|You Have Been Granted the Skill "Hide" Level 1. Do you wish to accept?|
For a second Alan just stared.
This was a first for him. Most people gained the ability to acquire Skills around puberty. Alan had been a late bloomer in that sense and had been teased for being Skilless by the other kids. Not [Hide] specifically, but the window in front of him was something he had dreamed of for the last several years.
Skill choices were terribly important decisions, you only ever had 6 Skill slots, and each choice could have a profound impact on your future and growth. Your Skills could affect everything to what profession you could undertake, what schools would accept you, and even how you were treated by those who could discern such things.
Alan did not hesitate.
While his choice could have profound effects on his future, there was a good possibility he would not have a future if he was spotted by the quickly approaching Goblins. He mentally accepted the Skill, even as he continued to listen down below to their unintelligible chatter as they poked through the haystacks and checked the horse stables for survivors.
The shorter one yelled over his shoulder poking his sword through one of the larger stacks of hay. Alan couldn't tell but it sounded like they were finishing up. Maybe they wouldn't find him, maybe there were other survivors like him. Maybe his mother and father were also still alive.
Please leave. Please leave. Please leave. Please...He repeated a phrase in his mind over and over. The smaller Goblin then looked up to scan the rafters. Alan froze.
The larger Goblin shouted something and the smaller Goblin stopped scanning above to look over. Nodding quickly, the small goblin ran directly towards the ladder leading up to the loft. The very loft where Alan's hiding place lay visible if you knew where to look.
He could hear his heart pounding in his chest, threatening to burst as the small impish Goblin came into view climbing the ladder not too distant from the rafters where he lay hiding. As much as he tried to press himself into the dark wooden beam on which he lay, he was in relatively plain sight and he knew it.
[Hide] wasn’t a Skill he knew off the top of his head, but he could guess the effect, and he wasn’t in a situation where he could refuse any advantage. He quickly inspected it further, if it was an activated Skill then now was the time to use it.
|Hide (passive): Lvl 1 You become harder to locate. *6/100 till next level|
A vague level 1 description, but it was passive, and with no attribute multipliers, that made it a neutral Skill. Not something he would've wanted, but right now he needed all the advantage he could get. Only one Stat helped with non-attributed, passive Skills. That Stat was Luck, again not his first choice, but he didn’t think twice and added 10 from his 105 available Stat points. Normally it would be another two years before he allocated his first points, but given the situation, he couldn't be picky.
He brought up his Stat Window.
|Human Male, Age 14|
|HP (health): 143/143|
|MP (mana) 56/56|
It was the first time his window had shown a Skill, and the first time he had allocated any Stat points. He noticed absently that his [Hide] Skill was already raising itself on its own. It made sense given the fact he was hiding for his life.
Also, his HP which determined his total health had only been 140 before, and his MP which determined the amount of mana or magic he had available had only been 55, something had caused that to increase slightly. He assumed his Luck allocation must be the reason for the increase, he thought he remembered studying how allocating Points to Luck might have a low chance of randomly increasing other Attributes or Stats.
Ten was the absolute maximum number of points recommended that you allocate at one time. He had been told a certain feeling or power related to the chosen Stat overcame you when you allocated your points. The more you allocated at once the more intense the feeling was said to become. However, with every advantage came drawbacks. The drawback for allocating Stat Points came shortly after, and in a physical form.
It was said the body could not keep up with the changes Stat allocation initiated. The more points you allocated to yourself at any time, the more intense the drawback. Thus allocating more points, while giving you a brief sensory boost, also gave you a more intense physical drawback. A much more intense physical drawback. It was said those who allocated too much at once could be crippled or even die.
A tingling sensation began to overcome him, the effects almost immediate. He began to feel alive, a growing sense of invincibility and a confidence he had not felt before slowly took over his perception. He felt in control, as if the workings of the world around him were drawn in a sudden clarity he had never known before. Almost as if he could affect it himself.
Alan tried not to let the feeling get to him. He lay low and unmoving as the short Goblin finished looking around the loft and turned in his direction towards the rafters. The Goblin didn't seem to be taking the search too seriously and it's beady eyes quickly passed over him and continued on to inspect the rest of the building. He still had his Stat window open in his mind's eye and noticed [Hide] increase to *29/100. He held his breath, growing more confident that his combined Luck and new Skill would hold through. Then he noticed the Goblin's head stop and settle onto something. Alan's heart skipped a beat.
As it turned out, the Goblin had not stopped to notice a boy hiding in the rafters. The small eyes turned to watch what Alan assumed was his boss, the larger Goblin, climb up the ladder, almost reaching the loft level.
His breath caught. Alan felt fear spike in his heart, and with that spike, his new found confidence faded. He did not like the look of that larger Goblin's eyes. It wasn't a hard leap of the mind to assume that large golden eyes surely meant better vision. He didn't think a measly level 1 Skill could hide from the creature at this range, no matter how lucky. Normal Goblins have fairly bad eyesight if he remembered correctly, and it was probably the only thing that had allowed Alan to remain undetected this far. This did not look like a normal Goblin however, and Alan regretted not paying more attention when they had gone over Goblin races in school.
Trying vainly to still his shaking hands, Alan watched in futile horror as the golden-eyed Goblin clambered on to the loft platform. Panicking, he put the entirety of his Stat points into Luck. It was the only thing he could think to do.
