Bitter 245

There were houses built around the guardhouse. They were rundown and mostly just shacks. Living next to the worst criminals in New Town wasn’t most people’s idea of a friendly neighbourhood, but the poor didn’t have much of a choice, although there was still a fair-sized gap between the guardhouse wall and the locals. Plenty of room to run in.

The guards chased Britta as she ran down the wide street that the otherwise tightly packed houses had refused to encroach. She wondered if the devs had spent time making sure the town layout was socially accurate. Or if it was just copied from a bunch of movies they’d seen.

Britta didn’t want to lead them to whatever Stan had in store around the back of the fort. If he had found a way out—perhaps a tunnel into the sewers—he wouldn’t appreciate her bringing the constabulary to his leaving party.

She veered away from the guardhouse and took a sharp right into a thin alley between two houses that were leaning against each other in an effort not to fall down. People hadn’t just crammed the empty spaces with as much housing as possible, they’d also stacked them on top of each other in a ramshackle imitation of highrise blocks. The space at the bottom of two leaning walls was enough for her to duck into, her size coming to the rescue.

The guards were shouting at her to come back. They had to get down on their hands and knees to get through. She had hoped they’d give up. It wasn’t like she was some master criminal who had to be stopped before she claimed her next victim. All she’d done was changed her top in public.

They were far more tenacious than their big bellies and lackadaisical attitude when hanging around the guardhouse had suggested. Just as they squeezed through the gap and stood up on the other side, Britta ran past them, forced to reverse direction when she hit the dead end on the left.

The surprise was the only thing that saved her from being nabbed. Now she had to hope there wasn’t a dead end on the right.

There was another gap between two houses. She slipped through it without having to slow down. The guards moaned loudly and got down on their hands and knees again.

Britta waited until she was sure they had gone before emerging from the cubby hole she’d found. The mirror copy of herself she’d created would lead them towards the other side of town before disappearing. The upgraded version of the spell was proving very useful. She could give her double instructions, and leave it to carry them out rather than just imitate her moves.

Britta stuck out her head and checked to make sure the coast was clear. No one was about.

As she snuck along, tiptoeing like any noise might alert the authorities, she noticed people watching her from their windows. They didn’t look like the type who were going to report her, but she started running anyway. Why tempt them with the reward on her head? Ten coppers might be a fortune to them.

She got to the end of the fort wall and turned the corner. There was no one there. She had hoped Stan would be waiting, and they’d be able to get away quickly. Now she’d have to wait for him. She opened up her status screen to send him a message.

“Hey!” came a shout.

Britta looked around, ready to start running.

“Hey! Up here.”

In front of her was a wall. She looked up, but there was nothing to see. She backed away to get a better angle, and saw Stan. He wasn’t on the wall, he was on the guardhouse roof, waving. The sun was behind him, turning him into a silhouette, but it was definitely him.

He was quite far from her. The fort was a big square building with a wall built around it. There was a substantial area between the main building and the wall. There was no way he was going to be able to jump that kind of distance. Not unless he’d gained some super new skill while he’d been locked up.

“I’ve got your petals!” he shouted, loud enough for every guard to hear him, including those who were out on patrol.

“Okay. How are you going to give them to me?” Britta shouted back.

“Here, catch!”

Something came hurtling through the air. It was difficult to tell what it was with the sun in her eyes. Some sort of magic transporter?

It was a rock. She figured that out when it hit her on the head, sending her sprawling to the ground. A small red number 2 floated into the air. She had tried to catch the rock, but apparently she hadn’t made the roll. It had shot between her outstretched hands and bounced off the top of her skull.

“Sorry! Did you get it?”

Britta got to her feet. “Yes. You could have killed me.” He couldn’t have, not now she had so much more health than before, but he still should have been more careful, assuming it wasn’t intentional. Which she couldn’t totally discount.

“You were lucky it wasn’t a critical hit,” he shouted with an unreasonable amount of glee.

She picked up the rock. The petals were tied to it with string. It was an effective, if not very magical, method of getting them to her. The petals were large and brown, and had some of her blood on them. She hoped that wouldn’t affect the potion.

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