Tuesday, March 31, 2015

SURVIVAL QUEST by Vasily Mahanenko (Chapter 2)

Chapter 2. The Pryke Mine. The Beginning.

The Pryke Mine lay before me in all its beauty. Great rocky cliffs, about 100 meters high, rose along the whole boundary of the mine. Their tops hung over it, forming a cap around the perimeter. Like the roof of a stadium, an association flashed in my head. No amount of effort would allow you to scale such a wall, although the scattered ledges seemed to dare you to try. 'Interesting,' I thought, 'I wonder if the mine is surrounded by mountains or goes deep inside the earth?' I should ask someone, in case the idea of digging a hole out of here catches on. Another thought was just as interesting: is this mine even connected to the main world or is it in a separate location within the server memory? I could dig a hole and end up nowhere. At first glance the mine itself comprised quite a pleasant-looking valley approximately several kilometers in length and about a kilometer wide, with a somewhat uneven surface. The valley was divided up in two parts: the first, about 300 meters long, contained wooden buildings, one of which I immediately recognized as the smithy. For now the other structures remained a mystery, but were most probably barracks for the prisoners. The second part of the valley was separated by an unimposing wooden fence, which had grown lop-sided and rickety in places. The shouts of prisoners and sounds of mining picks were ringing from that side of the mine. So, this is where I'll be working. The place where I stood allowed only limited visibility because the view was obscured by an enormous cloud of grey dust. It was strange: I could see the dust, but could not feel it at all. It was probably just a graphic effect imposed on this location to give it a more authentic look.
Not far from where I appeared and at some distance from the other buildings stood a house that sported the sign Welcome to the Pryke Copper Mine.Right, so this is the local administration office, housing some intimidating official who had the power to grant me access to the main gameworld.
Yes, access to the main gameworld. Just before I was placed in the capsule I looked up the contents of Article 78 Section 24, cited by the judge when speaking about the possibility of entering the gameworld. I somehow missed this part before, while I was preparing myself. Reading this even lifted my spirits somewhat. The text stated: If the prisoner earns Respect with the guards at the place of confinement, he or she may be given the opportunity of being transferred to the main gameworld.It contained a lot of other text that stated that for the first six months you would have to live in a special colony, even if you earned Respect on the second day of your imprisonment and that 30% of all the earned money would have to be paid to the Corporation upon leaving the mine. There was something else, which I didn't recall, but the main thing was that I had a chance of getting transferred to the main gameworld.
So my chief aim in the near future was to earn Respect and to get the person in charge of the mine to like me. Or the other way round: get liked and gain Respect. It didnt really matter as long as it resulted in me leaving the mine. Great, I've spent just a few minutes here and I'm already making plans on how to leave.
Now I just need to figure out what I have to work, play and, in general, live with in the next eight years. I had to have a good look at my character, his stats (statistics) and description. When I was getting ready for prison I would never have imagined that theyd give me a Shaman, because all the forums said that prisoners usually get assigned either Warriors or Rogues. So these were the classes I read up on, pretty much becoming an expert in them. Not a single bastard wrote on any of the forums that a prisoner could be given a spell-casting class. Blast! I dont even know how to cast spells and figuring this out by myself will be very difficult. 
I brought the window with the character description before my eyes:
Statistics for player Mahan
Additional stats

Physical damage
Main Profession
Magical damage
Character level

Hit points
Physical resistance
Magic resistance
Fire resistance
+ Items
Cold resistance
Poison resistance


