Long, long ago, there was a great MMPORG called Asheron's Call. It's graphics were old and very crude, but it was an open world of some 500 square miles that you could run across from end to end if you desired. If you could see it, you could go there. There were live events, and constant updates, and at its peak it had something like 100 thousand registered players. I was introduced to it pretty much as described, and went on to play the game for several years, long after World of Warcraft stole away many of the AC players including the friend mentioned. I finally moved on to WoW after a few years, but eventually came back to this, the first game I'd ever played. It just felt like home. Sadly, AC came to an end on Jan 31st 2017. This tale is my tribute to the fun I had and the friends I made in the fantasy world of Dereth. I hope you enjoy it. I don't own anything, that all belongs to Turbine, the developers. I do get to play in their universe.

Asheron's Call Ch 1

My arrival on Dereth.

Pour yourself a glass of mead and have a seat my friend. What you are about to read may seem the wildest fantasy but it is true. My name is xxxxx and this is my tale. It is the record of my arrival in a strange world full of magic and monsters. Of warriors and maidens, and the trials I have undergone to survive in this land, which could only exist in imagination. After many days and many roads, my time in this world is coming to an end. I have lived a full life here, so let this be my last testament.

I was born in a small town to the north and west of Toronto, one of the major cities in a country called Canada, on a world called Earth or Terra. I am or rather was an average person, working a steady job which paid the bills, didn't take too much effort and was otherwise a null event in my life. I had no family anymore, nor a wife or girlfriend, and was finally after years of living alone, used to it and quite content with that aspect of my life. I built models of armored vehicles and warplanes as a hobby, and entered in competitions with them. When I wasn't doing that I was logged into an online game which a friend at work had introduced me to.

This game was called Asheron's Call and I had been playing it for a few weeks, with my coworker as a guide in the game. The day came when he told me at work to meet him in a town called Eastham. He didn't say why. Therefore, after work, I went on line, travelled to Eastham, and met him as planned on the outskirts of town. Eastham was just about as dangerous an area as I could manage, so I was happy to get there. He arrived a few minutes later, and announced that he was going to give up the game and move on to a new one. That said, he thought it would be beneficial to me if he gave me all his goods before he departed. He was leaving for good, not planning to come back, so they might as well go to someone who could use them. Ergo, me.

Well, he started dropping items in a heap on the road. I kept picking stuff up until all my bags were full and I could barely stagger. Then he had me log into the other characters, which he'd had me generate the week before. After half an hour of this, all my characters were fully loaded up with all sorts of wonderful higher-level gear and weapons. Overloaded actually, all but one of them could barely stagger around. His task completed, he bid me good day and good luck and logged out for the final time.

Well, I played on by myself, doing quests and meeting people. Sometimes I was online for 12 hours a day, always on the weekend and usually 4 or 5 hours at least a couple of times a week. You could say I was right into it.

Anyway, one night a few months later, I was on my way back from dinner at a friend's place. It was a miserable night, a major thunderstorm was rolling through the area and it was really coming down. The sky was really lighting up, sheets of lightning ever minute or so. The thunder was nearly constant, and loud enough to drown out the radio that was playing some 60's rock n roll. I'd never seen a storm like this before. The last thing I can remember is a blinding flash of light and that's it. It seemed like moments later I came to, laying on a gravel road near a large pyramid shaped building. The rain was a light drizzle, I was soaking wet, and didn't have a clue where I was. The last thing I remember was driving along a major street, buildings and apartments on both sides. Now I was laying on rough stone, on the edge of a pine forest, looking up at a goddamn pyramid of yellowish stone.

I dragged myself to my feet swearing like a trooper, and looked around. There was nothing to be seen except for the pyramid so I started that way, seeking some shelter from the rain. I walked along the road perhaps a hundred feet or so and saw a small path leading up to the pyramid. At the junction of path and road, stood a small sign. "Training Academy" it said.

OK, a training academy. I wonder where the hell I am. Never mind, I'll figure that out later, after I get dry.

