I sprang from the bed, looking around in a panic: what, who, where,
how? A fire! I have to run! My ears were ringing from the horn that came out of
nowhere and my feet were giving way under me. All I knew was that I had to do
something to save myself and so started to dart around the bed. Strange, my
brain seemed to be working fine, but my body was moving all of its own accord.
So that's what Panic is like! Even my eyes were failing me. The other prisoners
continued to dress themselves calmly, seemingly oblivious to this terrible
"Sit down, close your eyes and try to relax. It will
pass," I heard a voice next to me say. "They probably forgot to warn
you about our alarm clock. It only affects the newcomers. Once you learn to
wake up at the right time, you'll stop hearing it. For now try to calm down -
the more agitated you are the worse you'll feel."
'So here they are - the undocumented details of my imprisonment! No
need to mention them; leave a surprise for the prisoners instead,' I thought angrily,
then sat on the bed, closed my eyes and tried to relax. I didn't make a good
job of it — I was still very tense, my head was splitting and the ringing in my
ears could rival a bell tower in volume.
'I need to distract myself in order to relax,' I thought. This means
I have to force my brain to work. What was the first thing I needed to do? I
had to create a plan of action for the next day, week and year. So then, if any
planning is to be done, it should be serious and long-term.
Let's think. Today I will need:
1. To get acquainted with the
local customs and people.
2. To determine my capabilities
as a Shaman.
3. To be certain to achieve the
4. Optional: try to exceed the
daily quota even a little and assess money-earning possibilities.
I think that’s enough for today. Next comes the plan for
1. Evaluate the prospects of
improving my capabilities and understand how quickly these will develop.
2. Find a change for my striped
3. Earn 20 silver coins in order
to unlock the Jewelcraft trade.
Then there is the plan for the year. This is simple:
1. Survive and don’t go
2. Find a Precious Stone.
3. Optional: leave the mine for
the main gameworld.
Having made a plan of action for the near future and put my thoughts
in order, I opened my eyes and saw another prisoner sitting on the bed next to
mine and looking at me intently. The human — and it was
definitely a human or I understood nothing of races — had a
remarkable resemblance to a dwarf: he wasn't tall, was of a stocky build and
had bright, penetrating eyes. And, as I noted to myself again, there was no
aggression in these eyes. There was an interest, some sympathy —
anything but aggression.
'Something is wrong with the prisoners here,’ I thought to
myself, ‘Maybe they're digging up the wrong sort of ore.'
"Have you recovered?" he asked and from his voice I
understood that he was the one that helped me deal with the local alarm clock.
"Get dressed, we should go and get the food." You won't be much of a
worker if you don't eat. And take your pick and bag too, you'll not be back
here until the evening.”
"Th-thank you, Kartalonius," I said with some effort as I
read the man's name, which was glowing faintly above the player. I quickly dressed
in a clean robe (it seems imprisonment had at least some advantages - the
clothes cleaned themselves; nice!), grabbed the pick and followed after
"Just call me Kart," he laughed, looking back and slowing
to my pace. "A bit of a chore to say this tongue-twister every time, so
Kart will do. I've gotten used to it now — after all, it's
my eleventh year here... And I still have four more to go..." he added
sadly, after a brief pause. "Well then, let's not dwell on the
negatives... We'll have to live side by side, so let's get off on the right
foot from the start. You're not too excitable, I hope? You were racing around
the bed so much first thing this morning you'd think you've been hitting your
feet repeatedly with your pick. You were screaming too: 'Fire! Save
I felt my face begin to color involuntarily. Had I actually been
screaming too? From outside, my darting around must have looked stupid. With a
heartfelt curse at the smart asses who thought up such a wake-up call, I had a
look at Kart. So the "little guy" was far from simple. You don't get
fifteen years for nothing — you would have had to try really hard to be
"You shouldn't worry so much," smiled Kart, seeing my
reaction. "This is a unique mine, where they don't send just anyone. Here
we mostly have fraudsters and embezzlers, we even have one kidnapper. But we
have no violent sorts here. At least - so far. Did the governor tell you what
happens when you break the rules?"
I shook my head, ticking 'the NPCs in the mine are real bastards'
box in my mind.
"The rule is quite simple." As soon as you cause anyone
intentional damage, irrespective of what you use - a hand, a pick or a stone,
your Energy quickly falls to zero and you hit the floor, totally drained. At zero
Energy you lose 1 Hit Point every 5 seconds, all this while no Energy
regeneration takes place. So if you are not immediately given some water to
drink, in a couple of minutes - you're dead. And I can tell you right away -
death is a very unpleasant experience, especially since on death you lose all
the skill levels that you managed to acquire. So this is what's special about
our mine. For many residents this is worse than death, because crafting at a
low level of skill is a tedious undertaking. Also levelling up costs quite a
Crafting? What's he on about?
"It’s just as well this is the case. I myself stick to the rule that if
no-one bothers me, I don't bother anyone. But tell me, why I haven't met a
single hostile gaze at the mine so far?" I asked, pointing to a gnome who
walked past us and cheerfully winked at Kart. "You get the feeling that
the people here are not criminals, but ordinary workers, who have been hired to
do a job and soon would be going home to sit in a comfy sofa, take out some cold
beer and... Blast! Daydreaming aloud here. But in any case, things don't
normally work this way! This might be virtual reality, but the people here are
real and every last one of them a criminal, and they look at you like dancers
at a ball — with interest, almost enthusiasm. I've not seen such looks in real
life, while this is prison, whichever way you look at it. So, what's the
"Well done, got to the heart of things right away!" noted
Kart, standing at the end of a queue, lining up for the food.
