Bitter 112

Britta caught the book like it was a live animal. The pages flapped about manically and she jerked her head back to avoid being slapped in the face.

She managed to hold onto it, but only just. The cover was oily and felt like very soft leather. Disturbingly skin-like. She didn’t have time to think about what it was made of, she told herself.

The pages were yellowing with scratchy black writing covering each page. It was no language she had ever seen before. She didn’t even recognise the alphabet.

“Identify.”

[Necromancer’s Book of Raising the Dead - Level 5 and above]

She wasn’t a necromancer and she wasn’t level 5, so chances were the book wouldn’t be of any use even if she could read it. However, she could probably sell it. She had no idea how rare books like this were, or how many necromancers were out there, but it had to be worth something.

“It says it can raise the dead,” said Britta

“Yes,” said the priest, sounding surprised. “That’s right.”

“But you aren’t a necromancer.”

“You think I don’t know that? I couldn’t have cast a spell like that on my own. I prayed to the Great Kobold in the Sky. First time he graces me with an answer and I get a crazy dwarf running around and my altar broken.”

“My god’s called the Great Gnome in the Sky,” said Britta, eager to get the kobold on her side. “Are they related?”

“That fraud?” The kobold looked disgusted. “You should try praying to someone who actually exists.”

“He does exist. I’ve met him.” Britta had no idea why she was defending her so-called deity. He hadn’t exactly been worth worshipping.

“You are clearly delusional, but feel free to ask him for help.” The priest smiled sarcastically.

“Maybe later. Where did you get a dead dwarf?”

“This is a mine,” said the priest defensively. “We dig things up. Sometimes a body.”

“You dug up a grave?”

The priest threw up his clawed kobold hands. “Not intentionally. The deeper we go, the more we find. And it’s not like the dwarves told us where they buried their dead. In fact, there wasn’t much of anything left when they sold us the mine so we had to keep digging deeper and deeper.”

“How many levels down does the mine go?”

“Five. So far.”

Britta was shocked. She had assumed two would be more than enough for a beginner dungeon. How long would five levels take to explore?

“The bottom three aren’t accessible at the moment. Dwarf-related cave in.”

That was some consolation. Perhaps the lower levels were related to the epic version of the dungeon.

“Okay. So we need to unsummon the banshee controlling the dwarf.” Britta looked at the priest, hoping he’d take it from here.

“You know about the banshee?” Now he sounded impressed. She had done an excellent job of convincing him she knew what she was talking about. If only it were true.

“I know you put one in the dwarf. Which should mean you know how to get it out and send it back to where it came from.”

“Look at the back of the book,” said the priest.

Britta flipped through towards the end. Pages had been ripped out, leaving only jagged stubs.

“Where are the missing pages?” asked Britta.

“The dwarf took them,” said the priest.

That was a problem. But not an insurmountable one. “If we got the pages back, could you do it then?”

“If the Great Kobold in the Sky is willing.”

This was clearly the mission. Get the pages, send back the banshee, win.

“Will you hunt down the dwarf?” asked Sidney.

“Not exactly.” She opened her map. Stan was not very far away and on the move. “Open group chat. Stan? Hello?”

“Hey!” He sounded out of breath. “Where are you?”

“Can’t you see me on your map?” She had assumed he hadn’t come towards her position to keep the dwarf off her, but perhaps his reasons hadn’t been so gallant.

“No. Your tracker isn’t on.”

Of course. That had been in the tutorial. She went into her status screen and toggled it on. “How about now?”

“Oh. Right. Headed your way.” There was a howl.

One dwarf, express delivery.

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