When we returned to Roklu and made our way up the plate on which the city was built, the changes that had taken place were clear to see. Not ones to mess around, the Colony had clearly gotten to work to an extent that left the remaining local residents’ heads spinning. Around the central pillar, the carvers had clearly decided ‘forget this’ and just gone ahead and built an ant hill circling the base. What had once been Grokus’ compound was now an elegant tower of stone and dirt, already displaying elaborate carvings and intricate arrangements on the outside as the more artistic workers set to their business.
The rest of the city was rebuilt, sturdier and neater than before. No longer quite as tangled a mess as it had been, the Colony had imposed some degree of order on the demons without going all the way and tearing down their warrens completely. Thousands and thousands of ants are still in residence, watching in all directions, building, scouting, shifting resources from above and bringing them down into the city. The elevator they constructed is rather impressive, no doubt about that. The ingenuity of the Colony knows no bounds.
Of course, once we are settled it’s time for Brilliant to evolve.
“Hop to it!” I tell her. “Make sure you think carefully about your choices, don’t make any dumb decisions. You really can’t afford to waste your evolutionary energy.”
“I know that,” she grumbles. “It’s just that I’m so tempted to choose everything I see.”
“That curiosity is likely to get you killed one of these days,” I scold her. “Obviously you can’t pick everything. Be sensible about it.”
I carefully watch her until I’m convinced she’s deep into the menus and thus too distracted by the System and the process of evolving to worry about what is happening in the real world.[Chuck her in the mouth, Invidia, she can evolve in there while we go about our business. Mind you, if she gets too large for you to hold make sure you let me know and spit her out.] [Very weellll.]
A few moments later the little ant is gone, vanished into a pocket dimension whilst the rest of us continue our tour of the city. It isn’t long before we bump into some old friends.[Sarah! I didn’t expect to see you down here!]
We spot the big bear helping a few carvers by shifting some heavy stone blocks with not inconsiderable strength.[Oh, Anthony! Welcome back! I thought I couldn’t keep being lazy and should come down here and help. I might have thought twice if I’d realised how hot it would be.] [I can see that Smithant got a hold of you too,] I flip an antenna toward the rings of metal that adorn her limbs.
She pulls a face.
I bet. I walk over to her and give her a pat on the back with one leg.[Just be careful with yourself alright? You’ll be a big help in the fighting against the tier seven and six opponents we have to deal with here, but if it gets too much for you, make sure you back out before it becomes overwhelming.]
There are flashes of pain in her eyes as she recalls the near disaster she experienced the last time the Colony was under siege.[Don’t worry,] she assures me, [I’ll be careful.]
We chat for a little while before she remembers to tell me that Granin and crew had come down looking for me so I bid her farewell and let her get back to building, which in turn got the carvers to stop accusing us of being lazy, and went looking for the golgari. I eventually find them resting just outside the anthill in a small compound that appeared to have been constructed for them to reside in. The Colony is nothing if not accommodating![Granin you old fogey!] I greet him jovially. [Torrina, looking wonderful as always. Corun, wonderful to see you!] [Very funny,] the old shaper grunts. [It’s great to see your big insect mug as well.] [Is that any way to talk to a future Ancient?] I chortle.
He peers at me.[Becoming an Ancient is no laughing matter,] he says, [you’re talking about becoming one of the most powerful entities on the entire planet. Or are you telling me you’ve actually decided to do this old rock a favour and make it your goal.] [Hell no. I’m just trying to support my family and make it to my next evolution in one piece.]
He rolls his eyes and glances at Torrina and Corun who are both radiating a noticeable level of ‘I told you so’ energy. It’s interesting to me that the three golgari give off much stronger gravitational waves than one would expect given their size. I suppose the ore they cover themselves in isn’t just for show after all, but even taking that into account, I feel like their bodies underneath that rock and metal are more dense than I might have expected. The golgari are rumoured to be naturally very strong, I suppose that’s no joke.[Oh, by the by, I’ve been playing around with a few new things. Check this out!]
I infuse stone mana into my mandibles and wave them threateningly in the shaper’s direction and to my surprise, he reacts, leaping back from me with a scowl on his face.[What the hell is that!? My danger senses are going crazy!] [You have danger senses?] [Never mind that!]
I can’t help but give him an odd look.[I infused my mandibles with stone mana. I tested it on the way over, helps me cut through rock like it’s not even there,] I explain.
He shivers.[No wonder. Made me feel like my skin was about to peel off. The golgari fought monsters with a similar power a long time ago. Stone Mantis. Except they infused the blades on their arms rather than their mandibles. We ended up driving them to extinction because of how threatening they were to our people.] [Didn’t mean to stress you out,] I apologise, [I just thought it would be funny.] [Don’t worry about it Anthony,] Corun laughs, [It was plenty funny for us!]
Granin shoots them a dirty look.[Enough of this. How is progress toward your next evolution?] [Give me a break! I only just evolved! You think experience rains down from the sky?] [No,] he frowns, [but it’s still risky for you to be down here as a tier six. Tier seven demons are no joke, as I think you’ve found.] [I don’t know,] I shrug, [we managed to handle Grokus alright.] [This is what I was worried about,] the big shaper harrumphs and even Torrina looks a little disappointed. [We heard about that fight,] she says, [and from what we understand you were almost eaten from the inside out despite having your opponent surrounded and outnumbered. If it weren’t for your strange gravity spell, you would have lost for sure.]
I mean, they aren’t wrong.[And that big moron was Excess Demon. Not exactly the most feared combatant you can encounter down here,] Granin says. [What is?] I ask, curious. [There are a few tier six demons who are straight up designed for killing. Slaughter demons are among the worst, but they aren’t alone. Wrath demons are a pain to deal with, blade demons, let’s not forget torture demons, those are a literal pain to deal with.]
It’s almost humorous how quickly the shaper can fall into a lecturing tone. The guy was born to be a teacher.[None of those sounds pleasant. We had a tier seven war demon down here as well.] [Those are massively dangerous. Don’t forget that the one you ran into was only recently evolved, they can get far more deadly than that. At the tier seven level? Pride demons can evolve into Vain demons or Emperor demons, both of which are far more threatening than the tier six variant. Slaughter demons usually evolve into Massacre demons, which are as bad as they sound. Blade demons can become Slasher demons or sometimes Violence demons, those are particularly nasty. At tier six you can find blood demons which can evolve into bone demons. If you see one of those, I want you to get the hell away from it.]
That is unusually serious.[What, why? What do they do?]
He tells me.[Understood. I shall never go near them!] I vow within my mind and simultaneously within my soul.
That’s just nasty![Keep pushing for your next evolution,] Granin advises me seriously. [Tier seven monsters are the real threats on this stratum and as a first stratum monster you are far below them. Your next evolution will give you two or more resets that can not only level the playing field, but push you past them with good choices. I won’t feel confident for you down here until you reach that point.]
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