Sunday Serial: Wrathburnt Sands 21

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

“Wait here,” she instructed and turning sharply on her heel she strode off towards the ramp that led up to the stilt-village. The griblin with a fishing spear grimaced as she approached.
“Ryeshor. We no see lizard people here. Strange stories. Dry lands.” It broke off and sniffed at the air. “You not Visitor. What you do here?”
“No I’m not a Visitor,” Milla agreed. “I’m a Local like you. But I’m on a venture with two Visitors and we need to go through your village.”
The griblin looked across to Glory and Pew and sniffed again, but this time it was more sniffing to show distaste.
“The elf, griblin friend. Can come in. The ryshor, not friend. Can’t pass.”
Milla sighed.
“I know Pew hasn’t proved himself to you, but he’s a decent person. I can vouch for him if that helps. Please let us pass.” The griblin shook its head.
“Can’t. ‘Gainst the lore.”
“But we have to get through the village. Lives depend on it!”
The griblin looked almost sympathetic but still shook its head.
“Can’t. Me sorry. Can’t break lore.”
“But there must be a way.” Milla was beginning to feel as despondent as Pew looked. She reached into her back pack to see what she had that might help. “I can give you some flyberry cookies? A pot of healing salve? A vial of dog spit? A shell necklace? Two sandylion manes?” At each item she drew out and offered, the griblin looked wistfully but then shook its head. “What about all of them? And the backpack too?”
The griblin considered its face distorted into a gurn. Then it seemed to reach some decision and gave a sharp nod.
“I trade,” it said at last.
Milla felt a wash of relief and smiled.
“So if I give you my backpack and everything in it, Pew can go through the village?”
The griblin shook its head quickly.
“No. Got to obey the lore. Me trade something for backpack. Me trade information.”
Milla’s heart sank again.
“What kind of information?”
“Get you past village. Not through. Under. Exploit. Graphics glitch.”
Milla knew what a glitch was. Pew had explained it to her. He even thought she might be one as she could do things no other Local seemed to be able to do.
“Tell me.”
The griblin held out its free hand. “Backpack first.”
Milla reluctantly handed it over and watched with growing disgust as the griblin took out the vial of dog spit and swilled it down with every sign of delight.
“Tasties!” it declared, smacking its lips. “Now. Me tell you information. One day me sees two Visitors too lazy to make friends with griblins. They talk of this thing. Exploit, they call it. They go to that tree.” It pointed. “Jump into swamp. Swim under village. Me sees other Visitors try same. Wrong tree. All others try wrong tree. Not swim under village. All talk of seeking exploit tree and graphics glitch.”
The griblin gave her a quick grin.
“You friends in trouble, me thinks.”
Milla spun around and saw Pew and Glory were fighting off more firedrakes. Calling her thanks to the griblin as she ran, Milla grabbed at her pendant, just as Pew was about to lose his magical shield. One of the drakes swooped over her and she felt a sharp pain as it spat fire which caught the frills of her crest.
““By the power of My Skull!”
Milla ducked as Glory’s sword followed the drake over her head, if she hadn’t flattened her crest the dragonblade would have sliced through it.
“Seriously Glory, that quest is a fragging PITA. Can’t you delete it or something?” Pew was breathing heavily as the last of the firedrakes popped out of existence, hit by his rapid fire mini fireballs.
“I’m on the last step. You know how long the class quests are. I was trying to finish it when you guys dragged me off here, so no, I can’t delete it.”
“Can’t or won’t?”
“Same difference.”
Milla had to wonder how these people ever managed to get along for long enough to complete a group venture. Ever Visitor she’d ever met seemed to argue with the others about something. She spoke quickly.
“I can get us to the lake without Pew having to be friends with the griblin.”
The two Visitors stopped arguing and stared at her.
“You can? But how?”
Glory looked and sounded disbelieving but Pew was smiling at her.
“You are amazing, Milla. I know I tell you that every day, but… you are.”
The elf made a harrumphing sound.
“Blech! Get a room! But first tell me how we do this?”

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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