Chapter 669 - The Siege pt 14
I can already hear the fighting. The sounds of clashing steel and snapping mandibles tug at my claws and I have to force myself to resist charging blindly into the fray like a shinier, much smarter Leeroy. Keeping myself so still has never been so hard before. Then again, the only member of my family that I know was exposed to danger in my previous life was myself. In Pangera, I have thousands of siblings exposed to terrible danger almost every day. It’s enough to drive a person nuts.
The Vestibule makes my situation even worse, but if I focus then I can filter out their whispers.
We have a plan and I’m going to stick to it. When the fighting gets hot here at the gate, I’m going to be right in the thick of it, which is where I want to be. At the front gate, the lead force of a few thousand is busy putting the Legion through their paces using all of the same tricks and tactics that we spent on them the first time around. River of acid, magic barrage, the works. They’ll have to fight their way through all of it a second time before they even get through the first gate. By the time they reach me here, I’m hoping that they’ll be all tuckered out and want to quit and go home.
More likely they’ll be mad as hell and wanting to carve me into itty bitty pieces but at the very least they’ll have worked to get here. The ants and humans on this side of the picture need every edge we can get.
"How confident are you, Eldest?" Advant asks.
The powerful soldier stands next to me in the dark, her antennae twitching in a rarely seen sign of nerves.
"We’re going to win," I tell her with certainty, "we’re ants. What can they possibly do against us?"
"They’ve managed to bottle us up in our nest and destroy the outer gate."
"Bah. Just a flesh wound."
"You nearly got cut in half."
"As I said, just a flesh wound."
"Getting cut in half is just a flesh wound?"
"I’m perfectly fine now aren’t I?"
"So you’re saying the Colony might get cut in half but we’ll heal eventually?"
"No! I’m saying we’ll be fine!"
"I think so too."
All around us the packed ants of the Colony stir. It’s not like we can keep our scent conversation private from them, not that I felt any need. I truly believe that we will win. My family has been incredible from the moment I found them in this life and I refuse to believe they won’t overcome this challenge just like they have every other.
A thunderous impact roars down the tunnel as the gates buckle on their hinges. A moment later, a flood of ants begins to pour through the gap between the two doors, a gap that rapidly widens as more of my siblings push it open as they retreat. It looks like the line has buckled at the first gate, a bit faster than expected. No matter.
Injured soldiers and scouts supported by their still healthy allies as the retreat occurs in swift silence. When they reach us, the lines part in unison to allow the wounded through, medics already rushing forward to work their magic. The air is tense now as we watch and wait for the enemy to show their faces. It takes longer than I expect, they must be being cautious in the extreme. Understandable, considering this is their big push. If they fail on this assault, they probably won’t be able to muster another before the wave hits.
After ten minutes, I see the gate buckle as armoured figures appear and begin to force them open, teams bracing their shoulders against the metal and pushing with raw physical strength. The gate Titus cut into is in particularly bad shape. That mad man managed to cut through the damn thing from a hundred metres away. I hope the Legion doesn’t have many more like him tucked away somewhere, because just one is more than the entire Colony can handle at the moment.
Another ten minutes pass in tense silence as the legionaries force open gates and reassemble themselves into the disciplined, impenetrable ranks that we have come to know them for. Our side watches it all happen, unwilling to be baited into a fight other than the one we’ve prepared for. These buggers are crafty. They looked all disorganised as they were moving through the gate, but I wager if we’d try to charge over we’d have found them snapped into neat ranks in a matter of moments.
[How are you holding up there Priest?]
In a rare showing of charity toward the crazy, one-armed human I reach out to him with my mind and initiate a conversation. Inwardly, I brace myself for what may come of it. If he doesn’t shout at me, I’ll take it as a win. To my shock, the priest sounds incredibly lucid.
[I am well, Great One. My brethren and I eagerly await the coming contest. We hope that in a few hours, the Colony will be freed from this threat and able to once more pursue its grand destiny.]
I mean. He sounds calm, but the words are about as batty as I’d expected.
[Any idea what sort of destiny you have in mind?]
I’m sort of curious to learn what he thinks this rapidly swelling pile of monster ants is going to amount to.
[I have no idea,] he surprises me instead. [It is not for me to guess or influence you, or the Colony, in any direction in particular. Such a thing would be sacrilege. We will wait and watch as we tread upon the path that you set before our feet. That is our mission.]
[Fair enough I suppose. I like that you don’t intend to interfere with the Colony. I don’t think that would go down too well. Oh, right! I forgot you can smell our pheromone language now. How’s that going for you?]
[It is wonderful. I cannot wait until I am able to communicate with a scent of my own.]
That will be... interesting. How will the scent be produced? I’m going to assume ’magic’ and not some sort of extreme diet leading to eloquent flatulence.
Up ahead, the Legion has begun their advance, marching toward us with measured steps that shake the ground with their uniform tread. It’s time.
[Thanks for the chat Beyn. We are counting on your guys in this battle. Do your best to keep your people alive.]
[I will, Great One. May you also fight well and survive into the new day.]
Maybe I was wrong about Beyn being a lunatic. During that conversation he was cool as a cuc.u.mber. Maybe he’s turned over a new leaf and calmed himself down? That’s be a welcome change, to be sure. Let’s see. Interested in this ’new Beyn’, I lift up my head and survey the massed forces of the Colony, scanning for a sign of the priest. I know which direction he is after the mind connection... just need to.. Ah! There he is.
He’s actually a little hard to miss, standing atop a rock. I didn’t notice him at first because rather than wearing his usual robes, he is almost totally n.a.k.e.d, his bare and pale skin revealed for all to see. In his one good hand he is holding a gnarled staff with an ant head carved on the top, which he is brandishing at the oncoming Legion. From his mouth, an endless stream of both vile curses and foam are directed toward the enemy as his eyes bulge with the fervour of his rage.
You know what? This makes more sense to me. This is fine.
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