Asheron's Call Ch 2

Having ordered a drink from the barkeep, I found a corner to sit in, and watched the comings and goings. After a while, I could tell which were NPCs, and which were players. The NPCs never moved from their spots. Players would walk up to them and converse with them. Then they'd head back out to complete which ever quests had been given to them. Listening into the conversations, I found that there were at least 3 different quests being handed out in the bar. I'd look into them in a while. First, I needed to figure out what I had, and what I knew.

As I reached out to put my drink on the table, I noticed a flicker of yellow light just for an instant. I noticed it again as I brought my hand back from the mug. Odd. I started moving my hand around in a grid pattern. As my hand came level with my chest, and a tad off to the right, a yellow panel appeared in mid air in front of me. It was a hologram. I moved my hand a bit and it disappeared again.

I began to wonder if this could be the user interface. Somehow, I had to be able to access skills and other things, perhaps this was it. Taking another sip of my wine, I spent the next half hour waving my hand around, tapping things in mid air, and generally looking like a frothing nutcase. My attempts paid off. I learned that putting my hand in one spot brought up the UI, and tapping my finger onto the hologram made it stay in place. I could then move my hand around, and tap other icons, which showed me my skills, my experience gained, how to move it into various skills and attributes and a range of other things. By experimenting, I found the switch that brought up my health, stamina and mana bars. These also appeared as a hologram, floating in front of me. By dragging it, I could move it from side to side or up and down in my field of vision.

The game as I played it had never had such a thing in it, all the UI tools were on the computer screen in front of you, to be manipulated by mouse or by keyboard. Somehow, this place had evolved that into a holographic system. What ever, it accomplished the same tasks.

I dragged the health and stamina bar up to the upper left of my field of vision. There it floated. Playing around with the UI I found the map, the inventory, attributes, skills and all the rest of the things you needed to be able to work up leveling. The health bar even showed my accumulated level which was now at 5. OK, now I was getting somewhere.

I pulled up my trained and untrained skills. Archer, Fletcher, Alchemy. These were my main skills. Secondary skills included Sword, Melee defence, and a couple of others. There was a sub-list of skills not trained yet. Selecting another tab on the UI, my attributes came up. I remembered that Coordination was the top archer attribute, and this was maxed at 100. I had a reasonable amount of strength, quickness and focus. I vaguely remembered that this was more or less the set up for an archer but since I had no way of changing any of them around I'd have to be satisfied with what I got.

Next step was to have a look at what I had in my pack. Working the UI, I moved over to the inventory section. As soon as I touched it, the pack I had placed on the floor by my feet disappeared. What the hell? Everything I had was gone! I fiddled around with the inventory UI and it opened up, showing me my original pack and the four others I'd bought at the academy. Clicking on the main pack, I saw several rows of items, including my bow, short sword, some arrow shafts and arrowheads. These were my weapons and the beginner raw materials to make up some more arrows. Other items included a mortar and pestle, as well as some health and stamina potions I'd picked up at the academy. As I hovered my finger over each one, a small window opened up giving me the name, and value of the item. That was pretty much it. I'd sold off all the stuff I had which I figured I wouldn't need. The other packs were empty. I played around with the inventory, clicking on the bow. It appeared out of thin air in my hand. As I drew back the bowstring, an arrow appeared in place. Not having anything to shoot at, I relaxed the string and the arrow disappeared. Clicking on the sword in the pack made the bow vanish, and it appeared in my hand. Cool. Now how do I put it back in the pack? That had to be another part of the UI.

I clicked another tab on the UI and my avatar appeared as a hologram. Not a bad looking fellow, tall, well muscled, with thick brown hair down to the shoulders, and a neat beard. Brown eyes, and no tattoos. Definitely Aluvian. On either side of the hologram were some transparent slots, a few had clothing in them. The two slots at the bottom showed my sword in one, while the other was empty. The tab off to the side showed some arrows. Taking a shot in the dark, I tapped the sword and sure enough it vanished from my hand and from the avatar. A quick check of the inventory showed it safely back in the main pack.

I was getting the hang of the UI. Going back to skills and attributes, I found a read out at the bottom of the screen, which told me how much experience I'd gained so far. Not very much at this point. However, it also showed me how to increase skills by using the experience on each one. Oh well, not enough to worry about for now. Maybe later after I'd picked up some more points.

