“Huh?” Fletcher stopped dead in the middle of the early evening market crowd, dumbfounded as the insubstantial message that had appeared in the corner of his vision faded.
He stood there for a few seconds, the sosatie that he’d been raising to his mouth for another bite of deliciously barbecued meat almost forgotten until a passerby jostled him. He stood there for a few more seconds, waiting for something more, anything more to happen.
Nothing did, other than being jostled a bit more by the crowd. “Maybe Da is right, I must be spending too much time daydreaming.” he thought to himself.
His usual excitement to see what new and wonderful things had been harvested from the local starter Dungeon dampened, he made his way out of the bustling market and headed home as dusk settled. A good night's sleep felt like a very good idea just then
A knock on the door and a gruff “Up” from his Da was enough to shatter the pleasant dream he’d been having, even the memory of it turning to dust as he awoke, dim light seeping in from the street lamps.
He steeled himself and hauled himself upright to get his day started. If you could call it “day” given that it was still several hours to dawn. There were still establishments catering to a certain late night crowd that had yet to close!
But people wanted fresh bread first thing in the morning, so it was a baker’s lot to be up hours earlier than most to give the people what they wanted.
“Go check on the cellar, can’t be losing more flour to rodents” ordered his Da later that morning, after dawn had broken and the first customers had come and gone. More Adventurers, mostly, stocking up for a day of Dungeon delving.
Fletcher stood in the cellar, scratching at the patchy stubble on his chin as he inspected the trap he had set. The trap that had been triggered, but there was no sign of a victim. No little rodent body, no blood. Just a triggered trap, bait gone. And did that little hole look a tiny bit bigger than it had yesterday?
He reset and baited the trap. None of the bags around the hole looked damaged - maybe the trap had injured or scared the little bugger away?
The next few days were monotony personified. Wake up at an ungodly hour, some milky porridge, help in the bakery and the store, check the traps in the cellar, wander around town. Supper. Bed. Rinse and repeat. But then...
There it was again. This strange message just appearing to the side of his vision, rapidly dimming and fading away.
He stopped sweeping the endlessly duty floor. “Am I going mad?” he whispered. He racked his brains for a few seconds before an even less likely thought occurred to him. “Am I… Am I gaining Experience?! But how? Why?”
Experience was something that only Adventurers could gain, by killing the monsters inside the Dungeons.
But he was no Adventurer. He had never - and would never - set foot inside a Dungeon. And he certainly hadn’t killed any monsters. Unless you counted the odd insect that got caught up in his sweeping.
Like so many others that had dreamed of one day being a famous Adventurer, he had gobbled up the stories of what life was like in the Dungeons. He had even braved the trials set by the kingdom in the hopes of getting one of the elusive Licences, without which it was illegal to set foot in a Dungeon.
He’d failed miserably, of course. The Kingdom only gave licences to those who were already exceptional, and he was most definitely not.
And yet, the messages he’d seen now - twice - matched perfectly with the descriptions of the System notifications that Adventurers saw. Strange floating messages appearing off to the side, showing them all sorts of information as they went about their Adventuring ways.
“Status” he thought to himself as he concentrated hard for a few seconds. Nothing. He’d heard that was how Adventurers accessed the System. Either he was doing it wrong, or more likely he wasn’t an Adventurer.
He sighed, pushing the matter to the back of his mind and continuing to sweep the floor.