Only now do I remember my two passengers that I’d thrown off in a rush. Poor Crinis! The little thing can’t even see!
Turning quickly I unceremoniously drag the Queen this way and that until I notice some movement in the grass on the forest floor. Rushing over I see several little tentacles extended straight up, wiggling frantically.
There it is!
I carefully place one of my legs so that it is just touching the seeking limbs.[It’s me! Climb up!]
Moments a later a much more relaxed blob is resting on my back and a very small worker has emerged from behind a nearby tree and also climbed up onto my head. Mini crew assembled I return, Queen in tow, to the scene of the carnage.
Surrounded by the remains of her own deceased children the Queen isn’t looking good. A horde of workers are rushing about her, their anxiety is plain in their disjointed movements, darting backwards and forwards, unsure what they should do to help the situation.
The human Queen seems rather unhappy about being this close to such a massive monster but I hardly care. Her people are what caused this problem, if she gets uncomfortable I’ll shed no tears. If she tries to harm the real Queen then she will very quickly regret it.
“Mother! Are you ok?!” I cry.
In my mind I hadn’t imagined she could be injured this badly, she’d always seemed so indestructible that even if I worried about her getting injured, I hadn’t really believed it would happen.
Her super hard carapace met its match in those devastating sword skills today, numerous cuts and gashes mar her body, some of them very deep.
“I will … be ok” she replies, her usual calm voice strained to the limit.
“Can you heal yourself? Cast some magic?” I urge her worriedly.
She doesn’t reply for a moment, her great body heaving as she labours to draw in air.
“No …. Strength” she manages finally.
No strength!? What the heck does that mean? She can’t concentrate enough to cast the spell? Does she not have enough mana?! This is really bad!
Becoming more concerned every moment I start to tap up and down her wounds with my antennae almost without thinking about it, my ant instincts kicking in and overriding my more rational behaviour as I try to scramble for a solution.
One of these cuts is way too deep! Right in the center of her thorax a deep and wide wound has opened in her carapace, within the wound I’m sure I can see something glittering.
Is that her core?!
A chill strikes me to the bone. Had that skill gone any further then it might have damaged the core directly, something I feel very confident would be immediately fatal to a monster. Just a few more inches and mother would have perished.
Appalled by the thought I turn on my mana sense and examine her core. Usually blazing bright, her core is more of a dim ember right now. Why is her core so weak?! It should be full of mana and packed with energy! Is this why she seems so weak? Is there something wrong with her core?
Desperate to make a difference I start pulling all of the mana I can out of my own core and sending it in a stream of mist towards the Queens. Without knowing if it will help in any way I persist until my core has almost been tapped completely dry of mp before I flick on my mana sense again and anxiously seek any changes.
There is a slight different I think? The response I get seems a little more energetic this time.
Is she not getting enough mana in her core?
“Take the Queen into the farm!” I shout as loudly as I can to all of the surrounding workers, “rush in there and destroy everything and then take mother inside and protect her!”
If she needs more mana then placing her inside the farm is going to be the best place we can find in the short term. If the workers pack in there tightly enough then there is practically no chance that a monster will be able to spawn and have a chance of hurting the Queen.
“As soon as you can you need to heal yourself!” I urge the Queen, “your injuries are very serious!”
I’m worried she’ll start trying to heal the injured workers before she bothers to cast the spell on herself. She is usually selfless to a fault!
She begins to carry herself away, slowly and painfully moving towards the farm. Half the colony has assembled to help her, many workers walking straight under her and using their own backs to lift up their parent, trying to help her take the weight of her feet.
I watch her go, still very concerned.
I have other work to do right now though. I’ll have to trust that my siblings will be able to complete the task they’ve been given.
Tiny is already on his way back to the battlefield to complete his task. He has already transported the officer to the top of the anthill where several workers have surrounded him, tapping him with antennae and taking the odd nibble as he resolutely lies face down in the dirt.
“Watch him and don’t let him move”, I tell the workers as I move past, dragging the human Queen up the side of the ant hill towards the opening at the top.
The trick now is going to be getting her down there.
Shrugging mentally I slowly lift my head until my captive is forced onto her toes. Eventually she reaches up to grab my mandibles with her hands in order to help carry her weight, rather than have all of her body weight handing from her neck.
Once this is done I begin the decent. Fortunately we don’t need to go far until I can stash the Queen in my own personal chamber near the top of the hill.
One inside I lower her to the ground and release my mandibles.
The second I do, a Titan-Croca smacks me directly in the brain!
At least that’s how I feel! My mind rocks back and forth within my head as if it were a bell that had been struck by a hammer. Gritting my mandibles hard I try to shake it off. What the heck was that?!
Another one! I can feel my body physically recoil as if I’d actually been hit. Despite being disoriented I can tell that my body hasn’t been hit. Something is attacking my mind! Blackness threatens to overwhelm me but I barely manage to hold on to consciousness!
It’ll take a hell of a lot more than that to put me down!
It’s pretty obvious who the culprit is. The Queen is sitting on the dirt floor of my chamber, fingers placed on her temples as she stares daggers at me.
I will never yield to you!
The rage I felt at watching my mother crawl away on the edge of death explodes in my heart and burns away the dizziness I feel. These damn humans have killed so many of us today, you want to try and take me out too?!
Pouncing forward suddenly I open my mandibles wide, threatening a fatal strike!
Before I can get close enough my mind is struck once more! Not a hammer this time, a drill!
Pointed, insistent pressure batters at the walls of my mind, trying to tear down my defences and invade my thoughts. I have no idea what sort of attack this is but I sure as hell don’t enjoy it! Dammit if only my core wasn’t so tapped out I might be able to push back with mana in some way.
All I can do is stoke the fires of anger within me and use it as fuel to endure the pain. As the drilling pushes harder and harder against my mind I push back just as hard, even as it intensifies the pain.
My vision has gone completely blank at this point, the pain in my mind is sending everything white. I flip on my mana sense, hoping I might be able to make something out. To my surprise I can. A glittering bridge like magical construct has been formed between myself and the Queen, the main difference being the part that touches me is less a friendly, welcoming path and more of a pointed needle.
I redouble my efforts to push back. Who knows what might happen if she succeeds in this attack. She might just kill me or she might take control of me, I have no idea what mind magic is capable of!
God it hurts!
Our mental bout continues until I’m sure the torture will go on forever. My mind feels like its breaking apart at the edges!
Then, suddenly, the pressure evaporates!
My vision floods back and I shocked to see the human Queen stumbling to once side, surprise written all over her face and a tiny ant latched onto her ankle!