Lithely, I fly through the air, my hawk's wings spread out, gliding, flapping for height control, and gliding some more. I concentrate on ensuring I am flying like a normal bird. Although it is rare that anyone on the ground would even notice me, there are always those players that would delight in the chance to kill a bird they thought was a player.
So I wanted to ensure I was just a normal, NPC...bird. There are enough of them that are A.I. scheduled to go from place to place, usually in the appearance of hunting animals or going home to a nest. The thought of their nests actually makes me smile, as a hawk, I have stolen my fair share of eggs to feast on. Variety of food in this world is usually rewarded.
Of course, my normal form is much more menacing, and usually terrifying. I am a Dragon, silver in appearance, shivermist in breath, approaching Elder in age. Of course, that is rather an odd thought, given in game terms, I will have played for 2 years. There are perks in becoming Elder, but also requirements. 2 years is the minimum game time, and besides that, there are numerous other elements to deal with, such as physical abilities gained, lore studied, animals eaten, and my favorite: number of special tasks performed.
Tasks are like quests, but more generalized. There are specific actions you take for the Dragon Conclave, a secretive group that players who are not dragons will never chance to see. Performing these heroic feats befit for a dragon completes part of the rites that enable your Elder form. Heroic can be evil, neutral, or good, so long as you do them, thus giving variety to players. Myself, I have stuck mainly to helping humanoid players.
Today will complete a task, or so I hope. One of the feats you can perform is to steal, pillage or create an artifact. Artifacts are magical and sometimes extremely powerful items that can be used for a variety of purposes. Most humanoids desire them, and almost all of them are held by larger groups, usually guilds and cities. Today's artifact is being sold from one city to another, and the artifact is traveling by ship.
One of the cities, Tonis, is in the business of creating artifacts. Tonis is a city of primarily magic-users and researchers. Beautiful place, too. They are selling the artifact to Four Gears, a coastal city that was built in Steampunk style. Also a neat looking place. I love what some of the bigger groups in this game can do to create a city of both beauty and commerce.
I alight furtively inside a bush on a cliff overlooking the bay where Four Gears is located. Perfect hiding spot, just as I thought. This cliff sweeps up outside of the city, providing half of a ring of solid rock around the bay, and is a lovely spot to hang out and ponder life. Many players have used it for such, and a few weddings have been held up here. It is darker out, but the sun is slowly creeping up from beyond the horizon of the ocean. The real time is 4:02 pm, but the ingame time is 7:05 am. At a 13 hour to 24 hour ratio, time is slower, but not by much. I have about 30 real minutes to finalize my plans, for I am making use of circumstances to help my pillaging.
This is where intrigue enters in. There is also a Pirate's Guild, the Arc Raiders, that is privy to the deal that is going on here. Of course, in any game world, nothing is ever really secret. A deal like this started as an idea among Tonis' council, and likely a message was sent to Ferric, the lord of Four Gears, and from there plans were started. But the Arc Raiders happen to have insiders on Ferric's council, and thus, more nefarious plans were formed.
Tonis, like any smart city, would send a fleet with their artifact for protection. Four Gears, always strategizing, also would have an army available to meet them at the harbor, to ensure the artifact was safely back in the city. Suicide for the Arc Raiders, right? But I know better. Especially given I know their plans from being in their guild.
Shapechanging is a vital skill for dragons. It allows for escapes, manipulation, fun, and environmental compatibility. Dragons are too big for a lot of places, really. So I picked a human form that would allow me to corroborate with various groups, given that guild membership of any kind is not tagged, but known. Games with names over everyone's heads make fun plans hard to pull off when you know who everyone is all the time. When shapeshifting, I pick a name that I will be known as, and I have a set form. For extra amusement, my human form is female, and to ensure deception, I let my girlfriend do the talking in deals with people. The Arc Raiders think I am a girl working for them off and on. Run by males, their own ego is their downfall.
The Raiders are not planning on attacking both sides, but instead will wait for the artifact to be taken off the ship first, so they can steal it. Their main force will harry the fleet and draw them from the bay while a secondary ship will come in to take the artifact. Now right away, one would think, but what about Four Gears and its army? The same informant in the city for the Raiders also "act" as a spy for the city, claiming to give information on the Raiders' activities. However, the spy is feeding Four Gears the wrong information.
The city will think it is being attacked by the Raiders and another guild together, so their plans are to take the main force of their army into Four Gears' own ships and take out the pirates with the combined forces. Both cities will think the pirates have underestimated their forces and pursue them to wipe them out. This will leave the artifact guarded by a small force initially, which gives the Raiders a small window of attack. Good for them their other ship is incredibly fast.
Good for me that one ship poses no threat whatsoever. Especially because I know everyone on board and their plans.
4:08. Time to start on tactics. My own plan is to swoop in and neutralize the guarding force of the artifact first. Shivermist, my aforementioned breath ability, has a certain amount it can be used for before it recharges. I get a breath bar for that. It has a wide Area of Effect and generally freezes in place anyone who is caught in it for about 1 minute. A lot of time.
Of course, the guarding force will likely have magical protection, so I am going to have to cast a general dispel over the area to wipe that buff. Then, before the guard has time to react, I need to strike with my breath, after changing back into a dragon, of course. That also leaves me vulnerable. The change takes up to about 8 seconds. Sometimes, I wish I had worked more on reducing the time on that.
The Raiders come next. Their ship will come in fast, and their cannons have impossibly long range and power. Enough to take me out without too much effort. That is what my elemental is for.
Elementals come in many flavors. I like ice a lot, and they have a wonderful kamikaze technique that causes them to explode, causing instant freeze in a large area, but only lasting 10 seconds. I left a signature magic tag on the ship, and after I freeze the guards, I will send the elemental straight for the tagged ship, cloaking it first so they don't see it until it explodes. The ice effect will render the ship dead in its tracks for 10 precious seconds, allowing me to fly away (hopefully) unscathed before anyone can act.
My remaining magic power will allow me to shield, just in case anything does attack. A flying dragon is fast, but I would rather not take chances with other magic, arrows, spears, bombs or any other swift nasties. No arrow to the wing for me.
I check the time again. 4:16. I have been studying the positions of the groups and buildings in the harbor below. I think I have a pretty good idea of layout and what I can use to my advantage. Everything seems favorable, and I have good spirits on this. This will also be the first time I have shown my dragon form to the world at large, and I have a feeling this is going to be crazy on the forums if I succeed.
An incoming message pops up on my screen, asking if I want to accept or not, and then my I feel my jaw drop. Not her. Not now...! Khisanth.
I hit accept, hoping this isn't what I think it is and in a second hear that familiar British accent.
"Now what are the chances of a dragon just happening to enjoy a sunrise on the cliffs when we are about to witness one of the most spectacular betrayals this continent has seen yet?"
Continue to Part 2