Bitter 212

“I’ll promise not to attack you… immediately.” The goblin was hanging precariously off the floor, its legs dangling over the precipice.

Britta shuffled a bit closer and put a toe over the edge. It was hard to make out where the edge was, even with the goblin hanging off it. She raised her ball of light. The pit below was very dark.

“It looks like a long way down,” said Britta. “I wonder what’s at the bottom.”

“Alright, alright. I won’t attack you. But you can’t tell anyone about this.” The goblin had long, thin fingers with sharp nails which were barely clinging to the invisible surface.

Britta wasn’t sure who he was worried she would tell. It wasn’t like she made a habit of speaking to goblins. Most of the time she didn’t get the chance before they stabbed her.

“How do I know I can trust you?” she asked. It wouldn’t hurt to dot a few Is and cross a couple of Ts. She could always leave him to his fate, but real or not, it didn’t feel right letting him die.

“I said I wouldn’t attack you, didn’t I? What more do you want?” He was scrabbling to keep himself from falling. As one hand began slipping, he reached out to get better purchase, and then the other would begin to slide off.

“Don’t you have an oath or something you can swear by?”

The goblin stopped for a moment. “Yes, alright. Cross my heart—” The goblin used one hand to cross his heart, and slid off the floor. He fell with a scream.

For one second, Britta considered jumping to grab him. The moment passed. She listened for the goblin hitting bottom. She assumed there must be one. There was, signified by a splash.

If there was water down there, that might mean the goblin had survived.

“Hello? Are you okay?”

She strained to hear and jumped back as the goblin shouted rather louder than she was expecting. “I’m alive, no thanks to you.” The acoustics were excellent. “What did you make me do that for?”

She hadn’t made him do anything. It wasn’t her fault the devs had programmed him to swear his oath like a ten-year-old child.

“What’s down there? Just some water?”

“Yes, horrible, rancid water. Smells like my old—wait, what was that? There’s something moving around in here. Argh, no!”

The sound of splashing rose up to her. Violent, aggressive thrashing punctuated by screams and cries for help.

Britta backed away. She had tried her best to find a peaceful resolution to her problem with goblins, but not everyone wanted to do things the peaceful way, it seemed. Certainly not what was down there.

She felt bad for the goblin, but not bad enough to risk her own safety. It may only have been a game, but whatever was going on below didn’t sound like playing.

Britta went back through the tunnel to the room where she’d first seen the goblin. It was empty. There was a howl further towards the right side of the maze. It didn’t worry her unduly. If the game wanted to scare her with sound effects, good luck to it. She had to see the danger to believe it.

She turned left to face the exit that would lead her to the far end of the six-by-six grid. It was quite interesting to see what the game considered her fears. So far, it hadn’t really tried to get under her skin, it was more of a tease mocking her silly concerns. Which was perfectly okay as far as she was concerned.

The next room was quite noisy. She poked her head in to have a quick look and was surprised by how many people there were. At least a dozen, maybe more. Twenty? Thirty?

They were dressed up, in the style of the posher citizens of New Town. They didn’t appear to all be human, but it was hard to tell who was who (or what) because they were wearing masks. Quite elaborate ones in the shape of various fantastic beasts.

Dragons, unicorns, things with multiple eyes and fancy horns. It was quite glamorous, like she had walked into the middle of a ball. People were chatting away merrily, paying no attention to the little gnome spying on them.

Britta had no idea what fear this was meant to represent, but if they carried on overlooking her presence, she might be able to sneak through the crowd without being noticed. It was certainly crowded enough for someone of her size to slip through the cracks.

She decided to go for it. Quickly, confidently, she set off, doing her best to shimmy and slide between bodies before they slammed together and squashed her in the middle. Maybe she was being asked to face her fear of having no personal space. Not really a phobia she was aware of.

As she got further into the room, the more crowded it felt. Surely they couldn’t fit this many people into the room. Was the size of this one different?

She began to hear snippets of conversation. It was hard to catch whole sentences, but there seemed to be a common theme.

“Look at her. How repulsive.”

“Unpleasant, unpleasant.”

“Disgusting. She’s like a rodent. A fat, little disease-riddled rat.”

Britta’s face was getting hotter. Were they talking about her? Was the fear to do with people thinking she was ugly?

No point trying to get to her like that, she didn’t care. Been there, done that. She saw the far wall through a gap. Finally. She squeezed between two large buttocks facing each other and she was able to breathe again. She looked at the wall. She looked closer. There was no exit.

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