Bitter 244

“In the guardhouse?”

“Yes,” said the shade.

“The one on the edge of town?”


“You’re sure?”

“Do you need directions?”

She didn’t remember the shade being sarcastic before. “No. I was just making sure. Where abouts is the garden?”

“In the central yard. The prisoners grow things there. It helps their rehabilitation.”

“Does it really help?”

“No,” said the shade. “They mostly kill everything they plant.”

“But they have some liver flowers?”

“Not on purpose. Liver flowers grow best on rotting vegetation.”

It didn’t sound like a particularly lovely garden. Britta had the romantic notion that if felons were allowed the opportunity, they would show their sensitive side. Some beautiful blooms, or maybe a tasty crop of vegetables. It seemed not all convicts were tortured artists.

“Do you think you could get inside and grab some petals for me?” asked Britta.

“No,” said the shade.

“Why not?”

“I don’t feel like going out in public.”

There wasn’t much to say to that. Britta knew that feeling only too well. She didn’t want to force the shade to do something it didn’t want to.

Her head was turned but she still couldn’t get a proper look at the shade. Just from the way it was huddled, up she could tell it was pretty miserable.

“Can you think of—”

Britta was so involved in the conversation with the shade that she didn’t notice Diana creep closer.

“Is everything okay?” asked Diana, peering to get a look over Britta.

The shade yelped and disappeared.

Diana jumped back, startled. “Where’d he go?”

“Um, he had an appointment. I found out where there are some liver flowers.” Britta was doing her best to veer the conversation away from the shade.

“That’s good,” said Diana, not really sure she’d seen what she thought she’d seen and still staring at the now empty corner. “Where?”

“The guardhouse.”

“The fort? How are we going to get in there?”

It was a good question. Britta was a wanted woman. She could turn herself in, grab the flower when she got the chance, and teleport out. But how long would that take? The garden might not be open to everyone. What she needed was to ask someone who had spent time behind bars. Or someone who was currently serving time.

“I know someone who’s in the guardhouse.”

“A player? What’s he in for.”

Britta wasn’t sure how to explain. Was it normal for players to be arrested for murder? “It’s part of a quest.” That was sort of true. “I can ask him if has access to the garden. If he can grab a few petals, he might be able to pass them to me during visiting hours.”

“You visit him, do you?” There was a slight hint in Diana’s voice that she considered this indicative of something. Britta didn’t like the implication.

“He’s a friend.”

“Is he? Right, right.”

Britta decided not to say anything else and make it worse. “I’ll go see him and find out.”

“I could come with you,” said Diana, sounding keen.

“That’s okay. Maybe you could go pick some dung weed. It grows nearby, doesn’t it?”

“Yes,” said Diana, disappointed. “I suppose that would save some time.”

They agreed on the plan, and to meet at Sonny’s later. Before they left the Auction House, Britta bought herself a pot-pot for ten coppers. She could have got one for eight, but she felt like there was probably something defective with one that cheap. There was no real reason to think that, but it was a hard feeling to shake.

As soon as she hit the buy out button, her hand glowed to tell her there was a package at the post office for her.

They walked out together, both headed in the same direction. Diana used roundabout ways to find out about Britta’s friend in lockup, and Britta used roundabout ways to not tell her. She had no doubt Diana knew who Stan was, and once she found it was him there would be even more questions.

They split up as they neared the guardhouse, with Diana hesitating like she was hoping for a last minute invite. Some players you had to watch out for because of the way they eyed your loot, but not Diana. She was all-ears for any gossip.

Reluctantly, she went off to grab the dung weed from the side of the road leading out of town. Britta headed for the towering walls of the guardhouse.

She stopped at the corner, realising if she asked Stan about the flower when she saw him, she’d have to wait until the next visit to get them off him, assuming he could grab some. It would have been a lot easier if she could contact him through group chat, but since he went in the jail, he’d been kicked out of their group.

There was another option. She sent him a PM. Were they allowed letters in prison? Traditionally, it was an acceptable form of communication. She was his wife after all. She prayed Diana never found out about that.

She got a message back almost instantly.

Sure, I can get you some liver fower petals. I’m standing next to them right now. They’re disgusting. Meet me round the back of the guardhouse.

Round the back? Had he found a way to get out? Or was he going to chuck them over the wall? He’d need a hell of a throw.

She set off to find out.

There were two guards loafing about outside the front entrance. They began talking to each other as Britta passed by. She didn’t like the way they were looking at her.

She sped up, hoping she could get round the corner before they realised where they’d seen her from. She had forgotten she was a wanted woman. She had even considered allowing herself to be arrested, but when she decided to visit Stan instead, the fact she was a fugitive had somehow slipped her mind.

“You! Stop!”

She kept walking. Were they really that short of work that a minor offence was worth their time? Maybe they’d just want her to pay a fine.

She looked back and saw the guards running towards her with swords drawn. It’s what she had wanted, problems that required quick thinking, and here one was. She ran.

She could teleport away, but that would be her one use of the spell gone for the day. No, she had to come up with another way to escape.

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