I'd never thought that running through a feel of wheat could be quite so thrilling. Perhaps everyone had been wrong on that front? As I hustled along, Tiny in tow carrying my precious monster cores in one large paw and the rest of the colony following along behind, I couldn't help but panic the entire way, worrying that we'd be spotted.
Who exactly was going to spot us crossing a farm field at dusk, the sun having fallen almost completely below the horizon, I'm not sure. Perhaps the Dragon Guards of legend would swoop out of the sky and smite me with a thunder hammer or something? I have no idea how things operate up here! For all I know there are wizards that could vaporize the entire colony from kilometres away.
Right up until the moment the last worker is safely under the cover of trees I keep stressing. When finally the entire workforce is safe and the Queen, surrounded by her dedicated cadre of ants has been escorted into the forest, I sigh in relief.
Feeling a little more comfortable I make my way to the head of our monstrous ant convoy as we plunge into unknown territory.
There is something faintly magical about this forest, it's old, even I can tell that much with my limited outdoors experience. The trees look wrinkled and wise beneath their broad canopies, stretching to the sun like the elderly doing morning exercise.
At this late hour a mist is beginning to rise from the damp litter of the forest floor, further concealing our movements as we rush further into these woods.
Wait a sec! Heat!
My antennae are constantly scanning and sweeping as we advance and eventually I detect a heat signature ahead and slightly to the left, as if some creature were waiting crouched in the growth as we approach.
I decide to continue to advacne as if I had no knowledge of this interloper, wanting to see exactly what kind of action it would choose to take. Will it attack? Will it flee? I don't know anything about this forest or about the creatures who live here. Any chance to learn something should be seized. Knowledge is power to the monster!
My antennae continue to twitch about as I lead the trail of ants. The heat source has continued to remain still as I draw closer. I even adjust my path so that I'll be right next to the source as I pass but it doesn’t twitch in response.
Eventually I move within only a few feet of it. I can clearly see the hiding place now, a dense shrub with thickly intertwined branches providing total visual cover. Sadly for this beastie my advanced senses are completely aware of their location.
My main worry in the event of an attack is the larvae I'm carrying in my mandibles. This feisty grub refuses to sit still, insisting on wiggling about as if admiring the view. You don't have eyes you little grub! What is the point of trying to get a better view?
If I'm attacked I'll have to ensure the grub remains unharmed, and somehow retaliate without using my mandibles, which are fully occupied with said grub.
Sure enough, just as I pass by the bush suddenly rustles and the creature attacks.
Thin, twisted flesh, furred sin, vicious fangs and a crude dagger are all I can see clearly as the creature emerges in a rush, bringing its weapon down in a vicious slice!
I've seen it all you chump! Curling slightly I present my diamond carapace to the weapon, shielding the grub with my body and rotating my face away from it.
The blade flashes down!
The blade harmlessly pings off my carapace. The recoil twists the creatures arm on a terrible angle, possibly breaking it.
I'm not sure who is more shocked by the total lack of damage inflicted, the monster or me.
Better safe than sorry I suppose, completing my rotation I present the business zone towards this furry humanoid and blast it with acid!
Already wounded by the rebound of its own strike the creature howls pitifully as the acid blasts it off its feet and congeals, pinning it to the ground.
[You have slain level 9 Ille Feram]
[You have gained experience]
One blast of acid and you're dead? Are you kidding me? I'm pretty sure you broke your own arm just by attacking me!
This isn't a some comedy!
Disgusted by the weakness of this monster I'm not even sure that I want to eat it. Is this what monsters are like on the surface? Surely the difference can't be this much?
I shouldn't get ahead of myself. One skinny fur man in the woods isn't representative of all surface monsters, I should stay watchful.
Disregarding the remains of this creature the convoy continues to wind its way deeper in the woods. A long column consisting of hundreds of ants marches along in near perfect silence. After about an hour I halt the column and look about.
We have arrived in a small clearing in the wood. Strong trees surround us on all sides, the soil appears soft and rich beneath my feet. The lush undergrowth is pleasing on the eyes and indicates that this forest is vibrant and full of life.
Seems like a good spot!
We should be far enough away from human civilisation for the time being, at the very least I hope they won't be able to find us in one day. To be honest I'd rather be further away than this but I have no idea how large this forest is. If we keep marching there is a chance that we'll run clean out the other side and into more farmland, better to put down some roots and scout out the situation before we make any more moves.
"Wait here a sec!" I shout to the workers who waggle their antennae at me and tap my head as I wander past. Roughly in the middle of our convoy, I find the Queen, looming over her subjects as they escort her forward.
"I think I've found a place for us to build a nest, might be a good idea to get the larvae settled down and go hunting. Hopefully we can find a decent amount of Biomass up here."
The Queen simply nods her assent. I think she's a lot more tired than she's letting on. The only member of the colony to get no rest at all since the beginning of the wave is her after all. She probably needs some sleep more than the grubs do.
Ants being what they are it doesn't take long for the colony to begin construction on a crude nest. It's honestly a little moving to see them in action. Hundreds of ants swarming, tearing into the soil with relentless energy.
In a matter of hours there is a simple ant hill erected in the clearing, nearly as tall as the tree tops. Inside the colony has packed into a few simple chambers, tending to the brood, whilst the Queen has finally been able to get some rest, nervously watched by her defenders, right in the heart of the new nest at the bottom.
I myself manage to excavate a small chamber for myself and Tiny to curl up in, my precious monster cores nearby and the little grub I carried nestled in one corner.
I'm so damn tired. Please nothing happen at the very least until I get some sleep!