Winter's Tale

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Meanwhile, Kyle was still wandering lost in the forest. Twice more, he was attacked by lone squirrels which proceeded to toss acorns at him until they ran out of magic, and then bite at his legs until he’d injured them enough to chase them off. So far, it’d all been nothing more than an exercise in futility, as he hadn’t actually managed to defeat a single one of the creatures.

Just when he was beginning to think that she was going to be wandering lost forever, Kyle finally came across a small stream in the forest. The water was clear and pure, and flowed gently through the forest. Kyle’s heart leapt in her chest to finally see something besides trees, bushes, and dirt! A stream at least gave her a sense of purpose! Follow it, and eventually she’d find civilization. At least that’s what he’d always heard in the real world!

Sitting at the edge of the creek, Kyle took time to take a few bites from her fruitcake and sipped directly from the stream after. “I wonder what this actually is, in game terms,” Kyle asked herself while holding the fruitcake. “Identify.”

A shimmering blue window popped up showing the cakelike substance was called "Elven Trail Bread", and it was "Bread baked by master elven chefs with a limitless shelf life and requires very little for a meal’s substance. Those that eat a meal of this recover health and mana 25% faster, for a period up to twelve hours after eating. "

“So the legendary elven trail bread is nothing more than fruitcake? Who would’ve ever believed that,” Kyle exclaimed to herself. “Got to like that health and mana regen bonus as well! I’m going to have to be stingy and only eat this when I’m hungry.” Kyle couldn’t help but be a bit amused by his own thoughts. Virtual reality really was something amazing! He hadn’t considered it before, but she actually was feeling hunger while sitting at the stream. Even now, she could feel the cool ground and the grit of the bare dirt against her bare ass as she sat on the bank. The lacy elven camisole simply wasn’t long enough to cover her completely, and it was quite odd to think that she could actually feel the world around her.

And feel the pain of those stupid squirrels and their acorns as well – though it wasn’t anything too intense!

Apparently, the game stimulated the feelings of pain in a user’s brain somehow, but was limited and not much worse than a mild electric shock. Thinking about it, Kyle was actually quite happy with the fact that he’d never have to experience the true feelings his character did. He simply couldn’t imagine anyone who’d want to feel the pain of death and dying in a game. Could you imagine what a dragon’s breath would actually feel like, if you could feel it?!

After sitting and musing for a while, she finally placed the elven bread carefully back in the inner pocket of her cloak and finally got up to follow the stream. For a while, he debated whether she should go upstream or downstream; finally settling on walking downstream. People built civilizations around water, and the more water, the larger the civilizations around it. By going upstream, the creak was only going to get smaller and eventually turn in to a spring somewhere, and he’d be less likely to run into people. He really needed to find some sort of civilization, just so he could do some of those simply “fetch this for me”, or “go deliver that message for me” type quests that all games had to build up starting money and equipment.

Kyle was following the creek downstream for several hours, when suddenly she found herself suffering from a sharp pain in the ankle and falling face first to the ground! A pop-up appeared informing her that she’d been injured for four points of damage, and the burning pain in her ankle was only getting worse. Looking back at her legs where she’d fallen, Kyle was surprised to see some strange red and green streaked vine wrapped around her left leg and steam slowly rising from it.

Another point of health faded as the vine’s acid burned into her pearly white calf mercilessly.

“Heal,” Kyle screamed to regain her health and his composure. Another vine was snaking its way across the ground towards her legs, and she suffered another point of damage from where the first was still wrapped around her soft skin. Desperately, Kyle brought her staff down across the first vine and was rewards by seeing a damage window popup.

“You damn plant! DIE!” Kyle screamed at the vines in her melodic elven voice, as the first kept burning her and the second lashed out and suddenly wrapped itself around her other leg, doing a massive five points of damage. Kyle screamed in pain – even with the game giving him a reduced amount, it was still a shock to his character’s system – and yelled, “Heal!”

She was now suffering two points of burn damage every few seconds, and steam and the smell of burnt elven flesh was wafting in the air. Desperately, Kyle banged on the first vine with her staff, franticly worrying about what would happen if more vines were creeping their way towards her even now! Hitting the vine here wasn’t difficult at all, like with the squirrels, since it was wrapped around her own leg; but it was a much more durable opponent!

Smacking the vines with her staff only did one or two points of damage per blow, and it took over a dozen blows before the first vine finally shimmered and disappeared, with her endlessly calling out “Heal” between swings. A confirmation pop-up finally appearing giving her much coveted experience, but Kyle was already too busy turning his attention on the other vine before others came to join in the battle.

It took another dozen swings, interspersed with heals between them, before Kyle finally managed to beat the other vine enough that it shimmered and disappeared. Kyle tried to stagger to her feet, and almost fell back on her face as soon as she was upright. Her fancy elven shoes had disappeared sometime during the fighting, and Kyle was actually having issues trying to stand without them! She had to raise herself up on her tiptoes before she started to feel comfortable standing again! What the hell type of character walked around on their tiptoes all the time! Spinning awkwardly while trying to stay on her tiptoes, Kyle checked to make certain no more of the vines were snaking their way towards her, before looking at the pop-up windows that remained, and was relieved to see that the area seemed clear at the moment.

Several information windows had popped in during and after the fight. Two were simple kill information windows informing her that she'd slain "an unknown vine", earned ten experience for each kill, and needed 980 more to level now. The other windows were item status windows, warning her about the durability of her silken heels going down into the critical levels, and then breaking.

Looking at the windows, Kyle wasn’t certain whether to call the fight a success or a failure. On one hand, she had finally defeated his first opponents in the game and earned some experience. On the other hand, her shoes had been destroyed and broke, and she was now being forced to traipse through the forest barefoot and on her tippy-toes. Slowly, she glanced around the area where the two vines had shimmered and disappeared, hoping to find coin or anything of value which the two vines might have dropped on their deaths. The only thing she noticed at all, which seemed even the slight bit different from every other spot in the forest, was two small green leafs laying where the vines were. Slowly, she picked one up and said, “Identify.”

The window that appeared called it a "Sturdy Green Leaf", showed that it had "Durability 10 / 10", and helpfully informed her that it was "A durable green leaf of unknown properties. This item may be used in crafting. "

“Well,” Kyle muttered to herself, “at least it’s something. If these can be used for crafting, I might be able to figure out what they’re used for. Maybe herbalism? Or alchemy? Either way, if I collect a bunch of them, I’d have something to trade with other folks once I finally run into civilization once more!

“And, nicely enough,” she found herself saying, “these things can’t run away from me or throw stuff from a distance. Only ninety-eight more to a level!”

Slowly Kyle dusted herself off, stuffed the two leafs down in her cloak pocket with the elven bread, and got her staff ready for use once again. Carefully she started to search the surrounding area for anymore of the vines. Kyle was on the hunt!

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