[Wagon Town] was on fire. Unbelievably though, that wasn’t a bad thing.
“Grunvan, grunvan, you’ve got to listen to this one!” Argwin said dragging her friend away from the admittedly hard to hear conversation she’d been partaking in with her favorite party of [Adventurers] in the entire world.
The [Octopire] that Argwin spun Grunvan to face was a creature out of a nightmare’s nightmare. Grunvan loved them too.
She was just so full of love.
Beer and love?
Yeah. Something like that.
“Beer and Love!” she shouted, rather rudely interrupting the [Octopire’s] story, though he didn’t seem to mind given the he and everyone in earshot took up the cry.
The [Turning Wheel Tavern] had never seen a party on scale which had already knocked down a few of its walls. [Goblins], [Orcs], [Salamandri], and every other species found in [Wagon Town] had joined the literal army of [Adventurers] in a the wildest celebration Grunvan had ever even heard of.
From the brink of annihilation, the city’s fate had turned around completely and it was, in a sense, richer than ever.
The Consortium forces had seemingly fallen to internal squabbling at exactly the wrong moment. Or the right one from Grunvan’s point of view.
She’d gone from huddled behind some woefully inadequate defensive works as an horde of corrupted [Goblins] charged them to storming the Consortium’s most heavily fortified positions in the wake of the [Adventurers] who appeared in the literal blink of an eye to shatter the Consortium’s advance and turn the tide second before it swept Grunvan away completely.
There’d been bloodshed of course. [Adventurers] weren’t noted for being particularly merciful when they fought, and, after spending hours convinced she was going to die a miserable death only to have the spectre of a far worse fate come charging at her, Grunvan hadn’t been feeling keenly interested in the Consortium’s well being either.
The casualties the Consortium did inflict had been largely dealt to the [Adventurers] for whom dying was at worst a mild annoyance as far as Grunvan could tell. The [Goblins] who went down experienced the joy of the massive overhealing max level casters could bestow, up to and including [Resurrection] spells which mean even decapitation or full body immolation didn’t leave a mark.
Grunvan was just as happy that she didn’t have personal experience with that particular level of healing – she suspected that the sight of her own body lying twenty feet away from her head would tend to hang around in her nightmares even if she ‘got better’ a few seconds later.
The sense of going from being doomed and helpless to effectively invincible though? Oh, that was definitely going to stay with her.
She noticed she was getting tears in her drink, which had changed from beer to some colorless proto-toxin which someone claimed wouldn’t cause a hangover.
Would the tears change that?
Grunvan didn’t care. She was too happy and too terrified and much much too drunk to hold anything back any more.
“You have a beautiful city,” Kolovin the [Octopire] said. “I am so glad you were able to save us.”
Grunvan raised her glass to that. It was apparently a beer again? Not a problem except that it was half empty.
“Should it be on fire like that though?” Kolovin asked, pointing at the blazing light that shone from above the buildings on the outside of the city.
“That’s the [Molten Pit],” Grunvan said. The world wasn’t spinning that much. She’d expected it to be much less stable, but it wasn’t wibbling nearly as much as it should have been for how much she’d drunk.
That was a bad sign? Probably? If she’d had some much that her sense of balance was shutting down, she probably needed one of those healing spells, like immediately.
Except, she wasn’t feeling as out of control either.
Or as fuzzy.
What had she been drinking?
Was that a thing?
“Is the [Molten Pit] not dangerous?” Kolovin asked.
“Oh it’s plenty dangerous. It’s also sort of our disposal system,” Grunvan said, the answer coming quickly and easily when her thoughts should have been struggling to surface from the bottom of the lake of beer she’d consumed. “It’s that bright because they’re disposing of all the dead Consortium soldiers into it. Don’t want the regenerating ones coming back.”
“I doubt they want to come back either,” Kolovin said. “There aren’t that many soldiers that serve the Consortium willingly.”
“What do you mean?” Grunvan’s thoughts turning entirely too sober for her liking. “Like they’re press ganged into joining up?”
“I can’t say how all of them were recruited,” Kolovin said. “My people were captured in a raid. Or a [Harvesting Expedition] as they call it.”
“And you couldn’t fight back or they’d kill you?” Grunvan asked.
“We couldn’t fight back because they bound our wills in magic,” Kolovin said. “The Consortium does not allow choice where they aren’t required to.”
“So all those people they sent against us?” Grunvan felt her stomach turn for reasons that had nothing to do with what she’d been drinking.
“Not all of them,” Kolovin said. “The leaders are generally given more autonomy. They’re less expendable, so they need to be able to make a broader range of decisions. All the rest though? Many of them had no choice in what they were doing.”
“What about you though? How did you break free?” Grunvan asked.
“We were released,” Kolovin said. “There was some kind of falling out among our leaders. It was more than a disagreement. They were murdering each other. Apparently one of them thought if he released us we’d run amuck on the rest. Joke was on him though, we didn’t even need to talk about getting out of there, we all just ran.”
“Does that mean the rest of the soldiers could be released too?” Grunvan asked.
“I don’t know, I’m was a [Delivery Man] before all this,” Kolovin said.
