The drop to the floor of the cavern was maybe ten feet or so; far enough that a player would be hard-pressed to pull themselves back up into the cellar area, even if they somehow managed to jump high enough to get their fingers over the edge. As we fell, it occurred to me that while this didn't seem like that much of a drop to me, it was a surprisingly long way to jump down for a human. Certainly, I would have been very nervous in my previous life if I'd needed to take a ten-foot drop onto hard stone, but Lucy just vaulted on down. I idly wondered what that was about. Was there no falling damage? Even knowing that, though, I'd think many players would be hesitant to just take a leap of faith like that, because knowing something logically and convincing self-preservatory instincts were two completely different things.
I forgot about the topic when we landed, though, because Lucy strode out into the cavern and straight into trouble.
As soon as she passed a pair of stalagmites jutting up like a pair of statues guarding a doorway, numerous of the weird luminescent mushrooms flared to life around the edges of the cavern, and a small honor guard of plorgs preceded the chief plorg from a shadowy tunnel at the far end of the hall.
The honor guard was bad enough—every one of them was either a weapon-wielding plorg, and one was a magic-user—but the chieftain was something else again. For one thing, he stood a full head-and-shoulders taller than any of the standard-issue plorgs. For another, he was decked out in a pretty serious-looking set of armor and wielding a two-handed axe that was almost as tall as he was.
Lucy's eyes lit up as soon as he ducked out of the tunnel and strode toward us. "Oh man, I hope that axe is a loot drop. It looks amazing!"
I eyed it speculatively. Could you even lift that thing, Lucy? It's taller than you are.
The chieftain stopped a ways down the cavern as its honor guard spread out the sides. I did a quick count and looked like it was six normal plorgs plus the chieftain. This could get rough, especially since I couldn't remember what the trigger was that caused him to summon in his hordes of Gloaming spiderkin.
The chieftain slammed the haft of his axe into the ground, leaned around it, and roared at us, spittle flying so far that it splashed onto the ground halfway between us. What the flick? That was really gross.
Lucy spun, slammed her hammer into a nearby stalagmite—sending cracks zig-zagging down its length—and roared right back. Wait, did she just trigger her Provocation skill?
Judging by the way the six honor guards immediately ran at us with bloodlust in their piggy eyes, she just might have. On the plus side, the monstrous chieftain simply squatted down to watch the fight, so at least we didn't have to deal with him to start.
Lucy sprinted forward to meet the plorgs that were converging on our position, and I winged over her head and past a sword-wielding plorg, aiming for the magic-user. Always a good idea to take out the magic-users first. Not that I could communicate that to Lucy, unfortunately. Behind me I heard the crunch of ice and squeals of plorg-y pain.
The magic-user was mid-way through casting some sort of spell when I slammed full speed into its hand, knocking it out of position and evidently causing the spell to fail. Huh, I was glad that actually worked. Also glad that Lucy had evidently kept moving forward and I didn't just bounce off an invisible wall a few feet in front of my target. The NPC looked briefly confused, but then started what appeared to be the same spell. I waddled forward from where I'd rebounded into the ground, dug my talons into their shin, and started laboriously climbing their leg.
Luckily for me, they only had on some ragged leather pants of some sort, and I was able to scale their leg without too much trouble. I eventually hoisted myself up to their rather abundant waist, where a helpful cord was tied as a crude belt. That gave me somewhere to anchor my talons although I was still mostly horizontal. More importantly, it put me in range of their hands again, and as soon as one of them drew near in the final arcane gestures needed to cast their spell, I transferred over to it with a quick flap and a jump, got a death grip on the thing's wrist with my talons, and immediately started pecking at their hand as fast as I could.
I didn't appear to be doing any damage, but my beak and weight were evidently sufficient to interrupt the spell a second time. Unfortunately for me, the plorg shook its arm as it went to try the spell a third time, and I lost my grip and fell back down to the cave floor.
Although that might have been for the best, because at that moment Lucy arrived, trailing chilled plorgs, and stabbed the magic-user in the eye with a chunk of ice that was practically a dagger. Must have grabbed that off the stuff that was generated by her Icy Grip, though I hadn't been aware that was possible.
The plorg squealed and started to fall back, all attempts at spellcasting abandoned, but Lucy side-stepped and swept her hammer at an angle into its back. As it stumbled forward, I quickly spun in place and started dancing backward for all I was worth.
Sadly, I danced right on past the plorg, so that wasn't so helpful. I really needed to find a dance move that let me face the same way I was moving.
Lucy didn't let up, though. By forcing the plorg forward, she'd also put it in the path of at least one of the plorgs who had been chasing her, forcing it to step out and around the magic-user as it continued to try to get to Lucy in a sort of slow-motion rage. Lucy hadn't stopped moving however, and before any of the chilled plorgs that had been chasing her were able to get around their compatriot and attack, she'd landed a couple more solid hits with the hammer and put the magic-user down for good.
As for me, I whirled in place and danced right back in the direction I'd come from. Luckily, it was a lot easier to hit a plorg that was chilled and moving on a predictable path, and I succeeded in tripping up two of the closest plorgs right as the magic-user collapsed to the ground and stayed there.
"Mr. Familiar!" called Lucy, and I immediately threw myself into a forward handspring, gained a little altitude, and whipped around in a tight circle to head back to her. Oh, yeah, she definitely needed help. I'd delayed a couple of the plorgs from reaching her, but the one who had to detour around the magic-user had engaged her, along with two others who had passed right by me. And worse, the chilled effect had worn off.
