Bitter 116

Britta did the only thing she could, she turned around and ran. The footsteps behind her soon receded into the distance.

Never had running felt so good. Not only because it took her away from the homicidal dwarf after her, but because she moved with a speed and grace she had never experienced before. Her limbs pulsed with energy and her body practically flew down the tunnel. It was an amazing feeling. If she had been able to run like this in real life, she would have been the school cross country champion.

It was due to the spells Derik had put on her, obviously. They gave her a boost and very welcome it was, too, but only temporarily. She had to make the best of it while she had the chance.

The question was, what to do now? The dwarf was supposed to be with Stan. What was he doing up in the northeast part of the map is he’d managed to give the dwarf the slip and lumber those two kobolds with maze-runner duties?  He hadn’t moved from there for ages.

The kobolds were coming from the direction of the exit shaft so had they tried to lead the dwarf out and failed? It seemed likely.

And then there was the problem of her parents. The time was after 10 AM and Saturday or not, they would want her to take a break from the game. They might even pull the plug. She needed to find a way out soon, but there was no point trying to get past the dwarf. She could try going back to the temple and take her original route to the exit, but no doubt the dwarf would follow her, and if it didn’t work for the kobolds, it probably wouldn’t work for her.

Even with all the buffs, she doubted she could fight the dwarf. She didn’t particularly want to, either. Perhaps she should try what she had assumed Stan had done—lead the dwarf to where the kobolds were hiding and let them deal with it. After all, they were the ones who had raised the dwarf from the dead.

Thanks to her map, she was able to quickly backtrack and get to a room surrounded by traps. It was the type with tripwires which would drop rock slabs over the exits if broken. She stopped in the chamber, listening hard for sounds of pursuit. She didn’t have to listen very hard; a howl echoed down the tunnel towards her.

With her new Olympic-level athletic ability, she would be able to outpace her stubby-legged pursuer quite easily. The only problem was she didn’t know what she’d find when she got to the vault. A large, impenetrable door with the kobolds all safely behind it wouldn’t do her much good. What she needed was a way in.

She heard the kobolds coming. Their ragged breathing and scampering feet were easy to recognise. Britta peered into the darkness. The tunnel was menacingly dark past the glow of her ball of light.

Her heart was beating wildly and she wanted to run away, but she forced herself to stay put. The vine across the opening was by her feet. She could trip it and drop the barrier once the kobolds got here. Having them with her as she headed for the treasure room seemed like a good idea. She had the ring, plus they’d be grateful to her for saving them, and it could be the difference in getting the barricaded kobolds to open up.

Her leg began jiggling. This was far too nerve wracking, more like a horror movie than a fantasy adventure. Weren’t there supposed to be unicorns and elves? It probably wouldn’t go any better if there were. She’d just be running around while a unicorn tried to stab her with its horn.

But if she was going to be chased down by a relentless undead monster, at least she had the benefit of knowing how these movies played out. She assumed the devs were all slasher movie geeks and would use all the clichés they could think of. She had a mine full of traps to help her slow the monster down, although that was less like a Halloween movie and more like an episode of Scooby Doo.

There was something coming. She threw her ball of light into the tunnel so she could see further, and also to help the kobolds see the way. Unfortunately, she forgot about their sensitive eyes.

The two kobolds, running side by side, yelled in surprise, throwing up their arms to shield their eyes from what, to them, was a blinding light, and ran into each other.

They slammed heads, jerked apart, bounced off the walls, and crashed to the floor, dazed and unsure of where to go.

“This way! This way!” shouted Britta.

Two red eyes loomed behind the kobolds. She didn’t even see the dwarf, just kobolds suddenly being yanked backwards into the dark, their small hands desperately clawing at the ground the last part of them to disappear into the shadows.

The tunnel was silent for a minute, and then the kobolds started screaming.

Britta pulled on the tripwire and the rock slab slid down. So much for that idea.

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