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.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Chapter 6

Chapter 6: Sweet, sweet revenge

“S-so you’re still in school Athena?” Divus asked as the cart rocked over another bump.
                They were both shaken from side to side and bumped into each other’s shoulders. Houses and shops rolled by as their carriage made its way down the main street. One of the key advantages of their new vehicle was that all the pedestrian players were forced to make way as they passed. Divus and Athena were sat on the front bench, the former having received a quick tutorial on how to drive it while the latter eager to give it a go even without any clue of what to do. The others were sat in the back resting.
                Well he called it a carriage, but such a name would bring forth a much more prestigious image. In reality it was more a glorified cart with a roof. It was big and sturdy, and had to be pulled along by two large horses, but the design was not very… graceful…
                “Yeah that’s right, in my final year now! Well just started it really. What do you do mister Divus?”
              “Ah, w-well this kinda is my job. I used t-to make money from Neverwhere so now I’m trying to do the same here.”
                “What’s Neverwhere?” She innocently enquired.
                Divus was a little amazed. Sure lots of people wouldn’t have played it, and quite a few might not have even heard of it, but for a pioneer of New World not to even know the name of the current ruler of the gaming market was a bit shocking.
                “U-um, it’s an older MMO. Like this one, b-but not virtual reality.”
                “Oh. So not really like this one at all then?”
                He frowned to himself, “No, I g-guess not.”
                They continued without speaking for a moment, well Divus didn’t speak; Athena started yelling into the back a bit.
                “H-hey Athena, i-isn’t it school hours at the moment?”
                She turned back and pouted a little at him, “Yeah, but my best friend wasn’t there today, and it’s pretty horrid when she’s not about. I skived off sick.” She playfully stuck her tongue out, “Hey when can I have a go driving?”
                “Like I said, when we g-get out of the city,” He sighed patiently, Athena was only a few months older than his sister so he instinctively indulged her slightly erratic behaviour.
                Another bump on the road rocked them into each other again.
                “M-man they need to repave th-their road.” He complained as he edged slightly away from her.
                “Oh look it’s Mikey!”
                Suddenly Athena leapt of the driver’s bench and into the street. Divus had to haul the reigns back to bring the carriage to a sudden halt. He ignored the surprised yells from the back and called after her.
                “H-hey! Where are you going?!”
                “Don’t worry, I just need to say bye to someone I know!” She shouted, before lightly running off into the crowd. He watched her swiftly duck her way towards an old man, who she then preceded to pounce upon, to the annoyance of his entourage.
                “Hey what was that about, why’d we stop?” Dash called from behind him.
                “Athena j-just jumped off and is a-attacking an old priest!” Divus replied in a worried tone.
                Dash and Beauty started laughing, while Trevor wearily sighed, “Don’t worry, that’s her magic teacher. She always runs up to him when we see him in town.”
                Swiftly done with her farewells, Athena weaved back towards the carriage and pulled herself up onto the bench beside him.
                “Let’s go!”
                They continued their journey of slowly wading through the crowd for a few more minutes until they reached the main gate. The guards waved them through with barely an upwards glance and they were finally out of the city and really starting their journey.
When they’d gotten a few meters away from the walls Divus handed the reigns over to Athena, who immediately whipped the horses into a gallop. The cart had almost been completely overturned by the time Divus managed to snatch back control and calm the poor animals.
                Despite the rather serious complaints of their comrades, Athena firmly insisted on being given another chance and Divus quickly caved in. Now under much sterner supervision, the carriage only almost capsized seven times before he could finally trust her to steer without his constant care. At that point he pulled them over to the side of the road and climbed off the driver’s bench.
                “Hey, where are you off to?” Athena asked
                “I’ve j-just remembered some things I need to do. U-um, Trevor could you sit with Athena for a while?” He asked as he unhitched one of the horses.
                “Sure, but what are you doing?” Trevor asked as he jumped out the back.
                “I-I got some business to take care of. D-don’t worry the carriage will be fine with one horse, j-just a little slower.”
                “Awwww.” Athena whined while the others relaxed a little in relief.
                “Yeah but what about you?”
                “I-if you carry on straight then I sh-should be able to catch you up fine.” He replied, placing a saddle on his mounts back and climbing up onto it.
                “Yeah but what are you doing?”
                He trotted the horse towards a branch in the road and turned to face his comrades. There was murder in his eyes, and the entire party forgot all about trying to stop him. Without a single stutter he announced, “Don’t worry, this won’t take long.”


