Bitter 143

Britta spun around as three kobolds came rushing in, rusted short swords pointed at them. No pots and pans for these kobolds.

Tal dropped the torch and pushed Britta aside. She threw three daggers in quick succession. She was amazingly agile as well as accurate. Each dagger hit a different target and she already had more out ready to throw.

The kobolds staggered back, still alive but hurt enough to rethink their strategy. Behind them, two more kobolds entered followed by a third in a robe carrying a staff. Derik. He raised the staff and the top glowed. The three injured kobolds healed, their bloodied wound sealing over.

Tal glanced over her shoulder. “We need to take out the shaman,” she shouted, not bothering to keep the plan a secret.

Britta didn’t move. She wanted to shout out to Derik, show him the ring he had given her. Common sense told her it wouldn’t work in this version of the dungeon but she still didn’t want to fight these kobolds.

“Weapon,” shouted Tal. Britta had no idea what she meant. “Take out your weapon.”

Britta quickly opened her inventory. She didn’t have a weapon, all she had was a shield. She took it out.

The kobolds had reformed into a semi-organised group. The five armed guards moved in, this time slower and with more caution. Derik stood at the back, ready to cast more spells.

Tal looked at Britta behind her wooden shield and shook her head. Not impressed. She faced the kobolds like a woman facing her doom and charged, daggers poised. She could have hung back and thrown the daggers, but then Britta would be exposed.

The kobolds backed off not quite prepared for such a bold move. Tal stabbed left and right, getting in a couple of hits and deftly avoided the swords thrust haphazardly at her. The kobolds did not have good aim. Derik continued healing them, though. Tal wouldn’t be able to hold them off forever.

Britta knew she had to do something. She couldn’t just let Tal fight on her own like this. All focus was on her at the moment so if Britta planned to act, now was the time.

She held the shield firmly and ran at the kobolds. If she could knock a couple down, that might give Tal an opening to take out the shaman. She did her best to not think of him as Derik. He was a mob in a game.

She peered over the shield while she ran. The kobolds weren’t facing her but somehow still managed to avoid getting hit by her makeshift battering ram. She ran right through the crowd and slammed into Derik busy chanting his next spell.

The impact knocked them both to the ground, Britta on top and the shield sandwiched between them.

“Derik!” Britta hissed at him. “Look.” She held her hand in front of his dazed face and thrust the ring at him. “You gave me this. Remember?”

She knew it was unlikely to work but still felt obliged to try.

Derik’s eyes took a moment to focus on the wooden ring, then he looked at her and screamed.

The kobolds who had Tal surrounded and were trying to poke her to death suddenly abandoned the fight and came running back. Britta was about the same size as Derik and a bit heavier so keeping him pinned down wasn’t a problem. The five kobolds charging at her definitely were a problem and there wasn’t much she could do about it.

They fell, one by one. It was like there was a tripwire bringing them down, but when they hit the ground face first, there were daggers sticking out of their backs. Tal was standing at the other end with a satisfied grin on her face.

Britta scrambled to her feet with the shield still in her grasp. Derik jumped up as soon as he was free and raised his staff. It began to glow as he opened his mouth. A dagger flew down his throat and he collapsed in a heap.

There was a pang of guilt which was more uncomfortable than painful. He would come back to life when the dungeon reset. As would all the other Deriks in all the other instances of this dungeon.

“That was pretty cool,” said Tal. “I get double damage and guaranteed critical if I backstab them. How did you get the shaman to call them like that?”

Britta shrugged. “Panic, mostly.” She hadn’t intended it but apparently getting them to show their backs to Tal had been a masterstroke.

Thinking about it, showing Derik the ring had been what set him off. She looked at his body lying there. He had a similar ring on his finger, although not as nicely engraved as her one. What had he thought when she showed it to him? He didn’t think it was his so he must have assumed she had taken it from another shaman. A trophy of a kill, like some serial killer. No wonder he’d panicked when she, from his perspective, gloated about taking his ring next.

“So, you use your shield as a weapon,” said Tal. “I’d heard shieldmaiden was a subclass of fighter, never seen one before though. You were great taking down the shaman like that.”

Britta didn’t want to lie but not denying she was a shieldmaiden wasn’t exactly lying. “I didn’t really know what I was doing.”

“Don’t worry, everyone’s like that at the beginning,” said Tal, eagerly accepting the mentor role. “Which skills and perks to take is all hit or miss until you figure out what you’re comfortable with. Okay, let’s see if there’s any decent loot.” She began frisking the dead kobolds for items.

Britta tried not to look in any of their faces as she did the same. She was just a gamer playing a game.

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