I dove for the plorg that was sneaking attacks in on Lucy's unprotected back, landed right on its stupid plorg nose, and got down to humping.
"Thanks!" Lucy yelled at me over her shoulder, and a moment later I heard the shout that triggered Furious Rage. Huh, I hadn't thought she was hurt badly enough to take advantage of the health gain for that skill, but maybe she just wanted to boost her attack speed. Based on the meaty thwacks I could hear behind me, the strategy seemed to be working, at least.
"Up!" Oh, that was my cue! I threw myself off the plorg's snout just in time for Lucy's hammer to take my spot. The unlucky plorg went flying, although from past experience it would probably require at least one more solid hit to put it out of the fight for good. I did another fast turn in mid-air and surveyed the battle.
Lucy has killed one of the two plorgs that had been harassing her, and the other was several feet away and looking the worst for wear. The remaining two had caught up, however, and it was obvious why they'd been the slowest to join the fight: both had actual metal chest plates on. I wasn't sure how much that would protect against a hammer, but then again this wasn't real life. Extra armor probably just meant that they were extra durable, which given Lucy was still fighting one against four was not good.
Think, think, think! Were there any new tricks I could pull out that would swing the battle her way? We still had to fight the flicking boss after this! I took a quick peek, and sure enough the chieftain was just hunkered down on its haunches, enjoying the show.
Nothing came to mind, but as one armored plorg swung its mace into Lucy's side, sending her off-balance just in time for its compatriot with a sword to slice her across the upper legs I decided maybe it was time for an old trick, instead. The plorg's next swing of its mace didn't slam into Lucy's upper arm where it had been aimed; instead it collided with my plush, fluffy butt.
I guess I slightly mis-timed that.
Oh well. It did the trick. I was sent rocketing right past Lucy's ear, but from the grunt and clatter behind me I'd definitely disrupted the plorg's attack. When I quickly reversed course for another pass, I found the mace-wielder struggling to roll itself over from where it had landed on its back.
Huh, that was more effective than I'd expected. I did recall that my close encounter with an axe had thrown the axe away from me; something similar must have happened to the mace, and it was powerful enough to push the plorg off-balance.
Well, well, well. I could certainly make good use of that little interaction, but I'd given Lucy some breathing room, and I had lots of faith in her taking any plorg one-on-one, even if it was armored up a bit. Time to do a little crowd control.
I winged right over the armored plorg with the sword and aimed my talons at the snout of one of the unarmored plorgs that was looking to get back in on the action. At the last second, though, instead of doing my typical face-humping routine, I decided to try something new. Grabbing onto the thing's snout with my talons, I twisted a bit and continued flapping my wings like I was trying to make a sharp left turn.
The plorg's head twisted viciously after me, and the plorg toppled over.
I bounced hard off the stone floor, losing my grip on the plorg's snout as I did a flip through the air and landed on my face. When I pushed myself up, however, I discovered that the plorg was just lying there unmoving.
Holy scribble, did I actually kill an enemy mob?! I mean, Lucy did most of the work, but I did damage! That was amazing! I was definitely going to have to try that again sometime, because evidently even if I couldn't directly inflict more damage than a flea sneezing, the physics engine could. I wasn't sure if I'd broken the plorg's neck—although I doubted it, since I sure hadn't felt any sort of crack or break as I dragged its head around—or if maybe being suddenly introduced head-first to the ground did the trick. But I'd take it!
Still, no time to celebrate! Lucy was in the thick of things, and she probably didn't have Furious Rage ready again to provide a bit of healing. I flipped myself into the air and flapped hard to gain some height and speed.
She'd definitely delivered a beating to the sword-wielding, armored plorg, but not only was Mr. Mace getting back up in her grill but the final plorg had evidently circled around behind her and was peppering her back with sword strikes.
Hmm, my angle wasn't any good to try and recreate my recent weapon interception, but the plorg behind Lucy had just completed a horizontal slash with its sword and after fighting through all the plorgs in this fortress I gave it pretty good odds of transitioning into an overhand strike next.
I arrowed down and past Lucy's shoulder just as the plorg brought its sword down. The blade compressed my back in a very uncomfortable fashion, and after a moment, sent me careening into Lucy's back before rebounding to the ground where I rolled talons-over-face before I was able to stop myself. I shoved myself up as fast as I could and found the plorg lying on the ground nearby with its own sword stuck in its snout. The strike must have rebounded of my back and right into to the plorg. See, Mr. Plorg, that's why you shouldn't play with swords. I really hoped Lucy got the experience for those two kills. 'Cause I wasn't stopping!
I flipped myself into the air yet again, flying away from Lucy so I could gain a bit of height before swinging back around for another pass. Lucy was looking pretty haggard, but the odds were a lot better at this point. I was tempted to try something fancy and see if I couldn't add a third notch to my non-existent belt, but that might be pushing my luck.
Instead, I just aimed myself for the snout of the plorg with the mace and humped away until Lucy finished off the sword-wielder and brought her hammer back around to smash into the mace-wielder's chest in a fountain of ice.
The plorg hit the ground hard and didn't get up, while I flapped around and lit on Lucy's shoulder. Hinterlands yeah, Lucy, we rocked those flickers!
A roar that ascended the register and ended as an ear-piercing squeal reminded me, though, that oh, right…that was just the opening act.