Chapter 6: Sweet, sweet revenge
“S-so you’re still in school Athena?” Divus asked as the cart rocked over another bump.
They were both shaken from side to side and bumped into each other’s shoulders. Houses and shops rolled by as their carriage made its way down the main street. One of the key advantages of their new vehicle was that all the pedestrian players were forced to make way as they passed. Divus and Athena were sat on the front bench, the former having received a quick tutorial on how to drive it while the latter eager to give it a go even without any clue of what to do. The others were sat in the back resting.
Well he called it a carriage, but such a name would bring forth a much more prestigious image. In reality it was more a glorified cart with a roof. It was big and sturdy, and had to be pulled along by two large horses, but the design was not very… graceful…
“Yeah that’s right, in my final year now! Well just started it really. What do you do mister Divus?”
“Ah, w-well this kinda is my job. I used t-to make money from Neverwhere so now I’m trying to do the same here.”
“What’s Neverwhere?” She innocently enquired.
Divus was a little amazed. Sure lots of people wouldn’t have played it, and quite a few might not have even heard of it, but for a pioneer of New World not to even know the name of the current ruler of the gaming market was a bit shocking.
“U-um, it’s an older MMO. Like this one, b-but not virtual reality.”
“Oh. So not really like this one at all then?”
He frowned to himself, “No, I g-guess not.”
They continued without speaking for a moment, well Divus didn’t speak; Athena started yelling into the back a bit.
“H-hey Athena, i-isn’t it school hours at the moment?”
She turned back and pouted a little at him, “Yeah, but my best friend wasn’t there today, and it’s pretty horrid when she’s not about. I skived off sick.” She playfully stuck her tongue out, “Hey when can I have a go driving?”
“Like I said, when we g-get out of the city,” He sighed patiently, Athena was only a few months older than his sister so he instinctively indulged her slightly erratic behaviour.
Another bump on the road rocked them into each other again.
“M-man they need to repave th-their road.” He complained as he edged slightly away from her.
“Oh look it’s Mikey!”
Suddenly Athena leapt of the driver’s bench and into the street. Divus had to haul the reigns back to bring the carriage to a sudden halt. He ignored the surprised yells from the back and called after her.
“H-hey! Where are you going?!”
“Don’t worry, I just need to say bye to someone I know!” She shouted, before lightly running off into the crowd. He watched her swiftly duck her way towards an old man, who she then preceded to pounce upon, to the annoyance of his entourage.
“Hey what was that about, why’d we stop?” Dash called from behind him.
“Athena j-just jumped off and is a-attacking an old priest!” Divus replied in a worried tone.
Dash and Beauty started laughing, while Trevor wearily sighed, “Don’t worry, that’s her magic teacher. She always runs up to him when we see him in town.”
Swiftly done with her farewells, Athena weaved back towards the carriage and pulled herself up onto the bench beside him.
They continued their journey of slowly wading through the crowd for a few more minutes until they reached the main gate. The guards waved them through with barely an upwards glance and they were finally out of the city and really starting their journey.
When they’d gotten a few meters away from the walls Divus handed the reigns over to Athena, who immediately whipped the horses into a gallop. The cart had almost been completely overturned by the time Divus managed to snatch back control and calm the poor animals.
Despite the rather serious complaints of their comrades, Athena firmly insisted on being given another chance and Divus quickly caved in. Now under much sterner supervision, the carriage only almost capsized seven times before he could finally trust her to steer without his constant care. At that point he pulled them over to the side of the road and climbed off the driver’s bench.
“Hey, where are you off to?” Athena asked
“I’ve j-just remembered some things I need to do. U-um, Trevor could you sit with Athena for a while?” He asked as he unhitched one of the horses.
“Sure, but what are you doing?” Trevor asked as he jumped out the back.
“I-I got some business to take care of. D-don’t worry the carriage will be fine with one horse, j-just a little slower.”
“Awwww.” Athena whined while the others relaxed a little in relief.
“Yeah but what about you?”
“I-if you carry on straight then I sh-should be able to catch you up fine.” He replied, placing a saddle on his mounts back and climbing up onto it.
“Yeah but what are you doing?”
