Sobbing uncontrollably with joy, the priest raised his one hand towards me and fell to his knees, quite obviously performing some kind of worship. So caught up with emotion was he, that nearby refugees, temporarily taking leave of their senses, were also swept up in the moment and mimicked his action.
Surrounded by villagers giving praise on their knees, my ego begins to stir.
Down, Dark One! You shall not rise here this day! Nor any day!
I take a moment to control my thoughts. Having people worship you is a quick way to let your ego take over. I can't imagine anything good happens when someone begins to think of themselves as some sort of god when they are in fact, an ant.
I haven't shown any eternal reaction to all of this kerfuffle, keeping still except for the occasional twitch of the antennae, but there are others who have responded more strongly. The five new martial looking refugees, led by the square jawed female, do not look impressed to see a group of humans on their knees before a monster.
You know what? That reaction is probably spot on.
What sort of people in their right mind would do this sort of thing? If anything, I agree with the five newcomers. These humans are nuts. In some ways, having a human look at my villagers with such shock and dismay is almost a relief. At least there are some normal humans around here!
An angry light in her eyes, the leader pushes forward and grabs Enid by the shoulder, pointing at me and speaking in quick, harsh tones.
What's all this about then?
I'm not a big fan of her being so rough towards Enid. The old woman has been nothing but helpful to me and to the humans here. She deserves respect.
Enid listens without fear to the words being spat at her before shoving the hand from her shoulder and replying curtly to the woman. Then she turns to me, concentrating on our mental link.
[This person is named Morrelia. She and her group have been fighting surface monsters in this area for weeks. They only recently found us here and to be honest they are quite distrustful of you. They question the villagers loyalty and devotion towards you and your colony. I believe she wants to talk to you to determine if you are using some form of mind control].
She thinks I'm mind controlling these people? I didn't even want them here!
[She seems to be getting a little forceful here Enid. Have they caused any trouble?] I ask.
The older woman shakes her head.
[No. I simply believe they are concerned for the safety of the people here].
[How concerned do you think they'll be towards you if they think you're all under some sort of mind control? Will they attack me, or just kill all of you?]
Enid blinks, seemingly not having thought of the possibility.
[I'll talk to her. But tell her if she gets too handsy with you I'll be taking that hand with me].
Turning quickly to the martial looking woman beside her Enid quickly relays my words.
Nodding with satisfaction, the fighter steps back from Enid and turns to face me with a sharp glint in her eyes. And a hand resting on her sword hilt.
Grumbling internally about humans being far more trouble that they are worth, I ignore the shock and disappointment in the priests' face as Enid tells him what is happening so I can finish off constructing the bridge, which I extend towards my unwelcome guest.
[What?] I huff, irritated.
Morrelias' eyes widen slightly at my abrupt rudeness, but she shows no other reaction.
[Are you able to hear me?] the response comes.
[Yes I can hear you. It's a frickin' mind bridge. I didn't bust my thorax trying to learn this spell so that I couldn't talk to people].
Oooo that's a bit snippy Anthony. I must be grumpier than I thought. Need to rain it in a little.
I have none of these problems when talking with ants, just sayin'.
My words provoke a response this time. Indignant rage seeped through the cracks on that stone face but she held her neutral expression well. The eyes told a different story however, they were alight with anger.
[Listen to me, creature, my family has slaughtered monsters for generations. If you don't show the proper respect I'll add your head to my wall].
Her grip on the pommel of her sword is getting pretty darn tight by the looks of it. This lady has some serious angst.
Mind you, I'm not planning to back down any just for that.
[Unless you're a higher level human than I've seen around here, taking my head might be more than you can handle].
[You overestimate yourself, monster].
What did I do to deserve this kind of attitude? This is what I get for saving humans. Somewhat irritated, I snap back.
[You're standing in a village full of people who's lives I've saved, and then protected, for absolutely no gain, and threaten me? Which one of us has issues with manners and respect? As you've been only too quick to point out, you are a human who celebrates killing monsters, yet I'm a monster who has saved humans. Is it possible that I've done more good for your kind than your family has?]
If I hit a nerve last time I spoke then this time I flat out kicked it. Muscles bulge on her arm as she struggles to restrain herself from pulling out her sword. I think she knows it would be a bad idea to fight here surrounded by villagers, but she looks so damn tempted.
[My brother gave his life fighting in the Dungeon, my father has dedicated himself to the Deep Legion for decades and he is a damn hero. The idea of a monster putting itself above them is an insult!]
… she might have a point I suppose.
[Yeah, I can see how you'd think that. I apologise].
[Soooo, what is the problem here? You think I'm mind controlling these people or something?]
[Uh, yes?] Morrelia pulls herself together, [Yes. It seem unbelievable that a group of humans would so readily accept the help of monsters from the Dungeon, impossible, even. I want to be sure that you aren't manipulating these people with your mind magic].
I sigh and give my antennae a quick clean as I think about the situation. Bringing my front legs up and pulling my antennae through the joint drags the sensitive detectors through the cleaning hairs on the back of my knee, ensuring the antennae remain effective and also feels quite pleasant.
I don't recall ever being this clean as a human actually…
[Look, Morrelia. I didn't want these people here, they followed me after my colony fled in this direction. We ran through or near a few human settlements, none of which we harmed, and this idiot] I stab one antenna at the priest, [decided that following us and depending upon the colony for protection was a great idea. To this point in time I've ensured that the colony won't harm the people here, tried to keep them safe from monsters and provided them with some help getting shelter. That's it. If you want to take over babysitting these people be my guest].
Morrelia's eyes narrowed.
[You could just be saying these things. Even if the villagers confirmed it, that could be because of your mind control, altering their memories].
I can't help but shrug my antennae.
[Then what are we talking for? If nothing I can say would convince you I don't mean any harm to these people, then why try and talk to me in the first place?]
If she wants to take over the protection of the village here and bar me from entry, then that could be a blessing in disguise. As long as I can get my info from the priest first, I'm happy enough to never come back!
[That is what I can't understand, monster] Morrelia bursts out, [why haven't you harmed these people?]
[Well they're super irritating, I agree with you there, but I don't think they deserve to me killed for it].
[Why? Any monster would be delighted to kill and eat all of these people. Experience! Food! Couldn't your colony grow in size from eating these people? What exactly is the reason why you are helping them?]
Ahhhh. Now we come down it. She's confused! Monsters from the Dungeon are supposed to be hateful things who kill and eat everything they can find, much like the Croca beasts are doing all over Liria right now. If we consider that, then finding an ant who seems quite content to live alongside people would be pretty darn weird, right?
If I were to explain that I myself was human in a previous life, that I don't particularly want to kill and eat something that I used to be, would that be convincing?
She'd probably think I was just insane. A rogue monster gone completely bananas. What to say then…
All I can think of to say is [I don't mind 'em that much, these villagers. You people are all right].