If I'm going to be honest, I don't really want to go and talk to the humans. The priest will probably be there, a crowd might form, it just feels so irritating. However, they may have information that can help me and I can't help but feel a little responsible for them.
In some ways I feel responsible for them in much the same way a human might feel responsible for their pets. They're a collective of individuals who need me to make sure they aren't killing themselves as they go about their daily business. I make sure they have the basic necessities of life, security, food and water, and then I let them go about their daily business.
Much like I cared for my pet colony when I was a human, except with the ants I cared more if they survived.
Sighing, I make my way up, out of the colony and out the top of the anthill. Diligent workers continue to patrol up and down the tunnel, a few trails leading foragers out into the surrounding wilds, groups of ants returning carrying the remains of surface monsters they'd found and dispatched.
Quite a few of the remaining workforce has evolved twice, giving them the stats they need to be able to dominate the bulk of surface monsters. Since the workers always act in teams, they've been able to mow through the surrounding lands like a scythe through wheat, in some ways reminding me of the fearsome Army Ant. That species of ant is nomadic since they basically strip the area around the colony of food pretty darn quick, forcing them to move to more fertile ground or starve.
Luckily we won't have that problem since the Dungeon will provide all of the sustenance we need, and soon the new generation of workers will be in a position to farm deep into the Dungeon, right down to the expanse, without my supervision.
Then I can investigate the aphid situation and see if I can't come up with an even better solution.
The future is bright!
Oh right, humans. Ugh.
My musing has distracted me long enough that I've arrived at the burgeoning human village without being aware of it. I've already been noticed, several people gathering around me, maintaining a respectful distance thankfully. The number of people quickly builds and I'm fairly sure I saw someone run off to collect Enid and in all likelihood the priest as well.
As I wait, I take a little time to inspect the work that has been done. The number of crude buildings has certainly increased significantly since I was last hear, as well as the number of people. It seems as though the flow of refugees hasn't stalled at all, perhaps it's even growing.
A tingle of concern causes my antennae to twitch slightly.
If the monsters are rampaging further south then there's a chance they'll come here. I'll need to make proper preparations, perhaps get some scouting done
The list of things to do just doesn't seem to end!
Can't Pangera just buzz of somewhere else so I can help my colony grow?!
It isn't long before Enid rushes over, accompanied by the one armed priest. It seems she has several others in tow as well. I don't pay them much attention, instead I get to work forming the mind bridge, using all of my mental prowess to complete the process quickly.
[Enid] I greet her once the complex shape has been created.
[Hello] she sounds nervous, [how did things go in the Dungeon? Well I presume, since you are here safe and sound].
[It went well enough. My goals were accomplished though the fighting was more difficult that I had anticipated. My companions and I received no insignificant wounds].
Her eyes widened.
[That's terrible! I'm surprised there was a monster at that level of the Dungeon able to hurt you and your pets. What was it?]
I give an ant shrug with my antennae, which of course she can't recognise.
[More of Garralosh' offspring. I believe they have retreated from the expanse below us however, which should make us a little safer here].
Enid nodded, gratitude plain in her eyes.
[I thank you. The people here will be much relieved to hear of it. They have suffered at the hands of Garralosh and her children, hearing of your victory will give them some degree of comfort. May I?] she asks, gesturing towards the crowd.
I wave one of my antennae in agreement and the aged woman turns towards the nearby villagers, including the priest, to explain what I had said.
Behind her, the five or so martial looking refugees listen with attentive faces. Now that I give another look at them, they seem a little on edge. Their leader, a square jawed, tough looking woman, standing in front of the others, is giving me a serious dose of the stink eye.
I observe her without shifting my head or posture at all.
What is your beef, lady?
My thoughts are disturbed as a great cheer erupted from the villagers around me. It was quite a strange sight to see. People started hugging and shouting with exuberance. Smiles wreathed every face and the powerful voice of the priest rolled over the top of all, one hand raised to the sky as he eulogised his heart out.
Chill out people! One Croca commander doesn't mean the entire species has been wiped out or anything sheesh!
Even Enid was smiling broadly as she turned back to me. I think she could sense my discomfort at the hubbub bubbling around us so she hastened to reassure me.
[I apologise for their boisterous behaviour. Good news has been hard to come by lately and even a little thing like this is enough to lift their spirits].
Her eyes narrowed a little.
[I didn't let them know that you'd been injured. I rather felt that there might be some panic or indeed, some outrage, if they were to know that you had been harmed. I don't want anyone to start trying to sneak into the Dungeon to exact revenge].
I couldn't help a little shake of my head at that. Just how dumb are these people?! Going into the Dungeon, suicide!
Still, this is as good a time as any to bring up my needs with Enid.
[Speaking of being injured. The fight helped me come to the realisation that I may need some advice and assistance in regards to developing my skills and abilities. I tried to learn what I could from your Queen but I believe that much information may have been withheld from me. Would you be in a position to assist me?]
Enid looks slightly stunned to be hearing so many words at once from me. Once she understands my meaning she quickly frowns, her hands nervously playing the front of her skirt.
[I now a bit. My husband was a high level warrior who spent his days delving in the Dungeon and he taught me a fair bit about the combat skills. However, he was a swordsman and a human. The skills he used may not be applicable for you at all].
She hesitated a moment before rushing on.
[You might not like to hear this but our local priest, Beyn] she gestured towards the robed figure, still exhorting the crowd with all of his might, [would be an excellent person to ask. As a priest of the Path he studied the System extensively and part of his responsibilities as a priest is to advise people on builds and skills relating to their profession. He would know far more than I would].
Reluctantly I agree to Enid's suggestion.
[All right, fine. Let him know I'm going to weave a mind bridge to him so we can talk, shouldn't take a minute].
[Ah, there are some others here who want to speak to you also. Would that be possible?]
More of them?
[I'll talk to this priest first, then we'll see].
Enid nods and turns to the priest, tugging at his sleeve to get his attention before speaking to him urgently.
A few moments later he begins to weep profusely.
I'm already getting irritated.