The kraken staring at her with its large golden eyes couldn’t have been bigger than the size of her hand. It was deep purple with eight tentacles that clung to her arm. It’s head was round like an octopus but with a black beak.
It screeched again.
Nova jumped up and tried shaking it off. The miniature monster slid down her arm and then clung to her wrist for dear life, wrapping its tentacles firmly around her wrist.
“Get off! Get off! Get off!” Nova shouted, flailing her arms around her wildly.
It let out another screech and then waved one of its eight tentacles to the left. Nova wasn’t sure why she looked but she did. What she saw was even worse than the purple kraken clinging to her.
All around her were monsters.
As she watched more of the creatures pulled up from the ground. Their bodies were twisted together from pieces of the earth they rose from. Some of the creatures were weaved together with roots. Dirt and mud dripped from their bodies. Others had hunched backs covered in rock and grass, fallen branches making clawed arms. They were all distorted humanoid forms and as they rose they towered over her, at least seven feet tall, some even larger. Their bodies moved in a weird unity as they closed in on her.
Fear gripped Nova and she took a step back. “What’s going on?”
She took another step back and smacked into something cold and hard. She looked up. Empty eyes carved into a face of stone stared down at her. Nova lurched forward, trying to get away from the rock monster but it was faster than she imagined. One cold hand grabbed her arm, yanking her back so hard it nearly dislocated her shoulder. She slammed her fist into the monster but it was punching stone. A grotesque mouth made of sharp rocks opened and closed.
“I’m sorry, but it must be this way,” the monster said. The voice had a strange echo to it, like someone shouting from far away.
The monster tightened its hand on her arm and then she felt something cold climbing over her skin. A tearing sensation ripped through her and a wave of pain poured over her. Excruciating pain. It felt like someone was digging into flesh and clawing out bits of herself. She wanted to fight back but the pain just kept ripping and tearing.
[Error! Error! System malfunction!]
Blue screens popped up everywhere around her, blaring alerts but Nova couldn’t concentrate on any of them. All she could feel was pain as she clawed at the hand around her arm, trying to pry herself free.
With a loud shriek, a purple blur rushed past her face. It was the kraken. It slapped its tentacles at the stone monster’s hand, trying desperately to attack it. It was a useless endeavor but something did happen. The stone monster stared at the kraken as it flailed against it. It was almost as if it was in shock. For a moment, the pain vanished.
[Welcome -scritch- …Galius!]
[Name:] Nova Davis
[Trying to re-establish system.]
[Error rebooting system. In order to find the error, a diagnostic check is needed. This can take several days to complete. Would you like to run a diagnostic check?]
Any hope she had that this system would save her was dashed. The monster was already returning its attention back to her.
[Would you like to pick your secondary class?]
Yes! She mentally shouted.
A blue screen popped up in front of her eyes with a scrolling list of options. Before she could focus on it the pain returned. She screamed again, unable to hold back as the pain mutilated her inside. Error screens began popping up around her. She bit her tongue and the taste of blood filled her mouth.
I have to…
She tried focusing her eyes. One screen still floated in front of her. It was a list. Everything was a mesh of errors and numbers but she knew it had to be the class screen. She had no idea what any of it said and she didn’t have the luxury to try to piece it together. Instead, she focused on the colors. The options were all in white, three in red, and one in purple. She could guess the colors had to do with rarity.
She picked the purple one.
[Congratulations! You have -scritch-]
[Mana sight unlocked]
[Mana transfer skill unlocked]
Suddenly, Nova could see lines threading through the monster. Black tendrils burrowed into her skin, pouring from the monster’s hand into her flesh. Bile rose in her throat, disgust warring with the pain. Then a bright gold light caught her eye. It lay in the center of the monster’s chest. It was almost like a ball of glowing yarn. She reached for it, struggling through the pain. Then she grasped it and pulled. The monster stiffened. It seemed to realize what she was doing and the tendrils grew thicker.
“No!” She yelled and then ripped the light from the creature.
Everything stopped. Together the black tendrils and the monster shuddered. Then it fell apart. Nova fell to the ground with a thump. She looked down at her arm but the black tendrils were gone. Beside her there was movement and she saw the purple kraken on top of some of the stones that used to be the monster. Miraculously, it was unhurt. The kraken threw itself onto her, clinging to her shoulder.
Nova shook as she pulled herself up. She felt a warmth in her hand. The gold ball of threads still rested in her hand. To her amazement, she watched it sink into her skin. She felt a rush of energy and the pain she felt before was gone.
[Warning! You have 30 seconds to transfer mana before eruption.]
“Fuck!” Nova screamed, scrambling to her feet. As she did she noticed that the other monsters were still there. They hadn’t fallen apart like the other monster, but they stood in a half-circle around her, frozen in place.
Before she could even comprehend what that meant, a voice boomed in her head.
OH, CHOSEN ONE OF THE REALMS. I SUMMON YOU TO MY AID.
“What the hell?” Nova said in bewilderment, covering her ears.
Like a switch had been flipped, the monsters as one turned to her.
Nova’s eyes widened.
[Warning! You have 15 seconds to transfer mana before eruption.]
The voice boomed again and she felt like her eardrums were about to burst.
I HAVE OPENED A PORTAL TO MY REALM. LET A DEAL BE STRUCK.
A glowing circle appeared in the grass. Nova turned and ran.
