they disliked or who disliked them. Over the time, groups had formed, each group trying to be better than the other two. The five boys in the class were always sticking together, in learning and everywhere else too. The girls were divided into two groups, one consisting of three and one of five girls, Irene and Mary were in the bigger group of the two.

    ᅚIrene thought about the past two weeks. The sea, the beach, the hotel, the town, the party on the last day…

    ᅚSuddenly Mary poked her from the side.

    ᅚ“What?” Irene asked.

    ᅚMary wanted to know: “What are you thinking about?”

    ᅚ“The last two weeks, they went by so fast.”

    ᅚ“They really did.” Mary agreed.

    ᅚIrene was just about to say something but she was interrupted by the bus driver speaking through the speakers on the ceiling: “Okay, in fifteen minutes we will reach our first set-down point. The students getting off the bus there are…” He paused while looking at the list, yawned and contunied. “Peter. Nobody else? Alright, just Peter.”

    ᅚPeter was sitting in the same row as Irene and Mary, he had two seats for himself, his buddies were occupying the two rows behind him. Peter lifted up his head, still half asleep, raised his hands above his head, yawned and stretched. He was very tall and had short brown hair and green eyes. Peter had somehow managed it to stay in a relatively neutral position in the rivalries but he was still part of the boy’s group, he also was one of Irene’s closer friends.

    ᅚ“Where was I…” Irene said to herself and then said to Mary: “Do you think there will ever be a class reunion?”

    ᅚMary shook her head: “I don’t think so. And if there is, not everybody will come.”

    ᅚTo their right, Peter stood up and hit his head on the ceiling.

    ᅚ“Ow… Damn.” He said quietly in his deep voice, then proceeded to gather his luggage from his seats and the overhead storage.

    ᅚFor the next ten minutes Irene and Mary were just sitting there, trying to fall asleep, they both would get off the bus in over an hour. They were woken up by Peter standing up and going to the back end of the bus, saying goodbye to everybody as he was walking back to his seat. Irene and Mary were looking at him when he arrived.

    ᅚ“Goodbye Mary, goodbye Irene.” He just said.

    ᅚThey replied at the same time: “Goodbye Peter.”

    ᅚPeter turned around as if he wanted to go to the front of the bus but then he stopped and turned towards them again.

    ᅚ“And by the way Irene…” He said.

    ᅚ“What?” Something about his tone worried Irene “Everything okay?”

    ᅚPeter took a deep breath and said: “I wanted to get this over with earlier but I have been putting it off over and over again.”

    ᅚIrene was getting increasingly confused. She asked: “What do you mean?“

    ᅚShe noticed that everybody in the bus had become awfully quiet and some were looking in her direction.

    ᅚPeter said: “Well, to make it short…” He paused and took another deep breath. “I fell in love with you two years ago…”

    ᅚIrene’s jaw dropped and she turned red, she didn’t know what to say.

    ᅚ“I… err… you… what?” she stuttered.

    ᅚ“It is okay.” Peter said and put his long arm on Irene’s shoulder. “I knew the outcome of this long ago. Anyway, I have to go now… and I doubt that you’d want me to drive you home.” He smiled and said: “Goodbye Irene.”

    ᅚThe moment he said that, the bus stopped and Peter left, Irene could see him walking over to his car, not looking back over his shoulder. Before he got into his car she believed to see him wipe tears from his eyes but it might have been her imagination.

    ᅚAs soon as the bus started driving again, everybody started talking, Irene could hear little bits of dialogue.

    ᅚ“Man, I feel bad for him.”

    ᅚ“She didn’t deserve him anyway.”

    ᅚ“Why the hell did he do that?”

    ᅚIrene even saw how a boy grudgingly gave money to a girl, they seemed to have made a bet on the outcome.

    ᅚMary asked aloud: “So are we the only two people who didn’t know about this?”

    ᅚMatthew, a short blonde haired boy replied: “Yes.”

    ᅚ“I didn’t want an answer.” Mary snapped and gave him a look that made him flinch as if he had been hit.

    ᅚOnly now Irene discovered a small roll of paper in her lap, Peter must have dropped it when he put his hand on her shoulder. She unrolled it and read the text in Peter’s scrawly handwriting.

    ᅚCall me when you are at home, I would like to take some time to explain.


    ᅚIrene had to think about what happened. One of her best friends had asked her if she loved him, indirectly at least, and she denied him. What kind of person was she to break her friend’s heart?

    ᅚ“Don’t worry about it.” Mary said, who guessed what Irene was thinking.

    ᅚ“Hm?” Irene asked.

    ᅚ“Peter has been through worse, you know how he is, he can take losses. And he said that he knew the outcome, he just wanted to make sure he wasn’t wrong. Not knowing can be worse than rejection. Just call him like he told you to.”

    ᅚ“But I don’t know if I bring myself to talk to him…” Irene sobbed, tears in her eyes.

    ᅚ“So, you love him?” Mary asked, kind of confused.

    ᅚIrene replied: “No… Maybe… I don’t know…“

    ᅚSuddenly they heard a crash and were flung forward. Some students were confused, most started screaming. Irene lived through these moments like in slow motion, she saw how the luggage was flying through the bus, how her classmates desperately tried to hold onto their seats. The bus hit the ground hard and as they thought it was over, it started rolling. Nobody was wearing seat belts, so everybody was flying through the inside of the bus as it started to roll downhill faster and faster. Irene felt a sharp sting in her neck, then everything went black in front of her eyes. The last thing she felt was deep regret.

    ᅚ“Terrible bus accident.” Steven read the headline to his family.

    ᅚSteven was a dark skinned man with greying hair and brown eyes, he was sitting on the table with his wife and his two daughters, eating breakfast and reading the newspaper.

    ᅚHe quickly read over the article and told his family a brief summary: “Seems like a bus driver fell asleep while driving, the bus broke through the crash barrier on a bridge and rolled down into a valley. Nobody in the bus survived.”

    ᅚ“Who were the people in the bus?” Janet, his younger daughter asked.

    ᅚSteven replied: “Students, the best of the whole country. Such a shame, so many wasted lives.”

    ᅚ“Does it say anything else?” His wife Lily wanted to know.

    ᅚSteven took a look at the article again and said: “Here it says that this man named Peter survived, he got out of the bus shortly before the accident.”

    ᅚHis elder daughter Olivia said: “How is he at the moment? I wouldn’t be surprised if he is at a psychiatrist right now.”

    ᅚ“Actually he is not, it says that he refused all help. I guess that’s what a trauma can do to people.” Steven said.

    ᅚA few minutes after that Steven got up and said: “I have to go now, my patients are sure getting impatient.”

    ᅚHe chuckled at his own joke and left the room.


    Posted in: Literature
  • 4

    posted a message on The Slaves of the Desert Mine (75 chapters released) [Side Story "Ascended" released]

    Chapter 11

    ᅚEven though he was tired and wounded Fire stood up after fifteen minutes and said: “Come on, let’s go. The fortress is just over there.”

    ᅚHe pointed at the fortress, which only was not far away anymore, he couldn’t see any obstacles on the way there. freeZe, Ambigious, Unchosen and TehLulz stood up and followed Fire who had gone ahead, although a slower pace than usual. The terrain was flat and easy to walk on, which felt a little wrong after all the difficulties they had faced.

    ᅚ“Fire, I need to ask you one thing.” Unchosen said.

    ᅚ“Go ahead.” Fire answered.

    ᅚUnchosen asked his question: “How are the hackers keeping up with the simulation speed of the server?”

    ᅚFire scratched his chin and replied: “That is in fact a good question, I don’t really have an answer for it, only assumptions. I think they are logged in with their computer but also with their brain like every other player. They are using their computer client to control their powers.”

    ᅚ“That is quite smart!” freeZe said.

    ᅚFire didn’t immediately respond: “They are smart, smart is an understatement actually, they are highly intelligent, which is why they even got this far in the first place. But I suspect that there are a few masterminds and a lot of smaller fish.”

    ᅚfreeZe asked: “Why aren’t they just taking the code? They want a simulator to sell to the army. The army can train here as well, it’s realistic enough, right?”

    ᅚFire smiled but the smile had a bitter aspect, he said: “Minecraft still imposes limits on what the software can do, they need the software in its pure form.”

    ᅚ“Pure form?”

    ᅚ“Yes, pure form, I mentioned this in the quarry briefly I think. The special thing about this software is that it can do things that are far ahead of our time using the technology we have now, like connecting to the human nerve system. You may even be able to digitalize a personality, in theory at least, the admins never tried it. At the moment the software is bound to this game, in its pure form you can simulate every environment you want, which is why the hackers think the army would pay a lot for it. But now comes the problem. The more useful something is, the more devastating it is in the wrong hands, you could easily build a handheld device which completely disables the nerve system and instantly kills anyone touching the wrong end with no chance of revival, that’s only one example. On the other hand it could be used to heal people with mental diseases, it also could be used to help people forget traumatic events in their lives or get over them entirely, the possibilities are basically infinite.”

    ᅚIn sudden realization about the importance of their mission they stopped.

    ᅚTehLulz said slowly: “So if we fail, the army gets the software and eventually some crazy person will use it to wipe out or enslave humanity?”

    ᅚFire answered: “Yes, exactly that.”

    ᅚUnchosen wanted to know: “How do you manage to keep that calm? We are responsible for the whole planet!”

    ᅚFire put on his bitter smile again and replied: “If we fail, we will die and won’t have to see the world end. It is cruel but it is true, if we succeed we save the world, if we fail it is over for us and for the world, at some point at least. It is everything or nothing, no compromises.”

    ᅚThey all felt the responsibility on their shoulders and remained on the same spot until Fire demanded: “Come on, we are almost there, it won’t help the world if we stand here.”

    ᅚ“That is true, let’s go!” freeZe said with a bit more enthusiasm than intended.

    ᅚAmbigious jumped down onto the dark red brick first, freeZe followed, they helped Fire climb down, then Unchosen and TehLulz jumped down.

    ᅚ“Where to go now?” Ambigious wanted to know.

    ᅚFire told him: “Just follow me, I’ll lead you there.” Then added: “Be careful, the blazes aren’t nice here.”

    ᅚThey were standing right in front of the dark tunnel that the bridge came out of. The bridge they were standing on was very high and broken at some parts. It went to a big block of Nether brick with maze-like corridors in it. Fire started walking towards the building, the others followed.

    ᅚTheir feet made loud noises on the dark red brick, which had a lot of hollow spaces in it that amplified their steps. They slowly progressed towards the building, always looking out for brittle bricks or holes in the bridge. At about half of the way there was a big brittle section exactly in the middle between two pillars.

    ᅚFire stopped and tested the bridge with one foot, it gave out some strange noises but it didn’t break.

    ᅚ“I will jump over and you follow one by one.” Fire stated.

    ᅚHe went back a few steps, ran towards the brittle part and leaped right over it, his landing was not as elegant as usual, he struggled not to fall on his nose.

    ᅚFire turned around and said: “Okay, TehLulz, you first, then Ambigious, then Unchosen, then freeZe!”

    ᅚ“Why am I the last?” freeZe complained

    ᅚFire replied: “Because you weight the least.”

    ᅚEverything worked fine for TehLulz and Ambigious but just after Unchosen was safe, a part of the bricks broke out and fell into the lava.

    ᅚ“Great.” freeZe moaned.

    ᅚShe ran over the brittle part and saved herself with a jump just before the rest of the bricks fell down.

    ᅚ“Okay, so I assume that we’ll go in there now?” Unchosen asked.

    ᅚFire nodded and started walking again.

    ᅚIt was very dark inside the building, they barely could see their own hands in front of their faces. Ambigious had taken his shades off, with them he would be blind like a mole. Some light got in from through the barred windows. They occasionally came across a lava well, the only bright source of light inside the fortress. With the darkness and the corridors, which were apparently built without a system, it was very easy to get lost. Fire seemed to know the way as if he would walk it every day, his eyes glowing in the dark also helped the group follow him. Suddenly they heard a strange sound, like a breath, only with a metallic tone and it sounded as if the one breathing had a hard time doing it.

    ᅚ“Blazes!” Fire warned and asked: “Do you know why blazes are covered in smoke or fire most of the time?” He gave the answer himself. “Because they want to hide something, their blaze core, an eternal fire burning in their center, it is a crystalline piece of metal as far as I know, it keeps the rods and the head in place with a magnetic field. Without it they will just fall apart. You won’t know what I mean but it is one of the best ingredients for Fire Resistance and Strength potions, much better than blaze powder.”

    ᅚUnchosen said: “Sounds interesting, but what does it have to do with our situation now?”

    ᅚFire raised his index finger as a sign that they should be quiet. The breaths sounded pretty near.

    ᅚ“Okay, it is only one blaze, I can deal with that. Now answering your question, if I can come close enough to rip it out of its center, it will be dead… And I only have ever had one of those things, I need a few more or at least one for brewing.” Fire said and then added: “Follow me quietly, take care where you step!”

    ᅚFire walked towards the exit in a ducked position, the blaze was right outside but it was facing away from them, no smoke was coming from its center as it didn’t see itself in danger. Between its rods was the blaze core, a rotating ball of a red-golden material. On further observation it was no real ball, it was a crystalline structure, a strange glow radiated from it, but not the glow of light, it was the glow of energy.

    ᅚFire felt the energy and took a deep breath, the last time he had fought a blaze without weapons had been a long time ago. Technically they couldn’t hurt him with their fireballs but their rotating rods could break bones when coming too close. Fire signaled the others to stay behind and slowly walked towards the blaze, which was now only a few meters in front of him. Suddenly a zombie pigman squeaked for no apparent reason and drew the blazes attention. Unfortunately the pigman was on top of the building Fire just came out of.

    ᅚThe blaze noticed him instantly, smoke and then fire started to radiate from the blaze core, also catching the blaze rods on fire and turning the blaze into a small tornado of flames. Fire let go all stealth and sprinted towards the blaze as fast as he could, it managed to float up just before Fire could reach it.

    ᅚThe flames started condensing around its upper rods, forming fireballs around them. With an almost elegant spin of its rods it threw a barrage of five fireballs at Fire. He just felt a little bit of warmth where the fireballs hit him, his clothes were made out of fire resistant cloth so they didn’t get any more ruined than they already were.

    ᅚThe blaze realized that it wouldn’t have much success with ranged attacks and dove down on Fire from the air with its rods spinning faster now. Fire ducked under the attack and extended his claws, with high pitched sounds the rods collided with them. While the blaze was busy blocking the claw attacks from Fire’s right hand, his left hand had gone down under the lower rods and now was only a few centimeters away from the blaze core. By the time the blaze realized what was going on, it already was too late. Fire held the core in his hands. The rods fell down to the ground and the head exploded into a small fireball.

    ᅚFire walked over to the others with the pulsating core in hand, he said: “As you might have observed, the mobs are a lot smarter and harder to kill here.”

    ᅚTehLulz only said one agreeing word: “Cube.”

    ᅚAmbigious was about to say something but then suddenly twisted his eyes upwards, dropped his shades and pressed his hands against his chest. He coughed as if he couldn’t breathe, then he fell over, where freeZe and Unchosen caught him. About two meters behind where he used to stand now was a tall black creature, not as tall as Fire but only one and a half heads shorter, it looked like a humanoid skeleton only with pitch black bones.

    ᅚThe skeletal creature was holding a sword in its hand, pulsating with a black aura, the sword didn’t seem really sharp but somehow caused a feeling of fear in the group. freeZe looked down on her brother and noticed that the black aura also was present around his chest, particularly where his heart was. As she realized what happened, she ran, dragging her brother and an a bit traumatized Unchosen away from the Wither skeleton.

    ᅚFire had positioned himself in his full size in front of the group, he said: “Haven’t seen you in a long time…”

    Chapter 12

    ᅚThe wither skeleton opened its mouth and spoke, its voice was like five voices speaking at the same time in different pitches and each slightly offset from the others. The voice sounded somewhat male, just as male as the voice of an undead creature could sound.

    ᅚIt said: “True, Fire. We have not seen each other in a long time.”

    ᅚ“You know him?” freeZe asked.

    ᅚWithout answering Fire continued talking to the wither skeleton: “They are my friends, take the Wither from him now.” Fire said it in a calm but demanding voice.

    ᅚThe skeletal creature nodded and raised its sword, a thin string of the black aura on the sword connected to the black aura on Ambigious’ chest, pulling it towards the sword again.

    ᅚAmbigious stopped coughing and stood up.

    ᅚHe asked: “Where are my shades?“

    ᅚHis sister looked at him strangely and said: “You almost just died and all you ask for are your shades?”

    ᅚ“Yeah, where are they?” he asked.

    ᅚHe turned around and jumped back a few steps as he saw the wither skeleton holding the shades towards him. He realized that it was not dangerous anymore. He took them and put them on again.

    ᅚFire explained: “May I introduce Matt to you, he and other two Wither cultists live in this fortress. He is another player.” He made a small pause and pointed at one of his friends after the other: “This is freeZe… that is Ambigious, her brother… this is Unchosen and that is TehLulz.”

    ᅚMatt spoke again: “Sorry for that incident before, I thought that you four were here to kill us for our skulls, you know how it is, I didn’t see Fire at first. Follow me, I will lead you to where we live. And Fire, your bow is done.”

    ᅚ“Great! Come on, let’s go.” Fire answered.

    ᅚ“You have friends all over the place, Fire.” TehLulz stated.

    ᅚMatt laughed, which sounded like a small group of people laughing in an uncanny choir, which sounded creepy more than anything else. “Yes he does.”

    ᅚ“…and then Matt almost killed me.” Ambigious concluded his story.

    ᅚThey were sitting in a circular room in the middle of the netherrack the fortress was built into, the room had everything you needed to live and a few additional things like some brewing stands, an anvil and even an enchanting table surrounded by bookshelves. Ceiling and floor were made of Nether brick, although some stone brick was mixed into it, Nether brick fences supported the room and in the middle was a fireplace made from obsidian fueled by blaze powder. Fire, his friends and three wither skeletons were sitting around the fireplace. Matt was one of the skeletons, one other one’s name was Chris, the last one had a feminine looking skeleton, her name was Bea. They just had told them why they came here and how, the Wither cultists had listened.

    ᅚ“Now I want to ask a question.” freeZe said and then asked said question: “What is this whole Wither cult thing?”

    ᅚBea looked at freeZe and started explaining in a voice much like the one from Matt and Chris but more feminine sounding: “As you might know, the admins are very friendly and kind people, we asked them if there was a way to actually be a mob, they told us that only humanoid mobs could be controlled by our brain at the moment, different physiology and such. But I have to say, they didn’t just turn us into wither skeletons, we had to jump into lava with the Wither effect on us.”

    ᅚfreeZe asked: “So everybody can become a wither skeleton?”

    ᅚ“Yes, now for the cult, we have made our own religion out of this, there are more of us in other fortresses. Everything is based on that what can really happen here. We worship the Wither, it visits this dimension sometimes on its own or gets summoned, the one who manages to defeat it in battle gets the Nether Star, what you can do with that you know already.” She explained.

    ᅚChris stood up and left the room without saying anything.

    ᅚ“Where is he going?” Unchosen asked.

    ᅚMatt answered: “Don’t know, maybe he is fetching something?”

    ᅚThen he said to Fire: “I wanted to give you a regeneration potion but I see you already have one in you.”

    ᅚFire scratched his chin and said: “That actually might be true if you say so, I will have to ask Brad what he put in that potion. It didn’t get removed by the portal, very interesting… I haven’t managed to do that for regeneration yet.”

    ᅚThis moment Chris came back in, holding something that looked like a bow in his hand.

    ᅚ“Oh, right. My bow. Let me see it!” Fire said.

    ᅚChris handed the bow to him. It no ordinary bow, it had a different shape, much more decoration and was more beautiful than a standard Minecraft bow. It was made out of something that seemed to be ghast bones dyed black. Ghast bones were very flexible without deforming over time. The bow had red ornaments and runes carved into the bone. The bowstring was made from a red material, a very durable cloth made from Nether wart. This material called Nether wool was very versatile, it could be used for bowstrings but also for making clothes of very high quality, which were fireproof in addition to being very durable. If a king would have to choose out of what material his clothes should be made of, he would definitely choose Nether wool.

    ᅚOverall the bow looked much like bows elves use in various books and movies and it was about half Fire’s body height. Fire rotated it and looked at the red runes on the black bow, let his finger slide along the bones, pulled back the string with ease and let go, the bones snapped back into place, more violently than any normal bow made out of wood would, propelling an imaginary arrow. Fire was impressed.

    ᅚ“It is better than I ever thought it would be, I didn’t think you would be able to recreate my old bow.” He said and asked: “As far as I can feel, it is not enchanted and free of magic, right?”

    ᅚMatt answered: “Yes, we didn’t even use any magic at all when collecting the components.”

    ᅚ“Why is it so important when it is free of magic?” Ambigious asked.

    ᅚFire chuckled and replied: “I can only tell you one thing. Magical artefacts that don’t have an internal power source drain the energy of the user to fuel their magic and you can’t turn that off. If you want to know more about how magic works in here, you are at the wrong place asking me, I only know the theoretical aspects of magic. You should ask my sister when we meet her if you want some more in depth information, she is a mage.”

