Mr. Familiar

by

EO Tenkey

Quest 40: Mr. Familiar Takes to the Trees

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Lucy crouched somewhat awkwardly in a tree with a hand on the trunk, and I perched on a branch that was slantways near her head as we watched the hyena-like Gloaming monsters patrolling their territory.

Like the pair of monsters that had so recently been slaying Lucy over and over, these appeared to have set movement patterns that they repeated. Unlike the paired monsters, though, the hyena-things were much less predictable due to their larger numbers.

They were also incredibly difficult to tell apart. The creatures had bulky upper bodies that sloped back to relatively spindly back legs, and their heads were shaped sort of like a pyramid placed on its side and then partially flattened; their snouts were quite narrow, but a center ridge rose up as it neared their neck, and this was flanked by their glowing red eyes.

From my perspective, they looked very easy to blind when Lucy was in front of them, but I wasn't sure if I could prevent one from seeing her if it turned its head.

Aside from the smoky black wisps of Gloaming that surrounded their bodies, they were the most animalistic of the Gloaming enemies we'd fought since the Gloaming hunter, but when they opened their mouths they had an absolute forest of horrifying teeth. It was like those terrifying deep-sea fish that are little more than a pair of blind eyes and about a million fangs, except somehow they all slotted away out of sight when the beasts' mouths were closed. I was fairly sure that wasn't physically possible, but I guess video game logic didn't necessarily care about ordinary biology.

In any case, there wasn't much to distinguish one individual from another, so the sheer number of them wandering around through the nearby woods made it difficult to identify specific patrol routes.

As the most recent of the monstrosities passed out of sight from our tree, Lucy turned my way. "I think I'm getting a feel for the pattern. Pretty sure there won't be any in sight when the next one of these things comes along. What do you think Mr. Familiar? Should we try to take it out?"

I'd shrug if I had shoulders. Since we hadn't seen these things in combat outside of getting swarmed under immediately, it was impossible to say what would happen. Guess we might as well give it a shot, though; Lucy was looking pretty annoyed with scouting. Cheep.

"Alright, let's do this." She pulled her hammer from her inventory—which, boy, was that ever an awkward maneuver; she came close to falling out of the tree—and trained her gaze on a nearby pair of trees.

Sure enough, one of the monsters looped around off to the right, and then for a brief moment all of them vanished from sight as a lone monster wandered through the trees Lucy was watching and stalked toward us.

Before it reached the point where it would turn around and continue on its way, Lucy let go of the trunk of the tree and launched herself out into the air, pulling her hammer up over her head as she plummeted the ten feet or so to the ground.

Good grief, Lucy, what the hinterlands?! I wasn't expecting you to jump on it out of the tree! I pushed myself into the air a moment behind her, caught off guard by her sudden attack.

The Gloaming monster was caught off guard as well. It barely had a chance to look up when Lucy's hammer impacted its skull with an explosion of ice, driving its head into the ground with an audible crunch as its back legs lifted up off the ground at the sudden arresting of its forward momentum.

Lucy somehow managed to keep a hand on the haft of her hammer as she rolled forward into the momentum from her leap, shifting the head of it up and over the creature's neck before she gained her feet partway behind it, rotated, and pulled the hammer back up as she repositioned her hands.

The creature was just starting to push itself to its feet when I collided with its face and started madly pecking at its eyes. A moment later, Lucy's hammer smacked into its spine, sending it right back to the ground, and before it had a chance to try to regain its feet again she called out, "Mr. Familiar!" and whipped the hammer back and around.

I flipped myself up off the thing's head, and the hammer landed a split second behind me with a second resounding crunch.

Lucy pulled it back, ready to keep going, but the thing wasn't moving anymore. "Alright, we did it! Keep an eye out for the others, I'm going to try and loot this ugly son of a bonker."

I flew up and started circling. So far no other monsters in sight. Hopefully we'd be able to replicate this trick, because I really wanted to see if these things tasted as good as the spiderkin.

"Huh, a Gloaming savager. That's certainly an ominous—"

Oh scribble, we'd been spotted! I dove for Lucy, cheep-ing all the way.

She jumped up, just as three savagers bounded into view.

"Flick!" she said. "Fight or—"

But I was already winging past and away.

"Flight it is!"

The savagers let out a bunch of horrible yipping barks as they ran after us. Oh, I did not have a good feeling about this!