"Look here, this is
Altarionus, or simply Alt," he slapped the man in front of us on the
shoulder. "Hi, Alt, have you managed to buy some green paint for the
Despite such an unceremonious greeting, Alt turned around and
instead of starting an argument smiled in greeting.
"Oh, hi Kart! No, I haven't bought it yet. The darn thing costs
almost five gold, but I have just over three. Here, you can work as hard as you
like, but you won’t earn more than ten silver coins in a day. So the governor will
only get his new painting in a couple of weeks. Hells, my hands are already
itching to complete it. I'll be climbing the walls if I don't finish the work
soon! And I tried to approach Rine this way and that — tried to get
him to gift it to me or give me a discount, to appeal to his softer side by
saying that I only have ten percent to go to level five Artist, but the dwarf
is stubborn. It's true when they say: it’s easier to
bargain with a wall than a dwarf. And you, young man, what is your
And then it finally hit me. The luxurious interiors of the
administration office, the absence of hostile looks from other prisoners
(creative people cannot look at others like that) and Kart's words that
"this is a unique mine, where they don't send just anyone": I had
ended up in a mine for master craftsmen: those who were given a profession when
their sentence was passed. This is why it's so quiet here and why Kart is quite
friendly with me and why Alt is readily talkative. If you've spent the past ten
years in creative crafting work, you'll lose your negative attitude sooner or
later. So you get some sort of a zone for prisoner rehabilitation and
re-education instead of a mine. What a place to land in!
"I'm a Jeweler," I muttered, somewhat at a loss, now seeing
other prisoners in a different light. The mine contained about a couple of
hundred living souls - humans, gnomes, dwarves and even one orc. As Rine said,
there were Sculptors, Glaziers and even a Woodcutter here. The Woodcutter was
most probably the orc that stood not far down in the queue and was turning
around some piece of wood in his hands.
"Oh! You have quite a rare profession!" Kart exclaimed
enthusiastically. "We've not had any Jewelers in my time here! A piece of
advice for you, lad (and don't look at me so suspiciously, I won’t
give you any bad advice): pull yourself up by your bootstraps, forget tiredness
and exceed your quota. Your aim is to earn money and unlock your main
profession. And when you level up in that profession then... But no, I'll not
tell you – you’ll see for yourself. By the way, the more you make of something, the
more money you get, and more money means an easier life here. Ain't that true,
Alt nodded in agreement.
"And what are you? What’s your specialization?"
I asked Kart, already figuring him for a Sculptor.
To my surprise Kart remained silent and grew gloomy, then turned
away altogether and started to examine some distant mountain top in the
"Did he spot a dragon there suddenly? Or did I ask an unpleasant
"Our law-enforcers played a cruel trick on Kart. His profession
is even more rare than yours; he's an Informant," Alt replied for him.
"Kart didn't tell you, but I will. You see, the higher the level of the
main profession, the more we get — how shall I put it? — pleasure, if
you like. Satisfaction. This is why everyone at the mine tries to level up.
Everyone except for Kart. In order to level up he has to inform on us to the
camp governor. If you take into account that in ten years of imprisonment
Kart's level of Informer is still zero, you can see how often he engages in
that activity. When you increase your Jewelcraft at least to level 1, you'll
understand what he's been deprived of."
"I'm sorry Kart, I didn't know," I mumbled, somewhat lost.
"That's all right, I'm used to it now. But then I'm level
eighteen in Chattiness: there is such a stat, would you believe it. That's what
keeps me going. By the way, from our talking today, I increased it by 0.5
percent, and we didn't even talk properly yet. So in the near future, you'll
find it hard to get rid of me."
Now I got the reason for Kart's interest in me. And I had been so
naive and thought that it was all pure goodness and mutual help. Far from it — it's
all totally mercenary, give and take relations.
As we talked we didn't notice how the queue arrived at the place
where food was handed out. I failed to see it yesterday, located as it was
right behind the smithy, by one of the entries to the mine. And the food place
could hardly be called a place; all it contained was a meter-high vat standing
on the ground, from which one of the guards was ladling food out to the
prisoners. That's all there was to the "place". No fires, tents,
shelters or anything else. Clean plates were lying in a large pile right on the
ground in front of the cauldron and the prisoners took one and came up for
their portion. Spoons were attached to each plate by a string. Like a child's
rattle of some sort. And where did the dirty dishes go? There was no collection
point in sight. All right, I'll see what Kart would do with his and copy him.
When I was given my plate of food, my first thought upon seeing it
was 'No way will I be eating THIS. Not going to happen.' You just could not
call what the overseer handed me 'food' under any circumstances. It was a muddy
homogeneous mass of pale-green color, with bubbles slowly floating to the
surface. Although the food looked liquid, it did not flow, but froze in an ugly
mass on the plate. It was a good thing that it completely lacked any smell, or
I would have thrown up there and then.
"Take it and shove off," said the overseer with a smirk,
seeing my long face. "It's no resort here: you eat the porridge or starve
to death. Well?" he thrust the plate at me once again.
