Copyright 2005

Josiah Lebowitz



Realm of Monsters

The Novel
By Josiah Lebowitz

Original Story and RP by Josiah, Shauni, Jeff, Silver, David, and Felix


































To Shauni, Jeff, Silver, and David.

Thanks for helping make ROM such a great RP.






  Realm of Monsters, or ROM as it is most often called, started out as a role play on the forums of my website, on July 23, 2004.  The original ROM was started by a member often called Felix although he left early on and the RP almost died.  Despite a very basic premise and a rather rocky start, the RP’s remaining characters: Shauni, Jeff, Silver, David, and myself (Josiah) were able to turn ROM into a very fun and successful RP. 

  To date we have finished not only the first ROM RP but two sequels as well with a third (ROM 4) in progress.  Since there is no single person leading the RPs, you never can be sure what is going to happen next.  Amazingly enough, the story has actually turned out quite nicely.  Nicely enough that some of us have considered taking things a step further. 

  Some of you may be familiar with Shauni’s ROM comic (which can be found on Pebble Version).  It’s certainly a good comic but the events and details have changed considerably from the original RP.  And that’s cool.  Shauni seems to have a very interesting version of the story planned.

  For this book though, I plan to stick much closer to the source material.  Not that things will be exactly the same.  There are a lot of details that need to be added to change ROM from an internet RP into a full fledged novel and I will be changing things here and there to improve the flow and continuity.  But it’s my goal for this novel to reflect the original spirit and story of the RP.  In closing, I’d just like to say that I hope you enjoy reading about our adventures in the world of ROM as much as we enjoyed writing them.





  A girl sat in the center of a tangled mass of wires and strange looking circuit boards.  She had spent over a year working on the equipment, most of which she’d been forced to invent herself.  The lack of advanced technology was one of the things she hated about the world where she made her home.  But, at long last, her project was complete.  Now for the real test.  “Yes,” she reached forward and pressed a series of buttons, “it’s finally time.  Come to me!”




  “Yeah!” Josiah burst through the door and charged up the stairs.  “I got it!  I finally got it!”  Having trouble containing his excitement, he skidded to a halt in his room and quickly turned on his Playstation 2.  He fidgeted impatiently as he waited for the disc tray to open then placed his new game inside.  While it was loading, he glanced over to make sure that the network adaptor was plugged in.  It wasn’t an accessory he used often but, for this game, he was going to need it.

  Turning back to the TV, he glanced at the screen and groaned.  “Come on, it should have loaded by now.” he reset the system and tried again but to no avail.  “Stupid PS2…  Why does is have to stop working tod…” he trailed off as the screen began to flash.  “What the?!?  Argh!!!” without warning Josiah found himself being pulled into the screen.  He screamed as he hurtled into a swirling void but then everything went black.




  The sounds of birdcalls filled the forest, echoing through the ancient trees.  Light filtered down between the leaves, illuminating the leaf strewn ground.  A young man lay on the ground, his jeans and thin denim jacket standing out against the green of the grass and the brown of the fallen leaves.

  “Ugh…” Josiah slowly opened his eyes and looked around.  “What the heck?”



Chapter 1

Getting Acquainted


  One of the first things Josiah noticed was the young boy sitting nearby.  Judging by the way his wide blue eyes darted around, he had just woken up as well.  He was clad in black shorts and a dull red shirt and appeared to be no older than eleven or twelve.  His hair was also a dull red, short, and a bit unkempt, like he didn’t spend too much time combing it.

  Unsure what to do, Josiah ran a hand through his own medium length black hair.  After a moment he decided that since he, at nineteen, was clearly the older of the two, he should take charge.  “Uh hi?” making conversation with strangers was not one of his strong points.  “Were you trying to play a video game before you ended up here?”  The youth nodded.  “Me too.  I’m Josiah.  What’s your name?”

  “Felix.” the boy muttered despondently.

  “I see you got sucked in as well.” another young man, looking to be somewhere around Josiah’s age, if not a little older, stepped into the clearing where Josiah and Felix sat.  “I’m Jeff.” Jeff looked like he had just stepped out of an old martial arts movie.  He wore what resembled a karate outfit only with a weird color scheme, gray pants, green shirt, and a purple undershirt.  A deep purple headband, which was wrapped around his shaved head, completed the set.  He had a very serious look about him, one that didn’t show any sign of changing.

