Bitter 322

Travel to the ruins of Old Town. Locate and kill the Old Alchemist.

If you get caught, you will fail the quest.

If you get killed, you will fail the quest.

If you fail to meet the deadline, you will fail the quest.

This quest is not repeatable

Diana had probably failed the quest. It was still there. It hadn’t actually told her she had failed, but the stipulations seemed very clear. If you were captured, you failed. And Diana was sitting in a cell.

She’d been sitting in it for a while now.

She closed her status screen and looked up.

It was actually more like being at the bottom of a well. A pit dug deep into the ground, with stone walls and a hole at the top. It was the only way in or out. A thorough search of the floor and walls had revealed nothing. She didn’t know how she’d been put in here, but most likely she had been lowered from above.

It was quite an effective dungeon-for-one. They didn’t even need to lock the door. There wasn’t one. She had tried climbing the walls, but there was nothing to grip. The stones were smooth and slippery. Her weapons had little effect, bouncing off without leaving a mark.

Today, however, she planned to escape. Or rather, tonight.

Night had come to New World. She had seen it through the hole high overhead. The stars appearing in that small circle had been startling. She wanted to see the rest of the night sky.

Even if her incarceration hadn’t meant failure, the arrival of night meant she was on a clock. There was a three day time-limit, which she hadn’t paid much attention to. Days were endless here. Or they used to be. Now, she had only a few hours left.

When she first arrived in Old Town, it had seemed like a dead place, but ancient and beautiful. The buildings were crumbling and dilapidated, and the surrounding forest had reclaimed most of the land. It was how she imagined a lost city to look like, probably because it had been designed that way. It had probably always been a ruin. It was still a wonderful setting for an adventure. She had never been able to travel very much, so she had never visited any of Earth’s great historical sites. Here, she felt she was in the presence of an ancient civilisation. It had been faked really well.

There was no one here, now. Or so she thought.

She had searched the area for signs of life and found none. She had assumed her target didn’t know she was coming, but perhaps the target did know and had run away. Or hidden. Or was waiting.

Diana had been reluctant to log out since that would put her back at her last save point, which was New Town. Then she’d have to travel all the way here again. Instead, she looked for a temple, or the remains of one, hoping there’d be an altar.

She found one, covered in vines and moss, in the centre of a ring of columns that had once been something grand, and then logged out. When she logged back in, she was in a hole in the ground.

She tried logging out and back in again, but she always returned to the hole.

It was a puzzle, at first. Something to be solved. Then it became obvious there was no clever way out, and she was stuck there. She didn’t want to contact the mods and ask them to get her out. That went against why she played this game. There had to be a way out, she knew it. Just not a simple one.

The Old Alchemist, her target, appeared a little while later. Diana had been lying on the ground, staring up, when a face appeared in the circle of light. It was hard to make out the features lit from behind, but the wild hair was very similar to the Alchemist’s.

“How is it, murderer?” she shouted down. Her voice was also similar to the Alchemist’s, cracked and husky. Perhaps the fumes they worked with affected their vocal cords.

“Hello? Can you help me get out?”

“Why would I help a murderer? She sent you, didn’t she? That ungrateful student of mine.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I got lost and ended up here, somehow. I mean you no harm, friend.” Diana did her best to seem non-threatening, which was hard when you were all muscles and weapons.

“I don’t believe your lies, you lying liar.” The face disappeared.

She reappeared occasionally, to throw insults and taunts. Evidently she was quite pleased with herself for trapping an assassin.

“You’re not the first one I’ve caught, you know. Here, you look lonely down there. Have some company.”

Bones fell from the sky until there were enough for an entire skeleton. A human one, it looked like once she’d put it together. It didn’t freak her out, though. At least now she had some company.

It was boring and frustrating, but it felt like a real challenge. The Old Alchemist spoke like a regular person, like the NPCs spoke to little B. She was in the other part of the game, and loath to leave it. Or share it.

Every day she logged in and settled into thinking of a way to get out. She didn’t care how long it took. And then the sky darkened and she was forced to come up with a plan. She wanted to beat the quest.

Her idea was simple. She would climb out. She just needed to learn how to climb. Properly.

There were many videos online showing techniques. Most of it was for climbing up a rock face, mainly people showing off, but the theory would be the same she assumed. When she tried using what she’d learned in her pit, the results were disappointing. She needed more specific help.

She found a local climbing centre not too far from where she lived, and made an appointment. The instructor was a very fit-looking woman, with her hair pulled back tight. She was friendly but slightly confused. Diana didn’t blame her and tried to come up with a reasonable explanation for why a woman in a wheelchair wanted to learn how to climb out of a pit.

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