I took it, walked away and glanced back. To my surprise the
prisoners were all calmly eating it, taking no notice of the appearance of the
food. 'Either they've gotten used to this out of hopelessness or I simply don't
get it,' I thought, perplexed. So that's what choice is like — to
lock your sense of revulsion into some distant corner and eat THIS, or enjoy
the unforgettable pleasure of your own stomach eating itself. Those developers
were some bastards!
The strange thing was: when I played as a Hunter I never noticed that
the character started to feel bad without food. If you didn't eat for a long
time, you gradually became sluggish, less mobile, you gain experience more
slowly, but there were no catastrophic consequences. And not even in my worst
nightmare could I imagine the stomach digesting itself. Another undocumented
feature of imprisonment? Or do normal players play under simplified settings,
while here you end up with extreme version of hardcore? Or perhaps everything
I've been told was a bluff and nothing will happen to me? My head started to
ache from this avalanche of thoughts. Now I had the chance to regret not
checking out this detail when I was preparing for imprisonment.
Whether I wanted to or not, I had to make a decision. Was I prepared
to take a risk and verify the information that one can die without food? Though
I was ashamed to admit it, but I was not. Even if this was a game, I wasn't
psychologically ready to die, even in a virtual sense. In all my 87 levels as a
Hunter I only died a couple of times, before I gained the ability to control my
opponent at level 30. From that time on I'd been playing like Koschei the
Deathless. I even smiled at the thought: on account of Marya the Wise (Marina)
my Koschei (my Hunter) was destroyed. Moreover, when I was free the sensory
filters were turned off and death simply meant disconnection from Barliona for
a couple of hours. 'Well, well... So I have to eat', I thought, and gave my
plate a look of hatred, as the porridge continued to bubble. I overcame my
aversion and slowly started to eat, carefully watching those around me. At
first I felt light tingling in my mouth, as if I was eating a fizzy sweet. Then
to my surprise I discovered that the porridge had a taste and that this taste
was a pleasant one. When the tingling in my mouth gave way to euphoria in my
whole body, I quickly finished the entire portion before I knew it. The
pleasure was so great that I wasn't even surprised when I saw the message about
receiving a buff:
Buff gained: Strength +1, Energy loss
reduced by 50%. Duration - 12 hours.
As soon as I read the message, the plate disappeared from my hands.
Great: only if such things happened in reality - you eat and dirty plates
vanish forever! Putting my pick over the shoulder I joined the flow of people
moving towards the mine. My first day of work awaited me.
The site greeted me with graphic dust effect, lack of wind and the
I had only 1 level in Mining. This meant that, irrespective of how
much I increased it today, I had to gather 10 pieces of ore. The quota was
calculated on entering the mine and not on exit, or at least that's how I
understood Rine. Keeping in mind that I should beat my quota, I had to gather
20 pieces today. So, let's go! With this thought I threw the bag on the ground
got a good grip on the pick and started to hit the stone pile.
'Not too strongly or too weakly, aiming between the stones rather
than at them' - thoughts flew through my head as I worked. 'I must watch my
breathing and Energy level....Strike right between the rocks... "Isn't it funny How a bear likes
honey? I wonder why...?"' Striking
between the stones... I wonder, did Rabbit really put everything he had on the
table for him, or did he leave something for himself for a rainy day? Must
watch the Energy level... Damn it,
swinging this blasted pick is so hard... '
In approximately an hour I decided to take a break. The durability
bar on the Copper Vein had stopped at 60%; so I had to hit it for another 2
hours at least. At this rate I'll be able to get through 3 veins at the most
today. Not a flippin' lot! I must speed up!
The Energy level showed 43 units, Hit Points fell to 35, so I
decided to get some water to restore them. I would also find out how things
work at the local watering hole.
The water supply was right at the centre of the mine and consisted
of a twenty-meter square site, similar to those in which the prisoners worked,
with one difference: there were no piles of rocks on its borders. It contained
six small wells, about half a meter wide and deep. They had no lids: just a
simple hole in the ground with stones set around it. At the same time there was
only one cup for drawing water. It was carelessly lying on the ground. How unsanitary!
It's just as well that microbes don't exist in a virtual world. That's harsh.
One little bowl for six small wells - for two hundred prisoners. It seemed
inhuman. There were no prisoners at the watering hole, so I took the cup and
leant over a well, dipping it in the water. What smart ass came up with the
idea of putting only one watering hole in such a large mine? And so inconveniently
placed too. Having drank the water, which didn't taste anything like the one
that Rine offered me, I restored the lost Energy and Hit Points and saw a
strange debuff text in front of me:
Water used. Duration expires in: 6 hours.
I had no access to the properties and description of the debuff, so
I decided to forget about it and return to my section.
In the next hour I single-mindedly worked on destroying the vein.
Only 40% of durability remained now, and soon it was 20%. A little more, just a
bit! I bit my lip and inflicted a frenzy of blows with my pike. I wondered
whether I would have been able to work at such a pace in the real world or
would have already dropped from tiredness. Now only 10% left... Suddenly the
pick dropped from my hands and I fell to the ground.
You are tired. Current level of Energy: 10
Your Hit Points have been reduced by 30.
Total: 10 of 40.
