Bitter 44

The gnome was naked. At least, most of its body was uncovered, except for a loincloth and a thick layer of body hair. Its face was a lot like hers; ugly. Big nose, big ears, droopy eyes. Judging by its body, it was a male. Or a very flat-chested female.

“Hello,” said Britta.

The gnome didn’t respond. He didn’t make any move to approach her. He just sat with his feet dangling in the water staring at her.

He didn’t seem to be a player. There was no tag above his head. Was this a wild gnome? It certainly wasn’t a garden gnome. He would have had a cute hat and fishing rod if he was. He had neither.

“Are you a gnome?” she asked. “I’m a gnome, too.”

Still no response. Britta considered walking away. He didn’t seem hostile, and there wasn’t anything Britta needed from him, as far as she knew, so there was no need to press the issue. If he didn’t want to talk to her, that was his right.

This was probably a random encounter. Out in the wild, you were bound to run into other characters. Some you’d fight, some you’d make friends with, and some, like Chatty Chatterson, you’d leave alone.

The thing about being in a fantasy game world was that you didn’t live the way you would if you really found yourself living among monsters and strange races. You didn’t have to think like a survivor on an alien planet, you had to think like a game developer. They put this creature here.

Was it a gnome because she was a gnome? It was possible. He could be here to give her a race-specific quest. Or he could just be a passing gnome, going about his gnomish business. There were probably wild humans living out here, too. Most likely with spears and grass skirts, if the devs lived up to expectations.

As long as she didn’t have to get into any fights with the denizens of the wild, she didn’t care. She stood up, ready to get back on the trail.

The gnome shifted its head as she rose, watching her closely. It raised a hand. The pinky was sticking up.

Was that supposed to mean something? Some kind of sign language? She raised her own hand and stuck out her little finger.

The gnome moved the finger closer to his face, then pushed it up his nose and had a root around.

Britta dropped her hand. It was the little touches that reminded you behind all of these beautifully crafted visuals there was a juvenile mind in a body comprised of 75% pizza dough.

She shook her head and turned to leave.

“You aren’t a gnome.”

Britta stopped and turned back. The gnome was sitting in the same spot, picking its teeth with the same finger that had been up its nose a moment ago.

“I am,” she said. “It says so on my status screen.”

The gnome gave her a withering look. “You are not a true gnome.”

Britta wasn’t particularly proud of her heritage, mostly because she had no idea what it was, but she still felt offended by this twerp trying to exclude her. She may not have been a very good gnome, and she’d be the first to admit her grasp of Gnomish culture and traditions was slipshod at best, but she very clearly was a gnome.

“Of course I am,” she said. “Use your eyes. I look exactly like you. The nose, the ears…” She squeezed the end of her bulbous nose and pulled her large ears out. “What do you think I am? The world’s greatest gnome impersonator.”

“What you look like is of no importance. What matters is what’s in here.” He thumped his chest with a fist.

Britta rolled her eyes. What was this noble savage crap? Were they going to teach her how to be one with nature and how to use all of the buffalo?

“You will come to the village,” said the gnome. “The Wise One will decide.”

This was probably the start of a questline but she didn’t really want to trigger it now. She’d much rather get her ride, maybe hit a couple more levels, and then come back. She doubted the gnome was going anywhere.

“Thanks, but I’m a bit busy right now.”

The gnome stood up. “No, you will come now.” Behind him, another dozen gnomes rose out of the tall grass.

Subscribe to this content and receive updates directly in your inbox.