Mr. Familiar

by

EO Tenkey

Quest 36: Mr. Familiar is Swept Off His Feet

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Things started off so well. Lucy and I made our way east along the canyon until we reached a point where we spotted a switchback on the opposite side. A bit of exploration later we found the start of a matching switchback down our side of the canyon. It didn't look like it was much fun for Lucy, but we made it to the bottom in one piece, and after a bit more travel arrived at the river.

I'd kept my eyes peeled for enemies, but so far we hadn't seen a single one since we'd started our little detour. There also didn't appear to be any in the river, which at this point was quite wide, but appeared to be fairly shallow all the way across. I was guessing that the switchbacks were in place because this was a natural ford.

"Huh," said Lucy, as she scoped things out. "This was honestly a bit underwhelming. I thought for sure we'd run into some horrible monster or something."

In retrospect, she really shouldn't have said that.

Lucy was about halfway across the river, with the water just under her knees, when she first noticed something wasn't right.

"Hey Fluff-kins, does the water seem like it's flowing less quickly to you?"

I flew down and perched on her shoulder. The water in this part of the river had been fairly slow-moving when she started crossing, but now that she mentioned it, the flow did seem even more sluggish.

As I watched, the water, which had been flowing towards Lucy's left from the east, started eddying around her calves from her right.

Yeah, that couldn't be good. Uh, Lucy? I think you should probably get out of the river.

I started cheeping as fast as I could, and launched myself forward, straining against the invisible barrier to try and get my point across.

"Okay, okay, I'm coming! You don't have to tell me twice!"

As soon as she was moving, I let myself fall back from the barrier, and started circling around Lucy to keep an eye on her surroundings. She was trying to move faster than she had before, but the footing was obviously bad and she was basically just ploughing ahead in the awkward shuffle that you get when you're trying to force your legs through water.

Meanwhile, as Lucy made incremental progress, the water level started inching upwards. I couldn't tell if that was because she'd come to a deeper portion of the river, or if the level overall was rising, but I sure wasn't happy about it. A stick went floating past us, headed upstream.

We needed out of this canyon.

Lucy slipped and almost fell. Fortunately, she caught her balance before the water could shove her under. Gah! Don't scare me like that!

I whipped around again to look downstream, trying desperately to remember if I'd ever heard of this river running backward back when BAO was a normal video game. I was drawing a blank.

There was a rock downstream from us that I'd noticed because it stuck out of the water, when the surface of the river was otherwise unbroken in our general vicinity. When I'd last seen it, the water was gently rounding the rock. Now there were the beginnings of white caps on the downriver side. It was also farther away. Lucy's progress had been pretty straight to start, but now she was getting shoved upstream.

Come on come on come on, wade faster, Lucy! I zipped by her head to try and communicate my sense of urgency.

"Whoa! I'm trying, Mr. Familiar! This is freaking me out, too!"

On my next turn downstream, I couldn't see the rock. All I could see was the wave that apparently had just washed over it and was about to do the same to Lucy.

Well, flick.

The water hit Lucy, and she immediately went down. My forward progress was arrested by the invisible barrier, and I was dragged forward and down at such a clip that I completely lost control of my flight. For a few moments, I was being dragged backwards through the air watching the debris that had been caught in this rush of water, and then the top of the invisible barrier clipped my head, and I found myself shoved into the river.

Flick flick flick! I tried to flap my wings, but I had absolutely no sense of direction. Everything was flashes of light and darkness as I was dragged through the water.

For an instant the press of the invisible barrier suddenly disappeared, although the water continued to carry me along, and before I knew it, I'd collided with something that knocked the wind out of me and spun me around. As I rocketed past it, something clamped onto one of my arms, pulled me in, and squeezed. Lucy! She must have hit a rock or something that momentarily broke up her forward momentum, and she'd managed to grab me as I went by!

She wasn't stationary for very long, however, as my momentum coupled with the press of water shoved her off whatever she'd collided with and we were tossed onward.

I was honestly surprised she was still conscious, although maybe the fact that we were following video game logic helped. I vaguely recalled that when swimming you could go for a surprising amount of time under the water without needing to breathe, and Lucy was pretty tough.

