So, tip for the top:
When being attacked by furry, eight-eyed, dog-headed, lobster creatures and you’re armed with a terrifyingly sharp spear, it’s best to swing at them and pull it back towards you at the end at the end of the swing.
This allows for a closer jab-jab-jab action if you miss which discourages them as they’re not keen on being stabbed, and it stops them getting impaled if you go for the classic thrust.
Don’t do a classic spear thrust.
It’s very hard to fight wielding what is essentially a heavy, screaming kebab.
I found this out the hard way. The first one that appeared burst out of the high wheat stalks to land on the mud of the riverbed. It hissed and snarled at us, apparently building up courage to attack. It clacked at the air with its pincers and each one of the tentacles spewing from its mouth hissed in unison.
And, after this show-boating, it charged.
Feeling angry and vengeful, I just lowered the spear.
Before it realised what happened, the creature had a third of the spear sticking out of its back. When it did realise, it went nuts. Whining and shrieking, clacking at me and the spear with those big furry pincers that looked like they’d do some damage. It was all I could do not to drop the spear. At my leg-level, Nom gave a terrified shriek.
Another appeared behind it as I was desperately holding onto the shaking shaft.
Number two spat and snipped and howled until it too was brave enough and charged. Desperately, I shook the spear with the first one still making a fuss on it but couldn’t dislodge it. The second one was racing closer. In the end, I put a boot to the creature on the spear, shoved it off and in a panic swung at its friend which was almost on us.
The spear made contact. The creature landed in two twitching halves, one on each side of me. For a moment, I wasn’t sure if I was more afraid of them or the spear, but I was glad it was over.
Then another one appeared on the path.
“Oh, get lost, clacky!” I shouted at it. “Unless you want to end up like your-”
Two more hopped from the cover of the wheat into the mud, which shut me up. Then some more pressed their noses out of the grass.
It turns out there are a few more of these things in the field than one or two.
I was pretty confident we were done for. In fact, if they went for us like a pack, we would have been. Instead, they’re more like angry cowards (I can relate) and have to psyche themselves up before having a go. They form a snarling mob but come at us one at a time.
So, I’ve been backing up down the river, littering glistening chunks of beastie along the water’s edge. When one of them gets the minerals to attack, it comes straight at me. No zagging. No zigging. It’s not difficult to put the spearhead in its path and anything that blade touches seems to come apart at the seams. They’re not getting near to me.
But they’re also not giving up.
Where before I was feeling angry and vengeful, I now feel like a murderous bully.
“Guys! Stop! Please!” I yell at them. “I’m sorry for coming into your field!”
“Yeah!” Nom, who is still wrapped around my leg, chirps up. “Do one!” and then she calls them some fairly obscene names. It makes me oddly proud since it was me she picked them up from.
Another one runs at us. It has a kind of a heavy, lumbering motion, just speeded up. Its horrible mouth tentacles are writhing and spitting, and it goes for my legs. I’ve already got the spear lowered though, so I just dip it and sort of squiggle it back and fore.
The creature collapses in a pile of parts, barely recognisable. I don’t feel strong or triumphant, well, okay maybe a touch, but mostly I just feel bad for it.
They’re not too nimble either. They seem weighted down by all their carapace and heavy golden fur. I get the impression they don’t hunt like wolves, they’re more like ambush predators that-
Crap crap crap!
I stop backing up
“Nom” I say. “Take a look behind us, are there any of those things back there?”
I feel her move around on my leg as she looks.
“No,” she says.
“What about hiding in the plants? Like, waiting to pounce.”
There’s another pause. The little mob in front of me hiss. I hiss back at them.
“Yes! Oh no! There’s one right there!” Nom squeaks.
“Where?” I ask, panicking. I don’t want to take my eyes off the ones I can see, as I’m confident that would be like pressing the Attack Me Now button, but I also don’t fancy getting savaged by one sneaking up from the side.
“There!” she says.
“Where?” I say again a little more panicked.
“Where I’m pointing!” she snaps.
“That’s not helpful! I can’t look!”
“To your side!”
“Which side, nom?”
“This one!” she says in exasperation. “Right here, right h-” and her voices rises to a squeak as the wheat to my right rustles and I see a shape dart at us.
I’m about to react, maybe swing the spear around and then quickly back forwards again, when Nom’s weight disappears off my leg.
Another shape lunges into my peripheral vision and intercepts the first one.
In front of me, the creatures have stopped hissing and are all looking at something to my right. I risk taking a look too.
And I see Nom. She has a creature in her mouth. Its entire head and upper body are in there. Grotesquely, her head has somehow expanded enough to encompass the beast which is bigger than she is. She has her chunky, square teeth on its carapace. All of its limbs are scrabbling in a panic. Nom bites down.
There’s a crunch and the creature goes floppy.
With a backwards twitch of her head, she throws it into her mouth and swallows.
I don’t know where it goes because her stomach doesn’t distend at all. It’s just… gone. Her head shrinks back down to normal size like a deflating balloon.
She licks her lips and smiles at me.
“Ooo! Shoo! They’re tasty!”
“Um… what did you just do?” I ask her, trying to not act aghast (though I am extremely ghast… ghasted? Whatever it is, I am very it.) “I didn’t know you could do that.”
She shrugs, “Dunno, me neither, just reacted.”
I look back at the handful of creatures in front of me.
They look back from Nom to me.
Then they look at each other.
And they scarper.
Wheat grass rustles as they disappear into its depths. I can hear the commotion getting fainter as they put distance between us and them.
“That’s a shame,” Nom says ruefully. “Got the taste now. I could have eaten another.”
I swallow nervously and point at the bits of the creatures I chopped up during our retreat. I probably shouldn’t but with a kind of shell-shocked fascination, I want to see what happens.
“There’s, um, leftovers,” I say.
“Yes!” Nom says in delight. “Thanks, Shoo!”
The worm-headed toddler scampers forward until she comes to the first chunk of beast. It’s still half the size of her, but she tosses it up into the air, I didn’t think she’d be strong enough to do that. She isn’t normally, but I guess the rules for her are different when she eats. She clacks her teeth around the lump of fur, shell and greenish meat. Her head distorts just long enough to encompass what she’s eating, then shrinks down as she swallows and its gone.
I watch in shock as she works her way up the river, picking up and chowing down on pieces of animal each large enough to feed me for a week.
I’m not going to lie. It makes me nervous.
Very quickly, she’s snarfed the lot and is looking around for more.
This may become an issue.