Bitter 110

Britta eased off the kobold and stood up. She had her knife out and kept the business end held out at kobold head-height. This was a fight she felt confident she could win. She was bigger and stronger, and she had to admit, she kind of liked it. This was probably what made bullies happy to be bullies.

The kobold got to its feet, still sniffing and wiping tears from its eyes. Britta felt a pang of guilt. The kobold raised its wooden spoon defiantly against her. Even the weapons matched up in her favour.

“I don’t want to fight you,” said Britta, waving her dagger menacingly. “Just take me to the temple and you can go.”

The kobold’s eyes darted from side to side. It kept the spoon held up but didn’t seem very confident.

“Look, we both want the same thing here, right? Not to get killed by a crazy dwarf.” She lowered her dagger, but kept a firm grip on the handle in case she had to parry a blow from the spoon. It might only have been a cooking utensil, but it had a long reach and a sharp crack on the knuckles would smart.

Hesitantly, the kobold lowered the spoon but also keeping it ready by its side. There was a distant howl that put them both on edge, looking around like the dwarf might burst in any minute.

“How many of them are there?” asked Britta.

“Only one,” said the kobold.

That was a relief. She opened her map. Stan was still on the other side, still moving fast. She assumed the dwarf was near him.

“It’s coming this way,” said Britta, lying. “We have to move.” She tried to put some urgency in her voice, but she’d never been a good actor. She always got picked to play the sheep in the nativity play back in primary school. “If you get me to the altar, I know how to desummon the dwarf.”

She had no idea, of course, but she could desummon herself, and that was the important thing. Britta picked up the ball of light she’d dropped and held it up, hoping it would somehow impress the kobold. It flinched away from the blue-white glow, its hairy face looking scared and a bit like a gerbil.

“This way,” it said, and scampered into a tunnel. Britta gave chase. It may have been smaller than her, but it was quick. She had to sprint full out to keep up. They darted in and out of tunnels, seemingly at random, but she had to assume the kobold knew where it was going. And then they came to a door.

An actual, wooden door with hinges and a doorknob. It was the first door she’d seen since she’d entered the mine. It looked completely out of place.

The kobold timidly knocked with the large brass knocker.

“Go away!” shouted a shrill voice.

“Who’s that?” asked Britta, keeping a nervous eye on the other end of the tunnel.

“The High Priest,” said the kobold.

“Piss off!”

“He’s a bit upset.” The kobold looked embarrassed.

Britta hadn’t expected the High Priest to be so highly strung. Then again, she remembered Father Heckerty from her junior school who used to teach R.E. on Fridays. He would go on long rants about other priests not treating him fairly and a particular nun who had it in for him. Sister Martine. Maybe the devs were going for realism.

Britta banged on the door with the hilt of her dagger. It made an impressive booming sound. “Let us in or I’ll kick this door down.” It was a pretty solid-looking door and there was no way she’d be able to break it.

The door opened. Lying was proving to be her best weapon.

A fat, hairy face peered out through the gap. The eyes widened with startled surprised when they saw Britta. “Why have you brought THAT!”

“She says she can help get rid of the dwarf.”

“She’s lying! No one can help us. We’re doomed. DOOMED!” The priest tried to shut the door on them but Britta barged her way through, knocking the priest back. The kobold followed her in and then quickly shut the door.

The room they were in looked like ones upstairs; square with smooth walls. Dim flames guttered in sconces, giving it an eerie feel. There was a statue of a hooded figure at one end, and an altar beneath it. She knew from the tutorial all she had to do was touch the altar and it would be her new rez point.

She hurried over and placed her hand on it. Nothing happened. Then she noticed the large crack running across the altar’s surface.

“Is it broken?” she asked the priest.

“Yes. Yes, it’s broken. I suppose you’re going to blame me for that, too.” The priest put his head in his hands and shook his head. “I never wanted to be here. I just wanted to be a shaman in a nice, quiet, out of the way burrow. Something with running water and a nice warm fire pit. But no. Put me in the middle of a war zone. How I wish I had some sacred beads, I’d curse the whole Parish Council.”

Listening to the priest complain, Britta wondered if one of the devs actually knew Father Heckerty. The resemblance was uncanny.

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