400 chapters! I'm going to take a short break. Bitter will be back on Monday 23rd April. See you then.
(Don't forget to vote on TWF)Preface from Mooderino
Everyone followed the resurrected kobold’s finger to its target. Britta.
She felt a hot flush go through her. Fortunately her skin was already a bit on the red side, so she hoped nobody would notice.
“It was horrible,” continued the kobold in a shaky voice. “The flames and the heat, and the smell of flesh roasting… She burned us alive!”
His rather detailed description of what death by fireball was like wasn’t painting her in a very good light. Even the kobolds in their sickbeds were pushing themselves up on their elbows to get a look at the gnome killer.
She wanted to say something to defend her actions, but her mouth had gone dry and she couldn’t think.
“Wait, wait, wait,” said Dad. “There must be some mistake.” He was loud enough to draw eyes away from Britta. “If you were killed by a fireball, wouldn’t you be all scarred and burned? I saw when they put you on the altar. You looked exactly the same as you do now. Even your clothes are in perfect condition. I ask you,” he said with a look around the room like a lawyer playing to the gallery, “wouldn’t a fireball have singed some of this young kobold’s clothing?”
There was some murmuring, and even her accuser looked down at himself with a doubtful expression.
Strictly speaking, she hadn’t burned him alive. She had just made him think that was what had happened. Although, from the kobold’s perspective, it would have been the same experience either way.
Dad had done a good job of introducing reasonable doubt. He’d done it by lying, but once you commit murder, it makes a little bending of the truth not really that big a deal. It’s not like you’re going to impress people with your high moral standards at that point.
“I think it’s more likely this unfortunate brave young kobold was hit on the head in some fracas and is suffering from a concussion. Perhaps he needs a closer look to get a clearer perspective.”
Dad grabbed Britta’s hand and pulled her forward, heading for the altar.
Britta wasn’t sure what he was doing at first. If the kobold got a better look at her, wouldn’t that make him more certain, not less?
Then she realised he was trying to get them closer to the altar. Once they touched it, they would be able to use it as a spawn point, which was the reason they’d asked to be brought here in the first place.
No one tried to stop them at first, but as soon as they got past the beds and approached the altar itself, a wall of kobolds appeared in front of them.
“You are not permitted to touch the altar,” said the shaman who had performed the resurrection ceremony. He had quite an imposing voice for such a small furry creature.
It made sense that they couldn’t just walk up to an altar in a hostile area and tag it as a save point. Even if they charged through the lines to get a touch, what good would it do? Whenever they spawned here, they would be instantly attacked and killed.
If they wanted use of the kobold altar, they needed to win the kobolds’ trust. Which would be hard to do if they considered her a mass murderer.
“Sorry,” said Dad, hands raised to show he meant no harm. “Didn’t mean to cause a fuss. Just that this young kobold looked like he was confused. Waking up from being dead probably takes some getting used to.” he smiled genially. No one smile back.
He kept referring to the kobold as young, which Britta assumed was to get the more senior kobolds present to look at her accuser as unreliable. Young people got things wrong.
She felt a bit bad about that. First she’d killed him, and now Dad was following up with a character assassination.
“This matter is easily resolved,” said the elite kobold. “Once the High Priest revives the rest of his squad, we will be able to get a full report.”
Was this really just prepared dialogue? Had they anticipated every eventuality?
Whatever the true status of NPCs in the game, one thing was sure. Once the other kobolds confirmed that she had been the one to kill them, her protection under the truce would most likely be revoked. Even if the lack of burn marks would make it questionable if she had used a fireball, she would still be seen as the one responsible for their deaths.
Which she felt was a bit harsh. It wasn’t like they wouldn’t have killed her, given the chance. It had been self-defence. And they weren’t even dead for very long. Clearly they had a system in place to bring the bodies of their fallen back here, and then get them back out in the field.
She looked around her. He kobolds lying in their beds didn’t look ready to return to duty.
Maybe she should confess. They were in combat, injuries were bound to happen. But everyone was fine, now. Sort of.
They didn’t look like they’d be very receptive to her excuses.
“Bring the next soldier,” said the elite.
Another limp body was carried to the altar. Britta glanced up at Dad. They both knew this would be the corroborating witness that ended the case with a guilty decision.
“Might need to beam us out of here,” Dad muttered.
At least they had that. Shame to leave after getting so far, but what else could the do? A good attempt, but you can’t win them all.
A gong sounded. It was distant, but its reverberations filled the room.”
“Breach! Breach!” went up a cry.
“Where?” shouted the elite kobold.
“The vault,” someone shouted back. “The banshee are free!”
Pandemonium ensued as kobolds began running around, the two suspected murderers forgotten.
“That was convenient,” said Dad, stepping out of the way of kobold soldier rushing past. “Must be a scripted event.”
It did seem to be highly fortuitous timing. Just as they were about to get found out, the alarm bells go off. Had the game intervened to save her? Or was this normal operating procedure? You get to this point, find yourself about to be attacked by the kobolds, and then you get interrupted by a third party.
“We should be fine now,” Dad said under his breath. “We have plot armour. They won’t kill us until they deal with this other threat. Probably ask us for help. We’re in a cutscene. Safest place to be.”
Dad had played countless games, hundred-percented most of them, so when he said they had plot armour, whatever that was, he was probably right.
“Those two,” said the elite kobold, pointing at her and Dad. “Kill them both.”
Then again, nobody’s perfect.