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[CAMP-05] VJSA-02 Grand Opening

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    [CAMP-05] VJSA-02 Grand Opening

    Stampede Advanced
    [CAMP-05] VJSA-02 Grand Opening
    By Veronica June (The Marksman)
    May 14th, 2016

    Rodney Rivers, male human teenager, protagonist (Inspection Agent)
    -- becomes Rodney Riverdale, Clydesdale Warrior
    Billy Lee Lamar, Rodney's friend from fifty miles away
    -- becomes Lee Hartmane, Percheron Assassin

    The Equus Prime Fellowship:
    Johnathan Hoofmeyer, Shining Knight
    Merrimack Shyremane, Shining Knight
    Lamont Kloppenhauser, Sage
    MacGregor Mondendale, Shining Knight

    Big Z (Zecma,) Stampede Chief Programmer
    Rainbow, Angel Mouse Case Worker
    Roddy, Devil Mouse Case Worker
    Trotsworth, Percheron-Shire Mix; Tavern Keeper

    Arighus, Pegasaurus Dark Knight

    Chapter One: A Visit to the Doctor.

    Tannersville, Virginia; Rivers Home; Late 1999; Planet Earth.

    "What's happening to me?" asked Rodney in surprise as the prickling sensation intensified as there came a magical flash of light all over his entire human form. But nothing seemed to have changed about him. As the weird feelings slowly came to an end, he was about to focus on finishing the horse grooming when out of the blue, it felt like he was getting hit with a twin bolt of lightning except no one saw anything at all when Rodney's body flared one last time as the silhouette of his body was burned into the wall of the stall before he fell forward against Cannonball's body. The stallion braced himself to keep his human master upright. He did not want Rodney to fall into the manure on the floor of the stall itself. That would be nasty. Especially on the day he was to go see the doctor.

    The two case workers were floating in mid air instinctively moments before the invisible lightning hit the young man. Rainbow said, "Is he okay? What just happened?"

    Roddy replied as he began checking Rodney out of genuine concern for their client, "He doesn't seem to be permanently injured. He is still human but my PDA reader is detecting that his magical capabilities are off the scale. They are at a level I have never seen before. But the plan seems to have worked, Rainbow... Rodney's name appeared on the Stock lists and has a base rating of ten points. Normally you start at zero. He isn't a nobody now."

    Cannonball said, "Come on, Rodney. Your parents will be calling for you soon to go see the doctor. Pull yourself together. If they see you all groggy like this, they will think you are having a relapse. Wake up, Rodney! Or did Arighus finally win against Riverdale?"

    That snapped Rodney back to his senses as he pulled himself back upright against Cannonball. "Thanks old buddy. I needed that bit of encouragement from my lovely stallion."

    "I love you too, Rodney. Now finish up the grooming so you can head off with your parents. When you come back, you can spend some more time with me..." he paused before adding, " bed." Then he shot a wink at Rodney as he held still for the young man.

    After finishing up the grooming of his horse, Rodney and his invisible case workers found themselves making the family car ride to see the family doctor in far away Washington, D.C. This was an all-day affair and there wasn't time for side trips. Northeast on Interstate 81 then East on Interstate 66, they finally arrived at the Fairfax C.I.A. Hospital at Old Lee Highway, just north of Main Street. Rodney couldn't wait to see the look on the doctor's face and to hear the explanation on the Placebo pills. Zecma had ran a test on one of the pills the night before and he had shared his findings with Mr. Rivers. A true Placebo, just as Zecma had told him. So Rodney wasn't the only one wanting an explanation on this hundred dollar medication that was mainly comprised of a sugar tablet coated in powdered Aspirin.

    At the hospital, Mr. Rivers led his family directly past the reception desk and they went straight to the doctor's office where Mr. Rivers kicked the door in before entering with the rest of his family. Apparently his father was a little more upset than he let on during the car trip. The Family doctor was nearly dragged over the top of his own desk as Mr. Rivers confronted him about the sugar pills that was assigned to Rodney whom had been recently healed via acupressure by a visiting game programmer friend of his son's whom asked for nothing in return. "The programmer dissected one of Rodney's pills and found it to contain sugar with an Aspirin coating. You said these were rare hundred dollar medications. Now I find out that you lied to us."

    Rodney walked over under his own power and poked the doctor in the chest with one finger as he said, "I cannot wait to hear the explanation on this falsehood." And as he poked the doctor in the chest, the family doctor received what felt like a defibrillation jolt directly into his heart. And he immediately looked as if he was having a heart attack therefore Mr. Rivers released him pretty fast.

    "What game are you trying to pull now?" asked Mr. Rivers.

