Bitter 175

The arrow whistled past Britta’s ear. She kept very still, mostly because she didn’t want to reveal a second Derik behind her,  but also because the way Stan was acting suggested he wasn’t trying to kill her.

Another narrowly missed her.

“She has a forcefield protecting her from my arrows,” Stan shouted at the dwarf. “My arrows can’t get through. Because of the forcefield. Of magic. Magical forcefield.”

He was talking loudly and with too much enunciation, like a terrible actor, but making sure the dwarf understood what was going on. It was like when someone in a bad play answered the phone and repeated everything the other person said so the audience could know.

“Her magic is too strong at this distance. I need to get closer.” He started edging his way closer to the other side, his bow still drawn but his eyes on the dwarf. It wouldn’t take more than a few taps of the dwarf’s boot for the bridge to collapse again.

Britta didn’t have a forcefield, he had missed on purpose, but it wasn’t a bad bluff. The dwarf didn’t seem completely convinced. It removed its foot from the pressure pad and slowly lumbered towards the bridge.

Britta could send the shade over to drop the bridge again, but the dwarf would be expecting that. With its newly buffed abilities it would probably be able to make it across now that she no longer had the element of surprise on her side.

“Wait!” shouted Stan, lowering his bow and holding up a hand towards the dwarf. “She’s using her Doomsday spell.”

Britta had no idea what he was talking about, but if Stan was trying to convince the dwarf she had some kind of nuclear option at her fingertips, she’d have to try and live up to her billing. Even if she felt like a dork doing it.

“Doom, doom,” said Britta, waving her hands around in the most wizardly fashion she could think of. “All day, every day”

Stan gave her a slightly amused look but shook the smirk off his face. “Don’t come any closer. If she sets it off, she’ll take us all with her.”

The dwarf hesitated. Britta swirled her hands around and created a small ball of light at the same time, bouncing it from hand to hand, trying to make it look ominous and menacing, although it probably looked more like she was chucking around a glowing tennis ball.

It didn’t matter if the dwarf eventually realised she wasn’t going to bring an end to the world as Stan was trying to suggest, they just needed to keep the dwarf busy for the next few minutes until the curse took effect.

There was a sudden, horrible thought in the back of her head. What if the curse didn’t activate? She was assuming it would because it had last time, but maybe they hadn’t repeated the same steps in the right order. Maybe dwarfs were immune. Then they’d have to go with Plan B, and they didn’t have a Plan B.

She put the thought out of her head. If that happened, there was nothing she could do about it. She had to focus on the here and now and hope for the best. There was always next time, of course, but she really didn’t want to have to rely on the game giving her another go. That option felt very unappealing to her.

“Oh, no,” said Stan, “it’s glowing. Get back, get back.” He was doing his best, she was sure, but she wished he didn’t sound quite so mocking. Even dwarfs probably recognised sarcasm when they heard it.

The dwarf began moving again. Across the bridge. Clearly the threat of her Doomsday spell didn’t worry him all that much. Why should it? He was already dead. But then he stopped. His left leg started shaking. His foot tapped the ground, then reached out to tap in front, then to the side and back.

The dwarf’s intense red eyes widened. It looked down at its feet and then raised a large hand to slap the offending leg. The smack echoed loudly throughout the cavern. The other foot joined in and the large, burly monster began to do a shuffle.

It was working. The Charmer’s Fandango had activated, finally. The dwarf’s grim, heavily-bearded face went from horrifying to horrified.

Stan backed away from the dwarf and stepped off the bridge next to Britta. “You did it!” He sounded very surprised, which was a bit annoying. He clearly had had no faith in her plan. It was perfectly understandable, she hadn’t had much faith in it either, but it was still annoying.

“Go over and wait for my signal,” she told her shade. They could drop the dwarf into the chasm again and there was very little chance it would be able to grab onto the falling bridge again. Currently, it was doing the splits and sliding back up to its feet. It looked very impressive, although judging from the faces it was pulling, it wasn’t really flexible enough to pull that move off, normally.

There was a long, plaintive howl. The dwarf screwed up its eyes and with a determined grimace it began dancing towards them.

The shade had reached the other side.

“Now! Jump, jump.”

The shade moved up and down on the pressure pad. Nothing happened.

The dwarf kept coming, sashaying from side to side and then doing high steps like a chorus girl.

The shade kept jumping to no effect.

“I think he did something to lock the bridge,” said Britta.

“Shit,” said Stan. “He’s going to face-kick us to death.”

They needed another plan, and quickly. Britta’s mind went blank. No ideas jumped out of the void.

There was a thunk from behind them and the door on the far wall opened. The Kobold King stood there, surrounded by his elite guards. The cavalry had arrived!

“Attack!” said the king. He pointed at Britta. “Kill the gnome first.”

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