The Stone Tree: A LitRPG Adventure (Kingmaker Saga Book 1)
The Stone Tree: A LitRPG Adventure (Kingmaker Saga Book 1)
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When Terran and his friends enter Kingmaker Saga, they're expecting a lifetime of adventure together, but a vengeful hag separates them, throwing their plans into disarray. Stuck in the unrelenting wilderness of the Rockleaf Forest and tracked by a dangerous Spirit Bear, Terran must find a way to survive.
Realizing this world is nothing like he expected, Terran must push himself to develop new skills, find a way to reunite with his friends, and defeat the hidden forces moving quickly to destroy his new home.
- Epic Fantasy
- Secondary World
1The Stone Tree: A LitRPG Adventure (Kingmaker Saga Book 1)byThomas K. Carpenter (Author) , Rachel J. Carpenter (Author)4.2 out of 5 stars (222)In a game with no end, how would you build your kingdom? When Terran and his friends enter Kingmaker Saga, they're expecting a lifetime of adventure together, but a vengeful hag separates them, throwing their plans into disarray. Stuck in the unrelenting wilderness of the Rockleaf Forest and tracked by a dangerous Spirit Bear, Terran must find a way to survive. Realizing this world is nothing like he expected, Terran must push himself to develop new skills, find a way to reunite with his friends, and defeat the hidden forces moving quickly to destroy his new home.
Intro Into Chapter One
Intro Into Chapter One
The arrows lodged themselves in the skeleton's rib cage, making the bony undead creature into a chattering pincushion. Terran pulled the string back to his ear while yelling to his friends, "It's not my fault you blew it into the tree, Newt. It's a good thing we looted a bow. If we're lucky, I'll be able to take it down with this. Otherwise, Flynn's gonna have to climb up there."
The arrow sped through the air, bounced through the thick branches, and lodged into the skeleton's thigh bone. Terran sighed and pulled out another arrow.
"Our luck we strand that stupid skeleton in the only tree within miles," said Terran as he sighted the undead creature in the trees, then realizing it was a waste of time, released the tension in the bow. "Surprised the tree is even alive in this arid region."
They stood on a short plateau near sandstone canyons. Behind them, a rotted hut slumped from wind damage, sand piling against the windward side. Scraggly bushes dotted the landscape beneath a pale blue sky, which seemed to stretch forever.
"No way am I going up there with that creepy bastard," said Flynn, leaning on his short sword, his hair somehow maintaining a perfect coif despite the recent battle. "It's already going to give me nightmares for weeks. Damn thing came out of the wall and started grabbing for my face. We never should have come this far out. We're way past the newbie area."
Zara had been standing at the bottom of the tree, staring up at the creature impaled on the branches so it could barely move. She tapped on the tree with her warhammer.
"You're probably right, Flynn," she said, a grin lurking on her lips. "You might wet yourself again if you climbed up there."
Flynn pointed his short sword at the tall redhead. "You know as well as I do, as we all do, that Newt spilled his water pouch on me when I crashed into him running out of that abandoned building."
Zara stared him down for a long moment before throwing him a wink and sticking out her tongue.
"I know," she said. "Just messin' with ya."
"Come on, guys," said Terran. "We need to think of a new way to kill this stupid skeleton. My arrows aren't getting through the branches."
"We could just leave it," said Flynn. "Head back to the newbie area and kill some rats until we level up more."
"No way," said Terran, rubbing his chin. "We're almost level 2, and this sucker will get us over the finish line. We've been making good time for our first day. We've been waiting so long to be old enough and now it's finally here. The fact that I get to spend the rest of my life adventuring with you all is like the best thing ever."
"Good speech, Terran," said Zara. "But do you have a plan? That tree isn't big enough to hold me, and Flynn's too chicken to climb it."
"I'm not a chicken, I'm just tactically sensible," said Flynn, breathing on his fingernails and rubbing them on his black shirt.
"Newt?" asked Terran.
