Willow had no idea how Violet could afford it or had taken care of it with her work, but she stayed with Willow for almost a week. Willow had put in a few hours at work during the week. But between Violet, Sage and Soleil all telling her that maybe she wasn’t doing so well, she realised that she should probably take a few days off work herself, or at least cut down on the hours significantly.
Most days, they’d spend playing HF, trying to figure out what the different clues to Fenrir’s quest could mean and which of the new dungeons and events would give them the right items. It seemed that with the update that introduced, in a way, the Fenrir quest, a handful of new small dungeons and challenges had been added too. They’d been added to the game, but they’d not really been announced anywhere, which made them all wonder what the new creators at HF were going for, if it wasn’t some trap, but both Juniper and Opal promised them that it was safe.
When HF was still in pre-release, they’d found out that something bad was happening and that people’s accounts were being blitzed. They’d been able to prevent further damage and then also taken Daryl, the creator of the game, out of his position. Of course, this hadn’t gone unnoticed and they’d all gotten multiple job offers from different places. Juniper, who really didn’t like the game at first, and Opal, who loved it from the start, now both worked at HF and they were involved with content creation and testing. Juniper to keep an eye on attracting new players and Opal to keep an eye on keeping the original players.
At first, Willow thought that they’d be able to get the inside scoop on all the new projects and plans, but she’d soon found out that Juniper and Opal were really good at keeping their mouths shut. Willow had never expected it, that they would be so good at it, she always thought that Juniper and Opal were such chatterboxes, but they could keep secrets, that much was obvious now.
Of course, with all that happened to the group, they’d become a little hesitant about trying exciting new things. But, luckily, when it came to soothing their fears, Juniper and Opal would always pull through and make them feel safe again. Which was good.
Juniper and Opal explained that the new content simply hadn’t been announced because it wasn’t meant to be a big thing at the moment, but instead it had been created as content that people of any level could complete and was designed to get them to explore the game world more. It was apparently the first part of a range of similar types of quests. It had sounded interesting and rolling it out slowly had made sense in that setup.
Even though Juniper and Opal had been able to tell them that the quest was safe, they both had no idea what the quest actually was about, it’d been created in a department that they weren’t part of. So the whole guild could explore the quest at the same time, without anyone being able to spoil it for the others.
The Binding of Fenrir quest turned out to be quite a confusing one. There had been a few dungeon like areas introduced in the update and a couple of hints were given in some story thing elsewhere in the game, but in general, not much about it was available anywhere and since so many players were all still at the start of the quest, they were all trying to get through it at the same time. Which was exciting, in a way.
The first thing they’d figured out, the ‘sound of a cat’s footfall’, had lead them to an area close to some mountains and surrounded by forests on all sides, where they could see the shimmering area that indicated the start of a dungeon. The while guild was here, Willow, Violet, Sage, Juniper, Opal, Soleil and Dawn. It had brought the whole group together in a single spot, at the same time, it had made them more of a guild again. And that was something few things had been able to do lately.
Dawn: What do you think?
He eyed the entrance, a little sceptical, but then, the guy was deaf and they had no idea what the whole ‘sound’ part of this quest would entail, if he’d even be able to play it.
Violet: I think we’ll only know if we go inside.
Willow nodded. That was the only way to do this. But also, they didn’t want to fall behind or have others spoil the fun for them, not now they’d gotten here. She couldn’t see any other players around, but that didn’t mean that others weren’t on their way or had been potentially here even as little as five minutes ago. There was only one way forward.
Meadow: Let’s go in.
She looked over the rest of the group, who all nodded too.
Violet grabbed her hand and then Dawn grabbed Violet’s hand and on and on, until they all turned into one long line of people. Of course, they were in a party together, but they’d found that actually touching each other sometimes helped with not getting lost inside a dungeon starting location.
HF had this weird idea of what ‘cool’ things they could do to make things more ‘dynamic’ for players and one of the dungeons they’d played near the beginning had plunged them right into a deep darkness and until Willow had pulled up her attack to provide some light, they had no idea where the others had been. And another time, Dawn had spawned at some totally random location at a totally different part of the dungeon somehow, split into a secondary starting location, they had to go pick him up first before they could start the real part of the dungeon. Forming one long line made them feel safer and more certain that they’d stay together, of course, nothing was certain, not in HF.
Willow stepped forward, reaching out and touching the entrance of the dungeon. The world around her went dark and a string of words appeared in front of her.
*Few things are as fleeting as sound.*
*One moment it’s there and the next it’s gone.*
*Can you hold onto it?*
Then she appeared in a cave, a single tunnel on the other side going from it to somewhere beyond into darkness.
As they all looked around, two final lines of text floated in front of Willow.
*Can you beat the cat to the end of the dungeon, but be as quiet as possible or you’ll be caught.*
*If the cat makes any sound along the way, catch it.*
What? What was that supposed to mean?
As Willow looked around again, she spotted a cat near the start of the tunnel.
Juniper: Catch the sound? How?
Opal: I’m more worried about the other part of the quest. How are we supposed to race a cat to the end of a tunnel without being heard? And heard by whom?
Knowing HF, there would definitely be creatures who could hear them in the tunnel, but how could they avoid being heard?
Sage: Do we sneak? Is that a skill?
