The second large bird at her feet disintegrated as Willow took the loot from butchering it. These large goshawks were annoying, and she was glad that she had ranged attacks and not only melee range weapons because it kept flying up and away from her before diving down to attack her.
While she had been fighting one, she’d backwards stepped into range of a second one, which started attacking her right as she had the first one at about half of its health. That had been a really stupid move of her and her health had gotten a little low near the end, but she was able to kill both of the birds off before they’d killed her.
Willow grabbed a health potion from her bag and drank it. She was still surprised by the flavour. The potion was red, like most health potions in games tended to be, but the flavour wasn’t something she immediately recognised. She’d expected something like generic red berries like in DoE or just strawberry or raspberry as in some of the other games she’d played, but this was much more sour and a little tangy. It was curious, but she didn’t dislike it.
Iris let out a soft low growl, a warning that a mob was getting close to being in range of them and could trigger aggro on one of them soon.
Willow looked around, but didn’t see anything, then she looked up and spotted another large goshawk up high, probably ready to swoop down to ‘spawn’ around where she was right now.
Helheim apparently didn’t just let their mobs spawn, there were certain spots in the game, often just out of range and view for most players, where they would spawn and then they would walk or otherwise go over to their real ‘spawn’ location at which point they’d become targettable and you could start attacking them.
She should probably get a move on, she still had three of the goshawks to kill, but she was getting near a wooded area that looked a lot like it could hide the next part of her main quest, if this game really was as predictable as it appeared to be... After that she’d probably have to get back to the encampment anyway, so she could kill those birds on her way back.
Willow sprinted a short distance, the air moving heavier against her the longer she did it. While there didn’t seem to be a countdown timer or something for sprinting, there were some mechanics working against her sprinting too long, one of them being the air getting heavier or ‘thicker’ the longer she sprinted.
[Sprinting lvl 1]
Oh, wow, there was even a sprinting skill? Interesting. That hadn’t appeared before, but then, she hadn’t used it very often either.
When she rounded the group of trees, she stopped in her tracks, not sure if she was really seeing what she thought she was seeing.
In front of her were the lifeless bodies of multiple NPCs dressed in what were probably beginner gear for the different classes in HF. They were thrown about the area, nobody moving. She’d expected this to be a rescue or escort mission, not a... what was this? A retrieval mission? And of what? What was she supposed to get from here?
She walked past a couple of the bodies and reached out to one who appeared to be some sort of ranger or something. She put her fingers to the guy’s throat, but there was no heartbeat. Not that she knew if there should be, she was undead herself, so she couldn’t really test it. But with the way they were lying there, they probably shouldn’t be doing that. Right?
As she looked around, she saw a couple of elves, some humans, dwarves and other creatures, and even some pets. They ranged in classes too, warrior types, mage types, ranger types, all sorts of things.
Then she stopped in front of a body that gave her shivers. It was a draugr, and a severely decomposed one too, but it was supposedly wearing some warrior or tank gear before, as it was still dressed in it. But the body inside the gear was much much smaller than the gear it was wearing. Was this what she’d look like if her character died? Would she decompose like that too? That was a strange thought, and a little creepy too.
She looked over the place, but didn’t see any mobs around, or anything that would guide her as to what she had to do next.
She opened her quest log, checking out the quest. Explore the area… Sort of, check? Find out what happened? Well, they seem to be killed by something... What it was? She had no idea.
The quest didn’t change or spark anything and she didn’t feel like killing more birds just yet, the butchering still hadn’t grown on her, so instead of going back, she walked to the edge of the area on the right side and followed the outside border, looking for clues.
Then, as she passed a densely grown area, Iris let out a low growl. There were mobs nearby, but Willow didn’t see any.
She took a couple more steps, but Iris growled again, louder this time. There had to be something nearby. There was no other explanation. She pushed at some of the leaves and found herself looking at rock behind it.
A rock formation?
She walked further on, pulling up a magic attack in her hand in case she’d need it. And as she rounded a corner, she found the entrance to a cave.
She couldn’t really see into it, it was pretty dark, but she could hear things move around inside and Iris kept making that low growling sound. Mobs, there were mobs in that cave.
Willow took another step forward, trying to see inside. Was this what the game wanted her to find? Were those NPCs supposedly killed by the creatures in this cave?
She walked further, the sounds at the start of the cave strange, but she kept going.
As she’d walked down a corridor, the area began to light up again and the sounds got clearer, louder. There were voices, things walking around, smaller and bigger creatures.
Willow rounded another corner, and suddenly there was a wall in front of her. The light here came from some holes in the wall and torches near what looked like a door. It wasn’t just any door, it was more than six times her size, it was huge.
