“Who are you calling a noob, gold buyer?” Kristoph asked.
Kravos eyed Kristoph with open disdain. Then again I got the feeling that looking down his nose at the world was just a thing he did and not necessarily something reserved for us alone. He held out a hand and made a production of sending flames dancing over his fingers. It was only slightly ruined when he didn’t notice in his concentration that his robe sleeves were falling forward and the cuffs started to smolder.
Apparently friendly fire wasn’t something that was turned off in this game. I snickered as I watched his sleeve start to catch fire. It took him another moment for the pain receptors to tell him what his eyes couldn’t because he was so busy looking at us to make sure we were reacting appropriately to his badass display.
He quickly pulled back and the spell winked out of existence. He yelped and tried to pat it out, then started slamming his sleeve against Gregor who shifted slightly and hit his mage buddy with an annoyed glare. Any level of impressive intimidation these assholes might’ve projected was thoroughly ruined.
“Who are you calling a gold buyer?” Gregor asked with a sneer.
I’d heard stories of people hating someone immediately, and I'd always thought they were ridiculous. I wasn’t sure how ridiculous they were now though.
Because the moment I heard that guy’s voice I knew that I hated him. This Gregor prick was arrogant. Full of himself. The kind of gamer who thought he was better than everyone else and probably didn’t have the skills to back up his boasting.
Which pretty much described nearly every competitive online gamer in the history of competitive online gaming, but there was something about the way this asshole stared at us that had my hackles rising. He was exactly the kind of condescending prick I’d expect to buy his way into a game like this.
And I wasn’t going to let this asshole talk to my friend like that. I scrambled to my feet and the goblin took up refuge behind me, his claws digging into my knees as he hid from these pricks.
The thought of a thinking creature, even a bit of code running on a server somewhere meant to look like a thinking creature, being so terrified of these assholes only pissed me off more.
“Clearly the two of you are buying gold if you’re able to afford that twink gear on top of getting early access,” I said. “It wouldn’t be the first time someone with more money than skill decided to make a trade. Is that how you lost your virginity too? I bet you didn’t hesitate to pay the thirty percent neckbeard price hike the nice prostitute charged to touch you.”
Yeah, my mouth was running ahead of my mind, but this guy pissed me off that much. I think everyone’s known someone who made them irrationally angry at some point in their life, and this guy was pushing all my buttons without trying.
Gregor’s response was smooth and immediate. One moment his bow was at his back, the next his bow was out with an arrow nocked and pointed at me.
“Say that again noob,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper. “Better yet, give us the goblin and then say that again. I don’t want to hit our payday.”
I looked to the goblin. The thing sat there attached to me trembling in obvious terror. I wondered how the hell a pathetic creature like this could possibly be a threat or a payday for these assholes, and I also knew that if these pricks wanted this goblin then I was going to do my best to stop them from getting it.
Even if I had no fucking clue how I was going to stop them. They had more skill points than me considering anything over one was more than I had currently. Plus they had that twink gear that was unlike anything I’d seen in any of the databases I’d been poring through when I wasn’t doing homework.
Was that player crafted gear? Could players craft stuff that nice? If they could then it opened up some very interesting possibilities in the game. Assuming I survived long enough to take some of those possibilities and turn them into a fully formed plan.
“I tell you what,” Kravos said. “Why don’t you hand over the goblin and we’ll forget this ever happened.”
“Oh, so you’re going to be the good cop now or something? Here’s an idea. How about you guys get the hell out of here and we keep the goblin?” I said. “I don’t think he wants to go with you.”
“How about I let this arrow go, we see what your insides look like, and then I take the goblin over your dead bodies?” Gregor asked.
I was relieved when Kristoph moved to stand next to me. Sure we were probably about to die, but at least we were about to die standing up for what was right.
Even if “what was right” was an NPC that was nothing more than a few lines of code in some database somewhere. I felt like an idiot for doing this, but I'd always had a soft spot for people who were being bullied, and this goblin fit the bill even if it wasn’t, strictly speaking, real.
