Previously, on Showdown
Showdown (Part 3 of 5)
Misthrado’s heart quickened as the kobolds made their last minute appearance. He watched in glee as his minions launched into action. The resulting fight was short, fast and bloody. The kobolds were on home ground and fighting for their household. No quarter was sought or given. At the end of the exchange, two of his henchmen lay still on the ground and the third was scrambling back towards the main army. One of the kobolds nursed what looked like a broken arm and the other two had scrapes and cuts, but nothing life threatening. They were also better armed now, having abandoned their amateur weapons and recovered the knives of the fallen.
Even though his soldiers had lost the initial encounter, he was perversely pleased. At least this would provide a challenge for some of his troops. Misthrado motioned towards Sandrath, who bowed as he came forward.
‘Send in the third brigade,’ said Misthrado. ‘I want those kobold heads laid out on the ground before me by the time the sun finishes setting.’
‘It shall be done, your majesty,’ replied Sandrath.
Misthrado watched in satisfaction as his troops began to line up.
Jennifer looked at her saviours. They shuffled their feet and seemed incapable of making eye contact. Up close, the odours of the shelter hung thickly on them, of manure and fur and feed. With her distress induced lucidity still intact she made connections that would normally escape her.
‘So, you’re my domestic helpers, I assume?’ she asked.
The largest of the three glanced at his companions before responding. ‘Errr, yes, Miss,’ he muttered.
‘What are you? And what are you doing in my home?’
The creature coughed and ducked its head. ‘Kobolds, Miss. We’re called kobolds. And you see, Miss, us kobolds, we attach ourselves to households. Like to keep useful, see?’
‘That’s nice dear, but it doesn’t actually answer my question. Why me?’
‘Ummm, the head of the household has to be worthy, Miss. And one of the ways we work out who’s worthy is to see how they treat stray animals.’
The kobold paused and for the first time looked at Jennifer directly. ‘No matter how many animals we left out for you, you kept taking them in and giving them shelter,’ he said in a softer voice.
The other two kobolds muttered their agreement, seemingly happy to let their friend do all the talking.
‘After a while, word got around. It’s a nice place, close enough to the city for a day trip. Plenty of fresh air. Over the years you’ve become a bit of a tourist attraction. Some of us from the old country, we come out, attach ourselves to your household for a few months and see a bit of the countryside before we head back.’
Jennifer thought for a moment. ‘Are you telling me I’m some kind of a kobold backpacker hostel?’
The talkative one waved his hands in a placating gesture. ‘We help out around the place, Miss. Make sure the animals are looked after, keep the house tidy. It’s more like a working holiday’.
‘Well I never,’ said Jennifer. She looked at their injuries. ‘You better let me see to that arm young man. I’ve looked after enough animals to know when someone needs a splint.’
The kobolds looked back at her with serious eyes. ‘No time for that, Miss. There are more than three of them I’m afraid. It looks like a bloody army out there, and they’re massing for an attack’.
Jennifer felt a stab of panic. ‘What do we do?’
‘Get back inside, Miss. Perhaps go upstairs and stay out of sight. We think they’re after us. Hopefully they’ll leave you alone once they’ve got us.’
‘Don’t you give yourselves up for me,’ said Jennifer. ‘I’ve never deserted anything in my care before, I’m damned if I will now.’
‘Oh, don’t worry, Miss, we’ll fight,’ said the lead kobold. ‘But still, it’ll be easier if we don’t have to worry about you out in the open.’
Jennifer couldn’t deny the logic of that. She went inside and closed the door. Her cane forgotten, she went to the mantel and grabbed the trophy the local council had insisted on giving her for ‘contributions to civic amenity’ a few years back. The thing weighed a tonne and even with her aged muscles she should be able to do some damage with it. After turning off the light, she sidled up to the window and peered out. Her three protectors stood in loose formation around the front door. In the yard, she saw the dust resolve into shapes. There must be over one hundred creatures out there. What hope did they have?
As if sensing her thoughts, the chatty kobold looked back over his shoulder at the window. ‘Oh, I forgot to mention, Miss. We don’t take up a lot of room when we visit. And like I said, your place is very popular.’
All around the front veranda kobolds began to appear. After she got to fifty, Jennifer lost count.
With a roar the two forces crashed together.
To be continued in Part 4
This work by Mark Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia License.