Rainith jumped on the tiny stage and laughed as she collided with two very young punk boys and fell to the floor. She leapt to her feet and jumped up and down. It was January 1977 at the Roxy club in London. The Damned were playing. She'd been sent back along with Mixt and Nakishdan to search for Geeda Lala but Rainith didn't care about that. As soon as the Damned began to play she lost all interest in their mission. The band were making a lot of noise, the small basement was full, and she was enthralled by it all. Somewhere at the back of the room Mixt and Nakishdan were looking on dubiously, not sure what they were doing there, both feeling out of place. Although, curiously, Nakishdan in his kimono was not as completely out of place as might have been expected. Only a short time before, the club had been a venue frequented by transvestites. Some of them still came so the sight of a man in a dress was not that unusual.
Rainith kept jumping up and down. Her clothes were wet with spilled beer. She didn't care. The Damned were playing and she liked the noise.
I'm born, yeah I'm born, and I'm born to kill
Rainith particularly liked that chorus. She jumped even higher so that her red spiky hair almost brushed the low ceiling. Then she was pushed backwards by another flailing body and crashed into a group of people standing at one side of the room, somewhat aloof from the rest of the audience. Rainith glanced at the man she'd crashed into. She recognised him from a poster. Robert Plant, from Led Zeppelin. That seemed odd. Why would he be here at this tiny punk gig? The fairy experienced a brief feeling of unreality, as if aware she was dreaming, but brushed it off, and turned back towards the stage. The guitarist had broken a string but kept on going. The drummer had kicked over some of his drums and the set was collapsing in chaos. The fairy laughed, and jumped up and down with excitement.
Rainith woke up, very abruptly. She was lying on a branch in the Elvish Land of Wiltunscir. She shook her head. That had been a vivid dream. She remembered the gig, back in 1977, at the Roxy. It had been one of her favourites. The fairy frowned. Now she thought about it, Robert Plant had actually been there. Other members of Led Zeppelin too. That was curious.
'What were they doing there? No one wanted them there. Stupid hippies.'
Rainith was now within sight of the Forest of Ancient Oak. She checked her supplies. She had her eight second concealment cloak, her sword, her bow and her fairy nectar. She gazed towards the forest. She could sense the presence of Elves and very quickly spotted them hiding in the trees. Rainith knew they were waiting for her. They were scanning the skies, waiting for the fairy to fly into view.
Rainith crawled under an ancient hedge and began to inch forward. Let the Elves scan the skies. She'd crawl into the forest if necessary, and kill Noutan.
Successfully avoiding all missiles, ground fire and hostile drones, Mixt and Nakishdan moved into the underground bunker, some miles outside the city, where they'd be safe from attack.
'Won't they find us?' Fourteen Trees didn't think it was that secure.
'Doesn't matter,' Nakishdan told her. 'No one can attack us here. It's a safe space.'
'That's how the game works. Some places are designated safe from attack. We can rest here and store all our stuff while we figure out what to do.'
'What stuff? We don't have anything.'
'It's all in your inventory. Just bring up your screen and you can transfer it all into the storage units.'
Nakishdan began to show Fourteen Trees and Geeda Lala how to transfer their goods. They were rapidly interrupted by Mixt.
'What do you think you're doing?'
'Not like that. You've put a laser rifle in the trunk. This trunk is for clothes. Guns go over there in the cabinet.'
'Does it matter?' asked Fourteen Trees.
'Not in the slightest ,' muttered Nakishdan, a resigned look on his face.
'Of course it matters.' Mixt immediately became animated. 'You can't just go storing guns and clothes anywhere. It would be chaos. We've got food to store as well, and medical supplies. Do you want them all to be just mixed up together?'
'Wouldn't make any difference,' sighed Nakishdan.
'Of course it would make a difference. What's the matter with you, Nakishdan? What are you teaching Geeda and Fourteen your bad habits already? Look - guns go there, in that cabinet. Clothes in this trunk. Medical supplies in the cabinet in the bathroom, and food in the container in the kitchen. Any miscellaneous items go in the locker by the stairs. That's how we've always done it.'
'Only because you're ridiculously compulsive about it.'
'I am not and even if I was it makes more sense to keep things tidy. Not that I am anyway.'
'Yes you are.'
'Who was it almost started crying when he couldn't find his favourite laser pistol?' demanded Mixt. 'All because you stored it in the wrong place.'