Gregor rolled his eyes, but oddly enough he lowered his bow and didn’t fire on me or Kristoph. Or the goblin, for that matter, which was a lesser but almost as important goal I was shooting for.
“Forget this shit,” Gregor muttered. “I’m just taking the goddamn goblin. I’d like to see you stop me.”
I tensed and waited for the guy to come at me. I might not be worth much in a fight against this prick, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t try. This was a game where a noob could get in a hit against a player with higher skills, after all, even if longterm that fight wasn’t going to end well for said noob if they didn’t finish the fight with that first hit.
“Are you sure you want to do that Gregor?” a decidedly feminine voice called out from the forest.
My head whipped towards the new voice. I thought I detected some rustling in the trees, but it was difficult to tell for sure. That might’ve been the wind moving in the leaves.
“Who’s out there?” Gregor shouted. “Show yourself!”
Laughter spilled from the trees.
“You and I both know it doesn’t work like that Gregor,” she said. “I’ve got a bead drawn on your ballsack, stealth on my side, and a Sneak Attack that’s going to make sure you won’t be able to use those things at one of the NPC brothels until you suicide and resurrect. Do you really want to try me?”
I blinked at that. NPC brothels? I'd been trying to avoid spoilers, and that was definitely something that hadn’t made it into any of the public facing information about the game.
Then again considering the puritanical assholes out there who still railed against any perceived impropriety in video games I couldn’t blame Lotus for staying mum on that. Assuming it was even something they’d put into the game and not something players had come up with on their own.
Come up with a new form of media and it wouldn’t take long for people to figure out how to turn that media to the business of fucking.
“Wait, did she just say brothels?” Kristoph asked. “Is that seriously a thing? Because if it is this game just got way more awesome!”
I rolled my eyes. It was one thing to be intrigued by the idea. It was another thing entirely to act like a creep about it. Leave it to Kristoph to cross that line.
“Shut up noob,” the girl said.
“Who are you calling a noob?” Kristoph asked.
“If you know what’s good for you you’re going to shut the fuck up,” the girl shouted.
I kept searching, and a notification popped up that said I'd gained a point in the Scout ability. Not that gaining that point was doing me a damn bit of good actually tracking down the girl attached to that voice, but I'd take any skills I could get at this point.
“Let’s think about this,” Kristoph said. “You already admitted you’re staring at this asshole’s ballsack, which must be like the most amazing thing ever for you. It’s not like you can shoot both of us at once.”
“Tell your friend to shut up before he really annoys me,” the girl said.
“Wait, are you talking to me now?” I asked.
“Yes I’m talking to you!” the girl growled. “Now Gregor, Kravos, I want you guys to get the hell out of here and I want you to leave the goblin and the noobs alone. Got it?”
“Who the hell are you to tell me what to… Fucking bitch!”
Kravos shouted as an arrow sprouted between his legs and his robes bloomed with a red color that hadn’t been there a moment ago.
“You said you were targeting Gregor’s balls!” Kravos screamed.
“Yeah, and it doesn’t take all that long to retarget,” she said.
Okay then. This girl was ice cold, and apparently she hadn’t been joking when she said she’d been targeting that particularly sensitive bit of anatomy. From the way he sank to his knees with his hands over the arrow screaming at the top of his lungs Kravos didn’t care for that arrow being there.
I winced. Sure I knew this was all a game and the guy hadn’t actually taken a shot to the nuts, but it was still difficult looking at someone taking it in the family jewels. Especially when I knew how realistic the pain simulation was in this game. I turned away because the sight was too horrifying.
“Want to try me and see if that leather keeps out my arrows Gregor?” the girl asked. “Because I can guarantee you my archery skill is way better than your armor. Even if you are walking around in that Horizon shit.”
Horizon shit. Even the mention of Horizon was enough to make my blood boil. Well, make it boil more than it already was, that is. What the fuck was that name doing in Lotus?
Gregor looked around the forest, though it looked like he had no way of being able to tell where the voice was coming from. He looked to me and the goblin, and I felt all the hate in the world radiating from the prick.
