December 27, 1999
Michael groggily rolled over and rubbed at his eyes. It took him a second to shake off the last vestiges of sleep. He opened his eyes and began to slowly take in his unfamiliar surroundings. He was lying off to the side of a well- kept and obviously well-traveled path of blue and white gravel. The colored gravel seemed to give the path a calming, magical appearance. He sat up quickly and discovered he had a splitting headache.
"Where am I?" he said quietly to himself.
"Same place you passed out last night." came a voice from behind him. Michael turned quickly towards the sound, and was simultaneously surprised to see an older man standing behind him and almost brought to his knees by the pain in his head.
He struggled to remember what had happened. He remembered coming home from work like always and playing his favorite MUD, Medievia. He had fallen asleep at his keyboard, and awakened in Medievia City. He remembered paying a visit to Daddy O's bar and grille and stumbling out to the end of the cobblestone path. There he had met Alfred the unemployed vagrant, and fallen asleep next to the old man's fire..
Which would mean that the man standing behind him was none other than Alfred himself.
"Good morning," Michael winced as the sunlight hurt his oversensitive eyes. "Thank you very much for your hospitality last night."
"Don't mention it," Alfred replied "Don't get many visitors out here, so it's nice to have some company once in awhile."
"My head is killing me, what do they put in that beer?" asked Michael.
"Generally anything they can find, I heard they even used bread once." replied Alfred.
"Bread? How can you make beer out of bread?"
"Well, if you add enough water... nevermind, come here son."
Michael nervously made his way toward the old man and winced as Alfred placed his hands on either side of Michael's head. Alfred chanted the magical phrase "Vas Mani" and a bright aura enveloped Michael. As the aura faded, so did Michael's pain.
"Thanks!" Michael said.
"No problem, surprised you didn't do it yourself though," Alfred observed. "Judging by your clothes, you're a cleric yourself, and a high-level one at that."
"I must be a little rusty." Michael said. Truth was, he didn't have the foggiest idea how to go about casting a magic spell. All he had to do on the computer was type "cast heal". In fact he had only the faintest idea what any of the magical words were.
"Well, if you're rusty, maybe you should pay a visit to the Cleric's Guild, that's what it's for."
"Of course, the Cleric's Guild. Surprised I didn't think of it." Michael replied. Michael felt a sudden surge of elation, all he had to do was go to the guild, learn some spells, and he would be able to survive in his new situation. Things were looking up for him.
Michael said his farewells to Alfred and made his way along the cobblestone road toward the eastern gates of Medievia City. When he arrived he was overwhelmed by the sight of the 30-foot gates towering above him. He also noticed with some surprise that there were no guardposts at the gate. Glancing around him at the heavy traffic moving through the gate, he realized that most of the passer-by were peaceful, and the sheer volume of people would have made any kind of guard post futile anyway.
As he walked down Aramingo Ave. past the weapon shoppe and the armory he noticed that quite a few of the guardsmen he was passing were eyeing him suspiciously. Everytime he passed one of these big, strong, and usually friendly guards, they would give him a look of reproach. One even went so far as to stiff-shoulder him as he passed. Michael puzzled over this strange behavior until he suddenly remembered that Oberon was evil-aligned, and that the guardsmen were just doing their job by protecting the citizens from what they saw as a threat to the city. Michael remembered that Oberon had in fact gone on many a killing spree through Medievia City, killing tourists, janitors, and even guardsmen with reckless abandon. It was one thing to type "kill guard" into a computer program, it was quite another to actually kill someone in his new existence. Michael resolved that he would not succumb to the easy kills offered by the innocent citizens of Medievia City.
Michael crossed the small wooden bridge spanning the river Courrain and turned South onto Main Street. It only took him a few minutes to make his way through Roddenberry park and onto Guild Row. As Michael sauntered down Guild Row looking for his guild he could hear the bellows of individuals practicing their various arts all around him. He walked past the other guilds before finally coming to the Cleric's guild.
As he walked through the door he saw a trapdoor in the center of an otherwise empty room. He watched bemused as a small formation of a warrior and a cleric entered the guild. The cleric simply walked down the stairs next to the open trapdoor, but when the warrior tried to follow he found himself blocked by a mysterious force. As he tried to step down onto the stairs he found himself continuing on as if there were no opening at all. The warrior was understandably perplexed at the sight of his own feet resting on what appeared to be nothing. Michael waited for him to move away from the trapdoor, then, with a wink, stepped down into the lower room.
The first thing Michael noticed about the room was the guildmaster's glowing white aura, it seemed to be the only source of light in the room other than the bright ball of light levitating above the guildmaster's palm. The guildmaster was a very tall, handsome cleric with a peaceful, loving look. There was no doubt that this man was very close to the god he served, being only slightly less than a deity himself.
The second thing Michael noticed about this plain room was the gargantuan sign that read "Practice here" occupying nearly all of the southernmost wall.
Michael cautiously approached the guildmaster, being careful to maintain a suitably pious expression as he neared the demi-god at the other end of the room.
"Yes my son?" the guildmaster said. Michael realized that his normal mode of modern speech might not be appropriate when speaking to someone of the guildmaster's status. He tried to remember as much archaic speech as he could from studying Shakespeare in high school.
"Milord," he began, hopeful that he wouldn't commit some horrendous grammatical error that might cause the guildmaster to deny his instruction. "I have travelled a great distance and have come to entreat your eminence that I might receive your instruction in the arcane arts." Michael wasn't sure just how far Medievia was from his home town, but he was fairly certain it was quite a ways.
