Chapter 4 – The Hero of the first wave
Roland Five was known as the Hero of the First Wave. Despite his opposition to the title, the name stuck. For him, the first wave wasn’t something that had heroes. And if it did, and only if, there were other people that were far more deserving of that title.
He logged into the game the moment he saw it on his games library. It wasn’t that he was curious or cautious but simply made a mistake. He had heard about a game with a similar name that was in development and thought that the company had made an accidental release. He wanted to learn as much about the game before that mistake was fixed. When he entered the game it was obvious that it wasn’t that, but it looked interesting enough, so he continued playing it anyway.
He selected the adventurer class. From the class description, it seemed to be a fighter variant that focused on combat within the wilderness. The fighter class was essentially a blank slate. It could focus on one weapon, one type of weapon, one size or category of weapons, or generalise to any weapon. They had more abilities and choices than any other class, but few of them were more complicated than hit the thing with the thing.
He chose his abilities to focus on defence and speed. Increased movement when not wearing leg armour, increased defence from shields and chest armour and increased strike speed from one handed weapons; he forfeited a weapon focus to get those abilities. With a sword, shield and chest plate, all made of stone, he spawned in the original camp surrounded by monsters. A message rang through his head telling him that he was the twelfth person to start playing and that he would get a thirty-eight precent increase in experience gained for the next week.
While listening to that message he was killed. Pain shot through his neck as it was impaled from behind by a lizard with a narwhal like horn. He chocked and panicked. He clutched at his neck. His eyes widened and he tried to breath. His mouth filled with blood, blood that would fall back down his throat and make breathing harder still. He had never experienced anything like that. That was obvious, had he died previously he couldn’t be playing a game. As his body fell to the ground, like a puppet with its strings cut, his vision blurred and the pain numbed. When he finished dying he found himself staring at the main menu once again. He could re-enter if he wanted. He could also not. It was obvious that any game where you could die before the system message had finished was broken. It was also obvious that pain and death were terrible. Yet he found himself logging in once more.
As he stood, once again, in the original camp he could see many more people were logging in and dying. He quickly confirmed his equipment was still with him and quickly attacked the creatures around him. The horned lizard was his first opponent. He went to block its attack but its horn went through his shield. He was driven backwards and there was a hole in his shield. On the second attempt, he pulled his shield backwards as the blow impacted, like he was catching a ball with soft hands. That time the shield held and he had an opportunity to attack. His blade swung with unmatchable speed and sliced across the creatures face, leaving a cut on its scaly cheek. The attack was shallow. The attack was far too shallow. It barely even noticed Roland’s attack. It let out a coarse cry and attacked once again. Having gotten the hang of using the shield, he braced the attack easily.
While he was feeling like he might be able to keep it up and win, he felt once gain the cold embrace of death. The lizard had his complete attention and he hadn’t noticed the horse sized mantis behind him. Death came quicker the second time, as the blade pierced his brain with ease.
Once again he was at the main menu. Most people that entered the first wave hadn’t tried a second time and amongst those who did, even fewer went for a third. Roland, however, did press that log in button once more. He retained his equipment, though its condition hadn’t improved. He waited till the mantis wasn’t near the lizard before once again attempting to kill it. He was killed a third time, before he made it to the lizard, by a snake that was as thick as a cat and long enough to warrant that thickness. On his fourth attempt he blocked against an interfering creature and was skewered by the lizard. On the fifth he managed to cut the lizards tail off before he was killed by a burning cat. On the sixth he managed to wound one of its legs but on the seventh his shield broke. On the eighth his sword followed his shield. On that same life, he stumbled, literally tripped, on a human body. Since when players died their bodies disappeared, he assumed that it was the body of a non-player character, a NPC. He was lucky. Really lucky; the body was clutching a sharp metal sword and small round metal shield.
As he equipped the sword and shield, he turned to find the lizard. With his target in front of him he charged forward to meet it. On the ninth attempted, he retained the metal equipment. He yelled out to nearby players, telling them to look for bodies with better weapons. Using what they could find and repeatedly re-spawning Roland and a few others eventually cleared the camp. With the bonus experience and with fighting so many creatures he had levelled up a number of times. Once the camp was safe a number of players returned. They were the second wave, those who didn’t have to go through the cycle of death. They looked at the first wave as madmen and heroes, and the first wave looked at him like a leader.
Whether he liked it or not, that was the beginning of his nickname. The hero amongst heroes, Roland had unlocked a title that sat beneath his name, which floated above his head. He unlocked the title of Hero of the First Wave and he had no way to change it. Not that the title was without benefit. Having that title granted him an additional experience bonus. As he led the push forward, expanding their territory, he would gain experience faster than other players. He was the highest level player and the leader of the player army. When momentum faded and players started to make camps and towns his army disbanded. Roland continued to push forward alone. He didn’t hold the separation against them; most of them were simply tired. Others had no way to keep up.
A friend he made on that first day set up a camp and started making equipment for new players. He always told Roland that if he couldn’t fight beside him, then he’d make an army to fight for him. Roland was thankful, though a little guilty. Fred had done so much for him, and continued to do more still. Even the equipment he used was made by Fred. His sword, the one he picked up on the first day, had been reforged and strengthened several times since. Given the number of fixes there was probably little of the original weapon left in it, but the sentiment was in it still.
As he fought alone, through masses of monsters, he said a mantra to himself.
“I am an adventurer. I am a knight. I am favoured by the twelfth world.”