  “Hmm, that’s the last time I buy games made by Suck-You-In-Software.” Josiah tried, without success, to lighten the mood.

  “Kurboh!!!” all three jumped at the cry and turned to see a brown furball with green hands and feet and large black eyes floating towards Felix.

  “What the heck is that?” Josiah slowly moved closer, wanting to get a better look at the strange creature.

  “Oh, there are more of them?” a small bluish monster that looked like nothing more than a really large drop of water emerged from behind Jeff’s leg.  “I found this little guy a couple minutes ago.  All he says is bibble, bibble.”

  Felix, meanwhile, cautiously rose then noticed something sitting on the grass next to his foot.  “Some sort of cards?” he picked up a small stack of blank cards with yellow fronts and brownish/red backs.  Felix held them up for the others to see but accidentally dropped one.  A light gust of wind caught the card and sent in flying right into the brown ball creature.  There was a flash and the monster vanished as the card fell to the ground.  Felix quickly ran to retrieve it.  “What did it do to  Cool!” his eyes lit up for the first time.

  Curious, Josiah and Jeff moved over to look at the card.  The word Kurboh was now printed in golden letters across the top.  Below was a picture of the creature itself, looking much like it had before the card had hit it.  Below the picture was a large block of text, which Felix was eagerly reading.

  “It says it’s a fire type!” Felix’s eyes moved to the bottom of the card.  “What’s this?  Fire is stronger than water, water is stronger than ground, ground is stronger than electric, electric is stronger than ice, ice is stronger than light, light is stronger than dark, dark is stronger than fire.”

  “An element chart?” Josiah frowned, doing some quick thinking.  “This is starting to sound like Pokémon.  But wait, why would fire be stronger than water?  That goes against just about every RPG I can think of.”

  “Hmm…  I was wondering what these were for.” Jeff pulled a stack of cards out of his pocket that were identical to the ones that Felix had found.  “Bibble sounds like bubble so I guess mine would be water then, huh?” he concluded as he dropped a card onto the monster which was still standing right next to him.  The creature promptly vanished.  “Yep.” Jeff skimmed the text on the card.  “Done and done.”

  “Hey, what’s that?” Josiah saw something moving in the distance and ran to investigate.  Arriving at the spot, he nearly tripped over another strange creature.  This one looked exactly like a ordinary kitten, except for the spiky neon yellow fur.  A stack of cards sat patiently next to the cat, who looked up at Josiah and mewed expectantly.  “Looks like I get a monster too.” Josiah grinned and promptly dropped one of the cards onto his new pet.  “Check it out!” he called as he returned to the clearing where Jeff and Felix were waiting, his prize held high.  “Its name is Sparkz and it’s an electric type!”

  “Look out!” Jeff suddenly jumped back, nearly knocking over a startled Josiah in the process.  “It looks like we’ve got company.”

  “Hi!” a boy in jeans and a gray shirt strolled into the clearing and looked at the others, who were holding cards and staring at him strangely.  “Did I miss something?”

  “Yep…” Felix nodded, not quite sure what else to say and annoyed that the new person, although far younger than Josiah and Jeff, still looked older than he did.

  Josiah and Jeff shrugged then began filling the newcomer, who had also been sucked into a game, in on what had happened.  But, since not much of anything had happened yet, it was a pretty short briefing.

  The boy listened quietly until they were finished then leaned back and promptly fell to the ground.  Shaking his head he looked around for the tree he had meant to lean on and saw that it was actually three feet to the left.  “Oops…” he grinned self-consciously and brushed a leaf out of his brown hair.  “Anyway, I’m Silver.  Pleased to meet you!”

  “So, what are we supposed to do now?” Josiah frowned and looked around.  He was having trouble believing that this entire thing wasn’t just some crazy dream brought on by too many video games.

“Well,” Jeff took charge, “we won’t accomplish anything standing out here.  I say we look for civilization.” he picked a direction at random and marched off, leaving the others little choice but to follow him into the depths of the forest.