    ᅚ“She also is here? I thought she doesn’t play on the server?” freeZe asked a little wondered.

    ᅚ“I didn’t say that she isn’t here, the hackers just don’t know that she is. She is running our base at the moment.” Fire explained.

    ᅚUnchosen, who hadn’t said very much yet, asked Bea: “What benefits did you get from being a wither skeleton?”

    ᅚYou couldn’t see it but in fact she was smiling, she said: “First of all, the benefits you get from being undead and of Nether origin, not having to eat or drink and being completely fireproof. Then having our own little source of Wither energy is another benefit.” She looked at Ambigious “We can use it to defend ourselves or to hunt, whatever we want, in your case it was more of an offense to prevent counter offense. Now the most important benefit, you know how Fire feels energy flow? Well, we can feel it too, more than that. We can see how much energy is in something, kind of like a filter we can put over our vision, we see everything violet and the more powerful something is, the more it goes to red and then white. We can also see if somebody is ill or has something in their body that normally isn’t there, like a potion.”

    ᅚMatt added: “And may I tell you that you, freeZe, have a very high energy level. You are red, which is very high for normal people.”

    ᅚCompletely leaving the topic, Ambigious asked: “Okay, what are we having for a meal?”

    ᅚChris chuckled with his quintuple voice and said: “Man, why didn’t we think of that earlier. You all must be starving, especially you Ambigious, Wither makes hungry.”

    ᅚWith these words he stood up again, this time to get some food.

    ᅚHe came back about ten minutes later with a stone plate with steaming steaks on it in the right hand. freeZe poked TehLulz and Ambigious.

    ᅚ“That is the first time we’re eating meat after months of bread, eggs and apples!” She said to them, it was easy to hear that also she had missed eating meat.

    ᅚFire grinned, the first time since they met Fire they heard him speak in a voice free of worry or tension: “I escaped the quarry, I now have a real chance to stop the hackers, we made it here alive, I finally got my bow and now I can eat some meat after a whole year of no meat, you just can’t imagine how good that feels.”

    ᅚHe leaned back a little and took a huge bite of the steak that Chris had given him.

    Chapter 13

    ᅚSilence filled the room, only interrupted by the sounds they made while eating. Eating was not the right word, stuffing the steak into themselves would fit better. Ambigious ate three steaks in record time, so did TehLulz and Unchosen, freeZe ate two and a half, which was a lot for her. Fire put the crown on top, he ate five steaks and the half that freeZe didn’t eat. They all leaned back satisfied and slowly fell asleep.

    ᅚThe last thing they heard was Chris saying: “Wow! And I thought I could eat quickly…”

    ᅚBea laughed.

    ᅚAs usual, Fire was the first one to wake up, the cultists had left the room and the plate where the steaks used to be on was gone. His wounds were completely healed by regeneration potion that was still coursing inside him. Fire decided to let the others sleep and took a closer look at the room he was in. There were brewing stands on one wall, an enchanting table and some bookshelves on the other one, hidden behind a tunnel. The third wall had the entrance in it and the last wall had what he was looking for, a cauldron filled with water. He walked over to it and formed a bowl with his hands and drank a bit of water to get rid of his thirst.

    ᅚ“Not the best water in the world, but better than the stuff in the quarry.” He commented.

    ᅚFire walked back to the place he slept on, just to sit there and look at the fireplace for a few minutes. He was thinking about what to do next, he had a rough outline for his plan but he had to add in the details when the time came… And the time had come, the time to plan in detail, how to get to his base the fastest and the safest, with the first one having priority.

    ᅚFirst they would have to leave the Nether, then there was the glacier, they had to climb the icy mountains and get down on the other side. Fire took a deep breath, the air smelled a bit like sulfur, what else would you expect from a hellish world? Then there was a smell, humans couldn’t detect, it was the smell of blaze powder burning in the fireplace, it was a little spicy but also sweet in a strange way. The smell reminded him of something, he still had to activate and infuse and activate the blaze core. He closed his eyes and moved it to his hotbar with his thoughts, then when he opened his eyes again, he was holding it in his right hand.

    ᅚFire went over to the enchanting table and ducked to get through the hallway, which was a little too low for him. As he approached the table, the book laying on it magically opened and fragments of knowledge started flowing towards the table from the bookshelves. The books were mostly red, some black ones were there too, rarely blue and yellow and only a single green one. This enchanting table was specialized for black magic and harmful or sinister enchantments, exactly what Fire needed for the infusion of the blaze core.

    ᅚHe put the glowing crystalline core on top of the book, where it floated up. Fire cleared his throat and collected his thoughts, he focused on the core and began speaking the words which guided the magic. They were no regular words, no ordinary combinations of letters, may they be random or not. It was no language, not in the traditional sense, the words were just an instrument to guide the energy, they were not even words, just sounds. You could only feel the air vibrating and hear a sound with varying pitches, sometimes low, sometimes high, sometimes everything at once.

    ᅚA shockwave went through the semi-transparent runes coming from the books, they stopped going into the table and then slowly focused on the blaze core, which had started spinning. At first, Fire’s voice was not audible because it had a frequency that the human ear couldn’t detect, infrasonic. But even if you couldn’t hear it, it had an effect on the knowledge bits, they arranged in a complicated grid, some flew back to their books and some more came out of books that hadn’t given out any before. Suddenly the vibration in the air stopped, Fire had rapidly changed his voice to ultrasonic, making the fragments shiver and arrange to different figures. That was the method of determining, what “words” had to be used to infuse the now rapidly spinning core with magic. The fragments now formed a three dimensional star like shape around the core, exactly what Fire wanted, the base position was reached, he could start with the really difficult part.

    ᅚFire started speaking in the “language” of enchanting, a strange mix of sounds with all kinds of different frequencies, pitches and volumes. The fragments started rotating and coming closer to the core but seemed to be held back by an invisible barrier, Fire increased the amount of low pitches with high volume and completely stopped the high pitches. The fragments arranged in packets, similar symbols together. Fire changed his voice again, making the symbols transform, merge and split, modifying the enchantment. The changes in his voice became more rapid as he needed to react to every tiny symbol trying to leave its place.

    ᅚOne or two minutes later he had arranged the symbols in seven stable spheres, rotating around the core, connected by small strings of symbols. Now he only had to add some of his energy to activate the enchantment. He raised his hands and changed his voice to a very loud and deep sound that rumbled through the enchanting room. He felt how the energy from the ores he had mined searching for an exit inside him, he only rarely had accumulated that much energy before, he needed to be careful not to blow up the enchanting room.

    ᅚHe made his voice a little quieter but maintained the pitch, decreasing the force with which he was pulling the energy towards the spheres, then he suddenly stopped. Fire started glowing in a rainbow-colored light from the energy that had made it through his skin. It slowly got pulled towards his hands, forming two spheres, which met between his raised hands, combining into a big one. With a sudden blast of his voice he threw the ball of energy towards the runes floating in the air, it distributed evenly in the spheres. Fire concentrated and started the enchanting process with his thoughts.

    ᅚOne after the other, the runes flew towards the core but stopped just short of its surface, creating a glow, which evolved into a bright light as more and more runes orbited the core. As all the symbols were at the core, the light stopped. Fire hoped that he didn’t do anything wrong, this was his second try on activating a blaze core and this time the enchantment was fundamentally different. Just as he wanted to reach for the core and take it away, a bright flash of light, an explosion almost, came from the core, blinding Fire and creating a loud high pitched sound in his ears, he got knocked off his feet.

    ᅚ“Fire?” a voice asked “Are you okay?”

    ᅚFire couldn’t identify who exactly was speaking but it definitely was none of the cultists, neither was it freeZe. The white fog in front of his eyes slowly cleared and he stood up, hitting his head on the ceiling of the tunnel. TehLulz was standing in front of him, smiling.

    ᅚ“How long have I been out?” Fire asked.

    ᅚ“I don’t think it was that long, I woke up from a strange sound and this explosion, then I saw you on the floor there.” TehLulz replied.

    ᅚ“Ah, I see.” Fire said and turned around.

    ᅚThe core was still floating above the enchanting table but it was glowing more intensely and little sparks radiated from it.

    ᅚ“It worked.” He said and picked the core up.

    ᅚ“What worked?” TehLulz asked in a confused manner.

    ᅚ“I reactivated the blaze core using some energy.”

    ᅚ“Wow, I want to learn enchanting…”

    ᅚ“I can teach you. When we are in my base, we will be there for quite some time until your armor sets are done and all the other preparations are complete.” Fire promised.

    ᅚ“What is the difference between an active and an inactive blaze core?” TehLulz wanted to know.

    ᅚFire walked out of the room, sitting down at the fireplace again, Ambigious, freeZe and Unchosen were still sleeping.

    ᅚ“Hmm…” Fire said “I think that you should really learn enchanting, you have a sense for the energy waves, that is why only you woke up…” He speculated and answered the question he was asked: “The difference is that an active blaze core can replicate itself by consuming materials that I don’t know at the moment but infinite blaze cores mean infinite Nether metal and infinite potion bases. That and it can serve as a catalyst for powerful Fire magic.”

    ᅚ“That sounds amazing, the admins did a great job at coding all this stuff into the game.” TehLulz said and asked another question: “But if I learn enchanting, how will I reach those frequencies, I heard some strange sounds, might have been your voice?”

    ᅚFire explained: “You will learn that at my base, it involves some kind of meditation and this was a very difficult enchantment with hundreds of runes and symbols assembled in a very complicated manner, you normally don’t need more than twenty unassembled symbols.”

    ᅚ“That is good, it must have taken you quite some time to figure all that stuff out…”

    ᅚ“True. But now, let’s wake the others up.” Fire said.

    ᅚA few hours later, they were ready to go. Matt showed them the way to their portal, it was a very pretty portal situated on a little pyramid of sandstone and Nether brick, the obsidian was chiseled and had mystical runes on it, primarily for decoration but some of them actually had an effect, for example ones that prevented blacking out, making it an instant transmission.

    ᅚ“Here is the bag with the clothes, Fire.” Matt said and handed Fire a bag made from Nether wool.

    ᅚ“What is so special about those bags, Fire? Brad also gave you one.” freeZe asked.

    ᅚ“They hide what is inside, the hackers can view our player data, which means what we have in our inventory, our health and so on. The thing about that is that things inside the bag won’t be displayed, so it just shows a bag.” Fire explained, already walking towards the portal.

    ᅚ“Wow, that is really smart, whose idea was that?” Ambigious asked.

    ᅚ“Don’t want to show off, but it was my idea to use bags.” Fire said and then added: “Okay, I will explain everything else while we walk, thanks for everything Matt.”

    ᅚWith these words he walked up the stairs to the portal and took a deep breath. He touched the purple magic semi liquid with his right hand and then completely went into the portal. He felt how he got transported over to the Overworld again, at the edge of his perception he noticed the others going into the portal.

    Chapter 14

    ᅚJack logged out of the server and closed down Minecraft, the first thing he noticed were his hunger and thirst, he had been on the server for two real life days straight and he was well aware of that. Jack pushed his away from the three-monitor setup on his desk. He stood up and stretched, it was like having slept for two days. Actually, he had slept for two days but not in his bed, he had slept in the chair in front of his monitors while being on the server.

    ᅚThe first thing he did after standing up was going into the room next to his computer room, the kitchen, where he drank a bit of water and ate three pieces of the bread he had prepared two days before. After he was done eating, he went back to his computer room and sat down again. Jack opened an application and called up Andreas, who answered the call immediately.

    ᅚ“Okay, what’s up J?” Andreas asked.

    ᅚ“I just logged out, it is your shift now. I’ll inform you about what happened. And let me tell you, a lot happened.” Jack answered.

    ᅚ“I suppose not only good things happened?” Andreas assumed.

    ᅚ“Right. First of all, Fire escaped the quarry through the volcano. We don’t know how yet but he is not there anymore. freeZe60, TheUnchosenOne, Ambigious_Name and TehLulz9001 are also missing.”

    ᅚJack could hear Andreas choke on something he must have been drinking.

    ᅚ“What?” He asked, still with a mouth half full of liquid.

    ᅚ“Yeah, they escaped. Also, the Shop Guy is out, he somehow got into a fight with Fire and lost.”

    ᅚ“Q kicked him out because of that?” Andreas wondered.

    ᅚ“Nope, not because of that, Fire pointed out that that guy has some sort of mental issue, or multiple, Fire must know. It should be the truth as he was in a life or death situation at the time.” Jack explained quickly.

    ᅚ“I see, I see… Fire is smart, we know that. This is probably part of some plan he has been cooking up while in the mine. Any idea where he is?”

    ᅚ“Nope, the player data says nothing about that, too bad that we don’t see his coordinates or at least his dimension. But I suspect, that he is or was in the Nether because we found a portal inside the volcano, I still don’t get how he managed to brew Fire Resistance pots in there or how they got in there…”

    ᅚ“Did you send someone through the portal?” Andreas asked.

    ᅚ“Yeah, we did send some mercenaries, but… They ran into some weird wither skeleton dudes, they decayed to dust in seconds. At least that is what they said after respawning.”

    ᅚ“Very strange, Fire escapes, the mercs are killed by wither skeletons, all that after that fight, how did he even win that?” Andreas wondered.

    ᅚ“He evaded the Shop Guy until he slipped up and finally killed him by cutting the nerves in his spine with a claw, you know, between helmet and chestplate.”

    ᅚ“Did anything else happen?” Andreas wanted to know.

    ᅚJack heard him taking another sip of whatever he was drinking.

    ᅚ“The Guy managed to get in a hit on Fire, almost killed him but one of his friends gave him a regen pot, then Q transported them to the quarry.”

    ᅚ“Very strange, do you have any idea where he wants to go?” asked Andreas.

    ᅚ“To his base I suppose. The bad thing is that we don’t even know where that thing is and nobody, not even we with our hacks, can circumvent the tricks of the admins. You know, those skellies’ Wither effect just ignores protection and everything else that could make you not die. I wouldn’t be surprised if our god mode had no effect either.”

    ᅚ“We need to patrol the server, I will wake up my bros, then we will search.”

    ᅚ“Why did he even try to escape if he has no way to possibly stop us… But wait, couldn’t it be possible that the admins built in some kind of emergency backdoor? Every dev does that when the danger of being hacked is present.”

    ᅚ“That is very true. The bad thing is that we don’t have the slightest shadow of a clue to what it is, where it could be and how in the world we could get to it! Damn!”

    ᅚJack replied: “Calm down. When you find him you can kill him with ease, you know, noclip on, godmode on, killaura on, you are unstoppable then. Hopefully.“

    ᅚ“Who knows…” Muttered Andreas and then shouted over his back: “Hey, Bob, Jonathan! Get up, we are going on a Fire hunt!” He ended the call.

    ᅚJack had mixed feelings about Fire’s escape, it for sure would be bad for the hacker group if he somehow managed to get them off the server, which was very unlikely, but possible. The other side was that he wouldn’t be assigned boring guard shifts, now he had something else to do. He turned on the screens to the left and right of his middle screen. He had decompiled the code that the admins had written, it made absolutely no sense to him because of its immense complexity, Jack hadn’t had any luck with finding out anything useful because he didn’t have a point to start from. Until now.

    ᅚNow he knew that Fire had to do something with this escape route that the admins had built in, he opened his browser on his right screen to find out Fire’s UUID because it would be just too easy if his name would be standing in the code, that and it would be unreliable. A few minutes later he had the UUID and let his computer search for it in the files, the progress bar started slowly creeping towards the right but it wouldn’t be done any time soon.

    ᅚHe put Fire’s player data on his middle screen, maybe he could find out something from that. After staring at the numbers for a minute, he looked over to the search bar, it had only moved three pixels. He looked back at the player data: X, Y and Z velocity, health level, hunger level and so on, nothing of interest, except the Y velocity was significantly higher than the other ones.

    ᅚ“Hmm, he could be climbing a ladder but I doubt that any ladder is that tall…”

    ᅚThen he knew it, Fire was in fact climbing, but not a ladder. He was climbing a mountain. Jack brought up the server map and looked for places over five hundred meters above sea level, he found about four hundred matching mountains and a strange tower on top of such a mountain, not exactly an accurate clue.

    ᅚHe looked into Fire’s inventory and saw some strange things. “Bottled fire, active blaze core, whatever that is, empty bottles, blaze rods, diamond pickaxes, water buckets, bags… beef? That proves, that he has been to the Nether…”

    ᅚThen he had another idea, he looked for obsidian near regions over five hundred blocks, which cut the number of mountains down to about fifty.

    ᅚ“Getting there…” He commented.

    ᅚHe looked into the inventory of the other runaways, the stuff that he found there was no different form Fire’s inventory, only that it was missing the strange stuff like bottled fire or blaze cores.

    ᅚ“Damn it, that isn’t going anywhere!” He shouted at the screen and looked over to his search, which was about one tenth done.

    ᅚAfter staring at the inventories for a few more minutes, he noticed something in Fire’s inventory, snowballs, a second later they were gone. Jack grinned and limited his search on the map to mountains with snow on them and left out the obsidian.

    ᅚ“Bam! In your face!” He shouted.
    Only three mountains showed up. One near spawn, one with a giant glacier and one at the edge of generated terrain. He could assume that the mountain at the very edge could be left out because more terrain would have been generated if they had gone near it. Also the one near spawn could be left out as he didn’t think that Fire would have his base near spawn.

    ᅚ“Okay, one last thing… Here we go.” He said.

    ᅚThen he put the obsidian search back on, two mountains disappeared from the results.


    ᅚExactly the mountain that he thought it would be was the mountain they were on. He closed down the map and sent a message to all members of the hacker group: “Look for them in a two thousand block radius of the mountain with the glacier, exact location is attached.”

    ᅚAfter having found out about where they were, he decided to eat and drink something proper.

    ᅚAbout half an hour later he went back to his computer, the search was done but it had five results, three of them were in a giant string of numbers and symbols, which was maybe for distraction or served some other obscure purpose, Jack wasn’t sure. The other two were more promising, he couldn’t exactly understand what was coded there but it was none of the admins’ obscure code, this code was closer to Minecraft, it was about keeping people out of the server, basically a custom banning function. There was also a bit that he assumed to stop most changes to the server files itself.

    ᅚ“What could that be?” He asked himself. “Very strange, maybe if Fire or some other people are on the server, we can’t take over fully, which explains our fruitless attempts… The other thing could be this escape thing, removing keeping someone out of the server that sounds like a good method to get rid of hackers… I need to tell Q about that when he gets out of the server, he has been in there for three or four days now.”

    ᅚHe turned off his screens and stood up, very satisfied with his results, going towards the bathroom.

    ᅚHe said to himself: “I have done enough finding stuff out for the time, they will survive without me for a bit.”

    Chapter 15

    ᅚFire noticed the cold around him, they were standing in the middle of a giant glacier, the portal was standing on an elevated carved stone platform, which was strangely enough free of snow.

    ᅚFire knew that the hackers would know where he was, or at least that they would know the area he was in. Without doubt, the best place to hide was the Nether, since a map was not readily available. He had just exited this safe house to walk the rest of the distance in the Overworld. The portal he just walked out of was the one with the most direct path to his base. If he had a portal directly in his base or close by, anyone could just walk in from the Nether or at least dramatically limit the area where his base could be. Fire aborted his train of thought when he saw that his friends had all exited the portal.

    ᅚ“So, where are we?” TehLulz asked.

    ᅚ“Good question…” Unchosen agreed.

    ᅚHe wrapped his hands around himself, his leaves didn’t offer any protection from the cold.

    ᅚ“Here take those, they are made from Nether wool, they will keep you warm.” Fire said.

    ᅚHe handed them four sets of snow clothes, which were kept in white and blue tones.

    ᅚFire said: “See, everything is planned. Almost everything, the attack on you was not planned Ambigious.”

    ᅚ“It better not have been planned.” Ambigious said while pulling the jacket over his head.

    ᅚA few minutes later everyone except Fire had put on their clothes, Fire didn’t need extra clothing, his scales were not only good at keeping heat out but also at keeping it in, the degree of protection to cold was less than to heat but it was enough that Fire didn’t need to put his set of clothes on yet.

    ᅚ“Everybody ready?” Fire asked. He got four positive answers, he then said: “You go first, go towards that mountain, I’ll keep an eye out for anything.”

    ᅚAmbigious walked off the platform and down the stairs, the others followed.

    ᅚ“Be careful not to fall, the snow is deep here.” Fire warned.

    ᅚIt was just in time to keep Ambigious from jumping down the last few steps, instead he carefully walked down the stairs and instantly sunk into the snow up to his knees. He started walking towards the giant mountain range covered in ice and snow that was ahead of them.

    ᅚ“From one extreme to another, first slavery, then Nether, now ice. When will we finally do something a bit more relaxing?” Unchosen said to himself, he was walking in front Fire.

    ᅚ“At my base, Unchosen, at my base. When we arrive you will get all the relaxation you want, at least when we are not training.” Fire ensured.

    ᅚ“Training what?” Unchosen wanted to know.

    ᅚ“Right, haven’t told you about that.”

    ᅚ“No, you haven’t.”

