Mr. Familiar

by

EO Tenkey

Quest 17: Mr. Familiar Gets the Axe

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Lucy headed out of the starter town to the south-east, and I flew manic circles around her, skirting the circumference at which I'd hit my invisible barrier. Guess I must have gotten going a little faster than normal, because I got a behavior point out of it.

In between trying out her new war hammer on hapless, low-level mobs, Lucy decided to strike up another one-sided conversation. "So what do you think about this Gloaming thing, Fluff-kins?"

Eh? The Gloaming? That was random. I mean, I don't want to spoil anything, but it's an ancient, evil magic that has been resurrected by a cabal of fanatics and OH RIGHT YOU CAN'T UNDERSTAND ME AT ALL. Flick woman, what do you expect from me? I executed what would have been a perfect landing on her shoulder, intended to give her a withering glare, except because I was behind her she didn't realize what I was doing and turned at the last minute. I sailed past and slammed into the ground with more force than dignity. Pa-keeng!

What in the—a quick swipe later and I confirmed that I'd gained a behavior point to Plushitude. Why the flick would physical abuse increase Plushitude? That didn't make any sense at all. I'd have thought, I don't know, successful hugs or something would do it.

Lucy scooped me up, brushed me off, and plopped me into the crook of her arm. "Silly-puss. Based on what Elder Yodea said—" Who the what-now? Oh, maybe that was Witchy's real name. "—it sounds like this Gloaming thing is some sort of evil magic that ended the world hundreds of years ago. How exciting is that? We're all that stands between the world and destruction!"

Uh, yeah you and every other level five character. I patted her on the side in a conciliatory fashion, but she didn't notice through the sparkles in her eyes.

…Not that there was anything wrong with getting wrapped up in the story quests, come to think! I mean, yeah, that was my goal all along before the flicking game system decided to drop in and introduce itself! Whoo, go us, saving the world! I did my equivalent of a fist pump.

Lucy evidently noticed, because she laughed and tapped me lightly on the end of my arm. "That's right! This Gloaming thing is in for trouble!"

Pa-keeng! Yeah, figured that would be worth a point for Expressiveness. Wonder how many more to go until I can do more than just react cutely.

Speaking of, why was my cuteness level so low? I frowned at my interface before closing it down again. Not that I was complaining, but I was worried that Lucy might start dumping points into that because it was so far behind, and then where would I be? The thought of min-maxing Cuteness and Plushitude just made me want to throw up. Maybe I should try to get some points in there…?

No, flick that. I didn't know how many behavior points I had at my disposal, and I was absolutely not wasting them on such an obviously useless stat. I'd deal with Lucy's whims if and when they became a problem. Somehow.

Our little tête-à-tête was interrupted by our arrival at the entrance to a decidedly creepy-looking cave.

Looks like we were officially starting our first story quest dungeon! And solo, to boot. Hmm. I really hope I didn't lead Lucy astray. You packed your potions, right Lucy? Because now that I thought of it, we'd never…visited…a potion merchant.

Ohhhh, I had a really bad feeling about this.

"Alright, looks like we're here! Boy, those fungus-covered bones are creeptastic, huh?" Lucy's new war hammer materialized out of nowhere—while I was distracted looking at the creepy fungus bones, dribble it!—and she tossed me into the air. I frantically pumped my wings to gain a bit of altitude, not having expected that. "Let's do this, Fluff-kins!"

Accompanied by her faithful Peck—no, I seriously couldn't even think that name. Accompanied by her faithful companion, Lucy strode into the dark!

Not that it stayed dark for long. As the light of day faded away into nothing behind us, a blue-ish green glow blossomed ahead. Glowing mushrooms. Because of course there would be.

What was perhaps a little unusual was the fact that the glowing mushrooms were gathered into a rough wicker basket on a stick rather than growing out of cracks in the walls or similar.

