Ever since I arrived in this strange underground forest it has been bustling with activity, monsters appearing from all over the place, coming out of goodness knows where and fighting constantly.
But now … something seems a bit … off.
As Tiny and I emerge from within the nest to the top of the anthill we are greeted with a sheer wall of sound. The cacophony from the surrounding trees and giant mushrooms is piercing. Howling roars, filled with endless bloodlust and thirst for battle echo from the ceiling and the distant walls over and over again.
The forest, has lost its chill.
I think we can officially call it, there is absolutely nothing calm about this forest in the present moment! Is everyone having a bad hair day? Wake up on the wrong side of the … cave?
Even as Tiny and I stand and stare from the top of the hill, elevated above the tree line I notice a few things have changed from the colony perspective.
I don't notice any trails of ants leading off into the forest right now. Having a quick sniff around I notice the scent paths have dissipated as well. It seems that conditions out in the woods have been too hot for the workers to handle so they've retreated back into the nest. Even the ever present guard detail is positioned much higher up the mound than before, retreating from the trees edging up to the base of the ant hill.
For whatever reason, the place is going completely gonzo.
Every time I come up here I think the monsters have reached peak crazy town but it seems there is always further to go!
Tiny doesn't seem to care, his somewhat glassy eyed stare darts from sound to sound, almost as if he's calculating the nearest fight he can hurl himself into. If you start running off into the forest Tiny, I swear on the facial follicles of the bearded one I will drag you back into the nest by your head!
Almost as if he can feel my simmering rage the bat faced ape slowly settles onto his heels, adopting a waiting posture.
I'm determined to scout out the surrounding terrain. If the humans have returned or there are creatures massing against the nest, I want to know about it! I can't be gone for long however. The fact that the workers have effectively abandoned food gathering operations up here means the colony is even more reliant on the trap network than I thought. Without me to undertake the tedious work of resetting the pitfalls that food source will quickly dry up.
I'll give myself a few hours, see what I can see and then return.
Onward Tiny! Let us move out!
With my ape companion in tow I cautiously begin to make my way into the forest, ensuring Tiny stays behind me at all times so I can scout the way.
The stealth skill must show its incredible strength now!
Luckily it does. As we slowly make our way through the forest we are frequently held up by battling monsters of all kinds. Some types I'd seen before but others were entirely new. Possibly the most fearsome was a silver panther looking creature. With each swipe of its paws blades of air would fly forward, slashing through everything they touched.
When I saw what was going on, Tiny and I backed up slowly and then skedaddled out of there.
After half an hour of careful stalking I finally come across something I'd been wanting to find for a long time.
In the center of a small clearing in the forest is an ugly looking mound with several holes punched in the side, each about fifty centimetres in diameter.
The mound itself is three metres high and I suspect the space inside extends down in the ground.
This here, is a centipede mound!
Probably the source of those damn crawlies that barged into the fight with the rabbits. We aren't far from the nest here in this location, if possible I don't want to leave this mound undisturbed.
How can I deal with it though? Only myself and my ape companion are here, I'm not convinced that we can take on every centipede inside that mound, there could be as many as fifty in there, slithering over each other in a hideous tangle of legs.
I settle Tiny a little distance away from the mound and slowly creep forward, antennae pointing directly forward.
My heat detection is picking up a whole mess of sources inside the mound. No doubt about it, this pile of dirt is jam packed full of claw centipedes.
Out of curiosity I briefly engage my mana detection skill and what I see is quiet surprising!
From within my mind I can sense the eddy and flow of magic as it constantly shifts in the space around me. To this sense, dirt and rock are meaningless and the movement of the mana within the mound is clear to see.
Two small beads of light pulse with energy inside, two monster cores!
Something else though…
Deep in the base of the mound, several metres below ground, the mana there is dense. Rather than wisps of smoke the energy is moving in potent ropes, twisting and rotating like a miniature storm.
What the heck is down there!?
I seriously want to know…. I want to know so bad Gandalf!
The only way to look is to somehow deal with this entire mound of centipedes…
I think it's time… time to break out the big guns!
Cautiously, I retreat back towards the tree where Tiny is waiting, about fifteen metres away from the base of the mound. Scanning the surroundings I can tell that I have a moment of peace in which to do my work without being interrupted, but to be sure, Tiny and I ascend into the tree and blend with the foliage.
Gripping tightly to a branch with my claws I begin to employ my most potent move.
Reaching inside of myself I can sense the Gravitational Mana gland and the mysterious energy held within it. Slowly, and carefully, I begin to draw out that power, bringing it towards my throat where I start to condense it, forming a small ball of furious gravitational force.