Bitter 246

There was no reason to hang around, and every reason to leave the area as quickly as possible. She took one last look up at the roof and waved, then ran back around the guardhouse. There was no way out through the tightly packed houses that she could see, and she didn’t fancy getting lost in a maze. She certainly didn’t trust her map to guide her—it usually gave her wrong directions when she could see where she wanted to go. She would have to hope she didn’t bump into the same guards.

The stone was safely in her inventory (petals still bound to it), and she had her teleport spell if needed. All the ingredients were now in her possession, apart from the dung weed that Diana had gone to collect.

Excited to be this close to achieving her goal, even though it was a fairly basic gathering quest that any Level 1 character could have been asked to do, Britta hurried to the post office.

Was it better to have her hood up or down? Up would hide her face, but also make her look more suspicious. What if it wasn’t her face they had recognised? Thanks to her adjustments, her outfit was unique. What if there was an APB out on her fetchingly designed garb? She would have to make a few more embellishments to throw them off the track.

She didn’t encounter the guards. There were some different ones around the front of the guardhouse, but they weren’t paying attention as she quickly crossed the street and turned into another road.

She felt full of pep. She wasn’t used to being peppy. When you were wanted by the authorities, had ingredients for a potion in your pocket, and had to pick up a magic item from the local post office, it made even simple things feel thrilling.

The post office was crowded with the usual NPCs, and a couple of players. Britta got in line and tried to stay calm. Where did she put the recipe? Had she dropped it? Did she give it to Diana? She checked her inventory. It was still there, of course. Pep made you anxious.

Dennis was serving at the counter. There could have been some awkwardness. She was supposed to be meeting him after work—would he react oddly to seeing her now?

“How can I help you today?” He said brightly, giving no sign he even knew who she was.

She collected her package and left. It was a lot easier dealing with NPCs when they stuck to their scripts.

Britta spotted Diana waiting for her through Sonny’s large glass plate window. She had a bunch of what looked like straw in one hand, which she swished about absentmindedly. The other patrons, NPCs and players alike, didn’t seem very happy, especially when Diana swished in their direction.

Britta entered and immediately realised the source of the other patrons’ unhappiness. The place stank of poo. The smell wafted about in perfect sync with Diana’s movement. Dung weed was clearly named that for a reason.

Britta sat down and tried not to breathe too deeply. “That smells terrible.”

Diana grinned. “Yeah, I know. You get used to it.” She looked around as though to get confirmation from the other customers. They didn’t look like they agreed. Nobody said anything, though. Probably because there wasn’t much to be said to a giant barbarian with a massive axe strapped to her back.

“Did you get it?” asked Diana.

“Yes.” Britta put the pot-pot on the table, and the stone next to it. She began picking at the string. “He threw it over the wall.”

“Clever. He’s a smart guy, this friend of yours, is he?” Britta didn’t answer, focused on getting the string off without damaging the petals. “You okay? Seem to have taken a bit of a bump on the head.”

“I’m fine,” said Britta, rubbing the place where the stone had hit her. It didn’t hurt, but she could feel the swelling. “Okay, here we go.” She picked up the petals, which felt warm and sweaty. They smelled a bit like liver, although it was hard to be sure with the stench Diana had brought with her. Britta could easily imagine the devs making every plant smell exactly like the thing they were named after, and thinking they were brilliant for doing it.

She took the lid off the pot-pot, which was like a very small witch’s cauldron. It was the perfect size if she ever wanted to make soup for one. It didn’t look like it was big enough to get all the ingredients inside, but with a little force and no doubt some digital black magic, everything went in.

Britta put the lid on and waited. Nothing happened. “Now what?”

“Did you add the recipe?”

“Oh, right.” She had to put the piece of paper in with the ingredients. Her efforts to think quicker and make decisions on the spot were hampered by her inability to remember all the steps. It served no purpose to hurry things up if she just forgot things and had to go back to do them. It would end up taking longer and, in some cases, get her killed.

There were things she had to choose, and then deal with the consequences, and there were other things which didn’t require any decisions, she just had to remember to do them. Hopefully, those were the kinds of thing she would get better at with practice.

She dug out the recipe (still there!) and put it on top of the other items in the pot-pot. It was a neat way to stop people being able to just copy a spell by using the same ingredients. Then she closed the lid.

The pot-pot began to rattle and steam came out in squirts. People gave them nervous looks, and some left, just to be safe. Then it stopped.

Britta gingerly lifted the lid.

Inside was an, orange liquid. Royal Orange Soup. She sniffed it. It smelled like carrots.

“What does it do?” she asked Diana.

Diana shrugged.

“Identify,” said Britta.

<Your level is too low to identify this item>

“It won’t let me. You try.”

Diana didn’t look very keen, but she made a face of pure concentration and stared into the cauldron.

“Identify.” She squinted and made a grunting sound. “No, sorry. Nothing.”

“But you’re Level 15,” said Britta.

“I know. I just never bothered putting any points into Wisdom. It’s my worst stat.”

She looked embarrassed and Britta wasn’t going to find out what the potion did by making her feel worse, even though not levelling up Identify seemed like a poor choice to her. She looked at the orange liquid. It was too high a level for her to be able to identify, which meant it was probably something very powerful. Possibly. Or it could be very strong fake tan.

“I think I know someone who can help us,” said Britta.

Subscribe to this content and receive updates directly in your inbox.