Bitter 425

Britta fell much faster than she had hoped. There was no gust of wind to slow her descent, it was more of a plummet.

It was too dark to see what was below her. The previous times she had used this entrance, she had been gently lowered onto a platform in a small room with multiple exits. The floor, as she recalled, had been made of stone.

At her current falling speed, she would break her legs at the very least. More than likely she would die.

She didn’t just have to accept her fate, though. She had skills and abilities. She had spells. This was exactly the kind of situation where a sharp mind and quick thinking could turn a fatal situation into a slightly painful one.

She ran through her spells. She could copy things, she could make a ball of light, she could make fake fireballs, and she could summon her shade. None of those were going to cushion her fall.

The one spell that was useful was Teleport. It would save her, but it would also send her back to town. Not really that much better than dying.

There wasn’t much time left. She had to make a decision now. Right now.

She stretched her arms out, ready to cast a spell. Air rushed through her extended fingers, strong enough to push her hands up.

The air was flowing like she had expected it to, just not where she was falling. She flailed her arms and legs in an effort to move her body sideways. The game world physics decided that was going to have no effect.

Britta made a ball of light. She was in the middle of the shaft, the walls out of her reach. Why would they make it so the gust of air she needed to not die was only at the edges?

She put her arms down by her sides and then spread them out, flapping like a bird. It didn’t help. She took a deep breath, making herself bigger. More surface area, more wind-resistance, the slower her fall. That didn’t work either.

She let out the air in a frustrated blast through her nose, and was thrust into the shaft wall. There was no way that should have worked, should it? She made a mental note to ask her physics tutor about it.

The wind blowing around the sides of the shaft did slow her descent, but slamming into the rock wall spun her around and sent her careening from one side of the shaft to the other, wailing.


She hit her head, banged her back, caught her extremities on outcrops of sharp stone. Thanks to the wind preventing her from reaching the bottom too quickly, she had plenty of time to bounce around getting beaten up by a hole in the ground. Little red numbers floated up and away from her.

The ground arrived without warning. She had been twisted around so she was falling backwards, eyes on the distant dot of blue, so she didn’t see it arrive in the small of her back with a thump. It wasn’t too bad. The bang as her head hit the ground next was more painful, jarring her teeth and making her eyes lose focus for a second.

She lay there, catching her breath. Not the most elegant entrance she’d ever made. She sat up and looked around, rubbing the back of her head. It wasn’t bleeding. The lattice in the floor where the air was supposed to flow through had a large slab of stone covering most of it. Why had they blocked it?

There was no one here. The light from her ball showed six tunnels. She tried to recall which one led where. The sound of running footsteps approached from one of them, along with the glow of some light source.

Britta waited for the welcoming committee to arrive. At least she’d be able to ask for directions.

A gnome appeared. He held a lantern in one hand, and a round shield in the other. His outfit looked a lot like armour. It was made out of quilted material, so it probably didn’t provide the greatest protection, but the padding might save a hit point or two. Maybe they would give her some as a welcoming gift.

The gnome stopped, raised the lantern to get a better look, and then turned around and ran away down the same tunnel before Britta could say anything.

Britta wasn’t sure what to do. He had looked shocked by her appearance, although she wasn’t sure if he’d been surprised to see her here, or he just didn’t like the look of her.

She could follow him. Presumably, the tunnel he’d used went to the main cavern, and even if it didn’t, there would be someone on the other end to talk to.

She got up and brushed herself off. According to her status screen, she had lost seven hit points on the way down. Padded armour would have come in handy.

Footsteps echoed down the same tunnel. Lots of them. He had gone to fetch assistance, it seemed. Had he taken one look at her and decided it was going to be more than a one-man job? She waited.

Six gnomes dressed like the first one came running in, all carrying shields, led by a female wearing slightly more impressive armour. It was still made of cloth, but it had extra straps and buckles. She had a sword drawn. It wasn’t very big, but it looked sharp enough.

“Who are you?” she said. “Who sent you?” She extended the sword in a threatening manner. The other gnomes pulled out sticks from behind their shields. They weren’t just broken branches, they were smooth and carefully crafted weapons, like police batons. They’d sent the riot squad for her.

“Hey, I’m not here to cause trouble.” She raised both hands.

“Are you an agent of the Dark Lord?” demanded the gnome.

“Um, no. I don’t think so. I mean, no. Definitely not.” This was no time to be equivocating.

“He sent you, didn’t he,” said the gnome. “You’re here to destroy the gnome way of life.”

“What? No. Why would I do that? I’m a gnome, too.”

“The perfect disguise for a spy!” she yelled. “She must not be allowed to sow the seeds of dissent and anarchy.”

The gnomes surrounded her, their shields held high and slightly trembling.

“Honestly, I’m not looking for a fight. I’m not even armed.“

She said it to show she didn’t pose a threat. It seemed to be taken as encouragement. The gnomes lowered their shields to see more clearly as they closed in on her, batons raised.

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