The trail has been detected!
It looks the members of my colony have been to this lake after all! This is incredible news, I could possibly just wait here next to the lake for them to show up and follow them back to the nest!
Staying close to the lake I tip tap my antennae on the ground and follow the trail away from the water. It absolutely seems like a solid trail has been lain down here. The more often ants use a particular path the more they will reinforce the trail with pheromones, making the trail more and more solid.
I don't think this path this path has been in particularly heavy use but members of the colony have certainly been here a few times.
I retreat back to the safety of the lake and can't resist a small dance of happiness.
Nearby monsters are looking at me funny out of the corner of their eyes. It probably isn't very often they are treated to some amateur ant freestyle tap.
My new family is with reach!
After being on my own in this Dungeon for days on end it'll feel so nice just to see another entity that doesn't want to eat me!
I'll get to see my Mother in another world, the Queen. I wonder how big she is?
I really didn't get to see my mother much back on earth, most of the time I'd been on my own. Hopefully this time I'll be able to help out a bit more and we can work together!
Gah! I'm too excited!
Need to chill, need to calm down.
It's important I don't forget where I am, this environment is incredibly dangerous. If I run about whilst this distracted I'll just get myself killed.
I scout around for a few minutes until I find a nice nest site and dig myself my now patented L chamber and close over the top.
Ensconced in total darkness I once again begin the exhausting process of training my Mana Manipulation.
The chamber is briefly illuminated every time the small cloud of mana is released from my mouth.
Eventually I exhaust my mana, once again failing at my last attempt, unsuccessfully directing the energy due to my exhausted mental state.
The road ahead is still long.
Once this is done I decide to rest, entering the state of torpor, the sleep equivalent of the insect. I'm getting more and more accustomed to this rest. Without closing my eyes, just going still and sort of zoning out for an extended period of time.
Eventually I wake up feeling much more rested and calm.
Too many exciting development have happened here. I need to continue to take it slow for a little while and take stock of things.
My original plan of staying here to level up Mana Manipulation isn't a bad one, the added benefit now is that if I keep track of the lake there is a chance I'll be able to join up with a group of my colony mates and follow them back home to the nest!
The other option available is to try and follow the trail back to the nest on my own but I'm reluctant to take that risk when it may not even be necessary.
I'll stay here and continue to train up a few skills!
The other skill I want to increase is Dig. It may not be the flashiest skill, the best use in combat or indeed, particularly useful for anything really.
But I like it!
If you had to ask me what the fundamental skill of the ant is, it would be their incredible capacity to construct their nests and at the center of this is the ability to dig like a boss!
Besides, it is super easy to level up, all I have to do is dig about. With this in mind I start to make extensions to my small chamber, digging small, narrow tunnels in a few directions just a meter under the surface, diverting around, under or stopping a tunnel completely when I run into rock. For some reason the work is soothing, I'm almost humming to myself as I ship loads of dirt back and forth in my mandibles.
The ground here is particularly wet as well, I have to extend away from the lake and it isn't long before I encounter tree roots the buried stems of the giant mushrooms in my tunnels.
Every now and again I dig up to the surface to create a little ventilation and also just to scope out what is happening around the place. This mini exits also provide a nice place to ditch my soil as I go.
I get so engrossed in digging that I didn't even notice when the notification for the skill reaching level came through. When I stop working and try to think about how much time has passed I realise I must have been digging for almost six hours.
Level five Dig!
If only I had a skill point, I'd be super curious to see what this skill will upgrade into!
Come to think of it, I am getting a little hungry, it may be time to think about trying to hunt for some food.
I should also check to see if my colony has shown up for a drink!
Excited I rush back to the lake hoping to see my own kind there getting some refreshments but unfortunately it isn't to be.
There is still a wide variety of creatures drinking here but I can't see any ants amongst them.
Hopefully next time!
I guess the only things left for me to do is to either try and go hunting or wait and continue to train my mana.
Wait a sec…
What the hell is that?!
In the distance I can make out some shapes making their way over the crest of a small hill overlooking the lake. At that distance I can't see perfectly but I can see enough to think that I know what are.
And they aren't monsters!
Without a second thought I dive into my tunnel and start scurrying away from the lake and I don't stop until I make it under the roots of a tree.
What the heck are these humans doing here?!
Those were definitely some human shapes over that hill. Have they followed me here already?
That's way too quick! I came directly down a shaft, the most direct possible route, who knows how many winding tunnels they had to go through to make it to here?
Also, although I didn't get a perfect look at them, something about these humans didn't seem quite the same as the ones I'd seen in the tunnels above.
Perhaps their demeanour? Something about the way they'd looked? I'm not sure…
I'm torn, part of me wants to investigate but another part just wants to get the heck out of here.
Dammit! I can't just keep running every time I see a human! Even if they are super dangerous, I can rely on my stealth to protect me at least a little. There is only so much I can learn by following the monsters around, by shadowing these humans for a while I might be able to learn a lot!
Its decided then.
Deep breath Anthony!
Making my way down my tunnel I find an opening and carefully poke my head through. My antennae has almost fully regrown now, I'll probably need to get more food into me before it will begin to regenerate the final part. At least my senses aren't affected too badly.
Ok, the coast is clear.
Slowly I emerge above ground and enter full stealth mode, keeping my body to the ground and sticking to as much cover as possible.
Moving in a wide arc I aim to circle around the back of the hill where I saw those figures, keeping myself out of their line of sight as much as possible.
There they are!
I snoop a little closer until I can make out some more details, hiding myself in some thick vegetation with my antennae poking out.
There are five humans, all with their back to me as they gaze down onto the lake, or more specifically, the monsters grouped around it. With their attention focused away from my I take the chance to advance a little closer.
[Advanced Stealth has reached level 3]
I love you Gandalf.
I can almost make out the words they saying, although it doesn't seem to be in any language I can understand. They are talking to each other and gesturing down towards the lake. Oh wait, they seem to have agreed on something.
I freeze as the five figures separate and ready their weapons before one of them raises their staff and begins to focus.
Blazing runes form around the head of the staff start to rotate at an ever increasing speed until finally a massive fireball appears, burning brilliantly at the top of the staff.
I can hear the cry and roar of monsters on the other side of the hill as they notice this disturbance. It's almost as if the monsters are shocked that there would be any sign of attack here at lake!
Before they can react, the staff is swept down and the fireball rockets out of my sight.