Electrical energy crackled over head as the ants continued to battle mindlessly on the wall. With a crack like the sound of a whip, the first strike fell directly on the Queen. Conserving her energy, the Queen was holding her section of the wall with ease when she was struck. The bolt landed on her abdomen and electricity pierced her carapace and roiled through her insides.
The smell of burnt flesh rose as the Queen's enormous frame began to smoke. The ants close by were driven to the edge of madness by the attack on their mother, but were helpless to retaliate against the clouds overhead! The Queen herself remained calm. Her antennae glowed softly with light as she channelled healing magic from her Healing Mana gland to repair her wounds.
She hadn't suffered much damage from the strike, not even close to critical damage. During her evolution she'd toughened herself a considerable amount, a decision that paid dividends now. The healing mana washed through her body, restoring damaged muscle and repairing her organs in moments.
But the lightning continued to fall.
*Boom!* *Boom! *Boom!*
The skies overhead crackled with an immense amount of energy and each bolt struck unerringly down on the giant figure that towered over the rest. It was clear the Kaarmodo had identified the Queen as a threat and was trying to weaken her, if not destroy her!
The Queen endured. Bolt after bolt fell from the sky, driving the ants into a frenzy. Their mother was under assault! How could they stand it?! The Queen focused on healing herself and ensuring that none of her children were caught in the discharge. Even whilst enduring the pain and concentrating on her healing mana, she was still able to keep her section of wall clear with repeated snaps of her giant mandibles.
"Mother!" screamed Victor, who had rushed to the front when she noticed the gathering clouds. "Mother! You must retreat!"
The Queen shook her antennae in denial.
"I can still fight," she insisted as she crunched more monsters with her jaws. "My children are fighting, and so shall I!"
"You're starting to smoke! You can't tell me you aren't taking damage!" Victor cried, trying to make her scent detected over the roiling pheromones being released all around.
"I can take it. Better me than the children," the Queen stubbornly insisted.
Victor tried to maintain control of her instincts which demanded that she fight to defend her mother. Fighting was not the solution here. The Queen needed to move back, it was far too soon for her to commit to the battle!
If only the Eldest were here! Mother listened to the Eldest, trusted them. How much longer until that damn evolution was finished?!
"The colony is going crazy! If you stay here taking this damage, they might just charge over the wall. You need to get back, even just for a time!"
With a blinding flash, a tremendous bolt of lightning lanced down from the roiling clouds above and connected to the Queen. The mother of the colony threw her head back, frozen in pain as the energy burned through her body, sizzling her internal organs and causing her HP to plunge.
"MOTHER!" screamed Victor, overcome with anxiety.
Agony rippled through the Queen and she poured more effort to directing her healing mana to close her wounds. Pain was not enough to deter her from her course. Neither pain, nor danger or threat to her life would turn her from this path. In fact, she was glad. Every bolt of lightning that fell on her was mana and effort that was expended on her and not on her children. She would be the bulwark for her family, the strong tower behind which they could find shelter.
She pushed her feet under her and lifted her head to snap out once more with her deadly mandibles. She tried to push the voices away and focus. She had much work to do, but one broke through.
"Look at your back!" Victor cried. The general had crawled onto the wall directly in front of the Queen, her back to the enemy in an effort to capture her mothers' attention.
The Queen hastily swatted the much smaller ant down from the wall and back to safety with one leg before she reared her body up to observe her own back.
It was covered in ants.
Were she the type to curse, perhaps the Queen would have indulged herself in this moment, but she didn't. She turned, and she ran.
The clouds crackled overhead and the Queen wasted no time rushing back from the second wall toward the nest. As she retreated, the storm overhead began to disperse, the Kaarmodo was apparently unwilling to commit to holding it in place if she were not on the front herself.
With the presence of the Queen fading from the frontline, the battle returned to a more controlled type of frenzy. Generals were able to organise and arrange their soldiers, scouts shook off their rage and returned to their work as runners. Over the next few minutes, the colony was able to restore order to their efforts.
As she rushed back to the nest, the Queen appeared outwardly calm, but was boiling with frustration on the inside. She wanted to fight and defend her family but it appeared as if her children would not allow it. When she was threatened by the lightning, they had selflessly climbed onto her back to try and protect her.
It was a gesture that filled her heart, but broke it at the same time. She did not want her children to die for her, she wanted to fight and die for them!
The non-combat caste members, who had exited the nest with her, escorted her back to it, anxiously crawling in every direction to ensure she was safe. When she reached the peak of the nest, the Queen looked back to the second wall, several hundred metres away, where her family was fighting and dying for its survival. For a short, glorious moment, she had been able to share in that struggle with them, and she would again before the end.
With a small sigh, the Queen plunged once more down into the darkness. She would recharge her core, heal her injuries and prepare to emerge once again. The battle was not done, and neither was she.
For her part, Victor was relieved. The Queen would not stay put for long, but for the time being the battle was back in control. The Queen and the Eldest were the trump cards of the colony, they couldn't not be played too early. If the Queen had remained at the front and prompted Garralosh to come out, before the Eldest had finished evolving…
It could have been a disaster!
Come to think of it, the wall was no place for her to be either. As the two sides once again threw themselves at each other, Victor ran from the front, over the remaining walls and into the nest. Inside the planning chamber, Sloan awaited her.
"Sounds like things have stabilised for the time being," Sloan told her, "great work."
Victor shook her antennae in denial.
"It's only a matter of time until the Queen comes up again. The next time she comes up, I don't think she'll go back, no matter what."
"But that's good information to have," Sloan insisted. "We know that the next time she fights, we'll have to play all our tricks."
A shiver of fear ran over Victor as she considered what might have happened in those moments.
"She could've died up there, Sloan."
Her sibling came closer and patted her on the head with one antennae.
"We won't let that happen. No matter what."
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"No matter what."