LEVEL CAP • by D.A. Heiserman

Galandar the White was as noble a warrior as the land of Ameroz had ever seen. He was a captain in the noble Knights of the White Lilly, from which he took his name. Every week, he and his valiant comrades gathered together and rode about the land, fighting evil, rescuing the weak, and reaping their just rewards. Galandar was one of, if not the, best of them. He struck fear into the hearts of his foes and inspired courage and virtue in the hearts of his friends. He was a true hero.

Maxwell Gross was not a hero. He was an assistant manager of the computer section at the Big River City Best Buy. He lived in a small two bedroom apartment that he shared with Chad Avery, a fellow employee. He owned a small 1992 Honda that was finally beginning to give him trouble after five years of ownership; he had no idea what was wrong with it. He had $1,234.89 in a bank account and made around $500 every week. He was nothing special.

Galandar had started like any other hero, a simple young adventurer with little skill but great ambition, in the western Port City of Raethea. He, like his peers, had found work in the city, questing for lost jewelry, defending homesteads, finding lost children, exorcising haunted mausoleums. He had earned enough money to outfit himself and move on to bigger and better things, to new cities, new quests, and new rewards. He rose through the ranks of the average and mediocre and became great and exceptional.

Maxwell had not started out like his fellow co-workers. He had arrived in Big River as a scholarship student at the prestigious Carson College located on the south edge of town. He had studied to be a biochemist. He had worked hard and done well. He had met and dated a beautiful, wonderful girl that was everything to him. He had asked her to marry him. She had said yes. He had been on top of the world.

Galandar had done all the great things there were to do, gone on all the great adventures there were to go on. He had journeyed deep into the Ragnack mountains, slain the Greegian Rock Wyrm, found and wielded the Adamant Hammer of Meniphis. He had tamed the wild Drakes and taken one for his mount. He had fought in the great battle of Oximit along with scores of his fellow adventurers to fend off the Goblin hordes. He had fought in every city coliseum from Foreilen to Muscar and everywhere in between and been champion of them all. He had reached the level cap. He was like a god.

Maxwell had not seen his parents in over five months. They thought he was still in Big River City as a college student; they were wrong. He had lost his fiancee to another man; she had said he was smothering her. He had had no idea what to do without her. He had met new friends: Jim Beam, Jack Daniels, Jose Cuervo and had became completely immersed in their relationship, just has he had done with her. He had lost his scholarship. He had failed his exams that semester, and not come back for his final year. He had purchased a computer and a copy of Knights of Ameroz and created a warrior named Galandar. He was a god.

Galandar stood alone on the top of a hill, overlooking the deep, evil forest of Azenia where the corrupted Treevils dwelled. His glinting Sword of Razure’s Wrath was held in one hand, his glistening ebony shield of Gantz’s Protect in the other. He was resplendent in the complete set of Ascendant Armorage, a set few others possessed. He flexed and stretched idly as he stood there, waiting for the command to go forward and restore order and goodness to the forest below. He had stood there for nearly 29 hours.

Maxwell Gross lay slumped facedown on his desk, inches away from his glowing monitor. Scattered around him on the desk and the floor were empty cans of beer and bottles of liquor. Next to him on a coaster was a glass of what had once been whiskey on the rocks, but was now just whiskey dissolved in water. He had passed out after 6 days of nothing but booze and the adventures of Galandar the White. He had lain there for almost 29 hours. He had only been alive for the first three.

Two days later when his roommate would get back from Thanksgiving break and find him and call for an ambulance, Maxwell’s noble avatar would still be standing there, facing away from his collapsed creator, eyes fixed on a glowing, pixelated horizon that faded away into gray indeterminate mist, powerless to lift a finger to help the fallen god that had breathed life into him.

D. A. Heiserman writes in Marshalltown, Iowa.

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