The horse, who he’d unceremoniously dubbed Binky, carried him down the rougher dirt path that had branched from the road. Groups of other players jealously glared at him as he passed, most of them were quite new and barely any players at all had their own mount.  A familiar forest began to rise in the distance, with parties of newer players going in and out and a collection of stone statues resting near the side of the path.
                Although there were a lot more people than when Divus had originally been here lots of other hunting grounds had been discovered so it wasn’t quite as bad as the city. He dismounted near the tree line and managed to find a sturdy low lying branch to tether Binky. Shoving an apple in its mouth in a vague attempt to keep it happy Divus determinedly entered the forest.
                The other players had noticed he was better equipped, and probably higher levelled, than themselves, so a few tried to approach him. Even if he’d hog most of the experience most were still trying to adjust to New World and were desperate for the protection. But as soon as Divus entered the forest he started running, sword drawn and eyes aflame. Even if they could of kept up no one doubted that he was on serious business.
                He sped through the trees at a similar pace to when he’d fled the rabbits a week prior, but the difference was immediately noticeable. Thanks to his increased dexterity and agility it was much easier to keep his balance and dodge root and branches while maintaining speed.
                A bunny raised its fluffy head not far ahead of him, so he immediately angled his path directly towards it. The tiny creature noticed his approach and tried to quickly dodge out the way, but it was far too slow. He burst through the foliage and with a flick of his wrist neatly skewered his prey, the small body was lifted up and then slid of the end of the blade as Divus continued to run without missing a single beat. He’d already advanced several meters further by the time it hit the floor again.
                A satisfied smile spread across his lips as he made his way through the forest. He continued to neatly slaughter all the critters he happened upon as he ran, although he wouldn’t get any experience thanks to his class he was still raising his sword mastery a little.
                A howl resounded through the forest, and the few players in his periphery scattered and ran in the opposite direction. Divus didn’t particularly want to fight a wolf but from the sounds of it the beast was in the direction he needed to travel.
                He slowed down to a gentle jog while darting his eyes all around for the lupine threat. A fierce growl came from the bushes on the left and he quickly pushed himself backwards, struggling to keep balance at the sudden change in directions. A big bundle of tattered grey fur streaked past him through the space he’d occupied just moments before. He span round to his right, recovering his balance in time to face the wolf.
                It gnashed its teeth and then howled to the sky menacingly, but compared to the Hellhound Divus had killed under Peter’s tutelage it was barely a puppy. In fact, instead of sitting still and watching it while it was howling skywards he’d leapt forward and delivered a slash across its legs.
You have attacked Starved Wolf for 57 damage.
                With a pained yelp it hopped backwards then glared at Divus with reproachful eyes. He just calmly returned the stare, sword ready for any movements. The stare-off lasted barely a second before the wolf charged angrily forwards, sharp teeth reaching for his neck. Divus almost yawned at such an easy attack, stepping slightly to the side and driving his blade into the beast’s chest.
You have countered Starved Wolf for 253 damage.
Gained 500 experience.
                As Divus pulled his sword free the unlucky creature collapsed to the ground unmoving. A quick check showed he needed 3000 experience to get to Level 9, but he was already almost halfway there. A brief temptation to hunt a couple more of the beasts snagged at his mind, but he needed to meet up with his party as soon as he finished his business here.
                His destination was only a little further so he quickly pushed on after wiping his sword off in the wolf’s fur. After only a few seconds more of running he entered the clearing he’d been searching for. As he pushed through the bushes a curious bunny face twitched up to stare at him.
                The human approaching its burrow was slightly familiar; it briefly pondered where it had seen him before as he neared. Then it remembered, it was that human who’d attacked a few weeks ago! Not that rabbits had a concept of weeks; it just recognised many day cycles had passed. The tiny creature glared at the intruder mockingly, its family had nibbled him to death and now he seemed back for more. But animal instinct quickly overpowered its memories of superiority, this was not the same human they’d killed before!
                The rabbit darted back into its burrow as Divus approached, but he wasn’t worried. It was actually just as he’d expected. He set about gathering twigs, dry leaves and small branches and piled it up just inside the burrow. Then he took the flint he’d bought in Richmond earlier.
                Before logging in today he’d looked up on the internet about how to hunt rabbits. If they fled to their burrow then there were a few methods to root them out. The simplest was to send a ferret down there, but Divus didn’t even know if there were any in New World. The method he’d settled on was smoking them out. Setting up a fire inside the entrance would eventually fill the whole warren with smoke and drive the rabbits above ground. That did mean he’d have to wait quit a while though…
                He tenderly nursed the flames of the fire until it was burning well enough to leave alone, then chucked a bunch of leaves he’d heard produced a lot more smoke than normal and blocked the entrance up, leaving a few holes for air for the flames. Moving to the only other entrance visible he drew his sword and stood ready, watching for any movements.
                For several minutes nothing happened, the smoke slowly spreading deeper underground. After almost half an hour the smoke began wafting through the hole he was stood before. Even with the specially picked leaves it had taken ages to spread.
Another few minutes of silence passed and then a trickle of bunnies began to emerge, one at a time. He easily dispatched those with swift cuts. After a dozen or so fell to his blade no more came out at all. He waited patiently as more time piled up. Just as he was about to give up the rest of the warren appeared, but this time all at once. Dozens of frenzied bunnies burst from the smoky confines of their burrow and launched themselves at Divus. He managed to slice them out of the air as they flung their fluffy bodies towards him, but the sheer ridiculous and unexpected numbers drove him backwards.
                As he retreated a few steps from the entrance the small critters spilled out into either side of him, trying to surround him completely. Divus quickly realised that if they succeeded he’d be unable to fend off attacks from the rear and they’d slowly chip away at his life. He was forced to retreat further while blocking and countering incessant attacks. The number of enemies was ludicrous; he must have killed almost a hundred already!
                Luckily they weren’t working together and their attempts to surround him ceased as they pushed forward. Before he could turn back to his slaughter in relief a new hole burst open to his side and a new force of bunnies swept towards him like a tide of fur and blunt teeth. He hadn’t realised there were this many in the entire forest, let alone just one warren.
The reinforcements joined the main body of attackers, rabbits climbing up onto each others back to better bite at their foe. Soon a huge wall of enemies was formed before Divus, towering around him as he tried not to become surrounded. This meant he was now unable to counter them individually, instead each sweep of his sword cut through dozens at a time. Unfortunately it also meant that it had become impossible to ward off all their attacks and his vengeful extermination had become a desperate battle of attrition.
                Despite the drastic turn of events a small grin crept across Divus’ lips as he fought. He slashed through the fluffy horde, the holes created immediately filled, while trying to dodge the multitude of tiny head butts and bites. The leather armour was holding up well against their attacks, he barely felt them except when they bit his hands.
                The sight of him slowly walking backwards whilst swinging his sword and dodging side to side against a tide of fluff would have been utterly stupefying, but unfortunately the wolf earlier had scared away any players who had been near. No one bore witness to Divus’ desperate struggle as his life bar began to slowly inch downwards. Not that he even had time to check it as he focused on forcing himself to continue his fight.
                Suddenly, just as he feared his weary limbs would fail him and he’d die at the paws of this furry menace a second time, his entire body felt infused with a small amount of power. His strikes gained more weight and speed and it became easier to dodge his foes attacks. The damage he was taking was reduced and his enemies began to fall at an even faster rate.
                As a minute passed that had felt more like several hours, the pressure began to ease. Divus began attacking with increased vigour, wide strikes from his blade biting deep into the rabbit’s ranks as they tried to bite into him. The gaps slowly began to stop being filled and the enemy horde thinned to the last few beasts. They returned to desperate kamikaze leaps, but he easily plucked them out of the air with a well-timed counter. The remaining few quickly fled, but Divus didn’t have the energy to give chase.
He laughed as a glance at his health bar showed it had fallen below 5%, unable to do anything else after such an encounter. So that sudden burst of strength must have come from his new willpower stat, it was only thanks to that that he’d avoided becoming rabbit food once more. He was now even gladder to have gone through Peter’s ridiculous training.

