So, uh, this is my entry into the Etrian Odyssey IV contest. It's a short story I wrote, largely based off of experiences I had in the Etrian Odyssey IV demo. Sorry, if I'm clogging up blog space by posting this here, but it's like 15 pages long, so it's far too long for a simple comment on the contest page (and the format gets all screwy if I do). I figure it'll be OK if I put it here and just link it, so here you go. My entry officially begins at the disclaimer. Please, enjoy! I know I enjoyed writing it.
Disclaimer: I have not played Etrian Odyssey before, and am hoping to win a copy in this contest as an introduction to the series. Therefore, this is based off of the demo to Etrian Odyssey IV. I hope you enjoy it, and please feel free to laugh at my lack of knowledge about the series.
A Wonderful World
How Not To Play Etrian Odyssey IV
“Hey, are you falling asleep on me, or what?”
Marche awoke to the sound of a voice that reminded him of Morgan Freeman's, captivating and powerful, barely audible through the haziness that clouded his mind. His eyes fluttered open, adjusting to the soft daylight and bringing a man he did not recognize into focus who stood before him. The man was tall and well-built, his muscles clearly visible under clothes that looked like they had come straight out of a Shakespearean play, only this looked realistic. He had dark skin, with long white hair that had been partially braided back, and one amazing moustache.
“What?” Marche asked, shielding his eyes from the sun peeking over the clouds. He noticed he was sitting on a wooden bench in a beautiful courtyard, with other voices audible in the distance. “Who are you? Where am I?”
“'Where are you?! Who am I?!'” The man threw up his hands in distress. “You of all people should know that! You were just introduced to our world, yesterday, after all!”
“I have no idea of what you're talking about,” Marche replied, rubbing his eyes.
The man sighed and paced back and forth for a few moments in silence, deep in thought. He suddenly turned around and pointed at Marche.
“Alright, I'll explain this once and only once,” the man said, his voice echoing around the courtyard. “You expressed an interest in a game called Etrian Odyssey IV, which takes place in our world. We summoned you here because of that. Are you following so far?”
“Sure, I'll pretend I'm not hallucinating and humor you.”
“Good. I am the Guildmaster. I help explorers like you organize guilds and begin your adventures in our world, exploring dungeons and defeating monsters of unparalleled danger! You are currently in the city of Tharsis, more specifically in the Explorer's Guild. I was just telling you about creating a guild when you dozed off.”
Marche tried to wrap his head around everything this stranger was saying. He did vaguely remember playing a demo for a game called Etrian Odyssey IV, but was it yesterday? Any sense of time was lost to him.
'This must be a dream,' he thought. 'Usually I'm the only good-looking guy in my dreams, and this Guildmaster is pretty good-looking for an old, buff guy. Maybe I can snap out of it.'
Marche looked around and noticed a dagger sheathed in the belt of the Guildmaster, who was busy yammering about something or another.
Before the Guildmaster had time to act, he grabbed the dagger and stabbed himself in the foot with it. He yelped and noticed that he wasn't waking up, with a sharp pain in his foot. He also noticed the number '12' above his head, indicating he had just taken damage.
“Wait, so this isn't a dream?!” Marche gasped, surprised.
“Let me guess, you're one of the smart ones in your world,” the Guildmaster rolled his eyes, pulling the dagger out of Marche's foot and re-sheathing it in his belt. “I told you, we summoned you here. You're here to see whether or not you really want Etrian Odyssey IV.”
“OK, so where do I start?” Marche asked, doing his best to ignore the pain in his foot.
The Guildmaster pulled out a long scroll with a long list of names written under headers such as 'Landsknecht' and 'Fortress', the kind of thing that sounded like a bunch of gibberish to someone who just woke up and stabbed himself in the foot, like an idiot.
“You need to create a guild and register some people to your guild,” the Guildmaster explained. Then, you'll go see the Outland Count, who will give you a mission to start you off on your epic quests for glory, or whatever it is you're doing this for. Just come up with a name for your guild, to start us off.”
“Guild names, huh? What about 'Dic-'”
“Wait, before you finish that thought, your guild name has to be family-friendly”, the Guildmaster frowned. “We were forced to pass that law two hours after the Explorer's Guild first opened. Even the beta testers couldn't help themselves.”
