Hunting the Huntress
Chapter 1

Caution: This Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Consensual, NonConsensual, Reluctant, Fiction, Science Fiction, Anal Sex,

Desc: Sex Story: Chapter 1 - Virtual reality is real. Kylie is burning out on her job, wilting with loneliness. When she receives an offer to try a 'virt' game for free, she jumps at the chance, without bothering to read the white paper.

The notion of privacy, these days, is purely laughable. They know how much you eat, and what flavours you enjoy. They know what your favourite colour is, and how much you can afford to spend on clothes, perfume, jewelry, data, makeovers, medicals, toiletries, furniture, art — everything really — and what your preferences are. Of course, they sometimes get it hilariously wrong. There is a netjournal devoted to all those amusing, and sometimes costly, errors.

They? Adders, the 'focused advertising' companies. If you weren't in their database, you didn't exist. At least, not much above subsistence level. Oh, signing your privacy away wasn't mandatory, not yet. The big companies didn't rule the world, not yet. But it did make one's career path ever so much smoother, removed any number of little obstacles, and actually made things more convenient. These were professionals, and they made a good job of at least making it look like they cared. The psychs they'd hired had done a marvelous job for them. When you feel like you've twisted your back, checking all those machines, it makes you feel a little warm inside to see the offer for a full body massage.

They even had that cute little service, 'Surprise Me'. All you had to do was dedicate a portion of your budget to it, and you were guaranteed a pleasant surprise every now and then. Or your money back. I'd actually been tempted to sign on, but a couple of horror stories I'd looked at held me back. There was some litigation going on, I think, the Adders claiming it was pure invention, an urban legend. With at least one of the stories, I'm pretty sure.

Machines? Oh, I'm a senior medical technician at Mount Sinai hospital. The maintenance and update of the diagnostic machines is my responsibility, and there are five people who routinely check up after me. The slightest little miscalibration on my part, and things would be, if you'll excuse my bluntness, really fucked up. It was a difficult, tedious, and occasionally fascinating job, and it paid very well indeed. I've been working for almost four straight years now, with nary a vacation, and what with call-ups and the irregular schedule of updates, I was starting to burn out. The responsibility was a heavy weight, but that wasn't it. It was the loneliness.

I'd had six years of virtual-study, at least an hour every week, plus serious hands-on work. I could just about build one of those machines, and I took a virt-course every time a new model came up. My recommendation, buy or don't, carried more weight than that of all the medical doctors. I lived and breathed these machines. I was actually on the consultant list for the manufacturers of the V-Biotine series, after I rejected their SVSG-14 device and sent them some feedback from the maintenance point of view. I got quite a bit of money out of that, too.

My colleagues think I'm a cold fish, but that's not really true. I'm just terminally shy, when I'm not discussing the nuts and bolts. My grandparents, on both sides, were some of the early investors in Virtech, one of the pioneer virtual technology firms, and they made out like bandits. Of course, their youngest granddaughter had to be educated to the best standards, that being in the first completely computerized school in the world. They yanked me away from everything, when I was twelve, and gave me access to more information than anyone could possibly deal with. It was awfully lonely. The other attendees were mostly the richest of the rich, and I just hadn't grown up that way, so I absolutely did not fit in. I didn't know how to dress, what to say, who not to speak to, what jewelry to wear. Their conversation material was alien. The latest, most flash fashions in everything were something I didn't get, and couldn't afford even if I did, and I was much too stubborn and independent to become a pet of one of the rich boys. Not that they didn't try — I wasn't exactly ugly, even in the gawky stage. My parents didn't give me much of an allowance, and didn't seem to notice my complaints or sullenness. After a few months, I grew quiet, and began to really study. I graduated with a double doctorate, one in theoretical and diagnostic medicine, the other in robotic system interface. I wasn't any sort of genius, according to the tests, but I fit comfortably enough in the niche just below, the 99th percentile.