Chapter 2

Welcome to Orca


  The group had only been walking for a couple minutes when Jeff came to a sudden halt.  “Hey, what’s the hold up?” Silver pushed past Jeff then stopped as well.

A girl stood nearby, green eyes wide with shock behind her glasses.  “Who…Who are you?”

Jeff seemed to be a bit tongue tied so Josiah was the one who answered.  “We’re gamers.  I guess you got sucked into this world too, huh?”

“Sucked in?” the teenage girl cautiously moved closer to the group.  “What do you mean?  I’ve been living in this forest my entire life.”  Her gaze moved slowly over the others as the light shining through the trees played off her fiery red hair.

“Maybe she’s a NPC.” Silver quipped, half joking, half serious.

“A what?” the girl gave him an odd look.  “I’ve never heard of these NPCs.  My name is Yomikko and I’m from Onett Village.” she paused to tug at her oddly cut tan coat, a reflexive reaction from the looks of it.  “Wait…  Did you say you were gamers?”

“Yeah, why?” Jeff finally found his voice.

“You must come with me!” her voice took on an excited pitch.  “Hurry!  I must take you to see Shauni.”

“Wait a second.” Jeff looked rather apprehensive about following Yomikko further into the forest.  “Who is this Shauni and why should we go to see her?”

“Shauni came to our village over a year ago.” Yomikko was shifting from one foot to the other, eager to be off.  “She says she’s a gamer too.  She’s been waiting so long for more gamers to come and join her.”

“Well guys?” Jeff looked at the others.

“It’s not like we have anything better to do.  We should at least see what this Shauni has to say.” Josiah replied, still struck with how similar this seemed to some of his favorite monster catching games.

“I’m all for it!  Enough standing around here, let’s move!” the odd world didn’t seem to bother Silver one bit.

Felix merely shrugged.

“Ok, we’ll follow you.”  Before Jeff could finish speaking Yomikko was off, with the others rushing to keep up.

Before they had gone far, Silver tripped on an exposed root and fell flat on his face.  “Stupid trees.” he muttered.  “Always putting your roots right where I want to step…” he stopped and noticed something lying near his hand.  “Ooh!  My own cards!” he grabbed them and scrambled to his feet.  “Now, shouldn’t I have a monster too?”  A sudden motion in the grass drew everyone’s attention and a moment later a small brown snake with a vibrant orange underbelly began slithering around Silver’s foot.  “Oh, there it is!” continuing to take everything in stride, Silver picked up the snake.

“Tashi!” the snake hissed loudly and blew a small flame right into Silver’s face.

“Ack!” Silver dropped the snake and hurriedly trapped it in a card.  “Ok…” he bent to retrieve the card.  “It says its name is Tashi and that it’s a fire type.  Big surprise there.”


After about ten minutes of steady walking, the gamers arrived at the village that Yomikko had called Onett.  It was a small place, with only about a dozen buildings, and had a definite fantasy look to it.  Although some of the guys wanted to take a better look around, Yomikko promptly herded them into the nearest building.

The sight that met them inside was not what any had expected.  “Holy fudge crackers!!!” Silver gaped at the massive piles of electrical equipment covering the walls and floor.  Although some of it looked a bit odd, it was definitely a computer.

“Oh!” another girl jumped up from her chair, clearly startled.  “Who…” suddenly she began to smile widely, her blue eyes shining.  “Yes!!!  It worked!  It worked!!!”  To everyone’s surprise, she began to dance around the room.

“Um, Shauni?  Are you ok?” Yomikko was as taken aback by her friend’s behavior as everyone else.

“Oh, sorry, sorry…” Shauni stopped dancing but was still grinning.  “Welcome gamers!  I’m Shauni and I’ve been waiting for you!”

“Wait, so you’re a gamer too?” Jeff had frozen up once more and was staring vacantly at Shauni, leaving Josiah to do the talking. 

“What do you mean you’ve been waiting for us?”

“Yeah!  Let’s get some plot development!” Silver moved closer, eager to hear Shauni’s reply.  Felix, on the other hand, stayed back and remained silent.

