Slimy Friend

Willow fluttered into the adventurer’s hall with a purpose. Her black, flowy dress hung limp and hid her feet; she hovered ghost-like straight to the quest board. A set of long, veiny, translucent insect wings kept her five-foot fairy frame aloft. The bright pink quest card was still there. It stood out from the wall of drab yellow and off-white quest cards pinned to the board.

It showed up a week ago and immediately caught her interest. When she inspected it she only found a time and place. No other details were given, not even the name of the requester. Willow only recently discovered the AlterNet within the last year. She did not feel ready to handle the unknown. She settled for lesser quests and assumed someone else would take the pink one.

She was surprised to see the quest still on the board the next day; then, the next. A week later it was the day mentioned in the quest and no one had taken it. Something about that made her feel a bit sorry for the quest giver. NPC quests reset each day and most adventurers optimized their routine around them. The pink card couldn’t have been an NPC quest; it was missing all the important information. She hated the idea that she could have helped someone that needed it.

It could be a trap,” Willow considered the possibility as she stared at the pink card. “But it could also not be…” She stepped back and scanned the rest of the board. All the usual stuff was there, including Sue, the ungrateful hypochondriac. Willow hated the NPC girl, she was obnoxiously snotty. Figuratively and literally. It was an unreasonable hatred since the girl was a fictional character, but it burned in Willow just the same. She yanked the pink card off the board with a shrug and a sigh. “I’d rather get mugged than go see her again,” she decided.

An hour later she found a small house in the center of an open plain. Its size was somewhere between a children’s playhouse and a mobile home. The house was built with golden-translucent bricks. The roof seemed to be made of the same material in shingle form. The sun was reaching its apex and light forced itself through the bricks; Willow saw a small shadow moving around inside.

It doesn’t look too threatening,” Willow walked to what looked like the door. The golden, glassy squares were arranged in a different pattern on the front of the house. She knocked. A young blonde girl opened the door. She looked at Willow through narrowed eyes until the fairy flashed the pink card. The girl smiled instantly.

“HI! I’m Honey!” She stepped out of the house.

“You put this up?” Willow asked. The girl nodded. “What’s the quest?” Honey bit her bottom lip nervously and looked Willow up and down.

“Wanna be my friend?” she asked.

“What?”

“I have a guild now,” Honey used her thumb to point at the house directly behind her. “But I don’t have anyone in it,” the girl sighed. “I have one friend but she’s too busy to play much.” She looked up at Willow with eager eyes. “It’s a high level guild! I stole it from a PvP server and they bought all the perks already.

“Maybe,” Willow said. She tried to inject coolness into her voice, but she already decided. She had been looking for a guild recently, but she wasn’t very social. A guild with only one other person in it would let her get used to the flow of things before they recruited too many others. Willow extended her wings and fluttered to give herself more height. Honey was already too close to her short stature. She pretended to be thinking.

“What’s the guild name?” Honey shrugged.

“Deathdealers or something dumb. I haven’t changed it yet. Oh! You can help me pick out a name!”

“Wait. You stole a guild? By yourself?” Honey nodded. She lifted a hand in front of Willow’s face. The light peach skin changed color. It became a translucent gold color that matched the house, then her thumb fell off. It pulled a long, viscous string and was still attached when it landed on the floor. Honey used her other hand to break the string and the golden fluid formed another thumb in its place. Her skin returned to its normal, fair color.

“Oh you’re a slime,” Willow said.

“Hey, don’t talk about my friend like that,” another voice said behind Willow. She turned to see a short girl, older than Honey, in a red hoodie. She was carrying a pink bakery box and wearing a smile despite her reprimand.

“Cherry!” Honey dashed past Willow to hug the new girl.

“Making new friends, huh?” Cherry asked with a smile. Honey nodded.

“Uhuh.”

“Nice,” Cherry walked forward and held the box with one hand to offer Willow her other. “I’m Cherry, nice to meet you.”

“Willow,” she introduced herself.

“Thanks for coming,” Cherry said as Honey grabbed the box from her and ran inside. Once the girl was through the door Cherry lowered her voice. “Even the AlterNet can be lonely if you don’t have friends,” she said. “I’m glad I’m not the only one here for her birthday.”

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