Bitter 196

“Freddy’s dead? What do you mean dead?” Britta knew what dead meant, but she still felt like she needed clarification. “Dead how?”

“He fell out of a window,” said Stan. “Well, more like he was pushed very hard.”

“Pushed by who?”

There was a pause which gave Britta time to look over at the dwarves sat watching her. They seemed to be quite interested in the conversation, even if they could only hear her side of it. Interested enough not to demand she end the call.

“I can’t really talk right now. People. They’ve arrested me and I’m on the way to jail.”

“Why are you going to jail? Did you kill him?”

“No! Of course not. I’m being framed, obviously.”

Britta didn’t think any of it was very obvious. She’d sent them off to gather some information, that was all. How did that end up with one dead and the other arrested for murder?

“Is he really dead? Didn’t he…” She glanced over at the dwarves. “Didn’t he wake up?” She didn’t really want to bring up the subject of respawning in front of the dwarves. It felt like an unnecessary complication.

“No, he didn’t wake up.” He used the same inflection, but from his mouth it sounded sarcastic. “He stayed splattered all over the ground. If you go over to the Town Hall you can probably still see them trying to scrape him up.”

That wasn’t a very appealing image. She took a breath. “Okay. Fine. I’ll come over as soon as I’ve finished here. Where are they taking you?”

“The Guard House. It’s a the north end of the main street. And B, there’s something else. I can’t log out.”

“Are you in combat?”

“No. I can’t log out and I can’t exit the game.”

Britta knew the game wouldn’t let you leave a fight unless you won, or died. But you could do a forced exit, which would impose the same penalties as death. Not in this case, apparently.

“Alright. Maybe this is some kind of special quest. Give me ten minutes and I’ll come find you.”

There was no point discussing this long-distance. Stan couldn’t get anything other than standard answers from his accusers. She would have to go see for herself and try to find out what had happened.

She ended the call and turned to face the dwarven inquisition. “Could we rearrange this for another time? Something’s come up.”

Roman frowned. It was a slow, thoughtful frown, but it didn’t seem like he was concerned about her problems.

“Whatever you’ve got yourself mixed up in, you’ll answer our questions first.”

The other dwarves nodded on either side of him.

“I’d love to. And there’s a bunch of stuff I’d like to ask you, too. Honestly, I’m not trying to run off. I want to talk to you guys. I just need to take care of this first. It won’t take long.” She didn’t know how long it would take, but she was sincere in what she said about wanting to talk to him. Now just wasn’t the best time.

“I haven’t decided we’ll be letting you go, at all. It all depends on what you have to say for yourself.”

There was something in his voice that made Britta sure he wasn’t going to be reasonable about this. Her experience with dwarves had been quite limited so far, and she knew it wasn’t right to generalise, but they seemed to have a stubborn streak and a tendency to treat everyone like the enemy. Admittedly, her experience was limited to a dwarf who had faked his own death, and one who had been possessed by an evil spirit, so probably not the most representative of their race.

She could just stay here and work things out, eventually, and then go see what kind of mess Stan had got himself into, but there was this strange feeling in her chest telling her it couldn’t wait. Something about the situation felt off to her.

“I appreciate the position you’re in,” said Britta. “I’d want to know what I was up to, as well. But I can’t. I just can’t.”

Britta opened her status screen and logged out.

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