I’m currently entombed in a shell of Crinis after all. Not only is she covering my eyes, she’s covering all of me! How is she even doing this? She sent her entire body through my shadow in a flash! So much faster than she was able to use the Shadows before. This can only mean one thing…[You’ve evolved!] [Of course, Master! Did you think I would rest before coming back to your side?] [Well… no. I didn’t.]
My Vestibule tingles with energy, causing panic to spark inside me.[Wait, Crinis! What’s the Colony doing?!] [Oh, they’re coming! They’ll be here any minute.]
Through the liquid shadow flesh of Crinis’ body I can sense the ongoing battle. Thuds and impacts ripple through her form as she takes damage that had been directed at me.[Why are they coming?! They need to stay hidden!] [Once they got this close, they didn’t seem to want to stop. I think they’re almost here.] [Dammit, Crinis! At least let me see what’s happening! That’s an order!]
Reluctantly, the flesh parts and lets the light in once more, blinding me momentarily after the pitch black Crinis had inflicted on me. She appears to have gone through a few changes whilst I was gone. A writhing mass of flesh and tentacles rises from my back like a pillar, three separate mouths gaping and gnashing at the air as she sends her limbs twisting through the air toward the Golgari. For their part, the Warriors and Shapers are firing a literal barrage of strikes her way, the savage light from their weapons cutting into her flesh dozens of times.[Crinis! Are you alright?!] [I’m fine! Don’t worry about me, Master. I’m here to keep you safe!] [You need to get off me, Crinis. We need to end this fight before the Colony arrives!]
The wall to my right crumbles as a huge pair of mandibles break through the stone.
Somehow loud enough that the scent reaches my antennae despite being almost totally covered by Crinis, the war cry of the dumbest ant in the history of the species floods the tunnel as a HUGE soldier bursts through the wall and dives headfirst into combat. The Golgari are dumbfounded for the smallest of windows before they move to respond. That’s Leeroy?! She’s big! Some of the Colony members must have hit tier four whilst I was away. What an exciting development! No wait…
“What the heck are you doing?!” I scream, but since my pheromone gland is covered, they don’t smell a thing I’m saying.[Get off, Crinis! I need to fix this! NOW!] I bark at her.
But it’s already too late. Maybe it was too late the moment I was captured. Once Leeroy has made her entrance, a dozen similar holes open up from all angles of the tunnel and hundreds of ants swarm out of them. The Golgari are overwhelmed in seconds, buried under an avalanche of insects. Only a few have the intelligence to flee the second an ant is seen, the rest fall victim to the relentless crush of the Colony. Before I can count to ten, the tunnel is awash with ants crawling over every surface and all signs of conflict are done with.
“The Eldest has been secured!”
“West tunnel, clear!”
“East tunnel, clear!”
“Move, move, move! Don’t stop those claws! Scouts every hundred metres for a kilometre in all tunnel branches!”
“Prepare to close the emergency tunnels! Earth mages at the ready!”
“Has the council been notified?”
“They’re on the way!”
Why the hell are they coming here?! As the tidal wave of pheromone conversations wash over my antennae, finally freed from Crinis’ death grip, I feel the welcome buzz of my family wrap around me once more. The Vestibule is completely alive now, whispering to me the needs and desires of every ant within range. It’s overwhelming at first, but when I hear the council members are coming this way, I lever myself to my feet.
Crinis has pulled back a little after I yelled at her, but she’s still clinging to my abdomen, stuck to me like putty from a hell dimension.[Tiny, Crinis, Invidia. We need to get moving.] [Yes, Master!] [Harrrr.] [Yesssss.]
They each respond in their own way and gather around me as I begin to march through the tunnel.
“Anyone tell me where my friend Jim went?” I ask the ants nearby.
“The worm? You should find him a few hundred metres down the tunnel. Take a left at the branch,” a scout replies.
At least I think that was a scout. Judging by the long antennae and sleek carapace design, it would be weird if they were a soldier. As time passes and I move further away from the site of the battle, the number of ants congregating actually increases. More and more of them are flooding out of the nearby tunnels and climbing out of small emergency tunnels that they’ve dug every second until I feel as if I’m inside the nest, rather than some tunnel goodness knows how far away.
Naturally, every ant is busy. Hustling here and there, securing their own patch of territory, covering their own personal angle, all to ensure that I return to the Colony safely. It’s enough to bring a lump to the throat. They sacrifice so much for me. I have to stop letting them down, or what would be the point of me? The oldest and strongest member of the Colony can’t keep dragging it down like this! I’m the Paragon, dangit![Master, who is this… creature?] Crinis breaks into my thoughts.
Oh, right! I didn’t make introductions.[Crinis, this is the final member of our group, Invidia. He’s an envy demon from the third strata. He’ll be in charge of support magic and eye lasers. Invidia, this is your older sister, Crinis. She’s in charge of being terrifying and tentacles.]
The little eyeball with wings looks up at the now massive Crinis who performs a truly horrifying manoeuvre. Her mouths, which had been facing forward, invert through her body and appear on the other side before they open wide, displaying her razor sharp fangs. A single tentacle extends from the gelatinous blob of flesh her main body has become and Invidia reaches out a stick-thin arm to shake it.[Welcome, Invidia. Let’s protect the Master together.] [It sssssshalll be sssooo.]
Introductions complete, they return to their normal positions, Crinis clinging to my back and Invidia floating along behind me as Tiny brings up the rear. I notice that Crinis is still yet to detach herself from my back since she arrived.[You didn’t really mean it when you said you’d never let me go, did you Crinis?] […] [Come on, Crinis! Was it really that bad!?] [Yes.] […Really?] [Yes.] [… Alright then.]
There’s an argument lost. Well, she did a great job getting the Colony and coming back to find me. If it keeps her happy then I can’t complain.[You did well, Crinis. I might not have escaped if not for you. You saved me.] […]
Aaand she’s out.