Medievia Mudslinger

December 2nd, 2001

Heroe - By Roirdei

"POUND IT!!!" screamed the form leader over chat, and Victor frenetically mashed his keyboard in response. No way he was going to let these guys walk away from this one alive. He gritted his teeth, barely registering the sweat now covering his young body. In his lightless bedroom, the soft glow of the monitor turned his features into those of a madman.

Round after round, shockwave after shockwave, his fingers flew lightning fast over the keyboard as the text scrolled before him at an incredible rate. Nasty wounds and bleeding cuts, he noted, as the yell "KEEP IT DOWN!!!" came over the chat connection. This guy's equipment was as good as his.

He ignored the slew of curses and threats which reached him over chat as one of his formies got iced by an enemy stab, a blotch of red text amid the black, green, yellow, white, and gray. His entire being was bent upon blowing the target, as set before the onslaught, to smithereens.

Alone in his room, Victor let out a triumphant whoop as a slash from his side finished off the target. He rushed to loot as much as he could from the corpse, barely noticing as another of his formies died. His excitement mounted as he gathered item after item, and he started bouncing up and down in his seat ever so slightly.

A pronounced growl coming from his stomach made him glance down at the time at the bottom of his screen. Past one AM. Somewhere at the back of his mind he realized that he had once again forgotten to eat supper.

YOU ARE DEAD!!!

He blinked. No. NO. Oh please God, no! Bent over the screen, he scrolled back up. Tears started to form at the edge of his eyes as he saw the shockwave that had killed him. He blinked again, but this time to chase away the tears. This can't be happening. He watched in misery as his ex-formies ported out of CPK one by one, seeing that the battle was lost and deciding to cut their losses. His losses. The victorious enemies celebrated by stripping him of his precious equipment, piece by piece, sadistically.

His inner dam broke, and the tears started cascading freely down his cheeks. Why? Why did this have to happen to him? He sobbed, then fell back into his seat and closed his eyes, waiting for the tears to stop.



He bought a paper, checked it for catastrophes then dropped it in disgust.

Heroe said, "Hello Devireus!"

He looked, and smirked. Heroe the Believer. He should have guessed. Another newbie. Man, it's ridiculous the names they tried to get approved these days.

"Heya Heroe. Nice name. This your first char?" he replied eventually.

"Yes, this is my first time here, ever," said the newbie enthusiastically.

"Well, have fun. I hafta go now. Nice meeting you," he added as an afterthought before heading to the post office to send some stuff to his storage character.

Heroe walked through the entrance behind him and said, "Hi again. I hope you don't mind me asking, but how do you become a Hero?"

Victor sighed and silently cursed his (HERO) flag for always prompting questions like that from the newbs. "You have to kill a lot of stuff and play for a long time, plus do other stuff," he tried half-heartedly to explain. "It's all in the help files," he finished.

"Oh, I see," said Heroe unconvinced. "And what exactly does a Hero do?" he continued.

Victor/Devireus was about to tell this guy to go take a hike (for lack of a better and yet non-freezable expression) when a sudden explosion of activity on the Herobattle channel gave him an opportunity to do better.

"You know what, I'll show you what a Hero does." While setting himself up with a fight, he explained to the newbie the details of using mindlink to watch him fight.

He prepared his spells for battle, under the newbie's excited eye, and was soon whisked away to a God's office. No sooner had he gotten to say "Hello" and "Good Luck" to his adversary that he had already been transported to the Arena and started to gather equipment for the upcoming fight.

The time for eq gathering passed all too fast and the time for killing was soon at hand. Victor quickly checked his stats, and marveled at how well the new HB arena suited him, as a mage hero. His opponent was a thief heroine, and he knew she was good. Soon, the two had found each other and were deeply immersed in that most intricate dance of death that is the herobattle.

Victor's heart started pounding to a steady rhythm of flees and images, of shockwaves and scrolls. Neither he nor his partner knew the terrain exceptionally well, but if her frequent shouts of "At least let me find a stabber!" were any sign, he had a certain advantage over her. Victor certainly wasn't about to let such an opportunity pass him by.

Relentlessly he tracked her down and pounded her with all he had. Little by little, despite her best healing efforts, her condition went from good to bad, then to worse. Clinging, the unfortunate heroine let out an exasperated scream and fled yet again. She ran around the courtyard and, desperate, headed north into the Gauntlet in hopes of getting a restore.

Victor, very close behind her, stopped at the Gauntlet entrance and waited anxiously before hearing a blood-curdling death cry.

An exultant Devireus reappeared in the Main Courtyard of the City, eager to hear this newbie's admiration at his herobattling prowess.

"That text was moving really fast," Heroe said, "But why did you kill her? That wasn't very nice."

