Saturday, 7 February 2015

Chapter 8

Chapter 8: Wicked Firestarter

Divus’ small party sprinted through the narrow corridors of the derelict mine, desperate to save their stranded comrades. With his higher agility Trevor was a few meters ahead of the rest as they finally reached the cavern in which the carriage was held. Skidding to a halt he waved the others to the ground and quickly crept forwards.
                He’d thought it odd they hadn’t encountered the Goblins lounging in the corridor he’d passed earlier, but the reason was quickly apparent. Surrounding the carriage were easily two dozen goblins of different shapes and sizes. Almost twice the number that had previously gathered were now laughing noisily in a group.
                Trevor quickly ducked behind some crates of the goblins’ previous bounty while his comrades followed with notably less stealth. Luckily it didn’t matter, as all their attention was focused on the carriage and its newly discovered occupants.
                “What’s going on, why aren’t they trying to pry open the door?” Divus breathlessly asked.
                “I don’t know, but they don’t seem to be in a hurry. We need to come up with a plan.”
                Divus surveyed the cavern from behind the crates. All around the edges loot from previous fights had been piled up, Binky and the other horse were tied far away from the carriage and the immediate area around the party of goblins was devoid of cover. They couldn’t sneak right up to them or even try to rush them. The numbers were simply too many.
                Despite taking challenges far beyond what he’d thought himself capable since arriving in New World Divus realised that this was truly a hopeless situation. There was just no way for 3 people to make up for the sheer difference in numbers.
                Yet still he didn’t give up. There had to be a way to at least salvage something! But it did not seem likely they could even escape themselves with their lives intact. Was there a way to distract them, or lead them away? Wait what was that, it looked familiar…
                 “What’s in these crates?”
                Trevor and Athena glanced at him, tearing themselves away from the overwhelming force of enemies. Then they immediately started digging into the box. Woodchips filled the interior to prevent the goods from smashing into each other, but they were easily brushed away. Careful not to make any noise they soon unearthed some unusual merchandise. Lanterns. Dozens of them. On their own they were useless, but through general trivia Divus was well aware of what would have to accompany them.
                There was a chance they’d been shipped separately but he needed to check. Nervously glancing up at their enemies he silently slipped his sword under the lid of the next crate, cracking it open with exaggerated care. Bingo. Inside were rows of tiny vials of oil, the highly flammable kind.
                However Trevor remained unimpressed. “How are these supposed to help? It’s not like the oil has been conveniently spread around beneath our enemies feet now has it?”
                That was indeed the problem. They might have stumbled upon a huge stock of oil, but it was useless to them bottled up inside a crate. But the first inklings of a plan began to form in his Divus’ head. It was risky, no it was more just unlikely to work as he envisioned, but if they succeeded then the goblins would suddenly be plenty distracted. Well, it was better than nothing.
                “Athena, pass that large jug over, yeah that one.” While she scampered off Divus turned to explain to his sceptical ally. “OK Trevor, here’s what I need you to do. If everything goes according to plan then all those goblins out there will get a good dousing of oil. Then Athena can pop out and light them all up with flame magic. In the ensuing chaos we’ll escape, so I need you to be ready with the horses. Can you sneak over to them?”
                Trevor hesitated for a brief second, then quickly nodded in assent. “It will take me a minute, but they won’t see me. This seems a little crazy, but it’s better than anything I got. Let’s give it a go.”
                “OK, then go now. We have no idea how long they’ll remain passive.”
                As Trevor crept off, becoming hazy as he activated stealth, Athena padded back with the large jug. “OK, got it boss man sir! Now what?”
                “We need to decant as much oil as we can into this. Come on, hurry.”
                After his preparations were complete Divus sat back and idly drew his knife as he waited for Trevor to get in position. The stacks of potentially valuable goods taunted him from all sides, but he was all too aware they couldn’t afford to take any with them. Zoning them out, he focused on calming his nerves for the coming fight. Just as he briefly relaxed a roar came from the goblin force just meters away. He snapped back into alertness and peered over the tops of the crates.
                They’d finally grown bored of teasing the carriage’s occupants and the larger goblins were converging on the back doors. A few of them grabbed a hold of the handles and tried to push it open, but it seemed tightly reinforced and they quickly gave up. Then the crowd gave way, allowing a massive goblin easily the size of a man to pass. It carried a huge and viciously hooked axe and wielded it with clear intent.
                Divus watched transfixed with horror as the goblin brought the weapon high above its head, then savagely hacked down into the door. It wouldn’t last five seconds.
                At that realisation he received Trevor’s whisper. It was now or never, they’d only get this one chance to save their trapped friends! With a roar of his own, which sounded more like a mewling infant in comparison to the chorus of monsters he faced, Divus rose and threw the jug nearly directly upwards. Nearby goblins span around in surprise as it steeply arced through the air. In his very next breath he readied the knife in his hand; eyes locked onto the flying jug as it reached its peak and slowly began to spiral down.
                Measuring its speed, measuring its distance, measuring its direction Divus threw his knife. The loud, familiar crash of broken crockery rang out clearly above their enemies as black fluid rained upon all of the goblins heads.
                “Athena! Now! BURN IT!”
                Cackling with insane mirth, the spirited wizard leapt atop the crates and began to summon fireballs from her outstretched palms. “Fear the wrath of the world’s mightiest sorceress!” She cried as fiery doom was rained down gleefully upon her enemies. This was what she’d been waiting for! Crushing wicked monsters in a sea of flame! Well it was mostly thanks to the oil, but that wasn’t the point!!
                “Please try not to hit the carriage!” Divus yelled as he drew his sword and leapt forward to shield her from the goblins with enough presence of mind to attack.
                The plan seemed to be working, all the enemies had forgotten about the carriage and were either trying to charge down Athena or rolling around on the floor to put the fire out. But Trevor still needed to release the horses and hook them up, while Divus needed to create a path to the carriage.
                “Dash, Beauty!? We could use some help out here!”
                As he desperately fended off the handful of goblins that had reached him the backdoor burst open and Dash jumped out sword in hand. If he attacked the rear of Divus’ attackers then they might be able to push through. Yet in spite of that Dash fearfully looked around the chaotic scene and began hacking into the goblins writhing on the ground in a panic.
                “I’ll keep these ones down, you guys hurry up!” He yelled.
                Another foe joined the group Divus desperately defended against, meaning now there were half a dozen clubs, swords and hatchets he needed to parry and avoid. Not only were they swinging in their usual fast and brutal arcs but most of them were also still on fire, making it difficult to get close. After only 3 half dodged glancing hits made it past his guard he saw his health slowly tick down, already at the halfway mark as he frantically moved his body.
                As he began to lose hope of ever making it through alive Beauty hopped out of the carriage. She began singing in a stunning melody that truly matched up to her name. Even the goblins turned their heads at the sound. “Bewitching tune!” She yelled at the end of her performance, and instantly half the enemies stood frozen.
                Although he didn’t know it at the time, it was a testimony of Beauty dumping almost all her stat boost points into charm ever since she’d gained it. For bard songs, especially those targeting enemies, charm was the main governing stat. And for her level, Beauty’s was through the roof. With barely a second of pause she immediately launched into the next song.
                Divus still had another three enemies to contend with however, and was still slowly being pushed back. His back had almost been pushed up against the stack of crates when the sound of hooves echoed towards him.
                Trevor was sat riding one horse while leading the other straight towards them, ploughing through the disorientated goblins in the way.
                “Get on!” He yelled as he brought Binky forwards, the goblins kept at bay as his own horse reared and kicked out at them.
                Divus scrambled onto Binky’s back as Athena leapt down behind him and grabbed onto his waist. They turned towards the carriage and sped past the furious goblins all around. As soon as they’d reached the goal Divus vaulted to the floor and yelled back up at them.
                “Get the horses hitched. Then Athena, get us out of here!”
                He then faced the goblins once again, who were slowly reorganising and charging towards the carriage. Dash also saw their target and, cursing under his breath, finally went to stand beside him.
                His desperate battle of obstructing the goblins while staying alive resumed once more. Divus ducked beneath a massive cleaver while deflecting a hatchet to the side. Jumping back to cushion the blow of a large club he sliced forward catch a goblin across the chest. It staggered back, gaining him precious milliseconds as more attacks rained down upon him.
                Dash was fairing worse, relying on his much larger health pool and endurance to tank most blows. But even with his higher level his health was rapidly disappearing.
                “WE ARE LEAVING!” Came a roar from the front of the carriage. In that moment Divus felt the familiar rush of his willpower kick-in. With a sudden spurt of speed he managed to push all the goblins back at once. Then, grabbing Dash as he turned, he sprinted back towards the carriage. Half pulling, half carrying his team-mate he launched himself through the back door and screamed “GO” to the duo out front.
                The carriage immediately lurched into motion, clattering along through the cavern and up towards freedom. Through the unclosed backdoor they could see a group of angry goblins furiously chasing them, but it was too late. They had escaped. Releasing the pent up air in his lungs Divus exhaustedly lent back against the back bench, finally able to relax.