Walking up the path I arrived at a stone doorway, giving entry to a hall lit with torches. Not a soul to be seen, no sound other than the rain beating on the ground. Entering the hallway, I walked along to a turn, and following that for another 20 feet or so I came upon a large wooden door. Giving it a push, it opened up on room with a fireplace, bookcases, a table and some chairs. A man in a blue robe stood by the table and looked at me. He didn't say anything nor move in anyway. Saying "hello" to him, I moved past him to the fireplace where a huge fire blazed. In a matter of minutes, I was steaming and warm. My companion still stood there, with nary a word said. As I stood by the fire, I couldn't figure out why this place looked so familiar. As I looked around for clues as to where I was, my hand bumped into an object in my pocket. I pulled out a round disk, with markings of some sort on it. As I held it in front of me, my companion turned and held out his hand. I handed it to him and he began to speak.

"Welcome to the training Academy. Here you will learn the basic skills needed to make your way in Dereth. Go through that door and pick up the items on this list. They will be laying around in the next two rooms. Speak to the guard once you have completed that task."

Dereth? What the fuck? Dereth doesn't exist. It's a game world.

Now I knew why the place was familiar. I had run half a dozen characters through the Academy in the past week. This was where you picked up basic gear, learned to do quests and levelled up to five. Once you completed all the tasks, they handed you an Academy coat, and sent you on your way.

Well, it didn't appear that I had any choice. Until I figured out what the hell was going on, it might be better to go with the flow and do what I was told. That said, I passed into the next room, where my list showed several items of basic armour. These I picked up and put on. Speaking to the guard gave me access to another corridor at the end of which I found myself in a much larger room. At the front of it, stood a training instructor. Behind him were half a dozen or so humanoid shapes, looking as if they'd been cobbled together from parts of a tree. Right. Golems. Looking around I could see signposts, with posters on them. As I walked up to one, I saw it explained how to equip your weapons, and use them. The object here was to kill off one of the golems and retrieve a disk from the body to hand over to the Instructor.

Remembering the process from the last character I'd run through, I discovered I had a pack on my back, which contained various items, including a bow, some arrows, and a short sword. At this point I was a tad confused, as I remember the setting up process allowed a player to select skills, levels of training for them and also physical attributes. I had no idea what skills or attributes I had in this place. It looked like I'd been set up as a bowman with a secondary melee skill for up close and personal. From that I assumed I'd be set up with the needed attributes to make the bow work as it should and still have a half a chance to use the short sword if things got too close for the bow.

Taking up the bow, I nocked an arrow to the string, drew back and let fly. I now had a pissed off animated woodpile heading my way. Drawing another arrow I managed to get off a second shot before the thing took a swipe at me and knocked me back a bit. Ouch, that hurt. Dropping the bow, I pulled the short sword out and took a couple of swings at it. It dropped like a rock.

Rummaging around I found the disk, picked up my bow and turned to the instructor. As I handed him the disk, I was bathed in multicoloured sparkles. I could only assume this was me levelling up a notch. I didn't feel any different, but may be that would change later as I picked up more levels. He then pointed me to another door off to the side and bid me good day.

The door led to a shimmering pinkish purple mass. There was nothing else in the room, so I walked up to it, passed into it and found myself some distance away in another room. Walking about I came upon another man standing by a door. This fellow asked me if I would kill off some wasps in his woodpile and bring me a wing. For this, I would be rewarded. This then was my quest. Through the door behind him, and down a corridor I found a room open to the sky, with a pile of wood and some bright red wasps buzzing round. I killed off several, collected a wing and returned. Once more I got the multicoloured sparkles. Another level?

Moving on, I met up with another NPC as they are called, with a quest to retrieve his bellows. It had been nicked by some critters in the next room. Off I went in search of the critters. These guys were little mushroom shaped things, which were dead easy to kill. Having retrieved the bellows I decided to wander around the room and kill off some more of them. If this place worked the same as a game, I should be gaining experience for each kill, which would make my levelling faster. I might also find various items I could grab for use or for sale. Most games have an economy of some sort, and I figured I'd need cash for things. As I moved around the area killing mushrooms I came across some chests, which revealed various vials when opened. Not sure what they were, I collected a bunch of each.

