Ok, I’ve decided on an experiment. I’m going to put all the previous chapters of “A Friday Fairytale” together and make them available on Smashwords as an incomplete ebook. That way, you can download the previous chapters. Every time I post another chapter, I update the ebook. This will be easier than linking back to x different blog posts.
Here is the link:
Please check if you can download the whole thing as a “sample”.
In the interim, here is the next chapter.
A Friday Fairytale:
6. The Game
It was midday when Nadisda and Mike arrived back at the ramshackle house in which the gamers were hiding. Nadisda took a look at the garden.
“It’s just not right. I should tidy it up.”
“Don’t,” warned Mike. “The house will stick out from the others and people will wonder. Next thing we have the police on our tails.”
“Police?” asked Nadisda quizzically.
“Don’t worry, all will become clear,” replied Mike. “Actually, if it makes you feel better to garden, there is a large area behind the house. You can try that. Nobody will see it from the street.”
“Thank you,” smiled the forest fairy. “Show me?”
Mike took her through the house and opened the kitchen door to the outside. A large, weed-overgrown back garden lay ahead.
“Oh, you’re right, this will never do,” said the fairy. She knelt down and spoke to one of the weeds in a whisper. Then she stood up. “The plants have agreed,” she stated cryptically.
Nadisda took some time to wander around the back garden. She created an enchanted grove under the trees in the back half of the garden, complete with moss beards on the trees, air plants, and mysterious undergrowth. She added more trees, and an old fallen log covered in green mosses and ferns, and closed the whole grove off with more trees and dense thicket so one could not even see inside it from the house. Then she used the rest of the space to plant food: Potatoes, tomatoes and other vegetables, and fruit and nut trees. With a breath of her fairy magic, all of it came into life, grew, flowered, and started bearing fruit.
She turned to Mike who stood watching her in riveted fascination.
“Come, I want to try something out!” She took him by his hand and walked with him all around the food garden. Not a single plant wilted.
“One more place,” she beckoned and led him into her forest grove, and made him sit down on the mossy log. Nothing wilted, whatsoever.
“See?” she said triumphantly, “you’re not that evil!”
Mike laughed. “I’m not evil at all in this world, fairy!”
“You are a little bit evil,” she corrected him. “For stealing from people. But I forgive you, provided that you stop that. You don’t need to. You’re better than that.”
“I don’t need to while I’ve got you around,” he agreed with a smirk. “You just create some of those beautiful money notes and we can buy everything we need.”
“If you think it is necessary.”
Mike stretched, his face splitting into a broad grin.
“Oh man, life is good when one’s got magic!”
“One more thing,” said Nadisda. “We’ve got to find that Hero Hugo and convince him that you’re not a hacker anymore.”
“What?” Mike jumped up from the log. “You’re kidding, right? He’s going to lock me up for stuff I hacked in the past! And then he’s going to steal our brilliant game, and…” he peered sharply at Nadisda. “How are we going to keep your magic a secret?”
“Why must it be secret?” she asked.
“Are you kidding? You’re like a rare blue diamond here! People are going to kill each other to get their hands on you, and on your magic. They must not find out!”
“So your friends can’t even see the food garden? How are they supposed to use it then?” She thought for a second. “Ah, no, wait. I’ve got it.” And she closed her eyes and waved her hand. “Now, only you and I know that it was magic.”
Jen looked out of the kitchen window, marvelling at how wonderfully the food garden was bearing. Everything seemed to be in fruit. The garden had been partially there when they found the house; she had added a lot of extra food into it in this past year as they were hiding out here. And how rewarding that had turned out!
She sincerely hoped that nothing would go wrong this time. They were doing well, hiding here. She wanted to stay as long as she could before they had to run again.
“Valentine,” said Nadisda, “you keep on sending me to sleep. I don’t think I can sleep anymore! I’m so replete with sleep, I’ll start rotting if I sleep more.”
“Just this once more,” requested Mike.
“But why do you need me to sleep such a lot?”
“You’ll understand later,” said Mike. “Just humour me, one more time? Please?”
Nadisda sighed and retreated to the room she had been assigned, lying down on that mattress on the floor with its luxurious fittings. She closed her eyes and tried to focus on dozing off, but a part of her stayed awake.
She was aware that Mike brought his strange, electric-fed box with the vines into her room, sat down against the wall, placed the box on his knees and started rattling away on it.
Her head felt funny. She tried to relax, but as she was about to doze off, suddenly something came to her. She remembered having visited this world before. In fact she had spent years here, as a child, attending school, learning to read and write, learning math and how to use a computer. She remembered a lot about computers and the internet. Everything came back to her. It felt as though her brain wanted to burst with all these newly recalled memories. There were so many of them!
She opened her eyes and found Mike gazing at her over the top of his laptop screen. He smiled roguishly.
“Wait,” she muttered, sitting up. “You’ve just given me new memories? How? Mike, out with it! What the heck is going on? And how did you cure my sewer-fever?”
“I built a virus killer into you,” he replied with a grin.
“But – you make it sound as though I’m just a bit of…” she gasped, and stared at him. “I am, right? I’m only a character in your… but… Are you saying you created me?”