“Fine,” Marche sighed. “How about 'Dtoid'?”
“That's the stupidest name I've ever heard of,” the Guildmaster said, smacking Marche across the head, “but I guess it'll have to do. Now, choose some people to register for your guild.”
Marche took a look at the list of classes and names, skimming over the list, as he had technically just seen it the day before. He ended up choosing: a Landsknecht, a swordsman named Dmitri who looked like your average swordsman, complete with slim, toned body, short brown hair, and armor that resembled that of an incomplete knight, allowing for agility and maximum movement; and a Nightseeker, a ninja-like assassin named Alice who had short red hair and glowing red eyes, complete with black clothing to match the shadows that her class used to gain the element of surprise and mystery.
“All ready!” Marche said, triumphantly, as if he actually did something that took a lot of effort.
“You're seriously only taking two people?” the Guildmaster asked. “And you're only taking a Landsknecht and a Nightseeker?!”
“What's wrong with that?” Marche asked, curiously.
“You've got a lot to learn,” the Guildmaster grinned. “But be my guest. You're technically fit to go out and start your adventure.”
“I'll show you. We can do this!” Marche shouted excitedly.
“It was nice knowing you,” the Guildmaster said, waving his hand and turning away, walking towards another group of would-be adventurers.
After a quick visit to the Mark Grand Court to talk with the Outland Count and Berund Atelier to pick up some weapons, armor, and medicine, Guild Dtoid was ready to tackle its first mission, to go to the Old Forest Mine and find an Iridescent Ore. If Marche and his guild-mates should succeed, the Count promised to make them official Tharsis explorers, whatever that meant. Marche and his companions began their search in a lush forest, rich with foliage and the sounds of birds and other woodland creatures. Marche took it all in, sucking in a deep breath of air and exhaling with all due excitement. He turned to his companions.
“Dmitri, Alice, this begins our grand adventures,” Marche said, happily. “I hope you two are as excited as I am.”
Dmitri kept his hand on his sword, giving Marche a look that burned right through him, while Alice fidgeted around nervously, failing to see any large shadows in the bright daylight to take refuge in. Marche frowned and shrugged.
“What's with you guys?” he asked.
“Oh, nothing,” Dmitri mocked Marche with a sarcastic tone. “We're all just about to be killed by a novice who's never played Etrian Odyssey before and made a big mistake in only taking two people along.”
“And I'm a Nightseeker!” Alice chimed in. “I'm supposed to attack from the shadows! There are no shadows here! The sky is clear and the sun is making things brighter than ever!”
“Whoa, whoa, let's all calm down,” Marche said in a soothing tone. “I'm sure we'll be fine, and I'm sure I'll end up being great at Etrian Odyssey. Just you wait.”
Just then, a pack of explorers burst out from a wall of bushes, chased by a pack of grasseaters, which looked a lot like grasshoppers. They came into Guild Dtoid's line of vision just in time to be finished off by the monsters, with only one escaping and running up to Marche, grabbing his collar.
“Don't only register two people into your guild!” the novice gasped out. “It's a death sentence! A death sentence I tell you!”
He yelped as a grasseater grabbed his foot, causing the number '16' to pop over his head as he took damage, and dragged him away into the bushes, yelling the same thing over and over again as it did. Silence overcame the forest, broken only a minute later by the sound of birds singing their songs, once more. Marche turned to his companions and shrugged.
“I'm sure that was just a fluke,” he said.
“Oh, yes, surely, it was,” Dmitri said, shrugging right along with Marche. “Well, lead on, faithful leader, or would you like to kill us now and get it over with?”
Alice trembled and let out a small gasp from the mention of their impending death. Dmitri put a hand on her shoulder in an effort to calm her down a bit and gave Marche the evil eye, again. Marche shook his head and turned away, taking a few steps forward and looking over the landscape. He wondered how in the world he was supposed to navigate through such a forest without a guide or a walkthrough. If only he had his 3DS with him and Wi-Fi access he could pull up GameFAQs.
“If you're thinking about using a walkthrough, think again,” Dmitri called out to Marche. “In Etrian Odyssey you make your own maps. No MS Paint maps for you, 'O reliable guild leader.”
