Erin found a stream running idyllically down a hill a few hundred feet away from the inn. Its position and relative size meant that it was the perfect place for her to gather water or even wash herself should the need arise. All things considered, it was a windfall of a discovery.
She took three steps, leapt, and cleared the stream in one jump and hit the ground already running. The stream kept flowing as she left it rapidly behind. Not once did Erin look back, although her throat was burning.
She was being chased.
By Goblins. They swarmed after her, wading through the stream despite the strong current. And though they were small, their bodies were wiry and their dirty arms muscled. And they all carried weapons.
Generally they wore daggers or short swords, but Erin had spotted what looked like a meat cleaver on one of them. She was too busy running to get a good look, but if they were like the ones she had met yesterday they were rusty, stained with dried blood and crusty substances, and sharp.
That, combined with the Golbin’s faces made them terrifying. Normal Goblins were supposed to look ugly, but not dangerous. In video games Erin had always seen them depicted as short, man-like creatures with beaky noses, pointed ears, and ugly faces. But these Goblins…
Pointy ears? Check.
Ugly face? Check.
Their noses weren’t too pointed, but they were definitely carrots compared to potatoes as noses went. But what really scared Erin were their teeth.
They had two rows of teeth. Like sharks. They had blood red eyes, like monsters in nightmares. Glowing red eyes. And they screamed as they chased her.
It didn’t sound like normal screaming. Erin was used to hearing screams, but they only came out of humans. The sound the Goblins made wasn’t a continuous sound but a kind of ululating noise that seemed to grow louder the longer they yelled.
It made Erin break out into a cold sweat and she pumped her legs even faster to charge up the hill. She was in one of the valleys, but she knew she was headed straight for the inn. She just had to get there and, and—
That’s where they’d kill her. Erin would get to the inn, and they’d surround it, break in somehow and tear her to shreds. But what other choice did she have? None. She couldn’t run forever.
Already Erin felt like someone was twisting a knife into her side and she was gasping for air. She was no athlete. The only reason she was still ahead of the Goblins by a good bit was because they were short. She also guessed they were letting her use up all her energy before closing in for the kill.
Erin crested the hill, stumbled, caught herself, and saw the inn’s dark brown walls only a hundred meters away. She dashed towards it, throwing all of her energy into a desperate sprint.
The Goblin’s voices had faded a bit by the time she burst through the inn’s door way and slammed it shut. But she knew they were only minutes away at best so Erin stood up despite the agony in her chest and legs.
The door had a metal bar that could be slid to prevent it from being opened. Erin did that, and then looked around. Windows. The common room had so many windows.
“Oh you’ve got to be—”
She didn’t waste time on the rest of her sentence. Erin dashed over to one window and slammed the wooden shutters closed. Then she fumbled with the latch. It was a cheap bit of metal, but it might buy her a few seconds.
Erin sped around the room, fighting to close the windows as the Goblin’s shouting grew louder and louder. She slammed shut the last window and let out a huge sigh of relief. Then she remembered that the inn had a second floor.
The mysterious darkness of the second floor that had terrified Erin the night before didn’t even slow her steps as she dashed up the stairs. She ran in and out of each room as fast as she could, closing windows. While some of the mantles had succumbed to the rot, all of the shutters were mostly intact. She’d hear if they were being smashed in, at least.
Erin ran into the room at the end of the corridor and stopped when she saw the skeleton in the last bed. But even that didn’t slow her much and she closed the windows just in time to hear the Goblins start pounding at the door downstairs.
They didn’t get in that way. But as Erin sped down the stairs she heard one of the shutters break. And then another.
The first Goblin squeezed through a window as Erin stood petrified. The second and third were right behind him.
Erin backed up. The first Goblin came at her as his fellows spread out behind him. There were five—no, six of them.
Her legs were shaking. Erin tried to turn over a table but the Goblin was too quick. He lunged forward and she fell backwards with a small scream. He laughed and jumped for her, knife swinging.
Erin rolled backwards and felt a stinging cut on her leg. She scrambled to her feet and looked down.
Blood. It came from a shallow cut on her leg. She looked back at the Goblin and saw his grinning face.
It was a similar grin. Or smile. Or expression, really. But to Erin, it was the same face. The same as a human’s. Mocking. Confident. The kind of face young men—
He licked at the blood on his knife. Erin’s face froze. The fear that had been bubbling in her turned in an instant to anger. The Goblin didn’t notice, and ran for her, still grinning.