Well bang my copper! How could I forget about Energy? I went to the
settings and set up a message that would flash as a warning if my Energy fell
below 30. Now, the main thing was to crawl to the water and not kick the bucket
on the way! The strange debuff did not disappear, but the timer in it changed:
Water used. Duration expires in: 4.5
As soon as I got to the water, I took the cup and drank a couple
gulps. Feeling the tiredness recede from me, I stared blankly at the text that
appeared before my eyes:
You used water for the second time in 6
Penalty incurred: the number of skill
points reduced by 10%. The next degree of reduction: 20%. Attention: You have
not yet earned any skill points, total penalty: 0
You restored your Hit Points. Total: 40 of
You restored your Energy. Total: 100 of
Despite regaining my Energy, I was too dispirited to curse or
express my emotions in any way. I got up and, downcast, headed off in the
direction of my site: the daily quota had to be met one way or another and I
had to wait another 4.5 hours before I could drink again. Now it finally began
to dawn on me that the place where I ended up really was a prison and not a
recreational work and leisure resort.
The vein only had 5% of Durability left. I automatically took the
pick and methodically started to make blow after blow, completely switching off
to everything around me.
A few minutes later the Durability bar of the vein flickered one
last time and the pile of rocks disappeared, leaving six pieces of ore on the
ground behind it. I quickly glanced at the message that appeared before me and
waved it away, gathering the ore into the bag and starting on the second vein.
Experience gained: +1 Experience, points
remaining until next level: 99
+ 50% to Mining. Total: 50%
+ 10% to Strength. Total: 10%
+ 5% to Stamina. Total: 5%
They give just 1 experience point for a vein... Blow.... I need to
break 99 more veins to gain a level....
Blow.... 3-4 veins a day... Blow... At least a month until I can gain a
level... Blow... I'll die here... Blow... What's left of my spirit will, for sure...
In the hour that I spent on the second vein, its Durability went
down to 65% and my Energy level to 30. The water debuff showed me that I could
not drink for two more hours, so I lay down in the shade cast by the vein to
get out of the burning sun. I closed my eyes and imagined myself swimming in
cool water, it running down my face, slowly drinking the sweet, cool,
A quiet squeak sounded next to me like a thunderclap on a clear day,
drowning out the piercing ringing of the picks, making me jump up and glance
A huge Rat, coming up to my knee in height, stood on one of the
veins of my section and looked at me. I stared at the Rat, stupefied, and for a
while we engaged in this 'staring contest'. What was a Rat doing here? There
were only rocks in this place. What's there to eat for them here, after all?
Were the prisoners themselves on the menu? These questions remained unanswered,
but one thing was clear: the Rat was there and it was looking at me. Appearing
to come to some kind of a decision, the Rat snorted and, jumping off the Copper
Vein, disappeared from sight.
For some minutes I stared at the space that was just occupied by the
A Rat in a stony mine! This is impossible! This is... This is free
Experience! A source of Experience that did not depend on ore gathering! And if
I gained a second level, I will put all my points into... Right, I must
definitely go on a rat safari inside my section. After taking the decision to
hunt down the Rat, I remembered Kart's words that dealing damage to someone
leads to Energy falling to zero and then I bite the dust. Blast! Does this rule
also apply to Rats? I must find this out so I don't end up in a pickle.
To my surprise in the time that I rested and daydreamed of a rat
safari, my Energy rose to 80, my Hit Points were completely restored and the
water debuff indicated less than an hour until expiry. I grabbed the pick and
decided to bring my Energy down to 30, then wait until the debuff wore off and
go to the watering hole, where I would ask (from the overseers if it came to
it) what the punishment was for killing Rats.
Either the inspiration from the coming hunt increased my physical
strength or I got the hang of the work process, but by the time I was down to
30 Energy, the Durability of the vein was only 15%. The water debuff had
completely expired and, aching all over, I ran for the water.
The watering hole was quite crowded — it seems that
the debuff had expired for many people. Having refreshed myself, I started to
look for Kart, but to my disappointment he was nowhere to be seen and the same
went for Alt; so, having weighed up all the 'pros' and 'cons' I went to an
'I wonder,' I thought as I came up to the guard, 'where did the
developers find the template for such a despising stare? After all, it's not
something that can be contrived - you'd have to be born with a stare like that.
You feel as though the guard is looking at you like a piece of something small
and indecent. Well I'll be... this really is quite unsettling...'
"What is it?" barked the overseer and it seemed to echo
around the whole mine.
"Is there a penalty for killing Rats?" I quickly asked my
question, thinking that politeness would be wasted on a guard.
"Rats? Ha-ha! So, you've decided to become a Rat hunter, have
you?" laughed the guard. "Aside from the fact that it will make a
nice snack of you, there are no penalties. In any case, you'll never catch it
with those stubby legs! It can only be hit from afar, but what will you hit it
with? A stone? So quit drooling over Rats and get your ass back to work!"
Right. Aside from the stare they also gave this law enforcer an
angelic temperament. But at least I got all I needed out of him — a
Rat can be hunted without fear of punishment. And if there's no punishment, I
should make use of this opportunity.
"Halt!" The guard shouted after me as I began to head off.
"If you do somehow manage to kill a Rat, you could claim a reward for it
from Rine. They get on his nerves even more than you get on mine. Don't forget
to bring a Rat tail as proof."
Message for the player!
If you kill a Rat, bring the Rat tail to
Rine and claim your reward: 10 Copper coins and
+2 Reputation with the Pryke Mine Guards
for each Rat tail.
After I returned to my site, I decided to finish off the second vein
quickly, make a start on the third and then, once Energy had again fallen to
30%, go on a hunt for the Rat. After all, this gave me an additional
opportunity to earn money and raise my reputation! I must make use of it. In my
mind I was already at the hunt, so I did not notice the moment when the
Durability bar flickered and the vein vanished.