    ᅚ“Okay, then I’ll do it now. To be able to fight what we will certainly have to fight you four will have to practice the art of battle and also some other things. You all will have to specialize in either smithing, enchanting or brewing. There will also be a general combat training for all of you. TehLulz will do enchanting, I have no idea what freeZe or Ambigious want.”

    ᅚ“Hmm, brewing sounds interesting…” Unchosen replied and scratched his chin through his leaves.

    ᅚ“And for combat? What would you think suits you?”

    ᅚ“Archery I think, I own a bow in real life but I haven’t got any good practice lately. Tell me more about brewing though, I suppose that it is harder than in normal Minecraft.”

    ᅚ“I wouldn’t say harder, more complex would fit better. You can still make the basic potions with ease, you know Fire Resistance, Instant Health and Damage, Poison and so on. But if you really want good or interesting potions, then it gets difficult.”

    ᅚ“Difficult potions like what?”

    ᅚ“You can brew potions that make you basically invincible, potions that change your voice like you saw Brad use in the arena, that and much more. Poisons with various effects and more importantly antidotes with which you can counteract those poisons. Your possibilities are limitless, each time when I think I discovered all the potion effects, I stumble upon something else like a new ingredient, the blaze core is the best example for that.”

    ᅚ“How does brewing work here exactly?”

    ᅚ“First you need a good base potion, you can use Nether wart as base but also the moss from mossy cobble. Different bases are good for different types of potions. For example, if you take the mob out of a mob spawner and dissolve it in acid, you have a perfect base for harmful potions but you won’t have any success when you try to make a healing potion from that base. In general, the better a base is the more potent the resulting potion is. For example, if you just use just use water with bone meal as a base, you will get a weak damage potion. When you use spawner essence you get a potion that can pretty much instantly kill most creatures.”

    ᅚ“That is really interesting. What was the hardest potion that you have ever brewed?”

    ᅚThere was no trace of exhaustion in Unchosen’s voice anymore and a shine had entered his eyes. Fire noticed that and smiled, he was sure that Unchosen would make an excellent alchemist once he actually got his hands on the correct equipment and ingredients.

    ᅚ“The hardest potion? Let me think… There are actually two, one that was the hardest to figure out and the other one was the hardest to brew. The hardest one to figure out was definitely the Hypermobility Potion, gives you the ability to walk over water or straight up walls. It generally lets you say ‘screw you’ to some laws of physics, the more potent variants let you swim in air. The hardest one to brew was that potion I told you about, the Ultimate Base Potion, the timings for certain ingredients were very delicate and I constantly needed to keep the temperature in check.”

    ᅚ“So, you made one of the artefacts we need for the Ban Hammer? Where is it?” Unchosen said, a little confused.

    ᅚ“In my base, so that cuts down the number of artefacts we need to find to five since the Ban Hammer itself is the seventh one. The potion is not complete, it is just in a form where it won’t degenerate. There is one ingredient missing, the Ender Dragon Egg, which we cannot open, except with the Axe of Eric the Viking, which is another one of artefacts currently located in the city of Rockhaven. Those two artefacts are relatively easy to get because I know where they are but I am more concerned about the three I don’t know about, the admins had a good reason not to tell me what awaits us.”

    ᅚBefore Unchosen could answer anything Ambigious called Fire: “Hey, Fire! We might have a slight problem here, come over here!”

    ᅚFire ran forward to Ambigious, who had crouched down in the snow on top of a small hill, which was in front of a valley. In the valley was the last person they would expect and like to see there: The Shop Guy in full iron armor armed with a bow and an iron sword.

    ᅚ“He hasn’t noticed us yet.” Ambigious whispered.

    ᅚ“He seems to be looking for something…” freeZe assumed.

    ᅚ“Or someone.” TehLulz added.

    ᅚFire said: “He is looking for me. He somehow found out that I am here somewhere, probably still has some information from the other hackers.”

    ᅚ“And what are you going to do now?” Unchosen asked.

    ᅚ“I’ll kill him again if I must but I prefer bloodless methods, much harder to track.”

    ᅚ“Which won’t work on him I think…” freeZe muttered.

    ᅚ“Fire…” Ambigious begun and stopped as he saw that Fire wasn’t next to him anymore, he neither was in the valley.

    ᅚ“Damn it, how can he disappear like that?” He complained and then explained to Unchosen: “He did that all the time before you and TehLulz were there. Disappears, just to turn up a few minutes later, no idea how he does that.”

    ᅚMeanwhile the Shop Guy had put down a few logs and lit them with a flint and steel, forming a campfire and sat down next to it, facing them but not noticing that they were there.

    ᅚ“Maybe he isn’t looking for Fire, maybe he is just travelling through here?” freeZe suspected.

    ᅚAmbigious replied angrily: “Nope, he’s definitely out for Fire’s blood, probably for ours too. If I had a decent weapon and some armor, I would go and kill him.”

    ᅚThey sat there for about five more minutes as Fire showed up as unexpectedly as he disappeared.

    ᅚFire said: “Okay, just needed to take care of some things, let’s ask our Shop Guy, what he is doing here.”

    ᅚ“Won’t he just attack us, with his bow, you know?” TehLulz worried but then added: “But I should really get moving, my feet are really getting cold.”

    ᅚFire nodded and took his ghast bone bow from his back.

    ᅚHe stood up and shouted down into the valley: “Who have we here? What are you doing?”

    ᅚHe immediately got a slightly agitated answer. “I should rather ask you what you are doing here.”

    ᅚAs he saw freeZe, Ambigious, TehLulz and Unchosen he laughed and said: “And I see, you got your companions with you, time for you all to die!”

    ᅚWith these words he reached back to his quiver, took an arrow out and pulled back the string and released the arrow right into Unchosen’s chest. With the only difference being that there was no arrow.


    ᅚHe reached back once again and felt for more arrows but didn’t find any.

    ᅚ“Where the hell are my arrows?” he asked himself.

    ᅚFire held up a good twenty arrows and shouted: “Here!”

    ᅚThe rest of the group looked at Fire.

    ᅚIt took a few moments for the Shop Guy to realize what had happened, then he got his sword out and ran up the hill where they were standing. It would have looked a lot more threatening if he hadn’t been wading through knee-deep snow.

    ᅚFire dropped all arrows except one and put it on the blood red string of his black ghast bone bow, while pulling it back, he said: “Okay, TehLulz, watch and learn.”

    ᅚTehLulz looked at Fire strangely but said nothing. As Fire had pulled the string all the way back, he suddenly made a strange sound and a red flash of light came from the tip of the arrow.

    ᅚThe arrow cut through the air and left a trail of red light behind it like a shooting star, as it hit the Shop Guy… nothing happened.

    ᅚHe stopped and laughed, triumph on his face. “Light arrows are useless against me!”

    ᅚHe quickly stopped laughing as he noticed that all of his armor had shattered into small metal shards and was falling off of him while he was talking. The expression on his face changed from triumph to anger, from anger to realization and from there to terror. He tried running away but as he turned around something hit his head and shattered, he felt his body going numb and lost control over his limbs.

    Chapter 16

    ᅚThe Shop Guy fell to the ground as if all his bones had liquefied, his tongue was hanging out of his mouth, his eyes were closed. All around him were shards of metal and glass.

    ᅚ“That was impressive.” TehLulz said and gave Fire thumbs up.

    ᅚfreeZe asked: “What exactly was that light arrow? You said that there was no magic on the bow.”

    ᅚFire knelt down and showed them the runes on the bow.

    ᅚHe asked: “TehLulz, some of those might look familiar, right?”

    ᅚTehLulz muttered: “Yeah, this one I recognize, that one too… and oh, this one was one of the big ones…”

    ᅚ“Yes, you know what I did? I put a protection rune on the arrow, in this case it is a very strong protective symbol, the strongest I know of.”

    ᅚfreeZe interrupted: “Why would you put protection on an arrow?”

    ᅚFire explained: “The second rune is a reversing symbol, so the entire enchantment means ‘damage’ or ‘shatter’, I couldn’t use the regular damage rune, that one only works on living things while protection applies to armor and so does its inverted form, so it’s an anti-armor arrow.”

    ᅚ“What the hell are you even talking about?” Ambigious asked, who had checked if the Shop Guy was dead or just immobilized.

    ᅚTehLulz answered: “Enchanting.”

    ᅚFire whispered: “Listen now, this is important. We will go down to the fire and talk a bit, don’t question anything I say, there will be some lies because I know for sure that the Shop Guy will run straight to the hackers and tell them what I said. And do not mention my sister, the Wither cultists or Brad if I don’t.”

    ᅚHe went down to the fire, picking up the Shop Guy on the way, who was hanging down like a wet rope. Fire put him down near the fire, which was already getting weaker.

    ᅚFire started: “So, let’s discuss our further plans, don’t worry, he can’t hear us.”

    ᅚfreeZe played along, sat down and replied: “Good idea, where will we head next?”

    ᅚ“We will climb over the left side of this mountain, after leaving the snowy area there is a very dense jungle, which is where I hid another Nether portal. We needed to take the Overworld route because we need to avoid a sea of lava, which we couldn’t go through without more Fire Resistance. We will go through the portal and follow the tunnel there until we hit a large cavern. In this cavern there are some supplies. The cavern is a shelter for travelers.”

    ᅚThe others had sat down at the campfire.

    ᅚAmbigious asked: “Where will we go after that?”

    ᅚFire answered: “I can’t tell you that yet but I have left a map in the cavern, which is where the approximate location of my base is noted, encoded of course, the map won’t make any sense to someone who doesn’t know how to read it.”

    ᅚ“That is good. I hope that we will be at your base soon after all that heat and cold…” TehLulz said, he was struggling to keep a straight face but managed to do so.

    ᅚ“What about this guy here?” freeZe asked and pointed at the Shop Guy “What kind of potion was that?”

    ᅚ“It relaxes all motor muscles and disables the senses, you are awake but you see, feel, taste, smell and hear nothing.” Fire explained.

    ᅚAbout an hour later the fire had burnt down completely and they decided to start walking again. Fire took the lead until they reached the first steep hill, then he told the others to go ahead. Ambigious went first, then TehLulz, then freeZe and then Unchosen.

    ᅚ“Wait!” Fire shouted up to Ambigious.

    ᅚ“What?” came the answer back down.

    ᅚ“Take a pick!”


    ᅚ“Use it to make holes for us to step in.”

    ᅚ“Makes sense I guess…”

    ᅚFire said: “I know right?”

    ᅚHe climbed up to Ambigious who was a fair bit ahead.

    ᅚFire handed him a diamond pickaxe and also gave the others one when came back down.

    ᅚ“If someone loses their grip, just yell and I’ll keep myself ready to catch you.” He promised.

    ᅚfreeZe mumbled: “That sounds very convincing…”

    ᅚFire answered: “I didn’t just hear that.”

    ᅚMeanwhile Ambigious had already started climbing, it wasn’t steep enough to require a pickaxe to make holes in the ice but further ahead they could see part which was almost straight up.

    ᅚThey were already a few hundred meters higher when Ambigious complained: “Fire, my arms and feet hurt, it is not easy to make all these holes for you all!”

    ᅚ“We can’t take a break right now, look at the sky!” Unchosen yelled.

    ᅚHalf of the sky was covered in thin white clouds, the sun was still shining on the mountain but at the horizon there were big black clouds coming towards them.

    ᅚFire commented: “That doesn’t look very good.”

    ᅚAmbigious asked: “Hey, TehLulz, could you do this instead of me now, if I keep going I will fall off this mountain.”

    ᅚ“Just wait for us to catch up, then I’ll take over.”

    ᅚ“Thanks man.”

    ᅚ“No problem.”

    ᅚfreeZe looked at the sky and said: “Actually, this is the first time that I saw weather change here, they really made that realistic.”

    ᅚ“Of course it is realistic, it uses the collective memories of everyone on the server as a reference.” Fire replied.

    ᅚTehLulz had arrived where Ambigious was. Ambigious climbed back down, he had already packed his pickaxe into his inventory.

    ᅚNot much time had passed until it started snowing and storming, everybody was freezing and even Fire had put on his warm clothes.

    ᅚUnchosen said: “It is so cold…”

    ᅚFire looked up, he answered: “The sky is as black as the night, the wind is too strong to keep on climbing.”

    ᅚHe yelled upwards: “TehLulz! You can stop now, everybody else wait together!” After these words Fire climbed up to TehLulz using his claws.

    ᅚFire swept away some snow and started punching the ice until he hit stone. Then he took his diamond pickaxe and dug a short tunnel followed by a circular room large enough for them to fit in, he sat down leaning against the wall and waited for the others to come in.

    ᅚFire put down a block of wood in the middle of the room and looked for his flint and steel. He smashed the piece of iron and the flint together but no sparks appeared.

    ᅚ“The flint must have gotten wet.” Fire said.

    ᅚ“What now?” freeZe asked.

    ᅚFire sighed and without answering opened his inventory, taking out the blaze core. He held it in both hands and pointed it towards the log. Fire concentrated and felt how his life force was flowing from his body to the blaze core. It was not a high life force requirement but he still felt it. Inside the core sparks started collecting, fueled by Fire’s energy, condensing towards the center and forming a small sphere. As Fire felt how the core started vibrating and heating up in his hands he stopped the energy flow. The sphere in the core was not held in place anymore. The sphere exploded, creating a bright flash of light. A small ray of energy came out of the core pointing at the wood, at first it was small but it got as thick as a finger within a second, then disappeared as fast as it had come. At first nothing happened but then the wood was set ablaze by the scorching heat the ray had left.

    ᅚ“So, why didn’t you use this thing in the first place?” Ambigious asked.

    ᅚFire packed the core into his inventory and answered, a little exhausted: “The blaze core drains life force and not very little if I may add that, this core is capable of setting a huge forest on fire and ripping a crater into its center but I’m not capable of using this thing’s full potential, I will be just using it for brewing after making it grow.”

    ᅚ“Who is capable?” freeZe wanted to know.

    ᅚ“Mages.” Fire answered. “Powerful mages. There are not many mages on the server compared to the total population though.”

    ᅚ“Where?” freeZe wanted to know.

    ᅚ“Some of them are hermits, you usually won’t meet those mages. A lot of them live some in bigger towns and take care of building huge buildings with creatures they create from solid matter and magic, call them golems if you want.”

    ᅚ“Like in the Thaumcraft mod, huh?” TehLulz chuckled.

    ᅚ“Some of the creatures do look like Thaumcraft golems but that is up to their creators. I have seen entire mountains growing arms and legs and standing up to help flatten out a huge area. There were multiple mages involved, I don’t think there is anyone capable of commanding an entire mountain on their own.”

    ᅚ“That is amazing.” freeZe said.

    ᅚThe fire had burned down halfway, they hadn’t talked much since then.

    ᅚAmbigious broke the silence: “Fire, how did you steal those arrows from the guy?”

    ᅚFire smirked. “I dug into the ground a few meters behind you, it is pretty easy to dig through snow.”

    ᅚ“Oooh!” said Ambigious “That’s where you went!”

    ᅚ“Exactly. After digging under where he was standing, I made a small hole into the snow and cut his quiver. I was pretty lucky that he didn’t notice me I would just have killed him but giving him false information is way better than killing him.”

    ᅚ“Was meeting the guy planned?” Unchosen asked after a small pause.

    ᅚFire answered: “Not exactly planned but anticipated. Not him specifically either but in general someone who would try to kill us. That is why I told Brad to make me those potions.”

    ᅚfreeZe looked at Fire and asked him: “You could have easily escaped without us, why didn’t you?”

    ᅚFire returned her look and said: “Because I need you four, the Ban Hammer can’t be created by a single person neither can its components be gathered by one and the same person.”

    ᅚShe asked another question: “When did you plan all this?”

    ᅚ“I started as soon as I knew that the hackers had taken over. Also, did you think that you and Ambigious were the first to spawn in my area? You were only the first ones who weren’t exactly scared of me, one of the qualities needed to beat the challenges up ahead is being pretty fearless.”

    ᅚAmbigious smiled. “Hah, and I thought we were just some random people who are accidentally part of your master plan.”

    ᅚFire looked at the flames and replied: “Up to some degree you are, but up to some degree we all are also legendary heroes on a mission to save the world. Don’t let that go to your head though.”

    ᅚAfter saying that Fire put another block of wood down, this time a bit further from the burning piece. He extended the claws on all fingers of his right hand except for the thumb and cut the wood into sticks, throwing them into the flames, where they started burning and crackling, heating the room up again.

    ᅚ“We should get some sleep now, tomorrow will be a hard day. Night.” He said and laid down.

    ᅚ“Night Fire.” Unchosen said and did the same, so did the others.

    Chapter 17

    ᅚAs usual, Fire was the first one to wake up. He noticed that the fire was still burning so not much time could have passed. He felt relaxed and full of fresh energy, which was probably a side effect of his body having refilled its life force after using the core. Fire sat up and waited for the others to wake up. Meanwhile, he thought about his plan, his real plan, not the fake plan he had told in the Shop Guy’s presence. After climbing the mountain they would climb down the other side into a dense forest with a valley in it, from the outside it was not visible as it was grown over by trees and vines. Then they would reach a swamp. After having that crossed, they would come to another jungle, which is where his base was.

    ᅚIt sounded easy but it certainly was not, in the valley there was an unusually high amount of monsters because of the permanent darkness, he especially was concerned about the creepers since they could kill any of them instantly. The swamp also was dangerous because of the slimes. The jungle was full of poisonous and carnivorous plants, not the small ones that caught flies, the big ones that could eat a human alive, in one bite. Fire sighed and leaned back against the wall, they would get there soon enough.

    ᅚFire noticed a movement at the edge of his vision and turned his head in the direction, freeZe had woken up.

    ᅚ“Had a good sleep?” Fire asked.

    ᅚShe yawned and replied: “As good of a sleep as I can have on bare rock.”

    ᅚ“The tents in the quarry weren’t much softer either.”

    ᅚ“But they were softer.”


    ᅚ“How about you, Fire?”

    ᅚ“My sleep was good, this scaled skin works wonders when sleeping on hard ground.” Fire threw a few more sticks into the flames.

    ᅚfreeZe requested: “Tell me more about those mages or about magic, that sounded really interesting yesterday. Or was it today? I don’t know.”

    ᅚFire promptly started explaining: “At first you need to know how magic works here. Living things have varying amounts of energy, some dead things like enchanted gems can also store energy. Mages need the appropriate elemental energy to cast spells. If they for example want to throw a fireball at someone, they won’t have any luck getting that from Earth energy but from Fire energy on the other hand they can easily get that.”

    ᅚ“And what if they don’t have Fire energy?” freeZe asked.

    ᅚ“Then they will have to convert their own life force into whatever type of energy they need and then refill it from their surroundings. This also means that mages are limited by their maximum life force and can’t use spells that require more than that.”

    ᅚ“So, basically the thing you did with the blaze core? But you said that you are no mage.”

    ᅚ“I may not be a mage but I still have life force, much less than mages though.”

    ᅚfreeZe asked: “So, everybody has a different amount of life force?”

    ᅚFire explained: “Yes. I could express it in numbers. Let’s say the normal value is one hundred units, some have one hundred and fifty, some only have eighty. There are only few who exceed the two hundred mark and even less who are above five hundred and those people aren’t even proper mages, they are just regular people with an above average life force. The life force of an average mage is in the five digit range but the most powerful mages have far more. The ability to convert your life force into a certain element is called an affinity, so unless you have an affinity for say Earth magic, you won’t be able to cast Earth spells. The strength of the affinity determines how much energy you get for your life force.”

    ᅚ“Okay, I got that but does higher life force mean that you can withstand damage better?” freeZe wanted to know.

    ᅚ“No, it just is the energy that your body has stored normally. When it drops, you get tired and weak, but that does not mean that your life force drops when you are tired. It however drops when you are wounded because helps repair the wound along with your body’s normal regeneration mechanisms. This means that people with higher life force cannot take more hits but they regenerate from them faster.”

    ᅚ“And what about you, why could you use the core?”

    ᅚ“Everybody can use it but most people can’t control the energy and burn their fingers or don’t have enough and nothing happens. The core is very user friendly though, you just need to feed it life force and it converts it to Fire energy, having an affinity helps nonetheless. In my case I can use it without much effort because of what I am, I am a human but I am also a lesser creature of Fire. In my case that is called Menc…”

    ᅚ“What’s that? A lesser creature of Fire?” freeZe interrupted.

    ᅚ“There are three types of beings. There are plants, living things and creatures. Plants and living things have life force inside them but plants cannot use this life force for magic. Humans and animals are living things, theoretically every living thing can use its life force for magic, but only humans are intelligent enough to do so. This means that everyone is capable of casting spells with the right training but in practice you either need a large pool of life force or an external power source.”

    ᅚ“What about creatures?”

    ᅚ“Creatures have of one or multiple magical elements instead of life force. There are the primal elements: Earth, Water, Fire and Air. Then there are the fundamental elements: Life, Wither, Ender and Void. Blazes are a good example for creatures of Fire. Lesser creatures have relatively little of their respective element, regular ones have more and greater creatures have unimaginable amounts. Those are only rough categorizations though, in practice they aren’t used much.”