    The Family doctor rolled over and sat himself in his chair as he replied, "It felt like your son sent a lightning bolt through my chest when he poked me."

    Rodney growled, "Answer my father's question or else I will do it again!"

    The family doctor sat up in his chair and got up as he went over to the water fountain and got himself a drink of water before he turned to face the family once again. "Your bosses came in here while Rodney was still under observation and they told me to prescribe that medication to him and to keep quiet about it afterward. I think a politician poked the Head of C.I.A.'s pocket book with a threat in regards to the case you were working on to press charges against the people responsible for your son's accident. I heard you dropped the charges afterward. Since I fessed up, mind telling your son why you dropped the charges? Truth or consequences time, Mr. Rivers. I am not taking a fall alone."

    Rodney turned his growl toward his father. "What of this, dad? You told mom and I that the lead you had didn't pan out!"

    Mr. Rivers said, "The young man in the car was on a date with an under-aged girl and as he had his way with her, she stomped the car horn with her foot which caused the honking sound which in turn spooked Cannonball. It was unofficially rape and pedophilia. The young man was the son of a politician whom was up for re-election at the time and he didn't need bad press to ruin his career, so he asked my bosses to keep things under wrap until after the elections ended. They told me to drop it or be fired. I was stuck, son."

    Rodney's hands were balled up in fists as he was trembling. "What was the politician's name? I want to know his name!" The voice coming out of Rodney sounded more like a video game villain from the old Diablo series of games than a human voice at this point.

    This spooked Mr. Rivers so much, that he caved in and revealed the senator's name. "Be reasonable, Rodney. Don't do something you may regret." He watched Rodney close his eyes at that moment while across Washington D.C. at a public photo shoot, the senator stood at the podium of a rally to support anti-rape when he was suddenly struck by lightning!

    End of Chapter One
    "With nerves of steel and laughing at danger..."
    ~~~~~ Artemis Archer

    Chapter Two

    Then the senator's spine and legs failed on him and he fell to the ground writhing in agony! "Call a doctor! Fast!" he howled in agony.

    Back at the family doctor's office, Rodney slowly opened his eyes and looked very relieved. He was no longer trembling; he was as calm as before. "Okay, we're done here. Let's head home. As for you, doc, you will be paying my father every dollar back for this deception with the medication or else you will need real medication when I am done with you."

    Mrs. Rivers was still a might upset herself but she remained composed as she said, "Despite all that, you are still the family doctor. Would you say that Rodney has a full bill of health? Aside from the ability to send a lightning bolt through his fingers. We did just walk over hospital carpeting, you know. I am a secretary for government scientists, so I know science probably a little better than my bosses."

    Having the boy stand behind an x-ray scanner, a quick x-ray photo was taken and after studying the film and comparing it to how it looked when Rodney was paralyzed, the doctor replied, "This is amazing. I know acupressure cannot reset bones and as you can tell between the original x-ray and the new one, Rodney's bones have been reset as if he had not been in an accident at all. I remember how he looked when he was first brought in. It would have been a ten thousand dollar operation to reset his bones back to normal. But you people opted for the wheelchair instead."

    Mr. Rivers said, "My wife wasn't working at the time and I didn't make ten thousand in a year so I couldn't afford to authorize an operation like that no matter how I felt for my son's mobility."

    Rodney raised his finger and said, "Do I have a clean bill of health or not?"

    The family doctor backed away from Rodney when he saw him raise that index finger like that. "Yes, you are fine; as fine as wine. Exactly as you had been before the accident. Would you please not poke me with that finger again."

    Soon the family was back in their car as Mr. Rivers drove by a fast food drive through and picked up lunch for the family. Once they were on their way once again, Mrs. Rivers turned on the car radio to get some news, weather, and music. That was when they heard the news report about the same senator who just earlier had been struck by lightning as he attended an anti-rape rally in upper Washington. Reports were that he had fallen and was currently crippled.

    Mr. Rivers looked over his shoulder briefly at Rodney and said, "Lightning power, huh? Since you were with us in the doctor's office, I do not want to know how you could have done that. But Heavenly revenge is permissible, I suppose. An act of God is the realm for which lightning belongs."

    Late that afternoon, they arrived at their farm where they saw Zecma waiting on them. "About time you people got back. I could have teleported to Washington and back multiple times while I was waiting. There was like four phone calls while you people were out. Two was from Rodney's friend asking when Stampede was going to be running again as well as asking if there was going to be an New Years Eve ORPG session this year. The other calls were from your individual bosses. But I have an offer for you people if you want higher pay with better hours. My new corporation will need security personnel and tech experts. Most of the time, you could work right out of your home here at the farm. My banker at Direct Investments United said I had leeway for hiring high class employees whenever I wanted. Are you two interested in earning say... five thousand a month tax free?"

