Bitter 171

There was no one waiting in line for the dungeon. Everyone had given up on the dwarf and the mines had returned to being the one-time basic primer for newbies.

“How do you want to play this?” asked Stan. “Same again and hope they don’t turn on us this time?”

“If we don’t tell them everything they need to know, we should be fine,” said Britta. “Our mistake was giving them all the details so they didn’t need us anymore. This time we’ll be more cautious.”

Our mistake?” said Stan, making it clear where he thought the blame lay. “And what happens after the dwarf’s taken care of? How do we stop them finishing us off then?”

Britta frowned. She hadn’t thought that far ahead. She had no idea what would happen once the dwarf was out of the picture. There had to be a point to all this, a reason why the dwarf was here.

“I think there’s more to this than just killing the dwarf, but there’s no time to work it out while he’s chasing us up and down every tunnel. Once we’ve got him dancing and out of the way, we can move onto the next part of the plan.”

“Which is?” asked Stan.

“I’ll let you know,” said Britta.

They entered the mines and made their way to the first room. Britta led the way with a magic ball of light held in one hand. Stan looked like he wanted to ask her something, probably about what other spells she knew, but he kept his mouth shut. Eventually, he would want to know more about her class and abilities, but she had decided she couldn’t tell anyone she was an illusionist; it would give up too much of an advantage if they knew most of her spells were fake. She would have to come up with a way to avoid the conversation, not only with Stan but everyone she played with.

“We could just go to the temple room,” said Stan as they waited by the north exit to the room. “We don’t need this guy to take us there.”

Britta peered into the dark tunnel. There was no sign of Sidney or the dwarf. “We don’t need him to get us there, we need him to get Derik to open the door.”

“Isn’t that what your Ring of Kobold Friendship is for?” Stan pointed at Britta’s hand. She was wearing the ring Derik had given her, which was supposed to stop kobolds from killing her. It hadn’t worked so well last time.

“I think it would be better to have both. Just in case. My dad says belts and braces if you want to be sure.”

Stan had that look again, biting his tongue not to ask her questions.

There was a sound from the tunnel. It was surprisingly loud. Not like someone running towards them, more like a bunch of people.

Britta threw her ball of light as far as she could and the faces of multiple kobolds appeared out of the gloom. They were big, elites, and they were running right at them.

Stan stuck out his foot and kicked at the tripwire across the entrance. It snapped and the block of stone came crashing down.

“What did you do that for?” said Britta, shocked. “They’re all going to die.”

“Rather them than us. That wasn’t your little friend, if you didn’t notice. That was the whole kobold army.”

It hadn’t been an army, five or six from what she’d seen, but he was right, they hadn’t looked friendly. And the ring wasn’t a magic item that converted enemies into friends, it was just a ring that helped her convince kobolds to not kill her right away. Horrible as it was, blocking off the kobolds was probably the right move.

“I hope this doesn’t mean this is the wrong dungeon,” said Stan. There was a howl and then some screaming from the other side of the stone slab. “Nope, right dungeon.”

They made their own way to the temple and got there in a few minutes. There was no sign of the dwarf but then he was probably busy.

When they got to the room, Stan banged on the door and shouted, “Pizza delivery.”

“Are you trying to be funny?” said Britta, unimpressed. “Because that’s just lame.”

The door remained closed.

“I’ve got pepperoni with anchovies,” yelled Stan. “That’s the sort of sick combination kobolds would order. They’re monsters.”

Britta rolled her eyes. He was worse than Dad.

“Derik!” shouted Britta. “We know how to stop the banshee-dwarf. Open up!”

After a couple of seconds, the door opened just enough for one of Derik’s eyes to appear in the gap. “Who are you? What do you want?”

Britta held up the ring. “You gave me this. I’m here to help.”

The door remained as it was, not opening further but not closing, either.

“Come on, Derik,” said Stan impatiently. “The G.K. sent us.”

“The G.K.?” said Derik.

“Yes. The G.K. in the S.K.Y. Now let us in. We’ve got a dwarf on our tail and we can only get rid of him with your help.”

Britta held up the ring again. The door opened and they slipped in.

There were no elite kobolds waiting for them this time. The ones they’d seen being chased may well have been the same as the ones that should have been here. Things weren’t always exactly the same every time, it seemed. Worth remembering.

“Whatever you’re after, it won’t make any difference,” said Derik. He looked tired and haggard. “The dwarf can’t be stopped.”

“He can be kept busy, though,” said Britta. “With Charmer’s Fandango.”

Derik’s ears perked up. Literally. They rose like dog ears on the top of his head. Britta went through the explanation of how they would deal with the dwarf. She hoped things would turn out better this time.

Derik was all ears.

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