The guildmaster studied Michael intently. Michael felt uncomfortable under the his gaze, it was as if he could see right through to Michael's soul. Michael wondered if the guildmaster would be able to detect some lingering indication of his real world existence.
"What did you say?" the guildmaster asked.
Michael was taken aback, this was certainly not the response he had been expecting. He was confused for a moment, but promptly realized that this must be some kind of test, the guildmaster was more cunning than he thought. If this was a test, Michael was determined to show just how worthy of training he really was.
"I have journeyed for nigh on a fortnight to reach this most hallowed institution of knowledge that I might humbly prostrate myself before thee and request thine instruction." Michael said. As he finished his speech he dropped to one knee and lowered his head in a gesture of the utmost respect for the master. He was certain his performance would impress the master to no end. With his head lowered he could not see the master's expression, but he was certain it was one of awe, he silently congratulated himself as he heard a unusual sound coming from the guildmaster's direction. The master was speechless! Michael couldn't believe his fortune.
He slowly raised his head so that me might receive the guildmaster's blessing, and as he did so he saw that his performance had had a definite impact on the master, although not in the way he had hoped. The master was covering his face trying desperately to stifle a laugh. Finally he could contain himself no longer, he burst out in a fit of hopeless laughter.
"You're not from around here are you?"
Michael silently shook his head no.
"Thought so, I would take it as a personal favor if you would forget all the thees and thous, they tend to get in the way of earnest conversation. And you can forget all the your eminences and such, just call me master. I'd tell you to call me by my name, but I seem to have forgotten it, I've been the guildmaster for so long it became useless to be called anything else."
Michael was profoundly embarrassed.
"I....I'm sorry master, I didn't mean to offend." Michael offered.
"No offense taken," the master replied "Happens all the time, people forget that I'm just a normal guy who knows a LOT about being a cleric. Now what can I help you with?"
Michael explained his need for instruction, being careful to gloss over his lack of previous instruction. The guildmaster eagerly agreed to teach him all the basics of spellcasting, he had never trained someone as old as Michael in the basics before, and he looked upon it as a special challenge.
"Most non-spellcasters think that casting a spell is just saying a few words, sometimes making a gesture or two, and then sitting back and watching whatever you wish to happen happen." The guildmaster explained. "This is simply not true. In order to cast a spell you have to concentrate absolutely, this is one of the reason why the wiser you are, the less likely you are to fumble a spell."
Michael inclined his head in understanding.
"Now, concentration is not the only thing one must have to cast a spell." the master continued. "If it were, any neanderthal could go around casting spells. All spellcasters have an inner reservoir of magical energy we call mana. Warriors and thieves can't draw on this reserve because they spend so much time perfecting weapon techniques and strengthening their bodies that it simply ceases to exist in them."
"At first you will find that you run out of mana very quickly, this will improve with time. The more strength you acquire the less mana it will cost you to cast a given spell. Also, the stronger you become, the more mana you acquire. There are also certain items that will allow you to draw mana from your surroundings, thus supplementing your own internal supply. We refer to these items as 'plus mana equipment'."
"Eventually you will run out of mana. As you cast spells, you will grow more and more weary, and eventually will be unable to summon enough energy to cast a given spell. Never fear, however, for all you have to do is rest to regain your lost mana. There are items that will allow you to regenerate your lost mana more quickly, but they are rare and usually very expensive, there is even one that can only be bestowed upon a person by one of the Gods."
Michael again nodded in agreement. The guildmaster then began to instruct him in the magical phrases required to cast magic spells. Michael practiced for hours, and the guildmaster was very pleased with his progress. He cast spell after spell until he became too tired to practice any longer. He tried to cast another spell and found that he was continually fumbling. The guildmaster noticed his difficulty and came over to offer advice.
"When you get tired, you will fumble more and more." the master explained.
"I noticed," Michael smiled, he and the guildmaster were on a more informal basis now. "How do I stop it."
"There are two ways to regain your lost vitality." the master continued. "The first is simply to cast a spell of refresh on yourself, or if you are too weary, have another cleric cast it. The second is more rudimentary, a simple nap will regain you your lost vitality, usually about three minutes or so."
Michael nodded in agreement. He was so weary that a nap was already becoming very prevalent in his mind. He bade the guildmaster farewell, promising to return again soon, and left the guild. When he emerged he was surprised to find that it was dark outside, it had been morning when he entered the guildhall, he had spent the entire day practicing. Michael was too tired to contemplate the time of day any longer, all he could think about was finding some secluded spot to bed down for the night. He made his way back to Main Street and followed it to South Street, then followed it east until he reached the gravel path that was the entrance to the city closest to the trade post.
The trade post to the west of him was the very impressive Medievia Trading Shop. To the left was a huge stall full of fine pack horses and mules. To the right he saw covered and open wagons. Assorted trading goods were piled all around as the trading shopkeeper quickly darted back and forth, busy as a beaver.
Michael watched all of this with an indifferent expression, all he could think about was sleep. He busied himself preparing a campfire..lighting it expertly..it ignited instantly..orange and red flames shot up from the timber. He curled up to the fire and was asleep almost the instant his head hit his pack he had placed under it. Michael's dreams were troubled. He stood facing a faceless adversary, he vainly tried to attack his assailant with his newly acquired magic skills, but the figure easily brushed aside even his most powerful of attacks. Suddenly, the dark figure turned and knocked Michael flat with one negligent-seeming backhand swipe. He screamed as his attacker raised his sword to deliver a fatal blow. Michael awoke just as his attacker's sword pierced his heart...