Bitter 310

Britta tried to stop herself slipping further down the slope appearing in front of her, but if she didn’t move she’d get hit by the lava flowing towards her from behind.

The floor hadn’t tipped very far, so the lava was only trickling at the moment. If she could back up she might be able to make the floor level again, assuming it was her weight that had caused the change, but lava was already preventing her from going back the way she’d come.

She was standing at an intersection of paths. Lava had overflowed around her, too, but she had avoided getting any on her shoes. It wouldn’t take long for more to arrive though, and the longer she waited, the fewer routes she would have open to her. If she was quick, she could make it to the other side. Maybe.

Of course, the further she went, the steeper the floor would tilt, and the faster the lava would flow. But because the channels weren’t cut into the floor in straight lines, there would be some places covered in hot deadly lava before others.

She edged back a bit so the ground at least didn’t tilt any more than it already had. The last thing she needed was to start sliding downhill.

It had probably been designed as a test of quick thinking. The maze itself was fairly straightforward. Too straightforward. There hadn’t just been an easy answer, there had been a number of them. Now she understood why. You had to choose the right answer that also avoided the lava tide racing towards you.

She looked around in case she was missing anything. This would be the point where Dad would be shaking his head because she hadn’t seen the slightly different coloured square of floor you were supposed to jump on.

It all looked the same, as far as she could tell. But she did notice the gap between the floor and the opposite wall. The lava was falling through it like rainwater down a drain. At least it wouldn’t pool up, stopping her getting to the alcove.

There was no time to stop and consider her options. She had to run and choose her route as she went, relying on luck to get across. She didn’t fancy her chances much. Her luck had always been terrible.

She took a step forward and felt the ground tilt immediately. Edging along cautiously was definitely not the way to go.

It was a game, though, and one where things didn’t always go the way you thought they would. Sometimes the answer was fantastical, sometimes it was surprisingly mundane. She stuck the toe of her boot into a trickle of orange passing by. Her boot sizzled and smoked, but it didn’t instantly turn to ash.

She looked at the numbers in the corner of her screen. She had 80 HP. That was a lot for a Level 4 character, especially a mage. They were supposed to be weak at the start of the game, to make up for being so powerful later.

Dad was Level 7 and had 58 HP, and he was a fighting class. It didn’t really make sense, but there was no point worrying about it now. She could try to run the maze, going left and right and back and forth, or she could take the shortest route between points A and B, and tank the damage.

Why not? What was the worst that could happen? She could die, but then she’d come back.

She had tried to treat this world like it was real, but it wasn’t. It was stupid to ignore the parts that made it different. Those were the parts that made it interesting. She began running.

No doubt it wasn’t how the game was supposed to be played. The maze had been set up by someone who had intended it to require fast reactions and quick calculations. A mental and physical challenge. Success would lead to a feeling of pride and accomplishment, probably. She had little interest in either.

She didn’t bother following any particular path, she went straight, splashing through the lava and jumping in and out of the troughs. The ground tipped and the lava flowed. Her boots disappeared from view. Little red numbers flew up from her feet, but they were ones and twos. Her HP total began to go down, but very slowly. She had more than enough to make it.

But the lava rose to her shins, then her knees. She couldn’t see the grooves cut into the floor and stumbled. She fell and quickly got up, the hot lava biting into her hands, numbers flying off her at an alarming rate now. Suddenly she was down to 50 HP.

Her clothes, her new gear that she had spent so much time working on, was quickly falling apart. She slowed down as she waded through the lava. It was thinner than real lava, or at least it seemed to be. She wasn’t entirely sure what wading through lava really felt like, but this was closer to soup than porridge. It also hurt a lot less than what she imagined it would be like in real lava, but her health was still going down.

The gutter she’d seen was preventing the lava from getting too deep, but it wasn’t taking the overflow away quickly enough to prevent it backing up. Her boots were gone now, and her feet were burning. The floor was literally lava.

30 HP now. She was close, but the ground had dropped away, so that there was a ledge to climb up to get to the alcove. A normal-sized person wouldn’t have a problem, but it was already higher than she could reach. It would be a toss-up between the lava incinerating her or drowning her.

There wasn’t much she could do. She didn’t have a backup plan, and the downhill momentum was impossible to resist. She could try jumping, but athleticism wasn’t really her character’s forte. Perhaps her added stats in strength and agility would come to her rescue.

As she prepared to launch herself, and most likely slam into the wall well short of her target, the ground suddenly shifted violently. This time it wasn’t just the floor that was moving, the whole room was rotating. The floor was becoming a wall and the wall, including the alcove she was trying to reach, was becoming the floor. She would make it to her destination, she just had to hope she wouldn’t get killed by the falling damage.


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Afterword from Mooderino
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