Bitter 206

“Come on, Donald!” cried out Britta. The goat sprang over bush and shrub, skittering from side to side. She was staying ahead of her pursuers, but she could hear them close behind.

She dared a quick peek over her shoulder.

The cart was rocking wildly, threatening to spill its cargo of clinging ruffians at any moment. The horse attached to it was foaming at the mouth, leaning left then right to keep the cart upright. The three bandits were racing alongside, their weapons drawn and waving around in a threatening manner.

The two groups seemed to be focused on each other more than her, which wasn’t a good sign.

Britta sat up and pointed ahead. “To the gold, Donald. To the goooold!”

There wasn’t any gold, but she figured it would be the sort of thing that would refocus attention on her. If they were intent on catching her, they would be less likely to stop to have a fight to the death. Maybe.

They were shouting threats and warnings, each demanding the right of way. Perhaps making them think there was treasure at stake hadn’t been a smart move after all. Now they definitely didn’t want to let the other pass.

If she didn’t want to see them kill one another, her only option was to die first. She couldn’t log out while she was in a combat state, but she could do a hard exit and take the twenty-four hour penalty. But it was impossible to open her status screen while she was clinging onto Donald.

She could turn around and let them take her out. But was that a good idea? If they captured her or only injured her, she would still be here to witness the ensuing fight.

She didn’t actually know for sure their deaths would make the game trap her like it had done with Stan, but it seemed like a very possible outcome. Too big a risk to take. The map was still open in front of her. The hole that led to the gnome village wasn’t far now. If she got there, they might not follow her inside. And whatever they did to each other outside wouldn't be her problem.

She leaned forward and peered over Donald’s head, trying to recognise any landmarks from last time. Nothing really stood out. It was all brush and dirt, and it was moving too fast to see clearly.

Donald suddenly came to a skidding stop, almost sending her flying over his head. She clung tightly to his neck. Just in front of her was the hole. He knew where they were going better than she did, it seemed. She jumped off and looked back. The bandits and the thugs were sword fighting while riding next to each other, swinging and swiping as they nearly collided, trying to regain control of their rides to avoid obstacles. There was definitely going to be an accident in a minute. Britta ran and jumped into the hole.

Under normal circumstances she would have checked to make sure it was the right hole, but there was no time for that. She jumped in feet first and fell into the darkness.

It was both exhilarating and terrifying. She felt a strong gust of air blowing from below, and a wave of relief washed over her. It was the right hole. She had done it. They were up there hacking each other to pieces, probably. She had already left the area. She had seen nothing.

Below her, the landing area rose to meet her. She landed with a thump that was a shock to her ankles. She only stumbled a little before regaining her balance. She could carry on unmolested. Find the Great Gnome, get her quest, log out.

There was a loud yell. She looked up as two large feet descended on her. She tried to throw herself clear, but they hit her in the small of her back. She was driven into the ground face first.

Dazed and winded, she couldn’t resist as her hands were tied and a gag was stuffed into her mouth.

“Careful, boys,” said a voice. “Boss said she might be one of them filthy magic users.”

There was some muttering in concerned voices. From what she could hear, it was the Garbolum crew that had followed her down. What kind of security did these gnomes have? Could anyone just dive in unannounced?

“Look out!” cried one of the thugs.

Britta felt the weight pinning her down lift. She rolled onto her back and saw three figures descending. It was the three bandits. They were coming to make their claim, whooping and yelling as they fell. They had decided against a surprise attack, apparently.

The half dozen thugs were waiting for them, weapons at the ready. It was going to be a bloodbath, and she had a ringside seat.

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