Just as I lifted the bottle of rum and bleach to my lips I heard a voice.
“Ashford Hayrick Drake the Second, I have a proposition for you.” Looking up I saw my computer’s screen flash to life with strange static, but slowly the static faded to the edges of the screen and in its place was a woman in what looked like some sort of armored gown made from black scales. The woman was beautiful in the classical sense, but what really drew me in and what had to be her best feature was her eyes which looked like endless pools of liquid darkness. As the woman in the screen looked around in what seemed like confusion I found myself lost in her beauty. “I would like for us to have an accord.” Her voice was soft and gentle, but it carried this strange sense of danger and thrill.
I was enraptured as I looked at the woman on my computer screen, but as I pulled myself back down to reality I couldn’t help but look down at the bottle that had fallen out of my hand. It was spilling its contents all over the carpet. Did I already down some of it? Did it cause me to start hallucinating? No, I don’t think that’s it… Wiping at my eyes I looked back at the screen only to find that the women in black was still there. Maybe this is a psychotic break? Am I losing my mind now on top of everything else? No, I don’t think crazy people are sane enough to question whether or not what they’re seeing is real… So what does that leave me with?
“Ashford Hayrick Drake the Second, I would speak with you.”
I found myself speaking out of reflex. “Please, just call me Ash, Ashford is my father.”
“Good, so this magicless version of the world does at least allow you to perceive my voice!” The woman seemed to almost sigh with relief as she gripped her hands close to her rather large chest. “Very well, Ash then… Ash, will you bargain with me?”
Suddenly I found my situation to be absolutely hilarious and I had to try hard not to laugh, I mean all day I had been watching my life go to shit and I had even been ready to just off myself but now I was talking to my computer. I was talking to my computer because I see an insanely attractive woman on the screen that based on all logic and common sense I knew couldn’t actually be there. Honestly it was so surreal I began to think everything that had happened was really all just a dream and in a minute Claudia would be shaking me awake for breakfast and a quickie before class. I knew it wasn’t a dream though, this day had been too detailed and to real to be a dream, but I think a part of me clung to that idea out of sheer desperation.
Closing my eyes I leaned my head back and sighed, I was being an idiot. “Sure. Why not? It’ll at least kill some time, and maybe if I’m lucky it’ll end up distracting me from… everything.”
“Very good. Then let us begin with what you would want out of our bargain.”
Shit, I’m thinking out loud again. I thought I had stopped that bad habit… As I opened my eyes and looked back at the woman on my computer screen suddenly a thought popped into my head, thinking back on shows I had seen and fictions I had read I felt myself grow curious. Shaking my head I disregarded the thought and decided to instead humor my impulse for conversation, even if I was losing my mind I still could really use someone to talk to who didn’t outright hate me right now. Fuck it! If I’m losing it then all the better, my life was turning to shit anyway so why not throw craziness into the mix too. But if I’m not, on the one in a million chance that this is really real and I’m not going insane… You know what, no, I refuse to think of myself as insane so this must be real! And since it’s real, I should give the woman an answer… “I don’t know... You’re kinda asking me out of the blue here, and I don’t even know if you’re real or what you could possibly offer me.”
“In this world? I admit that here I do not have very much to offer you at all… However, if you were to accept my terms I could gift you with any number of things in my own world.”
I almost shook my head, it really was how I had thought. A cliché situation where someone down on their luck and ready to give up everything suddenly has someone else appear and offer to take them to another world, it could only be more cliché if I had actually died and this woman was some sort of goddess. Unless… Playing on my hunch I decided to just ask the woman directly. “You wouldn’t happen to be a goddess that is here to recruit me into saving your world or something would you?”
For a moment the woman on the screen just stared at me, but then she suddenly broke out into a smile. “Truly an astute mind, but then I’d expect nothing less from a person of your caliber…”
“My caliber?” I stared in utter confusion as I tried to think of anything that would make her say that about me.
“Yes, I was incredibly impressed when my divinations told of your exploits. I could hardly even believe you were mortal with all you have accomplished…”
“My divinations were not entirely clear, but I know of how you’ve traveled to many worlds saving or destroying them at your leisure. I also know of some of your greatest deeds, slaying world destroying dragons and sealing away ancient unknowable horrors akin to gods… Truly there are few I could ever hope to find that would be able to match your exploits, though it is a pity that your time in this magicless world seems to have stricken you of your powers and might.”