Only after they’d managed to leave the goblin cave far behind in the distance did conversation spark back up.
                “What the hell was all that!?” Dash demanded as the carriage slowed to a gentle trot, “How did you manage to let us get captured!?”
                With Trevor and Athena out front there was only Divus left to try and provide answers. “W-well uh, we just w-went out hunting for a bit. Th-then there was a chest, we fell and, and-“
                “Chest, what do you mean chest?”
                “Dash…” Beauty started. She’d logged in moments before the goblins had started trying to break into the carriage, so if anything was even more disorientated, however she’d managed to jump into the action as soon as the counter-attack began. As far as she could tell the others had saved them.
                “Don’t you Dash me, we could have been made mincemeat because of these guys!”
                “Calm down Dash,” Trevor said as he clambered into the back, “We fell into a trap and almost got wiped out, but we managed to get out of it in the end.”
                Sullenly holding his tongue, Dash turned away from his party and watched the countryside roll by.
                “This isn’t like you. It’s only a game in the end. Is something wrong?” Beauty asked, concern etched all over her face.
                “No, it’s nothing. Sorry guys, you must have had it hard too. I mean, only the thief, healer and a complete noob stuck in a dungeon.”
                Trevor relaxed as he saw his friend calming down. “Haha, don’t worry about that! We were almost done for quite a few times, but thanks to Divus we made it out in one piece! You should have seen him fight, he killed a goblin twice his level single handed!”
                “Really?” Beauty asked, failing to notice the return of Dash’s scowl and turning to the comrade in question. “How’d you manage that?”
                Divus, who’d previously backed himself into a corner of the carriage, scratched the back of his head and shakily replied. “Um, well th-they were just a lot simpler to what I’ve been u-used to.” Which was true, even the rabbits had been less easy to predict.
                Before there was a chance to question him further Dash broke in. “I’m logging out now, see ya tomorrow.”
                Without another word his body morphed into stone and the group fell into silence.
                “I’m logging out too, I need to check if anything’s wrong.”
                “Yeah me too, I might as well get some work done.”
                Divus was quickly left alone as the collection of statues in the back of the wagon grew. After the silence settled in for a moment he clutched at his head in despair. But it wasn’t loneliness that assailed him. His thoughts immediately turned to the mountain of loot contained in the goblin cave. Who knows what kind of items he could have found within, he might even have found something he could sell online to start earning the rent.
                No, it was too early to give up yet. He called Athena to halt the carriage and clambered out the back.
                “What’cha up to Divus?” She asked, jumping from the front seat.
                “Hey Athena, I need to a-ask a favour.”
                She looked at him with quizzical eyes, “Sure, shoot.”
                “Well, c-could you come back with me to the g-goblin cave?”
                A thoughtful expression briefly passed through her face, before she excitedly responded. “That’s a great idea!! What are we gunna do? Round 2? This’ll be awesome. Ah!” She briefly paused, turning seriously towards him, “We can’t tell the others!”
                No worries about that, Divus thought to himself. They immediately set about investigating their surroundings, making sure there were no monster patrols wondering about who might nick the carriage a second time. When finally satisfied it was safe they hid the carriage best they could and set off with Binky back the way they had come.
                It was quite some distance to the old abandoned mine, they’d put a few solid miles between them after their panicked escape. When the entrance was finally back in sight it had been a few hours since the fight. A lone sentry sat outside, but he was fast asleep. It seemed they were still recovering, or perhaps security had always been that lax. Regardless, without Trevor to scout ahead it was a godsend for Divus.
                After much insisting he gave in to allow Athena to make the first move, but only after he’d gotten close enough to finish it off. She gleefully started charging her fireball as Divus slowly crept closer. When he was within a few meters of the monster, and too worried to get nearer without a stealth skill, he motioned for Athena to attack and waited. And waited. Aaaaaaand waited.
                Just as he was about to turn angrily back to his belated comrade a massive wave of heat swept past. A gargantuan ball of plasma, as large as the target itself, engulfed the unsuspecting goblin, reducing it to ashes before it even had the chance to scream. Divus stared at the immolated corpse in amazement as Athena triumphantly approached.
                “Bwahaha! Well? This is the power of the world’s greatest sorceress!!”
                He knew she’d been diligently practising, but this was just ridiculous! “How? How’d you manage to do so much damage!?”
                Athena smiled proudly and tossed her head back, peering at him down her nose. “Simple! I just put all my mana into it!”
              She just put all her mana into it. Just all her mana. All her mana. “Wait wait wait! So you used all your magic power?”
                “You’ve got none left?”
                “Not a bit!”
                “H-how long does it take to recharge?”
                “Fully? Hmmmmmm…” She looked back to the ground, crossing her legs thoughtfully. “Back to full, about 20-30 minutes?”
                Divus stood in silence, unsure of where to start. Athena took this for awe, and struck an even more ostentatious pose.
                “Athena, what would you have done if there were two of them?”
                “Um, lined them up?”
                Well reasoning with her would probably prove fruitless. Heaving a great sigh he led the way into the cave’s entrance.  After a few seconds his companion realised he’d left and quickly chased after. They moved in silence for a while, Divus wary of further guards while Athena sulking at the lack of praise for almighty magic.
