We lay low in the Dungeon for hours. The dirt and stone that surrounded us meant that we heard nothing of our pursuers, even if they passed within ten metres of us. The constant warfare amongst the regular monsters remained constant, as it always way when they weren't brainwashed by some fat ass Croc.
Haaa. I really need to get back to the colony, all of this stress is giving me a potty mouth. Some down time might be nice.
[We need to get back to the village] Morrelia sent over our mental connection, catching me by surprise.
She'd been brooding and punching the walls in fits of anger during our stay here. I could tell she wasn't too pleased by what I'd had to say, who even knew if it was the truth. To me, it didn't really matter why an empire of elderly lizards was unleashing a Dungeon monster on their weaker neighbours, what mattered is that they had, and how we were going to cope with it.
[If we rush back to the colony, won't we just lead them straight there?] I protested.
Leading the horde and Garralosh down onto my family was not my idea of being a filial worker. I could already see the twenty, rolling their antennae with frustration at this new mess that I'd caused them whilst refusing to say anything about to me because I was technically the eldest.
[We aren't dealing with back kingdom hedge wizards now, Anthony] Morrelia growled at me. She was angry, frustrated, and it was making her a bit short. [They'll have scried out the entire south by now, since they know which direction we came from. Maybe they had done that even before we poked the hive with a stick. Point is, they will know about the village and the colony. They aren't going to leave them be.]
[A tiny little village and colony of harmless ants? Why would go to all that I effort?] I muttered.
Morrelia snorted at my use of the word 'harmless', I don't think she's buying just how innocent and loveable we are. Or perhaps she knows what we might be capable of…
[They came here to eradicate the people, I don't think they'll leave before the job is done. Besides] she added, [I don't think they'll want you or I to survive, given what we've seen.]
Makes sense. It doesn't really mean much if you have raised a secret weapon that nobody knows you can control, if someone has seen you controlling it.
[So the only way we actually make it out of this alive, outside of fleeing through the Dungeon, is to rally the colony and village and fight against them?!]
The warriors face twisted at my mention of fleeing through the Dungeon, as if the very thought was repellent to her. Hey! I didn't actually consider doing it! As if I would leave the colony alone to fend for itself in its time of trial. That is my family right there.
[Correct] Morrelia nodded. [I have no idea how, but the only we make out is if we fight. If we try to flee, they'll hunt us down eventually. I don't know a way that we could hide from their scrying magic, we just don't have the Skills.]
And fleeing into the wilderness would put the colony at risk at just the moment we were beginning to explode in our potential. If we'd had an extra month then I wouldn't nearly be this worried, the number of ants the colony would be able to wield by then would smash the horde following Garralosh and drag the stupid Croc down into the mud.
As it was we just didn't have the firepower.
The villagers were in much the same position. The training and Dungeon expeditions had done a lot to take a collection of former famers, labourers and traders and put them on the road to becoming proper warriors, but they weren't there yet. There wasn't enough of them and they weren't far enough along in their skill development to turn the tide against a monster like Garralosh.
[Okay then. First thing first, we need to get the heck out of here and we need to do it fast] I decided.
[You have a plan?] Morrelia asked, her eyes sharpening on me.
[Nope] I admitted, [plans aren't really my strong point. I was thinking we could just bust out the way we came in and hightail it south. It's not subtle but it gets us there as quickly as possible.]
Morrelia stared at me for a moment before she threw back her head and barked out a laugh.
[Too bad the Legion doesn't accept monsters in the ranks] she chuckled, [I have a feeling you'd fit right in.]
I turned my antennae toward the woman, reading the air around here subconsciously. She constantly talked about the Legion, not directly of course, but always mentioning it here and there. I know her father is a massive big shot with them, but what about Morrelia? She's powerful, very much so. Why wasn't she a member? I refuse to believe she was kicked out.
[So…] I began.
[I quit after my brother died in the service] she interrupted me.
How does someone even read what an ant is about to say? I don't even have facial muscles on the outside! Still, what she'd said did raise another question.
[How …] I began.
[My father did not take it well] she answered.
And judging by the steeled expression on the Berserkers case I wasn't going to get more information than that out of her. I think I'd pried enough anyway.
[So we break through the front?] I asked.
[I think its most likely the horde will have returned to Garralosh' side. They can't have their monsters rushing around in the Dungeon forever, no matter that they can replenish their stock during the wave. Let's go with your idea, but if we run into too much opposition we can retreat back to this position and try to find another way out] Morrelia suggested.
Sounded good to me.
[Alright then Tiny and Crinis, are you guys ready to fight your way out?]
At the word 'Fight', Tiny literally seemed to come alive, energy and light filled his eyes and his hands clenched and unclenched at the prospect of battle. For her part, Crinis unfolded a few tentacles and walked her way over to me, settling onto my carapace primly. If a shadowy ball of infinite despair could do anything 'primly'.
[I am ready to fight by your side, Master] she declared.
Well, good then.
[But I feel compelled to inform you] she added after a moment's hesitation, [that I believe I have reached the required level to evolve.]
[Really?! I sputtered with excitement, [that's great!] I couldn't help but reach back with my antennae to pat and stroke the little ball.
[Well done Crinis!] I praised her effusively, [and you even managed to tell me on your own! This is going to be great!]
Dang. Too much praise, too quickly. She'd short circuited again.