Getting a job, even at 18, had been ridiculously simple. And here I was, almost 22, a terminally shy non-virgin. In one of my more desperate moments, I tried one of the virtual dating programs. Lark, as he'd called himself, was more than smooth enough to get into my panties. The way he said my name, "Oh, Kylie", had been enough to send shivers down my spine. Technically, he'd been competent enough. I didn't explode with pleasure, not really, but it was quite pleasant for a first time. I found myself not entirely surprised, when I never heard from him again. Oh, he paid for his perfidy. You don't piss off a smart girl with money, not when she's also a skilled programmer and a major heiress. The dating services, and most everything else, had comments and reviews on people. I made very, very sure he'd never have a date again, blacking any alias he could possibly make up beyond redemption. Petty of me, perhaps, but you know what they say about scorned women. I even got him fired for virting while he was supposed to be working, which was perhaps a bit too vindictive. Getting Virtech to give me the data was no work at all. It took me a couple of months to climb out of the swamp of despair, and another month to lose the ten pounds I gained, overeating and not keeping in shape.

So there I was, in my little suite in the hospital itself, a privilege granted the most senior doctors, the hospital administrator, and yours truly alone. I was alone, and I'd just finished dissecting the most recent proposed update to the pregnancy monitors, and taken a hot shower. There was a standard Adder package, the 'fancy introductory offer' type, sitting on my desk.

It contained a typical virt diadem and a data chip. Apparently, Daddy Addy had decided that what my life was missing was some rousing virt gaming. My first, automatic response to other people (or computers) telling me that something was good for me was rebellion. But I did know that I needed something, and I couldn't argue with that something until I looked at it.

The data chip was mostly legalese, over 3,800 pages of legal documents I'd be automatically agreeing to by using the virt. The game itself was a full hour of full play, which had to be run at a single sitting. I don't read for entertainment, I hadn't done that since I'd started the school. To purge the tensions, I mostly went on virt shoot-'em-ups, usually solo. Sometimes I went flying, as a bird, which was a marvellous sensation of utter freedom, raced a car, or went skiing or on virt-rides, where you strap down in a little bullet-craft and go wheeeeeee-ing through impossible permutations of reality, only just managing to keep the intestines inside. Great fun. Reading 3,800 very dry page would have dehydrated me entirely, and really wasn't my thing. That's why lawyers existed.

I was pretty sure that the usual game virts offered you incredible options for character creation, letting you make up your own unique abilities. Most of them were scifi or fantasy types, with quite a few historical ones, or more accurately, alternate history ones. The introductory offer, especially designed for me, though supposedly full, offered very limited choices, all restricted to a single theme they called 'fugitive', in a selection of five fantasy worlds. Six of the ten choices were of elves of various sorts, and I had to check exactly what an elf was, just to be certain that my understanding was not in error. The dictionaries weren't much help, so I checked the net, and was inundated with information. Too much of a good thing, and the virt, as a proper introductory offer should, offered a full explanation, so I left off investigating things further, and decided to just go ahead and try it. A year of subjective time, true, and I noticed that I couldn't simply quit if I didn't like it — that was a big part of the legalese. I wasn't normally impulsive, but the temptation of letting go and fading away, doing something new entire, quite seduced me.

I lay down, adjusted the diadem, and closed my eyes. I opened them again to find myself in a hall of mirrors. I looked at myself: Slightly rumpled, short and fluffy brown hair, brown eyes, pale skin (I almost never saw the sun), average height, average build. Pretty rather than cute or beautiful, with a thin triangular face, almost foxy, a small straight nose and a pert chin. I was in pretty good shape, which was easy with the exercise machines, and my tits formed small, firm bumps on the blue coveralls I wore.

I turned around, looking at the ten mirrors and the pictures they presented. All of the mirrors contained females. Gender bending was extremely popular, but not something they'd offer to me, not like this. I had trouble enough with being female, and the very idea of entering a male body was repulsive.

Three mirrors held women, and as I examined each I learned that they were wizard, thief and warrior. They were all beautiful, utterly magnificent, in very different ways. In virt play, almost everyone was beautiful. Next was an impossibly cute catgirl thing, which struck me as very strange. I didn't look closely enough to learn more, rejecting it immediately. How does one control a tail? The next six were apparently elves, or at least some of the possible types. Elves were described as an elder race, long-lived and magically adept if physically frail, with pointy ears and slender build. Otherwise, they looked just like people, if somewhat thinner and more delicate. The skin tones ranged from utter black to greenish, blue, pale gold and white, hair and eyes holding equally exotic colours. The blue skinned elf actually had gills and webbed fingers, and I rejected the idea of aquatic play immediately. I wanted to experience the basics, before I tried the strange and exotic. That meant rejecting the black skinned one, however exquisite she looked, as her habitat seemed to be tunnels beneath the surface of the earth. Very strange.