    Mrs. Rivers said, "How can you pay that kind of money for a corporate job position?"

    Mr. Rivers replied, "It sounds a little shady but you did help Rodney when he really needed it. I have never heard of this bank you mentioned. Are they that good?"

    Zecma smiled. "They have a great interest rate. There is no reason for me to benefit from this financial gold mine alone but I do need employees. At least agree to work for a trial period. You could tell your bosses that you are investigating a new bank you learned about. It is one hundred percent legal, I can assure you of that. Please say yes."

    Rodney remarked, "You said just today that your bosses threatened to fire you if you followed up on the case against the people who caused my accident. I think you should join up with Zec-Corp. Big Z is far more trustworthy than your bosses are. Since when are politicians above the law?"

    Mrs. Rivers said to her son, "Time for you to get your things packed up, Rodney. A deal is a deal. A clean bill of health and you get to help Zecma with Stampede."

    Rodney said, "I should call Billy back to let him know what is about to happen." And he went inside the house to place the call before getting his goods and clothes together; plus he knew he would have to get Cannonball packed up as well. He wasn't about to leave his horse behind.

    Placing the call, he told Billy that Big Z was offering to hire him as a Moderator in Stampede's newest world engine. He then confirmed the upcoming ORPG session on New Years Eve. After ending the call, he walked into his bedroom where he saw Rainbow and Roddy waiting on the bed for him. "Cannonball offered me bed time after hours; are you two making that offer, too?"

    Rainbow replied, "Not exactly; we got reprimanded for what we did for you this morning. But our bosses are giving us another chance to make things right with you, Rodney. You are literally our first client. We got over excited to grant you powers when you felt miserable. Plus, your punishing a crooked politician helped our case."

    Roddy grinned. "You wouldn't have gotten miserable had I not been bragging about our stocks whenever we scored by simply doing our jobs."

    Rodney went over and gave the case workers a fond hug as he placed them up on his shoulders. "I get to move in with Zecma. So its the packing phase."

    End of Chapter Two
    "With nerves of steel and laughing at danger..."
    ~~~~~ Artemis Archer


      Chapter Three

      By that evening, Rodney had Cannonball and all of the stallion's gear as well as his own belongings as he was shown to his new quarters which was down an elevator from Zecma's main corporate living quarters. And through a side door and down some stairs from Rodney's new bedroom was Cannonball's stall and the entrance to the Zec-Corp based safety teleportation zone.

      Later that night, Rodney was logged into his private server to run an early ORPG session with his Internet friends. Zecma was attending this session for the very first time. He had heard from other players on how good Rodney was at this kind of game and tonight, Big Z would witness his skill for himself. Although no one knew that the new player was Big Z, he interacted with the others well and showed that he was a good role player. Near the end of the ORPG session, Big Z revealed himself to the players. "Listen up, players. Be prepared to write down this code. This will grant all of you early access to the new Stampede game when it opens on Monday night. The official Grand Opening is on January 15th, but Early Access is this coming Monday. I was able to get the new game offices migrated and all set up with Rodney's help."

      Big Z told everyone where they could see screen shots of the new gaming graphics and then he gave them the early access code.

      However, Rodney didn't intend to wait until Monday night since he knew that Riverdale was waiting on him in Stampede. Logging out of his server, Rodney then proceeded down to the safe teleportation zone to get his adventure started. He really wanted to see Riverdale and Lamont again. Arriving at the teleport tack room, he went inside and stood in the teleporter as he transformed into his equine humanoid form before turning around and facing the white crystal. "Village of Flashblade, Kingdom of Wildfeather; Noseflank Inn and Tavern, please."

      If anything, Rodney was polite. Even to a magical crystal.

      Village of Flashblade, Kingdom of Wildfeather; Noseflank Inn and Tavern; Early 1000; Continent of Stampede, Planet Equus Prime.

      One goose bump raising teleport later and Rodney arrived within the safety teleport zone of the Noseflank Inn and Tavern. As he emerged into the outer tavern room, he saw that there were quite a few patrons in the tavern at that moment. Rodney walked up to the bar counter and said, "I am looking for Riverdale; he asked me to meet him here."

      The bartender smiled as he looked over Rodney's equine form. "He and that sage friend of his are both seated at the far back table on the other side of the tavern." He pointed in the general direction. "Can I get you a drink, friend?"

      Rodney smiled as he replied, "Bring me an empty mug to start with."

      The bartender thought the request sounded kind of odd but he brought over the empty mug and set it in front of Rodney. "Anything else?"

