Bitter 164

The Kobold got to its feet but looked pensive. It shielded its eyes from the light in Britta’s hand. She put it in her pocket where it glowed dimly.

“Where is he?” asked Britta. “At the temple?”

“How do I know this isn’t a trap?” squeaked the kobold. “Your type only come here to steal our treasures. I lost a really nice pair of shoes because of someone who looked just like you.” The kobold gave Stan a suspicious stare with its beady eyes narrowed.

The kobold’s clothes were practically rags and its shoes were cloth boots that were falling apart. Britta doubted anyone would bother stealing from him.

“Maybe you misplaced them,” she said.

The kobold scowled. “That’s what everyone says, but one minute they’re next to my bed, next they’re gone. Ghost didn’t take them did it?”

“Maybe a ghost did take them,” said Britta. It wasn’t like ghosts didn’t exist in this world.

The kobold considered this possibility. “Oh, yeah, maybe you’re right.”

“I’ve never heard an NPC talk like that before,” said Stan. “He sounds like a real person.”

“Thanks very much,” said the kobold with a sarcastic smile. “Nice of you to acknowledge my existence. I’ll be able to sleep soundly tonight, I’m sure.”

“No, I didn’t mean—” Stan was interrupted by a loud groan and the scraping of rock against rock. The stone slab behind him shook and trembled as it lifted a few inches. The dwarf grunted with the effort.

“Quick, we have to go,” Britta said to the kobold who was still sending dirty looks in Stan’s direction. She waved her ringed finger in his face to get his attention.

“Alright, alright. This way.”

The kobold ran into the west tunnel. Britta followed, mindful that their new party member wasn’t to be entirely trusted. From the kobold’s perspective, they were a couple of adventurers looking for treasure that didn’t belong to them. Leading them into an ambush or a trap would be the most likely reward for saving the kobold’s life until she could win its trust.

The kobold sprinted without looking back. There was no waiting for them to catch up. Fortunately, it had legs about the same size as hers so she was able to keep up. Stan had no problems.

According to her map, they were headed for the middle room and the stairs down, so it seemed they were being taken to Derik, but the route wasn’t the most direct. As they got closer, the kobold suddenly took a sharp left that seemed to be leading them away from their destination. Up ahead was a large floor trap marked on her map. She sighed.

The kobold skipped from flagstone to flagstone, making it look like a natural part of its running. Britta stopped and put up her hand to signal Stan to do the same.

“Back the other way,” she said over her shoulder. Then she called out, “We’ll meet you at the stairs.”

The lighting was low but she could tell the kobold was baffled at the other end of the passage. She put out a foot and tapped the ground in front of her. The floor collapsed. The kobold quickly scurried away into the dark to avoid falling into the pit.

Because the kobold had taken a detour, they arrived in the middle room first.

“How did you know about the trap?” was its first question when it came running in.

“I was wondering the same thing,” said Stan. They both looked at her with questioning eyes that were bordering on being impressed.

Britta smiled. “Derik told me.” She waved the ring about again. Hopefully, the kobold was becoming convinced she really had been gifted the ring by the shaman.

They went down the steps to the lower level. They hadn’t heard any howling in a while but they continued to stop and look back, listening for any sounds of pursuit. They didn’t need to ask each other what they were doing, they all felt the presence back there. The dwarf was coming, there was no doubt about that.

“You really know the High Priest?” asked the kobold. They were moving at a walking pace through the twisting tunnels of the second floor, trying not to make too much noise.

“Yes. We tried to kill the dwarf but he was too strong. I came back to finish the job. I know you don’t remember, but it really happened.”

“Did you meet me before?”

“Yes,” said Britta.

“What’s my name, then?”

Britta was sure it had been mentioned but she was drawing a blank. She shook her head. “Sorry.”

“Typical. I am a person, you know. A real person. Ask him.” The kobold pointed at Stan.

“Sidney!” shouted Britta, instantly covering her mouth. If the dwarf was close by it definitely would have heard.

Sidney nodded and kept going.

They reached the door to the temple. The kobold banged on it and waited. Nothing happened.

“I didn’t even know this was here,” said Stan. He had been uncommonly quiet, his eyes on the kobold the whole time, studying and taking in everything.

“Open up!” shouted Sidney.

“There’s no one here,” said a voice from inside.

“I got a friend of yours. She’s got your ring.”

The door opened a crack and a hairy face poked out. “Who?”

Sidney pointed at Britta.

“Never seen her before. Wait, is that a human?” He was looking at Stan with horrified eyes. “Why did you bring a human here? Are you crazy?”

A howl echoed down the passage. It was close.

The door began to close. All three of them pushed and tumbled into the room. There was the sound of running, pounding footsteps. They all rushed to the door and pushed it shut.

Britta turned with her back against the door. She hoped it would hold. Then she noticed the six, large elite kobolds in the room with them. They drew their weapons.

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