I faded back into existence to see Lucy looking gray. "We are never climbing that tree again, Mr. Familiar. I'm going to have nightmares for weeks."
Yes, after spotting the monsters, Lucy was raring to go, but sadly descending was quite a lot more difficult than ascending…until she lost her grip with both daggers at once, at which point we both descended quite precipitously.
And now here we were, one more respawn at the forest shrine under our belts.
Not repeating that little stunt sounded very, very good to me. Cheep!
Getting forced toward the ground by an invisible barrier, being completely unable to catch up to Lucy to try to catch her and slow her fall…yeah, I really didn't want to experience that ever. Even knowing that we'd just respawn, it was seriously traumatic.
"Let's just…go investigate those mysterious monsters. On the ground. Where we'll stay."
I flew over and gave her a hug. She looked like she needed it.
A little while later, Lucy had sufficiently recovered and we were carefully stalking through the roots of the massive tree toward where we'd seen the Gloaming monsters on the other side.
Fortunately, the brief introduction of a screaming Sprite-born and her pet hadn't scared the creatures off—or drawn them in—and they were still lurking around the far edge of the surrounding woods. My guess was that this tree and its immediate surrounding was a safe area; maybe some sort of spirit tree or something, I don't know.
"Looks like they're not going to come to us, so we'll just have to go to them. Hmm, do you suppose they'll attack if we're in the area away from the roots but not quite to the tree line?"
It was hard to say. Cheep. Cheep cheep.
Lucy gave me an amused look. "Is that a maybe?"
Cheep! Pa-keeng! Huh, hadn't had a behavior point in a while.
"You know, I really don't feel like dying again so soon, but I'm worried that there might be other monsters in the woods that we haven't spotted yet, too. How about we take it slow, and you can scout ahead?"
I mean, I approved of that idea, except monsters always paid no attention to me. And it wasn't like I could identify them or communicate with Lucy if I did. I just looked at her.
"Well, I noticed you don't have health! That means they can't hurt you!"
Yes, thank you Lucy, brilliant deduction. They also don't appear to register me as anything other than a part of the scenery. I'm like a flying tree or bush or something. Well, whatever. Cheep.
"There, way to be a sport!" She ruffled my fluff and set off into the open.
When she got about a quarter of the way across, I dutifully took off and flew out as far as I could—which honestly, wasn't all that far. I circled there for a couple seconds, and then flew back to perch on Lucy's shoulder and give her a look.
She looked appropriately sheepish. "Well, it was a thought, anyway. I forgot that you can't fly all that far away from me. Okay, wish me luck, I guess."
We continued forward. When we were about three quarters of the way to the trees, the monsters caught sight of us. There were a pair of them, and they seemed to be pacing along some pre-set path. Once one of them noticed Lucy, however, it let out a fluting growl and rushed to the edge of the trees where it was soon joined by its partner.
The things were pretty strange-looking. Unlike the Gloaming hunters or spiderkin, these didn't have any obvious inspiration unless the designers were going for something like a starved bear crossed with a giant praying mantis, maybe. While moving through the trees, they'd been flowing along on all of their limbs and only looked about half as tall as Lucy. When they'd noticed her and stood to their full height, however, they must have been eight feet tall if they were a foot. Their bodies were entirely black, with that smokey look that made it obvious they were Gloaming monsters, and they had half a dozen glowing red eyes scattered across their heads.
I also counted at least three limbs up off the ground. Maybe they really were some sort of weird insect-inspired monster, except their arms weren't distributed symmetrically.
Lucy stopped dead as soon as the first monster started moving her way. "That thing is horrifying. Do you suppose that was what took me out originally?"
I was pretty sure it wasn't. I didn't get a good look at that monster, but I didn't notice that many glowing red eyes, either. Cheep cheep.
"Huh, really? Maybe we can take these things in a fight, then."
You insane combat junkie. Cheep cheep.
