Monthly Archives: October 2021

Broken Horizons – Vol 10, Ch 9


[Pottery] wasn’t for Rose. Her vases were arguably similar to what a vase should be, but she had the suspicion that if she’d simply left the lump of clay on the spinning wheel there was a reasonable chance random air currents could have done a better job that she did.

“I think I’ve made a hockey puck,” she said, holding the blob of sagging clay up for the others to see.

“It’s got a strong artistic statement behind it,” Aegis Eye said. “I hear it saying ‘working with mud sucks’.”

“It’s still better than mine,” Makes Emm Dead said, holding up a ‘vase’ which had somehow turned into a bowling ball at the end of the bat.

“Ouch. I thought you were making a frame for a fish tank?” Jamal asked.

“Yeah. It went a little off course,” Makes said.

Aegis and Makes were among the over half dozen people in the party that’d scooped Jamal up and dragged him along on the “crafting tour” of the city. All of them were lower level than Rip or Matt, most substantially so, but that didn’t seem to be an issue for anyone. 

Inside the city, they were safe, at least to a reasonable degree, so the need for levels and spells and fantastic abilities was greatly reduced.

From what Rip gathered, most of the party were younger players. People like herself and Jamal who’d been lured in by the [World Shift] expansion and found themselves in a strange new world that everyone else seemed to know a lot better than they did.

“We figured going out and getting killed was a bad idea, so we stayed in [Sky’s Edge] until the Consortium came by and blew the place up,” Aegis had explained when Rose asked her why they hadn’t gained many levels yet. “We did some fighting in the whole escape through the dungeon thing, but I’ve gotta tell you, I’m terrible at it. My brain just turns to mush and I freeze up.”

“I know. We’ve fought a ton so far, and new fights always leave me feeling clueless,” Rip said. “It does get easier with practice though. I think part of it’s our bodies gaining levels and part of it’s just familiarity.”

“Probably,” Aegis said. “It’s what a lot of the others say too. I don’t know that I really want it to become familiar though. Does that make sense?”

“It does,” Rose said though it was something she’d stopped worrying about a long time ago. “It feels like you’ll lose a part of yourself if you go all in on killing stuff, right?”

“Pretty much, yeah,” Aegis said. “Which I know is stupid. Everyone else here is trying to level up like crazy, right?”

Rip thought back to the first fights Pillowcase and Lost Alice had led them too. It felt like a lifetime ago. What stood out for her was how intent both Pillowcase and Lost Alice had been on making sure the experience didn’t mess her or Jamal up. They’d offered reassurances, provided warnings, and made it crystal clear that if combat leveling was something either Rip Shot or Matt Painting turned out to be uncomfortable with, they wouldn’t have to do it and could remain in the party indefinitely.

“Hey, it’s not stupid,” Rose said. “Our [Guild] moms made it part of the charter that all levels are welcome in the guild, whether or not the person every intends to level again.”

“I am glad you’re here,” Jamal said. “I’ve been trying to tell her that. Makes has been trying to tell her that. Everyone is trying to tell her, it’s fine to work on stuff other than killing things.”

“Says the guy who’s really good at killing things,” Aegis said.

“I am definitely not good at killing things,” Jamal said. “Ask Rip. She outpaces in damage in every fight. The only people I consistently beat out are the [Healers].”

“And me,” Aegis said.

“And me,” Makes echoed.

“We don’t know that,” Jamal said. “You haven’t even been trying yet. For all we know, the moment you two get serious, you’ll blow past all the rest of us and start hanging out with all those ‘end game players’ we keep hearing about.”

“I think the real question is whether they want to get serious at all?” Rosse said. “I know people here are crazy eager to ‘power up’, but it’s fine not to. There are like a billion max level [Adventurers] out there, the only reason to become one of them is because it’s what you want to do. If you don’t though, there’s tons of other stuff you can do, or be. Like all this!”

Rose was mostly quoting from a speech Tessa had given them, but it wasn’t until she looked around that she really understood what Tessa had been saying.

Levels and powers and all the things that came with being an [Adventurer] were great but there really was more to the world. The [Cooks] who made them the amazing food, the burgeoning prodigies of crafting that she saw around them, even people like the [Nuns] they’d trained with. [Adventurers] focused on the dangers in the world, and that was important but there was more to lands and peoples around them that the perils that lurked in the shadows. 

Rose could see how the life around her could draw someone in. Looking over at Jamal, she could see the happiness radiating from him that said it might not just be ‘someone’ who got drawn into the promise of a peaceful life.

“Maybe we do,” Aegis said, the whisper of an uncertain pause in her words.

“We didn’t really have anyone to run with before,” Makes said. “So, you know, it didn’t seem like a great idea to go off on our own.”

“Do I detect the sound of someone who’d like a little bit of safe and easy leveling to get their feet wet with it?” Jamal asked and threw a glance over to Rose.

He knew what her answer would be. He knew she’d be thrilled to take care of someone like Tessa and Lisa had taken care of them.

But he still checked anyways.

Because that’s what best friends do.


That there was red tape involved in releasing a vast and terrible evil from its semi-eternal prison didn’t particularly surprise Yawlorna. She’d worked with bureaucracies her entire adult life. If they’d had pre-set forms in place and a dozen different, and conflicting, specifications for how the forms were to be filled out, she might even have wondered if she was back home already. In place of all that though, there were [Signatories] who needed to be consulted. 

Nominally the [Signatories] were the world powers that had been affected by Xardrak’s various schemes. They all held a bounty on him for the damages he’d caused and all needed to acquiesce to any disturbance of his prison.

“The silly thing is none of them did any of the work in subduing him,” Glimmerglass said. “Most of them have high level servants they could have gathered to do what we did, but none of them were willing to risk losing their major resources. So we did all the work, and they swooped in to ‘safeguard’ the [Prison of Eternal Ice].”

“When you say ‘we’, do you mean your guild? Or all the [Adventurers]?” Yawlorna asked.

“Not all of the [Adventurers], but a lot of us,” Glimmerglass said. “Xardrak built his fortress in a layered area and figured out how to project himself into each layer. We spent weeks destroying shadow copies and layer illusions of him – each of which could call on the real Xardrak’s powers as a note – before we finally reached the real one.”

“That seems like an unimaginable amount of power for one person to hold,” Yawlorna said. “Is he not limited to the [Level Cap] you spoke of earlier?”

“The [Level Cap] is unique to [Adventurers],” Glimmerglass said. “Other creatures, though thankfully few of them, can surpass the cap and become far more powerful than any single [Adventurer]. At least in terms of measurable might.”

“Is there another metric that matters?” Yawlorna asked.

“There have been exceptional [Adventurers] who’ve stood toe-to-toe with foes far more powerful than themselves and won. Repeatedly. It’s a fairly common test for [Adventurers] to attempt – trying to solo an opponent who’s capable of wiping an entire [Raid Group].”

“Common to attempt, not common to succeed I take it?”

“No, success is not common at all. But how long you can survive, how much damage you can do, how well your healing can keep pace with the damage being dealt, all of those can be very enlightening, and hard to discern outside of otherwise foolish tests like that.”

“Is that what the [Signatories] will believe we are attempt to do in contacting Xardrak?” Yawlorna asked.

“I didn’t think that would be the wisest approach to take,” Glimmerglass said. “The dispatch that I sent was phrased as a request for gathering research data from Xardrak without releasing him, since at the moment, putting him back in the bottle could provide unfeasible given how tied up the [Adventurers] are with the Consortium.”

“Ah, you told the truth then, how interesting.”

“Occasionally it’s a useful thing to try,” Glimmerglass said. “As a surprise for people if nothing else.”


An impending meeting with the [Evil Overlord] of the [Consortium of Pain] was the kind of thing that should have occupied a rather large chunk of Hailey’s thoughts.

That she’d forgotten about it entirely was somewhat atypical, even for her.

“Would you repeat what you just said,” she asked. “I’ve added Penswell to the channel and I think she needs to be aware of this.”

“Oh…OH! Uh, hi Penswell, umm, nice to meet you?” Tessa said.

“We’ve already met,” Penny said, a trace of amusement in her voice.

“True. You’ve worked with me as Glimmerglass. I just couldn’t recall if you’d spoken to this side of me before.”

“I gather the distinction between the different sides of each [Adventurer] can vary from one to another,” Penny said. “In your case though I believe you were fairly close with your alternates?”

“In an ‘its complicated sense’, yeah, that’s correct,” Tessa said.

“I also gather the present conversation between Hailey and yourself is related to that subject?” Penny said.

“You gather correctly,” Tessa said. “We were discussion how, in the game-version of this world, each of us had more characters than just the ones we are bonded to now.”

“I believe that’s fairly common, correct?”

“More so than not,” Tessa said. “There were various reasons in the game to have multiple characters, but a lot of players did so just to experience the world in different ways. Or because they wanted to be able to fill different roles if their friends or guildmates were missing something. Like a healer, or a tank, or a particular flavor of dps.”

“It seems that those alternates are not a part of this world however?” Penny asked.

“That’s been the experience of everyone we contacted,” Tessa said. “Or rather almost everyone. I’m an obvious exception since Glimmerglass is in her own body, independent from Pillowcase and I. For a while, I thought that might be due to an odd and somewhat indescribable experience I had in the [High Beyond], but just recently, one of my guildmates received a message from one of her alternates who wants to meet with her.”

“I see. If you’re not unique, then its possible, or even probable, that the other alternates exist in the world and are simpling lacking or unaware of the bond with their [Inspirations].”

“I was able to confirm with my guildmate that, like me, her alternate didn’t show up on searches or any guild lists when she looked for her,” Tessa said.

“Which means the standard methods [Adventurers] use for locating people would be failing to locate their own alternates,” Penny said. “So it may be that all of the alternates exist in the world too.”

“And most of them will be without [Inspiration],” Hailey said. “So there may be an order of magnitude more [Adventurers] who could be recruited to the world’s defenses that we just didn’t know to look for. But that’s not why I thought we needed to talk to you.”

“An army of [Adventurers] ten times larger than the one we have wasn’t reason enough to contact me?” Penny asked.

“Oh, it was,” Tessa said. “It is. But it’s possible we could do even better than that.”

“You have my attention,” Penny said and the air in room grew noticeably heavier.

“[Broken Horizons] isn’t the only game that many of us played,” Tessa said. “If we’re connected to the real people who match our characters from that game, then its possible we’re connected to the people who match our characters in those other games, if any of them are as real as this world is.”

“If Tessa’s right, we can do more than give you an army to match the Consortium’s invasion force,” Hailey said. “We could match the entire [Consortium of Pain] and more.”

Broken Horizon – Vol 10, Ch 8


A day of training with Obby left Rose itching to show off the new tricks that she’d learned. So, of course, no one was around to show them off to!

“Jamal? You up to anything interesting?” Rose asked over their private channel.

“Yep.” Jamal managed to squeeze an inordinate amount of delight into a single word.

“You want company?” Rose asked. She’d gone off and spent most of the day without him but she was still worried about being left out.

Because that was rational.

Jamal deserved to have fun stuff just for himself too. 

But she had something cool to show him. 

“Only if you don’t mind getting muddy,” Jamal said, a laugh sneaking around the curves in his words.

“Muddy? You? I’ve got to see this. Where are you?” Rose asked.

“Give me a moment and I’ll throw you a party invite,” Jamal said.

Living in a world with a heads up display was so unspeakably convenient that Rose had managed to lose all sense of it being deeply weird too.

With a thought she could pull up a mini-map of the area around her, and with another call up a map of the entire surrounding region. The larger map was of limited use since any area she hadn’t been to personally was covered in a “fog of war”, but even so it made things like navigating to one’s friends so much simpler than it had been on Earth.

