Thursday, November 19, 2015

Volume 3 - Chapter 5 - Valerie

Dun dun
Dun Dun

*hello!* <Valerie says>
"SHE'S BACK! RUN AWAY!" <reader's scream>

Kidding =D I thought that this will annoy a lot of people, but I wanted my Valerie section, so =P Enjoy? Maybe? I gave you a full chapter earlier, so bear with me? (Does anyone else always second guess themselves on bear/bare?)


    As Valerie sat quietly listening to the group of players who were eating and chatting around her, she couldn’t help but worry a little. They know. They know that you’re different, a voice seeped through Valerie’s thoughts, seeding anxiety. Yeah, maybe they do, she thought back.You can try all you want, but you’re not the same quiet girl they’ve gotten used to talking to, came the reply. Well, maybe so, but I’m managing to be pretty quiet right now, she shot back at her nagging thoughts. Her new, unaccounted for confidence having won out, her worry was replaced by a constant unease like a low buzz humming in the back of her mind. For some reason, the reticence and self-consciousness that usually kept her on edge and doubting herself seemed like they just took too much effort at the moment. She wasn’t used to feeling in control, relaxed, but she did now for some reason. She had had her ups and downs in Tiqpa, and often rather extreme ones, but this was neither a high or a low. She felt unusually collected--as if her companions were more under her observation for once, and she was less under theirs. Ever since she had woken up with a moving leg, she had felt different. It was like her thoughts had changed, like she wasn’t the same person. It was as if before she had been drunk and tired, worn out and dazed by self-pity and an unshakeable hyper-awareness of her disability. Each thought had been strained. It competed with too many other thoughts, most of which were born out of unrelenting self-assessment. Now things were strangely clear. Now she was finally sober, awake and alive. Daniel your arm is not a napkin, Valerie thought as she noticed Daniel wipe his mouth off with his left arm. He didn’t even get all of the mess off his lips either. Maybe a pig snout would suit you better than bird wings. Valerie’s lips curled up into a slight grin, which she hid by pretending to rub an itchy nose as she continued watching the people sitting around her.
    “So, serious question, why is it that every time you see lasers in a movie, you actually see the laser?” Daniel asked, continuing to whittle away at some drake meat on a stick while the gang waited. They hadn’t exactly made a campfire in front of the fortifications, but they had set up some chairs and were just staring out at the woods, holding fast until any signs of danger were reported by the scouts circling above the woods on their riders. “Shouldn’t the laser, you know, move at the speed of light? Be nearly impossible to catch with the naked eye?”
    “Oh, you mean those sci fi movies where the lasers all look like fat nerf bullets traveling as fast as a well-kicked soccer ball?” Mclean asked, enjoying her own stick of meat. “It’s for the space cowboys, indians, knights and movie goers.”
    “Huh?” Kass, the only one not eating anything besides Valerie snapped back into the conversation. While everyone else was focused on watching the woods for a sign of danger, or some mysterious bad guy that might pop out, Valerie couldn’t help but notice Kass wasn’t. She was nervously turning her head and glancing at the Demons who were steadfastly laboring over the fortifications around the city.
    Something's wrong with her, she guessed. Remember, Tim always used to warn you to watch the ones who were watching closest, not that it stopped him from being stabbed in the back. Not that it stopped you from getting him killed, her mind betrayed her with another jab at her heart.
    “When it comes to movies, space is just another setting where we can tell our stories and pretend like mankind matters,” Mclean paused to take another bite. “Like heroes could make the difference between life and death in some epic journey of discovery or redemption.”
    “What does that have to do with the cowboys and indians though?” Kass asked, not getting the picture that Mclean was drawing.
    How does Darwin like you when you’re this simple, Kass? You react more than act. If you had just waited, Mclean would have explained it. She’s that type of person, and you’d have gotten your explanation without having to needlessly admit your inability to connect the dots. Valerie sighed and squinted her closed eyes. The real question is how has Kass not given me a headache before today? she laughed to herself, the frustration fading as she smirked at her own joke.
    “Well? Isn’t that what it’s all about? People don’t want to go to a movie theater and see real space combat with computers calculating everything that is and will happen to further amplify the useless and utterly inconsequential nature of humanity. They want to see the epic story of good versus evil with their favorite handsome-faced protagonist saving the day through a string of lucky feats, quick wits and serendipitous timing that only he could pull off. They want to see the rag tag band of ten cowboys saving the world from a wave of angry indians with a good quick-draw scene, except this time in space with lasers.” Mclean took another bite. “It’s much better than the reality, than the helplessness that they have to endure on a day to day basis as they trudge through an existence where death, progress and the future are neither controllable, nor predictable.”
    “Isn’t that why we are playing fantasy games?” Daniel said, reinforcing the point.
