Episode 3: Death Offers a New Perspective

Amazing Journeys Online Episode 3: Death Offers a New Perspective

The wolf reached up, extending claws that dug into the tree trunk. In a smooth movement, she pulled up, back paws gaining purchase. The wolf’s gaze never left her prey.

Socrates swallowed. He scanned his “Hero” sheet, which appeared as a white document hovering in the air. The wolf visible through the translucent page. His stats were the basic starter set, all tens except for agility, which was an 11.

“Hmm, that must have been from the strikes with bow and arrow,” he thought. Of course that would not help in this moment. There had to be something, some skill that he could use to get himself out of the situation. The list was pitifully short:

  • Herblore – Rank 1: Locate and identify basic herbs from levels 1-10.
  • Cat’s Landing – Rank 1: Cushion landing from falls of 10 x Skill level + Character level for percent success: Currently 11% for up to 10 feet. Half for each 10 additional feet.
  • Climbing – Rank 1: 10% bonus to success to climbing, minus difficulty of the surface attempted.
  • Skinning – Rank 3: Skin animals for useable leather: 14% bonus to success
  • Fletcher – Rank 2: Make and repair arrows: 12% bonus to success
  • Bowyer – Rank 2: Repair and make bows: 12% bonus to success.
  • Archer – Rank 3: +2% chance of critical success to hits.
  • First Aid – Rank 1: Can make bandages and treat wounds that are basic.

Nothing. Socrates sighed. He looked down and jumped in fright. He landed while clumsily grabbing for branches above him. Vertigo swam through his head as the branch above him bent, lowering him forward where the wolf glared, her breath hot and fowl against his face.

As he scrambled for footing, the wolf reached a paw and sunk claws into the branch beside his foot. He immediately stamped on the paw, once, twice, three times. The wolf howled, snatching it’s paw back and scrambling down three feet.

Socrates breathed hard, hugging the trunk, and glaring down at the wolf. All he wanted to do was smash that smug face. Just once, before he became lunch. Suddenly, an idea came to him. He brought up the digital character sheet and looked again at his skills.

“It might just work,” he murmured. He looked down at the wolf, who glared back while extending a paw. “Either way I die. Might as well try and get some payback at the same time.” Socrates leaned over to gauge the distance. About 40 feet to the hard ground. He then stared directly into the wolf’s eyes.

“Hey you! Yes, you. Want a piece of me?”

The wolf growled in defiance. Socrates almost lost his nerve. He took a deep breath. “You can do this,” he said to himself. “Hope it works.” Socrates stepped off the branch.

The wolf’s eyes widened in surprise as Socrates hit her in the face feet first. The force pulled her from the tree. She scrabbled with her claws for purchase. Socrates bear hugged the wolf as they fell together. The ground rushed towards them.

They impacted the ground, the wolf yelping in fright and pain. The man grunted.

After several long moments, sounds of birds and insects filled the silence. After a longer breath of time, Socrates groaned and rolled off the wolf. Slowly, stiffly, he sat up. Message bubbles filled his vision alerting him to what he’d already known and felt. The damage he’d taken from the wolf’s claws in the seconds of the fall were significant. Normally, that damage along with the fall would have killed him, and sent him to the Death Waiting Room for nine hours to reflect, before he could return to the game world. But, Cat’s Landing worked in combination of using the wolf as a buffer.

Reminded of the wolf, Socrates reached out, tentatively at first, to touch the rough fur. The wolf did not stir. Looking closer, the life bar was empty. He smiled, reached for his skinning knife, and stopped. Moving his hand through the fur, it suddenly didn’t feel right to just skin it. The wolf would disappear once the skinning was done. He wanted to savor the moment, the exhilaration of defeating his first great foe, and being alive. He smiled, chewed on a healing herb that healed over time, and arched back to feel the warmth of the sun and the cool prickle of the grass.