For a minute my mind couldn’t connect anything she was saying to my life, but then it clicked. Is she talking about… games? Wait a minute, she thinks I’m some badass champion worthy of bargaining with because I beat some raid bosses? Wow, um… That’s actually kinda sad, but I guess I should just play along. I mean technically she is right and I did do all those things, just probably not the way she’s imagining, and I’d hate to pass up something like going to a fantasy world because I decided to correct her… As I thought of how I could spin this misunderstanding she had into something I could work with I suddenly remembered that the woman herself had given me an out. “Oh, um, right. I guess it really would be hard to find someone else who had accomplished as much as that, but as you said my time here in this world has stripped me of my strength. After this long I doubt I’ll ever be able to reclaim my former abilities and my skills have all gotten rusty from lack of use…”
“Do not worry, during your passage to my world you will have a chance to obtain sorcery over elements of your choosing. That should help make up for the power you’ve lost here in this dreadful place.”
Sorcery? As in magic sorcery? Well, I’m sold… Ash, warlock extraordinaire, will be happy to accept any mission given to him if he gets magic out of the deal! As my mind leapt at the thought of wielding magic I noticed that my doubts and worries about this whole situation being fabricated by my mind as it tried to deal with the stress and depression of the day were fading away, I was beginning to feel sure this was real. I felt sane and I was convinced I was talking to a goddess from another world who was currently residing inside my computer screen, that in and of itself began to worry me.
Taking a breath I tried to calm myself down and approach this whole situation seriously. If this was really happening then I needed to know more, I wanted information before I chose to commit myself to any sort of deal. After all, I had read all sorts of stories in which the clueless hero rushes things and ends up being sent to fight against some sort of great evil in a world where the odds are stacked against them. I sure as shit didn’t want to be that guy, if I was really going to do this then I wanted to know what I was stepping into. “Alright, before I commit to anything I need to know a few things…” Oddly enough, as I spoke I realized that I never even considered refusing, the thought of turning down the offer of being sent to a new world by some mysterious goddess had never even crossed my mind. That was a fact that had started all sorts of alarm bells in my mind, but even then the thought of refusing didn’t enter my mind. “First tell me who you are, I can’t really make a deal in good faith with someone whose name I don’t even know…”
“My name? I am merely the thirteenth deity, I suppose if I must have a name it could be Mistress of Night, Wonder, Foresight, Fate, Space, and Time. Or perhaps it would simply be 13? It doesn’t matter to me, call me what you will…”
For a moment I just stared. The goddess had just casually rattled off something pretty impressive, but then she had followed it up with something almost comically simplistic. I thought for a moment what the best way to address her would be since I doubted it would be smart to disrespect or annoy a goddess, but then I realized that it probably didn’t even matter to her. Well, if it really is my choice… “Alright then... 13, I’d like to know a bit more about this world of yours before we come to an agreement. To start with, what can you tell me about this sorcery thing?”
I had no idea how long I had been talking with the goddess on my computer screen, but judging by the light that was beginning to creep in from the dorm window it wasn’t nighttime anymore. It was an interesting experience trying to ply information from 13, not because she was being evasive or uncooperative but because she was a goddess through and through. She knew a fair bit about the world itself and magic, but not very much about the beings that inhabited the world. To her everything from humanoid races to giant monsters were mere animals, the only difference was that some were as lowly and insignificant as ants while others could actually hold some of her attention and interest. It was eye opening the way she talked about people and civilization in general, because to 13 they just weren’t important. She knew of individuals, mostly those that had worshiped her, but for races as a whole there was almost no information I could gain from her. Even still, I was able to learn enough to give me a good framing of the world and situation I was going to be stepping into.
“So basically, your world is ending and you want me to preserve your last shrine so that you don’t fade away and die?” Somehow I felt like it would be easier if I was just being sent to slay a demon king instead.
“The world itself is not coming to an end, just the world as it has been known for the last six millennia under the guidance of my pantheon. But otherwise yes, I would like for you to safeguard my final icon of faith from whatever forces the usurpers send to destroy it.”
“And by the usurpers you mean the group of new gods that are at war with your pantheon?”
“Yes, and unfortunately from what I have seen of the future they shall triumph in that war. They shall caste the thirteen gods of Europe into either slavery or nonexistence and destroy all that we have built and done among the mortal world, just as we had once done to our own predecessors.” The way she said that as if it was just a simple and natural fact of life unnerved me tremendously.
Great… Well, I guess if the job was easy she wouldn’t come looking for a “world traveling champion capable of slaying godlike beings”. Now I just wish I was the sort of person she thinks I am… I rubbed at my tired eyes and looked over at the digital clock next to me, 6:48, we’d been at this for over eight hours now. “Alright so let me get this straight, you want me to protect your last icon for you so that you don’t fade away and die. Fine, but let me say right here and now I’m not going to be able to protect it forever, even if I wanted to I doubt I could actually do something like that. Eventually there would be some accident or attacker I couldn’t stave off and then the icon would be destroyed and you’d be screwed…”
“A valid point Ash, but I’m not asking you to protect my last shrine eternally.” 13 had a mysterious smile on her face, a smile that I found oddly alluring and unnerving all at once. “You only need to protect the shrine for a month, after that I need you to do a much simpler task.”