    ᅚ“Wow, that is amazing.” She said, then looked at Fire and asked: “What about you then?”

    ᅚFire chuckled and replied: “I am human, so a living thing. The blaze core is one of the only things that I can control with relative ease without an external power source. The total energy inside me is slightly above average but half of it is life force and the other half is of the Fire element, so I have far less actual life force than normal humans.”

    ᅚ“Going back to mages, how do you find out if you can be a mage?”

    ᅚ“By trying. Want to try?” Fire asked.

    ᅚ“I would love to.” Answered freeZe.

    ᅚFire got out the blaze core and handed it to her.

    ᅚ“Be careful, I don’t want you to lose your whole energy, I can’t carry you up the mountain. It is hard to explain how to do it. Hmm… you know some kind of martial art right?”

    ᅚ“Yeah, why?”

    ᅚ“Because the concentration you need is similar. If you are able to activate the core it is a sign that you have enough life force. Oh, and don’t point it at Ambigious.”

    ᅚ“Oh… oops.” freeZe said and pointed it at the ceiling.

    ᅚFire instructed her: “Alright, concentrate. If you feel the energy flowing, try to cut the flow immediately or drop the core.”

    ᅚfreeZe took a deep breath and concentrated, suddenly something inside her body began to move. First it moved slowly as if it had to wake up first, then she felt the energy streaming towards the core like drops of water forming inside her and running up on her insides towards the core, every drop becoming a yellow spark inside the core. Fire looked at her with a strange expression on his face but she was too concentrated on the core to notice it. Suddenly, the drops became a steady flow, creating a massive amount of sparks.

    ᅚ“Stop!” Fire shouted, surprised by the sudden waves of energy passing through him.

    ᅚfreeZe tried to hold back the energy but it was harder than thought, it was like having opened a floodgate with a lake behind it and the water was preventing the gate from closing. She concentrated even more, her face was distorted into a tense grimace. She couldn’t let go, her hands had cramped around the blaze core. She managed to cut the flow in half but from there on it was very hard to decrease the amount of energy further.

    ᅚFire was starting to worry, he knew what was happening, most people with a high amount of life force had this kind of experience when using a magical artefact the first time but he had never seen it this strong. The core was full of bright yellow sparks with a few orange and red ones. Fire had a way of stopping the flow, it was experimental but he had to try.

    ᅚThe air in the room was flickering, not from heat but from energy waves passing through the air. Fire took his bow and hummed a very high pitched tone, twisted and turned the bow and finally found what he was looking for. A rune was glowing slightly, it was just a pentagram without any other lines. Fire amplified the tone and the rune started glowing brighter and a duplicate separated from the bow and floated over to the core. freeZe noticed it and lost her concentration for a split second, large amounts of energy streamed into the core before she could hinder it again. The majority of the sparks were now orange and more red ones had formed, yellow ones were almost not present anymore.

    ᅚFire changed the pitch of his tone a little and the rune started to grow.

    ᅚ“Come on, just a little more…”

    ᅚThe rune now was as big as the core and started floating towards it and went into it, suddenly the air stopped flickering, Fire stopped his tone and freeZe dropped the core and collapsed.

    ᅚ“What in the world just happened?” Ambigious asked.

    ᅚFire hadn’t noticed that the others had woken up woke up but he didn’t care in this moment. The core was floating in mid-air, full of red sparks. The pentagram was inside the core and stopped the sparks from touching its outside, the core was pulsating and shining but no energy came out of it. Fire bowed over freeZe and felt her pulse, it was still there, pretty powerful too.

    ᅚFire relaxed a bit and spoke to the others: “Ambigious, it seems like your sister is a mage.” Ambigious’ jaw dropped. “She woke up earlier than you and I told her more about magic, she wanted to see how much energy she could mobilize and it seems that it is a lot.”

    ᅚAmbigious had closed his mouth again and asked: “And now? She’ll stay alive, right?”

    ᅚ“Of course, in a bit she will be on her feet again, don’t worry.”

    ᅚ“I hope sooner rather than later.” he added in thoughts.

    ᅚFire looked over to freeZe and opened his sense for energy, the core was emitting no energy, thanks to his rune. The reason why the activation process of the core had been so much more difficult than with the first one he had activated was because he had to put this emergency shutdown in so he could isolate it whenever he wanted. freeZe didn’t emit energy, she was drawing it from the environment, refilling her own energy pool. Now they only could wait and see.

    Chapter 18

    ᅚfreeZe didn’t wake up in ten minutes, she didn’t wake up in thirty minutes, she didn’t wake up in an hour, not in two hours, not in six hours.

    ᅚFire said: “I am starting to worry.”

    ᅚ“Only now? I started six hours ago.” Ambigious said angrily.

    ᅚUnchosen said: “What can we do? It is still snowing and storming.”

    ᅚ“I really do not like how this turned out…” TehLulz complained.

    ᅚThey had been sitting in the little cave Fire dug doing nothing. Fire had gone mining for an hour, only finding a small vein of coal.

    ᅚUnchosen looked at Fire and asked him: “How exactly did this happen? You didn’t tell us earlier.”

    ᅚFire cleared his throat and replied: “She managed to activate the core but the pull was too strong and she could not stop the energy flow, she could hinder it but not completely stop it.” He sighed. “It was my fault, I shouldn’t have let her use such a powerful artefact, I am surprised she lived to be honest.”

    ᅚ“And what about the core now? How did you stop it from eating all of her energy?” TehLulz asked.

    ᅚ“You remember how I enchanted the core in the Nether, right? The simple activation of the core would be very easy but the hard part was empowering it and lowering the risk when using it.”

    ᅚ“You didn’t lower it enough.” Ambigious interrupted.

    ᅚFire began talking again: “That is why I used a very complicated ritual, see this pentagram in the core? I put the symbol on it when I saw that she couldn’t handle it. The pentagram is a symbol without a meaning of its own, I had to define what it does in the enchantment.” A few seconds later he added: “Don’t look at me like that Ambigious, she is still alive and I can feel her pull getting weaker, which means that she has almost completely recovered.”

    ᅚ“Good to hear that.” Ambigious answered.

    ᅚA surprised look came to his face as freeZe actually moved as if she would have heard him.

    ᅚ“Hey Fire, talking about that, look who is waking up.” Ambigious said with a smile.

    ᅚfreeZe moved and opened her eyes, which were not shining as green as usual.

    ᅚ“Hey, freeZe!” Ambigious said.

    ᅚ“Hmmwwlnnnggwwnnlllmmmp?” She asked.

    ᅚTehLulz grinned, so did Unchosen and Fire.

    ᅚAmbigious asked: “Huh?”

    ᅚ“How lnng was I alllp?” She asked, coughed and then corrected herself: “How long was I asleep?”

    ᅚHer voice was still weak but it was only that weakness that everybody had after waking up.

    ᅚ“What happened?” freeZe asked.

    ᅚFire took a deep breath and started explaining: “I was talking to you about magic, remember that?”

    ᅚ“Kind of…”

    ᅚ“You wanted to try if you had enough life force to be a mage. You do. The core pulled almost all life force from your body, I was almost too late to shut the core off. See it there?”

    ᅚHe pointed at the core, which was now floating above the burning wood block.

    ᅚ“All those red sparks, this is my life force?”

    ᅚ“Was, it was your life force, now it is magical energy of the Fire element. You can’t get it out of there as long as the rune is active, which will be forever unless someone unlocks it.”

    ᅚ“What happens to the core now?” Ambigious asked.

    ᅚ“My sister will have to unlock it in a magical containment field, then we will also be able to tell how much life force freeZe put in there.”

    ᅚ“Could you unlock it?” freeZe asked.

    ᅚ“If you want us all to die in an explosion that decapitates this mountain and evaporates the whole glacier… Then yes.”

    ᅚ“Oh…” freeZe replied “Was it that much?”

    ᅚ“I don’t know how much exactly is in there but red sparks are usually very powerful, that combined with the enchantments I put on the core, it is pretty devastating.”

    ᅚ“So, Fire, how much life force did you use to activate it when you were lighting the fire?” Ambigious asked, he still was a little confused, magic wasn’t his thing.

    ᅚFire answered: “It was not really much, just a few grey sparks, they are some of the least powerful ones, even weaker than the yellow ones. The power of sparks increases exponentially as their color gets more intense. Although the measurement of sparks is only used in theoretical research on magic and spell cost calculations, irrelevant to most mages.”

    ᅚfreeZe lifted an eyebrow, which was only visible by her left eye getting bigger.

    ᅚ“Wow, that is a lot. How didn’t you sense all that energy before?” she asked.

    ᅚFire scratched his head and explained: “You remember what the Wither cultists said, right? They can see how much energy is inside something or someone, I can only sense energy flow and at the time you were in the quarry you didn’t use any magic. The cultists did mention you having a lot of energy though… I should have caught onto that. In my defense, I was quite hungry when they mentioned it.”

    ᅚTehLulz hinted: “As much as I would like to listen to you talking about magic, we should go now, if you can, freeZe.”

    ᅚFire agreed: “He is right. freeZe, can you stand up?”

    ᅚ“I’ll try.” She said and leaned on her right arm. “Might work…” She added and tried to stand up but fell back down on half the way. “Ouch…”

    ᅚFire sighed and got out Brad’s bag again.

    ᅚUnchosen asked: “What potion is it this time?”

    ᅚFire replied: “I made this one myself, I just told Brad to give it to me in the bag.”

    ᅚHe pulled out a round bottle with a shining golden liquid inside, it seemed to draw the light around it to itself.

    ᅚ“See how the light collects around it? That is golden apple concentrate, extremely powerful, everybody just gets a drop.”

    ᅚThey felt energized by the potion and even freeZe could stand up as if nothing had happened. Fire removed the snow in front of the entrance and looked into a dark blue sky.

    Chapter 19

    ᅚIt took the Shop Guy five hours to be able move again, he was covered in snow but he didn’t care, he logged out of the server, he had more important things to do and he did not plan on coming back.

    ᅚHe woke up in his room in front of his laptop, not much time had passed since he logged in. Meeting Fire had not been planned in any way, it just had been a very fortunate coincidence. He stood up and stretched, then sat down again. He started one of the hacker applications he still had, it was the voice chat one. He double clicked a name and waited.

    ᅚJust after Jack had finished taking a bath he heard the signal tone of his voice chat application and moaned: “Who in the world calls me now? It is almost midnight…”

    ᅚHe walked over to his screens and looked at the name, it was the Shop Guy.

    ᅚ“I should have activated the remote deletion… But since I didn’t I might as well hear him out.” He pushed a button to pick up the call, he asked: “Why are you calling me?”

    ᅚ“Because I have information.”

    ᅚ“And let me guess, you want to be in the hacker team again in exchange for that information.” Jack said.

    ᅚThe Shop Guy replied: “Hah, I might have issues but I am not stupid, I’ll just give you the info, delete the apps, leave the server and you’ll never hear from me again.”

    ᅚ“We have an agreement. So, what is it?”

    ᅚ“I ran into Fire, figured he somehow escaped. He stole my arrows and used some kind of magic arrow to shatter my armor.”

    ᅚ“Okay… that is somewhat disturbing, him being able to do such things, go on.”

    ᅚ“I tried running away but he hit me with a splash potion that made me unable to move, it should have disabled my senses too but that somehow didn’t work, so I heard what he said.”

    ᅚ“That is excellent news, it was something about where they are going, right?” Jack assumed.

    ᅚ“Exactly, he said that he will climb over the left side of the mountain and then go to a jungle, where another Nether portal is.”

    ᅚ“Let me check that one real quick…” Jack said and brought up the server map again, he went back to the mountain and there was in fact a jungle near it.

    ᅚ“Yep, the jungle is there.” He reported.

    ᅚThen he searched for obsidian in the jungle and indeed found some, right in the center of the jungle, where a temple was visible from the map’s point of view.

    ᅚJack grinned and said: “You just helped us out a bunch, thank you, any further info?”

    ᅚ“Oh yes, there is further info.” The Shop Guy said with triumph in his voice

    ᅚ“Fire said that there is a large Nether cavern with some supplies in it and most importantly, a map with the location of his base, it is encrypted but I am sure you can find out where it is.”

    ᅚJack was surprised and pleased with what he had just heard, he hovered his cursor above the button for the deletion and said: “Thank you for this valuable piece of information, I’ll clear your computer of our apps now, was nice trying to take over a server with you.”

    ᅚBoth laughed and Jack pushed the button.

    ᅚA fire was burning inside Jack now, he had the chance to stop the runaways and ensure the success of their plan, he knew the exact place where the portal was, he only had to go there and wait for them… or find Fire’s base, destroy it and then wait for them. He started up Minecraft and logged into the server. A numb feeling went up his arms and a second later he woke up where he logged out, in the quarry’s processing building. There were players working on polishing diamonds, grinding redstone gems and doing other refinery works. Later down the line there were other players making tools and sharpening swords, it all worked perfectly. As they noticed Jack logging in, they greeted him and continued with their work. Jack didn’t care about them and noclipped through the ceiling high up into the sky, then he flew towards the glacier with high speed and descended.

    ᅚ“Here is the first portal…”

    ᅚHe had spotted a black rectangle in the middle of the white snow. Jack descended a little more and searched the ground for footprints but didn’t find any, a recent storm had covered them with snow.

    ᅚ“Okay, now for that jungle.”

    ᅚHe flew up again and over the mountain, there were three different biomes in front of him. There was a very dense forest, a taiga and the jungle he was looking for, he could also see another jungle very far off in the distance. Jack floated down into the trees and started looking for the temple, flying through trees and small hills with his noclip.

    ᅚ“It has to be here somewhere…” He said to himself and continued searching the jungle.

    ᅚAbout an hour later he found what he was looking for, the jungle temple. With a feeling of triumph he turned off his noclip and walked in through the entrance. He knew about the traps and had already made himself invincible. After passing by several arrow traps he found the portal, it was completely grown over by thick vines and the purple was almost not visible anymore. He spawned himself a diamond axe and cut through the vines, which were almost as hard as wood. He stepped through the portal and found himself in the Nether. He was in a three by three corridor, he couldn’t see the end.

    ᅚ“Let’s see how long it is.” He said and flew along the tunnel with very high speed, passing by confused zombie pigmen.

    ᅚThe Shop Guy hadn’t lied, there was in fact a huge cavern with a few buildings. He spawned himself a pickaxe and multiplied his strength by ten, then he started hammering down the roofs to see what was inside, mostly chests with Fire Resistance potions.

    ᅚ“Nothing…” he said.

    ᅚHe then collapsed another building in which he didn’t find anything in. There were only a few left, it had to be in one of them. He got lucky with the next house, it actually had a sign above the door, “Supplies”.

    ᅚ“Oh.” Jack said, then he descended to the ground and opened the door.

    ᅚThere were a few chests labelled with signs. “Potions… Armor… Swords… Other… there.” He said while walking along the chests. He opened the chest labelled with Other and found nothing.

    ᅚ“What…” He asked himself and realized that the items were not stored in the inventory but physically in the chest itself.

    ᅚHe opened it and found a piece of paper, he took it out. There was nothing on one side but on the other side there was a drawing, maybe Fire’s map?

    ᅚAs he looked at the drawing more closely, the mountain formation depicted on the map looked very odd, then he realized that it was a message, there were two big letters on top: “GG” Below there was a tiny text: “You will die in 5… 4… 3… 2… 1…”

    ᅚ“What!” Jack screamed and the last thing he heard before the TNT went off was a jukebox playing the first notes of the golden record.

    ᅚHe respawned in the room where all the hackers had set their spawn, his whole body was hurting. He first checked his hacks if there was anything against pain, he didn’t find anything like that.

    ᅚ“God damn Admins…” He cursed and sat up. “Why didn’t my godmode work?”

    ᅚThis was a double failure, the first one was that the chest must have been trapped, which meant that Fire had known he would come there. The second failure was that he knew exactly as much as before, it just had been too good to be true. He sat there for five minutes but as the pain didn’t go away, he just logged off.

    ᅚJack slammed his fist on the table in frustration, making the things he had on top of it shake. He opened his communication application and noticed that Q, the head hacker, had logged out of the server and was now available. He instantly double clicked on the button to call him and waited. It took Q ten seconds to pick up the call, he must have been drinking something.

    ᅚ“What is it Jack?” Q asked with a dry throat.

    ᅚ“We have some major cluster**** going on!” Jack replied.

    ᅚ“If you are swearing like that it must be serious.”

    ᅚ“That is actually a term from army jargon for total failure but that is not important now. We have several problems. We still haven’t found the runaways, we have started a search around their approximate location but no luck with that.”

    ᅚ“And the other things?” Q asked and took another big sip from his bottle.

    ᅚ“The Shop Guy contacted me again, he still had the app. He told me that he ran into Fire and his companions, Fire threw a potion at him that was supposed to disable all his senses and muscles but the senses part didn’t work, he heard how Fire talked about their travel route.”

    ᅚ“And what exactly is so bad about that?” Q wanted to know.

    ᅚ“I went where he told me to go and there was a booby trapped chest which blew me up with about two metric tons of TNT.” Jack responded.

    ᅚ“Didn’t you use godmode?”

    ᅚ“I did but the portal must have reset it, so now we know for a fact that those admins have actually something built in to actively prevent hacking or at least make it harder. By the way, I found something in the code, it is somehow in connection with Fire’s UUID and it involves removing someone from the server and preventing a takeover, so basically as long as Fire is alive, we can’t take over what so ever.”

    ᅚQ replied: “Okay, this is serious, even if it is just one more day I have to wait out. Something must have gotten out, the police started searching for us, especially for me. Today my hideout almost got found, those cops were standing right on the hatch and I couldn’t lock it because that would have made a sound.”

    ᅚ“Okay Q, now for the worst part. I doubt that this potion was actually malfunctioning, maybe Fire expected to run into someone and told lies, which would explain the trap at the chest… Essentially, he played us good.” Jack said.

    ᅚ“So, neither do we don’t have any clue about his travel route nor the location of his base nor do we have any way to kill him quicker but he has a way of removing us from the server so if we don’t find him we will have no chance of getting the code. But if we manage to pass this day undetected by the police and without Fire banning us, we have total control over the server and after that we have all the time in the world to extract the code from the admins.”

    ᅚ“True Q but we will have to find him first. If you want to hear my opinion on this, he won’t just have a device in his base that can ban anyone, that is just too easy, the admins wouldn’t do that. I would rather think that it would be hidden in a spot where you need to be him to access it.”

    ᅚQ didn’t respond at first but a few seconds later he said: “That might actually be true. So our primary worry is the police at the moment. I kicked off the generator I have down here, it is too risky to draw power from the public network from now on, someone might notice the wires. I have plenty of canned food and water so I have that.”

    ᅚ“What about us other members?” Jack asked.

    ᅚ“You are not at danger currently as the only detected attacks are from my computer, which is down here.” Q replied.

    ᅚ“So, we are not at danger of the police storming our houses or bogus like that?”

    ᅚ“I am pretty sure that you are safe.”

    ᅚ“Good.” Jack said and then added: “I’ll be trying to make sense of some of that code, it will be a lot easier now that I have a point to start from, I can’t believe that we didn’t think about that!”

    ᅚ“I’ll be spending my time sitting in this improvised bunker coordinating, bye.”

    ᅚ“Night.” Jack said and closed down the app.

    Chapter 20

    ᅚAfter reaching the summit everything got easier, the other side of the mountain had many cliffs but the snow was deep enough to safely fall down. They were heading towards the dense forest with the valley. They had already jumped and climbed down half the mountain. The golden apple concentrate was still giving them energy and sharpened their senses.

    ᅚ“I am still amazed by this potion, Fire. I can see all the way over to the end of this forest, is this how you see?” freeZe asked.

    ᅚFire laughed and replied: “Multiply the effect by five, add infrared and ultraviolet and then you have my vision.”

    ᅚ“Wow, that’s a lot.”

    ᅚ“I could see you four sitting at the fire from all the way from my mining place when we were in the quarry, with all details.”

    ᅚ“What do you mean by details?” TehLulz asked.

    ᅚ“Like every color reflection on Ambigious’ shades or each hair on your heads.” Fire answered.

    ᅚThey were a few meters away from another twenty-meter drop, Fire stepped towards the snow covered edge and looked down. Down there was snow, as expected, but he didn’t know how deep the snow was and what was below it. He took a cobblestone piece out of his inventory and placed it, broke out a pebble with his claws and threw it down the drop. Absolutely no sound came back up, which meant it was safe.

    ᅚ“I’ll jump first, then freeZe, then Unchosen, then TehLulz and then Ambigious.” He said.

    ᅚThe others didn’t question this order because Fire had already explained them that he went first himself because if there was something unexpected, he was more likely to survive it than the others.

    ᅚThis jump was safe, like every jump before it. Two meters of snow cushioned Fire’s fall, which buried him up to his chest. After getting free he gave the others thumbs up and they also jumped down, Ambigious this time with a back flip.

    ᅚ“Was that really necessary Ambigious?” freeZe asked.

    ᅚHe answered: “Yup.”

    ᅚAfter a few minutes of silent walking Unchosen asked: “By the way Ambigious, your name, was writing Ambigious instead of Ambiguous on purpose?”

