User:Cryzm

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Cryzm
Cryzm the Dragon Cryzm.jpg
Championed by the Hero: Frost Swordsman
Personality: Kind
Gender: Male
Level: 62
Motto: It'll be alright.
Guild: Blue Sun Travel
Guild Position: Regent
Temple Completion Date: 10:38PM 5-18-2016
Ark Completion Status: 40.7%
Pet Type: Double Dragon
Pet Name: Sven
Pet Level: N/A
Duel Ratio Win/Loss: 1/4
Favorite Town: Herowin
Last Update: January 11, 2017

Cryzm


The God Cryzm is a normally benign god who prefers to take on the form of a dragon, although when needed he can appear as a human as well. Although he is imbued with all of the powers that come standard with gods, he prefers to use the power of ice more than anything else...no one really knows why.

Many thousand years ago, Cryzm had a pretty large following in the human world. After the second Ice Age (these are of course brought forth by Cryzm himself), he suddenly grew rather tired and decided to take a nap. But, Cryzm has a small habit of oversleeping, and when he next awoke, he found that all of his followers were long gone and his powers had atrophied greatly. Thus, he began to seek out a new champion to help him regain his former might...

(Cryzm believes that he is starting to get the hang of this Wiki thing. He thanks everyone who provided helpful advice.)

Contributions

In reality, Cryzm isn't actually a dragon. In fact, his real name isn't even Cryzm! (I know, right?) He is an avid writer and gamer and has even gotten some ideas accepted through the Ideabox here in GodVille.

Approved Ideabox Submissions
Date Type Text Yes/No
10/24/15 06:33PM /Diary/ The flag of %hero_guild% now waves proudly over the rooftops of %current_town%. I think I deserve a promotion. 104/30
10/24/15 05:38PM /Diary/ I accidentally fell into a toxic lake, and came out with an aura of %current_aura%. Can I be a superhero now, %rg%? 116/19
10/23/15 03:37PM /Diary/ Socks, check. Lantern, check. %hero_random_item%, check...wait a minute, when did that get there? 106/15
10/20/15 10:06AM /Diary/ Really, %rg%? You send me messages in bottles, on spider webs, and even written in the sky! Why can't you just tell me what you want? I think you have some serious communication issues. 93/17
10/19/15 02:22AM /News/ searching for the hero{|ine} on a horse with no name... 53/35
10/11/15 02:17AM /Diary/ Seems that I wasn't cut out for this hero business. I just got cut up instead. Do you mind putting me back together, Almighty? 81/21
10/11/15 02:14AM /Quest/ succeed without trying 41/47
07/10/15 06:46PM /News/ Filling other heroes diaries with spam... 80/38
Short Stories
Date Story
09/07/16 05:57

Dark Heart

The heat was more intense than it had ever been. Scorching, searing pain that burned my very soul as I took each laborious step towards the light. I had long since lost count of how many times I had tried to escape; how many years I had been held captive by the brand carved into my flesh.


That accursed mark was the work of my captor, my torturer, my…master. Some called him a vampire, others a dark lord, or maybe a wraith. The Lych King also seemed to be a popular appellation, even if it was not accurate. Only a very discerning few knew that he was really just a human, albeit a twisted and depraved individual.


Yet even as much as I hated the crazy old codger, there was no doubt that he was a master in the ways of dark magic. He had even taught me much since I had awoken to find myself held captive in his lair. But I wanted nothing more than to be done with him, and to that end, I fought him in the only way I could.


I swallowed hard, ignoring my dry throat and focusing on taking another step forward, then another. The exit was only a few paces away, and from this distance I could discern the edge of the barrier, nothing more impressive than a shimmering of air, yet it allowed not wind, sound, or mortal being the privilege to enter or leave.


I pressed forward, gritting my teeth against the pain, ignoring the tears running down my cheeks. I cast a glance towards the insignia burned into the back of my hand, and frowned as I noticed the skin surrounding it was beginning to flake and char. But, the loss of a hand would be nothing compared to the freedom thereafter.


Just as this thought crossed my mind, a bony hand gripped my shoulder firmly. Icicles stabbed into my heart, and I gasped as the strength left my body; collapsing to my knees, I spluttered to catch the breath which had suddenly gone missing.


Then a rasping voice, similar to parchment drawn over rough stone, spoke into my ear. “It seems you may never learn,” it said slowly, “that no matter how many times you try, you will never escape like this. You know what you have to do, if you want freedom.”


I gathered my wits about me and turned about, facing the gaunt figure, cloaked in shadow. Before I could say anything, that bony hand flashed out again and clutched me by the chin, pulling me in close to stare into his sunken black eyes. “Do you remember what I told you before?” He continued, “You are to be my successor. Even if you aren’t aware of it yet, or don’t accept it, the truth is that your powers will one day far exceed my own. But your heart is still pure. If you truly want to be rid of me, all you need to do is abandon that humanity you hold so dear. Do that, and I would be no match for you.”


It stared into my eyes; my very soul, as though awaiting a definitive response. I furrowed my brow and with as much conviction as I could muster, said, “I will never yield to you.”


The figure was silent for a few moments, but then began to laugh. It was a deep and resounding chuckle, reverberating off the rock walls of the cave and rattling my very brain. “Yield or break, it matters not. One day you will inherit the Dark Heart, and become a god among men. But until you learn the lesson I am trying so diligently to teach, it seems we shall continue our little game…”


I had thought it impossible, but the pain from my brand deepened. Conscience fled in an instant, and the world went black.


I was a human, and I would defeat this foe as such. I was mortal, and would one day wither and perish. Immortality, power, godhood…all would be mine if I gave in to that searing pain which now wracked my whole being. I knew that, and yet….


And yet I was human, and mortal, and a fool; that was who I was, and I had no intentions to give any of it up. I refused to throw away my self to gain my freedom. I was stubborn, and cursed myself every bit as much as I admired my own resolve.


The pain was a reminder. A reminder that I was not dead yet; not defeated. As long as I was alive, I would continue to fight until the day that I finally emerged victorious into the light of day. But until then, I would simply endure, and try again when I had the chance.


The heat was more intense than it had ever been, and this time I embraced it as an old friend.

10/15/16 17:25

Moving Mountains

I gazed out onto the rocky cliffs, wondering if I should have never come here. That great expanse of stone looked the same as it had back then, years ago and in a land far to the south. As I stared at the towering mountain face before me, fear more intense than I had ever known gripped my soul. That terror was warranted, I reasoned, as this seemingly innate feature of the land had laid waste to more men than I had ever met.


Swallowing hard, I gripped the haft of my spear tightly enough to make my knuckles pop, ignoring the cold sweat that drenched me from head to toe. My breath came in short bursts, and I fought to steady it, each exhale leaving a wispy white cloud in the air to be carried off across the barren plains.


This wasteland where I now stood had been an expansive forest only a few weeks prior.


Known by many names, the Alakma Pa’olctosh, or ‘striding mountain’— in my homeland’s tongue— was a fearsome creature older than the creation of mankind. Legends held that it was a remnant from a time when the universe was still being hewn from the fallen husk of Fallenrah the Serpent-Owl. This being which I had taken to calling simply ‘the Alakma’ was a fierce deity that caused upheaval and demise wherever it sought to tread.


And I had decided many years ago that I would be the one to slay it.


I realized just how foolish a notion it was, a lone man trying to slay a mountain, and really there was no grand or justifiable reason for me to do it; I certainly had no thoughts of vengeance, nor did I particularly have the good of the many in mind. Even though I had seen it from afar as a child, it had done nothing untoward to me directly. No, boiled down to the very simplest of terms, my reason was nothing but selfish.


As my childish eyes had gazed upon it from afar, I had realized just how much a thing of unrivaled terror and beauty it truly was. It swallowed the legions that had been set in its path with ease, and watching that spectacle I began to understand the fear they felt and the awe the Alakma inspired within them; surely anyone who could slay such a being would be hallowed for eternity and counted among the greatest of champions. As I grew, the extent of my own avarice for that glory and power only swelled, and that awe turned into all-encompassing obsession. Such it was that I had left my own family and clan behind and set out to become a warrior and track down the mighty beast on my own.


Along with the fame, fortune, and power such a lofty ambition might present, my ultimate goal was transcendence, like all the great Champions of old. In turn, the Almighty Chancellors of Ghallen would likely grant me a boon were I to succeed, and I would be raised to a Star-Class Paladin and receive my own Sphere of Reality to govern as I saw fit. With that aspiration held firmly in mind, I shook myself, redoubled my resolve, and strode forward to do battle.


My years of research into the Alakma had uncovered countless ancient tomes and lost texts describing various encounters with it, most of them not entirely believable. However while most accounts claimed it to be invincible to any kind of attack below a greater demon’s magic, I had found hope in one particular verse of a foreign epic, seemingly prophetic in nature.


The King of Earth, hallowed and resound,
Wrest not the thunder, nor the peal,
Yet strike the wound,
And break the seal.


While extremely ambiguous in nature, I had eventually discovered that the word ‘wound’ could refer to a heart stone of some kind; a binding crystal which, if found, could be the key to defeating the monolith. And yet finding such a thing would require a thorough search of the Alakma; something to which I doubted it would consent. Still, it had to be done. I approached cautiously, watching for any sign of movement from the stony wall before me. Seeing none, I hung my spear from a hoop on the back of my armor and drew two hooked climbing knives from my belt. I suspected that the secret to defeating the Alakma would lie at its peak, something that had likely never been surmounted by mortal hands. Flipping my knives into a reverse grip, I got a running start and began my climb.


