A Dark And Mysterious Stranger
Location: Shady Side High
Timeline: January 12th, lunchtime
She’d thought about it all night, all morning, and all the way until lunch period.
She picked up her backpack as the bell dismissed second period and quietly filed out of the class, following the masses out of the math classroom to her locker three halls away. It seemed as though every thought she had was dedicated to that little yellow origami moon and the words inside it. Even when she tried to distract herself, such as by focusing on her classwork or thinking about what had almost happened last night with Tim, her mind kept coming back to that irritating yellow origami moon.
Who on earth was Ushebti, and why was he so convinced that she was in danger? More than that, in danger from what? If it was the boys from school threatening her like they’d done on the beach a few weeks ago, they’d left her completely alone since Aiden had shown up and made them nearly wet themselves with fear. She smiled a little bit at that memory.
There was no danger that her mind could conceive of that had anything to do with Neferu. Aside from Tim and maybe his sister Tara, no one had any idea who her avatar was if they even knew she played Worlds of Myth at all. At least, she didn’t know of anyone who would know that. She supposed that it was possible that someone could have found out her IP address, tracked that to Shady Side, and done some digging... but who would bother? It wasn’t like she was important. Sure, she was a good player, but why would anyone want to come for her?
She put her back in her locker and closed the metal door with a loud clang. It made no sense. None at all.
And that’s what made the note so fascinatingly frustrating and impossible to ignore.
With a sigh, she closed her lock, and noticed the little note on the outside of her locker. She wondered how she hadn’t noticed it earlier, but she supposed had been lost in thought. With careful fingers, she unfastened the tape and unfolded the torn white lined page.
Miss Templeton needs to see me to go over some stuff for English so I’m not too far behind. I’ll probably be busy for a little while. I’ll try to catch up with you in the caf before lunch is over.
<3 (yeah, I wrote an emoji heart... shut up :) )
The note made her smile as she folded it back up and slipped it in her pocket. She didn’t usually eat her lunch in the cafeteria if she could avoid it, but she supposed that Tim hadn’t been here long enough to know that. The caf was always so full of people that it was hard to find a quiet corner to hide in where it didn’t feel like everyone was watching. Still, if Tim said the caf, then she had little choice - she couldn’t disappoint him by not being there when he said he’d try to meet her.
The hall leading up to the caf was chronically busy during the 3rd period lunch, but she took a deep breath and braved the masses of teens in order to grab an overcooked burger, far-too-greasy fries, an apple and a can of Sprite. Weaving around a pair of her classmates before they could even notice her (as if they would notice her anyway, she thought idly - she wondered if they even knew her name!), she spied a quiet corner at the very back of the room. It was still noisier and a lot less cozy than the quiet nook between the biology room and the rarely used fire exit, but if Tim was coming here, here is where she would have to be. She slid on to the cold aluminum bench and set her tray down silently amid the raucous din of energetic jocks three tables away.
“Hey.” Came a slow and deliberate voice, revealing itself to be from a teenage goth, long black hair swept behind his pale face. Despite his dark clothing, consisting of a long black coat, chain covered pants and big boots, he had friendly eyes. A slight smile played on his lips, coated with the slightest hint of grey lipstick.
“Mind if I sit here? It’s the only quiet table in the room.” He was carrying a brown paper bag, typical of a packed lunch.
Melissa’s eyes, wide from the surprise of not only the boy’s arrival but also the fact that he spoke to her of his own free will, merely gave a quiet nod and gestured to the table as she took a small sip of her Sprite.
He sat down on the opposite side of the table, although not directly in front of her, and from his bag produced a small carton of drink, a sandwich and a small wooden box. The box was carved on all sides with different imagery, most involved the picking of produce from trees. He lifted the lid, which detached completely, revealing the figs inside.
“Do you like figs?” He slid the box over slightly as he pushed the straw into his drink.
Figs? Melissa blinked in surprise. It was strange enough that this boy she didn’t know was talking to her, but offering her food as well? Why? Was this some kind of trick someone was playing on her? She took a quick look around, but no one else in the room seemed to be paying any attention to them. That was a good sign... if the figs were some sort of trick that would make her sick, people would be watching. Word about things like that tended to spread.
They did look good... she didn’t get to have figs very often, and she was a fan of them.
