Sunday Serial: Wrathburnt Sands 16

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

Milla spun on her heel and picked up the pace into the village, not stopping until she had reached One Eye’s shop. The old ryeshor rubbed at his eye patch as the elf’s armour lit up the rather dingy interior. Ruffkin was happily snarfing some fish guts from a bowl in the corner and Pew looked pleasingly surprised.
“You found a tank!”
“Better,” Milla told him I found a…”
“Blessedknight Gloryjammer,” the elf announced, then her eyes narrowed. “Don’t I know you? You an alt of Pewpowerpewpew? Used to be in Forgotten Order of Lost Souls before it had a drama fest and fell apart?”
Pew looked a little awkward.
“That was a while ago and it wasn’t me. I didn’t do what they said I’d…”
“You were the best Firecaster on the server in vanilla – everyone knew that.”
“Well, not really, I was one of the many good…”
But Glory wasn’t listening. There was a fervour of hero worship in her words. “You won’t remember me but you gave me my first decent weapon. Said I’d grow into it one day. I was just a newby, and you were one of the greats, but you took the time to group with me.”
Pew was looking increasingly as if he wanted to be somewhere else, but Milla was too intrigued by this glimpse into his history to stop it. In the end it was One Eye who came to Pew’s rescue.
“It’s what we all do, isn’t it? Pay it forward, they call it. Help the next ones in so they can help the ones as follow them.”
“Yes. What he said.” Pew snatched up the backpack he had been filling. “I’ll be outside.”
One Eye lifted an eye ridge at Milla and sniffed.
“I’ll be looking after your little Ruffkin, but you should know I don’t approve of this. Your a Local not a Visitor. Locals don’t go on ventures.”
“I already did,” she protested.
“Yes. You did. ‘An’ that were one too many in my view. But you’re as wild as a sandylion, young’un and there’s no point telling you what to not do. So have my blessing for what it’s worth and here…” he held out an old belt that seemed to be made from strips of plaited fabric. “You wear this and come home safe.”
Milla took the belt and felt a tingle as she buckled it around her waist, surprised that it seemed to fit perfectly. Then she hugged the old ryeshor impulsively and left him to find provisions for Glory, as she went to join Pew who was sitting on the seawall staring out to sea.
“You don’t have to come,” he said. “Thing is, it could be dangerous. I’m not sure what is going on. Someone could really get hurt.”
“If what you say about String is true, someone already is.”
“I know but…”
“So I’m coming.”
He gripped her hand tightly, looking into her eyes as if trying to read something there.
“I know. I don’t deserve you. And if anything happens to you I’ll never…”
She stopped his words with another kiss, then sat back quickly as she heard footsteps on the cobbled street.
“I’m not interrupting anything?” Glory was smirking again.
Pew pushed himself from the wall and stood up.
“Not a thing. We need to get a boat to the Barren Steppes.”
And that was the one thing that had been troubling Milla. Locals never went on the boats. She’d not known any to even try because, well, everyone knew you just couldn’t do it. But then, as One Eye had said, Locals didn’t go on ventures either. So she stiffened her crest frills and strode after Pew as he headed along the dock. He stopped by the mooring place where the ship would come in and looked at her with concern.
“Barren Steppes is in a different zone. I don’t know what it’d be like for you to move cross zones. I don’t even know if you can do it. I mean for us zoning is just something that happens, but for you… I can’t imagine what it might be like.”
“Neither can I,” Milla admitted, pushing out a brave smile, although inside her stomach was feeling queasy. More from the prospect of leaving Wrathburnt Sands, the only place she’d ever known than from any real worry about travelling. “I guess I’m going to find out.”

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

Return to Wrathburnt Sands was first published in Rise and Rescue Volume 2: Protect and Recover.

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