Britta guided Donald back into the forest. Perhaps this would only take a moment to sort out and she could be on her way. Not all quests required you to throw magic jewellery into a volcano while people tried to kill you. Maybe she would just have to be the audience for some god-awful singing sprite with delusions of fame. It would probably be less painful to have her ring finger bitten off.
This time, she headed towards the singing. The trees made it hard to see where they were going, but the wailing provided an as easy to follow trail. The trees eventually thinned out and a clearing appeared in front of her. There were wildflowers, blue and purple, growing everywhere, and Donald immediately tucked in.
The singing was coming from the middle of the clearing. A girl was standing there, gently dancing from side to side like a ballerina (who had never taken lessons), singing to the flowers around her like they were her adoring fans. Not having ears probably helped.
“Where is he? Where is he? La la la la. He is gone. He is gone. La la la.”
She looked more or less human, except she appeared to be made out of wood. Her skin was like mahogany, polished with whorls in varying shades of brown and red. She was a bit taller than Britta, her hair was black and stringy and she wore a dress made of leaves and vines.
It was a pretty dress. The sprite was very skinny, arms like twigs and legs like bean poles. The dress could fit a child.
Britta almost expected a message to appear: Quest for the Dress, but the idea of trading a dress for passage had been her idea, not the games. And how would she even get the dress off the sprite?
As soon as she posed the question, an answer occurred to her. She could make a copy of the dress using her Mirror Image spell. The sprite would never know and the soldiers would let her pass. And the little girl would open her birthday gift to find it empty.
It was a revolting thought. Even if the girl wasn’t real and the world was just a digital creation, she was appalled by her own deviousness. She was getting good at coming up with alternative solutions, now all she had to do was come up with one that didn’t leave her feeling scummy.
The game obviously put the sprite here for a reason, she might as well find out what it was. Britta slid off Donald, who was busy engorging himself, and approached the sprite.
The sprite jumped in front of Britta, arms stretched out protectively.
“Stay back.” Her voice was squeaky like she’d been sucking on a helium balloon. “These beautiful souls will not be plucked today.” She seemed to think Britta was here to pick flowers.
“Er, no, I was just passing through and heard your singing.”
“Oh? You were drawn here by my voice? You’re a fan of beautiful music?”
“Yes.” Technically, that was true. “Your voice is… magical.” The sprite seemed pleased with this description. “I think you’ve put a spell on this place.”
“Oh, thank you very much.”
“Unfortunately, I seem to have got myself lost. Could you point me in the direction of the main road to the city?”
The sprite pulled a face. “The city? Why do you want to go there? Horrid place. I would much rather stay here on my own. All alone. All alone. La la la la. He is gone. He is gone. La la la.”
Britta gritted her teeth. It was even worse when the song was being sung right at her. “Er, sorry, who is gone?”
“My love, my true, true love.”
“No, he left. He is gone. He is gone. La la la.”
“Really?” said Britta, quickly interrupting before the next performance could get started. “All this is because your boyfriend left you?”
“Boyfriend? Soulmate! And he didn’t leave me,” said the sprite. “It was a mutual decision.”
Mutually decided he would dump her, Britta suspected. “Maybe he’ll be back soon.”
The sprite’s head fell, sorrowful. “No. I don’t have curves in the right places, he said. He… he likes his wood chips cut a little thicker.” She looked enviously across the clearing at a big old oak tree with a wide trunk.
Body images issues in the world of flora? Whose idea was that?
The sprite was upset about her soulmate leaving. Was Britta supposed to track him down and drag him back? Where was she even supposed to start? But before Britta could come up with a way to convince the sprite she was better off on her own, she was interrupted by a scream.
“Murderer!” screeched the sprite, finger pointing.
A surge of adrenaline shot through Britta as she braced for an attack. She had prepared herself for something like this, so she had been ready. But she realised the finger wasn’t pointing at her, it was aimed at Donald.
Britta turned to look at what her goat had done. He was standing there looking the picture of innocence, blue flowers sticking out of his mouth. The flowers disappeared into his bulging cheeks.
“Sorry about that,” said Britta. “He eats everything. He’s a goat.”
“Naaaaa,” said Donald.
“He says he’s sorry, too,” Britta added.
“You speak goat, do you?” said the incensed sprite.
Britta slowly moved towards Donald. “Well, not really. You pick up the odd word here and there.” She climbed onto his back and prepared to get out of here.
Donald swallowed and then slowly moved his lips sideways towards a purple bloom next to his head. Britta smiled at the glowering sprite while trying to pull Donald’s head away from the juicy flower. His tongue stretched out towards the petals.
“Serial killer!” screamed the sprite. She transformed into a wooden goat, giant ram’s horns now on her head, and charged.
Britta yanked Donald’s head to the side. “Let’s get out of here!”
Donald ignored her and charged straight ahead. The two goats ran towards each other with heads lowered.
There was nothing Britta could do but hold on and wince as they collided, and then the sprite exploded. A shockwave bent the flowers in the clearing and shook the trees surrounding it.