Juniper: Of course it is.
Juniper looked at them like they should know this, then she took a deep breath and as she started to move again, her character became less opaque, like she became partially see-through. *Whoa!* Willow hadn’t seen something like that yet in HF. She eyed Violet, who was a hunter just like Juniper, but even she looked surprised. Then Juniper became fully opaque again.
Juniper: It’s a tricky skill, but I figured it out a week or so ago during work hours. It’s not easy to train, I have to admit that. But it’s not a class specific skill as far as I can see.
Opal: So we have to learn the sneak skill to get through?
That sounded sensible, but there was just one small issue… Willow was huge, draugar were tall and kind of sizable, and her bones creaked as she moved since she was basically an undead creature, no matter how carefully she moved. How was she going to sneak? She made sounds that everyone could hear, no matter how carefully she did things.
Willow took a deep breath and extended her leg carefully, but at the first step she took, one of the joints in her leg made a popping sound and she let out a sigh. Yeah, that was going to be fun…
Meadow: How am I supposed to do this?
Juniper laughed and came over.
Juniper: It’s not just about moving, it’s also about intending to be as quiet as possible. A lot of it is about intent as you do it.
Violet: It could be a type of magic?
Juniper raised an eyebrow and shrugged, and Willow thought about that for a couple of moments. Okay, if intent was the most important part, then maybe she could make it work another way?
Willow gathered the magical energy inside her and instead of pushing it out like she did for an attack, she focused on silence, on everything being quiet. Then she stepped forward and while this was slower, since she was focusing so hard, she couldn’t hear her body move anymore.
That was good, right?
She took a couple more steps. Severely impressed at how quiet she could move if she focused on it well enough. Then she looked at the others, grinning. She did it! But that excitement faded as the others only frowned a little and were blinking her way. She saw that Violet was mouthing something at her, frowning and she let the energy go, standing normally again.
“Willow!” Violet’s loud voice finally reached her, almost making her ears hurt. Why was she shouting at her?
Willow looked at Dawn, who shrugged, also apparently not quite sure why the others were acting strangely. But before anyone could explain anything, a new button appeared on Willow’s skills bar.
[Channelling Caster ability]
[Sometimes you just need a little quiet in your life. Creates a bubble of silence.]
Violet: All the sounds stopped. What did you do?
Willow shrugged sheepishly. Magic, apparently, even though she hadn’t intended it.
Meadow: Cast a silencing spell apparently…
She had no idea she could even get another spell at the level she was at, was this new from the update too?
Dawn: I didn’t hear or feel anything.
Opal looked at Dawn with an ‘are you kidding me’ look.
Opal: Fairly sure that you wouldn’t be able to hear anything if you can’t hear anyway, or don’t have the sounds of your game turned on.
Opal looked at Dawn again, who smiled sheepishly, and then he looked at Willow, who they knew had most of the sounds turned off too.
Dawn: Sounds are off for me… That would explain it. Yes.
Meadow: But it’s not sneaking. We need the sneaking skill for this dungeon, right?
Rotnem: No clue, actually…
Soleil had been keeping to the back the whole time, but then she looked at Juniper and Willow could see the way she was thinking.
Rotnem: Do you think we can restart this dungeon easily? We could just test the theory.
Rotnem: Juniper, you could go ahead first, right? You’ve got the skill already.
Rotnem: Because in the dungeon notes, I’m not seeing anything about this being a group dungeon, we’re just all in here because we all went in at the same time. So we’re not all connected, if one of us has to respawn, the others won’t have to.
Willow pulled up the dungeon notes, which were really sparse…
[Catch a Cat’s footfall]
[Group size: ~]
[Race the cat to the end of the dungeon while catching any sounds it makes.]
Meadow: It also doesn’t specify how many sounds we’re supposed to catch.
Which could mean anything from there being a lot of sounds to catch to it simply being a game mechanic that they could use, but wouldn’t have to…
Then Juniper looked at Soleil.
Juniper: You want me to go ahead?
Rotnem: Just a little bit? You’ve got sneak unlocked. You’d be the easiest to test.
Juniper nodded and walked up to the cat. The beautiful tabby creature looked at her and as Juniper came closer, it changed into a Lynx, which was significantly bigger and would be easier to interact with, right?
As Juniper was within a foot of the creature, it suddenly pulled away and darted into the tunnel. Juniper looked back at them one last time and then turned that partially see-through again, going into sneak mode, before following the cat.
They had no idea what to expect next, what would happen next. They could only wait.
It didn’t take long before the cat respawned at the start of the tunnel and moments later Juniper blinked into existence not too far away.
They all stared at Juniper, who started to grin broadly.
Juniper: You’re going to LOVE this!
Juniper: Up ahead, there is a group of creatures you have to sneak past, they respond to sound. You can see them on a ledge, but they’re not looking at you until you or the cat makes a sound.
She moved her hands erratically as she explained it, she was that excited about it. Then Juniper looked at the cat, which had turned back into its small form.
Juniper: They also respond to the cat’s sound, and as soon as they turn to it, they will spot you too.
Opal: So, why are you grinning?
Juniper: Because I know how we can beat it. We don’t even all need to learn the sneak skill for it.
She eyed Willow, her eyes going even brighter.