“Why are you here?” asked Britta.
“Um, because we’re in the same party?” The girl said it like it was obvious. “I wanted to tell you to wait for the others, they’re on their way.”
“But I didn’t accept any party invitations. Did I?” She didn’t think she had but now she wasn’t so sure.
The last invite on her screen had been the one from Lord Jim. She had meant to reject it, had opened it to do so, but then something distracted her. She’d received a friend request, also from Lord Jim, which she had accepted. Was it possible she had also accepted the party invite at the same time?
“All I know is you’re in my party so you must have,” said the girl. She held up the torch to get a better look at their surroundings. “This all looks pretty much the same as usual. Another dud run. I thought maybe Stan was onto something with you being the trigger for the event, but looks like he was wrong. I can’t believe how he treated you, that was really unbelievable. I would report him if I were you.”
She liked to talk a lot and rattled on about this and that. At least it gave Britta time to think.
If she had inadvertently joined Lord Jim’s group, it would be best to leave as soon as possible. The dwarf could appear at any moment and then her secret would be out.
“I’m sorry, er, bruTAL but—”
“Just Tal. It’s short for Talia. I thought it sounded cool, you know, like brutal, but it’s probably just dorky, right? I don’t really look the brutal type.”
“Okay, Tal. I’m sorry but I didn’t mean to join your group. I must have pressed the wrong thing.”
“Oh.” Tal’s face showed a little disappointment which she quickly covered with a smile. “No worries. You can just log out. You’ll respawn in town, though, so you’ll have to come all the way back, if you still want to do it solo.”
Britta didn’t really want to have to do that. “Couldn’t you log out? I was in here first.”
Tal didn’t look thrilled by the idea either. “Hmm. I’m already in and I have no problem with you staying. You’re the one who wants to be on their own.”
Britta didn’t want to kick her out if she could avoid it. The last thing she needed was another enemy, but what other option did she have? She opened her status screen and went to the group page. She wasn’t party leader.
That was odd. Last time the game had given it to her without even being asked. If she was the one triggering events, shouldn’t that be the same this time?
“Is something wrong?” asked Tal.
“No, nothing,” said Britta. “I’m still getting used to what all the buttons do.”
“What buttons?” asked Tal looking baffled.
“Er, it’s not important.” She closed the status screen. “Can you kick me out of the party? I won’t get rezzed that way, will I?”
Tal frowned. “I could, but you get a party debuff if you kick people.”
“Oh,” said Britta. She hadn’t known that. She hadn’t noticed any debuffs when she’d kicked Stan.
“What class are you by the way?” asked Tal, looking Britta up and down. “And where are your weapons? Under the cloak?”
Britta had lost her dagger last time she was here and didn’t have anything to fight with. That would sound weird if she admitted it.
“I have a dagger. It’s quite heavy so I keep it in my inventory.” That probably sounded no less odd.
“Hm. Okay.” Tal didn’t seem convinced by the logic.
“What class are you?” Britta asked, trying to change the subject. She still didn’t feel comfortable telling people she was an illusionist, partly because it was such a weak class, but also because if they knew her spells were illusions they wouldn’t be affected by them. She would have to figure out a way to deal with that problem, eventually. “Let me guess. Are you a rogue?”
“Yes,” said Tal, a big smile on her face. “Kind of. I went with an assassin build. Lots of damage and stealth but crap at picking locks and disarming traps. What about you? Rogue?”
“No.” Making it into a guessing game was quite handy. Now she wouldn’t think Britta was being evasive.
“Thief of some kind?”
Britta’s best bet would be to leave even if it meant returning to town. But what if the dwarf had already been activated? She didn’t want someone else to defeat it. It was her dwarf and there was still a lot left to be figured out about why it was in this dungeon. And even if she wasn’t here, it would still be obvious her presence had been responsible for summoning it. She really needed to get rid of her new teammate. The only way to do that was become party leader.
She looked at Tal. She was only a little taller than Britta and had a round, open face that seemed very honest and friendly. Which was a little strange since she was playing an assassin.
Britta felt bad. She didn’t want to trick Tal into letting her be party leader (assuming she even could) and then kick her out. And would that be any less suspicious? Basically, whatever she did, it would be pretty obvious she was acting in an odd way and people would want to know why.
What if she trusted Talia and asked her to keep her secret? Not everyone who played this game was a horrible backstabber. Diana had been nice to her, maybe Tal was another nice person. Maybe she was getting carried away with the whole keeping the dwarf to herself thing. Why not wait for the rest of the party and do the dungeon together? They seemed a friendly bunch and they did try to stick up for her against Stan.
“Shh,” said Tal.
Britta froze, listening. She expected to hear a howl, but what she heard was footsteps. It sounded like quite a lot of feet, marching.
“Kobold patrol,” whispered Tal. “If we stay quiet they’ll go straight past.”
Kobold patrol? Her dungeon didn’t have kobold patrols. Which meant this wasn’t her dungeon.