Any records from the time of Rending are unreliable at best and complete fantasy at worst. The Magio-scholars from the tower of Rannaleth have spent decades pouring over the old documents, attempting to piece together a cohesive picture of the state of the world at that time.
Their findings are frequently controversial and often disputed but I myself tend to believe that the views they have published are reasonable conjectures based on the evidence. The first, generally agreed principle is that the ambient mana level on the surface of Pangera rose greatly, more than doubling immediately before the crises struck.
The rapid advancement and reliance on magical techniques exploded in this time, a brief period that the scholars refer to as a 'golden age'.
They also postulate that at this time the Dungeon was already fully formed underground something that other scholars hotly dispute. The logic appears to be sound however. It is known that gargantuan, mighty monsters emerged from beneath the surface shortly after the cataclysm began and there are no known records of such monsters spawning ever since. If they hadn't been battling and evolving in the Dungeon for many years, perhaps even hundreds of years, then where did they come from?
Excerpt from "The origins of the great beasts, a historical treatise" by Oliander.
Dreams of the upcoming ant conquest will have to wait for a while though, there is a massive amount of work to be done before then.
With Tiny by my side I pause to consider what my next move should be. I have a few options for my next course of action and I should consider carefully before I simply run off and engage in something without thinking it through.
The war turned out ok for the colony this time but even so, there are the deaths of tens of workers resting on my head and it could have been much worse. Even I didn't know that the forceful mana ball would be able to one shot the Titan-Croc and if it hadn't the entire battlefield may have become a sea of flame, barbequing dozens more workers.
I should carefully consider my options this time to avoid making such errors. I certainly don't want to get belted on the head by the Queen again!
The tunnels leading further downwards that connect to the Queen's chamber concern me. The Berserkers were able to invade through those tunnels and caused major problems, if I hadn't been able to intervene the colony would have suffered far worse than it did. I'm a bit scared to go down there though. If tough monsters like the berserkers are running away from down there, I'm not really prepared to go and scout it out by myself.
I think after I've successfully evolved I'll be a little more confident to explore those deeper areas, hopefully my stats will receive a sizeable boost that might enable me to be a bit more survivable against whatever threats lie below.
I'll just have to hope that the Queen and the rest of the workforce can fend off any threats from down there long enough for me to reach the required level.
The next option is to continue the colony growth plan and start fights, using pheromones to bring the workers into the battle. This strategy revolves around feeding large amounts of experience into the workers to increase the overall strength of the workforce.
I'm concerned though. With the area above being so dense with monsters it will be almost impossible to start an isolated fight in which I can accurately judge the odds in advance. The war was a perfect example of this. If I try to bring the colony to fight something it is almost certain that more and more monsters will show up, drawn by the noise and the promise of food.
This is too risky, I'll have to abandon this option.
So what should I do?
Do you have any answers Tiny?
The little ape looks up at me, absent-mindedly scratching at his leg. Those large eyes of his are completely vacant, appearing almost devoid of thought. There is trust in those eyes, confidence in my ability to lead him to food, but a stunning lack of original thought.
You are trusty companion Tiny, even if you are dumb as a brick.
Let's attack this problem from another viewpoint. What are the roles that workers perform in the colony? Take care of the brood? Not really my style, there are plenty of workers for that. Defend the nest? I'm the best fighter in the colony for sure but I don't want to just stand around and wait for something to happen.
The scout has the role of ranging far from the nest and locating food, identifying threats and bringing information back to the colony.
Surely a cool, powerful and incredibly well built ant such as myself is perfect for a role like this? I'll be able to proactively protect the colony and support the workers if I find them in trouble.
Not to mention I'll have a bit of autonomy in terms of hunting. Rather than starting a massive fight I can instead pick and choose my hunting targets.
To be honest, I also really want to evolve as quickly as possible. My oversized core might not be as agonising as it was before, but it still hurts! Like a persistent tooth ache the pain is constant and is always grating on my mind.
I want it to go away!
Ok! My mind is made up! Tiny and I will form the advanced scouting team of the colony and venture forth into the open space brave great danger, explore the unknown and hunt our prey, for the good of the colony!
Before we leave I drop down into the Queen's chamber to check things out and predictably she's sleeping, probably exhausted by her participation in the battle followed by egg laying.
Not to worry.
With my ape companion in tow we climb up the tunnel towards the ant hill and open space above. It takes Tiny much longer to climb now that he can't ride on my back. I don't mind too much, it's nice to see the little free loader doing some work for a change.
During my time in the nest I've been trying to adjust to my new antennae advancement.
It's been more difficult than I thought to understand the information my antennae are passing to me. I mean, if you compare it to my human body, the only way a human detects heat is through their skin. As an ant I have a carapace so my capacity to sense temperature has been fairly poor.
Now my antennae are acting like little heat sensors, showing me sources of heat in my mind that my eyes can't even detect. For example, I can 'feel' the heat given off by a worker even before I see them. This is particularly disorientating when that worker is around a corner or in a separate chamber.
All I need is a bit of time. I'm confident that with a bit more experience I'll be able to react quickly to the information my new sense is telling me.
Eventually Tiny manages to make his way to the top of the ant hill, looking rather tired after the journey. Ha! No more slacking for you monkey boy!
The usual group of workers are milling around the hill on defensive duty, moving this way and that as they eyeball the surrounding terrain for threats.
There are a few trails of workers moving into the woods but I don't join them, instead heading in a different direction.
I head to the area the battle against the rabbits and centipedes occurred at and I move in the direction that the centipedes joined the fight from. The huge number of crawlies that joined in on that fight and how quickly they did it suggests to me that there is a sizeable centipede mound somewhere around here.
I don't really want to attack the nest itself but I also want to know if there is a large collection of monsters that close to the colony.
Once again the forest is completely alive with noise, monsters everywhere I turn, battling and hunting each other constantly.
My new senses are flooding my mind with information and it is difficult for me to interpret it all quickly. There are heat sources everywhere! Small monsters up in the trees, packs of them roaming together on the hunt.
Its takes all my stealth and cunning to navigate my way around with running into a fight I don't want to take. I feel that I'm strong to fight most of the monsters I find but I can't tell what else might pop out of the woodwork and bop me on the head.
I'm detecting something a little odd with my heat detection.
Concentrating hard I crouch and move towards cover. This heat signature feels a little different than the monsters I'd detected before…
It seems to be coming from behind that tree.
I'm still a little confused by this heat sense so I'll play this slow.
Creeping forward one foot at a time I try to minimise any noise. Something is telling me I need to be careful right now.
I give Tiny a look and try to motion him to stay quiet. The little ape looks at me blankly with his wide eyes and I quickly give up.
Just… Stay quiet would you!
I'm trying to circle around this tree at a slight distance, working the angle so I can get a peek at what my heat detection is there.
As I slowly make my way around I manage to get a slight view of whatever it is that has caught by attention.
I think that's …. A hand?
Is this a human?!