I finally narrowed the choice down to two, a milky skinned elf with blue black hair, supposedly a priestess, and a green skinned elf with darker green hair, a druidess. Both had leaf green eyes. I learned that in most fantasy virts, and this one specifically, there were a few traditional divisions. The first divided those who used magic from those who relied on physical skills, be it weapons mastery or stealth. Within the purview of the spellcasters were the arcane practitioners, who relied on their own skill or talent to call power from somewhere, and the divine servants, who drew power from either the gods or nature, be they priests or druids. The source of power supposedly affected the type and power of spells provided, with priests being the most skilled at healing and protective magic, druids specializing in elemental magic and shapeshifting. I was warned that such generalizations were somewhat misleading, as customization options for players allowed for much that was hidden. In this introductory version, many of the options were closed to me, many choices already made. Of course, I noticed that the more powerful priests have a trump card they can bring into play — directly calling on their god. It was dangerous, costly, and invariably resulted in a quest of some sort, but it was usually survivable, if you were playing the priest properly, that is to say: Looking out for whatever deity's interests. Of course, gods were not obligated to actually answer, so it was a card of last resort.

Originally, such games' purpose had been to become powerful by killing things, finding treasure and magical items, and completing quests, thereby gaining 'points' and rising 'levels', which granted points you could add to various abilities and skills. Basically, an endless shoot-'em up of sorts. Things had mutated somewhat, as the virts became almost another 'real' world of their own. Though, come to think of it, they were real enough. They existed, after all. I looked at the rules behind the virt, and saw that the basic mechanism hadn't really changed, but you received rewards for doing things, not just killing things. The sneakier, smarter and more in tune you were with what you were supposed to be playing, the more you got. Even with the newest games, you mostly had to gain levels to increase powers, though certain 'special' things could permanently enhance specific abilities or actually change the nature of your character. There were tedious lists of skills, anything from picking pockets to identifying poison, from weapons and spell skills to using the corpses of things you killed. I had to take another look at that last one — cannibalism was actually possible, and it seems that you could make things in the virt, including magical items, by harvesting resources both natural and unnatural, and using certain specific player skills. Or paying others for using those skills on what you gathered. There was, obviously, a thriving market and exchange, even including 'real' money. I wasn't really up to date on economical theory, but I did wonder how things actually worked. It was all much more complicated than I'd imagined. It wasn't really a male adolescent 'go kill and loot' virt, not anymore, though those elements were still there.

I also learned that I'd been entirely too hasty in simply plunging in. It seemed that 'full' was a euphemism for 'adult'. In a virt, where there were few limits and no real repercussions, people showed their darkest side, and their best as well. Those who wanted to be heroes, and those who wanted to rape and pillage. With an emphasis on 'rape'. Much of the virt was all about sex, and there was an actual sexual economy of sorts. Even an arena that took bets on such things as slavery!

To say that I was upset, was to say very little. I was angry, afraid, confused, pacing through the mirror smooth corridor that spun back on itself, kicking the unyielding wall. If the Addies were telling me I that what I really needed was to have wild, orgiastic sex — well, it was hard, exceedingly difficult in fact, to argue with that. If only I weren't so utterly tongue-tied. But against my will, virt or no virt, was going a bit far for my taste. Vanilla, really. The exotic... frightened me.

A flashing warning, that I must make my choice of character, shook me out of my fugue, and I picked the priestess, without thinking. Green skin and hair was just too weird. As I perused the list of possible gods, many of them much weirder than green hair, I ponder my seeming conformity to 'human norm'. Why hadn't I picked one of the women, instead of an elf? I didn't know.

Recalling from their description that elves were supposedly skilled with bows, I picked the elven god of hunting and archery as my own. Staying as far away as possible from the flying blood and guts seemed like a good idea.

Working on fleshing out the rest of the details, I was thankful that many of the choices had already been made. Every choice affected at least a dozen things, and I had no real idea how things balanced. Fortunately, there was a guide and help options for the novice. It was specifically noted that I began much more advanced and powerful than the ordinary start for a character, as part of the introductory offer was showing you some of the more advanced skills and magical items. I couldn't help but smile suspiciously, and asked another question. Yes, by paying more, you could begin at a higher level. Each session lasted a maximum of three hours — you couldn't spend more than that in virt in a single day, legally — and you had the option of rebuilding or completely changing the character each session, at a small cost in power. That is to say, in points.