                It wasn’t long before they managed to get back to the massive cavern filled with loot and, last time they saw it, goblins. However as they cautiously approached, backs pressed to the walls, it became apparent that most the monsters had left. When Divus glanced through the opening he could only see a half dozen of them sat around their fire. That said, 6 goblins were more than enough at his current level. He’d gained some experience from the earlier fights, but they were still close to twice his level. He wouldn’t survive against all of them, not with blows raining from all sides. No wait…
                The memories of his training under Peter slowly resurfaced, continuously battling the hellish hound over the course of hours, he’d not only gotten several level raises but also permanent stat boosts. Well even so, he wasn’t keen on repeating that. Constantly being clawed and bitten hadn’t been the most pleasant experience… No, his resolution amounted to more than that.
                “Hey Divus, there’s quite a few. What do we do?”
                He turned to face his companion, knowing that her cooperation was essential. “Listen, I’m going to charge them and try and take them out, I need you to stay near the exit and focus on healing me. If I die, run away. I’ll just respawn at the carriage, no big deal.”
                Athena did not look convinced. “There’s no way you’ll beat them! You lose a level every time you die right? And more? It doesn’t seem worth it…”
                “No, it’ll be worth it. But you have to focus on healing me, ok? No fireworks.”
                He half expected her to pout and complain, but to Divus’ surprise it seemed his seriousness was infectious. With a stern expression he’d never seen on her before Athena nodded, “You can count on me.”
                “Alright, we’ll wait a bit for your mana to recharge.”
                Thanks to the couple of goblins Dash had finished off in the previous battle Divus had finally reached level 11, so he decided to allocate his points. Although strength, endurance and vitality were a warrior’s usual mainstays for this particular fight he needed all the agility he could get. It was only a couple of minutes until Athena gave the ready signal, and then he started to move forwards.
                Breaking into a sprint Divus quickly covered the caverns floor, launching himself at the unsuspecting group of monsters before they really grasped a hold of what was happening. His sword bit into the nearest’s neck as it tried to rise, instantly shaving off almost half its life. He quickly began slashing at it as the goblin tried to pull itself unsteadily to its feet. Dodging the desperate retaliatory swing Divus finished it off with a quick stab through the chest, yanking his sword free and leaping backwards as the rest finally joined the fray.
                Two clubs and a large cleaver simultaneously swung towards him. A dextrous flick parried the blade while he twisted out of the way of the clubs, one barely grazing his ribs.
Goblin has dealt 146 damage
                Almost a quarter of his entire life with just a glancing hit?! The level difference was still just as deadly as it had been before… However this time it was different. How many times had these goblins swiped wildly at him? How many times had he managed to frantically avoid them until now? He had grown so used to their predictable, over-reaching attacks that, one-on-one, he could avoid them with his eyes closed.
                The only problem was there were more the double the number he’d managed to defeat before. If they surrounded him and coordinated there attacks then he wouldn’t last seconds… But goblins, while they enjoyed grouping together, possessed too low of a collective intelligence to form anything even slightly reminiscent of team-work and as long as he kept his eye out they didn’t even try to surround him.
                Yet even if he had grown accustomed to their movements, taking on 5 at once while avoiding damage was impossible, especially as he needed to counter with his own attacks to have any hope of winning, although he could only get weak pot shots in. He’d barely dealt five hits when his life dropped below halfway. Though just as it fell beneath that threshold a missile of healing energy collided with his back, restoring him to almost full. He distantly remembered that Athena was a much higher level, so keeping his health should be easy.
                Bolstered by the reassurance that his companion had his back Divus threw himself back into the fight. From an objective standpoint this battle had become a lot more like a traditional MMO encounter. He was hacking at the monsters while they were hacking at him; the first one whose life bar finally dropped to zero was the loser. With his White mage in support he just had to avoid dying in-between healing and he’d win!
                Of course that was a rather over-simplistic way of looking at it. A single solid hit and Divus would immediately be in a critical condition. Even if he was constantly restoring his physical strength, the toll taken on his psyche was definitely no joke. After only 5 minutes into the fight the goblins were only marginally worn down and the mental fatigue was really building up.
                There were three normal goblins and two scouts. Avoiding the clumsy assault of the clubs was simple, but the slicing cleavers of the scouts were a lot more dangerous so Divus prioritised taking them out. At long last one fell into a critical state and the opportunity came to finish it off! He immediately stepped forward with a savage lunge, eager to finally reduce the numbers. It was a mistake.
                The scout nosily perished as Divus hastily tried to extract his blade, but he’d well over-extended himself. As he successfully pulled it free a club collided heavily with his left arm. SNAP. The unexpected sound quickly drew his attention. He stared at the bizarrely positioned hanging limb in shock for a full second before the pain hit him.
                It took all the self-control he could muster to avoid dropping his weapon as he screamed at the sudden agony. Even with the massive reduction of pain compared to real life it hurt like nothing he’d felt before. Not even the clawing of the hellhound justly compared. It hurts it HURTS, was there really a need for this game to include pain?!