The fourth member of their party, Newt, was sitting on a rocky outcropping near the tree. Depite the blazing sun and his umber brown skin, he didn't have a drop of sweat on his forehead as he studyed his tome.
"Huh?" he asked, knocking his dusty brown hair from his eyes.
"Tree? Skeleton?" asked Terran. "Didn't you knock it up there?"
Newt stared at Terran, then back to the tree. "Affirmative."
"Can you help get it down?" asked Terran.
Another long blink. "I am afraid my spells are not useful on this undead specimen in this small tree. The gravity bounce spell cannot reverse this predicament. But I will study my tome so I can improve my spells so I am more useful during the next encounter."
Terran nodded. "Okay then."
Despite the unfortunate location of their bony victim, Terran couldn't help but grin at his surroundings. They were a short two-hour hike from the starting area, a town called Sand Blossom, on the edge of craggy hills. Everything felt so real, even the taste of the salty rations in his pack, which he knew he would eventually get sick of, but for now they tasted like a dream.
"Fine," said Terran, setting down the bow and approaching the tree. "I guess I need to do everything myself."
"You really gonna climb that? Without a weapon?" asked Flynn.
Terran faced his friends, bowing formally. "A real master does not climb the tree. He makes the tree come to him."
"I think that sounds like what bulls make," said Flynn.
"We lack an axe, or I would have already chopped it down," said Zara, flexing her biceps.
Terran put his hands around the slender tree. He could almost fit both hands around the circumference.
"Going to strangle the tree into falling over?" asked Flynn, snorting.
"They said in orientation that we should experiment with intention. That we would discover spells and skills that way," said Terran.
"Is that why you keep going all bleary eyed in the middle of combat, looking like you have to pass gas or something?" asked Flynn.
Terran paused, looked back at Flynn. "May-be."
"Great," said Flynn, sitting down cross-legged. "Wake me when you're finished screwing around."
Terran settled with his knees in the sandy soil, hands around the tree, closed his eyes, and breathed deeply, enjoying the dry wind and sage. At first, the shifting of the skeleton in the tree, wood on bones, and Zara humming softly behind him made for a distraction, but eventually he was able to push them away.
The instructors had said to try small things. Willing epic magics into being was a sure recipe for failure, but making deliberate intentional changes to the world might result in learning a new spell or skill.
Terran imagined the disc of wood between his hands turning to stone. He pictured the lively bark turning gray, cracking the pulp around it. He kept at it for what felt like ten minutes. Eventually, he heard his friends grow restless. Terran was about to give up, when he felt a tug in his mind, as if he'd been searching for the edge of a piece of tape and finally scraped it with his fingernail.
The intention had a shape to it. As if he had to solve a puzzle in his mind. Nothing too terribly complex, the shifting of pieces to come together as a whole, until the whole thing fell into place with a bright flash in his mind.
The flow of power through his hands felt like a hot stove. Terran cried out as he pulled away, revealing a gray band of stone where his hands had once been, and around the stone section, the wood had squeezed and cracked.
[You have learned the Stone Touch spell]
Stone Touch - Unique Spell (END)
Cost - 10 Mana
Duration - 1 minute
Transform a small area of living material into stone for the duration of the spell.
"Whoa, it worked!" said Terran from his knees, looking up at his friends. "And I learned a unique spell for it."
Zara screwed up her face as she stared at the tree. "I don't know, Ter, did you really do anything to the tree? It looks like a slightly different color gray than the bark before."
Flynn chuckled. "Wait, let me get this straight. You turned the wood to stone. You made the wood hard? Is that spell called Boner?"
"Very funny, Flynn," said Terran as he climbed to his feet, knocking the sand from his hands. "Zara. Can you hit that with your warhammer?"
The tall redhead hefted her weapon to her shoulder, and then with the power and grace of a champion hammer thrower, she slammed the head of the warhammer into the section of stone on the tree trunk. The stone shattered, which shifted the tree, toppling it towards Flynn, who'd been watching with his hands on his hips.
"Watch out!" cried Terran.