The party requests appeared before here and Rose tapped it without thinking twice, to discover she was in a party with not only Jamal (who was listed as Matt Painting, as usual) but also a half dozen other people.

“Welcome Rip Shot!”, “Howdy”, “Hi there!”, and other variants on the same theme sprang up in party chat the moment she joined. 

“Oh, uh, hi,” Rose said, feeling like her old, shy self for a moment.

Or maybe her new shy self?

Rip Shot hadn’t been much of a socialite before the [World Shift] stuck her other half into her body. If anything Rip was more used to interacting with groups of people, which wasn’t saying much.

“I hope I’m not interrupting the mud stuff?” Rose said and searched for Jamal’s marker on the map.

He was over in the inhabited part of town.

At a [Pottery Studio]?

“We’ve got plenty of mud to sling around,” someone named ‘Aegis Eyes’ said. “Come on over and we’ll sling some at you.”

“I don’t think that’s a winning sales pitch dear,” someone else named Homey Badger said.

“We’re working on our [crafting] skills,” Matt Painting said, and Rose wasn’t sure if it was Matt, Jamal, or if both of them were having enough fun with it that the difference was irrelevant.

“I leave you along for a few hours and you took of [Pottery]?” Rose asked.

“No, not at all,” Jamal said. “I took up [Pottery], [Woodworking], [Herbalism] and [Singing].”

“What? Wait, you can’t sing, we both got kicked out of music class cause we were terrible,” Rose said.

“You were terrible, because you never practiced, I was mediocre, because my stupid voice kept cracking,” Jamal said. “And you know what one nice thing about being a magic construct of iron and gears is?”

“Yeah, I get it,” Rose said. “But [Pottery] though? And [Woodworking]? How did you have time to pick all that stuff up? I was only gone for a couple of hours, not a couple of weeks!”

“That’s the cool thing – we come pre-built with a lot this stuff just waiting for us to use it,” Jamal said. “I mean I’m not the world’s best [Potter] or anything but I can do it with, like, no problems. And it’s fun! You’ve gotta try it out!”

His delight was infectious and despite being soul crushingly eager to show off the things Obby had taught her, the idea of slinging some mud around and making a vase or two grew more and more compelling to Rose.

She quickened her pace a bit, holding back her real speed as it occurred to her that Jamal’s foray into arts and crafts had given her the perfect excuse to keep her new abilities secret for a while and then spring them on him and the rest of their party when it would surprise the hell out of everybody.

Imagining the looks on their faces was so delicious that Rose was sorry she’d even considered spilling the beans early.

“Hey, is it okay if we don’t tell the others what we figured out today?” she asked Obby on a quick private channel.

“Ooo, looking to bust out your new stuff when they least expect it?” Obby asked, sounding as delighted with the idea as Rose felt with it.

“If its okay?” Rose asked.

“It’s perfect,” Obby said. “I wish I’d thought to suggest it.”

“It’s not, like, bad tactics or something to not let the group know what I can do?” Rose asked.

“If we come across a fight that’s tough enough and that we’ve got time to prepare for, you can explain what you can do then,” Obby said. “If you want to. By then you might even be able to do more. So you’d be saving time. Otherwise waiting to use them until a moment when they can have the most impact? I think happy surprises and mysteries like that can make life a lot more fun for everyone. Or almost everyone. You’ve got to judge your audience’s tastes. In this case I think you’re definitely safe though. You know I’m onboard, you probably have a good idea how Jamal will react, and Tessa, Lisa, Claire, and Starchild have an appreciation for dramatic reveals, if I’m reading them right.”

“Thanks!” Rose said and dropped the channel.

Jamal was having fun with people. She didn’t want to intrude on that, but it was such a rare thing to see him opening up to anyone but her, and he sounded so happy, Rose knew she had to be there to share it with him. 

What else were best friends for?


The research results hadn’t come in yet but Yawlorna already saw she was going to need to revise all of the assumptions they’d made.

“The [Hounds of Fate] probably aren’t eating the [Disjoined],” Glimmerglass said. “We don’t know much about them, or I don’t at least, but according to the standard lore, they don’t devour the souls they grab. Supposedly they drag the lost souls off to ‘their true destinations’, which are somewhere beyond the reach of even the deepest magics from before the fall.”

“We saw some people get caught by them when we arrived here,” Kamie Anne Do said. “This was different. When we got here it was like their were dogs playing fetch and the souls they snapped up were the sticks. They were a lot, I don’t know, angrier I guess, with the [Disjoined].”

“Maybe it’s because the [Disjoined] aren’t supposed to exist?” Yawlorna asked. “Tessa told us about the ones that tore apart the [Heart Fire] in [Sky’s Edge] and unleashed that shadow thing that almost ate us all. That doesn’t sound like the work of something that’s meant to be a part of this world.”

“That would suggest that there’s no proper destination for the [Disjoined] either,” Glimmerglass said. “Otherwise the Hounds would probably just bring them there.”

“Why bother with that effort when they can just tear them to pieces and be done with it?” Battler X asked., standing propped against Kamie

“Creatures, or spirits rather, of that echelon are bound by more laws than you or I,” Glimmerglass said. “The Hounds have a purpose and serve it always. Unless the [Disjoined] are something old, from when the Hounds were created, I would imagine the Hounds would treat the souls of [Disjoined] like any other soul if they could. Also, tearing a soul to pieces doesn’t destroy. It’s merely an inconvenience.”

“And you know that how?” Yawlorna asked, curious over what sort of mad man did research like that.

“A century or so back, the [Kingdom of Horns] was menaced by an unkillable [Lich] named Xardrak. We stopped his plans dozens of times and finally met him in battle in the center of his lair. He had a machine for transferring his soul to a new body and we used it to tear his soul in half, and then half again, and then half again, and so until his [Aura of Invincibility] was diluted enough that we could kill all the copies we made.”

“That sounds horrifying on almost every level I can think of,” Yawlorna said.

“It’s worse that that,” Glimmerglass said. “Even torn to ribbons, his soul still came back three more times before we finally stuffed it into a bottle of frozen air and buried him to get a few decades of peace.”

“It sounds like you expect him to come back again?” Yawlorna asked.

“It’s more or less inevitable, although I think by the last time even he was getting tired of his own nonsense,” Glimmerglass said.

Yawlorna paused to consider what sort of terrible intellect might have driven someone to push themselves past death time and again in the face of the odds that Glimmerglass and her kind could bring against them.

They must have had a vast and terrible intellect indeed, she decided.

And a useful one.

“How tired of fighting do you think he might have gotten?” Yawlorna asked as a vast and terrible plan began to form inside her.


Sometimes when the world turned upside down, the only thing to do was share the ridiculousness.

“Do you get how messed up this is?” she asked a patient Tessa.

“This Azma sounds like she was supposed to be the end boss for the expansion if what you’re saying is true here too,” Tessa said. “So, yeah, that does seem kind of messed up that she’s working on our side now.”

“Oh, no, no, no. She’s definitely not on our side,” Hailey said. “I talked with the lore monkeys. She is absolutely on her own side. Always.”

“They had a fondness for that sort of character didn’t they?” Tessa asked.

“Don’t even get me started on what a psych profile on the writers would look like,” Hailey said. “I mean, nice people, fun to talk with, but wow were their imaginations kinda terrifying.”

“Eh, I mean we’re sort of walking in their imaginations now aren’t we?” Tessa asked. “All this stuff, everything in the [Fallen Kingdoms], it was either made by them or they were psychically channeling what it already looked like.”

“I guess,” Hailey said. “We still don’t have any conclusive answers on which of those is true, and I don’t think anyone who could work it out has had time to care about it yet.”

“It doesn’t seem to be terribly important either,” Tessa said. “Unless the people back on Earth can change what’s happening here.”

“That’s a definite no,” Hailey said. “Remember what I said about the EE staff getting insta-absorbed the moment they tried to change anything? Part of me coming here was just imagining the change I could make.”

“Huh, that’s interesting. What was the other part?”

“BT,” Hailey said. “I could feel her reaching out to me as I reached out to her. Or I could feel me reaching out to me. It really felt like I’d been split in two and fusing back together was the only thing that would make the ache of missing the other part of myself go away.”

“Do you still think of yourself as Hailey or as BT?” Tessa asked.

“Both? If that makes sense,” Hailey said. “It depends on what I’m doing. In battle, I’m 110% BT. Chatting with you, I’m around 95% Hailey.”

“I’m more or less the same with Pillowcase and Tessa, though its been handy to keep a little mental distance between the two sides. I think that’s how we were able to get Glimmerglass back into the mix.”

“I’ve looked for my other alts,” Hailey said. “No luck though. I don’t think they exist without me around.”

“I’m pretty sure they do,” Tessa said. “I know one that just reached out to a guildmate of mine.”

“Mine don’t show up on searches though,” Hailey said.

“Hers didn’t either,” Tessa said. “And Glimmerglass didn’t show up when I searched for her either.”

“So, wait, does that mean there are parts of us wandering around out there?”

“Yeah. And I think that means what we are now is a lot stranger than anything we’ve seen so far.”

Broken Horizons – Vol 10, Ch 7


Moving like lightning came with some rather noteworthy challenges.

“Oh! Oww! My nose!” Rip complained through the blood that was gushing from her face.

“Ouch. Yeah. Maybe watch for stone walls?” Obby said, holding out a [Healing Potion] for Rip to take a swig from.

“I could see the wall just fine,” Rip said. “It just looked a lot farther away and then blam it was all up in my face. Literally.”

“Interesting. You’re not getting any kind of time compression effects to go along with the speed?” Obby rubbed her chin, as though working out how that fact might fit into some greater puzzle.

“I don’t know,” Rip said. “I might be, but it’s not even close to enough to make steering easy if so.”

“That’s not terribly surprising under the circumstances I guess,” Obby said, gazing into the long distance.

“What circumstances?” Rose asked, relaxing from her combat footing and allowing Rip to fade back.

“Oh. That you’ve just unlocked the ability,” Obby partially lied. “It makes sense that you wouldn’t have perfect control over it yet. Not until you develop familiarity with it and it gets a chance to progress to different forms.”

“I guess that’s how the other abilities tend to work too right?” Rose asked. “That’s why a lot of early powers were “Lesser” this and “Minor” that?”

“It gives room for them to grow, which is an effective reward cycle,” Obby said. “For new players it also helps keep things simple to prevent them from being overwhelmed.”

“I think they failed that about as hard as they could with all this cause I don’t know if I could feel more overwhelmed if I tried,” Rose said.

“Did you want to talk about it?” Obby asked.

“Nah, it’s okay,” Rose said. “This is more fun.”

“I’m glad you were willing to try it out,” Obby said, “I think there’s a lot of people who’d lack the courage.”

“I don’t know if it’s courage really. I just want to be able to do cool things,” Rose said before looking away and adding . “And I thought you’d be a good teacher.”

“Thanks for your faith,” Obby said. “I don’t get a chance to this much.”

“Teach people stuff that didn’t exist in the game?”

“Teach people things in general,” Obby said. “It’s usually my wife who goes for that approach.”

“Oh wow, you’re married? Is she a player too?” Rose asked, a twinge of guilt shooting through her at the thought that they might be keeping Obby away from her actual family.

“We’ve played a lot together,” Obby said. “Sometimes apart too, but I don’t know, I feel like I spent far too long alone before we met, so it’s just more comfortable being with her than not.”

“Are you going to try to get to her after we gain a few levels?” Rose asked. “Oh, or is she coming here?”

The latter prospect was a lot more exciting and for a brief moment Rose let herself imagine what it would be like to have another high level player like Glimmerglass around to let them take on impossibly tough foes.

