Bitter 454

Britta felt an urge to run after Red and explain.

“No, you don’t understand, it’s not what you think…”

She didn’t for two reasons. First, she shouldn’t have to explain herself to someone who had already made up their mind based on no evidence. Second, there was absolutely no connection between receiving a delivery from the game and getting treasure from a monster. You couldn’t buy from the cash shop without the obligatory IRL cash.

If Red wanted to jump to conclusions and act like she and her party had been terribly wronged, then that was on her. Britta had no intention of involving herself with them again, so the whole matter was of no real consequence.

Britta was also of a mind to steer well clear of any other players she might encounter on her way to the city. At this rate, it would only benefit her to play as solo as possible.

She got changed into her new robe and had a look in her new bag. It was plain-looking, khaki in colour, and even smaller than her current backpack. The insides didn’t seem to be out of proportion with the outsides. The top could be pulled wider, though. A lot wider. It was elasitcated, only infinitely so.

A quick test with a large branch proved you could squeeze a lot more than you might imagine into the bag. Once the branch was in, looking into the bag revealed nothing. It was empty.

How was she supposed to retrieve items? She opened her status screen and found the defunct inventory button was now funct. Clicking on it revealed a new page with one item — a very accurate drawing of a brach. Britta tried to grab the picture but it was just a 2D representation. She tapped it with her finger and the picture change from white to blue. The bag was still empty. She put her hand in it and felt the branch in there.

She pulled the branch easily enough, but the system wasn’t exactly convenient. Select an item and it would become available for removal from the bag. You wouldn’t be able to get things very quickly if you were in a hurry.

It was what it was. She would no doubt get used to it.

The branch was actually a good size for her to use as a walking stick. She stripped off the leaves and smaller offshoots. There was a wonky bit in the middle but it was sturdy and a good way to test for holes in her path.

With her robe and staff, she now looked much more like a magic user. She wasn’t sure that was such a good idea, but it would only be temporary. Her damp clothes disappeared into her bag.

It was a shame the bag didn’t have an additional feature to wash and dry garments placed in it. Minor repairs, maybe.

It wouldn’t cost anything to produce a bag like that, apart from a few lines of code, and they could charge even more money for non-existent gear. She would suggest it next time anyone at APE asked for her opinion, so probably never.

She had given the other party plenty of time to increase the distance between them, but they were moving slowly and if Britta called Donald — which she very much wanted to do — she was bound to catch up.

According to the map, the path was the most direct way to the village, but she could take the scenic route through some fields, which would guarantee she wouldn’t run into them. It might even get her to the village first, if Donald didn’t get sidetracked by any succulent foliage.

While other players might be considering the best way to get past a group of deadly mobs or how to secure hard to reach valuables, Britta was doing her best to navigate from town to village without encountering any awkward conversations. She would have to be careful they didn’t revoke her membership to the Adventurers’ Guild.

Donald turned up on command, as reliable as ever, and then spent five minutes inspecting the local flora, also as reliable as ever.

She climbed on and they set off. It was a pleasant ride, and Britta soon forgot about the terrible people she kept running into. Insects were buzzing, birds occasionally swooped overhead, and the meadows were full of exotic flowers. It was a very enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.

Her trip was cut short by the appearance of a ravine that hadn’t been on the map. On second look, it was on the map, just not quite so obviously an impasse. A little fiddling to get a more 3D view revealed it in all its vertical glory.

The sides were steep and V-shaped, so the strip at the bottom was a lot narrower than the gap at the top. It was too wide to jump across and there was no bridge.

“I guess we have to backtrack,” said Britta.

Donald had other ideas. He trotted enthusiastically towards what would no doubt be certain death.

“Stop. It’s too far, you won’t make it.” She tried to pull him back, which did slow him a bit, but he hadn’t been planning a leap of faith.

Goats, it turned out, were very good climbers. Surprisingly nimble and able to perch on the smallest ledge. He seemed very confident as he pranced from tiny outcrop to barely visible ridge.

As a passenger, it was terrifying. Britta was sure she would fall off at any moment. She tried her best to go with it and enjoy the experience, but it was hard when her stomach was in her mouth.

They clattered to the bottom in no time. Donald came to a stop and immediately began a thorough survey of the vegetation. Ravine plants were new to him and he meant to gather as much data as possible, all stored in his stomach.

Britta climbed/fell off her goat and looked around, shaking slightly. There was nothing down here apart from Donald’s dinner, but this was the sort of place you could easily stumble across a cave or hole in the ground. It had all the hallmarks of a geographical feature placed with intent.

A green, pointy-eared head poked out from behind a bush. “Hello, there.”

Britta was on Donald in an instant. “Go, go, go.”

Donald was as adept as going up as he was going down. They were up the other side and rushing across a field of crops in a jiffy, with Britta urging him to keep going. She had no desire to find out who that had been or why he was at the bottom of the ravine.

Britta checked behind her to make sure she wasn’t being chased. She didn’t see anyone. She didn’t see the people in front, either. They reached the path to the village and Donald pulled up short to avoid barrelling into the tired and surprised group Britta had sought to avoid. She went flying over Donald’s head and landed on the ground, with Donald nibbling at the weeds around her head.

“Pretend you don’t know me,” she whispered out of the side of her mouth. Donald looked nonplussed at the suggestion. “Run away. Quick.”

Donald rolled his eyes and then ambled off. Britta sat up and nodded at the party watching her from a few metres away.

“Thought I’d see if you can ride a goat. I wouldn’t recommend it.” She stood up and brushed herself off.

“Nice togs you bought with our treasure,” said the man who had run out in front of the guardvark.

“Those are from the Players’ Market,” said Grismane. “You can’t buy them with in-game currency.”

“Oh,” said Redwall, looking a bit shamefaced.

“Oh, this must be Gumberlee,” said Britta, doing her best to not smile. She walked into the village without bothering to say goodbye.

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