The blades bit into the stone exceptionally well, and I found the climb to be much easier than I had expected. Naturally things could not go so smoothly forever, and I had covered no more than a dozen paces when a tremor shook the massive structure. A strange and unidentifiable sound of alarm escaped my lips as the entire the wall to which I clung began to escalate, and the earth below plummeted away. Just like that, I had risen hundreds of paces into the air.


And then, the opposite; the ground rushed up to meet me, and I realized we were also moving forward across the plains at the same time. My boots slammed into the earth while the mountain was still receding into the ground, and I fell hard. The impact caused me to see spots before my eyes, but I smoothly rolled to my feet and turned to run as the mountain began to rise once again, chasing after. The very earth itself rippled like waves on the sea, and I suddenly realized why some called this being the ‘Land Whale.’


Some of the waves only caused me to stumble as I tried to flee, but others were far too large to traverse. Tossed off my feet one instant, the earth rose and slammed into me the next. Breath was driven from my lungs, and my steel armor practically disintegrated from the impact, yet I had no time to recover before a second, and then a third ripple slammed into my face, juggling me in the air while I was helpless to defend against it.


When at last the earth settled, I found myself lying on my back, staring into the sky as the shadow of death descended upon me; the cliff face extended out over where I lay, and began to descend. I watched it through the crimson veil that obscured the left side of my vision, and vainly fought against the pain that wracked my entire being.


So this is how it ends, I thought, and began to laugh; more of a weak half-coughing death rattle than a chuckle. I had abandoned my family and my clan to spend years training and waging war with the Legion, and when I had gotten my fill of that, I had left my friends and brothers there crushed into the dust at my feet to pursue the Alakma. My ambitions of grandeur had caused me to forfeit any sort of attachment to the world, as I had focused only on this one thing…and I was not about to let it end like this!


I roared wordlessly, somehow found the strength to flip over backwards, and pushed with all my might just as the mountain hammered the earth where I had just lain. Although I had just barely managed to evade the crushing blow, I was instead hit by a ripple of earth that tossed me high into the air as the Alakma burrowed down even further from the force it had thrown into its attack.


I probably could have retreated then, but the thought did not even cross my mind. I had come too far and given up too much to flee now. Instead, I leaned forward and landed on the now-inclined cliff face. Before it had the chance to right itself, I began a mad dash towards the peak of the mountain, searching for something, anything, to help me on my climb. My daggers had been tossed aside long ago, and my spear had shattered from the various hits I had taken…not that they would be much help anyway, with my left arm hanging useless at my side. As the mountain began to rise and regain its posture, I drew the short gladius sword hanging at my belt and continued onward, towards the peak.


The Alakma at last seemed to realize what I was doing, and began to shake and thrash about in an attempt to toss me off once more, but the rock was surprisingly soft, and my sword sunk deep enough to nullify its attempts. In what I took to be a last-ditch effort, the entire mountain suddenly… jumped.


There was a feeling of weightlessness as I was tossed even higher into the air, followed by the fall. I hit hard and lost consciousness, for however long I could not discern. What remained of my vision returned slowly, and even then it was muted and blurry. But that mattered not, when I was finally able to see what lay before me. The peak was a sort of small plateau only a few dozen paces round, with the only distinguishing feature a half-buried crystal about as big around as my sword was long, glowing ominously and casting a bizarre violet illumination upon the surrounding rock. There was no doubt that this was the heart stone of the Alakma.


I cursed as my body refused to rise. I was so close! I roared at my useless being in my mind, and slowly my good arm twitched and pushed against the warm stone beneath me. Crying out with various alarming pops and creaking noises, the rest of my tattered form followed along, and when I discovered that standing was beyond me, I crawled.


The gemstone was strangely warm, and as I fell against it, a barrage of foreign thoughts and emotions assaulted my mind; touching the soul of a deity, I suddenly knew its pain. From inception to present, I saw its entire life in an instant, drilled straight into my mind. The last of its kind, it was alone and afraid. The humans had attacked it when they saw it, thinking it a monster, and it had simply responded in kind. And as my blade pierced its soul, we met death.


The gemstone shattered violently, blasting my beaten and battered body with shards of glass, and the mountain reared up to its full height before it slowly toppled over. Taken along for the ride, I could do nothing as it crashed into the earth, tossing me away into a cloud of dust. I hit and flipped over countless times, rolling across the plains until I finally came to rest, left staring at the mound which had once been responsible for the deaths of many thousands. A fitting grave for such a fierce deity.


And a fitting grave for myself, at that, for I knew that my time had come as well. The Alakma had been a great opponent, and although I had succeeded in slaying it, I had not escaped unscathed. Yet, although I had succeeded in my quest, I could feel no joy in it. If I could have mustered a laugh, I would have done so in pity of myself. I had lived the entire latter half of my life for this day, in the hopes that such an act of valor would bring me fame, fortune, and power aplenty. But now that I knew the Alakma, I could never take pride in what I had done this day. And so I would die knowing my own disgrace, while others would likely herald me a savior in the coming days. They would see it as an act of heroism, while I knew it as nothing more than the senseless murder of a misunderstood being.


As the darkness took me, I gazed out onto the rocky cliffs, wondering if I should have never come here.

Both stories were part of: Weekly Writing Challenges

Frost Swordsman

This poor hero never had a name. He was abandoned as an infant by his hero parents and left in the remote village of Herolympus. After a bit of begging, Cryzm finally relented as bestowed upon him the honorable title of Frost Swordsman. Although, it's more of a title than a name...

Lately, Frost has been begging for more space to write his Chronicles. He somehow managed to fill up his entire travel journal and needs an outlet in which to catalogue all of his adventures express himself. After a lot of whining, Cryzm got annoyed and finally relented; thus, he decided to build a wiki page. Now you can peruse all of his adventure notes in one place.

The Chronicles of Frost Swordsman

Below you will find expandable sections for each chapter of the chronicles. I think this makes it easier to read. Probably? Definitely! Just click the "Expand" option to the right of each chapter title to open up that section.

Let's clear up a few things first:

  • Italics are used for thoughts (as in, a character thinking in their head) or for emphasis. (Example: "There is no way that will ever happen," the nondescript character exclaimed.) On a side note, if you see a normal word in the middle of an italicized sentence, it is probably there to show emphasis on a word during a thought.
  • For notes or things that the hero reads (or tries to read...) I will probably put them in a shadow box, like this:
          Example of a note.
  • The three dashes (---) denote a section break. This is when a certain amount of time passes and the hero is unaware of anything that happens within that time. Such as when the hero falls asleep or gets knocked out.


Prologue

The god Cryzm awoke from his 1000-year slumber and (after a breakfast fit for a god) decided to check on the state of affairs in the human world. Yawning, he looked down and parted the clouds in order to get a better view. What he found was rather appalling.


There was not a single human— no, not even a stray dog— that worshiped him anymore. But how could this be? He had had a good following before his slumber. Had his covenant died with his followers all those years ago?


Humans, he thought bitterly, they have such short attention spans. I suppose it was too much to hope for. The fact that I overslept by a few hundred years probably didn’t help, either…hmm.


He pondered for a time as to just what he should do. Gods derived their holy might from the worship of their followers. Without a strong following, the Dragon-God of Ice, Cryzm, was all-but powerless! And that was a shame, because he was mad enough right then to start another Ice Age for those ungrateful monkeys!


What to do, what to do... he wondered, as he continued to inspect the human realm. After a while, he noticed something. It seemed that there were quite a number of heroes down there, all questing about and worshiping different gods. Most of them seemed like dullards and drunkards, but then again who else would listen to some disembodied voice telling them what to do?


“A champion!” He exclaimed, but stopped short. Yes, a champion could spread word of my faith and quest in my name...but who would be worthy of such an honor? I fear most of those other idiot heroes do more to disgrace their gods than actually help them. I’ll need someone strong and courageous. Someone smart enough to find their way out of a cardboard box would work…Hey, that’s not a bad idea! I’ll choose one of the mortals and give them such a quest. If they succeed, that shall be my champion. Of course if they fail…well, I guess I’ll just eat them or something.


Cryzm spent several years searching the world for a suitable champion to spread his influence. Sadly out of all his choices, none passed the test. Cryzm subsequently ate them, but in time he tired of the taste of drunk and stupid.


Just when Cryzm was close to giving up, he found a rather unique hero to test…in the small and remote village of Herolympus.

Chapter 1: The Champion

I’ve never had a name. Oh, I reckon about everyone has a name, but not me. They always just called me, ‘Hey, you!’ or ‘boy’. Always wondered what it might be like, having a name all my own. But I doubt that will ever happen.


I’ve lived in Herolympus all my life, but never got to know my parents. They say the two of them just dropped me here way back when and ran off before even telling anyone who they were…or who I was. I guess they were heroes, like the elders here used to be, too busy questing to take care of a newborn child.


As I grew, the retired heroes here in Herolympus taught me some of the wisdom they had gained in their travels. They taught me the most important aspects of being a hero: how to fight, how to run, how to pay attention to the mysterious voices of the gods, and— most importantly— how to drink! It took me many years to master that last one, I’ll admit.


