Bitter 401

As soon as the elite kobold gave the order for them to be killed, the kobold soldiers who were already guarding Britta and her father drew their weapons and aimed them in a threatening manner.

They were clubs and sticks, crudely made and lacking in any real craftsmanship, but they would still do a fair bit of damage if enough of them were used at the same time. Britta had no interest in finding out how many hits from a weaponised wooden spoon it would take to incapacitate her or Dad.

“Wait,” said Dad. “Wait!” He had his hands raised, palms open, the universally accepted gesture for ‘Hey, come on now, don’t be like that.’

The kobolds hesitated. They seemed wary of their targets, which was understandable. They were facing players, who usually had weapons and spells that did damage. Usually.

“Third formation,” barked the elite kobold.

Instantly, the kobolds formed a circle around them, and kneeled. Now there was nowhere to run to, but the kobolds weren’t really in position to fight very effectively. They could maybe grab your legs if you tried to run past them.

“Ranged, position!”

More kobold appeared behind the kneelers. These carried slingshots.

“Don’t worry,” said Dad, sounding worried. “Wait it out. You don’t kill players in a cutscene. It goes against every rule of god and man.”

Britta wasn’t convinced video games cared about the rule of god. She was pretty sure there was no mention of video games in the Bible. Although there might have been a reference to the sin of microtransactions in the back.

“Aim from the hip,” the elite kobold reminded his men. They were very well disciplined, that much was obvious.

“We have plot armour,” said Dad. “They can’t kill us if they need us be part of the cutscene.”

The ‘cutscene’ Dad was referring to appeared to be the scene of their execution. It was possible they would be rescued at the last minute, in true Hollywood style, but it would have to be soon. Like, really, really soon.

There were four kobolds with slings. They had started spinning them at the waist, like they were spinning keychains.

“I thought we had a truce,” shouted Dad. Then he dropped his voice. “I’ll keep them distracted, you get ready to teleport us out.”

“Okay,” said Britta. “But I think you should know they have very good hearing.”

The kobolds were looking at them with foreboding stares, and their dog-like ears perked up and twitched.

A commotion from somewhere close by distracted everyone. There was shouting and screaming coming from another tunnel leading out of the temple. There was a flurry of activity in the doorway, and then wounded kobolds were rushed in on stretchers. They were covered in blood and screaming in agony.

It would have been the perfect time to get out, but Britta was curious about what was going on. She wasn’t that worried about dying. It wasn’t like levelling up was a focal point of her gaming experience.

“Look, look,” said Dad. “You need help. We can help you. We know magic.” He was overselling how useful they’d be in a battle, but it was as good a play as any.

She understood his desperation to get something out of this rather than just run away. To have come this far and make no progress was very annoying. It was hard to believe the devs had planned all this just to kill off the players before anything happened.

What would be the point of that?

“Normally, I would accept your offer,” said the elite kobold. “But you are accused of using fire magic.”

“So?” said Dad. “What’s wrong with fire magic.”

Even with all the running around and frantic taking care of the wounded, Dad’s words sent a shock wave through the kobolds. Britta could feel the hostility towards them growing.

“Fire magic ends life,” said the High Priest, watching from the altar. “No one comes back once they are dust.”

It seemed using fire was considered unethical because you couldn’t be resurrected from a pile of ashes. Setting fire to someone was a permadeath.

Britta understood, and was sympathetic. If they had a practical reason for their beliefs, then that was fair enough. But Britta hadn’t actually used fire. She was innocent.

“I an not a fire mage,” she said. “If I was, there’d at least be a few scorch marks. Look at his clothes.”

“I swear what I said was true,” said her kobold-accuser whose clothes were in an entirely unscorched condition. “I know what I saw with my own eyes. I was there.” He was getting quite upset by people doubting his word. Britta felt a bit bad.

“Quiet,” boomed the elite. He turned towards the High Priest. “Is she speaking the truth?”

The shaman raised his hands. He had a staff in one, the top of which was glowing. Could he detect lies? Technically, everything Britta had said was true. She wasn’t a fire mage, and she hadn’t cast Fireball on anyone. Technically.

“She speaks the truth,” said the shaman.

A wave of relief passed through her.

“Then you can help,” said the elite kobold. “As soon as you sign this.”

The air in front of her shimmered and something appeared. It was as big as the status screen, but it was very different. Lots of writing, and a place for her to sign. It appeared to be a contract.

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