I open my eyes once more. This time, instead of a painful glow, I am in gloomy daylight. Trees tower around me, gnarled and knobby, with their roots prancing above fetid water, while mosquitoes whine. As I focus on one tree, a small glow appears. Focusing further on the glow cause a window to appear in front of the tree. Just like a user interface in the video games.
Cypress Tree: -A typical swamp tree.
I guess this is the Inspect skill. I lift my hand and see that I am extraordinarily hairy. The glow appears on my hand, and I see a new window.
Level: 0 Ascended Wizard
Skills: Mana Manipulation, Basic Magic: Cantrip
Equipment: Decrepit Wand, Old Dagger, Faded Robes, Rotting Sandals
Titles: Dimensional Traveler, God-Slayer, Crafting Prodigy, King of the Arena, Insatiable Drunkard, Fairy Ambassador, Eldritch Assassin
Those are some seriously scary titles! But what is up with my health and mana? This is not okay, and how am I only level zero? Shouldn’t it start at one? That shitty god has some explaining to do. Don’t just watch me die on repeat, help me survive in the new world!
As I stare at my depressing level, a glow appears in the text. Focusing on that, I can see an XP bar.
I can hear the god’s laughter in my head as I howl in rage. That bastard! I swear I will pay him back no matter what. But I move on and inspect my race.
Gnome: A race of fairy-kin. They excel in magic and engineering.
That is a boring description and I hate it. On to those titles!
Dimensional Traveler: One who has seen the myriad planes of existence. Provides a bonus to dimensional magics.
That one might be useful eventually, but right now I don’t have those magics. Time to move on to the title I feel I am particularly suited to at the moment.
God-Slayer: One who has slain gods, landing the killing blow on an untold number of divinities. All abilities increased when fighting divine opponents.
Yes! Fear me, scumbag god! Your uppance shall come!
Crafting Prodigy: You have mastered all skills. Recipe learning and crafting time are both under one second.
Woah, this is so overpowered. So overpowered, I needed to say it again. That god must not have been able to strip me of my titles.
King of the Arena: You have defeated an amazing number of foes in the arena and duels. Facing you in battle has a chance of inflicting Fear in your opponents.
Well, I don’t remember any of that, but I am willing to accept that once upon a time, I was King of the Ding-a-ling.
Insatiable Drunkard: You have mastered consuming alcohol to a frightening degree.
I am not sure about this title. Perhaps this one is bad.
Fairy Ambassador: You have obtained the trust of the rulers of the fey. Fairies innately trust you, and you are unable to break that trust.
Hmm, that title seems trickier, but I don’t see any faeries around, so it is probably okay for now. Time for the final title, and it is a bit ominous, isn’t it?
Eldritch Assassin: You are the mystic wind of death. You excel at magical critical attacks and deal more damage with them than normal.
Wait, isn’t it normal for critical attacks to deal extra damage? What gives? I focus on critical, and, sure enough, get another prompt.
Critical Rate: Depends on skill.
Current Modifiers: Physical: Double base damage, Magical: Deathblow
What? Any magical critical hit I get is an automatic deathblow? Okay, maybe that god did need to nerf me. He still acted like a jerk, though.
My skills seem like the next natural place to check.
Mana Manipulation: The ability to manipulate mana. Can focus to recharge mana and expend mana to activate skills.
Boring, that is standard stuff for any spell-slinging type in an MMO. Time to move on.
Basic Magic – Cantrip: The first spell any wizard learns. Can only accomplish small effects, such as creating a small flame, moving a feather across a room, or conjuring a grain of sand. Not suitable for combat. Mana Cost: 0
Nothing else is listed? Isn’t this really bad? This spell isn’t usable in combat? What am I supposed to do? I hold my finger out and focus on creating a flame at the end of my finger. Poof, it appears just as I imagined, and looks appropriate for starting a campfire or lighting a cigarette. But what is it burning? My finger doesn’t feel warm where it is coming out, but when I get my other hand near it, I see my hair begin to singe. It stinks! So maybe this cantrip is creating a flow of flammable gas that buffers my finger from the flame? What kind of range does this have? And can I change the gas it supplies?
First, I can check the range. I look around and find a suitable tangle of dried vegetation, likely an old bird’s nest, back up from it, and estimate my distance about twenty meters. I try activating the flame and get nothing. I move forward a meter at a time, and finally get the leaves and twigs to burst into flame. I note that I am about ten meters away, then knock the burning bits into some boggy water, as only I can prevent forest fires.
