52 Punting Womb Gremlins
Anansi spirits me away to Gleann Bheatha, a forest on the opposite side of Gael.
Before I can ask why we needed to travel hundreds of kilometers when inter-city teleportation hasn't been activated yet, the Spider-God gives me a mysterious wink and Poof! He ditches my ass in a grove of birch trees.
And this is why I hate dealing with Trickster Gods.
I open my Quest Log, hoping for more information. Or, any information, for that matter.
|| Anansi travels all across the World Tree, collecting tales and secrets. Lately, all the stories he hears have an undercurrent of unease and fear. Dark murmurings fill the Realm; peace is elusive. A malignancy grows from within Gael, and he has tasked you to uncover its source.||
Well that's ominous.
Not even slightly helpful, but full marks for mood, game story writers!
There's a good way to deal with a vague "Investigate" quest when you're relatively sure you're in the right-ish location: wander around hoping something interesting happens.
So that's what I do.
It's not as much of a chore as it might be in other open-world games. I'm legit jogging around a fae forest, with towering moss-covered trees, rushing waterfalls, and a decent assortment of Lvl 15-18 woodland mobs.
It's like hiking IRL, except better because you don't get sweaty and there's no bugs.
In what seems like no time, I've grinded to the cusp of Lvl 14 and stumbled across an NPC named Biróg sitting by a pond, bawling her eyes out.
Oho, a clue.
Seems she's lost her baby, and she's convinced he's been snatched by an Unseelie (dark) fae.
Biróg may be disguised as a rando peasant, but the teardrop gem dangling from her forehead band looks an awful lot like an emerald, and I'm pretty sure the custom pin holding her raggedy cloak closed is solid gold.
I can practically see the glittering rewards filling my inventory already.
But, like, I'm also doing this to save her baby, for sure.
"Fuck this game and its fucking obsession with babies," I grumble savagely, an hour later.
Using the smattering of clues from Biróg, I manage to locate her kid in a cave hidden behind a waterfall. But what she failed to mention was that her baby is a slobbery, constantly crying mess of a tiny human, and I'm unconvinced it's worth saving.
As if that weren't enough, the bastard baby-snatcher is a Changeling, and once it realized I could kick its ass, it decided to Change into a carbon copy of Biróg's brat.
So now I'm covering my over-sensitive ears, staring at two screaming, crying babies, trying to figure out which one is the sniveling womb gremlin, and which one is the Changeling.
It's not a perfect Change; one baby Lugh has a triskele (triple spiral) birthmark on its right foot, and the other has it on the left.
But since I was too busy beating on a Changeling to check the baby's feet when I first arrived, this knowledge is exactly meaningless to me.
Ughhh fuck a duck. I can't remember any other way to detect a Changeling. I'm tempted to just bring them both back and let Biróg figure it out, but I think that'll dock me points, and if this quest is related to the Tumult, I need to score an A rating so the guys can rejoin me.
The wailing is driving me insane, so I give up and search the forums. Unsurprisingly, the consensus is to look for the subtle differences, or cast a Moonbeam anti-shapeshift spell, neither of which are helpful to me. But one beta user had a different take:
Ivan the Tolerable: You can always just punch them. They don't like that.
Lawful Good Erebus: Don't do it. Punching babies = bad.
Lawful Evil Erebus: But you've already punched a baby, right? That oil-licking baby.
Lawful Good Erebus: Once is already too many times!
Lawful Evil Erebus: Then once more won't make a difference. Besides, creepy ghost baby deserved it, and so does this Changeling. They're not real babies. It's fine.
Lawful Good Erebus: We're going to hell.
Lawful Evil Erebus: Then the devs who designed this fucked up game are coming with us.
So anyway, that's how I ended up punching a baby for the second time in one day.
To be clear, I punched an evil kidnapper Changeling who just happened to *look* like a baby, so it doesn't even count, probably.
Both babies were in the same cradle, so I pulled my arm way back and then released a battle cry as I brought my fist hurtling down toward the crying monsters. Right-foot tattoo boy just kept on crying and being a menace; left-foot triskele baby's cries cut off for a second as he flinched.
I pulled the punch a lot, actually, so I wouldn't accidentally injure Real Baby, but it was more than enough to convince the Changeling to revert back to its fae form.
