Into The Lion's Den

Nate and Kara continued to push on through the forest. By the time they found what they were looking for the day was growing dim once more. They found a secluded spot with a decent enough view of the stronghold those hostile players had said was where they came from and they observed as people moved about the place. Kara's brow furrowed.

"There are quite a few of them." She noted.

"Sure are." Nate said as he counted them. Some were in higher level armor than others. It was clear that those in less effective armor were new recruits. Nate recalled the player they interrogated saying that those who wished to join had to give up their goods.

"So, we found it, now what do we do?" Kara asked. "Should we try and find the others? Bring them here?"

"We don't even know where they are." Nate said. "I can't reach them on chat, and the party function's still on the fritz. So warping to their location is out. And while I could guess they're somewhere close to where the quest the Librarian put us on started, it's just a guess."

"So where does that leave us?"

Nate pondered for a moment, then he nodded. "I have an idea..."

Kara tried to figure out what was going on in Nate's head. Then she saw it. "Oh no. That's a stupid idea."

"We need to know what we're dealing with." Nate argued.

"It's too dangerous. They could just as easily kill us. Or at the very least you. No doubt they'd have far more sinister thoughts for me..."

Nate nodded. "Yes, it's a risk. But right now we don't really have any other options. The others are somewhere out there, probably in some sort of trouble of their own, and we're here. So are you with me or not?"

Kara sighed. "I'm always with you, Nate. You know that."

"If things do go south, I'll have a disorientation spell on standby. It's like a flash grenade so..." He saw her confusion when he tried describing the spell. "Right... you have no clue what that is huh? It'll blind and deafen them for a while, stun them. We'll get out of there and we'll regroup from there. How does that sound?"

"I still don't like it. But you're also right about us being limited in options. These people, people from your world, they're dangerous and they're hurting others. We have to find a way to stop them." Kara nodded as her resolve was reaffirmed.

"Alright then... let's try and get the bad guys to hire us..."

When Nate and Kara approached the entrance to the compound they were greeted just as they had expected. With arrows drawn and spells prepared.

"Who the hell are you two?" A guard asked.

"Just a couple players who heard about this place. We want to join you!" Nate said.

"What makes you think we're looking for new recruits?" The guard asked.

"We know there's a fee. I'm a decently leveled mage, these robes are from the Blood Souls expansion, and I played the beta, so I've got some rare items I can trade to you." Nate slowly raised a black and silver box with a wolf emblem. An item from the Blood Souls maps.

"And the chick?" The guard asked. Nate smiled, they took the bait.

"I'm a noob. Wanted to try the game in VR for the first time when I got stuck here. But I have a sword of sharpness, it was... DLC..." Kara struggled to recall the strange words Nate had taught her before they approached the compound. Hopefully, they would think her fumbling words would imply someone with little experience in the game rather than a character from the game itself.

"And ballistics too..." The guard said as he ogled Kara. "Stay there..."

Soon the gates opened and Nate and Kara were shepherded to some sort of ramshackle barracks with other people sitting around on the empty floor.

"Remove your items and hand them over to the guard over there." The guard from before ordered. Nate and Kara complied. Soon they were in nothing but ratty civilian tunics provided by their "hosts." The guards enjoyed watching Kara get changed. And one seemed a little too happy to watch Nate do the same. But soon they were left alone with the other players in the barracks.

"Hello." Nate said to the group with a sheepish wave. "I'm Nate, this is Kara."

The others turned their faces away from him.

"Umm... Okay..." Nate frowned in confusion.

"Nate!" Kara said in a hushed tone to warn him. But too late. The large guard had reached Nate and socked him in the gut. Knocking the wind out of him.

Kara's eyes immediately filled with fire and was about to jump the guard when she saw Nate look at her and shake his head. Reluctantly, she backed down. But her eyes continued to fire lasers at the guard.

"You are nothing now, pig." The guard grunted. "Stay silent until you are called."

"I'm confused... am I 'nothing' or am I a 'pig'? You gotta make up your mind, Lenny." Nate smirked.

Naturally this resulted in another firm punch from "Lenny" the guard. Nate coughed and spat out some blood.

"Stay silent or you will suffer more." Lenny said.

Nate simply nodded. Kara continued to try and burn a hole though the back of Lenny's skull.

Once Lenny left, Nate and Kara found a free spot to sit down. Kara looked Nate over with a look of concern on her face the whole time. Nate smiled and shooed her hands away. He hurt, but he wasn't badly hurt. Kara frowned in annoyance but relented. She looked around to the others who continued to look scared and silently gestured to one another.

This was gonna be tough. Nate thought.

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