      Rodney then unpacked some dried mint leaves which he pulverized into powder in which he let the powder coat the bottom of the mug. "Now fill this mug with Red Apple Ale. And add one small sugar cube before stirring it slowly. Then it will be ready."

      The bartender, Noseflank by name, did as he was asked and after stirring the drink, he sniffed it and immediately had an eye-opening look on his snout. "Mint. Yet sweet." He brought the mug back to Rodney and handed it over to him. "No charge since you are here to see Riverdale."

      Rodney took his mug of ale and he made his way through the tavern and finally reached Riverdale's table where he saw Lamont performing fortune card readings for interested patrons. "Sorry I took so long, Riverdale. Zecma helped me get my living quarters squared away before I chose to head on over to get my training started with you and Lamont. Just call me Rodney."

      Riverdale stood up and gave Rodney the brotherhood greeting hug before helping Rodney reach a seat reserved for him behind the table. Then Riverdale seated himself once again. "Lamont and I ordered dinner, Rodney. But after we eat, we will take you into the village to get your training started. I am your arms and armor trainer while Lamont will be teaching you research and magic. But before all that, we need to get your identifier flag set so people can see at a glance what your profession is. Like how Lamont and my own currently read."

      For Rainbow and Roddy, this was just as educational for them to watch and learn as it was for Rodney. As before, no one in the tavern could see the case workers unless they personally permitted themselves to be seen. Rodney's hovering information listing read as: Rodney Riverdale; Level 1 Inspection Agent. Riverdale's actual listing read as: Clyde Riverdale, Level 24 Warrior Lord. Lamont's listing read as: Lamont Kloppenhauser, Level 34 Sage. Lamont's class was grandfathered in from the old version of the MMO game.

      Having such a high level Sage within any region was always cause for excitement. It was like instant VIP status in the realms. Even among the enemy. Lamont smiled as he finished up the latest fortune card reading for a local low level warrior. Riverdale commented, "I am glad Zecma is permitting us toward letting you be an Inspection Agent. I cannot wait to see you do a few local quests without direct assistance. But before you do these quests, you will be learned in at least one weapon as well as a few useful spells from Lamont's library."

      Noseflank then brought the meal of the evening over to Riverdale's table. "Your friend added powdered mint leaves to his sweetened Red Apple Ale, Riverdale. It is almost better than coffee. Enjoy your meals, gentlemen." And he headed back toward the counter.

      Riverdale served some of the sliced meat and salad to Rodney. "Powered Mint, eh? That is almost unavailable in small villages. I would ask where you got the leaves, but since Zecma made you into a moderator, you can truthfully get whatever you like, Rodney."

      Lamont placed his napkin down into his lap before he got some of the meal for himself. "How does it feel to be mobile, Rodney?"

      Rodney replied, "Pretty good, although when you teach me magic later, I think you should be informed that I have an affinity for lightning."

      Lamont replied, "I will keep that in mind. It will be most useful when we are choosing your spells later on. Or if you chose to electrify your sword, not only could you cut your enemy, you could shock them too."

      Riverdale chuckled as he filled his plate. "There were a few enemy encounters where having an electrified sword would have been very entertaining if not useful. Like when we faced off against that Brigand Lord who gave us the shiner."

      End of Chapter Three
      "With nerves of steel and laughing at danger..."
      ~~~~~ Artemis Archer


        Chapter Four

        At the armory in town, Riverdale and Lamont helped Rodney with his primary selection of light-weight armors. Studded Leather with a padded lining is what it appeared to be. The padding seemed to be of sheered Sheep Wool sewn into a Shetland mane hair woven vest and that was attached to tanned and dyed lizard skin from a shedding dray lizard. "Light armor is good for maneuverability it also makes it easier for when you have to make spell movements since some magic requires body movement for their success," said Riverdale as he finished making the adjustments for fit on Rodney's body.

        Lamont smiled as he sat to one side where he was finishing the construction of Rodney's new spell rune book. It was mainly made out of dray lizard leather while having vellum pages along with a place to store a selection of quills. "You should always store your writing ink in a jostle proof portion of your belt pouch or a super secure place within the backpack," he said as he finished scribing in beginning rune spell entries. "I am gifting you with Identify, Enchant, Unending Light, Speak to Admin and Party Line. Identify will permit you to identify whatever item you are casting the spell upon. You can gain all manner of information that way. Enchant will make an item hold a spell effect of your choice. Unending Light will create a globe of light that stays on no matter what. You can always turn off the spell at will. If you combine Unending Light with Enchant on an item, that item will shed light until you cancel it. Speak to Admin will permit you to speak to Zecma whenever you find that you need to speak to him. It is a staff-only ability. And Party Line is a telepathic effect that will enable everyone in your current party of adventurers to speak to each other without alerting locals to your conversation. It is very private although Zecma will still be able to monitor your conversations at will."