Two minutes later, I'm walking out of a cave with a baby in one arm and my crossbow ready to shoot dangerous mobs on the other.
Twenty minutes later, I'm standing in a clearing, strongly considering shooting the baby with the crossbow.
Or maybe shooting him *from* the crossbow?
That could be cool.
"Waaahhhh!" goes the godsforsaken baby.
"Raaawr!" goes yet another monster drawn to our location by baby cries.
"FINE! JUST EAT HIM THEN!" goes me, as I hold the baby out so the approaching bear can just take it and me out of our collective misery.
"Um, am I interrupting a blood sacrifice?" goes a familiar voice from the edge of the clearing.
I whirl to face the newcomer, baby still dangling. "Taliesin? What the hell?!"
"'Sup, Erebus!" the teenage Pu`ca greets cheerfully. In his human form, he reminds me strongly of my neighbor Robbie.
Then he shoots lightning at the giant bear, zapping half its HP in one hit, before dashing forward and hacking it to pieces with a shortsword, and he reminds me more of a badass monster in kid's clothing.
So, he reminds me of me at that age.
"What are you doing here?" I ask, slack-jawed in surprise.
"Looking for you," he replies, as if it should be obvious.
Considering this kid's brother called him a stalker earlier, maybe it is.
Though I desperately want to follow this line of inquiry, more pressing matters are currently wailing in my arms. Another roar sounds, different from the bear, and I know we're seconds away from fighting off a hungry horde of badger-like mobs.
I glare at the baby. "I'm gonna punt it."
"No punting babies, Erebus." Taliesin tsks at me.
"It won't stop crying! And apparently baby cries are like God's Gift to Aggro-Pulling, because monsters are swarming from every inch of this damn forest, and I don't know if I can take this any longer!"
So maybe this is not the cool, collected vibe I normally try to exude.
(I am the darkness, damnit. *Sniffle of frustration*)
"No problemo!" Taliesin says with far more enthusiasm than I am capable of mustering, ever. "Give him here."
"Eh?" I ask, but then the teen is taking the baby and making funny faces at it and these weird cooing sounds, AND THEN THE BABY STOPS CRYING AND IT'S A GODDAMN MIRACLE.
"How... What....?" I blink at the boy in wonder.
"I have a bunch of younger siblings," Taliesin explains, eyes still smiling down at the little slobber monster carefully tucked in his arms.
Huh. So that's how you hold a baby.
(I may or may not have been carrying it by the tie in its blanket, like a bento bag.)
The first of the badgers arrive with a screech, and I see the telltale signs of little Lugh getting upset again.
"Fuck no! Kid, I'll take care of this! You just keep that little bastard from crying!"
"Uh, okay?" Taliesin says.
"DIE, WOODLAND SCUM!"
-Ten Minutes Later-
Once every possible scary thing in the vicinity that might make baby Lugh upset have been vanquished, we start heading back toward Biróg. Normally, I would never let someone tag along on a solo quest, especially a possible stalker.
But every time I get anywhere near the baby, it starts crying again.
Desperate times, my friends.
"How did you get here?" I ask Taliesin, once we've walked in silence for a bit.
His eyes gleam with excitement, and it's adorable but also I'm mildly scared for my life. He doesn't have an assassin vibe, but I guess the best assassins wouldn't, right?
"Secret racial perk," he explains. "Pu`cas can use the fae portals in Gael. Isn't that awesome?"
Actually yes, that is insanely awesome, and now I'm psyched to figure out what special perk I'll have in the Japanese realm, but that is hardly the point!
"But how did you find me? How'd you know I was here, specifically?"
"I asked your friend. Ran into your old party in Lough Gur Town, and he said Anansi announced 'Gleann Bheatha' as you two stepped through the Hawthorn Faery Portal. So then I found another portal and followed you," he says, unconcerned, as if that's a perfectly normal course of action.
"Which friend?" I ask, though I'm fairly sure I already know who would sell me out to a stalker.
"He wanted me to give you a message if I found you, too. Um, 'Play nice. Pretty Boy Geniuses have to take care of their fan clubs, right?' Not sure what he was talking about, though..." Taliesin's face scrunches in confusion, and he looks back down at the peaceful baby in his arms.
I am so going to kill him.