In the process of developing my world, I invented a lot of characters. Many of them are characters with actual roles in the present story, and many of them are historical characters that, although they don’t specifically appear in the novel, played crucial roles in the world’s history. Most of them I made up as I went. One of them was inspired by a four-legged friend (who, due to his wish to prevent large crowds from descending upon his domain for autographs, wishes to remain anonymous). All of them were invented as I developed this writing project except for one: the protagonist.
His name is Yolken, and his history transcends the world in which he currently exists. The tale of his origin is a tale worthy of telling. It began more than twenty years ago with a thick-rimmed, eyeglass wearing adolescent in a small town situated in the middle of a high desert and surrounded by a sea of sage brush.
So, grab a glass/mug/stein/cup of your favorite beverage, a small snack, your favorite electronic device, and settle in for the brief telling of Yolken’s epic beginning.
Please note that what ensues is meant only to be a dramatized recreation of actual events. It’s accuracy is subject to the mediocre memory of the raconteur.
It was a typical Saturday morning that began with network cartoons, “After these messages, we’ll be right back!” sung during every commercial break, and a bowl of cereal sans milk.
After the cartoons were over and my breakfast eaten, I cut across our front yard lawn kept green in the arid climate by an automatic sprinkler system to the sidewalk. I walked to the end of the block, crossed the asphalt parking lot, and joined a couple of friends at the small town high school.
I pulled open the heavy doors and stepped into the unfamiliar hallway. Then, I opened the first door on the left and entered a room filled with the gentle humming of two dozen computer fans. A few people–big scary high schoolers–were already sitting in front of the large, cubed-shaped monitors, clicking away on rectangular keyboards.
I sat down in front of one of the computers and connected it to the NovaNET. While it’s modem squealed loudly, I thought about what kind of character I wanted and what I was going to name. After the modem successfully connected me to the outside world, I logged into Avatar for the first time.
I followed the prompts on the monochrome screen and created my character. I chose to be a warrior, and I named him Yolken. After establishing his initial attributes–such as strength, wisdom, charisma, and dexterity–I set off with my level one warrior to explore the dungeon lurking below.
Using the one inch by one inch view-finder, I learned to navigate the hallways defined by trapezoid walls and slowly memorized my way through each level. Yolken gained experience points with each monster he killed. After gaining enough, he returned to the city above and leveled up. Every time he gained a level, his attributes improved and he became stronger. As his strength increased, he ventured deeper and deeper into the dungeon and fought stronger and stronger monsters.
As the weeks passed, Yolken gained many levels. He joined parties that combined their strengths and traveled deep into the dungeon together where he faced monsters he wasn’t strong enough to fight himself. By participating in parties, he gained experience and leveled up faster than he otherwise could alone.
Traveling deep into the dungeon and back up becomes more and more time consuming the deeper you go, so parties typically had a wizard with the ability to teleport the party deep into the dungeon rather than navigating it level by level. It saved time. A lot of time. Teleporting, however, did not come without risk. The possibility existed for a wizard to accidentally teleport your party into a rock. As you can imagine, finding yourself stuck in the middle of a rock is not good. In fact, it completely devastates your character.
As a level three-hundred warrior, Yolken had become a formidable warrior. The once fierce monsters of the first several levels were now nothing more than annoying gnats. Teleporting was now a necessity. However, as a warrior, he couldn’t do it himself. With the ever present drive to gain the requisite experience for the next level, I relied on others to take Yolken deep into the dungeon to the monsters he needed to face.
Then, one day, another player asked if Yolken could take part in their party in my absence. I agreed, thinking it would be free experience for Yolken. Unbeknownst to me, this seemingly innocuous decision would change everything.
I don’t remember there being anything remarkable about the next time I went in. It probably started the same as it always did–early morning cartoons with memorable jingles during every commercial break, dry cereal, and the excitement of spending the morning vanquishing evil monsters. However, when I sat down in front of the monochrome screen and logged in, I immediately knew things were not as they should be.
Rather than venturing off for another day of monster slaying, I stared at the screen in shock. Yolken’s attributes were a fraction of what they once were. I thought to myself, What happened? But I already knew the answer. Yolken had been teleported into a rock. Rocked. Everything I had spent countless Saturday mornings working for was gone. Yolken, for all intents and purposes, was back to square one.
I stared at the screen, unable to imagine myself doing it all over again, starting over at square one. I don’t remember if I actually played that day, or if I simply logged out and left. What I do remember, however, is that I walked away from my fallen warrior, left him bleeding in the back alley of an unnamed medieval city, and never played Avatar again.
I know not what became of Yolken, but for the next twenty years, I carried with me the memory of a once great warrior.
I’ve wanted to write for a long time–I have documentation of trying dating back fifteen years–and each time I attempted to plot a story Yolken was in the forefront of my mind. As mediocre as my memory is, I couldn’t forget him. I yearned to give him life anew. Then, when I started my current writing project–the only project to actually get off the ground–his reincarnation was complete. From my project’s very inception, before I even really knew what the story was about, I knew Yolken was my hero.