The moment the door closed, a notification appeared.

Tutorial Guild Hall
This is a Safe Zone.
Warning: level timers are still active.

“I shouldn’t have let you in,” Mordecai said, wringing his furry hands.

I examined the rat creature. He wore a black vest and blue pants. He had a pair of well-worn sandals on his feet. An info box popped up.

Mordecai – Rat Hooligan. Level 50.
Guildmaster of this guild hall.
This is a Non-Combatant NPC.
Hooligans are the smartest, fastest, and ugliest of the Rat-Kin race. While not as roided-out as a Rat Brute, or as Imma fireball yo ass as a Rat Shaman, Rat Hooligans offer the best of both worlds. They are physically strong, and they have a decent grasp of magic.

I closed out the box. Through the door, I could still hear the screech of goblin machinery just outside.

I mentally clicked on the first of several information boxes cluttering my vision.

Error. You may not access this until you have completed the tutorial.

All the boxes disappeared, swooping away into a single folder item that started to blink.

I stood in a wide room about the size of a classroom. A fireplace and bed dominated one side of the room. Several shelves dotted the walls on the left half of the room, filled with random objects and a few framed photographs of bird-like creatures. The other half of the room was nothing but a well-worn and oval-shaped gray carpet and an empty desk. A half-dozen classroom-style chairs lay scattered about. I turned back to the door.

“Is this the only way out of here?” I asked.

“What?” Mordecai asked. The rat wasn’t paying attention to me. He was focused on the cat.

“Yo,” I said. “Morty. Is this the only exit?”

“It’s Mordecai, kid. And yes, yes. Of course.”

“Are those green assholes going to still be waiting for me when I get out of here?”

Donut jumped up on a high shelf and knocked a vase over. Ash spilled out.

“Mom!” Mordecai cried, running to the shelf, shooing the cat away. He reached up for the shelf, but he couldn’t reach. “Damn this body.” He turned back to me. “Can you just grab that thing for me? Get him out of here?” Mordecai sneezed. “I think I might be allergic.”

I didn’t think he was sneezing because of the cat, but because of the gray cloud of dust that had formed around the spilled ash.

“Holy shit, man,” I said. Be careful, I warned myself. He doesn’t seem too tough, but he’s level 50. That’s gotta mean he’s a powerful bastard. “Can you help me? Are they going to wait for me or not?”

“Yes. No. Probably. Well, it’s complicated. One might wait. But one with definitely go back to their nest and call the others. You smashed that poor goblin’s head right in. Give them an hour, and the whole clan will be out there.”

Across the room, Donut discovered the fireplace, which crackled merrily. The cat sat in front of it, lifted her leg, and started licking herself.

Shit. “Okay,” I said. “Don’t you dare lock this door.”

I grasped the handle and went back outside.

I barely had time to hear the rat say, “You’re tracking my mother’s ashes all over…” before I slammed the door.

The goblin tractor had overshot the doorway by about ten meters and was in the middle of a wide turn, trying to come back the way it had come. The engineer had driven the tractor right into the wall. The spinning wheel sparked as the spikes shredded against the stone. The dead goblin remained smeared over the tiles. The corpse looked more like a party-sized, sausage and green pepper pizza that had been run over a few times.

Both of the remaining goblins had their backs turned to me. I sprinted toward the vehicle.

The murder dozer had a small ladder near the back. It looked as if it was made of bones tied with rope. One of the goblins would turn at any moment. I had to get them now. If one of them got away and warned the other members of its “clan” or whatever, I’d be screwed. I needed this tutorial guild. So I only had one choice.

The jagged bones of the ladder ripped into my bare feet as I pulled myself up. I stifled a cry. I jumped onto the top of the metallic, whirring contraption.

The murder dozer screamed so loudly that neither had noticed me. The whole top of the machine was nothing but a fur-lined, recessed hole with benches running the length. Despite the fur, the ground was hot on my feet, almost burning. It smelled of scorched tar and animal musk. The machine could probably carry about fifteen or so goblins, not including the driver, who had a seat up front. A dozen or so levers and spigots and vibrating handles extended from the floor in the cockpit area. The controls all vibrated and bounced up and down. The pan-wearing goblin sat in the seat, screaming and grunting something as he twisted and turned and pulled on levers. Smoke billowed and steam hissed from multiple pipes. The whole machine vibrated like a boiler about to blow.

The smooth, rocky ceiling of this tunnel was much lower than the long, main hallway leading off the stairs. When I stood to my full height, I could reach up and touch it. Barely. It still amazed me, the idea of an entire world made up of these hallways and paths.

I rushed forward, and I grasped onto the regular goblin, who still clutched his pineapple-less stick in his hand. The creature barely weighed anything, surprising me. I picked him up as he grunted in surprise. He unsuccessfully attempted to hit me with his stick. With all of my strength, I threw the goblin forward. He rocketed out of the passenger area of the dozer.

The screaming monster sailed directly over the head of the engineer, who was only now starting to react. The flying goblin crashed onto the tunnel wall then bounced back, landing directly onto the spinning front blades. A spray of red showered over the both of us.

The final goblin snarled, and quick as a whip pulled a small, curved blade from a sheath on his side. He jumped from his chair and rushed at me.

Oh fuck.



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About the author


Bio: Doctor Hepa is person who likes angels, demons, pugs, and cats.

He's also known as Matt Dinniman, the author of Dominion of Blades and Kaiju: Battlefield Surgeon. He's here to read stuff and to post stuff.

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