Bitter 165

The elite kobolds were larger than regular kobolds. They also looked a lot meaner or at least they did to Britta. Possibly it had something to do with having two strangers in their sacred temple and a crazy dwarf trying to break down the door.

However, unlike the elite kobolds she had seen last time she was in the mines fighting alongside her ex-party of ex-friends, these elites had less than elite weaponry. They held skillets, pot and pans.

“Why are they using kitchen utensils?” Stan muttered through the side of his mouth.

Britta shrugged. “I don’t know,” she muttered back.

The door behind her shook as it was hit from the other side. It bulged out of its fittings but held.

“It wasn’t cheap leasing this place from the dwarves,” said Derik defensively, waving a copper ladle about for emphasis. "We had to sell a lot of our equipment to afford it. And then they took all their tools and support structures with them and most of the mine had already been exhausted.” He squeezed his lips shut and bitterly shook his head.

“Sorry,” said Britta. “I didn’t know you’d been cheated.”

“Yes, yes,” said Derik, getting worked up. “They cheated us. And now you’ve come to do the same.”

There was a murmur of agreement around the room and the larger kobolds began advancing on them.

Britta held out her fist, the ring clearly displayed. “Look! Look at the ring.”

They stopped and leaned forward.

“Where did you get that?” demanded Derik.

“She said you gave it to her,” piped up Stanley from behind him. Britta doubted he was on their side, he probably just wanted to avoid being blamed for bringing the enemy into their home.

“Me? That’s ridiculous. Never seen her before in my life.”

“You did give it to me, Derik. But, but, but...” It was hard to come up with a decent lie on the spot. She looked over at Stan, as close to her as possible, trying his best to get between her and the door. He’d be of no help. “The Great Kobold in the Sky made you forget.”

“Blasphemy!” shouted Derik. He raised the ladle over his head. “Kill the heretic.”

“Wait, wait, wait,” said Britta. There was another strike on the door and she was bounced off it, into the middle of the room which gave Stan the chance to take up position behind her. “The Great Gnome and the Great Kobold are working on this together. They teamed up to take down the Great Dwarf.” She was making it up as she went, but it seemed plausible the dwarves would have their own deity.

The kobolds looked to their shaman, who looked like he was considering this celestial development quite seriously. “I see. And the Great Kobold sent you back in time to right a terrible wrong.”

“Okay,” said Britta. She was happy to go along with any story the kobolds would believe. “Yes. Exactly. We can defeat this dwarf and send him back. Show the Great Dwarf his followers are no match for us.”

It seemed to be working. They didn’t look so keen to rip her apart. Only semi-keen.

“But why send him?” Derik pointed at Stan. “Why send a human.” He said the word like it had a horrible taste to it.

Britta hadn’t thought Stan’s race would be a factor. She wasn’t human, so she hadn’t faced the same kind of prejudice. Humans had probably been responsible for all sorts of atrocities from the monsters’ perspective.

“He isn’t human,” blurted out Britta. “He’s one-eighth elf. On his mother’s side.”

“Yes,” said Stan. “Klaatu barada nikto.”

She had no idea what he said but it sounded more like Welsh than Elvish.

“That’s even worse,” said Derik. “Those stuck up bastards look down on everyone.”

“Yes,” said Britta, thinking fast. “They threw him out for being so ugly.”

The kobolds all stared at Stan.

“Well, yes, I can see their point,” said Derik. The others all nodded in agreement.

Stan looked like he wanted to say something but was biting his tongue.

Derik lowered his ladle and tapped his chin. “I don’t see how you two are going to help defeat that thing out there.”

The door buckled again, the resounding thump ringing around the temple.

“I have a plan. We’ll use magic.”

“You have magic that powerful?” said Derik.

“No, not me. You.”


“Yes. You’ll cast all your spells on the dwarf. Blessings, buffs, everything you’ve got.”

“Why would I do that?” said Derik, appalled. “That would only make him stronger.”

“Yes, but then he’ll get Charmer’s Fandango.”

“Oh,” said Derik. His eyes lit up. “Oh, yes, I see. That might actually work.”

Britta clapped her hands together. She’d been thinking of a way to stop the dwarf ever since she’d died. This was the best she could come up with but her concern had been that the shaman would refuse. But he seemed to be onboard.

“There’s just one problem,” said Derik. “It takes time to cast all those spells. I doubt the dwarf will stand still and let me do what I want. We’d need someone to keep it distracted.”

Britta turned and pointed both hands at Stan. “That’s why I brought the human.”

There were big smiles and nods from everyone. Well, nearly everyone.

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