Lucy faded into being, and I launched myself at her mid-section.
"Oof! Hey there, Fluff-kins!" She gave me a big squeeze, then shifted me to the side so she could open her interface. I followed suit and checked the date. Good, it had only been a day since her last play session. I let go a breath I hadn't realized I was holding and swiped my interface closed.
"Ooh, looks like I'm just a sneeze away from level 9. Nice! We should have found one last pig-thing to beat up last night. Looks like Blocadoc hasn't gotten back to me yet. But another message from that GM character? Eh, whatever, I'll look at that when we get back to town. You ready to kick some piggy butt?"
Cheep! You bet I was, Lucy. We needed to finish this quest and get back to Witchy, because after my months away, I had a strong need to pick her brain.
Lucy prepped her hammer, tossed me in the air, and we headed down the tunnel that wended its way underneath the keep.
Of course the very first thing that happened was we walked into an ambush from a new enemy: the swarming little Gloaming monsters that I'd remembered spawning with the boss. They were ugly little things: basically just six legs and a mouth full of serrated teeth. Whoever came up with these nasties had a serious bug phobia, if you asked me. Each one was about the size of a rat, and they moved across the ground in a skittering wave of pumping black legs.
"Aaah, what the—what are those things?!"
Lucy was not a fan. The hammer came down, Icy Grip sending daggers of ice shooting in all directions, and the initial swarm splintered and fell back.
I'd been worried about her being too slow to hit these things, but thankfully the way they moved in a swarm actually made things easier for her in the confined space.
I was basically useless. The little monsters moved too fast for me to accurately guess where they'd be, and unlike the plorgs and Gloaming hunters I couldn't blind them. I supposed I could try to sit on one, if I didn't mind it chewing on my snazz…and I was admittedly not really interesting in discovering what that felt like.
I supposed I could try dancing through them. That might be pretty effective at disrupting the swarm. Unfortunately, but the time I'd thought of that, Lucy had already squashed all of the beasts in a flurry of overhanded hammer smashes.
"What were those things? Those were nasty." She knelt down to loot one of them. "Gloaming spiderkin? Ugh."
Wait, spiderkin? But they had six legs. That made zero sense. It was taking Lucy a bit of time to work her way through all the spiderkin, and a few of them had been thrown wide by her initial Icy Grip attack. I landed near one of them and eyed it. The last thing I'd pecked was a plorg, and I'd have puked it back up if I could have. That scribble was nasty. But I would like to grow a bit more…
Before I could talk myself out of it, I quickly pecked the corpse of the spiderkin.
It. Tasted. AMAZING! What the heck, it was like a melt-in-your-mouth pastry with a light glaze, and was that a hint of blueberry? Why did such a nasty looking creature taste so good?!
I fast-waddled over to the nearest squished spiderkin and pecked it. That one was strawberry!
Peach! Mango! Another blueberry! Some fruit I didn't recognize—maybe guava? Raspberry!
I didn't really notice because I was too focused on hustling to the next spiderkin, but I think there was a sa-woop or two as I went.
At last I came out of my feeding frenzy and turned around to find Lucy staring at me with a bemused look on her face. "Boy, you really like those spiderkin, huh, Fluff-kins?"
Uh. Well. That was a little embarrassing. I shifted back and forth a bit and did my best hide my wings—which I just now realized I had been flapping up and down in excitement—behind my back. It didn't go so well given that I was basically round. Pa-keeng!
Ugh, that was probably that diddly Cuteness stat.
"Ha ha, no worries! They weren't giving very good loot, anyway. Feel free to chow down!"
That—actually—okay, that was just really, really nice of her. It had just been so long since I'd had a taste of something that wasn't like licking the bottom layer of a bog. Thanks, Lucy! I performed my front-flip, and flapped into her arms to give her a hug. Or get a hug, really. I still wasn't quite big enough to do much more than press against her front with my stubby arms.
"Aw, you're welcome big guy! Plus it means I don't have to touch those nasty things, so I'm happy to let you have them."
Our moment was broken by the squeal of a plorg who had just come into range of us up ahead. Guess it was time to get back to work.
As I flapped down the hall after Lucy, I wondered what it was about the spiderkin that made them so tasty. Owls didn't eat bugs, did they? I was pretty sure they were carnivores, not insectivores. Maybe it was because they were Gloaming creatures? That didn't make much sense, but eh. I was kind of regretting that I hadn't taken a peck out of any of those Gloaming hunters now…
Sadly for my suddenly awakened appetite, we only ran into various plorg varieties as we traversed the cellars underneath the main keep. Thankfully, enemies didn't spawn behind us, and we hadn't run into any un-navigable drop-offs like in the last quest, so Lucy was able to retreat and draw off individuals from the bigger groups before heading back to polish off the rest. It made our progress a little slow, but she was pacing herself pretty well. I was actively participating, and as far as I could tell making a big difference. Plorgs were so easy to disrupt, thanks to their predictable charge attacks and snouts that were perfect for perching.
Lucy hit level 9 after defeating the plorg that had charged us after facing the swarm of spiderkin, but she had been busy enough that she hadn't had a chance to distribute her stats. Luckily for me, I was able to spend my own stat points for the first time while she was looting some of plorgs she'd slain a battle or two later. After a brief internal struggle, I ended up allocating them to Flexibility to round it off at a nice even 30 points. I was tempted to pull up my Expressiveness a little higher, but I'd been communicating surprisingly well with Lucy lately and was hoping that hitting Flexibility 30 would unlock a hidden perk of some sort. I still wasn't quite certain whether stats conferred better physical abilities for myself, but I'd flown for the first time right after I hit Flexibility 20, so I was betting there was something going on. It was just too subtle for me to put my wing on it.
In any case, it felt pretty flicking good to distribute my own stats for once. I could get used to that.
After a few more rooms' worth of plorgs, we at last made it to what was clearly the boss fight: a big open cave ahead of us that we'd have to drop into from up near the ceiling. Barring the tunnel at the entrance, we'd been traveling through the cellars up until now, but evidently this was a place where the wall had broken through to a natural cave underneath.
Lucy paused to survey the room, although it was hard to see very far thanks to the stalactites and large numbers of shadows.
"That definitely looks like a boss fight, doesn't it, Mr. Familiar?"
"Guess we should wait a minute for Icy Grip to be back up. Oh, and I never did distribute the stat points from level nine, did I?" Lucy pulled open her inventory and after hesitating, dropped everything into Endurance. "Ugh, I hate to throw my balance off, but I have a feeling I'm going to need every bit of health I can get. I really don't like how big that room is."
Hard to argue with that. I knew for a fact we'd be facing more Gloaming spiderkin, and likely there'd be plorgs in the mix, as well. It would be all too easy to get surrounded out there.
Lucy closed her interface and took a deep breath. "Well, nothing for it, eh? You ready to go kick some plorg boss butt?"
In lieu of my typical cheeping, I kicked off my disco point animation.
Once she was done laughing, Lucy scooped me up and jumped down into the cave.
It was time to raise some hinterlands!
…okay, that did not sound nearly as bad-snazz as I thought it would.