Bitter 452

It looked like no one had been here in a long time, but Britta was hardly an expert on subterranean living. Maybe this was how it always looked. She increased the light, hoping to see the exit. She still had to find her way to the surface.

Her light wasn’t going to last long, and she didn’t want to be wandering around without it. The beauty and visual wonder that made this world so amazing didn’t make much difference in the dark.

She checked her MP to see how long she had and was surprised to find the gauge was full. Completely full.

Logging out did start to refill the amount of mana you had, but she’d been gone for less than half an hour. There was no way it should have refilled that quickly.

An apology from the game for harassing her? That didn’t seem very likely, but if the game had listened to her and finally taken no for an answer, giving her a full tank of magic might be a reasonable mea culpa.

There was no way to tell, and it didn’t really matter. She had to find way out, get to the next village, and then take it from there. Whatever the reason for her good fortune, she’d had enough bad fortune in the game that she felt she deserved the gift, whatever the source. She summoned the shade.

“Can you find me a way to the surface?”

The shade drifted from side to side. “You visit the most interesting places.”

“It wasn’t my idea. I keep trying to get to the big city, and someone keeps forcing me off the path.”

“Just a way out, is it? No scouring the area for deadly foes?”

“A way out that isn’t too steep will do just fine.”

The shade nodded in its own inimitable way and then drifted off. Britta opened her map and watched as the tunnels appeared on it. After about ten minutes, the shade returned.

“Found it. Not far from here there’s an underground river. If you follow it, there’s an opening. You might get a bit wet.”

“Great. Thank you.” Things were going more smoothly than she had anticipated. The next thing to decide was whether to leave the totem here or take it with her. If something were to happen to her, she wouldn’t mind a safety net. Respawning here wouldn’t be so bad. It was secluded enough that no one would notice, assuming the guardvark wasn’t coming back. The village of Gumberlee wasn’t too far, she should be able to make it there without needing to make another save on the way. She decided to leave it here.

The route to the underground river was marked on her map. It took a few minutes of trudging through the tunnels before she heard it, and another five minutes until she was standing next to the rushing water.

There was enough room on either side to work as a footpath, like walking alongside a canal. It got noisier as she approached an opening heavily covered with vines so hardly any light was getting in. That was most likely why people didn’t know about this entrance.

The path became swamped with water and Britta was wading. The shade had said she’d get wet, so it didn’t worry her. Once she was back outside, she would dry off in no time.

The water was up to her waist before she started having second thoughts. Her size was of no help in this kind of situation, and she was soon swimming, doing a gentle breaststroke.  At least there wasn’t much further to go.

And then she was moving quicker, not needing to swim as she was caught in a current that swept her along. She didn’t really mind, it would make things quicker. Hopefully there weren’t any sharp rocks ahead.

There weren’t. There was nothing ahead, she was at the top of a waterfall and down she went.

She sailed through the air and landed in a pool, sinking deep into the depths before rising to the surface, splashing about and gasping for air. It was actually quite a fun experience. She couldn’t be harmed, and she had left the totem in place. This was the kind of adventure she was fine with.

She made her way to the shore and lay there, panting. Her underground ordeal was over, and the sunlight falling on her was all the more soothing and welcome. Once she caught her breath, she opened her map again. The village was practically round the next corner.

Britta got up and shook herself off. Water dripped off her, but she couldn’t be bothered to wait for the sun to dry her. She set off with a feeling of accomplishment. She was nearly at her destination and she had managed to not get killed or burdened with unwanted quests. That was a victory in her book, it was just a shame she didn’t get any XP or it.

There were no roads marked between her and Gumberlee on the map, so she took the most direct route across some fields. The ground was a bit uneven, and she had one eye open for suspicious holes, but there didn’t seem to be any large enough to swallow her whole.

She squeezed through a hedge and saw rooftops ahead. There were also a small group of people limping along in the same direction. It was the party who she had abandoned, or who had abandoned her (she wasn’t really sure). They looked like they’d taken some damage and there seemed to be one missing. Presumably, if he had died, he would be waiting for them at the village.

They hadn’t seen her, and Britta considered keeping quiet and not revealing she was behind them, but that felt a bit rude.

“Hey! It’s me!” She wasn’t sure why she said that. It would be very embarrassing if they didn’t recognise her.

They stopped and turned to look at her. They were a bit bruised and battered, and mildly astonished.

“You made it out,” said Red. “We saw you fall in.”

“Yeah. There’s a bunch of tunnels down there. I thought I was going to have to log out and respawn back in Quosada, but then I found this river and it whooshed me out.” She held up her arms to show off her sodden clothes.

“You found the treasure?” asked Grismane.

“No. Came out with what I went in with.”

They slowly turned around and continued walking. That wasn’t the response she’d expected. Why were they mad at her? She plodded after them in silence, feeling very awkward.

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