The kobold stood in the tunnel, his proclamation still on his lips as the picture faded to black. The video ended.
“What happened?” said Britta. “Why did it stop? What’s the Imperial army doing here?”
“Ah,” said Dad, “you’ll have to wait for the next episode.”
Britta was ready to explode at him, but she took a breath and refused the call. She had too much experience in dealing with Dad when he was this pleased with himself. It would only encourage him.
“So,” she said, affecting a casual tone, “what rewards did you get for completing stage one?”
“Pretty good ones, actually. But I don’t want to ruin the surprise.”
Britta ground her teeth, then rolled her neck to ease some of the tension that had gathered there.
“I guess you’re still Level 2,” she said, sneaking a glance at him to see if there was any reaction to her assumption. He had a thin smile fixed in place, but his eyes had no spark of glee in them, so she felt confident her guess had been right. “Shame. You could have got a new… Wait, what spell did you choose when you hit Level 2?”
Dad had levelled up just before Britta had left the mines, but she hadn’t seen him use any news spells during the fight with the banshees.
“I had a pretty difficult choice to make, actually. “ Britta could tell he was settling into a long rambling speech about his reason for choosing whatever spell he took. There was no way around it. If she wanted to know, she’d have to sit through it. “The three I was offered were Fleet of Foot, which makes you move faster. Not bad in that it helps you avoid getting hit, but not so great in enclosed spaces, and not much use against spells.
“Then there was Sudden Wisdom,” he continued, “which isn’t what it sounds like. It doesn’t increase your wisdom stat, it reduces the chance of your target making their saving throws. Not very flashy, but solid. There’s quite a lot of these support spells that can improve your main spells, but you know me, I like the shiny-shiny. Probably a mistake not to take it though. I did actually try to use my Hand Lock on the necromancer when he was fighting Flawed. Would have locked him out of the battle if he was stuck in an embrace. But it failed. If I’d taken Sudden Wisdom...”
“That would have locked Flawed out of the battle, too,” said Britta.
Dad shrugged, but there was an odd look on his face Britta couldn’t quite interpret. Did he feel remorse about attempting to prevent a player from participating? No, he wouldn’t care. Something else, then.
“And then there was Poison Dagger. A very interesting type of spell that I haven’t seen before”
“Doesn’t sound that interesting,” said Britta. “What does it do, add poison to a weapon?”
“Not exactly…” Dad seemed to be searching for the right words. “It borrows stats from another player in your party.”
“You get their stats? What happens to the player?”
“You get a boost from them. They get weaker, and take a bit of damage. It’s for emergencies, really.”
That seemed a bit underhand. If you syphoned off someone else’s stats without asking, they wouldn’t be happy. Especially if they ended up getting weaker, or even…
Britta looked back at the video. She restarted it and moved the slider towards the end until she found the part where Flawed had died. As he fell, she paused it. The dagger in his back had come out of nowhere. It hadn’t been thrown by anyone, as far as she could tell. And it was glowing. Britta looked at Dad with horror.
“Dad, did you kill Fart Lord?”
If he had used his new spell on Flawed, and it did damage…
“Now, you have to understand the strategy I was employing. It was too perfect a set-up. Dropping the book right next to the edge of the chasm there.”
On the video, Flawed disappeared, leaving behind his weapons and the book. There was no sign of the glowing dagger.
“Dad, did you kill Fart lord on purpose?” It would have been bad enough if he’d tried to use the spell and accidentally killed Flawed, but to do it intentionally was completely out of order.
“Look how well it worked.”
The video continued, showing Dad rushing Derik. He was moving very fast. The hit on Derik was jarring, sending him soaring through the air. Both speed and strength had been buffed, she could see that now. Derik fell into the dark, again. His hands grasping at thin air.
“What happened to the book?” She looked at Dad. “The Book of Raising the Dead, he isn’t holding it anymore.”
A creepy smile spread across Dad’s face.
He’d grabbed the book when he pushed Derik off. That was why he’d made such a risky play.
“You killed one of your own team,” said Britta. “Do they know?”
“Of course not,” said Dad. “But it was a good plan, wasn’t it?”
It was outrageous. If he’d done it to her, she would have been livid.
“I was going to spec into some kind of fire mage, but now I think there might be a more interesting kind of subclass I could build. Some kind of augmented mage.”
“You mean a leech mage,” said Britta.
“Nice! I like it.”
“Nobody else is going to like it.”
“That’s alright,” said Dad. “I won’t tell them. And it won’t kill people, usually. It was just that Flawed had taken damage. Normally, he would have been fine.”
“You wanted him to die.”
“In this particular case, but this was a special, one-off, unique situation. And he was fine. You saw him come back. Fit as a fiddle.”
“Did he lose the level he’d gained.”
“Only for a bit. He got it back once we finished the stage. Even meant he could re-choose his new skill. Free respec.” He said it like he’d done Flawed a favour by killing him.
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