    ᅚ“It kinda was, I typed it wrong the first time for some reason but I noticed it. Then I just left it.”

    ᅚ“I see.” Unchosen answered.

    ᅚAfter walking about a minute, Ambigious asked Unchosen: “What about you? TheUnchosenOne seems to be a name with a story behind it, at least to me.”

    ᅚ“It indeed has a story behind it, when I was younger I never got lucky with anything, never won at luck based games or someone was always faster with something than I was.”

    ᅚ“Sounds depressing…” Ambigious said.

    ᅚ“It was at first but then it tried to take it with humor and came up with the ‘World Conspiracy’, an organization with the goal to make my day worse. Every time my chair was missing because some person from another class moved it, I said: ‘The World Conspiracy strikes again.’ That didn’t stop the things from happening but they didn’t worry me as much as before and the World Conspiracy even evolved into a school-wide inside joke.” Unchosen explained.

    ᅚ“That is a good way of going about it.” Ambigious said.

    ᅚ“I chose my name to be the opposite of the chosen one, quite simple.” Unchosen said.

    ᅚ“What are you two needing so much time for?” They heard freeZe call and noticed they were twenty meters behind the others.

    ᅚ“Nope!” Ambigious answered and sprinted towards his sister, before she knew what was going on, Ambigious had tackled her into the snow.

    ᅚfreeZe got up and said: “Not funny.” TehLulz started laughing.

    ᅚ“It is funny.” He said and got hit in the face by a snowball, which again made Ambigious and Unchosen burst into laughter.

    ᅚTehLulz wiped the snow from his face and grinned. “Worth it.”

    ᅚ“You also want one?” freeZe asked while getting up.

    ᅚ“No…” Unchosen said.

    ᅚAmbigious grinned “I would say no but I know you will shoot me anyways.”

    ᅚ“Try it.” Fire said with a smile.

    ᅚ“Challenge accepted.” freeZe said while making two more snowballs.

    ᅚShe threw the first one towards Ambigious, hitting him in the chest, which didn’t do anything because of his jacket. freeZe moaned and turned around towards Fire, who was not wearing the warming Nether wool clothes, only his ruined coat and pants. She threw her snowball.

    ᅚFire saw the snowball coming towards him, slowing down gradually. Over the years he had gained control over his ability to slow down his perception of time, he could willingly trigger it instead of having it activate on instinct. He leaned to the side, which made the snowball miss his left ear by a tiny bit. He could have just gone back to his normal position but Fire wanted to pull off a little show, part for fun and part to practice projectile management again. Dodging the projectile was important but what if it was explosive?

    ᅚFire remembered when he fought a blaze with this new ability the first time, at the time he didn’t have his resistance to fire yet. He had dodged the fireball but it exploded behind him, setting him on fire. Since then he had been especially careful with potential explosive projectiles.

    ᅚHe turned around while still in the slow motion state and grabbed the snowball with his right hand, slowing it down by finishing the rotation. The same moment he came to a stop the slow motion state wore off, Fire smiled and dropped the snowball, then turned around and started walking again as if nothing happened.

    ᅚ“Are you four coming? We’ll have to reach the forest before night falls.”

    ᅚIt was evening when they arrived in the forest, they were all somewhat tired from the walk and Fire was looking for a good place to sleep, they had taken off their jackets and the rest of the Nether wool clothes.

    ᅚ“It is amazing how the trees look like real trees. How everything just looks like in real life.” freeZe said.

    ᅚFire answered: “You’ll see a lot more trees now that we’re out of the desert. Talking of trees, this one over there seems to be suitable. Follow me.”

    ᅚFire walked towards a large tree with lots of branches, it was a good twenty meters high and pretty much as wide. Fire extended his claws but not all the way, he used them to climb up the tree like a cat. When he arrived in the middle, he looked around, the tree was in fact very suitable, suitable for sleeping.

    ᅚFire bent some branches with leaves to form some kind of hammock, he repeated the process four more times and then called the others. There was almost no light left, almost absolute darkness for normal eyes but for Fire it was still pretty bright. He jumped down and formed a bowl with his hands.

    ᅚ“I’ll help you up, step on my hands and I’ll lift you.” He said.

    ᅚAmbigious stepped on Fire’s hands first and supported himself on the tree as Fire lifted him up.

    ᅚ“Wow, it looks amazing up here! freeZe, you’ve got to see this!” Ambigious said.
    freeZe got lifted up next, then Unchosen and then TehLulz, Fire climbed up last. Everyone chose a leaf hammock. Shortly after laying down he got up again and took the blaze core out of his inventory.

    ᅚ“Isn’t that a bad idea? Blaze core and forest?” Ambigious asked.

    ᅚFire explained: “As long as it is sealed it won’t burn anything, it gives off light though, a little bit of light could be good, it will become much darker than this. Nights here are very dark because there is no electrical lighting or cities nearby. Or hacker operated ore processing buildings.”

    ᅚWith these words he put the core on a splitting branch where it started emitting light, not enough to see it from the outside of the tree but enough to illuminate the inside with a soft yellow and orange light.

    ᅚ“Isn’t it available in different colors?” Ambigious asked jokingly.

    ᅚFire chuckled and asked: “Why?”

    ᅚ“Because freeZe” Ambigious nodded towards his sister “gets all romantic in this kind of light.”

    ᅚ“No, I don’t!” She replied angrily.

    ᅚTehLulz, whispered to Unchosen: “And the old game starts again.”

    ᅚUnchosen replied: “I know right.”

    ᅚFire asked Ambigious: “What exactly do you mean when you say romantic?”

    ᅚfreeZe answered instead of Ambigious, this time louder: “Come one guys, do you really have to do this now?”

    ᅚ“Yes.” Ambigious answered and then explained: “Not exactly romantic, but… well, sentimental.”

    ᅚTehLulz, who was at the other side of the tree, asked: “And what exactly is so bad about that?”

    ᅚ“She will kick me off the tree when I say it, sorry.” Ambigious replied grinning.

    ᅚ“You can bet on that!” freeZe said, still a bit angry but you could hear, that she was thankful for Ambigious not saying “it”.

    ᅚUnchosen and TehLulz were on the other side of the tree, which was a little away from the others.

    ᅚ“What is this ‘it’?” Unchosen wanted to know as he saw TehLulz grinning.

    ᅚHe whispered to Unchosen: “Fire and you are the only ones that don’t know about it, Ambigious had to tell me after he lost a bet, it is really no big thing but freeZe does not want anyone to know about it, no idea why.”

    ᅚ“What is it?” Unchosen whispered back.

    ᅚ“You might have noticed some jokes about freeZe that Ambigious tells sometimes.”

    ᅚ“What about them?”

    ᅚ“They have two main subjects: freeZe being hard to, well you know, get.”

    ᅚ“I know what you mean.”

    ᅚ“Yeah, and the other one is” he had to stop himself from laughing out loud and started to grin “freeZe having a crush on Fire. Fire never said anything about the jokes.”

    ᅚ“I have noticed Ambigious telling them, he just told one before but now I understand.”

    ᅚ“And about what Ambigious isn’t allowed to tell… no, I won’t tell you. Yet. You will find out eventually.”

    ᅚThey were interrupted by Fire telling them to go to sleep: “Tomorrow will be a hard day, we will most likely have to fight our first monsters in that valley, better get some sleep.” Everybody nodded and laid down.


    Posted in: Literature
  • 5

    posted a message on The Slaves of the Desert Mine (75 chapters released) [Side Story "Ascended" released]

    Chapter 1

    ᅚThe Deepsand desert was a very remarkable place. Not only because it was the biggest known desert on the server, no, there were two other things that made it stand out.

    ᅚThe first one was a huge mountain in the middle of the desert, a sandstone volcano, it consisted of a mixture of sandstone and basalt, unsurprisingly and uncreatively dubbed sandbasalt. Sandbasalt was extremely easy to mine but useless for making tools, similarly to netherrack.

    ᅚThe other thing that made the desert so remarkable also involved the volcano, it was the Rockbane quarry, a place of slavery. Hundreds of slaves, only equipped with stone and rarely iron pickaxes, were mining the dark yellow stone. They were not allowed to branch mine because if they struck side shafts filled with lava, it could flood a good portion of the desert, even though the volcano was asleep. There was always a slave with an iron pick leading a group of two to five other slaves with stone picks. They mined out three by three or bigger vertical chunks of rock. They only had mined about an eighth of the length of the volcano and progressed slower with the increasing height.

    ᅚThe reason why they were mining here was because the volcano brought up valuable materials like diamonds or gold from the depths of the earth. Those materials were then sold to other players on the server.

    ᅚAs said, all slaves worked in groups, with long-term slaves as leaders. All except for one. The one I am talking about was the strangest of them: Three meters tall, black scaled skin, red glowing eyes, short white hair and wearing a long white coat. This solitary slave’s name was Fire. The admins had granted Fire special abilities like his size or enormous physical strength for reasons unknown to many.

    ᅚHe had played on this server before the quarry got introduced, and he also was one of the few who got captured. New players would automatically join the quarry, but he had been brought there.

    ᅚ“Why?” you ask? Because he was a close friend of the former admins. The server had been hijacked by hackers who denied the original admins all access to it. The hackers had no admin powers, so they couldn’t ban him, they brought him to the quarry to keep an eye on him.

    ᅚThis wasn’t any regular server either, it used technology that was far ahead of its time. If you joined the server, you would black out in real life and wake up inside the server. This was possible because the server established a connection to the player’s brain.

    ᅚYou were able to leave the server whenever you wanted with very little time having passed in real life. You were able to use the chat but also talk normally, that chat was only very rarely used by regular players however. The hackers disabled the chat for slaves and also prevented them from opening the menu and quitting the game. If you died, you would just respawn at your bed. The slaves were effectively trapped inside the server with no chance of logging out.

    ᅚBut now, back to this one solitary slave. Fire was mining out an area alone which normally would be assigned to a group of four people. He didn’t have any problems keeping up with the other groups, courtesy of the admins’ gifts. He just was hacking away the stone and packing it into his inventory like nothing, only limited by the durability and brittleness of his stone pickaxe. He also did so today.

    ᅚIt was a hot evening, Fire was in the center of a desert after all. He rose the pickaxe over his head and struck it down, breaking several blocks at once. The blocky structure of the world and some of the mechanics and mobs was the only thing that reminded you that you were in fact playing Minecraft. The world, its creatures and also the players looked real and terrain wasn’t restricted to blocky shapes either.

    ᅚMining in the quarry was a boring and not very rewarding job, what else would you expect from slavery? Sometimes old friends came by and tried to convince the hackers to let Fire go, without success. Other players were allowed to mine here too but they weren’t allowed to help the slaves by for example giving them tools, armor or potions.

    ᅚFire’s pickaxe was about to break, he felt it. He closed his eyes and looked into his inventory, there were four full stone picks left, seven, now eight almost broken ones and an iron pickaxe with about half durability. He moved them into his two by two crafting grid and repaired them into one with full durability. He had one and a half rows filled with full stacks of sandbasalt and his hotbar was quite empty, there were only the four pickaxes, some bread and also some iron ore.

    ᅚFire decided to take a short break behind a rock. He sat down, put down his pickaxe and stretched his fingers. He had no finger nails but he didn’t need them, he had very hard, scaled skin after all. He also had claws, he could use them for climbing and also for battle, they were dangerous weapons, one more reason most other slaves avoided him. His claws were hidden inside his fingers until needed.

    ᅚHe waited about ten minutes there and relaxed. He knew that he shouldn’t wait any longer or the hackers would notice that he wasn’t working. He rose up, took his pickaxe and continued working, smashing his path through the volcanic rock. He was already halfway through his stone pickaxe as he felt something. One of his abilities was to detect energy flowing through the environment, and for some odd reason the ores in the quarry emitted a fair amount of energy, a lot more than those outside of it. If he interpreted the flow correctly, it was redstone, a pretty good find. Now he only had to locate it.

    ᅚHe turned his head left and right very quickly, stepped aside and did it again. This was his method of determining where the ore vein was. The ore was about five blocks in the wall about at his height. He moaned, why did the ores always have to be a vertical chunk away? A vertical chunk was a three by three, five by five or seven by seven square dug out in front of one. He stored the pick in his inventory and extended his sharp claws on his hands and his shoeless feet. He climbed the ten block high wall in a matter of seconds.

    ᅚOnce up, he started to flatten the chunk out, using careful swings to create a flat surface to make further mining easier. Then once it was flat, he used fully loaded swings again. His style of mining was fast, but also depleted the pick very quickly. It worked this way for stone picks, but not for iron or diamond ones, which were more durable. His powerful swings made the rock shatter under his pickaxe, sometimes ripping larger, irregular holes into the stone.

    ᅚIt didn’t take him long to quarry-mine his way down to the ore, he mined the last block in front of it and a pulse of energy went through him. He took the iron pickaxe out of his inventory and started carefully mining the vein, he didn’t want to destroy the valuable redstone. The vein was a lot bigger than a normal redstone vein. With little swings of his iron pickaxe he carefully removed the stone around the redstone gemstones, making sure not to destroy them. Redstone dust is actually created by careless swings crushing the gemstones. The dust could be later ground from the gemstones with much higher yield.

    ᅚAfter he had removed all the stone, the glowing crystals were lying in front of him. He looked at their beauty for a few seconds, then he packed them into his inventory and dragged them onto his hotbar.

    ᅚHe said to himself: “Thirty nine gems! That was a good vein.” He continued mining.

    Chapter 2

    ᅚFire didn’t mine very long into the night after finding the redstone, he depleted one more stone pickaxe before he decided to quit. He wasn’t tired, he just wanted to quit mining earlier today, the hackers couldn’t blame him, he mined more resources alone than an average group, that and he was almost the only one bringing redstone gems.

    ᅚThe system the slaves were following was to tear down the volcano in three by three, five by five or seven by seven chunks, Fire mixed them up. He did a three by three chunk, then a seven by seven chunk, then two five by five chunks and so on, at the end of the day he had a flat wall like everyone else but the varying sizes just took away a bit of the monotony. He only had one big eight by six, twenty five blocks high chunk of stone left, the last chunk he mined always looked something like this.

    ᅚFire backed up a few steps, then put his almost broken stone pick into his inventory, extended his claws and sprinted at the wall with inhuman speed. He climbed up, but it looked more like running or even flying up the wall than anything else. When he arrived on the top, he turned around and took a look at the quarry, it looked like a giant had mined a staircase into the volcano. He sat down with his feet hanging down over the edge and watched the slaves put down torches or the hackers turning on redstone lamps inside the processing buildings.

    ᅚFire really liked being so high above the quarry, at this altitude he felt kind of free, even though he wasn’t. He also enjoyed the wind on his scales, sometimes it was warm wind and sometimes it was the bitter cold wind of the desert nights, his only chance to cool off every once in a while. It was always warm or hot in the quarry, during the day because of one obvious reason, the sun. At night it was warm because the sandbasalt stored the heat very well and slowly passed it on to the air, it never cooled off completely.

    ᅚFire closed his eyes and looked into his inventory and took a few blocks of sandbasalt, put them on his hotbar and placed them behind him.

    ᅚ“It is no throne of gold with Nether wool cushions but it will do.” He said.

    ᅚHe leaned back and just stared at the sun sinking below the horizon. It almost looked like it was drowning in the quicksand fields far away. After about twenty minutes of just sitting there and watching the sunset he got up, mined away his improvised chair and started slowly mining away the sandbasalt.

    ᅚHe didn’t rush it like usually, he didn’t expect to find anything, he just finished it to finish it, a weird mindset for a slave. It wasn’t that bad being in the quarry, just boring at times, he was provided with food and tools and had something to do. Trying to break out had no point at all, some people tried it and exactly the same amount failed. Fire himself had been tempted to try several times but he knew better than to try and break out. Not yet at least.

    ᅚHe was so absent minded while mining that he noticed the strong waves of energy only as he saw their source. The waves were radiating form the ore which held the well-known and most-wanted blue shiny rocks, diamonds. The strength energy waves radiating from the diamond ore in the quarry always surprised him. He mined around the diamond ore until the vein of eight blocks was floating in front of him, sending even stronger waves now that it was completely uncovered.

    ᅚFire pulled out his iron pick and creaked the joints of his fingers, a wide grin on his face. He mined away the sandbasalt around the diamonds even more carefully than he did with the redstone. With tiny pokes of his iron pickaxe he slowly freed the diamonds from their black and yellow prison. It was like with the redstone, the more carefully you mined the ore, the more materials you would get, in this case Fire wound up with twenty diamonds. He didn’t put them in his inventory, where they were visible to the hackers, instead he put them into an inside pocket of his coat. The diamonds slowly stopped emitting energy, Fire only felt a slight tingle in the muscles near the pocket.

    ᅚ“Those will sell for a high price, they are quite big.” He muttered.

    ᅚNow he didn’t care for slow, he put his iron pick back into his inventory, pulled out a fresh stone pick and started hammering at the stone even more powerfully than at any time of the day. He felt the durability bar of the stone pick go down as fast as if he would be using it to kill mobs in an XP farm. The sandbasalt was shattering and bits were flying in every direction. The shaft of the pickaxe vibrated with every hit, Fire heard wood and stone crack. The blocks were breaking as fast as netherrack when exposed to an Efficiency enchantment. One hit before the pick broke, the shaft was done. Fire stepped back to the edge and looked at today’s work, he dug out a forty by twenty area.

    ᅚ“Impresses me every time…” He said to himself and looked into his inventory.

    ᅚHe had two rows full of sandbasalt, a full stack and twelve iron ores, thirty gold ores, thirty nine redstone gems, twenty diamonds and even forty seven lapis lazuli, which was very rare in the quarry and very valuable outside of it because of its very pure and shiny blue.

    ᅚAfter Fire had done his inventory check he slowly walked towards the wall he made. He was about to return to the sleeping area at the bottom of the quarry, this was his favorite part of work, not because work was over, it was because Fire loved the way how to get down there, or at least the way he himself got down there.

    ᅚOne of the abilities given to him by the admins was that in danger Fire would experience everything in slow motion, giving him more time to think about his actions. This ability was mostly useful in combat but it also had other uses. Fire sprinted towards the edge and as he drew close, his perception of the world slowed down. Fire’s steps were long and had a long air time, his breath went slowly, his pulse was also slow but powerful.

    ᅚA few meters before the ledge, he leaped and landed on both feet with the front part of his feet over the edge. Fire concentrated and jumped with as much force as he could. The state he entered now was one of relaxation, it felt like being in a room without gravity. In this state of antigravity he could almost forget, where he was and why, almost. Falling down the cliff felt just like flying he was almost too relaxed to cushion the hit on the floor. His perception went with normal speed again but slowed down a few seconds after the landing as he approached the next ledge. He jumped again. Five falls later he had arrived at the base of the quarry where the tents of the slaves were, he was usually the last to come down but today he wasn’t, other slaves had already lit some campfires and the usual groups were forming. Fire always sat down with four other players.

    ᅚThey were a pretty strange group, first there was Fire, the longtime player and friend of the admins who had been brought to the quarry by the hackers.

    ᅚThe second player was TehLulz9001, for short TehLulz. He was tall and averagely built. He was wearing a black suit, which was ragged because of the work. His hair was half long and brown, his eyes were brown as well.

    ᅚThe third player was freeZe60, for short freeZe. She was slim and had completely pitch black skin with entirely green eyes shining out at her head. She was wearing a black shirt and black pants.

    ᅚThe fourth player was Ambigious_Name, for short Ambigious. He was short and quite muscular. He was wearing a blue T-shirt and black jeans. His hair was black and very short and his blue eyes were covered by shades, which reflected the light form the campfire in all rainbow colors. The thing that only few knew about him was that he was freeZe’s brother.

    ᅚThe last and newest member was TheUnchosenOne, for short Unchosen. He had black hair, brown eyes and dark skin and he was almost completely covered in vines and leaves which never seemed to tear. He was still shocked by the new circumstances and therefore didn’t talk very much.

    ᅚThis was the firegroup Fire was in, a firegroup were the people sitting together regularly at a campfire, they were not necessarily in the same section of the quarry or in the same mining group, just some people that fate brought together.

    ᅚFire walked over to the small campfire that they had, it was always at the same spot, a little bit away from the others, four blocks of sandbasalt were already placed down around the fire, with the members of the firegroup sitting on them. Fire moved a single block of sandbasalt on his hotbar, placed it and sat down on the block which he had seen the most in the last year.

    Chapter 3

    ᅚ“Hey Fire!” freeZe said, then added: “You are quite early today.”

    ᅚTehLulz commented: “But as always you are the last one.”

    ᅚ“Guess what I found today?” Fire asked.

    ᅚEveryone was looking at him as if they knew the answer even before he asked the question.

    ᅚ“I mean how many I found.” He corrected himself.

    ᅚAmbigious guessed: “Let’s say… hmm… fifty?”

    ᅚFire chuckled: “Fifty? Ambigious, not even I have that amount of luck, it was only one vein.”

    ᅚfreeZe made the second guess: “One vein you say? Hmm, about fifteen?“

    ᅚ“That was close.”



    ᅚWith these words Fire reached down his pocked and pulled the diamonds out and threw them into the campfire.

