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.
- 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.