ABYSS OFFICIAL DISCORD: (Accessible only to humans who have signed the reaper's pact)
"Big news on the Adventour Bulletin Board! Another player just evolved!" user SilentMild wrote.
User SilentMild added the meme [Son Goku from Dragonball evolving to Super Sayan mode].
"Finally… It's been a week and a half since Ath3na became a Wraith Warrior and no one else has evolved yet," User LilHyz commented.
"I heard they increased difficulty for evolution because Ath3na wrecked the game on her first day," user Grimthorn explained.
"So who managed to climb up to level two?" user May1st asked.
"Black Howler!" user SilentMild revealed.
"The solo player? What's his job class now?" user LilHyz asked.
User LilHyz added the meme [Surprised Pikachu face].
"Beast Hunter!" user SilentMild revealed.
"Sweet! Any details on this new class?" user May1st asked.
"None yet… it was just announced on the A.B.B.," user SilentMild answered. "He'll probably make a tips-and-tricks video like Ath3na did for WW."
"Dude's not a streamer though. We'll have to wait for the tips & tricks package the devs promised to make for job classes tbh," user LilHyz wrote.
"That sh*t's just a f**king money grab by the sh*tty devs," user Grimthorn complained.
User Grimthorn added the meme [Star Trek's Captain Picard face palm meme].
"It's fine if you don't want to support the devs for the awesome work they do, but then don't complain and just work hard on earning your own unique job class. Trust me, it's doable," user Ath3na responded. "GM rewards players with unique job classes if they evolve productively… check out my channel for my guide on how to become a Wraith Warrior."
"Goddess of gaming wisdom in the house!" user SilentMild reacted.
User LilHyz added the meme [Smiling French bulldog thanking you].
"Big news just dropped on the A.B.B.," user Reaperz_Ally wrote. "The first Abyss event announcement!"
Ath3na logged out of Discord after she'd read a reply from Grimthorn telling her to mind her own business.
"Sheesh, salty much," she said with a shake of her head.
The sound of a notification beep reached her ears. So she picked up her smartphone and saw the A.B.B. notification that was discussed in the chat.
[IT'S TIME! THE 'HUNT FOR THE RED-EYED DECAPITATOR' WILL BEGIN SOON! DETAILS TO BE GIVEN AT ADVENTOUR'S TOWN SQUARE AT 9:00 PM GMT.]
"So they want us to log in to get details on the event… smart," Ath3na said approvingly. "Needing to be there physically gets players more invested in the game world."
Ath3na's eyes drifted to the upper left corner of her smartphone's screen. The current time read 6:00 PM.
"I've got three hours to kill… so what to do," Ath3na mused as her eyes drifted to the Portal II's VR visor lying on the table next to her ice-cold caramel latte.
Ath3na shivered slightly, prompting her to wrap her arms around herself to keep warm. She couldn't understand why but this always happened now whenever she laid eyes on the Portal II. It was almost as if the console's presence unnerved her and she didn't know why.
A message ping on her smartphone made her jump with a start.
"Holy sh*t, Ath3na, get your sh*t together," she chided.
Ath3na tapped on the new message on her smartphone and saw that it had come from Thorminator.
"Busy? Need help hunting Nether-Dragonlings… found a nest full of the suckers," he messaged.
"You realize slaying a bunch of dragonlings doesn't mean you'll evolve into some kind of dragon knight, right?" she replied.
"Worked for you… and I hear the newly evolved Black Howler was only hunting shadow beasts in the Dark Forest all week," he replied back.
Ath3na's gaze returned to the visor on the table. That momentary fear she'd felt at seeing it earlier was gone again almost like it had just been her imagination.
She sighed. "Get a grip, woman…"
Then she typed a response to Thorminator's message.
"Sure, meet you at Adventour… but only until the event announcement, okay?" she messaged.
Thorminator replied with a smiley face and thumbs up emoji.
Ath3na booted up the Portal II and then picked up its visor, but before she put it on she caught her reflection on the visor's glass, and her eyes widened at the long white strands of hair that had appeared on her head.
"WTF, when did I start looking like freaking Rogue from the X-Men," she complained. "That's it… a trip to the salon tomorrow and then I'm getting a hobby that'll help me de-stress from gaming… maybe yoga or mixed martial arts."
The town square was a wide circular space at the heart of Adventour which was conveniently located right in front of the gothic-cathedral-type building that was town hall. It was surrounded on all sides by stone dwellings with thatched roofs as well as a circular row of bare trees that had yet to bloom either leaves or flowers. Other than the main street to the south, four other roads led into the square from its four corners.
On a bare patch of stone wall at the furthest right of the square was a large bulletin board. Here, one could find all manner of announcements ranging from odd jobs, merchant deals, quest postings, party requests, and even invites to social gatherings in-game.
