chapter 657 – The Siege pt 3

The hated foe, the reviled enemy. My hatred of the centipede knows almost no bounds!  Long did they torment me in my youth, only for me to turn the tables on them and use the foul creatures as fuel for my own growth. Once the table flipped, I refuse to allow it to flip back again, no matter how much the Dungeon seems to like the putrid things. Naturally my own predisposition against the centipedes was passed onto the Colony which led to an aggressive campaign to delete them from the Dungeon. Wherever the Colony has been, war against the many-legs has been waged. Their nests have been expunged, their spawn points camped until the mana dissipated and no more of them appeared. It’s safe to say that whilst we ants have left most spawn points alone in order to have monsters to hunt, the centipede no longer exists within our territory. They have been deleted.

As a result of this extensive activity, a tremendous number of centipede cores has flooded into the claws of the core shapers. Interestingly enough, it was found that the centipede core is a remarkably mouldable one. It’s as if the ‘genetic’ code of the many-legs is so basic and primitive that the shapers had great success utilising the Sophos’ ‘folding’ technique, fusing the centipede together with other creatures. After experimenting with various forms of the omni-present shadow beasts, this variant was created.

The Centi-sludge!

At least, that’s what I call them. I think that Ellie told me their name but I forget already.

Utilising advanced shadow flesh technology, these centi-sludges are able to mould themselves into a goop-like state in much the same way that Crinis does. Similarly, they have the ability to extend a tendril of dark flesh filled with the same potent toxin that filled the centipede stingers. A devious creation that represents the dedication and hard work of the Colony Core Shaper caste, the centi-sludge is a nasty little package on its own, but when multiplied by thousands can create all sorts of problems.

The Legion doesn’t hold back and displays the rapid response expected from soldiers with such high levels of discipline and training. The moment the tendrils start to reach for them the flash of blade light explodes as hundreds of swords and axes strike out, cutting swathes into the slithering pile of centipedes reaching for them. From where I hang on the roof, packing more and more gravity mana into my bomb I can see the light carve into the centipedes, bisecting many of them, but even so they don’t stop moving.

In truth, these pets have almost no defensive capabilities. The strikes cut straight through them without resistance, splitting hundreds of them apart at a time. But that just doesn’t do the job. The pieces of the monsters that have been cut away return to goop which is then claimed by any of the centi-sludges nearby, claiming the precious shadow flesh as part of their own body. Unless the core itself is damaged, or the Legion is able to cut away at them fast enough that they don’t get a chance to reform themselves before the flesh is dissolved into the Dungeon, they won’t stop coming!

Gweheheheh.

Although, to pay for this roach-like level of survivability, not only did the centi-sludges lack in toughness, but their offense was low. The purpose of this tactic is not to defeat the Legion, but rather to wear them down. If some of them get poisoned while we are at it, all the better! As the Legion engages with the pets, turning their attention from one crisis to the next, a sortie of ants emerge from the gate. A mixed force of mages and scouts, they begin to rain down ranged firepower toward the leading Legion figures in order to amp up the pressure. The Legion’s shields have formed a wall of light that now flickers and flashes with each new impact as the Colony ups their offense, trying to batter through the attacker’s stamina.

We don’t need to win, we only need to hold. As long as we make the Legion go back to their camp and try again another day, that’s a victory.

With a mental command I send Invidia to join in the barrage, lighting up the tunnel with his detonations. I warn him not to go too hard yet. Our part in this defence is not yet done. I don’t have the spare mental energy to reach out and keep  an eye on the ongoing mental warfare taking place in the tunnel but I wager it’s ramped up another notch. Attacking the mages by putting them under constant pressure to defend their comrades is a lynchpin of our strategy. Even if the individual Legionaries prove to be indefatigable monsters, the minds of the spellcasters can’t be. Even if they have hundreds of super wizards in their ranks, the Colony is able to throw literally thousands of ant mages at them until they crack.

Compress, compress, compress!

In the final stages of preparation, the only thing that exists in my consciousness is the gravity bomb. It grows darker and darker as the crushing force begins to take on a life of its own. Even so I continue to force more of the purple gravity mana into it until the pressure of holding the sphere of pure magic together starts to push back against my mind. Working with mana in this way is always headache inducing and each of my four brains is pounding by the time I cut off the supply of mana and prepare the spell for launch.

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“I’m ready to throw out the bomb. Clear the deck!” I call out a warning to the ants in the area.

The word is passed along rapidly and the core shapers coordinate to clear their centipedes out of the danger zone as quickly as possible.

[Invidia, are you clear?]

[Yessssss.]

Nice.

“Black hole in the hole!”

HHHHOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWLLLLLL!!!

As ever, the gravity bomb announces its presence in spectacular fashion, causing a storm of wind and filling the tunnel with the now familiar shriek the moment I release it. The sound is deafening, as if the air itself were screaming as the near black sphere devoured it. It’s a terror inducing effect that’s only magnified by the spell swallowing all light as it travels. The ants around me know what’s coming and dig their claws into the walls of the tunnel even as I do the same. The Legion too is familiar with this scene now and their response hasn’t changed, only grown stronger over time.

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Shields and barriers spring to life by the dozens the moment I unleash the spell and a host of minds reach out to rip the gravity bomb apart before it can land. At the same time the ants launch a new offensive, hundreds of mages that had remained hidden until now throw their Will into the contest. Once again the battle to control the rock of the tunnel is pushed to the brink as the Colony attempts to drop tons of stone and pointed slabs of pure iron onto the heads of the attackers. Invidia himself goes to work batting away the mages who try to unmake the gravity bomb, pitting his own considerable prowess against the Legion in an attempt to preserve the power I packed into the spell.

The bomb strikes home as it always does, flickering into its final form, the slowly rotating sphere of pure destruction. The pull is immediate and dreadful. Hanging from the roof, I dig in as hard as I can to resist being a victim of my own spell. It’s a risk, casting this spell whilst hanging here, since my weight is so much higher than my grip has been able to sustain, but where there is a Will, there is a way and I hold on fiercely as the bomb ravages all it can touch.


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