With tentative, slightly trembling fingers, she plucked a fig from the box. “Thank you.” She replied quietly.
He smiled and took one himself, wasting no time in eating it, as if sensing her hesitation. “Figs are like some people. Most people look at them and think they look ugly, or too messy. But people who take the time to try them usually think they’re pretty good.”
He unwrapped his sandwich, which barely had any filling and was made with sad looking white bread. “Unlike this, which is going to taste about as good as it looks.” He sighed and pushed the sandwich away, grabbing another fig.
“It... doesn’t look that bad.” She offered in a small, timid voice as she slid her fries a little closer to him. “I-if you want...”
“Nono, I couldn’t possibly take that any of those off you.” He smiled again. “But thank you.”
“I-It’s okay.” She stammered quietly. “I-I don’t eat them all a-anyway. They’re... kind of greasy. M-maybe they’re not better than your sandwich, though.”
The boy smiled and swept back a bit of hair that had strayed into his face. “So I hear you play Worlds of Myth.”
Melissa’s eyes bolted up from the fig she was holding. She nearly dropped it on her tray. Her dark eyes went wide with shock. “H-how...”
“I’m friends with Tara. She said you played with Tim, the new guy?” He smiled politely and ate another fig.
Her eyes shrunk and she looked down at the fig again, taking a timid bite. She nodded quietly.
“I’ve been playing for a while myself. Probably spend too much time playing, but it’s so much easier to be yourself on there than it is in this...place.” He indicated around the busy cafeteria with the remains of his fig.
Melissa gave a small, timid nod. “What do you play?”
“Egyptian High Priest. Originally Anubis, but I’m thinking of changing. I’ve started the change quest but ran into some bugs so I’ve not been able to finish it yet. I know I’ll get bumped down to Priest again and have to level back up to High Priest, but it just seems like there are some Gods that deserve more of my time and help.”
She gave a small nod. Anubis had seemed fairly interesting in the limited encounters she’d had with him, and she wondered why he wanted to switch. Still, she supposed, there were moments when being bound to Nepthyths had felt a bit grating. “Who, um... who do you want to switch to?”
“I’m thinking Neferu.” He smiled slightly. “Or maybe Isetnofret. They’re not major Gods but I’ve found some hints I think the devs have put in to being able to align to them. Not much to go on though. Just gotta deal with this hacker group posing as a cult. They’re problematic.”
The fig fell from Melissa’s hand and her face went pale. “N-n-neferu?”
The boy nodded.
“Y-you’re... you’re... Ushebti.” Melissa stammered. “Th-the note...” She pulled the crescent-folded page from her pocket with a trembling hand and sat it on her tray.
“I didn’t mean to scare you.” Ushebti confirmed, blushing slightly. “I wasn’t sure how to approach you.”
She stared at him for a moment as she unfolded the yellow paper. “I... I don’t understand it.” Her voice was little more than a whisper. “What you wrote.”
Ushebti looked thoughtful for a moment. “There are...things about Worlds of Myth that most people don’t see, or know. Entire parts of it that most people never experience.”
She bit her lip. She had experienced more of the game than most people ever did, that was for certain. She needed to be brave, this was her best chance for answers, and she needed to understand what the note meant, so she steered the conversation back to the note. “Well... okay. But, I don’t understand what you’re trying to tell me in the note. Neferu... she isn’t a goddess. She’s just... well... my character. I designed her and made up her name.” She shook her head. “And... what, um... what do you mean ‘they come for me’? Who? Why? Is this some weird quest or something that you want me to run with you?”
“Not exactly, although I’ll definitely help you. There are certain characters in Worlds of Myth that are...different. Sometimes they don’t even know they are different. Naturally stronger, better than others. They might have powers others don’t have. Most people don’t even know about it.”
He sucked in his lip slightly before continuing. “Some of the people who do know, they want to capture these people, to use them for their own ends. To twist them into what they want them to be, instead of what they really are.”
She frowned. “I don’t understand. Are you saying Neferu is... different... somehow?”
Ushebti nodded. “The theory I read was that Worlds of Myth was built on the code from another game. Do you know much about code?” He shook his head and smiled a little. “Don’t suppose it matters much. Anyway, something about this old code causes some characters to have access to things they don’t normally have. It’s pretty neat. I made about 20 characters trying to figure out if I could get one but I’ve not had any luck so far.”
