Turns out that the Colony had already begun to invest a significant amount of time and energy into the wave farming project. As I exit the nest and make my way out into the tunnels, I see the vast wheels of ant industry turning on a grand scale. Tens of thousands of carvers, each and every one of them an Earth Mage, shifting impossible amounts of stone and dirt, diverting water, creating new chambers and tunnels as part of an immense, interconnected web of 'farms'. Each stretch of tunnel I moved through was patrolled by yet more soldiers, scouts, generals, mages and core shapers, keeping watch for the endless spawns that the Dungeon spewed forth.
The sheer quantity of work being done was mind boggling and frankly well beyond the scale that I envisioned when I put the idea to the council. They didn't muck around, that's for sure. Once the idea was in their heads, they wanted to go as large as they possibly could. I'll never accuse them of having too small an appetite! From what I've seen just on my way out of the nest, the new farming setup will be hundreds of times the size of the previous one, built around the surface nest. If all goes well, the amount of Biomass and cores we can gain will fuel the Colony into another wave of expansion. The trick is, are we going to be able to defend such a large swathe of territory?
Which is where enormous construction project number two comes into the picture. As my pets and I leave the nest behind and travel further away from its comforts, we no longer see the ongoing farming project and the thousands upon thousands of labourers hard at work. Instead, we see thousands and thousands of labourers hard at work at something completely different: fortifications.
Turns out there are a whole host of Skills within the System related to building, shaping, designing and utilising defensive emplacements. It make sense, since there's pretty much a Skill for everything, near as I can tell, and after the siege, the carvers of the Colony have become, if not masters, then certainly experienced in putting together some hefty defences. Their Skills trained from the days on end they toiled shoring up the nests, these workers have now turned their attention to a grander stage, the defensive wall that will encircle the core of the Colony's territory.
Tons of rock are shifted and shaped every hour and even as I watch sturdy walls, ramparts, spiked embankments, pitfalls and more come into existence, every single inch of them hardened and baptized by the magic of the carvers. They've even gone so far as to prepare healing centres and resting chambers, peeled free of the Dungeon's veins through monumental effort, in order that the healers can work unimpeded. I know for a fact that this work is replicated throughout the Colony's territory, a vast sphere of walls and forts that will defend each and every tunnel that would provide access for the invading wave.
The overall design was that of a detail oriented mad person, or Sloan, Victor, Cobalt and Tungstant, as they are otherwise known. I'd seen the carvings and barely been able to make heads or tails of them, even when they were explained to me. It wasn't as if they were satisfied with one wall per entrance, oh no, that would be insane! The pitiful delusions of a mad ant! Instead, there were layers upon layers ofredoubts, forts, walls, traps that could be abandoned or retaken as needs required, all intricately designed to funnel the hordes of enemies to deadly killing grounds where the largest tunnels intersect and merge.
As we continue to march, even these enormous works are put behind us and something else takes their place: the sights and sounds of battle. This is the true face of the wave, after all. Not construction, not relentlessly patrolling soldiers, but an endless war of attrition against a literal wave of monsters without end. Here the Colony has placed the vast majority of its strength, almost a hundred thousand monstrous ants form an unbroken, living wall to hold off the wave until the fortifications are complete. It's toward these frontlines that we make our way, and it isn't long until the deafening roar of monsters at war is resounding from the tunnel walls and echoing off the stone.
In the tunnel ahead a team of hundreds is pushing back against the wave in this section of tunnel, trying to ensure that none get through. Even as we approach, I can see that the fight is desperate and difficult, with ants being pulled from the frontline and healed before being sent back in or dragged away for further treatment. Without the benefit of a proper defence, the Colony is forced to put bodies against bodies and there is clearly a toll.
As we approach, a nearby general rushes up to me.
"Eldest! I didn't expect to see you here, but I wouldn't say no to some help."
I look over the fight taking place not a hundred metres away.
"How bad is it general?"
The much smaller soldier caste member doesn't equivocate.
"We were holding fairly easily at first, but it keeps getting harder and I'm having to rotate my soldiers for rest more often. The pressure on the healers is increasing by the hour and without more mage support, we may find it difficult to hold out more than a day if things keep getting worse."
That's worse than I thought… It isn't hard to see what the problem is. Far from the usual tier one shadow beasts that are jumping out of the walls higher up in the strata, these ants are battling against far more formidable foes. Death Magic infested brutes, huge shadow dogs, spiders and more highly evolved monsters shriek and scream as they throw themselves at the Colony's defenders without end. Despite their advanced tactics and cooperation, the fight simply never ends and ironically it is the ants who are being worn down by the overwhelming number of foes.
I can also spot mixed into the endless hordes are a few creatures similar to those I fought the last time I came out here. Demons.