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The Colony learned much from the ways of the surface people. We studied many industries that they had developed over hundreds, thousands of years. Agriculture, metalwork, fletching, administration, pottery, tea making, and many others. Some of the learnings were exceptionally valuable and proved to have a long lasting impact on us, whereas others were less useful. Nevertheless, the thirst for knowledge and understanding within the family was insatiable, any titbit that might help us in our struggle was sought after zealously. So it was that I became drawn to the field of Philosophy.

Surely, I thought to myself, none of my brethren would have taken the time to study such an esoteric field. Therefore I would be the first, and break new ground for the family by utilising the knowledge and techniques found within for our betterment.

I was sadly mistaken. The surface dwellers occupied themselves with so many pointless questions, the answers to which seemed most obvious to me.

Why do I exist? To help the Colony.

What is the purpose of life? To help the Colony.

Why does the universe exist? For the Colony.

What is death? When you can no longer help the Colony.

Though it all seemed so clear to me, the human, golgari and others couldn't seem to grasp hold of anything. They drove themselves mad with rhetoric, driving down rabbit holes and fudging numbers back and forth until they lost sight of the questions they were trying to answer. The more I dove in, the more tangled the maze became. The pursuit of truth was entirely lost as they tried to make the simple complex and the complex simple.

I lamented the lack of purpose from my years of study for a long time. Fortunately, I was able to realise that my effort had not been wasted, that there was some good for me to extract that would benefit my family.

More than any other ant, I knew the thought processes and values of the sapient races. I knew that they were weak.

  • From the private notes of Emannuelk Ant.

If he had told himself a year ago what he would be doing now, he would have told himself he was insane. Though Wallace Danton, once the head guard of Rylleh, had long suspected his egg had cracked when the Colony had invaded his city. When the ants had approached him to take up this new role, he'd seen where they were coming from. In their eyes, he was a natural fit. He had combat experience against the ants, had attempted to defend a city against their assault, and had then gone on to live with and work alongside them for an extended period of time.

Who better to represent the Colony when approaching other independent city states on the frontier?

His hands rose to tug at his uniform almost of their own volition, but he stopped them before Yasmine caught him at it. He managed to push them back down, but still noticed her flick a sharp glance at him, as if she had somehow sensed his almost-breach of decorum.

She'd come a long way in overcoming her fear of the insects; working with the Colony seemed to do that, eventually. It was hard to fear something that served such fantastic tea and biscuits. Alongside their general hospitality, the ants had proven to be the most effective administrators he'd ever seen. They ran their business with incredible efficiency. Any attempt to stymie or block them was set upon and annihilated.

Their rules were relatively straightforward and they applied them directly and consistently, without fear or favour. What really set them apart, was their own unshakeable assurance of their own impartiality. They never hesitated to make the best ruling when called upon to settle disputes, and no protest was possible. Trying to argue to an ant of the Colony that they were biased was an exercise in futility, though hilarious to watch.

It was always the merchants.

"The Lord will see you now," the voice of the attendant broke Wallace's train of thought and he was brought back into the moment.

"Our thanks," Yasmine smiled politely as she gripped his elbow rather more tightly than required as she rose, forcing him to rise with her.

"Yes. Thanks," he said when she pinched him.

He didn't mind this job, but the pomp and politics of it grated him at times. Full dress uniform? Waiting in antechambers? He'd rather be fighting, but it appeared as if those days were lost to him forever.

Following behind the dignitary in front of them, they walked over lush, resplendent carpet under the watchful eyes of stern Lords and Ladies past. The city of Ironwall had been settled a scant few decades before Rylleh, but for whatever reason had considered itself vastly superior throughout their history. It was undeniable that Ironwall was the larger and more prosperous of the two, mainly due to deposits of valuable minerals in the area. Rylleh on the other hand had boasted a far stronger military and delving community.

The two were led into the Lord's office and found the current ruler of Ironwall, the Lord Korbell, standing to welcome them. Young and in good condition, the man appeared more like a member of the mercenary union than the Lord of an independent city, but he was by all accounts a capable and intelligent ruler.

Which should make Wallace's job easier.

"Wallace Danton, nice to see you again," Korbell offered his hand warmly and Wallace extended his own to shake it. "This must be Yasmine Worfu? A pleasure."

Quick to lay on the charm, the young Lord greeted them both before indicating they should sit, and pulled up a chair himself.

"I've been hearing all sorts of interesting things are going on at Rylleh. When I heard you were here wanting an audience, I thought I had to seize this opportunity to get to the bottom of it."

Wallace shrugged.

"We don't like to be boring. You should know that better than most."

Korbell grinned.

"Indeed. It's been almost unusual not to have any flare ups along the border. I can't say I don't mind the peace and quiet, but I have to wonder what caused this attitude shift amongst your people. Anything in particular?"

"We got conquered by ants," Wallace admitted freely.

Yasmine choked on a cough as her boss threw their carefully planned negotiating tactic out the window. Before she could tactically stomp on his foot, she found he'd pre-emptively blocked her leg with his own! Damned man!

"What Mr Dalton means to say," she tried to recover the moment, "is that there was a… a shift in the direction of the city."

"I'll say," Wallace grunted.

The Lord of Ironwall leaned back and beheld the two in front of him warily.

"I'd heard that it was monsters. In truth, I'd actually expected the entire city had been wiped out. We haven't been able to open a gate into Rylleh for months, and we heard little to nothing from your people. Now you come to tell me that you were conquered? By ants?"

"Yes," Wallace confirmed, ignoring Yasmine's subtle elbow digging. "They overwhelmed the city in just a few hours. The ants rule over it now. It's theirs."

Korbell looked at him for a long moment.

"They rule it…" he said finally.

Wallace nodded.

"Yes."

"… the ants do."

"Yes."

Another long pause.

"So… is Rylleh some kind of monster hellscape now? You've come to warn me of the looming threat of ants? To plead for shelter for your people?"

The young Lord appeared wary, and confused. Wallace moved to set him at ease.

"No, of course it isn't some hellscape. The ants take good care of the place, actually. Much better than the previous management. No, I've come to deliver you a message. The Colony has sent me as their emissary."

Korbell stared.

"You? Wallace? An emissary?" he laughed. "The very idea is ridiculous."

"I quite agree," Wallace chuckled, "but I can see their reasoning."

"Alright then. Deliver this message from your monster overlords," the lord shook his head at the absurdity of it. "What do the ants want?"

Wallace smiled slowly.

"Your city."

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RinoZ

Bio: Working older person with family who really likes webnovels and decided to write one. Here we are!

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