Dodge chance
Not selected

Critical hit chance
Not selected

Not selected

Not selected

Free stat points



Racial bonus: reputation gain with all factions is increased by 10%

What 'fantastic' stats. My virtual heart began to ache when I compared this Shaman with my level 87 Hunter. He looked so wretched next to my former character. Sigh
Energy. The biggest headache for all the prisoners. In the main gameworld even if Energy fell all the way to zero, the character simply suddenly stopped and rested for several minutes, waiting for it to recover, and then continued to carry out the player's commands. But they say that here things are not so simple. As Energy is lost, you get tired for real and your Hit Points slowly diminish. A sudden fall in Energy could even lead to character death. I would have to test this parameter in more detail, since I paid little attention to it with my Hunter.
Stamina. It determines the number of Hit Points in the ratio of 1:10; the higher the Stamina, the slower the rate of Energy loss. What the ratio was in this case I didn't really remember, but was aware it existed. I must level up my Stamina as much as I can, as this is important for survival.
Strength. This is the main stat necessary for mining ore. I didn't know what influence it might have on the ore itself, I found nothing about it in the manuals. This parameter also influences the strength of my physical attack. Because I'm not a melee fighter, the calculation is quite simple: Physical Damage = Strength + Weapon Damage. No modifiers. I'll have to do without, I guess.
Agility. Ehh... Something I knew so well when I was playing my Hunter, but now I don't even know what to do with it. In my case Agility did little else than determine the dodge chance and the critical strike chance. So if I don't engage in melee combat, this stat will remain useless for me.
Intellect. This is what Hunters, Warriors, Rogues and several other classes lack. In place of this statistic they use Rage. Intellect determines the amount of mana in the ratio of 1:10 and the rate of its regeneration, although the exact formula slipped my memory. Intellect also determines the strength of my magical attacks. Here we have a modifier: Magic Damage = 3 x Intellect. I had no idea how it all worked, despite having seen Shamans in action, as they banged their Tambourines, danced and chanted some sort of songs. There must be a reason they do that.
Not selected. So here is that stumbling block, which makes virtually all the players rant about Barliona. They rant, but continue playing. Yeah, they keep burning their fingers, grumble, but still go for the cookies. In Barliona with the four main stats, which were fairly standard for all games, each player was allowed to pick additional four. What is more, they were not chosen from a set list, but you had to perform certain actions that would lead to the system allowing you to pick a particular stat. For instance, when I played the Hunter, I needed Marksmanship, in order to be sure of hitting the opponent and having a chance of dealing him triple damage. But then I knew beforehand that I would need this stat and spent some time hitting the training dummy until the system allowed me to select Marksmanship. Only four additional stats could be chosen, so picking them needed serious thinking. Of course it was possible to remove an undesirable stat, despite the system saying it could not be removed. But this could only be done personally by the Emperor and gaining an audience with him was often out of question for an ordinary player. Even if you managed to obtain an audience, the privilege of removing a stat cost around 20 thousand gold, so players wrote angry messages on the forums and threatened to leave the game. But after some time they usually simply deleted the old poorly calibrated character and rolled a new one. The game called and beckoned.
And then there was Jewelcraft. A zero level in a profession meant that, although it was included by default, it had to be activated via a trainer. Probably this wasn't that important - where would you find a Jewelcraft trainer in a mine?
I'll give you a brief view of how these statistics could be increased. With each level a player gains 5 points that could be invested in any one of the stats, thus increasing its importance. But that's not all. Certain activities level up the stat that ends up being used the most. For example, if I shoot a mob with my bow - not only do I gain Experience for the kill, but also gain a certain percentage in my Agility progress bar. As soon as the progress bar is filled to 100, Agility value is increased by one, the bar itself is reset in order to go through the same process again. Thus the more I hit mobs with a bow, the higher is my Agility. Here in the mine the main stat is Strength and it will level up before anything else.
