As Garralosh lies, heaving in pain, her aura diminished almost to nothing, I receive healing from a team of hastily summoned ants. Though the battle has drained them to the point of exhaustion, they manage to squeeze out enough healing mana that I’m able to push my legs underneath my body and stand up once more.
“Eldest.” Victor speaks up as she approaches from my right. “Is it over? Do you think Garralosh can still fight?”
“I don’t know. I’ll go and sort it out. Get the colony back to safety. If the Croca-Beasts come back, we could have trouble.”
I see her hesitate for a brief moment.
“Are you sure? We can send a team of soldiers.”
I must look like absolute hell. Truth be told, I feel that way. The healers have done what they can, but even then I’m barely together. The cracks and holes in my carapace are in the process of closing over, and my organs are back on the inside of my body, which is a win. The pain is still incredible though, and to be honest, I’m desperate for a nap. But I won’t risk anyone else, not after what happened to Grant.
“I’ll go. Stay back.”
With that, I begin to pick up my legs, one at a time, and walk toward my fallen foe. Even most of the way dead, Garralosh is still mighty in appearance, her enormous frame dwarfs me as I approach. The pure madness is gone from her eyes now. Instead of rage they are filled with pain and anguish. Which isn’t surprising. The Gravity Bomb has taken a massive chunk out of her. From her left shoulder to her mid-section, part of her body has been perfectly carved away where the sphere of the spell touched her. What’s incredible is that she was able to prevent the rest of her body from being dragged in, even though she was so close. Being that strong has its upsides, I guess.
Shudders ripple through her as her nerves are afire with agony. To think, she wouldn’t have ended like this if she hadn’t chased after a few hundred survivors and me. Hundreds of years of fighting in the Dungeon, reduced to this. I can’t find any sympathy in me, can’t find much emotion at all, to be honest. I’m just tired.
My brains are collectively fried, but still I push myself and spin together a mind magic construct as I slowly approach. It takes time. Both to arrive at Garralosh’s exposed neck, and to form a mind bridge between the two of us. I can feel something drag me forward. The Collective Will Vestibule is whispering to me, even as it trickles life giving energy back into my body. A thousand tiny voices that urge me to one action. Not that it would have mattered. I’d have done it anyway.
As I approach, I see her eye track me, barely focused.[This could have gone better for you,] I observe to the fallen crocodile. [… My… My… ]
She struggles to speak as I draw closer to her, my mandibles opening wide. She’s alone in this moment, her children have abandoned her, even the Kaarmodo appears to have retreated in the aftermath.
CHOMP![You have slain level 132 Unique Monster ‘Garralosh’] [You have gained experience.] [You have reached level 2, One Skill point awarded.] [You have reached level 3, One Skill point awarded.] [You have reached level 4 …]
I let the voice of the system fade in my mind as the air flows of out Garralosh like a bellows. After a moment, it’s done and she lies inert. After a life of senseless violence, she is just Biomass now. Nothing more, nothing less. And if I’m not mistaken, quite a lot of Biomass. In fact, there are thousands of monsters worth of Biomass waiting to be collected… this is going to take ages to clean up.
I stand still a moment, to try and take it in. I’d wondered how it might feel, to be in this moment, to exist in this place, but I can’t explain it. I feel relief, I suppose. Damn, I’m tired. I slept for so long, and I’m tired again already. The workers will give me hell for it if I go back to rest now!
Speaking of which, the colony has begun to gather around. Those who had emerged already, those who remained behind the walls, even the core shapers and their pets who had hidden underground, all emerge and make their way towards the fallen titan.
In moments, almost the entire colony is gathered around me. The Queen is still resting in the Dungeon, of course, defended and guarded by a watchful contingent. The Brood Tenders are doing their thing, I’ve no doubt, but just about everyone else is here, it seems.
The silence and stillness are heavy. Not many creatures can do silent watchfulness like a huge crowd of ants can. They don’t move, they don’t speak. They physically can’t blink. Not even a whisper of pheromone in the air either. What do they want? A speech?
What would I even say? Oh boy. I’m getting stressed. I don’t know how to deal with this level of attention. If someone could give me a level of direction here? Some instruction? No? Think for a second Anthony! If you were a giant ant monster who’d just achieved a long sought after victory, what would you want to hear? Wait a second. I am an oversized ant monster who just achieved a long sought after victory! Just tell them whatever is on my mind, and it should be fine!
Nice start! Smooth.
“Today, through the efforts of every member, the colony has emerged victorious in our battle against Garralosh and her children. The mother of crocs is dead, her children are scattered and the horde has been smashed.”
I give my audience a quick eyeball to judge their reaction. It’s not helping, they don’t have one. Thousands of blank ant faces stare back at me. Even their antennae don’t twitch. The air is perfectly still now. After the chaos and calamity that has occurred here, the silence is bizarre, almost otherworldly.
“We.. Uh…” I stumble there a bit, I can admit it, keep pushing forward! “We lost many members of the family today. It’s important that their struggle isn’t forgotten. They were not soulless creatures who served unthinkingly, that was what the horde had been. Our fallen served their family with all of their strength and gave everything they had, willingly.”
As the Will of the colony trickles into me, I grow stronger and I grow more confident, my pheromones reaching far and wide.
“I want all of you to remember this. This is the kind of family I wish for us to be. It is right, it is ant, for all of us to give everything for the colony.”
I can feel the flicker of agreement in their eyes as I say that. It’s natural, of course. The colony should be placed above all. But I’m not done. That alone is not enough.
“Remember. If you do that. The colony will give everything for you in return.”
Hmm. I’ve lost them on that one. I don’t think they understand what I mean. Never mind. I’ll teach them and they’ll learn in time.
“We’ve achieved victory today. Don’t forget it! For the colony!”
“FOR THE COLONY!”
Their response is so intense my antennae freeze up for a second as the wave of ‘voices’ smack into me all at once. And it keeps going, on and on and on.
“FOR THE COLONY! FOR THE COLONY!”
Only when I raise my antennae high does it stop.
“There is an enormous amount of work to do. Stop slacking! The Biomass here will birth ten thousand new siblings! Don’t waste it!”
And with that, the crowd dispersed. All at once every ant began to move in a different direction and within seconds there were teams everywhere, carving up the Biomass and trails of workers form to haul it seemingly from thin air. Everywhere I look the battle field teems with ants, the battle seemingly forgotten, intent on their work.
Except behind me. The body of Garralosh lies still and untouched.[Tiny, Crinis. I need you two up here. No chance I’m going to be able to eat this all on my own.]