Bitter 79

Britta crouched. She braced herself and had the shield up, covering most of her. The goblin didn’t try anything fancy, it just hit the shield with all its might. Britta was pushed back, but the shield didn’t break. The goblin hit the shield again and again, little numbers flew off into the air. She hadn’t had a chance to check its durability, so she had no idea how much damage it could take.

The goblin’s blows slowed as it tired. They were much weaker, too, which made them easier to withstand. It was a good shield.

The strikes stopped and the only noise was the goblin panting. Britta peered over the top of the shield. The goblin was doubled over breathing hard. It had really given its all, but the attack had only been on the shield. Goblins were not the smartest.

She checked the goblin from top to bottom, trying to see if it was the same one as before, but she only caught a glimpse of the last one before getting killed, and she wasn’t much of a goblin expert. It was around the same height as her, but stockier and hairier. It didn’t have clothes, but probably didn’t need any. It could be the same one, but it could just as easily not be.

“Did you see?” she said, assuming they were still watching back at mission control.

“Yes,” said Dr Reedy. Britta waited for her to say more, but there was just silence.

The goblin had recovered. Britta didn’t fancy taking another round of blows. “Hey!” she called out. “Why are you attacking me? I didn’t do anything to you.”

The goblin had his sword up, but he didn’t attack. Had they frozen it for her? No, that would be too convenient, plus she could see it moving from foot to foot. It was looking for an opening. It suddenly raised the sword to attack.

“Don’t! This is a magic shield.” She wasn’t entirely sure what a magic shield would do other than make her death take longer, but it seemed to work as a threat. The goblin lowered the sword and looked nervous.

Britta looked around. She was in a meadow, but she wasn’t sure if it was the one near the gnome village. She touched the map in the top corner of her vision and it opened up in front of her. Her position was clearly marked as was the entrance to the gnome village. She was nowhere near it.

“Hello?” She was talking to both Dr Reedy and the goblin, she’d didn’t mind which answered.

“Gnome must die,” said the goblin in a cracked voice that sounded like a teenage boy going through puberty.

“Why? I don’t have anything worth killing me for.”

“Gnome bad,” said the goblin. “Nasty gnome must die.”

“If you don’t like gnomes so much, shouldn’t you kill their leader, I mean, our leader. The Wise One they call her. I mean, we call her.” It wasn’t polite to try and turn the goblin against her glorious leader but she was sure the Wise One could deal with a goblin better than she could.

The goblin spat a horrendous yellow and green wad of gunk onto the ground. “The Wise One is a witch. She curse us.”

“Is this part of the programme?” Britta said under her breath.

“Ah… no,” answered Dr Reedy. “Not that I’m aware of. Goblins and gnomes aren’t meant to have any special animosity towards each other. This is… very unexpected.”

“And why aren’t I at the gnome village like you said?”

“That, also, is unexpected.”

“Who you talking to?” squealed the goblin. It looked ready to start fighting again.

“No one. Myself. I talk to myself when I’m scared.”

“Pah! Gnome scared of goblin.”

“Yes,” said Britta, keen to agree. “Let me go and I’ll give you a present.”

“What kind of present?” She had its interest now.

“Um, a... “ She opened her inventory but there wasn’t much in there. She doubted it would care about a new hat. Her dagger was there, but if she pulled it out, that might provoke a fight. “How about this box.” She took out the gift box and dumped it on the ground between them. It was covered in gold foil. Maybe the goblin would be wowed by the shiny.

“What is it?” The goblin poked the box with its sword.

“It’s a box. You use it to put things in.” She stretched out a leg and tipped the lid off with her foot, and then sprang back. The goblin sprang back too. Had it really never seen a box before? She could start a business selling them to goblins, assuming goblins had money.

The goblin came closer and peered into the empty box. Then it climbed in, squatted down and pulled the lid back on.

Britta hadn’t thought of getting in the box. Gold foil wasn’t really the best camouflage for a hiding place. She wondered what would happen if she grabbed the box and tried to put it back in her inventory with the goblin still inside.

The lid lifted slightly and the goblin’s beady eyes peered out.  “Good.”

Good for what? Britta knew nothing about goblins. Maybe this was its house now. The lid closed again. Did this mean she was free to go?

“Is this normal?” Britta asked quietly.

“We’re running diagnostics, just keep going.” Dr Reedy sounded distracted.

“Dad? Are you there?”

“Yes, Britta.”

“How do I summon my goat?”

“You say summon and the name of the animal.”

“Summon Donald,” said Britta. There was a bleating from behind her.

The lid flew off the box and the goblin jumped out, falling over in the process. It quickly got to its feet, waving the sword over its head. “Dinner!”

Donald’s eyes flashed red. Not his favourite word. Britta stepped aside as he charged with horns lowered.

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