Except if that was the plan then why was Obby trying to make Rip stronger?

“Oh, sorry,” Obby said, watching Rose’s expressions flicker from bright shades of delight to soft hints of despair. “She’s not in the [Fallen Kingdoms].”

“You’re cut off from her?” Rose said, guilt replacing her more selfish emotions. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” Obby said. “I know she’s fine, and she knows I’m fine, and we both know we’ll be back together before too long.”

“Uh, how?” Rose asked. “Does she have an account she can use to get in here? I thought all of the people playing had been sucked into the game already?”

“There’s still a pretty big percentage of the logged in players who haven’t been drawn to the [Fallen Kingdoms]. Not as many of the lowbies like us since with all the fun that we had in the [High Beyond] most of the [Adventurers] there got hit by at least one death.”

“So your wife isn’t a lowbie then?”

Obby chuckled at that.

“You could definitely say that.”

“So she’s not in danger of getting killed then?”

“You could also say that.”

“How will you be together again soon then?” Rose asked.

“Because it won’t take forever for this situation to be resolved,” Obby said. “There are the greatest minds on two worlds working on sorting things out.”

“I thought the Consortium was this intergalactic evil empire or something though? They’ve got to have a lot more than two worlds worth of brainpower right?”

“The [Consortium of Pain] isn’t the core problem we’re facing,” Obby said. “They’re scum, sure, but they’re the kind of scum we’re build to deal with. Even if they send in an [Eradication Fleet] intent on wiping out the sun and all the planets in this system, that’s still a threat we can face. And odds are if they try that, we’ll wind up with an [Eradication Fleet] as a part of our permanent defense force.”

“You’re more worried about that [Hungry Shadow] thing aren’t you?” Rip asked.

“I’m worried about what the [Hungry Shadow] was before Tessa got ahold of it,” Obby said., “The [Hungry Shadow] was the limited, more real version of the thing it was when found it in [Sky’s Edge].”

“I guess I understand. I remember how horrible that thing felt,” Rose said. “But Tessa was able to beat it, right?”

“She was,” Obby said. “It survived, but what she did have us some real hope. That’s why I think we need to as strong as we can be.”

“It’s going to come back, isn’t it?” Rose asked. “She was able to hurt it, and it’s not going to be able to leave that alone. It’ll come for her, and it’s going to bring enough of those zombie to tear her to pieces.”

“No,” Obby said. “It’s going to try that, but it’s not counting on us. Next time, it’s going to be our turn to teach it a lesson.”


Conducting experiments on the boundaries between life and death was an area fraught with ethical risks. Generally, research studies that were even tangentially related to studying the mechanics of a sentient beings passing required rigorous review in both the design and implementation stages. Test subjects needed to be thoroughly vetted as part of the process and despite all of the work invested, it wasn’t uncommon for the results of the study to vary enough that no conclusion could be drawn from them.

That was on Yawlorna’s homeworld.

For the [Fallen Kingdoms] all she needed was a set of notebooks and a few of her crew who were willing to pitch in and help with interviews.

“When you said you were planning to study what death looked like on this world, I was worried things were going to be a bit bloodier,” Glimmerglass said.

“Anywhere else, it would probably have to be,” Yawlorna said. “Which, I should note, is why basically no one on my world is allowed to setup a study like this.”

“I’m not sure I see what the harm in asking questions could be?” Glimmerglass said.

“It’s not that asking questions is harmful, it’s that to get a population of people with the experience to answer questions about the process of dying, you generally need to kill a fair percentage of them yourself. And then bring them back.”

“I recall from Tessa’s memories that restoring the dead to life is not common on her world. I gather the same is true on yours as well?”

“There are short windows of time after some of our bodily functions cease that we can be revived,” Yawlorna said. “Outside of that, or in many different cases of injury, death is irreversible.”

“I’ve spent so long as an [Adventurer] that reality seems so distant,” Glimmerglass said. “But the same is true for many people here. Anyone without the [Soul Wakened] trait really.”

“I’m hoping we’ll be able to change that,” Yawlorna said. “Or at least understand why the trait manifests as it does.”

“If I know [Adventurers] as well as I think I do, I would guess you’re problem will not be a lack of data, but rather a surplus of it,” Glimmerglass said.

“Always better to know more and have to guess less,” Yawlorna said. “Sorry. One of my professors said that at the start of every class and the damn saying stuck in my head.”

“It’s not a bad sentiment,” Glimmerglass said. “Though I find the more that I learn, the more questions I wind up with.”

“This definitely seems like one of the those research projects,” Yawlorna said. “We’re probably not even asking the right questions in this round.”

“But until you ask something, you can’t begin to understand what is it that you don’t know you don’t know,” Glimmerglass said.

“We have some questions you’ll want to add to that list,” Kamie Anne Do said, a strange green mist seeping from her clothes.


Hailey didn’t mean to ruin people’s days, but sometimes being the bear of bad news was part of the job she’s unwittingly signed up for.

Not that it paid anything.

Or that she had any actual responsibilities.

Or people to report to.

Despite the fact that it involved being stuck on a world in the midst of an apocalypse, Hailey had to admit that the other facts pretty much cinched her current position as the best job she’d ever had.

“Is there any evidence to suggest that the [Hungry Shadow] is capable of reaching Earth?” Penswell asked over the telepathic channel she’d opened when Hailey pinged her with an urgent request.

“According to my friend, its abilities are inherently undefined,” Hailey said. “It changed several times over the course of their encounters with it in the [High Beyond].”

“That’s good,” Penny said.

“Really? Cause it doesn’t sound good to me.”

“Good that it hasn’t demonstrated any capacity for hopping from one world to the next,” Penny said. “We can’t rule out that it’s capable of such, but our current situation suggests it hasn’t developed that capability yet, and that means we have more time to work with.”

“How would we know if it had gained the ability to world hop?” Hailey asked.

“Our situation with the Consortium will change drastically the moment it gains that ability,” Penny said. “Right now, the [Hungry Shadow] is battling the Consortium’s forces. It has gained a substantial degree of control over them but there are still hold outs. If the [Hungry Shadow] gained the ability to absorb another world’s resources, I do not believe it would be able to resist doing so, and we would see the remaining Consortium forces emerge triumphant. And then of course, resume their conquest of world.”

“Would that be a favorable result for the [Fallen Kingdoms]?” Hailey asked. “It seems like we’re better equipped to combat the Consortium than we are a reality breaking possession monster like the [Hungry Shadow].”

“Weighed purely on their own capabilities, that’s true,” Penny said. “But the situation is more complex than that. As it stands the [Hungry Shadow] and the local Consortium forces are depleting each other’s reserves, placing them both in a weaker state than they would otherwise be. That’s almost the best case we can hope for. Any change from there short of mutual annihilation is one we will need to act on immediately.”

“After the infighting I saw around [Wagon Town], I can’t believe the member nations of the defense force will be eager to wage a war on behalf of another world entirely,” Hailey said.

“They won’t be. In fact they’ll refuse summarily and won’t listen to arguments to the contrary,” Penny said. “Which means the only forces we’ll have available will be the [Adventurers], who are likely to be fractured on the issue as well.”

“That seems kind of dire?” Hailey said.

“It is, and it will get worse,” Penny said. “But we do have a resource none of the sides are accounting for, even our own.”

“Please don’t say it’s me,” Hailey said which drew a laugh from Penny.

“You have already delivered us our salvation,” Penny said. “Anything else you can do for us I count as a miracle.”

“I can’t promise any miracles, but I am all in on this, so I’ll do what I can,” Hailey said. “And I know that’s true for my friend and the people with her too.”

“And if that included working with the former leader of the Consortium’s forces?” Penny asked.

To which Hailey was speechless for a long moment.

Nothing in the game documentation suggested an event like that could occur. As far as Hailey knew it was actually impossible given how the sides had been coded.

On the other hand though, maybe that’s where their hope for victory lay, in meeting an impossible foe with impossible allies?

If nothing else, she was sure it would be a memorable encounter.

Assuming anyone was alive to remember it at all.

Broken Horizons – Vol 10, Ch 6


The drop of candy in Balegritz’s hand didn’t seem like the sort of thing that could change the world. His world maybe, poisons and drugs could come in packages that small easily. The whole world though? That seemed like a lot to ask from one little candy.

“So this is a [Mana Charger]?” Illuthiz asked. “I expected it to be glowing like a sun with how you described it.”

“That’s during the tempering period,” Hammy Burglar said. “We had to design special eyewear to make working with it possible.”

“That was after we blew up three batches because someone couldn’t see what she was doing,” Vinyard said.

“Anyways, the point is, we manage to create a Tier 1 [Mana Charger] with the ingredients we found here. Simple stuff too,” Hammy said.

“Stuff that should be available everywhere,” Vinyard added.

“It makes the argument that this world was designed as an [Adventurer’s] playground more believable,” Balegritz said.

“I agree, disturbing though that idea may be,” Illuthiz said. “Explain again, in detail, how this will confirm or deny your hypothesis that we possess magical aptitude here which we lacked in our home realm?”

“It’s fairly simple,” Hammy said. “There was a mechanic in the game version of this world called [Overcharging]. It was put in for complicated reasons and never fully explored and well utilized. If we’re right and you have magic, the [Mana Charger] should trigger that state in the person who consumes it. If the subject doesn’t enter an [Overcharged] state then they either lack any inherent magic, or it’s a sufficiently small quantity that it’s likely they couldn’t do anything with it regardless.”

“Can you explain the [Overcharging] state?” Illuthiz asked. “What other effects does it have on the subject?”

“You wind up glowing from the excess magical energy that you generate,” Lost Alice said. “Primarily from your hands and your scalp.”

“Without injury or does the radiation generate heat or cause other complications?” Illuthiz asked.

“The glow is magical, so there’s not really any noticeable heat that accompanies it,” Lost Alice said. “For an [Adventurer] there weren’t any long term impacts to it, but its hard to say if that would hold true for anyone else.”

“[Adventurers] don’t keep records of their conditions over time?” Illuthiz asked.

“Oh, we do,” Lost Alice said. “But we also tend to die a lot.”

“But then you come back,” Balegritz said. “Oh, I see the problem. When you come back it’s not in the same body as the one that died is it?”

“Sometimes it is, but even then, the [Heart Fire] fully restores it, which could be rectifying any long terms and subtle issues that might otherwise crop up.”

“Is it wrong that I want to dissect one of you,” Hermeziz said. “I mean, not without your permission, but there is so much to learn inside you!”

“I’m willing to bet there are already [Adventurers] who are doing that,” Lost Alice said. “In the world we come from, doing an autopsy on yourself isn’t exactly possible. Here? All you need is someone to stay alive who’s good with a knife while you talk through through it from the ghost lands.”

“You’re aware that isn’t supporting the argument that the [Mana Chargers] are safe for the subject to consume?” Illuthiz asked.

“We’d be lying if we said this experiment was without risk,” Lost Alice said. “And I refuse to do that to you. You need to know everything we do about what’s involved so you can make an informed decision.”

“I must be getting soft in the head, but you almost have me believing that you really mean that,” Hermeziz said.

“There have been some horrifically messed up experiments done on people in our world,” Lost Alice said. “Most especially people who are different, or just in the minority. I will literally kill or die to make sure we don’t make those same mistakes here.”

“You are not a fan of ‘progress at any cost’?” Illuthiz asked.

“There’s no point in trying to get to a brighter future faster if we turn ourselves into monsters to get there.”


Composing an email to yourself wasn’t supposed to feel like asking someone out on a date, but Claire still had butterflies in her stomach as she checked over the short note that she’d composed.