The day started off like any other. I woke up and had my morning breakfast of beer and waffles before heading to the tavern for some beer. After a few rounds, I was so staggeringly drunk— not to mention in debt to the barkeeper— that I stumbled out of the place with the intent on find a suitable place to sleep.


The next thing I remember is waking up in the Temple. It was so cold! Ice crystals scattered as I opened my eyes, breath misting in front of me. My body creaked as I sat up, and….right there, in the middle of the temple, was a massive dragon!


I stopped for a moment to admire the impressive sight, my ingrained instincts telling me to run; I ignored them. The dragon was a beautiful sight, covered in bluish-white scales that glittered in the sunlight and a graceful demeanor. Atop its’ head were two massive horns curving around a surreal sphere of the starry night sky, like a hologram. It stared at me with two big eyes that reflected the deep blackness of that orb.


And then, it spoke. “It’s about time you woke up. I thought you’d freeze to death at the rate you were going. And eat a mint; your breath reeks.”


To my surprise, it was a distinctively male voice. It rather conflicted with the slender frame of the creature. I opened my mouth with the intention to remark upon this, but instead I said, “Umm…hello Mr. Dragon.”


“Mr. Dragon…” He mumbled, then snapped, “That’s Cryzm to you! And I’m not a mere dragon; I am a god.”


I thought hard, and that seemed to restore some warmth to my froze body. Still, I could not recall any god named Cryzm from the extensive list the elders had compiled. I said as much, to another short response.


“Of course you’ve never heard of me. If you had, I would not be here to test you.”


“T-test me?” I wondered waveringly, remembering the elders tales of how the had been tested by their gods.


“Indeed,” Cryzm rumbled, “A test fitting for the hero whom shall become my champion.”


“D-do I have a choice in this?”


“Of course not!” Cryzm once more spat, “Now, listen closely…”


I jumped as the world around me went dark. Reaching out to either side, I felt what seemed to be cardboard. Was I in some sort of box?


Cryzm continued, “Now, you are inside a cardboard box of my divine making.” So I was right! “And all you have to do in order to pass this test and become my champion is to find your way out of it.”


Well, that doesn’t seem too bad… I thought, but I was soon struck down.


“But know that, should you fail in this test, I will eat you.”


I panicked for a bit, but managed to calm myself. Well, since I have no choice in the matter, I better get started!


Hmm. But where to start? I sat there for a time, pondering my next move.


“Do you give up already?” Cryzm prompted.


“Ah, no! No….just thinking…” I furiously thought back on any advice the elders might have given me. Let’s see…they always said the most important part of questing is to think outside the box…Wait a minute. I’m inside the box right now! So I bet if I get outside it, I can figure out where the opening is!


Spurred on by my sudden flash of insight, I opened up the flaps of the box and stepped outside. I then admired the box for a bit. Hmm. These things here are kinda like doors…so that must be it!


Turning to Cryzm, who looked shocked that I had managed to figure it out, I pointed to the opening and said, “This is the way in and out.”


The great dragon snorted, blowing out a frigid wave of cold air that washed over me, making me shiver. “Yes, I admit you did rather well, and I am very impressed. I honestly did not expect you to figure it out, and so quickly.”


“Thank you very much!” I said with a grin.


“Well, as per our deal, you are now my champion. I trust you already know what that entails, after living here with the retired heroes your whole life.”


It was asked almost like a question, so I answered proudly, “Well, I know a bit. I have to quest in your name and spread your influence across the land, pray to you occasionally, and…something about golden bricks….”


“On your journeys, you will gain riches— should you not waste all your hard earned money on useless things— and fame…or infamy. As you pray to me and gain a following in my name, my powers will also grow. Your first goal is to collect many golden bricks and build me a marvelous temple so that my faith can flourish. Should you at any point in your travels accrue enough gold coins, I shall turn them into a brick for you. Should you die along the way— as I am sure you will— I shall revive you. Keep in mind, however, that I cannot materialize outside of a temple. Should I have orders for you, I will send them to you however I can. Pay attention to what’s happening around you.”


I did not understand most of the words he spoke, but I got the gist of it; I was a hero now! Wow, a hero…


“Well, if you don’t have any questions for me, then be on your way!” Cryzm roared, his icy breath washing over me and causing the windows of the temple to frost over.


“W-wait!” I spluttered, “If I’m a hero now, then…then can I have a name? Something unique and all my own!”


Cryzm appeared to consider it, growling low in his throat. “I suppose that I cannot just continue to call you ‘mortal’ or ‘imbecile’ forever. Very well. Your new hero name shall be…Umbreon!”


“Umm…sorry, but I think that one’s already taken.”


“Oh, then…ah, Yoriel!”


“That too.” I replied sadly.


Cryzm roared towards the ceiling at full volume, spraying a frost breath attack that froze the entire ceiling in solid, glistening ice. “Fine. I am the Dragon-God of Ice and Frost. Since you are my champion, you shall from this point onward be called, ‘Frost Swordsman.’


Frost Swordsman… I was unsure whether I liked it or not. It was certainly original, but at the same time, it was a little lame. Swordsman? It’s more a title than a name…


Before I could voice any of my concern or disappointment, Cryzm bellowed, loudly enough to rattle the entire temple, “Now, my champion Frost Swordsman, begin your adventure!”


Amidst the flakes of ice pelting me from above, I watched as Cryzm’s form slowly turned semi-transparent and then seemingly liquid. It swirled in the air around the black orb he held between his horns, and he was quickly gone altogether.


And so my journey began.

Chapter 2: The First Quest

I awoke in the hayloft of a barn, covered in straw and miscellaneous refuse. I lay there for a while, listening to the throbbing in my head. Wincing from a sharp pain above my left eye, I sat up and looked around.


Man, I don’t remember a thing from last night… I thought to myself. It was just then that I noticed the note pinned to my chest. I pulled it out with a grunt, and unfolded it. The lines of text were flowery and elegant, but readable.


          Watch as your next quest completes itself.


I sighed heavily. That sure sounds like a lot of work, I thought uneasily, but I suppose I’d better be on with it.


It had been only a few days since Cryzm visited me and tested my mettle. In the time since, I had gathered my things and left the village, bidding farewell to the others. All-in-all, they seemed rather happy for me.


Along the way, I had fought monsters of many sorts. I had heard tales of the mysterious Guild of Monsters, but I had never imagined that they would be so active! Thanks to my own skills and Cryzm’s divine intervention, I hadn’t died even once…yet.


Setting my thoughts aside, I rose and departed the barn. As I left, the farmer saw me and chased me off with a shovel. He even threw it at me! But the jokes on him; its my shovel now. No doubt it will come in handy someday.


Of course, I had no map to find my way, going instead by the various milestone markers set up along the road. They were…well, rather imprecise, but with them I could get a general idea of where I was headed. As it turns out, my sense of direction is terrible! Who knew?


My sense of destruction however, was just fine.


It was about midday when suddenly, I was ambushed by a fierce Basement Dweller. It wasn’t very quick, or strong, but it was persistent, and had good defenses. I watched as strike after strike of my sword was deflected, and attack after attack got past my shield. My health was dropping fast, too fast!


Just when I thought it was hopeless, that my days as a hero were over, I felt a renewed sense of vigor flow through me. And with that came strength. I quickly slew the creature and claimed my reward: a Learner’s Permit.


Just what exactly am I permitted to learn with this? I wondered as I briefly investigated the loot before stowing it away. With one last glance towards the dessicated corpse of the Basement Dweller, I continued on my way.


I silently thanked my lord for his timely encouragement. Without that, I most likely would have been dead at the tentacles of that Basement Dweller. Cryzm would have been able to resurrect me, naturally, but I was not exactly keen on dying in the first place. I’ve heard that it is quite painful, and while you’re dead your corpse is left unguarded for things to mess with…


I shook my head violently to dispel the image of a monster turning my corpse into a delicious soup, and got serious about getting on with my quest. Although that thought did make me hungry, oddly enough.


I slogged on for a few more hours, stopping only to snack and take a quick nap. My quest was oddly non-specific, but I figured I would know when it was done. I encountered a few more low-level monsters along the way, but with Cryzm’s help they were no match for me. I got so caught up in the fights, nightfall came before I knew it.


I decided to set up camp for the night. I was really out in the middle of nowhere it seemed, and finding another barn to sleep in was out of the question. Of course, I had never been camping before. I did not even have a sleeping bag!


Luckily it was a somewhat warm night, but I still needed a fire. Sadly, my attempt to make fire was an epic fail. I built a small pile of what I considered to be flammable materials—some dry grass and twigs—and started rubbing two sticks together in an attempt to make a spark. I had seen many retired heroes do this in the past, and sometimes it had even worked. I had great success on setting everything except the small pile ablaze, so I took that as a good sign.


The accidental fires soon began to rage out of control, however. I stopped, dropped, and rolled, but only ended up scorching myself. While I was beginning to worry that I was going to burn to death right there, there was a deafening crack of thunder in the sky, and rain poured down upon me. The flames were almost instantly doused, and shortly after that the wind started to blow, driving the freezing drops of rain into me and soaking me to the bone. Oh, but it got worse. Shortly after that, the temperature dropped sharply and that rain turned into snow, drifting silently to the earth.