Flynn scrambled to get out of the way, but had started too late, and the branches of the tree fell around him, capturing him in a wooden cage. But now, the skeleton was only an arm's length away, and the breaking of limbs had released it to crawl towards Flynn.
"Getitawaygetitawaygetitaway," said Flynn, pulling himself through the branches, completely ignoring the way they scratched and cut him.
Zara, having warmed up from taking down the tree, climbed over the base, positioned herself behind the skeleton, and swung her warhammer down to crush its bony neck. The skull rolled through the tree to land against Flynn's hip.
The experience bar on Terran's heads-up display flooded with glowing orange light until it was full.
You are now level 2!
"Woot!" said Terran, feeling extra pleased for solving the tree issue and earning a level.
From within the cage of branches, Flynn fell backwards with a relieved sigh. "Oh, thank the many gods. I thought I was going to have to flay my own skin off to get out of here before that thing chewed my face off."
While Zara used her warhammer to break away the branches keeping Flynn trapped, Terran examined his character sheet to decide where to place his first two ability points.
The six abilities he could choose from were Strength, Intelligence, Cunning, Endurance, Agility, and Charisma. He couldn't place them in the same ability, so they would be spread out.
They'd talked about the roles they each planned to take in the party. Zara would obviously be their tank, while Newt was a surefire mage type, and Flynn was shifty enough to be a rogue. That meant he could either be a controlling type character or straight-out damage. Terran had never really liked the DPS role, as it felt like an exercise in maximizing a spreadsheet, but he loved the tactical nature of battle. There was a reason he'd taken a minor in ancient board games like chess and go.
Without a good idea of how the game world worked, Terran pulled up the one skill he'd earned so far, which he was quite proud of, considering the instructors had told them unique skills would be rare.
When he highlighted the Stone Touch spell, it gave him additional information.
[Based on Endurance]
Given that additional health would give him a better chance of survival, Terran put one point into Endurance. The second point, after a little thought, was placed in Intelligence, since it was his ability to think that had taken down the tree. He checked his updated character sheet:
Stone Touch (unique)
After everyone placed their ability points, Flynn asked, "Can we head back towards town? I think I'd rather jockey with all the other newbies for the desert rats than deal with more undead."
"No way," said Terran. "This is way better out here. Plus, the views are spectacular."
"The rock formations are quite beautiful," said Zara, gazing across the canyons that snaked behind them. "Especially that alternating red-white stuff. It looks like spongy velvet cake."
Newt looked up from his tome. "That is shnabkaib, which are mudstone and siltstone layers of rock beds."
"Let's check out these canyons," said Terran. "We can at least skirt the edges and see what's down there. If it's too high level, then we can circle back towards town. It's getting late, and it gets cold in the high desert."
"I'm in," said Zara, with a one-shoulder shrug.
"The logic seems sound," said Newt, lifting his head.
Flynn grumbled, but nodded, scooping up the separated skull from the skeleton to carry in the crook of his arm.
"Great! Let's get moving," said Terran.
As they walked along the edge of the canyon, Flynn lifted the skull up and spoke to it. "Do you know why we're pushing so hard, Skully? It's not like we're going to win the kingdom at the end of all this."
"Probably not," said Terran, chuckling. "But there's a lot of cool stuff to be had if we're first to explore them. Hell, half our experience has been from being the first to explore a new area. And we get to spend our time hanging out, not bumping shoulders with every newb under the sun."
The land sloped downward as they explored along the canyon. The floor was only twenty feet below but it looked like it would be a scramble to get back up. They saw a few humpbacked lizards that hissed while they walked, but the analyze ability only brought back a red skull icon, which showed they were too high for them.
"Hey, look at that flower," said Flynn, who still had the skull in the crook of his arm. "I bet it's used in alchemy."
A bush with a single bright blue flower clung to the top of the canyon wall. Flynn leaned over the edge, still holding onto the skull, to pluck the flower away.
"Careful, Flynn," said Zara. "If you fall you'll be making the fast journey back to town."
