9 Secrets and Stardus
"D'Raven! D'Raven, D'Raven, I choose D'Raven!" I repeat, a bit panicked that Miss Arts-and-Crafts Crazypants over there is about to snip my last life away.
I don't think I've ever experienced a more stressful initialization process.
The D'Raven glides to stand in front of me. The white-haired Fate snaps her fingers, and the featureless blur of the avatar's face shifts into a facsimile of my own features.
Then she gives me the opportunity to modify my avatar, within set parameters. For example, I can choose a male, female, or androgynous avatar, but I'm only given the option to alter my height by 5cm. However, it's also explained that if my biometric scan ever confirms growth IRL, my avatar will update along with me. This must be great news for the kids clamoring to play; they aren't doomed to remaining forever pint-sized or trashing and rebuilding a character every time they hit a growth spurt.
Skill proficiency is closely linked to muscle control and understanding how your own body moves, so too much variance from reality will hinder the brain's ability to manipulate the avatar.
I choose male and add only the two centimeters I need to hit 180cm (5'10). I leave the hair mostly black, but lengthen it a little and add a few streaks of dark violet and strands of raven feathers.
Between the pointed ears and smooth, pale features, my avatar's face already looks more like an elf's (or an anime character) than my own, so I don't bother changing it too much. I do make my eyes a bit bigger and outline them in black (like un-smudgeable kohl eyeliner) so the vivid gray is more visible. Then I add a tattoo that curls like tendrils of shadow from behind my left ear to my left eye and across my cheek.
I also tattoo my once-useless right arm, but feeling self-conscious under the gazes of the Fates, I quickly change the avatar's sleeveless tunic to a long-sleeve shirt to hide the tattoo from view. My pitch black wings are perfect as is, so after I change the beginner clothing set to black and dark gray, I'm done.
Next, I have to choose an avatar name. The dark-haired Fate tells me to see the name in my mind, then she spells it out with her gleaming silver thread, to float above the avatar's head.
— EREBUS —
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Erebus, the primordial being of shadow and darkness, born of the primeval void Chaos.
The Fate dressed all in flowing white examines the Universe Tapestry. "No other Erebus exists within the Nine Mythic Realms," she affirms.
"Welcome, Erebus," all three say in unison.
"Um. Welcome to you, too," I reply, because I am an idiot.
The dark-haired Fate straight-up snorts, which is not a thing I thought a Fate could do. The flame-haired Fate grimaces and mutters about humanity being doomed.
Hiding a smile, the all-white Fate turns back to the Universe Tapestry. "Erebus, Hero of the Realms, it appears you have already earned Unique Rewards to aid you on your quest. Do you accept them now?"
Oh hells yes! In the weirdness that was this entire experience, I had almost forgotten my Tournament of Champions reward. Or, rather, rewards, apparently, as in multiple.
Outwardly, my smirk deepens in anticipation of LOOT (a.k.a. The Gods' Gift to Gamers). Inwardly, I squee like a teenage girl who just found out the hot lead singers from her two favorite boy bands are secretly in love.
"I gratefully accept any aid," I reply formally, determined to sound less like an idiot.
"The idiot'll need it," Atropos says, snipping her scissors.
I bite back a sigh as stardust once again coalesces, this time into a starlight-encrusted treasure chest. Nothing can damper my mood when I'm faced with treasure.
'Please be a weapon, please be a weapon, please be a weapon,' I fervently wish as I open the latch.
...Or, a scarf.
Ok. That works, too, I guess.
I wrap the dark scarf around my avatar's neck, and I have to admit, it looks pretty awesome.
Not as awesome as a sword, but.
At least it's stylish. Adds a good bit of "brood" to the overall look.
I try to examine it, but I only see a series of grayed-out ???. The dark-haired Fate explains the item will remain a simple scarf until I finish the first task of my Hero's Journey, at which point its real equipment stats will become available.
I'm curious what this first task might be; there wasn't anything like it in the beta. But first, I focus back inside the chest, looking for something else that might be a reward.
In the bottom corner, there's a scrap of leather. I hold it up, questioningly.
"Your second reward is your own personal emblem."
"This symbol signifies you have the Heart of a Champion and will automatically appear settled over your heart on whatever torso-based gear you equip."
"Please choose a heroic trait to enhance, and we shall generate your Champion Emblem."
Now we're talking! It may not be an OP weapon so I can kick ass straight out of the gate, but a unique emblem is pretty fantastic all the same.
I think it over for a minute before deciding to enhance my speed and agility.
The Three Daughters of Nyx grasp hands and the thread looping around them glows even brighter. The Fates' eyes shine like miniature Suns, and they start chanting in a beautiful but strange language. The thread sews itself on the leather scrap, forming my new ultra-badass personal Hero emblem that is going to be visible on everything I wear for the rest of my avatar's life—
"It's a flower," I say in undisguised horror.
