For the next ten minutes we make our way through curving tunnels, obliterating monsters whenever we come across them and leaving the Biomass on the ground. It hurts to leave food behind but what can we do? The Dungeon will feast on the remains of my hard work today. Well, I say hard work, but battling with Invidia on my side is a whole different story. The shields, the illusions, the damaging spells that get thrown out at the perfect timing. It's almost rude. He's just so damn fast with it. Having poked at this core, I know the little dude's numbers are insane, and I've been on the receiving end of that processing power as well, I have a very deep appreciation for his strengths. When I get Tiny and Crinis back, the gang will be complete and nothing in this Strata will be able to stand against us. We'll mow our way through it like a plague.
Speaking of my pets, where the hell is Tiny? It's not as if I could set up a rendezvous point with Corun, but he should be in this general area, right? Trying to hunt down my missing bat-gorilla, I curve our escape path to bring us a little closer to the outpost in which we were imprisoned, just trying to pick up signs of his presence. It's not like I need to run into him directly, as long as I get close enough I'll be able to detect him. Stuff like this is why I need to advance my pet Skills more! If the range on my pet communication Skill was higher then I'd be able to find him so much easier.
[Tiny! Where the heck are you, you dumb gorrila?! Eating. I bet you're eating somewhere!]
That would be like him, stuffing his face whilst I'm trying to track him down. Maybe I can use that to try and find him? Considering he just evolved, he'll be wanting to fight and eat as much as possible to improve his mutations (also because he's a glutton) and test his new abilities. What I need to do is try to find sections of Dungeon that he might have cleaned out.
Jim and I come to an intersection. We've been moving through a wide arterial tunnel which is typical of those I've seen so far in the second strata. The dark, poisonous plant life, the stone coral and the ambushing shadow creatures who lurk around every corner. When we come to the crossroads where the tunnel branches in three different directions, I pause and consider my options as Jim slithers up behind me.
[What's wrong?] He says, weary.
[Just thinking of the best path to travel. Not sure exactly which way I want to go.]
[You don't? I thought you could sense your 'family' or whatever.]
[I can, just trying to pick up another straggler on the way.]
[Really?! Are you sure this is the time to be running around on these side quests when we need to get our monstrous backsides to safety?! You do realise the Golgari will be hunting us by now, right?]
[Of course they are. Don't worry, we'll be fine.]
[Maybe you'll be fine, but they'll take me easily. I don't want to go back, Anthony.]
[Alright already, just chill out for a second.]
I turn back to the tunnels and make a quick assessment. The branch to the right definitely seems more quiet than the others. If a hungry, giant gorilla had recently run through one of them, it was likely to be that one. Problem is it appears as if it'll take us even closer to the outpost than we are now I'll have to risk it.
[Alright, this way,] I say to Jim, not bothering to mention the little details like our proximity to the Golgari.
We take off again and he follows behind, but I'm definitely feeling the pressure now. This is taking time that we don't have and it's with immense relief that I start to notice damaged areas on the tunnel floor and walls. Normally this wouldn't be much to take notice of, monsters damage the walls of the tunnels all the time, but these crater-like indentations are suspiciously fist shaped.
Quick! We pick up the pace and rush through the tunnel, making great time since we don't have to fight anything, but unfortunately it's taking us in the wrong direction.
A deep, primal roar echoes off the walls followed quickly by a resounding crash. This sounds promising!
[Full speed ahead!]
I dash forward as another bellow shakes the stones. Something big is fighting up ahead and judging by the sound it isn't being too subtle about it.
[Tiny!] I call through my Pet Communication Skill. [Tiny, is that you?!]
[Rrr?] Comes the confused reply.
[Nice! Stay put buddy, I'm coming to find you!]
[Raaaa!] He responds happily.
After another minute of mad running in which Jim lags behind, I come across a gigantic figure munching on what appears to be some sort of spiny urchin creature.
[Tiny?! You got huge!]
He grins down at me with me glee and slaps his chest proudly. It's true, he's grown a lot in his last evolution, and his size isn't the only change. His colour has changed. His fur had been turning increasingly white over his past evolutions as he turned into a kind of super-silverback but now his hair has turned pure black barring lightning bolt shaped streaks that run down his shoulders and back. His arms and shoulders are even thicker than before and unless I miss my guess there are some wings poking out from behind his shoulders?
[Tiny, can you FLY!?]
[HAARRRR!] He roars, standing up and flexing in a display of strength.
He does have wings! It's just he isn't likely to be flying on them any time soon. When he unfolds them they stretch to an impressive ten metres across, but compared his sheer bulk I doubt he could even glide with them. Maybe after another evolution they'll be fully grown and he can use them properly. For now, he seems incredibly impressed with himself and his new wings.
[Lookin' good buddy. Great to see you out in the Dungeon again.]
[Hrrrrn,] he hums in agreement.
[Alright, we need to get going and get going fast. Are you ready to make a run for it?]
He nods and starts to lumber up to just as a tired and wheezing worm wriggles into view.
[What the heck is that?]
[This is my pet, Tiny.]
I turn to the ape.
[This is Jim, he's a friend and he's coming with us. Oh, also we have a new team member! Tiny, meet Invidia, he's fully grown now! Invidia, meet Tiny. He's like your elder brother, I suppose.]
The little eyeball narrows as he looks up at the gigantic, five metre tall ape.
[I will be large one day. Larger than you!]
[Hrrn?] Tiny cocks his head to one side.
[Invidia, you should remember that you're actually a heck of a lot larger than you look. Like, ninety percent of you is stuffed into your dimensional thingy.]
The eyeball now looks smug as he turns away from Tiny on his spindly little arms and flutters back to my side.
[Alright, let's get the heck out of here, we don't have time to waste.]
With introductions made, we turn and flee back in the direction we came, moving away from the Goglari who are no doubt hot on our heels.