Bitter 268

Even though it was quite dark, there was enough light from the glorious spectacle in the sky to illuminate them in the backyard.

The fencing was broken in many places and had numerous gaps, so they were clearly visible from the street. They needed to hide or run away, but nobody moved, as though they might pass for statues someone had made for their garden.

Britta may have been a gnome, but there was no way she’d be mistaken for one of her garden-variety cousins.

“We have to hide,” she whispered.

“I know,” said Dad. “Where?”

There were lots of shacks to choose from, but they were likely to have sleeping people occupying them. People who would start screaming if strangers suddenly barged their way in.

“Follow us,” said one of the dwarves.

The three dwarves had been as reluctant to move or make a sound as Britta and Dad. They didn’t want to get apprehended by the law, either. Despite their issues, the two groups had a common goal in this particular matter.

The lead dwarf, the one who did most of the talking and gave the orders (usually through a series of complicated hand signals), went running towards the far end of the garden they were in.

The other two followed, bodies bent low, arms flung back like retracted wings.

“Naruto run,” said Dad, his voice full of awe and wonder. He folded his body forward and copied them.

Not entirely sure they weren’t being led into a trap, but not wanting to get caught by the town guard, Britta followed. She ran like a normal person (well, a normal gnome) and quickly caught up to Dad, who looked very disappointed his Naruto running hadn’t given him the super-speed of the dwarven ninja.

The dwarves were very light on their feet and hardly made any noise. They jumped into the next yard and dived into what looked like a small shed. It turned out to be an outhouse with a rudimentary toilet, and a very distinct odour.

“Is this the only place you could think of?” complained Britta. They had all piled in and closed the door before Britta had realised where they were.

The dwarves had taken a side each, pressing their backs against the walls to leave space in the middle. Dad sat down on the box that served as the toilet seat, and Britta stood on his lap.

There was a gap at the top of the door she could just about see out of to keep track of any approaching guards, and also use to inhale clean air.

She could hear the guard’s footsteps and caught a glint of armour from the road. They were far back enough to not warrant much attention. No one else stirred. The locals were probably used to the comings and goings of the patrol, even though it was the first time it had ever happened.

The marching stopped.

“What are they waiting for?” whispered Britta.

“They might have a scout with them,” said one of the dwarves.

Britta looked down at Dad.

“A tracker,” said Dad. “Someone who can follow a trail or spot signs of people passing through, or fighting.”

“Oh,” said Britta. “They know we’re in the area. What do we do?”

“They won’t see us here,” said the dwarf. “We’re safe as long as no one gets up for a late night poo.”

She very much hoped they didn’t, and not just because of the patrol.

“They’re pretty amazing, aren’t they?” said Dad.

“Who?” said Britta.

“You know, the Naruto fan club. The way they talk, it’s so natural. I’ve never heard anything like it.”

“Not now, Bruce. We can discuss it later.” She didn’t want to get into the minutia of NPC dialogue trees with Dad right now, and he would want to get into the deep, deep minutia.

“There’s no need for us to fight, you know,” said the dwarf. “We only wanted to talk to you, Mistress B.”

“And I said I’d come in when I had time. But I’m kind of busy at the moment. Mostly with trying to help the possessed dwarf in the Korlath Mines.” She hoped to make it sound like it was in their own best interest to leave her alone.

“It would only take a moment,” said the dwarf.

“We’d provide refreshments,” said the dwarf against the back wall.

“Thank you,” said Britta, “but I just can’t spare—”

“Oh, go on,” said Dad. “They seem like they only want to talk. Where’s the harm?”

It was dark in the outhouse, and very cramped. It made it very hard to glare at Dad with the full force of her annoyance. She did her best. “What happened to knowing your place in the group?”

“We haven’t actually grouped up, yet,” said Dad.

“You’re going to use a technicality?” She knew this would happen. He couldn’t help himself. “I’ll decide when to go talk to the Dwarf Council.”

“They have a council?” Now that he’d had a taste, he only wanted to explore more of the game’s unusual elements.

“Dad, I mean, Bruce, we’re here to do a job. Not make house calls. The skill book, remember?” She peered out of the gap to see what the guards were up to. They still hadn’t moved away.

“That’s no problem,” said Dad. “It’ll only take five minutes. We can probably do it in here while we wait. There’s even a handy place to dispose of the book. Let’s get started.”

Britta had to hang onto the top of the door as Dad suddenly began moving around. He pulled the skill book out of his inventory.

“Here we go. I’ll just use this, then you can destroy it, and then we’ll flush it down the loo. Easy.”

He opened the book and light poured out of it, filling the outhouse with a bright golden glow.

“Oh,” said Dad, “I forgot it did that.”

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