"Fair enough, maybe not in a straight fight. Still, if we're going to get out of here, we're probably going to have to fight them at some point."
I mean, I couldn't disagree with that. But maybe charging straight at a pair of them who were aware and ready wasn't the best plan.
"Though I guess maybe charging straight at a couple that know we're here isn't the best plan."
Whoa, mind meld active! Cheep!
"Hmm, okay. Though, you know, Mr. Familiar…those two aren't leaving the tree line."
Yeah, and maybe if you were a ranged attacker we could take advantage of that, but unless you're fast enough to not get hit by those monstrosities, I suspect trying to bait them isn't going to go well.
Not that I could communicate that with a yes or no response, so I just gave her a look.
"What? Come on, it could totally work! Okay, maybe not both of them together like that, but what if we backed off until they lost track of us, then worked our way closer along the edge of the forest, and did a little hit and run?"
I considered it. That might actually work. And I could probably distract one momentarily as long as I could get into its face. They were super tall, but they were also a lot less wide than the plorg chieftain, so I was pretty sure I could completely block their vision if they weren't too much faster than me. Cheep.
"Excellent," said Lucy, literally rubbing her hands together in anticipation. "Let's see what they've got."
Lucy walked along the very border of the woods. We'd back-tracked into the clear space around the giant tree, and then worked our way to the right. Once we were far enough away, the two monsters did in fact appear to return to their patrol pattern, and now we were drawing close to where they should be.
Lucy crouched behind a bush and gestured me down to her. "Can you check if the monsters are out there? Make a noise if it's clear."
Sure, I could do that. I flew up over the bush and scoped things out. No monsters yet. Cheep.
Lucy crept out and made her way to another bush up ahead. Looks like we were taking things slow and steady. I flew over her and once more checked for trouble.
We repeated our little routine several times, until at last I caught a flash of movement through the trees ahead. I cut a quick circle back to Lucy, and landed at her feet.
"Monster?" she whispered. Uh, how was I supposed to answer that? I didn't exactly have any way to control my volume. I pointed beyond the bush with a wing in the approximate direction I'd sighted the monster instead.
Lucy nodded, then knelt fully down and peeked her head around the base of the bush. We stayed where we were while she watched the monsters complete their patrol a couple times. It looked to me like they weren't evenly spaced. One would pass by, then the other pretty soon after, followed by a lengthy wait until the first came back around.
Fortunately, Lucy noticed the same thing. After the first monster passed, she grabbed her hammer and got down into something approaching a runner's starting stance. As the second passed by the gap in the trees and turned so that its back was to us, she took off running as fast as she could. I threw myself into the air and winged along behind.
As drew close, Lucy spun her hammer up over her head, and with a lunge brought it down into the hind-quarters of the monster. There was a spray of ice crystals as she activated Icy Grip, and the thing screeched in surprise and pain.
Lucy didn't wait for it to counter-attack, but immediately took off running back toward the edge of the forest.
I kept an eye on the monster. Even though it was tinted slightly blue from the chilled debuff, it was still moving awfully fast. I did not have a good feeling about Lucy's chances if she faced the thing head-on; despite a pronounced limp in its hind-quarters and the chilled effect, it was gaining on her pretty handily.
Come to think, it didn't look like she was going to make it to the edge of the forest. I arrowed down and landed right on the middle of its head, digging in my talons and spreading my arms to try and obscure as much of its vision as possible. I also cheeped quite a bit in hopes that Lucy would realize she was about to get attacked from behind.
Thankfully both gambits worked. The creature stumbled to a confused halt, and then an instant later Lucy's hammer slammed into the side of its head.
I awkwardly flapped my way clear, as the monster was thrown sideways into a nearby tree.
"Ha, take that!" shouted Lucy, prepping a follow-through swing of her hammer. "Who's tough now, you—"
And that was when the second monster came out of nowhere and ploughed straight through Lucy like a baseball bat through a snowball.
If the baseball bat had an excess of claws and teeth, that is.