Pops of suppressed gunfire echoed down the corridor and James looked up with narrowed eyes. "Top, what's the situation?" He radioed using his communicator.
"Fucking bugs!" Top replied, "We got some giant ants here."
"Need support? Over," James asked, as he held his weapon ready, watching the doorway, where sounds of gunfire drifted out.
"Negative," Top replied over the radio, "It's over. Come on in, it's cleared."
James stood up from his crouching position and waved from everyone to follow, "Top says it's cleared, let's see what's inside." He told his team.
As they entered the room, Kristine and Irisval both coughed, as the thick cloud of gunsmoke lingered inside the room. Thorn raised his hand and form a simple spell, and a small breeze dispersed the smoke in the room.
Over twenty plus bodies of ants the size of large dog laid curled up in death. The remaining honey slimes appeared to have been frightened off and had disappeared somewhere. The ground was wet with leaking hemolymph from the dead ants as Kristine went up next to a dead ant to snap a photo with her camera.
Thorn bend over a dead ant a poked around, "The mana stones are normally around the forehead or the thyroid part of the ants." He deftly used a dagger and sawed at the hard exoskeleton of the ant's head, before digging into it and pulling a slimy yellowish mana stone out.
"Here," Thorn tossed the finger-sized stone over to Pike who rubbed the slime off the stone before examining it in the light of the moss. "Nice," He turned to the rest and said, "Well, what are you waiting for? Grab the stones from the bodies!"
Pike asked Thorn next, "What else is usable from these creatures?"
"Well, the silk from their rear abdomen could be harvested to make cloth," Thorn said, "Also, the carapace when treated, works better than leather and steel armor."
"Some artisans use the eyes of the ants to make jewelry while the eye cases can be used as clear bowls," Thorn listed out a few of the usages he knew off. "The mandibles can be used as saw blades too."
"Damn, that's a lot of usages for them," Pike replied, watching the team cut up the ants for mana stones. "Is it edible?"
"Oh yes," Thorn nodded, "I never tried it before but I heard that people do eat them and apparently it tastes pretty good."
"Alright, Ok guys, stop what you doing," Pike called out, "The way you guys try to harvest the stones is making my eyes bled. Mistress Irisval, can you command your golems to transport the bodies of the ants out to the main door? Give it to the people outside the dungeon and let them do the proper job of harvesting, while we focus on exploring the area."
Irisval nodded and started to direct her golems to collect and transport the ants out. "Bring along those bundles of silk of honey slimes, waste not, want not," Pike added.
The golems have a large wicker basket secured to its back, and one of the golems gently dropped the dead ants into the basket of the other and once all were collected, they lumbered off back to the exit of the dungeon.
While that was going on, Kristine looked around the room, finding more drawings and carvings along the walls which she recorded down. She did a quick measure and found the room to be roughly 20 meters by 32 meters.
"So which tunnel we go first?" James asked Pike as they prepared to move out again.
Pike pointed to the second tunnel from the right and stated, "The ants used that tunnel, most likely it leads to their hive." He walked up to the hive and took out a piece of chalk and drew a large ant-like symbol next to the opening with an arrow point to it.
"Let's split up here," Pike said, "My team takes the rightmost tunnel, while your team takes the leftmost. Mistress Irisval, I will like your golems to hold this room when they return, is it alright?"
Irisval nodded. "James, once the golems returned," Pike said next, "Explore the leftmost tunnel, clear?" Pike started to mark the stone floor with his piece of chalk, indicating which direction and which tunnel they entered including the time.
"Alright, Team One, let's go!" And Team One followed Pike into the rightmost tunnel, their lamps lighting up the way while Team One under James waited for the golems to return.
As Pike's team entered the tunnel which turned and bent here and there, they entered more ants and honey slimes. After fighting their way through the ants, they found a fork in the tunnel and took the right turn, marking the walls with arrows and soon found a huge cavern filled with sand.
"Look, is that a chest?" Hitsu asked, his light beam shining at a distant object. "Holy spirits! I never expected to find a treasure here!" He started to approach the chest.
"Halt!" Pike yelled, stopping Hitsu's advance. "There might be a trap here." Pike kneeled down and grabbed a handful fine sand, letting them run off his gloved fingers. "It's just too quiet here."
The men on alert following Pike's words looked around cautiously, checking every hook and crook in the cavern ask they slowly approached the chest at the end of the seemingly empty cave. "Squad One check it out, the rest wait here," Pike ordered.
Young and Altied nodded and advanced cautiously from both sides, they made their steps as light as possible as the approached the chest. Young looked at Altied and nodded, using his M2 barrel to flip the squarish wooden chest open. Both of them leaped back, on the guard, in case of some traps but nothing happened. Hitsu sighed happily and straightened up, when suddenly the ground under him exploded upwards, sending him flying head over heels over a couple of meters away.
Spitting sand out of his mouth, Hitsu scrambled for his weapon, just a massive reddish shaped appeared out of the sand. As the sand slowly washed off the dark red carapace of a giant scorpion, Thorn yelled "Sand scorpion! Watch out for its poisonous twin stingers!"
