The Kartoss Gambit: The Dragon Dimension

Chapter 8

“Key!”

I’m a man of steady nerves, but when the Dragonkin’s malicious muzzle repeated the same phrase for the fortieth time, you developed an irresistible itch to put your boot in it.

As soon as the portal with the Orc Warriors disappeared, the Dragonkin got up from his knees and, as if nothing happened, placed himself in the doorway of the hut.

“I need the scroll that will take me to the Dragons,” I approached the four-legged NPC.

“Key!” the Dragonkin rumbled for the first time.

“What key?”

“Key!”

“I found the clearing and met all the conditions. I demand to be given the scroll!”

“Key!”

This is the first page of the chapter. Eventually, Danny gives up on getting inside and instead decides to craft a chess set for Anastaria’s birthday as was requested/demanded of him by Hellfire. He fugue-crafts the set with the Phoenix Clan on one side and the Dark Legion on the other and turns out, oops, it’s cursed, now the two clans need to play against each other once a month and the winner gets a buff and the loser a debuff. Anastaria is not amused, but it turns out crafting a unique item was the key the dragonkin was looking for. So, not only has Danny crafted a legendary unique item again, this time by doing nothing else but taking a bunch of rare materials supplied by Hellfire and then poking at them for like ten hours, but it just so happens that this is the secret key that allows him to teleport to the hidden island of the guardian of all draconic lore. The first Way of the Shaman was mostly free of this inexplicably unique kind of achievement, and while this second one is much less incessant with it than, for example, Awaken Online, the series overall is getting worse at this kind of thing.

Danny summons up his dragon totem for more help in customizing his spirits (also, Kornik, the new shaman trainer he met in the last post, is also here, but refusing to actually help him, so apparently “training” here means “watch while Danny figures it out by himself”).

“Hi. I need your help. Will you come?”

“Awe we going to pway?”

“No, we won’t play. I have to get to grips with the Spirits.”

“Awwight. I come.”

I really hope this dragon isn’t going to be a frequent conversant.

Danny and his pet play around with the spirit customizer. Turns out Danny can use a “totem soul” to combine different spirit types together, to create things like a spirit that both heals him and shields him from damage, although not as well as if he’d cast both spirits by themselves one after another. It’s all interesting mechanics and I like it, but there’s not really any specific part to quote and point at as an example. Also, this, for some reason, upgrades his dragon?

“Wow… It worrrked grrr… Grrrreat… Rrrr…, pllaying, crrrows,” when I stepped back from the bright light, I looked at little Draco circling nearby. Although there was no more ‘little Draco’. A young two-meter Dragon was cruising through the air around me. “Isn’t it grrreat?” he said, happily, “I can prrrrounounce letter ‘Rrrr’. It’s brrriliant!”

But at least we don’t have to deal with the baby talk anymore. Maybe also Danny won’t have to sink two hours into playing hide and seek every time he needs to use his class features.

“I greet you, my son,” while Draco continued to ‘grrrowl’ at anything and everything as he learned to speak properly, an enormous green Dragon landed on the ground next to me.

 

“My name is Aarenoxitolikus, that green reptile that Kornik mentioned. You may call me Renox.”

I’ve cut a little bit between these quotes, because they’re not important to the point I want to make here, which is that Barliona is clearly following the fantasy tradition of dragons growing more powerful the more syllables they have in their name, and God help you if they have a dash or an apostrophe in there. I don’t see any weird punctuation in this one, but I do count eight syllables, so he’s pretty far up there.

The conversation eventually leads to Danny’s pet explaining his origins:

“Nothing special. I was a Drrragon, but a hundrrred years ago I died while fighting the ice giants of this worrrrld. I was only thrree hundrrred yearrrs old, just out of an egg, you may say, and in the first battle was careless enough to get hit by a rock.[“]

This new speech affectation was starting to get as annoying as the last, but you can see that the totem shakes it before the end of the quote, so maybe now he’ll just talk like a normal character and not with some phonetic accent. In any case, according to Draco the pet dragon and eight-syllables the big dragon, Danny now counts as a dragon, because he accidentally sealed himself in an egg made of ice while experimenting with the spirit-combining system and then broke himself back out. This apparently makes him immune to poisons (with the implication that more abilities will come at some unspecified point in the future). Also, apparently outside the dragon dimension the pet is going to be a baby until he reaches level 200. I dunno if that means he’ll go back to the baby talk, but I’m guessing yes. Hooray.

As Danny’s time out of Beatwick begins to run out, he starts pumping the shaman trainer Kornik for information on some of his cryptic statements the last time they met.

“Hold on. Another question.”

“Kornik, I’m beginning to understand you. You give him an inch and he’ll take a mile”, remarked the elder Dragon.

“At our last meeting you said that I should be preparing for something, that there was very little time. What did you mean?” I ignored the Dragon’s words. If I’m being impudent, I may as well go all the way.

Kornik looked thoughtful and then, carefully choosing his words, said: “Great change is coming to Barliona, but the Emperor is refusing to see it. He’s totally blind.”

“Change? What change?”

“Enough questions. You will find out for yourself soon enough, if you continue to do what you have been doing.[“]

When you say the Emperor is “blind,” do you mean that he’s willfully ignoring the information in front of him, or that you’re intentionally withholding that information and waiting for him to figure it out for himself? Because, I gotta say, if this crisis is being exacerbated by relevant people not acting on certain information, your strategy of not giving relevant people that information seems pretty counterproductive.

