Bitter 292

The stairs were still covered in her blood, but Frau Magda looked completely healed. Even her clothing had been cleaned and repaired.

Britta made a mental note to ask Dad where he’d got that scroll. Seemed like a useful item.

“Your mistress? You mean the Mayor’s wife? Someone kidnapped her?”

“Yes, yes, they took her. Ve must save her. Ve must save her before it’s too late.” She grabbed Britta’s lapels and pulled her close, which was only possible because the frau was sitting on the steps, putting their heads at the same level. “They vill do terrible things to her.”

“Who will?” asked Britta. “Who took her?”

“Those Garbolum animals. There vere too many of them. I tried to stop them, but I… I did my best.”

“You don’t have any security?” asked Dad. “No guards?” He looked around as though they might be hiding somewhere. With so much blood you would expect some bodies, but there were none. “Where is everyone?”

Frau Magda shot him a terrifying look that made him take a step back. “There’s no need for guards. Not vhen the Mayor is here.”

“He wasn’t here?” said Britta.

“No, he is avay on business. They knew that. They knew exactly how to get in and vhat they needed to do. Come, ve must go.” She rose to her feet, towering over Britta. “I know vhere they will take her.” She marched down the stairs, fully expecting to be followed.

Britta stayed where she was. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. There’s only three of us, for a start.”

Frau Magda turned around, her face a disapproving grimace. “She is in grave danger.”

“Yes, but if we go after her, we will be, too.” Britta carefully walked down the stairs, stepping in between the blood. “You should go to the town guard. Tell them what happened.”

“Pah!” said Frau Magda. “Those fools. Most of them are dirty with Garbolum money. They vill be of no help.”

“Excuse me,” said Dad, who was standing in the middle of the blood-splattered hall, “but can I ask where all this blood came from? It can’t all be yours?”

“Not mine,” said Frau Magda. “It is theirs. The Garbolums came in large numbers. The only vay they could hope to vin. They carried their vounded avay.”

“You did this to them?” Dad pointed at the blood covering the ceiling like it had been shot out of a hose.

“Me? No. She did it.” There was an unmistakable tone of pride in her voice.

“The Mayor’s wife?” asked Britta. “She’s responsible?” Britta had imagined the Mayor’s wife as a frail waif locked in her bedroom, pining for her freedom. Perhaps not.

“Your mistress,” said Dad, “she isn’t human, is she?”

Frau Magda glared at him. “She is a vonderful person, that’s the only thing that matters.”

Britta exchanged a look with Dad. Clearly there was more to the Mayor’s wife than they had been told.

“Well,” said Dad, “we can’t go up against the whole Garbolum crime syndicate, not without some help. You’re a dwarf, aren’t you? Can’t you ask them for assistance?”

Britta had told Dad about the frau’s unusual heritage. His suggestion wasn’t a bad one. An army of dwarf ninjas would come in handy, for sure.

Frau Magda pulled herself up to her full height, which was taller than Dad (and very atypical for a dwarf). “You. Who are you?”

“This is my D—” Britta had to catch herself. “This is Bruce.”

Frau Magda’s eyes narrowed as she appraised him. “Bruce de Bruce?”

Dad’s chest swelled at being recognised. “You’ve heard of me?”

“The terrorist?” added Frau Magda.

“Hey, now. That’s ignorant propaganda. I don’t terrorise anyone, I just occasionally blow up a castle, or two.”

Britta didn’t know what Dad had been up to, but it sounded like he’d been making a nuisance of himself. There were probably a long list of players who wanted him dead, but it was still surprising an NPC would have heard of him. Was he that famous?

“There is a bounty on your head,” said Frau Magda. “A fortune.”

“Do you want to save your mistress, or turn me in for personal gain?”

Frau Magda didn’t say anything, although the look in her eyes seemed to say, “Why not both?”

“First,” said Britta, “you need to tell us why they took her. I’m not going to charge in blind and hope for the best. You want our help, you need to be honest with us. Tell us everything.”

Finally, Britta had the chance to find out what was really going on. If anyone knew the Mayor’s personal business, it would be Frau Magda.

“They took her to force the Mayor to obey their demands.”

“Which are?” asked Britta.

“To step down as mayor, and hand over the town to Mr Garbolum.” She said the name with obvious distaste.

“But the Mayor’s away on business, you said, so they won’t do anything to her until they can talk to him, right? They have to wait if they want to use his wife against him. He can’t give in to their demands if he doesn’t even know his wife’s been taken hostage.”

“He already knows,” said Frau Magda. “His business is with Mr Garbolum. They vent to the mines to settle things, once and for all. There vas meant to be a truce. They betrayed him!” She clenched her fist and shook it. “And now they vill pay. Come, I vill summon the entire Dwarf Nation, if I must. If it’s a fight they vant, I vill give them a var!”

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