One of my eyebrows rose involuntarily. “Oh, and what is that other task?”
Suddenly 13 looked at me seriously and all hints of her prior playful mischievousness disappeared. “Survive. I want you to find someplace suitable in the world to build a sanctuary that can weather through the desolation of Godsfall and to take in any of my remaining faithful I send your way regardless of who or what they may be. I want you to defend that place, to christen a temple to me there, and to safeguard what people you can. Ash, if I merely wanted my shrine to be well protected I would send more of my daughters to protect it, what I want from you however is much more than what they are capable of accomplishing on their own. I want you to find a way to survive through Godsfall and to ensure that some legacy of my pantheon and its creations remain in the new world that shall come after. I’m asking you to be my Olegan.”
I couldn’t even begin to process all that she had asked of me, but something did stick out in my mind. “Olegan?”
“Yes, Olegan, the mortal that the fallen gods that my siblings and I overthrew had chosen to preserve their own legacy. He was the one that ensured that the oldest kinds of fae and elemental creatures survived when my siblings and I purged the land of any hint of the old gods influence or icons…”
“Oh…” I wasn’t even sure what to say to that, I don’t think there was anything I could say to that. “Well, I’ll do what I can…”
“And that is all I will ask of you, your best shall be enough. It will have to be…”
Well shit… I didn’t have anything to say, it wasn’t like I could just spill the beans now and say I wasn’t some grand champion and was instead some nobody who was half decent at pressing keys and clicking points on a screen. That would cost me my chance at getting a new life in a new world, a life I desperately wanted right now. So instead I chose to be selfish, I kept my mouth shut, and I nodded.
“But then, that is only my side of the bargain. For you to pass through a path in the Rift as I plan, you need to have agreed to a fair bargain as my equal. So ask of me whatever you will, anything you suggest will be a fair price for me to pay…” 13 just gestured at me as if it was my turn to talk now and I found myself stumped.
Tapping at my chin I tried to look serious and contemplative as I panicked internally. What do I want? How the hell should I know!? I mean, I’m already getting a chance for a new life, magic powers, and getting sent to a fantasy world at the behest of a beautiful goddess that desperately needs my help. That’s like every geeks dream all rolled into one, well I guess minus the sex… Wait, could I ask for sex? That would be interesting, after all I bet not many can say they got to fuck an actual goddess. I guess that could work… As I was about to cast aside some dignity and open my mouth to make a pretty shameless request my eyes stopped on my trusty old tablet. I felt myself freeze and my mind began to whirl. Hold up, what the fuck am I doing? I’m going to be going to a world that’s being forcibly held at the medieval level of culture and technology by its gods and instead of using my one shot at divine intervention on something that could help me I was going to use it on getting laid? Fuck I’m an idiot…
Seeing my tablet had cooled my head, it was full of all sorts of stuff I had downloaded for school and for simple pleasure reading and still had a good deal of room left in its memory. Knowledge was power, and if this world really was at a medieval level of culture then most of the knowledge stored on that little device would be utterly foreign and new to the world. I had read all sorts of stories where the hero gets sent to some fantasy world and uses their modern day knowledge to survive and thrive in that new world, so why couldn’t I try doing the same. I’m sure that in a world like that at least having modern architectural practices and battle tactics at my fingertips would be useful, and referencing various mythologies couldn’t hurt if I was going to live in a world were gods were actually a thing that could come down and confront me at any time. It was a glaringly obvious advantage that I couldn’t pass up just for some sexy time with a literal goddess, no matter how appealing thinking about asking for that sort of thing might be.
I closed my mouth, licked my lips, and then looked back at 13. “I think I know what I want for my side of the bargain, but I’m going to need a while to make sure…”
“Go ahead Ash, the time that passes in this world does not hold sway over the progression of time in my version of Earth. Though I do hope you don’t take over a week, I can feel this place slowly stripping me of my power the longer I stay here.”
Out of curiosity I asked the obvious question. “What would happen after a week?”