Experience gained: +1 Experience, points
remaining until next level: 98
+50% to Mining. Total: 100%. Mining
increased by 1. Total: 2
+10% to Strength. Total: 20%
+5% to Stamina. Total: 10%
I quickly glanced at the message that appeared and waved it away so
I could gather up the ore and start on the third vein, and then...
A light, virtually weightless, pleasure, like a glass of cool fresh
beer that you drink after a hot sauna, engulfed me from head to toe. This was
so unexpected and at the same time so pleasant that I wanted to jump, sing and
hug someone. Where are you, Rat? I love you!
The euphoria did not last long, but left a deep mark in my soul.
Yes, this makes slaving away for 12 hours a day well worth it. I could not even
imagine what I'd be feeling when I levelled up one of my stats or my main
profession. So there are some advantages to having the sense perception in the
capsule turned on. And Alt was right, it is an unforgettable feeling.
I had another 6 pieces of Cooper ore from the second vein, which
allowed me to forget about the daily quota and opened my road to money-earning.
So, what did we have: Energy: 95, vein Durability: 100%, Mining: 2. There are
about 5 hours left until the end of the day. Here goes!
The message that I added to the settings for monitoring Energy
popped up after about an hour of work. I sat on the ground and was pleased to
note that with the second level in Mining working became more enjoyable and
after approximately the same hour of work, only 45% of the vein Durability
remained. And I wasn't even trying that hard!
Now I just have to decide what to do about the hunt. I can't run
after the Rat, since I don't have enough Energy and Stamina. Agility would be
of little use: with a score of 1 in this stat I will only hit my own legs
instead of the Rat. Should I perhaps put down some traps? Looks like I have my
work cut out for me...
The Rat population in my lot turned out to be quite healthy — I
counted around five of them. Like all animals in starting locations, the Rats
were not aggressive and had 30 Hit Points. These nimble beasts constantly
darted to and fro between the stones and only rarely entered open space for a
few seconds, which made all my grand plans crumble before my eyes. Having
selected one of the Rats, I examined its properties.
Pryke Mine Rat. Description: this darting
animal appeared at the Pryke Mine right from the time it opened and has been a
troublemaking headache for its administration ever since. There is a reward
allocated for killing Rats. Hit Points: 30. Attack: 10. Armor: 2. Magic
As no clear solution was forthcoming, I automatically began to go
through my stats and skills, continuing my intense search for possibilities.
Race: Human. The first race in Barliona. The Capital: Anhurs...
Looking further... Mining - character profession, enables the gathering of ore.
As the level of the profession increases the rate of Energy loss slows down...
Next... Class: Shaman. A spiritual mentor, who is able to communicate with
Spirits and call them to his aid. The summoned Spirits help the Shaman to
defend himself or to heal wounded comrades, and strong shamans can... Next....
Shamans can work with Spirits! Why am I so slow? Didn't I make a
special note to myself this morning to get to grips with the Shaman class?
It took me a bit of time to understand how to open the spell book,
which I then selected and began to study. I only had two spells in the book,
but these spells were really something!
Summoning of the Lesser Healing Spirit:
You appeal to the world of Spirits, summoning the Lesser Healing Spirit, which
gives part of its essence (life force) to the injured person. The strength of
the summoned Spirit and the amount of the essence given is determined by
Intellect. Kamlanie (casting) time: 2 seconds. Cost of summoning (before
initiation as a Shaman): (Character level) of the summoner's Hit Points, Cost
of healing: (Character level)*4 mana. Restores (Intellect*3) Hit Points.
Lesser Lightning Spirit Strike: You appeal
to the world of Spirits, summoning the Lesser Lightning Spirit on your opponent
to take away part of his Spirit (life force). The strength of the summoned
Spirit and the amount of life force taken from the opponent is determined by
Intellect. Kamlanie (casting) time: 5 seconds. Cost of summoning (before
initiation as a Shaman): (Character level) Hit Points of the summoner. Cost of
attack: (Character level)*4 mana. Damage: (Intellect*3) Points. Range: 20
Phew! I had to read this text several times to make something of it.
They didn't exactly make it simple. And they were clever about it too. It is
possible to summon Spirits before becoming an initiated Shaman, but you pay for
it with your own Hit Points. At the same time the higher your level, the
greater the cost. A bit cruel, really. But I still have to figure out how to
use all this, especially as the very word 'kamlanie' remained a mystery to me,
as I heard it for the first time. What is it and why did I have to spend 2
seconds doing it? All right, let's test it out. I looked at the area of my plot
where the Rats were darting around and saw one of the rodents sitting on a pile
of rocks and looking at me. Did I remind it of cheese or something? Well, you
just keep sitting there and I'll...
"Spirit Strike!" I shouted and aimed my hands at the Rat.
My shout made the Rat's whiskers twitch, it turned its nose this way
and that, but continued to sit as if nothing happened. What a flop!
"I call upon the Lesser Lightning Spirit to smite this Rat!
Attack!" I pointed my hands in the direction of the Rat.
"Spirit! Summon! Drop dead!" I kept trying, but it began
to dawn on me: something wasn't right here. Usually things like the use of
spells, and especially summoning of Spirits, were explained during the initial
training, which prisoners did not have! And the only magic that a Hunter, which
I played before, could use were the spell scrolls. Blast, if only I could read
the Game manual, but who'd give me access to that now?!