Mike got thoughtful.
“I thought I had,” he said. “Me and Jen. Her art is the reason you’re so beautiful. But… then how the hell could you end up here, in the real world?”
“So maybe you didn’t really create me?” she asked with a superior little smile. “Maybe I was really born from a star? Maybe I really am pure magic?”
“I’m beginning to believe it,” said Mike. “But in the meantime it’s nice that I can give you extra memories and abilities.”
“Abilities? You can give me extra abilities?”
“Sure! I’ve just given you reading skills! Try reading that book now.”
She got up and picked up the library book from where he’d put it down on the floor, and opened it. Everything made sense. Not only that she could read it all; she also knew from her own experience that it was all true. She paged through the book, skimming everything in it.
“But this is only such a small part of magic,” she objected, putting the book of arcane magic down in disappointment. “There is so much more! I should teach you.”
“I’m not magical,” said Mike. “I’m just a common human. My magic,” and he flexed his fingers demonstratively, “lies in my programming. C’mon, fairy. Now that you understand this world better, it’s time I introduced you to my team.”
She followed him uncertainly into the front room, where the curtains were still drawn despite it being mid-afternoon. Jen was in the kitchen, cooking something over that small flame of the gas cooker. Nadisda observed this with a strange dual reality in her head. She wanted to create a magical fire for them that never had to go out; at the same time she wanted to restore electricity for them so they could have their hot water and run their computers without having to use a car battery. Which she couldn’t see anywhere.
“This is Jen, my genius sister,” said Mike, indicating. Jen raised a hand in greeting. “She’s the artist who draws the backgrounds and worlds and characters and everything in our game. And over there is Nancy.”
The other girl with the mid-brown hair falling in artificial-looking coils down her bare shoulders, was lounging on the couch in the main room reading what looked like a glossy magazine. She wiggled her foot lazily, instead of greeting. A foot that was embellished with tattoos and had its nailtips pedicured black; as were her fingernails. She was wearing what looked like black underwear to Nadisda. A far too short little skirt, and a top that wasn’t much more than a lacy boob tube with straps.
At that moment the front door opened and Ben stepped inside with the car battery.
“Got it recharged,” he said. “Ready for tonight’s session.”
“This is Ben,” Mike introduced him to Nadisda. “He can fix anything that works with electricity and electronics.”
Nadisda appraised Ben critically. He might come in very handy!
“So our patient is up and running?” asked Ben with a broad grin. “Is she joining the game, tonight? We can all get back on level one to give her a decent chance.”
“We’ll see,” said Mike with a secretive smile.
That evening, Mike moved over and allowed Nadisda to observe how everyone logged into the game.
“We’re live,” announced Ben triumphantly. “Here we go!”
Nadisda watched how some beautiful splash-screens appeared.
“Jen’s art,” said Mike proudly. Nadisda glanced appreciatively at the honey-blonde. And then she focused on the screens again.
“C’mon, Ben,” said Mike, “what say we rig the old Dell for Nadisda so she can be a full player?”
Ben obligingly got up and dug an old laptop out of a box and put it together, part by part.
“It’s still good, just a bit slow,” he apologized. “We’re all going to slow down a bit tonight, and the fellows online as well.” He took some time putting it together for Nadisda, who watched with more intelligence thanks to her newly implanted memories.
It took a few more minutes, then the game appeared on Nadisda’s screen too. Ben gave her a mouse and explained the controls to her, briefly. She thanked him and sat down. Ben, with his huge blue eyes and long stringy hair gave her a lopsided smile and sat back down at his own screen. Mike was attacking his keyboard at top speed.
“Look, Nadisda, I’ve programmed a character for you,” he said with a grin. An animé rendition of herself appeared on her screen, along with analytics.
“See, I’ve set your magic to 100%,” he said. “Maxed you out on all magic, elemental, alchemy, white, mind – only the black magic suffers a bit, you don’t quite have enough stat points for that.”
“Mike, you’ve given her the forest fairy!” exclaimed Jen. “Is that even legal? The fairy is an immutable part of the game!”
“Well, it’s a character that suits her perfectly,” replied Mike. “Don’t you guys think?”
They all looked closely at Nadisda.
“What’s that forest fairy’s name again?” asked Nancy suspiciously.
“Doesn’t matter,” said Mike glibly. “I’ve made it Nadisda, for now. You okay with that, Nadisda?”
“Sure, Val… Mike!” She tried out the controls on her avatar.
“This is how you join the game,” said Ben and helped her get online with the others.
And suddenly they were in the Magic Realms, at least on the screen. Nadisda marvelled at how closely the graphics resembled her home. She let her avatar spread its wings and flew over the landscape.
A minor harpy came towards her and attacked her. She pointed a blast of fire at it, and it fell out of the sky, fried. Some lucky scavenger got free supper, thought Nadisda, flying a figure-of-eight for the pure joy of it.
Jen prodded Mike and indicated covertly at the forest fairy sitting behind an old laptop. Something transparent and glimmering was hovering behind her, getting bigger. It extended fully; now Jen could see that it was a pair of wings, glowing with a soft opalescent blue light, the silver filigree veins on them glittering mysteriously in the half-dark. Nadisda was so engrossed in flying her avatar over the Realms, she wasn’t realizing that she had unfolded her own wings.
