“I’m going to gut you, you smart mouthed little fucker,” Gregor said. “Seriously. You fucking noobs better have some more respect for your betters than what I’m getting. I should gut every one of you for coming into our town and ruining the place!”
I glanced around to see how the crowd was reacting. Pulling something like this was as much about the audience watching as it was about provoking an asshole into doing something stupid.
The only problem was now that there was no more bloodshed the players standing around seemed less interested. As though they knew there wasn’t a chance a lowbie was going to get gutted by a higher skilled player like Gregor. Because of course they would all know about the PVP immunity that protected new players.
At least I hoped I was right about that. Otherwise I was about to discover exactly what kind of pain simulation the wizards at Lotus had coded into this game.
“Your town?” I asked.
“Yes, our fucking town,” Gregor said, again feinting with those daggers but not coming quite close enough to make contact.
I thought fast. A plan was forming, but it all depended on whether or not there was a penalty for players who hit new players who had PVP immunity. Was he avoiding hitting me because he couldn’t hit me, or was he avoiding hitting me because the game was going to come down on him with righteous NPC guard fury if he hit a protected lowbie?
If he could hit me but was trying not to then I figured I had about a mile of wiggle room and loopholes I could walk right through if I could manipulate the situation just right and piss him off to the point he did something ill advised.
After all, manipulating the situation in video games to work in my favor was what I did best.
“Please,” I said with an eye roll. “The angry neckbeard is upset because he got insulted by the noob. Well why don’t you do something about it instead of dancing around talking about doing something about it?”
“You shut the fuck up!” Gregor said, stepping forward.
I stepped back. I wanted it to look like I was genuinely afraid of this unhinged asshole.
To be honest I was just a touch afraid. Most of my time messing with games lately had been messing with AI. I hadn’t done any griefing with a good old fashioned human player in a long time, that Horizon GM notwithstanding, and I was a little rusty when it came to interacting with someone who wasn’t a pile of preprogrammed responses.
Actual humans were always a wild card when pulling a job like this because they could do stupid things I didn’t expect.
“Or what?” I said, making a disgusted noise in the back of my throat. “You’re going to dance me to death? If you’re going to do something then do it, ya limp dicked wimp.”
“I swear to God if you say one more thing…” Gregor growled.
Time to twist the knife. I needed to make this guy mad enough that the few brain cells he did have stopped rubbing together long enough for him to do something monumentally stupid.
“So are you guys getting paid off by Horizon to wear that logo? Like are you the world’s lamest corporate esports guys, or do you just bend over and let them give it to you up the ass because you like it?”
“That’s it you fucker!” Gregor screeched.
“Hey man,” Torian finally said, stepping between Gregor and me before the leather-clad prick could do anything he might regret. “Maybe you want to tone it down just a little? You’re drawing the wrong kind of attention.”
He glanced around. I did the same. It looked like the crowd that’d been dispersing had decided to stick around after all once Gregor started shouting. Heck, if anything the crowd was even bigger now than it’d been when Kristoph was getting gutted.
He’d hate that I was drawing more of a crowd with my mouth than he had with my gruesome death. I wondered if he was watching now from the safety of a death animation since he hadn’t started decomposing which I assumed meant he hadn’t released.
I fought the urge to smile. There were a lot of people wearing this guild’s tabard crowding in, but there were also plenty of people who were obviously new to the game. Not to mention some players who looked like they’d been in the game for awhile and weren’t happy about this Horizon Dawn guild stepping in and calling the shots.
“I am not going to tone it down,” Gregor said, his voice low and cold. Torian’s eyes went wide. I got the feeling he wasn’t used to his minions disobeying orders.
I figured if I was getting this guy to go against his guild leader, or whatever the fuck this Torian guy was, then I was close to my goal.
Gregor went on, oblivious to the peril both around him in the form of pissed off players and beside him in the form of a very pissed off guild leader.
“I’m going to teach this fucker what it means to come into our territory and talk shit about our fucking guild. We own this town, and I’m not going to deal with another one of these noob pricks doubting that!”