Maybe the problem was with the spell book itself? I carefully
touched the pictogram drawing of the Lesser Healing Spirit, thinking that
nothing bad would happen if the spell actually worked. Suddenly my hands
contained a glowing projection of a cross. It was small, weightless and seemed
to be stuck to my hand: when I opened up my fingers, the cross remained in my
palm. I even shook it a little and the spell did not detach. Well, that's
something. But how do I activate it now? I clenched my fist and tried to crush
the cross and immediately saw a message:
Do you want to add the spell of Lesser
Healing Spirit Summoning to the active section?
Yes, I do, now what?
The spell of Lesser Healing Spirit
Summoning has been added to the active spells section. To activate the spell
pick a target for healing, activate the Summoning with your thought and perform
the shamanistic ritual (kamlanie) in the course of two seconds. Until you are
initiated as a Shaman, you can use any object instead of a tambourine for the
ritual. Attention! Due to the limitations imposed on this location, summoning
Spirits to heal yourself is FORBIDDEN.
Available slots in the active spell
section: 7 of 8.
Kamlanie has to be done with a tambourine? Does this mean that in
order to heal or inflict damage I have to make a dance with a tambourine or
even some 'tambourine stand-in' until I become a real Shaman? Now I get why
this class is so unpopular: few people want to look like some dancing,
muttering idiot. When I played as a Hunter, I saw mages, quietly standing
there, stretching their hands towards the enemy, and firing lightning,
fireballs and ice darts. No tambourine-accompanied dances in sight. That was real
magic. And here... I was crestfallen. I remembered the Shamans I've seen
before: it was true, dancing and muttering idiots was exactly what they looked
like. And I can't even heal myself, they even stitched me up in this. Hit
Points were lost as Energy fell, so a nice bonus like self-healing would have
been very welcome. Dreams, dreams... Oh well, I still had the Spirit of
Touching the icon of the Lesser Lightning Spirit Strike, I was ready
to see its projection in my hand, but a message suddenly popped up:
Due to the imposed restrictions, using the
Lesser Lightning Spirit Strike spell on the territory of the Pryke Copper Mine
is only possible if your reputation with the Pryke Mine Guards is Friendly or
higher. Current reputation: Neutral.
I slumped to the ground, entirely disheartened. How could this be — the
bonus is there, but using it is 'out of bounds'? Why did they even leave it in
then? 'Well, Mr. Rat, now you can celebrate! Your life will be long and
peaceful,' I thought bitterly. Goodbye reputation and goodbye money. And
happiness had seemed so close...
With a deep sigh I got up, put my pick over the shoulder and went to
the shade to have a rest and restore my Energy. From disappointment and dashed
hopes, as well as the annoying gaze of the Rat, which continued to stare at me,
I mentally selected the Rat and grabbed my pick, pressed the icon of the Lesser
Healing Spirit in my mind and imagined dancing around myself, banging on the
pick like a tambourine and muttering the first song that came into my mind:
- The Shaman has three hands,
Take that, you grey-furred beast, drop dead and quit laughing at me.
The Rat gave a strange squeak and ran off making some weird sounds,
but I took little notice of all that. My attention was held by the message
appearing before my eyes:
+10% to Intellect. Total: 10%
Your Hit Points have been reduced by 1.
Total: 29 of 40.
The happiness that engulfed me (I found another method for levelling
up!) was so great that I did not notice how something grey and incredibly fast
jumped at me from behind the pile of rocks.
Damage taken. Hit Points reduced by 4: 10
(Rat bite) — 6 (armor). Total Hit Points: 25 of 40.
Attention! It is recommended that you turn
off the detailed description of damage during fighting.
My leg was pierced by a terrible pain. Damn Rat, have you gone
completely nuts? I give you healing and life and then you attack me for it? 4
Hit Points for a bite... Blast! It could bite me to death at this rate!
Forgetting my pick, I kicked the Rat with full force. Its Hit Points did not
fall by much, but the Rat bounded away from me, giving me the chance to catch
my breath. I grabbed the pick with both hands and prepared for the next attack.
So you want war? I'll give you war!
As a Hunter I levelled up mainly by killing mobs, so I didn't panic
now and I had a clear idea of what to do with the Rat. I may not have a bow,
but I do have experience, which is not so easily lost! The Rat quickly
recovered from my kick and instead of biting my leg again, jumped, aiming
straight for the throat. This is more or less what I expected of it. I swung
the pick, caught it in mid-jump and made it fly off again. Critical hit! The
Rat's body flickered and it was already a weightless rodent-shaped cloud that I
sent flying; it quickly dissipated. Only my loot hit the ground in place of the
Experience gained: +4 Experience, points
remaining until next level: 94
+20% to Strength. Total: 40%
+5% to Agility. Total: 5%
+10% to Stamina. Total: 20%
That's some bonus! So many things levelling up at once and, more
importantly, you get 4 Experience for one Rat. This way, if I kill at least 5
Rats and get through 5-6 Copper Veins a day, I will get around 25 Experience
every day, which would mean that it would take me under a week to gain a level!
The new level would bring new stat points and new stat points equals a new
level. My life has a goal! But I must figure out why the Rat actually attacked
me. Why did it dislike my healing so much? Does it generate aggro with mobs? I
have to get someone to explain this to me.
