Bitter 440

Britta found it hard to hover in one place, the wings dragged her from side to side which made it hard to take a close look at the feathers scattered around her.

They were all over the chamber, on the walls and even stuck in cracks in the walls. There were also a lot of dark stains that hadn’t been here last time. Dark brown like rust. She assumed it was blood.

Had there been a fight? The gryphon had been attacked or did the attacking, maybe both. If it was blood on the walls, there was no way to tell who it belonged to. Not unless the colour of blood varied from species to species.

“Wait, wait,” called out the wizard as he ran into the room.

Britta awkwardly turned in mid-air. It was a bit like rowing. Once you got the rhythm, going straight was fairly intuitive, but trying to change course or make complicated manoeuvres required thinking, and even then you would probably do things in the wrong order and screw up. At least you wouldn’t fall in the water; just plummet to your death.

She managed to twist around and avoid gliding into the wall. The wizard was holding Britta’s bag. She had taken it off to take out the gryphon’s feather.

“You... left... this... behind.” He was out of breath, even though it was only a short distance from the other chamber. Gnome wizards didn’t do much exercise outside of waving their hands about, Britta assumed.

“Oh, thanks.” She tried to lower herself to reach the bag without touching the ground. Once her feet made contact, her flight would be over.

The wizard lifted the bag up as far as he could. Britta leaned down but drifted up at the same time. She kicked her legs, which did very little apart from making her feel silly.  She took a breath and allowed herself to drift downwards, her feet getting uncomfortably close to the cave floor. The wizard tossed the bag into Britta’s arms. She grabbed it and lifted herself back up.

“Thank you.” She looked around. “What happened here?”

“Something terrible, or so it appears,” said the wizard, which wasn’t really an answer. Then again, maybe he didn’t know.

“Was it like this after the gryphon disappeared?” For all she knew, this was just how it always was. No one had said gryphons were good at housekeeping.

“Yes, an altercation of some kind. I woke one morning to find the place in this condition, the gryphon absent. We don’t know what happened.”

And she would be expected to investigate? She waited for the quest screen to pop, but nothing happened.

“I don’t get it,” said Britta, doing her best to bob about as little as possible. “Why did you want my feather so desperately if you have all these.”

The wizard looked up at her with a mildly pained expression, although mainly because of having to crane his neck so much to speak to her. “I didn’t want it desperately.”

To be fair, she had been the one to decide the feather was the wizard’s target. “You said gryphon feathers were rare.”

He shook his head. “No, you must be mistaken. They’re not that hard to find.”

Britta wasn’t sure what was going on. The wizard had been the one to suggest she use the feather to barter with. Had he just been trying to be nice? An act of charity? That seemed very unlikely. And he had definitely said gryphon feathers were rare. Well, he’d said hers was.

If there was something special about her particular feather, then she had no idea what. It looked the same as all these ones, it just predated them. Perhaps being from the last version of the game gave the feather a quality no longer present.

She could feel herself being sucked into the mystery of the missing gryphon. That wouldn’t do at all. The path she had chosen was going to be the path she was going to take. She looked at the bag in her hands. How was she supposed to put it on over the wings? She pulled it into her chest and wrapped her arms around it. That would have to do until her next stop.

“Okay, thanks for everything. I’m going to go.”

The wizard raised a hand to wave farewell. Britta had expected some last minute attempt to bait her into taking a quest, but he didn’t say anything.

Britta flapped her wings. There was no effort required, just air pushed aside flowing down her body as she rose higher. The tall column of rock in the middle of the cave was quickly below her. The nest on top of it looked a mess. The neatly woven twigs and branches had been smashed apart with what looked like pieces of eggshell sticking out of it.

She resisted the temptation to take a closer look, keeping her feet well clear. She didn’t know if making contact with something so high up would count as touching down but she wasn't going to take the chance.

The hole above was easily big enough to let her through. Her wingspan was nowhere near that of a gryphon’s. She emerged into a blue sky and warm sunlight. The world below her spread in every direction, the taller buildings of Quosade visible in the distance.

It was an awesome sight, although details were hard to make out as she flitted about. The eyesight of a bird would have come in handy. No doubt there was a magical item for that, too.

Britta opened her map to get her bearings, keeping her bag securely clamped with elbows. Her next stop would be the ranch, where she could make another save. It didn’t look too far, she could vaguely see it in the distance, although that might have been a weirdly shaped hill. That direction, anyway. It would be interesting to see what kind of speeds she could get out of these wings, and unlike land travel, there was nothing she could bump into up here.

Eventually, the skies would be filled with people trying out various magical means of flight, but right now she had them all to herself. She tilted forward and shot through the air.

It hadn’t felt like this the other times she’d taken to the air. That had been like she was standing still, and the world moved around her. They must have made some improvements to the code.

She was really flying, and it was exhilarating. And then she was falling, and it was terrifying.

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