The doorway to the next level was just ahead. Unfortunately, there were a large number of well-armed soldiers, humans and kobolds, standing in her way.
She could just teleport past them, but then she wouldn’t be able to cast it again today. She’d already lost her ability to fly until tomorrow, no point throwing away another of her daily spells.
“Very good,” said the King. He turned to the fully armoured man who was in charge of the Empire’s soldiers. “Let us brief these volunteers inside.”
Everyone turned and entered the tent on the right, which belonged to the kobolds. The crowd continued to watch the chosen few, muttering and grumbling.
The three Empire soldiers were called MrKappa, OwnedbyOwen, and James. The girl was called Gabba. Once inside, the door flaps were closed and the tension of the moment eased a bit.
The Empire commander took off his helmet, revealing a handsome face and long blond hair. He didn’t have a name tag over his head, so that meant he was an NPC.
“Right. Congratulations to all of you. Good job, men.” The soldiers saluted. He turned to the girls. “I’m General Zaven, and I’ll be your point of contact on this mission. Your task will be to locate the missing party, and then send word back to us. You aren’t to engage any enemies if you can avoid it. If you find no sign of any of them, find out what’s down there and get back here. I repeat, do not engage with the enemy.”
It seemed straightforward enough. Basically, a stealth mission.
“I have a question,” said Britta. All eyes turned towards her, and then tilted down. It made Britta feel a little uncomfortable, especially the way the tallest of the three Empire volunteers was staring at her through his visor. James. She had a bad feeling.
“Yes?” said General Zaven.
“The King said you lost contact with the other party. How were you in touch with them?”
“I will be a member of the party,” said Zevan, “but I will stay here. We will remain in touch over group chat.”
An NPC who knew about group chat? They weren’t usually aware of things like that. even the shaman from earlier had to come up with a plausible reason for Britta suddenly turning up in his temple. Was this a player who had hidden his tag? Or an NPC who had been programmed to be aware of game mechanics?
“Were you the one in touch with the other party?” she asked him.
“I was. Then I was kicked from the group without warning and I haven’t heard from them since.”
Britta nodded. “What if it happens again?”
“If communications break down, we will send in the next group.” He didn’t seem bothered if there was a repeat. Keep sending people until it works.
“What about these three?” said Gabba. She was pointing at the three Empire soldiers who still had their helmets on.
“What about us?” said James. Britta’s stomach tightened. She recognised the voice.
“We’re trying to get in and out without being spotted,” said Gabba. “Clanking around like wind-up robots isn’t going to help, is it?”
“We’ll be fine,” James said in a firm voice. “We can move quietly when we need to.”
Gabba shrugged. “Okay, but if they attack us because of you, don’t expect me to hang around.”
Some of the tension was back.
“These are for you,” said the King. A shaman, one of the lesser priests, stepped forward with bottles of holy water. “Drink it if you are hurt, use it against the undead if they find you. It also glows in the dark, very helpful if you are lost.”
They all took a bottle.
“And for sustenance,” continued the King, “fungus pâté. Nutritious, a wonderful balm for wounds, and an excellent substitute for toothpaste. The taste may take some getting used to.”
Another kobold shaman came forward with little wooden bowls of grey goo. Britta put both items in her backpack. Not exactly magic weapons, but worth hanging onto.
“Next,” said General Zevan, “one of you must take the role of party leader.”
“That should be me,” said James. Britta was sure now. It was Lord Jim, there was no doubt. This was going to be a pain. “I’m the ranking officer, I should lead.”
“Fine,” said Gabba. Britta had expected some dissent, but she seemed okay with it.
Britta was tempted to say something — he obviously recognised her — but she intended dumping them as soon as they were past the door, so what did it matter? The quicker they got on with it, the better.
“Fine,” agreed Britta.
“I’ll invite everyone,” said James.
Britta accepted the invite. All of them, including General Zevan, were in the party and on her chat list.
Next, they all received a blessing from one of the kobold shaman. Britta’s stats were boosted across the board by one. There was also a sixty-minute countdown, so it was only a very temporary buff.
When they left the tent, the crowd was still there. Perhaps they were expecting someone to back out at the last minute so they’d get another shot. There was a lot of unnecessary glaring.
They were escorted to the doorway and entered.
“Good luck,” said a voice in Britta’s ear. “Report back when you make contact.”
“Will do,” said James.
It was dark and the only light were torches held by two of the soldiers. They seemed organised. Britta wasn’t going to make things any brighter, she wanted it to be dark enough for her to sneak away when the opportunity arose.
“Right,” said James, stopping and turning to face them. “Let’s get this out of the way.” He was talking to Britta.
She would just agree with whatever he said. Probably to work together or something, planning to stab her in the back later.
“Yes,” said Gabba. “Starting with who should be leader.”
“Eh?” said James. “What do you mean? I’m the leader.”
“Don’t you think the leader should be the player with the highest level?” said Gabba.
“And who’s that? You?”
“No,” she said. “Her.” She pointed at Britta.
Reminder: New 5 day a week schedule, no chapter tomorrow or Sunday. I need to live, damn you.
Also, vote!Afterword from Mooderino