        Rodney asked, "What about attack spells?"

        Lamont handed Rodney his spell book. "Since you have an infinity for Lightning, you should practice using that as your primary attack magic. As you well know, your personal ability does not require spell time to cast the effect. In fact, personal abilities are instantaneous. Just like you said when you told us of shocking the doctor and hitting that politician with a lightning bolt."

        Rodney glanced over each spell in the book carefully before putting the book into his new backpack. "I don't think Zecma ever intended for players to be able to make the crossing into the game world like I did. But now that I am here in a body of my own, this place is fantastic. It is better than a standard two dimensional game interface."

        Lamont then said, "Hold up your finger for a moment."

        Rodney raised one finger and held it in position where as he could actually see the electrical arcs already forming around his appendage. "Oh wow. My lightning ability works even better in this world."

        Lamont next said, "Lower your hand into a resting position."

        Rodney did as he was asked while Lamont watched the charged finger the whole time. When Rodney's hand was in the resting position, the power arcs simply subsided. "Good. That was an excellent test. While at rest, you don't need to be charged up for an attack at every given second. I think it is time to see about getting your beginning weapons." He looked to Riverdale. "Lead the way, my friend."

        Riverdale led the group over into the Weapons Smithy where he had Rodney select a long dagger as well as a short sword. Then he picked up a small knife and a workman's hammer before setting them on the counter for purchase. Once Rodney had chosen his primary two weapons he brought them over and set them along with their scabbards on the counter.

        When the smith who was a mare came out of the back room, Rodney smiled at her. "Jolene Flamehearth. May your fame and skill continue to rise."

        Jolene smiled at the new customer who seemed to know her. "Indeed, indeed, handsome traveler. From whence have we met before. I think I would have recalled a stud like you in my travels."

        Rodney showed etiquette by kissing her hand in a polite manner. "It is a complicated story as you can tell from those I am now traveling with. Riverdale is gifting me with some new weapons and armor while Lamont is replenishing my magical knowledge."

        Jolene chuckled. "Some day I would like to hear this story. Most of these equines I meet are rude, crude and have a poor attitude."

        As Riverdale started to make the payment, Jolene stopped him. "No no, Riverdale. You brought me a stud with manners. I will reward good manners with free stock for our handsome guest this one time only. The next time you come to see me, Rodney, I expect to hear this story of how you know me."

        Rodney smiled. "I get the feeling you would not believe the truth if I told you. Let us just say it involves Zecma."

        Jolene turned with a wink. "Aye, where that cute little mouse is involved many mysteries bordering on drunken tales are to be expected. Perhaps you will remember to return another time. I know how wander-hearted Riverdale is. It is a surprise that he remembered where he lived this time. He has a tendency to start traveling and then forget where his original camp was."

        Rodney grinned. "The magical clover was thick that night. Lets get going guys."

        Riverdale helped Rodney store his new weapons into his belt and within his backpack. Once they got outside, he turned and looked at Rodney muzzle-to-muzzle. "What magical clover?"

        Rodney replied, "A merchant told us not to camp in the clover fields and you ignored him. Later I found out that your decision was programmed in by Big Z. Hallucination was part of the adventure and it earned us psionic resistance points when fighting against Brain Flayers. And we did encounter some just a few nights later."

        Riverdale grinned at the memory of that encounter. "That was how I got my newest battle sword."

        Rodney smiled at Lamont where as he mouthed, "And I chose to clean the sword so it didn't smell like Flayer guts."

        End of Chapter Four
        "With nerves of steel and laughing at danger..."
        ~~~~~ Artemis Archer


          Chapter Five

          Sometime later, the three equines were just outside of the Village of Flashblade where they were looking at the new bulletin board which advertised available low-level quests in the immediate region. Rodney was already having to use his moderator status to look up code listings on the quest numbers that he didn't recognize from the old game. "According to this, Riverdale... The quests with a green background are those someone of my level are capable of doing. Those with a red background are out of my level range. Those with a star are special quests new to this version of Stampede. It says that the more stars the quest has, the more challenging the quest is but also the harder it will be."

          Riverdale stroked the fur on his chin. "I guess that would explain why the new ones are not in my completed quests list. What does the rules say in regards to my taking a multi-star quest while I have a low level adventurer in my party? Is it normal experience like before or is it not allowed?"

