Jack of Quests

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Chapter 1

Jack of Quests : an Athosian Tale

By MIKI APO | Published: September 28, 2010

“Cover me!”

Razdengo ran towards the dragon with both blades drawn. Fires burned all around him, while arrows and magic whistled over his head. Reaching the beast, he held his weapons aloft for a brief moment; the golden Fang and the silver Biter. They were twin short blades. Their edges were as sharp as obsidian but hard as diamond; the handles were adorned with blue and green gems, respectively. The great beast bellowed, but Raz’s steel will held firm, driving both of his shining blades deep into the dragon's heavily armored flank. It roared a blood-curdling fury-filled cry that echoed throughout the cavern. The monster mad an attack, but instead of attacking Raz it went for one of his allies, an unlucky elf.

The elf had been avoiding the dragon’s attacks, deftly avoiding the dragon’s mouth. He spun to stab his spear into the hide of the dragon- but the tip only barely stuck into its thick armor. The colossal creature then brought its tail about, smashing into the fighter and throwing him into the air. The elf met the wall head on with a sickening crack.

Dorre, the party’s head wizard, started toward the fallen comrade, but the move proved to be a poor one. He caught the great golden eye of the beast. The colossal lizard turned his full attention on Dorre- almost seeming to smile at the opportunity to strike again. With a burst of fiery rage, the dragon quickly penetrated the wizard’s magical shell. Watching Dorre’s burnt body fall disheartened one of the party's two remaining archers He immediately turned and ran from the great beast with abandon. The remaining archer shouted obscenities at the coward, all the while attempting to shoot the beast. Again, the dragon took advantage of Raz's comrades being distracted. It snatched the angered archer up in his great jaws and bit down, blood and poison running from its mouth.

Dropping the body onto the ground the dragon sought Razdengo. Razdengo took a second to reevaluate the situation. His party had lost the other four members, torn apart by the fury of the dragon. Although beset by growing fear, Razdengo climbed up the dragon's tail, and stabbed into a small opening between the dragon's coal black scales After dipping his blades into poisonous sheaths, Razdengo found another good spot for his blades and drove them home. Enraged, the dragon roared and spewed fire, arching its massive neck around to bite Razdengo. The group’s final mage, seeing the beast’s attention diverted, ceased firing in order to pick up a wounded ally. Razdengo held on desperately for his life, his body a mere rag doll as the dragon swept its foreboding head back and forth. The dragon’s snake like neck shook with great dynamism in an attempt to remove the attacker, but it was to no avail. Now the only remaining fighter, Razdengo started to fear that his own death would soon be upon him. Pulling one blade out of the dragon’s hide, Raz attempted to stab it further up its neck- but was shaken off in one violent twist, crashing into the ground. The dragon reared up and spat fire, the intensity of the flame singeing the thin beard on Raz's face. What was left of the magician’s shield stopped the fire from killing him and allowed Razdengo to respond to the dragon's attack with cold steel.

Frantically tearing a knife from his belt, he threw it at the looming beast. The small throwing dagger bounced pathetically off its impressive, dark black hide. The fuming dragon attacked again, its massive teeth coming within inches of Raz's face, staved off only by increasingly desperate swipes of his sharp blades; Razdengo quickly drove Fang into the jaw of the dragon, ripping the flint tooth right out of the beast's mouth! The shiny rock-tooth fell to the ground, sparking lightly but dying out quickly.

Furious and unable to generate its beloved fire breath, an putrid oil spewed from the dragon's mouth, making the surrounding fires burn with a greater intensity for a few moments, and covering Razdengo with the dangerous flammable substance. Raz slashed at the dragon again, blood trickling from his wounds gained through falls and throws.

The attack was a poor choice. The great black dragon caught Biter in its jaws, along with his left wrist. Turning its head slightly to one side, it looked the valiant fighter straight in the eye, almost mockingly. It breathed out, smoke pouring from its nostrils, enjoying the moment before assured victory.

One sharp twist of the neck threw Razdengo into the fires around him, catching him alight due to the oil on his flesh. His ghost appeared above his body momentarily, along with an option box asking if he wished to resurrect now.

Jack yelled at his computer, throwing his headset off and taking only enough time to type "g2g guys" and "/ragequit" before powering off his computer and walking away.