"Huh, that's strange." Instead of walking past like a normal person, Lucy stopped to admire the mushroom light. "It's kind of like a torch, except those are mushrooms, aren't they? That's pretty clever. I don't remember seeing anything like that when we were doing that gribblin dungeon."

Well, yeah. That's because the first story quest involved clearing out an infestation of—

And of course that's when the first plorg attacked us.

If gribblins were the goblin equivalent in BAO, plorgs were the orcs. Larger, brawnier, packing nastier—albeit still crude—weapons, and ugly as all get-out, virtually all starting areas had some form or other of a plorg quest. What made them stand out from the orcs of other games was that they were decidedly porcine.

I only knew this because people claimed it online, but apparently plorgs were closer to Japanese-style orcs than western ones; which in this case meant very pig-like noses, and bodies that tended to run to fat and lots of dark, stringy hairs. They also had pig-like back legs and were as comfortable charging on all fours as they were walking on two.

This particular plorg was a pretty classic example of his species. Angry pink eyes glared at us over a naked chest that had several rolls of fat. He didn't have any weapons, though I remembered plorgs wielding stuff they could swing without needing much finesse, and when he saw us, he squealed, dropped to all fours, and charged.

I had to admit; I was glad I was in the air. Several hundred pounds of pig-person charging at you was decidedly freakier when it wasn't just a graphic on a computer screen.

Lucy nailed the plorg right between the eyes with a downwards swing of her war hammer, grinding his head into the floor as his back legs actually lifted off the ground thanks to the sudden redirection of his forward momentum. Ice fountained up and outward from the point of impact. She immediately swung the hammer back up and slammed him in the head again. And again. And again. And…uh, Lucy? I don't think the plorg is a threat anymore.

She finally stopped and took a shaky breath. "Whew, that thing surprised me! I wasn't planning to use Icy Grip right off the bat, but oh well!" She knelt down and looted the body, which promptly faded away. Nuts, I was hoping to try pecking plorgs. Maybe next time. Pigs were tastier than rats, right?

A bird could dream.

We continued deeper into the plorg-infested caves, and Lucy started to get a feel for their attack patterns. It was still taking an obvious toll on her, though. I could see why; I'd always considered the species kind of laughable, but in person they were downright terrifying. She was constantly having to dodge their charges, and a couple of fights came down to whether or not Icy Grip came off cooldown in time to save her bacon. Pun very much intended.

I also hadn't seen her pop any potions yet. So, uh, that was a thing.

We were at what I estimated was midway through the dungeon when we walked into a cavern where four plorgs turned their vicious, piggy faces our way and I figured we'd reached the end of the line. This was so frustrating! If she only had a few more skills, or decent equipment beyond her war hammer, or a flicking class I was certain that Lucy would be able to solo this dungeon, no problem.

She took one look at the plorgs and charged right for them.

That…actually wasn't a bad call. With this many of them, allowing them to start charging her would quickly just get her surrounded. It would only take one of them to blindside her and then things would be over.

Unfortunately, I was pretty sure Icy Grip was still on cooldown—which turned out to be true when she nailed the foremost plorg with a plain old hammer strike to the chest. The hit sent the unprepared plorg collapsing into one of his allies, but the third immediately swung a glancing blow with its trotters into Lucy's side, sending her stumbling and giving the fourth time to pull a really nasty-looking stone axe from where it was leaning up against the wall.

Oh, I did not have a good feeling about this encounter at all.

Lucy recovered from her stumble, side-stepped another blow from the third plorg, and slammed the hammer right into its head in response. It fell back; looked like a stunned animation, if I didn't miss my guess.

That was a piece of good luck, but by then the first and second were back. Thankfully neither was far enough away to trigger their charge attack, but they were running at her on two legs with the axe-toting variant making his way forward more slowly behind them.

I circled around as Lucy rebuffed one of the attacks with a backswing of her hammer. Unfortunately, it didn't have much power behind it, so the plorg's attack bounced off, but it didn't seem to take any damage. The second nailed Lucy with a punch to the side.