I sat back on the ground and thought about my next move as my wet clothes and skin began to freeze solid. A thin layer of white was already building up on the ground and my own shivering form. I stared forlornly at the unsuccessful campfire of mine, and pulled out a soggy piece of bread, chewing on that while I thought.


I decided that I had no choice but to ask Cryzm for help. With that, I got on my knees, my frozen body creaking and cracking, and offered up a prayer. Oh great Cryzm, I know you are a great Dragon-God of Ice, and I cannot help but think this snow is your doing, but surely you could help me build a fire…right? Please?


I stayed like that for a few minutes, and just when I thought my prayers had fallen on deaf ears, there was a rumble of earth and a deafening crack in the sky. Suddenly, a blinding lance of lightning crashed down in front of me, blasting my little pile of sticks into a glowing bed of cinders. Slowly, the rest of the kindling caught on fire, and there was soon a healthy fire flickering away there.


“Thank you.” I whispered aloud, and stacked a few larger pieces of firewood on top of the fire.


The next morning as I packed up to leave, I saw an odd sight. There was no sign of the random snow from the night before, and the sunlight shone brightly upon the morning dew hanging from the surrounding foliage. It was really quite a beautiful scene.


The odd thing was what I saw right in front of my feet. A column of ants was marching in a peculiar rhythm that appeared to spell out the word, ‘Dig.’ How odd, I thought, as I started packing up my equipment in preparation to leave. However, a colorful little bird fluttered over to me and cawed, “Dig! Dig!”


I stared at the little cretin until it felt weirded out and flew off. I watched it leave, and written in the clouds in the sky was again, the word ‘Dig.’ I sighed heavily and conceded the point. Fine, Cryzm. I’ll give it a shot. If you’re being that persistent, there must be something really good buried here!


Tossing down my gear, I retrieved the shovel I had been given by that nice farmer earlier and set about digging a hole.


I soon wished that that farmer had given me a backhoe instead. For one thing, digging a hole is hard work! It certainly did not help that the ground was so unbelievably filled with rocks. I spent most of that day digging, only taking breaks to fight off the occasional monster that came around. It seemed that they were being attracted by my digging song. I quit as soon as the hole was as deep as I was tall, crawled out and went to sleep.


I spent the next three days digging that stupid hole, and found absolutely nothing. Near the end, it had turned into a small crater large enough that I needed a ladder to get in and out. I had begun to take my breaks in the hole, and it was as I was munching on a hero sandwhich that I heard a voice from above shout, “Oi, you okay down there?”


“Cryzm?” I wondered, but quickly realized it could not be him. This voice was jovial and friendly, but still deep and resounding.


“What? Who’s that?” The man asked as he lowered himself down into the hole to join me. He looked like a hero, tall and with shaggy brown hair and a short scruffy beard. His blue eyes were like a hawk’s gaze as they latched onto my own. He wore a grey tunic and trousers that made him look the part of a commoner, but the matching cloak and a sword at his waist gave him away. He gave off a strong sense of purpose.


“So I take it you’re a fledgling hero, eh?” He asked, smiling lightly.


I nodded. “Ah, yeah. You see…” I told him my story without him even asking, but he listened intently and scratched his chin thoughtfully as I went. I finished with, “…and in the end, I didn’t even find anything after all this digging!”


He chuckled after hearing the end of my story up until that point, and said, “Hey, don’t get too discouraged. The first quest is normally the hardest, but as for digging holes goes, I’ve dug plenty of them in my day and most of them are either empty or have a strong monster lurking in them. I’d say this was probably just to test your mettle.”


“Test me?” I wondered. Oh yeah, that sounds just like something Cryzm would do. That jerk!


My mysterious new friend had no idea what was going on in my head of course, but he responded to what I had said aloud. “Yeah, I mean…think back on how far you’ve come. You probably didn’t know much of anything before setting out as a hero right? Your quest was pretty simple, so what have you learned from it?”


“Hmm…” I thought back on my short journey over the past several days. “Well, I guess I learned what it really means to be a hero, huh. Fighting monsters, camping out every night…it’s not all fun and games, it’s hard and dangerous work! I have to have faith in my god and quest in his name to help others. Well, I didn’t really help anyone on this quest, but…the next one I will!”


The man gave me a friendly slap on the back and exclaimed, “See? It wasn’t all for nothing after all! Looks like you’re all finished with that quest now, too.”


“Yeah, and…and maybe drinking isn’t everything! I mean, I’ve been sober for a few days now and I feel great!”


“Hey now, let’s not get too carried away…” The man said as he pulled out a small flask from his pocket and took a long draught. “Still, well done. Here, you deserve a reward.” With that, he tossed a handful of gold and a small healing potion at me.


I stared at the gifts and stuttered, “T-thank you, sir.”


He waved it off as if it were nothing. “Don’t mention it.” As he climbed out of the hole, he turned back and said in a serious tone for the first time, “Also…Monsterdam is just a short way up the road from here, to the east. It isn’t a very welcoming place, but just keep out of the way and find an inn called the Kind Dragon that caters to only hero patrons. Don’t stay too long there and you’ll be just fine. Oh, and remember…not all heroes are good.”

With that, he disappeared into the deepening twilight of evening.

Chapter 3: The Monsterdam Mash


Author's Note: This title is a play on the song Monster Mash by Bobby Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers. Fun fact.


Monsterdam. The home of the infamous Guild of Monsters, and somewhere I would really rather not be. But here I was, slipping my way through the streets under the cover of dusk with the hood of my newly-found cloak pulled low to hide my face.


I really did not want to be seen. During the day, Monsterdam was the only place in all of GodVille that heroes and monsters could live in peace and harmony. At night, however, that changed…or so I had heard. Apparently the monsters were lately fond of something they called, ‘The Hunt,’ where they would chase lone heroes through the streets of the city and out into the countryside. I knew I could handle a few of the weaker monsters, but if they formed up a gang I wasn’t so sure.


I got lost quite a few times trying to navigate the twisting labyrinth of Monsterdam’s streets in the dark. Of course I would have probably gotten lost during the day too, but I blamed it on the darkness. I did not dare ask for directions from the monster inhabitants of the town, either. Eventually, I came upon the sign for the Kind Dragon Inn and stumbled in through the door.


There, I was instantly greeted by a smelly commoner who was apparently the owner of the establishment, and was set down at a table in the common room and sent a warm meal, after which I rented a room for the night. There was live entertainment, some heroine caterwauling incoherently to the beat of stomping feet, but I did not spend much time listening to it. Instead, I exhaustedly climbed the stairs to the second floor, found my room, and collapsed on the bed.


Outside, I could hear a lot of commotion along with that from the common room below, but I tuned them both out. Sleep came quickly after that.


---


“Frost Swordsman,” said a deep and familiar voice filled with regal power, “Open your eyes, fool!”


I groggily complied, and stopped to stare. The room was just as I remembered it, but much darker. There in the center of the space stood who I supposed was Cryzm, in human form. He had long and lanky bluish-white hair that glittered like morning frost, picking up light from somewhere in that darkness. His features were a bit more feminine than I would have expected; it made him appear oddly pretty, for a man. He might have been in his early twenties. As for attire, he wore a full suit of glittering armor that matched his hair quite well.


“Wha— !” I exclaimed, and rolled off the bed onto the floor. “B-but how are you here? I thought you said that you could only materialize in temples!”


Cryzm smiled, but it did not look very kind. There was definite malice befitting a dragon hidden behind those starry-night-sky eyes. “Of course, that has not changed. But this is a dream, and you are not really awake right now. Also, I’m surprised you remembered that. Anyway, this is one of the most appropriate ways for a god or goddess to speak directly with their champions, although it does take a fair amount of power and I will not be able to stay here very long…so listen up!”


“O-okay…right. Well, what do you want?”


“What do I want?” Cryzm mocked sarcastically, “Show me some more respect, mortal. Do not think for an instant that I cannot replace you as I so desire.” He licked his lips, but the effect was somewhat ruined without his dragon form.


“Ahh, sorry…Cryzm. Sir! Y-your highness? Most exalted—”


“Enough of that. ‘Almightly’ will suffice.” Cryzm calmly cut me off mid-sentence. “Now, you’re wasting my time. Listen up! First, I must congratulate you on the completion of your first quest, nicely done. Now that’s out of the way, I have a task for you. You will leave Monsterdam at first light, and hasten to Godvillewood. There you will spread word of me among the commoners, and try to gain a following. Do you understand?”


I nodded that I did, and Cryzm crooned, “Good. Then I shall be on my way. Make haste.” With that, Cryzm waved his hand nonchalantly and the whole room wavered and disappeared. Suddenly, I was falling from a tall cliff…


---


“Ahh!” I shouted, and sat bolt upright. Sunlight was pouring in through the window; morning had come, and I should be leaving. I rubbed my temples while I rose and gathered my things.


Just then, there was a loud crash and some yelling from downstairs. I rushed out into the hallway and leaned over the balcony that overlooked the common room to see a scene of chaos.


A group of monsters had smashed in through the front door and were indiscriminately slaying the unarmed and inebriated heroes-at-ease as they lounged about. As I stared— transfixed in horror at what I was seeing— their Battlesheep commander noticed me and called out to the others, “Upstairs, baa~!”