You have cleared out the entire rabbit warren of East Richmond Forest!
The rabbit burrows under Richmond forest have long been completely interconnected and you have successfully cleared out the entire system. The local rabbit population has been dealt a severe blow that will take generations to recuperate from.

You have gained the title: Bunny Butcher

Through enduring a massive horde of enemies certain stats have improved.
Willpower increases by 1
Endurance increases by 2

Level up
                Divus stared at the message in disbelief. That explained why there was such a ridiculous number of them, but to think he’d been fighting the entire forest’s worth! On one hand his revenge had been completed to a hugely gratifying degree, on the other he may have just eliminated the main way beginners’ could learn the game and level up.
                With that slightly worrying thought planted into his head he decided to quickly get out of the forest and return to his party. He ran full pelt away from the scene of the crime, leaving his fallen foes quickly in the past.
                Bursting out of the treeline and running directly towards his horse, Divus caused many of the players resting to jump out of their skins. He quickly mounted and near galloped all the way back to the main road, right up until poor Binky could almost no longer continue. With the forest disappearing into the distance Divus swore silently to himself never to have anything to do with rabbits ever again.


Not long after Divus had fled the young adventurer Harry and his party re-entered the area of the forest that he’d just escaped. When they’d heard the howls of a wolf earlier Harry’s friends had dragged him away, despite his claims that he could easily take it. The small group had killed hundreds of rabbits and other small creatures in this forest and were all around level 5 but, apart from Harry, they were well aware a wolf was still too much for them even combined.
                So they decided to try hunting in another area. But oddly enough, after just the first few of minutes of hunting all the rabbits seemed to have disappeared. They hunted around for ages, occasionally running into rats or squirrels, but there was no sign of the forest’s largest constituent population. With no other choice they eventually decided to return to where they were earlier, but still no rabbits in sight. When they’d happened upon a dead wolf they managed to muster the confidence to advance a little further.
                “God, what’s that smell?” Harry complained as they walked.
                “It kinda smells like blood, but I’ve never smelt it anywhere near this strong before.” His friend Dan replied.
                “Why do you know what blood smells like- You know what, never mind.”
                They continued to push forward, the pungent smell growing stronger with every step. At last they came to a clearing, and as they stepped into it what they saw would haunt them for years to come.
                A mountain of dead rabbits towered ahead of them. Hundreds upon hundreds of tiny fluffy critters were piled to almost eye level, with dozens more were scattered around the surroundings. Questions like how this situation ever arose and what creature could have done this seemed unanswerable in the face of such abhorrent slaughter.
                The party quickly fled from the scene, lest the monster responsible return, and ran all the way out of the forest. They told everyone gathered about the place of the carnage within, but they were laughed off almost immediately. Everyone was sceptical. No one had seen any monster that would be capable of such wholesale slaughter anywhere near, the surroundings of Richmond were very safe, and there weren’t any players who could do that yet.
                Slowly, as a trickle of similar reports came out from the forest, some of the more experienced players decided to check it out. Yet even they were completely unprepared for the scale of the massacre. The newbies who’d tenuously followed them at a distance were shocked as their leaders returned from the clearing with pale and haunted faces.
One of them had already gained quite a popular following online from his posts on New World, and after witnessing the scene of destruction logged out as soon as he could to spread the information across the net. Topics on all of the forums relating to new world were flooded by this tale of mystery and horror!
                Within hours of the discovery in the real world, East Richmond forest became a danger zone despite no sightings of any large or dangerous monsters in the vicinity. Most players started avoiding it like the plague while a few braver individuals tried to solve the riddle behind the bunnies’ deaths. Many became convinced that if they found the culprit it would lead to some kind of special, unique quest or reward and dozens of Richmond’s top players started exploring the small and near empty forest.
                Of course by this point Divus was already miles away, and in the end no ever would solve the riddle.


Finding his party again was pretty easy, the only other people who were travelling the Eastern road from Richmond were a few goods peddlers and farmers, but they’d all turn off to other towns or villages long before Divus would reach his destination. The carriage came into view only about 45 minutes after he followed after them, which considering he’d left them over 4 hours ago now showed a distinct lack of progress.
                As he reached them Athena was sat on the bench up front alone, singing to herself. Trevor stuck his head out the back and greeted him.
                “Hey Divus, you took a while there.”
                “Oh hey Divus! Thank goodness you’re back! Trevor barely talks at all, it’s soooo dull!”
                “U-um, hey guys. Where’s Dash and Beauty?”
                “They said something about an afternoon lecture and logged out about an hour ago, or 12 minutes in the real world I guess.” Trevor pulled the ill-fitting rear door open a little wider to show him the two stone figures, “It was a pretty good idea to bring a carriage though, we can carry on even with team members logged out!”
                “Hey Divus let’s go hunting! There’s probably been no one who’s come this far out of Richmond yet, let’s explore!” Athena enthusiastically pleaded.
                His recent experience of rabbit genocide was still fresh in his mind, but there probably wasn’t much chance of something similar happening out in the grassy plains. He was a bit apprehensive about it, but he did share some of Athena’s expectations of traveling further afield and being the first to stumble upon something cool.
                “Sure, b-but we need to get back to the carriage b-by nightfall.” The sun was dipping low in the sky, the onset of dusk was not far away and wandering about in the dark probably wouldn’t be healthy, “A-are you coming Trevor?”
                “If both of you are headed out then I suppose I might as well.”
                Athena cheered and leapt down from the driver’s bench while Trevor climbed out the back. After making sure that the horses and carriage were secured a little way from the road Divus followed them up a hill. The added bonus of the carriage was they were able to set it as a respawn point, so they could explore with a relatively easy mind. Not long after they started hiking the grasslands gave way to a more barren, rocky area. Spindly trees poked out of the ground atop of steep, gravely slopes.
                “Ooo look over there! It’s a deer!” Athena cried while breaking into a run towards a large horned beast upon a crest ahead.
                Trevor stepped forwards and grabbed the back of her collar, easily lifting her small frame and planting her back behind himself and Divus. Ignoring her complaints he stepped forward himself and stealthily approached the animal stood atop the next hill.
                Clearly influenced by Trevor’s caution Athena whispered to Divus beside her. “That’s a big deer, do you think it’s hostile?”
                “I-I don’t know,” Divus quietly answered, “But what’s Trevor doing?”
                “He’s got a skill that lets him identify enemies. Apparently he only see’s their level and name at the moment because it’s new though…”
                Divus stared at her. Why did you try to go up to it without knowing what it was when you knew he could find out?! Was what he wanted to ask, but thought better of it.
                Trevor turned back towards them, walking now without any attempt at stealth. “It’s ok, that one’s passive. It’s a level 15 elk, so it would be slightly tougher than a wolf.”
                “W-what level’s a wolf then?”
                “Most of them are 12 or 13, but we can easily take them!” Athena boasted, the volume returning to her voice, “But we could take an elk pretty easy too!”
                “I’d rather not without Dash,” Trevor sighed, “Neither of us have enough life or defence to tank it you know.”
                “What about Divus! You’re a combat class right?”
                “U-um, yeah. I’d be fine.” If it wasn’t much tougher than a wolf then Divus would probably be able to solo it. But his allies were more experienced, so it would be good to learn some team play on this trip.
                Trevor still looked doubtful, remembering that Divus was only level 8. “Maybe tomorrow, if Dash and Beauty aren’t back. But it’s getting dark; we should head back to the carriage.”
                The sky was indeed darkening, so even Athena turned back the way they’d come uncomplaining. It had barely been half an hour’s walk, but they were satisfied with the prospect of hunting in the morning. As they climbed back up the hill opposite the proud elk Athena spotted something and quickly ran towards it.
                “Hey where are you going?” Trevor asked in annoyance as he and Divus quickly followed.
                “Look at this!” She shouted back, “It looks like a treasure chest!”
                As Divus approached he saw that there was actually a small chest placed abandoned on the hillside. The trio curiously walked towards it, wondering what on earth it was doing in the middle of nowhere. Just as they entered arms reach of it a loud click could be heard underneath them.
                “Um guys, what was that…?” Trevor nervously asked.