    “True, but it’s also why the lasers in space move so slow a professional soccer player could block almost all of them.” Mclean looked disappointingly at the bare bone where a full leg of meat had once been.
    “You don’t eat that much in real life, do you?” Valerie asked, laughing at her winged friend.
    “Oh, god, no! Calorie counting is hell though. I thought I’d have fun here. I want to try every beer they have!” She excitedly said and then looked around. “As soon as we get out of this situation I guess.”
    Now that’s the right kind of simple. Know what you want and know when you’re going to get it, Valerie smiled. She’s a reliable person with a good understanding of the world. I can use her, she found herself thinking, slightly taken aback by the last three words, but then slightly amused. ‘Use,’ yes ‘use.’ Isn’t that what I’ve always been doing anyways? Just using these people for emotional and experiential crutches? It’s a bit psycho-bitch, I guess, but there is no need to feel depressed if there are people I can maneuver to avoid it. Her grin began to spread wider, but then stopped. No, control your emotions. Don’t let them see that you’ve changed. People hate change, people need things to move so slow they don’t notice it until it’s far enough along that they can’t miss the old. Valerie, you’ve gotta boil the frog nice and slowly for these guys. Don’t want to suddenly end up in hot water yourself, do you? She forced a timid and weak expression back onto her face. Let’s hope this is how I normally would look, she thought as she consciously made small micro adjustments to her face.
    Kass opened her mouth to say yet another stupid and simple thing when Valerie heard something that caused her to ignore her vapid guildmate. It’s in the woods. It’s coming for us, she thought, looking to the scouts above. They were still hanging in the air, circling above the surroundings. How did they not see it? There are a lot of them coming to kill us, she thought as she found herself listening to the sounds of crunching leaves. It wasn’t that monsters didn’t also produce that sound, but when a monster did it, it was haphazard and bore no rhythm or set beat. This was planned stomping, crushing of the fallen leaves and grass in a systematic fashion, the beats organized in a way that only man produced.
Valerie looked over and saw Minx staring in the same direction as her. So the little kitty can hear it too, she laughed to herself. She could tell that many people thought Minx was slow, dull-witted and painfully stupid, but never once took into account that this was a game, and Minx was role-playing like the rest of them. Or at least, that was the only way Valerie could make sense of her constantly changing character.
Is Minx going to say something, or should I? Valerie wondered, but then something else caught her eye. It was Tim, walking out of the forest from another direction. He looked like an angel with his majestic wings and sculpted face as he ran out of the woods to her left, trying to say something. Then, no sooner had he run out of the woods then he jerked to a halt. This has to be a memory of when he came to save me. When he kissed me . . . When he . . . Tim opened his mouth and blood came out. When he died.
Why am I remembering this now? Valerie said, looking around Tim for clues. Tim was stabbed in the back by someone he didn’t see coming. That’s right. What if there were more than one group that was coming. What if this group is noisy, but the next one isn’t? Perhaps like Tim, the first group will reach its prize only to discover far too late that there is another party at play and the knife will sink too deep for them to act. “If that’s the case . . .” she mumbled almost inaudibly to herself. “If that’s the case, the second group would be easy to pick up after the conflict. We’d go from fighting two hard groups to one injured one . . .” she finished her thought aloud. The others, who had still been playing at the conversation where Mclean explained, Daniel listened and Kass spoke before thinking, all stopped and looked at Valerie.
“What’s up, Val?” Daniel asked, looking over in the direction she was facing.
“We’re going to get attacked. There are two groups coming at us. They aren’t together though . . .” Valerie trailed off as her mind drew a map of where and when they’d hit. Their paces, the sound, it was coming at steady rate. One group was quiet, the other group was loud, but they were almost even in size.
“They’re coming from two different directions?”
“Yeah, and their makeup isn’t identical at all, they will hit us in waves if we stay here. They will be separated by about ten or fifteen minutes,” Valerie was doing the math in her head faster than she even knew she was capable of. “They will catch us off guard and kill us easily,” she stated, not as a threat but as a fact. This wasn’t going to be a fight that would go their way, but she knew what she had to do. She had to show one of them hope, and let him stab the other in the back. I have to Tim one of them . . . Did I just use Tim as a verb? she laughed to herself and then sighed. Okay, now how do I get this plan to work while using this motley crew of damage dealers and scouts. She looked down the middle of the trees. Do I even need to use them? They might just slow me down. But if I keep them here and let them do nothing . . . then they could serve a purpose and end up as something other than the deadweight they’d currently be in a large scale fight. Except Kass. The chick’s ice spells are okay. That’s perfect. That’s exactly what I need to do, she thought, excited by her idea.
“Kass, grab a mount. We’re heading out,” Valerie said with a smile and then took up into the air. “The rest of you, stay here and defend the fort. Try to hold everyone off without using Alex.”
Now all I need to do is position them right, and then lie, Valerie felt happier by the minute as the plan came together in her head.