He gestured with his daggers towards several buildings featuring copies of the guild tabard they proudly wore. Though I noted there were far more buildings that flew a banner of a goblin placing its finger on a set of scales that had gold on the other end. As though Horizon had bought a few buildings, or maybe just tossed their logo up on a few buildings, but there was still some higher in-game authority that controlled things ‘round these here parts.
I filed that one away. I wasn’t sure if or how I could use it, but I’d certainly try if it helped me piss off these pricks.
Whatever Torian had been about to say was lost as Gregor finally got pissed off enough to forget himself. He tried to thrust one of his daggers right into my gut, the same way he did Kristoph.
Panic seized me as that dagger slid towards my gut. Sure I could know on one level that the game was supposed to protect me from that sort of thing, that as long as I wasn’t an idiot making the first move like Kristoph I’d be fine, but it was one thing to know in an academic sense that I should be okay and another thing entirely to watch someone thrusting a very real looking dagger at my stomach.
Visions of what had happened to Kristoph danced through my head. I didn’t want to wind up a twitching corpse on the ground bleeding out and impotently trying to reach for a weapon that wasn’t going to do me a damn bit of good!
“Horizon Dawn!” Gregor screamed as the dagger rammed home.
At least it would’ve rammed home if it weren’t for game mechanics stepping in and saving my ass. It would’ve been impossible for me to dodge that hit no matter my skill level, see all that previous stuff about an idiot letting someone get too close with a weapon, but the dagger hit an invisible barrier and slid off.
“Damn it Gregor,” Kravos said, his hand over his face as he shook it.
Red flashed around Gregor. A red flash that looked very similar to the same red flash that’d surrounded Kristoph just before he lost his PVP shielding and got himself killed.
“You fucking idiot,” Torian said. “You stupid fucking idiot!”
“Halt, criminal scum!” someone shouted from across the circle.
I grinned. I mean it’s not like it was a huge surprise that the devs at one of the biggest AAA game companies in the world had played Oblivion, aka the better game that came before the one with all the dragons, and put that ancient joke in their own game, but it was still funny hearing it.
The entire circle had gone silent. Like we’re talking not just the people in our immediate vicinity. It was silent enough that I could hear the distinct sound of armor clanking as the town guards appeared, goblins all and armed to the teeth.
Also? Those goblin guards looked pissed. Like they were annoyed when they got there, and then their looks got downright ugly when they saw the Horizon Dawn guild tabards.
Oh yeah. It was on! Maybe these assholes were keeping the goblins down somehow, but it looked like that didn’t extend to the goblin guards who were stepping in to clean up the mess Gregor just made.
“Um, so admittedly I’m just a simple noob who doesn’t know all that much about this game,” I said.
Guards circled us with a silent swish as they pulled swords out. Small swords, to be sure. Goblin sized swords. Swords that looked more like giant kitchen knives for all that they were shaped like swords.
Still, they looked plenty sharp and they glowed with a faint green that told me there were probably some seriously badass enchants attached to those weapons that would ruin the day of whoever they cut.
I wished I could do something like that. Crafting was always more fun when you could add magic that gave an unfair advantage to the things you were crafting.
“…but I think you just fucked up,” I finished.
Torian hit me with a glare that could’ve killed. His hands tensed on his sword and I wondered if he was going to try it, but then the guards moved in on Gregor even though they barely came up to his waist and gave ol’ Torian a reminder of what happened to idiots who attacked the noobs.
The goblins raised their swords menacingly, and another guard appeared bearing an insignia that said he had some sort of higher authority in this town.
“You have been found guilty of the crime of attempted murder against the vulnerable and weak,” the ranked goblin said, reciting the lines with a boredom that said he’d gone through this thousands of times before.
Though he couldn’t have possibly gone through this thousands of times before. Not when the game was still shiny and new. He didn’t know that though. His programming told him he’d done this thousands of times before and so that’s how he sounded.
“You will accompany us to the jail where you will await your trial, unless of course you are able to pay off your fine and…”
I rolled my eyes. Of course this game would pay lip service to putting someone like this asshole on trial, and of course the actual mechanic would come down to whether or not a player had the money to buy a get out of jail free card. Typical, but at least this asshole might be inconvenienced until he could come up with the cash.
