Bitter 216

“I don’t want to fight you,” said Britta, and she very much meant it.

The version of Freddy standing in front of her just stared with its red eyes. The body seemed stiff, the skin was grey and lifeless. It very much had the same design aesthetic as the dwarf, except it wasn’t trying to kill her. Yet.

Did the similar look mean it was also possessed by a banshee? If so, who resurrected Freddy, and why was he here? If he blamed her for his death, she was in trouble.

There was an exit behind him. According to her map, it was the last one. The way out. Maybe the test was to convince him to let her leave.

Freddy opened his mouth and a howl emerged. It was loud and somewhat pitiful.

“Freddy?” she said. “Can you hear me?”

Was it really him? It didn’t feel like it. Gnomes were good at illusions. It was more likely a fake made to upset her. She was supposed to be facing her fears, but what fear was this? How to fight a dead friend?

Clearly this wasn’t the work of the devs. This was the game messing with her. Only, what exactly was the point? It wasn’t like she feared Freddy’s revenge. She had nothing to be guilty about. She had nothing to do with his death. Not directly.

“Hey,” she shouted, suddenly realising she had a key witness to Freddy’s murder. “Who killed you? Was it the mayor?”

Freddy opened his mouth again and wailed long and plaintively. It was hard to tell if that was a yes or a no.

“It wasn’t Stan, was it?”

Another long, echoing moan followed. This wasn’t at all helpful. Her star witness was pleading the fifth, it seemed.

“Listen, whoever killed you, I’m going to get them. I’m going to prove what they did and then I’m going to make them pay.”

She hoped her words were what Freddy’s ghost wanted to hear. If he believed she would avenge him, he was less likely to rip her to pieces. At least, that was the plan she was going with.

Dying wasn’t that big a deal, but if she didn’t complete this quest, she wouldn’t get her upgrades. Not the most noble of sentiments, but then this was a game, not a morality test. Or maybe it was. It was hard to tell, sometimes.

Freddy howled again. This time it was quieter and sadder, like some kind of animal in pain. She wasn’t sure what he wanted from her. Whatever it was, so far he hadn’t attacked. Unlike the dwarf, there was no relentless need to kill. Which was good.

The Great Gnome said she would have to face her fears, and the dwarf was certainly one of those fears. She strongly suspected she couldn’t beat it. Nothing seemed to work against a dead, possessed, angry dwarf. But Freddy wasn’t the same as the dwarf.

He wasn’t being aggressive. Quite the contrary, in fact. It was more like he wanted something from her. Catch his killer? She doubted it was justice he was after, more likely swift retribution. If he wanted her to play the role of executioner, she wasn’t sure that was something she could do.

“Listen to me, Freddy.” She approached him, slowly, her hand reaching out the way you might approach a jumpy dog. “I will do my best to catch your—” She pushed him as hard as she could and ran for the exit behind him.

The back of her shirt was yanked back, but she kept going. There was a loud ripping sound, but she made it to the opening and dived through.

She landed on the ground in a heap, cold air tickling her back through the rip. Otherwise, she seemed to be in one piece. She looked up. The Great Gnome was standing there.

“You made it out.” He sounded surprised. Which was irritating. “Congratulations.”

“Thanks. Was that really Freddy?”

The Great Gnome shrugged. It felt like this was where she had come in.

Even though she’d managed to negotiate her way through the chambers to reach the other side, there was no sense of having won. She had no idea if she’d done it correctly, she only knew she wasn’t in there anymore. Relief, that was what she felt.

She got to her feet. The Great Gnome smiled benignly and said nothing. It was going to be one of those ‘What do you think it means?’ conversations. She decided to skip it.

“Do I get my reward now?”

“Yes,” said the Great Gnome. “Time to level up.”

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