Picking up the items left behind by the Rat (the Rat pelt, meat and
tail) I went to have a rest. Around three hours remained until the end of the
working day, in which I had to finish off the third vein and, as soon as my
Health recovered, 'heal' another Rat.
In the remaining time, I managed to finish off the third vein (+5
pieces of ore, +1 Experience, +10% Strength, +5% Stamina, +50% Mining) and also
complete a fourth one (+5 pieces of ore, +1 Experience, +10% Strength, +5%
Stamina, +1 Mining Skill), thus increasing my Mining Profession skill to 3.
Having once again felt the same euphoria upon levelling up, I made a firm
decision to increase at least one stat as fast as possible, to see what kind of
pleasure such an increase would bring.
As for Rats, I only managed to kill one more. I sung the song twice,
thus 'healing' the next Rat, and dispatched it fairly quickly, letting it get
close to me only once (+4 Experience, +20% Intellect, +20% Strength, +5%
Agility, +10% Stamina). Although, truth be told, the Rat used that one chance
to the full, biting me for 10 Hit Points. I did not see any more Rats —
perhaps they had all gone into hiding. That was fine; for my first day I'd done
more than enough.
The horn sounded, announcing the end of work for the day. Grabbing
the heavy bag, I headed towards the exit. I joined the queue to Rine, so I
could hand in my quota and sell the surplus, of which I gathered a fair amount.
I also had to figure out what to do with the Rat tails. I waited my turn and
poured out everything I had gathered during the day onto the table, noting
Rine's surprise with pleasure.
"Not bad work, for the first day," mumbled Rine, still
surprised. "Right, 10 pieces of ore taken off as the quota. Don't forget
that it will be 30 pieces tomorrow. Now, let's have a look at the rest. As I
said before, I am prepared to buy the surplus ore at 10 coppers a piece; you
have 12 pieces, which comes to: 2 silver and 20 copper coins. Here you go,"
Rine put the money on the table.
Ah, yes. I forgot to explain about the ratio between the Copper,
Silver and Gold coins. In Barliona it was 1:50, that is, 50 Copper coins made
up 1 Silver, and 50 Silver made up 1 Gold (which could also be made up from
some large amount of Copper, but who would change Copper for Gold?).
"As far as your Rat loot is concerned, I would give 1 copper
coin for the meat and 3 for the skins, agreed?"
"That's not much," I said, surprising myself, because I
never bargained before, not even at the market: I always paid the price that
"Well, only because you're new around here, and because I see
you also have Rat tails - we'll get
around to them soon enough - I am ready to take both Rat pelts off you for 5
coins each and give you 2 for the meat. Does that suit you?"
Suddenly I saw a message:
A new profession has been unlocked: Trade.
The higher the level in Trade, the better the price offered when selling and
buying. There is some probability that traders will offer you non-standard
Your reputation with the Pryke Mine Guards
increased by 1 point. Current level: Neutral. You are 999 points away from the
status of Friendly.
+10% to Trade. Total: 10%
Of course I agree! So, levelling up in the Trade profession depends
on how often I bargain. That's good to know. I'm no expert in bargaining, but I
can learn if need be. I was also glad to find out that the sale of gathered
resources increased reputation, even if just a little.
I agreed and handed over the meat and was about to hand over the
pelts when I was stopped by a shout:
"Mahan, hold on!"
I turned around in surprise. The approaching man had a striking
resemblance to Salvador Dalí, with his prominent moustache, mad gaze and
"Mahan, I heard that you intend to sell Rat skins to this honorable
dwarf," he said, bowing in Rine's direction. But everyone in the mine
knows that Batiranikaus (or simply Bat), would be exceedingly pleased to buy
them off you for 15 copper coins a piece. Do we have a deal?"
"15 coins? But this honorable dwarf," I said, mimicking
his tone, "was offering to buy all my pelts for 20 copper a piece. So,
since we've already come to an agreement, I am not prepared to risk damaging my
relations with him for less than 25 coins," I winked at the dwarf, who was
listening to our bargaining with a pleased smile.
"25 coins! Oh gods! Weeell... all right, I'll give you 25 coins
per skin: here you go," Bat agreed surprisingly quickly and handed me a
silver coin. "Now hand over my skins."
+10% to Trade. Total: 20%
"Take them," I pointed to the Rat skins that lay on the
table and turned around to Rine to move on to Rat tails, only to be interrupted
by a terrible scream:
"Guards!" Bat screamed at the top of his voice.
"Guards, Mahan swindled money out of me! He's a cheat! I demand
Immediately a crowd of prisoners formed around us, through which the
overseers were trying to make their way.
"What happened here?" one of them asked in a low bass.
"Dear law enforcement officer! This unworthy man," Bat
pointed at me, "took advantage of my foolish naivety and swindled me out
of 2 silver coins."
"Is this true?" the guard turned to me.
"Of course not, I..."
"He threatened Bat, I saw it myself!" a shout from the
crowd interrupted me. "He said that he would kill Bat if he would not give
him the money!" "Don't give him any food!" "Let him
croak!" came shouts from the crowd, which put me in a state of shock, as I
looked around, not getting what was going on. All the people had amiable
expressions, even Bat, who stood next to me and with a totally genial and
friendly gaze, shouted that I was a piece of scum that cheated him. I started
to think I was going mad. What was going on here???
"Quiet," a stern growl from the overseer silenced the
crowd. "Now we'll get to the truth!"