“I don’t think you’ll have anything to worry about,” Tessa said. “But if you’d like, we can hang out for a bit to see if Wrath Raven decides to answer right away.”

“No, that’s okay,” Claire said. “I don’t want to hold up.”

“You are not,” Starchild said. “We’re curious about this too. And it’s not a chore to spend time in your company.”

“Thank you,” Claire said. “But I know Tessa and Glimmerglass are both in high demand at the moment.”

“My next power leveling session isn’t for another hour,” Glimmerglass said. “Most of the former lowbies are training at the [Chapel]. It’s safer and faster. The nuns are only insisting they get actual combat experience in so that they’re not overwhelmed the first time they go into a dungeon after they out level the nun’s training.”

“And I’m working on guild stuff as it comes up,” Tessa said. “I’m kind of surprised at how little of it there is in fact. I’d expected to get deluged with stuff to handle, but the parties are mostly just handling their own business by themselves. I guess people weren’t looking for someone to tell them what to do, they just wanted to know that other people would have their back.”

“That doesn’t sound like the people from our world very much,” Claire said.

“I think we’re seeing what happens when people are put in a tough situation but are given the tools and strength to fix it themselves,” Pete said.

“It’s more than that,” Tessa said. “People, Earthlings, form social groups around leaders. If there’s no chief, we make one, even if the people who wind up in charge are often sorely unsuited to it. I think we saw that happen with the guild too. Except instead of abandoning their old social groups, the bonds within the different parties held firm. The guild exists to give those parties a space to exist in together.”

“So you’re thinking people want neighbors basically?” Claire asked.

“Allies might be more accurate,” Tessa said. “Or ‘connections’ is probably even closer. Being a group of four or seven or eight against the world is exciting, but living with excitement all day, every day is hard.”

“Many of us have lost our familiar connections too,” Starchild said. “[Druids] are often solitary people, but even so, we are rarely alone. The others of our [Grove] and the lives which are entrusted into our care form a web which supports us. For me, those were lost before all of this started, and without all of you, I would be lost in solitude too.”

“I wonder how the solo [Adventurers] who were higher level are doing?” Claire asked. “We all got together easily enough because we were low level. What  would a level 60 do though? They can’t hang out with the high levels, but there’s nothing for them in the lower areas.”

“Nothing except friends and emotional support,” Pete said. “I’m not saying all of them would grasp that, but I think even the most ‘lone wolf’ of sorts has a decent chance of feeling the need for some companionship in a world this dangerous.”

Claire wasn’t sure about that. She’d met plenty of people who had no need to be around others. She’d been that person somedays herself.

And, no matter how antisocial the Earthling might be, there was their [Adventurer] counterpart to consider. In [Broken Horizons], soloing was possible, but grouping was more rewarding by an order of magnitude.

She was wondering when, or if, she might hear back from Wrath Raven when a bird circling high above them caught her eyes.

She’d written back to Wrath saying that meeting sounded great and asked her when it might be possible given how disrupted the world was.

Her answer, it seemed, was arriving on wings as black as soot.

With unhurried grace, the bird descended, tracing a narrowing circle around the spot where Claire was sitting.

When no one moved away, or drew weapons, the bird descended faster, spiraling in with the urgency of a hunter that had spotted its prey.

An instant before it touched down, a swirl of feathers passed around it and in its place stood Wrath Raven, the [Berserker], towering over Lady Midnight.


Ruling over others wasn’t difficult. Certainly not. Vixali had been born to the role after all.

Or reborn to it.


Yes, that sounded appropriate.

She was the Chosen Queen of the Vampires, insofar as her [Sire] had chosen to turn her into a [Vampire] and then chosen to ignore the fact that she had the desire to end his wretched existence for the entire time it took her to build up the means to meet her desire. 

At the time she hadn’t been able to understand how dense he’d been. She’d believed she was being subtle, but in hindsight she’d left so many warning signs of her intentions that he would have to have been willfully blind to have missed them, and that was simply unthinkable for someone with the resolve to become [Vampiric Royalty].

Or so she’d thought.

After dealing with her subjects over the decades though, Vixali had developed a fine understanding of her [Sire’s] inattention. 

She often wondered if he was laughing at her from whatever burning pool his soul was plunged into.

Surveying the scene before her, the wondering ceased.

He was definitely cackling with laughter from beyond his unhallowed grave.

“Have you reached a decision Your Majesty?” one of the [Adventurers] asked.

She was tempted to tell them to fight to the death and the last one standing would be admitted to her court, but for [Adventurers] the prospect of death was meaningless. They would all happily butcher one another just for the thrill of one of their number gaining official status as Vixali’s subject.

“Tell me again why you wish to swear fealty to me?” Vixali said. She was certain she wasn’t going to understand them.

“Because you’re so hot!” one of the [Adventurers] called out from the back of the small crowd around her. 

Vixali amended her previous thought. She could easily understand them, she just didn’t want to.

“And that should concern me why?” Vixali asked. It was unlikely the man would be able to puzzle out why his words didn’t elicit the response he desired, but Vixali held out hope that someone in the crowd of hopefuls would understand.

“We could get blood for you?” another [Adventurer] suggested.

“A creative offer,” Vixeli said,because offering a [Vampire] blood was something no one else had ever thought to do, “but not the answer to my question.”

“They think being your subjects will make the other [Adventurers] think they’re ‘cool’ for having you as a patron.” The [Adventurer] who spoke didn’t have the same mania in her eyes as most of the others. She hadn’t appeared to Vixali’s left only by virtue of the fact that she was still hidden in the shadows.

Even from [Vampiric Eyes].

Which was an interesting feat.

That she’d spoken silently was intriguing too.

“You have a different reason though,” Vixali said, replying along the telepathic channel and tuning out the prattling of the other [Adventurers].

“You’re very perceptive,” the shrouded [Adventurer] said, standing to Vixali’s right when she did so..

“And you are quite elusive,” Vixali said. “An excellent [Assassin] unless I miss my guess?”

“An [Assassin] yes, though not a particularly notable one.”

“Excellent [Assassins] rarely are.”

“I bow before your wisdom [Vampire Queen].”

“But not in fealty, I believe,” Vixali said, her curiosity a blessing that washed away the irritation embodied in the other [Adventurers].

Here was someone worth leaving Qiki’s bed for.

“No, I don’t think you want me as a subject and more than I desire someone else to take orders from,” the [Vampiric Assassin] said.

“But there is a [Boon] you crave?”

“Yes. I wish to know if you have made my sister your vassal. You would know her by the name Lost Alice.”

Broken Horizons – Vol 10, Ch 5


Science can be a cruel and merciless master. Many grad students have been lost in the sea of unpublishable papers, and many full time researchers have been devoured by the ever-consuming beast that is writing grant applications. For all the many horrors and hardships which await any who are foolish enough to dedicate their lives to such a unrelenting master though, so to are there the sweet moments which pay off the struggle and strife with delightful new discoveries.

“This is incredible,” Balegritz said a full minute after the experiment began.

“It’s not possible,” Hermeziz said. “You can’t have made this. But it’s here. Or maybe I’ve finally snapped and this is a delusion I’ve conjured as sanity departs.”

“It’s not a delusion,” Illuthiz said. “Or no. It’s definitely a delusion. Give me your slice and I’ll save you from it.”

“Absolutely not,” Hermeziz said, holding the half finished slice of pie away from the others. “I love you more than my own soul but I will fight you for this.”

“And that would be why we brought two pies rather than just the slices,” Lost Alice said.

“You know it would be this good?” Balegritz asked, exercising all of his willpower to savor the delicacy on his plate a single bite at a time.

“Nope,” Lost Alice said, looking to the two [Cooks] for confirmation. “I mean, I know Hammy Burglar and Vinyard are amazing [Cooks] but none of us were sure if that would translate properly for your people.”

“Our physiologies are surprisingly different,” Illuthiz said. “From what we’ve talked about with Lady Midnight and a few others, none of you seem to have a Pralac system, or a anything like a Enzodrine gland. By [Gothmorn] standards, your blood pressures seem to be dangerously low and you subsist on so few calories a [Gothmorn] would require hospitalization after a week of living like you do.”

“But we can eat the same things that they can,” Hermeziz said. “It’s fascinating in terms of mapping out a section of the map of life’s landscape no one had pursued before.”

Balegritz was tempted to step in. Hermeziz had found one of his favorite topics. It was one of the few things that drew him out of his shell around strangers. The problem was putting him back in there before he drove his audience away entirely.

Except in this case he seemed to have found a ready listener.

Three of them in fact.

“I want to compare notes with you on the physiology of your people,” Lost Alice said. “And I want to get some of the [Half-Giants] in on that conversation too.”

“Oh, I haven’t spoken with them yet either,” Hermeziz said. “Do you know if their metabolisms are closer to ours or yours?”

“My metabolism is explicitly magical,” Lost Alice said. “[Vampires], at least ones of my [Bloodline], can’t exist without ambient magic in the environment. Not for long at any rate. I’m guessing you mean the species I was before I became a [Vampire] though, in which case, I don’t know. Up until recently, I didn’t have both access to [Half-Giants] and the expertise required to understand what the variations in their physiology might mean.”

Balegritz felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to find Illuthiz beside him with a second piece of pie. 

“Let him have his fun,” she said. “More pie for us.”

“I’m so glad you like it,” Hammy Burglar the [Cook] said. “We were afraid that because you need different nutrients than we do, your taste buds might be too far removed from ours for us to make sense of what spices would agree with you.”

“We didn’t have anything to model the flavor on, so it was a lot of guesswork,” Vinyard the [Cook] said. “But we were able to deconstruct some of your food bars to make sure it was at least safe and vaguely palatable.”

“This is more than vaguely palatable,” Balegritz said, through a mouth stuffed full of pie.

“You’ve precisely recreated the Korzon Berry Pie recipe from Gardels,” Illuthiz said.

“That’s one of the best restaurants on our world,” Balegritz explained to cut through the confusion that was creeping across Hammy and Vinyard’s faces. “The waiting list for it got so long that people were booking reservations a decade out.”

“How do you know what its food tastes like then?” Vinyard asked.

“They were having riots outside the front door every night when they opened and they got tired of that so they bought out the entire block they were on and turned it into one large venue. I think it seats something like fifty thousand people or something ridiculous like that.”

“And their food still’s good?” Hammy asked.

“There are claims that its better now,” Illuthiz said. “Their food science division has made some revolutionary discoveries, and since they import in such incredible quantities now, they’re able to create mixtures that achieve consistent flavors that do precisely what they want them too.”

“People say it’s ridiculous what they’ve done and that food preparation doesn’t work how they claim it does,” Balegritz said. “They say everything Gardels does has prove that magic exists.”

“Maybe you’ve proven otherwise though?” Illuthiz asked. “Or did the creation of this require mystical abilities?”

“There weren’t any spells used in making the pies,” Hammy said. “I’m not sure that magic wasn’t involved though.”

“In what sense or manner?” Illuthiz asked between bites of pie.

“Being able to cook like this?” Vinyard said. “None of us could make anything like this a couple of days ago.”

“Some of that can be chalked up to the leveling system here,” Hammy said. “Wizards learn new spells by leveling and I’ve heard them saw it’s like the new incantation just pops into their heads the moment they level or spend their bonus points.”

“The same is true for warrior-types,” Vinyard said. “Except there it’s not necessarily spells, but abilities. Things they just know to do. Even things that must draw on magic to work.”

“For example?” Balegritz asked.

“An [Assassin] isn’t a spellcasting class,” Hammy said. “They’re a [Melee DPS] but they have abilities like [Strike from the Shadows] which lets them step into one shadow and out another one. It’s clearly a magical ability. It even has the same visual effect as the spell [Shadow Step], and yet it just pops up in the head the moment they level.”