A massive twin-tailed scorpion towering over three meters snapped its claws seemingly in anticipation of the meal it will be having. It's three pairs of eyes eyed Hitsu laying a few meters away from it with hunger and scuttled on its many legs towards Hitsu. pincers snapping in eager happiness.
"Oh fark!" Hitsu cried out, rolling on the sand to dodge the snapping claws. "FARK THIS!"
"TAKE IT OUT!" Pike yelled, and fired in the sides of the giant scorpion, causing it to flinch in pain, his 6.5 mm rounds not penetrating the thick carapace. "Fuck!"
The rest fired almost at the same time, sending the giant scorpion scuttling away from the bruising pain of the bullet impacts. Other then the cracks on its carapace, the heavily armored scorpion appeared fine and very angry that its prey got away from it and the stinging pokes from the other prey creatures.
It reared on its hind legs and jumped, scaring the shit out of Hitsu as it landed right next to him, "FAAAARK!"
Altied dropped his M2 and reached to his back, pulling out his pump-action shotgun in one smooth motion, and fired an explosive round, hitting the rear of the scorpion's tails, as it tried to stab Hitsu with its stingers.
The force of the explosion sent the scorpion tumbled over to the walls of the cavern and the loud explosion shocked Hitsu, sending him rolling away holding his head and cursing. "Are you trying to kill me or that thing?"
"That must be a champion monster!" Thorn yelled as three magic circles formed in front of his raised staff, "It is not dead yet!" And he cast a lightning bolt directly at the dusty cloud, the sharp crack of lightning echoing painfully down the tunnels.
Suddenly a huge sand wave appeared from the ground towards Hitsu. Loke yelled, "Get out of the way!" And Hitsu made another dive, just as the giant scorpion burst out of the sand, sending sand flying all over the cavern.
"Goddamnit!" Hitsu coughed out more sand and rolled to a crouch position, firing his M2 at the giant scorpion. "EAT LEAD!"
Altied seeing his explosive rounds not doing much effect on the monster started to pump the remaining explosive shells out and reloaded with 12. gauge solid slugs. He raised his shotgun rapid fired, sending a 35 grams impact discarding sabot lead slug flying at 400 meters per second directly to the side thorax of the giant scorpion.
The force and impact of the sabot slug punched through the hard carapace of the scorpion, sending pieces of shattered exoskeleton shell and lead flying away, and a spray of light blood ichor out. The giant scorpion hissed in pain and anger, spinning around in its many legs, searching for the source of its pain.
It's many eyes locked onto Altied who pumped his shotgun, ejecting the spent shell and charged, its twin tails rearing back to strike down at the prey that dared to hurt it. It ignored the scorching heat from bolt lightning, intent on hunting this prey that stood in front of it.
"Aim for its leg joints!" Pike yelled and Young, Loke, and Hitsu fired continuously at the fast moving legs, and succeeded in blow away a couple of its leg, causing the scorpion to crashed down as it got unbalanced.
Altied aimed his shotgun directly at the gaping mouth of the giant scorpion and fired, the sabot slug drilling out of its mouth through the back of its main braincase, killing it instantly. It laid prone just meters away from Altied, its surviving legs, pincers, and stingers involuntary twitching in its death throes.
"Fucking fantastic people!" Pike praised as he reloaded his M2, "Damn, this is one for the books!" He sized up the still twitching scorpion.
"It must be some kind of guardian for that chest," Thorn said, "Most likely there is more than one sand scorpion here, and this defeated the rest, thus it grew to this size and becoming the champion here."
"How large do they normally grow up to?" Hitsu asked as he tried to shake the sand off his uniform and gear. "I heard they normally appear down the beaches along the east."
"Normally only four or five feet large, never as big as this before," Thorn poked it with its staff, making sure it had stop moved. "Look at that!"
Everyone bend down to look at what Thorn pointed out, "Wow! That is some huge mana stone!" Young gasped as he shone his flashlight at the head-sized clear yellow-green stone under the chin of the scorpion.
"Damn, we gonna need the golems to carry this baby out," Pike puffed, "Oh, what's in the chest?"
Everyone turned their attention to the chest at the end of the cavern and found a cluster of crystal-like bottles with a thick reddish liquid and some with a dark blue liquid. A couple of age stained scrolled tied with blue ribbons laid on the side of the chest.
"All that shit for just some drinks?" Pike sighed, disappointment on his face. He was hoping for some magical artifact.
"Ohhh, those are healing and restoration potions!" Thorn said as he picked up one each of the colored potions, checking them over. "It can bring back someone from the brink of death with this red healing potion, while this blue potion restores magical powers."
"As for these scrolls," Thorn gently unrolled the scrolls and studied them under the light of the soldiers' lamps. "Looks like some spells, I need to study them more but these are at least level 5 spells."
"Wow!" Hitsu grinned, "That didn't turn out to be so bad after all." Even Pike nodded in agreement after hearing what the potions could do.
"Alright, check your gear," Pike ordered, "I am going to see if I can raise Team Two over the comms."
After a short while, Pike cursed, "Damn, these tunnels, can't get a signal through. Alright, we are heading back to grab the golems and bring this trophy back."
"Want not, waste not!"