          Rodney hrmed as he read over the rules. "It says that if an adventurer uses a low-level partner as bait or you allow your partner to get defeated, then you lose half of the experience and gold that the adventure would have been worth plus, your sheet is tagged with a label marking you as a Cad for the first offense. Repeat offenders lose the ability to conduct quests for 24 hours plus one hour per each repeat offense. This can be overruled by a moderator if the reasons are good enough."

          "It goes on to say that the more adventurers that do a special quest, the better the rewards," he said as he glanced at Lamont. "What about it, Sage? Are you capable of doing these quests? Or are any of these lit up at all?"

          Lamont remarked, "Different characters have different starting zones, Rodney. This is my first time in Riverdale's home region. These quests all involve fighting. The starting quests in my region required intelligence and puzzle solving."

          Riverdale smiled. "Sounds like we might have to visit your home region so we can check out the special quests for you, Lamont."

          Rodney then said, "We should be careful what we do and where we go, guys. Arighus is still out there. Apparently part of his plan was to gain access to the Players' world."

          Lamont nodded his head. "I think Rodney is right, Riverdale. We should tread lightly at first despite your being the warrior of this region."

          Riverdale smiled. "Perhaps we can escort you to the entrance of a green background quest entrance and then permit you to attempt the quest yourself since it implied that someone of your level could possibly complete the quest."

          Rodney smirked. "I think you just want to see me spill a little blood. For your information, Riverdale, I had the blood filter turned on at home. You would still see the blood spatter; but I would only see a splash of water. Otherwise I would have thrown up on my computer. I will try to do my best in the combat area; but I am not going to be blood happy like some morons in the old game world were."

          Lamont chuckled at the interaction the player was having with his character. "We need to do something before it gets dark, you two. Decide on something or else we will have to wait until tomorrow."

          Rodney then said, "Throwing caution to the wind is the way Riverdale was created. It isn't his fault that he expects others around him to do things similar."

          Riverdale smirked. "So you are admitting that my lifestyle is your fault, Rodney?"

          Rodney sighed. "I was crippled in a wheelchair, Riverdale. I wanted to have an adventure I couldn't have otherwise. Let's head over to Twilight Gully. I recall back in our earlier adventure in that area that the sprites said that warriors could not help with a problem they were having yet there was no quests on the board mentioning that aspect."

          Lamont said, "You mean this quest that reads, Twilight Tap-Dancing, the Equine Sprite Lords are in danger of losing a great treasure through a contest they do not wish to participate in? Warning: you must have a dancing skill of at least Rank 1."

          Riverdale said, "We didn't have dancing as a skill at the time, but after attending a social event in the kingdom of Shandar, we acquired the dancing skill up to rank 2. I always felt sorry for the prince who was chained to the dais, though."

          Rodney smirked and chuckled. "There was a quest linked to the dais at the time that I chose to ignore because it had a bad side affect attached as well. The quest was Fight and Flight, free the prince from the dais and get him out of the kingdom without being captured by the realm soldiers. If you failed, you could either be imprisoned or banned from the kingdom. A one-year bounty would also be attached to your character on the charge of kidnapping even if the prince was no longer traveling with you."

          Lamont asked, "So where is this prince currently in the advanced version of the game?"

          Rodney smiled. "I believe Zecma moved him to the library of the education starting zone home village of Librum. Especially since a lot of the old kingdoms don't exist anymore in the advanced version of the game. Lamont? You were grandfathered in from the old version... surely you remember the old world better than most."

          Lamont smiled. "Indeed. Ancient knowledge will get you ahead."

          The three then set off down the trail out of the village toward the distant Twilight Gully. Lamont regaled some stories of the ancient world as they made their way to the faery glade of the winged equine sprites. Hopefully their dancing skills would be enough.

          End of Chapter Five
          "With nerves of steel and laughing at danger..."
          ~~~~~ Artemis Archer


            Chapter Six: Escaping Arighus.

            Upon returning from the fairy glade with a hefty reward that Rodney felt that they did not deserve, they once again stood at the quest board. Riverdale grinned. "The Identify Magic skill at Rank 2; boy there were times that this skill would have come in handy during some of my previous adventures."

            Lamont smirked. "Indeed. Although I already have that skill as a Sage. But for a fighter to have it... is a bonus, I must admit."

            Rodney grinned. "I think Riverdale is too easily pleased as usual."

            Riverdale then poked Rodney with his draft horse finger. "You made me this way, partner."

            Rodney without thinking about it, poked Riverdale back in his chest saying, "I was immobile in those days, stud!" And Riverdale was on the ground looking as the doctor in D.C. had looked after getting the electronic shock to the chest. Rodney was immediately apologetic. "I am so sorry, Riverdale. I keep forgetting about that ability."

