The leading triad each stare daggers at me as my siblings sweep through their office, crawling over the walls. They probe every surface for potential valuables leaving no stone unturned. Already various items have been snatched up in greedy mandibles and carted away under the disbelieving eyes of the Shapers. I doubt this is how they expected a monster invasion to go, most of them seem to scarcely believe they’re still alive. If I’m being honest, that’s not an unreasonable state of mind for them to be in.[I don’t suppose you thought you’d wind up in a situation like this, did you Plamine?] I can’t help but taunt a little.
The once powerful Shaper is a shadow of her former self, looking frazzled and worn down, as much a person with solid rock for skin can. She glares at me fiercely before replying.[It seems we were right to treat you as a monster and not as a person. You’re actions reveal the beast that you are.]
Her mental communication is loaded with venom but the sheer arrogance of her words robs me of the ability to address her tone.[You don’t think stuffing me in a cell and trying to kill me has motivated my response in any way?] [You should be thanking us,] she sneers, [you gained much from the Cult of the Worm, did you not? Our experience and knowledge, levels and Biomass. You were happy to take those things from us. Look how you have rewarded our hospitality.] [You’re out of control, lady.] I clack my mandibles. [You had so many opportunities to prevent this outcome. You could have left me alone in the Dungeon, but no. You could have treated me with dignity, but no. You could have taken my bargain when it was offered, but no. You’re going to get the bad ending that you worked so hard to achieve.] [You speak as if you are the only thing that mattered, but there are many points of view, many shifting alliances. Even if we wanted to change our policy, there were existing considerations you know nothing about.]
I shrug my antennae.[So? I don’t have to take into account your situation, only my own. If someone else has driven you to this point, then blame them, not me.]
I give her a friendly pat on the head with one claw and she flinches away from me. Gravus looks like he’s about ready to explode with rage, but perhaps the mandibles around his neck are helping him hold it in.[Now that my family is here, we’re going to ransack this outpost, take everything we can use and leave you with a smoking ruin. Them’s the breaks, I suppose.] [My people will hunt you down, monster,] she spat, [and when we do, I’m going to be there. I rip your core out myself and reincarnate your corpse just so I can desecrate it.]
Well, that’s just nasty.[Your people are indeed going to be coming for us, which is why we’re trying to move quickly. But, you know what? I’m not that certain that I want to leave you behind anymore.]
Obviously a Golgari can’t really turn pale. They can turn a bit grey, though.[You wouldn’t!] [Why not? Like you said, Shaper knowledge is invaluable, I’m not going to arrogantly say that I’ve learned everything you guys happen to know. Also, when your people come for us, they might hesitate just a little if we have some of their own held hostage.] [And why would I cooperate?]
Plamine is attempting to appear strong, but I can tell that she’s rattled. Not that I blame her. She’s facing the prospect of being dragged off by a ravenous horde of insect monsters.[The only way you get to go back to your people alive is if you keep me happy. If you don’t, I’ll be feeding you to the larvae. They get ever so hungry.]
I can’t help but get a little overdramatic with the threats. Luckily, I think she bought it.[We’ll take the younger one as well,] I add as an afterthought. [What?!] Plamine screeches in my mind but before she can blink, I’ve tasked two soldiers with taking away her fellow triad member who doesn’t appear to be very amused by the situation, if the kicking and screaming is any indicator. [I’ll kill you!] Plamine rages.
I stare at her carefully but the emotion appears genuine. Interesting. We might be able to use this leverage.
Plamine is dragged out of the room by another soldier whilst being carefully watched by a Mage as the rest of the Shapers nervously watch. Not seeing any reason to keep them in suspense, I open up communications with them.[Hey there folks. It’s Anthony, in case you didn’t recognise me. I’m going to take those two with me when we leave for hostage purposes. You’ll probably get them back, we’ll see how it goes.]
A pause.[Maybe don’t kidnap and try to kill the next sentient creature you run across. Bit of advice there… What else? Ah, we’ll leave you all alive, no worries there.]
They all sag with relief.[… I should have mentioned that first. Sorry. Catch you all later then, please don’t hunt us down… Bye.]
I awkwardly cut off the communication and turn to the scout next to me.
“Burke, are we done in here?”
“Looks like it. Other floors are reporting their tasks are complete as well.”
“Great.” The tension drains out of me a little. “I’m done with this place. Let’s go home!”[Tiny! Invidia! Finish eating in a hurry, we are getting out of here!] [Harr?!!? NOM! NOM! NOM! NOM!] [You don’t have to message me that you’re eating! Just eat!]
Damn ape! That’s a disturbing mental sound.
I mean, how do you even convey the sound of chewing through mind communication? Actually, I don’t want that question answered. As we leave the chamber, Crinis unwinds her tentacles from around the remaining Shapers and once more latches onto me, her body goopifying itself as she adheres to my carapace.[I’m back, Master!] [… I noticed.] [Did I do well?] [Absolutely.]
She wriggles with glee and I can feel my carapace crunching as she exerts her strength unintentionally. Geez. She’s a lot stronger than she was before. Quite the evolution she undertook. I’ll have to give her a core a good look over once we get some breathing room and a bit of downtime. At this point it’s hard to say when that might actually happen. Maybe we escape cleanly, maybe we get caught in a long, running battle with the Golgari. Ugh, I hope not.
As I rush back down through the holes and tunnels an ever increasing tide of ants joins be, legs blurring in a flurry of movement. Many carry object in their mandibles, cores, valuable materials, a few have even got books. No idea what they intend to do with those. Can we even read? Our eyes aren’t exactly made for hyper-focus on one thing. Well, I’m sure they know what they’re doing better than I do.
I pass our two prisoners on the way, each being herded by a collection of ants each, soldiers and mages for the most part. I can tell they’re trying to move slowly, but the ants are not having it, prodding and snapping at them constantly. In this manner, we retreat from the outpost and back out into the Dungeon tunnels, a very full Tiny and Invidia slotting in with the procession.
From here, it’s a long journey back to the Colony. Hopefully we figure out spatial magic on the way, could help the trip along.