                Before anyone got the chance to answer the ground beneath them gave way and they fell flailing into a deep round hole in the earth. Seconds after they’d disappeared the trap door swung back shut, the chest fixed to one side appearing completely undisturbed and ready to lure in travellers once more.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Chapter 5

Chapter 5: Next stop

Nevil opened his eyes to an unfamiliar ceiling. He was lying on a bed in a strange white room, curtains drawn around him to keep away prying eyes. Trying to sit up he felt something pulling at his arm, as if it were attached to something. A brief investigation revealed that it was indeed, an IV drip trailed from his arm to a stand on his right. Slowly the lights started flickering on inside his head. Somehow Nevil had ended up in a hospital.
               Worse, he had no recollection of how he ended up here. He’d been in perfect health, well as far as a shut in can be, before he’d last logged in. But when was that again? It hadn’t occurred to him while he was in game, but time was still passing in the real world, even at a vastly slower rate. Hours had melted together inside the illusion, so he had even less of an inkling of how much time had passed here. How long had he been asleep?
                His dazed movements caused a figure hunched over at the end of his bed to stir. His little sister raised her head to blearily look at him, seemingly just waking up herself. He was slightly surprised to see her, but she’d probably been worried about their finances or something. Damn, what an awful older brother he was. How could he have worried her! Not only had he been unable to work for god knows how long, he’d also created the hospital fees! Clair didn’t need this, her pathetic gaming brother takin-
                This internal monologue was interrupted as Nevil was flung backwards onto his bed. His little sister had jumped atop of him, wrapping her arms around his neck. Struck dumb by this extraordinary turn of events he could only manage a stupid one word question.
                “YOU IDIOT!” She cried, “Do you have any idea what that was like!? What if you didn’t wake up?! Idiot, stupid moron!”
                Well he couldn’t deny that. Her arms wrapped tighter around the stupefied Nevil, who eventually managed to choke out another confused response.
                “Bu-but why are you waiting here?”
                “What do you mean?” Clair yelled, tears forming in the edges of her eyes, “Where else am I supposed to wait for you?! Do you have any idea how worried I was?!”
                “But…. B-but you hated me?”
                “Idiot, of course not! How could I?!”
                “B-but it was my fault… Don’t you blame me?”
                “Idiot! You’re all I have left!”
                At this point Clair began sobbing into his shoulder. His strong, brave Clair. She had cried at their parents’ funeral, but after that Nevil had never seen her shed a tear. Not when he’d shut himself off, or when their relatives started leaving them. Not even when their uncle had abandoned them. While Nevil had been crushed by the tragically unfair world around them she’d stayed strong and unmoved. Such a brave girl could go on to do anything, he’d realised. With a determination like that nothing was out of reach. And her pathetic older brother would at least make sure she got the chance. That was what he’d always believed. That was his duty.
                But now that unbreakable sister was bawling in his arms and he didn’t know what to do. She didn’t hate him? She was this worried? How long had she had to wait at the foot of his bed for him to regain consciousness? Dozens of questions skirted the edges of his mind but one was more pressing than any of the others; was it ok not to be hated?
                No, none of those questions truly mattered. Not at the moment. Hesitantly, slowly, Nevil reached his arm around his sisters back and returned her embrace. Clair was right; they were all each other had. He was a terrible brother, so for now there was nothing else he could do.


