Bitter 136

“Stop her!” shouted Stan.

The burly players that had been policing the queue rushed towards Britta and Donald. They moved unbelievably fast, creating a blast of wind through the speed of their movement. They stood in front of her before she even had time to mount Donald.

“Can you get out my way?” she said nervously. “I’m late for, um, something.”

The two players blocking her path were both fighters of some kind, both towered over her. One had two swords crossed on his back, the other only had one sword but it was bigger than he was. They had elaborate armour and large helmets with horns and spikes.

“You may leave when the leader says you can,” said the one with two swords. His helmet had ‘Born to Roleplay’ written on the side in white paint.

“I don’t think so.” Britta climbed onto Donald’s back. Donald lowered his head and made a deep rumbling sound in his chest.

The two fighters looked at each other and grinned.

“Gilgamesh.”

“Beowulf.”

As soon as the men spoke the names, two large cats appeared from behind them. They were tigers. Sabertooth tigers. One shook its head, the other yawned, showing off its terrifying teeth. Donald stepped back. Britta could feel him shaking beneath her.

Donald was good in a fight but there was no way he’d win this one. They couldn’t outrun them, either.

“B,” said Stan, “I just want to talk to you.”

Everyone in the queue had turned to watch. They didn’t know what was going on but they knew drama when they saw it. Even people on the other side waiting for the epic dungeon were straining to hear, leaning as far as possible without losing their place in line.

“I’m leaving,” said Britta as forcefully as she could. The two fighters didn’t move. Their giant cats sat down and looked bored.

“Just tell me what happened after you kicked me,” said Stan.

“Nothing happened. I died.”

“The dwarf killed you?”

“No. I fell off a cliff.”

Stan looked confused. “A cliff? What cliff?”

The other players were muttering among themselves, realising that Britta must have also encountered the dwarf they were all hoping to encounter.

“The cliff with the bridge to the vault.”

“You fell down the hole?” Stan sounded amazed, and not in a good way. “How the hell did that happen? Did someone push you?”

“No,” said Britta, starting to get annoyed. “I just fell, okay? Now, if you don’t mind, can you call off your goons?”

“Look,” said Stan, his tone reasonable and conciliatory, “just go in with me again. If we recreate the same conditions as last time, that might increase our chances of triggering the event.”

“No thanks,” said Britta.

Stan grunted with exasperation. “Don’t you think it’s the least you can do after kicking me?” His tone was closer to the aggravated bully she remembered. It only made Britta more convinced she’d done the right thing.

“I kicked you before you could invite your friends to join and kick me, so don’t pretend you were horribly wronged. I’m not an idiot. I know when I’m being set up.” She’d had plenty of practice with being pushed out of groups, she had no intention of putting up with the same treatment here. “I don’t like you, I don’t want to play with you and I definitely don’t trust you. Now leave me alone.”

“Do you think they used to date?” said one of the girls behind her.

“Fine,” said Stan. “You don’t like me, for whatever reason.” He said it like it was some random decision on her part. “I’ll make you a deal. Just go in with me and then logout, leave me in there to get on with it. I’ll give you a hundred gold if you do that.”

A murmur of surprise ran down the queue. People in the epic line were giving up their places to come nearer to see what was going on.

Britta felt like she was being surrounded. She could agree to Stan’s proposition just to get him off her back but what if he found it was her causing the dwarf to appear? If he killed the dwarf and there was good loot to be had, he would want her to do it again and again. If he failed and got killed, he’d be even more keen to try again. And so would anyone else who found out.

She would end up besieged by people wanting her to unlock the dungeon for them. She might make some money doing it, but the game would be a lot less fun if people refused to leave her alone. That wasn’t the kind of popularity she was looking for.

A message popped up on her screen. It was an invite to join a party. He was being super pushy and she knew he wouldn’t let it go, but there was no way she wanted to go in there with him. She tapped the invite to reject it but it wasn’t from Stan.

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