“So...what, I use GIMP or something?” Marche asked, turning around.
“No, you use these,” Dmitri said, walking up to Marche and pressing a blank grid and a stylus into his hand. “Don't ask me how the stylus thing works, that's just one of those fourth wall things. Think you can handle it?”
“I think I know how to use a stylus, yes,” Marche said, annoyed.
“So you say,” Dmitri replied.
With that, they continued on through the forest, taking in the scenery and more than once forgetting to keep their hands close to their weapons. They didn't want to be caught unaware like that other explorer and his guild. Marche did his best to draw a suitable map of the forest as they walked, taking note of places where the path was clear and others where the trees were impassable. As he pored over the map, he found himself tripping over a root that arched out of the ground, catching unobservant travelers. Getting up, he noticed a golden locket on the ground, ripe for the taking.
“Aw, sweet, loot!” Marche exclaimed, jumping to his feet.
“Oh, so we're pirates, now?” Dmitri joked. “Better find some oranges in this forest, quick, before scurvy sets in and kills us all!”
“Stop joking about our deaths,” Alice puffed. “I bet that locket belonged to that pack of explorers we saw back there.”
“Uh, actually, I know who that belongs to,” a voice called out behind them.
A scruffy looking man approached them who wore the attire of an explorer, an orange cape of sorts hanging off his shoulder, and looking about ready to fall asleep on the spot. His short white hair was mussed up, and it was clear that he hadn't shaved in some time, although the look suited him. He hefted a bag over his shoulder that looked to be almost half as tall as he was.
“Hey, great, someone who knows something,” Marche said, still focused on the locket. “Maybe, you can help me pry this thing open.”
“I would rather you not open that,” the man replied. “That's actually mine, and it's kind of embarrassing. I would appreciate it if you would hand it over.”
“So, you tell me it's embarrassing and now you expect me to just hand it over?” Marche asked, still hard at work. “I'm getting a mixed message, here. Are you going to help me force it open or not?”
Before the man could answer, Alice snatched the locket out of Marche's hands and held it out to the man, who took it with a curt 'Thank you', grinning all the while. He looked over the Marche and his companions, sizing them up, before nodding, satisfied with his analysis.
“You guys look like you're new around these parts,” he said. “I'm guessing you're here for some Iridescent Ore, am I right?”
“Yeah, how did you know?” Marche asked, surprised.
“You guys just ooze 'we're going to get ourselves killed before we even get started',” he replied. Alice frowned at the third mention of their deaths. “Oh, sorry. I forgot you don't like hearing that. Anyways, I'll help you guys out. You got a map?”
Marche nodded and looked around, noticing that in picking up the locket he had forgotten to pick up the map that he had dropped on the ground. He picked it up and dusted it off, handing it to the man, who took one look at it before frowning and turning it to show it to Dmitri and Alice. The map was full of scribbles and doodles, with random notes written in the margins like 'This Game Rocks' and 'Dmitri is a douche'. Dmitri smacked Marche in the back of the head for that last one while Alice shook her head and buried her face in her hands.
“Here, I'll tell you what,” the man said, thrusting the map into Marche's hands. “I'm pretty much done with this place. Take my map. It's incomplete, but it's better than this...thing your leader created. I marked where the Iridescent Ore is on it, so you should be able to find it.”
The man tossed off the bag he carried around his shoulder and rummaged around for a moment before producing the map he spoke of. He took a moment before handing it to Dmitri, who gladly took it and held it out of Marche's reach.
“Well, good luck to you folks,” the man said, pulling the bag up across his shoulder, once more. “Try not to let your leader there eat your map or anything.”
The man turned around and set off in the direction that Marche and the others had entered the forest, through. Dmitri took a look at Marche and sighed, throwing the map to him.
“I don't like you, and I know you don't like me,” he said, “but we're going to have to work together if we want to be successful here, so take the map. And would you kindly be serious about this for once in your short life?”
“Alright, if you're going to make an effort to work together, than there's no reason that I can't do so, either,” Marche replied. “Let's get going.”
Some time later, the group came to a fork in the road, with a river blocking their path forward. Marche allowed Alice to peek over his shoulder at the map, who pointed at where they were, followed by the spot marked with a pickaxe symbol for the Iridescent Ore. The marked spot was right across the river, so close, and yet so far.