I was suddenly torn away from my daydreams.
"Don't just stand there! Get a move on!" the rough yell of the overseer returned me to 'reality'. Judging by the manuals, all the overseers in the places of confinement were NPCs, but their programmed behavior model was completely in the hands of the designers building the locations. Since no-one likes prisoners, the guards were developed with appropriate temperaments. All this quickly flashed through my head, leaving my 'castle-in-the-air' thoughts of freedom, which I had began to put together, somewhat shaken.
"Move, move! The boss doesn't like to be kept waiting," the guard repeated, roughly pushing me in the direction of the local administration office.
The interior of the building turned out to be surprisingly pleasant and quiet. I had the feeling that I had ended up in a completely different world - there were exquisite statues, paintings on the walls, a large crystal chandelier, carpets, carved wood and a quiet cool breeze brushing past me. All of this made such a harmonious whole that put you more in mind of an out-of-town residence of some rich aristocrat than an administration office of a mine full of prisoners. The governor of the mine sat behind a luxuriously crafted table in a separate office. He was a huge orc, about two meters in height, green and menacing, like all the representatives of that race.
"Shaman Mahan," the governor's low and calm bass travelled across the room as he was reading some document probably my case file. The orc's appearance reminded me of someone, but I just couldn't remember who exactly. The governor was calm and dignified, like the Snow Queen, though in looks there was little resemblance. But who did he resemble then? "Sentenced to eight years for the crime of hacking into the city sewage network control program which led to system shut-down. "Was it your idea or did someone put you up to it?" the orc asked the question showing virtually no emotion. Such a play of intonations, or rather their total absence, did not exactly inspire you to 'burst into song'. Songs. 'And now I will be singing my last song...' Akela!
That's who the image of the orc reminded me of! Akela from Kipling's 'Jungle Book', the Lone Wolf, Mowgli's mentor. A picture of the majestic wolf sitting on a rock from the ancient animated film rose before my eyes. That's right, if the wolf could be colored green, punched in the face to squash it and have his fangs pulled outside, you'd have the spitting image of the Pryke Copper Mine governor. Although no, for a complete resemblance you'd have to color the old wolf's eyes red.
"So, you're playing the silent game. Well, well. That's your choice," said the governor, while I enthusiastically dressed him up in the wolf's hide. Suddenly I was hit by extreme heaviness, my legs gave way and I fell on the floor, without taking my gaze off the orc. A message immediately flashed before my eyes:
Your reputation with the Pryke Mine Guards has fallen by 10 points. You are 990 points away from the status of Mistrust.
Attention! Racial bonuses do not apply on the territory of the Pryke Copper Mine.
"I repeat the question!" it was immediately clear that he knew how to raise his voice. He was good at it too: it made shivers run down my spine and I was ready to tell him anything. That's what I call 'influence'. He probably had his Charisma value bumped up sky-high. "Did you decide to destroy the Imitator yourself or did someone put you up to it?"
My body felt heavy and leaden, but something clicked inside my head and the ability to think rationally returned to me. Incidentally, lying down on the floor turned out to be ideal for having a good think. I should add this method to my arsenal in the future. So, I have two possible lines of action - to stay silent or give him the whole story. In the first case I will most probably gain a negative reputation before I am sent to work in the mine. The second option meant that I would tell one imitator how I destroyed another imitator. And would thus also gain a negative reputation - who knows how this orc had been programmed. One should expect the worst. So, I lose out either way... Darn, nothing else for it, I have to respond.
"I did not destroy the imitator. I had an assignment for running a security check and I carried it out," I tried to speak in a calm voice, but under the orc's heavy gaze only a whisper came out. "And I'm hardly to blame that the imitator was so poorly protected. I was simply carrying out an assignment," I repeated once again. I hardened my resolve and focused all my strength on picking myself up, at least to my knees, but my arms refused to cooperate and I hit the floor I once again.
