Bitter 133

Britta opened her eyes. She was in the Temple of Roha, her usual respawn point.

The wait had been long and painful, mostly spent listening to music on her computer and rearranging her room so it felt clean and tidy. Her room was always clean and tidy, so she had to mess it up first.

Once she’d got the books on her shelf in alphabetical order, she pulled them down and arranged them by size. Her laundry was ironed and folded, and she had gone through her wardrobe, removing all the clothes she didn’t wear anymore, then changed her mind and put most of them back again.

Eventually she’d gone to bed and been unable to sleep. When she did finally nod off, she woke extra early.

It was a huge relief to be back in the game. She felt alert and ready. She jumped off the table and checked her inventory. There were no new items. She checked her palm and there was a new message. In fact there were two, both telling her there was a package waiting for her at the post office. She hoped that meant the money Dad owed her and the anti-dwarf tech from Dr Reedy, whatever that was. She hurried out of the room.

Sister Florence was the only person in the temple. She was on her knees, scrubbing the floor with soapy water from a bucket. The floor didn’t look particularly dirty but she was giving it a thorough going over.

“Oh, hello, Deary. Welcome back.”

Britta didn’t have time to chat and headed for the exit. Then she stopped and came back.

“Hello. How are you?”

Sister Florence stopped and looked up, shielding her eyes from the light streaming through the stained glass windows, a fixed smile on her face. “How can I help you today?”

Britta saw her job as getting the NPCs to talk like real people and reveal hidden parts of the game. The nun she saw every time she respawned had always behaved like an ordinary NPC, never acting in anything but an expected manner, but she might also be hiding something.

“I don’t need help,” said Britta. “Just wondered how you were doing. Busy?”

“Yes, that’s right, Deary.” She went back to scrubbing the floor.

What a dumb thing to ask. Of course she was busy. She’d have to do better than that if she wanted to trigger some secret conversation-tree.

“I don’t suppose you know anything about the dwarf in the Korlath Mines, do you?”

Sister Florence stopped again and looked up in the same manner. The exact same.

“The Mines of Korlath? Just head north out of town and follow the road. You can’t miss it.”

It was like listening to a recorded message. Of all the NPCs Britta had encountered so far, this one was the most set in her ways. It made sense since she was the first point of call for players after they revived and she had a job to do. It would probably take some time finding a way to break through her Teflon exterior.

Brita left her to her scrubbing. No doubt they’d have many more opportunities to talk.

Outside, it was another beautiful day in New World. The usual characters were running their usual loops. She ran past them, all prospective leads for hidden storylines.

The post office was busy as usual, or at least gave that impression. She claimed her two parcels, one a small packet and the other a large box.

She went into a corner and opened them. The small one was from someone called Bruce and jingled. She wasn’t sure if it was Bruce Banner or Bruce Wayne, but it was definitely from Dad. She counted out thirty seven copper coins, each about the size of a two-pence piece. He could have rounded it up to the nearest fifty, or thrown in a couple of silvers out of fatherly love, but that would have been against his code. His code of being the world’s stingiest gamer. Still, she had money now.

The other parcel contained a cloak. A huge fur-lined thing that reached to the ground and dragged behind her. It was heavy and very warm.

It was not what she would have chosen. She wasn’t a fan of fur, for a start, even when it was digital. A hat, a ring, maybe a cape that hung around her shoulders. But this monstrosity would only slow her down and get in her way.

She peered up at the ceiling, resisting the urge to complain. She didn’t know what it took to make one of these things. Maybe this was what they had lying around and they wanted to get it to her as soon as possible.


<Cloak of the Dorf>

What was a dorf? Was it a typo? She tried tapping the tag but nothing came up. The whole thing had the feel of something put together in haste. It was free and, presumably, it would help against the dwarf (or the dorf), but that didn’t really excuse the obvious lack of effort and zero attention to detail.

“I have to know what it does,” she said to the ceiling. She waited for a reply but there wasn’t one.

Perhaps she could sell it and use the money to buy something useful.

She put the cloak back in the box and the box in her inventory. At least she had another box to add to her collection. That was one exploit she hoped APE wouldn’t fix anytime soon. She left the post office and stood outside deciding where to go next.

“Hello? Britta?”

“Yes?” said Britta, happy to hear Dr Reedy, at work on a Sunday, apparently.

“Sorry about that, they had to get in touch with me at home.”

“Oh, sorry,” said Britta. Apparently not at work on a Sunday.

“No, no, don’t worry, I left instructions for them to do that. The cloak, yes? I know it’s a bit bulky, but bigger items are easier to code with this sort of thing. Sorry about that. The effects are on the label.”

Label? Britta took the cloak out again and examined it more closely. Inside, just under the collar, was a label stitched in the lining.

Cloak of the Dorf

Size Small

100% Resistance to all Dwarf Attacks

Immunity to Dwarf Magic

100% extra damage versus Dwarves

Made in Dorfland

Now this was fur worth wearing.

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