“Oh, where to begin…” Shauni paused to gather her thoughts, allowing the others to get their first good look at her.  With an average height and build, Shauni appeared to be around the same age as Josiah and Jeff, maybe a little younger.  Her hair, a deep brown, was a little on the scraggly side and held back by two small red balls, once above each ear.  Her clothing, a purple shirt and blue pants, although different in style from Yomikko’s, looked like they came from Onett instead of from Earth.

“Ok, he it goes.” Shauni began to speak once more.  “This is the world of Orca.  I’m a gamer from Earth like you guys.  More importantly, I’m also a hacker.  A little over a year ago I was messing with some stuff on the internet and I somehow got pulled in here.  Unfortunately, although I’ve been able to learn a lot about this place, I haven’t been able to get back home on my own.  So I built this computer and used it to pull you guys here to help me.”

“What the ****?” Jeff finally stopped staring at Shauni.

“Wait…” Josiah was unsure how to react.  “You brought us here?  How?  Why us?”

“The how part is pretty technical.  As for the why, I spent a while searching on the internet once I got my computer here working.  I got your names from the forums on a website called Pebble Version.  You are Josiah, Jeff, Silver, and Felix, right?  I learned enough to tell that the four of you are master Pokémon players.  That’s why I chose you.”

“Master of Pokémon, Monster Rancher, and Neopets, that’s me!” Silver interrupted.  “But what’s that got to do with anything?”

“Well…  You might have noticed that when Jeff swore a moment ago the words were bleeped out.  You see, this world isn’t real.”

“What?!?” the four guys gasped at the same time.  Yomikko, who was used to Shauni’s strange talk, remained silent.

“In a nutshell we’re inside a computer game called Realm of Monsters.  Since it’s an E rated game, there are certain things that can’t happen here.  Swearing is one of them, dieing is another.”

“Wait,” this time it was Felix who spoke, “so you pulled us into this game world without our permission so we could help you get out?”

“Pretty much.”

“Great, just great…”

“Sounds good to me!  I’d be glad to help!  I mean, how many people get a chance to do something like this?” Silver’s gung-ho attitude showed no signs of disappearing.

“I’d be glad to help you in any way I can.” Jeff replied gallantly.

“Looks like we don’t have much choice.” Josiah took a more practical approach.  “So, tell us about this world.”

“Well,” Shauni began, “the game is pretty much a rip off of Pokémon.  As you probably already learned, players get cards and can capture monsters in those cards.  However, you’re limited to a total of ten cards per person.  Like in Pokémon, there are lots of wild monsters and plenty of monster trainers.  You can capture wild monsters by weakening them and then trapping them in one of your empty cards.”

“Yeah, that sounds pretty generic.” Josiah nodded slowly.  “So what’s the plot?”

Shauni looked puzzled.  “The plot?  Um, I’m not really sure…  This might just be one of those open ended games.”

“I hope not.” Josiah was thinking back over his vast collection of games.  “If there’s no plot than there’s no ending.  And, unless you’ve got another fancy hacking trick, the only thing I can think of that might get us out of here is to beat the game and reach the ending.”

“A game without a plot?  There has to be a plot...  There's no point to the game if there's no plot, no wonder I've never heard of this game.  And in all the movies that were anything like this, you get out of the game by beating the game, and if there's no plot, you can't beat it.” Silver rambled on, which only served to make him more confused.  “Uh... My brain hurts. They did have one game with no plot, I think it was Animal Crossing or something, though...”

“No ending…” Shauni gulped.  This was the first time she had considered such a possibility.

“Say this is like Pokémon.” Josiah continued, ignoring Silver’s rantings.  “In Pokémon you can keep playing even after you beat the game.  What happens if this game is like that?”

“But…  But…  But then I’ll never get home!!!” tears appeared in Shauni’s eyes.

“Don’t worry, there has to be some way.” Jeff hurried to comfort her.  “I’m sure there’s some bad guy or something that,”

“Wait!” Shauni’s eyes lit up once more.  “That’s it!  There’s this really powerful villain named Moen who has an army of evil monsters and trainers.  Maybe defeating him is the plot.”

“Sounds like a plan then.” Josiah sounded determined.  “Let’s get stronger and defeat him so we can get out of here.”