“I doubt I would be able to send either of us to my world and I likely wouldn’t have the qualifications to call myself an immortal god anymore…”
I felt my eyes widen in shock, I had now idea my world was so bad for magic and magical beings. If even a god couldn’t manage to stay here a week unaffected then what did she think of the world traveling champion who’d been here almost two decades? Holy… Yeah, I guess it’s lucky this won’t take me a week…
For the next hour I spent my time on my tablet looking through the online store for any books or apps that looked useful. I shied away from anything that needed a signal to work since I doubt there would be one where I was headed, and I ended up deleting a lot of junk stuff that was taking up valuable memory space on my tablet. In the end I had filled up the entirety of the device’s memory space with texts I thought were useful and fictions that seemed either fun to read or related to being sent to a fantasy world like what was happening to me, all useful references I felt I could make use of in the world I was being sent to. I had also found a calculation, notepad, photo, and measuring app that looked like they would be helpful as well. I now had well over a thousand books stored on the tablet but it had come at the cost of every other picture and app besides the four new ones, a picture of my parents back when they were still alive, and two games, Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies, which I kept for entertainment. I had also cleared out my bank account and maxed out my credit cards to afford all those books, something I’m sure would cause problems soon but hopefully I wouldn’t be here for the fallout from those reckless actions.
Looking up and feeling a lot more confident in my ability to adapt and survive in this new version of Earth I was headed to I felt myself smile. “Alright 13, for my side of the bargain I would like to take this with me and have it be indestructible in your world.”
The goddess looked at me and then glanced at the tablet I was holding. “That truly is a strange tome you own, it can hold so much knowledge yet requires no paper or parchment. It does not even seem to run on mana, just some weak form of lightning… However, I cannot make it truly indestructible, that is simply beyond my power. I can make it very difficult to damage, to the point that even a god would have to put in some effort to mark it, but making anything indestructible is impossible for me to accomplish.”
I found myself nodding as my smile grew bigger. So 13 not only mistook my deeds in games for being real accomplishments but she also doesn’t recognize much about technology or how it works. If this holds true for all the other gods as well I might just have stumbled upon a seriously potent weapon… Maybe I could introduce a nasty dragon or giant to the wonders of targeted tactical explosives, or if one of those usurping new gods comes along looking for trouble I could try dropping a nuke on them… Now I just need to pick out the right sorceries to make stuff like that possible for me to pull off... “That’s fine, as long as you make it as sturdy and durable as you can I’ll be happy and take that as you fulfilling my side of the bargain.”
13 just looked at me strangely before giving me a nod. “Very well then… I accept your terms, do you accept mine?”
I thought about how bad of an idea this could turn out to be, after all I was basically agreeing to go and live in a world where practically anything and everything could kill a fragile human like me, the gods were at war, and all of Europe would be a massive danger zone. It would be practically signing my death warrant to agree to go, but even still I didn’t hesitate even for a second. “Yes.”
“Then we have an accord! Come, reach for my hand and I shall pull you into the Rift. Remember though, time shall pass differently in the Rift and I do not know how long you will have to acquire your sorceries…” 13 reached out her hand until it pressed flush against the inside of the screen and blocked the rest of her from view.
With a nervousness that was impossible for me to hide I clutched hard at my tablet and stood up from my bed. Walking across the room to stand in front of my desk and the computer screen on top of it I felt my heart begin to pound hard in my chest. This was it, this was where I threw my old mundane life away to pursue a new one of danger and adventure. I remember there being a time years ago where I would read something online or watch an anime and wish that something like being sent to a magical fantasy world would happen to me, and now here I was years later and that wish had come true. All I had to do was reach out and touch 13’s hand.
I took a deep breath and tried to master my nerves, I knew this wasn’t going to be like what was described in fiction or shown on a show. This was real, and all that other stuff was just something that someone conjured up in their imagination. Hell, 13 already painted a pretty grim picture of the world I was about to step into and in the back of my mind I was more than a little terrified, but more than that I was excited. I couldn’t wait to abandon my life here on this world to try my hand at living in another, but at the same time I was too nervous to reach out my hand. What if something goes wrong? What if I die there? Do I really want to live in a place with no internet? Can I cope without TV being there to distract and entertain me? Should I really do this? I closed my eyes as all of my doubts and worries suddenly pushed past something that had been blocking them and made me stop and begin to reconsider what I was doing. For a moment I decided not to go through with it, after all it was just a way for me to run away from all my problems instead of facing them. I could fight to get my life back on track, move and enroll someplace new where nobody knew me. Hell, I could even change my name and create a new identity for myself if I wanted to.
As I opened my eyes I had found my answer and made my resolve, reaching out I held my right hand up to the screen so that it lined up with 13’s. Fuck it! A chance like this only comes around once in a life time, and even then only to the luckiest of all lucky bastards. I’d be a complete idiot to pass it up, especially after what happened today… Oh, um, I guess it would be yesterday now, but whatever the point still stands! I can face my problems head on in the new world from now on, but this time I choose to run away and escape to another cooler sounding world. As I pressed harder into the screen I felt a sudden sensation of weightlessness and then a jerking sort of pull, then everything disappeared as my vision faded to black.