Lucy stowed her hammer back in her inventory as she juked around trees, trying to shake off the growing number of savagers that were tailing us. Unfortunately, while she was keeping ahead of the ones who had started the chase, she was not moving forward particularly fast thanks to her efforts to avoid getting attacked from behind and I caught glimpses of others converging on us from the sides. These things ran surprisingly fast, and once the pack knew there was an enemy, they coordinated their movements far better than I liked.

I dove a little to avoid flying face-first into a low-lying tree branch only to smack straight into my invisible barrier just a little way further on. As I frantically tried to correct my flight, I discovered that Lucy had jumped up and swung herself into the tree behind me. The trio of savagers that had discovered us had evidently been hot on her heels, because I got myself under control just in time to see one of them leap up and snap at her feet. Fortunately, the things weren't great at jumping—not enough power in their back legs, I guessed—and it didn't come particularly close. Lucy still scrambled up another branch to put more space between herself and the ground.

I flew up and perched on the branch she was holding onto, slightly above her head. "Well, that didn't go quite like I'd planned." She sounded out of breath.

Yeah, no kidding. Maybe if we'd hoofed it right after killing that first savager we'd have gotten away clean, but there just wasn't enough of a delay in their patrol pattern to loot the body, too.

Should have pecked it straight off when I had the chance.

Meanwhile, the remaining members of the savager pack had reached the tree, and they were now circling it and eyeing Lucy. Every so often one would make a run at the tree and jump, but they were never anywhere close to getting to her. After a few futile jumps when they didn't even reach the first branch she'd pulled herself up by, Lucy sat down on her branch and started swinging her feet, which really seemed to ploink them off.

"What do you think, Mr. Familiar? Do you suppose I can jump from tree to tree until we're out of their range?"

I eyed the space between our tree and the next. I mean, probably not? But I've seen you do crazier stuff that than before, so I'm not going to place any bets.

"No comment, eh?" Lucy chuckled. "You know when I was pulling myself up here, I noticed something: these branches are rock-solid. If this were a real tree, I don't think that first branch would have supported my weight."

Huh, now that she mentioned it…I leaned over and took a gander at the lower branch. It was indeed quite thin. I weighed about as much as a well-stuffed throw pillow, so I'd gotten out of the habit of even worrying if the things I was landing on could hold my weight, but she seemed to be onto something.

I took another look at the space between the trees, this time imagining her jumping from the farthest end of the branch. Maybe that would work. Cheep. I hesitated a moment. Cheep?

"Ha ha, yeah, who knows? Better than sitting around, though!"

Lucy stood up, keeping a hand on the trunk until she was able to grab the branch above her. Once she had her balance, she turned so that she was facing along the branch, which ran out into space, but there was a branch for another tree just a little off to the right. She took a deep breath. "Here goes nothing!"

Lucy took off running along the branch and I flew after her. The branch did start to bend downward as she neared the end, but it wasn't jumping up and down or breaking and dumping her straight into the middle of the savagers, so there was definitely some video game logic going on here.

When she was most of the way to the end of the branch, Lucy took a flying leap towards the other tree.

She barely made it. Instead of landing on her feet on the closest branch, she hit it with her stomach. I'm pretty sure it knocked the wind out of her and she would have fallen if I hadn't rammed into her upper back and shoved her forward slightly.

She got a hold of the branch and tucked her legs up just as a savager flew by below, then laboriously pulled herself the rest of the way up and crawled to where the branch met the tree trunk to catch her breath. "Guess that worked! Mostly. Thanks for the save, buddy!" She glanced down where the savager pack was reorienting around her new tree.

"I think next time I'll try from a little higher up. See if I can't get more wiggle room between me and those teeth, eh?"

That definitely sounded like a good idea to me. Cheep!

A couple death-defying leaps later, and the savager pack appeared to have lost track of us. Based on their behavior, we had to be close enough to the ground for them to detect us; the vast majority of them were still milling around the first tree Lucy had jumped to. Lucy slowly worked her way down the trunk of her current tree until she was near enough to the ground to jump, and eyed the few remaining hold-outs around the base of the tree speculatively. They were the ones who had been closest to the tree, and now that most of the pack had filtered back into the forest, these three were wandering in slowly-widening circles.

One was starting to draw close to the tree we were currently crouched in, and Lucy pulled out her hammer. "What do you think, Mr. Familiar? Should we try that again?"

Well, I sure didn't have any plans.

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A note from EO Tenkey

If this were one of those litRPGs where you gain skills based on your behavior, Lucy would definitely have unlocked "Monkeying Around" by now.


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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