This is a bit of roughing out of why the Villain hates the Heroine. Backstory, and even if it ends up in the novel I’ll be seriously rewriting it, so… thought people might like a peek. 🙂
The first time they meet, he doesn’t even remember her name.
Midnight’s been up and running for a few months. Long enough for word to spread about the tricky monsters, the deep worldbuilding with histories of mortal and monster nations, the amazingly immersive gameplay that makes you feel as if you truly stride with sword and magic through an Eldritch-haunted hollow world. Long enough for those who only dabble in the game to have gained enough levels and treasures for a dedicated and intelligent gamer such as himself to find them worth preying on. PvP was, after all, a legal and potentially lucrative option in-game. Granted, the level matching system meant you were supposed to duel those players equally dangerous to you… but there were ways around that.
One of the simplest was to merely ensorcell a monster and make it yours, mind and soul. Then an attack upon it was an attack upon you, and self-defense was not just legal, but encouraged in-game.
So. Snare a low-level monster, bind it, order it to attack the nearest small settlement, then sit back and wait for the bait to reel in new players accepting their first Hunting quests. A good way to pass the time while preparing for his own adventures delving after lost and forbidden knowledge. Not very profitable… but that was the best way, sifting just a tad more from the system than an ordinary player would make, leaving any admin guardians quiescent. It could even be fun, using a rakshasa’s shapeshifting to play yet another wounded or terrified villager, winding up the new and noble Hunters and Nightfolk to seek out this dread (but not too deadly) beast. A player caught up in dreams of being the brave hero usually didn’t think of traps. They usually didn’t think at all.
And it works. He has his fun, the money rolls in, and it’s just so satisfying to roll one victim after another.
(It would be even more satisfying after the game becomes truly life or death, but by that time….)
It isn’t even worth remembering their names, not really. Just a check of appearance and equipment is enough to gauge if a player should be truce, target, or toy. So he barely even notices when another human Hunter appears in his latest playground. Average height, average build; longsword and leather armor vest possibly one or two adventures beyond a bare beginner. She moves quietly, yes – but that’s only natural skill. Aura detection tells him she’s not wearing more than one or two beginner talismans to augment her own magic.
So. A toy, then. He assumes a desperate villager’s form – which one doesn’t matter, beyond that it’s someone the rest of the villagers trust – and begins the delightful trap.
His heart leaps in glee as her gaze slides away from his when he gets too close. Shy and wounded, oh yes, he knows the type. Someone too tender for the cruel world, soothing their hurts in the game. More fools they. Only fools stay that weak.
He scampers off before the villager he’s mimicked can return, making sure the man is never seen in two places at the same time. Attention to details is important for a rakshasa impersonator. Time to start farming small mobs near his monster’s lair, and return to one of his other forms; not his own, of course, but one of the half-dozen cover identities he claimed when around other players. That way he will simply appear to have been adventuring blamelessly with his newly-controlled monster when an overeager noob takes on something far too big for her….
He waits. And waits. Is the toy just that bad at tracking rumors and monster spoor? It never, ever, takes this long-
There’s a sudden, sharp snap in the magic around him. For a heart-stopping moment, the world goes white.
When the twilight returns, the chill amulet against his neck – the one that holds the spell binding his creature, so he doesn’t have to spend personal magic and attention keeping it under control-
It’s not cold. It’s not otherworldly at all.
When he lifts it away from skin; and it comes easily, too easily, control amulets are always blood-drinkers-
Once-carved bronze is blank.
He’s fast. Very, very fast, as he bolts through the night-violet forest, barely hearing the eerie cries of whippoorwills and far worse things. It can’t be more than a minute before he skids to a halt in front of his monster’s fallen-tree lair.
The… empty… lair. Nothing left save a bit of fur, salt, and blood.
And he has no idea how she did it.