“What... what kind of things?” Melissa asked, picking up a fry and nibbling on it. She wondered if the quest for Osiris had anything to do with that.
“Stuff you’d expect from a game like Worlds of Myth. There was a guy last year who was apparently able to clear 10 man Labyrinth by himself. That sort of thing.”
“Impressive.” Melissa nodded. “Unless it was the one in Crete that they never really bothered to finish and only has a few low-level, fairly easy monsters in it. Or, do you mean more like the one under Delphi, like the level 65 quest to retrieve the hammer of Hephaestos?”
“I think it was ‘Lair of the Sun God’, back before they nerfed it and made it easier to do. Apparently he was banned from arena matches because there were so many complaints about how strong he was.”
Melissa’s eyes widened. “The Babylonian labyrinth? I’ve heard of that quest... I never did it, though. They said it was really hard.”
“Anyway, the important thing is to watch out for this hacker group, if they can’t persuade you to help them, they’ll probably try to delete your character.” He let out a little sigh. “In the meantime, well…” He closed his eyes for a moment, his black eyeliner, and subtle eye shadow giving his eye sockets a hollow look. He seemed as if he was struggling with some internal debate.
She wondered how they could possibly delete someone else’s account, but she made a mental note to make sure her authenticator was working properly as she picked up the fig from her tray and finished eating it. “What?”
“Keep in mind that this is effectively rumours of rumours, but I’ve heard that these special characters, there are ways they can be picked as patrons. More people doing it gives them more power in game. Enough people doing it would effectively make them as strong as the Gods.”
She frowned. “How do you know about this stuff?”
Ushebti laughed. “I’m a goth, I spend far too much time on the internet avoiding sunlight.”
“I’m a shy gamer girl. So do I.” She countered with a half smile.
He grinned in return. “Speaking of avoiding the sunlight, I should go find the others. We’re gonna-”
“Hey.” Tim waved as he approached the table. “Didn’t know if I was going to be able to find you in here. Who, uh....” He looked uneasily over at Ushebti, as if trying to size up potential competition. He set his tray down on the table and extended a hand. “I’m Tim.”
“Hey Tim.” Ushebti shook his hand. “I’m Pete. I’m a friend of your sisters.”
“Tara has friends?” Tim quipped, still looking a little unsure about the stranger sitting with his shy girlfriend. “Everything ok, Melissa?”
Melissa gave a small nod. “This is Ushebti. From the note.”
Tim’s eyes widened, and for a second they seemed to catch the light in a way that made them look almost red. It passed quickly, his eyes moving from Melissa and back to Pete. “You are?” He slid into the table beside Melissa. “What does the note mean? We were puzzling over it after school yesterday...”
Ushebti glanced across at Melissa, his eyebrow raising ever so slightly, before resting his eyes on Tim. “There’s a lot of talk of hackers about at the moment. Melissa can probably fill you in on what you need to stay safe.” He gave a smile. “Anyway, I really do have a go, or the guys will complain at me for being late for band practice.”
The young goth put the lid back on his fig box and picked it up, putting the remains of his lunch in a bin as he gave a little carefree wave. “See you both around!”
“Bye.” Melissa gave a small smile and a tentative wave.
Tim watched him go with a wave of his own. “That’s Ushebti? I don’t know what I was expecting, but... that wasn’t it.”
Melissa shrugged. “He seemed nice.”
Tim stayed silent, watching the departing black-clad form as he left the cafeteria. “Something about him bugs me. I don’t know what it is.” He turned back to her. “Be careful.”
She gave a small smile. “I will.”
He continued to frown as he looked down at his tray and poked at his food.
“You aren’t... jealous... are you?”
“What?” He looked up at her. “No... of him? No. No. I’m not jealous!”
She wasn’t entirely convinced. “You know I love you.” She whispered.
Tim smiled. “I know. Maybe, later, you can tell me more about what he said? About the note?”
“My house, after school?” Melissa offered with a small smirk. “Kyle has swimming practice after school tonight...”
A slow smile curled up the corner of his lips. “Yeah?”
Melissa smiled back as a blush crept into her cheeks. “Yeah.”