I pushed off the railing and ran back into my ranted room, slamming the door behind me and barring it with the small dresser than had been provided. Shortly afterwards, the entire doorframe began to shake violently as my pursuers attempted to gain entry.


I looked around the room for a means of escape, finally resting my gaze on the small window. I rushed over and pried the old and stubborn window open, taking only one glance back to see how the monsters were progressing. It seemed that they had gotten the door open far enough to stick one hairy arm through. In the palm of that hairy hand was an eyeball that stared at me and blinked.


Creepy…man, I don’t even want to know what kind of monster that is! I stuck my tongue out at it and winked before making the drop to the alley below. From all around, I could hear the sounds of battle. Just what was going on?


I landed and dropped to a knee to absorb the impact, then chose a direction at random and took off at a sprint. Rounding the corner, I plowed into something soft and went sprawling out into the center of the street. As I rubbed my aching back, I turned to see the guy I had ran into getting up… Hey, it’s the same guy from yesterday!


The man offered me a hand and helped me to my feet. “Oh, so you decided to come after all. Come on.” He gestured for me to follow, and we both took off down the street. “Well, sorry my advice turned out to be a little sour, but please don’t hold that against me! They moved sooner than we anticipated…” He frowned, but quickly came back to his normally light tone, “Anyway, don’t worry. Just stick near me and we will make it out of here no problem!”


I nodded, trying to keep up with his pace. I wondered just how strong he was. He was obviously an experienced hero, and he was not even getting winded from this jogging pace. If I had to keep this up for too long, I wouldn’t even have enough energy left to fight my way out of town.


He led me towards the main gate of the town, were a group of monsters were waiting, barring the way with fangs bared. On the way, we had passed a through a few small skirmishes of heroes against monsters, but there were no other heroes here. I thought that the monsters were winning the battle.


“W-we should turn back…” I stuttered. There were at least twenty of them, and all mid-levelled monsters, at that. The two of us did not stand a chance, no matter this guy’s level.


He did not listen to my protestation however. He simply smiled and said nonchalantly, “Hey, stand back. I’ll be fine.” He drew his rapier-style sword and advanced slowly, facing down all of the monsters at once.


“H-hey man, wait a minute, that’s—” Whatever I had been about to say was cut off by a roaring cacophony that shook the whole street. The man’s mouth moved, calling out a word— or maybe a name— but I could not hear what he said. An arc of lightning lanced down out of the sky and struck his upraised sword, and he brought it down to a ready position. The monsters watched him warily.


The air crackled around him from the power he held in his sword, and before I could even make out the motion, he stabbed forward in the direction of the group of monsters with his blade. There was no sign of anything being launched; the blade simply stabbed at the air, and then the ground under the monsters exploded, tossing the enemies into the sky. The man kicked off from the ground strongly and launched himself into the air, spinning and slashing in one continuous arc of flashing silver. He landed moments later, having finished all of the enemies off just that quickly.


“That was fun! I call that, the Monsterdam Mash!” He laughed, running a hand through his hair before motioning for me to follow him.


We ran for about a mile away from the town before stopping to catch our breath. I felt that I should say something, so I led with, “Hey, ah... my name is Frost Swordsman. Thanks, for… that.” I had no idea what to even call what he had just done.


He waved it off inconsequentially. “No probs. Frost Swordsman, eh? That’s more of a title than a name…”


“Heh…yeah…”


“Well, I like you. I guess it’s common courtesy to give you my name in return, right? But I think it’s better for you if you didn’t know mine just yet. At least, not until you’re a bit stronger. Okay?”


Yeah, who am I to argue with that, I thought. “I-if you say so.”


“Sorry. I think you can take it from here, so I’ll just be on my way.” He started moving away, but turned back before he was out of sight. “Oh, and one more thing! You should join a guild someday soon. They might want you to be a bit stronger than you are right now, but I have faith you will be just fine. Alrighty then, later Frosty!”


I watched until his form faded from sight entirely.

Chapter 4: Stronger.

It took me about a week to reach Godvillewood. I did not have an active quest at the moment, but that didn’t stop me from fighting evil along the way! Even so, as my level increased I could not help but reflect upon the events from Monsterdam.


Just what had that mysterious man done? Was it some sort of skill, maybe? If so, it was unlike anything I had ever seen or heard of before. He had to be at an unbelievably high level in order to fight like that.


As the monsters I encountered began to grow stronger, I started to realize my own lack of power. Sure Cryzm seemed pretty reliable, sending me encouragement as I needed it and healing me up when I was on the brink of death. That was all well and good, but I felt that relying upon him so much was not exactly a healthy practice. What would happen if I ran into trouble when he was not around? I’d have to learn how to fend for myself, and quickly.


Hopefully Cryzm can suggest some way for me to get stronger like that, I hoped.


I entered Godvillewood just after midday, the sun shining brightly in the sky at my back. It was a warm and welcoming place, with thick evergreen forests stretching out as far as the eye could see. According to the Fun Facts section of my new map, this place was mostly a tourist destination for people from all over Godville, which meant that the people here would be almost exclusively commoners. After all, heroes don’t take vacations!


Or do they? I wondered, because I’m starting to think I could really use one right about now. Maybe I should ask…


The thought of what Cryzm would do when asked a question like that sent a truly gruesome image into my head. I did not think he would eat me over something as simple as that, but he would probably freeze me solid for a few days to help me forget about it. Yeah okay, maybe not.


As I stood there staring dully into space, some of the commoners began to give me weird looks. I assumed that they admired my hero physique. I puffed out my gut and grinned, and they went on their way.


Now, let’s see…I’m here to spread Cryzm’s divine influence huh? I wonder how I could do something like that. It would be so much easier if he would have given me a quest or something. Oh well, I think I will get a drink first.


I set about going deeper into the bizarre town. It looked as if it had been built directly into the forest. The small log homes had living trees sprouting up through them at odd angles, and gentle streams ran through the town, each one having its own little covered bridge at the crossing point. Moss was overly abundant on everything, and the air was cool and moist. After only a small distance, the canopy overhead was so thick as to block out the sun.


I soon realized that trying to find my way through this town without a guide would not end well. I waylaid a couple of commoners and asked, “Excuse me, do you know how to get to the tavern from here?”


The two— apparently newlyweds— looked at each other briefly before the man responded, “Sorry hero, but there is no tavern in this town. There are many inns though, so maybe you should try one of those.”


They tactfully escaped while I stood there with my jaw hanging wide open. No tavern? How could this be! I grabbed a handful of my hair and groaned forlornly. Okay, I will try one of these inns then!


I stopped many times to ask for directions, and spent about an hour going around in a complete circle, before I found one of the town’s many illustrious inns. It looked small, and was built into the trunk of an unbelievably huge tree. Apparently the inside was mostly underground. I went inside, and frowned in confusion.


There was no common room of any sort, nor was there a bar. All that I noticed was a station of some sort set up in the center of the space with one well-rested commoner sitting in a plush chair behind it. On one side of the room there was a natural fountain built into the wall, and the other side had a woman playing soothing tones on a golden harp. The floor was entirely made of marble and there was a large chandelier hanging from the ceiling that illuminated the space.


The man who I assumed was some sort of innkeeper did not so much as glance my way until I stepped up to the counter. At that time he blinked as he looked me up and down rather rudely and twitched his nose. In a very formal and snooty tone he said, “Welcome to the Water Tree Inn. How may I help you?”


“Umm…h-how much for a meal and room for the night?” I asked hesitantly.


Never in my life have I moved so fast to escape a tree. Looking back on it, I think I might have used the Quantum Leap skill for the very first time. I did not stop until I could no longer hear that miserable harp. Just what kind of weird place is this? No taverns, and that for an inn…


I leaned up against a cabin to catch my breath and sighed deeply. I don’t see how this could get much worse. It was just as I had that thought…


I heard the high-pitched and innocent voice of a little girl speak to me, “Excuse me, sir? Y-you’re a hero, right?”


I glanced down to see a young girl, maybe age 11, wearing torn and tattered clothing. She wore no shoes, and her face was caked with grime. Her hair that might once have been blonde was tied up in two ponytails, and the expression she made was perfectly innocent.


“Yes?” I responded, “What’s the matter?”


“Ummm…well, you see…I’m an orphan. The only way I get by in this town is by stealing or begging from others, but when I saw you were a hero I just had to talk to you. I know heroes are usually good and just, and you must have some extra money from fighting monsters and taking on quests all the time, so…I was wondering if you might be willing to share something? Anything will do just fine, anything at all!”


Looking down at this girl and the expectant look she wore, I saw what might have become of me had I not been left in the care of those retired heroes of Herolympus. I easily could have wound up begging on the street, just like her. I might not have been rich, but even so there was no way I could refuse.


I nodded and pulled my coinpurse from a pocket, holding it down and preparing to take a pinch of coins out for her, when she quickly snatched it right out of my grasp.


Instantly, her face twisted contemptuously, and she spat in a cruel tone, “Hahah, you heroes are all the same; complete idiots!” With that she took off at full speed, expertly weaving past the onlookers in the street.


I stood there entirely dumbfounded for a few seconds before I was able to regather my wits and give chase. But she had an overwhelming advantage on me. I was a weary traveler and quite a bit larger and less evasive than she was, and on top of that…she knew her way around this town, while I did not. It was no contest; she lost me in under a minute.


