Chapter Four: In Which Helvetica Receives a Bump on the Noggin

Posted by | March 13, 2007

On closer inspection the Burning Crystal reminded Helvetica even more of a glass of Mt. Dew that someone happened to be blowing bubbles into. All it needed was a crazy straw and it would be complete. Rough, white flagstones paved a circular area around the crystal and supported clusters of frilly benches and strange, hovering shelves filled with random books. Here and there a pot bobbed in the air, spilling over with ferns and flowers of various colors. All the while she stood and examined the area the crimson eyes of the crystal watched her with a plotting, voyeuristic glower.

Upon her arrival at the kill zone, blade in hand, Helvetica girded herself and made a few practice swings with her bastard sword. These warm-ups would have had more meaning, however, if she had anything to kill. As it was, the entire area was bereft of anything as destructible as a mana wyrm. In fact, a lone broom swept past, under its own locomotion, apparently mopping up the remnants of said wyrms as it did so.

In her quest to receive the first merit badge, Helvetica was not alone.

At least twelve other players stood around the Burning Crystal, staring at their nails, combing fingers through their hair, and looking bored. Bows, swords, and various magical spells brandished in competitive violence as everyone waited passively for prey to wander near. And, of course, the crystal glared down at everyone fizzing like angry soda pop left out on a shelf in the sun for a day.

“So what’s everyone—

Helvetica’s question was drown out when every poised sword, axe, bow, and spell unleashed themselves in a torrent of fury and misery on a mana wyrm that made the mistake of wandering close to the Burning Crystal and its entourage of slavering blood elves. The poor thing expired in a flash of blue light, a player knelt over its corpse, and a broom wandered over to sweep up the remains.

“I see,” she said. “So, is this the line for spines?”

The answer came in the form of another fusillade of arcane energy and sharpened steel. Yet another wyrm splattered into a pile of glowing dust that was dutifully swept up by the broom moments later. Helvetica was beginning to understand why the platform needed the broom—without it, the remains of the mana wyrms would quickly pile up like falling snow, and drifts of glowing sand would undoubtedly consume the entire area.

“I’ll take that to be a yes… When did I sign up for Everquest anyway?”

Unwilling to be left out, she brandished her sword and held it at ready. A moment later an ethereal, blue-glowing wyrm emerged from the ether. Helvetica threw herself into a sword swing. An arrow thudded into the blue creature, but she was dead on with her sword. The mana wyrm was hers!

Mid-swing her foot struck something. The heavy sword continued its arc even as Helvetica tripped, scything through the luminous blue eel. The mana wyrm screamed, sundered in twain, and exploded. The image of its two halves evaporating into scintillating dust was the last thing Helvetica saw before she collided, head first, with the Burning Crystal. The impact left her stunned and a sound much like a giant wind chime vibrated in her head.

A couple players rushed over to assist. Followed shortly by a cloud of talk bubbles full of queries and surprise.

“Are you alright?” “Wow, I didn’t know you could do that.” “Lol noob!”

“Did I get the wyrm? I think I killed it.”

“No,” came the reply. “You have to be the first person to hit it to get the drops.”

Sure enough, someone else—someone with a bow—was kneeling over her kill. Probably extracting its spine.

“Wyrm!” someone shouted and instantly everyone rushed away, swords and spells flying, leaving her lying by herself.

“I’m okay, really,” she said, “thank you for your concern.”

The broom paused a moment next to her face as if considering something, then it continued on to sweep up the last kill.

Helvetica looked down at what she’d tripped over. It was a large, leatherbound book with gold-edged pages. A huge sticker adorned the spine of the book: Property of Well Watcher Solanian.

She moved her hand and it struck something warm and tingly. Glancing over she discovered a small Burning Crystal. It was a shard very similar to the giant one hovering overhead—which still managed to glare down at her via one of its lower facets; although it looked a little bit flustered and alarmed at the moment—and the place where it had been broken loose from the large one was also visible. She rubbed her head, trying to quiet the reverberating chime ringing inside her skull and pondered how thickheaded she had to be to have broken off a piece of the crystal.

Itty-bitty red eyes glared at her from the tiny crystal, wide open with shock.

“Great,” Helvetica said. “My first day out and I’m already breaking things.”


NEXT >> Chapter Five: And the Toxic Burning Crystal Spill

The author Helvetica writes the Helvetica Venture and Hellvetica Chronicles for Vox Ex Machina and proudly supports the works of Kyt Dotson, whose writing includes Mill Avenue Vexations (a gothic webserial featuring cab driver Vex Harrow), Black Hat Magick, and Helljammer and invites you to check out the novel, The Specter in the Spectacles by Kyt Dotson.

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