            Lamont was laughing as he helped the big draft horse back to his feet. "Oh that is so classic! Your player forgets about his lightning power and it accidentally floors you with a simple poke in the chest."

            Riverdale slyly grinned. "If you think it is so funny, then you should experience it at least once so you can gauge how it really feels, old friend."

            Rodney remarked, "I am not meaning to shock the pee out of everyone I touch, guys. I keep forgetting that I have the ability."

            Just then, to one side (looking mildly angry) stood Lord Arighus, the Pegasaurus Dark Knight. "I have a bone to pick with you, Rodney! I just barely won the fight in the fluff glitch zone! And the moment I won, the glitch turned off as if it had never been! I did some checking and it is a clever pile of shit that another programmer did behind Big Z's back! When you get challenged by someone in that kingdom, one of their magic users makes it so you are almost blinded by the fluff spell while the challenger doesn't see it! Thanks to the programming there, the kingdom comes off as a cheaters zone! I am surprised that I didn't think of the idea myself! However, since you did give me an interesting challenge, I am going to authorize a free upgrade for your account, Rodney. Use it however you like. It can only be used for the Inspection Agent; Riverdale cannot take advantage of this upgrade since he didn't give me the challenge."

            Rodney turned to look at Arighus as he poked the Pegasaurus Dark Knight in the chest deliberately. "I am going to have Zecma check out your upgrade to make sure it is safe; I don't trust you." And just as Riverdale had experienced earlier, Arighus found himself prone on the ground feeling as if he had gotten a lightning bolt sent directly into his heart.

            And while the Dark Knight was lying on the ground, Riverdale reared back one leg and he kicked the evil equine directly in the sac for causing Rodney to be in the game in the first place. "Stupid NPC! I am going to do more than that to you... later! After I get more powerful so I can fight you properly!" The kick caused Arighus to go sliding along the ground and just out of sight of the village where Lamont remembered that there was a slippery slope decline where he knew a hog wallow rested at the bottom.

            Lamont said, "Let's get out of here, guys. He is really going to be mad when he slides into that hog wallow at the bottom of the hill. That stuff stinks."

            And their group departed Flashblade pretty quickly as they headed up the road so Lamont could lead them to the knowledge zone where Lamont's home village was located. For Rodney, it would mean a new Hero Teleport location at the tavern there in.

            Village of Knowlohn, Kingdom of Rezzonhoof; Puremane Library and Eatery; Early 1000; Continent of Stampede, Planet Equus Prime.

            After a few encounters along the road which in total provided Rodney with a needed and necessary level advance (he had been close to leveling anyway after the last completed quest,) They arrived in the learning village of Knowlohn where Lamont took Rodney to the Puremane Library and Eatery to learn the teleport location. Afterward, Lamont introduced his traveling companions to a few of the more important locals in the village.

            Rodney glanced up at their identifier flags to remind himself of their progress. Rodney's hovering information listing read as: Rodney Riverdale; Level 2 Inspection Agent. Riverdale's listing read as: Clyde Riverdale, Level 24 Warrior Lord. Lamont's listing read as: Lamont Kloppenhauser, Level 34 Sage. Rainbow and Roddy sat on Rodney's shoulders keeping quiet but paying attention to everything around them.

            Lamont said, "I think in this region you might be able to do a more challenging quest since fighting isn't as necessary in this thinking zone."

            Rodney said, "I am afraid I might second guess myself, Lamont. But I am willing to try a harder quest if it isn't dangerous."

            Riverdale then said, "Before you forget, Rodney, I think you better send a report to Zecma about the upgrade Arighus granted to you. You said you were going to have Zecma check it out. It would be trouble if you forgot and then utilized it without making sure it was safe or not. The Speak to Admin ability that Lamont gifted you with."

            Lamont nodded his head. "An excellent suggestion, Riverdale. You are thinking ahead which will help you in your battle against Arighus."

            Rodney activated the ability and he filed the report to Zecma in regards to the reward that Arighus had granted to him in regards to dealing with the Fluff glitch along with the information Arighus had reported about the glitch itself and how Arighus stated that he should have thought of that. Zecma replied that after the repairs, no one in game would be able to duplicate the fluff glitch no matter what they tried. And after a scan of the reward which was simply skill and ability points, Zecma cleared it as safe.

            End of Chapter Six.
            "With nerves of steel and laughing at danger..."
            ~~~~~ Artemis Archer


              Chapter Seven: Upgrades.

              When Rodney opened his skill point acquisition form, he was surprised by the level up announcement. He quickly re-contacted Zecma. "Big Z! I just opened the point spending portion of my sheet and I got the level up alert! I haven't done anything else! Lamont, Riverdale, and I are still standing here at the quest board!"

