The Queen is holding up incredibly well. In fact, if I hadn't been sneaking the odd peak at her with my mana sense on I wouldn't even know that her core was leaking energy. The brilliant radiance of her core has already faded to half of its full lustre. After five days on the move the whole colony is tired and desperate for rest. It's almost a shame that we aren't a nomadic ant species like the army ants.
Mind you, those buggers are completely blind, so if I'd been born as one of those separate from the colony there is no way I'd have been able to survive until now. Also, the entire reason those ants are nomadic is because they are so numerous, and so ferocious that they strip the land bare of everything they can possibly eat, forcing them to move to a new location constantly. There is a lesson in that for our own colony going forward. We can't be so greedy as to strip the land bare, intake will have to be managed. Well, that's in the far future if we ever manage to grow enough to dominate our environment.
An ant can dream dammit! Don't look down on my humble ambitions!
All I want is for my family to rise! To be ascendant!
It's a lot for a few ants to take on but with a bit of grit and a heck of a lot of tunnel digging, I'm sure we can make it!
We have arrived in our new land! A blessed place full of monster infested nests and forests. Battle awaits around every corner and that means only one thing. Biomass!
This colony is hungry!
We need food!
Like an angry demon the colony as a whole swept forward over the boundary separating the lands of Liria from the untamed wild. Despite keeping a close eye behind us we never saw pursuit from the humans we had left behind, which surprised me a lot. Once we made it over the border the tension I'd carried inside, expecting an attack to arrive at any moment in retaliation for our grand theft core, evaporated. There is no way they'll be bothered to chase us into here, surely?!
The workers don't care. They dive right in, marching forward, antennae eagerly sweeping over every rock and plant in the hopes of flushing out a monster. Whenever we run into some surface monsters they either attempt to flee or leap out to attack! The former are shot with acid until they can't move and the latter are promptly ripped to pieces and distributed amongst the workforce.
Even I'm forced to eat some of it in order to force away my hunger. I get a bonus point for new source but nothing else. These creatures are so weak they provide nothing to myself and Tiny. We have got to get ourselves into the Dungeon quickly so we can mutate!
Unfortunately we can't set up a nest until we find a section of Dungeon close to the surface that we can occupy. The Queen absolutely has to be inside the mana infused air of the Dungeon in order to live!
The imminent demise of our collective mother puts a lot of pressure on us workers and we hustle here and there trying to find an entrance. After two days of desperate searching, when the panic in my thorax was reaching critical mass, we finally succeeded! A relatively narrow crack in the earth, occupied by some rather tough looking dog faced bipeds that I'd never seen before.
After annihilating them with sheer numbers, a minor helping of gravity magic and Tiny's judiciously applied fist the digging work begun immediately. With over a thousand workers getting their faces stuck right into the work we are able to tunnel down into the Dungeon and occupy it through sheer numbers. Up above, the hill is rapidly forming. Once the Queen is safely ensconced under the ground, calmly regenerating her strength, covered in a defensive layer of workers, the surface chambers are formed and the brood are nestled within.
Home at last! Tiny and I, with minimal help from Vibrant, excavate our own private chamber once again with the upper reaches of the ant hill. The cores are safely stored within the wall and the four of us settle down for a well-earned rest.
"Why are we resting?"
"Be quiet, Vibrant"
HIYAH! I'm up! I'm ready! It's time to take on a new day! So many things to go about doing I can't even decide where to start.
First things first, I rush over to Tiny and poke him with a leg until he wakes up.
[Wake up big guy! It's time to go and eat until we can't walk!]
When he hears of the feast to come his eyes snap open, blazing with a fierce energy. He hasn't had a good feast in over a week, this ape is desperate for a feed! What's more, he knows we aren't hunting on the surface today but exploring a brand new stretch of Dungeon, if he's lucky then we might even find something tough to fight.
Personally I doubt it. One of the things I had learned from the human Queen when I interrogated her about the Dungeon was just what the environment down there was like. Apparently the tunnels, also known as the 'narrows' run in an almost endless web beneath the surface, main tunnels branching in all directions with smaller offshoots breaking off and looping back on themselves endlessly.
The main hunting grounds for the humans isn't these tunnels but is instead the areas they refer to as the expanses. Every expanse is a cavernous open space beneath the earth of impossible size, full of spawn points, bizarre plants, rare minerals and powerful monsters. The area beneath Liria was called the 'Forest Expanse' and according to the Queen the entire reason the city had been founded in that location was to gain easy access to the expanse and monopolise its resources. The Forest Expanse isn't even a large one, its considered quite small amongst those known of even locally. It had the great benefit of being much closer to the surface however.
Tiny and I gather up Crinis and Vibrant, who pesters us with endless questions as usual and we eagerly rush past a dozing Queen and her entourage into the lower tunnels. A brand new Dungeon! Excitement boils up inside me almost without me even noticing. Finding new places and learning new things is something that has brought me endless joy in this new world. I can't wait to see what we find!