“So, I guess I'll just wade across, then,” Marche offered.
“You should know better than that,” Dmitri said, pulling him back. “That would be against the rules of most RPGs, including this one. We'll have to find a way around.”
“Dang, whoever made this game is too ingenious for their own good,” Marche said, breaking the fourth wall and looking directly out of the computer screen at the Atlus employee reading this short story. “We'll have to teach them a lesson.”
“You know, you can be really weird sometimes,” Alice rolled her eyes. “Let's get a move on. I feel like we've been on this mission forever.”
Dmitri looked at Marche and shrugged, turning left and continuing down the path. They took a few more turns before coming across another small river in a similarly small clearing. As they began to walk around it, something the size of a dodge-ball rammed into Marche from behind and knocked him flat on his face. He laid there sprawled out on the ground for a moment in pain as the number '11' popped up above his head. Dmitri helped him to his feet, and he turned to see an armadillo-like creature called a 'roller' rolling around playfully in front of them.
“It's cute and dangerous! Let's kill it!” Marche shouted, jumping towards the roller only to be sent sprawling again.
“Uh, maybe you had better leave that to us,” Alice said, helping Dmitri pull Marche to his feet for the second time. “We can probably handle this...probably.”
“Yeah, I'm not in any rush to get rolled over again,” Marche said, grasping his stomach in pain. “You guys have got this.”
Dmitri and Alice jumped in front of Marche and faced the roller, beginning the true battle! Music that seemed to come out of nowhere flooded in through the trees, inspiring a fighting sort of mood amongst Guild Dtoid. Dmitri readied his sword and jumped forward, striking the roller and sending it flying into a tree, the number '16' popping above it. The roller bounced off of the tree and headed straight back at him, but Alice flew in from the side and struck it with both short swords she carried, defeating the monster with a stellar '25' points of damage and ending the battle.
“Well, how was that,” Dmitri asked Marche, sheathing his sword. “I think we did pretty well for our first battle.”
“Oh, yeah, well, that guy didn't look too tough in the first place,” Marche retorted. “But did either of you hear that kick-ass music that was playing while you were fighting? I wish I had my MP3 player so I could record it.”
“Sure, it wasn't too tough,” Dmitri replied, smacking Marche in his still-tender stomach and causing him to keel over in pain. “Now, shall we move on?”
They continued on their way, wrapping around a few corners before coming face to face with a monstrous baboon. Alice pulled Marche and Dmitri back into the shadow of a tree, peeking out to make sure that it hadn't noticed them before raising a finger to her lips to quiet them.
“That thing is too strong for us to take head on,” she whispered. “We need to sneak around it.”
“How do we sneak around that thing?” Marche asked. “It's kind of standing right in the middle of the only path we have to take.”
“We need to let it move along on its way and turn its back before we try stealing away into the path that leads to the Iridescent Ore,” Alice replied. “Let's just try to not get its attention.”
Taking Alice's advice to heart, the three waited a few moments until the baboon had its back turned to them and quietly followed behind. They let out a breath of relief as they made it to the path Alice had mentioned and were safe from the danger of the baboon. Marche marked his map where the baboon was prowling and led the way through a few more turns, diligently adding to the map as they went. Finally, they came upon the open clearing they spotted what felt like ages ago from across the river, the spot where the Iridescent Ore was buried clearly visible a few meters ahead of them.
“Finally, we found it!” Marche said, pointing to the spot where the ore was buried. “Let's get this over with!”
“Marche, wait!” Dmitri yelled, but he was too late.
Marche ran up into the clearing, noticing all too late that something was wrong. A pack of baboons descended upon him, knocking him off his feet and screeching angrily. Marche quickly scrambled to his feet and took in his surroundings. He had been knocked to the opposite end of the clearing. Thankfully, it didn't seem like the baboons had noticed Dmitri or Alice, yet. He quickly formulated a plan and called out to his guild-mates.
“You two go for the Iridescent Ore,” he shouted. “I'll distract the baboons!”
“This is highly irregular!” Dmitri shouted back. “But I guess we'll trust you!”
