The moment I appeared in the world of Savanto, it was unnerving. Spawning as a character I did not create, with a class I did not choose. It felt uneasy and chaotic, just like a newborn would when gasping for air in their first instances of life. Only that this time, I had to remind myself this was not reality.
— Dicken Vale, video game critique for the NIG Network
A vast sea of sand. A horizon blurred by the heat and the peaks of trickster dunes.
That was the place where Santiago had first appeared in that world—Savanto.
Behind him, a wall of ebony rock arose in defense of a golden city, a high palace took center stage in its design, brighter and more majestic than the already pristine households and buildings. Truly a sight to behold.
Santiago took a beating in the back by a faceless guard, covered in a green tunic depicting the same artistry as the banner the young man held up high. A crescent moon in light blue filled the center of the flag. His masked face, which revealed one blue glowing eye turned to face the guard that had punished him for his little leniency. He cursed as his HP, displayed as a vile of red liquid on his top corner, dropped considerable points because of that uncalled whipping.
The guard prepared for another hit in response to his apparent defiance, only to be stopped by a man taller than any other at the gates of the city. He was ornamented with precious stones—rubies, sapphires, emeralds... all of them working in a perfect tapestry that was the man's adorned existence.
"Careful men, he is, after all, a Warrior-Servant. A being who fights for us and uses his abilities for the good of our people." the tall man said, albeit in a sarcastic tone.
The guard walked back to his post, leaving only the leader and Santiago to look at the endless sand beyond the city.
"You know your mission, Servant." he said, "call your mount and begin your journey, do not come back until you have solved this endeavor our master has so carefully entrusted to you."
His mocking tone of voice was vexing.
Santiago's subsequent sigh was echoed by the sound of his mask, a gray plate with only one orifice and markings of ancient origin. His skin was colored like the mountain's dust, his hair was thick and dry, lifeless, white with blue overtones and linings. On his hands rested a long spear with a sharp, long blade at the tip made of a floating crystal.
He advanced a few meters away from the gate, hoping he had remembered how to summon the beast.
All I took was a small, fast-paced lesson given to me by one of the enforcers at the barracks, I bet not even he knew how to summon a mount. His words resonated in his mind, paralleling a wish to disconnect.
However, his - log off - button had been inactive for the first couple of hours. Whenever Santiago's eyes hovered over it or his fingers tried to push the holographic panel, it only gave him a message: "Due to your Servile trait, you cannot disconnect unless your masters order you to do so."
Who the hell creates a game like this? he thought, shaking his head.
Suddenly, his senses failed him and his knees bent, his body was engulfed in the powerful discharge of electrons as the symbol in his mask glowed intensely.
"What's taking you so long, Servant?" said the tall man, holding an amulet with the same symbol as Santiago towards the young man, like a remote control.
Didn't you say I was someone to be cherished?!, he thought.
The young man had experienced that type of shock-inducement before when he failed to move after 3 minutes of idle contemplation, upon spawning in the middle of the throng of other undesirables being sold as full-time, life-long servants.
"Nothing, master." He answered, making sure to include the 'master', otherwise, he knew the shocker amulet would activate again.
"Then get to it. Because of your inopportune contemplation, you have now to restore your health on the job. Go."
He glanced at his health bar again, it was half full on the vile. He cursed silently as he stepped further away from that accursed device that only made his life harsher.
He rose his spear skyward.
"Elekron" he shouted.
The tip's floating crystal emitted a visible static, sparkling, charging up.
"Right, I got this," he said to himself, his gaze transfixed at the power coursing through him.
Per his enforcer's instructions, he then twirled the spear several times at great speed, generating a disk of blue light, before he thrust it into the ground, generating a shockwave that illuminated the transparent properties of the sand and causing a small earthquake.
There was a moment of silence following the tremble, only filled with the occasional hot wind that touched Santiago's avatar and its insipid's skin. Then a tremor emerged from deep beneath the sand layer of the desert, upwards to the direction where Santiago stood, who panicked immediately.
He had read Frank Herbert's critically acclaimed novel "Dune" several times, the sense of dread filled him and he began to step backward.
"Whoa! Whoa! Heck No!" He shouted.
The sudden impulse of a beast four times his size sent him away back to the feet of the tall man. When he turned to see the animal that had spawned from the sand, he saw a reptilian, four-legged creature who shook the sand dust from its scales.
Another shock reduced his health points.
"Go, you stubborn servant, how many times does a Mountain Tribesman needs to understand a simple command?!" his apparent master shouted.
He could not catch a break.
Santiago quickly stood up, still nauseated from his first experience with the reptile. The animal recognized him as his rider and bowed his head to reveal a chair, He used its strong legs as steps and accommodated himself to better ride the so-called Elekron.
"Well, now what?" he complained, already fed up. He appreciated, however, the way the winds, all of them blowing to a single direction and never changing, concealed his complaints and antagonistic tone from the tall man and his dreaded amulet.
He opened a map from his top right corner, happy that at least the game would offer beacons—or checkpoints for that matter—so to know where to go.
As the map unfolded before his eyes, Santiago was dismayed upon seeing nothing but an actual crude representation of a map made out of papyrus—one that he had to interpret in relation to the world's geography and above all, mostly empty of any input whatsoever.
Who the hell makes a game like this? he thought again, wishing to punch a developer's face until he felt all his trouble had been properly paid.
He tapped the Elekron's head gently to move on, and so he departed, losing sight of most of the city after passing the first dune.