"Haul your abdomen, Sloan!" Victor yelled at her slower contemporary.
"I'm coming!" Sloan grumbled back.
The two generals were exhausted. They hadn't fought on the front line during the course of the battle but they'd been debating, planning and coordinating the efforts of the colony without pause for over a day without rest.
"Finally getting to the good part and you want to miss out?" Victor joked.
"I'll push you into the mouth of a Garralosh spawn," Sloan promised, "watch yourself up there."
"I'm not worried, Leeroy will probably already be in there and can push me out."
At the mention of the more… enthusiastic of their soldier siblings, an irritated twitch flicked through Sloan's antennae. Now that they'd come to this point, nothing could be held back any longer. Which meant that Leeroy, and the soldiers who'd kept her pinned down in the nest, had been sent back to the wall.
The two generals rushed out of the dark nest and into the bright light of the surface. Victor shielded her eyes with her antennae as best she could as she stared at the carnage taking place beyond the walls. From this high up, she could see the children of Garralosh approach, flames trickling out from between their teeth.
"About time you slackers made it up here," Burke observed from nearby.
"We haven't been slacking!" Sloan ground out.
"I know that, obviously." Burke turned to Victor. "Why is she so tense?"
"Not much torpor."
The three of them continued to observe the battle. Things were heating up now, and not just because of the flame spewing crocodile monsters. The Queen had re-joined the front line and the ants there had quickly reached a boiling peak of rage and fury.
"We need to get down there," Sloan gasped urgently.
"I know," Victor replied, intent.
"Do you really think you can stop her?" Burke asked the two generals.
"Not a chance," Victor replied.
"We managed to convince her to return once. Why not once more?" Sloan protested, desperation crept into her scent.
Victor flicked her antennae toward the battle that raged at the seventh wall.
"The Queen is committed. I don't think she expects to survive this battle. The only reason she retreated last time was because she would have caused more deaths than she saved. There is nowhere else to retreat to now, if the colony puts itself between her and danger again, she'll just push us to one side."
"We have to help her!" Sloan pleaded.
"Of course we will. Coming Burke?"
The three members of the twenty rushed forward to join in the battle. There was nothing left to do now but fight. The closer they came the more their senses were overwhelmed by the din of battle. The roar of the monsters, the clash of claws, mandibles and carapace, the stink of Biomass mixed with a thousand messages pouring out of the ants every second.
More than that, the three felt the boiling rage and feverish heat that built within the closer they came to the Queen. Before they could reach the edge of the wall, the Queen and the ferocious worker and artisan caste ants that had followed her crashed against the enemy like a tidal wave.
Acid flew into the air, so thick it fell like rain over the enemy and the Garralosh spawn roared with pain and anger. The ants cared not and made no sound as they doubled their ferocity. For every monster that made it to the top of the wall, four or five ants were there to meet it. The soldiers on the front line were the first to move, they seized the victim in their mandibles and pulled, trying to haul them over the wall.
Then the smaller ants got hold of them and the unfortunate creature was buried under a swarm of bodies.
Then the children of Garralosh reached the wall. Flames roared into the sky and hundreds of ants fell back from the edge, lest the inferno claim them. The wash of heat was felt dozens of metres away as the air crackled against Burke's antennae.
The only ant not to take a backward step was the Queen.
The flames licked against her carapace but she didn't appear to care, her attention was seized by the face of her enemy, after all this time, at last they would feel her wrath!
The moment the hideous creatures came within her range, the Queen reared back and raised her head before she lunged forward and unleashed a torrent of acid from her mouth! Garralosh spawn in front of her were bathed in acid in an instant, their scales sizzled and melted as they stumbled forward through the downpour.
It didn't take long for some of the monsters to retaliate, raising their multi mouthed heads to belch powerful flames to counteract the acid. The Queen did not relent and continued to pour out her acid, the powerful stream rained down on monsters up to thirty metres away. When acid and flame met, the stream exploded into boiling hot clouds of acidic steam that wafted over the battlefield, scalding all who touched them. Sadly the colony had no wind mages to direct the horrific steam and some small amount drifted towards the walls.
Unwilling to drain all her acid away, the Queen relented in her opening salvo and clacked her mandibles eagerly. She hungered for vengeance!
"Queen! Please be careful!" Sloan sputtered, exhausted from the run.
"I'll not go back. Not this time. I'm needed here," the Queen spoke sharply, unwilling to waste time arguing.
"I know that! Just … try not to die!" the general begged.
Before the Queen could respond, another scent intruded on their conversation.
"Your time's up, Sloan! Let's do this!" Leeroy shouted as she barrelled forward, excitement and rage evident in every inch of her frame.
Victor groaned as she watched her sibling rush forward. The enthusiastic approach she didn't mind, it was the complete lack of a sign that Leeroy intended to stop that concerned her.
"Leeroy -!" She tried to call, but to no avail.
The soldier anticipated her siblings would attempt to cut her off and moved to render their efforts useless.
"Not this time, Sloan! I will fight, MY WAY!"
With a daring leap, she launched onto the abdomen of the Queen and rushed up her back, rising above the tumult of battle. Even the Queen was taken by surprise by this manoeuvre and didn't move as the much smaller scrambled up her back.
"Leeroy! Don't be stupid!"
"I AM AWAITED!!! OUR CARAPACE WILL GLEAM FOREVER, SHINY AND RED!!! LEEROOYYYYYY!!!"
So shouting, the soldier ant heroically leapt from her bewildered mother's head and soared high into the air. So powerful was her jump, she appeared to float in defiance of gravity as she soared above the heads of the monsters below.
"By my two antennae, why is she screaming her own name!? " Sloan despaired.
The two generals could only watch as their over enthusiastic sibling sailed into the open air above the wall, above the horde of gnashing monsters and hulking crocodiles, before she began to fall.
Stillness had fallen across the colony, as all the ants watched this majestic leap to glory. Their poor ant hearts, already filled to bursting with the urge to fight, boiled over in that moment and they threw away all restraint. The Queen was with them, how could they fail?!
Ant after ant began to throw themselves off the wall and into the fray, casting aside the high ground and the benefit of their defences to better take hold of the enemy.
"Do you think that Leeroy remembered that this was part of the plan? Victor asked Sloan.
"I really don't think so."
The sibling in question fell down into the horde and vanished into the swirl of bodies.
"Time to go?"
"Let's do this."
The two ants tapped antennae in the classic 'ant high five', before they took a running start and leapt off the wall. The two generals had worked hard on this aspect of the plan. It was time to launch 'the Leeroy initiative!'
The Queen could only watch in shock as more and more of her children literally threw themselves into the jaws of the enemy below before she too hurled herself over the wall, healing mana charging within her antennae.
Please be in time!