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Winter's Tale

By Darkbringer All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Fantasy

Entering the Tale

“Yahoo!” Kyle yelled as he jumped off the bus and ran towards his house.  He’d never been so excited before to get home!  Today was February 4, the exact mid-point of Winter, and it was the date that Winter’s Tale was going to open up their servers to the public finally!  And, as if it wasn’t exciting enough that the newest, most-immersive VR-game ever was starting, he was going to be paid to play it! 

Kyle’s grandfather was the CEO of VRIM (corporate executive officer of Virtual Reality Information Media), and he’d offered Kyle a paying job to log into Winter’s Tale and give weekly status reports, opinion pieces, and video clips of his game play experience to the company so it could be aired through the internet, cable, and satellite shows that the company produced.  They were going to have a dozen different players immerse themselves into the game and give reports to the public about their experience, and Kyle’s grandfather had chosen him to represent the high school male demographic.  It was almost a dream come true; being payed to play a video game!

“Mom,” Kyle yelled into the house as soon as he got inside the door, “I’m going to head on upstairs and do my homework before I have to log in and start working tonight.  Tonight’s when Winter’s Tale finally opens their servers, so don’t disturb me after supper, OK?” 

Only silence answered his shouts, and Kyle slapped his head lightly.  No one was home this evening; his mother was working a late shift at the hospital – she was a nurse there – and his father hadn’t been around for several months since their divorce.  If he was honest with himself, he missed seeing his father every day and spending time with him, but after the divorce that just hadn’t happened.  They’d both promised that nothing would change with the way they treated him, and cared for him, but that obviously wasn’t true.  His father sent the child support and alimony checks on time each month, but other than that he didn’t seem to have time for them anymore – but Kyle wasn’t going to let that bother him today!  It was the opening day for Winter’s Tale, and his new job.

Since no one was home to fuss at him for not doing his homework directly, Kyle rushed up to his room and tossed his book bag over to the bed and grabbed up his V-RIG (Virtual Reality Interactive Gear) and rubbed and polished it to a shine while admiring it.  A VRIG was made basically like a helmet, but it was the newest generation of user interactive gear.  For some time, people had tried to create a neural interface device (NID) for virtual reality immersion, but the government had banned their production and sell.  Having something stab a needle into people’s nerves and hijack the signals to their brain and nervous system was simply too dangerous.  Dozens of groups opposed the technology, and hundreds of lawsuits were filed against any company which tried to market such devices – until the government eventually banned them completely.

The new V-RIG devices worked off sonic technology and didn’t require any sort of brain or nerve interface at all.  No dangerous needles or hijacking of the brain’s natural processes with a V-RIG.  Instead, the headgear would create microscopic sonic waves which vibrated at distinct frequencies and directly stimulated certain areas of the brain.  The way the book he’d read with his V-RIG had described it, it was compared to how a microwave sends waves to the center of food to heat it from the inside out – only the waves a V-RIG used were much lower in power and much more precision directed.  It was said that the direct stimulation could produce full virtual immersion with a V-RIG, and from where he’d played around with just the system OS, Kyle could believe it. 

Placing the red and black helmet firmly on his head, Kyle imagined the system waking up and then after a few moments it responded by creating a shimmering blue screen in the middle of a void of black nothingness.  This was the default system OS screen, and by itself it wasn’t anything too impressive.  The default start-up gave the impression of being in a completely dark room somewhere, with no light or sound at all, with nothing more than a blue screen hovering in midair.  To be honest, Kyle thought the basic interface was a little creepy, but that was probably because he hadn’t read all the instructions and set any background scenery or anything yet.  And actually, he didn’t want anything very fancy with the OS itself; a plain black screen with the blue interface was fine for him as it didn’t have any chance of distracting him and keeping him from logging in to Winter’s Tale.

Thinking of Winter’s Tale, the blue screen flickered and then the scenery around him changed until it resembled a forest with a small waterfall and pool.  The wind rippled lightly through the trees and there was a slight smell of flowers and mist in the air.  For several long moments, Kyle simply stared at everything around him in shock – the game servers weren’t supposed to be opened for play yet! 

Glancing around, the first thing Kyle noticed was that his own body was nothing more than a swirling mass of colored gas floating in thin air.  Focusing, he found that he could zoom out and look down upon the rainbow ball of gas that was apparently him and could rotate all around it.  Concentrating on the ball, a message hovered above it which read, “SEX: Male, Female, None, Hermaphroditic.” 

Concentrating on “None”, as it held the most interest to him at the moment, a new set of pop-ups appeared.  “Race: Slime, Elemental, Construc….” Apparently there were more choices which he could wait to scroll across the limited screen area, but he simply shook his head to clear it and the ball went back to floating in midair once more.  He’d heard that Winter’s Tale was going to have hundreds of possible ways for a person to play and immerse themselves into the game, and apparently even monsters were allowable for the players to become!  It truly was an awesome thing to think about, but it wasn’t what he wanted for his primary character.

“I need a character that will get me ratings and help me climb the charts in my job,” he thought to himself as he considered the options.  “First, the sex should be female, as everyone prefers to watch the female avatars in action.”  The ball of gas altered slightly and took on a basic outline of a feminine form, and a popup for races appeared.  “Human, Elf, Fairy, Dwar…”

Thinking for a moment, Kyle said “Elf” and the outline changed to become slightly more slender and graceful looking, with the long pointed ears commonly associated with elves in fantasy games.  The text floating above the image now read, “Sub-Race: Alter, Forest, High, Moon, Nig…” 

“Alter?”  The first name was one which he didn’t quite understand, and it made a question mark appear in the center of the floating female figure before him and dozens of windows pop up all around.  As he studied the various windows floating around, Kyle realized that they were customization screens.  Playing with the settings some, he altered the basic elven female frame to make it slightly taller.  He added a little mass to the overall avatar, and then made the breasts and hips a little rounder, fuller, and bouncier looking.  He wanted a character which was going to stand out and get attention, and apparently he’d struck gold by choosing to make a “Female Alter-Elf”!

