As if high on pain medication, I walked next to Nenvari, through a long warping silver corridor. Sounds shifted. Somehow up became east and down became north. My stomach rolled and settled. I closed my eyes.
When I opened them again I wore an embroidered emerald dress made in the Victorian style, constricting corset and all. I also found myself in a vast room made up of intricately carved blocks of stone.
Behind me, a man with charcoal stained fingers sat at a desk reading an old fuchsia paperback. As I approached I made out the letters of the curly title, Lady Whitfield’s Scoundrel.
I cleared my throat. He jumped to his feet, dog-eared his page and eyed me critically.
“What can this old man do fer ye, me lady?”
“I need to know how to get to Prince Nanveri’s kingdom.”
“Uh huh. And what are ye lookin’ to do when ye get there?”
“Bad idea, me lady. No one has defeated him yet.”
“Yeah, I got that impression, but I have to do it anyways. He’s kidnapped my brother.”
“My Lord has spirited away many youngins. It's what he does.”
“Well, he shouldn't. And I'm going to stop him from ever doing it again.”
He leaned in with squinted eyes. “Are ye, now?”
“Everyone has failed so far. And frankly, ye don't look like any kind of battle miner.”
I grinned, “Sir, I won't take shade from a rough miner who reads romance novels.”
He noticeably blushed.
I held out my hand for him to shake. “Kelly Knight.”
He bowed over it, even though he remained sitting. “Merchant Meeks, Miss Knight.”
“I need you to make a battle miner out of me.”
“I can do that if you’ve coin to pay.”
I patted my pockets for change and realized that I wasn't wearing my jeans. Great, it looked like the sadist prince screwed me over again.
I slumped my shoulders. “The prince left me here with no money at all.”
He sighed. “Tell ye what. The basic set is the cheapest. I’ll loan it to ye and ye can pay me back as soon as you’ve the 50 coin fer it.”
“Thank you so much!”
He handed me a thin blue coverall, an orange safety vest, a helmet with an eye shield, a belt with a cargo satchel, and a very basic pickaxe with a yellow handle. The items immediately replaced my dress. I grabbed for my cargo satchel. When my fingers brushed against it I knew that my dress was inside, as if it sent the information directly into my brain.
I slung the pickaxe over my shoulder. “Alright Merchant Meeks, what do I do now?”
“The best way to learn is through doing. So just enter a wall-mine and have at it.”
He pointed to the floor, a long line of stone cubes had the number 6 carved into them. A few blocks away another long line had the number 5.
I walked to the nearest number 6 and stood, unsure of what to do.
“What? Ye want to know how to travel the mines?”
He scratched his beard and black dust fell out. “Alright, don't be doing this just yet, but what yer gonna do is grab your pickaxe tight and will yourself to go in a direction, much as how you will yerself to walk.”
I grabbed my pickaxe tight and looked at the ground.
“And Miss,” he said, grabbing my attention. “Be mindful of falling rocks.”
“I will. Thank you.”
“Be seein’ ye very soon.”
I looked to the stone floor and walked down. The ground crumbled into non-existence and I fell about 8 feet. My new shoes never touched the floor, instead, I hovered in the middle of the room made from a boulder to my right, two stone blocks, and two opposite walls that were made from some kind of rough glowing stone. I willed myself to go through them but nothing happened. Were these walls the representation of the game's background and the screen?
I willed myself to raise up but my head hit a clear sheet of something unnatural. I tapped on it and scratched at it but it refused to budge.
I was trapped in the mine.
After taking in a calming breath I peered down. My visor lit with a heads up display, showing me a circular area with a 6 block radius. I needed to go three blocks down and two right to mine my first cube of something the HUD called Gluttonous Nickel.
I went down three, stones breaking with a thought, then I flew right two. I paused at the sight of a nickel boulder. It had holes in it like Swiss cheese and shimmered as if covered in oil.
Checking my map, I noted that two boulders were above it and I had an empty space above me.
Did I just will myself to enter its space or did I have to wield my pick?
I examined my tool. On its shaft, glowing numbers showed 34/40. That must be its durability or however many blocks I could go through.
I tightened my grip on it and flew forward. The Gluttonous Nickel disappeared and I suddenly knew it was in my satchel, and that it would fetch me 10 coins.
I also noticed that the boulder above me didn't fall while I stood directly under it. I moved over one and watched as the two boulders fell.
Then the second boulder fell towards me. Too surprised to move out of the way, it smashed into me.
The sickening snap of my bones breaking. Crushing pain. Darkness.
When I came to the world was gray and silent. A figure in a hooded robe with a towering scythe stepped into view.
“Would you care to continue, Miss Knight?” A voice like a deep void said.
I stared into the handsome but grayscale face of the person under the hood. His eyes were the deepest ebony and stared at me with no emotion as if I didn’t exist.
“Are you Death?”
“I'm a reaper. You may call me Mr. Black.”
“What happens if I don't wish to continue, Mr. Black?”
“I'll take you to your next journey.”
“I'm afraid not.”
“That's not a choice.”
“I doubt that you'll say the same when you've died for the hundred thousandth time.”
My heart stuttered at the thought but I hardened my resolve. “Still, I have to continue.”
“Then follow me.”
He walked into the gray beyond and I followed.