From ‘Return to Wrathburnt Sands’ by E.M. Swift-Hook
It had been a quiet few days in Wrathburnt Sands. The months since the Expansion had been very busy for Milla in her new role as a quest giver so she appreciated the break. It gave her more time to go beachcombing with Ruffkin, her little dog, and chat with Pew whilst she strung the shells she had gathered into necklace charms to give out as quest rewards to those Visitors who returned from the pyramid dungeon to claim one.
Pew – or more correctly Firecaster Pewpowerpwnsyou – was, she supposed, her boyfriend. At least he seemed to think he was and Milla was not entirely unhappy with the idea, even if there were times she wanted to shake him. But the other residents of Wrathburnt Sands made no secret of their feelings.
“He’s not a proper ryeshor. He’s not even a Local.”
“He don’t belong here.”
“Folk like him drag trouble with them. They’re cursed with it.”
“You be careful young’un, he’s a Visitor. He’ll only break your heart.”
Those last words were still ringing in Milla’s head as she walked along the beach in the morning sun, Ruffkin bounding ahead of her. One Eye Rye had said that yesterday, when she went to buy some fish for Ruffkin from his shop by the pier. He was her truest friend amongst the villagers. He even liked Pew. She knew he did because he sold Pew provisions from his shop at a discount those times when Pew was down on his luck and One Eye never did that for any other Visitor.
“Visitors never stay for long,” One Eye added, “and they always have other lives.”
“Not Pew,” she had told him stoutly, “He promised me he’s maining on his ryeshor toon and has stopped playing all his other alts.”
One Eye’s snout wrinkled at that.
“I start to worry about you, young’un. You’re even talking like a Visitor now – ‘toons’, ‘alts’ and whatever the bluesky and ocean that all means.”
Milla shrugged and had left quickly after that. The truth was she didn’t entirely know what any of it meant. But Pew had said it with such fervour that she knew it was something that mattered to him for her to know. She understood at least that it was his way of saying he wasn’t going to go away like the other Visitors always did. That made Milla happy as when she tried to imagine not having Pew around, life began to feel very flat and empty.
Walking along the beach in the early morning, she paused to pick up a shell. The pendant she always wore around her neck, swung forward, glowing with its hidden magic. She tucked it away in her simple tunic and was disturbed by voices on the pier. She couldn’t see them as the pier was above her, but she knew from what they were saying that it was Visitors.
“I hate this fragging fishing quest. Must have done it a million times.”
“You and me both, bud. You remember when we were in Epic Legends with that crazy guy, what was he called? The one who loved crafting and spent all his time harvesting?”
“You mean Buffalott?”
“That’s the one. I heard his wife left him for their guild leader in the end. She always just wanted to raid. Best MT on the server she was too.”
“Yeah? I thought that was Aggrowhore?”
“Just because We Rulz is the top raiding guild, doesn’t mean they have the best MT.”
“S’ppose. Anyway, I’m done fishing, have to go turn it in and then I can do the pyramid questline.”
Milla sighed and made an effort to keep the frills on her crest from flattening. Not for the first time she wished she didn’t have to be a quest giver. Life had been so much simpler before she became one.
Sure, enough she had barely got home, given Ruffkin his breakfast and made a fresh pot of fruit tea, before the Visitor she had overheard on the pier was banging on her door. She didn’t bother to welcome them, focusing instead on pouring some of the fruit tea into a pottery bottle and sealing it up.
“Come in. It’s not locked.”
The figure who entered might have stepped out of an ancient tale. She was clearly an elf, the pointed ears, elaborate hair and lofty expression of superiority spoke to that. She wore golden armour that gleamed with its own radiance and even lit up the room more brightly. One hand rested on the pommel of a sword, shaped to resemble the skull of a dragon with hollow socket eyes that gleamed darkly and a jagged blade representing flames coming out of its mouth. On her back was a bow, Milla could see it over the elf’s shoulder, which looked like it was made of a milky white wood, set with tiny gemstones.
This was clearly the kind of Visitor Pew called a poser.
“Hail fair lady. I, Blessedknight Gloryjammer, have need of your wisdom.” The elf managed to make it sound as if she were doing Milla a favour by allowing her to help, instead of it being the other way around.
Putting her hands on her hips, she wrinkled up her snout and glared at the elf, and Ruffkin gave a low growl from his bed by the hearth.
The elf looked a bit puzzled and cleared her throat.
“Hail fair lady. I, Blessedknight Gloryjammer, have need of your wisdom.”
“Yes. You said.”
“I don’t know how things are in the Melifulous Glades where you elves all come from, but here in Wrathburnt Sands we have these things called ‘manners’. You might even have heard of them?”
The elf had changed colour and looked a little grey.
“I…Uh… B-but this isn’t in the walkthrough.”
“Please,” Milla told her helpfully. “You say please.”
The elf swallowed.
“But it isn’t…”
“In the walkthrough?”
The elf shook her head.
“I don’t think that’s my problem,” Milla said and tapped her foot impatiently.
The elf looked close to tears.
“Alright. Please. Please will you give me the fragging pyramid quest?”
Milla sighed and picked up the bottle of tea and held it out to the unhappy-looking elf.
“You’ll need to get some flyberry cookies from One Eye Rye as well, so save yourself the time and get some flyberries before you go to see him.”
The elf took the bottle and stared at it uncomprehending.
“I already got some berries, but what’s this?”
“Fruit tea. The drakonettes who guard the pyramid love it.”
“But that’s not…”
“In the walkthrough?”
The elf shook her head again.
Milla resisted the temptation to shake hers and instead managed a fake smile. Not that the elf would think it fake. Visitor’s never noticed such things. Except for Pew.
‘Return to Wrathburnt Sands’ by E.M. Swift-Hook is just one of nineteen Game Lit stories by as many authors in Rise and Rescue Volume 2: Protect and Recover. All profits from the Rise and Rescue anthologies will go to support wildlife devastated by the Australian wildfires.