Marche saw that the baboons were losing interest in them, so he picked up a rock and threw it at the nearest one, yelling, “hey, eyes over here, you stupid monkeys!” as he did so. The baboons lunged at him, but he deftly stepped to the side, sprinting away from them. They quickly recovered and chased after him, dead set on making him their next meal.
Meanwhile, Dmitri told Alice to hang back and attack from the shadows if a baboon broke from the pack and went after him while he dug up the ore. It was a last ditch effort, he admitted, but it would hopefully do for a worst-case scenario. Thankfully, Alice didn't need to risk exposing herself, as Dmitri had the ore that they had sought for so long in his hands before two minutes were up. He looked over at Marche to see that the baboons were still chasing him, relentlessly, and gave a shout to indicate that he was successful.
“What do we do now?” Alice shouted.
“I'll tell you what we do,” Marche replied, running straight toward her (and the path that they had entered the clearing from). “We run!”
Marche and company sprinted out of the clearing and burst through the pathway that they had previously navigated, running for their very lives. Marche knew that this was a game, but at the same time...it wasn't a game. So, if he died here, he'd be as dead as you could be, and no one wants to die at the hands of a pack of angry baboons. At least, he thought so. They didn't have to run for long before they found themselves back at the entrance of the forest. Without a second thought, they continued on to Tharsis, not bothering to look back until they were safely beyond the city gates.
“Well, that was quite the adventure,” Dmitri gasped, picking the leaves out of his clothing. “Let's not cut it so close, again, anytime soon, shall we?”
“We're fine,” Marche said, pulling a twig out of his hair. “Now, let's go to the Mark Grand Court and turn in our mission. You have the Iridescent Ore, right?”
“Yes, I have it right here,” Dmitri said, pulling empty air out of the bag strapped to his belt.
Marche and Alice looked for a moment at Dmitri's empty hand and blinked in disbelief before looking at him again, jaws dropped to the ground. Dmitri had lost the Iridescent Ore. Unbelievable. Marche composed himself and took a deep breath before saying: “WHAT?!”
“I-I don't know what happened to it!” Dmitri squeaked, as shocked as Marche and Alice were. “I'm sure I put it in my bag! It must have fallen out when we were running away!”
Marche sighed and leaned against a building, eyes dropped to the ground. Alice slumped onto a bench, pulling her legs up against her and burying her face in her knees. It came without warning, but Marche suddenly let out a long, loud laugh that echoed around the city, tears forming in the corners of his eyes.
“W-Why are you laughing?” Dmitri asked meekly. “Don't laugh at me!”
“I'm not laughing at you,” Marche replied, wiping away a tear. “It's just so funny. It looks like the tables have turned. I was the guild screw-up before, and you were Mr. Perfect. Now, you're the screw-up!”
Dmitri chuckled weakly, clearly not feeling much better at this revelation. Alice giggled and stood up, stretching.
“Don't worry about it, Dmitri, we'll go back, and we'll do even better, next time!” Alice reassured him.
“Yeah, we're guild-mates,” Marche said, patting Dmitri on the shoulder. “We'll find some more and get even stronger in the process!”
Dmitri smiled and grasped Marche's hand, thanking him and Alice for their kind words. They turned to head back towards the city gates when they noticed the man they had met in the forest, earlier, who gave them the map of the forest. He walked up to them and swung the large bag he carried off of his shoulder, rummaging around for a few moments and muttering to himself before pulling out a chunk of Iridescent Ore. Guild Dtoid stared in confusion, with Dmitri left speechless.
“Hey, you guys ran past me at the entrance,” the man said. “You were going so fast, I don't think you noticed me. I dunno what you were running from, but you dropped this.”
The man handed the Iridescent Ore to Dmitri, who was dumbfounded and managed to mutter a 'there's no way', before falling back onto the bench that Alice had curled up on only minutes ago. The man grinned and turned to Marche.
“I see you and your group survived,” he pointed out. “I guess you're a better leader than I took you for, initially. Nicely done.”
Marche shook hands with him and noticed the golden locket from before was hanging around the man's neck. He was glad that Alice had taken it from him and given it to the man. He really made a fool of himself earlier in the mission.
“I see you still have your locket,” Marche smiled. “Still not telling anyone what's inside?”