"An assignment..." the orc said thoughtfully. No, if you really tried, you could discern emotions in his voice. They were just very deeply hidden. "All right, let it be an assignment, as you say. So listen, performer of assignments on the murder of imitators. You will now go to Rine, where you will be given the Mining profession and the starter bag for collecting ore. After this you will be shown to your place of work. We have the same rules for all prisoners - you have to fulfill a daily quota: 10 units (pieces) per each level in the Mining profession. Anything above that you can sell to Rine. Meals are twice per day, in the morning and in the evening. Water can be found in the mine. Questions?  No questions! You're free to go!"
The heaviness fell off me and I was again the master of my own body. As I got up, I looked at the orc, who already forgot that I was there as he studied another document. Damn, you can't end a conversation on such a note. I have to ask him about something, but what? About the mine? He'll immediately send me to Rine. About getting out of here? He'll say that it's possible once I paid 100 million gold. What can I ask? Right, hang on a moment! I'm a Jeweler!
"If I find a Precious Stone, who do I give it to? Am I able to work it by myself?" I asked the governor, as the overseer started to push me out of the room. I only knew enough of mining to ask a stupid question of this kind. Barliona's developers played the following joke on Jewelers: the Uncut Precious Stones could not be simply bought from NPCs, who only resold stones that had already been worked. Jewels have very low drop rate when killing mobs and can otherwise only be obtained from ore veins or from ore processing. There were no other places to get hold of Precious Stones. With my Hunter I was lucky enough to glimpse, a couple of times, how people picked up pieces of Topaz or Ruby from loot dropped by high level mobs. There were no such mobs around here and I had little idea of what sifting through the ore involved; it probably required certain tools. However, obtaining a Precious Stone from a vein seemed quite possible. At least in my view.
A silence descended on the room. Even my escort stopped breathing and looked his boss.
"We have many stones, as you well noted," he replied, and I wondered if the governor could be brought to a state of rage. He seemed as calm as a python. Suddenly, as if hearing my thoughts, the orc smiled: "But if you find a Precious Stone among them, for each one I would personally record a day's quota of ore next to your name. One stone - one quota. As for processing them... You're a Jeweler, so if you find a precious stone, you'll be given a recipe for its cutting. Or you could go to Rine, who won't cheat you with the price. So, Ore Miner Mahan, the Conqueror of Imitators and Hunter for Precious Stones, go for it. It's all in your hands and in your pick," the orc leant back in his armchair, which had a strong resemblance to a throne, and continued to smile.
A message appeared before my eyes:
Your reputation with the Pryke Mine Guards has increased by 10 points. Current level: Neutral.
Whew! I had been all but crestfallen when stripped of those ten reputation points. Incurring such a loss on the first day was very stupid, considering my plans to leave the mine. I had to be more careful with Rine: the last thing I wanted was to run up any losses with him. I turned around and was taken by the overseer to see Rine.
I discovered that he was a dwarf, working some piece of metal with a hammer in the smithy nearby. He was about a meter-twenty, stocky and compact, with powerful arms and thick eyebrows, which hung over keen sparkly eyes and a potato of a nose. A pretty typical dwarf, whose like I'd met many times across Barliona. As I approached Rine, I laughed to myself: what else would a dwarf do other than work in a smithy or mine ore?
"I see that reinforcements have arrived," said Rine in a businesslike manner, looking me over head to toe. "Very good, we were getting short-handed. So, you want to learn to swing the pick and not take your legs off by accident?"
Taught by the harsh experience with the mine governor I replied straight away.
"That's right, honorable master Rine, I'm going to be a mine worker for the next eight years, so I would be grateful to receive a grain of your wisdom and experience in mining ore," I said with all the charm I could muster. 
"I have enough experience, as you well noted," mumbled the dwarf, looking pleased, "teaching you to mine ore isn't hard - just remember not to hit your legs with the pick and the rest is simple. Look here is a vein of Copper Ore, which you will have to mine." Suddenly a rock pile with some kind of nodules appeared next to the dwarf.
"You take the pick and start to hit this," the dwarf continued. "Don't just stand there! Grab your pick and start hitting the pile of rocks."