Apparently Clair had found him with the headgear on after he hadn’t appeared for over a day. When she’d tried taking the headset off nothing had happened so she’d panicked and called an ambulance. That was almost 5 days ago; he’d been in a coma since. Clair automatically blamed the New World headset, but no similar case had been documented. It was impossible for him to have stayed logged in. Whenever someone had their headgear removed they were automatically logged off and doctors couldn’t find anything else to link it. It was a great mystery that had shaken up the entire hospital.
                After his sisters yelling had notified the entire hospital the doctors had rushed in and immediately started performing tests and asking questions. Had anything unusual happened before logging in, any other symptoms? Just any indication whatsoever about what had happened. But Nevil repeatedly stated he was fine and without anything else they could do there was no choice but to let him go. He had to compromise to leave the following morning, but he was eager to get out of there as soon as he could to avoid racking up more of a bill.
                So he was waiting in the lobby for his sister, who’d demanded to walk him home, no two ways about it. Even if he could refuse his sister at the best of times, there was no way for him to say no after he put her through that. Regrettable as it might be for her to miss the first few hours of the private school he paid for.
                Almost no one else was in the lobby at this hour; an elderly women seeming to be waiting for an appointment and a middle aged business man who kept glancing at his watch were Nevil’s only companions. The newspapers were a few weeks out of date and there were only fashion or gossip magazines spread out upon the table. He desperately wanted to stretch his legs or find something else to do, but the fear of what might happen were he not here at Clair’s arrival was sufficiently petrifying to keep him glued to his seat. Long repressed memories of when they’d been relatively normal siblings began to haunt his dreams once more.
                Shuddering at that one time he’d been late when they’d gone into town one time he noticed the man had stood up and walked briskly to the reception desk.
                “This is ridiculous! How much longer must I wait for visitation?” He loudly demanded, causing the old lady to almost drop her knitting and Nevil to jump slightly in the air.
                “I’m sorry sir but the hospital’s not open until-“ The receptionist tried to placating say.
                “Nonsense, how could you possibly keep a father from his daughter this long?! Locking her away under the guise of medical care and keeping her from my loving embrace! You monsters!” He roared, and then suddenly collapsed to one knee, his voice growing quieter and sorrowful. “My darling Rose-bud, locked in this dire penitentiary. Withering away without her father’s love to nurture her… How can you live with yourselves? I demand you let me pass immediately!”
                Nevil nervously stepped forward as the man’s rage turned back to the receptionist. He had to be stronger in the real world as well, Peter had told him. He couldn’t just let this very obvious harassment go. “U-um excuse me sir, t-the receptionist d-doesn’t make the policies here. If you c-could just….”
                He’d trailed off as the man scornfully turned to face him. “What would you know of our suffering, boy? My precious carnation locked away every waking moment, cold and alone without my fatherly warmth. Torn from my precious flower, you want me to spend another single moment without her?! Listen you; I just bought this New World thingy! I need to get it to her as soon as I can so we can spend even longer together online!! No longer must I suffer through the night knowing she desperately lacks my presence!”
                “That’s enough dad!” Said a voice from the side. The face that had held Nevil with such mockery and contempt abruptly twisted into an expression of blissful harmony.
                He span round and leapt with remarkable agility towards who must have been his daughter, screaming “Daddy’s here!!!!”
                A white cane caught him in the side of the face, causing his charge to be diverted into a nearby wall. The assailant walked into the lobby, trailed by the receptionist who must have escaped during Nevil’s brief distraction. Her most striking feature was her milky white eyes, yet she walked confidently with the aid of her stick towards her father. But what had caught Nevil’s attention above all else was her long, black hair. He recognised the hair.
Though it couldn’t be. Thousands of people had a similar hair, and he remembered nothing else about the girl. There was absolutely no way. This still didn’t stop him turning away from the girl, who was sternly chastising her father about bothering the staff, and fleeing the lobby. When she turned to apologize Nevil had already left the building.
He almost ran straight into his sister as he fled out into the street. Barely keeping them both upright, Clair immediately tried to calm her panicked brother.
“Bro?! What’s going on, are you ok?”
It took a couple of seconds for Nevil to compose himself before he weakly smiled to his sister. “I-It’s nothing, really. C’mon, let’s get out of here.”
“Wait, are you sure? You look really pale… Maybe we should head back and do another check-up. If-“
“NO!” Nevil yelled, then realising he’d just raised his voice quickly turned away. “No, let’s just leave.”
Clair was clearly not content, but started walking home without further complaint. She sent a few sideways glances towards him while the moved, but he kept his mouth firmly sealed. Though some of the distance between them seemed to have vanished she still needed to let him have some space.
Not being completely oblivious Nevil stopped and bought some ice-cream on the way, which ironically thawed out the atmosphere. He’d only gone through a brief patch of playing poorly translated Japanese gal-games, but it seems affection point increasing effect of the cold sugary treat was not as exaggerated as he’d thought. His sister being particularly uplifted, as they traditional avoided the expensive snack.
They began talking after that, not about anything important and it was mainly Clair doing the talking, but Nevil almost felt nostalgic. He realised that even though he was her guardian it was the first time he’d spoken to his sister about school for years. Luckily she was as talented as he’d always believed and was the top of her class in a reasonably prestigious school. It was her final year, but they’d only really just started. The tuition was already paid for and there was plenty of time for him to earn enough for University.
The sudden hospital bill worried him about the immediate future, but he was determined. They’d do fine. After a week the population of New World would probably of at least doubled and be somewhere around 100,000. Plenty of potential customers! Not only that, but he now had a hidden class! Overall, things were looking up.
They passed some flyers about Judo lessons while Clair complained about some history teacher or something. To be honest it had almost been an endless torrent as if she were making up for lost time, so at that point Nevil was only half listening. Peter had told him to get stronger in this world too; maybe a martial art might be the way to go…
“Hey! Bro are you even listening?”
“Huh? Ah, yeah sure. That guy sounds terrible! Should I go in and complain?” He answered, snapping back to their conversation.
“W-what?! No way, don’t you dare!” She yelled in surprise. “That would be way too embarrassing…”
Nevil smiled, no need for that right now. He needed to wait till they had a more stable income before something like that. Besides, his current stamina was abysmal. Running around the block every morning would be a better start.
As the sun rose to its peak at noon the two siblings arrived home together for the first time in years.


After he’d finished looking up some hunting tips online Nevil sat on his bed and pulled the helmet’s visor down over his eyes, blocking the sunlight from his newly opened windows. The natural light had not touched his room for ages but Clair had insisted it would be good for him when they’d got back. He’d also had to wait for her to leave for the remainder of her school day before he could sneak back into the virtual world. Although there was no real evidence to suggest New World had induced his brief coma she was still dead-set against him returning to it.
                But did it really have nothing to do with it? Nevil knew it was just a game, but Peter’s parting words echoed in his mind. It was almost as if he’d known… No, there was no way. As advanced as the AI was he was just a character, and New World was just a game. No one else whatsoever had reported a case the same as his own.
                Shutting out those unnecessary thoughts he logged in and his senses were once again flooded with new information. A musty smell hung in the air, and as he gathered his bearings Divus realised he’d spawned back in the old warehouse. However this time he was alone.
                “Peter? Are you there? Hello?” He questioned the empty room, as groggy memories of Peter telling him he was leaving resurfaced. He’d just become his student and he was already abandoned! No, someone as apparently influential as Peter probably had all kinds of work to do.
                Divus decided to have a quick look around to see if he could piece together his new master’s destination, but the warehouse was completely barren. The mana crystal that had been placed above the trapdoor was gone, and going down the creaking wooden steps revealed an utterly normal basement. The completely normal dimensions cemented the fact the entire test had been an illusion. No sign that Peter had been there at all remained.
                Giving up Divus realised he’d not checked his new stats and class. “Status!” He excitedly yelled to the empty room.

