Hello lovelies! Today I have an excerpt from Pixeldust by T.K. Arispe as part of the blog tour organised by Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources. First a little about the book:
Title: Pixeldust by T. K. Arispe
Date Published: 20th July 2020
Genre: NA Urban science fantasy
Maria Elena thought she’d sworn off gaming forever. But she hates her new internship, so her brother Balt convinces her to play Heroes of Avonell, a cutting-edge virtual-reality video game with such complex programming that it’s like the non-player characters are self-aware.
Disappointed with the usual cliché job class offerings, Maria Elena’s character Quinny stumbles through a glitch in the game and ends up in Caed Dhraos, a strange city populated with friendly monsters. Quinny decides to work for the resident dark lord as part of his magic personnel, but she can’t tell anybody she’s playing in off-limits areas of the game—not even Balt. Soon Quinny finds herself getting to the bottom of a mystery surrounding an ancient demon and why Caed Dhraos is suffering from the Blight.
But the artificial intelligences in the game really are self-aware, and some of Avonell’s so-called “heroes” have decided they don’t like humanity very much. The game has gone out of control, and Maria Elena and her new friends have to find a way to set things right. Can she save Avonell – and Earth – while juggling her real job and trying to salvage her crumbling relationship with her brother?
Pixeldust is a dive into a fantastical, fun virtual world where the universe may be made of data, but the dangers, friendships, magic, and lessons learned are very real.
You can buy your copy here:
Intro: In the MMO Heroes of Avonell, Maria Elena’s player character Quinny has just taken a job working as a lucent mage under the mysterious Lord Zaragoz, in an area of the game Quinny isn’t sure she’s supposed to be in. When Zaragoz’s fortress staff discovers Quinny has pixiedust, she finds out what pixiedust is used for in the dismal city of Caed Dhraos.
As they walked through dimly-lit corridors and down several flights of stairs, the architecture looking much more primitive than the rest of the fortress, Quinny felt an odd sense of foreboding fall over her. She shuddered and had to remind herself that this was just a game and she wasn’t in any real danger. Still, something felt off, in a bad way, and it set her on edge.
“What is this place?” she asked, and the darkness seemed to choke her words as they hit the air.
“The oldest part of the fortress,” Zaragoz said. “Most of what you’ve seen so far, my subjects and I built up after we found this place. It was once just an abandoned ruin. We never did find out who had lived here before.”
Finally they reached a corridor that dead-ended at a wall with a faded mural painted on it. As Quinny approached, she inspected the ancient pigmentation, trying to figure out what she was looking at and why it filled her with such terror, like a nightmare. It appeared to be a painting of a black mass with shadowy tendrils that curled out to fill all the space on the wall. In the middle of the mass sat a gaping round maw ringed with sharp teeth.
Zaragoz stood in front of the mural and held up the dust vessel. “Shargothi!” he said. “I bring you pixiedust!”
The mural pulsed with power, and Quinny’s feelings of dread heightened. It was almost enough to make her want to log off of the game, and she wondered why a video game would make her feel so unsettled. It wasn’t real, after all. So why did it suddenly feel so real?
Black mist began to leach from the wall. It was subtle and weak, and seemed to strain as if trying to get more of itself out. A sound like thousands of whispers filled the air, and Quinny found she didn’t want to hear what they were saying.
Two vaporous tendrils latched on to the dust vessel. The top of the vial started to glow, and the sparkling pixiedust coursed out of the vessel and through the tendrils, into the wall. A noise like a satisfied sigh filled the heavy air, and then the black mist withdrew and the wall fell dormant.
“Shargothi thanks you,” Zaragoz said as he gave Quinny back her dust vessel.
The dwarf fastened it to her belt with trembling hands, wondering why she felt ill all of a sudden. “Wh-what was that?” she asked.
“The demon Shargothi,” Rin said. She tried to sound nonchalant, but she shifted her weight as her tufted tail swished nervously.
“Don’t let Shargothi frighten you,” Zaragoz said as they walked back to the lift. “She is benevolent. Someone sealed her away down here long ages ago. When my subjects and I found these ruins and decided to call them home, I discovered Shargothi. I needed her help to build Caed Dhraos back up into a suitable kingdom, but she could not utilize her full power in her weakened state, and required nearly all of our pixiedust to aid us.”
“Is that why you don’t have any pixiedust?” Quinny asked as they boarded the lift again.
“Not quite,” Zaragoz said. “Pixies used to live here in abundance. But when we’d gotten Caed Dhraos up and running, the land began to wither and die. All of the pixies left. We called it the Blight, and none of our magic or engineering could cure it. In fact, lately it’s been getting worse and those chaos beasts have been cropping up.”
“I’m sorry,” Quinny said. “I wish I could do something to help.”
The dark lord looked down at her in surprise, and then he smiled. “It’ll be all right,” he said. “Shargothi told me that she can cure the land. But she’ll need much more pixiedust to do so. So I thank you for your donation.”
About The Author:
T. K. Arispe is an illustrator, gamer, and unashamed nerd with a background in animation and webcomic production, including the webcomic Trainer Wants to Fight! which somehow got its own page on TVTropes. She loves interesting stories, well-crafted worlds, and memorable characters, and is passionate about creating quality, intelligent, slightly offbeat media that everyone can enjoy. Most of her story ideas come from random research binges, usually in the fields of theoretical physics, computer science, or oddly enough food history. She lives in California, where she enjoys not having to deal with snow because it is terrifying.
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