Britta was shocked. She felt it surge through her, making the hairs on the back of her neck rise. Flawed had died.
He had been stabbed in the back, somewhat ironically, but it wasn’t entirely clear how it had happened. Derik was sitting on the floor, looking dazed.
Flawed fell in slow motion. At first Britta thought it was her, but then she realised the video had actually slowed down to make it more dramatic. She gave Dad a sideways glance.
He grinned. “I wanted to let the viewer experience it the way we did.”
It was hard not to roll her eyes. As soon as Flawed hit the ground, everything speeded up again.
Obviously Flawed wasn’t really dead. He would lose a bunch of XP, and maybe even lose the level he’d gained, but he would be able to come back. It was more the image of him losing his life that was so disturbing.
It hadn’t been like seeing someone getting killed in a movie. It was like watching a wedding video, and the bride’s father drops dead during the ceremony.
The battle was already won, as far as Britta could tell. The banshees were down to the last of their health, and in no condition to make a comeback. The kobolds and the remaining players were finishing them off with renewed vigour. The only one not fighting was Dad. He was too busy panning across the battlefield, getting the events in glorious technicolour.
Derik was up and running. He was going for the book Flawed had dropped when he died. It was sitting on the ground, unnoticed by the triumphant kobolds eagerly beating down the hapless banshees.
“Stop him,” cried out Dad, but no one responded. The camera began moving as Dad ran to get there first. He rushed through the kobolds.
Derik was sprinting on all fours, his robe flapping around him. He skidded to a stop and grabbed the book of the floor. What was he going to do with it? The banshees had been overwhelmed. Could the book bring them back to full-strength? Or was he going to call for reinforcements?
He had the book open, and held it in front of his face.
Dad arrived. And didn’t stop. He barged into Derik, his momentum pushing the two of them towards the chasm.
And then Derik was flying through the air. Dad had used the ultimate cheese strat, one she had seen him use countless times. He had knocked the enemy off a ledge.
Derik fell into the pit, disappearing into the darkness with a cry of, “Nooooooo.” Dad made sure to hold the shot on him even after he was gone from view and only the echo of his voice was left. Britta was starting to see him as a very manipulative filmmaker.
“Would have been better if I’d added some music to it, but they said it would take time to sort out the clearance.”
“Did he die?” asked Britta.
“I think so. I got the XP.” He grinned malevolently.
The banshees were all dead. The necromancer had plunged to his death — although that didn’t mean he couldn’t come back — and then Flawed came running in, shouting, “I’m here, I’m here.”
He looked very not-dead. He must have respawned at the altar, which wasn’t very far away. All that emotion Britta had felt when she saw him die, now seemed a little silly.
“Oh, it’s over,” he said, looking around with a disappointed expression.
“Victory!” shouted the king, poking the air above his head with his sword.
The kobolds cheered.
Korlath Mines Stage 1 Complete.
The message appeared on the screen, big enough to fill it.
Bonus rewards unlocked.
New achievements unlocked.
New title awarded.
The words began scrolling up.
World’s First victory achieved:
It didn’t say what the rewards were. They must have received something more than fancy titles or a badge to display on a leaderboard somewhere. Extra experience points at the very least.
Britta was about to ask Dad what he had got, when the screen abruptly changed. There was a shot of a group of players in a field. They were stalking some deer, preparing to fire with bows and arrows. They stopped to stare, their faces full of wonder. In the sky above them, the World’s First message appeared, followed by the names.
The scene changed to a town, one Britta didn’t recognise. Players in the street stopped and looked up at the same message. Then players in a cart on a journey, doing likewise. Over and over, quick shots of people finding out about the victory.
And last of all, the king who had appeared in the opening ceremony broadcast, on his castle battlements, reading the skywriting, and nodding.
“How did you get all that?” asked Britta.
“Wasn’t me. APE added it, to give the whole thing a bit more oomph. Pretty good, huh?”
“You don’t feel like a bit of a sellout?” she asked.
Dad bridled a little, but dismissed her concerns with a wave of his hand. “No, of course not. I had full artistic control. Final cut.”
The video was back in the mines. Everyone was congratulating each other.
“This is but the beginning,” said the kobold king. “We will clear the lower levels, reclaim our home, and defeat the dark forces once and for all.” The kobolds cheered.
Korlath Mines Stage 2:
What Lies Below
The words appeared, then faded.
Double Experience Points
That would bring adventurers running, thought Britta.
The kobolds’ cheering was interrupted by a loud gong.
“Intruders!” went up the cry. “Intruders! Intruders!”
A kobold came running in. Britta suspected there would always be a spare kobold to use as a last minute messenger.
“Your Majesty,” he said, struggling to catch his breath. “The Imperial Army is here.”
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