Name: Divus
Level: 8
Race: Human
Alignment: Neutral
Class: Beast Slayer
Title: None
Health: 610
Mana: 170
Fame: 0
Defence: 1
Vitality: 13
Strength: 25
Endurance: 16
Agility: 20
Dexterity:  20
Intelligence: 10
Wisdom: 10
Luck: 10
Willpower: 10

Unspent stat points: 0
·         Counter attack (Special): Beginner Level 2 (50%)
·         Sword mastery (Passive): Beginner Level 1 (0%)
Status enhancements:
·         Damage with Swords +10%

                While most of his stats remained the same he was intrigued at his new class and stat, though Sword masteries effect was plain enough to see.
                “Stat willpower.” He said hopefully.

Stat: Willpower (10)
Increasing willpower will increase your ability to perform under pressure, giving a boost to combat stats while below 10% health or facing enemies at much higher levels. Cannot increase with level up stat points.

                Even from the vague description Divus could tell it would be a handy stat to have in a pinch, but he didn’t really know how he was meant to level it up. Now for the more interesting bit; his hard won new class. With a name like that, there was no way it wouldn’t be good. He had to wipe away a little drool at the thought of the op new abilities he’d get.
                “Class Beast Slayer!”

Class: Beast Slayer
The lowest rank among Slayers, an ancient organisation of mighty warriors who selflessly fight monsters across the world.
·         Increased Exp gain from enemies of higher levels than you, scaling up the bigger the gap
·         Able to gain the ability of powerful foes you slay (Limited to beasts as a Beast Slayer)
·         No skill learning restrictions
·         Unable to refuse quests
·         Unable to receive monetary awards from quests
·         Half Exp gain from quest completion
·         Unable to gain experience from enemies at lower levels than yourself, unless suitably outnumbered
·         Unable to change class outside of Slayer roles

