We ran as if the devil himself we behind us liberally applying a pitchfork to our most tender commercial interests. Tiny was significantly slowed by having to carry his Biomass burden but I didn't consider leaving him behind for long. We eventually made it back to the small Dungeon entrance we had used previously and dove inside, slaughtering the small number of spawned monsters before standing still, earls peeled for any sound of encroaching doom.
[You hear anything Crinis?]
[Master, I don't have any ears.]
[You know what I mean! Do you detect anything?]
[… No. I wasn't able to detect anything on the surface either. Whatever was making that noise was far outside my range.]
[Fair enough. How about you, Tiny?]
[Get that Biomass out of your face dammit! And why would having food in your mouth make your mental voice sound different? Do you hear anything?]
Somewhat of a surprise, Morrelia had chosen to join us in the Dungeon. Perhaps she wanted the shelter of being concealed below ground level. She seemed to be fairly shaken after that fight. I don't know why she was so rattled, but I can only imagine she has good reason. I haven't seen her do anything she wasn't absolutely sure of.
[You feeling a little better?] I asked her.
At the moment she had her ear cocked into the air, her face was intent as she listened for any hint of pursuit. She didn't respond for a full minute until she seemed to feel confident there wasn't anything coming after us.
[I think so] so sent, [I just couldn't believe that a creature like Garralosh could actually be on the surface.]
[Yeah, shouldn't that be impossible?!] I protested, [its painful enough for me to be on the surface, some gigantic monster, that is hundreds of years old should have evolved ten times more than I have, should be drained of mana after a few minutes on the surface, surely?!]
Morrelia looked at me carefully for a moment before she continued to speak.
[How much… do you know, about Garralosh?] she asked with some reluctance.
[Pretty much nothing. From the system messages I get when I eat monsters I know a little. That the various Garralosh monsters are her offspring, that she's a giant Croc and that she raised her children for some sort of purpose. That's about it.]
Morrelia appeared to think hard before she continued speaking.
[I can give you a little more than that, though speaking too much would break faith with people I care about, so I won't tell you everything.]
I sense secret knowledge!
[Whatever you're happy to share, I'll be more than grateful for!] I tried to appear harmless and cooperative.
Morrelia snorted, seeing through my guise in an instant.
[You've been willing to help my people so far, Anthony. It's only fair that we help a little back. Now. Firstly, I'll say that Garralosh is probably not as highly evolved as you might think.]
[but how could that be?] I wondered, [she's hundreds of years old, isn't she?]
Morrelia nodded. [She's around two hundred and fifty years old. Nobody can know with precision unless they were there to see her spawn but that's the best guess.]
[So how could she not have evolved much? I've evolved three times already and I'm not even a year old!]
[You're not one year old?] Morrelia's eyes suddenly narrowed as her voice became sharper.
[Ah.. Yes? Friendly person who is an ally? That shouldn't be that surprising should it?] I shrank back a little from her cutting aura.
Seeing my attitude Morrelia's expression softened. [It's a little unusual that would be this strong, this young, according to what I know of Monsters. I was honestly shocked when you unleashed that… ball of death. What was that?]
Aha! The excellence of my magic has made an impression after all! I swelled up with pride.
[That! That was my Gravity Bomb! Fearsome destructive power, no?] I boasted.
[Gravity?] Morrelia asked, her face intent, [Is that the type of mana you used?]
It was my turn to become a little evasive. I don't intend to give up all my secrets, woman! Perhaps a little wisdom is finally starting to blossom in me!
[Let's not worry about that too much] I deflected, [we were discussing the giant crocodile who is apparently out to eat us?]
Visibly disappointed, Morrelia nodded and continued with what she had been saying.
[Garralosh has been prevented from descending deep into the Dungeon. I won't go into too much detail but suffice to say that she hasn't had access to the higher tier monsters and cores she would need to evolve to a massive height. We believe the last time she successfully evolved was seventy years ago.]
[Wow! That is a long time to not progress. Wait a second. Did you say something about cores?]
[I did. Why?]
Cores…. Cores…. Something about cores.
[Did any of us take the core out of Garralosh Commander that we killed?]
[You ordered me to focus on the arms and then run, Master. I thought it was odd, but I didn't want to question your orders.]
Oh my Gandalf. There's no way…
[Tiny…] I asked desperately, knowing the answer before I even asked the question. [Did you collect the core?]
The big ape just shook his head, almost proudly. [Nope!] he declared, thumping himself on the chest for emphasis.
To the immense and visible confusion of Morrelia, I flopped onto my back and started thrashing at the dirt with my legs, a tantrum of the finest quality.
I could have used that stupid core! Not for me (god no!) but for Mother! If I'd come back with a second rare core then surely the Queen could have been persuaded to accept it, allowing herself to evolve into a powerful form that could support the entire colony and more importantly, keep her safe! Such a waste! Anthony you freaking moron?! What's a hundred Biomass compared to the rare core!?
As quickly as I'd flopped onto my back, I froze and flipped myself over again.
[We have to go back!] I declared to Morrelia.
Her eyes widened. [What?! Are you insane? What will happen if you run into Garralosh?]
[I need the core out of that monster! That's a rare core that we left behind out there!]
[You didn't get the core?!] she demanded incredulously, [you stayed back there just to get those limbs?!]
[You freaked me out!] I defended myself, [we heard some supernaturally loud growling and you panicked! Then I panicked!]
[Even so, I'm not going back there just yet. We should lay low for the time being and head back out tomorrow.]
[There is no chance the core will still be there by then! I'll go on my own, nice and stealthy. I'll take a quick peek, grab the core if I can then return. Ok?]
I turned to my two pets.
[I'm going to go back and take a look for the core, you guys stay here with Morrelia and regroup. Feel free to eat what we took from the commander. I'll be back as soon as I can.]
With that said I didn't pause to see if anyone had a response before I ran up the wall and back out onto the surface. If I can get that core for mother then I sure as hell am going to!