Filled with energy and a surging sense of purpose I launched myself out of the colony and into the open air of Pangera, my new world. Crinis, Tiny and I moved with deliberate haste and made our way toward the village. Before we move to the front line and engage ourselves with the activities of the colony there, I wanted to take a moment to check in on the village.
I wonder how the people over there are holding together with the threat of horrific death and doom weighing on their minds. The colony has been fine, the ants are a calm bunch when you get down to it. They really only respond with powerful emotion when defending or serving the colony. The threat of death doesn't weigh particularly on their minds at all.
Scratch that. The threat of death is something of an attraction to most of them. Thinking of Leeroy I can't help but wince inside. That moron is only a particularly zealous example of the flagrant disregard the ants have for their own safety, but he represents an attitude that is still prevalent within the workers, despite my attempts to stamp it out.
There isn't a single one of them who wouldn't happily throw themselves into the jaws of an enemy if they thought it would benefit the colony in some way, the only thing holding them back is my directions to the contrary.
The people of the village don't have that kind of dedication, at least, I be very surprised if they did. It would be rather… disturbing, if they did.
Hopefully they aren't panicking too much. Enid runs a tight ship over there and I'm sure Morrelia, upon her return, would be able to inject a steel into the backs of the people there. I can't imagine her tolerating even the slightest sign of hesitation.
When we arrive in the village I'm somewhat surprised to see that my expectations of panic and fear have failed to manifest. In fact, the villagers appear to be calm, determined and focused. There is a heck of a lot of activity in the village, to be sure, but there is a quiet determination in the air that lends the people with a feeling of control.
Children are running here and there, carrying equipment, building materials, passing messages, whilst the adults are engaged in all sorts of labour. The smithy has been finished and men and women ply their trade inside, their faces lit from beneath by the warm glow of the heated metal they are pounding into shape, making nails, swords and I think I can spy an axe.
In another newly erected building I can see what appear to be bowyer's at work, their hands carving away at staves with long smooth motions, whittling the wood down into the curved wooden bows I've seen in the hands of Morrelia's team. I can only suppose that those are the predominant bow type in use in the area. Then there are the people drilling and practicing, which seems to be about the entire adult population of the village not currently engaged in gathering food or making weapons of war.
In pockets all over the village, almost a small town now, with the number of houses and other buildings that have been erected in the time I've been gone, villagers who I assume are the more learned and Skilled amongst them are leading groups through drills and basic sparring practice using crude training weapons. The villagers, far from shying away from the martial skills they are learning, express only fierce determination and focus in their faces.
Moving from group to group, I can see a new face, a somewhat rough looking man I'd place somewhere in his twenties. Every time he comes to a new team, he pauses to look and correct people form and bark out some advice before moving onto
These people are giving me seriously intense vibes. They have no chill!
With Crinis on my back and Tiny standing at my side, I make a conspicuous sight and it isn't long before villagers spot me. A ripple passes through the crowded town centre as people nudge their neighbours, I can see many a finger raised, pointing in my direction and it isn't long before the entire village has come to a standstill as every man, woman and child has paused to look at me.
May as well get this over with. I'd kind of hoped that the obsession the people here have with me would blow over with time, but thanks to the unending efforts of Beyn and the members of his village, it seems to be getting worse.
As I move toward the village I can see it all happening, the whispering, the pointing, the gazes filled with reverence. The men and women of the village look at me as if they are looking at a sturdy mountain that shelters them from the howling wind, or a great tree that protects from the lashing rain.
Hang on a sec.
Are they so confident facing this crises because they think I'm going to save them?! Surely they aren't that crazy! What kind of human depends on a freakin' ant monster to swoop in and save the day? That can't be healthy! Not to mention, I don't need this pressure in my life! Save yourselves dammit! Go bug Morrelia and get her to save you… she's plenty strong!
Disgruntled and somewhat awkward, I make my way into the centre of the village and wait for Enid to show herself. Usually, as soon as I turn up they send someone running to fetch her, or in a less optimal scenario, they fetch Beyn.
I tolerate the muttering and ardent stares as I wait, my antennae twitching this way and that until I decide to start cleaning them, just to give myself something to do. The moment I lift my front leg, the crowd who had been quietly gathering around me in a loose circle gasped as one and leapt back, freezing my heart in my thorax for a moment.
Don’t' freak me out like that people! I'm just trying to keep clean!
Fortunately it wasn't long before I spied Enid, rushing through the crowd which reluctantly parted to allow her through.
[Hi there Enid] I greeted her once I'd established the mind bridge, [how've things been over here in the village?]
Enid scowled at my light tone.
[An unending horde of monsters are about to descend on our heads, led by a vicious Kaarmodo sorcerer, and anchored around a centuries old monster, legendary for its viciousness. I hardly think this is the time for levity, Anthony] Enid said peevishly.
[When you put it like that] I muttered, [it does take the light out of the situation.]
Enid sighed, as if the weight of the world was pressing down on her shoulders.
[Sorry, I feel as if I haven't slept in weeks] she apologised, [to think I'd be having to work this hard in my old age. My bones are aching I tell you, and there's still so much to do.]
[Not a problem] I excused her, [things have been a bit hectic over the last while, there's no doubt about that.]
I cast my eyes about.
[I don't see any sign of Morrelia. Has she taken people into the Dungeon?]
[She's been running people to and from the Dungeon ever since she got back. I don't think she intends to stop until the horde arrives. I can understand it, every level counts at this point but I worry that she's pushing herself too hard.]
[Tell her I think she should take a break at some point] I advised.
Enid cast me an amused and curious look.
[You think she'll listen to you?] she asked incredulously.
[She might] I shrugged my antennae, [another hand on the scales might push her hard enough that she gets some rest.]
Enid nodded slowly before diverting the conversation.
[There's been a great deal of activity seen at the colony over the last day. So many ants have left the nest.]
There seemed to be some sort of undertone to what she said, but I couldn't read it for the life of me.
[We've been sending out an advance party. We intend to try and whittle down the numbers of the horde as much as possible before they arrive. I'll be heading out there myself shortly.]
Relief swept over Enid's face only to be swiftly followed by concern.
[Will you be safe out there? Don't underestimate the Kaarmodo, they are ancient and cunning beyond measure.]
That peaked my curiosity.
[You've had dealing with them before?]
[When my merchant enterprise what as it peaks I dealt with one of their mage conclaves as an import-export agent for them in Liria.]
[Any advice for me?] I asked hopefully.
The old woman looked down at me, concern creasing her forehead.
[Don't underestimate them] she warned me. [They are smart as whips and bite twice as deep.]