Bitter 150

The bridge stretched across the yawning gap until it reached the other side and fixed itself with a thunk.

“Will he drop the other key when we defeat him?” asked Britta trying to treat the upcoming fight in the most serious and professional manner possible, and not look like a big fat liar.

“Yep,” said Tal. “He’ll have a bunch of stuff on him. All of it crap. You might find it useful, though.” She blushed and quickly added. “I mean, because you don’t have a lot of gear. The main loot will be in the vault, it’s usually a headpiece, a hat or a helmet. Sometimes it’s quite a rare piece that’s quite good for someone, who...” Her voice faded into an embarrassed silence.

“That’d be great,” said Britta, pretending not to have noticed the mild unintentional put down. It wasn’t like she’d said anything untrue; crap gear would be an upgrade for her, there was no denying it. “I’d be happy to take it if no one minds.”

“Actually,” said Lord Jim, “we should randomise whatever drops, just to be fair. That’s how we always do it, everyone has a chance to get anything decent that might drop.”

“When was the last time anything decent dropped here?” said Rarebit. “Let her have whatever it is, I don’t mind.”

There was general consensus that only a garbage-tier item would drop and Britta was welcome to it.

“Fine, I was just trying to keep things fair,” said Jim with a slight huff. “Let’s get going.”

They walked over the bridge. This was as far as Britta had got last time. She wondered how they planned to open the door on the other side. They hadn’t mentioned anything about it and it looked just as sturdy and just as locked as last time. But as soon as they stepped off the bridge onto the platform, the door began to open by itself, revealing the biggest kobold Britta had ever seen.

Kobolds were generally the same size as her with the elite ones only marginally bigger, but this one was a head taller than Jim who was easily the tallest of their team.

He was on his own, dressed from head to foot in metal armour that looked like it had been pieced together from other bits of armour, armed with a spear. The spear had a jagged blade with barbed wire around its base.

“Why have you come here? These mines belong to us!” he boomed.

“Okay, everyone take up positions,” said Lord Jim, ignoring King Kobold.

The others spread out while Britta looked around, unsure where she was meant to go.

“Don’t worry,” said Jim. “He won’t attack until he finishes his speech. If you get in front of him and keep aggro, we’ll ping him down.”

Britta nodded, not liking the plan at all but it was too late now. She held her shield in front of her and tentatively advanced on the giant kobold. He was still pontificating on the subject of who owned the mine and what trespassers could expect and paid her no attention as she crept closer.

The others had their weapons ready but didn’t fire, she assumed because it wouldn’t have an effect. Now that she was closer (a bit too close, for her liking) she could see a faint glimmer surrounding the King, like a personal force field.

“You who have dared…” he droned on, giving no sign he was nearing the end of his declarations of impending doom.

“Almost there,” said Lord Jim from behind her on the right. “Be ready.”

Be ready how? Her job was to take damage from the kobold and the first hit would probably kill her. The whole idea had been a bad one from the start. She was the smallest person here, why on earth would anyone think she’d make a good tank? This is what happened when you weren’t honest with people. You ended up speared to death by a large fantasy creature.

The glowing field faded and a crown appeared above the kobold’s head. He wasn’t wearing it, it just hovered over him. And it wasn’t a real crown, more like a picture of a crown that was bright red. The kobold raised his spear and roared defiantly.

“Now!” shouted Lord Jim.

Britta raised her shield and winced, bracing for impact.

The kobold ignored her and charged at Lord Jim. He ran straight past Britta like she wasn’t even there, spear held like a lance, aimed at Jim’s head.

Tal and Rarebit fired missiles while Father Paddy cast a spell. The fairy flitted about in front of the kobold’s face to no effect.

Every time the kobold got hit, numbers pinged off his body and the crown over his head flashed, its colour changing to a different tint. If it represented his health, it was going down very slowly.

“Plan B, Plan B,” shouted Lord Jim. He began to run.

Britta hadn’t been informed what Plan B was, or even that there was one. She was rooted to the spot watching Lord Jim race around the platform with the Kobold in lumbering pursuit.

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