Bitter 81

Britta had never been attacked by a gang before. Gang was perhaps too small a word for it. It was more like an army. An army of deranged goblins hellbent on tearing her to pieces. All efforts to tell herself it wasn’t real, it was just a game, that she couldn’t really be hurt or killed, failed to get through. She was going to die.

Donald took control of the situation. He ran.

“Get us out of here!” she screamed. She wasn’t talking to the goat. “Dr Reedy! Dad!”

“Britta,” said Dr Reedy in a maddeningly calm voice, “this is exactly what we need to help us figure out what’s going on. Can you keep the goblins busy for a few minutes?”

Keep them busy? What was she supposed to do? Let them play football with her corpse?

Britta held on tight as Donald ran through the grass, cutting from side to side in order to avoid bushes and shrubs. Then he was bounding over them. He was almost flying as he bounced high into the air, landed for a couple of quick steps, and then took off again.

Behind them, the goblins shouted and yelled, waving their swords and clubs overhead. Some had spears, others had rocks tied to sticks. They were quite primitive as far as weapon technology went, but a prehistoric battering would be no less brutal than a modern one.

Donald was quite elegant as he sprang over obstacles. Britta had no idea if this was normal for a goat, but she was happy to cling on as they managed to keep ahead of their pursuers.

“They’re going to k-i-i-i-i-ll me!” shouted Britta, her voice warbling as she bounced up and down. “Do something.”

“Britta, it’s Dad. The goblins, did you see where they came from?”

“No, did you?”

“No. They’re trying to figure it out. Just keep going, sweetie, you’re doing great.”

Keep going? Keep going where? Donald was going to tire out and then she’d be set upon by a horde of crazy goblins. What kind of father sat back and let that happen?

Britta turned around as much as she dared—the last thing she wanted to do was fall off—pointed her finger at different parts of the swarm, and fired off her Glamor spell. Flashes of light shot out of her finger, once, twice, three times.

Some goblins were affected and pulled up short, banging into others and causing others to fall over. They were quickly back on their feet and in pursuit, but it did give Britta a little breathing room.

But she still had nowhere to go. If there was a safe place to aim for then she would at least have a chance. Running around endlessly was not a viable strategy.

“Britta,” said Dr Reedy, “we’re sending in some people to help you.”

Great! Reinforcements. Finally, they had decided to do something useful.

“They’re just getting strapped in, they’ll be with you shortly.”

Shortly was one of those words that sounded immediate but could actually mean minutes or hours away. She didn’t understand why they didn’t hit a pause button and make the goblins freeze where they were. They weren’t real, they were pixels in a computer. Horrible, bloodthirsty, homicidal pixels.

“We want to take these goblins alive,” said Dr Reedy. “Try not to kill them.”

That was hardly going to be an issue. But maybe it could be.

“Donald, stop. Stop!”

Donald stopped so suddenly, Britta nearly flew over his head. She managed to hold on. The goblins were almost on top of them. Britta cast her fireball into the middle of the crowd.

There was an excellent chance it would have no effect, but she hoped the illusion would fool a few and scatter the rest. She just needed to keep them busy for a few seconds, she hoped.

The goblins jumped either side of the fireball and it flew between them. They didn’t need to make a saving throw if they avoided getting hit in the first place. What kind of super-goblins were these?

Donald charged forward, into the crowd, following the path the fireball had opened up. The goblins hadn’t expected that and got in each other’s way as they tried to reverse direction.

Britta checked her map. The nearest place was the town, and it wasn’t that near. She didn’t have much choice. The road wasn’t far, and maybe she’d get lucky and encounter some more bandits. They could deal with the goblins for her.

They bounded onto the dirt road, dust flying up, and they picked up speed as they tore down the nice, flat track. Britta realised it was a mistake. Now that there were no obstacles, it became a straightforward footrace, and even though they were fast, the goblins were faster. She was about to redirect Donald back into the grass when she saw two figures up ahead. They were standing in the middle of the road, two knights in full armour.

They were covered from boot to helmet in polished chrome. Each carried a sword that crackled with electricity. They held them out and bolts of electricity came flying towards her.

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