Emberhearth: A Reader Influenced Litrpg Adventure

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Chapter 2 - A Stranger From a Different Land

Alex Greylock chewed on the rubbery end of his kneaded drawing eraser, fruitlessly attempting to string his jumbled mess of creative ideas together. He only had one chance to create a perfect sketch, a single shot to make a name for himself. Come on Alex, think. Think, you idiot.

 “Uaaaaaaaahhhh, why is this so hard?” He collapsed onto his bed with a dramatic moan. He needed help, and whenever he needed something, there was only one person he could count on. “Roderick, I need you!" He cried. 

Like a storm, Roderick thundered over from the other side of the room. Though they were born a decade apart, Roderick sometimes felt like the older sibling. Alex was that pathetic. He was a 24-year-old shut-in, with no work experience, no girlfriend, and no life. He spent his days drawing fantasy characters, watching Netflix and drinking energy drinks. It was quite sad.

“Give me your pencil,” Roderick growled, before angrily swiping the drawing instrument from his brother's hand. Alex lowered his head while his brother laid into him, “I don’t mind helping you," he said, "but seriously? This shouldn’t be that hard. Our last name is Greylock for crying out loud. It doesn’t get any more fantasy sounding then that”. In a few motions, he sketched an image, shoved it into his brother’s hand, and retreated to the other side of the room.

“Thanks, buddy,” Alex sighed in relief.

His little brother had a talent for getting him back on the right track. Unlike Alex, who drew with sharp lines and bold colors, Roderick was a manga artist. Well, not really, but he fancied himself as one. His drawings were cute, cuddly, and out of this world. The ladies loved them, and so did Alex for his own reasons. Roderick’s art was completely different from his own, and it often inspired him to go down new paths that he typically would never have considered otherwise. Using his brother’s artwork as inspiration, he might even have a shot of winning the online competition he was entering.

The contest, which was sponsored by a well-known publishing company, wanted artists to submit an original drawing of a fantasy creature based on their last name. For Alex, that name was Greylock. He had hated it his entire life, but he had to admit that it did sound pretty fantastical.

Okay, Roddy, let’s see what you drew. A smiling little monster with a staff and a cape stared back at him. Its goofy anime-style eyes were a bit distracting, but Alex appreciated many aspects of his brother’s creation. It was a clever play on a warlock, a creature that matched up well with the Greylock family name.

Inspired, Alex twirled his pencil around before dramatically bringing it towards his sketchbook, prepared to make a - “Empty! Oh no, my sketchbook is empty!”

“Alex!” A ferocious roar smacked him across his face, “I’m trying to do my homework! Stop annoying me.”

“Eeeeek,” with his tail tucked between his legs, Alex made a hasty exit. He was out of paper, and his brother was out of patience with his antics. Though their family had no shortage of spare rooms, Alex liked sharing a space with his brother. They were actually close friends despite their differences in age and disposition. Sometimes, however, Alex’s naïve and bubbly personality could get Roderick riled up. Whenever that happened, Alex had learned to just walk away. After all, there were no shortages of places for him to go in the Greylock family manor.

Being born into wealth and privilege is a lot different than most people imagine it. In Alex’s case, it didn’t turn him into an arrogant ass as you might suspect, but it did have an impact on his upbringing.

Alex’s parents were decent people at heart, but they were horribly materialistic. Alex’s dad was old money, the heir of South Florida's wealthiest real estate magnate, while his mom was an MIT educated computer engineer working for NASA. His whole life, Alex had gotten exactly what he wanted. His parents had bought him every gadget, every game, and every instrument that he had asked for. As a result, Alex was hardly equipped for the challenges of living on his own.

Even now, Alex was struggling. With his parents out at a dinner party, and having no driver’s license to go anywhere, he was in a pickle. The contest deadline was mere hours away, and he was paperless.

What am I going to do? He walked around the house, desperately seeking out some sketch paper. First, he checked the mailroom, but that was a bust. Next, he ruffled through his brother’s backpack, but there was nothing in there except a math textbook and a calculator. Finally, he tried his dad’s study.

The senior Greylock's personal study was not a very practical place. Fancy statues, cigar boxes, and model ships dominated the room. Only a single shelf was actually devoted to books, and most of those were old family heirlooms.

“I’m screwed.” He sulked. “What am I going to do?”

THUMP.

Alex jumped. A book had fallen off his father’s shelf, and not just any book either. “A sketchbook!”

Alex could hardly believe his eyes. As if it fell from heaven itself, the one item that he had needed most had landed at his feet. "What a stroke of luck," he proclaimed aloud as he plucked it off the floor. 

The book was old, but its paper was in remarkably good condition. It hadn’t yellowed at all, and it seemed unusually sturdy. There were no drawings on its pages, but there were three small paragraphs on the opening page. The first two paragraphs were written in faded English, while the last paragraph was written in an entirely alien language altogether. Alex struggled to understand the meaning behind the slightly dark passages.



G. Carleton

Edited: 25.07.2019

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