Muttering a particularly choice string of curses and with night closing in, I crawled into an alleyway out of sight and made arrangements to sleep on the cold, hard ground that night.


---


I awoke the next morning with a stiff and aching back. The moss underfoot had been quite nice as a mattress, but there were all kinds of rocks and debris underneath that which had poked through and into me for most of the night. I set out that morning in hopes of finding the temple in this town. I mean it had to have a temple, right? Every town has a temple.


It seemed that there was finally something that I could relate to in this strange place. After asking for directions again and spending a few hours trying to find my way there, I finally ended up in front of the massive structure.


Situated in a large square away from the other parts of town, it seemed rather deserted here. There were a few commoners about and I even saw some heroes who had set up camp nearby. I should have come here last night…


The temple itself might once have seemed quite grand when the town was newer, but it had fallen into serious disrepair since then. There was a thick layer of grime on the stonework and colorful windows, and ivy had completely taken over one side.


Just then I noticed a woman in front of the temple with an armful of flyers. She was dressed in such a fashion that I thought her to be a priestess or something of the sort. With each commoner that passed by, she attempted to hand a flyer out, but was shot down each time. I watched until her fifth attempt, after which she slumped over to sit on the stone steps leading into the temple dejectedly.


I suddenly felt a very strong desire to talk to her. I considered that maybe it was Cryzm influencing me briefly, but while my mind was occupied on that thought my legs started moving on their own. As such, I had no idea what to say whenever I finally stopped in front of her.


She looked up at me and we stared at each other for a bit. Looks like she doesn’t know what to say either. I decided to break the ice. Yes, Frost Swordsman broke the ice (Terrible pun here, couldn’t resist!).


“What’cha doin’?” I asked in as carefree a tone as I could manage.


She blinked in surprise and answered, “O-oh, hello traveler. I am passing out flyers to the townsfolk and tourists around here asking for help to fix up the temple. I’m sure you can see that it’s in pretty bad shape. But….no one seems to be interested.”


Seeing that sad pouty face, I could not stop myself from saying, “May I have a flyer?”


“W-what? You really want one?” She exclaimed excitedly and almost dropped the entire stack as she pulled one out to hand to me.


It read:

          Imade, last priestess of the temple of Godvillewood
                         Formerly asks for assistance
          For the appropriation of funds, labor, or resources
       In order to restore our grand temple to its former glory
                     Any and all donations are welcome

“So, what do you think?” She asked once I had finished reading. She was very patient.


“Umm…well. There are a lot of big words and honestly I got bored towards the end. I’m not even sure what the point is.”


She seemed to take offence to that for some reason, and muttered, “I swear! The commoners are heathens and the heroes are useless idiots!”


“Well, what are you trying to say?”


“I. Need. Money!” She yelled the last word, and a few of the heroes camping out across the square shouted back with remarks such as, “Yeah, don’t we all?” and “You’re telling me!”


“Oh…” I said slowly while taking a step backward. I had never seen a priestess get so worked up before, and it was really quite terrifying. Then I remembered that I had gotten robbed the night before. “Sorry, but I don’t have any money.”


“What kind of a hero are you anyway? Never mind, those others said the same thing. I don’t suppose you’re any good with your hands?”


“Well, I don’t mean to brag but I’m pretty awesome at shadow puppetry,” I told her confidently, bending my hands to showcase my excellent shadow centipede.


She laughed once or twice before she hung her head in her lap. "Just go away,” she mumbled.


I probably should have done just that, but I still felt a strange urge that this girl was important somehow. “Hey, maybe I can help by trying to pass out those flyers?”


She sighed heavily and looked up at me again. “I suppose you think it’s some sort of quest, don’t you? I’ll tell you what I told the others; I don’t have anything to give you.”


Without hesitation, I responded proudly while banging a fist against my thin breastplate, “Don’t worry about that. A true hero quests just for the sake of questing!” Hmm, but is it really a quest if I don’t travel anywhere or fight monsters? Ah, who cares?


“Y-you’re serious, aren’t you? Well, if you insist…it would be a really big help.”


As she handed me the stack of flyers, I noticed a crowd had gathered around us. Some were of the hero community, but most were commoners. As I began to have a feeling that I had done something wrong, one of the commoners exclaimed, “Is it true, hero? You don’t quest just for riches and fame?”


Apparently that was what all the others were wondering as well, because they suddenly fell silent. I nodded and replied loudly, for all to hear, “Of course! A true hero is a champion of their god, and quests in his name. Anything else is just a bonus.”


The whole crowd ‘Ooohed’ and ‘Aaahed.’ A few of the heroes, with tears in their eyes, even started clapping before they realized that it wasn’t catching on with the rest of the crowd.


“Well then, who is your god? For what manner of virtuous being do you quest?”


“I quest in the name of the Dragon-god of Ice and Frost, the almighty Cryzm!” I exclaimed.


Shortly after that, the commoners in attendance all converted to the faith of Cryzm. The heroes were not able to convert, but they agreed to help spread word of the temple’s situation throughout the town. The commoners donated what they could spare, and went off to spread the word of Cryzm’s faith to the other commoner residents of Godvillewood. Imade was so happy after that; she thanked me profusely for my help, and allowed me to stay in the Temple for the night. Hey, it’s no inn, but better than nothing.


That night, I stood before the altar and waiting for Cryzm to materialize. As he did so— appearing before me in his frightening dragon form— the ambient temperature of the room decreased dramatically, and soon a layer of ice had formed over every surface in sight. My own breath came out in white puffs.


“You have done well, my champion.” Cryzm rumbled, staring at me with his starry black eyes.


“T-thank you, Cryzm.” Just then I remembered our last conversation, and hurriedly added, “Sir! Almighty, sir.”


He made a sound like far-off thunder that I thought might be laughter, but it actually just made him seem more scary. “I must commend you. You were off to a terrible start, but in only one day you were able to send word of my faith surging through this hamlet like wildfire. Not only that, but you managed to secure lodging and keep those other heroes busy and occupied all at the same time. It was a brilliant maneuver.”


I stared at him blankly while I waited for the words to sink in. “I really did all that?”


“What? Of course you did, you idiot! How am I supposed to praise you on a job well done if you don’t even realize it yourself? Well, I knew it seemed much too brilliant to have been on purpose…” Cryzm’s heavy sigh blew a frigid blast of cold air at me. It was strange, but I did not even shiver. Perhaps I am getting used to the lower temperatures, I thought.


“Oh, and before I forget, Imade says that she has never heard of you before! So Almighty…well, what’s up with that?”


“That foolish priestess is not even aware of half the gods in this realm, I assure you. No, likely not even a tenth of the total number. Gods come and go, and new ones are born every day. There is no way that a mortal can know of them all. Do not trifle your already overly filled head with something as useless as that.”


“I see. Okey-dokie then.”


“Very well. I originally intended you to stay here for several days or even weeks or months, but you have done so well in just one day that we can now move into the next stage of your development.”


I could not say why, but that did not sound good to me. What exactly did he mean by ‘development?’ Was it like a second puberty or something?


Cryzm continued, “I trust that you remember your…friend…from Monsterdam, yes? The one that showed you the might of a true hero?”


I nodded vigorously. “Yes, yes of course I remember him!”


“I trust that you want to get stronger like that, yes? I can tell that it weighs heavily on your feeble little mind. The urge to grow stronger is something that we all have in common. Even the gods have that insatiable lust to gain more power. And now that you’ve made yourself useful as my champion, I will be able to fulfil that wish.”


“Really? Can you make me as strong as he was?” I wondered excitedly. “Make me strong enough to take down any monster that I face!”


Cryzm did that weird laugh noise again, deeper and more pronounced this time. He is a good deity, right? “Monsters come in all sorts, and can all be extremely powerful. The ones you have faced up until now have been low-levelled pawns. You simply are not yet ready to face high-levelled monsters or boss monsters, especially not on your own; that power you must gain through hard work and effort. However, I can help you on your way.”


“Oh.” I said sadly. I was really thinking that Cryzm would be able to give me the power to slay boss monsters in one hit. I guess maybe I set my hopes a little too high. “H-how exactly can you help me then; through encouragements and pointing me in the right direction? You already do that!”


“Silence!” Cryzm snapped and the whole structure shook, causing flakes of ice to call from the ceiling around me. "You recall the unique ability that man used, when he tossed a lightning bolt into that crowd of monsters? This is the direct result of the god sharing some of their power with a hero. We call this ‘Apotheosis.’ Generally it is a forbidden thing, but many of us do it to some extent to help our heroes. Some give a small taste, while others completely merge with their champions.”


“Apo…theo…Apotheosis? Sounds fancy.”


“Indeed. I have no intention of completely merging with you, but I will give you what power I can spare. Take a knee.”


I did so, and Cryzm gently touched my forehead with the tip of a claw. Instantly, my whole body tingled, then burned like it was on fire, and then turned ice cold. My whole body went numb, and slowly that numbness faded away, until everything felt normal again. Only then did Cryzm retract his claw and motion for me to rise.


“I have given you control over the element of ice; a limited version of my own abilities. With this power, you will gain a unique edge over your opponents in battle.”