He trotted the horse towards a branch in the road and turned to face his comrades. There was murder in his eyes, and the entire party forgot all about trying to stop him. Without a single stutter he announced, “Don’t worry, this won’t take long.”
The horse, who he’d unceremoniously dubbed Binky, carried him down the rougher dirt path that had branched from the road. Groups of other players jealously glared at him as he passed, most of them were quite new and barely any players at all had their own mount. A familiar forest began to rise in the distance, with parties of newer players going in and out and a collection of stone statues resting near the side of the path.
Although there were a lot more people than when Divus had originally been here lots of other hunting grounds had been discovered so it wasn’t quite as bad as the city. He dismounted near the tree line and managed to find a sturdy low lying branch to tether Binky. Shoving an apple in its mouth in a vague attempt to keep it happy Divus determinedly entered the forest.
The other players had noticed he was better equipped, and probably higher levelled, than themselves, so a few tried to approach him. Even if he’d hog most of the experience most were still trying to adjust to New World and were desperate for the protection. But as soon as Divus entered the forest he started running, sword drawn and eyes aflame. Even if they could of kept up no one doubted that he was on serious business.
He sped through the trees at a similar pace to when he’d fled the rabbits a week prior, but the difference was immediately noticeable. Thanks to his increased dexterity and agility it was much easier to keep his balance and dodge root and branches while maintaining speed.
A bunny raised its fluffy head not far ahead of him, so he immediately angled his path directly towards it. The tiny creature noticed his approach and tried to quickly dodge out the way, but it was far too slow. He burst through the foliage and with a flick of his wrist neatly skewered his prey, the small body was lifted up and then slid of the end of the blade as Divus continued to run without missing a single beat. He’d already advanced several meters further by the time it hit the floor again.
A satisfied smile spread across his lips as he made his way through the forest. He continued to neatly slaughter all the critters he happened upon as he ran, although he wouldn’t get any experience thanks to his class he was still raising his sword mastery a little.
A howl resounded through the forest, and the few players in his periphery scattered and ran in the opposite direction. Divus didn’t particularly want to fight a wolf but from the sounds of it the beast was in the direction he needed to travel.
He slowed down to a gentle jog while darting his eyes all around for the lupine threat. A fierce growl came from the bushes on the left and he quickly pushed himself backwards, struggling to keep balance at the sudden change in directions. A big bundle of tattered grey fur streaked past him through the space he’d occupied just moments before. He span round to his right, recovering his balance in time to face the wolf.
It gnashed its teeth and then howled to the sky menacingly, but compared to the Hellhound Divus had killed under Peter’s tutelage it was barely a puppy. In fact, instead of sitting still and watching it while it was howling skywards he’d leapt forward and delivered a slash across its legs.
You have attacked Starved Wolf for 57 damage.
With a pained yelp it hopped backwards then glared at Divus with reproachful eyes. He just calmly returned the stare, sword ready for any movements. The stare-off lasted barely a second before the wolf charged angrily forwards, sharp teeth reaching for his neck. Divus almost yawned at such an easy attack, stepping slightly to the side and driving his blade into the beast’s chest.
You have countered Starved Wolf for 253 damage.
Gained 500 experience.
As Divus pulled his sword free the unlucky creature collapsed to the ground unmoving. A quick check showed he needed 3000 experience to get to Level 9, but he was already almost halfway there. A brief temptation to hunt a couple more of the beasts snagged at his mind, but he needed to meet up with his party as soon as he finished his business here.
His destination was only a little further so he quickly pushed on after wiping his sword off in the wolf’s fur. After only a few seconds more of running he entered the clearing he’d been searching for. As he pushed through the bushes a curious bunny face twitched up to stare at him.
The human approaching its burrow was slightly familiar; it briefly pondered where it had seen him before as he neared. Then it remembered, it was that human who’d attacked a few weeks ago! Not that rabbits had a concept of weeks; it just recognised many day cycles had passed. The tiny creature glared at the intruder mockingly, its family had nibbled him to death and now he seemed back for more. But animal instinct quickly overpowered its memories of superiority, this was not the same human they’d killed before!