Reading about it and making choices was the simple part. Spending several sleepless days studying how to actually do it, was much, much harder. In an elven body, which admittedly felt very nice — light, graceful, fast and strong. I could actually do somersaults, and acrobatics a circus tumbler would envy. Watching a replay left me open mouthed in utter astonishment — was that me, making cartwheels and impossible twisting leaps, dodging blindingly fast dagger throws and rays of coloured light?

As for the sleepless part, it seemed that although there was a cycle of night and day, the players did not really need to rest. Your spell points and life points regenerated as time went by, and most players — or should that be characters? — quickly gained something that allowed them to see in the dark. Elves had excellent night vision.

I learned the very basics of how to hold and shoot a bow, how to use dagger, spear, sword, staff, a small axe, and something called a mace, a flanged orb of metal attached to a stick. You used it to club someone down. It was more than slightly odd for a non-violent person like me — I'd never so much as participated in a brawl, not once in my life. When I was ten, one of my older brothers pushed me, and I fell and cried. I remember it perfectly, and I recall that he was severely punished for doing it. That was the extent of my experience with violence. Now I was supposed to kill, just like that? Only knowing that it wasn't real, that no one really got hurt, allowed me to pass the training. It helped that the training aids they used — spindly, ugly little humanoid creatures called 'goblins' — didn't really bleed all that badly, that there were no shows of guts and viscera, or awful smells. It served to reinforce the 'not real' feeling, buoying my confidence. I could do it if I really had to, and I'll definitely have to. The stupid virt had too much violence and death in it for me to avoid it, especially as I wasn't too keen on being violated. Why hadn't the Addies picked a nice sci-fi space trader sim for timid little me?

The physical practice was the least of it. As a priestess, I had to acquire a passing familiarity with the stupid excuse for pagan religions the virt used, and with all types of magic. I also had to practice all of my spells, learn how to 'cast' them perfectly. I was playing a pretty powerful priestess, so I had access to a number of more effective spells that required special materials to cast successfully — mostly gemstones, incenses and rare herbs and flowers. As a priestess of the god of archery and hunting, I had a list of special spells that dealt with exactly those... domains, they were called, the domains over which a god held dominion. You could, and were actually supposed to, recognize what spell someone was casting by the words and gestures used. I did manage to memorize quite a few, since my memory was quite good, but there were so many, and so little time to learn, that I was swamped with details. My brain felt overloaded.

Then came my equipment. What I had to wear was rather scant, and didn't inspire much confidence as far as armor goes. Blueleaf mail, it was called, a very lovely minidress made entirely out of lacquered blue leaves, with sleeves reaching just above my elbows. It very nearly left my ass hanging out in the breeze, and the cleavage factor was significant. The tits, of course, were utterly perfect, if modest in size, and perfect for my size. I was jealous of me, which was stupid, so I tried not to think of them. My supposition, that the game was designed for the teenage male, was instantly reinforced. Especially when no underwear were provided. Bunch of perverts. The holy symbol of my god was a blue fletched silver arrow, which served as a pendant. I had a long silvery dagger, the blade etched with golden runes, a pair of boot knives, and a slender spear of pale brown wood, tipped with a wicked looking head of black metal. At least it was now obvious why they'd had me spending the most time practicing with dagger and spear. I was provided with lustrous grey boots, gloves and cloak that felt incredibly smooth and soft. The grey was the colour of water when a droplet strikes a puddle beneath hazy clouds, shimmering with every colour, the hues moving and changing as you watched. I fell instantly in love with them. So stylish! The boots were supposed to silence my movements, the cloak to hide me, and the gloves enhanced speed and grace. Next came a pair of filigree work bracers of the same silvery metal as the dagger, studded with moonstones, in a pattern which suggested an arrow. A protective device, the bracers were also supposed to improve my archery skills. Crystal lenses went over my eyes, allowing me to see magical auras, through ordinary magical invisibility, into shadows, and further and better. Very useful, for an archer. A ring of braided gold and silver was a magical device that would allow me to instantly transport myself a short distance away, a minor teleportation. A small belt pouch held spell components and functioned as a purse, holding much more than it should — an extradimensional space, the help told me, helpfully. The backpack, supremely comfortable, was likewise provided with extradimensional storage. I was warned that space was far from endless. A platinum and diamond earring curled around my pointed, lobeless ear, allowing me to speak and understand all languages, if not read them, and improving my hearing. Playing with it, I was dismayed to learn that the ears were an erogenous zone for an elf. Touching the tip of my ear was almost like playing with a nipple, a connection that ran straight down to my pussy. I reddened, and tried touching myself. It was intense! The feelings were much stronger than when I played at home, with just my fingers. Angrily, I took my fingers away, automatically looking around to see if someone saw me, which was silly, of course. Those bastards attracted customers by manipulating the pleasure centers of the brain. That wasn't legal, I was quite certain. How did they get away with it?