She motioned for Iris to stay where she was, Willow didn’t want her to get hurt, or set of the aggro of one of the creatures inside.
Then she climbed some rocks, trying to look into one of the holes in the wall. It took her a while, but then she was able to look inside.
She almost let out a squeak. Inside the room were trolls. Huge ones. Big huge ones. They were talking to each other, just doing their thing. It almost seemed like a living room or something. There were chairs and tables, and one of the trolls was standing at what could be considered a stove, probably.
Then her eyes fell on something on the table. There was a pile of what looked like meat, but what scared her most was that some of the pieces of meat had scraps of gear on them... It wasn’t just any meat, it was meat from people.
Yep, the trolls definitely killed those NPCs outside.
She focused on one of the trolls, trying to find its level, but that didn’t turn out as useful as she thought.
But where normally there would be the HP, Mana and level of it, there wasn’t anything. The HP and mana bars were greyed out and where it normally showed the level there was a skull instead.
Definitely not something she wanted to come after her. Not now, maybe not ever.
Willow slowly slid down the wall, carefully walking away again, out of the cave, and Iris followed her.
Well, that was one quest around here done. Now she just had to get back to the captain to tell him that he really should watch out that he didn’t send any of his men to a place where trolls lived again. It wasn’t good for numbers or morale and trolls didn’t like intruders.
But as she was leaving the cave, a flicker pulled her attention. There was something to the side of the cave, something that would give some light from time to time.
She went over to it, not sure what to expect. But as she got near, fear gripped her. This was a worse feeling than seeing the dead NPCs outside or the trolls further down the cave, much worse.
In the darkness of the cave, she could barely distinguish a black shape, but what she could see was something she’d only seen on video before now. A black blob with pieces of white code running through it from time to time.
A blitzed account. Right here in HF! Right in the middle of the starter area.
She didn’t know if this person hadn’t been targeted until later for some reason or if people hadn’t seen it because they were too busy with the rest of the game around them and didn’t pay enough attention to things like this. But it was right there in front of her.
Willow took the potato out of her inventory and selected the X-ray Vision setting. A screen popped up and she directed it to the black blob.
First she saw the outlines of how the area was shaped. The places where structures were strung together. Where 3D modelling was covered in textures and things like that, the first layer. And in that layer, she couldn’t even see the blob, even though she could see it with her own eyes in front of her.
Then she focused on the blob more, hitting the zoom button, and now she saw the code behind the outside architecture.
While the rest of the code was static, which made sense, since this was just a cave, walls weren’t supposed to move. But the area of the blob and around it were moving. Rows of code calling the login stats of the player, the race, the class, everything about it, but it wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. The code was moving over itself, like snakes coiling in a heap. The pieces of code kept moving and moving, not stopping.
It was like the structure of the code had been compromised. Like the thing that was supposed to keep it together, that was supposed to give it structure, the backbone, was ripped out of it.
She reached out, her own hand now visible in the view too. Her own code moving, but only slowly as it was needed for her movements and reaction to the world around her.
When she came close to the blob, her own code started moving faster and she could feel a pressure stopping her from touching the blob, even though she hadn’t even been that close to it. Strange.
She pulled her hand back, taking a couple of steps away.
She’d found a blitzed account, right here in HF, and it wasn’t hidden inside some instance, it was here, right in the cave.
She knew this was good news and bad news at the same time. Good news because she’d found the first proof of a blitzed account inside HF. Bad news in that there were still people getting blitzed in HF and making it out of the starter instance didn’t mean that a player was safe.
How was she going to show this to Soleil? How was she going to give her this evidence? There was no way to record in this game, that option had been turned off.
Although... was it really?
A normal player couldn’t record because the creators of HF wanted to keep the game a secret, but there had to be some option for mods and other people running this game, right? Or they wouldn’t be able to actually see how things were working and what bugs there were. They had to be able to record video evidence of bugs, right?
She looked through the other options that the potato gave her, but couldn’t find much. Plus, if she put this on the bugs list or whatever, she probably wouldn’t be able to get to it herself anymore, since she couldn’t get to that outside of the game.
Great... Now what?
How was she going to show the broken code to Soleil so that they could look at it and figure out what made a blitzed account look like that?
Willow had to get out of the game, but then what would happen? If she logged out here, could she respawn in the middle of a special ‘trolls coming out of their cave’ event or something? No good.
She had to get back to a safe zone before she logged out, she didn’t want to take any chances.
She could find this place again when she logged back in, she knew where it was, so that was enough. But for now, she had to get back to the encampment before she logged out.
Just to be safe.
Because even though there wasn’t really a heartbeat in her character, she could feel her own heart beating way too fast from fear. This was scary, way too scary!