              Zecma replied for all three to hear, "Damn that Arighus! He activated a experience booster on you so every time you did even the slightest thing, you would gain experience points for doing it!"

              Rodney said, "I was nowhere near the next level when this alert went off, Zec! If I was a dishonest player, I might not have reported this to you, but I love this game and that was unexpected! Also, the number of points in all categories doubled! If this happens too many times I will catch up with Riverdale and Lamont in no time!"

              Zecma replied, "Use the points to buy basic level skills in abilities you do not have since I was going to authorize that anyway! Keep me informed if the booster lasts longer than one hour! Zec out!"

              Lamont then said, "I wonder if Arighus is doing this because he is getting impatient when you don't go to the challenge location he quoted to you when you first met him?"

              Rodney said, "When he issued me that challenge, it didn't appear in my quest log and until it does, the challenge was not serious. All players know that."

              Riverdale asked, "What skills are you going to select, partner; and can you share any of them with me?"

              Rodney replied, "Now Riverdale... you should know the rules by now; using skills outside of your profession is done with a penalty. Even though your magic skill is at Rank Two, it operates as a Rank One skill because you are not a Mage. I was thinking about purchasing some Rogue and acrobatic skills since neither of you are from the Rogue starting zone and I don't know what the reception over there would be if you entered their area, old buddy."

              Lamont smiled. "That is an excellent point, Riverdale. They might try to rob us if we walked in there."

              Rodney said, "Besides, just in case Arighus is monitoring what skills I purchase, I want him to think that we went to the Rogue zone so he might be inclined to go there. Think of the tempting target he would make to a low-level thief."

              The three laughed at that thought as Rodney focused on choosing his Rogue skills. "By the way, Riverdale... how many points do you still need for that sword technique that you were wanting to purchase?"

              Riverdale looked into his profile and then he checked his wish list notes. "I still need a hundred and five points. Two levels worth of adventure quests. Or one major dragon."

              As the Warrior watched, the extra points were deposited into his account. "Merry Christmas, Riverdale," remarked Rodney as he focused on buying his skills. "Oh wow!" exclaimed Riverdale. "Thanks, partner! I love you!" And then he opened his purchase menu and he selected the advanced sword technique and clicked the purchase button. Stepping away from his friends, Riverdale then grabbed the handle of his sword and he pulled it out as he performed the new technique to test it out. "Awesome! I am a happy horsy!"

              Rodney grinned. "And it wasn't even your birthday. Keep in mind, guys... I am still suspicious of these free points. I would advise that any new skill you purchase, you work with until you get it up to Rank Two just in case these are ghost points. I wouldn't put it past Arighus to fool us into thinking that we bought an ability only to find it missing when we really needed it."

              Lamont nodded his muzzle. "He is right to be suspicious. At Rank One, when you successfully use the skill one hundred times, you reach the next rank. Then to reach the next rank beyond that, you need double the successful uses. And so forth. So Rodney's suggestion to raise a skill to Rank Two is a good idea."

              Rodney then said, "Listen to my choices that I have chosen and tell me what you think... Pick Pockets, Open Locks, Find Traps, Silent Movement, Shadow Blending, Hear Noise, Climb Walls, Sneak Attack, Learn Uncommon Languages, Identify Poison, Minor Healing, and Charm With Music. I spent enough points to raise each one to Rank Two, and the left over points was used on my statistics and spell improvement so I don't flub too many spells."

              Lamont said, "That covers the Rogue abilities as well as a few Druidic abilities and some minor Assassin abilities and the Bardic ability at the end. Eventually we will need to get you a musical instrument so you can best use that last ability."

              Riverdale said with a grin, "I can sing although some people would rather that I didn't."

              Shortly after returning from a knowledge based quest, the experience booster had thankfully subsided, but Arighus wasn't likely expecting Rodney to share benefit with his party members. Checking the profiles as they stood at the quest board, the group saw the following; Rodney's hovering information listing read as: Rodney Riverdale; Level 5 Inspection Agent. Riverdale's listing read as: Clyde Riverdale, Level 25 Warrior Lord. Lamont's listing read as: Lamont Kloppenhauser, Level 35 Sage. Rainbow and Roddy were still sitting on Rodney's shoulders keeping quiet but paying attention to everything around them.

              Lamont said, "It's been a while since I earned the right to spend points on my character stats and skills."

              Rodney smiled. "Hopefully you can remember how to spend points without flubbing."

              End of Chapter Seven.
              "With nerves of steel and laughing at danger..."
              ~~~~~ Artemis Archer