There didn’t seem to be any trouble on the way to The Thorny Sword, but that wasn’t so much of a surprise. The point of the ‘mission’ seemed to be less about fighting and more about her talking to me. She was a good talker.
Her name was Raine.
“I like talking to Heroes,” Raine said. “You all say and do some of the craziest things. Then again, that’s part of your charm.”
As we walked, she held the hand of her boy, Joey. He was being pretty quiet, but he was smiling.
“You don’t believe it?”
“What, that this entire world is a virtual reality simulation, designed for your enjoyment?” Her smile was even bigger than her kid’s.
“Yeah,” I said. “I mean, if someone told me that about my world, I’d be pretty upset.”
“Your world being the other world,” Raine said, “where the economy is terrible, everyone’s miserable, and you all have to come in here and kill things to feel better?”
A pause. “Yeah.”
“Honestly, I don’t care.” She let out a laugh. “Setting aside how self-centered that fantasy is, so what? So what if this world is a virtual simulation? I’m still here, Joey’s still here, and we still have to live our lives. Maybe it is a simulation, like the Heroes say. Maybe some of the NPCs who are terrified all the time have a point. But it doesn’t change anything. I’ve got stuff to do. Gotta live my life. We all do.”
Raine looked pretty nice, if I’m being honest. Gave me butterflies in my stomach. Then she started talking, and I just…
“That makes sense,” I said.
We continued walking and talking. Joey talked about dragons for a while, telling me he’d liked the dragons before but now he thought they were terrible.
Throughout the walk I kept wondering how this worked. Did Joey respawn back at the opening to The Sewers? Did Raine just go straight back to The Soul Weaver, escaping from his grasp over and over again?
They were walking with me, though. As much as I enjoyed their company, I couldn’t shake the feeling that they weren’t going to be here for long. I tried relating to them — I wanted so badly to get to know them as people.
But they weren’t people, not really. They were NPCs.
Even worse, as much as I liked walking with them, I didn’t like our destination: The Thorny Sword. My last trip there hadn’t exactly been… pleasant.
I was worried what the bartender would do when she saw me again. Fight me?
Took a deep breath. It wasn’t a big deal if she tried fighting with me. In that case I could just kill her and take the XP. But that didn’t feel right. I didn’t want to fight the bartender.
She wasn’t wrong; I really had been a bit of a dick.
We walked, they talked, I listened, and I panicked.
After what seemed like a long, long time, we ended up in front of The Thorny Sword.
“Well,” I said, voice feeling hollow, “I guess my work here is done. I’m gonna take the XP and go now.”
“You don’t wanna sit down and talk some more?” she asked.
“Got a lot of…” I didn’t have a good excuse, not really, but I did my best. “Need to finish some other missions.”
She rolled her eyes. “You’ve at least got to take me into the building if you want to finish the mission.”
Damn it. With a gulp, I nodded my head.
“Alright,” I said. “Let’s go.”
Joey practically pulled his mother into The Thorny Sword. I followed the two of them.
The moment we got into the tavern, my heart started beating faster.
For a second, the bartender lit up. Her orcish features beamed to see Raine and Joey. Then she saw me; she wasn’t so happy to see me.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” she asked.
I checked QUEST LOG and saw that I’d technically finished the mission by walking Raine and Joey into The Thorny Sword.
So I figured I just had to explain I was going. “I–”
Raine didn’t let me finish. “This Hero saved me.”
“He killed a troll.”
“Vinnie?” Raine asked.
“Yeah,” the bartender said.
“He was a drunk and an asshole. He respawned, right?”
“Yeah,” the bartender said.
“No harm, no foul,” Raine said. “Maybe after the respawn he’ll have a better personality. Joey was standing out in the city all by himself, and Chris made sure I could see my kid again.”
The bartender didn’t say anything.
“I think he’s cool,” Joey said.
The bartender shot me a dirty look, but she still didn’t say anything.
“Give him a mission.” Rained grabbed the bartender’s hand. “For me.”
The bartender’s look didn’t get any sweeter, but she did start talking. “I’ve got something for you. It involves death, so you should be good at it.”