Gregor spat on the ground. Right where his friend Kravos had been, but apparently that wound to the nuts had been too much or Kravos’s hit points weren’t all that high to begin with considering he was a squishy glass cannon mage. Whatever the reason, he’d dissolved in front of us, his body going through all the various stages of decomposition in a couple of seconds.
“Wow. That was pretty cool,” I said.
“You’re telling me,” Kristoph said. “But I really don’t want that to happen to me.”
“Join the club,” I said.
“Decision time Gregor,” the girl said. “You want to die like your friend? I don’t have to aim for the nuts on you, but I can still make it hurt.”
“Fuck you bitch,” Gregor said.
“You wish,” the girl said. “And by the way, I have a message for Torian. You tell him nothing’s making me come back. Not you or any of the other Horizon Dawn assholes.”
Gregor grinned a slimy half grin at that.
“That you out there Keia?” he said. “I wondered where you’d disappeared to. If you were smart you wouldn’t stay anywhere near Horizon Dawn territory.”
An arrow appeared in Gregor’s thigh. Gregor looked down and blinked a couple of times. Like he was getting used to the idea of an arrow in his thigh, or maybe the pain receptors were taking a moment to catch up to the visual cue of a fucking arrow embedded in his body, but after a beat he screamed at the top of his lungs.
“What the fuck Keia?” he shouted, spittle flying from his mouth.
He flipped off the forest half a second before his body jerked in several different directions as more arrows landed. Sure enough that Keia chick had been right. His armor was no match for her arrows.
Still, he was standing. Not good. Anyone who could take that many hits and keep ticking wasn’t someone I wanted to be messing with.
Only he only stayed standing for maybe the space of a breath before he fell to the ground convulsing. Then he turned into a rapidly decomposing body that left behind a little treasure chest where he’d gone down.
“Poison arrows asshole!” the girl, Keia, shouted.
“Damn,” I breathed.
This was a devious girl after my own heart!
“Did you see what they were wearing?” Kristoph asked. “I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on some of that stuff!”
“You’re not a mage or a stealth character Kristoph,” I said. “And neither am I.”
“Sticking around would be a bad idea noobs,” Keia said. “We’re not far from Nilbog. You wait around too long and they’ll show up and fuck you up.”
“Are you going to show yourself?” I asked. “I feel like we owe you something for saving us.”
“Not a chance noob,” the girl said, though when she called us noobs it didn’t have the same sting as when that asshole Gregor used the term.
With her it sounded like a statement of fact. With Gregor he was making a value judgment on what he thought of us based on how long we’d been playing a fucking video game.
“How do we get to this Nilbog place?” Kristoph asked.
“Fucking noobs,” the girl muttered loud enough that I was pretty sure we were meant to hear her. Then she spoke loud enough that we were definitely meant to hear her. “Head to the west and you’ll hit the town in no time, but you might not find the welcome you’re expecting there. Especially after this.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked. “Can you tell us anything about the town?”
“I can tell you to get going, and not to get involved with Horizon Dawn. Best of luck to you, noobs!”
I listened for more, but there was nothing but the sounds of small woodland critters moving through the forest around us. Which meant there probably weren’t any more scary things out there that could kill us, so the girl was likely gone.
That or her stealth ability was good enough that the small woodland critters couldn’t find her.
“Well that was interesting,” I said, looking at the goblin who was looking around with something other than terror for the first time since we’d met. Though given the circumstances of our meeting I could hardly blame him for being terrified. “Now to figure out what the hell to do with you, little friend.”
Hi! I'm a working writer who's been doing this full time since early 2015. I got my start in the Kindle romance boom, and I'm finally getting around to publishing stories under my own name!
I live in the Midwest with my wife, kids, and cats. Most days find me sitting in front of my computer typing out stories for your enjoyment!
I'm currently releasing Spellcraft. The tale of Conlan, a gamer who loves finding ways to exploit game systems, and how he uses those unique skills to battle a soulless multinational entertainment conglomerate who killed his sister and is trying to take over the gaming world!
Spellcraft is currently released on a chapter a day schedule.
I hope you enjoy my work. Thanks for reading!