I was distracted by the appearance of my bow and quiver. I looked at the quiver first. Apparently, it was always full, creating or conjuring arrows from nothing. I had several pouches of arrowheads, feathers, tools and the skill to make my own arrows, should the quiver be lost. The bow, I touched reverently. Not out of any serious respect for a made up god, but because it was a magnificent work of art. Even with massive computer assistance and support, this was the work of a skilled graphic artist. It was made of pale bluish bone that seemed to shimmer, carved in patterns whose complexity fooled the eye. Dragonbone, the virt provided further information. The bow was named Velunthil, after the first elf to use it, and was commonly known as Starstrike, a legendary item. Which meant that it was unique, in all the virtual worlds, and of significant power. What those powers were, I'd have to found out for myself, as legendary magical items were not subject to ordinary identification magics. I'd need to complete an Oracle quest, whatever that meant, to learn more, spend a special favor with my god or another powerful being, activate a place of power, consult a sage, or learn what it could do by using it.

Next came a primer on monsters, which I found to be awfully frightening. A giant was more than three times my height, and reading about it or looking at it from the outside was nothing like seeing a hulking brute standing right next to me, looking up at a gigantic fist holding a club twice my height. I was actually supposed to fight something like that? Or dragons, who came even bigger? I actually ran away when the virt conjured a car-sized spider, right next to me. If my skin wasn't already white, I'd have changed colours. After that little incident, the virt was kind enough to conjure miniatures, growing them slowly to 'proper' size. It was still unnerving, and the zombies and giant bugs were really disgusting, but I tried to memorize everything about their abilities and vulnerabilities. Death here wasn't really death — you just lost the character, unless a friend managed to retrieve the body and a powerful enough priest restored you to life. I could do that much myself, as a priestess. Losing the character meant starting from scratch, with a new character.

Finally, I was supposedly ready and the virt tossed me into a training scenario. Mission: Kill the three orc shamen, some kind of spellcasters, inside the woods. Killing the trolls was a bonus, as was killing all the orcs and rescuing the captives.

The forest terrain gave me an enormous advantage. Most elves were absolute demons in a forest fight, and the elf I was playing was native to a forest, so quite a few of my skill points were allocated to forest mastery, automatically. In my real body, I'm 5'5", while as an elf, here and now, I'm even shorter, truly petite at 5'2". A troll is nearly twice as big, most orcs a foot taller. I was even happier about picking archery as my specialization.

I've always been intensely competitive, and deciding to go for a clean sweep was the only way to go. To keep the captives alive longer and maintain surprise, I determined on picking any orc patrols without alerting their camp. Since they had captives, I assumed they had a central gathering place of some sort. The first time, it worked like a charm. Instead of walking on the forest floor, I skipped around in the canopy, my slight weight barely making an impression on the massive branches and boughs. My agility was an absolute delight, the light steps and jumps almost like flying. The footsteps of the ten orcs who were trying to move around silently sounded like thunder to my ear. It was almost ridiculous, the manner in which the virt tried to emphasize how much better my senses were. Like a target range, I put an arrow in each head, from last to first. The fourth died before the first of them even struck the ground. I had quite a bit of experience in shooting games, so this wasn't anything new. The reminder to loot the bodies, however, was a surprise. I'd forgotten that element of the virt. I just didn't think like a thief, or bandit, or robber, or whatever this was like.

Nothing detected as magical, and their weapons and armor weren't exactly of worthwhile quality. I emptied a few pouches of coins, blessed the programmers for omitting awful smells, and began prying further. Using the dagger to cut through anything and everything, I found a hollow boot heel that contained a small pouch of purplish dust granules, and a pair of small gemstones. On a hunch, I cast a spell, and the glow indicated that the purple dust was poison. I didn't really know how you were supposed to use it, and hoped there'd be another chance to consult the help. Poison was an entire, enormous skill tree all its own, to which few elven priests had access. It kind of made sense, that a god of hunting would disapprove of poison. I cast yet another spell, and summoned all the meat-eating animals within reach. I didn't have to give any orders — they began feasting on the rancid-looking orc flesh immediately. When I asked them to hide the 'orc things', they obliged. One patrol, vanished.

