Well that was certainly a plan. Attack the captain of the goblin guard and rely on his buddies to back him up.
It wasn’t a very good plan. Most plans forged in the moment and fueled by rage and a desire for revenge weren’t all that great, I knew from experience in my early days fucking with Horizon, but it was certainly a plan.
The major flaw with that plan was none of Torian’s buddies seemed inclined to provide any backup. He turned and stared at them. Glared, is more like it.
All those Horizon Dawn guild tabards that’d looked so intimidating melting out of the crowd moments ago looked a hell of a lot less intimidating now as they stood their scratching their asses and staring at Torian while not making use of all the weapons they’d been so lovingly feeling up moments ago to add to the intimidation factor.
Heck, some of them were in the process of melting back into the crowd where they wouldn’t have to worry about the goblins coming for them.
“What are you doing?” he growled. “I said attack and that means you need to…”
That was the only thing he managed to get out before he was tackled to the ground by a group of goblins. Like you wouldn’t think a goblin could be big enough to take down a full sized human, but with the way they dogpiled on him they had no problem felling him like a massive gleaming plate tree.
They all raised their swords and it looked like they were about to end Torian when a sharp bark held them back.
The goblin officer walked over. Yeah, I was pretty sure this was the same guy who’d saved our ass the first day we were in the game. Which made sense if his patrol area was the immediate vicinity of the Nilbog town circle.
The goblin shook his head the entire way. Like he was disappointed in Torian for doing this, though the rapacious grin he wore showed he was anything but disappointed at the opportunity to mess with Horizon Dawn’s numero uno.
The whole look would’ve been comical with the way the goblin’s ears twitched this way and that if it wasn’t so damn serious with all those goblins poised over Torian with their swords ready to end his digital life the moment that goblin officer gave the word.
“I wonder if we can take his stuff if the goblins kill him,” Kristoph muttered.
I glanced around in a slight panic to make sure no one had heard that, then realized he was talking in party chat which meant his words were for us only. Though to be fair that was exactly the kind of idiot thing he’d say out loud to piss someone off because he knew it’d piss them off, and damn the consequences.
“That’s a good question,” Keia said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone killed by the guards to know whether or not that’s possible.”
“I didn’t see anything about it in any of the research I did either,” I said. “Though I was more interested in crafting stuff and some of the political structures in the game.”
“Political structures in the game?” Kristoph said with a snort. “Fucking nerd.”
“Quiet,” Keia said. “This shit is getting good.”
“Do you want some popcorn?” I asked.
“If I could get some then yeah, I’d totally go for it right now,” Keia said. “Now hush and listen to the nice goblin officer.”
“You’re about to make a serious mistake,” Torian growled at the goblin.
His weapon hand twitched and his massive sword clanged against the cobblestones, but otherwise he wasn’t able to move said weapon hand since there were currently three goblin guards piled on his arm holding it down.
“I’m afraid I’m going to have to take you in on charges of disturbing the peace,” the goblin officer said, leaning down on his knees which brought him level with Torian now that the idiot was vertically challenged with a group of angry goblins on top of him. “And I’m afraid that since you not only attacked citizens, but also a captain of the guard, we’re not going to be able to accept a fee this time to make all of this go away.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Torian said. “There’s always a fee you’ll take. You’re goblins.”
I wasn’t one hundred percent sure about what constituted a nasty racial slur in Lotus. All I knew was there were a lot of game writers who liked to take real world situations and use them as shorthand in game situations like this.
It was a storytelling crutch as old as video games with a plot more complicated than “jump on things that get in your way.” Take a little bit of racial tension in the real world, slap a fantastical or science fiction veneer over the whole thing using whatever race is the underdog in said setting, and suddenly you had cruise control for the appearance of depth in a narrative even if it was less impressive if someone knew what they were looking at.
Which is to say the cultural and racial subtext was there, bright and clear for anyone who had an interest in postcolonial criticism of society’s slow and grinding descent into technological ennui, but most people in the game were too busy killing monsters and gathering loot to notice or care about the hack writing.
I got the feeling that saying someone was “just a goblin” in reference to accepting money to make a problem go away was a pretty nasty racial slur against those goblins. Not because of any inherent nastiness in what was being said so much as because Torian was the one saying it and he sounded pretty pleased with himself.
He was totally the type who’d toss nasty terms like that around without much thought for how those terms might get the shit kicked out of him when the underclass being insulted by those slurs was currently piled on top of him with a whole lot of cutlery aimed at bits of his anatomy critical for the maintenance of life.
From the way the goblins’ eyes narrowed, not to mention how several of them moved their swords down just a little, just enough that the captain had to bark at them to cool their jets again as the points on their blades scraped against his pretty armor, Torian was closer to death than he could possibly imagine.
It seemed a touch incongruous to me that the guard captain would tell his guards to cool their jets considering we were in a fantasy world where, as far as I knew, fixed wing aircraft hadn’t been invented, let alone jet propulsion. Though what was a bit of anachronism between friends in a world like this?
Not to mention that had me looking towards the airships moving over the town and wondering, not for the first time, whether or not it might be possible to make something like jet engines a little less anachronistic to the setting.
“I’m afraid in this case there are some things that go beyond money,” the goblin captain said, a rapacious grin spreading across his face even as he spread his arms and shrugged in an apologetic gesture that was anything but.
“Bake him away, toys,” the guard captain said, grinning as he made an ancient reference that pulled me out of the immersion just a bit. Someone in the writing department was clearly a fan of late twentieth and early twenty-first century prime time animation.
