I could feel all the eyes in the tavern on us, and I couldn’t say that it was necessarily a good experience. No, there were clearly a lot of people in here who had more than a sneaking suspicion what we’d been up to, and they weren’t happy to see me, Keia, and Kristoph showing our faces in Nilbog.
They really didn’t seem happy to see Rezzik, though Rezzik’s presence had been enough to earn us free drinks from the goblin bartender.
That was a small blessing, at least, even if I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was on the verge of getting a sword in the back. A real sword branded with that Horizon Dawn Syndicate crap, and not the little swords that could double as knives that the goblins were so fond of.
“Are you sure it was a good idea to come here?” Kristoph asked, taking a pull from his drink and looking around.
“Why wouldn’t it be a good idea?” I asked. “This village is open to us as much as it’s open to everyone else.”
“I’m not sure about that,” Keia said. “Torian’s really picky about people coming into his territory when he doesn’t want them around, and I’m seeing a lot of people right now who don’t want us around.”
I took a sip of my own drink. I’d experienced the in-game inebriation effect and wasn’t in any mood to repeat it. Especially when we were in serious danger of having Horizon Dawn jump us at any moment and seriously ruin our day.
“I don’t like this,” Keia said. “This is reminding me of some of the stuff that went down when Horizon Dawn first came to this town.”
“What do you mean?” I asked. “Everything’s seemed pretty quiet here so far.”
“You mean aside from all the times they’ve tried to kill you?” Kristoph asked. “Because it seems to me they’ve been doing their best to off you and maybe you’d want to shut up and keep a low profile considering what you’re…”
Kristoph trailed off and let out a groan as I reached out and buried a dagger in one of his arms. He looked at me with pure murder in his eyes, and there was a collective gasp from the rest of the room. I saw a couple of guards in the corner eyeing us as they felt at their cudgels, but they didn’t make a move for me.
That was new, and interesting. Almost as though unlocking a couple of tiers of that leadership ability had been enough to get me a little more consideration from the local constabulary, which I wasn’t going to complain about. Then again weren’t they from a different goblin faction?
It was a pain trying to keep all the various factions straight, honestly.
“Why did you do that?” Kristoph grunted, yanking the dagger out of his arm.
“He did that because you need to shut the fuck up about certain things,” Keia hissed, hitting him with healing spell that knit up Kristoph’s wound.
“That and I wanted to make sure Keia got a chance to work on her healing abilities a little more,” I said.
“You’re the best,” Keia said, leaning in and giving me a kiss that made me feel a hell of a lot better about all the people staring at us like they’d love nothing more than to kill our asses.
Honestly I wasn’t entirely sure why I’d come here either. Just that I had the feeling we should be here. That after the raid I wanted to step into town and walk around the place like I owned it.
I didn’t own it. Not yet. Not by far. Still, we’d hit Horizon Dawn with one hell of a blow and the airship program was now coming along rather nicely. It was enough to make me feel good about our place in the game, despite getting run through on that last raid, and I wanted to come and thumb my nose at Torian and all his asshole friends.
“So what are we doing here?” Rezzik asked, looking around at the gathered angry crowd.
“We’re letting them know they don’t intimidate us,” I said. “That’s what we’re doing. Plus I want to have a conversation with Torian before we go ahead with our plans. Give him a chance to surrender.”
“Wait, a chance to what?” Keia asked. “You never said anything about that before!”
“Yeah, well I don’t imagine this will go well, but I think it’s important that we do this. Offer to show some mercy. That’s what makes us better than these assholes.”
Actually I was pretty sure that in the end Torian wasn’t going to back down at all. That just wasn’t how he operated. No, I had a lot of experience dealing with the asshole, in and out of the game, and I knew exactly what he was going to do. Still, I wanted a lot of witnesses around to see me offering Torian the chance to back down.
As though on cue, the door swung open. A wind blew through the place. There was a hell of a storm raging outside. It turns out the storms in the game were every bit as impressive as I’d always imagined real storms to be.
Not that I’d ever had occasion to be in the middle of one myself. Not when most storm systems flew past my level of the arcology. No, it took someone fabulously wealthy to be down near the lower levels where they could experience true weather. Just like it took someone who was fabulously wealthy to live near the top where they could look down on the whole world from on high and see the weather from way above.
I was stuck smack dab in the middle, being the child of people of very little means. Though that whole “very little means” thing had changed a bit for me since I’d started making money hand over fist in the Auction House.
I was very quickly getting to the point where I could afford to live much higher or much lower in the arcology if I wanted to, but I was reinvesting that money as fast as I could make it. Which had given me something of a real world liquidity issue where I couldn’t spare a dime for relocating in the real world. Not when every bit of money I made was going towards fueling the war machine I was building in the game world.
“Here we go,” I said, taking my first real drink of the night.
The stuff burned as it went down my throat. That was something else I’d never enjoyed in the real world, being too young to actually drink. Still, the stuff in the fake world burned like a motherfucker, and it was enough to make me wonder why people would voluntarily down this kind of stuff in the real world.
Then it hit me and I felt a boost of confidence and courage as well as a lightheaded feeling as the world whispered to me that I had this. Which was probably a good thing. I could use a little bit of cocky confidence and swagger right about now. I slammed the shot glass down on the counter. More because that’s how I’d seen it done in movies over the years than anything.
“Time to get this show on the road,” I said, then switched to party chat. “Kristoph, be ready to swing that hammer. Keia, I want you ready with a heal for me in case things start to go south.”
“You mean you want that heal ready to go when things start to go south, right, because there’s no way that’s not happening that way with the way Torian acts.”
“You’re probably right,” I said, not letting on that I was hoping for something like that.
This was all about optics. All about putting on the perfect show, and part of putting on that show was making sure Torian was playing into my hands. Giving him the opportunity to surrender in a very public manner and then having him spurn me in that public eye was all part of the game.
