Bitter 285

Frau Magda removed her bonnet and black silk gloves, and placed them on the table. Her hair was pulled back into the same harsh bun as before. Britta had half-expected a more relaxed frau during her lunch break, but Casual Magda probably didn’t exist.

“I thank you for agreeing to meet me,” she said, her voice as harsh as her hairline. “Ve have much to discuss.”

Britta had no idea what she wanted to talk about. It had to be something to do with the Mayor, or at least she hoped so. If the frau just wanted to be friends, it would be very awkward to politely decline. Frau Magda didn’t look like the sort of person who took no for an answer.

Britta waited patiently. Frau Magda had indicated to the barman and he was in the process of bringing over her drink. In a tankard even bigger than the one he’d given Britta.

He came over and placed it on the table.

“Thank you, Darlink.” She picked it up and downed it in one. Just watching her made Britta’s nose tingle. “Ahh. Excellent.” Then she burped loudly.

The barman nodded his appreciation at the compliment, picked the tankard up and walked away.

“You and the barman, are you… Is he your husband?”

“Vhat? Vhy vould you think that?”

“You called him darling.”

“No, no. Not darlink. Darlink. His name is Darlink.”

Britta could sense she was about to get caught up in a comedy routine, placed in the game by some nerdy programmer who considered himself hilarious. She was starting to think there was someone on the team who was a frustrated comedian, intent on sharing his frustration with the world.

Best to get things moving along, she decided. “Sorry, my mistake. So, what did you want to see me about?”

The lighting over the booth seemed to dim. Possibly just her imagination, but still a bit unnerving.

“Vhat I am about to tell you must not leave this place. You must promise me to tell no one.” Her voice had become more sombre, and it hadn’t been exactly jovial to start with. “It is about the Mayor.”

“Of course. I promise. Adventurer-housekeeper privilege.” She was sure no such privilege existed, but in a fantasy world there was always room for new and weird hybrids.

“It is concerning vhat you said to him about the affair he had vith that voman.”

“Ginnie Garbolum?” Britta had mentioned Freddy’s Aunt Ginnie in an effort to see if it got a reaction from the Mayor, which it hadn’t. Frau Magda, on the other hand, had become very flustered.

“Yes. Her. She vasn’t the only one, you know?”

Britta hadn’t known. “He’s had lots of affairs?” Frau Magda clearly didn’t approve. Perhaps she was jealous and had a thing for him herself.

“Many. And all the time he had his vife waiting at home. Veeping, always veeping.” She pulled out a white lace handkerchief and dabbed her eyes. “He is a cruel man. Very cruel.”

This was the first time someone had mentioned the Mayor’s wife. Or even his vife.

“Why doesn’t she leave him?” asked Britta.

“How can she? She doesn’t know how to take care of herself. She is like a doll, beautiful, but without purpose.”

“Does he lock her up?”

“No, no. it is a psychological cage of the mind.” Frau Magda was turning into Freud Magda.

“But he doesn’t hit her or anything, does he?”

“No. He vould never do such a thing. But he controls her.” She made a fist and squeezed it. “Holds her in his vill.”

“That’s… a shame. Why are you telling me?”

“You are a hero. You save people.”

“No. Not really. I mean, I help people in trouble, sometimes.”

“She is in trouble. Existential trouble.”

Britta wasn’t sure what that even meant. “I’m sorry. I don’t think an adventurer is what you need.”

“It is, it is. Someone to show her how to take care of herself. To survive in a desolate landscape.”

A screen opened in front of Britta.

Poor Wife Quest

Mentor the Lady Desmondella and raise her self-esteem.

Help her achieve independence and financial security.


+5 Charisma points

Acceptance into the Society of Modern Ladies

Exclusive Society Robe

Britta read it over twice. What kind of crappy quest was this? She didn’t want to start a women’s liberation army. For most of her life, it was other girls who had made her the most miserable.

She hit the No button.

“This isn’t a job for me. It’s a job for you.”

“Me? Vhat can I do?”

“You said she can’t look after herself, didn’t you? So teach her. How to cook, how to shop on a budget, how to earn her own money. Everything you can do, she can do.”

Frau Magda pulled a face suggesting extreme displeasure. “But she is too fragile to succeed on her own.”

“No, she isn’t.” Britta was quite annoyed by Frau Magda’s view of pretty girls. “Teach her how to feed herself. It’s a basic requirement of being a real person.”

Frau Magda stared at her, her lips moving in an attempt to say something. Nothing came out, though.

“I have to go,” said Britta. “The best way to help her is to get her do it herself. If she isn’t willing, maybe she doesn’t hate her life as much as you think.”

Britta left the tavern and logged out. She returned to her bedroom and took off the helmet. She had mixed emotions about how she’d reacted. Of course she would want to help someone in an abusive relationship, and maybe this was a psychological cage of the mind, as Frau Magda had put it. But opening the cage door wasn’t going to change anything.

She went downstairs to the kitchen where Mum and Dad were sorting out lunch. Dad had almost everything from the fridge on the counter and was staring at it.

“What do you fancy?” he said. “We can’t decide.”

“You know that risotto you make? The one with the prawns?”

“Oh, yes. Fancy a bit of seafood, do you?”

“I want you to show me how you make it.” She’d come to the conclusion she could take a little of her own advice.

Mum and Dad exchanged a surprised look.

“Okay,” said Dad. “Prepare to upgrade your culinary skills. Experience points will be awarded for hitting your targets and reaching checkpoints.”

Perhaps she should have asked Mum first.

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