Backtracking the patrol was child's play. I didn't have any skill at it myself, but once I made my intentions obvious, a slight glow, presumably one only I could see, delineated their footsteps. As a priestess of the elven god of the hunt, tracking was one of my skills. I wondered if there really were any traces of passage, that someone with real experience could pick up. There probably were, come to think of it. These virts were professional, expert work. If they missed anything, some busybody would naturally complain. Nature of the beast. I tried to look for traces of passage a real tracker would have noticed, and saw that the glow wasn't all footsteps. Here and there were broken leaves and trampled branches, actual traces on the loam that covered the forest's ground, undergrowth that showed marks of passage. I tried to anticipate the glow, and was slowly growing more confident. Of course, it was much slower going than it would have been otherwise, but time was something I had plenty of. Of course, the captives might not, I straightened at the thought, and speeded up. It didn't take all that long before I heard the sounds of the camp. Instead of moving in immediately, I circled it at a wide interval, looking for tracks of other patrols, and finding three more. If they were consistent, as small minds usually are, that's thirty more orcs to kill. A simple matter, I grinned tightly, my grip on Velunthil tightening momentarily.

The second patrol was a repeat of the first, and the third went just as easily. Target shooting. Did I get overconfident? I think not. I found a nice perch, and was sighting in on the tail end member of the last patrol. I actually pinned him to a tree. It was getting to be something of a game. The next two greenskins went down just as quickly. I was getting in practice, and I was really fast. One of the orcs was pretty fast, too. I think it was the third from the front, but it happened so quickly I could not be sure. All I saw was a small black sphere flying at the tree on whose limb I crouched, and the next thing I knew, I was thirty feet away, clinging to a drooping branch, a terrible ringing in my ears, my entire epidermis feeling scorched. I managed to reconstruct a blast of fire flinging me away — it wasn't difficult, seeing as my friend, the tree, was flaming and quite visible. Incredibly, I still had my bow one hand, held in a deathgrip. It wasn't too difficult to figure out that Velunthil would probably only leave my hand when I wanted it to. Later, I'd try to see if I could call it to hand. For now, I had to move.

A rock whooshed by my head. One of the orcs had a sling. I leaped away, sideways, to a branch I could stand on, and a bolt of lightning just missed hitting me head on, the electricity generating a buzz in my hair and on my skin. This was getting a mite too exciting for my taste. I kept my balance somehow, and landed upright on the springy wood. Spinning, I remembered that I was more than just an archer, and whispered a prayer before letting loose with my first arrow. It flew from Velunthil like a ray of silver light, going through two orcs, leaving large holes behind. Five left.

I remembered something from my bow lessons. Snipers fire and move. Instead of moving, I willed my ring to activate, and was suddenly standing on a different branch. It was momentarily disorienting. A loud crack of an explosion, and I looked around. The tree that had most lately sheltered me was a blazing bonfire, again. That orcish magic user was starting to annoy me. The pig faced gook was looking all around, barking inane orders, mostly "Find elf! Get elf! Kill elf!" He looked much better as a pincushion. Unfortunately, I'd let my temper overrule my good sense. The remaining four orcs instantly scattered. Stupidly, however, they scattered in pairs. I managed to move quickly enough to get a shot at one pair, or rather, two shots. Was I capable of missing? Probably, and it would happen at the most inconvenient moment.

I actually got into the chase, hunting down the remaining pair. They were heading back for the compound, which was my next stop, so I let them run for a bit. When they stopped to rest, I took them out. Elves in trees are much faster than ground bound orcs. I remembered to search them without prompting, finding nothing much, and considered whether to go search the rest of the bodies, or attack the base area. Impatience won, and I started run-leap-skipping towards orc central. Trolls. That's where the trolls were likely to be. Was there anything special about them? I wracked my brain, and eventually managed to recall that they were the first example given of a regenerating creature. Meaning, you couldn't kill them with arrows alone, as any wound would heal very quickly. Fire was necessary. Actually, it was fire or something else, but I didn't remember what that something else might be. Never a database available when you need one. I giggled, managed not to lose my balance, and ran on. I started to climb higher, looking for an overview of the orc camp, or whatever it might actually be.

