Bitter 47

“Come,” said Gordon. He walked away into the crowd, expecting her to follow, which Britta found annoying. Was gnome society sexist? It had been created by a bunch of hopeless dweebs who were in love with 2D Japanese girls, so probably.

She followed anyway. It wasn’t like she had anywhere else to go and the quicker she found out what this was about, the quicker she could leave. Assuming she would be allowed to leave. Being kept prisoner underground wouldn’t make for a very fun game.

The crowds ignored her, busy with their shopping. It was strange being the same size as everyone; it felt like she had suddenly grown. She moved through the market being assailed by shouts and cries from the vendors selling fruits and vegetables. Some kind of dead bird hanging upside down. Could have been a duck, could have been a chicken. Maybe both.

Britta was curious what they used for money. Something was exchanging hands, but she couldn’t clearly see what it was. Pebbles?

There was a shove in her back and she was on the move. Gnomes had appeared either side of her and were ‘guiding’ her towards the Wise One. It had felt like she’d been left to her own devices, but she’d been under observation the whole time, it seemed.

It wasn’t like she didn’t want to meet the Wise One, leader of her people and Gnome World’s Next Top Model, it just would have been nice to see some of the sights before being bundled onto the next thing. Wasn’t that the point of an open world game? To go at your own pace?

Britta was harried through the market doing her best to see what was for sale—was that some kind of gnomish weapon or a musical instrument?—until she found herself in front of the large boulder the Wise One was perched on top of. Around her, gnome children were sitting on the floor with books at their feet. Some were colouring in, others were practising their letters. They wrote in bizarre script that was clearly made up.

“Ah,” said the Wise One in a voice that seemed far too old and gravelly for her age. She looked younger than Britta, but then Britta didn’t know a whole lot about gnomes. Perhaps they aged backwards. “Welcome to our home, little one. It is your home, too.”

“What do you mean, ‘little one’?” said Britta. “I’m bigger than you.”

“It is just a term of endearment. No offence meant.” She smiled angelically. It annoyed Britta even more.

“Why am I here? I was quite busy when your boys forced me down a hole and brought me here against my will. Is that how you treat all visitors?”

Truthfully, there was no point getting mad. This was part of the game, triggered by her (intentionally or not) and followed through by a computer. These characters were hardly to blame. It didn’t matter to Britta. She was tired of being pushed around.

“You are here because the Great Gnome in the Sky willed it,” said the Wise One.

Britta wondered if she was referring to their god or an actual giant, flying gnome. Both options were possible in this world.

“Fine. I’m here. Now what?”

“You’re quite impatient, aren’t you?” said the Wise One. “Do you have somewhere you’d rather be?”

“Yes!” said Britta, exasperated. Hadn’t she been listening? “I had an appointment to see a woman about a horse. Is there something specific you wanted from me, or can I go?”

The Wise One looked a bit taken aback by Britta’s tone. Britta felt a bit guilty for being so tetchy, but then remembered she was talking to a computer program.

“Look, I just want to know why I was brought here. Can you tell me?”

The Wises One sighed. “You are B of the Riverwest tribe. You were sent here to complete your training as a gnome spellcaster. Do you not remember any of this? Were you hit on the head?”

Britta had no idea what she was talking about. Then again, there was all that stuff on her biography page she hadn’t bothered to read. Regardless, getting some magic training didn’t sound too bad. She could certainly use the help.

“Are you an illusionist, too?” she asked.

The Wise One raised her arms and then dropped them. Instead of the pretty young gnome, an old lady stood there.

“What do you think?”

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