Priest of the Lost Church – Prologue

 

She lay before a throne made of gold. It was elaborately decorated in poor taste with images of human pain and suffering. Draped over the large chair was a young lady in luxurious black draping robes with the sour expression of an overworked manager. Her features seemed to be unfixed; hair and eyes, even skin, seemed to be gold, green, black and any other colour at the same time with no combination looking anything other than breathtakingly beautiful. Her every cell told her in equal parts disgust and reverence that the figure on the throne was death itself. Not an abstract concept but a personification or deity. Before she could follow her instincts and run she was asked a question by a captivating voice that she couldn’t quite remember what it sounded like. “Hurry up and tell me why you should get a second chance.” The voice seemed to drip with venom and annoyance. “So many of you died at once and it’s going to take me hours to process you all. Hurry up already. You might have all afterlife but I don’t.”

The harsh attitude conflicted with her image and for the briefest of moments she seemed to look like a skeleton draped in a heavy black robe. The sharp stench that the contrasting image seemed to radiate woke her up to her situation, but a moment too late.

“Ah, screw it. If each and every one of you is going to take this long just to come to your senses I’ll never catch up with the backlog. Well then, the lot of you can go straight to hell. A little unending suffering will stop you from ever wasting my time.” As the sentence was about to get passed she seems to double take. “Wait. On the off chance there’s actually a good person amongst them I’d better not. Last time they docked my pay for that and my budget can’t take another hit like that. Instead I’ll give you an opportunity to earn rebirth. Congratulations; you all get a chance to live and I’ll get to play my games without being interrupted. Win-win, right?” with that abrupt about-face the world around her shook, shivered and twisted. A flash of light with a thunderous sound rang out and she found herself unable to remain conscious.

 

Alex Bellard had the misfortune of traveling at the wrong time. Her holiday in a South Korea would have been easier if the friend who was acting as a translator hadn’t gotten sick mid trip and easier still if she had taken the time to learn some simple phrases. Alex had wanted to go on the trip because of her love of the online computer games made in the region. Despite not understanding a word of the language she still played more hours on them then would be considered healthy and would often forgo sleep and eating to play longer. When her friend offered to travel to the region with her she agreed without a second thought. On the first night there her friend caught a local flue that was going around and was stuck in bed. Without any clue how to get around or communicate Alex decided to go for a walk and just see what was around. Within moments she found herself lost in what appeared to an area of the city devoted to youth culture; alive throughout the cool night with a blaze of lights. There was some kind of rally taking place in the middle of the street, the mass of people heating the night both literally with their numbers and figuratively with their passion. A man wearing an expensive business suit stood atop a podium giving off an air of superiority that none amongst the young crowd around him could match. The anger of the mob was clearly directed at him but in his appearance would have fit a man revealing in cheers better than being roasted. As he spoke with a voice dripping with loathing for his gathered audience, the crowd began to slowly change their focus instead to a man on the high-rise building behind the speaker. A banner unravelled revealing some message Alex couldn’t read, written in an oil that was set alight to leave the impression of clear burning words floating in the air. As the words hung there, three duffle bags were dropped. The heavy black bags struck against the pavement and there was an earth-shattering cashing sound that followed as Alex was thrown far from where she had been standing. As her head struck the ground behind her, she could faintly hear through her deafened ears the crunch of bones breaking as she lost slipped out of consciousness. She then woke up before a gaudy throne made of gold, awaiting judgment from a worn out, indecisive goddess.

 

One legend says that when all things, both living creatures and objects, die they go to the throne of the dead to receive judgment from one of the goddesses whom take turns sitting on the throne. Beauty was one such goddess and considered to be the most unreliable of her colleges. When Servers started to go down and massively multiplayer online (MMO) games started to die, Beauty once again fell in love with human creativity. After a while she would start planning her shifts to coincide with the death of a game or a server so that she could take them for herself. It didn’t always work; the other goddesses would sometimes be on duty when a game died and would throw them into the afterlife, and beyond her reach, without so much as a glance at it. During the shift in which Alex died, a game Beauty had been waiting for was finally about to die.

It was Lost Church Online (LCO) that the goddess anticipated. Having heard about it from a dead gamer that had the misfortune to die on one of her shifts, Beauty had since marked in her mind the day it was scheduled to die and waited with whetted appetite. With permanent character death and a steep difficulty curve most of the players who started playing it stopped within a week. To make matters worse for the company that produced it; the engine it ran on had been developed to allow the players a previously unheard of level of freedom. The unfortunate result was that it required extremely expensive servers and initial profits were being eaten though at a rapid rate. The fans of the game that enjoyed its relentless difficulty were few and far from a level that could allow for even one server to remain open. The result of which was that after only half a year, the owners decided to cut the game from the market and close the servers. They had made a profit from initial sales, so the game wasn’t a technical failure, but it would still go down in their history as a sore spot for the company.

Mere moments after Beauty lay her hands on her long awaited treasure, the usual steady stream of dead surged like a flash flood. Hiding her immense frustration behind a thin veil of professionalism she set to work sorting the dead. It didn’t last long as her desire overwhelmed her work ethic. Having only sorted a couple of the dead she began to think of ways to get out of work early. By the time Alex stood before her she was almost ready to just walk off and pretend the dead only arrived after her shift ended. When she realised that getting caught neglecting her job again would end badly for her she quickly came up with another plan. There was precedent in old tales she had heard from the other goddesses. When they couldn’t tell which knight was the noble hero and which was the villain they’d get them to fight. The best part was that while the fight took place the goddess that initiated the contest had to oversee. It would work out brilliantly for her; she just needed to claim that it was a challenge and place the dead into the game and she could play all she wanted. It was an ideal situation for her; by calling it an unavoidable part of her job she could even claim overtime pay. Goddesses plan began with a flash and thunder.

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