Bitter 102

Britta walked confidently towards the barrier and then stopped. The air in front of her shimmered. She looked at Stan who was standing next to her.

“We need to group up first,” said Stan.

“You’ve done this before?” she asked him.

“Oh, yes. Many times.” He tapped the air in front of him.

Britt’s hand began to flash. She pressed the light in her palm and a screen opened.

Party invitation from Stanley’s Cameo. Do you wish to accept?

Stanley… Stan Lee? She was sure it wasn’t Dad—99% sure—but it was an odd coincidence. She pressed the 'Yes' button.

“Okay,” said Stan, “Ready when you are.”

She put out a hand and touched the barrier. It tingled. “Do you want to go first?”

He smiled. “Sure.” He stepped through and disappeared.

Britta followed. There was a moment of darkness, and then she was in a tunnel. Stan was waiting for her, holding a torch. The flames danced about in the slight breeze coming from somewhere ahead. She looked over her shoulder, but there was no way out.

She tried to peer into the darkness but it was pitch dark beyond the light from the torch.

“Nothing much happens until you get to the first chamber,” said Stan.

“Oh. Right.” She felt incredibly nervous but did her best to stay calm. It was just an introduction to dungeons for beginners. It wasn’t going to be hardcore hack and slash. Probably. “Sorry. I’m not sure what to expect.”

“Don’t worry,” said Stan. “You’ll be fine. This is the easiest dungeon in the game. Hardly anyone bothers with it after the first time.”

“Then why are you here?” she asked him.

“Do you know about the epic dungeon?”

Britta nodded. “Seems very popular.”

“Yeah. That’s because no one’s been able to beat it yet. Not even close. The layout is the same as this one, but the monsters… ooh, boy. I thought I’d run through this one again just to check if there’s anything that might help with the epic version.”

That made sense. Have a look around without the distraction of being relentlessly attacked and beaten to death. You might find a nook or cranny that could help avoid the monsters in the hard version. Smart.

“What level are you?” she asked.

“Two.”

Britta was surprised and her face must have shown it.

“This is an alt.” he explained. “My main is a lot higher, but you can’t enter this dungeon if you’re over level 10. So I made a new one. Of course, it helps having a high level character with money. I couldn’t afford a bow like this if I was just starting out.” He twanged the string on his bow. It made a musical sound that echoed down the tunnel. “What class are you, by the way?”

Britta suddenly felt uncomfortable. There was nothing really wrong with being an illusionist, not at this level where everyone was pretty useless, but she still found it hard to tell people, and then explain why she chose it.

She took out her dagger to make herself look like she could handle trouble when she told him her profession.

“Oh, you’re a rogue?” said Stan.

Britta looked at the dagger. It was the one she got off Big Freddy, who was technically a thief, if not a very successful one.

“That might come in useful,” continued Stan. “A couple of traps, if I remember right—it’s been a while. Not many locks to pick though. It’s more of a maze you need to keep from getting lost in, and a couple of kobolds.”

“The kobolds, they’re afraid of bright lights?” She was happy to take the conversation away from her class. He would only want to know what spells she could do, and then be disappointed. If she raised the idea of blinding kobolds and then revealed her ability to make light-flashes, it would be far more impressive. If he wanted to think she was a rogue in the meantime, it wasn’t like she’d said she was. He’d just assumed it because of the dagger.

“I wouldn’t say they’re afraid, more like they find it harder to see in the daylight. Something like this torch will keep them at bay for a bit, but they won’t run away or anything. You just need enough light to see where they are so you can punch them. They don’t take much damage.” He waved the torch about ahead of him. “Come on.” He started walking down the tunnel, which was only wide enough for them to go in single file.

Britta followed. He seemed like he knew what he was doing and could probably solo the dungeon, even with a level 2 character. She still wanted to see if she could use her ability on kobolds, although by the sounds of it, they were so easy to kill, you didn’t need a special strategy. Not in this dungeon, at least.

“How many times have you tried the epic dungeon?” asked Britta. “I mean, on your other character.”

“Only four, so far,” said Stan. “Some people have done it over a dozen.”

“And no one can finish it?”

“Nope. It’s because—”

A howl, long and high-pitched sounded in the distance.

“That’s strange,” said Stan. “I don’t remember that happening before.”

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