The rabbit darted back into its burrow as Divus approached, but he wasn’t worried. It was actually just as he’d expected. He set about gathering twigs, dry leaves and small branches and piled it up just inside the burrow. Then he took the flint he’d bought in Richmond earlier.
Before logging in today he’d looked up on the internet about how to hunt rabbits. If they fled to their burrow then there were a few methods to root them out. The simplest was to send a ferret down there, but Divus didn’t even know if there were any in New World. The method he’d settled on was smoking them out. Setting up a fire inside the entrance would eventually fill the whole warren with smoke and drive the rabbits above ground. That did mean he’d have to wait quit a while though…
He tenderly nursed the flames of the fire until it was burning well enough to leave alone, then chucked a bunch of leaves he’d heard produced a lot more smoke than normal and blocked the entrance up, leaving a few holes for air for the flames. Moving to the only other entrance visible he drew his sword and stood ready, watching for any movements.
For several minutes nothing happened, the smoke slowly spreading deeper underground. After almost half an hour the smoke began wafting through the hole he was stood before. Even with the specially picked leaves it had taken ages to spread.
Another few minutes of silence passed and then a trickle of bunnies began to emerge, one at a time. He easily dispatched those with swift cuts. After a dozen or so fell to his blade no more came out at all. He waited patiently as more time piled up. Just as he was about to give up the rest of the warren appeared, but this time all at once. Dozens of frenzied bunnies burst from the smoky confines of their burrow and launched themselves at Divus. He managed to slice them out of the air as they flung their fluffy bodies towards him, but the sheer ridiculous and unexpected numbers drove him backwards.
As he retreated a few steps from the entrance the small critters spilled out into either side of him, trying to surround him completely. Divus quickly realised that if they succeeded he’d be unable to fend off attacks from the rear and they’d slowly chip away at his life. He was forced to retreat further while blocking and countering incessant attacks. The number of enemies was ludicrous; he must have killed almost a hundred already!
Luckily they weren’t working together and their attempts to surround him ceased as they pushed forward. Before he could turn back to his slaughter in relief a new hole burst open to his side and a new force of bunnies swept towards him like a tide of fur and blunt teeth. He hadn’t realised there were this many in the entire forest, let alone just one warren.
The reinforcements joined the main body of attackers, rabbits climbing up onto each others back to better bite at their foe. Soon a huge wall of enemies was formed before Divus, towering around him as he tried not to become surrounded. This meant he was now unable to counter them individually, instead each sweep of his sword cut through dozens at a time. Unfortunately it also meant that it had become impossible to ward off all their attacks and his vengeful extermination had become a desperate battle of attrition.
Despite the drastic turn of events a small grin crept across Divus’ lips as he fought. He slashed through the fluffy horde, the holes created immediately filled, while trying to dodge the multitude of tiny head butts and bites. The leather armour was holding up well against their attacks, he barely felt them except when they bit his hands.
The sight of him slowly walking backwards whilst swinging his sword and dodging side to side against a tide of fluff would have been utterly stupefying, but unfortunately the wolf earlier had scared away any players who had been near. No one bore witness to Divus’ desperate struggle as his life bar began to slowly inch downwards. Not that he even had time to check it as he focused on forcing himself to continue his fight.
Suddenly, just as he feared his weary limbs would fail him and he’d die at the paws of this furry menace a second time, his entire body felt infused with a small amount of power. His strikes gained more weight and speed and it became easier to dodge his foes attacks. The damage he was taking was reduced and his enemies began to fall at an even faster rate.
As a minute passed that had felt more like several hours, the pressure began to ease. Divus began attacking with increased vigour, wide strikes from his blade biting deep into the rabbit’s ranks as they tried to bite into him. The gaps slowly began to stop being filled and the enemy horde thinned to the last few beasts. They returned to desperate kamikaze leaps, but he easily plucked them out of the air with a well-timed counter. The remaining few quickly fled, but Divus didn’t have the energy to give chase.
He laughed as a glance at his health bar showed it had fallen below 5%, unable to do anything else after such an encounter. So that sudden burst of strength must have come from his new willpower stat, it was only thanks to that that he’d avoided becoming rabbit food once more. He was now even gladder to have gone through Peter’s ridiculous training.
