Bitter 101

Britta left the post office and stood outside on the steps. As she watched people (and things that weren’t people) go about their business, her vantage point at the top of the stairs allowed her to see the players among the crowd, their names tags marking them out. They weren’t just headed in the same direction, they were clearly all going to the same place and trying to get there ahead of each other.

Were they going to the mines, too? According to her map, it did look like it. But then why not ride there on a mount? They must have been higher level than her, and far richer. Yet they all ran on foot.

Britta walked down the steps and called for Donald. Nothing happened. She had definitely seen people riding around in town, but they may have been NPCs. It seemed players weren’t allowed to summon their mounts in town.

Since she only wanted to check out the local dungeon, Britta strolled through the crowd, taking her time. When she reached the edge of town, she saw players jump onto their horses and large cats, which were the two most popular mounts, and ride off down the road heading north.

Donald appeared behind her when she called him this time. She got on his back and they trotted off to see what all the fuss was about.

The Mines of Korlath were a ten minute ride away. And they were a very popular destination. Britta could tell by the huge queue leading up to them, hundreds of people shuffling forwards bit by bit like they were waiting in line at Disney World. Only better armed.

Britta urged Donald on and received some dirty looks as she passed by the bored and impatient people waiting. There was a lot of fancy armour and weapons on display. They probably thought she was trying to cut the line, but she just wanted to have a look at the mine itself. Was it a big spooky opening in a mountain or a hole in the ground?

The line ended at the base of a mountain. It wasn’t a very tall mountain, but then it was probably only there to add to the mood. It was dark and menacing, which was a good trick for a wall of rock, but it definitely had a foreboding atmosphere—although it was somewhat ruined by the giant sign with ‘Mines of Korlath’ branded into it in a font Britta didn’t like. It was a fun font. There was nothing less fun than a fun font.

The sign hung over the two entrances with two arrows pointing down, one saying ‘Standard’ and the other ‘Epic’. They had gone for a real amusement park vibe. She fully expected to see a stripey measuring stick with ‘You have to be this tall to enter the mines’ written next to it.

The long queue was all on one side for the epic entrance. It looked like a cave mouth, but with a shimmering red barrier across it. When the barrier turned blue, the people at the front of the line walked through in large groups, most taking the maximum allowed party of twelve. No one came out, so the exit was probably elsewhere.

The interval between red and blue was quite short and the line was in constant motion, although it didn’t seem to be getting any shorter. She got off Donald and walked over to the standard entrance. It, too, had a shimmering barrier which was blue and stayed blue.

There was a wooden sign on a post next to the entrance. It confirmed this was the standard version of the mines. Groups of between one and six players could enter, which was half the number allowed in the epic version, but also meant she could go in solo. She looked around. No one showed any interest in joining her.

There was also a short history lesson on the sign, with stick drawings to illustrate.

Apparently, the mines had once been operated by dwarves (of course) and produced gold and gemstones. Then, kobolds had moved in. Britta wasn’t sure what kobolds were but their stick drawings suggested round tummies and big teeth. At least they weren’t goblins.

The kobolds had kicked out the dwarves and made the place their own. They had a king with a crown who sat on a big chair. It wasn’t much of a story, but there was some good news. At the bottom of the sign was a helpful tip. Kobolds had excellent eyesight in the dark, but were extremely sensitive to light.

Britta was buoyed by this information. Making a bright light was one of the few things her character was good at. If the kobolds were really affected by bright lights, no one would be better suited to dealing with them than her. She could blind them all!

She might even be able to solo it. Hell, if the epic dungeon had the same kinds of monsters, then she might even be able to solo that one, too. This could be her time to shine, literally.

She was getting a bit ahead of herself. Even with her ability to make light, it would be better to go in with a couple more people. She looked around; still no one lining up behind her.

The cave entrance remained blue and ready to accept noobs. There was a good chance she would die, and then it was back to the real world for twenty four hours. What a dumb rule. She should have a word with Dr Reedy about that.

“Ahem.” The cough came from behind her. She turned around to find a handsome man, tall and strong-looking, stood there. He had an impressive bow and a quiver full of arrows hanging from his belt. A multitude of knives poked out all over his body. “Are you waiting for the regular dungeon?”

“Yes,” said Brita. “I’m new.”

“We could go in together. I’m Stan, by the way.”

Hmm. Stan. He had a familiar way about him. And an archer; Dad’s favourite class. Was this his new character trying to play with her without letting on it was him? It sounded nothing like him. She could be totally wrong. And she could use a hand with the dungeon. He looked well-equipped and ready to fight.

“Okay, Stan, let’s go.”

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