“Come on Toothifer!” Kass called out without a moment’s hesitation, “I need a mount!” As soon as she called, a giant Blue-Drake came bounding over to her like it was a dog attacking a master who had been away with licks.
    Valerie, not wanting to watch the messy scene of Drakely affection took off in the direction of the closest group. Alright, let’s get there quickly. “You coming, Kass?” She shouted behind her as the sound of the Blue-Drake’s flapping wings answered her question before she even asked it.
They move and follow without being asked. That’s good, Valerie thought as she flew closer to her target. She didn’t have to explain anything. Everyone just trusted her. Alright, now to make sure phase two will work. “Kass, you have an Area of Effect snare move, right?” Valerie made sure to double check. Everything was hinging on the assumption that she would have a move to match their need.
“Yeah, I have one, I guess,” Kass answered.
You guess? How do you not know if you have a move or not? Valerie wanted to facepalm. “Well, what move do you have?”
“Winter is Coming. It’s kind of a ground root snare. The problem is it takes a while to actually cast, and it can only hit so many people at once,” Kass explained.
“Could you use it to slow a group of about thirty to forty people down by about ten minutes?” Valerie asked, needing the numbers to match up correctly.
“No, not at all. The most I could stall them is roughly five to six, give or take. If I try any longer, then I’m going to get shot out of the sky or just murdered outright,” she grimaced.
So even if you talk without thinking, when you do think, you’re not so bad at knowing your own limits. Alright, let’s see how far off you are from that number. “That will have to do.”
“Should I start channeling it so it's ready when we arrive?” Kass asked.
“You can do that?” Valerie looked at her strangely. This wasn’t something she had read about on the boards before. In fact, one of the biggest weaknesses of the mage class was that they were almost completely ineffective for several minutes of a large scale fight, unless of course they went the one-on-one route, at which point other damage dealing classes generally had an advantage in output potential.
“Yeah, I actually figured out how to do it earlier when we were leveling the other day,” Kass beamed triumphantly. “Once I got the trick, it actually didn’t seem that hard.”
You just figured out how to do something that no one can reportedly duplicate? What the . . . Valerie started to fume and then finally relaxed, calming herself down. Some people are just born with very specialized gifts, I suppose. Though her dad does work for the game developers, so a bit of nepotism might be involved. “Alright, start channeling it now. Make sure the effect is as big as possible.”
“Okay, let’s do this!” Kass excitedly grabbed her staff and began her channeling.
    What was bothering her at the base that isn’t here now? Valerie wondered, knowing she was missing a piece in this mood shift. What is she worried about when she’s near the base that has her constantly looking over her shoulder? “That’s the spirit. I’m going to rush ahead, and bring them to this spot. Aim it on the ground right here.” Valerie pointed to a large clearing. “When you get to the point where your area of effect snares won’t work anymore, just dash as fast as you can back to Minx and them to play defense.” Then, before Kass could even give an affirmative reply, Valerie took off in the direction of the group.
    Valerie looked at her arm. Hmm, right now I won’t sell it at all, she thought, remembering her plan. Okay, how about this. She took a branch and then gashed her own shoulder. Then she finished the flight, blood trickling down her arm and dripping onto the leaves below. As she closed in on the group, which wasn’t more than two minutes away from the position where she had left Kass, she started yelling, “QUICK! QUICK! The boss is almost dead, but so is our group! We need help quick! We’ll split the reward. Come on! Hurry!” she pleaded in her best desperate voice, hoping her battered appearance and the promise of reward would scuttle their brains too fast to think straight.
    “We’re coming!” one of the stone-covered men yelled, dashing after her.
    “Come on! Hurry!” Valerie yelled at the group, “One of the mini-bosses is chasing me!”
    “Don’t worry! We’ll save you! But we better get a good split on this reward!” The Earth-Walker said as he and his guild followed Valerie back to Kass’s location.
    When Valerie finally caught up to Kass, the spell channeling was complete, and the Earth-Walker and his guildmates were caught in the chains of ice that sprung out of the ground. Then, seeing the spell go off without a hitch and Valerie quickly approaching, she turned away and ran back to the base. Excellent, Valerie smiled as she pretended to be caught in the trap too. “Crap! That was her!” Valerie shouted at the Earth-Walkers. “That’s the mini-boss!”
    “The timer on that spell is ridiculous. That boss must be over Level 50! You said your group got the main boss down real low? Are you sure we can finish him and the mini-boss off?” The Earth-Walker asked, looking genuinely concerned.
    “I am pretty sure we can. Have you tried fighting him before?” Valerie asked, not knowing if they had any idea what the boss would look like. If they know what he looks like, we’ll have to change the dialogue up, but we can still pull the plan off.
