Is this some form of ritual suicide now?! Offering oneself up as Biomass for monsters? Or have the people decided to cast off their elderly as a sacrifice to appease the mighty ant kingdom? The older people are the most scrawny among you! If you want to offer Biomass then at least throw in some fatties!
Wait! What am I thinking…
Seeing some workers descending towards this person, ready to defend the hill, I rush down to head them off. There is something about this old woman that's making my antennae twitch. The way she has approached, so deliberately and with her hands in the air. It's clear that she came here to find the colony, otherwise she would have run away at the first sign of us, surely? Raising her hands in the air is the classic sign of intending no harm, though how she expects a colony of monsters to know that is beyond me.
So the question remains, what does this human want to find and approach us for? Try as I might I can't come up with anything at all.
As she sees me approach and warn away the approaching workers she breathes a sigh of relief and her manner becomes a little excited. She was looking for me? Does she recognise me? Perhaps she saw me in the church… I don't remember her being there but I didn't spend a whole lot of time taking in the crowd.
Her face does seem vaguely familiar though…
When I draw near and stop the old woman also ceases her steps but keeps her hands in the air.
I stand still and watch patiently.
Taking a deep breath the lady seems to settle her nerves before she squares up to me and then … begins speaking.
I can't understand you lady! Can't you use mind magic or something!?
For several minutes the lady attempts to speak to me, earnestly pleading about something, gesturing passionately with her hands, pointing at the colony, pointing back towards the town.
You really came here to talk to a colony of monsters?! As in, just talk with your mouth?! Internally I'm shaking my head at this crazy behaviour. If I wasn't a reborn human this lady would have been ripped to shreds and eaten without getting her message across at all.
Thankfully I have a way to get around this.
Interrupting the monologue, I walk closer, frightening the old woman with my sudden movement such that she leaps back in fear, once again thrusting her hands high in the air.
I'm not going to eat you! Sheesh! People these days…
I move to her side and then use my antennae to tap the back of my carapace. She seems confused at first so I repeat the gesture. The light understanding dawns on her face and she resolutely places her hands in front of her and waves them back and forth. "No thanks!"
You don't really have any options here lady.
A little more insistently I poke the old woman with my antennae and then pat my back. When she doesn't immediately move I repeat the gesture even more forcefully.
She gets the picture this time. I'll keep going until she cooperates! So she may as well just cooperate.
Reluctance written all over her face she approaches my side and starts in fright when I lower my body down so she can climb on. At the last moment I remember to extend an antennae back for Crinis to grab and shift the little blob up to my head next to Vibrant, who chitters at my pet, unhappy with her space being cramped. Crinis simply waves a few tentacles around until she manages to thwap the ant on the head before settling in on her new real estate.
Once my new captive, I mean, guest, has been secured I head over to the ant hill, climb up the side and then descend into the main shaft. Worried that the old woman will fall as we start our vertical journey I make sure to tilt my body as much as possible and extend an antennae for her to grip, two courtesies I had neglected to offer the Queen.
I stop near the entrance to my chamber and prod the human until she climbs off and then I follow in behind her.
I'm a little curious as to how this is going to play out.
When the old woman enters my chamber and sees who is inside she goes completely still with shock seemingly not believing the evidence of her own eyes. It's a fair response really, you wouldn't expect to find your Queen inside a giant ant hill normally.
The old woman speaks hesitantly and reaches out with a trembling hand towards my prisoner who speaks warmly to our new guest and clasps the old womans' hands between her own. Having her hands gripped by her own Queen seems to overwhelm my new guest and she falls to her knees and lower hers head in respect before the protesting Queen who tries to raise her up.
Maybe she is as respected as she claims? Or maybe people just fear royalty in general in this socially primitive world.
Waving my antennae above my head to get the Queens attention I point to the old woman's head and then at my own, repeating the gesture a few times until the Queen manages to take my meaning.
I want you to connect this person and me with mind magic so we can talk.
The Queen nods to say she understands but then shakes her head.
What the heck….
She frowns for a minute before I feel the familiar and crude touch of her mind on mine.
[I lack the skill to form a bridge between two individuals in this way. Connecting others is ten times as hard as connecting oneself. If you like, I can speak to this citizen myself and then communicate her words to you].
I ponder this. At least I'll get the message but I'm a little cautious the Queen might omit some details. Trust between human and monster can't be built so easily.
[Have her speak her story to me and translate in real time. If I believe information has been kept from me you both will be eaten] I state.
The Queen looks somewhat angered by my demand. [I am not used to having my honour questioned in this way, monster] she says forcefully.
…. Ok? But what does that have to do with me?!
[I care not. Relay my instructions]
A Queen you may be, but my Queen is a giant ant and her subjects are literally her own children. What exactly do you think we owe you?!
Shaking my head internally I turn my head towards my new guest and wait for her to start speaking. Once the Queen has passed on my instructions the old lady curtsies surprisingly gracefully towards her ruler and begins to speak, shortly after a steady stream of translation echoes in my head.
[This citizen of my kingdom is named Enid Ruther's, a merchant from the nearby town of Malgate. She was witness to your arrival in the towns church over a week ago and has grown concerned over the behaviour and ideas gripping the people since that time. The local priest has whipped the townsfolk into a frenzy, leading them to fight against the Dungeon monsters and even… but that's suicide!] the Queen breaks off her translation to shout in my mind.
She rapidly speaks verbally to Enid, shock written all over her face, the former replies firmly and the Queen just shakes her head looking appalled.
I reach out with an antennae and tap the Queen on the head. Oi, translate.
[I apologise, I was so shocked. The priest has even spurred the townsfolk to descend into the Dungeon and do battle there yesterday. Several people were killed and hailed as martyrs] her emotions bleed through as she speaks, sorry and anger at this foolish waste of life.
Enid continues to speak and the Queen continues to translate.
[Enid fears that the villagers will soon raise arms and attempt to invade the forest to hunt down your colony, believing you to be a sacrifice offered up by the Dungeon for their own enrichment and glory].
Even the Queen seems stunned by the stupidity of it. I personally have no idea what to say. A tribute!? Are these people alright in the head!? Tribute your grandfather!
[Enid's husband was an experienced Dungeon explorer and she knows that intelligent monsters capable of communication exist in the depths. When she saw you spare the priest and even heal his arm she was convinced that you were a highly evolved species and hoped to reason with you to spare the villagers lives. She knew it was a faint hope and that she would likely be killed but she could think of no other option to prevent meaningless killing] the Queen is getting a little choked up listening of this brave citizens sense of duty.
For my part I'm still stunned by the whole sacrificial offering thing…
Just how badly do these people want to get eaten?!