Lawrence was silent for a long moment as he stared into Luda’s wide, wild eyes. He knew Luda had a history of anger, but also knew that they had, more or less, overcome it and were no longer a serious threat. However, it seemed that bringing up events from before they became a video game NPC was a sore subject, a trigger. He had expected a number of outcomes and had a number of planned responses, but he never considered that Luda, his creation, might attack him, their creator.
He couldn’t exactly just say ‘Hey Luda, I created you’ either.
Lawrence had created Luda; Luda had been a character in Lawrence’s weekly roleplaying campaigns before he got the job as a programmer for the EmVee. He knew that Luda was uniquely qualified to not only be a test subject for the SAAI integration but also to fight whatever this virus was because he had written them a very extensive background wrought with years of physical and mental training. On top of that, Lawrence hadn’t given Luda the basic level one stats or the generic skill set given to the standard NPC. Luda had been recreated exactly as they were in the campaign; a talented hand to hand combatant with a troubled history. Luda was special in many ways, not only in their creation inside the game, but also for having a place in Lawrence’s heart.
“Calm down, Luda,” Lawrence said, using the least threatening tone he could muster. “I know this because-” he wracked his brain for a quick, convenient excuse. “We’ve been watching you. For a very long time, the organization has had its eye on you.”
Initially, Luda did not release the tension on Lawrence’s robes or lower the piece of metal pressed to his neck. Their brows wrinkled curiously. With a small nod, Luda prodded Lawrence to continue.
“I am not here on Malisk’s orders,” Lawrence said. Like Luda, Malisk was a creation of Lawrence’s. She was the head of House of Hesson in Eroux. Malisk was the person who murdered Luda’s father, and the reason Luda couldn’t return to Eroux; not to mention the cause of the incident that left Luda without the ability to speak.
“I am not connected with Hesson. I am with, uh-” Lawrence paused for a brief second as he considered his answer. He decided to go with one of his more obscure ideas, considering the situation. “I am with the Golden Paw.”
Luda’s grip loosened immediately at the mention of the Golden Paw but didn’t quite release the wizard. The spoon moved away from Lawrence and clattered upon the table as Luda freed their hand. They tapped their chin once with their finger, then moved their hand away from their face, again extending only the thumb and pinky.
Lawrence nodded, happy that his lie seemed to have had a positive effect.
“I am,” Lawrence said.
‘The real Golden Paw?’
Lawrence nodded. Luda slowly released his robes, allowing him to slip back into his seat as Luda did the same.
‘The secret society of magic-folk that protects the realm from supernatural threats and the monsters of the nether-realms?’
Lawrence grinned as he nodded and watched the blood drain from Luda’s face. The Golden Paw was a running joke between Lawrence and his friends back when they used to play Dungeons and Dragons. They were a fantasy version of a certain super-hero team that took in special children at a mansion in the mountains to train them to defend the planet. He had programmed them into the story of Dark Haven in the hopes that he would eventually get to add in a few quests in a future update. At that point, he hadn’t had the opportunity to write his sidequests into the game, but all the background and myths were still there waiting to be used and floating in the back of the NPC minds.
‘I am so sorry, I didn’t know’ Luda signed quickly.
“It’s alright,” Lawrence said, raising his hand and offering a gentle smile. “You didn’t know and you have your reasons to be upset.”
Several seconds passed in silence.
“Were you really going to try and kill me with a spoon?” Lawrence asked, amused.
Luda shook their head, no.