I eventually headed back to the blacksmith, and gave him his bellows back. My pack was loaded with vials I'd found, and It was time to move on. In return for h is bellows, he gave me a key and told me to go to the next room, and get my reward. I headed down the passage and came to a locked door. Naturally, the key fit this lock, and I opened it. Here stood another NPC, who gave me a small bottle. Looking at it, I saw it was labelled "Oil of rendering". This he told me to apply to my weapon. It would improve the performance of it, making it more powerful.

Hey, works for me. Taking up my bow I poured the oil over it and rubbed it in. Slowly the color changed. No sparkles or anything, just a subtle change in color. There was only one exit from this room so I headed up the stairs there and found myself in a much larger room with several NPC. By this time things were coming back to me with regards to how the game was played. I made a beeline to the shopkeeper and unloaded my useless items and picked up some bags. That was about all for this area. The other NPCs were there to instruct on how various aspects of the game worked, so I did the rounds, and picked up some tips. Pretty much all of this was coming back to me as I had been playing the game for some time.

At the far end of the room, another portal was inside a cage. Passing through that one I ended up at the training hall which was trashed. Sure enough the sentry there wanted me to go down into my first dungeon to retrieve some item. I headed down into the next level and passed down a corridor with a life stone off to one side. I figured I'd wait 'til I got to the starter town before I did that, and kept on down the corridor. Coming across a couple of insect like critters, I had at them from a distance with the bow, and found that they dropped with a couple of hits. Moving along, I whacked about 6 of them, passed through several corridors and down a level. I ended up in the last cavern, with the bug I was to kill and loot. This took a bit more doing. I nailed it twice with the bow, but it didn't go down. It got in a good hit or two before I could pull the short sword and it hurt. The critter took a half dozen hits before I dropped it, and it landed a few good ones on me. I wasn't feeling too hot. Reaching into my pack, I pulled out one of the red potions and gulped it down. Immediately I started to feel much better.

This had me wondering now. If I was playing the game on my PC I'd have a user interface that showed my personal well being with colored bars. If you got damaged, your health bar would show a drop in level and you could gauge how long you had till you died. As with the pop up screens to allow you to spend skill credits and experience, I had no UI. This could make things very interesting. I know I'd bumped up a couple of levels so far but how could I distribute the XP. Oh well no time to worry about that now, the insects were respawning. Time to book.

As expected, once I got back and handed over the required loot, I did the multicolored sparkle number again, and the guard handed me a neat red jacket. Since this was better than the cheap leather armor I'd picked up already I put it on and stowed the leathers in my pack. If things went as I expected, my next stop would be the starter town. I expect it would be Holtburg, but wasn't sure. I had no idea where I was at the moment, nor which race I'd come into the game as. No mirrors around for me to look into. The sentry pointed to the exit and I took some time to check out a few more chests I'd notice around the lower area before I hit the portal.

The trip in this portal was a lot longer. I was travelling in a tunnel that wriggled about like a worm. It reminded me of the event horizons in the TV show Stargate SG-1. When I returned to the real world, I found myself standing in front of the town life stone in Holtburg. I recognized the buildings. Looking over to the nearest building I saw the Pathfinder NPC that I'd been told of. I walked over to him and presented the chit I'd been given, and he gave me the key to the chest on the ground by feet. Upon opening it, I found a full suit of plate armor. It weighted a ton and I was staggering after I picked it all up.

This was to be expected, I was an archer, not a friggin' tank. Staggering under the heavy load, I made my way over to the armor and weapons shop just down the way. It took me a fair while as I was exhausted after only a dozen steps and had to rest for a bit. I was weak as a kitten, and wanted to ditch the plate as fast as I could.

It took a while to make the 100 yards to the shop but once there the trade went quickly and I had lighter gear. I could once again move about without exhausting myself. There weren't any decent bows for sale, so I kept my starter bow. Maybe someone would sell one later, or I could get on in a dungeon. Nevertheless, before I got started on that I needed time to think.

I could hear the sounds coming from the local tavern, and made my way into it, thinking a drink would be nice, and I could sit and try to figure out how to get the hell out of here or at least how to survive in this nightmare.