Next up is checking what sort of gas I can supply to the flame. How about making it more like a butane torch about an inch from my finger, and… Success! I can now make a blowtorch. It doesn’t seem very hot, but I can play around with mixing oxygen and other combustible gases until I get it hotter. If I can do that at a range of ten meters, maybe I can hide and ambush something with a blowtorch? I should keep testing this cantrip spell, it may be unexpectedly useful with some investigating.
Conjuring a grain of sand sounds insignificant, but what if I conjure it into the eye? If I can conjure a grain as a test, yes, that works. Next, I try to conjure it inside my fist. Success! What if it is something else? Does it have to be sand? How about a grain of salt instead? I conjure a white speck in my palm. I lick it, ready to spit it out if it tastes wrong, a salty taste spreads on my tongue. I can make salt, that might be good for making money if I get desperate, but if wizards are common, conjured salt might be as well. Also, I don’t know if conjured matter has a limited duration or not.
Sudden inspiration strikes me! If I can conjure something appropriate, I could clog an artery and attempt to induce a stroke or heart attack. Is this the influence of Eldritch Assassin? I feel a bit scared of this title if it makes me obsessed with murder, but I guess that is the point of it. Inspiration hits me again. If I can move a feather across a room, could I pinch a carotid artery shut? I am seriously a bad person for considering how to abuse a lowly cantrip in this manner, but my survival in this new world is the most important thing. It’s not like I know anything about the civilization of this world, or what sort of beasts are roaming around. I don’t need to summon nuclear bombs, but I do need an edge with my current (lacking) abilities.
I hold out both my hands and try to conjure a grain of sand in each hand. That worked? This is something for me to remember.
Wait, I can affect small things with the cantrip. Can I mess with molecules or atoms? I might be able to make some interesting nuclear effects by playing with the strong nuclear force. And can I use the electroweak if I stimulate electrons with cantrip? I need to design some experiments to test these ideas, but this swamp likely is not the best place for rigorous application of the scientific method.
Wait, why does thinking about how to design an experiment seem so natural to me? Was I a scientist before this? I have too many questions right now. I think I have some basic combat ability from my level zero spell, so it is time to look at my equipment.
Decrepit Wand: This tool of magic was once a mighty artifact, channeling untold power. Now it can barely channel magical energy. Provides a questionable boost to spellcasting.
The wand in question looks a petrified stick, with the tip appearing to be rough pumice. Is this wand originally something powerful? Can I restore it to its original power? Moving on to the dagger:
Old Dagger: A legendary dagger lost to antiquity, now suitable only for outdoor activity and slaying rabbits.
The dagger has a spike jutting out from either side of the cross-guard, and each spike looks like a rusty nail. The edge of the dagger is not especially sharp, but it does manage to cut a rough reed when I put my arm into it.
Faded Robes: These robes used to boast every defensive rune, each thread a conduit to boost magical expenditure, every stitch worth a fortune on its own. However, this robe now is adequate only as a nightgown.
The robes are pale blue, and feel incredibly soft, so at least I will be comfortable. One more piece of equipment to look at…
Rotting Sandals: Can you believe these used to be mystic boots of power? Level up to return these to their former glory, as they stink!
Oh wow, they do reek, I thought that was the swamp. But one of the descriptions told me what I needed to know! I need to level, and I need to overcome this enormous XP penalty. It is time to begin the hunt! Or at least, that is what I thought at first, but then I notice an inventory link in my equipment window.
Well, well, well. My inventory is apparently infinite and full of an unimaginable range of goods, far too many for me to take in right now. Wait, there’s even another set of gear? And this gear hasn’t been nerfed by that loser god? He missed my inventory! Time to pull out this new gear, and kit up!
As I pull it out, the amazing gear turns into worn-out pajamas. The gear turning into garbage must be a function of my level. There’s nothing else I can do for it other than increase my level, I guess. When I put the gear back into my inventory, it turns back into fabulous artifacts. This sadist god is definitely messing with me. I bet most of the items in my inventory will be similarly unusable at my level.
Wait a second, there’s something at the top of the inventory I missed at first! This number, could it be… Yes! I have money! An arbitrarily large amount of platinum coins, and almost none of the other denominations it looks like. But that is okay, I have funds. Now, I just have to find a town, and find a trustworthy merchant or moneychanger after I learn the normal valuations of money. I absolutely cannot let anyone know about my funds to avoid becoming a target, so for now I must put a seal on my money. No, cypress tree, I shan’t spare a penny for you!
Speaking of my environment, I should really start paying more attention to these surroundings. Like the distant crashing that seems to be coming closer.