Bitter 235

Stan sat there with his mouth slightly open. He snapped it shut. One second she’d been there, next poof! He knew she’d done it just to get a reaction. Bloody show-off.

He smiled to himself. He’d seen more impressive spells, but he couldn’t fault her timing. She’d caught him off guard, so props.

He looked around. The NPCs were still running their family time routines. He caught the eye of one of the guards standing on the perimeter. He gave him a nod as he rose from the bench, chains jangling.

The guard came over and escorted Stan to the yard gate at a slow shuffle. It was difficult to move with his ankles clipped together. It seemed unnecessary to go to such lengths, other than for appearances. If anything, it made him feel like a bigger threat than he was. On the other hand, he was here for murder.

Once he was through the door, the guard unlocked the chains, hands then feet. Stan stepped out of them, rubbing his wrists.

“Thanks,” he said.

The guard nodded and then pointed down the hall. “One for general!” he called out. The sound of a key turning in a metal lock echoed down the passage towards them.

Stan walked towards the sound, yawning and blinking his eyes. He’d had a late night and wouldn’t mind a few hours sleep. He didn’t have the time.

There was another guard up ahead holding a gate open. Once Stan was through, he banged it closed and locked it again.

There were cells on either side, metal bars running uninterrupted to the far end. His cell was on the third floor. The guard walked past him and led the way.

“Hey,” said a reedy voice. “Hey, Stan.”

Stan paused and turned his head. There was a small, wiry man holding onto the bars with his large nose sticking through.

“I got my eye on you, Stan. Watch yourself.”

The little man’s name was Creppo. He was the type of annoying character who talked a lot, especially if there was a fight about to break out. Lots of fronting, name-calling and threats thrown around. Once things kicked off, though, he would quickly disappear.

He wasn’t hard to deal with, confronting him usually sent him scurrying away, but he would go right back to bothering you the next day.

That was the problem with being stuck in here with NPCs. However you interacted with them, they would eventually switch back to the start of their routine and do it all again, day after day.

Creppo had dozens of lines of dialogue, and Stan had heard them all. Numerous times. He kept walking with Creppo shouting after him. “I got your number. I got your number in my little book.”

Stan mouthed the words along with him.

The guard escorted him to his cell and locked him in. He climbed onto the top bunk and lay down. A few minutes rest would probably be all he would get.

“How was your wife?” asked his cellmate.

“Lovely,” said Stan. “She brought me grapes.”

“That’s nice. She must love you very much.” The bunk shook as Merl got up and felt his way across the room to the bucket in the corner. He proceeded to mime taking a piss. There was no urine, and no penis, but there was the sound of liquid hitting metal. Fortunately the authenticity stopped short of adding the smell.

Merl turned to find his way back. He was an elf, with long blond hair and pointy ears. The full elven package. He was also blind, with a milky glaze over his eyes.

“How much do you think I’ll get for them?” asked Stan.

“At least two bottles of ink. If you don’t eat them.”

You could trade goods and services for anything, including special items only available in prison. Like ink.

“Two? That’s great. Can you make the deal for me?”

“Sure.” Merl stuck out a hand and Stan placed the grapes on the open palm. He sniffed them. “If I don’t eat them.”

His cellmate was the closest thing to a real person he’d encountered in here. He had even thought some of Britta’s ability had rubbed off on him when he was first locked up. Over time, he realised Merl just had a lot of dialogue, and a really great voice actor who’d recorded them.

The cell door rattled open. A big guard stood there. “Let’s go. Showtime.” It was always the same line.

Stan rolled off the bunk. Not even time for a short nap.

“Good luck,” said Merl. “Don’t let him hit you in the balls.”

He’d never said that before. It wasn’t particularly useful advice. He didn’t have any balls.

Stan followed the guard up the staircase to the roof, toward the noise. As they approached the exit, the noise got louder and louder. As he walked out, it erupted into wild shouts and cheers.

There was a large metal cage on the roof of the guard house that wasn’t visible from below. It was surrounded by just about every inmate and quite a few dignitaries. He recognised the Mayor sitting next to the prison warden.

Guards pushed the crowd aside as Stan made his way to the only opening through the metal bars. Once he was inside, it was closed behind him.

It was actually a lot more spacious once inside the cage. No pushing and shoving. Just him, and his opponent—a large beast of a man nearly twice Stan’s height. Some sort of mix. Half-troll?

Stan took off his shirt and hung it off a piece of barbed wire wrapped around one of the bars. His body was half-covered in tattoos. He got the right to a new one for every win. Only his right arm was complete, so far.

“Gentlemen, you know the rules,” shouted the warden. He was in charge of the guard house prison. And also of the fighting. “Dead man loses.”

The half-troll roared and the crowd joined in like a chorus. Stan made a fist and the tatts on his arm began glowing. He wondered how much cooler his tattoos would look if the artist could see what he was doing.

Subscribe to this content and receive updates directly in your inbox.