The legs he altered to be long and slender.  The feet were tiny and sexy.  For over an hour he focused on altering the face to make it perfect – slightly curved Asian eyes sparked a luminant blue, with perfectly shaped brows and lashes to highlight them.  The nose was just the perfect size for the face, and the lips were full and slightly pink, while the overall skin tone was very pale and creamy.   He chose silver-white hair, with a natural wave to it that extended to almost the knees as the final touches on the character and then stood back to admire his work.

He truly had created the sexiest female avatar that he could imagine!  It was a true masterpiece of art and beauty, and Kyle was smiling happily to himself knowing that it was something which everyone could enjoy watching running around the game and interacting with the environment.  There’s no telling what the rival reporters in his grandfather’s company might choose to play, but Kyle was certain that the character he’d just created wouldn’t lose in looks to any of them!

Finally, he accepted all the changes, and the multiple windows faded and just the figure of the luscious female alter-elf floated in midair before him.  Taking a few moments to float around the avatar, there wasn’t a single flaw which he could find in his work.  Grinning in complete satisfaction, Kyle looked up and noticed a simple “CONTINUE?” floating above the image now.

“Yes,” he said simply, as the text disappeared and a screen popped up which had a set of stats and numbers on it.

There was a thousand points available to spend, and nine stats to spend them on -- Strength, Agility, Endurance, Mysticism, Spiritualism, Knowledge, Will, Presence, and Luck.  All of them had a starting value of zero in them.

“This doesn’t seem so bad,” Kyle thought to himself.  “The only problem is I don’t know if those points are simply for stats, or if they can carry over for skills, spells, and items later.  

There really wasn’t a lot to go on, as far as game documentation goes, the makers of the game were keeping things tightly under wraps so prior to release, so I’m not certain how this all works.  The only thing I know for certain is that I don’t want to have to start over with the creation process, after all the time I put into adjusting the looks alone!”

For a long time, Kyle floated and argued with himself about how he wanted to proceed with his points.  One thing that bothered him was the fact that he didn’t know what the starting numbers for an elf was!  He’d chosen the “alter-elf” option, which seemed to him to offer full customization, and that meant that he didn’t know the general base of figures that a “normal elf” character would have.  Would a zero strength make him too weak to swing a sword?  Or was zero the standard, and everything above that a bonus?  He really didn’t know, but he didn’t want to lose his work so far just to back up and find out either!

Finally, he decided that he’d make each stat at least a ten to start with.  Even if it wasn’t anything great, at least it wouldn’t be a zero, and should at least give him a reasonable starting point for his stats.  At least, he hoped so, as ninety points disappeared from his total in the blink of an eye, leaving him only 910 to spend.  There were all now up to a ten.

He didn’t want to spend all his points in stats alone, just on the off-chance that they were needed later.  After some thought, Kyle decided to spend half his total on stats, and save half for what came next.  He wanted to create a character that people would like to watch play the game, so after a little thought he decided to spend his points in agility, mysticism, knowledge, and presence.

When he was finished, Kyle had 450 points left to spend freely, and the  others were: Strength, 10; Agility, 100; Endurance, 10; Mysticism, 100; Spiritualism, 10; Knowledge, 100; Will, 10, Presence, 200, and Luck, 10.

Kyle had ended up spending a few more points than he’d intended, but he was pretty happy with the results.  Agile, mystical, knowledgeable, and someone that stood out and people noticed – it was the perfect combination for the character he was hoping to play.  It was perfect for his job!  

After a few moments, the simple “CONTINUE?” appeared once again, floating above the image.  Confirming to himself that he was happy with what he’d spent so far, Kyle said “Yes,” and the text disappeared to be replaced with a blinking prompt which simply read “User Input”.

What the hell was that supposed to mean?  User Input?  Input what?

“Umm…  I’d like a heal spell.”  Ten points faded from his total, giving him 440 now, and the prompt changed to “Power?”, while “Heal: ??” appeared to float below his luck stat.  Was it asking for how many points he wanted to spend in healing?  Kyle really wasn’t certain, but he decided to go ahead and spend his points down to an even 400. 

“Forty,” he said and the window updated.  It now showed he had 336 points availble to spend, and Strength, 10; Agility, 100; Endurance, 10; Mysticism, 100; Spiritualism, 10; Knowledge, 100; Will, 10, Presence, 200, and Luck, 10, just as before.  A new entry for SPELL -- Heal (40), was at the bottom of the list.

“Looks good,” Kyle thought to himself.  “Now I just need to finish off a few other things to start with, and I’ll be good to get started.  I’m certain I can earn more points and learn different things once actually in the game.  I wonder if I there’s a setting so I can recover magic at a faster rate than normal?”  Almost instantly the text changed to show, “Power?”, while “Mystic Regen : ??” appeared floating under the “SPELL – Heal (40)” entry. 

“100.”  Kyle figured a hundred points in mystical regeneration would be fine, and then he’d have points left over to choose an attack and defense magic, but at that point the avatar swirled around crazily, a loud ringing noise echoed all about, and slowly he found his consciousness entering the floating female avatar that had been before him a moment ago.  

Slowly, he raised his soft feminine arms and covered his ears with his dainty elegant fingers as the scenery swirled and changed and he found himself elsewhere.

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