"Congratulations, Erebus. We present: Windflower Emblem," they all say with hearty cheer and satisfaction at a job well done.
"Goddess Aphrodite loved the mortal Adonis deeply. In a fit of jealousy, several Gods sent an enraged wild boar to attack and gore Adonis. Aphrodite's tears mixed with Adonis's blood to sail upon the fresh spring winds; everywhere they settled, a Greek anemone, the Windflower, sprang up from the earth."
"This flower embodies the power of the winds and grants the wearer +5% Running Speed, +8% Flying Speed, and +10% Flying Height. In accordance with European folk beliefs, the windflower also acts to ward off disease and therefore grants the wearer +1 Fortitude for warding off curses and illness debuffs."
"May this flower's tragic history be a boon to your endeavors."
The Fates look at me expectantly, but I don't know whether to cheer or cry. The passives on this thing are out of this world, and I am definitely here for it...except...
"It's a flower," I repeat, a little desperately. "Can't you at least make it a little more…intimidating-looking? Add some element that's deadly?"
"Like a bee?"
Omg. I slap my forehead and rub my face in frustrated despair. "Uh, no, not like a bee. This emblem is going to be my own personal sigil. A flower's not exactly the aura I was hoping to project."
"Ah, but it's a Windflower," the dark-haired Fate says again, as if this means something.
"Yeahhh..." I say, worried frown wrinkling my brow. How can I make it clear Erebus, Primordial Being of Shadows and Darkness, the badass D'Raven who strikes fear in the hearts of his enemies...definitely can't be going around wearing a flower on my cool dark, broody gear? "It's not even a deadly-looking flower, or like a rose with bloody thorns or something. It's a flowery kind of flower, like springtime and bunnies and shit. Is there no way to make it like a skull or a sword or something more terror-inspiring-ish?"
The Fates huddle and whisper in whatever language they'd chanted in earlier. The redhead turns to glare at me every now and then, which makes me worry I've offended them and will somehow end up with no emblem at all.
Right as I'm about to say it doesn't matter, I'll take whatever, who needs pride anyway when you have epic wind-speed passives, they all turn back to me and regrasp their hands.
The thread glows again, so bright I can't see what's happening to the leather scrap. There's a flash, and I'm forced to turn away and squeeze my eyes shut.
When I can finally see again, the leather has floated to my hand. Without thinking, I grab it out of the air. My eyes widen as I take in the new design.
It's still a flower, for sure, but the thread no longer shines with life. Instead, the thread glistens like raised black ink, splattered like blood in the shape of a windflower. Silver-black threads swirl and somehow look like the icy winds of death, drifting the flower of blood and tears along a path of tragedy.
"Wow. Thank you, seriously. This is perfect," I'm practically babbling, and I clutch the emblem so tightly it's like I'm afraid they may take it back. The nicer two giggle at my antics, while the scissor-wielding third rolls her eyes and frowns.
The dark-haired sister waves her hand, and the dark emblem appears on the upper left of my avatar's chest.
"And with this, Hero Erebus, your time with us must come to its end."
"But do not fear, for this is not the end."
"This is simply the beginning of the long journey ahead."
"Now go forth, seek glory, and live as the Hero of Viren's Refuge!"
And with all three voices ringing in my ears, I disappear like so much stardust.
"I almost feel sorry for him."
Atropos huffs. "You're too soft, Lachesis. Always looking into the future, fretting over what's to come."
Ignoring Atropos, pale beauty Lachesis turns to her dark sister Clotho. "Mischievous sister, I notice you didn't tell the boy the last bit."
Atropos stops glaring at the space where the Chosen One disappeared into the aether. "Yes, I thought you liked the young brat. Even though he lacks all manners, and displayed no evidence of the intelligence, courage, or talent the Great-Father saw in him."
Clotho smiles gently. "I do like him. Enough to see him clearly, unlike you. You saw what the Great-Father and our sister Lachesis saw in the Universe Tapestry. He is the Chosen Hero, the savior of the Nine Realms."
"Then why did you not tell him the full truth of his emblem?" Lachesis asks, confused.
"Well..." Clotho laughs, "it's boring if it's too easy, isn't it?"
Atropos snorts. "It's the idiot's fault anyway for not knowing the duality of the windflower. He seemed decently familiar with the Western origins, but he completely neglected the anemone's legend in Eastern cultures."
Lachesis nods in agreement. "Poor kid. He has no idea he's wearing bad luck."
"He'll figure it out soon enough," Clotho grins.
And in the center of the supernova at the center of the universe, three beautiful sisters, daughters of Night and masters of destiny, laugh at a poor, young boy millions of light-years away.