    ᅚUnchosen stared into the fire and said: “They are not being destroyed, are they?”

    ᅚTehLulz answered: “Nope, we do that to burn the sandbasalt fragments off the gems, they sell better if they are clean. By the way, does anyone have coal?”

    ᅚAmbigious replied: “No, didn’t find any. I swear coal is the rarest thing in this quarry.”

    ᅚFire looked double checked his inventory. “None on me either.”

    ᅚfreeZe handed her brother some coal and said: “Here you go.”

    ᅚAmbigious took the coal and threw it into the fire to raise its temperature.

    ᅚ“May I ask a question?” Unchosen asked.

    ᅚTehLulz resisted the urge to say “You just did.” And instead said: “Go ahead.”

    ᅚ“How does the money work in the Quarry?”

    ᅚTehLulz asked Fire: “Fire, could you explain that?“

    ᅚFire cleared his throat and begun: “For everything that you mine there is a base value. If your diamonds are clean you get more and if they are dirty and have to be processed before you can make them into tools you get far less. Sandbasalt has as good as no value, but it is better than nothing. Lapis Lazuli is worth a lot, the blue is much stronger than the blue from lapis found outside. One redstone gem is worth significantly more than one unit of redstone dust. With that money you can buy pickaxes, food or supplies for lighting a fire. In our firegroup we store the money in a hidden place and everyone has their own reserves on their person, just in case you know.”

    ᅚUnchosen nodded and answered: “I understand.”

    ᅚFire continued explaining: “Every week we change who is responsible for selling mined resources and buying food and tools. It is my turn in the next week, which starts tomorrow. The Shop Guy doesn’t like me very much, sooner or later he will regret giving be bad prices just because he is jealous that the admins gave me those powers…”

    ᅚfreeZe said with a little spark of anger in her voice: “It is just unfair that they give you the worst prices, Fire, and of course me the best. Because… well, you all know why!”

    ᅚAwkward silence followed, only Ambigious was trying to resist grinning but failed, he made a sound that sounded like suppressed laughter, then he started laughing for real, which resulted in everybody in the firegroup looking at him.

    ᅚHe pressed words out of his mouth between one laughter and another: “What?” “I can’t do…” “…anything against it.”

    ᅚfreeZe answered: “Oooh, but I can!” Then she hit at a sensitive spot between her brother’s ribs.

    ᅚ“Aaaah, was that really necessary?” He shouted at freeZe and pressed a hand against the spot which his sister hit.

    ᅚ“Won’t hurt for long.” She answered.

    ᅚFire saw, that freeZe was about to throw another hurtful punch and put his arm in the way of her hand, so that she couldn’t hit her brother again.

    ᅚ“Let him, the evenings are the only time where we can have fun, why are you even attacking him? You are nice to everyone else.”

    ᅚ“Because I am his sister. That and I had a very bad day today.”

    ᅚ“Ah, yes. I haven’t talked to my sister in a year, almost forgot how it is to playfully fight.”

    ᅚTehLulz whispered to him: “But that was not playful…”

    ᅚFire didn’t respond and said: “It won’t hurt anymore in ten minutes, at least as far as I know. The punch wasn’t hard enough to paralyze him, but it would surely have with a fully loaded one.“

    ᅚ“Let’s stop talking about freeZe’s whatever-the-hell-that-martial-art-is skills.” Ambigious requested having calmed down a bit.

    ᅚfreeZe asked: “Are the diamonds done?”

    ᅚ“I think so.” He replied.

    ᅚUnchosen was still staring into the fire and asked half-loudly: “How are you getting them out of there?”

    ᅚInstead of answering, Fire reached into the flames, formed a bowl with his hands around the diamonds and took most of them out of the fire, then reached in again to pick the rest of the gems out between the bits of glowing coal and ash.

    ᅚUnchosen stared at Fire with an open mouth and said: “Did you just reach into the campfire without being burned?”

    ᅚFire was cooling his smoking and sizzling hands with his breath and answered: “One of the admins’ presents, resistance to heat and fire, I won’t survive a bath in lava but I am fireproof.”

    ᅚ“I can imagine that can come in handy. That’s one hell of an advantage.”

    ᅚ“Yes. But if you would have seen what the admins did in the early stages of development when they were testing you would be more impressed.”

    ᅚAmbigious had calmed down completely and wanted to know: “Should we smelt the ores now or should we wait?”

    ᅚTehLulz threw his iron and gold ores to the floor, so did everyone else, this was the way of saying “Let’s smelt them!” It was the first smelting round for Unchosen so he didn’t know. He just threw them because everyone else did. Fire took one of his pickaxes and started digging straight down in one place, this was where they had their furnaces, hidden away from others.

    ᅚHis voice could be heard out of the hole he dug: “Throw them down.”

    ᅚTehLulz pushed the ores down into the furnace room. The furnace room was a small room with nine furnaces in it. Fire distributed the ores so that they could be smelted the fastest, if he had any coal to smelt them with...

    ᅚ“Coal please!” He said.

    ᅚA few seconds later he saw freeZe’s face appear at the top of the hole, only the eyes were shining out, her face and hair had almost the same color as the black sky, they were almost a bit darker.

    ᅚShe threw some coal down and asked: “Is that enough?”

    ᅚ“Maybe, let me look!”

    ᅚHe put some coal in the fire space of the furnace and saw that it was enough.

    ᅚ“Yes, it’s enough, lighter pl… wait, just found mine.”

    ᅚWith those words Fire pulled a flint and steel out of an inside pocket and lit the coal on fire, the room started heating up instantly, Fire took some blocks and jump-pillared up the hole he made. Once he was at the top, he sat down on his block again. The others were meanwhile discussing something.

    ᅚTehLulz said: “…and what if you ask your mining colleagues if you could mine with your firegroup for one day? Mine said it is ok.”

    ᅚfreeZe replied: “I don’t see why not.”

    ᅚFire joined the conversation: “Oh are we doing a firegroup mining day tomorrow? Where? Should we start a new row?“

    ᅚTehLulz said: “Well… We thought of going to your area, is that okay with you?”

    ᅚ“Of course it is.” He made a small pause and asked: “Unchosen, have you been at the crater already?“

    ᅚHe replied: “No.”

    ᅚ“Okay, then we’ll do some lava mining, freeZe, could you ask for permission to use a diamond pickaxe and water buckets?”

    ᅚfreeZe asked in an unwilling tone: “Why exactly me?”

    ᅚFire looked at Ambigious and said: “You punched your brother before, because he laughed, he laughed at the reason…”

    ᅚAmbigious was about to laugh again but this time he could keep himself from exploding.

    ᅚ“Okay, I’ll ask...”

    ᅚTehLulz said: “Hey, hey, you know what just came to my mind?”

    ᅚEveryone asked at the same time: “What?“

    ᅚ“Tomorrow Fire has been here for exactly one year.”

    ᅚFire scratched his head with slightly extended claws.

    ᅚFire said: “Yes, you are right…” then he shouted “World Record!” so loudly that the whole quarry could hear it and everybody in the firegroup started laughing.

    Chapter 4

    ᅚThey didn’t talk for very long after smelting the ores, everyone went to their tents and laid down. The tents were not very big, they were green triangular prisms of wool. They all had the same length, which was too short for Fire, his feet were poking out at the end. It never took long to fall asleep there, even though you didn’t have much cushioning, the work was just so exhausting that you could sleep on almost everything. Fire was always the last to fall asleep and the first to wake up, he didn’t need much sleep.

    ᅚThe next morning Fire crawled out of his tent and yawned, it was time to sell the mined resources, which meant that he had to haggle with the Shop Guy once again. The Shop Guy joined the hacker team after the takeover, he didn’t use a client himself, he still was connected to the server like most of the players, through his brain, his abilities were managed through the main hacker’s clients. Of course his name wasn’t really “Shop Guy” but everyone just called him that, including the hackers from what Fire had heard.

    ᅚFire looked into his inside pocket to see if the diamonds were still there, pickpocket was very common in the quarry but it did really take some courage to pickpocket someone like Fire, it hadn’t happened to him yet, the others hadn’t been as lucky.

    ᅚHe felt a bit like celebrating but on the other side it was a bad thing to be in the quarry one year, he didn’t think that he had much time left…

    ᅚ“Nevermind.” He said.

    ᅚHe walked towards the campfire and the furnaces but noticed with surprise that Unchosen was already there waiting for him.

    ᅚ“Morning Fire.” He greeted him.

    ᅚFire greeted back: “Morning Unchosen, why up so early?”

    ᅚ“Couldn’t sleep, don’t know myself why.” He said, paused and then continued: “Are you going to open it up?”

    ᅚ“Yeah, stand back there is quite some pressure in there.”

    ᅚFire moved a stone pickaxe onto his hotbar and started mining down the blocks. As he opened the furnace room up, a blast of hot air went out, heating up the surrounding area.

    ᅚ“Pretty intense right?”

    ᅚUnchosen replied: “Right, I don’t want to be the person accidentally digging into the furnace room.”

    ᅚFire explained: “That happened once, but it was right after we put the coal in and only two furnaces were running, he still got some pretty decent burning wounds, now he is showing off with the scars and tells everyone that he got hit by a blob of lava near the crater.”

    ᅚ“So if you die you keep the scars? Or wounds?”

    ᅚ“He didn’t die. If you die, you can respawn, but wounds or scars become permanent after some time so you keep them after respawning. If you want scars removed or missing parts regrown, you’ll have to drink a powerful healing potion.”

    ᅚ“Good to know that.”

    ᅚThe air in the furnace room had cooled down enough for Fire to jump down and take the now smelted ores out.

    ᅚFire jump-pillared out like the evening before and said: “Pretty good week, about two hundred iron and a bit more than one hundred gold. We’ll have to wait for the others to count the rest of the mined materials.”

    ᅚThey sat down on their blocks again but without lighting the campfire, the sandbasalt was even darker than everywhere else, almost as black as freeZe’s skin. Unchosen stared into the ashes of the wood and coal they burned yesterday.

    ᅚFire looked at him and asked: “Why are you always staring into the campfire?”

    ᅚ“I am thinking of my family.”

    ᅚ“Oh, I see, everyone is like that in the first few weeks, it is shocking to be locked in this place.“

    ᅚ“I am trying not to think about my family too much because it makes me even sadder, you and the others are a great help, you know?“

    ᅚ“I have heard that from the others too, first freeZe and Ambigious came here, then about a month later TehLulz, then two months later, that means now, you.”

    ᅚ“So you were here alone for nine months?”

    ᅚ“Yes. It was a lonely time, but then our firegroup formed. Before that I rarely went down, I worked two days and slept one night, smelted the ores every week and then sold them to the guy. Nobody knew who I was, they avoided me. I wouldn’t go close to someone who looked like me if I were a regular slave either. It just happened that freeZe and Ambigious spawned right in my section, so we formed a group. One month later they invited TehLulz to our group, you cannot imagine how grumpy he was back then, he didn’t laugh about anything but look at him now.”

    ᅚ“I still cannot imagine living in slavery on my own for nine months, wasn’t that very depressing?“

    ᅚ“I was able to deal with it.” Fire said quickly, he continued: “As much I want to sit here and talk, I have to go sell the stuff. I’ll wake the others up, they will be there in about ten minutes, well for Ambigious it might be twenty. See you later in this place.”

    ᅚWith these words he stood up, took the ingots and sprinted towards the camp, where he yelled into each of the tents of the members of the firegroup, telling them to get up.

    ᅚAs they got out of the tents Fire told them to give him the resources to be sold.

    ᅚfreeZe yawned: “How do you manage to get up so early…”

    ᅚShe and the others threw the lapis, coal, redstone gems and diamonds at Fire, he picked them up and rushed towards the place where the Shop Guy was.

    ᅚ“Four hundred?” Fire asked “The prizes have fallen suspiciously quickly.“

    ᅚThe Shop Guy always had a mocking grin on his face, he smiled at Fire and said: “Well, Fire. They in fact have, hand me the diamonds and I will give you four hundred each.“

    ᅚFire leaned over to the Shop Guy, bowing over him and said: “You will pay me the regular price.”

    ᅚA small spark of fear appeared in the Shop Guys eyes but disappeared after a second later after he recovered his facade.

    ᅚHe said: “This is the regular price. Now… hand them over!”

    ᅚFire extended his claws, resulting in ten small holes in the wooden table the Shop Guy was sitting at.

    ᅚ“Don’t come with the claw show again, I’m not falling for that anymore, I know that you wouldn’t hurt a person.”

    ᅚFire put on an evil grin, showing his shining fangs and said with a cold voice: “I may not be the pacifist I have lead you to believe I am. Besides, you are no person to me.”

    ᅚThe spark of fear appeared again, this time for longer and more intense, but anger was mixed into the spark as well. Fire knew he was playing a dangerous game but he had enough of the Shop Guy’s arrogance. He also knew that if he would just hand them over he would appear weak, and appearing weak was the last thing he wanted in front of the Shop Guy.

    ᅚ“Don’t you dare to attempt to intimidate me! Hand. Them. Over!“

    ᅚ“Come and get them.“

    ᅚThe Shop Guy threatened: “You don’t want to force me to activate my kill aura!“

    ᅚFire taunted him: “Oh, your mighty unarmed kill aura, I am so scared.”

    ᅚFire knew that the Shop Guy had orders not to harm or kill slaves since it could provoke a riot but Fire also knew about his violent tendencies.

    ᅚThe Shop Guy tried his best to stay calm: “Hand them over now! Let’s end this pointless discussion!“

    ᅚ“I will hand them over for the regular price.“

    ᅚ“No! Four hundred!”

    ᅚFire was about to say something he could regret, he saw that the Shop Guy was about to burst in rage but he had wanted to do this ever since he had been in the quarry.

    ᅚFire’s voice was as cold as ice and his eyes had an aggressive, cold shine in them, making them appear even redder than normally. He said: “Fine. I will hand them over for four hundred… but…”

    ᅚThe Shop Guy was very surprised and thus lost his I-don’t-give-a-damn facade for another five seconds.

    ᅚHe said: “But what?”

    ᅚFire didn’t want to give him the answer right away, he wanted him to let the Shop Guy’s rage disable his ability to think logically.

    ᅚ“Figure it out!”

    ᅚThe Shop Guy finally recovered his facade and said sarcastically: “Let me guess… You want to challenge me to beat you in a fight?“

    ᅚ“Exactly that.”

    ᅚ“What kind of bad joke is this? You cannot reach me with my kill aura on!”

    ᅚ“What if I could?”


    ᅚ“I’m not telling you that!” Fire said in a provocative tone.

    ᅚThe Shop Guy had enough, he let out a scream and then shouted at Fire: “Okay! Let’s do this!“

    ᅚFire replied calmly: “Good, let me set some rules.”

    ᅚ“What? Rules are for losers!”

    ᅚFire ignored him and replied: “The duel takes place in the arena, mobs off, no classes, you can use whatever you have access to, so can I. No noclip, no godmode, no everything that makes it impossible to win, you can use kill aura though. And if I win, you will have to buy for seven hundred.”

    ᅚThe fact that Fire was keeping so cool setting the rules so that it was impossible for himself to win by allowing kill aura doubled the intensity of the Shop Guy’s rage, making him shout at Fire even louder: “You will see what you get from that! Endless pain!”

    ᅚAfter these words the Shop Guy called a lead hacker, who transported them into the arena about ten thousand blocks away.

    Chapter 5

    ᅚThe arena was a very impressive place, a circle with a diameter of five hundred, seats that could hold thousands of people. In the middle, dramatically emphasized by a circle of light, was the actual battleground. In this arena epic battles were fought. The floor had pistons under it and was capable of forming a mountain or a valley and you could flood the arena with water or lava.

    ᅚFire was brought into one of the arena’s preparation rooms, it was made of stone brick and its cracked and mossy variants. This was where the classes were, he didn’t choose one because they were disabled for this fight. The selection would drop appropriate gear using dispensers.

    ᅚFire took some deep breaths to calm himself down, he needed to be perfectly calm for the battle, only that way he could outsmart the Shop Guy. With raw force he would not be able defeat him. Fire was sure that the Shop Guy would take Protection IV diamond armor and a diamond sword with Sharpness V, Fire Aspect II and Knockback II. He wouldn’t have any potions because all the good alchemists refused to make potions for the hackers and spawned in potions were of questionable quality.

    ᅚFire stood up and walked towards the iron bars blocking the door to the arena.

    ᅚHe shouted “I am ready!”

    ᅚfreeZe was about to start worrying about where Fire was, but then a text message appeared before her eyes, it was one of the lead hackers broadcasting a chat message, which rarely happened.

    ᅚ“Epic duel in the arena starting in ten minutes!”

    ᅚfreeZe turned around and grabbed her brother’s shoulders and said: “That must be Fire, he is exactly that kind of person who would get himself into such a situation.”

    ᅚAmbigious was a little confused by his sister’s reaction but nodded: “Yeah…”

    ᅚfreeZe’s voice was full of worry: “We need to get there! But how?”

    ᅚThe second broadcast message appeared: “To watch the battle, type /arena spectator seats!”

    ᅚ“Great, we don’t have access to the chat.” Ambigious moaned.

    ᅚ“What could we do?”

    ᅚTehLulz, who was called by freeZe’s scream, said: “We could hope that someone picks us up.”

    ᅚ“What?” freeZe asked.

    ᅚ“Oh, you were sleeping when Fire told us that story, it was when you fell and broke your legs, remember that? Fire told us that once in a while his friends show up here in the quarry, one time they managed to smuggle in an invisibility potion so Fire could sneak into the hacker’s building and listen to what they were saying.” TehLulz explained.

    ᅚ“What did they say?”

    ᅚ“He didn’t tell us, he said that it wasn’t that important.”

    ᅚAmbigious interrupted them and said: “I’ll go get Unchosen, he is still at the fireplace.” He walked off.

    ᅚTehLulz continued: “The point is, why wouldn’t they come now? I think they also know that Fire has to do something with this ‘epic duel’.”

    ᅚThe iron bars rose up and fell down again after Fire had walked through, now he stood on the edge to the arena, in this case it had formed a circle out of sand with water on the outside. Fire himself had designed this preset for the arena, it was supposed to be used as arena in a battle against weak monster and apparently they thought that they could taunt him by using this preset and thus comparing him to a monster, a weak monster.

    ᅚFire didn’t feel offended by the usage of this preset, in fact he was confident because he knew the secrets he had built into it. One of them was a secret escape route into the machine room he built to give the fighters a way to escape the monsters and in his case his opponent if he couldn’t defeat him. He would run straight to the preset switches and would flip the “incinerate survivors” lever, which would unleash an almost never ending stream of fire charges and for the finish some TNT and in this case, “some” meant “a lot” or even clearer “a literal ton”.

    ᅚFire continued to walk into the arena, behind him the sand on which he entered the arena sunk into the water to block his way back. In front of him, the other bars opened and his opponent walked out of the door, still in furious rage but now in full diamond armor, obviously enchanted with Protection IV, wielding the sword that Fire expected him to bring.

    ᅚPvP in the arena was off when no battle was happening, it only got turned on as the battle began to prevent angry contestants from hurting one another when they were not ready. Fire was ready, he now only needed to wait for the ten minutes to run out, eight were left.

    ᅚThe four other members of the firegroup were desperately trying to find a way to get to the arena without typing the command and came to the conclusion that it was impossible.

    ᅚ“But why did he even accept the challenge to fight him, it is certain that he is going to lose.” Unchosen said with a fair bit of panic in his voice.

    ᅚAmbigious was angry instead of scared, he growled: “If we ever get out of here, I will find out where those hackers live and stab them in their sleep.”

    ᅚ“That doesn’t help Fire now, we need help!” said freeZe.

    ᅚSuddenly they heard another voice, it sounded soft but had a little scratch to it, a tiny bit like a cat talking in a human language, it seemed to belong to a man.

    ᅚIt said: “Need a hand?”

    ᅚThey heard a slurp and a person in full diamond armor appeared behind them. They turned around and stared at the man that interrupted their talk.

    ᅚ“Wait, you are one of Fire’s friends, right?” freeZe said with a little stutter in her voice.

    ᅚ“Correct, but we don’t have much time. Here, drink that, we will explain everything later.”

    ᅚWith these words he gave them four tiny vials with a grey and semi-transparent liquid in them.

    ᅚUnchosen asked: “What is this… stuff?”

    ᅚ“Invisibility potion, now drink!”

    ᅚAmbigious was the first one to drink, he shook after drinking.

    ᅚ“That stuff is ice cold!”

    ᅚEveryone else also drank.

    ᅚ“When is it going to kick in?” TehLulz asked.

    ᅚ“Any second now.” Fire’s friend answered.

    ᅚ“Wow, look at my hand, it is transparent now, wait, it is gone.” Ambigious said.

    ᅚfreeZe said: “Now only your clothes are left, oh, what about the clothes by the way?”

    ᅚ“They will become invisible in a few seconds, I don’t have enough time to explain why, I can only tell you that I am one of best alchemists on the server.”

    ᅚAfter their clothes had vanished the mysterious person said: “Okay, everybody grab my hand so that the teleportation affects you too.”