Players Left Arm has been broken.
Health has been capped at 450 until an additional 750 health has been recovered.

                The unexpected message snapped his attention back to the battle and he rolled backwards, out of the way of a fresh barrage of goblin attacks. Jarring his arm as he rose to his feet sent another spasm of pain through his body.
                “Athena!” He half screamed, immediately feeling another wave of healing hit his body. But the health bar did not rise past 500 and his arm remained broken and useless.
                Seemingly sensing his weakness the goblins charged in once more and he continued his desperate dance of avoidance. With only a single hand he could use parrying became almost useless so he focused on avoiding them, ducking under blades and jumping away from clubs while he waited for Athena to charge up her next magic wave. It would be done almost instantly if he could get close enough for her to use healing hands but doing so would just end up getting them both killed.
                As he side stepped another murderous swing the second healing bullet struck him and his arm mended in spectacular speed. Barely having time to flex his appendage the four goblins pushed him into the offense once more. However this time Divus was quite content to take his time, not in any rush to repeat his mistake.
                After another minute the last scout fell back, almost dead. Instead of rushing in recklessly like his previous time he continued his battle with the others without a second glance. To his surprise the scout eventually got back up, having regained a little health. It seemed that if you left wounded enemies alone they’d eventually recover a bit, but not past 10% of their initial health.
                Tucking that piece of handy information away into the back of his head Divus continued to wear his enemies down. It took him quite a while, but eventually they were all on their last legs. To be safe he needed to finish it in one sweep.
                “Athena! Can you stop healing me?” He shouted over his shoulder.
                “What?! Why?”
                “Don’t worry, just do it! You can start throwing fireballs!”
                A quick glance revealed his small companions face torn in indecision. She was worried about Divus’ reckless fight, yet the idea of letting lose an inferno, as miniscule as it would be, never ceased to appeal to her.
                “I’ll be fine!”
                At the further prompting she made her decision. “Fireball!!” She cried, gleefully releasing fist sized bolts of flame at the goblins.
                Divus started taking a few glancing hits on purpose. In actuality his plan was no less dangerous than how he’d taken them out earlier, but he’d unconsciously decided this was more exciting. Not that he’d ever consciously admit it.
Goblin has dealt 130 damage
                 Just one more.
Goblin has dealt 134 damage
                With that message his health fell slightly below 10%. Just one more hit would of finished him off, but the ecstatic goblins hit nothing but air. Fuelled by the rush of willpower Divus easily avoided all four of their weapons and struck with boosted strength. With just one hit each the goblins were instantaneously wiped out by his lightning assault.
                3, 2, 1 and 0!

Level up
Level up

Despite being outnumbered and even suffering a broken arm, you have successfully defeated several enemies much stronger than yourself!
Endurance has increased by 4
Vitality has increased by 3
Strength has increased by 2
Willpower has increased by 1

                Hah, this was exactly what he’d been aiming for! While the boost wasn’t too massive, permanent stat increases would still be a huge advantage in the long run.
                “Bwahaha! Take that goblin scum! No one messes with this mighty sorceress and gets away!”
                Unable to muster a response Divus collapsed where he was, laughing aloud. Whether from Athena’s haughty proclamation or just sheer exhaustion he did not know.
                He turned at the tapping of his companion running towards him and gave a weary smile.
                “That was awesome Divus! We sure showed them! What did you do at the end though? You were all like whoosh. Well, it was mainly thanks to me!”
                “Yes, it was very nicely done. Thanks.” He managed when he found a lull in the torrent.
                Athena looked at him, her excitement washing away as she plopped to the ground before him. “Hey Divus?”
                “Why did you do that?”
                He’d already been caught off guard by her change in atmosphere but he could do nothing but stare at the sudden question. “What do you mean?” He eventually managed.
                “Why did you come back here? Why did you take on all those goblins? And why, after having your arm broken and screaming in pain, did you not give in?”
                When Athena had readily agreed to accompany him Divus had not thought she’d been interested in what he was doing, just in the adventure she could have. Certainly his actions were a bit unreasonable, but he never thought she of all people would point them out.
                “Haha, what do you mean? It was just an adventure right? We were only out for some fun!”
                With a loud sigh Athena crossed her arms. “No one in their right mind would subject themselves to… that… just for fun.”
                Whoa whoa, this was still the same girl that jumped around exuberantly when they’d spotted a moose right? It did not seem like she was going to let this go. With a sigh of his own, Divus spilled the beans. He hesitated for a second to collect his thoughts, then began
               “Well I’ve got a sister, about the same age as you, and we’re pretty much all alone. I’ve got to provide a living for us, bring in the dough as it were. But I can’t get a job anywhere else; I have no qualifications and have barely left the flat for the past few years. This is pretty much the only place I can earn enough to keep us afloat.” He was silent for a moment, and then suddenly remembered who he was talking to. “Ah yeah, you can earn money by selling items in MMOs.”
                Athena was still unconvinced. “Even so, why do you try so hard?”
                “It’s because-“ It’s my fault. No, he couldn’t just say that. What was he even doing, telling her all that? “I’m the older brother, and this is the only way I can look out for her.”
                They sat facing each other in silence for a moment longer, and then Athena abruptly jumped to her feet.
                “Well let’s go check out the loot!” She decided, scampering off to the piles of chests. She stopped briefly, turning back to him. “You know, you’re a lot cooler when you don’t stutter.”
                He watched her dash off again, at last completely lost for all words. Despite having sat down for a while now, he felt no better rested after that conversation. Divus chuckled to himself as he stood, there was just no use trying to match her pace.


Clair collapsed on her bed, thoroughly exhausted. After she’d returned home her brother had quickly rushed up to her trying to make up excuses. If she wasn’t so furious she probably would have laughed when it turned out he thought she assumed he was watching porn. He had assured her he was on a game website and was a bit embarrassed about what she’d thought of it.
                But Clair knew the truth. Even if the clumsily hidden headgear was only a suspiciously shaped lump under Nevil’s covers the open box which she knew he stored it in had been lying on the floor in plain view. It would have been hard to make it less obvious what he’d been up to.
                Although the doctors, and her brother himself, had assured her that the game had nothing to do with the brief coma, Clair was quite convinced over wise. Sure Nevil was rather unhealthy and didn’t go out much and didn’t eat properly and- no that wasn’t the point. The point was that had never happened before, no matter how many days he shut himself up playing computer games. There was no way it was unrelated.

                But it wasn’t just him she was angry at. She thought back to the hospital. Clair knew why her brother would push his unhealthy body to extremes to make money online. She knew why he’d gotten into that state in the first place. Why couldn’t she say it? Just 4 simple words. Why couldn’t she tell him, it’s not his fault?

Friday, 23 January 2015

Chapter 7

For some odd reason this chapter has taken me the longest to write, but I really have no idea why! Well without further ado, please enjoy!

Chapter 7: Dungeon Crawling? What is this, an RPG?

