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You only get one life

   Jason slammed his front door shut, rattling the loose window next to it forcefully. "Damn it!" He yelled, not caring that his girlfriend, Rebecca, would be mad at him for it.

   Grabbing a beer from the fridge, he plopped himself down on his couch, grabbing the pile of mail to feel useful. Knowing that she'd be down screaming at him, he resigned himself to the envelopes in front of him.

   "Bill," he muttered, "Bill. Bill. Last chance bill. Oh gee wally, I won a car. Another bill." The last item on the stack caught his eye, as the simple ad always did. 'One life- Where anything can be achieved if you can survive long enough!'

   Sighing, he tossed it back onto the stack and stood, looking at the stairs questioningly. Where's Rebecca and her tirade? He finished his beer in preparation and took the stairs two at a time, "Babe? If you couldn't tell, I'm home. I have some bad news, I'm afraid. You up here?"

   Her door was open, her bed cleanly made. It was obvious she was gone, her closet door was partially open and nothing hung on the hangers. Folded up on her pillow was a note. Jason didn't bother to read it, red filling his vision and a deafening noise he couldn't block out clouded his hearing.

   Somehow, he was back downstairs. His hand was bleeding, a crushed beer can overflowing in his grip and causing the cut to further sting. "Shit!" He cursed, dropping the can and grabbing a towel to wrap it. "What am I gonna do now. No job, Rebecca's gone, and this damned apartment, her damned apartment, will be next to go. Shit!" He kicked out at the coffee table, sending the bills scattering.

 Almost absently, his eyes searched out that ad.

   One life.

   One Life was the obvious result once VR technology hit its stride. To date, it remained the largest entertainment business, offering only the best services. They had multiple vacation packages, where you paid a certain amount of money based on your preference, before entering a VR pod. While suspended, they monitored you and kept you nourished, while you lived out your dreams in a luxurious, whatever you wanted vacation resort.

   The second package, however, was the one where they made their real money. One Life also offered an adventure package, played like your typical MMO. This time, however, if you died, you were out. Typically a dive cost anywhere from five to ten thousand dollars, depending on what level of comfort you wanted in your pod. Most people paid the extra for the muscle stimulation, not wanting to atrophy while long-term diving.

   It was this mode that had Jason standing in line, clutching the ad in a tight fist. What did he have to lose? He played MMO's constantly, this one shouldn't be any different.

   A voice behind him broke his concentration, "First time diving, eh? You can always pick em out."   Jason turned and saw a young girl smiling at him, "The name's Jessica, but you can call me Jess. Or Lyselle, which will be my character name. What brings you to One Life?" She looked at him expectantly, brown eyes staring intently at him under black bangs.

   "Oh, I uh, came to go adventuring. I mean, go on an adventure. I mean-"

   She giggled, "I know what you mean. I'm going on an adventure too." She winked at him before giggling on, "But I meant what brought you here. If you don't wanna talk about it, that's fine. Just curious. Myself, I flunked my class and got booted for it. Didn't even care about the rest of my A's. So now I'm here!" She inserted herself next to him in the crowd and pouted, "And you never told me your name!"

   "Oh, I'm Jason. Sorry. I... lost my job and my girlfriend left me. Figured I'd give it a shot since I didn't really have much to lose. That sounds dumb." He blushed and stared at his feet.

   "It's not dumb." She looked away as well before continuing on as if nothing happened, "But what's your in-game name gonna be? Maybe we can find each other in-game! Wouldn't that be so cool!"

   "Yeah," He said sheepishly, "But I don't really have a name yet. Haven't figured out what I was gonna be, thought the character creation could help me out."
   "It will! They've made it so it walks you step by step, so even new divers can adjust. I'm gonna be a nature mage!" She said proudly, her green eyes shining with excitement, "I've always loved plants!"

   "Wouldn't that just be a druid?" Jason asked, confused. He hadn't ever actually looked into the game as it had always been a dream he tried to ignore.

   She looked at him in disbelief, "You haven't done any research? Oh boy. Well look, the first quest is always the same for everybody. I'll show you." She pulled out her phone and started typing, "You show up in a clearing that's pretty empty except this stick in the middle, with a quest icon over it. When you walk up to it, this orc comes bursting out the bushes and attacks you, which you use the stick. Easy peasy."

   Jason looked at the screen and saw the quest-box:

   -Sticks and Stones!

Defend yourself! A crazed, hunted orc stands before you and looks at you with hatred and fear in his eyes. Fend off this menace the best way you can!