Just then, a loud crash echoed throughout the village.  Yomikko was out the door in an instant, leaving the others to wonder what was going on.  Fortunately, she returned only moments later.

“Shauni, hurry!” her voice was panicked.  “Moen Spirits are attacking the village!”

“Moen Spirits?” Jeff asked.

“Come on, I’ll explain later!” Shauni pushed past the others and headed for the door.  “Right now, I think it’s time for your first combat lesson.”



Chapter 3



  No sooner had the group left the building then they found themselves face to face with a real live orc.  Tall and muscular, with green skin and long tusks, it looked like something right out a million fantasy games.

  “Stand back!” Shauni stepped forward.  “This is a Moen Spirit, they’re monsters corrupted by Moen’s dark magic.  Watch what I do.” reaching into her pocket, she removed a card and held it up.  “Here we go!  Omega, I summon you!”  A stream of water shot into the air then vanished, revealing a long serpentine dragon, like the kind often seen in oriental art.  It floated several feet above the ground and faced the orc as water dripped down its pale blue scales.  “Omega, use Water Blast!” Shauni ordered.  The dragon immediately complied, opening its mouth and shooting a large stream of water into the chest of the orc, which staggered back from the force of the blow.

  “Now Orcs usually aren’t very strong monsters.” she spoke as though this was something that happened every day.  “So it’s probably weak enough to capture now.”  Shauni removed a blank card from her pocket and threw it at the Orc, when the two touched there was a flash and then the monster was gone.  “There we go.” she held up the card, which now had a picture of the Orc.  “You guys probably won’t have quite as easy a time of it since you’ve just gotten your monsters but it doesn’t look like any of the attacking Moen Spirits are very strong so why don’t you try fighting some of them off?”

  “Ok, let’s give it a try!” Josiah, Silver, and Jeff were looking rather excited, Felix not so much.

  “Oh, one more thing first.” Shauni called before they could run off.  “Like in Pokémon, your monsters will get stronger and learn new attacks as they win battles.”

  “Got it!” Josiah replied as he and the others ran off in separate directions.

  Silver was the first one to encounter a Moen Spirit, nearly tripping over the monster before he saw it.  “Whoa, a green cat!” he stopped to take a closer look.  The monster did indeed look like a cat but instead of fur it was covered with thick green grass with leaves for ears and a vine in place of a tail.

  “Ok Tashi,” Silver summoned his snake monster.  “Use one of those fire attack thingies…”

  “Tashi…” the snake hissed as it turned around and promptly blew a puff of flame into Silver’s face.

  “No!” Silver took a few steps back.  “Attack that cat thing!” he frowned as Tashi just sat there.  “Uh, if this is a Pokémon rip off than maybe your attack is called Ember?”  This time Tashi sent its fire flying at the cat monster, which began to yowl as the flames touched it.  “Ok, it looks weak enough now.” Silver threw a blank card, capturing the monster.  “Kojou, a light type huh?” he surveyed his new prize.  After staring at the card for a few moments, he went off to see how the others were doing.

  The first person he saw was Jeff, who was in the midst of a battle of his own.  “Bibble, use Droplets!” he threw a blank card right after the attack.

  “Ooh, cool!  Let me see!” Silver was there in an instant, trying to get a look over Jeff’s shoulder, a rather difficult thing to do considering how much shorter he was.

  “Here, look all you want.” Jeff held out the card.  “It’s an Ice type named Yuki.”

  “Hey guys, did you catch new monsters too?” Josiah arrived a moment later, holding a card that showed a black bird about the size of a small hawk with glowing wings.  “Look what I got!  Name is Shade Wing and it’s a dark type.”

  Before long Shauni showed up as well.  “Are you all ok?  Did you catch some monsters?” the others nodded and showed her their cards.  “Great!  The rest of the Moen Spirits ran off so this would be a good time to show you guys the shrine.”

  “Shrine?” Josiah asked curiously as they began to walk towards the edge of the town.

  “Shrines are buildings with mystical powers.” Shauni replied.  “You can heal your monsters at shrines.  Also, you can purify monsters that have been corrupted by dark powers, like those Moen Spirits you caught.  You won’t be able to control them until they’ve been purified.  And here we are!”

