Gweheheheh. I have succeeded in dodging the meeting! Once my mutation was complete, I used all of my guile and cunning to slip away. Of course, I needed to find a place to wait out the time before the battle started where the council wouldn’t disturb me, so I naturally made straight for the gates in order to while away the time with the ants and humans stationed there.
When I poked my head out of the tunnels and the great outer gate of the nest loomed before me, I was more than a little surprised to find the entire council gathered and waiting for me.
“Ah, the Eldest has arrived at last,” Advant observed with a perfectly flat scent, “now we can start the meeting.”
You smug little…
“How did you even know which gate I would go to?” I demanded. “I could’ve gone to the other side of the nest for all you knew!”
“The assault is expected to be concentrated on this side of the nest,” the soldier responds without acknowledging my question, “how are our preparations looking at this point?”
Defeated, I had no choice but to sit in and listen to the council go over many of the details we had already expected. We were cut off from the other nests who had dug themselves in to the greatest possible extent in preparation. The Legion and golgari had loosely cooperated to form a wide net that locked us off from the Dungeon and had since established defensive positions at every exit. The Colony had effectively become boxed inside three separate cages. From our scouting we’d determined that the enemy had concentrated their forces here, at the main nest. Clearly they intend to deal as powerful a blow against the Colony as possible in the time they have. Makes sense, considering the rising threat of a wave. If they can cripple us enough, then they may not even have to lift a finger to destroy the rest of us as the other nests may be too weakened to survive the wave on their own.
Meanwhile, the Legion and golgari could just clean this nest out, re-establish the gates and wait out the storm. I’ve no doubt they would be able to manage their own defence against the monsters that will come.
By the end of the meeting, I almost fell into torpor. It’s important stuff, obviously, but there really isn’t anything to go over that we didn’t already know, or didn’t suspect would happen. All that was left to do was hold the gates. If we could do that, we would survive, if not, not. When the discussion finally wraps up, someone pokes me back to my senses and I notice Propellant shaking Vibrant out of torpor. Then it’s off to the gates to prepare.
Once there I learn that things are already well under way. Enid steps out for our agreed on appeal for sanity, only for it to unsurprisingly fall on deaf ears. The Legion was never likely to back down, but I kind of hoped they would. To my surprise, not a single one of the villagers or folks from Rylleh decide to cross the fence, despite making it perfectly clear they could if they wanted to. The humans give off a determined and solid air, as if they are enduring a trial that they cannot contemplate failing. At least, that’s the sort of thing Beyn has been shouting for the last hour. The man is a preaching machine and has put his Skills on full display here today. It’s a while before the battle is expected to begin, and he’s out here pumping people up with fiery words and blazing passion. How he keeps going without tearing his throat apart, I have no idea, but he does. The people are loving it and their energy is quickly raised to fever pitch even as more sensible people like Enid and Isaac look on from the side, bemused.
The ants, for their part, pay no mind to the spectacle at all. Instead, the thousands of members of the Colony stationed here spend their time making last second preparations, checking every tunnel, every trap, every mechanism for the umpteenth time to ensure that it will perform as expected.
When the time finally comes, I make my way up the gate along with a smattering of humans and ants. My pets come along for the ride also. Sally ports are a fairly standard feature of a defensive wall or gate, a small opening that a group can exit from without having to open the gate proper. In constructing the great gates of the nest the carvers were sure to include these smaller doors but in a very ant way. The sally ports on our gates are all attached to the roof. So it is that Tiny, Crinis, Invidia and my very own honour guard exit through the hatch at the top of the gate and position ourselves to meet the enemy as they approach. At first glance it may seem as if this is an exposed location and a suicidal place to be, nothing could be further from the truth. The walls around us bristle with tunnels filled to the brim with ants. The whole point of the gate is so that we can harass and attack the enemy from relative safety, in order to do that we need to poke our noses out from behind it.
Normally this would involve soldiers standing on top of a wall in which the gate was placed, but the Colony didn’t want a wall. Ants can crawl straight up the things, so why bother? Instead, the gate covers the entire tunnel, a barrier between the inside and out. May it stand forever!
We don’t have long to position our battle line before the sound of fighting begins to make its way up the tunnel towards us. The crash and boom of spells, the crunch of stone and the acrid sting of acid fill the air and echo off the stone walls before us. After a few more minutes I can feel the ebb and flow of the magical warfare that’s taking place as the ants try to collapse boulders onto the heads of the Legion, throw fireballs, ice shards and everything else as the enemy deflects, disrupts and shields in order to push forward. Indeed, the Legion mages have become more ruthless and cunning over time as they reach out with their minds to attempt to crush the tunnels around the ants, forcing the Colony’s mages to enter a defensive battle to maintain the shape of the stone around them.
A running force of scouts keeps far ahead of the closest soldiers as they unleash a continuous barrage of acid. The specialised artillery ants are a sight to behold as they unleash litres and litres of sizzling acid with every blast, literally making it rain flesh dissolving liquid on the tightly packed ranks of our foes. As the legionaries advance towards us, they retreat a little more, never ceasing in their firing patterns.
Before long, the first ranks of the enemy come into sight and I can only sigh at the appearance of the hulking brute in the lead. That dreadful axe is already gleaming with energy, ready to unleash death upon us at any moment. In fact, behind the armoured demon I can even see an old friend, Morrelia. Despite wearing her helmet, I can tell from the colour and shape of the armour that it’s her inside there. I’d dearly love to ask her a question or two about this whole situation, but I sincerely doubt I’m likely to get a chance. After the time we spent together, I can’t say it doesn’t hurt to see her appear on the field of battle against us. Though she did save us the last time I saw her so …
At any rate, it’s time to get this show on the road.
“Anyone else think our guests look thirsty?” I ask nobody in particular. “Let’s give them a drink.”
A moment of silence.
“Should we release the acid?” comes a hesitant scent from behind the ceiling above me.
“Yes. That’s what I meant when I said give them a drink. I don’t mean for them to actually drink the acid, but rather insinuating… never mind. Just tip it out.”
“Got it, Eldest,” comes the reply.
I thought that whole process was going to be so much cooler than it turned out. I had the line prepared and everything.
At this stage the Legion are only a hundred metres from the gate itself, still engaged in the slowly moving running battle as they advance step by step toward our gate. Packed ranks of hundreds of Legionaries make a hell of a turtle formation, their defensive Skills overlapping to form an impregnable barrier. Sure would be hard to crack through that. I can’t even imagine how much acid it would take to chew through their stamina.
From the holes in the ceiling I hear the screech of metal as a large mechanism is pulled to one side, followed quickly by the slosh, then the roar, of a massive amount of fluid.
Maybe twenty million litres will do the job?