“I see,” Illuthiz said, her professional curiosity overcoming her apparent need for more pie. “So you are surmising something similar may be true for your culinary skills?”

“It’s possible,” Hammy said. “I think at this point, we don’t know how any of this really works, and our belief that some classes use magic and the rest don’t doesn’t quite line up with what we’ve been seeing.”

“Which means more of you might have access to magic than you know,” Balegritz said. “And you might be able to do a lot more with it than you have been.”

“More of us might have access to magic,” Hammy said.

“That’s the other part of the experiment we had in mind,” Vinyard said. “Our hypothesis is that you have magic too, and we think we know how to prove it.”


Seeing the same excitement, the exact same excitement, on the face of two entirely different people was disconcerting. Except, Claire reminded herself, they were not entirely different people. Tessa and Glimmerglass were as much two different facets of the same person as she and Lady Midnight were. Perhaps even moreso, since Tessa and Glimmerglass had shared a single body for a while according to the story Rip had relayed of their adventurers in the [Ruins of Heaven’s Grave].

“This is amazing! There are other people who are divided like us! I wasn’t even sure that was possible,” Tessa said.

“I was afraid that might be one of the origin points for the [Disjoined],” Glimmerglass said.

“We don’t know for sure yet that it is possible,” Pete said. “All we know at the moment is that there’s someone who’s claiming to be Wrath Raven. Not that they’re the real deal.”

“That should be easy enough to work out,” Glimmerglass said. “The message didn’t give you anywhere to meet her, or any other contact information besides her mail address, right?”

“Yeah. It’s weird. I’m still not seeing her when I look at my friend’s list or in any of the channels I know she should be,” Claire said.

“Which doesn’t seem like a great sign,” Pete said.

“Eh, there’s a bunch of possible explanations for that,” Tessa said. “Like Glimmerglass said though, you’ve got her mail address, so write back to her. Ask where she is and where she’d want to meet.”

“I understand being reluctant about reaching out,” Glimmerglass said. “If Tessa and Pillowcase hadn’t turned out to be real, I think the loneliness of missing them might have been overwhelming.”

“I haven’t felt that yet though,” Claire said. “If anything I feel a bit guilty about not looking for Wrath sooner.”

“And for being content as we were,” Lady Midnight said. “It was comfortable to not have the weight of the world on our shoulders like I’m sure Wrath Raven has.”

“She was part of the fighting against the Consortium I take it?” Tessa asked.

“I don’t know,” Lady Midnight paused and when she resumed it was Claire who spoke. “With how I always played her, I can’t imagine she’d hold back from something like that but…I don’t know, what if she’s not like that?”

“Then you’ll learn more about yourself than you imagined you would,” Glimmerglass said, placing a hand on Lady Midnight’s forearm.


It was irksome when one’s lieutenant was correct. Vixali felt marvelously restored, the fresh blood coursing through her veins a gift potent enough to allow her to face the mad beasts that awaited her above.

Pausing at the door, she cast a glance back to Qiki who was sprawled on the sleeping furs, lost in a contented sleep with the most infuriating smirk on her pale lips.

Vixali didn’t have it in herself to even pretend that she might order Qiki to rise and atten her. Sleep was the minimum reward her second in command was due.

Locking the door when she left, Vixali ascended the winding stair to from the [Great Hall’s Crypt] to the [Hall of Remembrance] which was directly above it.

Under normal circumstances, the [Hall of Remembrance] was a quiet refuge for those seeking to pray for the souls of ancestors or others who had passed before them. The room Vixali entered bore no resemblance to such a space though.

“The Queen has returned!” an [Adventurer] declaimed the moment Vixali stepped through the door to the crypts.

“We await Her Dread Majesty’s Dark Wishes,” another [Adventurer] announced. There was an undercurrent of amusement and insincerity in the words that rankled Vixali’s nerves.

The [Vampires] in the room were split into three main groups. The first, and perhaps least welcome, were Vixali’s coterie. Her people were her responsibility. She knew them and was charged with their care and preservation. 

Or in other words, she was eminently familiar with just how terrible they were and yet was still compelled by her position to treat them like their weren’t colossally selfish and self destructive menaces to her sanity.

The second group were the [Adventurers] who, for whatever hellish reasons, had come to their profession after dying and rising as one of the [Undead]. Not Vixali’s [Blood Line] of [Vampire] but one of the similar [Types]. 

The [Vampiric] [Adventurers] had decided that she was a “real [Vampire]” and they therefor owed her their loyalty. No. That is incorrect. Not their loyalty. Their fealty. As if she was a [King] handing out peerages and knighthoods.

She knew many of them treated their situation as some sort of elaborate game. To them, she was no more than an element of make believe, someone to join them in their play and delusions.

While that was mildly insulting, Vixali nonetheless felt she understood them. With the world being upended, refusing to take their situation completely seriously was a reasonable response in her eyes.

The last group however was quite mad.

[Adventurers] who were in no sense [Vampires] but who wanted to “cosplay” as one of the [Undead] in Vixali’s court?

Pretend [Vampires]? Blood bags with delusions of grandeur? 

Or agents of the [Hungry Shadow]?

Vixali had been convinced that there had to be some kind of sinister plot behind their mortals who wished to pretend to be [Vampires] and had assumed that the creature which destroyed her home was the most likely mastermind behind such a scheme.

The more she interacted with the [Vampire] wannabes though, the more cause she had to doubt the assessment that there was anything like a mastermind behind their actions. 

Or perhaps even a mind at all.

“Hey, if I jump from the ceiling, I bet I can splatter all over everyone,” one of the wannabes said. “Then you can all lick each other clean. It’ll be so hot!”

Vixali sighed.

Nope. No minds there at all.

Broken Horizons – Vol 10, Ch 4


Being second-in-command had never been Balegritz’s idea. Being anywhere in the chain of command hadn’t been his idea either. That was all Hermeziz’s fault. 

Which was not a surprise. 

Of his two mates, Hermeziz was the one who was the least willing to deal with taking orders from an idiot, and Hermeziz consider virtually everyone he ran across to be an idiot. 

To be fair, he considered Balegritz to be an idiot nine times out of ten too, but that was a more affectionate sort of idiot – an idiot in the sense of ‘what kind of idiot would want to be with me?’

That Illuthiz backed Hermeziz up on the claim that Balegritz would make not only a fine second-in-command to Captain Yawlorna, but even the ideal one was also not surprising. Illuthiz knew as well as Hemrziz did that Balegritz would never put himself into that position, but seemed to believe that bearing the responsibility it entailed would be ‘good for him’.

And that it would free her to continue doing the research she wanted to do, rather than being tapped for a leadership role herself.

Unfortunately, she was right on both counts. Balegritz did take to the command position just as well as his mates thought he would. And they both got to continue their research projects uninterrupted. Or as uninterrupted as their precarious circumstances allowed.

“If we make it back home, you do know that we’re going to be the research specimens, not anything we bring back,” Hermeziz said, observing a five leafed, purple flower that might or might not be added to the collection of local flora they were building.

“What we’re going to be is fabulously wealthy,” Balegritz said. “We’ll be able to sell the things we bring back for a fortune deep enough that we can go for a swim in it.”

“Our appearance fees should be impressive as well,” Illuthiz said, extracting a single blade of grass with a painter’s brush to keep its root system intact.

“I don’t think they pay cadavers much for appearing in an autopsy,” Hermeziz said. “Or maybe I’m being too positive. Can’t assume there’ll even be enough left of us to do an autopsy on.”

Illuthiz carefully placed her grass blade into the specimen vial she was holding, seated the vial into its foam holder in their collection box, and then walked over to Hermeziz and wrapped him in a hug.

Balegritz rolled his eyes. Hermeziz’s complaints weren’t subtle calls for affection, but they were effective. At least with people who understood him. 

On the upside though, if Illuthiz was taking cuddle duty for the moment it meant Balegritz was free to test the water samples they’d taken for microbial life. He placed a single drop on the slide he’d prepared and brought the scanning lens to his eyes when he heard the footsteps creeping up behind him.

The muscles in his back tensed, but he was able to bite back the shout that hammered at the back of his teeth.

He hadn’t been this jumpy before the accident, before seeing so many of his shipmates crushed and burned and…and that thought wasn’t leading anywhere he needed to go.

He hadn’t been this jumpy before suffering the long term, traumatic event which he was still enduring. Part of enduring it though was staying true to himself, and Balegritz was not the sort who stabbed first and asked questions never. 

He knew the footsteps weren’t a threat. They were too small and too regular. They weren’t creeping. They were trying to approach cautiously. Because he looked very scary to the little people who called this world home. 

Not that they were all little. 

Just most of them. 

Even the frighteningly powerful ones.

“Can we help you?” he asked, without turning around.

“Is now a good time to interrupt you?” Lost Alice asked.

Balegritz put the slide down on the clean top of his collection box and raised the scanner from his eyes. 

Lost Alice wasn’t exactly a friend, but they’d fought together. That brought a level of respect and growing camaraderie despite their differences. A friendly welcome was, therefor, much more appropriate than a defensive growl and summoning his new [War Spear].

“It’s as good as any other,” Balegritz said, turning to see that Lost Alice had two other humans in tow.

The two newcomers were vaguely familiar but Balegritz couldn’t place a name or occupation to either one. They didn’t seem to be [Adventurers], given how they were standing with Lost Alice as a shield, but they each held packages, so perhaps they were simply waiting for an introduction?

“Well, we didn’t want to interrupt your experiments,” Lost Alice said. “But we thought you might be interested in taking part in another one.”

“Another one what? Another monster fighting session?” Hermeziz asked. It wasn’t an unreasonable question, though Balegritz thought it was the wrong time of day to be fighting more [Undead].

As Balegritz pondered what else it could be, Hermeziz and Illuthiz untangled themselves and came over to stand by him. 

Not that Balegritz needed the support. 

But he still appreciated it.

“Not another xp run,” Lost Alice said. “Not at the moment at least. What we had in mind was another experiment. One that you’re uniquely qualified for in fact.”

Balegritz peered past Lost Alice, inspecting her two tagalongs and noticed that they both looked disturbingly eager at the prospect of experimenting on him.

Balegritz did not want to be experimented on.

But if it was for Science?


Of all the messages Claire could have received as Lady Midnight, a plain and simple mail posting with the “From:” address of “Wrath Raven” was the very last thing she expected to see.

“Are you okay?” Starchild asked, helping Claire sit down on the low wall they were walking beside. 

Claire didn’t miss that Starchild had summoned her [Storm Staff] to hand and was gathering magic as they spoke.

“We’re not under attack,” Claire said. “I…I just got a surprise.”

She wanted to say more but her thoughts were too jangled.

Wrath Raven wasn’t just any [Battle Rager]. She wasn’t even just a max level [Battle Rager]. She was Claire’s max level [Battle Rager]. A character Claire had sunk more hours than she could count into. A character Claire should have been except for the, in hindsight, foolish desire to see the new content on a level appropriate alt.

Maybe not entirely foolish, Lady Midnight said. I am partial to existing after all.

Which was true. Having met the side of herself that Lady Midnight represented, Claire would still make the same choice even if she got to choose again.

But maybe she wouldn’t have to?

“Someone reached out to you?” Starchild asked.

Claire blinked at her.

“How did you know that?”

“Just a guess,” Starchild said. “With nothing here to disconcert you that much, the next likely candidate was someone speaking to you on a private channel.”

“It’s not that,” Claire said. “I got an email. From my main character.”

“Wait, your main reached out to you? She, or he, exists independently of you? Like with Tessa and Glimmerglass?” Peter asked.

