Mr. Familiar

by

EO Tenkey

Quest 15: Mr. Familiar Doesn't Quite Assert His Dominance

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As soon as the world had faded in around me, Lucy scooped me up and headed toward town. She and Ray had quit not long after I got her to climb a tree, and it looked like Lucy had other plans this play session.

"I didn't get much experience yesterday, but I finally got enough bling to afford that war hammer!"

I glanced around, but just as I thought no one else was around, so I supposed she must be talking to me. Might as well see if I could keep our rapport from the last play session going. Cheep!

Since she was being kind enough to carry me, I took the opportunity to review my stats, but it looked like the points I'd gained went right to Expressiveness like I'd figured. Well, one of them went to Flexibility, but close enough. A quick check of the date showed it also had indeed been a single day since she'd last played. Good, good. Keep playing daily, please. I look forward to a long and fruitful existence, thank you very much!

The trip back to Fountain Town went pretty quick; was it just me, or did monsters attack less often when we were traveling toward town? It was honestly kind of weird, and I didn't remember there being a feature like that in the original game.

Wish I had access to the player's interface. What I wouldn't give to be able to trawl through the release notes.

Soon enough we were back in the starter town, and Lucy had eagerly threaded her way through the crowds to the blacksmith's shop. Surprisingly, there was someone else there ahead of us, and Lucy spent the time waiting bouncing on her toes. Boy, excited for that hammer much? I really hoped it didn't turn out to be some dinky little thing. The blacksmith's hammer had been pretty sizable, though still easily held in one hand, so I figured it would probably be about that big. Much smaller and it would be super disappointing.

I was thus surprised and extremely gratified when the blacksmith pulled a monstrosity out from behind his counter that was almost as tall as Lucy, with a head on it that must have been the size of her torso.

I could all but see the stars in her eyes as she reverently cradled it against her chest before laughing and twirling with it in a circle like it was some sort of giant child made for smashing. "This is amazing! I love it! Thank you so much!"

"No, thank yeh!"

I'd forgotten about his weird accent, but was distracted from wondering about it by Lucy taking a couple exploratory swings with her new baby. Whoa, watch it! I frantically back-pedaled, just barely missing getting squished as the head of the thing whooshed! past my body. She wasn't able to maneuver it very quickly—it was so large and awkward—but Lucy didn't appear to be having any trouble hefting the monster. Gotta love video game logic. She shouldn't even have been able to lift a weapon that size, much less swipe it around through the air. Eventually, she stowed it in her inventory and—wait just a second, where on earth did that hammer go?!

You know, I hadn't really thought about it that much when she was using a wand, but it was super strange that things just sort of appeared and disappeared as needed. Back when I was playing BAO as a video game, the inventory system had been slot-based, with only equipped items visible on the player model. I wasn't quite sure how Lucy was manipulating it; she certainly wasn't going through the rigamarole of swiping her interface open. Plus I would have seen the interface if she was doing that, presumably.

I needed to solve this mystery. Maybe there was a game system available that I just hadn't figured out how to access.

Sadly, I didn't have any time to ponder the idea at the moment, because Lucy once more scooped me up and swept out the door.

"Alright, this is awesome! Now what should we do next, Fluff-kins?"

Ooh, behavior point chance! Starter town, starter town, what was there to do in the starter town?

Huh, actually I had the perfect thing. I'd be willing to bet that Lucy hadn't done any of the story quests yet.

I launched myself from her arms, flew forward, then circled back around her before flying forward again.

"Oh, you have an idea? Nice!" Lucy began to trot along after me. Pa-keeng! Yep, that's how it's done.

The story quests in BAO were a bit different in that they usually didn't unlock until characters were level five or higher, but given how much Lucy enjoyed talking to NPCs I was betting the story quest would be right up her alley. Plus that would give her a longer-term goal to complete, so even if Ray continued to screw things up for me Lucy would have a reason to keep playing. It wouldn't last forever, of course; if memory served, story quests usually petered out around character levels 40-50, which was a little over half way to the max level. However, that would give me plenty of time to work on my communication skills and figure out how to keep Lucy motivated.

Leading Lucy through the streets of the starter town was kind of a trick. I had to fly slow enough that she could keep up and I didn't run into my invisible wall, all while weaving around all the NPCs and other players who were serving as obstacles in my path.

It didn't leave me a lot of space to think about things, but on the plus side…pa-keeng! Couldn't argue with results!

Shortly after gaining my behavior point, I finally succeeded in navigating the crowds and led Lucy to the building that housed the class trainers.

"The class training hall? I don't know, Fluff-kins…oh, wait, where are we going?"

Normally, the class trainer would have directed Lucy down this side hall after teaching her a main class, but since she appeared uninterested in the typical Sprite-born classes, we could just skip it. I hadn't done it often, but I had bypassed the standard classes for a few runs back in the day, and used the story quests to level up enough to be able to make it to the neighboring race's starting area where the class I actually wanted was living. Running without a class or many skills would be a big handicap, but Lucy was a lot tougher than your average level six Sprite-born, and maybe that giant hammer would help even the playing field.