What it was, was a small village thing, a few clusters of buildings with thatched roofs, smoke rising from a few scattered chimneys. Two of the buildings were gutted ruins. The village wasn't walled, not even so much as a wooden palisade, and I could see a few orcs walking around. Leaning on a corner of one building was a troll, munching on something that looked disturbingly like a human leg. I swallowed briefly, and cursed in a low voice. Fucking FULL game. I could do without that sort of adult material very well, thank you. I'd have nightmares for years, what with my vision being as sharp as an eagle's. I wished I could sue, but I didn't think I had much of a chance. Not even with my family's lawyers. Those 3,800 pages were probably airtight. Legal action somehow seemed light years away, at that moment.

It was closing on twilight, and orcs were supposed to be nocturnal creatures. One thing I'd learned was that killing the spell casters had to come first. They were bad news. That reminded me of the fact that I was still injured from that fireblast, and I cast a healing spell. It was a strangely pleasant feeling, a tingle of bubbly cold delight washing all through me, like a fizzy sweet drink that touched everything, not merely the palate.

I just didn't know how to plans things properly, since I didn't have any idea of what to expect. I settled on locating the captives first, hoping that they were held in a central location, as seemed logical.

I was half right. As the light dimmed, orcs escorted a gaggle of men bearing farming tools, chivvying them along with taunts and kicks, locking them up in one of the smaller buildings, which didn't have much more than standing room, considering the numbers. The despairing visage of those people had me burning with anger, and I had to wipe a bit of leakage from my eyes. The wind was quite sharp this high up, of course.

I quickly surmised that the womenfolk of the village were held in the largest building, as a stream of orcs entered and left it. The way they acted, boisterous, gesturing rudely and playing with their... you know, it was obvious what was happening there. Now how did I find their leaders? It wouldn't be much longer before they noticed that their friends, if such beasts had any, weren't coming back.

I decided to create a commotion, and thereby identify their leaders. Oh, they probably carried more magic than anyone else there, but I couldn't see magical auras to the full extent of my vision, only when I was fairly close. Pity, but there it was. Could magical items be upgraded? Another question for the help.

I drifted into the village, moving from shadow to shadow, cloak draped about me. Finding a perch had become almost second nature, and I quickly climbed the dressed logs that made up the wall of one of the smaller houses.

This time, I actually thought of casting preparatory spells. I was now protected from fire, and shielded mystically against physical attacks. I also cast a spell that would shield me from most attempts to detect magic. The spells should last long enough. It was interesting to see how spells overcame spells, which were defended against in turn. Like the never ending historical battle between ever improved weapons and shields, firearms and armor, artillery and defenses, computer hacks and protective systems. Some attacks always made it through, eventually.

I had to crouch, and it was somewhat awkward, but I could shoot. I chose a small building I'd seen a troll enter, and shot a fire arrow at the thatched roof. The fire arrow was one of the special enchantments available to the clergy of archer deities, and the house went up like it'd been doused in gasoline. The resulting commotion was everything I could have asked for. Several dozen orcs milled around, like chicken with their heads cut off. I paid close attention, and spotted one haranguing the others, trying to bring some discipline and organization to the chaos. Another orc approached the bonfire, waved a staff, and a blast of water hit the raging flames. A blast of steaming vapor blew the fool right back, and I went into motion, pumping arrows. Orcs began to fall, starting with the spellcaster and the leader. Before they could panic and scatter, I took a deep breath, and cast one of the more complicated priest spells in my repertoire. A shimmering ring of flashing blades, flying endlessly in a circle that made a wall, appeared amidst the crowd, flashing red as orcs were minced apart.

It was exciting, running around on the roofs, shooting the stragglers. I remembered to move, enough so that they never did really spot me. The smell of fresh smoke woke me up — the orcs had set fire to the house they'd crowded the men into!

Instead of conjuring a torrent of water, I called into being a cloudburst. The steady rainfall beat away at the fire, and I frantically cleared the area of orcs, casting another fire arrow against the surging might of a troll who ran at me, dull black claws outstretched, when I leaped down and ran to the door.

I wasn't too late, but it was close. This time, beside the choking smell of smoke, I could scent the unwashed, lice ridden bodies of the choking, gasping menfolk. A bit too much realism for my taste. I didn't take the time to explain. If they were killing them here, they might be doing worse to the women. Not that they hadn't already, a leaden feeling in my stomach told me, and I didn't really want to watch. The fact that I hadn't 'won' meant that there was another shaman somewhere, and the bigger building where the women were held was the likely place.

