Sunday Serial: Wrathburnt Sands 10

Because life can be interesting when you are a character in a video game…

Milla felt as if she had become suddenly invisible as the two talked in an indecipherable code.
“Is there anything I can do?” she asked as a translucent ring of shields appeared around Pigsy.
Pew shook his head. “Unless… Is your pendant recharged?”
She glanced down and saw it was once again glowing with brilliant light.
“It seems to be.”
He gripped her arm briefly. “When I ask for manapower, do what you did before.”
Then Pigsy was bounding at the figure on the throne and for the next few moments Milla was blinded by dazzling spell effects. In the midst of it all she heard String shout “Out!” and she had to step back against the wall as the two Visitors nearly crushed her.
“It’s self healing,” Pew said, a real hint of desperation in his tone, “and I’ll be out of manapower soon.”
Beneath the throne Ruffkin was scrabbling at the back of his cage and as she watched him, her heart aching, Milla realised that there was a simple sliding bolt holding it shut. The two men had moved in again and Milla made up her mind. Even if they couldn’t defeat this lich lord, maybe she could rescue Ruffkin whilst it was distracted by having to defend itself. She reached out her hand and sent the manapower from her pendant to Pew, then slipped around the walls, careful to avoid the combat zone. The Visitors and their foe were so focused on the fight none of them noticed her as she left the safety of the wall and ran quickly in and up the steps to the throne from behind.
Ruffkin saw her and redoubled his efforts to escape, scabbling desperately. She reached the cage just as String shouted “Out!” again. But she ignored him. The boney bolt slipped as she tried to grip it, and then jammed solid. She drew the knife Pew had given her, hoping she could prize the bolt open with the point of it. Instead, the cage burst apart as soon as the tip of the blade touched it. Ruffkin shot out and pausing only to lick at her face, scurried to the back wall where Milla could now see there was a small hole in the shadows.
From the doorway she heard a shout.
“No! Pew!”
She looked back in time to see a bolt of black lightning piece through Pew’s chest, lifting him off the ground before he collapsed unmoving.
“Nooo!” Her own anguished shout echoed back String’s words and without thinking of the danger she leapt onto the rear of the throne and stabbed down with the dagger into the back of the lich lord. The force of the explosion threw her against the wall and the world dissolved into sparks and shards.
When things came back into focus she opened her eyes to see Pew crouched beside her, his snout wrinkled with worry.
“Pew? I saw you…”
“String rezzed me. But you, you dispelled the lich lord. String was on his last hit point. You saved us from wiping.” He sounded almost in awe.
“I was just rescuing Ruffkin,” she murmured and slipped back into unconsciousness.

Some days later Milla was sitting on the beach with Ruffkin and Pew, enjoying a picnic of fruit tea and flyberry cookies from One Eye’s shop. She was thinking that maybe ventures weren’t quite what she had believed them to be and that perhaps she preferred her life beachcombing after all.
“String is still convinced it was a glitch in the game and reported it,” Pew was saying. “He claimed that as I wasn’t given the quest reward it needed fixing. He just didn’t get that I’d refused to accept your pendant. Anyway, the devs said they never even put the quest he’s complaining about into the game. They said it doesn’t exist. So he rage quit.”
“Rage quit?”
“Deleted all his characters and left the game.”
“That sounds a bit drastic.” Milla shivered even though the day was as hot as it always was in Wrathburnt Sands. Something about the word ‘deleting’ seemed so terribly final.
Pew picked up a stick and threw it for Ruffkin who bounded happily after it.
“It is. But I know String. He’ll come back sooner or later. And meanwhile, I don’t care if you’re a glitch or not. To me you are just my amazing Milla.”
His hand found hers and held it tight.

We will begin Return to Wrathburnt Sands by E.M. Swift-Hook next Sunday.

Wrathburnt Sands was first published in Rise and Rescue: A GameLit Anthology.

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