“You assholes,” Torian shouted at his guildies. “Aren’t you going to do anything?”
Gregor looked around as though he was expecting someone else to take the heat. Then when he realized they were all looking to him he sighed. Stepped forward and hit the still sputtering Torian with an apologetic shrug.
“Sorry man,” he said. “You’re the one who told us not to attack guards where other guards could see us.”
Torian’s eyes narrowed and Gregor seemed to realize, too late, that he might’ve given something away. Then his eyes went wide and he bellowed in pain as one of the goblin guards slammed a sword into Torian’s thigh.
“I told you not to attack him!” the officer barked, though there was something to his tone that said they also weren’t supposed to attack him where anyone could see, and Torian was going to be in deep shit if they managed to cart him off.
“Sorry. I sneezed,” the goblin said.
The officer glared. “I didn’t hear a sneeze.”
The goblin let out a couple of half-assed coughs as he twisted the blade this way and that causing Torian to bellow in pain all over again. He glared at the few remaining Horizon Dawn people, and it was clear that all reason and control had left him.
“You assholes fight off higher level goblins like this in the raid dungeon all the time!” Torian shouted as the goblins started dragging him away to what I imagined was going to be a pretty unpleasant fate. The mention of killing goblins in the raid dungeon didn’t seem to endear him to his tiny captives who suddenly got a bit more rough as they dragged him away.
The one who still had a sword embedded in Torian’s thigh was riding him like a bucking bronco and using that sword to maintain his position, laughing gleefully every time Torian cried out in pain.
“That’s rough,” Kristoph said, and this time he didn’t bother saying it in party chat. A few other non-Horizon Dawn players around us nodded in agreement.
“They’re like stabby little pointy-eared murder machines,” Keia said.
“I don’t want to be on their bad side,” I agreed.
Torian’s eyes locked on me and Keia and Kristoph, and there was a moment of clarity through the pain.
“Don’t let them use any of the crafting stuff in this town. This is our town!”
“Um, how do we do that?” Gregor shouted at Torian, seeming genuinely confused as the forge looked like it was open to all and, I suspected, without that writ of nobility there was no way they could prevent someone from accessing the thing.
“Form a human chain around the thing and don’t let them touch it! I don’t care how you do it, just get it done!”
I sighed and rolled my eyes. I’d really been hoping I could get in some quality time at the forge. My mind was awash with all the wonderful things I could do with a combination of weapons and Spellcrafting supplies. Sure I’d have to start small, but still. There were possibilities opening up in my mind now that I had access to the forge and a little research about how they worked, and Torian had just slammed the door on those possibilities.
The Horizon Dawn people left behind, the ones who’d been so ineffective in saving their guildmaster, formed a circle around the forge. I sighed. Though I had to admit that it probably wasn’t an ideal location for my plans to begin with.
The forge was in the middle of town, after all. There were people all around us. People who’d see what I was doing and maybe ask questions or get ideas. The whole point of having a secret ability that no one else knew about that gave me an unfair advantage was lost the moment I let anyone else know about that secret ability.
It wouldn’t do for me to start advertising Spellcrafting, though I wasn’t even sure about the rules for this branch of crafting. I’d been able to destroy weapons to discover their spell infusions and infuse gems away from a Spellcrafting table, but there had to be a reason for those Spellcrafting tables to exist.
The problem was there wasn’t anything out there about Spellcrafting on the web because it was either super rare or anyone who had discovered it was keeping their mouths shut, so I was grasping in the dark and figuring out the rules as I went along. I didn’t want to figure out those rules in public where someone might see what I was doing and decide they were going to try and figure it out for themselves.
I also didn’t stand a chance of fighting off all the assholes who’d formed up around the forge. So I satisfied myself with flipping Gregor and Kravos the bird. I figured getting their guild leader dragged off to be tortured by the goblin guards was good enough for one day, and I didn’t want to press my luck. Even if there were more guards around the place fingering their swords and looking like they were waiting for someone in Horizon Dawn to give them an excuse.
“I don’t think we’re going to get anywhere here,” I said.
“I don’t think so either,” Keia said with a sigh as she looked longingly at a blacksmith working the forge who I assumed was the guy she needed to turn in her quest. Unfortunately he was behind the Horizon human wall that’d just formed. “I suppose we should just move on.”
“That’s right,” Gregor said. “You assholes get a move on. If you know what’s good for you, you won’t come back here either. You’d be better off if you left town for good.”
“We’d be happy to show you the way,” Kravos said, holding a hand out and allowing a flame to dance above his fingers.
I rolled my eyes. It took every ounce of my self-control not to pull out one of my gems, infuse it with the wrong kind of spell, and toss it on the forge to see how many more Horizon people I could kill.
The only thing that stopped me was we were in the middle of a crowded area where the same problem applied as when I thought about using the forge and trying out my Spellcrafting abilities in front of everyone.
Back at that mine I’d had no one behind me to see me surreptitiously infusing a gem with the wrong spell. Here I was dealing with a crowd, and there was always a chance a player would see what I was doing and ask questions. Questions I didn’t want to answer.
Not to mention Torian had been right on the money about risking an AoE attack in a crowded spot. I didn’t want to hit non-Horizon players, or risk lowering my reputation with the goblins by accidentally taking one of them out.
So I turned and walked away from the confrontation Gregor and Kravos were clearly hoping for. Yesterday I might’ve let myself get goaded into that fight, but I wasn’t playing that game today, tomorrow, or ever again.
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