55 Cat Assassins Like Cute Shi
I could visit a million times, and the sight of this magnificent city would still take my breath away.
This vast Capitol was built not by humans, but by the semi-divine race Tuatha de Danann, the "People of the Goddess Danu." The Tuatha, or the People, as they call themselves, are the mythological ancestors of many fae races; as you might expect, their architecture is nothing short of magical.
The beautifully-crafted buildings rise from the ground, as if a giant nature mage gently coaxed them directly from the earth. Everything is wood and stone, and yet, somehow, alive. Sloping curves and sky-scraping spires, all elegance and fluid lines. Stained glass sparkles from turret windows, and colorful tiled domed roofs soar into the sky.
A glittering river flows through the city, and bridges made of pure white stone arch gracefully across the rushing water. The stone is so thin it looks like delicate spun sugar, but it's strong enough to withstand even Epic-tier dragon flames.
In the center of everything, towering above even the tallest cathedral-looking buildings, the Hill of Tara stands magnificent. Atop the hill rises the Lia Fáil, the Stone of Destiny, and from that majestic place, the High King rules.
As we look upon Tara's boundless beauty, for the first time since I've met the kid, Taliesin is silent and still.
I didn't even know he could do that; he's normally like a golden retriever with ADHD.
I give him a full minute to take it all in, but when he shows no signs of snapping out of it, I give him a nudge.
"I think I'm having a moment," he says, awestruck. "I never knew what that meant, before."
That gets a laugh out of me, and I can't help but ruffle the kid's shaggy hair. "Remarkable, isn't it?"
"It's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen!" he gushes, and this time, I don't think he's overreacting. "My family's Irish; I've been to the real Hill of Tara. It was awesome already, when it was just green hills, burial mounds, and the remnant of the stone that witnessed the Crowning of the High Kings. Seeing it like this though, at its height of glory, when the fae lived and ruled here, it's like I'm having a religious moment!"
I can't laugh at that. I kind of get what he's saying, and I'm neither Irish nor religious.
However. "I feel you, but unfortunately, we can't stand around, admiring the awesomeness all day. We have places to be and a short angry woman to placate."
He shakes himself like a puppy trying to rid himself of excess energy, and I have to resist the urge to ruffle his head again.
I'm gonna need some serious Alopix pets time when I log out in a few hours.
"All right, I'm ready. Where are we going?"
I sigh. "We need to see Arachne."
"You're sure she's here?" He's asking like he wants to make sure, but he's already blindly following me anyway as we cut through winding, bustling streets.
"Oh yes," I assure him. "I'm not positive exactly where, but if we head towards the marketplace near the Teleportation Portal, we'll find her."
Arachne didn't take the number one spot for Lifestyle Players back in the beta for nothing; her only desire was to open her first shop in this breathtaking city, on day one of the official start of the game.
I don't think it was originally part of the devs' plan to let a Player set up shop in the greatest city in Gael right from the get-go, but they couldn't deny her request. She did single-handedly create more designs selected by the AI for game release than most Lifestyle Players combined.
All told, there were only 70 Lifestyle specialists in the beta, and their experience was vastly different from mine. They had direct access to communicate with the main Nova AI system because they were as much creators as they were testers. They were supposed to come up with craft recipes, forging designs, and gear designs, and then test out the methods for creation to see which items were too complex to craft at various levels.
The game also gave them access to a far more complete list of herbs, ores, monster parts, and other materials than the rest of us, so the Lifestyle Players could provide feedback on which materials made the most sense for which crafted items. Arachne alone convinced the AI of hundreds of enchantments and buffs that should be made available to crafters, given the available materials/ingredients.
Apparently, the NDA (non-disclosure agreement) the Lifestyle Players had to sign was way stricter than ours, and if they're ever caught sharing or selling any of the info labeled 'classified,' they'll be permanently banned from the game and sued for enough money to bankrupt a small country.
Vir-Tech needn't have bothered with the threats, to be honest. Those players aren't stupid enough to sell such priceless intel.
When this game grows as popular as we all know it will, those few Lifestyle beta testers will rake it in. For instance, they'll be able to outsmart the in-game market and buy up seemingly worthless materials before their true worth is revealed. Then they can re-sell them or use them to make the best-crafted items.
I have little doubt that by the time the game reaches Realm Four, Arachne will be one of the wealthiest players in Viren's Refuge.
By Realm Seven, she'll probably be one of the richest women in the real world, too.
"So Arachne is the girl who stabbed you, right?" Taliesin asks as we enter the main plaza.
I grunt a yes. I don't want to talk about it.
"How come?" he asks anyway.
Dude, read the grunt, will you?
"A simple misunderstanding," I answer eventually.
"Oh, is that what you're calling it?" a distinctly feminine voice says, right before my feet go flying out from under me, and I'm knocked flat onto the cobblestones.
A petite woman with long black hair, blazing sapphire eyes, and pure black cat ears stares down at me, arms crossed and mouth turned in contempt. She's impeccably dressed, as if she walked off the pages of a fashion magazine, and even with the cat ears and a matching tail twitching behind her, she looks like a high-powered attorney-turned-model. Or a femme fatale assassin.
Sophisticated. Beautiful. Deadly.
"Why hello Arachne," I say pleasantly.
"Eat shit and die alone in a sewer, Dregs," she replies, also pleasantly.
"Wow, nice moves, Miss!" Taliesin sounds impressed, the traitor. "How'd you knock him down in a Safe Haven?"
Though Taliesin chose an earless avatar, he still has the Celtic knot mark on his forehead showing he's a Pu`ca, just like Arachne. He's staring at her with his usual starry-eyed enthusiasm. Her posture relaxes slightly, and her icy expression thaws.
Thank gods. I was banking on this.
Arachne may be a cold-blooded badass, but she's also a white chick in her twenties.
Love of cute shit is her weakness.
"The trick is you don't attack directly," she explains patiently. "I added a Wind Release skill to these heels when I crafted them. So to the System, I was simply practicing a Leg Sweep on my own; it's this moron's fault he happened to walk right into a gust of wind and fell on his ass."
"How very Trickster fae of you," I praise her drily.
"You know how I feel about aesthetics." She tosses her shiny hair and turns to Taliesin. "It's important to stay on brand. You're a fae, too. Tricks and mischief are all part of the package. And the game will reward you for it."
The thing is, I bet she's right. She usually is. Now that she seems less likely to kill me on sight, I haul myself to my feet. "How'd you recognize me?" I ask, genuinely curious.
She looks at me like I'm stupid. (It's an expression of hers I'm familiar with.) "Other than the obvious eavesdropping? You two were blabbing about me in front of my store. I haven't stabbed that many people, you know."
I shoot her the most disbelieving look I have.
She frowns. "Okay, I haven't stabbed that many too-handsome-for-their-own-good jackasses who would be stupid enough to try to find me again afterward."
I half-shrug and unconsciously flex my awesome avatar muscles.
"This handsome jackass goes by Erebus now, Arachne. And he's here to do business."
Her frown deepens into a full-on glare. "I don't care what you're calling yourself these days. I still don't do business with deceitful perverts!"
Several NPCs turn to stare, and a group of female fae start whispering and shooting me dirty looks.
"Damnit woman, not so loud! You know it wasn't like that!"
"It wasn't? You didn't sneak into my shop under false pretenses and then peep on an entire changing room of women?"
Shaking his head in disapproval, Taliesin deadpans, "Wow, my image of you is shot."
I may have wanted him to stop stalking me, but I didn't want it to end like this. Frantic, I say the first thing that comes to mind in my own defense.
"No, you don't understand! I was a woman at the time, too!"