Part Four: Fodager Fort
From a distance the wooden walls didn’t look all that impressive. As we neared the town the unimpressive wooden walls transformed into a very solid, wall of tree trunks.
The wooden wall was a masterpiece of solid fortification.
While I was admiring the wall, I became aware of the spears stuck into the ground, pointing outwards, with the occasional zombie that had impaled itself onto one. While I had not considered zombies a problem, in fact after our successful encounter I had decided they were going to be good for gaining experience points and levels, maybe I needed to reconsider that idea.
I watched some Guards walking casually towards the self-impaled and stuck zombie. As they got close, one of them withdrew their sword and beheaded the zombie with one, swift practiced swing.
They didn’t stop there. They dragged the zombie body off the spear and unceremoniously dumped the body on the outside of the spear barrier. One of the soldiers lifted his arm to indicate to someone to approach. That was when I noticed the woman, horse and wagon.
Maree said, “That is who I saw yesterday.”
I said, “Is she going to collect the zombie?”
“Looks like it.”
Maree stopped in her tracks in surprise. “Well, freeze queen, my guess is they don’t want a bunch of stinky dead zombies ruining the fresh air. Or maybe they don’t like flies. Or maybe having dead bodies simply upsets people. Do I need to keep going?’
She had a point, it is obvious, but still… “Do you have to say it in such a snarky way?”
“No, I don’t.” With that said she started walking again.
It wasn’t long before we reached the gatehouse. There was one sentry, she looked tired, annoyed and unbothered about her duties. She simply looked at us for a few moments before returning to staring along the wall at the guards doing zombie clearing duty.
Walking through the gates didn’t improve the mood. I had been expecting a busy market area, people walking around, people noise that would normally upset me but, somehow, the absence upset me more. There were a few people around, selling vegetables, bread, fish and other daily commodities. There were other people wandering around buying it. But nobody was really talking.
Event their movements looked tired, weary and hopeless.
Maree said, “This is not encouraging me at all.”
“My neither. Shall we just go to a tavern and ask questions and have an ale?”
She looked at me with a frown her face, then said, “Are you asking me on a date?”
I was slightly taken back for a moment, but I figured she was teasing me again, so I answered, “Well, isn’t that the next logical step after killing a zombie together?”
“I hadn’t thought of that. In that case, I accept. There is a tavern over there.”
I followed where she was pointing to see a sign that read, “The Wanderers Inn.”
She was already walking there so I followed obediently a few steps behind her. When she reached the door, she opened it and allowed me to go in first.
I asked her, “Are you being polite or just letting the fighter go first?”
“Not telling.” She said with a smile.
I walked into the tavern with her right behind me.
I was hoping for a warm fire, warm food, warm surroundings. I wasn’t sure why I was surprised to find the space slightly dark, damp and dreary. Like outside, the people here were quiet, depressed and beaten.
Unlike outside, there were two hyena faced gnolls, and one brute face orc.
What truly surprised me was that of the ten people in the tavern eating and drinking, half of them had the yellow aura of a player, and one of them was the orc. When the surprise quickly faded, it was replaced with the fear of the players being internally beaten as well.
I said to Maree as she stopped beside me, “This is bad.”
Maree banged on the a few times to gain everybody’s attention. One human player and the orc looked up, plus three of the non-players. One was the barman.
Maree called out, “Hey, look, you players look like shit and that you have lost already. Guess what, we are alive and kicking, who wants to level up and fight our way out of the coma?”
The human player returned to looking at her food. The orc player just stared for a while, giving me the impression that he was considering murdering us.
The barman said, “Hey, you can order a meal and drink here. Don’t bother the patrons, it has been a bad week.”
I said, “Maybe we should eat something before you piss everybody off.” Without waiting for her, I went to the bar and asked for the prices.
I scanned the menu for the things I thought I wanted.
- Mug of Ale: 4 copper
- Dinner: 5 silver
- Room per night: 5 silver
I said the barman, “How much for two mugs of ale, two meals and two rooms for one night?”
“That would be 2 gold and 8 copper.”
I pulled out my money pouch, felt around for three gold and handed them over. The barman handed back 9 silver and 2 copper back.
I looked around for Maree, she as still standing by the door looking slightly annoyed. I called her over to the nearest table as I walked to it, sat down and waited. She stood there a bit longer before sitting down opposite me.
I said, “I ordered some food, a drink and a room for each of us.”
She said, “Thanks. I don’t get it. We are all here because we are in a coma and want to improve our chances of survival. To make us fight rather than give up. Yet, the people here look like they have given up.”
The orc went to the bar, said something to the barman, who handed over three mugs of ale for the fee. The orc gave a quick glance our way, hesitated, then approached. Maree has her back to him, so I whispered, “The player orc is coming over with ale.”
She turned to look just as he arrived.
The orc said, “Hey, can I join you? I have free ale.”
I said, “Sure, sit down and explain why you are an orc.”
He laughed as he placed the mugs in the middle, then he sat down. “I am Torg, and I am a Half-Orc. When setting up the class and race I thought it would be funny to mix it up a bit. So rather than be a head banging killing machine Half-orc barbarian like any sensible person would be in this race, I decided to be a mage instead.”