Running, unleashing an arrow whenever I saw an orc, I was quickly there. I hesitated for a moment, not really happy about entering an enclosed space, where cleavers and those ugly looking maces might have an advantage over a bow. A solution presented itself, and I cast the spell. A pair of waist high great cats, panthers that shimmered black in the light of the stars and the fires' shadow, appeared out of somewhere else, right before me. With a glance from me, they ran smoothly forward, into the open rectangle of the doorway, a forlorn, twisted metal clasp showing the fate of the door.

I was right behind them... hell no. I willed the ring into action once more, and appeared inside the antechamber. The panthers were tearing, uselessly, at the great bulk of a troll. The black fur of one was drenched with blood, where a terrible claw had landed. Fire, here and now, would be a stupid choice. Sure, with my magical protection I might escape, but few if any others would. I started casting a remarkably ugly spell, a spell of death. Black energy crackled on my gloved hand, and I darted forward, touching the troll lightly and jumping back. It convulsed, and then seemed to shrink in on itself as black light enfolded it. I bit my lower lip, hard, and motioned the panthers in, through the beaded curtain that obscured the main room beyond, carefully not looking at the corpse. The curtain did nothing to obscure the feminine screams and wails.

The panthers leaped forward, and I teleported forward and to the right, at where I estimated the corner would be. I missed it by inches. The room was dark, but I could see. God, but I wished I couldn't. The orcs inside hadn't even noticed the commotion outside, and no one had bothered to alert them. It was a scene out of the sickest of bdsm or snuff films. I just couldn't digest the vision of rapine and abuse, blinking tears away as I sent arrows of death into orc after orc. The panthers drew screams and yells from the beasts, as they tore into them, and they served their purpose before being hacked apart. They drew the last orc shaman from an inner room. I saw the magic on him, but could not react quickly enough. He cast a spell I failed to recognize, and a bolt of icy blackness flew at me. I might have been able to dodge it, but I was so focused on slaughter, to avoid really looking at the scene, that I didn't bother. It hurt, but pain in virts is muted. Masochists are not enough of a target audience for anything else, and the virts are all about making money. Of course, there were tabloid rumors of dark torture virts... which I couldn't discount, not anymore. The darkness that lurks in peoples' hearts can be just awful.

His spell just wasn't enough, unlike the answering rain of arrows. I didn't look at the women, the victims, I just killed all the orcs, until my vision flashed white, and I found myself back in the training ring.

I was allowed to take a hot, soothing soak in a nature hot spring, adding my tears to it. It took an effort to recall that the virt wasn't all about awful things. I received quite a bit of gold, some more gems, and a few bits of useful magic. A necklace of thin gold links that held four black orbs I could toss, to create explosions of fire. A ring that would allow me to walk on water. The virt allowed me to trade a few non-useful items for a silver circlet that would protect me from nonmagical missiles, without having to actually bargain or use a market. Finally, it turned out that I'd somehow managed to gain a level, and the detailed help for distributing points was extremely useful. I received answers to all my questions, and was given a book I could consult, holding all the tutorial data. I was also permitted to change the colour of my eyes, from leaf green to molten silver. For a name, I remained unoriginal, and used my own — Kylie.

I wasn't exactly enthusiastic about it, but it was time to end the tutorial, and go out into the virtual world. Quite deliberately, I was given no information about the world they were tossing me into, other than its name, Janavra. Supposedly, I was a foreigner, an intruder from another world. Introductory offers with a fugitive theme, it was suddenly explained, had the lucky recipient the subject of a large bounty on their head. Which meant that every player would be hunting for me, alive rather than dead — bringing me in alive was worth five times as much as my corpse. I was in such a bleak mood, the news failed to move me. To get rid of the bounty, I need to accomplish one of two tasks: Destroy the Abode of Yarthan, the citadel seat of a guild of assassin/bounty hunters, or find the alabaster dragon Zophikla. The hows, whys, and wherefores of the matter went unexplained. A mystery I was obviously supposed to solve. It sounded awfully silly, but I wasn't inclined to laugh. I wasn't too eager to die, even if this was just a stupid virt, nor was I happy about becoming an object, worth an agreed upon sum of coins. I was definitely going to sue. Now all I needed to do was to survive a few more months.

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