As the waves of monsters began to rush forward to attack the pesky ants who were tormenting them from the low hills surrounding them, Tiny burst out of his hiding place, crackling with electricity. He'd been hidden much closer to the horde than I was, and it had taken some extremely direct and detailed instructions before I was prepared to allow him to get that close to the enemy.
The plan depended on him not hurling himself in the midst of a horde of tens of thousands of monsters, as I'm sure he would be delighted to do. Speaking of the plan, I need to do my bit!
My sub brains put the time I was firing acid to good use and I put the finishing touches on the basic water affinity transformation construct and turned back around, already pumping out water mana which I wove into a non-compressed water cannon.
From just in front of my mandibles a fire hose like jet of water fountained out and filled the air with fine spray. At the range I was at, still a good thirty metres away from the first monsters in the horde, the non-compressed water cannon wasn't going to do any damage. At best I might knock a few monsters off their feet. But that wasn't the point.
As the water began to fall on the charging enemies, Tiny bellowed his challenge and thrust his meaty hands forward, unleashed his lightning. The enemy, now covered in a coating of fine mist that I continued to pump out, prove to be delightfully conductive. And when Tiny released twin bolts of pure lightning into them, they were instantaneously fried.
And we aren't done. From my raised vantage point I can spy a few patches of darkening shadow between the heaving masses of low level monsters. It's time for Crinis to begin her dark work. As Tiny continues to roar and discharge ridiculous amounts of electricity, electrocuting huge numbers of monsters, dark tentacles begin to emerge from the ground, slowly at first, then with growing speed.
The first the monsters know about it is when several of them are suddenly wrapped by dark limbs as thick as a human arm. Then the tentacles flexed, shifted, and allowed their barbs to go about their grisly business. Only moments after she had grasped her first victims, a rain of gore and Biomass had begun as she dismembered the monsters and her tentacles began grasping for new targets even as more of the dreaded limbs began to rise from the dark ground.
Crinis is currently positioned in a very small and narrow tunnel that has lead her directly beneath the enemy, five metres below ground. With the aid of her shadow magic and Shadow Eye, she can extend her mana sense through the shadows and 'see' her targets, clear as day. The end result is the disturbing carnage I'm seeing before me.
With my two pets working on separate areas toward the front of the horde, the charge that had been building in momentum has been stalled, but not for long. The scouts and surrounding soldiers have continued to pour out acid as fast as they can and most have run out of juice. The battle has only been going for a minute at this point but it’s nearly time to stage the retreat.
Just as I was thinking that, Tiny ran out of juice, the electricity pouring out of him flickered and died off, causing him to roar with frustration and rage. He wanted to fight, I get it, but he was under the strictest instructions for this engagement.
Once he ran out of juice he had to turn and retreat through the tunnel he'd emerged from. Clearly unhappy, Tiny did just that and I released a knot of tension in my gut. I'd done everything I could to ensure that he'd not stuff things up by throwing his life away, but Tiny had a way of making things difficult. I wasn't certain I'd done enough until I saw him vanish out of sight beneath the ground.
Crinis continued her butchery unabated as twenty tentacles grasped and tore through monsters who appeared to be thoroughly intimidated. I guess her fear inspiration skills were paying dividends since it didn't appear that anybody wanted to try and take a swing at her.
With Tiny retreating, the rest of the ants did the same, turning and vanishing into their tunnels, leaving no trace of the hundreds strong raiding force that had battered the horde from range only moments ago.
With the ants gone, Crinis’ limbs retracted beneath the earth, slapping a few monsters around on the way out and the horde was left staring at their bloodied front ranks in silence.
It didn't last, of course. With a roar the horde surged forward, desperate to rend the ants, who had taunted them only moments before, into tiny pieces and stomp on what was left. Outward they surged, into dozens of now opened tunnels. I could feel the heat of them, roiling through the air as they plunged into my own tunnel, nipping at my heels.
Just as we'd planned.
The tunnels were cramped, with low roofs and limited space. Other than the tunnel dug for Tiny, the larger monsters couldn't fit through and indeed it was mostly centipedes and rabbits who had chased after me and my scout artillery force.
We fled down the tunnel for fifty metres before suddenly turning. This section of the tunnel opened up into a small chamber and a force of soldiers was already in position, arrayed in a 'U' shape, ready to receive our pursuers.
When the flood of monsters ran into the chamber, they found themselves surrounded on all sides by the snapping mandibles of angry ants. And when I say all sides, I really mean all sides. The enemy poured straight into the mouth of the U, putting soldiers on their left and right, but it wasn't just that, soldiers clung to the ceiling and to the walls as well, forming a literal wall of snapping jaws that tore the first wave of monsters apart.
I took the brunt of the charge, anchoring myself in the centre of the formation and allowing the ineffective strikes of the weaker monsters to bounce off my glorious diamond carapace. Stymied by the narrow tunnels, the horde was unable to bring their superior numbers to bear against us, their own losses clogging up the space as they tried to force themselves forward only to throw themselves into a field of bite attacks.
Similar battles would be taking place in a number of tunnels right now, a chance for us ants to inflict further casualties on the enemy without risking much ourselves. The only trick we'd had to work out was how to disengage.
SNAP! SNAP! I pumped my mandibles dispassionately as my siblings around me did the same. The waves of enemies didn't seem to ever end and for every monster we chopped down another pushed its way through until the chamber was packed with the Biomass of the fallen. Shame we wouldn't get a chance to eat it.
After five minutes of this brutal combat, a shudder ran through the ants as we received the unspoken signal. As one, we stepped back as with a roar the tunnel in front of us collapsed, drowning the enemy in tons of dirt in seconds.
The deep thump of the dirt falling was followed by a chilling silence as the raging battle was brought to a close with sudden finality. The first ambush was over. Hopefully the other tunnels had fared as well as we had, in which case the attack would have been a rousing success. Thousands of monsters killed, hopefully very few soldiers lost. It was a good start.