You have cleared out the entire rabbit warren of East Richmond Forest!
The rabbit burrows under Richmond forest have long been completely interconnected and you have successfully cleared out the entire system. The local rabbit population has been dealt a severe blow that will take generations to recuperate from.
You have gained the title: Bunny Butcher
Through enduring a massive horde of enemies certain stats have improved.
Willpower increases by 1
Endurance increases by 2
Divus stared at the message in disbelief. That explained why there was such a ridiculous number of them, but to think he’d been fighting the entire forest’s worth! On one hand his revenge had been completed to a hugely gratifying degree, on the other he may have just eliminated the main way beginners’ could learn the game and level up.
With that slightly worrying thought planted into his head he decided to quickly get out of the forest and return to his party. He ran full pelt away from the scene of the crime, leaving his fallen foes quickly in the past.
Bursting out of the treeline and running directly towards his horse, Divus caused many of the players resting to jump out of their skins. He quickly mounted and near galloped all the way back to the main road, right up until poor Binky could almost no longer continue. With the forest disappearing into the distance Divus swore silently to himself never to have anything to do with rabbits ever again.
Not long after Divus had fled the young adventurer Harry and his party re-entered the area of the forest that he’d just escaped. When they’d heard the howls of a wolf earlier Harry’s friends had dragged him away, despite his claims that he could easily take it. The small group had killed hundreds of rabbits and other small creatures in this forest and were all around level 5 but, apart from Harry, they were well aware a wolf was still too much for them even combined.
So they decided to try hunting in another area. But oddly enough, after just the first few of minutes of hunting all the rabbits seemed to have disappeared. They hunted around for ages, occasionally running into rats or squirrels, but there was no sign of the forest’s largest constituent population. With no other choice they eventually decided to return to where they were earlier, but still no rabbits in sight. When they’d happened upon a dead wolf they managed to muster the confidence to advance a little further.
“God, what’s that smell?” Harry complained as they walked.
“It kinda smells like blood, but I’ve never smelt it anywhere near this strong before.” His friend Dan replied.
“Why do you know what blood smells like- You know what, never mind.”
They continued to push forward, the pungent smell growing stronger with every step. At last they came to a clearing, and as they stepped into it what they saw would haunt them for years to come.
A mountain of dead rabbits towered ahead of them. Hundreds upon hundreds of tiny fluffy critters were piled to almost eye level, with dozens more were scattered around the surroundings. Questions like how this situation ever arose and what creature could have done this seemed unanswerable in the face of such abhorrent slaughter.
The party quickly fled from the scene, lest the monster responsible return, and ran all the way out of the forest. They told everyone gathered about the place of the carnage within, but they were laughed off almost immediately. Everyone was sceptical. No one had seen any monster that would be capable of such wholesale slaughter anywhere near, the surroundings of Richmond were very safe, and there weren’t any players who could do that yet.
Slowly, as a trickle of similar reports came out from the forest, some of the more experienced players decided to check it out. Yet even they were completely unprepared for the scale of the massacre. The newbies who’d tenuously followed them at a distance were shocked as their leaders returned from the clearing with pale and haunted faces.
One of them had already gained quite a popular following online from his posts on New World, and after witnessing the scene of destruction logged out as soon as he could to spread the information across the net. Topics on all of the forums relating to new world were flooded by this tale of mystery and horror!
Within hours of the discovery in the real world, East Richmond forest became a danger zone despite no sightings of any large or dangerous monsters in the vicinity. Most players started avoiding it like the plague while a few braver individuals tried to solve the riddle behind the bunnies’ deaths. Many became convinced that if they found the culprit it would lead to some kind of special, unique quest or reward and dozens of Richmond’s top players started exploring the small and near empty forest.
Of course by this point Divus was already miles away, and in the end no ever would solve the riddle.
Finding his party again was pretty easy, the only other people who were travelling the Eastern road from Richmond were a few goods peddlers and farmers, but they’d all turn off to other towns or villages long before Divus would reach his destination. The carriage came into view only about 45 minutes after he followed after them, which considering he’d left them over 4 hours ago now showed a distinct lack of progress.
As he reached them Athena was sat on the bench up front alone, singing to herself. Trevor stuck his head out the back and greeted him.
