I huddled beneath the earth with my brethren. The narrow tunnel was claustrophobic to say the least, the ceiling hung low over my head and knowing just how thin it was didn't help my space issues. My digging skill conveyed to me the awareness that the tunnel was structurally sound, but for some reason it didn't help.
Perhaps I was just nervous about the upcoming ambush and my nervousness was looking for an outlet. The scouts on either side of me didn't appear nervous in the slightest. Calm and composed, not moving at all, really. They were rock still as they awaited the signal to begin.
It had taken two days of solid effort to prepare this, the first ambush ground. We'd had to run hard to get out here, only to find that the workers who'd been sent ahead had already been hard at work for hours and their progress was staggering.
We assumed that the horde would continue to follow the road south and with that thought, the generals had planned for the first ambush to take place as far from the home nest as possible, whilst still allowing the workforce time to prepare the ground. The ants had been especially motivated however, my siblings had torn into the digging work with such zeal that by the time my pets and I had arrived, the ground was already littered with pitfalls.
The workers and soldiers got to work on the forest nearby, taking branches and cutting down trees away from the sight of the road and cutting them into stakes using their razor sharp mandibles, which they then took to the pitfalls and buried them in the bottom.
Others had been busy tunnelling out our ambush avenues. The area had looked feverish with activity and ants ran everywhere over the place and dirt flew into the air in dozens of places at once. It had been such a mess that I had genuinely thought there was no chance that we'd manage to get everything prepared and then cleaned up before the horde had arrived.
I was a fool to doubt my siblings. Before I'd taken my place here inside the tunnel, I'd been able to cast my eye over a spotless stretch of cobbled road and idyllic forest. No sign of the dozens of spiked traps or murderous ants hiding above and below the ground.
"Begin charge" came a whispered message from behind me and I immediately began focusing my three minds on my Gravitational Mana Gland.
I was hoping that Garralosh and the Kaarmodo lizard wouldn't be able to sense the build-up of mana if I was concealed beneath the soil. It was for that reason that I was positioned several metres back from the covered entrance of our tunnel, in an attempt to place a good chunk of dirt between the enemy and me as the Gravity Bomb took shape.
Claws crossed, it worked.
I pulled my mana out at a steady pace. I wasn't worried about depleting my core since the colony had extended a tunnel from the closest dungeon entrance towards the forward HQ. It wasn't much but it was enough that Tiny, Crinis and I were able to top up after our trek to the north.
The Gravity Bomb grew dense as time passed and I continued to feed mana into it at a steady pace.
"No change, continue charge" came the message from behind me.
No change in behaviour from the horde, no sign my spell had been detected. All good so far. I hope the ants keeping watch on the horde from above ground were keeping themselves hidden. Without knowing exactly how scrying worked, we'd tried to make sure all of our colony members were as hidden as possible. Each of them was tucked into a burrow or foxhole of some sort, hidden from above such that a view looking down from the sky would be unable to find them.
The greater the density of the gravity bomb, the more of my attention it demanded and the less extraneous thoughts I could allow. I didn't want to give away the ambush by blowing myself up, that would be less than ideal.
"Release when ready" the messenger behind me relayed.
The words and their meaning whispered around the outside of my awareness, my attention was drawn into the potent spell I was weaving as if it were the black hole it resembled. Due to the meditation skill my focus was strong enough that the meaning of the words registered and I could act.
That message meant the enemy was in position and I could unleash my gravity bomb when ready. The timing window was quite tight here so I had to move with haste.
One leg at a time I pushed myself forward, drawing nearer to the disguised entrance with each movement. On either side of me, scout ants pushed up, ensuring they remained slightly behind me at all times, lest they be caught in the release of the spell.
The rotating black mass of the gravity bomb consumed me now. The roiling energies threatened to spin out of my control at any time and only my iron will and powerful minds working in tandem were able to contain it.
With a sudden lunge, I propelled myself out of the opening, the grass and branches used to disguise the entrance burst outward, and no sooner did I lay eyes on the enemy than I unleashed their doom.
The Gravity Bomb flickered into existence and announced its presence with the now familiar shriek of wind. The very air around us seemed to thin as the spell streaked toward the masses of monsters that made up the horde.
With the spell released and no longer requiring my constant focus I turn my attention more fully to the array of monsters approaching my position, monsters who are about to have a very bad day.
Like a blanket of zombies, the soundless ranks of Garralosh's horde are advancing at a slow pace along the road. From my vantage point, poking out of the low roofed tunnel we had dug into a low hill, the horde is spread before me across the plains. I can't make out the beast herself at this distance, I assume she's toward the back of the horde, and to be honest I'm grateful. If the regular soldiers had to deal with her crushing aura I'm not sure how they'd fare.
The Gravity Bomb crashed into the massed ranks of the horde and expanded to its full size, the furious pull of the magic dragging monsters to their soundless deaths and they were crushed in an instant. The sound of Gandalf uttering the system notifications rang in my mind over and over again.
[You have slain …]
[You have slain …]
[You have gained experience]
[You have gained experience]
[You have slain …]
Twisting in place, the Gravity Bomb continued to drag more unwilling monsters into its depths, all sound dominated by the endless howl of the wind. Before the spill dissipated, the ambush was sprung. Called out of their hiding places by the piercing sound of the air being devoured by my spell, soldier ants pour out of their hiding places, tunnels dug into the surrounding low hills, and, as one, turn to present their business districts to the enemy.
This is a business convention!
As the spell continues to wreak havoc amongst the foe, jets of acid are unleashed from hundreds of ants and pour down, burning every monster they touch.
The scouts around me are super impressive, their acid blasts have tremendous range, arcing far beyond those of the other soldiers, raining their fearsome acid payload deep into the horde.
Oh right! I'm meant to be doing that too!
Gandalf continues to natter in my ear with notifications as I present the fearsome battery I keep in my back pocket and unleash liquid death at the horde.
POW! POW! POW! POW!
My own acid rained down as the Gravity Bomb flickered and vanished. As the spell disappeared, the enemy seemed to shake themselves awake, as if it were a beast that had just been punched in the face. The horde seemed to blink at our assault, then recover with a roar and charged forward.
Then Tiny and Crinis appeared.