Danny’s received a clue from Alt that he needs to be trying to make a chain, not a ring, in order to complete his quest, as Alt informs him that most regional governors have a chain of some kind, which he knows from his time “before imprisonment” (read: on his secret illegal main toon). I assume this means a chain necklace. He trades some new +2 rings to Alt to get him to paint a design on the sheets that makes them look all pretty, and then tries to carve the sheets into chain links that match the pattern. This goes poorly, and soon he’s wrecked five out of the twenty sheets Kart made for him. He estimates he needs fifteen links to make the chain, so one more mistake and it’s over (Kart is, for some reason, forbidden from making more copper sheets). He’s tried to force the sheets to want to be chain links the way the stone wanted to be a rose before he fugue-carved it, which has worked on some other stones, but it’s not working.
That’s when Kart comes to give him a consolation talk:
“You know, Mahan,” Kart said as he sat next to me. He looked at the sheets laid out on the table in the shape of a chain with the Rose at its head and continued: “I think that you should not stress so much over this. Even if you don’t manage to get this done, the last month had shown me that it is possible to live in the mine not just by using other people, but by your own efforts. When I leave prison I plan to try my hand at blacksmithing. You wouldn’t believe how much I came to enjoy swinging the hammer and seeing a result on the other end. Here at the mine we have a good chance to train ourselves up in this, so if we don’t manage to complete the quest tomorrow, it’s not the end of the world. Life will go on. You’ll continue making the rings and when you reach the limit of your current professions, you’ll start to level up in Smithing and Leatherworking. So you should not see being unable to complete the quest as losing. You have to look at the bigger picture and not just single out certain details, even the really painful ones.”
I know a “sudden ‘aha!'” moment when I see one. Clearly Danny’s problem is that he was trying to force individual sheets to want to be individual links, when he should be trying to force all of them to form a complete chain.
At that moment I sensed that Kart had given me an enormous clue, but what was it?
I mean, I sensed the same thing, but that’s because I know this is a book and I could recognize the structure of the scene. Kart’s not an NPC. If the narrative needs him to set up a trope like this, it really shouldn’t be calling attention to how obviously he’s doing it. Also, it’d be nice if it was less obvious about it.
Anyway, the chain works out:
Item created: Kameamia (item name given automatically). Intellect +6, Stamina +5. Item class: Unique. Minimum level: 10.
+1 to Crafting. Total: 2
+1 to primary profession of Jewelcraft. Total: 8
Attention! This item cannot be repeated. There is no recipe.
You created a unique item. Your reputation with all previously encountered factions is increased by 100.
Kameamia? Does it enable the user to shoot energy beams out of their hands? And hey, check out the rep bonus. That’s another couple days he won’t have to spend bopping rats.
The incredible speed with which Danny has been able to accomplish all this has not escaped his notice:
I have 1029 points remaining until Respect, so now if I get busy with the Rats and increase my reputation by 50 points a day, I should be able to gain Respect in 22 days. Less than a month!
The math there is questionable. 50×21=1050, so what’s the last day for?
Suddenly there was a melodious ringing and a light appeared above Kart’s head.
“You’ve decided to leave us, then?” hummed the orc, looking at Kart’s mystified face. “The transfer committee will be reviewing your case today. I expect you tomorrow evening with all your things.”
So that all went according to plan. Presumably the only thing that can turn things around on Kart now is some kind of sudden reputation loss before the transfer committee collects him. I keep waiting for the other foot to fall on this. Maybe once Kart is gone, things will go to Hell for Danny, since Kart seems to have been doing all the work of keeping Danny’s gang together and keeping the dwarven mafia off his back?
[“]Sakas will replace me as your right-hand man, handling various matters. You can rely on him completely, I had time to make sure of that[“]
Kart has been working on some copper chainmail-reinforced leather gear for Danny, a special request Danny made for Kart while he was working on the chain. It’s a neat gesture, and brings together the gear progression of an MMORPG with the actual plot in a way that is exactly what LitRPG should be doing in general. There’s also this particular section, though:
“This one’s from me,” continued Kart, taking out another item. “It’s just too strange: looking at you banging on random stuff, like stones and picks. It isn’t right for a Shaman. Sakas, who’s a Woodcarver, and I did some work and this is the result.” Kart handed me over an object of some kind.