'I did not almost start crying.'
'Yes you did.'
'Nonsense. Anyway, it was stored in the right place till you arbitrarily designated separate drawers for laser weapons and plasma weapons without telling me.'
'I though it was obvious.'
Mixt and Nakishdan glared at each other. All four stored their equipment in silence.
A little later, in the safety of the bathroom, Geeda Lala whispered to her friend Fourteen Trees. 'Can you get us out of here?'
'I'm trying my best.'
From the main room came the sound of raised voices as Mixt and Nakishdan argued about where they were going to store their space armour.
Mixt and Nakishdan were interested in Fourteen Trees' claim that the Kesh did not suffer from psychological problems, as they themselves suffered from so many.
'Do you think it's true?'
Mixt was sceptical. 'Doesn't really seem to fit with what we know about them, does it? Girsin seems completely obsessed with me. That must count as some sort of problem. Geeda Lala ran away from home and now a secret organisation is trying to kill her. Doesn't sound like an ideal society.'
Nakishdan was inclined to agree. 'They certainly have their problems. Maybe she just meant they don't have things like depression and anxiety. Or bipolar disorders. Perhaps they can cure them. I wonder how?'
'Maybe they just stick their heads in some advanced machine and it makes them better.'
'That wouldn't be too bad,' said Nakishdan. 'Probably better than our group therapy.'
Now that the ordeal of storing their belongings was over, a difficult process due to Mixt's compulsive nature and Nakishdan's general untidiness, they had reverted to being friends again.
'We'd better find some way of escaping from this place,' said Mixt.
'I know. Though it's sort of interesting being here. I used to wish this world really existed so we could visit.'
'People are busy researching virtual reality right now, just so they can do this. And here we are, in a VR game before anyone else.'
'It would be better if everyone weren't trying to kill us.'
'I don't understand that bit,' said Nakishdan. 'If Mathematician Girsin is so obsessed with you why would he try to kill you?'
Mixt shrugged. 'I suppose he's so crazed with passion he's decided if he can't have me, nobody can.'
They laughed at the thought. Both had been alive too long to take excesses of passion seriously.
'We should try and send a message to the Department.'
'How? Are we even in the same reality?'
Mixt didn't know. 'If we could send them a message somehow, they could ask the Kesh to help. If Girsin sent us here, they should know a way to get us back. Let's see if Fourteen Trees can contact the department.'
'You remember they had a therapist in Star Metal City?' said Nakishdan. 'In the game it was just a place you could buy medical supplies. Maybe here you can really get therapy.'
'An interesting thought,' said Mixt. 'I wonder if they have an advanced machine you can stick you head in and it cures all your problems.'
'I'd like that. Our group therapy back in London really wasn't up to much.'
Rainith was now well inside the borders of the Forest of Ancient Oak. She'd sneaked past watchful Owls and crawled past Elvish lookouts. When she'd found her way blocked by a ground patrol she'd silently climbed into the trees and worked her way around, silently making her way from branch to branch, dropping like a leaf from one ancient tree to the next, till she left the patrol behind. It had been slow progress. Now she'd evaded the border watch she could travel faster. She flew short distances, still keeping below the level of the treetops, flitting like a bird through the dense forest undergrowth.
She paused to drink from a tiny stream. The only living creature she'd seen in the vicinity was a badger, who'd ignored her. Badgers were neither allies of the Elves nor the fairies, and would mind their own business, unlike the spying owls.
When Rainith saw her reflection in the clear water of the stream she almost laughed. She was ragged and dirty from her long journey. The scar on her face was visible, red though caked with dirt. Rainith hadn't wanted to waste any power, so had not been using the spell she possessed to keep it hidden. She looked utterly savage.
'Appropriate for killing Noutan the Elf,' she thought, and again, she almost laughed. She could barely refrain from giggling as she imagined sliding her sword through him. Noutan was going to die. She'd avoided the Elvish border defences and now all she had to do was reach the centre of the ancient forest. There's she'd find the small Elvish settlement and in it, her hated enemy.
Rainith paused only a moment to drink, before flying back into the trees and pressing on urgently, her strength renewed. Her mood continued to improve as she anticipated Noutan's death. Ever since she'd fallen from the sky, pierced by his blade, she'd been fixated on one thing. Now she was close. Noutan was going to die.
'I killed your brother and I'll kill you.'
The fairy passed through the Elvish forest, silent and unobserved.