They hurtled through the darkness, grazing against jutting rocks and scraping along sand as they slid deeper below the surface. Fortunately the hole led straight to a kind of slide deeper down, but when Divus finally reached the end he and both his companions were covered cuts and bruises.
                Thinking faster than either of the other two would have accredited her Athena immediately cast a basic light spell to illuminate the darkness they’d dropped into. She herself hadn’t expected to need the cheapest spell on the market so urgently, and was thankful she’d remembered it. Stone cave walls flickered a faint blue thanks to the ball of magic that floated to a rest above their heads.
                “Where the hell did we get dropped now?” Trevor asked aloud, more voicing his frustration than trying to find an answer. He wanted to yell at Athena for dragging them into what was in hindsight a rather obvious trap, but that could wait until they got out.
                The guilty party in question threw herself up the slope they’d just ridden down, barely managing to leave the ground before she slid back down on her belly. Climbing to her feet and re-adjusting her shirt she turned back to the other two and unabashedly reported, “Looks like we won’t be able to get back up this way.”
                Pretending not to have seen anything Trevor immediately continued on. “Well we’ll just have to try and find another exit. If there’s a trap and a tunnel, then there has to be another way out somewhere. Come on, there might be traps so I’ll lead the way.” He wasn’t fond of taking charge, but Divus was still inexperienced at New World and letting Athena lead would be the death of them all.
                Almost immediately after they stepped away from the slope an unexpected message popped up.

Your party are the first to discover abandoned Freewell Mines!
+25 Fame

                The sudden pop up had caught him completely off-guard and Trevor didn’t even notice the figure that had stepped around the corner. It wasn’t until Divus yelled “Company!” that his gaze his snapped up and he caught sight of the creature at the end of the corridor. It was a short, gangly green humanoid; protruding, tusk like fangs, beady black eyes and a compressed snout all added together to give it a wretched appearance. Even without his identify skill he could tell it was a goblin, one of the most standard of MMO villains.
                Instead of charging straight at them the ugly monster span round on its heels and pulled out a horn. Trevor almost instantly realised its intent. It was going back for its allies, that horn would alert everything in the entire tunnel. He had to silence it before it got a chance. But he was too far away; it would be back round the corner long before he reached it. They were about to be swarmed by monsters that were probably higher levelled than themselves!
                In the time it had taken Trevor to identify the enemy, realise its plan and then shudder at the consequences Divus had already reached the goblin, slashing a large gouge into its back. It span round with a club to catch him in return, but Divus had already leapt back out of range as if he’d predicted its move. He then stepped in again, slicing across the top of its head but failing to penetrate. It howled, swinging wildly at its agile foe. Yet once again Divus was back out of range. Now thoroughly enraged and casting aside the long forgotten the horn, the goblin leapt at him with a massive overhead swipe. However he simply stepped aside and let his foe impale itself on his outstretched sword.
Goblin killed, 100 exp gained
                Despite not having a chance to help, Trevor still gained a considerable sum of experience. The amount earned while in a party was usually divided by how much you’d contributed to the fight, so if he’d gotten that much without really doing much Divus must have gotten a huge boost. With this much experience dropped though he realised that the Goblin must have been at least level 20, higher than even his own at the moment. Yet his level 9 companion had dealt with it completely by himself, not only that but with only 3 strikes. He could do naught but stand in amazed silence as Divus tugged his blade free from the goblin’s corpse.
                Athena, however, had no such reticence. “That. Was. AWESOME!” She cried, launching herself at his back. “Hey, hey, how’d you dodge it so well? And how’d you kill it so quick? What skills did you use?”
                Bombarded with questions, Divus was forced to step back while peeling Athena off his chest. “W-well you see… Um you should quieten down a little, there might be more nearby…”
                Those worrisome words brought Trevor quickly back down to earth. “Athena be quiet! We have no idea how many of them there are around here, I don’t really fancy fighting off an entire horde!”
                The dead goblin only yielded a small pouch of coppers, the club seemed useless and no one was eager to inspect the equipment it wore. Death had done nothing to improve the rancid odour it emanated.
                “We’ll divide the loot when we get out. Trevor, we should head on. You take the lead to scout ahead.” Divus firmly ordered, taking charge as he felt the prospect of another fight in the near future. “Athena stick behind me, and dim your magic light a little.”
                Trevor had noticed it when they’d hunted bunnies together a week ago and inwardly laughed at how he’d forgotten; when it came to combat all of Divus’ awkwardness and apprehension instantly vanished, replaced by a fierce determination. The worry about the team’s combat effectiveness was completely unfounded; while he might have a lower level than the others his real life skill seemed absurdly high. Now that Trevor thought about it, he was probably like a martial arts master in the reality! Although he’d looked weak when they first met, it was a wolf in sheep’s clothing sort of thing.
                While coming to completely false conclusions in his own head Trevor led them deeper into the so called ‘mine’, though no ore veins or jewels made themselves apparent as they went. Maybe that was why it had been abandoned, until the new goblin residents had moved in at least.
                A warm orange glow lit the way up ahead so, waving his companions to a stop, Trevor snuck towards it for a better look. A half-open wooden doorway divided the tunnel, battered and ancient looking. The light crept round the edge of the door, so he flattened himself against the wall and slowly crept closer. He leant out to peak through.
                A large room lay beyond the door, with three figures gathered around a fire in one corner. From their diminutive stature he assumed they were more goblins, but it was difficult to make anything other than their silhouettes against the flames. He silently activated his identify skill.

Goblin Scout
Level: 22
Stats: ???
Skills: ???

