Flush with the glow of a hard won victory, Tiny and I are unusually not looking forward to the next reward, the Biomass.
Unfortunately, whatever was blocking our sight ended with the defeat of the last monster, clearing our vision to take in a truly wonderful scene.
The monsters practically exploded when bitten and the remains are scattered over the tunnel floor in a truly unpleasant image. Something this abstract would have to be a Picasso? The spattered goop certainly leaves a strong impression.
Sharing an unwilling look with Tiny we both begin to pick over the tunnel floor reluctantly, looking for something that looks like edible Biomass.
[You have consumed a new source of Biomass: Tenebris Serpere, you are awarded one Biomass]
[Basic profile of the Tenebris Serpere unlocked]
[Tenebris Serpere: Dark Crawler, Produced in the Monster Forges of the Troglodyte engineering guilds, these creatures are tailor made for reconnaissance and stealth missions, deploying an arsenal of shadow magic for offensive and defensive purposes]
What am I reading here? Produced? Monster Forges? Troglodyte Guilds?
What the heck was all o that?!
So these, truly unpleasant to eat creatures were created? By… Troglodytes?
I've never heard of a Troglodyte. What is that?
Well. Focusing back on this fight, the Xp from these creatures was perfectly acceptable. Two whole levels! Once for each! Not to mention the three cores that were able to secure as a result of this battle! Such rewards are almost unprecedented!
Surely this cannot be an omen of something bad about to happen!
Ok, nothing terrible so far.
I won't count it out yet.
After splitting the Biomass with Tiny I gain a further four points, leaving my total on nine. Enough to take my legs from +2 to +4 and enhance my Gravity gland to +1 with one point spare.
I quickly confirm those upgrades with Gandalf while I distract myself from the unpleasant itch by rounding up the monster cores we've gained. Three small, round gem-like stones sit on the dirt in front of us. Apparently these monsters were engineered or created outright by a kind of people called the Troglodytes?
I wonder if there is anything special about these cores?
Extending my antennae to touch one of the cores, I activate the core mechanic skill and begin to study the information contained inside. There is still much that I can't see in there, but what I can see is quite shocking. These monsters have almost no toughness at all, and very little might, the energy is instead diverted into Cunning, to make them more intelligent and towards magical proficiency, including a shadow magic gland.
These are probably the first monsters I've seen with such tanked physical stats in favour of mental and magical prowess. It makes sense if you consider them as designed monsters, to compensate for their physical weakness they were equipped with their darkness cloud spell and whatever projectile they were firing.
Out of curiosity I try and shift the values a little, just divert a touch of energy over to toughness and I find that it is impossible. When I attempt to make the change I feel as if I'm lifting a mountain with my fingers, there is no way that is going to happen Gandalf! No way at all!
Although it was difficult when I made a change to the undead rabbit core, it was nowhere near this hard! Perhaps the more a core has been engineered and changed the harder it becomes to make additional changes? I can test this theory by working on the rabbit core again when I get back to the nest…
Well, since I can't practice on these cores, I may as well absorb them!
[Compatible monster core detected. Would you like to reinforce your core or reconstitute a monster?]
Reinforce that sucka!
I take in two of the cores which increase my Mp by three points each, which is interesting. For the final core I push it towards Tiny and try to get him to absorb it.
When he sees I've pushed the core towards him he stares blankly at it for a moment before pushing it back to me.
Thinking he didn't understand what I wanted I use my mandibles to push it right up to him and then step back, watching him.
He looks at the core.
He looks at me.
He sits down.
He looks back to the core.
Then he reaches out with one hand, picks up the core and throws it back at me.
You damned cheeky ape! That hit me right in the face!
Losing my temper, I pick up the core in my mandibles and rush at him. He seems stunned to see my charge but I don't give him a chance to escape and start beating him over the head with the core.
Absorb the stupid core you moron! Don't give me any of your cheek!
After hitting him probably ten times I notice that I'm only hitting him with my mandibles now and the core is gone. Stepping back Tiny is looking at me with a reproachful expression, clearly not happy with my violent treatment. I gift you a core and this is how you react?! I had to beat you up before you would even accept it!
Hopefully you'll remember this lesson next time I pass you a core!
If my thoughts are correct then Tiny has only evolved once, from those small apes to his larger gorilla form. If he's going to follow me around then he needs to be as strong as possible, so it's worth it to invest cores to ensure that his evolution provides the largest gains possible.
With the rewards distributed I start to think about whether I should investigate further into this tunnel or retreat for the time being when I feel something strange from the tunnel in front of us.
What the heck is this…
My antennae start to wave vaguely in the air in front of me as I try to understand the feeling I'm getting.
I think this is….
Like.. A wind? From the tunnel?
How does that make sense…. You would only get wind underground if.. Something … large…. Was pushing the air…. As it.. Rushed….down…the…tunnel…
Suddenly my heat senses begin to detect a massive heat signature approaching, fast. Not just fast, Olympic sprinter fast!
By the shining beard of the wizardly one, get the heck out of here Tiny!!!!
I grab my ape follower on the arm and start sprinting back towards the forest but I already know it's too late. Turning my head slightly as I run I can see a looming shadow growing in the tunnel behind, filling the empty space with impenetrable shadow.
Almost unwillingly I activate my Mana Sense and my mind is immediately rocked with a blinding light radiating off a truly massive monster core!
I quickly shut off my mana sense but before I do I vaguely pick up on a strange concentration of mana positioned just above the core.
I don't have any time to think about it though!
Knowing I can't run I dive into the scant cover provided by a fold in the rock and Tiny leaps in after me, fairly crushing me with growing bulk.
Sigh. This must be a comical sight, a giant and a gorilla trying to hide behind a bit of rock that is almost large enough to fit a medium sized dog behind…
As the approaching darkness grows ever closer a terrifying sense of foreboding grows inside me. There is something especially scary when you know there is a giant monster in front of you but you can't even see it!
Whatever it is, it slows down as it approaches and the impenetrable darkness gradually fades away, revealing the beast one feature at a time.
It's a massive worm, it's huge, segmented mouth fills the tunnel from top to bottom, blocking my view completely. The outer skin of the worm appears to be thickly armoured, I can hear it grinding against the rock as the monster moves.
Is this it Gandalf? Worm food? After all of this time?
I don't want to go out like this!
An irascible voice erupts in my mind.
[What in the BLAZES do you chaps think you are doing here?!]
Was that the worm?
[No it isn't the worm you BLIGHTER! Humph! No respect these days, that's the trouble with the Dungeon nowadays, no RESPECT at all!]
As the gruff voice continues to echo in my mind the gigantic worm gradually… stretches and thins itself out to reveal a smaller creature riding on its back.
This new monster is like nothing I've seen before. Eyeless, earless, with a large bulging forehead that tapers down to a wide, toothy mouth. The leathery looking skin is a splotchy red colour and wraps around a fairly scraggly, unimpressive looking frame. Thin, stick like arms and legs emerge from a torso so thin the ribs are showing.
[Are you QUITE finished you CRETIN?!] rages the voice in my mind.
Oh! Uh! Sorry!?
You wouldn't happen to be an … uh… Troglodyte would you?