He tried to move all of the remaining 95 points. Oddly, only 40 more Stat points were invested. Confused he attempted to once again invest the rest of his Stat points and this time nothing happened. He had never heard of such a restriction, but perhaps you could only allocate a certain amount in a given time period.
He didn’t know the reason, but he knew with a cold and frightening certainty that even investing 50 points was a deadly gamble so he wasn't about to keep trying to invest more. He also knew that the Goblins would certainly kill him if he was spotted, he was just trying to choose the option that gave him a chance.
And suddenly he felt it.
Like nothing he knew. Power welled up around him, the very air seemed to change color, the bright glow of the rising sun darkening slightly. If the 10 points he invested before had been a fire lighting within him, this was an eruption, a blazing vortex. Time itself seemed to slow, he once again felt that confidence and power, but to a degree that made the 10 points he invested earlier seem weak and pitiful. His breath came rapidly, his head felt euphoric and yet clear. He felt he could see currents in the air, currents or threads, weaving through everything, touching everything, pulling on the fabric of reality, brushing against him as well. He felt he could control it.
While this was happening, the large Goblin, having made it to the loft, began to look around and seemed to take an eternity to turn his way. As the large creature scanned the rafters it paused. The Goblin was looking directly at him, the large golden eyes burning straight into his own.
It had not been enough. Even with his Luck allocation, [Hide] was still only level 1 after all. Alan had been seen. Surprise was starting to form on the dark Goblin face. His reckless gamble had failed.
Or had it?
Still filled with the invigorating power of his Luck allocation, Alan tugged at the situation. He didn’t understand what he was doing or how, but wrapped in a cocoon of calm euphoria, surrounded by the weaving of the glowing currents and strands, the pulsing of the fabric of the world, he felt the situation could be different.
There was a chance he remained hidden. He didn't have to be seen. So he wouldn’t be seen. He tugged and guided something, and suggested a different route. The strands around him shined in the dark sunlight, pulsed and shifted with a new direction, briefly edged from their path by Alan's gentle tugging.
A deep rumbling hum started emanating at the base of his skull. The noise started as a soft whisper but quickly grew louder and louder until he could barely hear anything else. He wondered distantly why the Goblins did not seem to notice. He felt his body... no his spirit, rising and forcing its way upward, outward, expanding. The deep rumble kept growing until it vibrated within his very soul. The light from above shifted an unnoticeable fraction. The wind currents swirled in a slightly slower pattern. The imperceptible random events at the smallest level of the universe worked together, tweaking ever so slightly the very color of the air, the very scent of the earth.
The golden-eyed Goblin’s gaze did not focus, did not widen in surprise, and continued glancing around the rest of the loft. Finishing, the creature spoke briefly to his companion and then simply started to make his way back down the ladder.
The other Goblin stared after his captain for a moment and then followed quickly. Soon enough Alan was alone again. His thoughts felt far away as if he was looking down at the situation unconcerned with the outcome. Vaguely he knew something incredible had just happened, but he had no idea what. The only thing he knew was that he had not been spotted and was still alive.
He remained still and hidden as the world dimmed around him and he felt himself come back. His breath was slowing and while he did not risk moving from the rafters, he was starting to hope that maybe he would make it, and that perhaps the allocation drawbacks had been wildly exaggerated.
He struggled to hold in a manic laugh as the Goblins further distanced themselves reaching the end of the ladder. The release of tension was almost euphoric. Alan heald this breath as the dark green pair mumbled back and forth between themselves while walking the length of the hallway. They spared a few glances to the stables around them and proceeded to quickly make for the exit. Reaching the door the opened it and with little fanfare, they left the stables entirely. He felt a powerful physical relief sweep through his body. He was actually going to make it, and there...
THE PAIN HIT.
He was on fire, he was stabbed with knives, his insides felt like they were trying to come out of his body. The pain hit all at once and with no mercy. Searing fire lanced through his mind, daggers pressing against his temples. The confidence and mastery filling him earlier turned instantly to dark, black pain. Every fiber of his being seemed to discover a new point, a new level of unbearable torture, of crippling and rendering. He was being torn apart, piece by piece, atom by atom. Blood began to leak from his eyes, he focused his entire being on not moving, not screaming, not making a sound.
He knew only pain, his vision blurred, he was sure he had wet himself, he was sure he didn’t care. He didn’t care about the Goblins any longer, couldn’t care about his own life, about staying hidden or quiet. All that existed for him was waves and waves of Pain. Unrelenting and seemingly unstoppable, each new wave somehow eclipsed the last. His body convulsed, arms bending in weird angles, puking blood, he wanted nothing more than to end it. Retching dark black vomit, he shook violently and uncontrollably. He tried to scream but nothing would come out, his body was locked in a wretched stasis. Every muscle pulled tight, tiny red beads of sweat formed on his skin, his own blood leaking out of his body. His joints locked rigid as he shook and bled in silence, his existence was PAIN.
He had no concept of how long this continued for. He would not be surprised if someone had told him mere seconds, or hours, or days. His life was nothing but torture, and nothing, not even time, could penetrate the feeling of being torn apart and built anew.
It lasted seconds. It lasted an eternity. The Goblins were a distant memory. The deaths of his entire town an afterthought. There was only agony. No one could live through this.
At some point, he fell off the rafters. He did not notice it happen, but mercifully he passed out as he crashed to the ground.