The guard mumbled something and a hologram appeared next to him,
where you could see how Bat handed over the money to me. He gave me the money
and then I waved my hand in the direction of the table where the pelts were
lying, but this gesture could be read as 'Get out of here", I then turned
away from Bat as if saying that the conversation was over. Blast it! It really
didn't look too great from outside; as if I was some dodgy racketeer. The
projection disappeared and I stared at the guard in silence.
"Here's my decision," the overseer growled once again.
"Mahan immediately gives Batiranikaus back one, I repeat, ONE silver, and,
because it's his first time and he's new here, the incident will be overlooked.
If he is caught doing anything like this once again he will be punished by
being stripped of all his skill points. I'm done here! Now everyone back to
I silently gave the money back to Bat, and reached out to pick up
the Rat skins, but it was no use. My hands simply passed through the skins as
if they were no longer mine. That's right! I had already handed them over to
"Thank you!" Bat said with a smile, shoving the skins into
his sack. "Come to me if you get any more."
Bat smiled once again and left, leaving me to stand next to Rine in
a state of total incomprehension: how could people with such open and nice
expressions, always smiling and greeting you, be so cruel and backstabbing?
After all, aren't they creative people? Why do they have so much hatred for
everyone? Those shouts: "Let him rot... I saw how he threatened...".
"Why are you holding up the queue?" Rine's voice pulled me
out of my thoughts. "Let's deal with your Rat tails, can't abide these
"Yes, of course," I mumbled, feeling lost as I turned back
to Rine. I need to get a grip. So what if I lost the skins: I'll be wiser next
time and will hand them over personally.
"Right, for each Rat tail I usually pay 10 copper coins. Here's
your money and be on your way, the queue behind you isn't getting any shorter!
Your reputation with the Pryke Mine Guards
has increased by 4 points. Current level: Neutral. You are 995 points away from
the status of Friendly.
After getting my food, I headed for the barracks. I had no desire to
talk with other prisoners today and for a long time I could not fall asleep. I
turned this way and that, but the oppressive feeling of injustice I experienced
just would not let go.
"Quit spinning around or you'll drill a hole through your bed.
You're keeping the rest of us up! Did something happen?" I heard Kart's
voice next to me.
I described what happened today, even getting up in the process, but
Kart suddenly laughed. What now? I'm telling him of the terrible injustice of
this world, but he's laughing at me! Seeing that I was about to get all
indignant, Kart waved me down and, clearing his throat began to explain:
"Well, my friend, you sure gave me a good laugh! Best I've had
in a while. What can I say... ? Congratulations: you've encountered the second
peculiarity of our mine, usually newcomers don't get it from the start. If I
understand correctly, you still haven't grasped what's really going on here,
right?" Seeing that I shook my head, Kart continued: "I will give you
a couple of clues. First: today you probably levelled up in the Mining
profession and got to feel what happens when you do that. Right? Right. Think
about that. Second: there are myriads of stats that a character can have. Of these
a fair number are non-standard, but you can pick only 4. As you know, I have
the little-known stat of Chattiness — I get experience from telling everyone about
everything. Get it now?"
I felt that either I was stupid or Kart and I were speaking a different
language: I simply failed to see where he was going with it. What did
Chattiness, free stats, and pleasure from levelling up in a profession have to
do with anything?
"All right, I'll put you out of your misery, and it'll give me
more chance to level up in any case. First of all, think about what you noticed
in the morning. Though no — I'll start with the main thing. You already
felt the pleasure involved from levelling up in a profession and I am sure that
it was a sensation very much to your liking. This is nothing compared to
levelling up in one of your stats. The pleasure from levelling up in a stat is
so intense that you want more and more. And the higher the stat level, the
harder it is to level up again — that's the axiom. This is why players who
reach level twelve, which is the maximum level for the main stats in Pryke,
disappear. I have no idea where they are sent, so no point asking me. This
pleasure is the main difference between a mine for prisoners from the rest of
the gameworld. The main world doesn't have this feature; after all, they play
using filters, which are virtually impossible to remove. Now, about what you
saw in the morning. Almost everyone in the mine walks around smiling at each
other and everyone seems so nice for one simple reason - the Amiability stat.
At the starter levels it gets levelled by you simply walking around and smiling
at everyone, but from level 6 you actually have to believe that you like the
person in front of you, that you like talking to him and smiling and so on; you
shouldn't feel any falseness. That's the only way to continue gaining
experience. I remember one guy who got his Amiability as far as level 32. After
all, this is not one of the main stats and you can get it up as high as one
Kart was silent for a moment, catching his breath, and then went on:
"As far as what happened this evening is concerned... A person
finds it easiest to level up in what he practiced in real world. So what comes
out on top here is... It's the skill of Meanness. In our mine most are
levelling up in Amiability and Meanness at the same time. So that's why
everyone tries to play some low and dirty trick on someone else: you can't
strike directly, but arranging something that could lead to injury is quite
doable. This is why people get very inventive in thinking up newer and more
effective methods for doing this. You're new here, so people will be using the
simplest stuff against you, like the trick that was played on you in the
evening. Gradually these will get more complex, for which fact you have my
condolences. Everyone has gone through this. As one good man, who, by the way,
left for the main gameworld on parole, said, you can give our mine the
following motto: 'The Hypocritical Mine' or 'The Mine of Hypocrites'. So that's
the way things are around here."
Only swear words came to my mind for commenting on what Kart just
said. God, what a place to end up in! 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