Control over ice, huh… I thought as I examined myself. Everything looked normal, and I didn’t really feel any different. Wait a minute…wait a minute! Does this mean what I think it means? I’ll never have to worry about warm beer again!


Cryzm must have figured out what I was thinking by the look on my face. “Do not start thinking about using this power for your own personal gain! It is an honor, and you will not take it lightly. Use it only when you need to, and do not go about showing it off to everyone you meet!”


“U-understood, Almighty…” I stuttered sadly.


“Hmm. Very well. Even with this power, you will not be able to face a boss monster alone. The high-levelled monsters will also be out of your league until you level up some more. Do not underestimate them!”


“Okay, but…how do I go on from here? Do I just quest randomly for the rest of my life?”


“Your first and foremost duty is to build me a temple! Don't tell me you forgot that already?" Somehow he was able to make a quizzical expression, to which I shook my head vehemently. "Well, first you have to find 1000 golden bricks. And after that I shall find something else to occupy your time, do not worry. For now, I suggest you find a master and start learning some powerful skills. You could also get a beast to join you as a pet. Another option is to join a guild. I suggest to you the Blue Sun Travel guild. Like it or not, you will do all of this over the next few months of your life.”


I thought Cryzm was finished with his tirade, but he added, “You are shaping into a fine hero. It seems that my choice was not horrible after all, but you still have much to learn. I doubt I have to tell you this, but be wary of the Guild of Monsters. I do not know their intentions, but they are becoming more active and much bolder than they should be. Even experienced heroes are being overpowered and outnumbered.”


Yeah, I remember the Guild of Monsters. How could I forget that?


“Finally, I believe your friend warned you that not all heroes are good, yes? There are evil gods in this realm, and they choose evil champions to spread their influence just as I have with you. Likely you will end up meeting and possibly fighting against someone like that someday. Do not allow your preconceptions of what a hero should be stand in the way of your victory. You are the champion of the mighty Cryzm! Let nothing defeat you!” He polished that off with an impressive roar.


I nodded, trying to commit the gist of what he had said to memory. “Okay…got it.”


“Hmm…” Cryzm rumbled, perhaps not entirely convinced. Still, he seemed content to leave it at that. “Very well then, it seems you have some things to keep you occupied for a while now. Continue to quest and spread my influence. I will be watching you from the heavens.” With that, he disappeared in his typical style, blurring and swirling away into nothingness.


My head swam with all this new knowledge. The Guild of Monsters, evil heroes, the Blue Sun Travel guild…it was a lot to take in all at once. My head felt like it was about to burst! Still, I was thankful for the new powers Cryzm had given me. I could not wait to test them out.


With so many thoughts bubbling in my mind, I decided to try to get some rest before deciding how I should continue my journey.

Chapter 5: Down the River

I kicked the ground hard, springing into the air over the dreaded Dogmatic Cat’s head. In midair, I snapped my fingers and instantly froze all six of the beast’s scaly legs to the ground. I landed and quickly struck it from behind while it was still trying to figure out how to get unstuck.


I took a deep breath as I reveled in yet another victory. The powers Cryzm had given me may not have been all that awe inspiring, but they had turned out to be quite useful on several occasions; especially since it seemed that Cryzm was suspiciously absent of late. Despite a few close calls, I had managed to keep myself alive up to this point.


I had left Godvillewood about a month ago, after staying in the temple for only a few days to regain my strength and gather some supplies. Towards the end of my stay there, a wise-looking old man had showed up and given me a particularly odd quest. Well, he actually said that it was my ‘destiny’ to dance with death in the pale moonlight. Apparently he had seen it in a vision or some such. Whatever his reasons, I had accepted his request and set out in pursuit.


The problem was that I had absolutely no idea how to go about such a quest, and Cryzm had given no helpful hints as of yet. So I had decided to simply go about and slay as many monsters as I could until the quest came to some sort of conclusion on its own…but progress was slow.


I took a short break to eat and nap before setting out on the road again, headed towards Anville. I had heard from Imade once about the world-renowned smiths in Anville and thought that it might be a good place to get some new weapons and armor. I should be able to stockpile enough gold and rare loot by the time I get there to buy something nice, I thought.


So on I went, slaying monsters and possibly accidentally pillaging a small village along the way…I admit nothing! Still, I did notice that the monsters were getting a bit stronger and more persistent than they had been when I first set out. Could this be what Cryzm was trying to warn me about with all that talk about the Guild of Monsters? It’s almost as though they are becoming more organized.


After a while, the light began to fade and I decided to seek out some shelter for the night. It looked a bit like rain, so I did not particularly relish the thought of sleeping out in the weather. Luckily, I was able to come across a cave that looked like it would be nice and dry. I entered without thinking and lit a torch to see…and what I found in the depths of that small cavern was terrifying.


It was precisely what Cryzm had warned me of; one of the extremely powerful Boss monsters. It appeared to be a wild one, but even so an Alpha Mole was nothing to scoff at! I quickly fumbled my sword from my belt and brought up my shield, preparing for the fight that was about to take place…but the creature did not react to me at all.


Weird… I thought, Is it broken? I carefully inched forward and gently poked it with the tip of my sword a few times. It snorted loudly and rolled over. Well, at least it’s still alive.


“Come on, wake up!” I told it, and continued poking it; not my best idea ever.


The beast’s blind eyes snapped open, and I stared into the soulless moley depths as it bounded-- well, more like lumbered-- to an upright position. At first I thought it was pretty slow, but I soon learned that it’s hulking form could be quite nimble as well. (Author’s note: these bold words refer to the special attributes of this boss monster. It is a Hulking Nimble Alpha Mole!).


I started by trying to freeze its feet to the ground as I had done with other enemies before, but its strength was real. It easily broke through the layer of ice that vainly tried to bind it and charged at me with a speed I had not expected. I braced myself behind my shield just in time, but the force of the blow lifted me off the ground and tossed me backward into the hard stone wall of the cave.


The air left my lungs as I collapsed to the ground, shield and sword arms lying splayed out in the dirt. My head swum, and suddenly there were three Alpha Moles instead of one! Wait a minute, that’s not right. I shook my head and blinked a few times until the three images fused back together into one very angry Alpha Mole. Better…


At this point I probably should have tried running, but that particular option did not even occur to me. I slowly pulled myself back to my feet and forced my beaten and battered shield up into a defensive position. It seemed that a few of the bones in that arm were broken; one of them must have been the funny bone, because I was serious now!


I moved like a flash, dodging under the claw of the enemy as it swung and stabbing upward into what I figured should have been the weak point; its stomach. Sadly, this was not the case. My sword stuck the armored hide and sparks flew as the blade splintered into countless shards right before my eyes.


I staggered, off-balance, and once more managed to bring my shield up in defense against another slash of those razor-sharp claws. This time, the result was not favorable. My shield crumpled and tore like a piece of damp paper, and the claws continued on…straight through my armor.


The world spun as I was tossed across the room, landing heavily on the hard-packed dirt. I assumed that it was a side-effect of the powers Cryzm had shared with me, but I had not really felt chilly at all since then. However, right now I suddenly felt very cold indeed. This coldness spread outward from my chest and throughout my entire being, sapping all my strength and leaving behind an intense feeling of numbness.


I struggled to get back to my feet, but my body would not listen. My broken sword’s hilt slipped from my grasp and clattered to the ground, but the sound seemed so far away. I collapsed from my half-raised position, and could no longer keep my eyes open. Darkness overwhelmed me…


---


“Ahh!” I screamed, and sat bolt upright. My head met with something hard, there was a loud crack, and…


---


“Ahh!” I screamed, trying to shake off the intense déjà vu that I suddenly felt. I sat up slowly, taking a look around the strange place I had wound up in.


It looked as though I was on a riverbank of some sort. It was nighttime, but even so it was not very dark. The full moon hanging low in the sky cast a pale light over the entire area, and torch sconces were set up randomly as far as I could see, providing enough light to see by. The air was incredibly dry and smelled strongly of brimstone, permeating through everything. A dry and constant rustling noise could be heard all around.


Not very far away from me there was a man dressed all in black, with a matching long coat and wide-brimmed hat squatting over what looked like a boat oar made of equally jet-black wood. It was broken in half, and the man appeared to be trying to put it back together by tying a scarf around the two halves.


Looking down at myself, I noticed that I was slightly transparent. It caught me as being rather odd, but I did not pay it much mind. These things happened, I supposed; people could randomly turn transparent, why not? Also, instead of armor I was wearing simple grey robes. I did not have any idea what was going on, so I decided to ask the other man. I got up slowly and went over to speak with him.


As soon as I got close, he spoke to me without even turning around, “About time you woke up. You aren’t a very peaceful sleeper, are you?” His voice was just as dry and rusty as the sound that filled the air.


“Ah, umm, well…I guess not.” I answered, unsure of what he meant.


He went on to inform me. “Well, it’s thanks you that we’re stranded out here in the Sticks.” The way he said the word made it sound important somehow, and he gestured to the riverbank a few yards away, “No, seriously. That’s the River Sticks right there. Take a look; it’s aptly named. Just…don’t fall in. Who knows where you’d end up?”


I did as he instructed and saw that the River Sticks was, quite literally, a dry riverbed containing an endless flow of wooden sticks that defied all logical thought. That explained the weird rustling noise, and even worse it seemed that this was from where the terrible smell of brimstone was emanating. I quickly backed away and returned to the man, who had stood up and was testing his weight on the repaired oar…which abruptly broke once more.