“Hey Divus, you took a while there.”
“Oh hey Divus! Thank goodness you’re back! Trevor barely talks at all, it’s soooo dull!”
“U-um, hey guys. Where’s Dash and Beauty?”
“They said something about an afternoon lecture and logged out about an hour ago, or 12 minutes in the real world I guess.” Trevor pulled the ill-fitting rear door open a little wider to show him the two stone figures, “It was a pretty good idea to bring a carriage though, we can carry on even with team members logged out!”
“Hey Divus let’s go hunting! There’s probably been no one who’s come this far out of Richmond yet, let’s explore!” Athena enthusiastically pleaded.
His recent experience of rabbit genocide was still fresh in his mind, but there probably wasn’t much chance of something similar happening out in the grassy plains. He was a bit apprehensive about it, but he did share some of Athena’s expectations of traveling further afield and being the first to stumble upon something cool.
“Sure, b-but we need to get back to the carriage b-by nightfall.” The sun was dipping low in the sky, the onset of dusk was not far away and wandering about in the dark probably wouldn’t be healthy, “A-are you coming Trevor?”
“If both of you are headed out then I suppose I might as well.”
Athena cheered and leapt down from the driver’s bench while Trevor climbed out the back. After making sure that the horses and carriage were secured a little way from the road Divus followed them up a hill. The added bonus of the carriage was they were able to set it as a respawn point, so they could explore with a relatively easy mind. Not long after they started hiking the grasslands gave way to a more barren, rocky area. Spindly trees poked out of the ground atop of steep, gravely slopes.
“Ooo look over there! It’s a deer!” Athena cried while breaking into a run towards a large horned beast upon a crest ahead.
Trevor stepped forwards and grabbed the back of her collar, easily lifting her small frame and planting her back behind himself and Divus. Ignoring her complaints he stepped forward himself and stealthily approached the animal stood atop the next hill.
Clearly influenced by Trevor’s caution Athena whispered to Divus beside her. “That’s a big deer, do you think it’s hostile?”
“I-I don’t know,” Divus quietly answered, “But what’s Trevor doing?”
“He’s got a skill that lets him identify enemies. Apparently he only see’s their level and name at the moment because it’s new though…”
Divus stared at her. Why did you try to go up to it without knowing what it was when you knew he could find out?! Was what he wanted to ask, but thought better of it.
Trevor turned back towards them, walking now without any attempt at stealth. “It’s ok, that one’s passive. It’s a level 15 elk, so it would be slightly tougher than a wolf.”
“W-what level’s a wolf then?”
“Most of them are 12 or 13, but we can easily take them!” Athena boasted, the volume returning to her voice, “But we could take an elk pretty easy too!”
“I’d rather not without Dash,” Trevor sighed, “Neither of us have enough life or defence to tank it you know.”
“What about Divus! You’re a combat class right?”
“U-um, yeah. I’d be fine.” If it wasn’t much tougher than a wolf then Divus would probably be able to solo it. But his allies were more experienced, so it would be good to learn some team play on this trip.
Trevor still looked doubtful, remembering that Divus was only level 8. “Maybe tomorrow, if Dash and Beauty aren’t back. But it’s getting dark; we should head back to the carriage.”
The sky was indeed darkening, so even Athena turned back the way they’d come uncomplaining. It had barely been half an hour’s walk, but they were satisfied with the prospect of hunting in the morning. As they climbed back up the hill opposite the proud elk Athena spotted something and quickly ran towards it.
“Hey where are you going?” Trevor asked in annoyance as he and Divus quickly followed.
“Look at this!” She shouted back, “It looks like a treasure chest!”
As Divus approached he saw that there was actually a small chest placed abandoned on the hillside. The trio curiously walked towards it, wondering what on earth it was doing in the middle of nowhere. Just as they entered arms reach of it a loud click could be heard underneath them.
“Um guys, what was that…?” Trevor nervously asked.
Before anyone got the chance to answer the ground beneath them gave way and they fell flailing into a deep round hole in the earth. Seconds after they’d disappeared the trap door swung back shut, the chest fixed to one side appearing completely undisturbed and ready to lure in travellers once more.