Grunvan didn’t want to think what she was thinking. She didn’t want anything beyond moving freight to be her problem. She wasn’t a great hero. She knew that. She’d met them. They were literally close enough that she could shower them with victory ale. She wasn’t supposed to be the one who had to deal with the big problems. She was just a little [Goblin] after all.
But she’d survived. When there was no hope and no chance, she’d survived. That had to mean something. She had a duty to make it mean something.
“I think we’ve got some news to deliver,” Grunvan said. “We just need to figure out who it needs to be delivered to.”
Hailey had never like the [Goblin] starting areas. The aesthetic just did not click with her at all. And being short sucked. She knew that from real life.
That was in the game though.
Standing in the real [Wagon Town] was a whole different thing.
The energy in the city was incredible, with everyone riding a collective high from the unexpectedly thorough victory they’d scored over the Consortium’s forces.
The best part was that she wasn’t supposed to be here.
She was far, far too valuable to risk out in the open. If she was captured, the Consortium could learn all sorts of disastrous things. It was objectively stupid to give them even the slightest chance at her, when her mind contained secrets that could be the undoing of everything everyone had worked so hard to accomplish, not just in [Wagon Town] but all around the world.
“You look much too serious for a party this wild,” Cambrell said. He’d switched back from his full battle armor to the more concealed under armor he normally wore but otherwise looked to be perfectly sober and put together, rather than as indulgently at ease as the rest of the city was.
“Heavy thoughts and trying to convince myself to leave while I still can,” Hailey said, without taking her gaze off the fires from the [Molten Pit].
Unlike the rest of her party, Hailey had an excellent view of the fires because she’d found a roost atop the sloping roof of the [Eastern Guard Tower]. That Cambrell had found her suggested he either had a similar taste in getaway spots or she’d been slacking on her stealth skills when she left the party.
“I’ll offer you a prime rate,” Cambrell said. “Two pennies for the heavy thoughts. Since they’re extra weighty.”
With a flick of his wrist he produced a pair of coins that shone in the distant fire light. She knew those could as easily have been daggers, it was a trick she could do too, but she smiled nonetheless at the gesture, comforted that he would even think to make it.
“I shouldn’t be here,” she said. “Not in this world, and definitely not in [Wagon Town]. Every sensible cell in my body knows that.”
“Those are usually worth listening too,” Cambrell said. “But you didn’t. Any idea why?”
“Several,” Hailey said. “And they’re all terrible.”
“So none of them are the right ones then,” Cambrell said. It could have been a question, but it wasn’t. “Why don’t you try some of them out. You can get rid of the bad ones easier if you can hear them for what they are.”
“I brought every bit of information that my world has on the [Fallen Kingdoms] over. I don’t remember all of it but I remember a lot of really critical stuff. Locations and levels and weaknesses of the Consortium and everything I’ve ever fought on this planet and all the demi-planes it’s connected to. If I’m caught here, or anywhere, it’s a disaster. Like world ending disaster,” Hailey said. “I can’t have fun like this.”
“Why?” Cambrell asked. “Not why can’t you be caught, to be clear, but why are those two things bound together?”
“Because I’m not safe here, and I shouldn’t be taking chances that could come up with armageddon as a possible result,” Hailey said.
“I’m not a fan of the end of the world, even the minor preview we’ve had so far,” Cambrell said. “But do you think you’re safe anywhere? You know what the Consortium can do. Do we have facilities that can be protect you from the worst they can throw at us?”
“Facilities no, but with enough [Adventurers] around they’d have a damn hard time getting to me,” Hailey said,
Cambrell gestured to the city below them.
“We have something like twenty five thousand [Adventurers] who came to the defense of [Wagon Town]. Is that enough to keep you safe?”
“It would be, except we both know that the effective [Agents] the Consortium would send to find me would be able to walk right past everyone in this city.”
“I’ll grant you that. I know I’d have a hard time catching myself on a mission, though getting out with a living target is a lot harder than my usual work,” Cambrell said.
“Mine too,” Hailey said. “Especially if they can see you coming.”
“Which is why you’re up here,” Cambrell said, not looking for confirmation, just acknowledging that he understood. “Being down in the crowds would make you a lot harder to pick out, if they even know that you exist to look for you in the first place.”
“I know. It’s a trade off I’ve been weighing,” Hailey said. “Which is selfish, because I also know the right answer is to just go back to where Penswell can provide security.”
“That has the danger of making it obvious that you are someone important enough to need that security,” Cambrell said.
“Maybe that’s why I came here?” Hailey said. “It was for a good cause, admittedly, and Damnazon was definitely fired up and inspiration as hell, but, I don’t know, it just seemed right to come along too.”
“It seems to me that you’ve managed to place yourself in a situation where to all outward appearances you’re a target of no greater interest than any other [Adventurer], many of whom I believe also have significant otherworldly knowledge, while also surrounding yourself with a party of strong companions who will have the best chance of saving you if something does go wrong,” Cambrell said. “That seems pretty far from selfish to me. Although I think I can improve on your design a bit more.”
“How’s that?” Hailey asked.
“How would you like to become a [Goblin]?” Cambrell asked.