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Willow didn’t come into the city the usual way, that was obvious. She climbed the stone docks at the back of the city. There were NPCs strolling around, carrying boxes and things from one place to the next. Somehow, even though the lake was frozen over, these docks were still pretty busy, curious.

She looked up at the high stone walls of the city and then stepped through the gate. There were wooden buildings lining the street, in front of them were stalls with a variety of wares on display. Most of the characters here were sellers of goods, though some stalls didn’t seem to be interactable as she walked past them, maybe they were just for show and for NPCs, or maybe for an expansion. She walked on through the street as the scent of fresh and not-so-fresh fish and other produce got stronger. This was definitely the trade district.

It took her a couple of moments before she realised that she was seeing other players now too. There was little distinction between players and NPCs, neither had name tags or anything and the NPCs were even pretty natural in their movements. It was mostly the more erratic behaviours of the players that tipped her off.

There was so much going on around her, it was hard to take it all in, but she tried anyway. The city was beautifully designed, the houses behind the stalls were each unique and had the feel of having been there for decades. There were NPCs walking in and out of them and she could even catch glimpses of things going on inside the houses.

After almost ten minutes or something, she reached the end of the street and it opened up into a large and bright city square. She stopped straight in her tracks, unable to fully grasp what she was seeing.

The square was brightly coloured, from the pale stones on the ground of the square to the colourful doors and shutters of the houses lining it and then the fabric on some of the stalls standing in the middle. It was all light and bright, something she definitely hadn’t expected in this setting. This world had been mostly dark and moody until now, but it seemed there was a spot of brightness in it all anyway.

Someone bumped into her back and she stumbled a couple of steps forward. She turned around, glaring at whoever was stupid enough to bump into her, but she didn’t get very far. The guy who bumped into her wore a long black coat, his black hair up in spikes. He carried two long swords on his back and walked with the confidence or stupidity of a guy who wasn’t afraid of anyone. On his arm was a girl with long red-blond hair and in a white and red outfit who was leaning into him, laughing, a small female elf-like creature was fluttering around them. Behind the couple were more girls and there were also two guys trailing at the end, one of them had one of those bandana things around his head, his light hair sticking up above it in spikes, like he was some anime character or something.

Willow looked after them, too stunned to even call them out. How did people look this happy in a game that made people disappear? She couldn’t get it. But, of course, apart from her, not a lot of people knew about others going missing anyway, and she had to keep it that way for a while longer, sadly enough.

The group of people walked to another street going off the centre square, still talking and laughing as they did.

She didn’t know how to react now. She hated people bumping into her and everything, but she also never really knew what to say when it happened. It was like the words popped up in her head, but never left her mouth. Sometimes the right words wouldn’t even come until hours later and she always felt so stupid for not speaking out sooner. She knew the words, she could talk, so why did the words never come when she needed them? Other people never seemed to have that issue. Which made everything even more frustrating, especially when people would look at her oddly for not responding or for ‘suddenly’ remembering something that happened hours before. She hated it. She hated all of that.

Willow stepped into the square, getting out of the way of people behind her. It wasn’t like she was small or anything, definitely not as a draugr, but it still seemed that people were just so focused on other things that they still ran into her, or other people, probably.

Now, what was she actually supposed to do here?

She pulled up her quest log, her eyes going over the single quest on it. Of course, find a captain, again...

Since she had no idea about the layout of this city and she’d gotten in through the wrong entrance, she should probably try to find the big entrance gate or whatever that road had connected to before.

She’d probably have a better time finding clues there, or at least get a better idea about where everything was.

***

Willow looked at the ‘letter’ in her hand. She was supposed to bring it to some higher up person in this city, only she couldn’t read the words on the scroll. The game used its own script and language, supposedly, so she couldn’t read it. Anyway, it didn’t even matter if there were real words and sentences on it, it could just all be bogus.

As she walked through the streets, amazed at every new detail she discovered in the design of the buildings and the other elements, she received a message in the chat. A chat previously very empty…

Dawn: You have a dragon fylgja?

Meadow: Yeah. Why?

Dawn: Those are super rare. I think there is only like... one other player with one and he’s like almost max level already.

Meadow: Really? That’s odd?

Max level characters happened all the time, and with such a long ‘beta’ period as HD was running, she was expecting there to be at least a good number of them before the game went live.

Dawn: Have you even paid attention? Nobody in beta has reached max level yet. There are only like a handful who are getting close.

Well, it wasn’t like she’d been here long yet, and this was her first time seeing other players, or interacting with them.

Meadow: Oh. Okay.

Dawn: Turn around.

She stopped, not sure she should, but this player already knew who she was, since they talked to her about Iris and it wasn’t like they could do anything really. There was no PvP allowed in the city, that was very clear with messages all over the place.

Willow turned, looking through the street she’d been walking, and then spotted an elven guy waving at her.

Dawn: Hello.

Meadow: Hi.

She waved back at him. She couldn’t immediately spot his class, he wasn’t wearing thick armour or something like that, and she didn’t have enough experience to recognise all the other types of armour on sight.

Dawn: You’re pretty low level for someone who joined in the last batch of players.

That was because she hadn’t...

Meadow: Just been playing slowly, haven’t had much time.

Dawn: Ah. Yeah. Most players here have a lot of time to dedicate to it, they’re thinking that’s how they choose who to let join. But maybe not.

