Bitter 221

Britta understood the skill system perfectly.

Well, she didn’t understand it at all, but she understood what it was for. She knew exactly the kind of gamer who would faint with joy at the sight of this nightmare of a game progression system. She happened to live with one.

The kind of tedious deliberations over whether to add a point here or to add it over there; the combining of hitherto unthought of quirks to produce an effect of absolutely no consequence, or even worse, an effect that breaks the game entirely, would send Dad shooting into the stratosphere like an overexcited firework.

A man can love many things—his wife, his children, his country—but when a gamer finds a needlessly complicated game mechanic he can really get his teeth into, no love can equal that pursuit of the perfect min-max set-up.

Britta closed the status screen. “I can’t handle this right now.”

The Great Gnome smiled in his mildly infuriating way. “You may take all the time you need.”

“How do I get out of here?”

“You should have received a magic scroll when you passed your class quest. Use it now!”

Britta recalled something about getting a teleportation scroll as a reward, but she didn’t see any mention of it in her messages when she completed the Thirty-Six Chambers. She opened her inventory and checked, in case it had gone in there. She found no new items.

She opened her inbox again. There were two messages telling her she had received a parcel. At the post office.

“How am I supposed to get this scroll?”

The Great Gnome’s smile didn’t waver. “It will be sent to you.”

“By mail?”

“Possibly.”

Britta had a horrible sinking feeling. “How am I supposed to use the scroll to get out of here if I have to pick it up from the post office?”

The Great Gnome didn’t move apart from his eyes which slid from side to side like he was checking for exits. “I fear this may be another case of things not working as intended. I apologise on behalf of the management. Please remember, I don’t write the—”

“Yes, yes, I know. You only work here.” The last time she was in this same predicament, she’d had to ask the gryphon for help leaving. It was not a departure she recalled fondly. Even if the gryphon didn’t remember her, convincing her to help would still be very difficult. And if she did remember…

“You could make me levitate again,” she said.

The Great Gnome’s smile faltered, pulling down hard at each corner. “I got in trouble for that last time. Promised not to interfere directly again.”

Trouble from who? wondered Britta. “Didn’t you stop me from falling to my death just now? Wasn’t that interfering”

“Oh, that wasn’t me.”

“That was Nigel?”

“Exactly.”

This was getting her nowhere. If she logged out or killed herself, she would respawn at the altar down here. She had to climb out, or…

“If I choose the Acrobat sub-class, I can use Teleport to get out of here?”

“Yes,” said the Great Gnome. “As long as your destination is within view.”

“And the scroll version, does that only transport you to a place you can see?”

“No, that takes you to any altar you’ve already visited.”

That sounded a lot more useful right now.

She could go back and try to see the top of the cliff. With enough light it might be within sight. Would the bandits and thugs still be there, waiting for her?

It was the only way out she could think of, but it meant having to take the sub-class she found least interesting. It wasn’t terrible, and there was a lot to be said for being able to disappear from the scene of any unpleasantness (especially if the unpleasantness was aimed at her), but the other two had the potential to be much more useful.

Britta took a breath. She didn’t have to rush the decision. No one was chasing her.

“Dr Reedy?” she called out. There was no immediate reply. There was no delayed reply, either. Britta looked at the Great Gnome.

“Don’t you think you’re a bit over-reliant on her?” he said. “Not really fair, is it?”

Britta tried not to let her irritation get the better of her, but failed.

“You get to see what everyone’s doing no matter where they are. You control everything and change the rules whenever it suits you. You’re the biggest cheat in the whole world. I’m just trying to get the game to work properly, for once.”

“You could try to make the best of it,” suggested the Great Gnome.

“No!” said Britta without needing to consider his suggestion. “I want my decisions to be based on what I want to do, not what I’m forced to do by things not working as intended. Now let me speak to Dr Reedy.” She glared at the god of gnomes, knowing she was right, but also knowing that being right had never helped her before.

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