  The shrine was a medium size structure made entirely of stone.  Intricate carvings covered the ancient walls but the shapes were lost behind a tangle of vines and moss.  The inside was empty except for a single large pedestal standing in the exact center.

  “It’s really simple.” Shauni was talking again.  “All you have to do it put your cards here like this.” she placed her cards on the pedestal and they were immediately surrounded by a golden light which glowed brightly for several seconds then faded away.  “And that’s it.  Now you try.”  Following her example, Josiah, Silver, and Jeff healed and purified their monsters.

  “Hey,” Josiah frowned, “where’s Felix?”

  “Oh…” Shauni glanced around.  “He must still be in the village.  I’ll go find him, why don’t you three look around Onett a bit.  Some of the villagers might be willing to battle you and if you’re lucky you might spot some wild monsters around the outskirts.  Just make sure you don’t go into the forest.  It’s dangerous in there if you’re not prepared.”


  While Josiah and Jeff wondered around Onett, talking to the townspeople and trying to learn a bit more about the world they had been brought to, Silver had wondered off on his own.  “Look, look!” he came running up to Josiah about fifteen minutes later.  “I caught an Ommie!”  Josiah studied the card, not that he had much choice since Silver had shoved it in his face.  It was a water monster that looked something like a really small blue hippo.

  “Looks cool.” Josiah replied as Silver put away the card.  “Hey, you want to battle?”

  “Do I?  Do I!?!  Uh, sure why not?”

  “But you can only use two monsters, since that’s all I have.” Josiah quickly added as he held up his cards.

  “Ok, go Tashi!” the snake monster, which had been sitting on Silver’s head the entire time, slithered down onto the ground and faced Josiah.

  “If you’re starting with Tashi then I’d better use Shade Wing.” Josiah’s new monster came out of its card.  Black as the sky on a moonless night, it flapped its wings slowly and gazed down at Tashi.  “Shade Wing, try Shadow Bind!

  “Tashi use Ember!” Silver countered but, before he’d finished speaking, Shade Wing created some sort of black mist, which fell on top of the startled snake, freezing it in place.  “A paralyze status?” Silver moaned.  “Oh man…”

  “So that’s what that move does.” Josiah was grinning.  “Good job Shade Wing!  Now hit it with Claw Rake.”  The bird complied.  Letting out a screech, it dove down and struck Tashi with its claws.  “It’s still paralyzed, keep hitting it!” Josiah called and, a few moments later, Tashi collapsed and returned to its card in a flash of light.

  “I’m not gonna lose that easily!” Silver held up another card.  “I’ll have the type advantage this time.  Go Kojou!  Leaf Attack!”  The grass covered cat shot several large leaves into the air.

  “Hurry Shade Wing, use Claw Rake!”  But the leaves struck first, interrupting Shade Wing’s attack and doing what looked like some fairly serious damage.  “Ah, try Shadow Bind!”  Unfortunately the paralyzation failed, leaving Kojou free to use its Tail Slap attack to finish off Shade Wing. 

  “See, told you it wouldn’t be that easy.” Silver stated proudly.

  “It’s not over yet.  Your turn Sparkz!” Josiah’s electric kitten emerged and faced off warily against Silver’s grass cat.

  “You can do it Kojou, use Leaf Attack!” Silver cheered as more leaves flew through the air.

  “Flash Zapper!” Josiah was quick to counter and Sparkz was quick to obey.  Electricity arced up and struck the leaves, vaporizing them in mid air.

  “Ok then, try Tail Slap!”

  “Flash Zapper!”  Sparkz took the hit but then fired its electric blast right up Kojou’s tail.  After that exchange, neither monster was looking very good.

  “Flash Zapper again!”

  “Try Leaf Attack one more time!” Silver called.  This time, instead of colliding the attacks missed each other and struck at the same time, knocking out both Sparkz and Kojou.

  “Guess that was a tie.” Josiah frowned as he and Silver started walking towards the shrine to heal their monsters.  “Well, I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

  They were just leaving the shrine when Shauni ran up, looking worried.  “There you are!  I’ve been looking all over!  Where’s Jeff?”