Low growls drew his attention past the nearest trees. Several wolves appeared. There looked to be five, then seven, then nine. Most were adults, with a couple of pups.

Socrates scrabbled backwards. Pain aching through his body, as he used a tree trunk to climb to his feet. Climbing a tree was out of the question, not with this pack. Fighting was just as hopeless.

The wolves did not attack. Something or someone held them back. Socrates took slow steps backwards not turning away from the pack. He knew at any moment they would leap forward and he’d be done.

Another wolf appeared, larger than the others. The pack made space for the beast. It had reddish brown fur. A scar slashed between the eyes and down the nose. It woofed, and the pack grew instantly silent.

Amazing Journeys Online Episode 2: Fear…less

The arrow sliced the air. The rabbit turned its head, eyes widening. Socrates sensed he aimed true—until the head of another wolf appeared, jaws reaching for the rabbit. Only the arrow, intended for the rabbit, sheared the wolf’s ear and landed point buried at the feet of the hare. The wolf yelped with pain.

Socrates cursed, as he reached for another arrow, fumbled it, and watched it land in the high grass.

Father rabbit disappeared into the trees.

The wolf snarled at Socrates. Glaring, she crouched as if gauging the distance to her new prey. 

Drawing another arrow, Socrates’ hands shook. He suddenly felt a shortness of breath. The sun felt hotter. “Come on, breathe, breathe, breathe.” Repeating the word, he struggled to steady his limbs. The wolf’s calmness, as she stared balefully, sent a chill through his body. “You can do this. Take a breath. Hold, and…”

He released the arrow. The wolf leaped. The arrow missed badly. The wolf zigged and zagged, closing the distance. Socrates ran.

Placing the bow in an equipment slot, Socrates pumped his arms for greater speed. The grove was too spread out. The trees grew closer with each stride. His breath felt sharper as he pumped his arms. The fatigue bar was close to red lining, dropping below fifteen percent. When it did, he’d collapse and be wolf food.

His instincts screamed, ‘Dive!’ He tumbled right. The hair on the back of his neck tickled as he sensed then saw the wolf’s shadow rise over him. Its rear claws found purchase on his back, pushing off powerfully and leaving a searing line of pain. His roll became a sprawl, grass whipped sharply against his face and arms. Sweat slicked his back, enflaming from the wolf’s claws. 

A message box appeared before his face, translucent so that he could see his surroundings through the text: “You’ve been clawed by a matron wolf avenging its mate. 8pts damage plus one bleed point per minute unless bound.” Socrates was suddenly reminded that he was inside a virtual world.

Dismissing the message, Socrates breathing slowed, readied to sprint, and froze. The heavy growl in the wolf’s throat left the man drained of energy. His arms hung at his sides as his breathing slowly settled.

This was it, Socrates thought. First death in the game. Too soon to earn the “undying” bonus for lasting three game weeks, as he’d only been fully immersed in this three-dimensional world for three hours.

A couple strides away, Socrates spotted trees with climbable branches. But they might as well be a hundred meters with the angry animal in his way. Socrates racked his brain for a solution, any option that could save him. 

Suddenly, an idea came to him.

The wolf crouched, growling low in her throat.

The man reached into his inventory.

The wolf leaped.

Jaws closed toward Socrates’ head. He grunted with effort, shoving the bow into the wolf’s mouth, and used the animal’s momentum to push himself away. 

Reaching the first tree, he gripped the rough bark and scrambled up the trunk to the first branches, the second, and finally the third. Sitting exhausted, he looked down at the wolf. It bounded from broken bow to the tree.

Socrates smiled in relief that he was safe for the moment. He’d wait until the wolf got tired and left. His smile froze with horror as the wolf leapt and scrambled onto the first branch. She stared at him, and then the next branch.

Socrates muttered, “No, no, no…”

The wolf leaped, scrabbled with its claws, and…

The wolf climbed to the second branch. She watched as the man raised his legs and stood. She seemed to grin with triumph and expectation.

