Bitter 314

She didn’t recognise the location she was viewing, but it had an underground cavern feel to it. Somewhere nearby, probably. She was slightly above and behind where the three of them — the Mayor, the kobold king and the man she assumed was Gabriel Garbolum — were talking about joining forces to kill a gnome.

It wasn’t definite that the gnome girl they were talking about was her. There were quite a few gnomes in this world, and half of them were female. One of them might be an important part of this quest and worthy of this kind of personalised attention. Killing Britta would serve little purpose in the long run. She’d be back in the game almost immediately. They might not be programmed to know that, but what would they do when she reappeared?

“And when she comes back?” asked the large kobold, mirroring her own thoughts.

“We kill her,” said the Mayor, “and we keep killing her.”

Britta was shocked. The game would allow them to do that? Did they really see her as that big a threat? She was a low-level character, bumbling along, not having much of an impact on events. Why pick on her? She fervently hoped it was another gnome they were talking about.

“Once she gives up,” said the Mayor, “I’ll be more than happy to take care of her friend in the guardhouse.”

They were making it increasingly difficult for Britta to convince herself it was some other gnome they were planning to assassinate. It almost felt like it had nothing to do with wanting to stop her interfering with their plans. It felt much more personal.

She had tried to suggest to the Mayor that she was close to finding the evidence Freddy had on him. Perhaps she shouldn’t have made it seem like she was about to ruin his reputation. Did he care that much about something like that? She wondered what it was he thought she had on him.

The three of them didn’t seem very hostile towards each other. Far from it. They were quite chummy from what she could make out. She wished she had a better view to see their faces more clearly.

As soon as she thought it, the view changed, swinging around so she was facing the other direction.

It was like she had a camera that could move around at will, letting her see whatever she wanted. And they had no idea she was observing. What else could it show her? Would it take her to any location she wanted to see?

She thought of Dad in the kobold temple. The scene in front of her blurred and she was looking down on Dad, standing next to Sidney and Derik. They were peering into the hole she had gone down.

“Are you okay?” said Dad.

“I’m fine,” said Britta. She was speaking from right beside him, it felt like, but he didn’t turn around.

“Be careful. You should try to find some healing.”

If it could show her things she wanted to see, did that include items she’d like to find? She thought of a healing potion. Specifically, the nearest one to her location.

The scene in front of her changed again. She was back in the lava room, hovering over herself. What did that mean? There was a healing potion in here, somewhere?

She tried to get it to be more precise, but there was no change. It was worth knowing, though. She should have searched the place more thoroughly.

If the Keystone could show her whatever she asked it, even if it was only a general location, that would be incredibly useful. As long as she knew what she needed, she could get the Keystone to reveal where it was.

Special items, particular characters, hidden areas — she could pinpoint them from here. Presumably there was also a way of targeting things, and then destroying them. She was starting to see the attraction of taking control of the Keystone. A one-stop shop for world domination.

She thought about the keys. Where were the six keys the game had mentioned? They had to be important. She focused her thoughts on them, but the image in front of her eyes went dark.

Perhaps it couldn’t show her some things. Or, perhaps the keys were in different places. She thought about the first key. Where was that?

The scene returned to the three conspirators planning her murder.

“We’ll have to make it look like an accident,” said the Mayor.

“Why?” said the kobold king. “Cut off her head and put it on a spike as a warning.”

The Mayor rolled his eyes. “You explain, Gabby.”

“We don’t want to excite her friends,” said the large man in black. “They tend to seek revenge in these matters.” His voice was gravelly and surprisingly quiet, which made it all the more menacing.

If there was a key here, it was probably on one of them. She thought about the second key. Nothing changed.

She moved back to Dad, then thought about the second key. She returned to the Mayor and his cohorts. The second key was here as well. She did the same for the third key, and got the same result.

They probably had one key each. As long as things stayed that way, no one could take complete control of the Keystone.

There were three more keys, though. Did that mean there were three more participants she didn’t know about? No problem. She could track them down easily. Her new toy provided the answers to all questions. And the best thing about it was that no one knew what she was doing. Zero threat, maximum field of view. Just the way she liked it. She thought about key number four. She was still looking at the same view. Mayor, Garbolum, King Kobold. One of them had two keys.

She tried for key five. No change, again. Same for six. All the keys were here. Did they have two each? Or did someone have five? That would make things a bit more tricky.

“From what I hear, she’s a slippery one. Maybe we should contract it out,” said Garbolum. “That way it won’t be linked to any of us.”

“Good idea,” said the Mayor. “We could put a bounty on her head and let her own kind take care of her.”

“But how will that convince her to hand over the keys?” asked the kobold.

Wait, they thought she had the keys? Why did they think that?

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