When our guide finally appeared before us, I did a quick double take as he was remarkably similar to Formo in appearance. The impression was somewhat reinforced when he arrived riding on the back of a tremendously fearsome worm monster.
[WHAT HO! ARE YOU THE DASTARDLY CREATURES WHO THROTTLED MY CREATION?]
I take that as my cue to step forward then.
[Ah, yes. Hello there! We come in peace! Had we realised that the creature we were battling had belonged to one of the Sophos, we'd have left it well enough alone.]
This particular member of Formo's people shares much the same appearance as Formo himself. The Sophos are quite small, with thin, gangly arms and legs that support an unimpressive torso which in turn supports a truly impressive nonce.
Without eyes or perhaps even ears, the Sophos have an impressively bulbous head that they can't seem to hold up properly, resulting in a hunched posture that makes them look even smaller than they ought to. They appear completely hairless and somewhat wrinkly, which I can easily tell, since they don't appear to wear any clothes other than a loincloth.
[WHAT IN THE NAME OF THE CORE FORGE IS THAT?!]
I can't help but look around frantically to see what he's screaming about, but the guy doesn't have eyes! How the hell am I supposed to know what he's looking at?! His head didn't even move!
[I'm not sure what you mean?!]
[YOUR PET! HOW IN THE BLAZES DID YOU GET YOUR GRUBBY MANDIBLES ON ONE?!]
[Are you referring to Tiny? I mean. He's a big 'ol Gorilla. There's a few of them in the forest expanse, I'm sure. We can't be far from it, I'd be happy to take you.]
[NO, YOU BLITHERING NUMBSKULL! THE LIGHTNING FIST APE IS AS COMMON AS MUD AFTER IT RAINS ON A MUD FARM! I'M TALKING ABOUT THE SHADOW CREATURE!]
[Crinis? Uh. Just got lucky I suppose?]
[GIVE HER TO ME!]
A brief silence descends between myself and the Sophos, who looks down at me (maybe) imperiously from atop his powerful worm mount. I get the feeling he never considered the possibility I might say no to that request.
[IT WOULD SEEM TO ME, THAT YOU OWE ME REPARATIONS AFTER DESTROYING MY CREATION.]
Even if the volume hasn't changed, it feels as if his tone has become a little less demanding.
[You may be right about that,] I'm happy to admit.
[IF YOU GIVE ME CONTROL OF YOUR PET THEN I SHALL CONSIDER THE DEBT ERASED.]
Silence descends once more.
[WHY?] The Sophos finally demands.
I don't have to think on that.
[These are not simply my pets. They are my friends. You don't just give away friends that have battled loyally by your side, that's nuts.]
The Sophos glares down at me incredulously.
[BOY. THEY ARE MAGICALLY COMPELLED TO SERVE YOU LOYALLY.]
I shrug my antennae.
[I don't care about that.]
[And how in the heck did you know I was a boy?!] I demand.
With his sightless gaze, the Sophos looks down at me, as if considering how to punish my disrespectful self, when a great booming laugh rattles into my head.
[HOHOHOHO! IT'S RARE TO SEE SOMEONE WITH A TRUE RESPECT FOR THE MASTER/PET BOND OUTSIDE OF MY KIND. WHAT A TREAT! A TREAT I SAY! AS TO THE OTHER, I MAY HAVE NO EYES BUT THE BLASTED DUNGEON CAN'T HIDE MUCH FROM ME. WE SEE MUCH THAT IT WOULD RATHER REMAIN HIDDEN!]
In a surprising move, the Sophos leapt from the back of his mount to land quite lightly before the head of his worm and drew near to us.
[MY NAME IS TIRIMON. ALLOW ME TO GUIDE YOU TO OUR CONCLAVE.]
[Hello Tirimon. I'm Anthony, this is Tiny and this is Crinis. Nice to meet you!]
Our journey to the village was a little unpleasant. I can still remember the modes of transport I enjoyed back on Earth. Buses, cars, bikes and all that normal stuff. I never thought I'd yearn quite so hard to return to those simple times as hard as I did whilst riding on the back of a giant, slithering rock-worm.
You can't see a thing for starters. The worm is almost as thick as the tunnel, so we were forced to squeeze ourselves into gaps where some of the body ring segments were smaller than the others. Tiny and I smacked our heads a few times on the roof of the tunnels.
That would have been bad enough, if Tirimon hadn't then turned to apologize to us about having to shut our minds down only a brief moment before my consciousness was smothered from within my own head.
I awoke to find myself within a strange cavern with another Sophos leaning down to look into my compound eyes. Something about the colouring of his leathery skin tickled my mind. Or perhaps that was the mind bridge that sprung so effortlessly between us.
[NICE TO SEE YOU AGAIN, OLD BOY!]