                The features of Divus’ face underwent an extraordinary change from the perspective of an observer as he read. At the first few lines he lit up with a smile, then a curious grin. Then at the fourth condition his lips created a worried line, which slowly turned into a more and more annoyed grimace. At the final point his face had been completely overcome with despair! He’d been tricked! All of these conditions would only serve to severely gimp him! And why was he forced to take quests if there was nothing in it for him?! And one of the only positive sounding points, gaining abilities from powerful foes, what did that even mean?! How was he even supposed to do that?
                He hung his head and cursed that devious poser Peter, how could he even of believed a story that was clearly too good to be true in the first place? Minutes passed as Divus wallowed in an odd mixture of pity and anger. Dark thoughts of his potential failure swirled in his mind, but that was impossible. Slapping himself on the cheeks he pushed himself to his feet and headed to the door. Peter had said it was a long path. If he couldn’t change it he’d just have to become the best anyway, handicapped or not.
                First thing was first, near the city there wouldn’t be many monsters at a higher level than him. Divus needed to change his base of operations ASAP! Picking himself up onto his feet he quickly stepped towards the door. He spotted a tiny pouch leaning at the bottom and quickly bent to pick it up. Opening it up revealed a handful of shiny silver coins, a parting gift from his new master. Divus smiled to himself as he swung open the creaking door out into the glaring daylight, maybe old Pete wasn’t that bad.
                He navigated his way through the back alleys and soon found his way back onto the main road. Or he tried to. But when he actually reached the larger streets he was completely unable to advance further. Massive crowds of people formed a huge and impenetrable barrier, barring him from reaching the main gates. What was going on? There weren’t anywhere near this number last time he’d been here.
                On slightly closer inspection almost the entire wall of people was made up of players, with the standard knife and identical clothes that marked them as complete noobs. Divus had expected an influx of people after they’d heard the VR really worked, but this was ridiculous!
                He turned back down the side streets, even if he’d become slightly more reformed there was no way he could push into a crowd like that… He could use the coins Peter had left him to buy some basic armour or something and try his luck again later.
                It wasn’t difficult to find his way into some of the more obscure and unique market places Peter had taken him before. The first stop was a small armour stall. He’d not had a chance to have a good look, but he’d remembered that they looked pretty high quality. There were nice pieces, like enchanted steel breastplates or spiked obsidian vambraces, but all of them cost several gold, far beyond his price range.
                “Look kid, if you ain’t gunna buy anything stop poking my stuff. Look but no touch!” The merchant scolded.
Divus hastily dropped the helmet he was studying longingly and sheepishly apologized.
The shop keep was disinterestedly waving him away, barely glancing up from the armour he was polishing, when an inkling of recognition flashed in his eyes. “Wait, you’re that kid that was wandering around with Peter, right?” He asked, “What were you doing following a Slayer?”
Without thinking he replied with, “Oh Peter was teaching me his class.”
The armour nosily clattered to the ground as the merchant fully turned to face him, mouth agape. “You mean you’re a Slayer?!”
“U-um yeah? Uh, j-just a low ranking one though, i-is that a problem?”
“Why the hell didn’t you say so earlier?! What are you looking for today sir?”
Divus was too stunned in the dramatic change in attitude to reply for a few moments, standing nervously as he tried to pull himself together. He might be able to use this! The merchant seemed to like Slayers, but he knew next to nothing about them… What could he say that might get him a bargain? This called for some improvised acting skills!
“U-um yes I am. *Ahem* Good sir, my new master has given me the task of going out and becoming stronger, and I require some basic armour for my travels. Alas, the budget he gave me is insufficient for any of the fine pieces you have displayed, are there any less expensive items you happen to have lying around?” He’d used the haughtiest voice he could manage and turned his head up slightly trying to hide his apprehension. It was amazing he’d made it through without a single stutter. Stealing glances at the merchant in case he’d angered him Divus nervously waited for a response.
“Of course! An assignment ey? Oh what kind of monstrous beast will you be facing? Hold up, I’ve got something that might do the job. It’s not got any enchantments, but it’s solidly made and nice and lightweight. I can sell the set for 47 silver!”
It was almost the entire sum of money Peter had left but it sounded like a bargain. The merchant handed over a bundle of leather clothes, a shirt with mail sown into the chest area and sturdy leather trousers, while Divus tipped out most his money bag.
“Here, take these as well!” The merchant smiled while passing some thick boots, “They’re not high quality, but they’re fairly sturdy! Please visit my store again after your adventures master Slayer, I’m sure I’ll be able to provide much more fitting equipment then!”
Was he viewing this as an investment? Well Divus certainly intended to be wealthier if he were to return so it probably wasn’t a bad choice.
He said his thanks then strode down an alley, collapsing against the wall as soon as he was out of sight. He released a massive sigh of relief and vowed to not try that act again. It seemed to have worked, but the stress was killing him. Furtively glancing left and right, he decided to quickly change his clothes there, he didn’t really have anywhere else he could go.
The armour fitted surprisingly well and he walked back into the market place slightly more confident in his new gear. So pleased with his equipment he was that Divus completely failed to notice the trail of gossip and whispers directed towards him that had spread from the armourer. Now he needed to get some things for travelling. He was looking through some food stalls for supplies for his trip when someone shouted out his name.
“Divus, hey Divus!”
He span round to see Trevor, one of the players he’d partied with earlier, picking his way towards him.
“O-oh, Trevor. U-um, how are you?”
“I’m doing fine, levelled up a lot and got a new class! But what about you? We haven’t met since you died in the forest. What have you been doing? We looked all over for you when you’d died, we were worried you’d upped and quit.”
Divus was surprised at how talkative Trevor was compared to when they’d last met, “N-not too much, I got a class and then couldn’t log in for the past couple of days.” Tactfully leaving out that it was due to a brief coma. “W-what about you, where are Dash and Beauty?”
“They’re not far away; I was just about to meet up with them. Why don’t you come with, it’s been ages!”
Divus briefly paused, then nodded and followed Trevor through the street. Though he was not too partial to company these guy’s had been a great help and quite fun to be around. It would be good to catch up a little before he left.
“So what’s your new class?” Trevor asked as they walked.
“Oh, it’s j-just a type of fighting class. W-what about you?”
“I’m a thief now! Well it says thief, it’s really just the starting stealth class. Dash became a warrior and Beauty’s a bard.”
Trevor seemed quite proud so Divus searched for the appropriate thing to say. “O-oh, cool. What about a mage?”
“Haven’t you heard? It’s really hard to get into a mage class! Well, mainly it costs loads of money, so there are barely any player mages.”
“Oh, th-that’s a shame…”
Trevor laughed, “Yeah, but we managed to snag one! A new girl joined us and she’s gotta be one of the only mages online!”
Divus looked up, slightly surprised. “W-wow. Um, what’s she like?” He asked, trying to mask a little nervousness.
The smile on Trevor’s lips dipped a little. “Noisy.”
They continued in silence for a second before he hurriedly added. “She’s not bad! She’s a nice girl! Just a little loud is all.”
For someone as quiet as Trevor usually was it probably wasn’t a great combo, but Divus was slightly relieved that she didn’t seem unpleasant. Then something else occurred to him.
“H-how are we going to find them?”
“Don’t worry, I sent them a message.”
Looking at Divus’ puzzled expression Trevor realised he had to explain a little more. “Um, well you can send whispers to your in-game friends, kind of like a text message.”
They rounded a corner and entered a small plaza. While it was far removed from the main city roads it was still packed with people. Droves of players slightly better equipped than the newbies were filling most the available space so that, while you didn’t quite have to push your way through, it was difficult to get to where you wanted.
Divus stuck close to Trevor as they weaved their way past and entered a large tavern. It was the first time he’d been in one, and the atmosphere was just a boisterous as he’d imagined. Groups of players and NPCs alike were drinking, talking and singing. Drunken adventurers swayed around the floor and clumsily danced to tunes to songs from bards and off to the side a heated dispute over spilled liquor was kicking off. They headed to the table with a familiar head of blonde, spikey hair acting as a beacon.
“Hey Divus! How are you man!” Dash yelled over the ambient noise.
“I-I’m good thanks, you?”
“What did you say?”
“I’m good thanks, you?!”
“Ah not bad, not bad.”
“Hey Divus, it’s been ages!” Beauty hollered. He’d nearly not recognised her, her face had undergone a dramatic transformation and was now much closer to living up to the name she’d chosen.
“Hey Beauty, you look well!”
“That’s because she’s sticking all her stat bonuses into charm!” Dash snickered.
“What was that?!”
The final occupant of the table, a beautiful, doll like girl who looked several years the others junior, leapt up from her seat and grasped Divus’ hand. It was all he could do to stop himself from falling over backwards from this sudden move.
“Hi, I’m Athena! Sorceress Extraordinaire! Nice to meet you!” She cheerfully shouted.
“U-um Divus, likewise.” He doubtfully replied. New World was age restricted, probably due to the realism features like pain, and Athena looked more like she was still in her mid-teens. There was no way she was an NPC was there?
They all took a seat around the table, with Trevor leaning in to whisper “She’s actually 18,” as Divus looked at him questioningly.
“So what have you been doing? We saw you with an NPC, but that was ages ago. You got a class yet?”
Divus told them about Peter, though not many details as he was a bit ashamed of his new ‘hidden class’. And so they all shared their own adventures through a shouted, half-heard conversation one would expect from crowded pubs. From what he gathered, apart from Athena, everyone had much easier and rather standard routes to getting their class. Dash had to kill a wolf by himself, Trevor had a stealth based test he had to pass and Beauty only needed to memorise and perform a song. She didn’t even need to do it well. Most their benefits sounded better as well! Like Dash had an added effectiveness and learning speed of all weapon proficiencies and a special warrior attack. The only negatives were a few restrictions on the skills they could learn, like Dash couldn’t learn anything stealth based and Trevor couldn’t learn some support skills.
“Why is it s-so busy?” Divus eventually asked, “It wasn’t anywhere near this bad l-last time I was here.”
“Dude, I know you haven’t been online for a while, but have you been living in a cave?!?” Dash responded, slightly bemused. “New Worlds popularity has skyrocketed!”
Well he might not have been in a cave, but he hadn’t been conscious… “Um, h-how many people are playing it now then?”
“Last I heard it was over a million. And it’s constantly going up!”
1 million?! That was ten times his best estimate.
“Yeah, the noobs are really getting rampant, especially with only 4 starting cities. We need to move on really. You want to join us? You’re probably a few levels lower than us but it should be ok!” Trevor asked.
That was exactly what he’d been planning to do anyway! “Yeah that woul-“
Halfway into his response the taverns door crashed open and a troop of armoured soldiers burst into the room. The music quickly halted and all conversations stopped as everyone turned to see what they wanted. Much to his horror they made their way directly to Divus.
“Excuse me, are you Peter’s disciple?” Asked their leader.
After a brief pause Divus managed to shakily answer. “U-um, y-yes. C-can I help?”
“You’ve been urgently summoned by Captain Donovan, please follow me to the Watch House immediately.”
“W-wait a minute! W-wha-“
“Of course your friends are welcome to accompany you, but I was told to bring you with upmost urgency!”
Still completely confused by the turn of events Divus was half dragged out of his seat and marched into the street. A couple of soldiers left behind looked at the four left behind questioningly. They shared a quick glance then got to their feet and followed on outside. The worry of what they might be getting involved in completely eclipsed by this completely unheard of turn of events.


