Britta stuck out her hand and a ball of light appeared. It lit up the small room to reveal… nothing.
There was no mad dwarf, no monster of any kind. She had a good look around, but there wasn’t anywhere to hide. She turned her light off and it was dark again, and the two red eyes reappeared. They didn’t do anything. Didn’t move or try to get closer to her. They were just two dots of light.
It was a trick to give her a shock. The whole place was designed as a psych-out, it seemed. Even the howling was probably a recording.
The Great Gnome said it would test her greatest fears, he didn’t say the fears would be real. It was more like a ghost house at a fair. Things were going to jump out at her, but they weren’t real.
There was another howl from her right. She smiled. Nice try, but no kewpie doll.
If it really was as simple as that—and she was only Level 3, so it damn well should be as simple as that—then there was nothing to worry about. She decided to play it safe anyway, and stay cautious. The game could always be running a double bluff.
She took the exit going forward. Now that she had evaluated the threat to be minimal, the quickest route would be to always choose forward. Only four rooms to go.
She walked through a short tunnel and stopped with one foot raised, about to step into the next room. Only, there wasn’t a floor.
There was a dark pit with no visible bottom. There were exits on each of the other three walls, but no way to reach them, unless she could fly. Life would be a lot easier once she got that levitation spell.
Her only recourse was to backtrack and then go sideways again. She was about to leave when she decided to do a little experiment, for science. She held her ball of light over the pit and dropped it.
If there were spikes or something deadly at the bottom, she’d like to know.
The ball got as far as her feet and then it bounced a couple of times before coming to a stop, floating over the hole.
Britta crouched down and felt the surface. It was hard and solid. Glass? Some kind of forcefield? Whatever it was, it meant she could get across. Probably.
She put out a tentative foot and placed it on the invisible floor. It didn’t break. She put the other foot next to it, most of her body still in the opening. If she fell, she would end up on her bum, but still in the tunnel.
The floor supported her weight. She took a couple of steps forward. It was a strange, disconcerting feeling to be over a bottomless pit. There was nothing below her, which was the problem.
She did her best not to look down and told herself death was no big deal. She could always try again. She picked up the ball of light and held it up. There was no way to tell if the invisible floor covered the whole pit, or only some of it.
She crouched down and rolled the ball along the ground toward the exit in front of her. The ball went about a metre, and then fell.
It quickly disappeared into the darkness. It didn’t illuminate the pit, didn’t reveal anything down there. It’s glow was visible for about ten seconds, and then she couldn’t make it out anymore.
Britta repeated the ball rolling in various directions and discovered the floor supporting her only covered half the room. She could go left or right, but getting to the exit she would rather take meant taking a leap of faith. She didn’t feel like taking that risk today. She went right.
Left would take her to the edge of the maze, leaving her with fewer options. If she always had four options to choose from, there was less chance of her getting cornered.
Another short tunnel and she was in a room that had someone else in it. A goblin.
She knew what goblins were because they had a tendency to kill her. Mainly when she wasn’t ready. It was something of a bugbear of hers. Which was probably an inappropriate term to use in a world where actual bugbears existed.
The goblin was sitting in the middle of the room, looking mildly bored. It hadn’t even noticed her.
There was no reason to think this goblin would attack her just because all the others had. Without provocation. Or warning.
This was a test. She had to face her fears and realise they weren’t the big deal she’d convinced herself they were.
“Hello?” she said.
The goblin looked up at her, its green face covered in scaly skin with hair protruding between the cracks, its yellow eyes full of menace and its mouth full of sharp teeth, and charged at her a large club appearing in its hand out of nowhere.
Britta had hoped for a peaceful resolution to her never ending feud with goblin-kind, but she wasn’t stupid. She knew what the more likely outcome would be. She turned and ran back down the tunnel.
When she got to the pit room, she turned off her ball of light and jumped left so she was standing to the side of the opening. The goblin would either go through one of the other exits, or it would fall down the side of the room that was a hole.
She heard its feet. She felt the air as it ran past. And then she heard it scream as it fell.
Britta turned her light back on. The goblin was clinging to an invisible edge, its feet trying to gain purchase on a big wall of nothing.
“Help me,” it cried out.
“Why did you try to kill me?” asked Britta.
“What? It’s my job, isn’t it? Help me, I’m going to fall.”
The smart thing to do would be to leave the goblin to its fate. It wasn’t real, just an NPC. But the desperate look in its yellow eyes was hard to ignore.
“Promise you won’t attack me if I help you up,” she said.
The goblin hesitated. It really took its work seriously.