“Is that real?” whispered Jen, and got a wide-eyed nod back from her brother.
“Hey! Why did I just go up a level?” asked Nadisda.
“You killed an enemy,” said Mike. “Apparently you’re quite efficient with that.”
“Where’s my grove?” she asked.
“Patience, fairy,” replied the young villain. “You’ll have to complete a few quests first! Your grove is on level six.”
“So once I’m level six I can’t go up further?” she asked.
“No, you can go all the way through the levels,” replied Mike. “Don’t worry, just play.”
Nadisda’s avatar gained four levels in quick succession.
“What’s happening?” asked Mike, perplexed.
“I want to check on my grove. Where is level six?”
“It’s not where, it’s how high up the ranks you are,” explained Mike. “Keep going. You’re nearly at the town.”
Nadisda’s avatar set down on the meadows and folded its wings, and found itself accompanied by the Villain, the Heroine and the Princess.
“All of you together?” asked Nadisda, surprised. “How unusual!”
“We’re working together for now,” explained Valentine.
“What levels are you all?”
“We’ve all gone back to level five or six so that you have a decent chance to gain experience,” said Mike.
“Where is Ben?” she asked.
“He’s on a quest of his own,” said Mike. “Aren’t you, Ben?”
“Right – hammering on the door of the fairy because my questbook says I must speak to her, but meanwhile she’s not even home, thank you! Mike, did you program that forest fairy override yesterday already?”
Mike smiled. “Patience, friend!”
They all entered the town gates together – that is, all except Ben.
“Ah! Beta players!” said Mike and got into a fencing match with a knight who had unfamiliar features and armour. “From Norway, eh? Linus. Nice to meet you! And… you’re… down a level!” He laughed gleefully as his opponent disintegrated on the ground.
“You’ve killed him!” exclaimed Nadisda and ran to the injured player’s side. She applied liberal amounts of healing magic. Miraculously, the knight got back on his feet and started attacking Valentine again.
“Clever, fairy!” said the Villain scathingly. “Well done! Next time, just let him decay. He’s just losing a level, he’s not actually dying.”
Nadisda grabbed a branch and started clobbering the knight with it herself.
“That’s not what I healed you for, you sewer rat! Stop attacking Valentine! He hasn’t done anything to you!”
Valentine laughed. “Well, technically I cut him down.”
A message appeared on the screen. But Nadisda heard it as the voice of the knight.
“Hold on! Whose side is the fairy on?”
“She’s a bit confused right now,” explained Valentine. “She’s a newbie.”
“Hey!” exclaimed Nadisda. “I’ve known you forever!”
“Aren’t you the forest fairy?” asked the foreign knight.
“Come over to our side,” invited Mike. “We’re after bigger stuff than you. You’re just level six too. The thing we’re hunting is level twenty-nine.”
“You’re insane,” replied the stranger. “But I’ll join you. It’s an all-or-nothing. Super experience if we win.”
“Should catapult all of us up several levels in a single go,” agreed Mike. Ben peered at Mike over his computer and grinned.
“Why?” asked Nadisda.
“Easy for him to make such promises,” said Ben. “He creates the game! He can bump up anyone’s level or demote them, as he pleases.”
“So what are you after?” asked Linus.
“Hero Hugo,” said Valentine the Villain.
“Wow! One of the originals! Is he even a player? Isn’t he part of the game?”
“No, he’s real,” Valentine assured Linus.
They all banded together and moved along the streets of the town as a group.
“Wait,” said Nadisda. “Someone’s calling me. Got to go!” She unfolded her fairy wings and flew off.
“Mike,” she asked over the rim of her laptop, “how to I get to my grove? Someone’s calling for me.”
“That’s Ben,” said Mike. “Fairy, can’t you remember the path from the town to the Shady Forest?”
She thought for a second. “Course!” And she dived back into the game, steering her avatar towards the grove.
A knight was waiting there for her. He was clad all in black armour and was half invisible. In an instant she knew whom she had before her. She landed lightly in her grove.
“Shadow knight,” she acknowledged.
“Fairy,” the knight greeted her back, taking her hand and kissing it.
There were birds singing in the trees. The sun was shining vaguely. A slight breeze was going. Nadisda folded her wings away and went into her cave to put on some elderberry tea for the knight.
“You’re only half real,” commented the Shadow Knight.
“I’m only half here,” she replied. “Some of me is stuck in Valentine’s reality.”
Ben touched Jen’s arm and pointed to their visitor. Nadisda had gone half translucent. Her wings had been fully extended but were now folded neatly; but her body was becoming less and less real, like a hologram. Mike looked up at her just in time to see her fade away completely.
“Nadisda!” he exclaimed in dismay and lunged for where she had been.
The avatar in the game became more solid.
Nadisda stretched, feeling better. She looked up at the noble Shadow Knight.
“I’m back,” she announced. “And I’m not a level-anything. I’m me. A being of pure magic. Now. How can I help you today, Ben Shadow Knight?”