    ᅚ“Ready” Said Unchosen and TehLulz, who had grabbed his right hand, Ambigious and freeZe took his left hand and also said: “Ready”.

    ᅚ“Okay, I am going to enter the command now, be silent and do not bump into anyone. Three, two, one, go!”

    ᅚThey felt, how they were flying over the map with high speed and ended up in the arena.

    ᅚ“Quick, follow me!” Fire’s friend said and ran up some stairs to an area of the seats where no people were sitting.

    ᅚ“Epic duel in the arena starting in five minutes!” The broadcast said again.

    ᅚ“You all there?” He asked and a quadruple “Yes” came back.

    ᅚ“Good. Come, let’s go to the bars.”

    ᅚThe arena was covered by a hemisphere of iron bars assembled in a semi-random grid with chains hanging down from them, the holes were not big enough to keep someone from fitting through it they really wanted to. The iron bars were mainly for show but also to keep fighters who were flung by explosions or preset-specific contraptions from flying into the seats and landing on the people sitting there.

    ᅚ“You all there?” he asked again and got the same answer again.

    ᅚThe second broadcast message appeared again: “To watch the battle, type /arena spectator seats!”

    ᅚThe tension in the arena was very high, the two fighters were ready to fight. Now everybody was fevering towards the moment that the battle would start. It was one minute before the start, the broadcast repeated the last two messages. The Shop Guy activated his kill aura, his arms disappeared, which was caused by them moving very fast and trying to hit every possible target in range, combined with his sword and Fire’s lack of armor it basically made it obvious who would win.

    ᅚFire stared at his opponent. He had a plan, but executing it would be hard, but for emergency he had a second plan and if this one would fail, he had a third one, and if that one failed he would be dead. Fire was not afraid of dying, neither in Minecraft nor in real life, he just didn’t want to. He lost that fear after he had died the first time on this server, it had been a very strange experience, nothing he would like to repeat and definitely not something that was possible to describe with words.

    ᅚThe broadcast said: “Let the battle begin!”

    Chapter 6

    ᅚFire could barely avoid the incoming attack of his opponent who was charging at him at full speed, thinking he could end the battle as soon as it began. Fire jumped aside, rolled and came back to his feet in one fluent movement. The Shop Guy had to fight against the momentum he and his heavy diamond armor had built up. While the armor protected him it was also a disadvantage for the Shop Guy because its weight made him less maneuverable.

    ᅚFire extended his claws all the way out, normally they looked like cat claws coming out of his fingertips but when fully extended they were deadly sabers capable of cutting everything into slices that was unlucky enough to be in their way. Fire’s opponent had come to a stop and turned around, still with active kill aura, the air was searing hot from the sword cutting through it in every possible angle.

    ᅚIt was now Fire’s turn to attack while the Shop Guy recomposed. He ran towards him, his perception entered a slow motion state like when he was jumping down the quarry. He pretended to attack him directly but then jumped over him with a gigantic leap. While falling, Fire turned around right after he landed and he covered the back of his opponent’s diamond chestplate with a furious rain of strikes from his claws.

    ᅚThe Shop Guy’s arms couldn’t reach his back so there was a hole in the kill aura, the hacks weren’t built for a server that simulates realistic situations. The chestplate flashed purple every time Fire hit it, no damage was going through but its durability was degrading. A second after Fire had landed the Shop Guy noticed what was going on and turned around as fast as his armor let him. It looked very slow to Fire, who had enough time to escape the deadly blade storm of the kill aura. Fire sprinted around his opponent and towards the other side of the arena.

    ᅚAmbigious’ feelings were a mixture of tension, hatred towards the hackers and amazement about Fire avoiding the hits and attacking over and over again.

    ᅚ“If they continue like this, Fire is going to win.” he whispered.

    ᅚfreeZe was worried, now more than before, she said: “The hacker is angry but not dumb, he will soon notice that it can’t continue like this.”

    ᅚFire’s friend spoke in his soft voice, without a trace of worry: “Fire will probably win, but this is not how, this is just him killing time and thinking of a better strategy.”

    ᅚ“True, this chestplate will break eventually, but not any time soon.” Unchosen agreed.

    ᅚAs they spoke Fire got into distress, he didn’t roll far enough to get out of the hackers range, who noticed this. He made a curve and ran towards Fire, ready to reduce him to a bloody pile of bones, flesh and organs. Fire, was lying on the floor, he couldn’t escape. Even though he saw everything in slow motion, this didn’t actually increase his speed. Fire’s perception kept getting slower and slower in face of the growing danger.

    ᅚSuddenly the hacker stopped and turned his kill aura off, Fire’s perception went normal again.

    ᅚFire asked: “What now?”

    ᅚThe hacker laughed and whispered: “Do you really think, that I will just give you a swift death?”

    ᅚFire was calm on the outside, but in fact he tried to think of a way to avert his fate, he said: “In all honesty, no. I know about your mental state.”

    ᅚFire’s only weapon now was more provocation, that way he could either make the hacker make a mistake or just kill him faster.

    ᅚThe hacker was somewhat perplexed: “What?”

    ᅚFire now spoke with a loud voice, so that every single person in the arena could hear him: “Yes, your mental state, you have all kinds of problems up there.”

    ᅚ“That’s wrong, do not listen to him!” the Shop Guy said in an emphatically cool tone.

    ᅚ“Oh yes it is true.”

    ᅚAnger was boiling in the hacker’s head again, making his vision blurry and his thoughts short, he shouted: “Prove it!”

    ᅚ“As your praised leaders may know, you can in fact look into someone else’s mind here, which is why they are here.”

    ᅚThe Shop Guy made a confused face, which was almost covered by his visor.

    ᅚ“Oh, they didn’t tell you about it? You were here before their takeover and you were afraid of being sent to the quarry like me, so you joined them. On the side, by doing this you also violated the terms you agreed to when you joined, you are lucky that the admins’ enforcer hasn’t found you yet.”

    ᅚThe people on the ranks began booing out the hacker.

    ᅚ“Before the takeover the admins took a brief look into every new person’s mind, and they clearly found out about your mental state and because am a close friend of theirs, I happened to see that information too.”

    ᅚThe Shop Guy didn’t say anything, he had to think about what he just heard. He let out a scream of insanity, raised his sword above his head and prepared to execute Fire.

    ᅚThe four invisible people on the ranks listened to all that with open mouths.

    ᅚUnchosen stuttered: “So the hackers are not just here to enjoy the feeling of power? They have a goal.”

    ᅚFire’s friend said: “Yes, they have one and if you knew it, you wouldn’t like it.”

    ᅚfreeZe asked: “Why didn’t he tell us earlier?“

    ᅚ“It is all part of Fire’s plan.“

    ᅚ“What pl…“

    ᅚ“Shh, look!”

    ᅚThey turned their heads towards the bars again and they didn’t like what they saw there: The Shop Guy, with his sword in hand, jumped into the air, turned his sword during the flight and let it come down on Fire. But suddenly Fire was not there anymore, he was behind the hacker with the claw on his index finger extended all the way. The sword drilled itself into the sand where Fire used to be a second ago.

    ᅚ“What?” The hacker shouted. “Where did he go?”

    ᅚThat was the last thing he said before he felt a cold, stinging pain in his neck, right where the gap between helmet and chestplate was.

    ᅚFire had pierced the Shop Guy’s neck with his claw, cutting the nerves in his spine. Fire had won. He pulled the claw back out and retracted it. The people on the ranks started cheering for Fire.

    ᅚThe Shop Guy somehow managed to pull his sword out of the ground and slashed out for Fire one final time. The sword cut right through his coat at his left shoulder, it was torn apart in a clean cut, so were his scales and a big portion of the muscles under it. The sword would have cut Fire’s arm right off if the Shop Guy would have not have died in the middle of the attack, instead it stopped at Fire’s collarbone. The sword slid out of the wound, making it extend over Fire’s chest.

    ᅚIn the first moment, Fire didn’t feel anything. Then he felt the cold blade and the hot magic burning and tearing apart his flesh, he was knocked off his feet by a pulse of energy coming from of the sword. While falling he opened his mouth and let out a loud scream of pain, his voice had a surreal screeching resonance to it, making everybody on the ranks press their hands on their ears, then suddenly, the scream was over, the last thing Fire heard before blacking out was someone calling his name.

    ᅚ“Fire!” his four invisible friends screamed at the same time, the visible one was searching his pockets in haste.

    ᅚHe found what he was looking for and said: “Someone, quick, bring this to him.”

    ᅚHe hadn’t even finished as he felt the vial with pink liquid being ripped out of his hand.

    ᅚHe heard a female voice saying: “I’ll do that.”

    ᅚDespite the desperate situation Ambigious still poked TehLulz invisibly, the expression on his face was easy to guess, but he didn’t say anything.

    ᅚfreeZe ran, she looked for a gap in the grid that was big enough for her to fit through. She put her feet through and then the rest of her body, hung herself down from the bars, the vial in one hand. freeZe dropped down, trying not to land in the water. As she landed on the sand, she felt a sting in her feet but ignored it and ran right over to Fire who was lying on the ground next to the body of his dead opponent. She shook Fire’s body, crying and calling his name.

    ᅚFire was not dead but he was bleeding out, the only thing he felt was the pain, it was a feeling he could hardly describe, it was a sting and pull at the same time. It had been a long time since he had been subjected to this amount of pain and he had no time to prepare himself for it. He thought that he would go crazy but then something appeared at the very edge of his perception, it was not very big but it was something other than pain.

    ᅚHis mind was violently pulled out of its blacked out state, he woke up, the pain was even stronger now and he wished he would black out again. He didn’t see what woke him up, he just felt that someone was shaking his body, he also saw a vial with a pink liquid inside it and recognized it as regeneration potion. It seemed so surreal that he thought that it was just a hallucination caused by the pain. Then his sense of hearing kicked in, he heard the people on the ranks yelling and crying, there was also someone crying right next to him, Fire didn’t know who it was, then he looked at the vial again, he knew only one person using these kinds of vials… And he only knew one person who would cry like this if he would have died, well two, but only one of them could be here.

    ᅚ“freeZe?” he said with a very quiet voice, shaken by pain.

    ᅚ“Yes?” Her voice was full of hope again.

    ᅚ“Could you please give me that potion?“

    ᅚ“O… Of course.” She stuttered.

    ᅚShe opened the vial and emptied it into Fire’s mouth, he swallowed and his body relaxed a bit. He could feel how the liquid ran down his throat and on the way down got absorbed by his blood. It felt like cold fire running in his veins, first directionless, then more and more towards his would, rebuilding cracked bones and torn muscles, taking his pain away. He fell asleep, part from the exhaustion, part from the potion.

    Chapter 7

    ᅚ„He’s alive!“ freeZe yelled, still with invisible tears running down her cheeks.

    ᅚFire’s friend raised a thumb, walked down to the bars, threw an ender pearl through and disappeared. He reappeared next to Fire and inspected his wound with a worried face.

    ᅚHe said: “He will need a stronger regeneration potion than this one if you want him to survive.” freeZe was about to say something, but got interrupted by Fire’s friend: “We need to bring him to the quarry, now.”

    ᅚHe pulled another vial with a white liquid in it out of a pocket and drank it, he cleared his throat and spoke with potion-amplified voice: “Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to explain some things, the loser of this battle, our Shop Guy here got challenged by Fire. In the months before he gave Fire unfair treatment only because of his personal hatred against Fire. Fire won, but look at the price he had to pay! You heard what he said, it was the truth. Do you agree with this, qofrghz122, head member of the hacker group?”

    ᅚAfter a short delay a message appeared: “Yes, Fire won, we will expel the Shop Guy, he will no longer be part of the group, Fire will get his money, a thousand per diamond.”

    ᅚThe people on the ranks cheered but Fire’s friend had a strange look in his eyes that was hard to read from.

    ᅚAnother message appeared on the screen: “I will warp you back to the quarry.”

    ᅚThey stopped at their fireplace, Fire was still lying on the ground. Fire’s friend was already running to the tents to get some wool to make a somewhat comfortable place for Fire to lie on. Everybody stared at him when he arrived there, he was still wearing diamond armor after all. He walked over to Fire’s tent and began taking it down first, the others’ tents followed. He put them into his inventory and sprinted back to Fire, freeZe, Ambigious, TehLulz and Unchosen.

    ᅚFire opened his eyes again, everything was a bit blurry, his wound was still there, it still hurt a bit but way less than in the arena, the ends were starting to grow back together and it had stopped bleeding, courtesy of the regeneration potion. His vision slowly turned normal, he was still tired and the only part of his body he could control were his eyes, he noticed someone next to him, he couldn’t see who exactly it was but it seemed like Ambigious. Fire seemed to be lying on an improvised mattress that was made from folded together tents.

    ᅚ“Are you okay?” Ambigious asked.

    ᅚ“Hmmmmmrrrrr” Fire said, then coughed.

    ᅚ“I will count that as yes.” He stood up and called the others: “Hey, he woke up!” Then he said in a quiet voice: “Looks pretty bad, that wound, does it hurt?“

    ᅚFire had fully woken up and replied: “Not that bad actually.”

    ᅚThe quiet was broken by the others arriving, asking questions and talking at the same time.

    ᅚ“Shhhh!” Fire’s friend and Ambigious said simultaneously.

    ᅚFire leaned on his healthy arm and said: “Okay, now we will have to tell you about it, you start Brad.“

    ᅚFire’s friend started talking: “Okay, first of all let me tell you my name. I am UBradMo, I was one of the first players to join the server, Fire joined about one real-life month later, which is about five years in here at the current simulation speed. I was one of the first to meet Fire here after the admins. They were still figuring out their code, which caused some… interesting bugs like your arms or legs disappearing spontaneously, fun times. Then the server got more and more popular, not really popular but there were at least a hundred people playing at a time, which was a lot for this server at that time, nothing compared to now but for the time it was a lot. Fire caught the team’s attention pretty quickly. About one real life month after his first join he received his first gift, his enhanced perception and ability to feel energy, I don’t want to go into further detail about his other history.”

    ᅚ“Wait a minute!” freeZe interrupted Brad “How did you even hear about this server?”

    ᅚ“The website is hidden in the deep web, it can’t be found via Google, a perfect place to hide it from unwanted looks. They went around the internet to recruit suitable people, then gave them the site’s address. The people would go to the site, register and agree to the terms and conditions. That included things like not to tell nobody about it, except their direct relatives or close friends, there are also some harsh consequences for breaking those terms. Then they are told the server IP so they could log in. If you aren’t registered and try to log in anyway it will just kick you out.”

    ᅚFire continued: “It was only a matter of time for hackers to find the server, there have been many attempts to hack the server. The hackers we have now took a completely different approach, they didn’t attack the server, they attacked the admins and made them unable to control it. After that they had more than enough time to take over the server as well. They spread the IP and disabled the login system and also pretty much everything else Minecraft related, the only thing they couldn’t figure out was the code of the software, it’s way too complicated for anyone except for the admins. That and it is tied to Minecraft, which they don’t want.”

    ᅚ“What do they want?” Unchosen, who had kept himself in the background, asked.

    ᅚ“They want to sell the software to the army, they hope that they get rich from it.”

    ᅚTehLulz asked: “How are they going to sell it if they can’t even separate it from Minecraft?”

    ᅚ“They want to force the admins to give them the code in its raw form.”


    ᅚFire took his time for the answer: “By killing us.”

    ᅚEverybody except Brad jumped: “What?”

    ᅚFire’s voice was perfectly calm: “Time doesn’t stand still outside, eventually everybody in the quarry will die of dehydration, I will probably die as the very first, I have been in here for six real time days, seven is the absolute maximum a human can live without water.”

    ᅚ“Isn’t there anything we can do?” freeZe asked desperately.

    ᅚ“Yes. Remember what I said is the only place safe from the hackers and therefore a good place to hide a way out?”

    ᅚEveryone’s eyes widened in realization: “The code…”

    ᅚ“Yes, exactl… Ahhh!”

    ᅚ“What Fire?” Ambigious asked.

    ᅚ“Brad, regen, quick!” Fire pressed out between his lips.

    ᅚFire’s body was shaking uncontrollably and intensely.

    ᅚ“The regeneration potion has stopped its effect!” Brad said.

    ᅚHe pulled another regeneration potion out of a pocket he could access with his armor on, this time a big bottle.

    ᅚFire opened his mouth and drank the potion very quickly, he felt again how the potion dispersed into his blood and then focusing on the wound, the pain was still there but it was getting better and better with every second.

    ᅚ“Wow, what was that?” Ambigious asked.

    ᅚBrad answered: “All pain blocked by the potion got unleashed in one moment, which is what happens if the potion wears off before the wound is completely closed.”

    ᅚFire continued explaining as if nothing had happened: “They hid numerous artefacts around the server map. Even though there are a lot, only six are actually relevant to escaping. I only know what three of them are and of those I only know where two are.” He collected his breath for his next sentence: “Now I have to ask you something, I need you to free the server from the hackers.”

    ᅚUnchosen asked: “How?”

    ᅚ“I want you to help me gather the artefacts. I am warning you, it will be difficult, more than that, almost impossible.”

    ᅚ“We will help!” freeZe said before anyone else could answer “We won’t just let you die.”

    ᅚAmbigious asked: “Wait a second, as far as I know you aren’t blocked from using the menu, why don’t you just log out?”

    ᅚ“Because I am an anchor, my presence here acts as some sort of a safeguard for the server. As long as an anchor is online, the server cannot fully be taken over if the anchor doesn’t want it to happen. I can’t leave the server or the hackers will fully take over and basically have an infinite amount of time to kill people undetected and use that as a means to pressure the admins.”

    ᅚ“Oh, I see…” said TehLulz and added a question: “What are we even looking for?”

    ᅚ“We are looking for… The Ban Hammer.”

    ᅚEverybody from the firegroup stared at Fire.

    ᅚ“The what?”

    ᅚ“The Ban Hammer, it is backdoor put in by the admins if no other way out is left. It gives the one holding it absolute control over the server.”

    ᅚ“Where is it?”

    ᅚ“I don’t know, I only know for certain where one of the artefacts, the Ultimate Base Potion, is. I will tell you more about it when we find it. The other artefacts I know of are the Ender Dragon Egg and the Axe of Eric the Viking.”

    ᅚ“And why are the hackers not just collecting them?”

    ᅚ“They don’t even know about them! They wouldn’t be able to use them anyways, the Ban Hammer can only be used by an anchor.”

    ᅚ“What is the plan?” Ambigious asked and then added: “It is time to show those hackers who is the boss!”

    Chapter 8

    ᅚ“I can’t tell you the plan just yet, a lot of it will be adapted in as we go along anyways, I can tell you one thing though. We will go mining at the crater tomorrow. freeZe, could you ask for the equipment now?”

    ᅚ“Okay” She said.

    ᅚfreeZe walked off in the direction of the shop, which now had a different shopkeeper, just a normal player who volunteered to do the job until someone else was found.

    ᅚBrad once again inspected Fire’s wound and said: “It will be grown back together tomorrow, it works much faster while sleeping. By the way, here are the things you asked for.”

    ᅚWith these words he gave Fire a bag and warped away without any further words.

    ᅚ“Just out of interest, what is in that bag?” TehLulz asked.

    ᅚFire answered: “It is part of the plan, you will see when the time comes. Go and sell the stuff. Tell the shopkeeper that it is from me.”

    ᅚFire unloaded a bunch of gems and ingots from his inventory, TehLulz picked it up and also walked towards the shop.

    ᅚ“You two, please go now, I need some sleep, it is quite late already and I am very tired.” Fire said with a yawn.

    ᅚUnchosen replied: “No problem, night Fire.”

    ᅚWhile walking away from Fire Ambigious said: “Wow, I haven’t noticed how quickly the time passed.”

    ᅚThe first thing Fire did the next morning was touch the spot where the wound had been, it was entirely gone. He still felt the regeneration potion inside him, giving him energy and fixing some minor injuries from work and from the battle. The only thing that was not intact was his coat, it had a huge hole.

    ᅚ“Damn it, I’ll have to fix this thing once again.” He noticed TehLulz next to him, smiling.

    ᅚTehLulz said: “This is probably the one and only time you wake up last.”

    ᅚFire grinned and asked: “How much did you get?”

    ᅚTehLulz yelled: “Quite a lot, forty-two-thousand to be exact.”

    ᅚFire said: “Too bad we won’t need that money anymore.”

    ᅚ“Yeah, true.” He paused. “Can you tell us at least where we are going first?”

    ᅚ“I can, we are going to my base.”

    ᅚ“Nice, is it far?”

    ᅚFire answered in a mysterious voice: “Depends which way you take… It can be way farther away than the arena, but it can also be closer than the edge of the desert.”

    ᅚTehLulz at first was confused and then seemed to know the answer: “Oh, I know how, does it involve purple?”

    ᅚFire replied, satisfied that TehLulz had figured out his riddle: “Oh yes, it does.”

    ᅚ“Why is there one in the volcano?”

    ᅚFire smiled: “It was an accident.”

    ᅚ“Ah, I see.”

    ᅚThey were interrupted by freeZe yelling: “Hey, guys, I made us breakfast!”

    ᅚFire stood up, stretched and whispered to TehLulz: “Let’s see if she can cook as good as I can.”

