Bitter 436

Britta had expected to be returned to the altar in the village. That’s where it said she would appear on her login page which had a list of altars she had unlocked. A list of two originally — the one in the Church of Roha and the one in the mines. When she touched the one the wizard had shown her, there were three.

Even though she had unlocked this one previously, it hadn’t been on the list. She wasn’t sure why but assumed it had something to do with the relaunch of the game.

When she logged back in, she should have gone to the one above. She opened her status screen and went to the login page. It was still showing only three altars. It said Gnome Village, but it didn’t say there were two of them.

Was it random or could she choose which she spawned at? It wasn’t very clear what was going on.

The chasm was lit by a faint blue glow just as it had been the last time. Large blue mushrooms grew out of the wall rising in front of her. Could she use this altar to get to the other one? That would at least give her a way to get to the top of the cliff face without having to climb.

She wondered if they sold climbing gear in the cash shop and if they delivered.

The sudden change in location had thrown her a bit, not that there was anything terribly bad about being down here. Perhaps the Great Gnome was in hiding and had summoned her for a chat. That seemed like a reasonably plausible idea. She looked around for the tunnel entrance, her eyes slowly adjusting to the gloom.

She found it and then summoned the shade. Even if this was a simple detour, she still felt like she should be cautious.

“Back here, are we?” said the shade. His smoky appearance rippled.

“Yes, but not by choice. I think something strange is going on.”

“And you want me to look into it?” He said it like she was asking a lot.

“If you don’t mind,” said Britta. “I’d go, but I don’t have stealth mode.”

There was a sight shrug in what could arguably be called the shade’s shoulders. “Fine. What am I looking for?”

“The Great Gnome. See if he’s in the next room. And the gryphon. Actually any living beings. And non-living. Well, anything that’s moving, that’s alive. Or dead.” It was hard to cover all possibilities. “Anything not moving as well, but only if it could move if it wanted to.”

The shade didn’t have eyebrows. That didn’t stop it appearing doubtful of her instructions.

“So you want me to look for anything living or dead, moving and not-moving?”

“You know what I mean,” said Britta. “Signs of intelligent life.”

“Define intelligent,” said the shade.

“Anyone or anything that could hurt either of us,” said Britta.

“That’s your idea of intelligent?”

“No, I’m changing your instructions. I want you to look for anything that can hurt me, but also let me know if there’s any danger to you, so I don’t put you in harms way without realising.”

“Are you trying to affect me on an emotional level?”

“Is it working?”

“Only time will tell. Very well, I’m going. You realise your instructions don’t ask for a report on anyone friendly I might encounter.”

“Yes, but I don’t mind bumping into them.” Simple, clear orders, that’s how she was going to proceed from now on. No point asking people to view things how she would. How would the shade know if she considered something noteworthy?

The shade drifted off. Britta opened her map. It showed the thin strip of ground she was standing on, surrounded by blackness. She had never figured out how to switch to a different view, like the area above her.

“Show me New Town.” Nothing happened. “Show me Quosada.” It was a dumb name she didn’t much like, but the view changed. It showed her a top-down view of the town and surrounding area.

“Show me all saving points,” she said.

Dots appeared all over the map. Dad was right, she just had to ask. She blamed a lifetime of having apps you could speak to but which no one ever used because voice activation was always so inconsistent. People didn’t want to have to repeat themselves, and they usually didn’t want to be overheard. No one liked being judged based on what they were googling.

There were different coloured dots on the map, some of which were pulsating. Britta had no idea what that meant, or what the colours signified. There was another saving point in town apart from the one in the church, she noticed. It was roughly where the stables were. She would have to take a closer look next time.

There were two in the middle of nowhere, which looked to be on top of her location. One was red, one was blue. Most of the dots were red, including the one in the Church of Roha. That one was pulsing. It made her think the pulsing was related to the altars she had unlocked, but there were others pulsing that she had never been to, and the ones on her current location weren’t pulsing, either.

It would take a little figuring out, but at least she had found a way to locate them. There was probably a legend somewhere that explained it.

“Show legend.” Nothing happened. She looked further up the map in the direction of the city. There were many saving points, the nearest being at the ranch she had got Donald from. She could make it there fairly easily, even without the gryphon. In fact, she preferred it that way. Her landing was something of a painful memory.

The shade returned. “No.”

“No?” said Britta. “Nothing dangerous.”

“Define dangerous.”

“Okay, okay, I’ll take your word for it.” She was tempted to ask if there was anyone friendly, but she knew what he would say.

She walked into the tunnel and came out in the colourfully lit chamber that had been the Great Gnome in the Sky’s residence. Maybe it still was. There was a gnome waiting for her.

“Oh, hello again,” said the wizard. “I thought you’d be back.”

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