"What happens to those who refuse to work? Or to those who fail to meet the daily quota and simply sit and rest?" I asked as I slowly approached the rock pile.
"Those are dealt with simply: no daily quota - no food. You spend a day without food and your body begins to eat itself. Few could stand the pain of their own stomach beginning to self-digest. Then comes death and a respawn back here in the mines. And this will repeat until the prisoner starts to work like everyone else. In my memory, the toughest prisoner could endure four such respawns. Then he broke. They say that the sensations from your own death are no laughing matter. You want to try starving? No? Then, like I said, grab the pick and start mining the ore," said the dwarf matter-of-factly.
I came up to the meter-high pile of stones, which the dwarf for some reason called a Copper Vein, took a swing and hit it, putting all of my pent-up anger behind it, trying to get it over and done with in one blow. The hit generated a flurry of sparks and the pick, rebounding from the rocks, hit me quite painfully on the leg. This didn't seem to lay a scratch on the Copper Vein, which stood there as a hostile witness to my total ineptitude as a miner.
"Copper-banging bastard," I whispered in pain, "that bites!" Somewhere on the edge of my vision flashed a message:
Damage taken. Hit Points reduced by 5: 11 (weapon damage + strength) - 6 (armor). Total: 35 of 40.
"Er-hem..." coughed the dwarf. "I see it's not exactly working for you, is it? Your pick really showed you. Don't get too carried away with hitting the pile. This isn't Mithril ore, all you need is a little force. Easy does it go at it bit by bit and aim better. You have to hit between the rocks. What's the point of hitting the stone itself?"
So, being a miner is not all that easy. In my past life, as I now call the days when I was playing my Hunter, I spent most of my time shooting mobs rather than gathering resources. After all, few people actually bother with the latter, since there are prisoners like myself doing the job for them. Some of us mine ore, some gather herbs, some do something else: there are many prisoners who have plenty of work to get through. Virtually 90 percent of all resources in Barliona is gathered by prisoners.
So, I had to hit between the stones, instead of going at them directly and do it with a moderate force, which, at the same time, should not be too weak. All right, let's try it. I lifted the pick once again, found a place where two stones touched each other and went for it. This time my blow went home - the pick did not bounce off, but got firmly lodged between the stones.
"That's it," said the dwarf, looking satisfied. "Now you understand what I mean. Well done lad. Now you must loosen the stone and continue as you started."
I took out the pick with some difficulty and started to level a blow after blow. The first thirty blows came easily. I'm an ore digger, a real miner! I will get through the daily ore quota right now and the rest will be just for me. I will mine money, will gain Respect and will soon be free and wealthy too! The next thirty strokes were more difficult, but I still continued to see myself as a successful ore miner. But my plans for enrichment were waving a white flag in farewell, and a funeral march began to play somewhere inside my head.
In about two hundred blows I only managed to break off a few stones and understood that I wouldn't be earning enough money from the ore. The pile continued to stand there just as before. And if the dwarf was right, I had to make just four hundred more blows to get to the finish line. Just! My hands were shaking and barely able to hold the pick, sweat covered my eyes, my legs were bending beneath me, but there was still a lot of work to do. Insistent flashing of some message at the edge of my view was beginning to annoy me, so I moved it in front of my eyes to read it properly. It made me somewhat thoughtful:
You are tired. Current level of Energy: 35 of 100.
You hit points have been reduced by 4. Total: 31 of 40.
"You're not getting tired, are you?" the dwarf suddenly asked me. "That's normal. Look at how much you've got through. Here, have a drink," and he gave me a large cup with water. The cup looked like it had seen better days: it was dirty and covered in some kind of stains, but, reluctant to disappoint Rine, I took it and carefully tried its contents. As I took the first draught I felt as if I was struck by electricity - the water invigorated and cooled me and renewed my desire to keep going. I drank the whole cup almost immediately, noting to myself in surprise that ordinary water could be a source of such great pleasure. Before I had to use special extortionately priced elixirs for the same purpose. But here you had simple water... As a bonus a message appeared:
