In attempting to leave the front of the tunnel I'm forced to push my way through the innumerable eager workers piled up behind me, ready to contribute to the dig. I slowly push my way out, letting my smaller siblings climb over the top of me in their eagerness to rush forward. At this point the walls and ceiling are also covered in workers assisting the dig. Truly a three dimensional work effort!
Eventually I make it through the worst of the crowd and begin to make better progress. I was probably only digging for a couple of hours but the tunnel has become much longer, perhaps doubling in size!
This is the power of the excavation skill! Not to mention being significantly larger and stronger than the rest of the workers….
Anyway! Progress has been made.
When I arrive in the Queens former chamber I'm shocked by what I see. Or rather, what I don't see
It's completely dark! I can barely see a thing!
The illumination caused by the mana veins in the walls has completely vanished, plunging this chamber, the entire nest and I can only assume the whole Dungeon into pitch black darkness.
It's a bit spooky.
Placing my fancy new feet here and there on the Dungeon walls I try to see if there is any mana for me to soak up and unfortunately I'm coming up completely empty! The mana veins are bone dry.
Thinking back to what Formo told me, that must mean the mana has completed receded. After which it would…. Come rushing back… like… a tidal wave…
[Tiny? Can I get you to come back up here to the chamber?]
I can feel the ape's agreement in my mind without him having to actually form words.
Whilst I wait I continue to shift my feet about, doing an awkward ant dance as I try to sense the presence of mana returning.
Nothing at the moment.
Hang on, where is the brood? The larvae and pupae? I don't think we've secured the next generation!
Feeling about desperately with my antennae I make my way towards the heat signature given off by the newly dug brood chamber above Queen's room.
Dammit! The entire brood is still here in this room!
Inside the chamber no more than five workers are tending to the next generation of ants, shifting them about, cleaning them and ensuring they have food.
We have to get these guys out of here!
Rushing forward in a panic I can't think of anything better than to shout "we have to move them, it's dangerous here!" and grab the closest larvae in my mandibles.
The attendant workers seem stunned by sudden intrusion, antennae swirling in the dark as they 'listen' to my message. Remarkably, after a brief pause they too pick up a larvae and start running after me.
With a small wiggling grub in my mandibles I rush back into the Queen's chamber where Tiny has arrived, the enormous ape humming to himself contentedly as he rests on his backside.
[Stay here Tiny! There will be a fight soon!]
Tiny visibly perks up at the prospect of combat. Small sparks of electricity start twisting and sizzling in the air around him as he stands up and looks around for something to punch.
[Soon I said!]
I roar at him as my small convoy of workers rushes into the tunnel after me. About one hundred metres in, before the crowd becomes too large I carefully place the young larva down and shout "the brood has to be moved to here!" as loudly as I can.
Having delivered this stirring speech I turn and run back to brood chamber!
The brood is the next generation of workers! There are almost five hundred of the little buggers! If they can survive to maturity then the colony will nearly double in size! I can't let them die pointlessly when the wave starts!
Rushing into the chamber I grab the first larva I can see. The small white grub wiggles in protest at being manhandled in this way but I don't have the time to be too gentle! Deal with it grub! I'm saving your life!
As I sprint back out of the chamber I'm relieved to see a flood of workers running in, roused by my crude summons. There are two things that ants will protect at any cost, the Queen and the brood! Both represent the future hope the family, nothing must be allowed to happen to them!
When I return to the Queen's chamber my heart sinks as I realise I've felt something.
Something from my feet.
It is faint. It is so faint, but I'm certain of it. From the tips of my little ant claws the faintest sign, almost undetectable, a soft breath of mana is being absorbed.
Oh no oh no oh no oh no oh no!
We don't have long!
Hustle Anthony! Get your damn hustle on!
With renewed vigour I sprint to deliver my wriggly charge into the tunnel as fast as I possibly can, legs flailing with incredible speed.
"Let's go people! Danger coming! GOGOGOGO" I shout at the top of my pheromones.
[Tiny, it's coming!]
Receiving my warning, Tiny positively bounces on his feet, arms swinging with anticipation. I mentally sigh. The eager gleam in his eyes at the promise of battle surely hasn't changed about him from after his evolution.
As I sprint back and forth, aided by dozens of others the workers the panic in my heart grows with every step of my feet. My legs begin to thrum with energy as the light returns to the walls of the tunnel. The near complete darkness is gradually chased away as the veins that curl through the walls begin to glow, pulsing rapidly with mana.
I'm nervous Gandalf…. I'm really worried!
Fear pierces to the depths of my very soul when I think about what would have happened if I hadn't spoken to Formo. I'd be staring at the walls thinking how nice it was the light was coming back!
Even having spoken to him, I don't really know exactly what this wave will look like, which only adds to my anxiety!
My fellow workers and I continue to race back and forth, carting our protesting and uncomfortable young from their cozy brood chamber to the dirty and crowded tunnel.
Stop squirming you little ingrate!
On my fifth trip the light has risen back to the level it was before it began to fade, but still it continues to rise!
Then I notice something else.
I'm puzzled at first but eventually I figure it out and that realisation causes me to nearly trip and send my present charge flying from my grip.
There are heat sources coming from the walls.
All over the place. I can barely sense them but I'm sure of it. As the mana is coming back small spots in the walls have started registering to my antennae, with every second the passes they grow larger and larger.
This isn't just one or two, there are dozens of them! My antennae start to spin wildly when I realise that I'm getting more readings from further away in the nest.
[Here we go Tiny! It's about to get hot in here!]