A 17 year-old in high school, Jack was not exactly… anything. Fresh body, moldable mind, about to go out into the world. He had dark blonde hair and brown eyes. At 5’ 10”, Jack was an average height. He played computer games and a few sports. He had friends; he was neither the “popular kid” nor the biggest dork. He hadn’t done anything to gain renown, not even local recognition. He was funny, mostly to his friends, and he participated in fencing and judo. The best word to describe Jack had always been average. It was why he played computer games; to get away from the mediocrity of real life.

So when Jack’s friend, Tom, called, asking if he wanted to go to the carnival. Jack jumped at the chance to get out of his house. His parents and younger brother were out of town and would not care. All he had to do was get home before they did. Even if he was not home, he figured they would just be upset that he didn’t tell them before hand.

So Jack jumped into his rusty red hand-me down pick-up truck, drove to Tom’s house, stopped outside and tapped the horn a few times. Tom ran out of the house while yelling something to his mom and jumped into the car. Tom was slightly older than Jack, and about two inches shorter. His tan skin and green eyes offset his chlorine bleached hair.

Peeling out of the neighborhood, the pair listened to loud rock music for a while, windows open. They rode with their arms hanging out of the window, air rushing past. The car vibrated with the pounding of the subs. It made a sort of strange sensation, as if it was tickling the inside of their bodies. Jack turned down the music and started to speak.

“Dude, have you ever been to this place?”

Tom shook his head “Nah, it just rolled into town a little while ago?”

“I hear it is real interesting. Got all sorts of rides and junk.”

“Same. Seems like it should be- oh, punch buggy blue!” Punching Jack as the car passed, Tom picked the conversation right back up “a good time; I heard it was pretty cheap.”

“Mhm.” Jack only heard a little of what Tom said, his mind on the road. Flipping on his turn signal, he saw a sign for the carnival. “Looks like we might be here.”

“Awesome!” Tom sat up to look around.

It was a creepy, broken down old thing. The words on the fluorescent sign read “Carnival of Mystery;” the mystery probably being how long the place would be in town before the health inspectors or some other city department kicked them out. The word “Mystery” was lit up, except for the ‘T,’ which had burnt out. Outside stood a very muscular man with his arms crossed over his ugly safety orange tank top. His job was to keep people from… entering without a ticket? Maybe he was to keep people from stealing the carnivals trash. The ticket booth had an old woman marinating in a haze of cigarette smoke. The carnival was lined with the grime and garbage of many years’ neglect, but had only been in town for a few weeks.

The trashiness of the whole place only made the pair laugh. They knew that they definitely were going to have fun. They walked past health violations, safety issues, and shady carnies and laughed at the odd sights and disgusting objects. After playing a few games and winning some 50 cent inflatable bat after pouring some ten bucks into a rigged basketball game. Tom pointed out a fortune telling shack. It looked pretty shady, but so did the rest of the carnival. Nearly legible through the peeling paint, the sign read, “Five bucks and have your fortune told, guaranteed.”

Rolling his eyes, Jack pointed at the sign. “I can guarantee that your fortune will be told, just not that it will be right.”

“Ha, we should do it.” Tom started walking towards the shack

Jack laughed and shook his head. “Why should we waste our money on this?”

“Dude, you just spent, like, ten dollars to get an inflatable bat.”

“Yeah? So, whatever” Jack failed to think of a real response.

“That’s what I thought.”

“Shut up. Anyone can predict the future. I will do it for you right now.” Jack proceeded to rub his temples and look at Tom with great intensity. His eyes widened and he spoke in a lower tone than normal. “Tom Samuel… you are… about to… take a trip.” Tackling Tom into the dirt, Jack pinned him under his weight. Dusting themselves off as they stood up, Jack reached his hand out “Five bucks please”

Tom held out five bucks, but when Jack reached for it, he pulled it away. “Really Jack? Really? You think I would give you five bucks?”

“Well, you are kind of stupid.”

“Look who’s talking.” Tom laughed and pointed back at the teller’s shack. “Well? Shall we?”

“Aight, but I ain’t getting my fortune told. Age before beauty,” Jack bowed a little, a mocking tone in his voice, pointing towards the door.

“Ah, but ladies first.” Tom pushed Jack into the building, walking in behind him. Hanging lamps lit the room dimly and shadows left weird patterns on the walls. A bead doorway was on one end of the hut. Tiki heads, tribal masks, shrunken heads, all sorts of stereotypical witch doctor items lined the walls. The fortune teller was out nowhere to be seen, so Jack looked at all the weird stuff. He picked up a voodoo doll and played with it for a moment, then dropped it.