As Nova ran, she scooped up a rock. Transferring the mana was almost natural. It was like something swirling inside her waiting to get out. So, she let it free, pouring it into the rock. The stone glowed, growing brighter and brighter. It felt like it was burning. It didn’t take a genius to know that wasn’t a good sign. Nova flung the rock behind her, aiming in the direction of the monsters. Right as the rock left her hand there was a loud bang and she was thrown forward.
A loud shriek sounded from her shoulder. The kraken. It hung from her shirt. She sat up and grabbed the purple monstrosity, shoving it down her shirt. An indignant squawk spilled from the kraken’s beak. Nova ignored it and looked around. There, the circle.
Nova looked behind her. The monsters were still coming towards her, much closer than she’d thought they were. She stepped into the circle. The circle’s light grew brighter. A loud ripping sound filled the air followed by the sensation of falling. She felt dizzy and she tried to steady herself. Her mind felt scrambled and she tried to focus.
Instead, Nova blacked out.
When she opened her eyes, Nova found herself in a strange temple. A man in a black cloak with a blood-stained dagger in his hand stood in front of her. She stared at him and he stared back.
“Yes!” The man began jumping up and down in excitement. “It worked! It worked!”
Slowly, Nova stood up.
The man’s attention turned back to her at the movement. He studied her and she studied him right back. He was a lanky man with brown hair pulled back in a short ponytail. He didn’t look particularly intimidating, well, except for the dagger.
The man frowned. “You’re not what I expected.”
Nova wasn’t sure how she was supposed to take that. As she figured out how to respond, there was another screech from her shirt. The purple kraken scrambled out of her blouse, waving its tentacles in irritation.
“Yeah, yeah, sorry, but I wasn’t sure if you would get transported as well,” she said, patting the kraken.
The kraken swatted at her hand and then climbed up her shoulder.
“What in the pits is that?” The cloaked man said, taking a step forward.
She jerked back, eyeing the bloody knife in his hands. The man followed her gaze and then quickly shoved the knife between his shirt and a belt that looked to be made of rope. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
The sound of steel hitting stone and marching feet interrupted their conversation. In the distance she could hear shouting.
“By the Realms,” the man said and hurried towards her. “We have to go, now.”
Nova wasn’t sure whether she wanted to go with him but she also didn’t want to meet whatever army of people was coming toward them.
She nodded. “Lead the way.”
The man turned. “Keep up.”
Then he was running through a partially collapsed entrance she hadn’t noticed. Nova hurried after him.
The man was nimble, weaving through the area without hesitation. Nova looked around her as much as speed would allow. Whatever temple they were in had fallen into disuse a long time ago. It was more a ruin than any sort of usable building. She would have liked to look closer if she wasn’t trying to escape.
The man stopped in the middle of the hall. Then he crouched down and hefted up one of the stone blocks on the floor. Without a moment’s hesitation, he jumped down. Nova walked over to the hole and peered down.
“Come on,” he whispered.
Nova sucked in a breath and then slid down into the hole. The hole was so narrow, her shoulders brushed the wall. She found herself trying to hold her breath in a misguided attempt to conserve air. A quick glance showed it wasn’t just a hole but a tunnel. The man pushed past her, reaching up to drag the stone back into place. It cast the tunnel into darkness.
She felt something brush her hand and she jerked back.
“It’s me,” the man said. “I have to lead you out. I don’t have a torch.”
Nova swallowed and then nodded. “Alright.”
The man tugged on her hand and she shuffled forward as he led her into the dark tunnels. They moved in silence. Fear gripped Nova’s heart. She was afraid to breathe. She wasn’t claustrophobic but she also had never wandered an unknown tunnel in the dark with a strange man to guide her. A sudden fear that the cloaked stranger was leading her somewhere to sacrifice her engulfed her. She started to jerk back when the tunnel opened up to a light. They were in a room with two torches as well as a ladder that led up to a trapdoor. A yellow stone was embedded in the wall underneath the torches.
Now that she was in the light and in front of a possible exit, Nova stopped in her tracks. She took a breath. Somehow the air felt fresher here. She pulled her hand away from the man and faced him.
“Who are you?”
“Oh, yes, you’re probably wondering what is happening,” the man said brightly and straightened up. He puffed out his chest. “I am Mathius and I have summoned you to the world of Galius for a great quest.”
Nova looked at the man and frowned. “You summoned me?”
He nodded. “I created a great summoning circle to bring you here.”
“To Galius,” Nova asked. On her shoulder, the purple kraken chittered.
“Yes, that was me,” the man said proudly.
“I think you have it wrong. I was already in Galius when the circle showed up,” Nova said.
“You were?” The man deflated. “Then you’re from this world?”
Nova hesitated. She could lie and say she was but it wouldn’t be hard for him to figure out she wasn’t from around here. She decided to take a chance. “No, I’m from Earth.”
He perked up immediately and then frowned in confusion. “You were here before I summoned you?”
“Yeah,” Nova answered. She decided not to say for how long exactly she had been in Galius. She wanted to get a feel for the man in front of her. He looked around her age, early twenties, maybe a little older.
Mathius bit his lip and then shook his head. “I guess it doesn’t matter as long as you’re here.” His eyes gleamed. “You entered the summoning circle so the deal has already been struck.”
Nova felt a pit grow in her stomach. “What deal?”
“We are going to start a guild.”
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