Possible Rewards: Increased renown with the hunters in the area, new skill: Sticks and Stones, unknown.

   Jason pointed at the quest rewards. "Why is it unknown? Don't they post the runs after people finish?"

   She nodded enthusiastically, "Yeah. One Life pays people to show their runs if they think they will be popular enough. But the unknown is cuz no one has found that reward yet."

   Jason stared at her incredulously, "No one? On the first quest? Sheesh." 

   "Not for lack of trying. Finding unknown quest rewards is guaranteed to get you at least a thousand bucks for your playthrough. There are people still in those things because of the amount they've earned. They get unlucky and die, but their stream sells for more than enough for another dive."

   "Wow. So retiring in one of these things is actually possible?" Jason shook his head, "That's insane."

   "Costs a pretty penny to start though. Anyways, I gotta head in, my pod should be ready by now. It was nice meeting you!! Look me up in-game if you can, we can chat some more!"

   Jason smiled and nodded to her as she walked off, though it was more of a skip than anything else. He sat in line for almost an hour before they led him to a plain room.

   With no money for real luxury, he had the base model. No muscle stimulants, just a feeding tube and once daily waste removal. A small computer rested next to his pod: Character creation.

   Sitting at the computer, he started to click random buttons to read up on the different race selections. Human was the obvious choice, though elf and dwarf were familiar to him as well. All of the subraces confused him, so he just shrugged and picked one at random.



   Subrace- Chandral

  The Chandral are a people more bent towards conquest with words than anything else. Wordplay and bartering are a second nature to them, lending them aid when engaged with anyone on a positive relationship level. At higher levels, neutral parties will listen to their words more.

   Jason shrugged and continued on, clicking another random tab. Seeing a settings page, he ran a cursory eye over it and saw a button that said, "Additional Languages".

   Clicking it, he started to laugh as he saw languages written down like goblin and orc. Clicking on orc, the page in front of him shimmered and changed from the familiar English, into rough characters that looked scratched into the screen.

   "Oh wow. They actually changed it. Let's see how much I actually remember..." Years back, he had found one of those online chatrooms set up for people wanting to roleplay elves. As it was, one of the higher members of the forum was an old friend, so Jason had spent a summer learning Orcish and writing insults on any post his friend made. By the end of it, Greg almost pummeled him when he found out all those insults were written by a friend.

   Jason continued to chuckle as he read through the page, now written in Orcish. As he read, more came back to him until he was reading a sentence every minute or so. It became a challenge. Could he make a character with the language set like this?

   Looking at the boxes of what he still needed, he decided to move on to stats. There were seven listed, the common ones for most games. Strength, Agility, Constitution, Intellect, Wisdom, Charisma and Luck.

   Jason chewed on his lip, a nervous habit he had never been able to shake. What stats were important. "Damn, I should have done some research instead of just running off. That's what I get for being impulsive."

   Seeing no classes available, he hit a question mark. 

   -One Life is a new life, one that must be grown from the bottom. Instead of a class system, with sufficient levels and skills, one can unlock new Trades, which in turn unlock new subskills and abilities. The length you can go in this game is governed on how well you play. Do you have what it takes to make it all the way?

   "Well, that's new. No classes and it looks like I don't start with any skills either. Until I kill that orc, I suppose. Well, that makes stat allocation even harder."

   -You have 21 attribute points left to spend.








   Pretty straightforward. Jason figured on making a balanced build, though he didn't see a ton of use with luck. Maybe throw a few points into it just to be lucky but nothing based solely on it. "I'd rather be lucky than good but true luck comes from being the best."

   -You have 0 attribute points left to spend.








   Another shrug before he hit submit. He saw his full character sheet pop up on screen.


   Race: Human (Chandral)

   Health: 25

   Mana: 6

   Mental Resistance: 1%

   Carry Weight: 40 pounds


Chandral's Persuasion- More likely to be listened to by any with a friendly or higher relationship. With higher levels, can affect those of neutral alignment.

The line next to name was blinking at him. Clicking it opened a long list of typical Chandral names but he dismissed it. He closed his eyes and did what he always did when choosing a name. Let his fingers pick the letters that made up the name.

   "Deran Silviend. That works." He looked at the rest of the sheet, "Kinda empty. Don't even start with any items. Might as well just jump in, I suppose." He clicked the final submit and got into the pod. The final thing he saw as whatever gas they pumped into the room was three figures in suits come in and start hooking him up. Then, his vision was replaced with a screen of black with two words on it.