Erin’s leg shot up. She didn’t kick. It was just a lightning-fast shot right between the legs. She could have sworn she heard something crunch.
The Goblin’s face which had been so full of malicious glee froze up. He turned pale, made a high-pitched keening sound and toppled over.
The other Goblins stared in shock at their friend. Erin stared in shock too, but had the presence of mind to grab a chair before they could react. She raised it threateningly.
“Well? Come on!”
Erin swung the chair like a club. The Goblins ducked underneath it and advanced on her, swinging low.
A lucky blade slashed Erin’s leg and she cried out in pain. Instantly she brought the chair up and over her head and smashed the Goblin flat.
In movies, the chair would break off leaving Erin with the stumps in her hands. In reality the impact made her hands sting but the chair didn’t so much as creak. The Goblin on the other hand screamed a lot.
His fellows backed up as Erin held the chair up for another swing. Her leg was bleeding badly from the cut but she was more mad than scared at this point. Plus she had a chair. All they had were knives.
In fact, she had more than one chair.
Erin tossed the chair at one Goblin and clipped it on the head as it ducked. He fell down too, and meanwhile Erin had grabbed another chair. She used it like a shield, jabbing the legs at the nearest Goblin and forcing it back.
Faced with an unexpected threat the others split up and tried to circle around Erin. Accordingly, she tried not to let them. But even if they were surprisingly fragile, they were quick and hard to hit. Before long the remaining four Goblins were all around Erin, peering under tables, feinting at her from behind unheld chairs.
Erin tossed her chair again and again, missed. But as the Goblins ducked she turned around and fled for the stairs. She had longer legs, but they were quick too and surged after her as she jumped up the stairs two at a time.
The fastest Goblin was hot on her heels, cackling with that strange laughter as he swiped at the back of her legs. Erin ignored the bleeding and hit the top of the stairs with the Goblin right behind her. He laughed evilly.
And stopped when he realized it was just him and the human female at the top of the stairs. He looked up. The big human female made a fist.
The fourth Goblin crashed down the stairs, face a bloody mess. The remaining three Goblins looked up at the young woman standing above them and hesitated. But she was prey. Prey didn’t fight back!
One threw a knife. It hit Erin in the stomach point first, but the toss was so weak it barely penetrated her skin. She grabbed it and leapt down the stairs.
Two hands on the handrail let Erin swing her legs up. She was no gymnast, but rage gave her a moment of athletic inspiration. Both her feet crashed into the face of the knife-throwing Goblin.
He screamed and clutched at his broken, bleeding nose. His two friends ran back as Erin landed on the ground. The bleeding Goblin waved his knife at Erin. She slapped him.
Crack. It was a good slap, the kind that made Erin’s hand go numb. The Goblin fell down stunned and his hand let go of his knife.
Erin stared at it. Then, before the other two Goblins could move she grabbed it. And when she stood up she had a very different expression on her face.
The remaining Goblins looked at her. They weren’t just two, not really. Their friends hadn’t been knocked out, just hurt. Already they were getting up while clutching their bruised heads and bodies. However…
The human female was facing them, knife in her hand. She didn’t look as frightened as she had been before. In fact, she looked quite angry. That wasn’t good. She seemed suddenly bigger, and the Goblins were keenly aware that she had just beaten two thirds of their number in a matter of seconds.
And she had a knife.
The Goblins stared at Erin. She stared back. Now they were all awake and upright, but they didn’t seem to be about to attack. In fact, they seemed sort of nervous.
Erin stared at them. They stared at her. Her eyes began to water, but she didn’t dare blink. But she had to do something, right?
The Goblins shrieked and ran. They crashed out of the broken windows and ran as if pursued by demons.
Erin stayed where she was for quite some time, hands still half-raised. Eventually she lowered them.
She wanted to scratch her head, but nearly stabbed her eye out with a knife. Carefully, Erin put the knife on a table and then sat in the nearest chair. Her legs had lost all strength.
Erin coughed and then chuckled again.
Her chest hurt. Her arms hurt. Her legs hurt. Actually, her entire body hurt. She felt like she was dying. But.
“I can’t even laugh properly right now. Hahahahahaha…ha?”
And then she did laugh. She started laughing as she sat with her back against the table, bleeding onto the inn’s clean floor. She laughed and laughed until tears were in her eyes. And as she closed her eyes she smiled. Then she bumped her cuts and stopped smiling. But she still slept.
[Innkeeper Level 4!]
“…Hey. What happened to levels 2 and 3?”