Dawn came over to her, looking her up and down.

Dawn: Beginner player, and low on cash, I bet?

Willow shrugged.

Meadow: Why?

Dawn: Most people buy costume gear to cover up the fact they’re low level players. But it’s expensive and you can only use it on one piece of gear, so it gets costly when you’re still swapping out gear for something better every couple of levels.

Meadow: Just not interested.

She was, previously, but now she wasn’t anymore. So she could buy better looking gear, but unless she bought it with actual money, it probably would still look like crap. That’s how these things worked. Thanks, micro-payments...

Dawn: Hardcore.

Meadow: Why do you only talk in chat?

Most people would just talk to her with voice chat as soon as they came within talking range, and most people expected her to just prefer to talk verbally anyway, not just typing in the chat.

Dawn: Ah... I’m ehh... I’m deaf.

Willow felt a little uncomfortable, not knowing how to respond to that new knowledge.

Dawn: I know that they’ve made all these great advancements to make me able to hear in the VR worlds, it’s still strange. I don’t like it. I prefer text chat.

Meadow: Me too. I like chat better.

Dawn: So, where were you going?

Willow held up the letter.

Meadow: Handing stuff in.

Dawn: Want me to join you?

Meadow: Why?

Dawn: Because you have a cool dragon, play a race not a lot of people play, and seem in need of someone who knows more about this game than you do?

The guy had a point.

Meadow: Fine. What class do you play?

Dawn let out a laugh, though, she couldn’t hear much, with the settings and all. She couldn’t imagine not hearing at all. She may always like to turn the sounds low, but not hearing things at all... that had to be a totally different experience.

Dawn: Same as you, seidhr.

Meadow: Really? Aren’t you supposed to have a pet? Or fylgja, or whatever?

Dawn laughed again, his eyes twinkling.

Dawn: You’re just not seeing him.

He held up his hand and a small bird flew down, perching on his finger. She may not know much, but she recognised this bird, it was a bullfinch, a songbird. And the irony of it didn’t escape her. But the colours of its feathers were a beautiful rainbow instead of the normal red and it looked at her with interest. As Dawn lowered his hand, it flew up again, staying a little above them.

Meadow: It has an attack?

Because that thing was tiny, she couldn’t imagine it harming anyone.

Dawn nodded.

Dawn: It does something with sounds waves. Makes me a little glad I’m deaf and can’t hear it.

Meadow: Cool.

That at least was a little original in this game. She checked Dawn’s stats, trying to get an idea of who she was talking to.

[Name: Dawn

Race: Elf

Class: Seidhr

lvl: 29]

Wow. More than twenty levels above her... Yeah, that would be hard to catch up to any time soon, but maybe having someone at her side who was more experienced in the game would help.

Meadow: Does this game allow for powerlevelling, the oldschool way?

Powerlevelling was usually when one or more higher levelled players helped a lower level player to quickly progress in the game. Some games these days didn’t make it profitable to do this by making sure there were no advantages to the higher level players, or even make sure they were actively annoyed by the game mechanics so that they would stop. Those games believed that powerlevelling broke the ‘natural’ progression of a game. Other games actually encouraged it with things like mentor options, where both the higher and lower level players would get bonuses by doing this, or with special items you could buy with real money which would boost the level progression of the lower level player even more.

Willow didn’t want to have to use actual money to buy things, especially since she wasn’t sure that she wouldn’t be found out about the fact that she wasn’t actually supposed to have a beta code. Not bringing more attention to her account would be the safest option.

Dawn: Yeah. Are you into that? I’m mostly a healer, so levelling on my own is slow, but if you’re an offensive player, we could make it work.

Meadow: Do I unlock healer abilities later on in the game?

She hadn’t seen any of those yet. Eight levels into this game and she was still stuck with the first two that she got...

Dawn: You don’t have any new attacks yet?

Meadow: No.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this, right? Was she supposed to have more? When did she have to unlock those? Or where?

Dawn: I’ll help. Did you not listen to any of the chat going on when you first logged on? Did you ignore it all?

There hadn’t been other players when she logged in...

Meadow: Not really.

Dawn: Okay. You need to unlock new attacks and spells and things by actually doing them. There are a range of things you can unlock at certain levels, we’ve put together a list with a few people, but most of them are pretty basic.

Dawn: After you’ve finished bringing that silly letter over to our big leader, we can go to one of the nearby areas and try out some stuff. Maybe even pick up some quests.

Dawn: Good idea?

Meadow: Sure.

With the lack of an actual guide website or something online, having a player around who knew a lot of things was second best.

Maybe it would help her feel a little less lost if she knew what was going on, instead of just walking around doing whatever seemed right.

She missed her friends, but making one in HF was probably a good idea too, especially if she was going to stay here for the unforeseeable future. Since she didn’t see another way to find out what was going on here without figuring out what this game was about, what the creators were after.

She had to keep playing, and having someone near her who knew things was a really good idea for that.

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A note from EEngberts

You can now pre-order BASE Status: Online in ebook (print coming too)!

Release date: 31st of Oct!

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07HGCTSFR/

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07HGCTSFR/

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ebook/base-status-online

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Dawn, interesting name, but will he be useful, or just a hindrance for Willow's quest?

 

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EEngberts

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