“And what do you think you’re doing?” Stan asked Father Paddy.
Father Paddy had been hanging back, his hands together, his eyes closed in prayer. If he was casting spells they didn’t seem to be having much effect. Two of his teammates were lying helpless on the ground, one was dead and another had been flattened and was stuck to the bottom of Stan’s shoe.
“Are you trying to use Cure Poison?” said Stan. “Because I haven’t poisoned anyone.”
Father Paddy eyes opened, a look of confusion filling his face. “But you said…”
“No, he said that.” Stan pointed at Lord Jim. “These are Arrows of Paralysis. Magic arrows, not dipped in any homemade concoctions. Can’t cure their effect, you can only save against them. If you’re high enough level. Which none of you are.” He pulled another arrow out of the quiver on his back.
Now that she looked, Britta could see the arrow glowed slightly.
“Each arrow costs a small fortune. I’ve got five hundred.” He walked up to Father Paddy who squeezed his eyes shut and rapidly mouthed something. “Buffing yourself won’t help.”
Stan didn’t bother using his bow, he just stabbed Father Paddy with the arrow in his fist like it was a dagger. Right in his face.
Father Paddy howled and then disappeared.
“I don’t like priests,” said Stan. “Dodgy people.”
He walked back to Tal and picked up her hands. They were small and didn’t look real with the stumps the same colour as the rest, like they were from a doll. “You can have these reattached, you know? If you can find them, that is.” He drop kicked the hands one after the other.
They popped off his foot and soared high into the air, and then fell into the ravine behind them, disappearing into the trees.
“You’re sick,” shouted Lord Jim. “You psycho.”
“Don’t be so melodramatic,” said Stan. “These are just alts you made to run the mines. I’m not destroying your mains, am I? You can start new characters and be back to where you are now in a couple of days.”
Both Lord Jim and Tal kept quiet, indicating to Britta that what Stan said was true. He wasn’t completely insane, he was going overboard with these characters because he knew they weren’t important. Although that didn’t mean he wouldn’t be just as ruthless if they had been their main characters.
“But if you have some sentimental attachment to these lowbies, don’t worry. I won’t stop you fixing them up. Here, let me help.” He picked up Tal so she was upright again. She was less than half his size, so he was able to hold her up quite easily. Then he began running with her.
Tal’s arms were fixed in position, straight out on either side like a kid pretending to have wings. She could move her legs, but Stan running while holding her by the collar and belt forced her to run too. They reached the edge of the ravine and Stan released her like a toy aeroplane.
She flew into the air. And then dropped, screaming.
Stan cupped his hands around his mouth. “I think I saw your hands fall to the left.”
Britta leaned over to watch as Tal plummeted into the trees.
“No, more to the left,” shouted Stan. He shook his head. “Some people never listen.”
“You’ve had your fun,” said Lord Jim, his hands under him, pushing up the top part of his body like a yoga position. “Just kill me and get it over with.”
“I can’t do that, Jim. You have to give back what you took. Oh wait, I should have mentioned that first, shouldn’t I? Think of all the trouble we could have avoided if I’d told you what I wanted before killing your friends. I’m not very good at this threatening to get what you want business. Silly me.”
Lord Jim glared at Stan and then at Britta. “You think I’m going to return it now? There’s nothing else you can do to me. And like you said, this is just an alt. Take the cloak if you want, you won’t be able to use it unless I hand it over.”
Britta stood up. Even if she couldn’t use the cloak, at least she’d have it back.
Stan raised a hand to stop her. “Hold on. I said I’d get your cloak back—I meant in working order. Jim, do you really think I can’t do anything else to you? Do you really want to go to war over a cloak you stole?”
“I didn’t steal it,” said Jim through gritted teeth. “She gave it to me.”
“Oh, Jim,” said Stan sadly. “Are you going to play the victim? Because I can make you a real one. Do you know what these are?”
Stan held out a pair of black iron handcuffs. Lord Jim’s eyes widened.
“Penitentiary Shackles,” said Stan. “I put these on you, you always respawn in the city jail. It’s tied directly to your account. Doesn’t matter which character you use, you wake up in prison.” He shook the shackles in Lord Jim’s face. They rattled and clanked. “It was an idea they tried in Alpha. Thought it would be cute to lock up troublemakers, but it was just too boring. Who wants to travel to a fantasy world just to be locked always in a cell 24/7? No one, right?”
Lord Jim’s mouth tightened into a hard line. “Here.” He ripped the cloak from his neck, awkwardly rolling about in the dirt to get it off. He threw it at Britta.
Britta hurried over and picked it out of the dirt.
“Happy?” said Lord Jim, dripping vitriol.
“Not yet,” said Stan.
He raised the sword and brought it down into the back of Lord Jim’s neck. He vanished.
Stan turned to Britta. “One cloak, as promised. Did I pass the audition?”