In an effort to return to normalcy, I think it's best that I get back to the colony as quickly as possible. With Crinis and Tiny in tow, we make our way out of the village. Before long my thoughts begin to wander toward the Common Will Vestibule. It's powerful, there's no doubt about that. The constant flow of energy that trickles from the gem-like organ and into my system is nourishing in an all-encompassing way. It washes away my fatigue, refills my other glands, heals me and perhaps does other things as well. If it was able to provide me with mana it would be an all-singing, all-dancing provider of everything I could possibly need.
As it is, it's immensely powerful. The only issue I have with it is the strange whispers and thoughts that pop into my head. I'm finding I get an urge to do stuff at random and I have a sneaking suspicion I know what's causing it, and why, and the connotations are a little disturbing to me. I don't intend to set myself up as some sort of king, but the colony feels like it's trending that way at the moment. I'm not sure I like it. I'm really looking forward to breaking out on my own for some Dungeon exploration. Just put some space between the family and myself for a little while and let things settle down. I'll need time to adjust to this new evolution and Tiny and Crinis need to evolve and build their strength if they're to keep up with me.
Before the wave is gone completely, we need to push deep, maybe even try and find the second strata. Do some fighting, level up a few skills, clear the air a little. After all the excitement of the attack by Garralosh, I can't wait to get back to a simpler life.
Muddling along like this, I walk for twenty minutes before I wake up to the fact that I'm nowhere near the nest.
[What the heck?! Where are we?!]
[I - I'm not sure, Master!]
[Hurrn?!] Tiny grunts.
It seems as if we've wandered into the forest. I immediately get suspicious. There's no way I would've gotten lost, I'm an ant! I follow the pheromone trail when I walk. I could walk along the path whilst I was asleep and still manage to get there! Someone has been playing with my mind!
And I can think of one likely suspect…
[Uhh. Hello, Mr Kaarmodo. I hope you've brought me here for a friendly chat. No hard feelings about me killing Garralosh right? Or for murdering your attendants? Uh. Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned that. I mean, they did try to kill me first. Self-defence is a thing, right?]
I babble within my own mind as I nervously watch the surrounding trees for any sign a large, vengeful lizard is about to charge forward and attempt to bite my head off.
To my chagrin, there is only silence in my mind after my words and I don't see any movement around me. Doubt begins to creep in. Did the Kaarmodo drag me out here just to play funny buggers? Is he just messing with me?
With caution, I turn around to orient myself back to the nest.
And out of nowhere the Kaarmodo has appeared! Flanked by six of his Setsulah attendants with their hoods down for once, the Lizard Wizard is standing only three metres away! I leap back in shock as Tiny and Crinis move to take an aggressive position, ready to come to my defence.
[What the heck are you doing?! You'll give me a heart attack! You've been there this whole time, haven't you? Playing tricks on me?!]
The Lizard shifts his weight slightly as his eyes stare unblinking into mine. Something tells me that's as close as a Kaarmodo gets to laughing out loud. When I calm myself a little, I take a good look at this manipulator and his attendants. I haven't been able to see them this close before and it's interesting to see them now. The Lizard himself is bedecked in finery. I hesitate to say it, but for a giant lizard, he is rolling in bling. Woven tapestries with gleaming golden thread tassels lay across his back, the colours are rich and deep, purples, greens and yellows that depict mountain scenes and deep caves filled with magic. On each of his legs he wears at least one golden ring and his neck is positively covered in them.
The servants are similarly well dressed. With their hoods back for once I get to see their faces properly for once. I'd thought they would look more human, but they are definitely more than a little part lizard. Their faces are heavily scaled, whilst still maintaining a humanoid shape. Eye colours vary from deep gold to emerald green but each are vertically slit as a reptiles. Golden nose rings, necklaces and torques, each intricately carved and decorated with jewels adorn each and every one of them. Pretty darn flashy for slaves.
[Perhaps I should have made my presence known earlier.] The voice of the Kaarmodo resounds in my mind. Very notably, that was not an apology. [Please be at ease, I have not come to destroy you.]
Ouch. Very aggressive choice of words there.
[So… no hard feelings about the.. Uh… unfortunate loss of your slaves then?]
Why the hell would you remind him of that, Anthony? Not smooth! Opposite of smooth!
A spike of pain jabs into my brain across the mind bridge that I have only just begun to sense, causing my legs to spasm. I let it roll over me, probably well deserved to be honest, as I consider his spell weaving. How the hell he's able to hide them like this I have no idea.
[These are not my slaves, and you are lucky that they did not hear you describe them as such. They are bonded to me, and I am bonded to them. Our relationship is one of mutual respect and dependence.]
[Okay. Sure.] I shrugged my antennae. [Doesn't really matter to me. Since you brought me out here, without the intention to annihilate my atoms, what exactly would you like to say?]
I don't feel particularly comfortable talking to this ancient wizard. The sooner he lets me get on my way, the happier I'll be.
[There is no need to rush, young one. It wasn't easy getting close to form this mental connection without your colony mates detecting us. Depending on how much you know, we may need to converse for some time.]
[Know about what?]
[Hmm…. Do you know … where you are?]
My antennae twitch a little at the odd question. What's he getting at here?
[You mean… Pangera? The planet? The smoking ashes of what was once the kingdom of Liria? The uncivilised wilds? I'm not sure what you mean.]
The Kaarmodo shifts his legs slightly which causes his attendants to glance at him for a moment. Once they are certain he's comfortable they return their flat, unfriendly stares to me.
[Hmm. This may take some time.]