“I guess so,” Claire said. “It’s weird though. When I tried to reach her, I got nothing. It was like she wasn’t online, or didn’t exist.”

“What did she say?” Starchild asked. “In the email.”

Claire scanned it again. It didn’t take long.

“Three words. ‘We should meet’. That’s it,” Claire said.

“Is that how you pictured her speaking?” Peter asked.

“Sort of?” Claire said. “She’s one of the [Berserker] subtypes, a [Battle Rager], so the times people were doing roleplaying in the group, I always played her as taciturn and goal driven. But with friends, or small groups, she was more open and expressive. This reads like an interaction she’d have in a pickup group.”

“Is it perhaps not her?” Starchild asked.

“Maybe? Who else would pretend to be her though?”

“It would have to be someone who knew of your connection to her,” Peter said. “And, if they’re faking her identity, probably someone who’s not exactly friendly.”

“Do you have any enemies?” Starchild asked. “Or does your main have enemies might be the better question?”

“I don’t think so,” Claire said. “I never played the game at the level where serious drama like that happened.”

“Uh, are you sure you played the game then?” Peter asked. “Cause I’ve seen serious drama in the most casual and laid back guilds, like ever.”

“Eh, okay, that’s fair,” Claire said. “I just mean I was never part of any feuds like that. [Broken Horizons] was always about relaxing for me. I didn’t care if whatever piece of super loot we were going for went to someone else. We ran the dungeons we could manage so many damn times, we all got everything anyways. Or a new expansion hit and the old stuff was all junk a week later.”

“What if it actually is her?” Starchild asked. “Are you going to meet with her?”

“I would like to,” Lady Midnight said. “I suspect we’d have some interesting notes to compare.”

“Though that could be a bad thing too,” Claire said. “I can’t really get a read on her feelings about me from three words, and Wrath Raven isn’t the most subtle person in the world when it comes to expressing her disapproval.”

“You know, we do have a local expert on ‘other selves in other bodies’ here. Two of them in fact, or maybe even three, depending on how you count them,” Peter said. “Think we should ring up Tessa and Glimmerglass?”


[Vampires] were supposed to be fearsome [Undead]. Creatures of the night, shunned by mortals, tortured soul who nonetheless got to live eternal lives of debauchery so long as they consumed the living at every opportunity.

Vixali wasn’t sure anyone who believed that had ever met an actual vampire, and certainly not one of her subjects.

“We come from different bloodlines,” she said, pinching the bridge of her nose. It did nothing to quell the headache throbbing behind her eyes, but it was than sinking her claws into the nearest member of her court, though that was mostly true because she liked Qiki.

“Being different from us means they’re not required to swear fealty to you according to our traditions,” Qiki said. “Technically there’s no requirement that says they can’t if they wish to though.”

“There’s also no requirement that says I can’t order them to be attacked on sight,” Vixali said.

“They are rather powerful,” Qiki said. “It would thin our ranks out rather noticeably if your subjects tried to enact that command.”

“You say that as though it were a bad thing,” Vixali said, looking up to find Qiki rolling her eyes at Vixali’s lack of regal reserve.

“My [Queen], we, your loyal subjects, will of course follow your every whim, even unto the point of completely senseless and wasteful personal sacrifice,” Qiki said, leaving no doubt that she would do nothing of the sort. “But perhaps you may wish to consider a useful discovery I have made recently.”

“And that would be?” Vixali asked. 

“You are very,” Qiki sat onto Vixali’s lap, facing her, “very”, she lifted Vixali’s head up with just a light touch under Vixali’s jaw, “silly when you are hungry.”

“I am not feeding on the [Adventurers] in case they have been corrupted by the [Hungry Shadow],” Vixali said, staring into her subordinate’s eyes. 

Qiki was undeterred.

.”We did agree to that, yes,” she said. “But we did not agree that you should starve yourself to death in the process.”

“The only other options are the townsfolk, and feeding on them will create larger scale problems for us,” Vixali said, trying not to fall into the shifting colors around Qiki’s pupils.

One [Vampire] couldn’t mesmerize another, both tradition and the nature of their magics attested to that.

What one soul could do to another was less well defined though.

“We can ask Lost Alice about that,” Qiki said. “She moves in their world, but she knows ours. You could make her an ambassador, or something of the sort.”

Vixali sighed, defeated.

“Yes. I can do that,” she said. “And I’ll just stay down here. Out of sight of the rest of the Court. Communing with the darkness or whatever, until I’m able to get some proper blood in me.”

“You don’t need to wait,” Qiki said. “The [Adventurer’s] blood is suspect, but you know mine is pure.”

She tipped her head to the side and barring her neck a bare inch from Vixali’s waiting lips.

Broken Horizons – Vol 10, Ch 3


Of all the members of their party, and despite being seemingly the simplest to figure out, Obby was the biggest mystery to Rose.

“So what kind of training did you have in mind?” Rose asked as Obby led her out towards the rolling hills that were undead.

“Well, you’re not just an [Archer] anymore, are you?” Obby asked.

“Yeah, I haven’t been for a while,” Rosee said. [Lightning Archer] was so much cooler, and, as far as she knew, unique.

“We’ve been mostly slotting you in to a standard [Archer] roll though,” Obby said. “Stand in the back, shoot things, repeat until loot drops. That works, but I think you can be more.”

“More? Like what?” The idea that they might be able to open up more powers appealed to Rip, but Rose heard something deeper in Obby’s words. Not ‘you might be able to do more’, but ‘you might be able to be something more.’

Or maybe that was just wishful thinking.

Rose was able to accept that she’d gained amazing strength and phenomenal abilities largely because it seemed to be happening to everyone else too, and from what she’d been hearing, most other people made out a lot better than she had.

Long time players were apparently god-like. Completely out of her league. Glimmerglass wasn’t any kind of fighter and she could still turn an army of zombies to dust where Rip would have been able to take down a handful of them at best before they overwhelmed her. 

Watching that Glimmerglass smiting the undead like the wrath of an earthbound god hadn’t been disconcerting though. Other people were always more impressive and cooler. That was just how things were.

“I don’t know exactly what you’ll be able to do,” Obby said, and Rose’s heart sank by a smidge. “I think it’s going to be up to you, at least to some extent.”

That sounded like the empty promises people were always making that “she’d be able to make something of herself” if she took her studies seriously, or tried harder, or did any of the other million things that sounded so much easier than they really were.

“That’s why I wanted to try training with you alone,” Obby said. “When you figure out what you can do that will be great. When you stumble, I can help you figure out what went wrong.”

“Couldn’t you do that for me and Matt though?” Rose asked.

“A good trainer gives you their full attention,” Obby said. “I could manage both you and Jamal, and probably the rest of the party too, but I want to be there when you need me, not when your turn comes up. If that makes sense?”

“Why?” Rose asked. She hadn’t meant to say that. It had slipped out as her disbelief warred with her desire not to question the gift horses she was being given. 

“You don’t mean ‘why is that a better training method’,” Obby said. “You’re wondering ‘why I want to train you at all’?”

“No. I mean, yeah,” Rose said. “Am I falling behind? Because I’m not as good an [Archer] anymore?”

Obby laughed, and turned an incredulous look on Rose.

“That is definitely not it,” she said. “You are crushing it as an [Archer]. Seriously, you’re the highest level [DPS] character in the city. You’ve taken on challenges none of the rest of them have, both up in the [High Beyond] and as one of the first people to complete the dungeon.”

“What about Matt? We’re the same level, and he did all the same stuff I did.”

“He’s not primarily a damage dealer, he’s [Control] with enough damage to play a decent second fiddle to you in that arena,” Obby  said. “And, yeah, he’s impressive too, but he hasn’t started making [Dream Spinner] into his own class yet. Not like you have with [Lightning Archer].”

“So is that supposed to mean that I’m better than he is?” Rose asked, not even slightly happy with that idea.

“You’re a much better [Lightning Archer] than he is, yes. And he’s a vastly better [Dream Spinner] than you,” Obby said. “I know that sounds trite, but the point is those are two different paths. You’re not trying to be him and he’s not trying to be you, and, really, all that matters is how you’re doing with what you’re striving for.”

“So, am I doing good enough?” Rose asked.

“Oh, you’re well past ‘good enough’,” Obby said. “You’re somewhere in the neighborhood of ‘astounding’. I didn’t want to train with you because you’re falling behind, or your weak. We’re all behind, and we’re all incredibly weak compared to people like Glimmerglass, but we’re working on that, and we’re getting better as we go. I wanted to train with you today, because I see so much in you that’s so familiar. There are skills I’m pretty sure you can develop if you want to lean in that direction, ones that aren’t particularly obvious, but can be incredibly useful, again, depending on what you want to be able to do.”

“Can you give me an example?” Rose asked. Her mind raced to leap ahead and guess what sort of ‘cool stuff’ a [Lightning Archer] might be capable of that she hadn’t thought of. Her heart lagged behind though, dragging the ball and chain of fearful experiences that had taught her what kind of a weapon hope could be.

“When Tessa was in trouble up in the [High Beyond], you raced ahead to get to her as fast as possible, right?” Obby asked.

“Yeah. [Lightning Archer] comes with a movement speed buff,” Rose said.

“I think you can do better than just running quickly,” Obby said. “I think if you really need to move, you can [Ride the Lightning].”


Chaos was an old friend to Yawlorna. From her classes as an undergrad, to captaining the crew of a research ship, to surviving in the depths of hostile moon, she was used to things falling apart at a significantly faster rate than you could put them back together. The unspoken swell of excitement that passed from the inside of the [Great Hall] into the streets and beyond didn’t come as a great surprise therefor.

Apparently everyone could level up now.

She could see why that was causing a stir.

She could also see what the inevitable result of said “stir” would be.

“We should begin setting up a triage area and hospital beds, shouldn’t we?” she said, looking around the small room Glimmerglass had commandeered for training Yawlorna further as a healer.

“We probably won’t need that,” Glimmerglass said. “Unfortunately.”

Yawlorna was puzzled by that for all of two seconds.

She’d thought they would have injured patients spilling out into the streets as a horde of underleveled, or unleveled, people stormed out to slay xp giving forest creatures and whatever various monsters they could find.

Then she considered how lucky their previous patient had been.

And how those untrained and unwise unleveled people were likely to far in similar battles.

“We need to either stop them or start digging graves then, don’t we?” Yawlorna said.

“Stopping them would be best, or at least delaying them until we can arrange for some safer training options for them,” Glimmerglass said. “I don’t know if their new ability to level also means that they’ve been [Soul Wakened].”

“I thought that was for [Adventurers] only?” Yawlorna asked. “That an [Inspiration].”

“We never knew what [Inspiration] was,” Glimmerglass said. “It was just a feeling some of us got. The same is true of [Soul Wakened]. In fact a fair number of people think they’re the same condition. There weren’t many [Adventurers] who hadn’t been touched by [Inspiration] and there weren’t any at all that weren’t [Soul Wakened], since being able to use the [Heart Fires] to respawn from death is somewhat mandatory given the sort of dangers we pitch ourselves into.”

“And no one knows how to turn that on right?” Yawlorna asked. “Immortality is simply a fickle beast?”

“Somewhat literally,” Glimmerglass said. “Given that even [Adventurers] can die permanently if they run afoul of the [Hounds of Fate].”

Yawlorna was completely certain that it was a trade she and all the rest of her crew would gladly take. 

True, maybe there was some unknown downside. Maybe the Hounds dragged your soul off to become ghost dog kibble rather than everyone else who got to spend eternity in a library with hot springs and no requirements to ever publish anything. 