    “Yeah, we fought him earlier. He came out of nowhere, flanked us from behind and ate our back line up.” the Earth-Walker stopping his struggle against the ice chains to grimace for a minute. “
    Valerie, seeing how effective the ice chains still were at holding the group in place had to give it to Kass and the spell. It seems that your level really does make a difference in how effective snares are. It’s not like they would hold them in place this long if they were taking damage, but no one’s attacking them and the group isn’t smart or brave enough to attack themselves to help break the snare. Everything is going just as planned, she felt a maniacal laughter well up in her but decided it wouldn’t be good for the character she was playing to let it out.
    “Literally? He ate your herd like it was cows, like, literally? That doesn’t sound pleasant. Luckily he hasn’t eaten any of us yet.” She didn’t lie. Given they weren’t even fighting Darwin, she could claim he wasn’t using any number of attacks and still be in the bounds of truth, not that she planned on letting truth limit her freedoms anyway.
    “It wasn’t,” he said and shuddered, again making Valerie think he had been one of the victims.
    After a little over five minutes, the group broke free, but Valerie stopped them again. “Hold on!” Valerie threw her hand up to stall the group, which was about to charge right towards the base. “Maybe we should take a detour? I mean, if we head straight towards that base, there is a good chance the little ice missy is going to be waiting for us with another trap to stall us until the devilish Demon King heals up. If we zig zag around her, she won’t be able to predict our path since she isn’t chasing me anymore, and we might make it there without having to fight her at all.”
    “That’s . . . That’s not a bad idea,” the leader said again.
    Only one of them talks, and the rest follow. They must be experienced raiders from another game. That’s the only time I see this much organization and adherence to silence on video games--when people are raiding in good groups. “Great, let’s go!” Valerie made sure to be the one leading the group, running just enough of an angle to time it so that the group would show up right when she wanted it to. Right when-- Valerie paused, she saw the Fire-Walker boss that she, Daniel and Mclean had once fought slamming into the ground and pushing up a ring of fire. She remembered the speed it had landed, the heat that had consumed and burned her alive that time she had first died in-game.
    That fire toasted all three of us like s’mores at a camp fire . . . She remembered the agony of the flames dancing up her body and the smell of her own burnt flesh still clinging to her nostrils as she looked around. He had been so angered by me that he didn’t even bother fighting the other two until I was dead . . . she pondered, an idea popping into her head as she watched the Fire-Walker vanish before her eyes.
    “I have to be honest with you people since you’ve been helpful so far.” She picked up further in the air. They’re so organized. They’re so obedient to the leader. Such a perfect raid group . . . I wonder how mad they’ll be now. She didn’t bother containing her laughter as she picked up higher and higher into the sky. “This time, victory will come!”
    “That’s the spirit! Let’s get this Demon King while he’s still low!” the Earth-Walker shouted his approval, not understanding what she was talking about.
    Then, not giving him a moment to react, she halted in the air, and dove as fast as she could with all her might. The Earth-Walker, his Jotunns, his Grendel-Kin, his entire army watched in silence as her dive rocketed her into the middle of the leader’s chest and pushed him into the ground like he was a soft seed being planted hastily by a rushed farmer.
    “What the heck!” one of the others shouted, their unified silence and careful attention shattered into an uproar as they all chaotically started chasing her. Valerie pushed off the freshly buried corpse and started heading towards the base as fast as she could, utilizing every skill she had to make the dash faster.
    That dive was harder to do than it should have been, she noted, still satisfied with the result but slightly troubled by how she had been forced to think about every step of a skill that should have been intuitive. It didn’t even do as much damage as it should have, she grumbled to herself as she flew, now aware that even her speed of flight had slowed down a bit compared to what it should have been.
    Flying towards the rampart with the enemies hot on her trail, she couldn’t help but notice the occasional feathers that flew off of her wings as she pressed onwards. Nevertheless, she still couldn’t help but laugh at the look of shock the poor guild leader had worn just moments before his demise.
    “Come on! Keep up, lover boys!” she taunted, laughing at them the whole time. “You’ll never catch a girlfriend if you move that slow” she continued her mockery as she did a barrel roll in the same manner she had the first time she flew through the sky unhindered, feeling even more free than she had then. After all, back then she had a different kind of shackle chaining her to the ground. They hate me. They hate me so much, she cackled to herself. They hate me so much that they won’t even see it coming.
    “Kass! Fight them. Don’t snare them!” she shouted as she flew to where Kass, Minx and Daniel were waiting for her.
    “Fight them? There’s too many!” Kass complained,
    “Just do it! We only need to hold them off a minute! Also, Minx, make sure Alex pulls the Blue-Drakes back and has them circle around and attack on my mark. We’re going to win this!” Valerie giggled. This is fun. The fight was about to start. She had perfectly organized the deaths of over a hundred people, and she just couldn’t stop herself from feeling excited. This is a lot of fun.

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