Mr. Familiar

by

EO Tenkey

Quest 37: Mr. Familiar and the Joys of Heights

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"Ooh, a special event quest? That sounds awesome! Do you suppose there's special loot? I wasn't even aware these were a thing!" Yeah, me neither, Lucy. She was getting ridiculously excited about this quest, but I had a bad feeling. This area was definitely not intended for level 10 characters, and now our spawn point was automatically reset? That was bogus. Even if we hadn't shown up in this area on accident, getting automatically shunted into a quest was stupid.

"I suppose we can take a little detour. I wonder what the goal of the quest is? Do you suppose we'll find out if we track down this forest shrine thing?"

Lucy kept blathering on, right up until a gloaming monster flowed out of the woods behind her and killed her with a single attack.


We respawned at the forest shrine. It was a dilapidated little wooden structure perched precariously on the roots of an absolutely massive tree. Dingy little paper talismans encircled the tree on a moldering rope. It was giving me a very "abandoned Shinto shrine in Japan's backwoods" vibe.

There was no one else there. Just us, the unseen birds in the canopy above, and the shrine. No quest givers, no explanatory posters, nothing.

"Wow, what the heck even hit me?" Lucy rotated around, taking in the scenery. "Huh, not much here, is there, Fluff-kins? I was hoping the forest shrine would be a bit more…populous. Hmm." She lapsed into thought as she poked around in her inventory and surveyed the surroundings. While she ruminated, I took to the air to get a birds-eye view; or at least as much as I could, given my invisible barrier.

There wasn't much else to see. Lots of trees on all sides, although there was a sizable amount of space around the monster tree that was mostly low-lying undergrowth. No monsters that I could see, which was good, at least.

"Nuts, this shrine is off the beaten path." Lucy had evidently pulled up her map, so I coasted down and lit on her shoulder. "Based on the revealed portions of the map we were about here when that whatever-it-was ambushed us—" she pointed to a spot near the edge of the forest that was a handy distance south and west of our current location "—but now we're up here deeper in the woods. Unless we can get to a town without running into something nasty, I don't think there's any way to reset our spawn point, which means we could be here a while."

Sounded about right to me. Cheep.

"Any idea what we might be dealing with, Mr. Familiar? You must have seen at least a glimpse of it."

Yeah, just enough to tell it was some sort of Gloaming monster, but other than that? I've got nothing. Cheep cheep.

"Too bad. So I guess then the first thing we need to do is get some better information." Lucy's gaze drifted over to the giant tree. "Think we could climb that thing?"

Uh, no? It's several hundred feet tall if it's a foot, far too wide around to wrap her arms around it, and I couldn't spot anything to grab onto until the first branch about fifty feet up. I gave her a skeptical look, but she just laughed.

"Ha, okay! Challenge accepted."

Lucy carefully made her way past the forest shrine and followed the root back to the base of the tree. The rope strung around the thing was as thick as her arm, so she put a hand on it and started carefully walking around the base, eyeing the trunk as she looked for a way to ascend.

We made it all the way around without finding any good low-hanging branches, but that didn't deter her. Instead, she pulled a pair of daggers out of her inventory and experimentally stabbed one into the tree trunk a little above her head. It went in surprisingly deep, and when she tested her weight it held.

Lucy grinned. Uh oh. She was not going to scale this monstrosity using only her upper body strength, right? Was that even possible?

"Catch me if I fall, okay, buddy?" she said, and she was off.

It took her a few minutes to get a handle on the best way to get the knives into and out of the tree, and there was a close call after the first few feet when she fumbled a knife and had to hang by one hand while she scrambled in her inventory for a second, but against all of my predictions she was honest-to-goodness ascending the tree using nothing but her upper body strength and a pair of daggers.

There had to be some game mechanic-related flickery going on here. I knew Lucy had a lot of strength for a Spriteborn, but this was some seriously super-hero level stuff. She should be wearing out and losing her—although, wait just a minute. Would she wear out? Now that I thought about it, BAO didn't have a stamina stat or similar. I'd just assumed that Lucy would get exhausted the way I did after hard physical labor, but she wasn't actually in the world, was she? She was just jacked in somehow with whatever crazy full immersion technology had been created after my alleged death.

I'd seen her seemingly exhausted in combat, though, hadn't I? But maybe there was something different going on there. Super weird. I really wished I had some way to contact Witchy on demand to ask about it, because as Lucy pulled herself upward with no signs of slowing, I was really curious.

About halfway to the first branch, though, one of her knives went in at a bad angle, and as she started to pull herself upward the knife slipped out, leaving her with nothing holding her up. I took a split second to eyeball the distance between Lucy, the tree, and myself and then shot forward as fast as I could. As she fell past me, I collided with her lower back and physically shoved her back against the tree. It must have knocked the wind out of her, but she managed to slam one dagger back in, leaving her hanging by one hand.

"Oof! Thanks, Mr. Familiar." Lucy swung her other arm up and after a couple tries got her other dagger in, allowing her to take her weight on both arms. She glanced over at me where I was trying my best to hover nearby. "Guess I should maybe take it a little slower, huh? I know the worst that can happen is that I'll have to respawn again, but that really freaked me out."

As it should, you crazy lady! Cheep! I don't know who ever thought it was a good idea to introduce Lucy to tree climbing in BAO, but they must have been an idiot.


After a significantly longer stint of climbing, Lucy at last made it to the lower branches of the monstrous tree. Despite being a "low" branch, the thing was easily wide enough to stand on.

It wasn't quite high enough to see out of the forest, although she was pretty close to the tops of the nearby trees. "Drat, I guess we have a bit further to go."

At last, Lucy made it to a branch that provided a view of the forest around, and after a quick glance over her shoulder as she clambered her way onto the branch, she turned and slid down to sit at the crux of the branch and the trunk.

"Wow, Mr. Familiar. Would you look at that."

It was an admittedly breath-taking view. Around us was a veritable sea of trees. It looked like mostly evergreens, but here and there a patch of coniferous trees swayed their leaves in the wind. The forest extended out almost as far as I could see, but in the far distance was the tint of beige that must have been the Golem-born starting area. Way off to our left, it looked like there might be a dip in the trees, but it was hard to tell at this distance. It could be the river that had forced us into the forest in the first place, or could just be a long depression in the landscape.

After sitting and staring for a while, Lucy pulled open her map. Evidently our vantage point pushed out the bounds of the black fog that obscured portions of the map she'd never visited, but there weren't any obvious items of note in the immediate vicinity of the forest shrine.

By working her way around the tree from branch to branch—often needing to use her daggers—Lucy was able to survey the entire area surrounding the forest shrine. Unfortunately, the only thing of note was a meadow that was just barely within the range of her map on the east side of the tree.

"What do you think, Mr. Familiar? Should we go check that out?"

Uh, right. Because going further into the zone filled with monsters far above your level is a great idea, Lucy. Cheep cheep!

"Good point, we still don't know anything about the monsters around here, do we? Guess we'd better start there."

Lucy began making her way down the tree, which looked significantly more difficult than going up. I really hoped she made it to the ground in one piece.

As we reached the lowest of the tree's branches, I spotted some shadows moving near the foot of the trees beyond the giant's roots. I flew down and buzzed Lucy where she was looking downwards, trying to plan her final descent.

"Hm? Oh, look, those are monsters, aren't they? I can't quite make out what they are, but let's go take a look!"

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A note from EO Tenkey

Well, this is a fine kettle of fish you've gotten yourself into, 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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