Problems

Zahn and Lucinda watched as Serenity and the Baroness left the hall, leaving the two alone to be watched by the guards. Lucinda felt a little uneasy. Orcs weren't often welcome in such places. Though most of the guards here seemed to have been friendly enough so far, given they'd shared their barracks with her. But it was always on her mind from the many times before when she'd been given suspicious looks.

Sensing this, Zahn stood up. "Come on, my dear. Let us find more amicable company."

Lucinda nodded and followed Zahn out of the hall where they began to explore the palace. It was an impressive estate, both Zahn and Lucinda agreed. They noticed the attachment of guards that were following them. Lucinda was beginning to feel a little more uneasy.

Zahn frowned and turned back to the guards. "You fine back there, chaps? Enjoying the view of our arses? How about you behave like proper tour guides and show us where the bathrooms are?"

"There's one down the hall and up some stai--" A guard mindlessly said.

"I was insulting you, you chainmailed git!" Zahn said with a laugh.

"Zahn, please." Lucinda said in a hushed tone. "Leave them be. They're just doing their job. Don't go pissing them off."

Zahn realized he wasn't helping her anxiety and shrugged. "Apologies, love. I just can't stand the clanking of their armor. It's upsetting my hangover."

Lucinda blinked. "Still bugging you? Here. I've got a poultice that'll do the trick." The produced the item and handed it to Zahn.

"My dear, Lucinda. I would be long dead where it not for you." Zahn accepted it and used it. The headache began to clear almost immediately, and he got a +1 boost to vitality to boot so he had a newfound spring in his step.

"You're welcome." Lucinda said.

"Come," Zahn smirked. "Let's find our compatriots."

---

Three men in leather armor entered the camp and began poking around. They whispered in hushed tones as they soon made their way to the entrance of the tent. And with a flourish they tore it open and stepped inside, brandishing their weapons and hollering. Though they stopped pretty quick when they saw what was waiting for them inside.

A naked woman with long red hair who regarded them with a clearly fake look of fear.

"Oh no! Brigands! Foul ruffians who will do doubt have their way with me until I'm a spent heap upon the cold forest floor!" Kara pretended to be afraid, it was so unconvincing that it sounded more like she was looking forward to the impending pillaging. Either way, the men were distracted.

They didn't even see Nathan approaching from behind and before they realized it he had clubbed one of the men unconscious with his staff with a loud thunk. He struck the other. He was still considered undetected and so the sneak attack bonus still came into play. It was a critical, the other raider went down like a sack of bricks.

But by then the third had turned around and swung his axe at Nathan. Nate stumbled back just barely avoiding the swing and started to ready a spell. But this turned out to be unneeded as Kara erupted from the tent with her sword and nothing else. She kicked the man in the back of his knee and sent him down. Then she held her blade to his neck.

"One more move from you and I'll sever your head in one go!" Kara growled.

Something about a naked woman with a sword threatening decapitation was wildly attractive to Nathan. At least as long as the threat of decapitation was being directed on someone else. He quickly went about binding the other two men before reaching the third and binding him. Then he looked to Kara.

"Babe, maybe you should put something on now." He smirked. "Not that I'm complaining."

Kara smiled and returned to the tent to get dressed. Leaving Nathan to speak with the raider.

"Who are you and why are you ruining a perfectly good camping trip for me?" Nathan asked.

"Fucking shit..." The raider said, his eyes filled with fear. "We're sorry. I swear! I fucking told them this was a bad idea."

Nathan frowned. This didn't sound like an NPC. "Are you... players???"

"Yes! My name is Kurt. I'm from Delaware. I work at a fucking burger joint."

Nathan frowned. "Well, Kurt from Delaware. I'm Nate. Are you going to explain to me why you tried to fucking murder me and my friend just now?"

"Shit... shit shit shit..." Kurt began to sputter. "We just didn't know what to do. My best friend and I were playing when the update happened. Then he got eaten by a goddamn troll and... I just didn't know what to do. The other guys, they just wanted to stay alive. Every man for himself-type-deal, right? But then things got bad. They started killing other players. I just... I didn't know what to do. I played along ya'know?"

Kara finally came out of the tent in her chainmail outfit. "He's like you? From the other realm?"

"Looks like that. He and his buddies have been killing other players." He looked back to Kurt. "You realize you and your buddies probably killed those people for real, right?"

Kurt began to sob. And Nate was sure the guy had just pissed his pants. "I know man. I know... But it's not like before. I didn't want to die either, man... I didn't!"

Nate sighed. "Is it just you three? Or are there more?"

"There's a lot of us now. We keep getting new recruits. They gotta give us all their shit first and what not but hey it's better than dying, right? We've got a camp not far from here. To the west."

Nathan frowned. "Shit..." This was something that was going to happen eventually. People were going to get nasty. And he was now having to consider if it was safe to let these guys go. They had already tried to kill him and Kara once.

Could he really take that sort of chance?

"I say we kill them" Kara said. "It's too dangerous to let them live."

Of course she'd say that. She was the warrior. The survivor. Nate, however. He was just some tech geek from Michigan. Killing people, real people, didn't sit well with him. He knew it was probably the safer option. But his conscience was telling him otherwise. Finally, he shook his head.

"No. We'll tie them up. To that tree. We'll leave them here." He stared into Kurt's eyes. "You and your buddies should be able to work yourselves free in a couple hours. We'll leave the fire burning to keep the animals away, and you can warm up and rest once you're free."

"You're not gonna kill me?" Kurt asked.

"I'm not, Kurt." Nate said reassuringly. "And you know why? Because we're better than this. We are not the barbarians we play here in this game. We are civilized men and women. And I want you and your friends to remember that." Nate stood up. "I want to believe that the only way we're going to find our way home is by working together. Not killing each other." The he paused. "However... If by some sick twist of fate we meet again, and you and your friends are still out here killing helpless players. I will not be as merciful..." Then he swung his staff and knocked Kurt unconscious.

Kara looked at him with a small grin. "That was... wow Nate. You scared me a little. I like the new you."

Nate shook his head. "Let's get to work. We need to get out of here before they wake up."

Kara nodded. They hauled the men over and bound them to a nearby tree and made sure the camp fire had enough fuel to keep burning for a while longer. Then they set off as fast as they could into the forest. After a while Kara spoke once again. "So what're we going to do now?"

"Head west." Nate said. "We need to see this stronghold of theirs. Gather information. Then find the others and let them know what's going on. This is a serious problem that needs to be taken care of before more people get hurt."

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