It took hours to interrogate this Queen and the flow of new information left me staggering. Despite my pounding headache I pushed forward with all of my strength! Who knew what could happen in the future? This old lady might fall over from a heart attack, every ounce of knowledge must be extracted this very second!
By the end the two of us were tired beyond words. Not quite willing to trust the words of this ant killer up front I asked every question several times in different ways, attempting to catch her off guard. It's true that when communicating using mind magic, at least so far in my limited experience, it is possible to sense on a surface level the thoughts and feelings behind a persons' communication. However the quality of the connection clearly plays a part.
Formo's mind and honesty rang through like a clear bell tone as he spoke, no duplicity was hidden at all within his connection. The mind magic woven by the Queen is far from as clear, words and intentions becoming muddled or lost in translation, making me far more wary.
For her part the Queen seems to have answered everything faithfully to the best of her ability, it will impossible to know if there are any mistruths mixed in until I get the chance to ask these questions of another individual.
Even with this being the case I've been able to learn so much.
For the starters the Queen's own situation. This ruler is quite respected and admired amongst her people (so she says) and has been Queen of this small kingdom of Liria for decades, over thirty years of peace and prosperity.
Supposedly there has been a coup brewing beneath the surface, something about profit, corrupt merchants, outside forces and exploitation, I didn't really listen to this bit that carefully. The Queen got wind of the situation and attempted to bait the plotters out into the open but underestimated their strength, eventually her loyalists were defeated and she was forced to flee the city with her personal guard, moving out of the city at night before running into the colony.
I was fairly shocked at this point, this person is either not nearly as wise as they claim or just plain unlucky!
From there she told me about the class based leveling system of the surface races, what knowledge she had on the other races that inhabit the surface, she'd never heard of elves unfortunately, and some history of the kingdom
Apparently this kingdom is fairly young, less than two hundred years old. After being infested with monsters for a tremendously long time, only in relatively recent history had this area been purged (her words) and the monsters either defeated or driven into the Dungeon. So apparently this region is still considered underdeveloped and somewhat backward, a remote frontier of the surface world.
In fact, if we were to go south for a few days we would pass into lands that hadn't seen human occupation for thousands of years. Even now the people of this country battled to keep the monsters pushed back and occasionally they mounted campaigns to further push back the border.
At least there are somewhat strong monsters somewhere on the surface! I was beginning to think my surface cousins were completely useless!
Eventually I leave the Queen alone in my chamber and wander off to try and digest what I've learned. The question that sticks out the most in my mind is, what am I supposed to do now? I've got the apparently beloved Queen of the kingdom trapped inside my dirt chamber and the captain of her personal guard is….
… being sat on by my pet.
The poor fellow looks distinctly uncomfortable as Tiny has planted himself right on his back. Is that Crinis and Vibrant? The two little creatures are positioned curiously near the captains face. Vibrant appears to be attempting to snip him on the nose with her mandibles whilst Crinis is repeatedly slapping him on the head with tentacles for some reason.
When the heck did these two climb up here.
["Stop mucking around you two!"] I say to both of them.
The two young monsters twitch in surprise, not having noticed my arrival. Crinis pulls the tentacles back into the main body and manages to give the impression of guilty silence despite being a featureless blob.
Vibrant doesn't seem at all fussed and simply climbs back onto my head happily. With a mental sigh I collect Crinis onto my back and make sure that Tiny knows not to kill his prisoner as we still need him for the time being.
What to do?
Try to think it through Anthony! What are the options?
I could kill the Queen and the Guard, forget any of this ever happened and move on with my life!
Rejected. I'm not so far removed from my former humanity that I'm quite that comfortable with cold blooded human killing. Taking my revenge on the soldiers for the damage done to the colony was about my limit for the time being!
Not to mention the possibility of reprisals if we were to kill a Queen loved by the masses and people were to find out about it.
Next I could take the Queen and captain to the nearby town and dump them there. This idea honestly appeals to me quite a bit, I get to wash my hands of these humans and the colony can go back about its business. The problem is that no matter how benevolent the Queen may seem, or how much she may promise not to seek reprisals against us in the future, I would have to relocate the colony completely, possibly back down in the Dungeon even, in order to ensure our safety.
So this one is better but still not ideal.
The third option is my least favourite and involves trying to keep the Queen and captain with the colony semi long term. We don't kill them, but we don't release them either.
I'm not really a fan of this plan. I leave myself open to mind stabbing at any moment! How could i expect two crafty humans to behave whilst being detained indefinitely?
My mind drifts back to the last thing the Queen had to say. I had disregarded it at first but the more I think about how to move next the more this idea keeps popping into my head.
[What do you want to do next?] I'd asked her.
She'd thought about it for a moment before responding firmly. [I want my city back. I refuse to hand the throne over to those motivated by greed and self-interest. I will attempt to rally the people around my banner and wage a campaign against the usurpers].
That all sounds very aggressive.
[This is presuming I allow you to leave this place alive] I point out.
I have to say my ability to stay smooth in communication is coming a long way!
[True] the Queen chuckled.
[But you know] she went on, [there isn't anything for you to gain from killing me, but perhaps much to gain from keeping me alive. Tell me, what is it that you want? Perhaps there is something I can offer you?]
Hmmm. How about two hundred of my fellow workers back to life eh?
I wouldn't get anywhere throwing that in her face.
[Biomass, experience, monster cores. These are the only things the colony requires] I told her.
She thought about it. [Well, I'm not prepared to offer you the flesh of my people, I hope you understand. The only way I could give you experience is to let you kill us, which I also am unwilling to offer, but monster cores I can certainly give you].
That perked up my interest. I really don't know how many cores I should ask for though. What would appropriate? I had to ask her to give me a figure, nicely of course.
[How many cores is your life worth?] I ask.
The Queen shook her head with a wry smile. [The question I think you should ask, monster, is how many cores is my kingdom worth? Would you be willing to help me? For a price, of course].