Bitter 45

The other gnomes had been well-hidden. Was this an ability she had, too? She knew very little about being a gnome and they looked like they knew a lot. There was probably a bunch of stuff these wild gnomes could teach her about being a better gnome.

She looked around. They were all male and all dressed similarly to the first one, so basically naked. They had dopey looking faces, although the droopy eyes and jowly faces made it hard to look smart and alert.

“You will come now,” repeated Gnome Number One. He appeared to be the leader of this group. Some had spears, some had clubs. A hunting party? They didn’t strike Britta as an elite fighting force as they stood scratching themselves and yawning.

She was beginning to think meeting these gnomes was no coincidence. They were going to take her to their village, have a problem that needed her help, and then she’d be off on her adventures. She’d much rather get her ride first, though.

“I have to go to Honest Jasper’s Ranch, do you know it?” Maybe it was on the way. She wouldn’t mind a gnome escort through the wilderness.

Gnome Number One scowled. “You have spent too much time among the humans. You will come with us. The Wise One will show you the path to becoming a true gnome.”

The game was being very insistent. Wasn’t it supposed to be all about getting to choose what you wanted to do, like the real world? Then again, when in the real world did you ever get to choose what you wanted to do?

“Fine. Whatever. Let’s go.” She might as well see where this led, she decided.

They set off with Britta in the middle of the group. They didn’t really take up any particular formation, just surrounded her and moved at a leisurely pace.

Even though the were all males, Britta didn’t feel intimidated, which was a surprise. Being accosted by a group of men (even very short men) and forced to go with them back to their village would be quite a scary prospect if it had happened on her way to school. But here it didn’t have the same kind of menace. Probably because she didn’t have any genitalia.

They could kill her, but she’d come back. That was about the worst of it. They couldn’t do anything sexual and that made it a lot easier to deal with. She glanced around wondering if the NPCs had smooth, sexless middles, too. She couldn’t tell through their loincloths and it would probably be impolite to ask. There was no obvious bulge.

Her gaze lingered a little too long and the gnome she was checking out gave her a concerned look.

“Ah, no, I was just…” But there was nothing she could say that would make it not seem like she was being a perv.

The gnome slowly moved away from her.

She was assuming they didn’t mean her any harm because she was one of them, but that wasn’t necessarily true. They could be cannibals for all she knew, taking her home for dinner, literally. Offer to let her use their hot tub while they added carrots and potatoes to the bubbling water.

That was the sort of thing that happened in cartoons and bad movies. It was also the sort of thing games developers would think was funny and clever; an homage to the cartoons and bad movies they loved so much. Dad had a whole collection of Bugs Bunny cartoons at home, lined up on a shelf like classic books.

Wherever they were going, it would have been a lot quicker on a horse, and a lot less tiring. None of the gnomes around her had a mount which seemed impractical in such a vast wilderness. Did they walk everywhere?

After half an hour, there was still no sign of a village. She was about to ask for a break when everyone stopped. They were standing around a small mound of earth. When Britta got closer, she saw there was a hole in the middle of the hillock. A deep, black hole. She peered in but there was nothing to see, except for blackness.

“Now what?” she asked.

One of the gnomes walked up to the hole and then jumped in. Others followed. They didn’t climb down, they just leaped in feet first. The hole was just about big enough for them to enter if they kept their hands at their sides.

“What’s down there?” asked Britta. She was shoved in the back and fell in the hole. She stuck her arms out instinctively and banged them on the sides. The force sent them up over her head and she went falling into darkness, screaming.

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