All things considered, I spent about an hour learning the ins and outs of the UI, drank another goblet of wine, and was starting to feel at least a bit less freaked. I still had no idea how I got here but it appeared that I was going to be able to survive in this place. As I sat contemplating this over the dregs of my second goblet, I watched the players come and go. After a while, I tried asking one of them where the best place was for a new guy to get some levels under his belt. He told me to head south out of the town, up into the hills bordering the river. I finished my drink, and headed out the door.

Now I was stumped. Which way was South? Once again, I opened up the UI. There was a map icon, so I opened that up. Bingo, South was thatta way! I closed the map, and started hoofing it up the hill on the way out of town. Presently I came upon a guard tower, with a few strange looking critters standing round about. Time to get to it and start getting some experience.

I opened up the UI, and pulled the bow out of inventory. It appeared in my hand, and I drew back, aiming at the first critter, a green fox faced thing. A note appeared in the space over his head and told me he was called a Mite. I let fly, hit it and in a flash, the critter was in my face, jumping up, flipping in mid air and kicking at me. I drew back again, let fly and this time it shrieked, and collapsed. I rummaged round on its' body and picked up some items. They vanished as soon as I picked them up, so I checked the inventory. There they were. Now I knew how to loot. I moved off a ways and targeted another creature, this one a tall stringy fellow who stood there growling. A Banderling. I drew back, and fired. He turned toward me and started to run. He didn't get very far as I drew again and nailed him. Once more, I walked up to the corpse and rummaged around. Those items also did the disappearing act and were there in the inventory when I checked.

I wandered about the area for an hour or so, shooting at three or four different kinds of critters. As I killed them and looted them, I could feel myself becoming fatigued and overloaded. I killed a couple more of the tall skinny fellows and then made my way back to town. This time I was able to walk back without having to stop for a rest, so either I was now stronger, or I'd not picked up as much stuff. I did notice my stamina slowly dropping as I headed back to town though. After a few minutes of walking, (I'd gone a lot farther south than I'd intended,) I got to the armor shop, and stood there checking out the items I'd collected. Most of it was of little use to me, but I did pick up a better jacket, a pair of boots, and some food. The rest of it ended up on the counter to be sold and I pocketed the cash.

I wasn't feeling tired or anything yet and decided to check out all the buildings in town. Holtburg was built on two levels along the river, and I had arrived on the upper one. Since I was at the south end, I checked out the nearest building and found it to be some sort of official office. Agents of the Arcanum worked here. Who ever they were. Across the lane was a temple like building which turned out to be a guild meeting place. Next in line was the General supply shop, run by Renauld, where it appeared you could also buy some other types of gear. I had already checked out the tavern, so the only other building to look at was a barn like building housing the local grocer. Having looked at the upper level I wandered down the hill to the lower level. There were several more buildings here, including the local bowyer. I walked into the store and was greeted by a young woman NPC. I asked about her wares, and actually thought about upgrading my bow but figured I'd find a better one as loot sooner or later. I checked out the prices for the makings for new arrows, and saw that they were not too steep. I figured I still had better than 75 arrows in my inventory so I didn't bother buying anything. I had arrived with the makings for some 500 more and figured it would be a while before I needed to buy some new items.

One of the stone buildings was home to the local jewelry merchant. I had picked up a couple of baubles which the General Store shop keep wouldn't take, so I sold them to her. I looked at some of the items Monyra had for sale and it dawned on me that I had a mortar and pestle, the tools needed to start working in alchemy. I had also picked up some gems, poor quality, which I had just sold. Opps. Next time I'd have to pay more attention. Buying them back at 10 times the price was a one-way trip to poverty.

Looking around her shop, I saw a flight of stairs leading upwards. There I found two NPCs, and learned that this was where you picked up supplies if you were into magic. One of them would buy certain items from you for a huge amount of money. Things that had to do with summoning demons of some sort. Sadly, I had not yet picked up any of those yet. As I looked around the upper floor, I saw a few beds, and some chests. The chests were empty. Looking back at the beds I suddenly felt weary. It had been a long and very bizarre day. Perhaps tomorrow would be a better one. I sat down on the edge of the bed, and took off my boots. Laying back and pulling a blanket over my body, I soon dropped into a deep sleep.