Typical newbie, Devireus thought with an inner smirk. "It wasn't meant to be nice," he replied in a condescending tone, "It was a battle to the death, and the best hero, me, won." Quickly, he added, "And don't worry about her, she's already very well and alive again."

"Oh, okay then. That's good. But she couldn't fight back, right? So where was the battle?"

"She had her chance at the start, it's not my fault she didn't use it correctly. Pure, dumb luck is all part of the game", Devireus explained.

"But where's the fun in killing a defenseless enemy?" the newbie persisted.

"It's not meant to be fun, it's a battle to the death," he protested.

"Oh, I thought this was a game," said Heroe innocently.

"Listen, if I hadn't killed her, she would have killed me, it's that simple. I mean, there are rankings, and points, and..." He faltered, trying to find the words to explain what had always seemed so evident to him.

"It just doesn't seem very heroic to me," the newbie said with a sigh, adding "I'm not sure I want to become a Hero"

Sitting before his computer, Victor was outraged. Who was this newb to judge him? He was going to teach this guy a lesson. "So what if you aren't impressed with Herobattles, that's only one small part of being a Hero. Why, there's Trading, and Combing, and Bloodlines, and Dragonlairs..."

"And are those fun?" asked the newbie in his innocent way. Victor felt deeply scrutinized, as if he was being examined under a powerful microscope. He gave himself a good shake. This is only text, calm down.

"Yes, tons of fun! Well, I've never liked trading much myself, I've always found it grows tiring at length. I like combing, even though I haven't done any of it in a while, always busy at restarts, you know how it is. And my bloodlines are never on..." he mused. "But Dragonlairs are fun!" he exclaimed suddenly, "Lots of fun! Nothing like a merry band of heroes off to slay a mighty dragon in its lair!"

"Sounds great. Do you do that often?" inquired Heroe.

"Oh yeah, often two or three times a day," Devireus answered smugly.

"Must get kinda dull after a while," remarked the newbie.

"Well..." the Hero faltered.

The newbie continued. "Out of all those dragonlairs, how many times does the dragon win?"

"Umm, not very often to tell you the truth..." admitted Devireus.

"So there isn't much challenge in it, is there?"

"Listen buddy, you seem to know an awful lot for a newbie. If you have a hero alt than I don't see why I'm wasting my time with you. Have a nice life," he spat.

With that, he ran out into the courtyard, rushed to the portal and entered a clantown at random. Spun. Probably just as well, he reckoned, at least that dumb newbie wouldn't be able to follow him this way. Man, what a pushy creep that guy had been, he thought with a chuckle.

When the portal eventually spat him out, he got up, dusted himself off, and had just started to wonder what he was going to do now, when...

"Hello Devireus!" Heroe said.

Victor picked himself up off the floor and climbed back up into his chair, breathless. "Stop following me around, or I'll get you frozen for player harassment! Now goodbye, I have more important stuff to do that sit around with a fake newbie!" he typed.

"Indeed. And what *stuff* might that be?" Heroe asked with a laugh.

"Not that it's any of your business," Victor typed with a scowl, "but I'm going to run some zones for eq. Satisfied?"

"Equipment," pondered the newbie, "I see".

"Okay, you don't have to ask!" exclaimed a frustrated Victor/Devireus, "EQ zones are fun at the beginning, exploring and learning them is lots of fun. But yes, you don't have to point it out, after running them daily for a few years they do become rather mundane, yes, okay, we get the idea. Happy?"

"Whether I am happy is beside the point, Devireus," Heroe explained patiently. "What matters is whether you are happy."

"Well... I am happy when the good equipment loads and has good tweaks," Victor ventured cautiously.

"I'm glad that makes you happy. But have you ever wondered exactly why that brings you joy? Honestly?" asked the newbie.

"I guess I'm happy because I know it will be worth a lot of money," replied the Hero.

"So it is the gold it represents which makes you happy?" Heroe continued.

Devireus giggled. "Everyone likes money, you know," he stated as a blatantly evident fact.

"Do they?" asked Heroe. "And what is so great about money that it should be the universal standard of happiness?"

Victor faltered. "Well it... it... it allows you to buy stuff? Stuff you want? Stuff you need?"

Heroe nodded thoughtfully, before saying, "Indeed. And how does this action of buying work?"

Devireus laughed at the innocence of the question. "Well," he explained, "You give money to another person, and in exchange they give you something they have and you want. It's a system of trade, one good against another. Around here we have a nice auction system that makes the whole thing easy as can be," he added, figuring that he might as well play along with this guy's supposed newbieness.

"The money is a good in itself then. All right," he paused a bit, then asked, "Who are these other people you speak of?"

"Players like myself, obviously," he replied. "I have something they want, they have something I want, and we trade."

"And this is what makes you happy."

"Well, yes."

"If they want what you have so badly, why didn't they try to get it themselves?" Heroe inquired.

"Well, sometimes they do..." Devireus admitted.

