Once I get close enough I'm quickly recognised by the people and the reaction is a unlike what I expected.
Firstly the humans seem unusually comfortable with having a monster ant wandering up to their area. I guess they've seen plenty of ants wondering here and there over the last few days.
Secondly they seem a bit… reverential. When they recognise me (I look different enough to the other workers I suppose) they fall quiet and still. There are hushed whispers and people rushing off towards the rear of the settlement where the shelter is. Other people are gesturing in my direction and talking animatedly to the people next to them. Even the children are pointing and whispering.
So annoying! What are these people doing anyways?!
I wait impatiently on the edge of the settlement, not willing to wander in and subject myself to more pointing. After a few moments Enid and the white robed priest Beyn came rushing over.
She looks a bit nervous but he appears positively beaming with joy.
Hastily I weave together a mind magic transformation construct and connect to Enid whilst she patiently waits for me to complete the magic.
[Enid. Have your people managed to stay within their bounds?] I say abruptly once the mind bridge is finished.
[Yes. We've been staying within the boundary you set very carefully] she says nervously.
It appears to be true. When I detect the pheromone trail on this side of the settlement with my antennae it does seem to be fine. I'll check the other side before I leave as well.
[There seems to be more people today?] I ask dubiously.
[More refugees from Liria. It appears the monster horde is moving further south. These people arrive only this morning and we herded them in here as quickly as we could so that they weren't…]
[So what are you people going to do?] I ask. More to the point… how long are they going to stay?
[We have nowhere to go. Most of us are content… surprisingly content, to remain here and build a temporary shelter. Wait for the wave to pass and then hopefully return to our homes]
I brighten up immediately.
[So you don't want to stay forever? Head back after the wave is sorted out? Sounds good!]
Wait. How long is the wave going to go for? Well.. As long as it isn't permanent it should be fine.
[There are a few things we would like ask] Enid asks hesitantly, [as you know we came with very little and have made do with what we have. We have access to the stream for water but food is scarce and shelter is hard to come by. It isn't too cold right now but it will start to cool soon]
Weather? Honestly I don't even notice anymore. I do spend most of my time underground, to be fair.
[So… you want me to remove the restrictions on movement? This land isn't tame by any stretch. The colony is chewing through a lot of the local beasts on the surface but there isn't any guarantee you won't come across monsters around here. Other than us, I mean]
She nods. [We're aware of that but we need to do this or we'll perish. We have to forage for food, perhaps try to clear a field that we can sow in the spring. The people here are feeling positive about their prospects of living safely here. They have hope again and they want to do something positive for themselves]
She's quite persuasive when she puts her mind to it. Since this area is untamed, uncultivated wildlands there are woods everywhere, plenty of places to go foraging. If they want to clear a field though, that's going to be a heck of a lot of effort. There's ready access to water from a nearby stream which will help with irrigation….
I may as well help them out a little. If they get off to a good start they'll have less reason to come and whinge at me later.
[Enid. I'll help by cutting some trees and bringing the logs to the edge of your settlement and
I'll start work on the stumps to help get your field started. Tell your people they can start foraging but not to come closer to the anthill. I'll mark a new boundary halfway between here and there and I recommend you make sure your people don't cross it] I warn her.
Her expression brightens immediately. [Thank you so much! This will mean the world to these people. Wait till I tell Beyn]
She turns and starts talking rapidly to the priest next to her. As soon as she's finished tears begin to flood down his face and he kneels in the dirt before me, raising his one good arm to the sky and shouting with praise.
I'm starting to regret this already…
When the other villagers hear his words of thanks they all beam with joy and many bow or wave in my direction, some go as far as to kneel along with their priest!
I'm getting out of here.
[I'll be back to check in after two more days Enid. Try to keep your people in line]
[I will. Thank you]
I flee rapidly from the effusive praise and get to work checking on the old boundary as I circle around and erase. It appears as though Enid was telling the truth after all. With that job done I call Tiny up to help me and leave Crinis on defence duty under the Queens chamber before marking out the new boundary in a straight line roughly two kilometres long between the settlement and the nest.
With Tiny helping its fairly easy to clear out trees. After surveying a little we choose an area a hundred metres from the stream and several hundred from the settlement. Using my infused savage mandibles I cut the trees close to the ground and Tiny carries them over his huge shoulder back to the humans before dumping them on the ground. Once we've hauled a few trees over I get digging and Tiny helps me lever out the stumps, leaving behind deep holes in the ground that the humans will need to deal with.
After a days' work we manage to clear almost fifty trees and the human camp is a hive of activity. As we skirt the edges on our way back to the nest the people are bustling everywhere, talking back and forth, hauling the logs about and readying the tools that they have on hand. Looks like they'll be busy enough with that for some time. So long as they don't come and bother me it's worth it.
We've got serious business to be about back at the nest.
Preparations need to be made and the Dungeon below needs more exploring. Not to mention the intense food packing program we need to undertake for the Queen to start mass producing the new generation after the first are born.
When I get back to the nest I high five the workers I pass on the way in and send Tiny down to our little guard post under the Queens chamber and summon Crinis to help me. I need to dig out some farms! With Crinis helping to relocate the dirt I create two large empty chambers accessible only by a narrow tunnel on either side of our guard spot. I get Crinis to haul the dirt back to Tiny and let the ape carry big handfuls into the Queens chamber where the workers get annoyed and take it to the top, dumping it on top of the hill.
Once the mana veins extend into those chambers we'll be able to begin harvesting Biomass from right here near home, if not quite as much as we were before due to the longer gestation time the monsters are experiencing right now.
With that done… time to nap!