So he made Danny some legit Shaman gear, which is also nice. What I want to draw your attention to here is that we are just now learning the profession of Danny’s new right-hand man.
“I also have a present for you,” I said, taking out the rings and chain. “Made them today, they’re +3 each. There’s also a chain – yours is the first one I made. I’d have added some stones to them, but the Rose stubbornly refuses to be combined with rings and using buttons for this doesn’t seem right. So I’m sorry the rings are only +3.”
“Never mind, it’s an excellent gift too, thanks for everything. Now it’s time to take our leave,” we stood next to each other in silence for a few minutes. We didn’t feel like talking, on account of the ‘lump in the throat syndrome’. I would never have thought I could get so attached to anyone, and now it was difficult to part ways.
After Kart left I decided to spend the first day in my section of the mine, just swinging my pick for a while. I knew I had enough ore to last a lifetime – the thieves working for me provided a stable supply
Wait, what? You have thieves working for you? When did that happen?
I finished my tenth vein and started to call on the Spirits to heal the Rats. When they ran up to me and attacked, I diligently kicked them and, wincing from the bites, used this to level up my Stamina and Agility. Although with my level of armor Rats could only cause me 1 point of damage, the pain was almost unbearable. When the Rat died, a message appeared before my eyes:
Attention, a new stat has become available to your character: Endurance.
Why is he getting damaged by rats for the first time ever right now? What made him decide today was the day he was gonna kick them to death instead of splatter them with his pick?
A rare “large copper vein” spawns and Danny gives it a go. He’s only able to chew through it because he’s got a fuckhuge mining bonus from being blinged out in advanced magical gear and has the top-level pick the mine’s store offers (there was a whole hustle he did back in early chapters to get it, where he got loaned a mid-level pick in order to be able to pay for the top-level pick with interest faster, but there were so many little schemes like that early on that I never got around to talking about that one), and even then it takes him as much effort as the regular ones did clear back at level 1 with rubbish starter gear, and damn I am feeling the progression here in a way that no other LitRPG has ever made me feel. As Danny hacks away at the final few percentage points of its durability, he daydreams about a chest popping out of the defeated ore vein, which he’d then have to fight a pirate named Flint over.
When the vein’s Durability Bar flickered for the last time and the vein disappeared, I involuntarily took a better grip of the pick and turned around in expectation of Flint, flinging it at the messages that were popping up.
Danny seems to be sharing my paranoia over this, the sort of dread that things can’t be going this right for this long, and surely something’s gotta restore karmic balance sooner or later. Sudden pirate ambush is probably not how things are gonna take a nosedive, but still. Don’t we still have a dwarf mafia ambush waiting in the wings? Or has that entire plot point been swept away? If so, it should’ve been edited away.
And I should point out here that the story actually has me nervous that something’s gonna go wrong for Danny. Like, I’m not nervous that a book with a competent author will suddenly veer off into being awful. I’m nervous that we’re still only 53% of the way through and it looks like smooth sailing from here to Danny breaking 3,000 rep with the guards.
It’s not like Danny’s completely without trouble. While swinging away at the large vein, he misses dinner. He’s told only the mine governor can change the schedule, so he goes to the governor and asks for an exception, but gets refused. Then he cooks himself up a bunch of rat meat from all those rats he’s busting and manages to live through the night on that, although since it’s much less effective than the regular meals, he has to stay up all night and eat more meat every thirty minutes. The whole sequence is not a bad breakdown of how you have your heroes problem solve in a story: A problem is introduced, the first thing they try doesn’t work, but then they hit on something else and they manage to make it through, but only at a cost. The cost in this case isn’t a big deal, but it’s not like it was an arc-defining problem, so whatever.
Danny so far has never had to pay a cost that was anything more than a temporary setback, though.
Danny got a big hunk of malachite out of the deal (capitalized for some reason – is there some need to distinguish this Malachite from regular malachite, like with class names?), and while figuring out what to do with it, Danny goes into design mode and the game beams the design for eight orc warriors into his head, the thing that the Malachite “wants” to be. Danny’s also been thinking of making a chess set for a while. Danny does not figure out that he’s looking at the pawns of one side of his set, which he can perhaps use as proof of concept to ask the mine governor to allow him to order more precious stones from town to make the rest.
