“I’m a student, for God’s sake,” screamed the girl. “I don’t know how to kill monsters.”
“Now, now, don’t get hysterical,” said Captain Grayson, which is never a good thing to say to a hysterical woman. “Nobody expects you to hunt down ogres and wyverns. There are plenty of smaller, less dangerous beasts that I’m sure you’ll be able to handle.”
“I don’t care,” the girl said in the same high-pitched shriek. “I don’t want to kill anything! I’m not a murderer.”
This was met by a chorus of agreement from the girls sat beside her.
“I’m sorry,” said Captain Grayson, “but this land is overrun with monsters. It’s just a fact of life here. You don’t have to kill them if you don’t want to, but they certainly will try to kill you. We don’t call them monsters for nothing. Even if you don’t plan on hunting, you need to be able to defend yourselves. That’s why I’m going to give you each a weapon.”
He signalled two of his men who had appeared in the doorway carrying an assortment of weapons which they handed out randomly.
“These aren’t all that great, but they’re all we have. Feel free to swap them among yourselves if you want.”
There was more grumbling as the type of weapon each person received varied greatly. And I mean greatly.
People who received small swords, daggers and machetes seemed quite pleased. The ones who got handed sticks, metal rods and rocks attached to a bit of wood, less so. One guy got a whip—which looked cool but not that practical— and I saw a girl look horrified as a spiked ball was thrust at her. It wasn’t attached to anything, just a ball with spikes.
I was one of the people to get a stick. I think they had run out of real weapons and somebody had gone out and dug up a fence or something so we’d all have something. It was a bit like a baseball bat, so it could probably do a bit of damage, assuming it didn’t break in half.
Maurice got a metal rod, about the size of a fire poker. It was too thin to do any serious damage, but if he sharpened the end he could probably take someone’s eye out.
Once everyone had their weapon, the trading started. Or at least, attempted trading. It was pretty obvious which weapons were better, and everyone wanted to trade up, not down. Arguments broke out, and now that everyone was armed, things felt quite scary. The soldiers stepped in and pushed people back into their seats.
“I know this isn’t ideal,” said Grayson, “but you will very quickly be able to get yourself something better. Don’t get hung up on anything right now, it’s all temporary.” He smiled with such confidence and lack of concern, it made me think things weren’t going to be so bad.
If this really was a game, a crappy weapon to start off with would be normal. I’d soon find a decent sword or axe or something. In the meantime, I needed to figure out the rules, and how best to exploit them. Farming, grinding, doing simple quests—there had to be plenty of ways to level up fast.
I could do that stuff, maybe even do it better than some of these six-foot meatbags. I had quite a good feeling about the future.
“Have some faith in yourselves,” said Grayson, still smiling. “ Looking at all of you young, healthy boys and girls, I’m confident at least one in three of you will make it.”
Which meant he expected two-thirds of us to die. If this wasn’t a game… The good feeling went away.