"Interesting. And what happens then?" inquired the newbie.

"That depends. If the zone is LPK, then they will try to bank you, or you them, to get the EQ. If its NPK, then that can still happen, or they can try to PK you out. Or vice versa, obviously," he added as an afterthought.

"Yes, obviously. Is that all that can happen?"

"Well, there's always CPK. Only the really big zones are CPK. The ones with the major EQ."

"I see. Much would be at stake then. What happens in those cases?"

"You need a lot of people for CPK runs, not only because the mobs you have to kill to get the EQ are strong, but because other people might try to kill you and loot your equipment. All in all, it's rather thrilling," Devireus explained.

"And as a Hero you do this often."

"Yes, quite often," answered the Hero.

"And this is fun," asked the newbie.

"Like I said, it's exciting, so I'd say that yes, it is fun," replied the Hero.

"And when you're the one banking, the one PKing, the one CPKing, is it still fun?"

"Yeah, some would even say it is a lot more fun that way. Some don't go to zones for the EQ at all, they just go to PK and CPK," he answered.

"Indeed. Is it fun when you are the one who gets banked, PKed or CPKed?"

"No, not at all. That is the risk when doing such runs, and it is a horrible feeling."

"Yet it is still fun to inflict such a horrible feeling upon others, upon those who in your own words are *players like yourself?" exclaimed Heroe.

Devireus shrugged, and replied, "That's how things work around here."

"That sounds extremely cruel, and totally antithetical to my definition of a Hero, in any case."

In his room, Victor stared blankly at the screen for a moment that seemed like an eternity, considering the newbie's words. He blinked once, twice, then shook his head. "Who are you to judge us, to judge me, you're nothing but a stupid newbie who doesn't know anything to how this world works!" he shouted out.

"I am the newbie you once were, Victor! I am the conscience, the innocence, the compassion, the common sense you once had and which you strived so hard to lose along the way!" Heroe's voice boomed from everywhere around him.

Victor cowered into his seat, terrified. Not even realizing that he was speaking directly to his screen, and had been for some time now, he mumbled, "Wha.. What are you?"

Slowly, the powerful voice repeated, "I am the conscience, the innocence, the compassion you once had. I am what you left behind, what you thought you had to get rid of, and today I have returned to teach you a lesson that you desperately needed to learn. I AM YOU, Victor!"

He sat up, wiped away a single tear that had been shed from his left eye, and nodded. Somehow, somewhere, deep down, he wasn't surprised. Not in the least. In fact, he was even relieved. He felt as if a tremendous weight had been lifted off of his chest, his mind, his heart, his soul.

He nodded, then said, "You are right. Teach me. I am your pupil."

On the screen, the following words appeared:

Heroe says, "But I am you, Devireus. As such, I could never teach you anything that you didn't already know. Thus, you have already learned that which you have always known. Look inside yourself, and you will find your answer."

Victor closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and stopped thinking, stopped feeling, and tried to simply be. Then it came to him. He smiled.

This was a game. A game meant to be fun.

In this light, he surveyed his many activities as a Hero, and everywhere he saw a tremendous potential for fun, true fun, pure fun. But everywhere he also saw a risk of perversion of that fun. He saw how easily one could come to betray the only thing that truly counted in the game, the players with whom we share it, in the name of what in the end is entirely pointless and unimportant, the equipment, the hp bonus, another million gold coins in the bank balance.

None of these were goods in themselves, they were not ends, they were simply the means, the props used by the many actors to put on the great Medievian play. Drawing happiness from gold, from equipment, is complete nonsense, because these things have no meaning, no existence taken out of the context of the game.

He saw that the game's power and ever-lasting source of vitality was the people who called it home. The fun resided in the interactions between the players, and those interactions could very well take any form imaginable, from the most intimate fellowship to the most unforgiving war, as long as it was done in a spirit of respect, of agreement, and especially of shared fun.

He saw that being sad, angry, jealous, that any sort of negative feeling because of "events" in the game was completely against its nature, and was a perversion of the game's formidable power for good.

He saw this, and he knew what he had to do. He opened his eyes...



He opened his eyes, the smile still on his face. He smiled at the red text on the screen, at the dried tears on his cheeks. He reached out, turned on his desk's lamp, and laughed at those he had seen as enemies, who were now looting his equipment. None of that mattered.

It never had. He might have thought it had, but it hadn't.

"I hope it makes you happy, guys," he said simply, "there's always lots more where that came from, and Vae Victis", he added, breaking into a fit of joyous laughter.

"Dev, you ok?" asked the formies over his chat connection.

"Why yes, yes I am," came his response.

With that, he logged his now corpsed character out of the game, turned off both computer and lamp, before slipping into bed and drifting off into a peaceful slumber, that smile of utter contentment accompanying him into his dreams.

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