Bitter 134

“What’s a dorf?” asked Britta.

“Oh, that,” said Dr Reedy, her disembodied voice taking on a slightly exasperated tone. “It’s ‘flavour text’. Apparently it enriches the gaming experience. It’s some sort of in-joke with the coding boys that doesn’t really make any difference so I wouldn’t worry too much. They did attempt to explain but I’m afraid I lost interest halfway through. Nothing important.”

Britta couldn’t help but feel a kinship with Dr Reedy. The kinds of things that obsessed Dad had always struck her as maddeningly pointless.

“And it works against dorfs, I mean, dwarves?”  

“They assure me you’ll be invulnerable to all dwarf-based attacks, assuming this dwarf is built from the same primary code as the ones we put in the game ourselves. Of course, if he pushes you off a cliff, you’ll still die.”

That seemed fair enough. It actually felt more than fair, it was clearly overpowered. Wearing this in a fight with dwarves would make you unstoppable, as long as you could run around while wearing a carpet.

“And this was the smallest size?” It did say ‘small’ on the label, but Britta wasn’t a regular-sized person to start with.

“I’m afraid that’s my fault. I forgot to mention you aren’t running a human character. I can get another one made, but it will take a little time. Do you think you can make do for now?”

It wasn’t like she had a choice, other than to do nothing and wait, which was no choice at all.

“Okay,” said Britta. “I guess I’ll give it a go.”

“Excellent. Good luck.” Dr Reedy hung up or turned off her microphone or whatever it was she was using to talk to Britta from home.

Britta put the cloak on, clipping it around her neck. She felt ridiculous. It was far too grand and far too hot to walk around with something this insulating. She should have asked Dr Reedy to turn the weather to cool with a mild breeze, but that might have been going too far. She took a few steps forward and the cloak dragged through the dirt behind her. The dry cleaning bill would be astronomical, if they had dry cleaning here.

She considered cutting off the end but that would probably make it stop working. It couldn’t be as simple as that, or they would have done it for her. She would just have to make the best of it.

She put the cloak back in her inventory; she would take it out in the dungeon when she needed it.

Getting to the mines and facing the dwarf again was obviously her main goal but before that she had something else she needed to do. She had money now. Not a lot, probably not enough to buy any decent gear, but enough for a snack. She opened the map.

“Where’s the market?” She didn’t know for sure there was a market but it seemed a fairly safe bet.

The map pulsed and a line extended from her position to a square to her east. She tapped it and a glitter trail appeared in front of her. She double-checked to make sure it didn’t take her through any brick walls.

It wasn’t very far to the market and she got there in a few minutes. The square was full of stalls surrounded by people. Food and drink and odd little trinkets were for sale, the sellers shouting out their wares. Britta assumed if she came back tomorrow, she’d see the exact same people buying the exact same things in the exact same order, but seeing it for the first time was an exhilarating experience.

It was an amazing sight. She’d been to markets before, but nothing as chaotic or as colourful as this. It would have come as no surprise whatsoever if Aladdin ran past being chased by irate town guards. She pushed past people and hopped up and down to see what was on offer.

Strange fruits and bizarre fish and plucked fowl hanging from hooks. Cheap jewellery and cheap garments stacked in a riot of colours. The prices were written on little boards but she couldn’t tell if it was in coppers or silvers or some other currency.

People were also selling cooked food that smelled amazing. They roasted and barbequed and grilled various meats, the fumes rising into the air laced with spices. It was hard not to drool. She was very curious to know what it would feel like to eat something in this world.

But all that could wait. She wandered through the gaps between stalls, squeezing through the crowds, looking for someone selling vegetables.

She heard him before she saw him.

“Potato, potato. Get your cauliflower here. Cabbages for days,” a big, fat man sang out.

“Carrots,” said Britta, trying her best not to get swept away by the ceaseless movement around her.

“Carrots it is, miss. Here you go.” He held up a basket full of carrots.

“I only want two or three,” she said.

He grabbed a handful and thrust them at her. “Two groats.”

She took two coins out of her inventory and handed them over. He looked a little confused and handed one of the coins back along with a bunch of smaller coins. There were eight of them, black with rusted edges.

Ten groats for a copper, apparently.

She took the carrots and worked her way out of the market. It would be fun exploring it more fully when she had time. She really needed to explore the whole town and find out what was here. They had put a lot of effort into creating a real medieval world and she had only seen a fraction of it.

When she reached the outskirts of town, she summoned Donald. He arrived out of thin air behind her as usual. She was pretty certain he did a double-take when he saw what she was holding in her hand. She couldn’t stop grinning as he devoured the carrots from her hand. It was by far the most satisfying experience she’d had since starting the game. Far more rewarding than killing things.

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