Her head lifted at the sound of wings. There was a male avatar on an all-white horse with wings descending to the summit of the hill. Really white. Horse-wing afterimages danced on her retinas.
“Where were you when I was climbing up here from the shore?” she asked him, smiling. “The menu didn't say anything about flying mounts in this Realm.”
He didn't seem to hear it. “Was there an NPC here just a second ago?” Evidently he wasn't one of the role play sticklers.
“There was a centaur,” she replied. “Is there something I should know about him? I'm Darla. Who are you? Cute ride, by the way, but, really, a flying pony? Why not a dragon?” Oh gods, I'm babbling.
He stared at her. “Apologies. Haste is no excuse for rudeness. I'm Farker. I work for PanGames. I am scoping an anomaly in the system. Anything you can tell me might be helpful and would be appreciated.”
Disarmed by the intensity of his candor, Darla wished she could help him. It had been an odd NPC. “I'm afraid I might not be much help,” she confessed. “I've never been in this Realm before. He said his name was Cheiron, and that he taught healers. We had just begun talking when he noticed you were coming and disappeared.”
“Did he say where he was going?”
“No. Why were you looking for him? He was a little strange.”
“Strange in what way?” the GM pressed.
“Well,” she said, “he knew the Latin name for butterfly. Did you know these are simulations of the species Papilio Machaon?”
“No, and I don't care,” he said. “Did you know he was speaking English without using the translator? I want to know how he managed that in Hellas.”
If she had known an emote to make her avatar look confused, Darla would have used it then. “What's so strange about that? What's Hellas?”
“The ancient Greek name for Greece,” he told her. “All of the NPCs here speak Greek. It's never a problem because of the translator. But the system wasn't translating his Greek into English for you. He was speaking English, which should be impossible.”
“So he loaded the wrong version of his speech file?”
“There are no alternate speech files in PanGames,” he informed her. “Only one version of each NPC's speech in each Realm. There's no need for them because the translator is good enough. This is not a simple glitch or an accident.”
“Then what is it? Was he a Player pretending to be a NPC? Or some kind of metavirus?”
He actually sighed. “That's the problem with Realm reformatting. Players complain about not getting to use their favorite powers, but for me it's a security issue. Everything entering a Realm or making a Realm transition gets blended in by default. If a metavirus ever got in, which should be impossible, it would get camouflaged in the name of maintaining the ambiance.”
“Reformatting isn't a problem for my power sets, except for travel powers,” she commented.
“Speaking of travel, I have to get back to work. Thank you for your cooperation, Darla. Happy gaming.” And he winked out without giving her a chance to reply. Seemed to be a lot of that going on lately, she thought, looking around the hilltop. The butterflies went on simulating their courtship.
Well this was turning out to be a strange and useless evening, she reflected. So far I've met a NPC who hides from GMs and a GM who flies around on a horse, but no healers.
“I thought he'd never leave,” Cheiron said behind her.
She nearly jumped. “Were you here all the time?”
He smiled through his beard. “Yes and no. It all depends upon your definition of 'here'.”
“Gee, thanks, that clears it up. You said you trained some good healers. Can you tell me where to find one?”
“As a matter of fact,” he said, “my best student will be here shortly. Of all the lands his soul has seen, this is the one to which he will return.”
“Return?” Darla queried. “Where has he been, off questing somewhere? Oh, gods, he isn't already in a group is he? I couldn't take a healer away from his own team.” But she knew that she could, if she had to.
“He has been traveling without moving,” the centaur said.
“Do you have to talk in riddles?” she complained. “You're not a Sphinx, and this isn't Egypt.”
“Not yet,” he replied. “But you will be going there soon.” And then he vanished again, leaving her alone on the hill.
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