“THE SEARCH GOES ON, SISTERS!”
“Oh no you don’t! Retreat now! That’s an order!”
Brendant waved her antennae threateningly at the ‘Immortals’ and their reckless leader.
“Leeroy! Get your metal covered carapace back to the gate! The enemy has pulled back and so are you!”
It was never a good idea to give the misguided armoured soldier a chance to ‘misinterpret’ her orders. Brendant watched like a hawk as the heavy assault ants begrudgingly turned themselves around, putting their backs to the retreating enemy and dragging themselves back to the gate. Healers swarmed over the ants already, tending to the numerous, near fatal wounds that covered them.
Even from where she stood, Brendant could hear the medics taunting the survivors.
“Ooo. That’s a rough wound, nearly enough to kill you, wasn’t it? Good thing you survived!”
“Just a few centimetres to the left and you’d have been done. Look at the scoring in the carapace next to your eye! Punched right through the armour it did. Not a problem though, you’ll be back to full health in just a few hours.”
The healers continued to bait and mock their charges all the way back to the gates where the immortals moved toward the foundries established just inside where their armour could undergo an emergency refit. No doubt Smithant was already bashing the exhausted soldiers over the head with her hammer, lamenting the damage done to her precious armour. The moniker ‘immortals’ had run amazingly true over the duration of the siege, only a single member had perished in the fighting so far. The others had been unsure whether to curse or praise their sister for her misfortune, but they had gathered for a solemn vigil as the soldier had been peeled from her armour and laid to rest.
Though the tunnel before the gate was now almost totally bare, still, the council member did not turn back. There was still one more warrior of the Colony yet to return.
“How is she?” the soldier asked one of the nearby mages.
The two of them watched the great bear as it drew deep, measured breaths. Each exhalation sounded like a gale and blew dust and earth into a small whirlwind in front of the huge monster’s face.
“She is coming back to herself more slowly after each battle. We are growing concerned for her wellbeing.”
Sarah, the friend of the Colony had been instrumental in holding back the golgari on this side of the nest, but more and more the ants were becoming worried for her state of mind. A team of ants combed over her frame, cleaning and soothing her as she slowly reclaimed her sense of self from the fury that seized her during battle.
“She must not participate in the next clash, preferably the next two. Tell her the council has ordered that she rest herself.”
The mage twitched her antennae.
“I will tell her, but she we will not like it. She wants to help,” the mage hesitated, “and I believe that part of her yearns for this state. She wants to fight.”
“But we cannot allow her back into a state she once rejected fighting on our behalf. Be sure to tell her what I said.”
Without the bear on their side, the next clashes would be far more difficult, but it was necessary. The other side was holding against the more powerful Legion without the assistance of a tier six behemoth like Sarah, though they did have the Eldest, they would have to make do here. Weary and filled with a thousand worries, Brendant finally retreated behind the gate and returned to the embrace of the nest once more.
Thousands of ants swarmed here, each with a specific job to do. Triage was taking place in the field hospital as the many wounded were tended to. The most grievously injured would be shifted to the dedicated facilities as soon as they were able to be moved, whereas the others would heal on the spot. A bit of Biomass, magic and regeneration fluid all they needed to repair their wounds.
“How goes it?” came a scent from the left.
“Wills? It goes as it goes, I’m afraid.”
The scout, clung to the roof, nodded her antennae in acknowledgement. The enemy had been repelled four times from the gate so far, but the cost was higher than they would like. Still, they were holding, which was all they needed to do. So far the foe had managed to reach the gate twice and inflict significant damage to the metal before they had been pushed back. Eventually they would smash through and the Colony would be forced to retreat to the second, and final layer of defence.
“We’ll have to make the next defence without the help of Sarah. She needs to rest to regain her sense of self.”
The scout hesitated for a moment.
“That’s going to make things … more interesting.”
“We don’t have a choice. It may finally be time to commit the humans to the front.”
The Colony had hesitated to send out the humans so far, a decision that hadn’t gone down too well with the people themselves. The general feeling amongst the ants was that they should be responsible for defending their own nest and didn’t want to depend on assistance from others. The mayor Enid had rightly pointed out that the Colony had helped defend the human homes, so why shouldn’t they return the favour? It looked as though they were about to get their chance.
“They’ll be happy about that,” Wills said. “I wanted to pass on that the scouts haven’t managed to break through to the satellite nests. We’ll keep trying, but it looks as though we’re still ringed in.”
The nest itself was a massive area. How the enemy had managed to contain them in all directions and detect every attempt to tunnel out was something beyond the ant’s understanding. There was still so much they had to learn before they could compete on equal footing with enemies like these. Given enough time, Brendant knew that the Colony would not only match their opponents, but exceed them in all aspects, but that day was far off yet.
Numbers and hard work were what they could depend on for now, it was their only chance.
Brendant paused for a moment.[We will not take away her autonomy without good reason.] [You mean you can’t win without her.] [It will be more difficult,] the soldier readily admitted, [but we will still win.]
The worm went silent and Brendant felt him tunnel away through the soil, no doubt returning to the chamber set aside for himself and Sarah to which his friend would soon return. Before long, the council member had pushed the interaction from her mind. The battle went on and there was much to do.