“Ouch!” Tom fell onto the floor. The pair laughed, and Jack set the voodoo doll back on the counter. Right as he started to lift a tribal mask off its hook on the wall nearby, the bead curtain behind them rattled. The two looked at the person at the same time and then at each other. The fortune teller stood about five feet high and wore a dark blue robe. The robe has a hood, but he did not wear it. His head had sparse grey hair and his eyes shone a shade of green that Jack had never seen before. He had a silver canine that appeared to have been made in a different century, shaped oddly as if by hand, the jagged shape showing lack of modern machines. His skin was reddish white, and slightly wrinkled. The colors of his robe made Jack think of Mickey Mouse in Fantasia, but only for a moment.

“Hello, I am Zad Empirico, the fortune teller" the little man said in a soft creepy tone. “I only can assume that you are here for such a service.” The silver tooth dimly shined out in the lamp light.

Tom nodded in response and got out his wallet pulling out a five dollar bill and handing it over to Zad, who stuffed it into one of the folds of his robe. With a sweeping arm motion, Zad pointed towards the chair on the other side of the table. Tom sat with the fortune teller across from him. Taking Tom’s hands, Zad proceeded to close his eyes and mumble to himself. Tom looked at Jack, mouthing “what the hell?” at him.

The fortune teller sat up, his green eyes now shimmering gold. “Success is bound your way. Watch for it. In a time of chaos, you will hold firm; be prepared for leadership to be thrust upon you.” Zad sat, looking into space through Tom. Zad’s eyes began to regain their naturally unnatural green color. “That is all the spirits have for me to say to you... sorry.” Tom stood, mildly freaked out, and started out the door, Jack following close behind.

“Halt. You…” The fortune teller pointed one finger armed with an extraordinarily sharp fingernail at Jack. “Don’t you want your future told?”

“I, I don’t have five bucks.” He lied.

“Your friend paid. I will tell you your future.”

“Uh... okay”

Jack sat down and looked at Zad. Zad took Jack’s hands and repeated the process he did with Tom. He could only hear a few words of the mumbling, most of it just sounded like a completely different language. When he sat up again, his eyes shone the same bright gold. Sitting in the chair was much worse than just looking on though, because the black part of his eyes seemed to absorb light at an extreme rate, like two tiny black holes on his face.

“I see a great change in your future. You will have to make a choice- and that will come at a point most inconvenient for you. A friend’s betrayal will be a setback, but you will eventually come through. Watch your step, you may just enter a most perilous situation.” The fortune teller took a breath. “Pick your battles- you may not always win.”

Shaken, Jack stood up once it was clear the fortune teller had finished. “Um, thanks.” Jack ran out the door and crashed into Tom, who started running too. They ran past the Whirly-gig and Spinning Cups, but slowed down once they realized they had no reason to run. They looked at each other for a second. Tom pointed to a ride called the “Puke-Nuke” and shrugged his shoulders. Jack nodded, and the pair jumped into the short line.

Six rides later, the pair where back to talking and laughing, acting as if they had forgotten the whole thing. They tacitly agreed that the whole ordeal was some ridiculous carnival thing and nothing to bother pondering over. They played a few impossible to win games and decided that it was about time to start heading back. It was five o’clock, and the carnival closed at six.

The car ride back was a silent one as they both reflected the teller’s fortunes. Jack dropped Tom off at his house on the way back and gave thanks that his family still had not arrived. Jack walked in and turned on the lights and his computer, sat down and started playing Athosia. He had just logged on when the phone rang, so decided to let the answering machine get it. No one would know he was home anyway. Razdengo was still dead, so he spent a few minutes recovering his body. The dragon was not active at this point, so he managed to run out, stealthily killing a few goblins on the way. He had quite a bit of gold, so when he got back in town, he headed back to the market.

The phone rang again. Whoever it was sure was impatient. “Patience is a virtue” Jack muttered to himself as he continued to ignore the phone instead making an in-game purchase. Immediately after the phone stopped ringing, it rang again. This time it really annoyed Jack, who picked it up. “Hello?” He said, pissed off.

“Jack Barclay?”

“Yes, who is this?”

“This is Sheriff Townshend with the highway patrol. I am calling about your family.”

Jack’s thoughts turned from his games to his family. His heart sank and began to pound at the same time.