   One Life.

   Jason yawned, closing his eyes tightly against the sudden bright light. "What the... why am I outside? Did something go wrong with the pod?"

   Sighing, he forced his eyes open against the light and sat up slowly, gaping. He was in a small clearing, surrounded by trees. Sunlight poured in from above as it was just before noon. It was the clearing he saw in the picture.

   "But I'm in it. Wow. This feels way too real." He reached out and grabbed at the grass, pulling it free from the ground with a tug. Time seemed to stand still in this small clearing, and he wondered if he could just sit here forever.

   Until his stomach growled. Guess the time for breaks were over. Looking around, he noticed a flashing icon, hovering on the edge of his vision. The moment he noticed it, it opened.

   -Welcome to One Life! Explore, adventure, craft or kill! Survive long enough to reap the rewards!!

He dismissed it with a wave and a new announcement popped up.

   -Congratulations! For your foreknowledge and persistence, you have learned Orcish! You may speak and write in the Orc tongue. Make the most of your life!

   So he was in the game. It was amazing, beyond anything he could have imagined. He could smell the woods around him, hear the sounds it made. "It's...real."

   Feeling his body with his hands, he exclaimed at the sense of touch. The movement of cloth against his fingertips was just like it would be in real life. And while he had never been a large guy, he felt a bit smaller than he had been, "Probably the effect of only having a strength of 4. I'm sure that will change." He flexed his almost nonexistent muscles and brushed back the mop of brown hair he had chosen. Green eyes sparkled with a zeal for the world around him.

   Looking towards the center, he saw the makeshift spear. Deciding to get it over with, Jason began to walk towards the stick but was interrupted as an orc burst from the underbrush, activating the well-known quest-box:

   -Sticks and Stones!

Defend yourself! A crazed, hunted orc stands before you and looks at you with hatred and fear in his eyes. Fend off this menace the best way you can!

Possible Rewards: Increased renown with the hunters in the area, new skill: Sticks and Stones, unknown.

   The green-skinned creature was large, though smaller than any orc Jason had ever seen. He looked harried and tired as well, nursing more than a few small wounds on his exposed skin. His lower jaw didn't jut out nearly as long either, more man-shaped than not.

    Jason scurried to pick up the spear, clicking accept on the quest without realizing how he did it. Looking at the rewards, he bemoaned that he wouldn't be good enough on his first dive to beat the orc easily. How else would you fight off the orc and get the unknown reward? Jason's head began to ache almost instantly, a dull pain that gradually built up.

   But what if it wasn't about fighting... Could it be that simple? Jason grinned to himself despite the pain, before calling out in Orcish, "Hold! Hold I mean you no harm! I am a simple traveler!" He winced and held out his hands, dropping the spear. Praying the game wouldn't be so cruel to let him die less than five minutes in, he waited the longest three seconds of his life as the orc stopped in surprise.

   "Who... How do you speak my tongue, nofang? No matter! If you don't wish to die this day, be gone! I have no time for thee!"

   Jason grunted in surprise. Orcs seem to be pretty smart in this world. Not good. Before he could form a response, more noise from the bush interrupted them. A group of five hunters burst forth, their spears held threateningly.

   "Good job, boy! You let us catch up to this beast! Have at him! Together, this will be an easy kill!" The leader stepped in front of the others, his brown leathers rubbed with fresh grass, staining them green. His face was set akin to stone as he looked at the orc with hatred.

   "Hold!" Jason called in the common tongue. He activated his only skill, Chandral's Persuasion, speaking quickly, "Hold! Surely there can be a peaceful alternative! Think of the deaths that can be prevented!" The headache increased, his pulse causing a pounding feeling inside his head.

   A moment passed before the man burst out laughing, calling out, "Attack! The both of them!" Anything else he was saying was lost as the orc grabbed him up in a crushing embrace and bounded off into the bushes. Thrown spears fell all around them, one catching Jason in the side and ripping into his threadbare shirt.

   Bloodloss and pain were real here too, Jason found himself idly thinking as his vision started to telescope to black. "I guess the game is that much of a dick." He muttered sluggishly before passing out altogether. 

   Music. The soft, lilting tones of a man singing in the darkness. It soothed him and held his consciousness together long enough to wake. Blinking away the black, Jason came to, seeing his new orc companion sitting on the other side of a small fire. "Good. You wake." The orc spoke his own tongue, standing to his full height, "Nofang has some explaining to do. Starting with, why did you save me?"