Danny teleports back to Beatwick but is almost immediately wracked with pain due to his draconic transformation. So apparently the actual process of rebirth is on pause while he’s in the dragon dimension. Unfortunately for him, there’s no easy way back, so he spends two days in agony. Now, normal players can’t feel pain and don’t have to care, but they are still presumably either required to suffer heavy debuffs for 48 hours or else can maybe ride it out by just logging off for 48 hours, if the process isn’t put on hold while they’re logged out. But why does the process cause tons of pain when most players won’t even feel it? It’s not even a toggle or anything. Non-prison players can’t feel pain, even if they think it makes the game more hardcore or something.

In any case, by the time Danny comes to, his red headband has been bought off of him. I forget how much of the reasons why were covered earlier and how many I mistakenly believed wouldn’t be relevant or even just forgot to write about (the four-per-week nature of these updates means that I don’t have much time for second drafts), and anyway even people reading this posts in order as an archive binge probably aren’t going to remember the details, so I’ll summarize: Remember Danny’s prison buddy Kart? Not any of the ones he ran the dungeon with, but the one who was his first friend back in the starter mine. Kart went to prison for refusing to snitch on his wealthy employer, but he was able to get out into the main gameworld early thanks to Danny’s help. Once out into the main gameworld, the employer was able to post bail for Kart and get him out of Barliona. Kart’s done with the game for the foreseeable future, but as final thanks, Kart’s employer dropped a bunch of money on getting Danny’s red headband of felonious disfavor removed. He would’ve bought Danny out of the game entirely, but his bail is a hundred million Illuminatibux, and I have no idea what the 20XX Illuminatibux:2018 burgerbux conversion ratio is, but apparently a hundred million is too much for even a minor plutocrat to spend as a favor.

So anyway, the headband’s gone and NPCs don’t hate Danny anymore, including his landlady Elizabeth, who’s been nursing him from his bedside during the 48-hour transformation fever. Almost as soon as Danny wakes up, a herald of the emperor teleports in and tells him he’s been invited to the first match using that cursed chess board he made.

Elizabeth’s reaction is mainly notable in that 52 people felt the need to highlight it:

Elizabeth stared at me wide-eyed and in her properties Attractiveness rose by 20 points in one go. Now it was fifty four. Women. Whether real or NPC. The more important the company a man keeps, the higher his Attractiveness.

Were 52 people highlighting that because they wanted to copy/paste it into some article about how this is pretty sexist? Or did they copy/paste it because they are sexists and thought it was true? In fairness, the actual effect of NPCs thinking better of a player who’s seen to have important friends is perfectly sensible, it’s just weird that this is claimed to be limited to women.

Chapter 9

Danny is brought to the Emperor’s Palace and learns of some special semi-instancing rules that prevent players from harming one another. They can see, but not physically interact with each other, and anyone who tries to pull any shenanigans to get their murder on has the guards called on them. Which raises the question as to why all players aren’t just made invincible when within the Emperor’s Palace. I can only assume that this is a setup for a future assassination within the Palace.

In any case, Danny overhears Anastaria and Hellfire discussing assorted subjects, most notably that Anastaria plans to blast Danny with her special siren powers in order to get him to hand over the chess pawns. So, maybe she’s an antagonist rather than the trophy girlfriend that comes standard with your store brand Build Your First LitRPG Kit?

When Danny comes to the actual game room, invisible because of the instancing, he sees what are apparently the true leaders of the two clans, a pair of brothers named Evolett and Ehkiller. Danny carved them into kings without knowing why in his fugue state. They even discuss during the game that they have no idea how Danny figured out they were the secret powers behind their respective thrones. Apparently the two are on pretty good terms with each other despite the relentless enmity of their clans, and also hold positions of power in real life. One of them refers to Anastaria (real name Stacey) as his nephew, presumably the daughter of the other.

Except, when Danny lingers after the game, one of them mentions that they’re pretty sure Danny has gone by now, which means they knew he was lurking about invisibly during their game, and Danny even comments on how it’s possible that some or all of what they discussed was a pre-planned deception. The only thing he knows for sure is that the two secret leaders of the two leading clans, the ones who most hate each other, are actually on pretty good terms with one another (even if their friendly banter was all a ruse, that means they’re on good enough terms to be colluding on the ruse together, and they have no reason to coordinate in order to fool Danny if they’re actually committed enemies – they may, at most, be friendly rivals who are exaggerating the extent they cooperate with one another).

Danny promised Clouter a present, and since Clouter likes his dog Tiny Tim a lot, Danny decides to make him a statue of the dog. He does, and the statue turns out to be cursed just like the chess set, so Danny destroys it. Danny tries making an ordinary rose, and it’s also cursed, so he smashes that, too. Then Danny gets the idea to try making a new statuette of Tiny Tim using some of the malachite he had lying around from the prison mine, and this time, no curse. Apparently all Krong Province materials are cursed.

Danny summons up an air spirit to get in touch with his mentor, but reaches Garanika, the villainous rogue shaman who works for Kartoss now, instead. And Garanika harvests his eyes through the connection, apparently just for funsies.

I sure hope Danny figures out whatever it was that Karnik refused to tell him, ’cause Karnik definitely won’t be dropping any hints.

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