Torg said, “Laugh it up. My thinking was I could cast spells and bang heads together. It kind of works. Anyway, I am still alive and kicking, and I want to stay that way.”
I asked, “Why is this place so defeated?”
“That is easy, the Fort was hit by a zombie wave a few days ago. Thousands of them swept over the hills from the West and killed, destroyed and maimed most of the population. Everyone has lost someone.”
Maree said, “Why are they upset, this is just a game. They are not real.”
“I am not talking about the AIs, I am talking about players. There are five of us left, last week we numbered fifteen.”
That stunned me. I let out one word, “Shit.”
Maree said, “I am sorry about that. I didn’t realize.”
Torg said, “As I have said, I have been here one week, and I have seen ten real people really die in this game. We are all in a coma, we are all at risk of dying, to survive we need to take this seriously, and do not let this get into your head. These people are mostly lost at the moment.”
I asked, “Does anyone escape the game?”
“Yeah. I heard of someone heading South, he was super powerful and been here for over a year. He knew his nemesis and felt the urge to chase it down for a final showdown. From what I can tell, that is how you know it is do or die. You just know and go for it. Or you know, and you sit down in a tavern living in safe fear forever.”
I said, “Okay, that is good to know. Why didn’t Alan tell us this stuff in the beginning?”
“Alan,” Torg said, “doesn’t know shit. He tells us he will tell us things on the other side, but nobody has ever heard from him. Maybe it is a glitch, maybe a trick, but regardless of the why, they should stop telling us he can communicate with us. The game programming is flawed, which is a bit concerning but, well, why worry about it?”
We sat quietly for a few moments, I took a few sips of ale, which was surprisingly nice. Maree was looking around at the other patrons and Torg gulped down half the mug.
“So,” Torg asked us both, “what caused you coma?”
Maree remain silent, so I said, “I don’t know, I had some flashes of memory before, I think I was in a car accident, so my guess is head trauma. How about you?”
Torg said, “Head trauma, but technically I am not in a coma, I have ‘locked in syndrome’. When they figured it out, I wanted to scream for joy but, well, I am locked in a body that I can’t move, so no screaming for joy. When they offered this experience, I decided I would rather live and die another life than be stuck in my head for who knows how long.”
He stopped and we both expected Maree to share. The pause was becoming uncomfortable and I was about to say something when she said, “My boyfriend smashed a bat over my head because I served his steak medium rare rather than rare.”
I couldn’t stop myself from saying, “Oh fuck, I am so sorry.”
“Why, you aren’t the wanker. And it isn’t as if it was the first time. When I get out of this, I need to escape him. When I was walking the forest alone, I was excited to be safe. And that was after I was almost killed by a zombie.”
Torg said, “Well, good for you. On that note, my guess is you both want to live and fight and get out of this experience. I want to as well. Shall we team up?”
Maree and I said in unison, “Yeah, sure.”
Torg laughed at the harmony.
Maree asked, “So, we level up by fighting and stuff until we feel the call to fight our nemesis?”
Torg answered, “Yeah, that is about right. I can’t be certain because this looks like a very complex game. But that is what I have learned so far. But, may I add, when in a coma there is no telling how long it will last. For most people it ends within weeks, some months, for others it is years. My plan is to work the day to day, but somehow plan for the long haul too. But I have no idea on what that looks like here. So, we can either set up shop here, or go exploring, or both. Which one shall we begin with?”
I said, “I feel the need to explore, discover what is out there, see the world. But I also like to come home. So, that is my thinking.”
Maree said, “I want a home. If the calling comes, I will meet it. Until then, I want to make a home. It may as well be this place. But I would like to look around to see what is local.”
I said, “Where are we going to live? A tavern is all good for a few nights or even a week, but beyond that, having somewhere to hang your hat would be nice.”
Torg laughed, “Shit man, half the town is empty because of the zombie wave killing half the residents. We can either buy a place cheapy or rent for next to nothing. Which one?”
Maree said, “Buy a cheap house? What does cheap cost in this world?”
Torg said, “I have no idea, but we can find out. There is treasure out there, we just need to go out and risk our necks getting it. When we do that, we but a house. Which is first….. find out how much, or just go out and kill some monsters, steal their treasure and cause trouble?”
Maree said, “I just got smashed with a bat, and I am rather pissed off with myself about that. I can either get depressed and join your depressed friends over there. Or I can kill some zombies and monsters and steal their treasure. I pick kill zombies and monsters and steal their treasure.”
I said, “I have no idea why, but I want to kill some zombies too.”
Torg said, “Awesome, in that case, may I suggest we talk to Julia the Wagon Lady. She takes the bodies of the dead and zombies into the forest to burn. It is a daily thing and the zombies are making her life tough because she doesn’t know how to fight. It is funny, not funny, how she told me how she has to keep running away from the zombies and makes the horse walk faster when she has twenty zombies giving chase.”
I asked, “Why burn the bodies?”
Torg answered, “Oh, you don’t know. When a zombie bites you, you have a 75% chance of getting Zombieitis. The bodies are burned because of the disease.”
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