Bitter 118

Britta ran through the tunnels with the map open in front of her. With the traps marked out, she didn’t have to pause or figure out the route, she knew exactly where to go.

Even though she was being forced to head towards the treasure room, she wasn’t too unhappy about it. If you’re in a dungeon, you might as well see what the big treasure looked like. Even if Stan thought it was worthless, didn’t mean it wouldn’t be useful for her. Stan was an experienced player with loads of gear. He could even kit out a second character. She had yet to find a decent hat.

She didn’t particularly trust him, but he definitely knew more about the game than her—and he was bound to be a lot better at fighting. Teaming up with him was probably the right move. Probably.

According to the map, she should take a left at the end of this tunnel and then it was one long tunnel all the way to the vault. Stan had said there was a puzzle that had to be solved to allow entry. She was looking forward to seeing what kind of puzzle it was.

Stan probably knew how to solve it already, which would be handy considering there was an undead dwarf chasing after them. No time to sit around thinking of how many sandbags to balance or how to fit blocks together to build a bridge. Which was a bit of a shame, really. She enjoyed figuring out problems like that far more than punching and stabbing things.

There was a distant howl. The banshee-dwarf was his own early warning system. At least he didn’t creep up on people and launch a surprise. Britta shivered. Seeing a monster loom out of the dark in the flesh, was very different to seeing it in a movie.

Britta reached the end of the tunnel and just as she turned left, she caught movement in the corner of her eye. A hand darted out of the shadows behind her and grabbed her collar. She screamed and thrashed her arms about like she was inventing a new dance move. Not one destined to catch on.

“Shhh,” said Stan, his face grimacing. “He’ll hear you.”

“Don’t do that,” said Britta, panting for breath. “I nearly wet myself.”

“You can’t wet yourself,” said Stan. “We don’t have the plumbing here.”

For a moment she thought he meant they didn’t have indoor toilets in the game world, but then she remembered they didn’t have the biological plumbing. It was all Barbie-smooth down there.

“I heard him behind me,” said Britta. “We should get going.”

“Wait!” Stan put his hand on her shoulder. “I’ve been thinking about what I said earlier, and I was being unfair. You have every right to escape without the twenty-four hour penalty as I do. You go, I’ll stay here and hold him off.”

Britta was immediately suspicious. He might have had a change of heart, but he wasn’t even suggesting they toss for it. He was volunteering to stay and die. Why?

“I don’t mind, actually. I’d rather see the treasure vault so I know what to expect for next time.” She took a step forward, but Stan held her back, his hand gripping her shoulder.

“But you’ll die!” He sounded quite pained by the idea, although not necessarily for Britta’s wellbeing.

“So? It’s a game. I’ll survive. You can leave if you want, I’m going this way.”

He removed his hand, reluctantly. “Okay. But give me back leadership of the party.”

“What do you mean? You’re the party leader, aren’t you?”

Stan shrugged. “I was. Somehow it got switched to you. Happens sometimes. You can revert it using the Group command.”

“What difference does it make?” She watched closely, looking for any reaction. “There’s just two of us. What does being leader allow you to do?”

“Nothing much,” he said very quickly. “Just allows you to invite people into the group. I could ask some of my guildies to help us. Normally, I could solo this dungeon, but this isn’t normal. A full party might actually be the only way to beat the dwarf.”

What he said sounded reasonable, even a good idea, but Britta strongly felt he wasn’t telling her something.

“Open Group.”

A screen opened up. It was quite big and mainly empty. There were two names in it, B and Stanley’s Cameo. She had an orange ‘L’ next to hers. She pressed it and two options appeared: Invite and Kick.

Did he want to kick her out of the party?

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