As I watched the gravity bomb spend itself and fade into nothing I turned and sprinted away from the horde. I'd been playing this game with the mage attendants for hours now but this was the first time I actually managed to destroy one.
A little nervous at the potential wrath of the Kaarmodo, I decided to get the heck out of there.
[Get your people back, Isaac!] I shouted at my human associate.
I felt him acknowledge my words and continued to sprint into the hills to the south east of the horde where I'd left Tiny and Crinis.
Isaac and I had spent the last day engaged in the hit and run strategy the colony had begun to employ and we'd had good success with it. The humans had used their bows to pick off monsters from range and if any monsters detached from the main force they'd kited back and engaged them with spears, keeping themselves in the clear.
For my part, I'd used acid and my mandibles to inflict bits and pieces of damage, but the pace we were thinning the horde was worrying to me, not to mention the poor experience I was getting from chomping away at these monsters.
So I'd decided not to hold back and go loud. Which meant charging up gravity bombs and hurling them into the horde. Naturally this meant I started destroying monsters at a rather accelerated pace, in fact, so quickly that there had been a fairly swift response from the other side. The attendants had shown up and began to appear whenever I jumped up and spat a gravity bomb at them. Using their shield technique they'd been able to absorb the spell and break it apart before it could land and cause more damage, whilst also trying to fry me at range with their elemental magic.
So a game of cat and mouse had begun, where I tried various methods to surprise them and get my gravity bombs to punch through their defences and they tried to anticipate my movements and be in the right place at the right time. I hadn't been too mad about it, since it meant the bulk of the attendants were busy trying to chase me down and didn't have time to fend of the ongoing skirmishing of the colony. I may have been unable to kill as many monsters as I wanted but the soldier caste had been hard at work fighting and many monsters had bitten the dust, I felt sure.
Finally, in order to break the stalemate on my end, I'd been forced to unleash my ace in the hole, the most potent gravity bomb I could make, and it'd finally netted me a mage attendant. If we could remove those mages from the equation entirely it'd make this whole process a lot simpler, but they've been cagey, always moving together in groups.
[How did it go, master?] Crinis asked.
[Plan went off without a hitch. Only one of them got caught by the bomb though.]
[The least they deserve is death by crushing for daring to attack you, master. If I ever get a tentacle on them I'd…]
Crinis didn't finish the thought, so consumed with rage was she. She'd even extended a few tentacles and was violently twisting them in the air as she rent imaginary slave mages into pieces.
[One down, plenty to go. No need to tie yourself into a knot about it. They're trying to kill us, we're trying to kill them. Standard day here on Pangera from my experience.]
It was true. Sapient or non-sapient, everything I'd come across seemed to be interested in killing me or something else. Except Formo of the Sophos. He was a good dude. If I manage to survive this business with Garralosh then I'll have to spend some time tracking down the Sophos colony and say hi. Formo didn't seem too interested in my death and they would make incredible allies. The information they could provide the core shapers alone would be priceless!
[You've kicked the plop pile right hard,] that was Isaac, trotting toward us. [The horde is stirring something fierce! I think it's goin' ta be best to lay low for a time.]
[Any sign of movement from the Kaarmodo?] I asked him.
[Not that I saw,] he said, [but I didn't want to get too close. An angry, centuries old lizard mage 'ain't exactly somethin' I want to get close to.]
[You make a good point,] I muttered.
I hastily checked my core, getting a touch low. Firing off all these gravity bombs had certainly put a strain on the core as my gravitational mana gland continued to pull energy from it in order to top up.
[Might be time for a tactical retreat, let things simmer down and take a moment to rest and refuel. How are your people holding up, Isaac?]
The former town guard grimaced.
[They're wrecked,] he admitted, [a kip and a hot meal would go over well.]
[Right then. You get to a safe distance and set up a camp somewhere south. We'll head back to the forward nest and rest up. Don't act on your own, we'll find you.]
Isaac nodded and turned to speak to his group.
[Fight?] Tiny asked hopefully.
[No. Rest,] I told him.
The giant ape pondered that for a moment before nodding begrudgingly. If he wasn't going to fight then a nap was the next best thing.
Trying to remain behind the cover of the hills, my pets and I circled around to the front of the horde, making sure to keep a safe distance. I wanted to let the rest of the colony know what had happened as quickly as possible, certainly before I retreated to charge up, just in case something happened.
As it happened, I bumped into a larger group of ants led by the most energetic soldier of them all.
"Hi-hi senior!" Vibrant cheered, hopping from one set of legs to the other, "how are you doing on your side?"
"Not too bad,” I admitted, not wanting to prompt Vibrant into a longer conversation, "but I did have something I wanted to mention."
"Oh? Did something big happen? It's been the same old, same old over here. We're just running in and out over and over again so much I'm getting dizzy. I'm tired but hey! It beats not doing anything, I wish I could get more Biomass though, I'm hungry? Are you hungry? Why is there a cloud over your head?"
"What?" I gaped.
She was right. A hundred metres over my head a cloud was forming rapidly. Way too rapidly.
"Run for it! The big lizard is making a move!" I bellowed.
After a moment of hesitation the ants scattered in every direction, sprinting away to safety in response to my words.
That's when the lightning came down.
A lance of destruction speared the ground next to me, sending a shower of hot dirt into the air that thudded into my carapace.
I leapt to the left but not fast enough! My eyes could see the blinding light explode in the sky above and my vision failed for a second. When it came back, I could see a large ape with smoke rising from his fur standing over me.
[Tiny!] I shouted.
[Run!] he growled.
Good call! My legs scrabbled in the dirt as I accelerated and began to sprint away from the horde.
Boom! Boom! Boom!
The rain of lightning continued to fall.