Looks like we might have hit something by mistake?
Although, considering everything down that tunnel is sure to be hostile, I'm not sure I would call it a mistake?
I wonder what I even hit with that wave…
The mystery is soon solved when a gang of angry and damp looking Croca-Beasts come swaggering around the corner looking for trouble.
So it's you guys!
Are you the culprits chasing all the other monsters up the tunnel towards the surface just like Enid said you damn thugs! Acting all tough now that you're momma is in town, how sad is that?!
You stupid Croc Bipeds might have been scary and threatening when I was a hatchling but you're small fry now!
And it's true. The Croca-Beasts that once upon a time loomed over me like giant croc faced messengers of death don't seem nearly so large anymore. Whilst I'm not quite tall enough to look them in the eye I probably have a similar overall mass to them since I'm much longer than I am tall.
Their sharp claws and powerful, snapping jaws are not nearly as impressive as once they were. My own Savage Infused Mandibles look far more deadly to be honest. These guys just don't hold any fear for me anymore!
"ROOOAAAAAAAAAOOOOO" Tiny bellows.
Well sure, he's even less scared of them. Without waiting for my orders Tiny lumbers forward and starts smashing Croc face in with his massive fists. It's almost sad. He towers over the little crocs and his fist is probably the same size as their entire head. With every swing he one shots a Croca and it isn't long before the posse of toothy monsters has been smashed into paste.
[Good job Tiny! Show 'em who's boss!]
The big ape slaps his chest and a wide grin appears on his bat face. This takes me back to when I first saw Tiny, battling against his rival, a massive Titan-Croc. I get the feeling even after being reconstituted that he still has a special hatred for the Croc monsters, at the very least he seems inordinately pleased to have punched this particular groups' faces in.
Since they are unevolved monsters we don't even pause to eat them before preceding down the still soggy tunnel. As I climb over the fallen Crocs I begin to sense something strange tickling at the edge of my awareness. Like a sound that I can't quite hear.
[Do you hear anything Tiny?] I ask.
The ape tips his head to one side and listens for a moment before frowning and slowly nodding his head. So there is something….
["Be on guard everyone"] I advise before we continue to advance.
With every step the fain feeling at the back of my mind grows more distinct. The pace of it increase is so slow that I wouldn't have noticed at all if I wasn't watching for it. As it grows the sensation becomes more oppressive, threatening even. As we continue to travel I feel as if I'm being watched by a ravenous beast.
I can tell Tiny feels it as well, he's been restless and smacking monsters with even more force than usual.
["Crinis, Vibrant, are you picking up on this feeling?"]
"Yup-yup" the usually energetic Vibrant seems a little subdued under this pressure.
[I can, master] Crinis too is feeling the pressure.
Whatever is causing this, we need to be careful.
["We need to proceed with extra caution team"] I inform my crew, ["it's possible something really nasty is nearby that we can't necessarily defeat. I want everyone, including you Tiny, to be prepared to run away if get into trouble. We'll flee back to the shortcut and make our escape from there"].
It goes to show how this mounting creepy feeling is weighing on us that even Tiny seems inclined to agree, just to be sure I order him directly.
[Tiny, if I tell you to run, you will flee to the shortcut entrance. Got it?]
He reluctantly nods, his bat face pinched with a combination of distaste and unease. He doesn't have to like it he just has to do it. No way I'm going to allow him to die charging headlong into some unwinnable fight. When we get right down to it he cannot deny a direct order from me so I'm satisfied he'll be ok.
The others are still riding on my back so they'll probably end up where I do. I have to be careful not to leave Crinis behind, she has a very limited capacity to navigate her way around after all. Perhaps I should advise her to take tunnel sense and Tunnel map? That'll give her a solid idea where to go without having to see after all…
We continue to advance downwards, the monsters growing tougher with every step. More shadow monsters and the larger, more difficult beast types are becoming common. We even run into a few nasty plant types that are clearly evolved versions of the others we've seen and some others who are from a superior base species.
A particularly nasty plant appears as a young tree, the first tree looking plant monster I've seen. It attacks by swinging it's branches but also seems capable of using earth magic. I didn't get a good look before Tiny crunched it to nothing with a two handed slam. Still, it seems as if the plant type monsters are still spawning in this part of the Dungeon.
Something odd seems to be going on with the monsters we come across though. For starters there are far less of them. Ever since that formless pressure begun to weigh on us the number of monsters we've seen active in the tunnels has gone way down. Secondly we notice that there are quite a few monsters moving away from us and down the tunnels. Every now and again we catch glimpses of newly spawned creatures shifting along the walls and vanishing down the tunnels.
Where are they going? Is there some sort of party that we aren't invited to? I'd love to chase after these shadows but with the invisible weight pressing down on me I simply don't have the confidence to be rushing around corners blindly. For the first time in a while I'm starting to feel real, actual fear.
If this is a monster causing this pressure, when I can't even see it… just how powerful would that creature need to be?! Is it Garrolosh itself?! I thought that Croc was meant to be over in Liria! That's like a week away over the surface… what would it be doing here?
To be honest, if I actually thought that the parent of all these croc monsters was kicking around down here I'd rush straight back up to the surface immediately. I don't see any reason for Garralosh to be around here so I'm prepared to proceed, but cautiously.
So we do, creeping forward very slowly. The tunnel continues to wind its way deeper into the ground, as we proceed the tunnel grows wider and I notice that other branching tunnels are coming together here. It feels as if we are getting close to something. We make better progress than I expected considering our careful pace due to the lack of monsters in our path. It's almost unnerving to see the tunnels this deserted during the wave.
I know the monsters are still being formed in the walls, I can sense them. They are just rushing off somewhere the moment they come out.
Eventually, I estimate about ten kilometres down according to Tunnel map, the passage opens up and a strange light illuminates the rocks ahead of us. Is it an expanse?!
The pressure is crushing now, as if death waits for us after every step. Vibrant is extremely nervous, clinging fiercely to my head and shivering in place. As we step forward the tunnel walls slowly drop away and a vast, open underground space appears before us. Dark swampland stretches as far as my eyes can see, mist covered marshes studded with drooping trees and vibrant, vine shrouded flowers.
And crocs. So many crocs.