Will YOU be Everdome's next hero?
S.M. Ardwur's epic ten novel series and the world's biggest MMORPG is a world fractured by a magical disaster and saved from destruction by a brave king and mad wizard. It is now formed of twelve floating continents with magical domes protecting them.
For thirteen lucky contestants, when a man dressed as a knight offers them the opportunity to visit their favourite fantasy world as an immersive reality show, there's only one answer they can give: YES!
The level of impressiveness is beyond anything they can believe and some of them start to wonder why.
Abigail, James, Krista, Nicole, Richard, and Megan have to learn how to play the game and win; the fate of Everdome depends on it.
About the author
Éric has had an eclectic career which ranges from casino dealer to canal boat captain to radio station DJ. Since 2009, he's worked as a layout artist and desktop publisher for the federal government. During his off time he works as a freelance layout artist for various Canadian-based authors and publishers, roasts gourmet flavoured coffee, runs several pen-and-paper role-playing games, writes, and helps run JenEric-Designs.ca (Home of the TravellingTARDIS.com).
He lives in Ottawa, Ontario with his wife, daughter, and son. Visit him at www.EricDesmarais.ca./p
Excerpt: Everdome (by (author) Éric Desmarais)
"Why the hell is there a man in armour asking for you in the lobby?" yelled Patrick a little too loudly. He had already dressed and shaved.
The only reason Abigail could tell was from the colour differences, from his clothing, and the shiny reflection from his moist aftershave. Reaching over to the bedside table, she put on her glasses and took a good look at her fiancé. He was dressed in a designer suit and looked like something from a magazine. Her own prince charming.
"Well?" he asked again. Even scowling, he looked sexy.
Brushing back her mousy brown hair, she sat up and wondered why there would be a man in armour outside. It was far from a common occurrence at their downtown condo.
"I'll go check," she mumbled. She was not a morning person. She'd worked the late shift last night and Patrick had insisted they go out with some of his friends. She would have preferred to stay home and read, but he'd insisted. She could never say no to him.
Getting out of bed, she stumbled towards her hamper and reached into it to grab a half clean pair of jeans. They were the comfortable kind, not the pair that Patrick insisted she wear out, but the kind that didn't take ten minutes and a shoe horn to get into.
She was about to just put on a Wonder Woman tank top, but she saw Patrick's look and put on a proper bra before putting on the top.
As she rode the elevator down, she looked into the mirrored wall and wondered what he saw in her. She was too short, too round, and her hair was as controllable as a rabid R.O.U.S. Her skin was ambiguously brown and mousy; her father had been Aboriginal but she had no idea what her mother had been. She tried to put some sort of order in her paradoxically limp and curly hair and gave up when the elevator doors opened.
The knight wasn't just in armour; he was in authentic chainmail and he wasn't alone. There were two camera operators and a photographer.
"What's going on?" she asked.
"Dame Abigail Montrose?" the knight asked in an authentic British accent.
"Yes," she replied.
Without any delay the man fell to one knee and said, "My lady. It is my great honour to extend an invitation from High-Queen Tamora the Sixth, to visit her in her kingdom Everdome."
The expression on Abigail's face started with confusion, transitioned to disbelief, and settled on shock and excitement. All traces of sleepiness disappeared as she remembered what was going on.
"Oh my Goddess, yes, yes, yes. Thank you." She threw herself at the knight as he stood and hugged him tightly. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" she squeed before letting him go.
"My Lady. Here is your invitation and all the information you need." He was blushing and never once broke character. He gave her a large envelope with her name on it. It was pretty thick and she assumed it was the legal contracts and disclaimers she'd have to sign to be on the show.
The World of Everdome was the world's most popular online videogame, based off of a series of popular novels. Abigail had never played the game but she read the ten-book series every year around her birthday. They were the last present her father had given her before he died.
At one point she'd considered playing the game, but Patrick had flipped out, telling her that he was willing to put up with her childish obsessions but not to push him. That had ended that. He was probably right.
When they had announced a television series, Abigail had expected something along the lines of Game of Thrones. Instead, they'd announced that it would be a reality show set in the world, using the characters in an original story where thirteen people would vie for the honour of becoming the Champion of Everdome.
In one of the rare times that she'd been allowed to see her sister, they'd both applied for the show. Neither of them expected to be picked; they were fantasy nerds but neither of them played the game and these shows only ever picked the most attractive contestants.
Back inside the apartment, she walked to the bed and pulled out a piece of parchment from the envelope. It was aged and made to look like vellum. On it was an official invitation to Everdome and the High-Queen's seal and signature. It was exact in every detail.
A chime made her look for her phone. Patrick was standing over her looking at her phone. "Your sister has sent you three texts. What does she mean by 'I'm in?'" He'd never liked her sister. They were both strong-willed and thought they knew what was best for her. She hated that they didn't get along, but she loved him so much.
"Umm. Remember those books I love so much?" She suddenly felt uncomfortable. He'd never understood how much she loved the world of Everdome. How much, as a child she wished to be part of it, and especially how much it had been part of her identity.
"Ever... whatever? What about them?"
"Well, Krista and I applied to be on the TV show set in the world. Remember we talked about it?" She had told him about the show, but he hadn't been all that interested.
