Bitter 166

“What is Charmer’s Fandango?” said Stan.

Britta explained how Derik had cast a bunch of different spells on her and the resulting dance that led to her death. Stan listened attentively, as did the kobold priest.

“You are speaking the truth,” said Derik, as though he had been doubting her up to now. “You really suffered the curse.”

“Yes,” said Britta.

“And you died.” The kobold stared at her with his beady, piercing eyes. “And came back.”

She hadn’t given all the details of her dance workout, just that she had lost control and plunged to her death. The exact manner of her suicidal cavorting wasn’t relevant to the matter at hand. But from the kobold’s perspective that meant she had risen from the dead, which was probably not a normal result of dying in his experience. NPCs didn’t get to load their last save.

“If we can do the same to the dwarf, I don’t think it will die, but we’ll have a chance to trap it and maybe come up with a more permanent solution.”

“Trap it where?” asked Stan.

“In the chasm under the bridge?” suggested Britta. She still didn’t know what was down there but it was the only place she could think of. “Unless you know somewhere better?” she said to Derik.

“The spells I cast,” said Derik, ignoring her question, “do you remember which ones?”

“All of them,” said Britta. “Even Fungus Detection and Water Purification. Everything you’ve got.”  

Derik’s eyes glittered with recognition as she named the spells. “And Sorghum’s Might?”

“Yes. But you called it Silpling’s Might last time.”

“Yes, yes, that’s what I meant.”

He was testing her. She was speaking the truth so she had nothing to worry about on that score, but he obviously didn’t trust her yet.

“And you want me to kite the dwarf so you can get all the spells off?” said Stan.

“You do have the longest legs,” said Britta, which was clearly true even without the elite kobolds sinking down a little to make themselves appear shorter, which they were doing while trying to pretend they weren’t.

Stan chewed at the inside of his cheek. “I suppose it makes sense. Should be doable if I only have to wait for three or four spells.”

“Seven,” said Britta. She looked over at Derik who was nodding to himself.

“Seven?” said Stan. “So, couple of minutes?”

“Took him ten minutes to cast them all last time.”

“That sounds about right,” agreed Derik.

Stan sighed heavily. “And then the dwarf will start dancing?”

“Not exactly. One of the spells prevents curses, so you have to wait for it to run down before the Fandango activates.”

“And how long will that take?”

Britta shrugged. “I’m not sure, I wasn’t keeping track.” She turned to Derik. “How long does the Great Blessing last?”

The other kobolds gasped.

“It is allowed,” Derik snapped at them. “A non-kobold who is worthy may have the Great Blessing of the the Great Kobold in the Sky. It’s in the book, you just don’t know it because none of you can read.” He glared at them, daring them to question his knowledge of scripture.

“But the dwarf,” squeaked Sidney, “he isn’t worthy, is he?”

“Special dispensation!” shrieked Derik into Sidney’s face, like the point was indisputable. The other kobolds all nodded like this was a valid argument.

“So, how long will the blessing last?” asked Stan, more concerned with his own chances of survival than kobold religious dogma.

“Twenty minutes,” said Derik. “Give or take.”

“Okay. Twenty isn’t so bad.” Stan didn’t seem completely confident, but he did have experience in running away from the dwarf. “Twenty minutes and then he’ll lose control.”

“There’s one other thing,” said Britta.

Stan’s shoulder’s sagged, like he already knew he wasn’t going to like what she was about to tell him. He was right.

“The spells will buff him. Which means he’ll get stronger and faster. The longer he chases you, the quicker he’ll get.”

Stan nodded, resigned to his fate. “I’m going to die, aren’t I?”

“If you can get him to the bridge,” said Britta, “we might be able to keep him off you. We can drop him into the chasm before the curse takes effect. He won’t be able to climb out once he’s lord of the dance.”

“You know how to control the bridge?” said Derik, once again looking at her suspiciously.

“Yes, you showed me how,” lied Britta. If he thought the old him had trusted her, maybe the new him would also.

There was another bang on the door. It held but wouldn’t for much longer.

“Is there another way out?” she asked. “A secret passage or something?”

The kobolds exchanged shifty glances, suggesting there was.

“If there was,” said Derik, “we wouldn’t want to reveal such things to strangers. Strangers who might abuse that knowledge in the future.”

“Does it really matter?” The door buckled again, groaning with the effort of staying whole. “Can’t you blindfold us and take us through without letting us see anything?”

Her compromise was accepted and dirty rags were tied around hers and Stan’s eyes. Once they were out of the secret tunnel or whatever it was, they would go straight to the treasure room and wait for the dwarf, who would no doubt follow.

It wasn’t a perfect plan, she had no way of knowing if the effect of Charmer’s Fandango would be the same for the dwarf as it had been for her, but it was worth an attempt, she felt.

“Okay,” she said, “I can’t see a thing. Ready when you are.”

She was struck a number of times from every direction. Everything that was already black went blacker. Then white. She opened her eyes to see a message in front of her.

You died.

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