The sheriff had paused for a second, possibly waiting for Jack to respond, but upon hearing no such response, continued. “Well, there was a big accident. A drunk driver crossed the median. Collided with a semi, which caused a massive pile-up. 12 cars, 28 people total- 5 of whom were pronounced dead at the scene. The truck driver, a businessman driving back from work, and your-“

Jack dropped the phone, which hung on its plastic spring cord. He slid down the wall, eyes blank, mind swollen and empty at the same time. The room grew warm, and Jack started to choke on air. Blinking back tears, he picked the phone back up an held it to his ear.

“Hello? Hello? Jack?”

“Yes?” Jack spoke softly, his voice brittle from shock.

“I’ll… spare you the details about the accident. How old are you Jack?”


“So is my son, what a coincidence. Well Jack, do you have some place to stay tonight?”

“I can stay here, I am seventeen” Jack started to grind his teeth together, hoping the phone call would end, that it would be a cruel practical joke- a dream. Anything but the horrible reality it was.

The sheriff laughed a short, courtesy laugh. “Yes, that is right. Well, you need to pack up your things anyway. Social services should be by tomorrow morning to take you..."

“What the hell are you talking about?” Jack closed his eyes and roughly rubbed his hand up his face.

“You are not eighteen yet, so legally, you need a guardian. You are going into foster care.” Jack bit into his finger, unable to feel anything. “Jack, I am sorry. I really am. Jack? Are you still here?”


“Alright, well, pack up your things- social services will be by in the morning to get you.”

Slamming the phone down, Jack suddenly broke down, nose and eyes running. He slammed his fist into the wall and tore the phone off its cradle. Nothing was a powerful enough outlet for his rage, so Jack continued to destroy things throughout the house, tearing down family pictures and breaking the various objects that never meant anything to him, but had always been there- the porcelain figurines on the mantle of the fireplace, the stupid cat clock, the potted plants that never seemed to die. Walking into his room, he smashed his lamp and threw his covers off his bed. Falling into his bed, his rage finally exhausted, Jack started to shiver, sobbing deeply between gasps for breath.

As anger replaced shock he examined his situation. First he felt hate. The bastard drunk driver that had killed his family had lived. The sheriff didn’t mention him as one of the casualties. The entire thing was the drunk driver’s fault. If he hadn’t gotten drunk; if he had just left a minute later; if he had gotten arrested, then Jack’s family would still be alive. Jack wanted to kill the drunk driver personally- walk up to him and blow his head off.

Then Jack felt guilt. If he had gone with his family, they would have never left at the time they did. They could still be alive. If he had called his family, sent his father and mother a text, done anything, they could still be alive, stalled for a vital few seconds. It was his fault. He had ignored his family’s last call. That could have saved them.

Jack felt like throwing up. He could feel it rise and fall in his throat, swarming emotions pitching like a violent sea within him. He threw up, over the side of his bed, but he didn’t care anymore. Grabbing his notebook from his desk, Jack started to write. He wasn’t always coherent, and some of his writing ended up wet and smeared from tears, dripping slowly off of the tip of his nose. But a large note was soon written onto the once crisp white pieces of papaer, taking a full three pages.

Ripping out the sheets and retrieving a few choice items to put into his backpack, Jack left his house, stuffing the note between the floor and the doorframe. Then he just walked. Jack walked for a long time, his mind numb, depression, grief, blame all competing to overwhelm him. His body followed autopilot, walking without thought. He arrived at the local bridge, a tall suspension bridge with four lanes. Walking down one of the pedestrian paths, Jack ignored the cars whizzing past him. The wind softly blew through his hair, quietly flowing into his mouth and nostrils. He could smell the water beneath him, as small ripples formed in the water.

Stepping over the guard wall and closer to the ledge, Jack now stood some 80 feet from the surface of the water. It was a strange sensation. Something like a roller coaster ride, but stuck at the top, and the world spun a bit. Sitting down, Jack opened up his backpack. He pulled out a large blue folder, his family’s photo album. The first page showed his family, with his little brother as a baby. Jack was sitting on the lap of his mom while his dad stood in the back of the picture. They looked happy. Like everything had been going perfectly their whole lives, and it would only get better. Jack looked at the picture for a long while. He then slowly slid it out of its plastic sheath, kissed it, used the scissors on his father’s fancy silver pocket knife to cut it in half, lit it on fire, and then threw the smoldering bits into the water. One bit fizzled as it hit the slow moving water, but the rest burnt up before reaching the water.