Much though she yearned for it, Yawlorna was skeptical that her personal version of heaven was likely to be real, and the definite option of having a second chance if things went disastrously wrong seemed like a much better choice to gamble on.

Except it wasn’t a choice.

It was a gift that some people were given randomly and others had to do without.

That line of thinking lead to unpleasant places, so Yawlorna cut it off with a better one.

Either [Soul Wakening] was a naturally occurring phenomena or it was a gift from some higher power. The key to determining which was true lay in collecting the right data, and she had a whole crew of people who were nominally still under her command who had been rigorously trained in collecting good data. 

They might not have the immortality trait yet, but this was a world where they could manage to acquire it.

All it would take was a little study.


Bringing the defenders of the [Fallen Kingdoms] the entire catalogue of their foes capabilities, troop distributions, and goals had seemed like Hailey was delivering them the most vital information possible on the greatest threat to the world. After listening to Tessa’s recounting of what had happened in the [High Beyond] though Hailey was left wondering if the information she’d brought was going to amount to anything more than footnote on a forgotten page in some forgotten history book.

Assuming there was anyone around to write history books.

“I can’t…I don’t know…how did you make it out of all that?” she finally asked when Tessa finished her, clearly abbreviated, tale.

“With a lot of help,” Tessa said. “And, honestly, a ton of luck.”

“I think we all need to start mainlining your luck,” Hailey said. “We’ve got [Eldritch Abominations] in the game, or in the world I mean, and none of them sound as bad as what you encounter, and fought, and survived!”

“Well, we never really found the [Hungry Shadow],” Tessa said. “Just its minions, and those were a lot easier to take out.”

“What about in that garden place? With the level cap?” Hailey asked.

“Oh, yeah, that was…I mentioned I got really lucky right?” Tessa said.

“You fused three identities and fought something off using the spark of a god,” Hailey said. “That’s not luck. That’s…I don’t even know what that is.”

“A one time trick I think,” Tessa said. “The god soul’s aren’t exactly laying around everywhere. If you hadn’t brought one with you, and Glimmerglass hadn’t been nearby, I don’t think Pillowcase or Tessa would have had a prayer. So, you know, lucky.”

“I need to tell Penswell about this,” Hailey said. “I don’t know if its going to make her day or ruin it though.”

“Depends how well the Consortium manages to handle the [Hungry Shadow],” Tessa said. “It could be that they’ll all wipe each other out and the remnants will become just another monster faction. Maybe converting the [High Beyond] into a high-level only zone, instead of the split we saw where it had a lowbie starting area too.”

“That sounds like what would have happened if this was still a game,” Hailey said. “I don’t think we can count on things going anything like a game would at this point.”

“There’s another possibility we’ll want to consider then,” Tessa said. “But it may ruin your day even further.”

“More than a reality devouring monster looming overhead while an alien invasion fleet decimates our cities?” Hailey asked. “Please, I gotta hear this one.”

“Ask yourself this question then; if we got here from Earth, which means there’s some connection between the two worlds, what are the chances that the [Hungry Shadow] is going to come down to the [Fallen Kingdoms] where we’ve got god-like power and literal magic from the creation of the universe at our fingertips, and what are the chances that it heads back to Earth instead, where the best weapons the people there have will ruin the planet if they use them en masse?”

Broken Horizons – Vol 10, Ch 2


Breakfast-turned-lunch had been as excellent as promised. It turned out that where Rip was orders of magnitude stronger as a fighter, the [Cooks] who’d spent a similar amount of time and effort working on their craft had progressed just a wee bit as well.

“Is it wrong that I feel like I could run two marathons back to back?” Rose asked as she and Jamal wandered out of the [Great Hall], leaving behind what had been a mini-continuation of the party from the night before.

“I don’t even need to eat, but whatever magical engineer made it so [Metal Mechanoids] could get energy from absorbed food? They’re incredible, beautiful people and I love them,” Jamal said. 

“Check out your stats,” Tessa said. 

She and Lost Alice met them at the gate out into the city, and Rose was struck by how comfortable they looked with each other now. 

Early on, in the distant pre-history of ‘a few days ago’, there’d been a lot of tension in the group, though most of it came from external sources. No one could really believe what was happening too them, and (quite rightly it turned out) no one felt even a little safe.

When Pillowcase and Lost Alice had invited her and Jamal to group up, Rose’s only thought had been that being part of any group at all would be better than stumbling along alone.

Especially after the object lesson in peril the original [Wraithwing] attack had been. Everyone else had kind of lost their mind, but New Mom One and New Mom Two had held it together and managed to fight the indestructible horde of death birds. At least for a little while. 

Rose was joking when she referred to her party leaders as their “New Moms”. She knew she couldn’t escape her real family that easily.

It didn’t mean it wasn’t nice to pretend though.

And Tessa and Lost Alice didn’t seem to mind them too much.

If anything, they seemed willing to treat Rose and Jamal as real human beings so easily that Rose wasn’t entirely sure they hadn’t mistaken herself and Jamal for Rip Shot and Matt Painting.

Which would be an easy mistake to make. Rose herself wasn’t entirely sure where the line was between her two identities. She was Rip, sure, a young woman, a Tabbywile, an [Adventurer]. 

But she was also a teenage girl, a human, and an average, unathletic high school student with an amazing best friend and zero interest in romance or sex.

Of the two choices, Rip seemed like the clear winner of who she’d want to be at any given moment.

And yet, most of her thoughts were centered on herself as Rose.

It wasn’t really a mystery why either.

Rose was Jamal’s friend. As Rip, Matt was a solid teammate and one she’d stick up for and protect just like she would anyone else, but it was Jamal who really knew her.

And so she wanted to be Rose.

“We were thinking to do take another run at the dungeon tonight,” Tessa said. “But we wanted to check with you two first.”

“With us?” Jamal asked.

“We all leveled up a few times in there,” Lost Alice said. “I think we’re all level 34 now right?”

“Yeah, we both hit that,” Rose said, wondering where the conversation was going.

Were they going to ask if Rip and Matt wanted to retire now that they’d gotten strong enough to defend themselves in a pinch?

Were they going to suggest that Rip and Matt sit out because of the mistakes Rip had made? 

Were they going to tell them that they’d hadn’t leveled enough and so they’d found some other, higher level, [Adventurers] who wanted Rip and Matt’s spots?

Rose’s mind swirled like a hurricane gathering force as she fought against the terrible ideas that kept popping up.

Tessa and Lost Alice weren’t like that.

She could trust them.

Except that had always been a mistake before and the mere thought of ignoring her fears sent a fresh shiver of terror through her.

“With new levels, come abilities,” Tessa said. “And ‘in the middle of battle’ can be a rough time to get a handle of them.”

Tessa’s voice and expression were light and reassuring, which set off all sorts of warning bells in Rose’s head. No one cared to make things sound okay unless they were about drop a boot on her.

“So we were thinking we’d practice a bit with ours first,” Lost Alice said.

“Our friendly neighborhood battle nuns offered to let us practice with them again, now that we’ve got some new tricks to show them.” Tessa said.

“And we thought you might like to join us?” Lost Alice said.

“Or, if you had plans already, we could hold off on the dungeon run for now and help some of the lowbies we’ve kind of left behind work on building themselves up,” Tessa said.

For a long moment Rose’s brain sort of shorted out.

They weren’t rejecting her?


Wait, they want to do something with her?

Seriously why?

They even looked sort of nervous? Like they thought Rose and Jamal wouldn’t want to spend every waking moment with them?

Being thrust into a fantasy realm and merging memories with an alternate aspect of herself had been less jarring than embracing that thought.

“I think we’d love that,” Jamal said. “Uh, going with you I mean. For training. We could do the helping thing too. Or the dungeon. I…we don’t have any plans yet.”

“Oh! Good!” Tessa said. “I think you’ll get a lot out of the training sessions. I don’t know if they have any [Dream Spinners] there but at low levels a lot of the abilities are similar so they’ll have some great feedback on opportunities to look for and problems to watch out for.”

“That they’ll get to beat us to a pulp demonstrating a lot of what they have to teach is probably all the payment that they really need, but Tessa and I were figuring we’d drop a tithe on them to cover our whole party,” Lost Alice said.

Because of course that was how they thought.

Rose let Rip take the reins for a bit. 

She felt too good to be falling apart inside all of a sudden but that’s what was happening nonetheless and she was endlessly grateful that Rip was put together differently enough that she was able to carry on without letting that show.

“Hey, just the girl I was looking for! And about to go training too! This is perfect.” Mom Three, or Obby as everyone else called her said, catching up to the quartet of her teammates as they wandered down the roads toward the chapel. “Would you mind if I abscond with Rip for a bit? I’ve got some ideas I want to try out with her.”

“Oh, I could do that instead then,” Jamal said.

“Nope,” Obby said. “This is something special just for Rip. At least if she’d willing to take a chance on some unusual training?”


Having someone who was roughly twice your size and looked remarkably similar to the iconography of an [Unholy Fiend] from your world’s mythology sit down beside you and place their hands on your badly injured body was, Yawlorna observed, probably not the least scary thing that one could be forced to endure.

That the badly injured [Farmer] wasn’t screaming out in terror was a testament to their bravery.

Bravery which Yawlorna was forced to note had wound them up in their current predicament.

“Did the [Boar] sneak up on you?” Glimmerglass asked.

“No, I saw it just fine,” the injured woman said through gritted teeth.

“Why…?” Glimmerglass started to ask.

“I thought I could earn my keep here if I brought in some [Meat] for the [Cooks],” the [Farmer] said.

“You didn’t have…” Glimmerglass began again.

“Of course I did,” the [Farmer] said. “It’s a matter of pride. Can’t be freeloading forever.”

“You didn’t have to take on something that tough,” Glimmerglass amended. “There’s plenty that needs to be taken care of here and in town. There are acres of land that no one is working at all, and plenty of other stuff you can do that will be at least slightly less painful.”

“Oh. Uh, I see,” the [Farmer] said. “Sorry about that.”

“No problem. You’re giving my apprentice her a chance to see how strong her magic really is.”

“Should I begin casting?” Yawlorna asked.

“Yes, but take it slow. Go with [Lesser Healing Touch] to start with,” Glimmerglass said.

“Even though I’m not having problems with [Healing Stream]?” Yawlorna asked.

“Trust me,” Glimmerglass said.

With a shrug, Yawlorna began casting as she’d been instructed to.

Working magic was still unbelievable to her. She’d never imagine how simple it was one that first dam of understanding broke. 

She guessed that Glimmerglass was going to have her practice a few dozen times with [Lesser Healing Touch] before repairing the woman’s injuries completely with one of her own spells.

Yawlorna had barely dropped a single mote of magic into the [Farmer] though when she sat up, a look of wonder and joy shining from her.

“I’m better!” she said. “All the pain? It’s gone? I’m not even punctured! And I feel so good!”

“I think you leveled up,” Glimmerglass said. “Tell me, have you ever had the urge to go on an adventure?”


Hailey was helping rebuild [Wagon Town]. Tessa was doing some stuff with her guild. The majority of a planetary mass separated them. Despite all that, they were closer than they’d been in more than half a decade.

“Once things calm down and we get the [Teleport Gates] back online, I am so coming out there to power level you up to the cap properly,” Hailey said.

“We’ve been doing pretty good with leveling on our own,” Tessa said. “You might be surprised where we get to before the stuff with the Consortium settles down.”

“Okay, well that was just an excuse to come out and meet your new girl anyways,” Hailey said. 

“I could add her to this channel if you want?” Tessa asked.

“Noooo! No no no!” Hailey said. “We should meet properly. Not randomly over a chat line.”

“Uh, didn’t we meet everyone in game ‘randomly over a chat line’?” Tessa asked.