“Mahan, maybe we should call the boss? Why are you crawling away from me? You haven’t hit your head, have you?” asked the orc in surprise, and I finally came to myself. It was Sakas, our Woodcarver and my new right hand as the local supervisor. Damn, I’ll go stark raving mad with these orcs. Why of all the prisoners in the mine, with just one orc among them, it’s this orc that had to be the one to snap me out of it? Some ‘plague of orc’ we have here.
First zebras and now orcs. Does Danny’s bigotry know no bounds?
Anyway, he manages to make the pawns, and once he finishes them, there’s all kinds of fanfare. Enough to immediately draw the attention of the mine’s governor.
“These Great Ones are the pride of my people. Just a couple of dozen minutes ago an announcement shook the world of Barliona: one of the Great Jewelers in Barliona had created the Legendary Malachite Orc Warrior chess pieces from Karmadont’s chess set. Our world has several billion souls, but I think I know whom the troubadours are shouting about in every square,” the orc turned around and looked me in the eye.
Maybe this is a thing where troubadours will shout anytime anyone does anything slightly important, so you get new announcements every thirty fucking minutes. I really hope that’s what’s up, because the alternative is that Danny just went from “exceptional amongst the couple of hundred dudes in this mine” to “exceptional amongst several billion Barliona players.” I’m totally willing to buy the first for the amount of effort he’s put in, but I’m not even close to being willing to buy the second. Danny already appears to be benefiting from some AI favoritism, if he’s also being singled out for some Chess Set of Epic Legend quest, that’s gonna push things too far.
“A word of warning. In this world you can only steal money from player’s bags. But there is one exception to this rule. It does not apply to Legendary Items carried by the player either on himself or in his bag. If you carry an item on yourself, it has a 10% chance to be left behind in place of the dead body. If the item is in the bag, with the sufficiently high level of shady skills it would be possible to pick it out of the bag. Remember these words.”
Looks like that’s gonna be the plot for the remaining 45% of the book, then? Maybe the dwarf mafia will get involved.
Soon afterwards, Danny makes himself some new +4 bling with his newly increased crafting ability:
Yup, I was some cheater: to have +71 to Intellect and 27 unallocated stat points at level 7 was sheer outrage. And it wasn’t a problem that all my ring bonuses were with Intellect, since I could change them at any time, either to Strength or to Stamina or a mixture of them all. Surprisingly, my Hunter only had four +20 rings, which had to be bought for a steep price from a Jeweler, and the rest were just +10 rings. This really was an outrage, but if I was the one getting up to it – all the more reason to be pleased.
Why?! How is Danny’s level 7 Shaman approaching gear parity with his level 87 Hunter? Why does a fucking prison give him such a strong start? It’s one thing for him to finangle his way into decent gear despite sparse resources, but I was expecting him to walk out of this place with his fancy copper chain mail duds and low-level jewelry and be confronted with the fact that for all his cleverness he was still barely keeping pace with the standard gear treadmill of the main game world, where iron falls like manna from the heavens and high-level players give out +9 rings to their guildies just to be nice. Sign up for Kingdom of Loathing and wave hello in chat and you will be buried in early-game gear from kindly high-level players who can buy that stuff from the auction house for what is, to them, pocket change. Not all games are this friendly (the Kingdom of Loathing was named by literally picking a random word from the dictionary, and turned out to be a huge misnomer), but it’s still pretty standard to hand out gear to new players that is way better than what they naturally have access to just to get them powerleveling rapidly so they’ll be big enough to be helpful to the guild sooner.
Now, I can forgive all of this if the mismatch is just because Danny spent three months getting to level 7, which is ordinarily a two-hour process. The book isn’t making any indication of this so far, though.
Danny is ushered into the office of the mine governor when he’s less than a month from getting out.
The orc’s place was surprisingly crowded. The owner of the office stood by the bookshelf and was leafing through a tome. The sight of the enormous six-foot-tall orc holding a small book in his hands was so unnatural that I struggled to suppress a smile. ‘Why is he not at his usual place?’ I wondered and looked in the direction where I usually saw the mine governor.
The huge and very comfortable chair wasn’t just occupied, but also surrounded by a detachment of impressive-looking guards. And these guys are still alive? The boss must be getting old. The place behind the orc’s table was occupied by a plump, short-armed man with a fat glossy face. It would have been easier to call him a toad – one that’s been blown up to the size of a dwarf. I realized who graced us with his presence when I saw the Kameamia around this character’s neck: the Regional Governor was visiting the mine.
There’s that other foot, then.