Bitter 111

“Is it just the two of you”? asked Britta. “I thought the mines were supposed to be full of kobolds.”

“Oh, there are plenty of kobolds here, alright,” said the High Priest. “Dozens of them, all cowering in fear. They should be protecting me from that.” He pointed at the wall but with a double thrust to indicate he meant something much further away. “But where are they? Hiding in the treasure vault like scared babies.”

“There’s a treasure vault?” asked Britta. Sounded like a place worth visiting.

The High Priest stopped ranting and stared at Britta. He blinked and then looked at the other kobold. “You know what this means, Sidney. We can’t let her leave here alive. She knows about the vault.”

Sidney nodded and raised his spoon. “I’ll take care of it.”

Britta was quite optimistic about her chances. She was bigger than both of them and they weren’t very well armed.

“A spoon?” said the priest, appalled. “You think you can take on a professional adventurer with a wooden spoon?”

Sidney looked at the spoon, and then at Britta holding her knife out in front of her. “It’s all I got,” he said meekly.

“Here.” The priest rummaged around in his robes. “Take this.” He produced a copper ladle and handed it to Sidney.

Sidney’s eyes lit up. He quickly stuffed his spoon into his belt and took the ladle in both hands, clutching it like a club.

Britta still wasn’t worried. “How did you manage to kick the dwarves out of the mine in the first place? You don’t even have proper weapons.”

“We didn’t kick them out,” said the priest. “We bought the mines from them. We don’t fight over property like savages—we’re businessmen. Sidney, aim for her face. Try to scoop out her eyes.”

Britta raised her dagger higher and waved it as Sidney hesitantly closed in.

“I don’t want to hurt you, Sidney, but I will. And then you.” She pointed the blade at the priest. “You, I do want to hurt.”

“Ah, yes, you hold her here, Sidney, I’ll go for help.” He hurried over to the door.

“There’s a homicidal dwarf out there,” Britta reminded him.

“Damn it, I forgot about him.” He came back to Sidney and snatched the ladle from his hand. “I’ll keep her busy, you go for help.”

“I’m not going out there,” squeaked Sidney.

“Yes, you will. Your God commands it.”

“No he doesn’t,” said Sidney.

The priest’s hairy brown face seemed infused with redness. “This is the what I get for bringing God’s word to this backwater hole in the ground.” He snatched the wooden spoon from Sidney’s belt. Then he held out both the ladle and spoon and thrust them both at Britta, handle first.

Britta was so surprised, she had hold of them before she realised it.

“We’ll stay here,” said the priest, “you go get help.”

“Oh. Okay. Which way to the vault?”

“Back the way you came, take a left… wait, hold on, you… you almost had me, there. Trying to trick a man of God. Shame on you.” He snatched back the utensils and thrust them at Sidney.

He crossed his arms and refused them. “I’m not going out there.”

The priest threw them on the altar with disgust. “It doesn’t matter. We’re all going to die.”

“Excuse me?” said Britta, feeling like she was intruding on a family squabble. “You summoned the dwarf, didn’t you? Can’t you send it back where it came from?”

“Do I look like a necromancer?”

Britta didn’t know what a necromancer looked like, but she guessed she was meant to answer no.

“If you didn’t, then…”

“He did,” said Sidney. “I saw him do it.”

The priest put his hands into his voluminous sleeves and pulled out a tattered book. “This.” He used the book to smack Sidney on the head. “This is what summoned the dwarf. They found it in the lower levels. What a find!  A magical tome. Let’s give it to the shaman who makes our cough medicines and wart salves, and get him to cast a few spells. What’s the worst that could happen?”

“Is he always this sarcastic?” Britta asked Sidney.

“Only when he’s upset. So, yes.”

“Give me the book,” said Britta. She held out her hand.

The priest didn’t look keen to comply. “I suppose you’re a great wizard come to show me how it’s done. Going to wave your magic wand and make everything better again?”

“Maybe. Book.” She held out her hand insistently.

The priest thought about it and then threw it at her. “Take it. Let’s see you do better.”

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