                The other two were normal goblins, both level 20 but still 3 levels higher than himself. Trevor was now forced to accept the fact that Divus had soloed a monster over twice his level. Well at least he was on their side. However he wouldn’t be able to pull the same stunt off against 3 at the same time. Even if Dash were there to tank and Beauty with her buff songs it would still be a hard battle.
                Slowly leaning back from the door, Trevor stealthily padded back to the rest of his party with his information. They were crouched were he’d left them, Athena whispering away while Divus carefully divided his attention between her and the tunnel they’d come from.
                “There are three of them in a room up ahead.” He reported when they were in earshot, “One’s a scout, so he probably has a ranged attack. The others are like the one you killed earlier. I don’t think we can take them.”
                “We’d have them by surprise…”
                “No, too risky. There was another tunnel a little way back, we could try that one instead.”
                Divus shook his head, “If they’ve set up a guard post then it’s got to be the right direction. You have a stealth skill right, if you sneak up behind the scout and take him out then I can rush in and take care of the others. If Athena’s healing me then two shouldn’t be too difficult.”
                Trevor grimaced; even with a critical hit stealth attack he wasn’t sure he could kill it with one strike. But it was better than anything he could think of. Even if they did end up dead they’d just respawn back at the carriage, the level drop could be regained and there was only a small chance of dropping equipped items. He nodded his assent and the small team crept slowly towards their foes.
                Divus and Athena stopped at the doorway while Trevor silently pushed the door open enough for him to slip through. Dropping a small prayer of thanks that it hadn’t creaked, he tip-toed into the room.
                The group of goblins had their backs to him while they warmed their hands at the fire and talked amongst themselves. They had thick, guttural accents, but surprisingly Trevor could make out their conversation.
                “Gnish-Nak’s party got a gud haul today.” The largest one, who’d been identified as the scout, told its fellows.
                “Oh yeah, wa’ did e’ get?”
                “Apparently dere wos a whole carriage sat abandoned by the roadside! Stupid hummies, leaving deir stuff their like dat…”
                “Oh I ‘eard dat too, but dere wos nuttin in it, just some food and weird statues!”
                “Well dere wos ‘orsies, we can eat dem!”
                Trevor cursed under his breath. If they had the carriage then it was no longer designated as a safe zone! Apparently if your designated respawn point becomes no longer safe then there was no telling where you’d end up if you died! They might not even end up in the same place.
                As he entered just meters away from his target Trevor drew his two knives from his belt and leapt at the Goblin scout’s back, viciously stabbing into it what he hoped were either its lungs or heart before jumping back away from the other two. He had let loose a shout as he’d plunged through the air, the signal that the attack had begun, and the sound of Divus bursting through the door could be heard behind him.
                However his target, far from collapsing dead onto the floor as he’d planned, picked a huge cleaver up from the floor while roaring with pain and anger. Its companions scrambled for their own weapons as the scout walked vengefully towards Trevor. Although it was about the same height as himself, the bestial roar and monstrous features had caused him to freeze in terror at its approach. It pulled back its jagged blade to cleave off his head, yet he still could not bring himself to move. The blade flew towards him as he could do naught but clench his eyes tightly shut.
                The ring of metal upon metal and the tersely yelled order from Divus snapped them back open.
“I’ll take these two, keep the other busy!” Divus shouted as he pushed between them and deflected the goblins attack. With a couple of flicks of his sword he drove it back and away from Trevor, who managed to shake himself into action and face the remaining club wielding goblin.
                His new foe flung itself towards him, and he frantically jumped back out of the way of its wild swings. Although its attacks were clearly telegraphed and easily predicted, it was all Trevor could do to avoid the blurred arc the monster recklessly created. For several seconds the only information of the other’s fight were sparse grunts, growls and clattering as he assumed Divus was avoiding his own enemies just as desperately.
                After the initial attack it quickly became easier to avoid the goblins attacks, it swung its massive club in pretty much the same pattern every time, and he could spare a glance at the rest of the fight.
                Divus was fending off the other two goblins with a spectacular display of rapid parries and last minute dodges. But even with his brilliant reflexes two enemies at once was a bit too much, several attacks made their way through his guard and he was quickly being worn down.
                “Athena! A little help?” He shouted to the girl behind him.
                She stepped forward, smiling widely. “Behold, the true birth of the mightiest sorceress! This is the combat magic I painstakingly saved up enough for. Now I finally have a suitable stage to introduce it! Fireball!”
                “Now’s not the tim-“ Trevor tried to shout, but had to but of short as he desperately ducked under the club of his opponent.
                A fist sized ball of fire erupted from Athena’s hands, shooting across the room and striking the chest of one of the goblins that were attacking Divus. Flames erupted from its clothes and jumped back out of combat to pat them out. Within seconds the goblin had extinguished Athena’s attack and was back in the fight.
                “I meant HEAL ME!” Divus roared as he locked swords with the scout briefly, before deflecting it to the side.
                “Fine.” Athena dejectedly sighed, sending a green ball of energy sailing towards his back.
                Just as his health was restored the scout finally struck home, driving it cleaver deep into Divus’ shoulder at a momentary lapse in his guard. Even though he only half saw it out of the corner of his eye Trevor had to wince. It was over. He was barely holding out against his own enemy, there was no chance for him to rush over to buy time for healing.
                But yet, at the edge of his vision he could swear he could see Divus smiling. Anyone else would have at the very least recoiled in pain and shock, yet as if he’d been expecting the attack Divus countered. With its blade still buried deep in his shoulder, there was nothing the scout could do as he stabbed up through the base of its mouth and into its skull. It instantly went limp and Divus swung it into the path of the other charging goblin, who was unable to avoid its deceased comrade and ended up heaped on the floor. A quick stab through the back of the neck and the fight was over.
                Trevor’s own foe witnessed the demise of its allies and tried to turn and flee towards a closed door the other side of the room. But he’d put most his points into agility and dexterity and easily caught up, stabbing into its unprotected back.
*CRITICAL HIT* You have attacked for 124 damage
*CRITICAL HIT* You have attacked for 127 damage
*CRITICAL HIT* You have attacked for 131 damage
*CRITICAL HIT* You have attacked for 126 damage
*CRITICAL HIT* You have attacked for 124 damage
Goblin party killed, gained 1500 exp
Level up
                As the last goblin slumped to the ground Trevor triumphantly turned to back to his team mates. The gaping wound in Divus’ shoulder was slowly closing as Athena poured healing magic into him with her hands on his back. Healing hands was more effective than the healing bullet, but needed direct contact so was rarely used in combat.
               While they were busy Trevor quickly gathered up the loot from the dead foes. They all only had a few coppers each, while the rest of the equipment was pretty useless. The goblin cleaver, however, had a really high attack with slower speed, so Trevor decided to take it with them. The large strength requirement also meant none of them could really use it but they might be able to sell it to a merchant.
                When they’d finished healing they gathered in the centre of the room.
                “We need to get a move on, I overheard them talking earlier and it seems like they’ve stolen our carriage. We need to get there as soon as possible.”
                “Yikes, Dash and Beauty will be in for a shocker if they log in in the middle of their hide-out!” Athena laughed.
                “Ok, let’s go. We should try to avoid any more fights like that though…” Divus said, then abruptly his commandeering attitude melted away. “U-um guys, how long h-have we been down here?”
                “I don’t know, lost track of time really. It might well have been an hour already. Why?”
                “Uh, w-well I just realised something I r-really needed to do i-in real life. C-can you wait here a moment? I-I’ll be really quick!”
                “Wait what are you doi-?” Trevor tried to ask, but their comrade began to turn into the logged out statue before he got the chance.
                The remaining pair stared at it for a moment in silence.
                “I’m going to scout out the route ahead. You stay here and keep a look out. Better send Dash a whisper in case they log in as well.” Trevor eventually said. “Sit tight, I won’t be long.”
                He disappeared through the far doorway, leaving Athena alone in the barren room with Divus’ statue.
                She sighed, “Maybe I can practice my fireball…”