  “He’s talking to some of the villagers I think.” Josiah replied, quickly taking in Shauni’s flushed face and wide eyes.  “Why?  What’s going on?”

  “We need to find him and get going as soon as we can.” there was a note of panic in her voice.  “Felix was last seen wandering off into the forest on his own.  If we don’t find him soon there’s no telling what could happen!”



Chapter 4

Into the Forest


  It didn’t take too long for the group to find Jeff.  He was standing next to a rather generic looking man holding a glowing brown orb about the size of walnut.

  “You’ll never be able to win a battle using novice moves like that.” the man lectured Jeff.  “Here, take this power orb, it’s a W3.  The letter represents the type of monster it can be used on, in this case water, and the letter is the power level of the attack it teaches, there are ten levels of attacks with ten being the strongest.

  “Thanks!” Jeff took the orb and held it out in front of Bibble.  The little monster gulped it down happily then returned to its card.  “Hey…” Jeff examined the card.  “It knows a move called Water Jet now, that’s awesome!”

  “Ooh, I want one!” Silver ran forward.  “Hey mister, I want to fight you for an orb!”

  “Hi guys!” Silver’s outburst caused Jeff to notice the others.  “How’s it going?”

  “Not so good apparently.” Josiah replied.

  “Felix went off into the forest alone!” Shauni’s brown eyes were wide as she spoke.  “There’s some really dangerous areas in there, areas even I avoid.  We have to find him before something terrible happens!”

  “There, there, just calm down.” Jeff spoke soothingly as he put his hand on Shauni’s shoulder.  “He might get a little lost but you said that you can’t die in this game so it’s not that bad.”

  “Just because you can’t die, doesn’t mean nothing bad can happen to you.” Shauni’s tone was very serious.

  “I’ll get Silver.” Josiah turned just in time to see Kojou finish off a Shade Wing with Leaf Attack.

  “Your monster is only using beginner moves too.” the NPC replied as he pulled a yellow orb out of his pocket.  “You won because you had the type advantage but you won’t always be so fortunate.  Here, take this, it’s an L3 orb.”

  “Great!” Silver promptly fed the orb to Kojou.  “It learned Light Slash, cool!”

  You know…  Josiah thought.  If we’re going into such a dangerous area it wouldn’t hurt to power up a bit.  With that in mind, he approached the orb giving NPC.  “Hey, do you,”

  “What?” the man seemed rather irritated.  “You think I have nothing better to do than stand around all day and battle every rookie trainer that walks by?” he rolled his eyes.  “Just take this.” he handed Josiah a D3 orb then strode off in a huff.  “Gee, who knew NPCs could be so grouchy…” Josiah summoned Shade Wing and used the orb to teach it Night Ray.

  “Yeah, kinda strange that they were programmed to have attitudes.” Silver agreed.

  “Are you two ready?” Shauni’s voice interrupted the conversation.  “We really need to hurry!”

  “Sorry.” Josiah and Silver hurried over to the edge of the village where she and Jeff were waiting.

  “Well, let’s go then!” Silver took the lead and strode confidently into the forest with the others hurrying to follow.

  It grew dark almost immediately, the thick canopy of leaves blocking out most of the light.  The trees themselves were straight and tall but something looked a little off.  It wasn’t until after a few moments of close scrutiny that Josiah realized it was because they all looked a bit too similar.

  After going several yards, Silver stopped and looked around.  “Anyone have any idea where we are?  See, I have a reputation for getting lost.”  Hearing that, Tashi, who was sitting contentedly on Silver’s head, hissed and blew some flames towards his master’s face.

  “Then don’t take the lead.” Josiah groaned.  “Let Shauni do it.”

  With Shauni in the lead the group proceeded into the forest, looking for some sign of Felix.  The place seemed oddly silent compared to a forest on Earth.  In fact, other than a single black caterpillar like monster, which turned out to be a dark type called Hueny, that attacked Silver (and was promptly captured), the gamers didn’t see any other signs of life.  Suddenly Shauni drew to a stop, her mouth set in a tight line, and stared into the distance.  The others followed her line of sight to an area up ahead where the forest grew even darker and the trees were twisted and rotting.