“Yeah, but it’s not a game anymore is it?” Hailey said. “These are all real people we’re dealing with now.”

“As opposed to before, when it was just real people behind a computer screen?”

“It was real with some people before,” Hailey said. “If you murdered someone in PvP though, you weren’t killing them for real, and you weren’t really a blood enemy of theirs.”

“But for people in the same guild?”

“Even there. Some people were more real than others,” Hailey said. “I knew you, we talked, we hung out, we did things together. So you were real to me. The guy who joined our guild for two days and raided the bank when no one was looking though? Basically a demon in my eyes.”

“I’m pretty sure that’s not healthy, but I remember hating him enough that I can see where you’re coming from,” Tess said.

“I am serious about getting you leveled up though,” Hailey said. “This place is much too dangerous for even the high levels in some spots, especially the new areas. I don’t want to see you get eaten by some mid-level nobody when a day of decent grinding could have left you invincible to it.”

“We should work out something like that in general for all the lowbies,” Tessa said.

“There’s a lot of lowbies in the world. Believe me, I’ve seen the analytics,” Hailey said.

“I wasn’t thinking of trying to power level them all personally,” Tessa said. “More like setting up something so that people who don’t have guilds, or don’t have ones with anyone high level left in them have somewhere to turn to get setup with a high level player who can help them out.”

“There’s going to be people who hate that idea,” Hailey said.

“There’s people who hate every idea. The difference in this case is that there’s something out there that we’re going to need every possible [Adventurer] at max level that we can get to have a chance at standing against.”

“What do you mean?”

“Let me tell you about what we ran into in the [High Beyond]. You might want to find somewhere to sit down though.”

Broken Horizons – Vol 10, Ch 1


Sleep should have been impossible. They’d beaten a dungeon! A real dungeon! On their own! True, there’d been a celebration of said accomplishment that ran till the night was perilously close to becoming the next day, but even so, Rose knew sleep should have eluded her.

When she and Jamal had made it back to their commandeered loft across the street from the [Great Hall], she’d told herself (and Jamal) that she was just laying down to get comfortable.

That was roughly one and half blinks ago but somehow the sun had taken the opportunity to launch itself halfway up the sky.

Stretching her toes and fingers and tail as far from each other as she could get them felt gloriously relaxing and was almost enough to convince her to turn over and head back to sleep, but her stomach vetoed that plan.

“Mrrhff,” she grumbled and sat up, bleary eyed despite the copious amount of daylight she was bathed in.

“She lives!” Jamal said, using regular old, simple speech rather than they’re telepathic channels.

“Maybe,” Rose said, rubbing her eyes. In truth she didn’t feel particularly tired, or sore, but the excitement and the late hours the night before had left her with a pleasant lassitude that she wasn’t entirely sure she wanted to let fall away.

“Think [Raspberry Scones] with [Honey Butter] and [Hot Chocolate] might convince you to give the whole waking up thing a try?” Jamal asked.

Rose sat up instantly, the lingering clouds of sleep swept aside effortlessly.

“They have [Hot Chocolate] now? How?” she asked, grabbing up her discarded armor.

She considered putting it back on – that seemed like the sort of wise move an [Adventurer] would do – but discarded the idea as quickly as it occurred to her. Obby had shown her how to change her equipment instantly, so if an unexpected brawl broke out over breakfast (or perhaps it was lunch at this point), she’d be fine. Far better to get to enjoy the the comfy “cosmetic” loot they’d found in the dungeon.

“Have you had anything yet?” she asked Jamal who was still sitting halfway inside the door to their balcony.

“Nope. Matt doesn’t need to eat that much, so I figured we’d just wait.”

“How do you know what they’d got then?” Rose asked.

“Tessa and Lost Alice were up early,” he said. “They let the rest of the party know what the guild’s [Cooks] were putting together.”

“How long ago was that?”

“About four hours or so.”

“Wait, how long have you been up?” Rose asked, pausing as she tucked her armor into her inventory bag.

“Five hours or so?” Jamal said. “Matt doesn’t need that much sleep either.”

“Oh! Dude! Why didn’t you get me up?” Rose asked.

“You were out of it,” Jamal said. “And there wasn’t anything important going on, so why not let you sleep?”

Rose felt a jumble of words leap to her lips. Expressions of gratitude foremost among them. She kept them locked behind her teeth though. Jamal was her oldest and best friend. He already knew everything she could say and saying it outloud would be weird. 

Instead, after a moment, she asked, “So what did you do for all that time?”

“Matt and I have been talking,” Jamal said. “It’s interesting. And weird. And good I guess? Or it’s good now. The stuff her had to live through in the Consortium? That was just messed up.”

“Is it something you, or I guess he, want to talk about?” Rose asked.

“Not yet,” Jamal said. “Don’t want to ruin your appetite.”

It was a light comment, meant as a joke as much as anything else, but Rose knew Jamal, knew how open, at least with her, he always was. Knew she could trust him to come let her in when he needed help.

But, she wondered, was that true of Matt as well?


Yawlorna was dead. She died, passed her final thesis exam before the Arbiters of Judgment and been granted access to the Academic Heaven. That, she decided, was a far more likely explanation for the situation she found herself in than relying on anything as untrustworthy as personal experience and recent memory.

“You’re making remarkable progress,” Glimmerglass said. “Are you sure you haven’t had any medical training up till now?”

“Just basic anatomy and physiology course,” Yawlorna said. “But those don’t seem to line up exactly with what any of the other species here have.”

“It could still be helping,” Glimmerglass said. “Healing magic doesn’t require an exact knowledge of the body – it is magic after all – but the more we know, the easier it is to guide it to do what we want, rather than what it thinks the body needs.”

“It feels like a miracle to me,” Yawlorna said, marveling as the small cut Glimmerglass had made on her own hand sealed shut perfectly in response to the spell Yawlorna was maintaining.

“It is,” Glimmerglass said. “Priestly magic, like mine, is all categorized as [Miracles]. Primarily that’s because we’re drawing the patterns from the spells from sources external to ourselves. Specifically [Celestial Sources]. Other spellcasters find their [Spell Patterns] elsewhere, usually from elements of the world, or as a series of interrelated concepts.”

“Does anyone work with all of those?” Yawlorna asked. She felt like she was an undergrad, back in class, and listening to a lecture she was sure would apply to things beyond the limits of the auditorium. It was intoxicating. 

No worries about her crew.

No concerns about getting home.

No monster to fight.

Just pure, beautiful, precious learning.

“Drawing on multiple sources for your magical patterns is one of those things that people debate and get absolutely nowhere with,” Glimmerglass said. “In theory, well, in some theories, it’s perfectly possible. In practice though there’s serious interference issues that arise and keeping the patterns from destructively interfering with each other is the stuff nightmares are made of.”

“I feel like I could write a dozen papers if I eavesdropped on even one of those debates,” Yawlorna said.

“They can get pretty lively,” Glimmerglass said, chuckling at some long distant memory. “You’d have the advantage that people wouldn’t try to glower over you and try to ‘win’ the argument through sheer intimidation.”

“They would if they knew how weak my people are compared to you [Adventurers],” Yawlorna said.

“Magic debates, I guess somewhat surprisingly, aren’t usually resolved with spellcasting,” Glimmerglass said. “Everyone there tries to keep things civilized, at least to the extent that the staff doesn’t throw the debaters out on their ears and ban them from coming back. Also, you’re pretty far from weak.”

“That is both interesting and kind of you to say, but I’ve seen what you can do,” Yawlorna said. “Even if we were stripped of all gear, and all our magic was suppressed you’d be able to toss me through a wall with one hand tied behind your back.”

“And yet, I can’t come close to matching the [Warriors] or other [Melee Fighters] that I know,” Glimmerglass said. “So I’m strong here, but so are you compared to most of the people in town, including Tessa, you know, my other self? And compared to the people from [Sky’s Edge] you’re vastly out of their league.”

“That doesn’t seem terrible fair does it?”

“It’s not,” Glimmerglass said. “Life doesn’t spend a lot of time trying to be fair, I think because ‘fair’ is something we all need to work towards, not something the world just gives us.”


The war had turned and it was thanks to her. Hailey had heard that comment enough times now that she was ready to scream at the next person who tried to thank or congratulate her about their “impending victory”.

Because there wasn’t a victory impending.

Yes, fighting had turned in the good guys favor, but it was a slight and fragile advantage. One they could lose at any moment.

And, more importantly, it was one that so many other people had fought to make real.

She’d taken a risk, true. She’d conveyed some detailed and highly useful intelligence to the people who could make the best use of it, sure. She’d even fought in a couple battles herself. She felt good about all that, but she’d seen how much others had given too. They deserved far more recognition than she did.

“There aren’t that many people who know what you did though, are there?” Tessa asked on the personal channel Hailey had setup for them.

“More than probably should from a security perspective, but, yeah, not the whole world or anything,” Hailey said.

“I’m gonna guess those were the ones who saw just how bad things were getting though, right?” Tessa asked.

“Eh, some of them,” Hailey grumbled, ceding the point even though her discomfort remained.

“For what it’s worth, you’re intel may have saved my bacon too,” Tessa said.

“How so? I didn’t wind up anywhere near you?” Hailey said.

“When we escaped the [High Beyond], I needed a safe landing spot for everyone,” Tessa said. “I’m not sure there would have been one if the Consortium had been able to keep steamrolling the [Defense Force]. I mean do you know if there was a Consortium event planned for the new starter cities?”

“Oh damn! I think there was!” Hailey said. “It was supposed to help the new players feel like they weren’t missing out. There were token drops you could have on to for level capped gear pieces.”

“Well then you spared us from that,” Tessa said. “So, you know, I should thank you.”

“You’re evil,” Hailey said.

“I’m glad you remember!” Tessa said.

“Like I could ever forget,” Hailey said and added in a quieter voice, “Those were just the best times back then.”

“In the game?” Tessa asked.

“Yeah, that too,” Hailey said.

“I’m glad you remember them that way,” Tessa said. “I liked them too.”

“I wish I’d caught you coming in,” Hailey said. “I could have rolled up someone to join you and we woundn’t be trapped on the opposite sides of the world.”

“I’m glad you got in here at all,” Tessa said. “And I’m glad you still had BT. Being low level is…I think challenging is probably the right word.”

“I told you, I know people, I can have them come out and power level you up,” Hailey said.

“Believe it or not, I think we’re doing pretty good there,” Tessa said. “We’ve got Glimmerglass here, and she’s been handling some of the lowbies who wanted the help. And even without her help my team beat the first dungeon without a single TPK!”

Hailey couldn’t help but smile from absorbing even a sliver of the joy that radiated from Tessa’s voice.

“I forgot how awesome that could be,” she said. “Seems like you found a pretty great group if you’re still this buzzed about it half a day later?”

“I’ve been pretty happy recently,” Tessa said. “Which is kind of scary. And, I don’t know, inappropriate I guess? But, whatever, I’m not going to second guess this. I’m just going to enjoy it.”

For a moment, Hailey was sixteen again, headphones on to drown out the world, with the voice of one of her best friends in her ear as they talked about any and every random thing that came into their heads. 

Her heart ached at the thought.

She missed sixteen year old Hailey.

Not enough to want to ever go back to being her.

Tessa and her other friends aside, those years sucked. 

But who she’d been then? Awkward, stupid, and childish though she’d been? That Hailey wasn’t so bad in hindsight.

“It sounds like you’re in love,” she said, meaning to tease her old friend before wondering if they’d gotten back to the casual teasing stage yet.

“That’s probably because I am,” Tessa said, smug happiness evident even from several thousand miles away.

Hailey’s breath caught in surprised glee.

“What? Really? With who? Tell me everything!”