[We need more of this. As soon as you can get it.]
[Uh, okay? Maybe take it out of my face a little so I can see it?]
An unusually forceful and intent Enid is waving something in my face with shaking hands. As soon as I waddled my way into the village someone had gone to fetch her and the normally dignified older lady had arrived at a dead run, her skirts hiked up with one hand and the other clutching this, object.
As she withdraws the object slightly I can see that it is, as suspected, the mana infused wood that I delivered to Beyn a day or so ago.
[Ah. Finally got your hands on that did you? So what is it?] I enquire.
[It's mana infused wood.]
[I can see that plain as day! What is it good for?!]
Enid huffed with her hands on her hips.
[Well that's a different question, isn't it?] she held the branch tenderly in her hands, like a newborn babe, [this wood has absorbed the plentiful mana of the Dungeon and taken on the attributes that surrounded it.]
[These kinds of materials from the Dungeon are treasured and worth just as much as cores. Nations fight over the rights to expanses and other regions that produce this kind of thing fiercely. They are rare and incredibly useful! Not to mention valuable. In the past I dealt with some things like this that my husband managed to bring up. They sold high, I can tell you. Enchanters and craftsmen love this stuff.]
[For what?!] I'm losing my patience here.
Looking down at me disapprovingly, Enid sniffs before answering. [When making items designed to channel certain types of mana, materials like this will amplify the effect. For example, if a staff where made for a water wizard with materials that were imbued with water mana, any spell cast through the staff would be more powerful.]
[Ooo, that is handy.]
Enid smiled triumphantly at my growing enthusiasm. [Not only that. You could make shields, swords, armour, or artefacts that would add that element to their offense or defence.]
[But this wood has double elements in it] I pointed out, [water as well as earth. Is that good?]
[That!] declared Enid, once again waving the stick with vigour in my face, [is the most important thing! Double affinity! Double the offensive boost, double the defensive! This kind of material is extremely rare! In Liria, anything like this was claimed directly by the crown!]
[Okay. So it's great stuff. That's nice. But what exactly can we do with it? I doubt there are any master enchanters hanging around the village currently, and the colony certainly doesn't have the ability to make anything with it.]
With how hard working and dedicated the workers are, combined with their new smarts, who knows what they'll capable of in a few years? In my mind scenes of the great ant forges begin to appear, the cavernous halls under the earth where thousands of teeming artisans craft ant weapons and armour at an industrial scale.
It's glorious within my mind!
Focus Anthony. Play it cool. The inevitable ant future will arrive in time.
Enid was looking at me strangely. Dammit Anthony, don't let the ambition be quite so naked!
[Well you aren't wrong] the wily woman answered warily, [but we do have a few tradespeople, apprentices and, more importantly, we have Beyn to help guide us to unlocking the skills and classes related to shaping mana infused materials and enchanting.]
[Won't it take ages for someone to train up those skills? Just how much time do you think we have to spend on something like this?]
She shook her head.
[It won't take as long as you think. By accelerating level growth in the Dungeon and with expert knowledge to crack the unlock conditions, the only thing missing is materials to use for grinding skills.]
[I see. So this is why you want me to bring more up. The question I have for you is, what's in it for the colony? The expanse is ours and we are the only ones able to go down there and collect the stuff.]
We got down to a bit of haggling and eventually worked out a distribution deal for the crafted materials, the lions share going to the colony of course. I was also able to extract a promise from a curious Enid to engage in a knowledge sharing arrangement, where the village would inform the colony of anything they were able to learn.
With that business concluded, it was time to return to the nest and check in on my class of hatchlings. Once more painfully shifting my legs one by one as shooting beams of agony rippled through my body with each step, I made my way back to my chamber. The journey only took four times as long as normal. I feel as if I'm prematurely aging.
Back into the nest as the flood of greetings, conversations and trails rattles my antennae once more. It really is noisy in here now. Thinking back, it wasn't that long ago that I was worried I'd never have anyone to talk to ever again. To have this constant chatter and noise around me, here, in this place where I feel so safe…
It's just nice. Almost enough to bring a tear to my eye, but not quite because I remain physically incapable of it.
Back down the chamber, the ants are alert again. For whatever reason they are clustered about Tiny as the great ape remains seated on his backside, to all appearances totally asleep.
[Any issues here Crinis?] I ask my more alert and capable companion.
[No problems, Master. The little ones awoke only a short time ago.]
I have to chuckle at Crinis referring to them as 'little ones'. She isn't that much older that they are.
[Why are they looking at Tiny so closely?] I enquire.
[I've no idea. He's been sleeping on the job for the last thirty minutes] Crinis sounds decidedly irritated at her lazy associate.
[I'll sort him out later] I promised her before I rounded on the workers.
"Okay then you lot. One evolution down, one more to go before you have graduated from basic training. You know what that means! More core absorption!" I shout joyfully.
The best thing to forget about your own pain sometimes, is to inflict it on others.