Bitter 408

The screen went black. Britta realised it wasn’t actually black, they were in a dark tunnel, moving swiftly so the walls were rushing past. The camera panned left then right.

On one side was Mark, on the other was Fart Lord, or Flawed as he had been dubbed against his will. Both were jogging.

“Hey, Chief,” said Dad from behind the camera, “you want to fill us in on any special skills we should know about?”

“Don’t worry about it,” said Mark. “Just let me get out front. I’ve got 18 HP to play with. Should give you all the time you need to set up your exploding bottles of holy water.”

“Hey,” said Flawed. “If he blows them all up, we won’t get any experience. And he’ll go up another level.”

“Oh, I think we’ll be able to take a few down before then,” said Mark. He seemed very sure of himself.

Britta was inclined to side with Flawed’s assessment. If Dad got a bomb off like last time, it would be a total wipe for the banshees, and the rest of them would get a couple of XP each for their trouble.

When he’d levelled up, Britta hadn’t received any XP at all, even though they were in the same party. Then again, she hadn’t taken part in the fighting.

“What about you?” said Dad, this time looking at Flawed. “Any cool skills?”

“Sorry, my powers are top secret” said Flawed, “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.” He grinned, inordinately pleased with his little joke.

From what Mark had said, he was just a thief character. Probably only good for picking locks and disarming traps. And only successfully half the time.

“What about backstab?” said Dad. “You got that? We could try to set it up for you if it would help.”

“Really? That would be great. I get double damage if I strike from behind.”

So much for keeping his powers a secret.

“It’s the girl we need to set up,” said Mark. “She’s going to be key.”

Britta felt annoyed on Lady Da’s behalf. Being called ‘the girl’, even when it was meant without malice, was the sort of casual sexism no one ever felt was worth fighting over. Even Britta didn’t feel really upset about it — he was even pointing out how important ‘the girl’ was to their battle plans — but it just rankled.

Dad turned around to look at Lady Da. There were kobolds running behind her.

“How many times can you cast Holy Light?” he asked her.

“Dying Light,” she corrected him, blushing. That annoyed Britta, too. Why was she always doing that? “As much as I want. It only takes a couple of MP to cast. But I only have a 15% chance of turning undead. I’ve only ever used it in the tutorial, against a zombie. He ran and hid in a corner.”

“Is there a cooldown?” asked Dad.

“Forty-five seconds.”

“That’s not bad,” said Dad. “If we can get them bunched in a corner, that would be helpful.”

“What’s to stop more of them from coming through the door you mentioned?” asked Dun Kirk.

Dad must have explained what kind of fight to expect, but had skipped showing it. APE probably didn’t want to give away that information to other players, either.

“It’s a level one dungeon. It won’t be more than a couple of waves. We can handle that many between us.”

“And maybe a boss,” said Mark.

That was a fair guess. There had to be a boss to fight. One who wouldn’t just collapse under a sprinkle of water.

“I hope so,” said Dad. “Wouldn’t be much fun if it’s just a few ghosts floating about.”

They all looked excited.

There was a rumble, followed by shrieks, and then everything shook.

“This is it,” said Dad.

The opening to the bridge room was ahead. They went running in, arms over their heads to protect themselves from the falling rocks. Banshees were hovering over the middle of the bridge. Their screams shattered rocks in all directions, sending out sprays of small stones.

Bottle of holy water flew through the air in reply.

They veered in between rocks and boulders, aiming for the king’s camp on the right side.

“These sonic booms,” shouted Mark, “they travel in straight lines, right?”

“Yeah,” shouted back Dad. “Why?”

“Nothing. You’ll see.”

Their kobold escort had scattered. They went from one slightly sheltered area to the next, crouching, scrambling, until they reached the large boulder from behind which the king was yelling his orders.

Dad quickly told the king the plan, which was mainly to leave everything to him and his new party. The king seemed to be happy to let Dad lead the charge.

“This is so great,” said Mark. Britta was sure he had tears in his eyes, but it could have been from all the dust flying about. “It’s everything I dreamed it would be.”

It was bedlam, like a scene from a war movie, one of the ones where they proudly tell you how realistic it all is, as legs go flying across the screen.

Mark reached over his shoulder and pulled a shield off his back. Britta hadn’t even noticed it was there. It wasn’t very big, about the dimensions of family-sized box of cereal.

“What’s that, Chief?” asked Dad. “A buckler?”

“My special skill,” said Mark. “I’m aiming for an anti-magic build. I’m a reflector warrior. I can turn magic back on the caster as long as I have a shield. Let’s see how those banshees like a taste of their own medicine.”

He ran out onto the bridge.

“Does the banshee screaming count as a magic attack?” asked Dun Kirk, as they watched Mark shout at the banshee to give him everything they had.

“Not sure,” said Dad.

Mark came flying back, slamming into the wall, his shield cracked and a large red number nine floating away from him.

“But I would guess no.”

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