The wake of a nearby barge churned up the water, Jack just watched the waves, almost mesmerized. He started to rip and burn more photos, and after going through a few pages, he tossed the whole binder into the water, watching it float on the water amongst smoky ash of burnt pictures.

He stood up again, closing his eyes and letting the cool air run over his face. Leaning forward, he could smell the water, hear it. Jack lifted one foot up, but set it back down. He tried the other foot, neither of which seemed willing to take that step. He tensed his legs, but his body wouldn’t let him jump. Jack sat back down, hot tears in contrast with the cool air. He couldn’t save his family, and he couldn’t kill himself. He hated himself even more for it, being so utterly weak and pathetic.

“Hello Jack.”

Jack was so startled he nearly fell off the bridge. Turning, Jack saw a short wrinkled old man with bright green eyes. The fortune teller.

“Jack, I see you are in an interesting situation.”

“What the hell are you doing here? Leave me alone! I’m going to jump!” Jack shouted.

“Are you now? I doubt it.”

Covering his face, Jack sat shivering.

“Jack, Jack, Jack. I told you that you were going to have to make some big decisions soon. This is one of them. You can either walk away now, return to your home, get sent to foster care and live the rest of your life, pissed off, but alive and in a simple, mediocre situation, or…” Zad pointed to the water. It was very different now. The wake of the boats and the ripples in the water had gone, and the water was extremely still. Then, as Jack watched, it slowly started forming a whirlpool, growing larger and less believable by the second. Soon a great raging torrent had formed, with a bright blue light in the center. “Or you can jump, and see what is waiting for you on the other side of that portal. It could be death. It could be untold riches. The true question is whether or not you want to take that risk. Is doing something you know you will hate better than something you might hate?”

The water had slowed down, but the whirlpool, against all logic, still remained. Jack took a step forward to look at it, but started away from it. “Maybe something I know is better than something-“

Jack felt a sharp push against his back. For a few seconds he thought he would not fall, but his feet could find no purchase on the slippery metal lip of the bridge. He barely had time to scream before he tumbled down into the maelstrom.

And then- darkness.

Chapter II

Jack could smell where he was before he could see it. The stench of the place smelled terrible, enough to make him gag. He wasn’t sure if it was mud or something entirely worse, but he knew that he wanted to get away from it. A wet, slimy feeling encased the entirety of his body, and he just needed to get free of it, he needed to be clean. Sitting up on his knees, Jack surveyed his surroundings. He was on some sort of farm, small pumpkins and other vegetables all over. Some of the land hand been freshly tilled, judging by the deep cuts in the ground. The air was very clean, even with the awful stench of… whatever it was that covered Jack’s legs. It had a crisp feel, one that Jack hadn’t felt before. If he didn’t smell so bad, he might have taken a second to enjoy it. About a hundred yards away there stood a small house, wooden with a stone chimney atop it. From what he could tell, the windows were glassless. Curtains, rather vividly colored, hanging in the windows, swayed in the breeze.

“Where the hell am I?” Jack asked himself.

He stood up, walking towards the house. His backpack was missing and his entire lower body was coated in a thick layer of grime. He was hoping that the farm had a hose or something that he could wash his legs off with. As he neared the house, he noticed it looked strange. It had no telephone wires running into it, no antenna nor satellite; there was no sign of technology at all. Jack started to wonder if he had ended up in some sort of Amish settlement.

Noticing movement a ways off, Jack stopped and looked. It was a farmer working in the field. The farmer was driving an oxen team pulling a large metal plow. The two oxen were reddish brown and extremely muscular. They were going slowly, unworried and calm, dragging the iron head through the dirt. The man constantly looked about himself, as if he thought he was being followed. Something definitely made him worried.

The farmer looked over at Jack, shielding his eyes from the sun. Pulling back the reins to his oxen, he jumped off and grabbed something from behind his seat on the plow.

Jack gave a little wave but hesitantly backed up, unsure of the farmer’s intentions. As the farmer came closer, he started to wave what he held in his hand and yell at Jack. Turning to run, Jack, stumbled to the ground in a patch of pumpkins, smooshing a rotten one under foot. The farmer grew even angrier, running now. He held a metal bat with a leather handle, the bat wrapped in woody thorns. Jack got up and ran, bits of pumpkin flying off his feet and knees as he gained speed, all the while avoiding divots in the ground and other pumpkins.

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