    ᅚFire always made the food because he was the only one of the group who was able to cook something that you could eat without throwing up, freeZe refused to cook since her brother started making jokes about it, this day was an exception since Fire had been wounded.

    ᅚ“What did you make for breakfast?” Ambigious asked.

    ᅚShe replied: “Toast… as close as it gets to toast anyways, bought some cheese, bread and eggs from the shop and cooked it over the fire.”

    ᅚ“Sounds tasty.” Unchosen said.

    ᅚThey sat down and started eating from their stone plates, now they realized how hungry they really were.

    ᅚWith the claws of one hand deep in sandbasalt Fire reached down to help Ambigious up, he was the last one to get up the final section where the slaves had mined. Ambigious stepped back, sprinted to build up momentum, then jumped and grabbed Fire’s hand. Fire catapulted Ambigious up with a powerful movement of his formerly wounded arm, the regeneration potion had worked wonders.

    ᅚ“Oof!” Ambigious said as he landed on the side.

    ᅚHe stood up climbed up the mountain to where the others were, Fire pulled himself up over the ledge and followed, five diamond pickaxes and the same number of water buckets in his inventory.

    ᅚ“How far is it? I am exhausted already, I got up early today.” freeZe said.

    ᅚFire answered: “Oh, it isn’t that far up to the crater, the real journey begins when we are up.”

    ᅚThey arrived after about ten minutes of half climbing half walking on the burning hot sandbasalt, which was getting hotter and hotter towards the crater.

    ᅚFire warned: “Okay, cover your eyes. Well, not Ambigious, you already have your shades.”

    ᅚEverybody except Fire and Ambigious did so and looked over the edge of the crater. Even with the covered eyes, Ambigious shades and Fire’s resistant eyes the Lava was blinding them in the first few seconds.

    ᅚ“Whoa!” TehLulz and Unchosen said simultaneously “That is bright!”

    ᅚWhen their vision wasn’t all white again, they saw one of the most impressive things that nature and Minecraft had to offer. The lava’s yellow and red glow perfectly mixed with the yellow part of the sandbasalt, making it hard to tell, where the lava pool in the middle ended and where the superheated stone began. The walls sharply fell down, you could still climb up from inside but you certainly couldn’t go down safely. Everything had a red glow from the lava, the sun wasn’t shining in, it still was too early.

    ᅚ“Hey?” Fire asked. “Are you still there?”

    ᅚfreeZe asked: “Wha… Wha… What?”

    ᅚFire chuckled. “You four totally got hypnotized.”

    ᅚWith these words he poured one bucket of water into the crater and temporally extinguished the bright red glow.

    ᅚ“Hop in!” He said.

    ᅚFire jumped over the ledge, picked the water source up while falling and landed on the relatively thin layer of obsidian the water had formed, it gave out an intimidating crack but didn’t break.

    ᅚ“You see, totally safe. Seriously, it is Minecraft obsidian after all.”

    ᅚThey slowly climbed over the edge and climbed down even slower. They were all standing on the black volcanic glass, the lava gave out a dim light through the obsidian, which made it glow mysteriously.

    ᅚFire said in a quiet voice, almost whispering: “Alright, here is the plan. We poke a hole into the obsidian and jump in.”

    ᅚAmbigious interrupted: “Jumping into lava?”

    ᅚ“The bag Brad gave me, there are Fire Resistance potions in there. We jump into the lava and swim down, just follow me, the potion also provides us with energy so we don’t have to breathe, it also makes us able to see in the lava. It is pretty hard to brew.”

    ᅚWith these words he gave everyone a diamond pickaxe.

    ᅚ“We will make a large hole, as if the obsidian collapsed, then we will drink the potions and jump in, there is a Nether portal at the bottom, we will swim through that.”

    ᅚNobody asked a question, they were just swinging their pickaxes at the obsidian, too focused to even think about anything else, it was still hard work and they had to watch out for a real obsidian collapse. The obsidian made a high pitched bling every time a pick hit it, suddenly a loud crack came from the center of the obsidian.

    ᅚ“To the sides, quick!” Fire shouted.

    ᅚThe obsidian started falling into the lava, a hole formed in the middle and was rapidly growing, they jumped just in time before the lava would have swallowed them.

    ᅚ“Phew, that was close.” Unchosen said.

    ᅚfreeZe demanded: “Okay, potions.”

    ᅚFire searched his inventory for the bag and fished out five potions, then packed the bag back into his inventory. The others had slowly come to Fire on the half meter strip of obsidian around the lava that was still left.

    ᅚ“One last thing, it is hard to combine so many different effects in one potion, and these are no simple effects. There may be some side effects while it kicks in, nothing dangerous though.” Fire warned and added: “I will drink the first one and tell you if anything happens.”

    ᅚHe gave the potions to them and drank his. The orange liquid was burning hot, or at least it felt like lava running down his throat. Once in his stomach, the liquid partially turned into a yellow gas, which came out of Fire’s nose and mouth and also got into his lungs. Fire felt how the gas dispersed in his lungs and at the same time his eyes started feeling strange. His vision blurred out, Fire made a step towards the wall and leaned against it. A few seconds later his vision went normal again, only he could see even better than he could anyways. His body shook for a few seconds, then Fire didn’t feel the burning heat radiating from the lava anymore, he only felt warmth all inside his body.

    ᅚ“Are you… Okay?” TehLulz asked.

    ᅚFire answered: “Not many side effects, Brad did a good job. It only feels like drinking lava in the first few seconds, also support yourself on the wall, your vision will be blurry for a short time.“

    ᅚ“Okay, if that is all, let’s drink on our victory!” said Ambigious and emptied his bottle in one swallow and regretted doing so a second later as the liquid ran down his throat. Everyone else also drank, a minute later they all were completely immune to the lava.

    ᅚfreeZe counted down without asking anyone: “Three, two, one… jump!” They jumped into the molten rock, hoping Brad did the potion right and they wouldn’t get fried instantly. They felt the lava enclosing them…

    Chapter 9

    ᅚIt was strange being encased in lava and not dying or even feeling its heat, not needing to breathe and drawing all energy required from the molten rock itself. Fire had used Fire Resistance potions very often but after over a year without them he was surprised by not being hurt but not nearly as much as the others who in general had never fallen in lava. In the first second they panicked and tried to swim back to the surface, but then they remembered that they had the potion and relaxed.

    ᅚThey could see as well as if they were underwater, only with a red tint. Fire gave them a sign to follow him and began swimming downwards with powerful movements of arms and legs but then remembered that the others still had to learn how to navigate the dense liquid. He slowed down and looked out for obsidian, he didn’t see any. As soon as freeZe, TehLulz, Ambigious and Unchosen had caught up to him he started swimming downwards slowly, always looking for the black volcanic glass.

    ᅚSuddenly Fire heard something and wildly gesticulated to tell the others to move away from the middle. The lava rumbled and vibrated. In the deep, just at the edge of Fire’s vision huge bubbles of gas came up out of the depths of the volcano, shooting up very quickly and pushing a wave of magma up to the crater. As it passed by it almost smashed them against the wall. If someone would have been in the middle they would have been thrown out of the volcano, hitting the ground with no chance of survival. After the current had slowed Fire gave the others a sign to continue and took the lead again.

    ᅚHundreds of meters and half an hour later Fire spotted a small black and purple rectangle. He signaled to hurry and swum downwards faster, the Nether portal enlarged on his field of vision as he came closer to it, a feeling of enthusiasm filled his body. The next thing he felt was the sinister aura of the portal, it was no good feeling like the aura of diamonds but he had gotten used to it since he had all kinds of magic going on in his base.

    ᅚThey were only a few meters away from the purple portal, Fire gave the others a sign to stop, then he swam towards the portal and went inside it. As Fire entered it he felt a slight resistance since the portal wasn’t completely liquid. The insides of the volcano began spinning before his eyes and then he blacked out.

    ᅚHe woke up on the other side of the portal, he was not tired in any way and started observing his environment. He stood in a small circular cavern with a man-made tunnel leading out into the main cave of the Nether. The heat was enormous. Fire noticed that the magic of the portal had taken away the potion effects. The next one to come out was TehLulz. Ambigious, Unchosen and freeZe came followed, still a bit dizzy.

    ᅚAs Fire saw that they were fully there again, he asked: “Do you have any combat experience?”

    ᅚfreeZe answered: “Yes.”

    ᅚA double “No” came from TehLulz and Unchosen.

    ᅚAmbigious answered last: “Not really. I got into fights once or twice, or ten dozen times if you count those with freeZe.”

    ᅚFire answered: “Okay, that will make it somewhat more difficult. I’ll tell you the strategies for the mobs in here. So, the pigmen are dangerous because of their speed and their swords, but just ignore them, you know how it is. The magma cubes are a little more difficult, you can just stomp the tiny ones but for medium and large I would recommend dodging and throwing rocks at them, without a blade of any kind you pretty much can’t deal damage. The ghasts… I think you know how to handle those. But be careful, you should kick the fireballs back instead of punching them or it will hurt. If you see a blaze or a wither skeleton, tell me.”

    ᅚUnchosen asked: “Okay, where do we need to go?”

    ᅚFire was walking into the tunnel and said: “Come, I will show you when we are outside.”

    ᅚThe tunnel was narrow and the heat coming from the netherrack was insane, the rock was rough but not jagged so it was surprisingly comfortable to walk on, even without shoes. As they stepped outside of the tunnel, a panorama opened up before them.

    ᅚThey were standing in a lower portion of the Nether, the lava sea was just a few meters away and more lava was pouring down from the ceiling onto the overhangs above them. Zombie pigmen were wandering around on the netherrack, ghasts were flying high up on the ceiling, always letting out their sad cries and moans. The whole scenery was dramatically illuminated by the yellow, sun bright light of glowstone crystals hanging from the ceiling, the eternal fires on the netherrack and by the lava sea from beneath, leaving little room for shadows. In the distance, they could see a Nether fortress towering in the middle of the lava lake, giving it an even more sinister look than it would have had normally. Blazes, zombie pigmen and wither skeletons were patrolling the buildings and bridges made of the dark red Nether bricks.

    ᅚfreeZe poked Fire in the shoulder and said: “Err, Fire, why are you shimmering?”

    ᅚAfter she said that everyone else, including Fire, noticed that Fire’s scales were shimmering in the darkest of blacks like the shell of an insect.

    ᅚFire said: “The lava burnt away the dust and dirt from the year in the quarry, this is how my scales usually look.”

    ᅚAmbigious laughed. “Nice! Let’s go!”

    ᅚFire took the lead once again, going up the hill to their left and explained the route he wanted to follow: “We will go around the left of the lava sea and then cross a lava river, then we will go into that Nether fortress over there, I have some friends living in there, somewhat weird but nice people.”

    ᅚfreeZe answered while climbing up the hill: “Very strange friends you have there, living in a Nether fortress with all those mobs…”

    ᅚFire chuckled: “I know right, you all will have a little shock when you see them I can imagine. Have I ever told you about the Wither cult?”

    ᅚAmbigious replied: “No, you haven’t told us about it.”

    ᅚFire grinned. “Okay, then I won’t spoil your surprise.”

    ᅚThey were halfway up the hill as they heard a scream different from the usual ambient ghast noises. Suddenly a fireball impacted five meters to their right, setting some more fires.

    ᅚ“Up the hill!” Fire yelled.

    ᅚThey climbed the hill more quickly now, which was not easy with the boiling heat around them, at the top was a small platform. Fire stopped at the very front and signaled the others to continue running. Fire noticed that the ghast shooting them was pretty big compared to the others, it seemed to be an alpha ghast of sorts.

    ᅚThe ghast breathed in with its tentacles swirling through the air and shot a bolt of compact flames at Fire. His perception slowed down, he was about to try something very risky but if it worked, it would help then throughout the rest of the journey through the Nether. The fireball now was only five meters in front of Fire, he formed a bowl with his hands towards the fireball, shielding his face and put one foot back to support him. The projectile hit Fire’s hands with force, it didn’t explode though.

    ᅚIt pushed Fire backwards over the rough netherrack, someone without Fire’s resistant scales would have had the skin on their feet torn off. The fireball decreased in speed quickly until it stopped and stayed afloat in mid-air. Fire was surprised that he actually stopped the fireball but the ghast was at least twice as surprised. It made a confused face, which turned to respect and then to terror, it floated away screaming loudly. The others carefully walked towards Fire, who was cooling his hands

    ᅚfreeZe asked Fire: “This is enormously good or terribly bad, right?”

    ᅚWithout answering Fire asked: “Did anybody keep their bottle?“

    ᅚ“Yeah, I kept it.” Unchosen said and handed it to Fire, so did everybody else.

    ᅚFire thanked them and walked over to the orb of fire still floating there.

    ᅚ“Err, what do you want to do?” TehLulz asked.

    ᅚFire replied short: “Bottle it.”

    ᅚHe stuck the neck of one bottle into the fireball, to everyone’s, surprise it started pouring into the bottle, filling it up, he corked the bottle again and filled up the other bottles.

    ᅚ“What can you use that stuff for?” Ambigious asked with an interested voice.

    ᅚ“I really don’t know, I will have to try it out.” Fire answered and added: “Let’s go, we need to get to the fortress.”

    ᅚHe took the snowball sized fireball that was left and carried it in his hand. They started walking again.

    Chapter 10

    ᅚ“Fire, I am so thirsty.” freeZe complained.

    ᅚFire answered: “We will have something to drink in the fortress… Wait, don’t we have water buckets?”

    ᅚAmbigious moaned: “Oh yes we do, why didn’t we think of them earlier, freeZe is about to collapse.”

    ᅚfreeZe talked back: “No I am not! But I could use some water.”

    ᅚFire handed freeZe his water bucket, she tilted it and drank a quarter of the water inside.

    ᅚShe asked: “Anybody else need water?”

    ᅚThe others raised their hands. freeZe passed the bucket on to Ambigious, TehLulz and Unchosen, who emptied it completely.

    ᅚ“Everybody ready again?” Fire asked and packed the bucket into his inventory.

    ᅚThey started walking again. They were about half way to the fortress, the ghasts had left them alone since Fire caught the fireball. They walked pretty slowly because they wanted to save water and energy.

    ᅚThe scenery had changed quite a bit since they exited the tunnel, they were higher up now, which had advantages and disadvantages. One of the disadvantages was having to avoid lava rivers all the time. One of the advantages was having a way better view than from below, the fortress was now completely visible and it was huge. Some of the bridges went into the reddish-pink rock, it was possible that a lot of the structure was inside the netherrack.

    ᅚSuddenly they heard a strange sound, a slap and a slurp a second later.

    ᅚ“Uh-Oh, that doesn’t sound very good.” TehLulz stated.

    ᅚHe was right, a huge magma cube was hopping towards them, revealing its fiery core with every jump.

    ᅚFire closed his eyes, opened his inventory and pulled a diamond pickaxe onto his hotbar with his thoughts, it was in his hand right hand after he opened his eyes again, the fireball still was in his left hand.

    ᅚHe started digging a hole and called the others: “Get in there! It can’t reach you as long as it is that big!”

    ᅚHe didn’t have to say that twice, in a chaos of hands and feet freeZe, Ambigious, TehLulz and Unchosen disappeared in the hole, Fire stayed out of it. He switched to another slot of his hotbar and put the fireball in his right hand.

    ᅚ“So you want to eat us? How about you chew on this?” Fire yelled and threw the fireball at the cube, which was in the middle of a jump.

    ᅚFire had aimed the fireball a bit under it so it would hit it in mid-air. The fireball left a burning hot trail behind it and made a nasty ear wrecking whistling and howling noise like some fireworks do. The fireball hit the magma cube right between the strips of half liquid magma, which were assembled like a screw, making it able to jump.

    ᅚThe fireball exploded with a bright flash right at the molten core in the center of the cube as it hit the ground. It stopped with its red eyes rolling wildly, it didn’t have enough surface tension to stay in its form. It liquefied without any warning, forming a puddle on the ground. Fire jumped back shortly before the puddle reached his feet. Three smaller but still two blocks tall replica of the magma cube rose out of the puddle.

    ᅚThey made a big leap and surrounded Fire before he knew what was going on. He extended the claws on his hands, they wouldn’t help him much in the battle but it was better than punching the cubes. He attacked the cube closest to him, which was about to leap. Fire’s claws cut through it, doing some damage but the magma core in its center flared up, liquefying the wounded part and making it grow together again. Fire knew that the other two were about to land on him. He jumped forward and tried to roll like in the arena. The netherrack however was much rougher and more solid than the sand in the arena, the roll wasn’t fluent and didn’t get him far but he got on his feet again at the end.

    ᅚ“Out of the hole!” He yelled and ducked under an incoming cube.

    ᅚTheir circle now was closer than before but the eyes of the one cube he hit were a little bit dimmer than the other’s. Fire attacked the same cube again, this time with both hands, slashing down on it diagonally and again, the core flared up and healed the wound. The second cube landed next to Fire and the third one remained in his position.

    ᅚ“Eat this!” A voice yelled, apparently Ambigious, a big chunk of netherrack hit the cube which had landed next to Fire.

    ᅚFire took a quick look over to the rest of the group, they all had picked up rocks and bombarded the cubes with them just like he had told them earlier. The cubes absorbed the netherrack, instantly turning it into lava with a flash of their core and using it to grow.

    ᅚfreeZe said half loud: “Oops, that is not good.”

    ᅚFire dodged the third cube, which almost landed on top of him, jumped again, this time without a roll and stood up, just to dodge the second and third cube that were following him, the first one seemed to be slowing down.

    ᅚ“Keep throwing, it cools their cores!” Fire yelled.

    ᅚHe cut his claws right through the second cube a couple of times, forcing it to sacrifice more of its temperature to repair itself. The third cube made a giant leap in the air, Fire stepped aside but forgot that the second cube was there. Fire saw, that the first cube’s core was almost not glowing anymore, a split second later the second cube landed on him with its full weight, knocking him to the ground. Fire saw stars for a second and when his senses were up again, he noticed that the cube had swallowed him, a moment later he felt the burning heat of lava at his skin, half of his body was stuck inside the core, the cube wasn’t moving and tried to keep Fire inside.

    ᅚFire wound and struggled but couldn’t get free. The other three noticed that Fire was stuck inside the cube but couldn’t do anything. Fire thought he heard freeZe screaming but wasn’t sure since his head was stuck in the cube. His skin was resistant to heat but only up to a certain degree. Smoke started radiating from the core and the horrible smell of burning chitin and skin filled the air. Fire tried to think of a plan, his perception went slow again, which gave him a bit more time to do so, however the pain was preventing him from forming a clear thought.

    ᅚAll he could do was an instinctual reaction, he extended his claws at feet and hands and started to struggle like a cat that had been picked up against its will. His claws cut through the cube, making it cool down rapidly but also with every flash of the core the pain all over Fire’s body increased. He wondered why he wasn’t dead yet. After painfully long twenty seconds the heat dropped below the level where it could harm Fire or fix the wounds of the cube. He cut his way out of his once fiery prison, which liquefied right after he crawled out of the thick semi liquid stone. Fire stood up using the strength he had left, a feeling of triumph filled his body and drove the pain away. The others had done a good job at killing the first and third cube, they had shrunk to their minimal size and were being stomped by Ambigious, TehLulz and freeZe. Unchosen ran over to Fire, who had sunken to the ground devitalized. When the others were done killing the remaining cubes, they also ran over to Fire.

    ᅚfreeZe said in concern: “You look terrible!”

    ᅚFire in fact looked terrible, half of his coat was charred, his scales were deformed and he had smaller burns all over his body.

    ᅚHe answered in a weak voice: “I don’t know why I am even alive… we need to get to the fortress quickly, just give me a few minutes to rest.”

    ᅚThey sat down next to Fire saying nothing, their silence only got interrupted by a huge chunk of netherrack falling down from the ceiling into the lava lake, causing a huge tsunami of lava to surge the coast, pulling in pigmen and magma cubes as it flew back again.

    ᅚ“Pretty impressive place, the Nether…” Unchosen whispered.

    ᅚ“But also very dangerous.” TehLulz added.

    ᅚ“No beauty without danger, it is like this everywhere.” Fire said.

    ᅚThe sentence made Ambigious chuckle.

    ᅚHe said: “Right, freeZe? No beauty without danger, many people experienced that…”

    ᅚShe replied, smiling: “Stop it.”


    Posted in: Literature
  • 1

    posted a message on The Slaves of the Desert Mine (75 chapters released) [Side Story "Ascended" released]

    Chapter 56 is out finally.

    The last couple of weeks were quite stressful for me and even when I had the time to write I was lacking the energy. Let's hope that the next few weeks are better in that regard.

    Have fun reading ^^

    Posted in: Literature
  • 1

    posted a message on Extra enchantments?

    Yeah, getting extra enchantments is completely normal. On regular items it should be what happens most of the time or at least quite often. On books it is rarer.

    Posted in: Discussion
  • 1

    posted a message on The Slaves of the Desert Mine (75 chapters released) [Side Story "Ascended" released]

    Chapter 49 is out now!

    It's another Jack chapter, I thought that it would be good to break up the main story a bit again.

    Have fun reading ^^

    Posted in: Literature
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