Bitter 262

The note said to meet at The Slit Throat. Britta had never heard of it, but assumed it was some tavern or inn. It sounded like quite a rough place, which wasn’t too worrying—Britta was confident she could take care of herself—but it was still a strange choice for a lunch date.

Maybe she was wrong. Maybe it was a very oddly named tea shop.

Britta heard the Mayor out in the hall. He was talking to someone, maybe Magda. Then footsteps approached. She quickly put the piece of paper in her pocket and tried to look natural.

“Sorry about that. Mayoral business.” He sat down again and picked up the cigar he had left smouldering. “Now, where were we.”

“Actually, I was thinking of going.”

“Already? Oh, what a shame. It is getting late, though. Would you like the loan of a carriage to see you safely home?”

“No, I’ll be fine. The walk will help work off some of Frau Magda’s delicious cooking. I didn’t upset her or anything, did I?”

“Upset her? Oh, certainly not. She comes from a long line of hardy women. Excellent breeding stock, by all accounts.” He leaned closer. “She’s worn out three husbands, and I don’t think she’s finished. There’s a fiance I’ve yet to meet.” His saucy smile suggested this one might not last the night.

Britta knew he was deeply embroiled in whatever chicanery was going on in New Town, and most likely he was responsible for a lot of dreadful things, including Freddy’s murder, but she still couldn’t help finding him quite likeable. He had a swagger to him that was quite charming. She wondered if it was like that with all deplorable men.

“Please thank her for me. It really was a very enjoyable meal. And thank you for inviting me. You have a lovely home.” Suddenly she was gushing. Was it wrong to treat bad people with good manners?

“Don’t mention it. A pleasure to have you. Now, remember, if you do come across this grimoire, handle with care. If you want to destroy it yourself, at least have a word with one of my men. They’ll give you a list of safety precautions.”

“Thank you. I’ll bear that in mind.” She had no intention of telling him she had the book, but he was right about one thing. Finding out what precautions she needed to take was the smart move.

The Mayor showed her to the door and she said her farewells, added a couple more expressions of gratitude, and stepped out into the night.

The breeze was mild and the sky was littered with stars. It was hard not to stare. As she strolled through the wide streets and boulevards that made up the nicer parts of town, her head was tilted back, taking it all in.

“There she is!”

Britta’s attention snapped back to ground level. She hadn’t meant to wander around aimlessly, but it was such an amazing sight she had lost track. Now she was surrounded by a group of large, burly men. Garbolum’s thugs.

“Not so fast,” said another voice in a heavy Scottish burr. Three stocky men jumped down from a tree.

Trees were not where you expected dwarves to come from, so it took everyone by surprise.

“The lass’ll be coming with us.”

There were only three dwarves and at least half a dozen thugs. The dwarves didn’t seem fazed. They drew small axes from inside their clothing, one in each hand, and began twirling them around.

“Ho ho,” said one of the thugs mockingly. “We’ve got a bunch of show-offs, have we?” Knives and clubs were drawn in return.

Britta had been ready to teleport away, but no one seemed to be paying her much attention. She could have just walked away. But she was quite curious to see how this fight went down.

“Hey you! What are you doing?” The shout came from further down the street. Men came running, rattling their armour. It was the town guard. “It’s her! It’s the New Town Flasher.”

They weren’t running towards the thugs and dwarves, they were focused on Britta. Everyone turned to look at her. It was horribly embarrassing.

There as a moment of dizziness as her eyeballs attempted to switch sockets, and then she was in the Temple of Roha. She had doubted the usefulness of Teleport as her main spell, but it had proved to be the perfect choice. She only dreaded the day when she might need it twice. That day couldn’t be far off.

She checked her screen. The real world time was approaching six in the evening. She wasn’t sure how the time here compared with the time there. Was it a simple time difference like between London and New York, or did time actually pass at a different rate? Something to ask Dr Reedy. She decided to log out and have something to eat. She had collected a lot of new information, and now seemed the ideal time to leave the town to the various groups hunting her.

When she took off her helmet and opened her eyes in her bedroom, she immediately noticed something was different. She wasn’t bathed in sweat. Normally, she would have to towel herself off, but not today. She felt the same as if she’d just had a nap—in need of a stretch, but no sweatier than when she lay down.

Her phone rang. The ID said it was Dr Reedy. Perfect. She had a bunch of things to ask her. She took a moment to get her stretch in, and then answered it.

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