As though on cue, the door to the taven slammed open. Three familiar figures stepped through the door, the one in the lead looking furious.
“You,” Torian said, thrusting his finger out towards me.
“Me,” I said, swaying just a little.
Damn. Whoever put together the drunk simulation for this game was really good at what they did. I was starting to think it might not’ve been such a good idea to have a drink before I came out here to confront my biggest enemy in the whole damn game, but at the same time it was a little too late at this point to take back that poor decision.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing drinking in my town?” Torian growled.
I looked around. I took in all the Horizon Dawn people who were glaring at me. Horizon Dawn people who were probably the reason why Torian was here. They’d no doubt been busy sending private messages to the big boss to let him know that asshole who’d been pushing them around had dared to show his face in their town again.
I was going to do a hell of a lot more than that before this was all said and done, and what Torian didn’t know was very much going to hurt him before this was all said and done.
Even more interesting than all the Horizon Dawn assholes, though, were all the goblins sitting in the room pretending to enjoy their drinks and glaring at the humans all around them. Glaring with eyes that said there was going to be some death and destruction before this was all said and done if things didn’t go the way they wanted them to.
Yeah, those goblins were getting sick and tired of living under Torian’s jackbooted armor, and it looked like they were getting to the point where they were about to rise up and throw off their shackles.
It was enough to bring a smile to my face.
“What the fuck are you smiling about?” Torian asked. “And what the fuck do you think you’re doing? Answer the fucking question! You’re not allowed in this town, and you’re not allowed to drink at this establishment!”
I looked around at all the patrons in the establishment. On the one hand it looked like Torian was right when it came to the humans in the room. They definitely didn’t seem happy to see me and my friends in here. I wondered if any of them had been among the people who got a rude awakening in the middle of the night a week back to defend their realm from a goblin raid that’d steamrolled the lot of them.
If so then they had pretty good reasons for hating my guts. Not that I gave a fuck if they had a good reason or not for hating my guts. I was going to take all of them out if they didn’t do the smart fucking thing and surrender.
And if they didn’t surrender? Well they were going to be on the business end of a bunch of angry airships sooner rather than later, and the end result wasn’t going to be pretty for them.
“Y’know I don’t see your name on the town charter or anything,” I said.
“I… What? Of course it is!” Torian said. “We own this town!”
I thought back to the big building in the middle of the town square. The building that supposedly housed the noble in charge of this area. I had a sneaking suspicion that position was still very much open. No matter how Torian and company tried to make it seem like they were the ones running the show
I also saw something even more interesting than Torian getting pissed off at him. Torian getting pissed off was pretty normal. What was different was this time around a bunch of people wearing the Horizon Dawn colors were looking at him as though he wasn’t the end all be all of authority when it came to ordering people around in this town.
Now that was very interesting. Very interesting indeed. Maybe their repeated defeats at the hands of a small group of supposed newbies was finally enough that Torian was losing his grip. Maybe they didn’t like the memory of getting their asses handed to them. Or maybe he’d been feeding them a bunch of lies about who was actually controlling things in this town. Maybe some of them, or most of them, were actually stupid enough to believe Torian controlled Barter Town.
Either way, I figured I could take that information and drive any potential wedges even deeper than they already were. Sure I didn’t think I was going to convince Gregor or Kravos to turncoat, but there were plenty of other people on the Horizon dole out there who might be willing to give me a listen.
Again, another part of the reason why we were out here tonight. I wanted to make sure everyone heard what I had to say, and that included the minions who might be getting sick of getting blown to high heaven every other day.
“The town charter?” I said. “The thing that establishes a noble house that looks over the place? I couldn’t help but notice that you didn’t have any of your banners hanging over the local noble’s house, so you can’t be the one calling the shots. You can hang your ugly ass banners all over the parts of town that allow you to hang them, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’re putting on airs.”
Torian’s mouth moved, and his eyes narrowed. Oh yeah. He was getting good and pissed off. That was a look I recognized all too well from being forced to deal with the asshole on the regular in the real world.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. “We have guards in front of the place and everything.”
I looked to Rezzik, and then to some of the other goblins in the room. A few of them nodded. I’d had some interesting conversations with them about the way the political systems were supposed to be organized on a local level in the game, and that included how to take over the town.
It turns out there was a component beyond being able to throw money at a charter. I’d been absolutely right about that. I’d discovered that component for the Kthonopolis, but I wasn’t quite there when it came to this town. Of course that also meant Torian wasn’t anywhere close to running the place either.
Torian wasn’t running things in this town, officially at least, because he hadn’t figured out that one of the things he had to do in order to be put in a position where he was running things was get the support of the locals. Which he sure as shit wasn’t going to be getting from the goblins any time soon considering the way he’d waged a campaign of death and destruction against the poor things.
“I’m going to say my piece and then we’ll be out of here,” I said, struggling to keep the emotion I felt from my voice.
I was pissed off at these assholes for a multitude of reasons, and it was starting to bleed through the cool I usually tried to exhibit when I was taking someone on like this.
I was pissed off that these people were the representatives of Horizon, the one company that I hated more than anything in this world for killing my sister. I hated that this asshole was none other than Trent, the asshole who made my life a living hell out of the game. I hated that they treated the goblins in this game like they were NPCs no different from any other game. Things to be killed because that’s what monsters were for in a game like this.
It was something I’d come to reject the more I got to know the goblins. The more I came to see them as living and thinking creatures that had lives of their own and not simply as things that were there for players to kill because it was the thing to do. Especially after spending time with them down in those caverns under the game world figuring out ways to take over the world above.
And I was going to defend them. To the death, if need be. With that death being Torian’s death, along with anyone else who stood with him.
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!