Bitter 403

The options presented on the opening day broadcast had been to join the Empire or the Rebels. Now it seemed there were other, temporary options.

You could sign up as a mercenary for any group that was willing to pay, including monsters.

Britta wasn’t sure of all the details, and couldn’t really be bothered to look into them, but it felt like it would make for a more level playing field. You didn’t have to stick to the traditional teams you would normally be expected to play for. Which was good. The only question was, why hadn’t they told anyone?

So far, people had attempted the Korlath Mine dungeon, and given up when it proved too hard. No one had bothered trying to find another, less violent solution. No one, apart from Britta, knew it was possible.

If they wanted people to discover these things for themselves, that was an admirable approach for a games developer to take, but not necessarily one that was good for business.

Then again, they were only a couple of days into the release, and most people were still getting to grips with the world. Perhaps it was just APE’s way of easing people into the game.

First they would faff around trying to figure out what they were supposed to do. Then they would get a level or two under their belts by doing some basic farming and grinding. And then, they’d be shown how you could approach a problem like the mines from more than one direction. It would certainly feel more rewarding that way.

Until, that is, the internet was filled with walkthroughs and strategy guides, and then everyone would follow the same route. Or would they? Britta realised the whole point of constantly updating dungeons and quests as soon as they were completed. No point writing a guide to a dungeon that no longer existed in the same format.

Once they dealt with the banshee (assuming they did), players coming in after them would have something new to deal with. It was a resource-heavy approach. The devs would have to keep coming up with new content as soon as the old stuff was complete. She started to understand why they were making it so hard.

“Cool,” said Dad, showing off the tattoo of a kobold head that had appeared on the back of his hand.

Britta had one, too. “Isn’t it like a slave brand?”

“No,” said Dad. “No, no. I’m sure it’s just a temporary way to remind them we’re on their side.”

Britta hoped it would be more effective than the kobold ring she’d been given. Most of the kobolds she’d tried to use it on had just assumed she must have stolen it.

“You will go to the front and engage the enemy,” said the elite kobold. “But first, you will be blessed by the High Priest.”

“Blessing equals buff, I hope,” Dad said from the side of his mouth.

“They can hear you,” Britta reminded him.

“I know, I just like talking like this,” he continued from the side of his mouth. “We’re among fighting troops now. Got a play the part.”

“By talking funny?”

“If it’s good enough for Sly Stallone, it’s good enough for me.”

“I have no idea who that is,” said Britta, as they kneeled in front of the High Priest. He began chanting.

“Urgh, you kids today. The man was action star par excellence.” It was always a worry when Dad started speaking superlatives in a foreign language. It meant an even higher level of drivel than normal. “He was known for two of the greatest roles in twentieth-century movie making. Cobra and, of course, Tango from Tango and Cash.”

The High Priest touched them both on the forehead, and Britta felt a warmth go through her. She quickly checked her status screen. All her attributes had gone up by one, except for charisma. No great loss there. Her health was up to 65 HP, which wasn’t bad.

“How many HP do you have now?” she asked Dad.

“Six,” he said, looking pleased with himself. “Why how many… actually, don’t tell me.”

“You may touch the altar,” said the High Priest.

They both patted it like it was a friendly dog.


At least they could come back here if they died. They stood up and turned around. Now they just had to deal with the banshee.

A kobold came running in with a basket of mushrooms. They were orange with black stripes, and looked a bit slimy.

“Sir, the mushrooms.”

“Ah, right,” said Dad. “I’ll take those.” He grabbed ten mushrooms out of the basket and squeezed them into Britta’s backpack. That left her with no room for treasure. “We’ll take care of this later. Don’t forget to remind me,” he said to Britta.

Did they still need to bring the kobolds food to win them over? They had a contract and everything now. Then again, they could still use the mushrooms to complete the mushroom quest, whatever that was. Or she could just throw them away if they found something valuable, assuming it was something small enough to fit.

“Okay,” said Dad, “where’s the battle?”

The kobold soldiers who had been guarding them now formed an escort to take them to the frontlines.

“By the way,” said Britta, “the banshee are undead monsters, aren’t they?”

“Yes, but don’t worry,” said Dad, “we should be able to handle low-level mobs between us. And by us, I mean mainly you.” He sniggered to himself. “They won’t know what hit them.”

“Only, my spells don’t work against the undead. They don’t believe my illusions.”

“Oh,” said Dad, not laughing anymore. “Hey, guys, we might need to rethink this. Guys?”

The kobolds ignored him and kept marching, driving the two mages ahead of them.

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