"Hold the line!" sprayed Grant to the ants around her, "don't let these motherless scum over the wall!"
She faked left before biting down hard with her mandibles on a clawed hand that threatened her. The dirt wall defences of the ants had held firm so far, only by voluntary retreat had they been taken by the enemy. As each consecutive wall had been surrendered, the ants' defences had become concentrated and more sophisticated.
Now on the sixth wall, the greater preparations were bearing fruit. The moat was deep here, and filled with Biomass. Sharpened stakes dotted the face of the wall and many monsters had lost their lives pushing forward into them.
Spears of water erupted out of the moat and dozens of monsters fell back, pierced through their sides. Not far from where Grant fought on the wall, the water mage slumped to the ground, exhausted.
"Get back to the nest," Grant ordered, her pheromones cutting through the myriad scents of the battle.
"I've got one more in me" the mage forced out.
"Denied, get back in the nest and recharge. One spell here isn't worth delaying your return to the field later," Grant ordered even as she fended off another attacker on the wall.
The mage ant pushed her feet back under her and with the assistance of a nearby healer, crawled away from the fighting and towards the nest.
The general assigned to this section of wall shook her head. The colony was pushing itself hard and the will to sacrifice themselves had risen within each ant as long as the battle had gone on. When push came to shove, each individual would rather die than allow another to die in their place. It had become harder and harder to get soldiers to take breaks, to make healers recharge their mana glands and even the generals had become obstinate, some had even pushed forward into the fight themselves!
The generals were no larger than a juvenile soldier. All the evolutionary energy in their second evolution went into raising their Cunning and the Combat Aura gland. When it came to applying damage with their mandibles, even scouts were much superior, forget about the soldiers themselves!
"Get back!" Grant yelled.
The ants around her scuttled back from the wall just as a giant rotting toad monster opened its distended and grotesque mouth and unleashed a gout of putrid liquid that washed over the surface of the wall.
"Dirt! Go! Go!" the general ordered even as she ran forward with her mandibles filled with soft earth.
The green liquid bubbled and steamed on the ground as the ants scrambled to cover it with dirt. After a few seconds the horrific mess was nowhere in sight and they leapt back to the edge of the wall to battle against the monsters who threatened to spill over the edge.
Grant cursed inside. Those stupid toads had become a problem ever since they'd first appeared at the fifth wall. If they weren't spotted in the heaving mass of monsters at the wall before they spewed out their poisonous, acidic soup a great deal of damage could be done to the ants in a short period of time. The wounds caused were excruciating and required a massive amount of mana to heal. Almost every healer on the wall had been sent back to rest at one point, drained of their mana after treating the burns.
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"Hold the line!" Grant shouted once again and her fellow soldiers, which their larger bodies and powerful mandibles stepped once more.
Grant felt the ground beneath her feet vibrate as a low growl from hundreds of throats shook the air. She stared out over the thronging horde, much smaller now than it had been at the start, and she saw them.
They pushed their way through the horde in packs of three or four. Standing upright they towered over many of the monsters around them. Light glinted off their dark scales and razor claws. Some of them opened their massive jaws wide and flashed their teeth as their growls continued to rumble deep in their chests.
"THEY'RE COMING!" she roared. "THE CROCS ARE COMING!"
All along the wall the ants rippled with energy as the word raced down the line and back up to the nest. Excitement pounded in Grant's thorax. Finally the filthy crocs were prepared to show their faces. At last the battle would move to its destined conclusion!
Since the smaller crocs had moved forward, the big one couldn't be too far behind!
Sure enough, it didn't take long for the order to come back from the main nest.
"We're abandoning the wall! Prepare to push on the count of ten!"
"Still work to do here! Don't slack!"
"Don't slack, yourself!"
Grant braced herself and she felt the soldiers on either side do the same.
"Mages start to channel! Stay clean on the lines!" The generals hollered.
The smaller ant mages came forward until they were right behind their soldier siblings and began to channel the mana within them.
They crafted it into the mind bending shapes and constructs that would bring death to their enemies and a reprieve to the colony, if only for a few seconds.
As one, the soldiers shoved forward and ripped into the monsters in front of them. They teamed up to throw monsters down from the wall and shove them back, clearing space to allow them to disengage. The soldiers backed up and turned around before they rushed away from the wall, leaving the smaller mages as the front line.
Up and down the wall a hundred ant mages completed their spells, stepped forward and unleashed them on the horde at the foot of the walls. Gouts of flame and spears of water poured down from the top of the wall. The shrieks and roars of injured, infuriated monsters filled the air as the ants silently completed their deadly task.
With their limited cores and mana glands, they weren't able to maintain the magical onslaught for long, only a few seconds, but it was enough. As the monsters of the horde descended on their wounded members to feast on their Biomass the ants turned and fled back to the seventh and penultimate wall.
"Looks like the number crunching by the bigger brained castes was pretty much dead on," Grant observed to the nearby general as they retreated together.
The two ants carefully followed the prepared scent trails as they narrowly dodged the traps and tunnels that dotted the open ground between the walls.
"We might even have one wall to spare," the general chuckled.
Grant shook her antennae.
"We'll need more than one to hold off Garrlosh's children. They're bigger and stronger than most of the trash we've been dealing with so far."
The ants crawled up the face of their seventh defensive layer and took position at the top. They would have a few precious seconds of rest before they were tested again. Rested troops greeted them as they crested the wall. Scouts, soldiers, healers and generals, already in place and ready to battle the enemy.
The ant hill rose high behind them, much closer now than when the battle started. The colony was prepared to make their final stand now. Once this position was overrun, only one wall would stand stood between the nest itself and the horde.
"How many casualties so far?" Grant asked one of the healers.
"Below three hundred so far," the worker replied.
A remarkable number. A miracle almost. They'd defeated thousands of mindless enemies for the cost of only several hundred colony members. It would get harder now though.
At that moment, Grant noticed a disturbance at the peak of the nest. A flood of worker and artisan caste ants poured out of the opening at the peak, followed by a familiar, massive frame.
Grant felt conflicted, but she had to admit, it was a good time for the Queen to reappear.