Socrates’ heart sank.

Amazing Journeys: Episode One

Father rabbit sniffed the air sensing danger. The tall grass provided some cover, however it’s brown fur would be a better camouflage next to where the trees loomed at the edge of the glade. A breeze carried the scent of flowers in bloom. Ears moving and nose twitching, the rabbit sought some clues as to where the danger lay. The babies were with the mother near the trees while he’d search for food. The grass was a good source for food. He’d scouted the area for predators before bringing out the family. A gust of wind carried a familiar scent of wolf. Now the rabbit sought the location of the predator.

Hearing nothing, the rabbit hopped a couple spaces. Stopped. Sniffed. Listened. Moved a few more spaces away from the tree line. He did not want to lead anything dangerous to his family. Draw it away and then make a break into another part of the forest. Hop, hop. Listen. Smell. 

A shadow blocked the sun. The rabbit instantly leaped. Hot breath assaulted his fur. Jaws snapped tufts of its tail. The wolf growled with frustration and hunger. It hurtled after the zig zagging rabbit, closing on it. If the rabbit could reach the trees, his chances of survival increased dramatically. It ran farther away from the forest. 

The wolf’s jaws snapped repeatedly, each time missing the rabbit’s tail by mere slivers. The rabbit raced around a boulder, forcing the wolf to steer wide to avoid impact, and creating momentary space. The rabbit’s endurance replenished momentarily, but not by much as the wolf continued pursuit. Fatigue crept inside the rabbit. It was too far from the trees to make it in time before the wolf overwhelmed it. With a burst of energy, he ran deeper into the grass. He squealed to warn the mother rabbit of the chase and the distance. She would have time to save the babies. At least they would survive.

A claw swatted the rabbit along his flank, sending him into the air. Pain raced like fire through his body as he landed and tumbled through the grass. Rolling to his feet, the rabbit stretched forward, but pain exploded as the wolf’s jaws clamped on one of its feet. The wolf shook its head viciously sending waves of pain through the small body. The rabbit kicked hard with the other foot, fueled by powerful leg muscles. Once, twice, three times into the wolf’s sensitive snout. 

The wolf howled painfully, releasing the foot

The rabbit hobbled away, its shredded foot useless. The wolf growled in triumph. It launched in the air towards the wounded rabbit.

A shadow grew over the rabbit. He watched, frozen in place, readying for the inevitable clasp of jaws on its throat, ending its life. He thought of his family.

Growls and snapping of jaws filled the grassy area. A sudden yelp of pain followed by a snap. Silence filled the grove. Bird song spread through the trees.

The rabbit opened its eyes. It twitched its ears and sniffed the air. The wolf was gone. It hobbled one way, dragging its mangled foot and then another direction. Nothing.

Ears twitching, the rabbit moved painfully and slowly in the direction of the faraway trees. 

***

Socrates finished skinning the wolf. A notification message appeared at eye level, like a floating bubble, “+10 xp for medium skinning of a wolf.” Socrates smiled with satisfaction while dropping the fur into his bag. This virtual world, Amazing Journeys, was breath-taking, he thought. The cool breeze caressed his face and bare arms. The warmth of the sun’s rays felt real, along with the brilliant colors of the trees and vegetation. More bird sounds filled the grove, some fluttering around the trees just ten meters away. 

“This is so damn real!” Socrates whispered. As total immersion worlds went, this place felt impressive.

He noticed a rabbit near a large stone. It dragged a foot. Its health bar contained a small band of red. No way it survives with a broken foot, Socrates thought. In other virtual worlds the rabbit would regenerate instantly. Here, it kept what it received unless treated. Socrates wondered if the rabbit was worth skinning experience. 

He took aim with his bow, sighting the arrow tip towards the rabbit. A sudden hush filled the grove as the birds silently sped into the trees. The rabbit sniffed the air. Its ears moved like radar, listening for danger.

Socrates took a breath, and then released the arrow.