"Yeah, I remember. I remember saying it was a waste of time, just like the game and the books." His voice was harsh. He softened as he said, "Aby, you know I only want what's best for you. These childish hobbies are distracting you from your studies. Don't you want to be a nurse and do something good for the world? Something useful, not wasteful?"
"Yes, of course I do," she replied her eyes on the ground.
Lifting her head gently she saw him smiling benevolently; he was so beautiful it hurt her to upset him. "Good then. Throw that stuff out and put these childish things away." He left the room and came back with a large box. "I think it's time for you to put these things in storage until we have children. You're thirty-one; you're not a child anymore." He started taking down her books and putting them in the box. Her heart sank as he picked up her father's books and placed them in the box. He was probably right... It was time she started living her life instead of wasting it.
"These are pretty old and you've read them a lot. Instead of putting them in storage, we'll donate them. We don't really want our children to have silly ideas. These are the kinds of books loser guys read while living in their parents' basement."
"No!" Conflicting emotions turned her stomach as she sat on her bed watching him prepare her books to be given away. Anger won out in the end.
"Glad you agree with me babe," he said dismissively.
"No. I am not giving those away."
"Don't be childish. Of course you are."
Blood pounded in her head and she couldn't stop herself from shaking, "No. I'm not. And I'm going to do this." She lifted up the envelope. He turned red and dropped the box and the books.
"You will not talk to me like that. You were nothing before me. I know what's best. Now throw out that letter." He took a deep breath. "Look what you've done. You've made me angry. Do you think I like being the bad guy? No. But you have to grow up and put these things behind you. You're not twelve anymore."
A wave of guilt flowed through Abigail. He was right. None of their friends were into this, she was being childish. She picked up the envelope and a section caught her eye. "You were chosen from over 800,000 applicants across North-America." Could they all be childish?
"No, Patrick. Those books were given to me by my father. I'm keeping them and I really want to do this. I know you think it's childish. And it might be. But I need to do this." She stopped herself before adding please. It would come out as begging and he hated begging.
Turning to face her again, he seemed to calm down. He smiled at her but she knew that smile, she only saw it when he was so angry he became calm. It didn't touch his eyes and made him look like a Bond villain. "Fine. If you want to do this, go ahead. But if you leave, don't come back." Without giving her the chance to answer, he grabbed his briefcase and left the apartment.
The sound of the door closing was like an explosion. The apartment they'd shared for two years suddenly seemed hostile and claustrophobically quiet.
Again, her phone beeped. Her sister wanted to know if she was OK.
"I'm fine. I got the invitation too. Wasn't the knight cool?" she texted.
"Yeah. I can't wait for us to go." Her sister added a smiley face after the message.
"I can't go," she wrote back.
"Duck Patrick. You can do better." The autocorrect on her sister's phone had certainly edited that line. "This is Everdome! We've been dreaming about this since we were kids. Would you give up your childhood dream for a guy?" She was right. Being the only two Indigenous kids in school had been hard. They were never good enough to be considered white, but their mother didn't know enough about their heritage to give them another community. Everdome was their way out and in the long run what kept their friendship together, even despite Patrick.
"I'm sorry Krista. I can't."
"OK. I'm not going without you, big sis. If you won't go, neither will I."
"No, no. One of us should go."
"Talk about it over lunch?"
She agreed to meet her for lunch and they said I love you to each other. As she put down her phone she felt her face was wet. She was crying, just like a child, she thought.
Without thinking, she finished packing her books. Looking around, she was hit by how little she felt attached to the things in the apartment. Other than the bookcase with her books and photos, everything was stark black and white modern. Patrick's taste, not hers.
The apartment and Patrick had always made her feel safe, protected, and taken care of. She went to her closet and looked inside. There were a few superhero shirts that she was allowed to wear in the apartment but that was all. The rest of her clothes were all scrubs, formal wear, or her bookstore uniforms; dress pants or skirt with a maroon polo shirt with "Paragraph's Fine Books" embroidered on it. The formal wear that she wore to events or even to the grocery store were always picked by Patrick. She had liked that, she hated shopping for clothes.
Taking the geek shirts and putting them in a flowered suitcase with thoughts of putting them in storage with the books, she surprised herself by also putting her uniforms and scrubs in the suitcase. She was done her nursing classes; two months and she'd be a registered nurse. Then she could work a few years before they got pregnant and then she'd take care of their kids.
Throughout the process of packing, she'd been shuffling the envelope from hand to hand, never letting it go. Looking down at her packed suitcase, she'd taken half the clothes, all her books, and her family pictures. As she finished packing the suitcase, her conscious mind caught up with what was going on.
It seemed unthinkable to leave Patrick. He'd been there for her, helped her become a better person, more acceptable. She could hear his voice telling her how much she owed him. He decided how she dressed, what she read, where she went. All that used to fill her with comfort, but seeing him throw her books away, the only thing she ever shared with her father. Her relationship with sister, and those books had formed her life... it made her realize he'd been controlling her.
If she truly thought about it, she knew she'd hated it for a while but felt helpless to leave. The decision to leave him scared her more than staying. Everdome changed that, and once she made the decision she felt lighter like a weight was off her shoulders. She couldn't help but think about how angry he'd be, but she had made up her mind.
Picking up her phone, packing its charger and her laptop, she texted her sister again. "I'm in. But can I stay with you until we leave?"