Luckily for us, there didn't appear to be any other players starting their journey into the story quests right at the moment—or I supposed the hallway could have been instanced or something and we were the only ones allowed in, though I hadn't seen any evidence of that occurring elsewhere—and we were able to walk right into the office of the old Sprite-born who offered the first several story quests.

I flew aside after I entered the door and perched on the back of a handy chairback, while Lucy, after a quick glance my way, headed for the wrinkly Sprite-born who was seated on a stool stirring a large cauldron of questionable-looking providence.

I'd never figured out what was supposed to be in that cauldron. Scuttlebutt around the BAO community forums back in the day was that some manager wanted a witch even though it didn't make much sense with the existing lore, and forced it in as this NPC. I didn't know if that was true, but thanks to her age, cauldron, and propensity to give out potions as rewards for the early quests, most Sprite-born players affectionately referred to the NPC as "Witchy."

Lucy enthusiastically started talking to Witchy, but I was immediately distracted by a large stuffed owl sitting on the windowsill off to the right. Weird, I didn't remember her having a creepy taxidermy owl, and the thing's glassy eyes were staring straight at me. I shuffled my way sideways along the back of the chair, and the thing's eyes tracked me. FLICK! It wasn't stuffed! Man, that was super creepy!

I glared at it. It stared at me.

I somehow managed to fluff out my entire body even more than it usually poofed out. Huh, hadn't known I could do that.

It stared at me.

What? You want a piece of me, punk?! I leaned forward threateningly and snapped my beak at it.

The diddly thing yawned. It yawned! At me! I didn't even know that owls could yawn. Oh, it was ON! You think you're better than me just because you're an actual bird with a vicious looking beak and talons half as long as my arm? I've got plushitude you bonker! I launched myself at the snazz-hole…and Lucy snatched me right out of the air.

"Excuse me," she said to Witchy. "What are you even doing, silly-puss?"

Uh. Actually, um. I have no idea. That was frankly weird. Are owls territorial? Does a—shudder—Peck-Peck even count as an owl? And why would it matter, since I'm not an actual Peck-Peck?

"Leave the poor owl alone, okay?"

Wha—he started it!

She bopped me on the beak and set me down on the floor. "Sorry, you were saying?"

I flounced over to the corner of the room in a huff, which was about as far as I could get from Lucy before I ran into my invisible wall. But I was definitely not pouting! Just because she wouldn't let me savage the big, stupid, real—AAAAAAAAH!

I turned around and the owl was right there! What the flick?! Where did you come from?! Also, you're a bit bigger than I thought, so could you perhaps back up?

It gave me an impenetrable stare, and then turned and took a number of short hops along the near wall, wings half-spread. Now I was just confused.

It turned its head completely around without re-orienting its body—freaky!—and stared at me again. Look, what do you want, buster? I really don't get you.

It stared at me a moment longer, then looked forward, then stared at me, then looked forward, then hopped away once again and stared at me.

Oh, this is the same song and dance I went through with Lucy yesterday. You want me to follow you, huh? Fine, I'll bite. It's not like I can go much further than this, anyway.

I walked along after it, feeling thankful that at least my weird pseudo-owl body didn't force me to move like one. Though I'd definitely be trying out that hopping, flapping motion to see if it could get me off the ground in the near future.

It turned out the owl wasn't going far. It stopped at a non-descript door in the middle of the wall that I couldn't remember ever seeing before in the game. I peered upwards; there was a small plaque around Sprite-born eye height that had the words "Break Room" printed in small letters. Uh, what?

The owl pushed leaned against the door with its head, and it silently swung open just enough for the big bird to slip through.

I checked on Lucy, and she was in rapt conversation with Witchy.

Yeah, this was way too weird. I absolutely had to check it out.

I slipped through the door, which shut behind me with a barely-audible thump, leaving me in darkness.

Well, scribble. I sure hoped I could get that door open on my own, because when Lucy tried to leave the room I was going to going through it one way or another.

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A note from EO Tenkey

Walking through a door when you don't have hands; rookie mistake, Mr. Familiar! That'll teach you to play chicken with strange owls.

On another topic, as of this chapter we're at about 30k words; if at this point you've got a good handle on whether you like the series or not, I'd love it if you'd be willing to rate it! So far only one person has nailed me with a random 0.5 rating, and I'm worried I'm doing something wrong...

No worries if not, though! I try not to nag people about ratings and reviews, but they do help the story get more exposure.

Lastly, the wonderful ladies of Studio Kawaii are hard at work on a cover for Mr. Familiar, and here's their interpretation of Mr. Familiar in all his fluffy, grumpy glory for your viewing enjoyment:

Mr. Familiar


About the author

EO Tenkey

Bio: Read all the things. Write all the things. Sleep? What's that? Does it taste good with chips?

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