At the beginning new players flocked to the city of Highriver due to the rumours that the Devil of Neverwhere had established his base there, however that population boom was short lived. The player Devil had managed to establish a guild within the first few days of starting, and all his subordinates prospered and levelled up at a much faster rate. The newly created Hell’s Guild immediately became a dominant force, even garnering the attention of NPCs.
                However for freshly starting newbies the guild certainly lived up to its demonic name. All the nearby, easy hunting grounds were snatched up, Devil even going so far as to station guards to stop other players. Equipment drops were stockpiled so that nobody could afford cheap new gear. There were even rumours that the guild dabbled in PKing outside the city walls.
                The only way to avoid this was to join Hell’s Guild; however that was not as simple as it sounded. Apart from the original members everyone had to pay to sign up, unfortunately they couldn’t get the gold to pay thanks to the guild’s monopoly on hunting.
                To that vicious circle only one route of escape was presented. Over the week New World had first been released people had begun to find out that you could connect your headgear to your computers, allowing you to upload videos and perform online transactions. The former had a large role in drawing new players in; clips of people wondering around the virtual world were massive hits and enticed everyone. The latter meant that items your character has on him could be traded to other players. Even without knowing them in-game transactions could be made with anyone just using your New World account.
                And so new players in Highriver were forced to buy guild membership with their own real-life money, which obviously turned most newbies away.
                Despite this information being readily available a young women spawned into the quiet town square. Though it was difficult to tell her gender from any distance, her shortly cut ginger hair and lack of any discernible bust meant only her face would give her away as a woman.
                After the initial shock of the teleportation wore off and she’d gotten her bearings the young lady immediately set off to the market stalls, searching through the various merchants until she found a clothing shop. A hooded cloak immediately caught her eye.
                “Hey mate, how much for the cloak?” She asked in a voice easily mistakable for a man’s.
                The merchant glanced at the object in question, before giving a terse evaluation. “1 silver miss.”
                “No way, you’re having a laugh! Look at how worn it is, I wouldn’t say it’s worth more than 20 coppers.”
                The merchant dropped his disinterested pose and made an offended gesture, “Indeed miss, however it’s made of good quality wool, no finer cloak could you possibly find for the price of 80 coppers!”
                “Certainly, if it still had its proper clasp. You can clearly see here where it broke off and you added a cheap replacement! How could you ask for more than 40?”
                The merchant sighed in frustration as if he’d been defeated, then offered one final compromise, “50 coppers, it would be robbery to go lower!”
                “Deal!” The young women said, exchanging the entire contents of her beginner’s purse for it. “Cheers mate!”
                A blue window almost made her drop her newly acquired bounty with its sudden appearance before her. Unexpectedly she found she’d just learnt the skill ‘Barter’ from her acquisition! Although the degree she could haggle with the NPCs had been shocking, getting a skill that quick seemed way too easy.
                Well it didn’t really matter, she had one main goal at the moment. Throwing the cloak over her shoulders and quickly pulling up the hood she headed towards some people who looked more like players. The young woman had one main goal in New World to start with, and that was to find Devil.
                Not long after she began her search she found herself in front of the doors of Hell’s Guild’s stronghold. Though stronghold might be too flattering a term. Even with the money flowing in from new members and their own lucrative operations, the guild still had not managed to purchase a particularly impressive building. It was a squat, ill-maintained house in the lower city; while it wasn’t quite small it seemed a little lacklustre for the games first and most notorious guild.
                Pushing on inside the young woman found herself in a small reception-like room. A bored looking lady was inspecting her finger-nails behind a desk.
                “If you’re looking to join just bring your money upstairs over there. Last door on the right.”
                Without a word she continued in the direction indicated. As she walked quietly through the hallway she began to overhear voices from one of the doors.
                “We don’t have enough…. You really…. Are you sure Devil…”
                The conversation was too quiet to hear more than snatches, but as it seemed Devil was in there the young woman stealthily approached the keyhole.
               “The guards’ number about 5000 altogether, though there’s only ever 2000 patrolling at any one time. Not only that, but their levels dwarf ours as well.” Came the earlier voice, the worry clearly audible with each word.
                “Don’t worry, we far outnumber 2000. Taking this city will be easy.” Declared another voice, calm and confident. Was that Devil?
                Whoa, whoa, whoa! You sure you should be saying that in such a low security building? Someone’s stood right outside your door! She thought to herself.
                “Even if we have numbers I doubt the citizens will stay quiet! You’ve seen how advanced NPC’s are in New World, we need more people. You can’t keep the admission fee, it’s turning all our potential recruits away!”
                “Like I’ve told you, we need the money for war funds! We just can’t get enough from hunting alone!”
                “What about the real money? We should at least reduce admission prices so people don’t have to resort to using real cash!”
                “The real money goes into our group’s joint account. Very soon people are going to start putting rare items they’ve found up for sale and unless any of you are secretly rich we’ll need it to boost our arsenal!”
                There was silence for a moment, before they seemed to switch to a different topic.
                “Well how is recruitment going then?” The man she assumed was Devil asked.
                “There’s only been 500 people join in the entire day... Apparently a new starting city has been opened up in Lothargian. If another High Elf city opens up as a starting city then we can say goodbye to anyone joining. Not even you pretending to be Devil will be enough to attract players.”
                After hearing the last line the young woman stepped back through the door. It was as she’d feared when she first heard Devil was a Guildmaster. She really should have sent him a message or something, but it would have been so fun to surprise him. Not only that, but he hadn’t been online all week so she hadn’t had a chance.
                But she didn’t like wasting time like this. The 7 highest ranked members of Hell’s Guild looked up in shock as their meeting room’s door was thrown open. A cloaked figure stepped into the room, scanning the faces.
                “Hey, if you want to join you’re in the wrong room. We’re in the middle of something, would you kindly leave?” Devil managed to politely ask, reacting faster than his comrades.
                The cloak the walked right up to him, ignoring the disgruntled complaints of everyone else and squared off just a foot away. Before he had a chance to speak again the cloaks hand flashed forward and Devil felt his breath rush out of him. Though the level difference assured that only a single point of damage was dealt, the well placed punch had struck the exact right area. By the time he’d managed to draw air back into his lungs the cloak had already left, rushing straight back out the front door. Hell’s Guild had just been too shocked to properly react.
                The young woman had escaped back into the streets and disappeared into the crowd. After she logs out she can send a message to the real Devil, but for now leaving this city might be a good idea. Maybe she could find a merchant convoy to join or something. While that would have been impossible in older titles like Neverwhere, Darkspear always thought very fast on her feet, so she already understood that all the rules she’d learnt in other games had no meaning here.