On the left side of the square stood a wooden platform where town criers made public announcements to a gathering of players and NPCs. It had never been used before, not until this very moment when a man in red robes stepped up to the platform to stand before the crowd gathered there.
Leo's eyes, hidden within the shade of his deep hood, widened at the sight of the packed square.
"How many players did McCloud's report say we have now?" Leo whispered to Morgana who was standing beside him but had conveniently made herself invisible from all eyes except Leo's.
"One thousand one hundred and eleven players in total," she reported. "Ten times the number we had from day two."
Leo saw many familiar faces in the crowd like Ath3na and Thorminator who were both standing right below his platform. Toward the very back, he caught a glimpse of a dark-haired Asian man leaning by the bulletin board.
"Much smaller than McCloud predicted but way too many for our small team to handle," Leo chuckled. "Fine… I love a challenge."
"I know you do, silly," Morgana laughed as well. "It's show time, Leo."
Morgana snapped her fingers, prompting several giant screens to appear around the square in a puff of white smoke.
"It's show time," Leo repeated to himself right before he raised his arms wide and spoke in a voice that magically carried to the entire square, "Greetings, substitute reapers and welcome to the launch of the Abyss' very first server wide event, The Hunt for the Red-Eyed Decapitator!"
No one but Leo heard the snapping of Morgana's fingers. Immediately afterward, a giant puff of white smoke shot out behind him like some great cloud. It altered its shape into the upper body of a muscular giant with a wide, flat face that held but one round eye.
Leo lamented over the cheap visual effects he'd managed to wrangle out of Morgana for this event, and he was sure from the many murmurs that started right about now that he wasn't the only one who wanted to face palm himself.
Still, he shouldered on and continued with the speech that Agatha had written for him, "There are some here who know this beast intimately for you have already experienced such gruesome deaths at his hands…"
Leo let that thought sink in before he continued. He noticed that during his brief pause in his speech many of the Decapitator's victims shivered in their spots.
"And while he continues to roam the desolate lands of the Abyssal Plains none of Adventour's denizens shall be safe," he said while pointing at random people in the crowd.
A rousing call for action began among the crowd. It was something Leo didn't expect from gamers.
"So the burden falls upon you, substitute reapers, to slay the shadow beast that has invaded our lands and bring peace back to Adventour!" Leo said, raising his voice some more.
Of course, Leo knew that the Decapitator was no shadow beast. No, he was far more dangerous than that. The Decapitator was a powerful lesser who was also an agent for one of Morgana's numerous rivals. But none of the players knew that, and Leo wasn't inclined to tell them this for fear of scaring them off.
"However, this feat cannot be accomplished alone no matter how skilled one might seem," Leo said as his eyes drifted to Ath3na and then to the back where Black Howler was. "Thus, we invite all of you to try our new party system which you can access in your menus under the [SOCIAL] option."
Many hands were raised in the air and tapping on the menus only they could see to look at the feature that was only now available to them.
"A minimum party of four is required for this quest while a maximum of seven will be allowed," Leo explained. "The fewer you are in the team to accomplish this task the greater the rewards will be."
Another snap of Morgana's fingers and the vision of the decapitator lost its head before it disappeared into nothingness and replaced by a large smoky treasure chest.
"Spoils you may claim from the decapitator's corpse," Leo said while thinking he and Morgana better be ready to create fabricated spoils in case the actual Decapitator didn't drop any, "And one high-grade soul stone each for the members of the victorious party… But remember, the fewer you are the rarer the soul stone you may receive."
It was at this point that a piano began playing in the background, and it carried with it an upbeat tune that was just perfect for the moment.
"Interesting choice of background music, Shannon," Morgana whispered approvingly.
"This one-time event begins Friday at 7 PM, GMT and lasts until Sunday at 7 PM, GMT… so you will have a full weekend to hunt down this dastardly foe, but know that the enemy can only be slain once," Leo explained further. "All parties must register with the Town Hall an hour before the event begins to be eligible for the quest… and so I urge you to gather comrades willing to die at your side."
The sudden quiet seemed even more electrifying than the recent yelling, and Leo thought this budding anticipation was like the quiet before the storm.
"Will you answer the call, substitute reapers?" Leo asked. "Will you slay the foe hiding just outside Adventour's doors?"
The roar that followed was deafening. There wasn't a single player who didn't have his hand raised for they were all caught up in that inspiring moment.
"And so it begins," Morgana whispered.
Greetings, fellow reapers!
I hoped you enjoyed this chapter which starts a series of quests that eventually lead to some awesome battles, I hope.
Look forward to the next one! And I would appreciate it if you could share the story with your friends. :D