Time to try out some of my ideas for how I could contribute. I dove forward into the face of the plorg whose hit had been rebuffed, swinging my talons around madly and—bouncing off his face without any obvious damage done. The thing completely ignored me, taking a step toward Lucy to try to hit her again as I desperately attempted to correct my flight. I lost track of things for a few moments as I pumped my wings, dodged past a plorg's chest—which was a close encounter I never, ever wanted to have again—and finally re-established my altitude.

Lucy wasn't looking too good. She'd been driven back several paces by the pair of plorgs. Fortunately, the axe-wielder was waiting behind them. Maybe some quirk in his attack logic? Unfortunately, the plorg she'd stunned was recovered and far enough away that it was gearing up to charge.

Scribble, I don't think she noticed it, either! I dove right past her head and buzzed the plorg just as it got down onto all fours. Thankfully, the sudden motion must have drawn her attention, because Lucy side-stepped right as it charged—and moved right into a solid hit from one of the two pressuring her.

The hit pushed her partway around, and she used the momentum to bring the hammer fully around and right into the face of the plorg who had charged, laying him fully out. Looked like that was one down.

Sadly, that also meant that her back was to the two plorgs who had been giving her so much trouble already, and they capitalized on it, socking several solid trotter-shots into her back and upper legs.

Lucy stumbled forward, briefly needing to press the head of the hammer against the ground to keep herself upright. She weathered another couple of hits before breathing out and bringing the hammer around in a brilliant spinning haymaker that slammed into the side of one of the plorgs with a crunch and sent it careening into its companion. I couldn't be certain if it was dead or not, but if it had survived it was definitely on its last wisp of health. Probably wouldn't take more than a glancing blow to finish it off; that or getting caught in the blast of one of her Icy Grip hits, which had to be close to the end of its cooldown at this point.

Which would have been great if slamming the two plorgs aside hadn't cleared the way for the last one. Lucy didn't even notice it coming, either. The momentum from her spin had sent her to one knee, hammer head braced against the ground once again as she struggled to force herself upright. The advancing plorg wasn't directly behind her, but it was obvious she hadn't noticed it advancing into her blind spot.

Flick, this was the worst! I really, really, really wanted her to get through this! She'd been having so much fun up until now, at least once she got over the initial shock of coming face-to-face with that first plorg!

The plorg swung its axe back, red light glinting off the edge and flashing in its glaring, porcine eyes as it activated some sort of skill. That was definitely going to finish Lucy off.

Oh man oh man oh man, when I was thinking about ways to interact with the game, this was not the situation in which I was hoping to experiment! Was I doing this? I hadn't taken any apparent damage to date, but that didn't mean that I couldn't take damage. Like what if I had a threshold, and if I surpassed it in one go it was game over?

My body knew what needed doing even if my mind was suddenly a gibbering mess, though. I twisted myself around in midair, wings pumping harder than I'd ever pumped them as I flew straight toward where the axe was going to pass as it cut viciously through the air. Pa-keeng! Yeah, that was a magnificent turn, but not now, game!

The glowing red edge of the axe slammed into my side and my whole body compressed painfully. It felt like I'd folded around the edge of the diddle thing and my forward momentum was completely arrested.

The last thing I saw as I was sent rocketing off at an oblique angle was a surprised-looking plorg stumbling as his axe went sailing backwards over his head in the opposite direction.

"MR. FAMILIAR?!? NOOOOOOOO!"

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A note from EO Tenkey

I told you I wouldn't randomly switch genres on you, but I never said anything about randomly killing off the main character! Mwa ha ha ha!

...yeah, just kidding! Mr. Familiar will be back next week. We'll just have to wait and see if his face got re-arranged or what. He'd admittedly look pretty awesome with a massive scar through one eye. Would really add to his overall Plushitude.


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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