He sighed heavily and tossed both halves and the scarf into the river, where they were quickly carried away by the current. “Guess it’s on foot from here on out…” he mumbled to himself. Now that I saw his face, I noticed that his skin was unbelievably pale, and his eyes weren’t really eyes; they were flaming pits where eyes should have gone. Maybe he just needed some eyedrops? Either way, it was a bit disconcerting. He then fixed me with that fiery gaze and said, “You don’t remember, do you? You thrashed about so much in your sleep you fell off the oar, then you woke up and smacked your head right into it hard enough to snap it in half. It’s not easy to move around here without that oar, you know.”


“Oh, sorry…” I replied, even though I had no idea what he was going on about. An oar? He must have been a fisherman of some sort, but where was his boat then? The man waved a hand dismissively. “It’s not a problem. Most heroes try to slay me as soon as they see me. You’re not, and that’s rather welcome.”


"Sure..." I replied. "But where are we? What happened?"


The figure before me raised an eyebrow quizzically. "Oh, you don't remember? Well, that's fine. It happens more often than you'd think. See, you got a little carried away and fought a tough boss monster. Well, long story short you lost and wound up here, in the Underworld!" He gestured grandly to the rather barren wasteland that surrounded us.


"T-the...Underworld!" I cried worriedly. I knew what that meant; I was as dead as a person could be. But still, I lived a relatively good life. "Why would I end up in the Underworld?" I exclaimed. I didn't mean to pillage that village, I swear! I just happened to cause a fire while I was there...and of course I had to save the valuables...


The man laughed. "Don't worry; you aren't ready to move on yet. Normally I just take heroes to a holding area until their god comes to retrieve them. It's sorta like a hero daycare I suppose...say, who is your god, anyway?"


"His name is Cryzm."


"Ah, so that one's finally woken up, has he? Yeah, I've dealt with him before. He's the reason that we had to make it so that godpower is limited in the Underworld. All he can do is come here and take your soul back up to do whatever divine things they do to resurrect you. Smell that foul stench in the air?"


"Yeah, what about it?"


"Well, a few thousand years ago Cryzm came down here and accidentally set the River on fire! We've had to put up with that terrible odor ever since."


I frowned, trying to imagine Cryzm accidentally setting anything on fire. He was an ice elemental, after all. Although he was a god, too...admittedly, I had no idea how that worked in the first place. There had to be more to the story.


"So, ah...what do we do now, umm...?" I wondered. I still had no idea what to call him.


"Oh, just call me Death, for now."


"Death? That's a nice name." Not really. What kind of fisherman is named Death? "I am Frost Swordsman."


"Frost Swordsman? That's more of a title than a name...how about I just call you Frost?" At my nod, he clapped his hands together loudly and continued, "Good. Now, Cryzm has a habit of oversleeping, but I imagine he will be around soon enough. Since we are stranded out here, how about we play a little game to pass the time?"


"A game? What kind of game?"


"Oh, I think you'll like it," Death said mischievously, "It's very simple. I will hold up a number of fingers behind my back, and you try to guess them. It's really a test of how much the Great Random favors you, but if you win I'll teach you a powerful skill. What do you say?"


A skill! That's perfect! Containing my excitement, I nodded. "Sure, that sounds great. Let's see here..." I stared hard at the ground and furrowed my brow in concentration. "Four....eight....two.....seven....nine..."


"That's incredible!" Death exclaimed, and I jerked my attention back to him.


"Huh?"


"Y-you guessed every one correctly!"


"I did?" I wondered, before I realized what he was talking about. "Oh, that! No, I wasn't guessing...I was just trying to remember all the numbers. There are ten of them, and they go in some kind of order, so it takes a bit to recall them all, you see."


Death stared at me for a few moments before he broke out into raucous laughter. "Actually, there are a lot more than ten numbers boy. Still, I'm impressed; seems the Great Random favors you quite a bit. True to my word, I'll teach you a skill. It is called Clinical Strike. It is pretty complex, so I’m really not sure you will be able to get it…but still, we are going to try!”


He waved a hand and a spectral-looking sword appeared in midair, which he deftly caught and held out to me to take, which I did. He then pointed to a small and withered tree close by and said, “The Clinical Strike skill relies upon sensing your opponent’s weakest point and expertly striking them there, like a surgeon performing an operation. If done right, you could take out almost any enemy in only one hit. Here, I’ll give you the sixth sense…” He gently flicked my forehead, and I instantly felt no different at all.


Death then gestured to the tree and I turned towards it, sword held up in a ready position. I stared hard at the scaly grey bark, searching for this weak point that Death had spoken about. As I continued to stare, my surroundings slowly began to fade away, and the tree became more defined. Then, I saw it; a small glowing spot near the middle. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the bark there was cracked. That must be the weak point! I thought, and leapt forward, stabbing the sword in my hand forward with all my might.


The blade met the bark with a loud crack, and the entire length of the tree splintered and toppled over. The force of my attack was apparently far more than needed, and I continued on and toppled forward onto the ground. Groaning, I stood back up.


Death clapped slowly and said, “Good job Frost, but you’re putting too much effort into it. Once you find the weak point, you won’t need to put all your strength into the attack. Just feel it out and use the minimum amount of strength you need.” He then added to himself, “He seems a bit smarter than the average hero, but he’s still not all there…still, he has a natural talent for fighting, so maybe…” He shook his head and pointed to another tree to indicate that I should practice some more. Each time I faced down a tree enemy, I was able to determine the weak point more quickly than ever. In time, I was also able to focus my strength appropriately enough to receive a passing grade from Death, who seemed genuinely impressed by my exemplary progress. I practiced a bit more until I was certain that I had perfected the technique.


“Good,” Death said at last, and the sword in my hand disappeared suddenly. “Looks like you’ve managed to master it. Well, against stationary trees at least. Even so, I’m sure you’ll easily get the hang of implementing it in real battle. Now--”


Before he could go on, there was a loud crack and a flash from a short distance away. Cryzm appeared there, in human form this time. He did not look happy…then again, it was hard to tell when he was in dragon form but I supposed he was rarely happy. “It’s about time I found you two.” He growled menacingly.


“Ah, long time no see Cryzm.” Death said almost cheerfully, “Good to see you so well.”


Cryzm ‘tsked’ and looked at me. “I’m gone for only a few days and you manage to get yourself killed…what did I tell you about boss monsters? You should have run and saved your skin.”


“Yeah…that would have been a good plan of action, huh…” I said slowly, scratching the back of my head uncomfortably.


Before Cryzm could say anything else, Death cut in with, “Hey now, don’t be so hard on the boy. He has potential.”


“Hmph. Well, I’m sorry for whatever inconvenience he may have caused you. I knew something must have gone wrong after I could not find you at the usual meeting place. I’ll be taking him back now.”


Death nodded. “That’s fine. Unless, of course, he would like to ditch you and become my champion. What do you say, Frost?”


“Huh?” I wondered, and laughed out loud, “Become the hero of a fisherman! You’re joking right?”


The two of them exchanged glances, and Cryzm said, “Idiot. This is the Soul Reaper, who manages all souls as they transition between life and death. He isn’t some fisherman!”


“What? No way!” I exclaimed in shock. “Why didn’t you tell me?”


Death shrugged. “I assumed you knew. I guess the fact that you didn’t explains quite a bit. You did seem oddly at ease around me, after all.”


“I don’t believe it…” I muttered disappointedly. He seemed like such a nice guy, too.


“Ignore him.” Cryzm advised, “He has been trying to entice mortals into making a hero contract with him for millennia. As far as I know, he has never succeeded in it, and I will not have you ruining that record.”


“Actually, while you were sleeping I did get a peculiar hero to join me. Oh, and we had some good fun too. I may never forget the time he sunk ROFLopolis! Good times…Anyway, it’s his choice. What do you say Frost?”


“Umm…well…you seem nice and all, but I think maybe an evil hero would serve you better. Sorry, but I’m going back with Cryzm.” Something tugged at my memory all of a sudden, and I remembered the quest I had set out upon before dying, dance with death in the pale moonlight. I looked up at the moon in the sky, and then at the figure before me, named death…could this be what that strange old man had foretold? “But would you dance with me just once before I leave? Please?”


“I don’t dance.” Death said seriously, before continuing on as though I had never even asked. “Still, you’ll be back, and I’ll ask you again to join me at that time. Think about it!”


Oh well. I’ll just tell the old man that we danced…hey, we played a game; that’s close enough!


“Yeah, yeah.” Cryzm said, grabbing my shoulder firmly.


That was the last thing I remembered.


---


The next thing I knew, I awoke in a temple. I groaned as I realized that it was the temple of Godvillewood. At least I had managed to complete the quest! When I thought about it like that, this was actually a shortcut. Still, it stunk that I had lost all my loot and money along the way. This old man better give me a good reward for such a painful quest!


Cryzm’s rumbling voice echoed in the air, “Don’t die this time…”


Hi everyone. That’s all I have for now. Thank you for taking the time to read the Chronicles of Frost Swordsman. If you liked it, be sure to occasionally check back for updates (and rate them if you like). It’s still a work in progress! Until next time,

—Cryzm