You restored your Hit Points. Total: 40 of 40.
You restored the level of Energy. Total: 100 of 100.
And so I kept working, swinging the pick and drinking the water in turn. After three hours of such work the pile was in pieces, leaving several modestly-sized reddish rocks in its place. So, here it is - Copper Ore.
"At last," mumbled the dwarf. "I nearly fell asleep here. This here is your ore. As you see, you've got five pieces, which is half of your daily quota. The more ore you mine, the quicker you will level up your skill and the less time you'll have to spend on each vein. So, from now on you are an official ore miner, and now you can see how much durability the vein retains. Useful to know as you work. Here is a sack for your diggings.  It might be small, but it will do for a start.
Straight away I saw a message:
You gained the "Mining" profession. Current level 1
You received an object: Small mining sack (8 slots. Total free: 8)
Attention! No Achievements can be gained in the "Pryke Copper Mine".
I put the sack over my shoulder and we went down into mine, where Rine showed me the site where I would be working from tomorrow. At last I could get a view of the place without the cloud of dust. The fence separating the barracks from the mine had several entrances, which the workers used to get to their designated sections. The territory was divided into squares about twenty meters across, with an entrance on one of the sides. All the other sides of the square were made up of piles of rock about a meter and a half in height and entering a section through them wasn't exactly effortless. Small paths ran between the sections and overseers walked up and down them at a leisurely pace. I later discovered that the sections could only be accessed by their owners and by those to whom they granted permission. Anyone else was simply unable to enter. As we walked across my section we passed prisoners at work, who gave me appraising looks, and I noticed with surprise that there was neither disdain nor aggression in their eyes. Strange; prisoners do not usually behave like this. Something wasn't right here. I made a note to myself that I would look into this. My section was located all the way at the end of the mine, but it contained as many as twenty Copper Veins. Was this many or few, I wondered.
"This is where you'll be working," said the dwarf. "Twenty veins will last you a good while. The veins are renewed every day, so you should have enough work for the next year. Water is over there." Rine pointed somewhere towards the middle of the mine. "Your neighbors won't bother you, everyone here is well-behaved. I think I told you what you need to get started. But ask if you have any questions, I could have left something out."
I had no desire to ask about ore mining (I'd figure it out as I worked), but I had to ask something. I decided to ask him about my profession. Jewelcraft skills were locked for me for the time being I needed a trainer in order to unlock them and to tell me what I should do with them and how. But where would I find one in a mine? Perhaps the dwarf could tell me.
"Honorable Master Rine," I began, trying to fill my voice with as much esteem and respect as possible, "I was designated the profession of a Jeweler, so I would like to know if you have someone in the mine who could teach me this profession, so it isn't wasted."
"A Jeweler, you say?" the dwarf smiled. "We only have industrial artisans working here: an Artist, a Sculptor and a Glass-blower; we even have a Woodcarver. But we've not had a Jeweler yet. You've seen our boss's den, right? It was decorated by the local prisoners. As far as you're concerned, I could be the one to teach you the basic Jewelcraft skill, but for the time being you should forget about it. I won't do it for free and you have no money on you yet. Once you start making regular earnings from selling ore, then we can talk. By the way, I buy the ore at 10 copper coins per unit and in order for you to learn the cheapest Jewelcraft recipe you need 10 silver coins. You can do the maths. And don't forget: In order to learn Jewelcraft, you first need to unlock it, for which you will need another 20 silver coins. And at 1 gold Jewelers tools aren't cheap either. Now you have an idea of how long it would take you to become a Jeweler. Ill be going now: I've spent enough time on you as it is. There is no need for you to eat today, so I advise you to get a good rest. In the next eight years you won't be getting much of it. And don't be late getting up in the morning: the food is only served for two hours after the wake-up call."

Wake-up call?

If you can`t wait to find out what happens next the full novel is available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00VQRW14E