“I don’t think so,” Gregor said.
“Excuse me?” the guard said, sounding so genuinely surprised that I had to remind myself that the goblin was a string of ones and zeroes and not a real thinking creature.
I didn’t like this. The assholes in Horizon Dawn clearly thought they had some kind of pull. Gregor didn’t sound like someone who was worried about getting carted off to jail or paying a fine.
“I’m not paying anything,” Gregor said.
The goblin captain’s hand went to his own sword at his side. He hadn’t pulled it out yet, but he looked like he was seriously considering it. He also really looked at the humans standing before him for the first time, and his eyes narrowed to a scowl as he looked at the Horizon Dawn tabard.
“In that case it’s off to the jail with you,” he said. “Unless you want to resist.”
The goblin sounded like he relished the idea of someone from Horizon Dawn trying to resist.
“Get your eyes checked goblin,” Gregor said.
The goblin cocked his head to the side. “Why would I have my eyes looked at? Is there something wrong with them?”
Gregor sighed. Clearly the idea of eye exams was a foreign concept to a goblin living in a game world. I snickered, and that was good for another glare from these assholes.
“I’m with Horizon Dawn,” Gregor said. “If you’d get your guards off of me long enough to take a look at my uniform you’d see that.”
The guard frowned.
“I’m aware of who you are, and I don’t give a damn,” the captain said, though he sounded more uncertain now. “If you would…”
“He’ll do nothing of the sort,” Torian said, stepping forward.
The guard seemed to see Torian for the first time. Apparently he wasn’t a very attentive NPC, or perhaps it was simply that the guards were programmed to focus on whoever had caused trouble in the first place so he’d completely missed Torian standing there.
Torian stared the goblin guard down with clear disdain, then made a little motion with his fingers.
Gregor pulled out a dagger and held it under the ranking guard’s chin. Which got a lot less of a reaction from the goblin than I expected. In most games threatening a guard was a good way to bring down the hurt, but apparently these assholes had enough influence or intimidation factor with the local constabulary that they didn’t have to worry about that sort of thing.
“I could order you killed right here in the middle of this circle and nobody would say anything,” Torian said. “Even your other guards will name a price. You know this.”
The goblin captain paused and thought that over for a long moment. I wondered if he was going to pull out his sword and order the guards to attack. I’d been in enough games where I’d gotten a free beatdown from guards meant to protect other players that I figured it wouldn’t be a pleasant experience for these asshats.
Unfortunately it was an unpleasant experience that never came.
“Of course,” the goblin said with a resigned sigh, giving them a tired little wave to move along. “You are free to go. Please refrain from attempting to attack protected players in the future.”
I stared with my mouth open. “What the fuck?”
The guard captain turned to me. Maybe my little outburst finally drew his attention. “I would also advise you not to get in fights with your betters. Now move along.”
Torian held two fingers up to his eyes then pointed them at me.
“Let that be a reminder of who you’re dealing with noob,” he said. “I’ve got my eyes on you now, and you don’t want me to have my eyes on you. That means Horizon Dawn has their eyes on you. Got it?”
I rolled my eyes. I knew I was supposed to be intimidated by this song and dance, but I couldn’t bring myself to care.
“Pardon me if I’m not shaking in my noob boots,” I said. “I mean the idea of you staring at my ass all the time is a little terrifying, but that’s it. Now fuck off. I’ve got work to do.”
Torian’s eyes narrowed, but he also eyed the guards and apparently decided now wasn’t the time to cause more trouble. Maybe there was a limit to what the guards were willing to put up with.
Whatever the reason, Torian shouldered past me and motioned for his minions in those ridiculous tabards to follow. I stood there, dumbfounded, staring after them. Sure I’d had a pretty good idea they wouldn’t be able to hurt me, but I was still surprised it’d all worked and I was still alive.
“What the hell are a bunch of assholes wearing the Horizon logo doing in Lotus?” I muttered.
Something was very wrong in this game.
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!