Bitter 385

It was a pleasant walk, just Britta and Dad strolling down the road, dressed like crazy people, carrying weapons. If you thought about it, you would be hard put to not think it was very weird. Her goat trotted along behind, destroying the carefully coded ecology.

Dad’s new look for this character wasn’t what Britta had been expecting. He was a wizard, so she had thought he’d go for something in the Gandalf mould, but he wasn’t all robes and pointy hat. He looked more like some street magician who wore leather trousers and mascara, and did ‘cool’ card tricks.

“Are you wearing makeup?” she asked him.

“No,” he said not very convincingly. “It’s just my natural colouring. I based it on myself.”

The face did vaguely resemble Dad’s real face, as most of his characters did, but the rest of him was thin and spindly. He looked like he’d be good at escaping from a submerged tank while being chained up. Although that would make his mascara run.

To pass the time, Dad showed off his newly acquired spells. He had three, and they were a bit on the basic side, but overall they seemed like they’d be more effective in a fight than any of Britta’s, even though she was Level 4 and he was still only Level 1.

His three were Magic BulletHand Lock and Bomb.

Magic Bullet was particularly good, she thought. It fired a projectile of light from his finger like a bullet out of a gun. Once he targeted someone, it followed them until it hit. Even went around corners.

“It’s a rip-off of Magic Missile really,” he said. “Devs aren’t known for their great originality. Steal everything, is the union motto.”

“You know they’re watching us, right?” said Britta.

“That’s alright, they know I’m joking.” He looked up and waved, and then fired a bullet into the air. It flew up like a tiny firework, and then flashed brightly before disappearing. “Only lasts a few seconds if you don’t target anything.”

To Britta’s eyes, the bullet looked like the perfect weapon for a starting character. You could pick off opponents from a distance, be guaranteed to hit, and you could even use it as a flare to signal party members.

“You’re just a basic mage?” she asked.

“Mm hm. I’m thinking of specialising in fire or ice, not sure yet. I get to choose at Level 5. If I ever get that far.”

He closed one eye, aiming down his arm and pointed finger, and fired a glowing blue bullet at a passing bumblebee — with red and green stripes, because what kind of fantasy world would have regular bumblebees? — and the two of them zipped around until the bullet struck the bee, which tumbled to the ground.

“And you can’t miss? How many shots do you get?”

“Until my mana runs out, which is usually about twenty bullets if I don’t use a potion.”

“That’s pretty good, isn’t it?” She was impressed both by the visuals, which looked cool, and by the fact he had resisted going ‘pew pew’ every time he fired.

“Looks more impressive than it is. Doesn’t hit for that much damage, yet. And I can only fire one at a time. I can’t shoot again until the bullet hits its target. Not much use if there are a lot of mobs attacking at once. But it gets more powerful, and more shots at once as I level up. Maybe I’ll be a cowboy wizard, with a stetson and a lasso.”

“Aren’t you worried everyone who took the spell will do the same?”

“I doubt it. I customised the gesture into a finger gun. Got the idea from you, actually, with all your non-verbal spell casting. Nice idea that. Most people like to chant their spells, they find it more immersive, but silence spells are a thing. Of course, they can always tie up your hands if they know that’s how you work.”

He blew on the end of his finger and holstered it in his pocket.

She had thought Hand Lock was more like one of her spells, until Dad showed her the many uses he could put it to. The spell forced the targets hand to join together, clasping each other tightly. So tightly, it was impossible to pull them apart, no matter how strong you were.

“Not only does it make someone drop their weapon, if you can do it while they have their arms around something, they’re stuck there.”

“Like magic handcuffs,” said Britta.

“That’s right, partner,” he said in a terrible American accent. He was seeing himself as a sheriff or a marshall, she could tell.

She held up her magically bound hands, and pulled them apart quite easily.

“Well, obviously you’re Level 4. You can make your saving throws against me. Most players don’t have that advantage. And any monster my level or below will just eat it. At least, they will once it does more than sting them a bit.”

And then there was Bomb. As its name suggested, it blew things up. It took quite a large amount of MP, and a while to prime, but when it went off, it really went off. Dad made a cactus-like plant explode to demonstrate. There was nothing left afterwards. Not even Donald, but only because he had wisely distanced himself.

“That was a level one blast. Imagine what it will be like when I’m in double digits!”

On the downside, though, were his vulnerabilities. He only had four hit points. 4 HP was nothing. He could die combing his hair too vigorously, as he put it. Hence his reluctance to get into a fight. Hunting with magic bullets made a lot more sense.

“My saving throws are horrible, I can’t wear most items that drop, and if I want to sell it instead, I can only carry a few things at a time before I run out of stamina.” He had a very small backpack; more of a shoe bag like Britta used to have for PE. “Sky-high intelligence, strength of a small child.”

“But it’s a neat idea, isn’t it,” said Britta, “making us carry our own stuff for real. More immersive.”

“Not everyone wants to be a hardcore roleplayer. A little convenience isn’t a bad thing. It’s alright for you, you’ve got one of those tough gnome skeletons. Carry ten times your own weight.”

“I’m a gnome, not an ant,” said Britta.

“I guess we’re all in the same boat. Won’t be carrying off any grand pianos if we comes across one.”

Britta couldn’t remember ever seeing a piano, grand or otherwise, during her time in New World. “I can ask my shade to carry it for me,” she said.

“What? He can do that? How can that be balanced? I’m going to—” He stopped and looked at her. “You’re lying, aren’t you.?”

“Yes.”

“Trolling your own father… Good girl.” He walked a little prouder, like some achievement badge had been attained.

Britta shook her head. Was it this world that was weird, or just her life? Her goat skipped past, bleating what sounded like an old Britney Spears song. Bit of both, she decided.

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