Bitter 218

“You can’t kill me,” said the Great Gnome. “Although it would give you a phenomenal amount of experience if you could.”

Britta looked at him with narrowed eyes. “Did you read my mind?”

“No, I read your face. You’re exhibiting signs of hostility that are hard to mistake.”

Britta let her face relax, which took longer than expected. There was no point having dark intentions if they were advertised all over her face. She had to learn how to be more subtle when contemplating murder.

“How do I find out more about these sub-classes?”

“You should have all the information you need,” said the Great Gnome. “Choose wisely. Your entire future could be decided in this moment. Unless you decide to respec, of course. Respec tokens are available from the store for a nominal fee.”

Britta sighed. The feeling that nothing really mattered in this world, that you always had the chance of a do-over was what stopped it being real. It made it more fun, and less terrifying, but there was also a lack of authenticity that was hard to embrace, for some reason. Life here wasn’t as valuable. It wasn’t sacred. Maybe that was a good thing. It gave you the chance to do much more. For a nominal fee.

Britta opened her status screen and checked her inbox. She hadn’t deleted any of her previous messages, but they hadn’t taken up much space. That was no longer the case. Now, she had to scroll all the way down, and then go to the next page.

She pulled up the message about her Stage 2 spells.

<Choose one of the following Stage 2 illusionist spells: Invisibility, Hypnosis, Teleport>

All three spells sounded pretty useful, but how did they relate to the sub-classes the Great Gnome had mentioned?

She tapped the first one and a voice said: Do you wish to accept Invisibility for your Stage 2 spell?

Yes and No buttons appeared before her.

What she wanted was more information, not being railroaded into making a quick decision.

“What does Invisibility do?” She obviously knew what invisibility was, but she wanted to get the details. How long it lasted, how to activate it, what resources it took up. There was no point finding these things out after she’d taken it. And what sub-class would it give her?

There was no reply.

“More information on Invisibility.” Nothing. “Invisibility… explain.” Still nothing.

She presses the No button.

“How do I find out what each spell does without taking it?” she asked.

The Great Gnome put a short, stubby finger on his chin, and his eyes took on a faraway look, which could mean he was thinking it over, or that he was buffering. Perhaps a poke would help him snap out of it.

Before Britta could put her theory to the test, he suddenly grew to twice his size and looked down at her with a penetrating gaze.

“It is quite unintuitive, isn’t it?” he said in the same squeaky voice that didn’t match his appearance. “Not working as intended, I suspect.”

“No,” said Britta. “Why are you so big?”

“Am I?” He looked around like he’d only just noticed. He shrank back down to her size. “Sorry, happens sometimes when I get carried away. It seems there’s some kind of bug. Actually, not so much a bug as a coding error. Putting the cart before the horse.”

Britta glanced up at the cave roof, wondering if Dr Reedy and her team were watching. “That doesn’t help me, though. Can’t you just tell me what the spells do?”

“I suppose I have no choice.” The Great Gnome followed her gaze up to the roof. “I’ll just keep it to the basics, so you can grasp the general differences. I think that should be enough to allow you to make an informed decision.”

“Fine. Go ahead.”

“There are three directions you can take as an illusionist, which will affect what spells you can learn in the future and also what kind of style of play you will be able to employ.”

She wanted him to get on with it, but her experience with Dad, and adults in general, had taught her that trying to rush people usually made them take even longer. She nodded and waited for him to continue.

“The Acrobat is quick and agile. He can use Teleport once a day to move any distance that he can see. How often he can use this spell will change over time. As will who or what he can take with him. A high agility score is advantageous.”

“Why do you keep saying ‘he’ and ‘him’? I’m a girl.”

“Apologies. The definitions weren’t written by me.”

They both looked up at the roof.

“The Puppet Master controls others. He… or she can cast Hypnotise on a subject to do their bidding. How often and how many others they can control will increase as they become more proficient at their art. A high Intelligence score is advantageous.”

Both sounded okay, so far. Puppet Master was maybe less appealing. Controlling others and making them do what you wanted would be useful, but it was just a magical form of bullying.

Acrobat sounded like it made you hard to hit, and also made running away convenient. But she didn’t have a very high agility score. She’d been putting her stats into strength, which was starting to look like a mistake.

“And the third one?”

“The Coward. Use Invisibility to hide from your enemies and…”

“Wait. It’s called the Coward?”

“I don’t write the definitions or the titles,” the Great Gnome reminded her.

Whoever did write them clearly didn’t think much of the Invisibility spell. Or they wanted to put people off from taking it.

“Go on,” said Britta. “Tell me more about the Coward.”

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