Bitter 404

They were swiftly led through a number of tunnels, Dad and Britta forced to be in front. Dad kept complaining and trying to get the kobolds to stop for a second, but the momentum was on their side.

Then the sounds of explosions reached them. Long whistling shrieks, followed by a boom that shook the walls of the tunnel. Dust and debris rained down. Dad stopped complaining and started running. He was eager to get out of the tunnels before they collapsed.

The sounds got louder, and were now intermingled with shouts and screams. The kobold escort dropped their torches, and they were running in near darkness as they approached a faintly glowing opening up ahead.

They slowed as they reached the opening, the noise now deafening, the explosions strong enough to make it hard to stay on your feet.

There was a cavern ahead, with a bridge across it. Britta recognised it as the room before the vault. It looked different now. The bridge was permanent for a start, made of stone with railings along the side, and no pressure pads to retract it.

Rocks and rubble had fallen from the walls and roof of the cavern, and kobolds were hiding behind them on this side. The ones who weren’t lying dead, that is.

On the other side of the bridge, the large door was open. Hooded figures floated through it. They had long robes on and their heads were covered, so it wasn’t possible to see what they looked like.

“Are they the banshees?” asked Britta.

“I guess so,” said Dad.

There were six of them floating about on the other side, seemingly at random. Then one came forward, gliding across the bridge. It let out a piercing scream that made ripples in the air.

A large chunk of rock in the wall shattered, sending smaller rocks flying in all directions. Kobolds dived out of the way, but many were hit.

“The hitbox on those sonic blasts is insane,” said Dad in an awed voice.

Britta had no idea what he meant, but she assumed he was impressed by the banshee’s firepower.

“Now! Throw!” shouted a booming voice.

Small bottles were thrown by the kobolds. Many went sailing into the chasm either side of the bridge. A few hit the bridge and smashed, spraying liquid around.

The banshee who had let rip with its sonic blast retreated back to its own side.

The soldiers around Britta suddenly surged forward, taking her and Dad with them. Fortunately, they weren’t heading for the bridge. They veered right and stopped behind a large boulder.

There was a small camp here. Larger kobolds, more elites, were huddled around an even bigger kobold. The king.

Britta had encountered him before. He was wearing full armour and had a large sword that didn’t look like it had been made out of pots and pans.

The group turned as Britta and Dad were brought forward.

“What is this?” demanded the king. His elite guards sneered at the new arrivals.

One of their escort stepped forward and whispered something. As he spoke, the king and his men occasionally looked up, their expressions varying between surprise and doubt. No hint of welcome or relief.

There was another explosion across the other side of the cavern.

“Return fire!” shouted the king.

Britta turned to peek past the side of the boulder. More glass bottles were being launched.

“What’s in the bottles?” she asked one of the kobolds beside her.

“Holy water,” he said.

If that was an effective weapon against the banshees it seemed like they should have a pretty big advantage. They just needed water and a priest. They seemed to have plenty of both.

Throwing it in little bottles didn’t seem such a great idea, though. Most missed, and even when they smashed open, the splash radius wasn’t very big. There had to be a better way.

“I don’t get why the banshees don’t just swarm across the bridge and blow everything to pieces,” said Dad.

The kobolds all glared at him like they were afraid the banshees might hear him and realise they’d been using the wrong strategy.

“They’re blind,” said the king. “And what exactly can you do to help us for the exorbitant fee we’re paying you?”

Apparently, the king wasn’t too happy with the deal his subordinates had made to hire two less than impressive mercenaries.

“Um,” said Britta, trying to think which of her spells would be good in this situation. She was coming up blank.

“Let me just try something,” said Dad. He leaned out and aimed his finger at one of the aimlessly wandering banshees. A streak of blue light shot out and hit the banshee in the back.

The banshee reacted like someone had tapped it on the shoulder. It turned around, hovering in the air, and then came rushing forward with others following. They let loose screams in Dad’s direction.

Everyone squeezed behind the boulder, covering their heads with their arms as the walls cracked and splintered. Stones the size of footballs fell around them.

The kobolds gave Dad nasty looks. The contract Britta and Dad had signed said they weren’t allowed to attack any kobolds. She hoped the kobolds weren’t allowed to attack them, either.

“Return fire!” shouted the king.

More bottles went flying into the air.

Dad took aim at one, and shot it. His Magic Bullet spell didn’t do much damage, but enough to break glass. And it was accurate. The bottle exploded mid-air, raining holy water down on the banshees.

The banshees didn’t run away. They huddled together and made sad whining noises.

“Pull!” shouted Dad.

Another bottle sailed through the air. Dad zapped it, dropping the holy water onto the banshees, who squeezed together into an even more convenient target.

“See?” said Dad, like this had been his plan all along.

The king and his men were stunned for a second, and then they charged towards the cowering enemy.

“Oh no,” said Dad. “They’re going to steal all my kills.” He ran after them, shouting, “My XP! My XP!”

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Afterword from Mooderino
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