Dash sat with his companions before a desk in a rather large office. The window to their left overlooked a stone courtyard where members of the city guard were practicing various drills. The room itself was rather austere, the only furnishings being the desk and chair behind it, and their own seats. It left the entire room feeling even larger than it was in its near emptiness.
                At their backs stood the leader of the troop who’d dragged Divus away earlier while behind the desk was who he could only assume Captain Donovan and his aid, both looking incredibly serious.
                How had he gotten into this situation? He’d just been in the tavern having a drink like his party often liked to do. Somehow the medieval style felt much more comfortable than all the modern day student pubs.
                Then Trevor had brought along that slack Divus, who despite not playing at all for the last few days somehow had managed to scrounge equipment just as good as his own! Dash had worked hard to make his party probably the best in Richmond, he’d gone and faced a ferocious wolf, that most players hadn’t even teamed up to beat yet, all on his own. And he’d only been level 10 when doing so! The battle had cost a few healing potions, but after he’d finally attained the much sought after warrior class, quite early compared to others. His companions were pretty balanced, with a thief and a bard, he’d even managed to recruit a mage! She might well be the only player mage in the game so far! Poor girl had probably fallen for him; he was more interested in older women. Then Divus comes along having only played for like two days and he has a better sword!
                Still, Dash was cool with it. He was even willing to let him join their party, even if he was only going to mooch experience off them.  But then an entire squad of soldiers storm into the tavern, march straight up to Divus and take him to their commander!!
                It was pretty cool walking through the streets with what felt like an honour guard, all the other players stopped and looked over at them, wondering where they were going. It was the first time any NPCs had reached out to players like this so it felt pretty cool to be a part. But it felt like he was riding on Divus’ coat-tails!
                “My apologies for bringing you here on such short notice, but the matter’s quite urgent.” The guard captain said, bringing Dash’s attention back to the present. “Which one of you is Peter’s apprentice?”
                “I-I am.” Divus replied.
                “Ah yes, I do remember seeing you with him… Well I’ll try to be brief. You know we have an alliance with the Beastmen Kingdom correct?”
                They all shook their heads, “U-um, no we didn’t.”
                Donovan sharply looked up, then sighed while muttering something about foreigners. “Almost since they founded their kingdom we’ve been in an alliance against the Lothargian Empire, a defensive pact against a sudden invasion. This has long kept the peace between us and the Empire, a peace that is vital we maintain.”
                He paused for his captive audience to nod in understanding. “Recently, however, we’ve stopped receiving contact from the Beastmen. They send a monthly envoy, and he’s several weeks late already. We’ve sent messengers of our own of course, but none have yet to return. We know your order does not traditionally interfere with nations but we believe some kind of monster has settled somewhere in the pass to the Beastmen Kingdom, so we request you send our message to them. If Lothargian learns of this it may spell all-out war! It’s a large request, but we’ll make sure you and your companions are suitably rewarded.”

Quest: Message to the Beastmen Kingdom
The Kingdom of Albion has been unable to communicate with their allies the Beastmen since a month ago. Without their alliance a war with the Lothargian Empire seems likely. The Captain of Richmond Guard has asked for your aid.
·         Difficulty: C
·         Completion conditions: Make contact with the Beastmen and discover why contact was stopped
·         Failure conditions: Time limit of 45 in game days
·         Rewards: Increased intimacy with the Kingdom of Albion, money and/or rare equipment

                As the screen popped up in front of Dash and his party their eyes collectively widened. A C difficulty quest?! The hardest quest anyone had yet to complete so far was only E, even a D level quest would probably be too much for their current level. But they had to think carefully about this. Being the first to complete something on this level might be-
                “I accept.”
                “What the hell are you doing?!” Dash spluttered at Divus.
                “You guys don’t need to join me, but I have to do this quest.” He answered with a slightly pained expression.
                “I accept too!” Athena yelled. Her comrades looked at her in mild surprise, but she’d always been doing whatever she felt like.
                “But still you guys we-“
                “Looks like the decisions already been made Dash,” Trevor interrupted, “At the very least it sounds pretty interesting!”
                Dash looked around at his team; Beauty was visibly excited at the prospective challenge, Trevor was trying not to look too keen and Athena was kicking her legs while humming to herself. He sighed at the lot of them.
                “Looks like we’re in.”
                “Thank you all for your help, we’re sending other messengers to try to divert around the mountains, but if you could find out what’s happening in the pass it would be an invaluable service.”
                “Th-that’s fine captain, but I was wondering if you could spare us a few things to help in our journey?”
                “Certainly, we’ll provide horses for you to use until you return. As well as provisions and maps and-“

                “Actually there was something slightly more specific I wanted,” Divus said, then explained his idea.