“Nope, not telling you,” the man said, turning around and waving goodbye.
“Come on, what's in the locket!” Marche called out to him.
“Goodbye!” the man disappeared from view.
“Man, making me feel like I'm Detective Mills or something,” Marche sighed. “Well, we've spent enough time out here. Let's get going to the Mark Grand Court.”
Marche scooped Dmitri off of the bench, who was still busying himself with staring at the Iridescent Ore with a stupid look on his face, and with Alice helping to support Dmitri, walked to the Mark Grand Court to see the Outland Count.
“This can't be, you're...” Marche gasped.
“Yes, it is I!” the Outland Count declared as Marche and the others stepped up to him. “I have been eagerly awaiting your arrival.”
Marche couldn't believe his eyes. He had met the Outland Count before when he accepted the mission to find the Iridescent Ore, but this clearly wasn't the same person. This Outland Count. It was Andy Dixon of the Destructoid staff! Marche reached out and pinched Andy to see if he was real, who punched him in return for pinching him. Yep, he was pretty real. Real enough to knock Marche's retainer out. Marche scooped the retainer up and put it back in his mouth (Warning: never do this in real life. It's really disgusting, but then again retainers are always disgusting).
“I see you've returned from your journey,” Andy said. “Do you have the entry into the Etrian Odyssey IV contest I asked for?”
“What?” Marche shook his head. “I was asked to find an Iridescent Ore, not an entry into a contest.”
“I think you've been hitting the Etrian Odyssey IV demo a little too hard,” Andy sighed. “Do you even realize where you are right now?”
“Of course, I know! I'm in the...you know what? Screw it,” Marche said, throwing up his hands. “I'm not sure I know anything, anymore.”
“You're on Destructoid.com,” Andy said. “Get it together, man.”
Marche looked around and realized that he was right. He looked behind him at Dmitri and Alice to find that they were totally different people.
“Dmitri,” Marche said. “You're really Dale North! Only you're not a douche, are you?”
“What the heck are you talking about,” Dale replied. “Do I even know you?”
“No, I guess not,” Marche said. “And, Alice, you're actually Jonathan Holmes!”
Jonathan Holmes looked at himself and looked at Andy and Dale, in turn with a puzzled look on his face before turning back to Marche.
“Do I look like a girl to you?” Jonathan Holmes asked. “Guys, back me up here.”
“Let the record show that Jonathan Holmes is in fact a guy,” Dale replied.
“I guess the Guildmaster must have been Conrad Zimmerman,” Marche continued. “No one else has such a rocking moustache on Destructoid as him, and the Guildmaster had a pretty rocking 'stache. And that guy with the locket was pretty chilled out, so I'm guessing he was Chad Concelmo, since he always looks pretty laid back.”
“Look, are you going to enter the contest or not?” Andy asked, growing a little impatient of Marche's random ramblings. “You can keep your hallucinations to yourself. Now, do you want Etrian Odyssey IV or not?”
Marche thought back on his adventures in the world of Etrian Odyssey IV. He wasn't sure if they were real or not, but he had quite enjoyed his time there. There was a lot he still had to learn, but fighting alongside Guild Dtoid and exploring just that one forest was an experience that he wouldn't soon forget. Whether it was through fighting monsters, mapping out the land, or even just listening to the music and fooling around in Tharsis, Marche was eager to win a copy of the game and jump right back into the fray, Guild Dtoid at his back, once more.
“Yes, I do want Etrian Odyssey IV,” Marche confirmed, handing his entry to Andy.
He turned away and walked out of Destructoid.com, looking back as he stepped out of the doors and thought about the wonderful world of Etrian Odyssey that he had just left behind.
'Yes, I'll do my best to win a copy of Etrian Odyssey IV,' he thought to himself. 'Not just for myself, but for Dmitri and Alice. For Guild Dtoid.'
And with that, Marche turned away and walked towards the forest path that led home.
So ends my entry in the Etrian Odyssey IV contest. Like I said, I had fun making it, and I hope anyone who reads this had fun reading it. Feel free to chip in with some feedback if you want to. I'm all open to constructive criticism. I just hope future contests allow for short stories and other things like this, because this was honestly the most fun I've ever had in entering a contest. Well, cheers!