"I'm always careful," said Flynn, leaning into the bush with his fingers skipping off the petal of the blue flower. "Come on, come to daddy. Skully needs a new flower."
Terran saw the shifting ground before Flynn cried out, so he managed to reach his friend before he tumbled over. The bush, which had been losing root soil from the wind wear of the cliff, had finally decided to tumble over.
"Gotcha," said Terran, but Flynn and the bush kept sliding.
They were both headed over the edge when Zara caught his shirt, then arm, and right behind her, Newt hurried to Zara. But the whole party, bush included, kept going over the edge, until they were in a free fall.
Terran closed his eyes, expecting to die during the impact and then revive in Sand Blossom's graveyard. They hit the ground heavy enough to take a few points of damage, but survived.
"Owww, my leg," said Flynn, rolling on his side. "You landed right on me, Terran."
"Trust me, your knee didn't feel good hitting my tailbone," he said, rubbing his lower back and grimacing. "But how did we survive that? I thought we were goners."
Newt, who had landed on his feet with his tome under his arm, said, "My gravity bounce spell counteracted the potential energy contained within the fall, reducing the velocity gained in the twenty feet from cliff top to floor."
"Nice job, Newt," said Terran, patting his friend on the shoulder.
"Oh, that's creepy," said Flynn, who had tucked the blue flower he'd plucked into the earhole of the skull. "What do you think, Skully? Is it as creepy as an old man with ear hair who wants to give you a piece of candy, or as creepy as a hairless cat in a clown costume?"
At the base of the cliff wall, out of sight from above, was a hovel built into a cave. A rickety wooden fence blocked off the house from the canyon proper. Hanging from the angled roof, on twine strings, were dolls made from root and vine, twisted until they had human shape. The rocks dislodged during their fall had broken some glassware near the front door, and the bush had ended up stuck on the fence.
"Or maybe as creepy as falling into a freshly dug grave," Terran said as he approached the fence, looking for signs of recent occupancy.
"Or as creepy as a drunk uncle under the mistletoe," said Zara, which elicited an "'ewww"' from the rest of them.
"As creepy as a millipede?" asked Newt.
Terran held his thumb and finger apart. "Almost got it, Newt. Almost."
"I think we should probably get the hell out of here," said Zara. "Find a way to climb back up if we can. Does anyone have pitons or rope?"
As they were deciding what to do, a hag appeared in the shadows of the hovel. The old woman had green skin, fingers as long as daggers, and yellowed teeth for ripping flesh. Before Terran could leap away, the hag grabbed his arm. Her flesh was cold and slimy, but she was so strong he couldn't move from his spot. As the others moved to his aid, she thrust a rusty dagger against his throat.
"You ruined my tincture," she hissed. "I've been nurturing it for weeks, and it took many trials to find those rare herbs. So much time has been wasted."
"We're very sorry." Flynn held up the skull in one hand. "Skully is sorry too. It's her fault we fell on your hovel."
"Yes," said Zara, who had set her warhammer onto the sandy ground and clasped her hands together. "Please. We didn't mean to do it. Can we make it right somehow?"
"Time," said the hag. "Time is the ultimate equalizer here. If I kill you all, you'll just respawn, come back when you're ready, and kill me then. I must give you a reason, for all of you, never to trouble me again."
The hag's awareness of her danger put a stone in Terran's gut. He wanted to speak, but the dagger against his throat made even breathing dangerous.
Then the hag whispered softly in a foreign tongue, and fell energies built around them. Terran had no doubt that she was going to kill him, he just hoped that it wasn't too painful. The instructors explained the first death was the hardest, because it was hard to wrap your mind around the fact that you'd be coming back.
When she finished her incantation, she leaned forward and placed her wrinkled lips against his cheek. The smell of death clung to her breath like rotting flesh.
"Leaf and stone, a life regrown, take these bones and give them life again, far from here," she said, breathing so close to his face.
When she finished, she placed her finger against his forehead and, before he could move, shoved the dagger into his neck.
You have died!