Nevil opened his eyes to the blank black visor of his headgear. He stayed still for a moment, listening out for any noises throughout the flat. When he was rewarded with merciful silence he sat up and reached to take his head gear off in relief.
                Just as he’d grasped it the distant sound of the front door unlocking spurred him into a sudden panic. He ripped of the helmet and desperately glanced around for a hiding place. Settling on shoving it beneath his covers he then leapt into his chair and booted up his PC, impatiently tapping on his desk as the loading screens slowly whirled by. He typed in his password at record speed and got onto the desktop just in time for the door to his room to swing open.
                Trying to appear as calm as possible he slowly turned in his chair to face his sister. He couldn’t let her know he’d been in New World, else she’d probably freak.
                “Hey bro how have you… been…?” Clair trailed off as she entered. She quickly took in the scene, Nevil was obviously flustered, sat at his desk with a blank desktop open on his computer. “I see. You were busy. Sorry for intruding!”
                Clair quickly stepped out them room and slammed the door back shut. It took a moment for Nevil to process the situation before he quickly chased after her.
                “Wait wait wait! I wasn’t- I mean I didn’t- Hold up where are you going?” He asked as Clair collected her handbag and walked to the door.
                “I was going out with friends for the evening; I thought I’d stop by and see how you were first. Glad to see you’re so healthy. Goodbye Nevil.” She replied with a pleasant yet somehow cold smile.
                Before he could get another word in Clair had stepped out the door and shut it behind her. He was left in silence while he silently contemplated how he was going to explain that all to her when she came home later. Well at least she hadn’t realised that he had been in New World all day, right?


By the time Trevor returned from his reconnaissance Divus had already logged back in, though he was sat dejectedly in a corner while Athena shot tiny flaming bullets out of her palms at the wall.
                “Hey hey, Trevor look at this. I can charge it up to deal more damage!” She exclaimed, building up a larger bolt of fire and hurling it at a cracked wooden stool. Upon impact it burst into flame and was reduced to cinder in barely a minute. Athena beamed expectantly, like a puppy searching for praise.
                “Nicely done, wonder if you can get the title ‘Destroyer of Furniture’ in this game? What’s Divus doing?”
                “He’s been like that since he got back, didn’t even look at my fireball…” Athena sulkily replied.
                “Well then, I better tell you what I found. Divus, come over here.” As his friend slowly complied Trevor slowly recanted his scouting trip.
                Beyond the door lay a single corridor that twisted upwards to what he’d hoped was the exit. It was barren; nothing that really distinguished it as a former mine could be found, nor were there any goblins patrolling the area. After he’d walked a bit further the roughly hewn tunnel became smoother and a series of doorways were built into the sides of the wall. They only led into small rooms, the broken bunk beds suggesting they’d once been living quarters for the miner’s years ago.
                At this point Trevor had met some Goblins, though they seemed to be more milling about rather than patrolling the corridor. Using the shadows to make up for his low stealth skill he’d easily slipped past them and wandered out into an open cavern. About a dozen goblins were lounging around this area so he’d quickly ducked behind some cover.
                A cold sweat had crept down his spine as he surveyed the situation. A group of the ugly monsters had set up a fire right outside the carriages back door, talking amongst themselves as they ate and showing no intention of moving. However, even if they somehow managed to rush those few and succeed in securing their vehicle they’d still be unable to leave. The horses had been penned in at the other side of the cavern, the three of them couldn’t rescue both at the same time so they’d be mobbed by monsters before they could ever reach the exit.
                Luckily there was one final thing Trevor had noticed before he’d made his retreat. At the very end of the cave the ground turned sharply up, the grey light of dawn peaking down the slope. Their escape route was close at hand. The problem was reaching it.
                After Trevor had finished his report and lapsed into a relieved silence, the small party exchanged worried looks. Divus had shed his earlier downcast expression and was now thinking carefully of a plan.
                “S-so there’s no way of separating them?” He hopelessly asked.
                Trevor sadly shook his head, “If we try to lure one or two away the rest will probably notice as well. There’s just no way for us to take that many.”
                The silence returned for a moment, before Divus abruptly stood up and began to head for the door. “Well we need to do what we can for now. There was only two in the corridors right? We need to take care of them before we do anything else.” He said over his shoulder.
                Athena leapt to her feet and jogged after him, and so Trevor wearily followed suit. The only saving grace was that Dash and Beauty hadn’t logged back in and caused a ruckus.
                Just as he thought that a whisper notice flashed in the corner of his vision.
                “Wait up a sec,” He called, before nervously opening the message.


Trevor: Watch out, we’re all stuck in a goblin hideout!

Dash: HELP!!!!!!


Dash opened his eyes and stretched out his back as he finally logged back into new world. Their lecture had overrun and he’d only just gotten back. He had gone to a uni within commuting distance of his home, so instead of being in student accommodation he still had his old room at his parents’ house. It was a fairly cosy home so he had no real complaints, though his folks were barely around anyways so it wouldn’t have made much difference either way. Walking straight through the empty house Dash had quickly rushed back to his room.
                He had told Beauty they’d head straight back into the game and so he was sat in the dark interior of the carriage barely minutes after he’d gotten home. No one else was around; he was completely alone with the statue of his friend. It didn’t seem they were moving either, the others hadn’t gone off exploring without them had they? Well he’d have gotten bored of being sat on the carriage for ages as well, but still it was a bit unfair.
                He sighed and shuffled to the back door, pulling it open to take a look outside. As he leaned out he suddenly came nose to nose with a horrifyingly ugly apparition. He could even smell its foul breath as he stood frozen in close proximity to what his mind slowly identified as a goblin.
                He slowly stepped back and carefully shut the door, then turned and sat back down on the carriages bench. For a few seconds he focused solely on breathing. It was fine, that was just… Just a trick of the light? Then he noticed the message he’d received from Trevor.
                A loud roar reverberated from just outside his refuge, which was slowly echoed by a dozen other bestial voices that combined to rock the carriage and shake Dash into action. He needed to block the door! There were few objects to work with, and nothing heavy enough to stop a determined force of enemies. Or wait…

                He rushed over to Beauties statue and began to pull at it, but it wouldn’t budge an inch. He jumped behind it and pushed with all his weight yet still it refused to move. It was no use, what else did he have…? He frantically grabbed a hold of a spear he’d brought along as well as other odds and ends, quickly using them to brace the door. While sending a desperate message back to Trevor he added his own weight into the mix, then silently started praying.