She must have gotten her legs under her or something, because we suddenly breached the surface of the river.

Lucy gasped, and I would have except it appeared that I didn't actually need to breathe, because aside from the unpleasantness of being wet and a bit cold, I wasn't feeling that bad after my little sojourn under the water. Huh. Well, that was good to know.

I was also apparently incredibly buoyant, because contrary to my assumptions Lucy did not appear to be doing any work to keep herself afloat aside from holding onto me for dear life.

We needed to get out of this river. I kicked my feet experimentally. A fat lot of nothing happened. Cheep! I tried to say, but a surge of water splashed over my face, and it came out more like ch-urglblurg!

"Yeah, that was crazy!" said Lucy. Way to completely misunderstand me. Guess our mind meld was rusty after all those days doing nothing but travel. "Where did that flood come from anyway? And now the river's running backward? Is that even possible?"

Maybe? I had a vague recollection that I'd heard about rivers running backward in the real world, but couldn't for the life of me think when, where, or why. Maybe after a hurricane or something?

"We should probably try to get out of here, though, huh? We've gotten swept a long way off course." Lucy started kicking, aiming us for the southern bank.

At long last, she managed to swim close enough to the edge that she could crawl, and she scrambled the final stretch on hands and knees, then fell over on her back to pant.

"Boy, that was rough! Who knew swimming was so much work in this game? I'm really glad you float so well, Mr. Familiar!"

Indeed. I waddled over next to her and dripped miserably. I felt like I weighed about twice again what I should. I swear, if this stupid body absorbed water, I was going to be supremely unhappy.

"Aw, poor little guy, you look all squishy," said Lucy fondly as she messed up my fluff. I gave her the stink-eye and shuffled out from under her hand, but she just laughed at me. Pa-keeng!

Before I had a chance to see what the hinterlands that stat increase was about, Lucy sat up abruptly, staring downriver past me. I turned around. There was something dark and kind of smoky-looking in the distance in a line that stretched across the river and up onto the banks.

Oh, I had a really bad feeling about this.

"That does not look good." Thank goodness, Lucy felt the same way. "Come on, buddy." She scooped me up, gave me a quick squeeze which did in fact cause water to cascade down to the ground as if she'd squeezed a giant sponge, and then tucked me under her arm and started to run.

Good instincts, Lucy! I was pretty sure that was a high-level Gloaming mob of some sort, and in those numbers there was no way we'd be able to avoid getting killed.

The fact that we were sprinting even further into the higher-leveled central portion of the continent was…less good.

I kept an eye out, but although the canyon walls at this point were lowering dramatically, there still wasn't a good place to quickly escape the canyon. Lucy didn't have me in a position where I could see behind us, but I could hear the whatever-they-were monsters getting closer and closer. There were huge splashes of water, shrieks, and growls. Definitely not something we'd be able to fight at our level.

Fortunately, before they caught up to us we came to a place where the canyon wall completely fell away into a hill of sand that led up to a lightly forested area. Lucy, gasping for breath at this point, forced herself up the sandy hill and threw herself into the trees, going prone and losing her grip on me. I waddled around and peered back the way we came just as a rush of pitch-black monsters careened past us, fast enough that I didn't get a good look at any of them, though the nearest edge of the pack was mere feet away from where we lay. Strangely, none of them pursued us, though they must have seen us run this way.

As the sound of the monsters started to recede, Lucy pushed herself up with a groan. "Boy, was that not what I was planning on. I wonder what those monsters were doing. Do you suppose it had something to do with the river running backward and that flood?"

Seemed likely. Cheep.

"Well, at least we didn't get attacked and stuck respawning who-knows-where! And now we're across that river and can finally keep going!"

There was a sound like a bunch of trumpets blowing a chord together, and a notification popped up in front of me unbidden.

Welcome adventurer! You have joined the special event quest Purge the Gloaming Woods! Your respawn point has been automatically set to the nearest forest shrine. Now go investigate and purge the woods of the threat menacing them!

I slapped myself in the face. She just had to open her big mouth.

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A note from EO Tenkey

Mr. Familiar's short enough that he's always in over his head, but looks like Lucy's in over hers, as well! I don't think respawning has really come up yet in the story, but looks like that might be about to change.


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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