   "I don't know," Jason mumbled, grateful that the headache had also passed, "Just didn't wanna do what everyone else did, I guess." When the orc looked at him blankly, he embellished a little, "Well, everyone is always just attacking when our two kinds meet. I figured maybe there would be another way."

   His companion grunted, turning back to tend the fire. While he was distracted, Jason looked at his notifications again, tired of the incessant blinking.

-Persuasion attempt failed! Hunters remain hostile.

   Jason snorted softly, "No shit." Reaching down, he didn't feel a wound where the spear struck him. Curious, he continued through the stack of notifications.

-Hunter scored a hit! 13 damage

-You are currently bleeding! Loss of 1 health per minute until stanched.

-You have been subject to "Song of Relief." Bleeding stopped. You gain 18 health.

Jason looked at his savior with surprise. The orc can sing too? What else was he going to be surprised with?

The final notification filled up his screen. A quest-box.

-Sticks and Stones

You found a path through words, instead of swords. Though angering the hunters in the area, you have made a somewhat friend of Gorgath Ironlung.

   Rewards: 250 exp, Relationship with Gorgath changed to intrigued, new skill: But words will get you farther!

   Consequences: Relationship with hunters falls to hated. Relationship with the town of Tarth falls to unfriendly.

-You've unlocked a new skill! 50xp rewarded!

   But words will get you farther: You know from experience that sometimes words can go places knives and swords can't. Using that knowledge, you can sometimes stop a fight momentarily while your words are processed. Current chance: 1% before modifiers.

-Ding! You have gained a level! Welcome to level 2. You have three attribute points to spend. 

Shaking his head, he dismissed all of it without reading. This was too much to take in all at once. Instead, he spoke, "So, you're Gorgath. You... you saved me. With your song."

   The orc grunted, "I was repaying you. If not for your distraction, that spear may have claimed me. A few of the men grew worried there might be more and turned back to town. I doubt they like you over there."

   Jason didn't bother to validate him, "Still. Thank you. What were you doing out here?"

Gorgath looked at him with a blank expression, "You know who I am, yet not why I run? Interesting. Well, I was kicked from my home. The Ironlungs are never welcome."

   "I'm uh, I'm kinda new here. What exactly are the Ironlungs, is that a clan name or something?" Jason sat up all the way and scooched closer to the fire. "And do you happen to have any food on that fire? I'm starving... though I guess I don't have much to pay for it with." He fingered his clothes and sighed.

   "New here indeed," He rumbled, "Ironlung is no clan name. It is a curse. A curse upon my people that only strikes one in every ten thousand. Or so they call it. It is what makes me how I am. Instead of being strong and brutish, I am smart and can," He looked off into the dark, obscuring his features from the fire, "Sing. Gives my words power. I have no need for money. Take your fill, nofang."

   "Oh, so you're a bard. Cool!" Jason reached out without thinking and plucked a stick from the flames. Wincing and blowing on his fingers, he grabbed the chunk of meat that was roasting on the end.

   "If that is a term you're more familiar with, fine. It won't change that I must move, yet again. Eat your fill, for you won't likely find as nice a haul on your own."

   Jason thought of that and winced, "Wait, why must you move? What made those hunters come after you if you've lived here a while? Is it because you're an orc or because you're an Ironlung?"

   Gorgath spat to the side and grabbed himself some of the cooked meat. He didn't wince nor did he wait to throw it into his mouth and chew, "My orc blood had the most to do with it, I suppose. It was fine for a few moons now. I didn't bother them, they didn't bother me. 'Til the mayor's daughter went missing. Then it was no time before people started accusing the monster what lived in the woods."

   "So if we find out what happened to the girl, maybe you won't have to move anywhere at all! I'm sure with your smarts and my... distracting abilities, we can figure it out!"

   Gorgath looked at him for a long moment over the flickering flames, "What are you called, nofang? What do you have that makes you think you're special?"

   Jason grinned at his newfound companion and took a large bite. Around the mouthful of meat, he said proudly, "I'm Deran. And I've got a plan!"

July 27, 2018, 7:42 p.m. 5 Report Embed Follow story
Read next chapter Discovering Friends

Comment something

tiago líreas tiago líreas
Gorgath just sounds like a grumpy Shrek
November 18, 2019, 00:35
Isaac Padgett Isaac Padgett
Anyone interested in reading more can google my name and the book title. Comes up readily enough! Thanks for reading!
August 22, 2018, 11:37
TheGardenHobbit TheGardenHobbit
Nice! Love it!
July 28, 2018, 11:53


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