  “That part of the forest is called the Dead Wood.” she spoke slowly.  “It’s controlled by Moen’s minions.”

  “So, you came back!” a deep voice interrupted Shauni’s description.

  “Hello Mortac.” she replied bitterly as a tall muscular man materialized out of the shadows and strode rapidly towards the group.  “Still working for Moen I see.”

  Mortac just laughed.  “You shouldn’t have come here.  Prepare to battle!”

  “I’ll handle this one!” Josiah stepped forward before Shauni could respond.  Although he wasn’t entirely sure he could win, he figured it was reasonable to assume that the bad guys near the starting village wouldn’t be all that strong, at least that was usually how things worked.  Besides, he wanted to see how well he’d fare against a trainer with some experience.

  “You wanna lose kid?” Mortac summoned a Hueny.  “Cause that’s what’s gonna happen!”

  “We’ll see about that.” Josiah decided on a card and held it up above his head.  Go Shade Wing!  Use Shadow Bind!”  Caught off guard by Josiah’s sudden attack, Mortac’s monster was unable to dodge or counter.

  “Careful!” Shauni called, clearly worried about Josiah’s chances in the battle.  “Since his monster is a dark type too the accuracy of Shadow Bind will be lower than normal.” just as she finished speaking Hueny froze, completely paralyzed by Shadow Bind.  “Oh…  Never mind…”

  “Hit it with a Claw Rake!” Josiah called as Shade Wing dove down and dragged its claws across Hueny’s back.  “Now let’s try your new attack, Night Ray!”  Shade Wing screeched and flapped its wings, forming a pitch black beam which streaked through the air, striking the defenseless Hueny and sending it backs to its card.

  Grr…” Mortac ground his teeth and glared at Josiah.  “How do you know a move that strong?  Well, it doesn’t matter, you won’t defeat my Cicle!” a spiky little monster the color of ice appeared.  “Icicle Rain!” a torrent of little icicles fell from the sky, pelting Shade Wing.  It managed to remain airborne but just barely, there was no way it could take another hit.

  “Ok then, let’s see how you like this.” eyes narrowed, Josiah held up two cards.  “Shade Wing, return!  Go Sparkz, hit it with Flash Zapper!”  The kitten obeyed instantly, firing a blast of electricity at Cicle.

  Being weak to electricity, the little monster was unable to resist and returned to its card.  “No!  I can’t have lost!” Mortac moaned.  “You’ll regret this!” turning, he ran off into the forest and was soon lost from sight.

  “Well, that wasn’t so bad.” Josiah grinned triumphantly.  “We’ll have this game finished in no time!”

  “Don’t think your other opponents will all be that easy.” Shauni cautioned, a hint of uneasiness in her voice.  “Mortac looks tough but he and his friends aren’t the ones we need to worry about.  There’s a very powerful Moen spirit somewhere in this area.  One that none of the villagers, myself included, have been able to defeat, even when several of us fought it at once.  I suggest we proceed carefully, and you may want to keep your monsters out.”

  Following Shauni’s lead, the group continued at a slow and deliberate pace.

  “So what does this thing look like?” Silver broke the silence.  “I mean, if we don’t know what we’re looking for we won’t know it when we see it.”

  “Shh...  Keep it down!” Jeff whispered.  “The trees might have ears.”

  Shauni smiled humorlessly.  “You don’t know how right you are.  This Moen spirit is a monster that looks like a tree.”

  “Aw, I was expecting a shape shifter or something…” Silver sounded disappointed but began suspiciously eying the surrounding trees.

  “I’ve never heard of a shape shifting monster…” Shauni began but stopped at the sound of approaching footsteps.

  “It’s Felix!” Silver called happily as a familiar person stepped out from a particularly thick cluster of trees.  “It’s about time we found you.  Why’d you have to go off by yourself anyway?”

  “Hold on!” Josiah stepped back as Sparkz began to growl at Felix.  “Look at his face, something isn’t right…”  Without warning Felix snarled at the gamers as his body began to change shape.

  “Oh no…” Shauni gulped.  “Don’t tell me that the legend was true…” but she had no time to elaborate as Felix, now a small pink monster, hurled a massive fireball straight at her.