Chrysalis Chapter 534


Chapter 534: Run? Fight?

The ancients surfaced all over the face of Pangera, almost equidistant from each other. Wherever they rose, they caused a unique catastrophe to befall those unfortunate enough to be caught in the chaos. Yarrum consumed all in his path, Kygar caused lightning to fall for a month, burning all to ash, Morribolg turned the ground to mud over a vast area, sinking the entire city of Yallowyn beneath the ground in less than a minute. Due to the colossal damage, the sheer scale of death that they caused, actual eye-witness accounts of the ancients are nearly impossible to find. Because they rose so far apart, most kingdoms assumed that they were the only ones to be afflicted by a monster of such impossible might. It was hundreds of years before scholars were able to connect the nineteen creatures together.

Further frustrating the efforts of scholars is the deep layer of secrecy that many shroud the ancients in. Some were forthcoming with their information, sharing all they could of these leviathans to better inform the world of the threat they posed, but others were silent. They hoarded the knowledge of their experience and enacted strict penalties on any caught sharing it. Over the years, their grip has only tightened. Of Zothoth, almost nothing is known in the broader community. It rose amongst the tribes of the dust plains, far to the west, and they do not speak of him. Lerrewyn arose in the Deep Forests in the south. Were the ancient not seen from hundreds of kilometres away, it's possible that only eighteen ancients would be spoken of, since the Bruanchii have said nothing but its name.

Regardless, the topic of the ancients is a source of tremendous enquiry across the world, in open colleges and within secret societies. There are as many theories as there are scholars, but some have gained credibility over the decades. One such thought, postulated by Xinci, stated that it was possible the ancients each populated a single strata, possibly the final strata of the Dungeon, and each maintained their own territory there. For this reason, they did not rise together, but moved directly up from their own lands. By tracing the locations of their breach back to the centre of Pangera (the diameter of the planet being calculated by the Magio-Scholars in the year 726 AR), Xinci proposed a possible map of the territorial boundaries of each ancient within the final strata. Although this map is far for accepted fact, it does explain many observations. A curious feature of the map however, is that when assuming each territory is the same size, and that each ancient rose directly from their own resting place, there is an unclaimed place in the map, a twentieth territory.

This has led many scholars to speculate that another ancient exists. If that monster surfaced in the Rending, if anyone saw it, then have yet to speak its name.

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By the time I was able to reconnect with the Colony they'd already taken measures. All use of pheromones was banned as we once again resumed the long march back to the nest. It was bizarre to experience. It was normal for the ants to make no noise as they travelled, to a human passer-by we would be unnervingly quiet. But to us ants there was a never ending cacophony of communication! Conversations between ants, trails laid by the leaders in the convoy and even the old scent trails put down by the scouts who ranged far ahead of the rest of us all mixed together to assault the antennae. With no pheromones being produced, it was as if true silence had descended on the colony for the first time in its history. As a former human, I probably coped better than my siblings, but even for me it was truly strange.

I had to constantly stop myself from trying to speak with my fellow ants and my antennae were constantly tip-tapping, trying to find the scents that my ant brain thinks should definitely be there. The rest of the ants around me are totally uncomfortable, wandering backwards and forwards as they try to navigate with their eyes instead of their sense of smell. Hopefully we don't have to deal with this for long. If we can travel a dozen or so kilometres without leaving a trail behind, that should be enough for the Golgari to get lost.

Fortunately I still have my pets to speak to!

[Hey, Tiny! How's everything going? Enjoying the trek?]

[Nurrr.]

[It can't be that bad]

[Raaaa.]

[Fair enough then, you make a good point.]

As a power athlete, rather than an endurance runner, Tiny isn't cut out for this sort of extended effort. He's knackered. Ah well, surely someone else is up for a chat!

[Crinis! My gelatinous horror from the deep! How are you going?]

[I'm not letting go.]

[ I didn't even -]

[I know what you wanted to say, Master!]

My carapace creaks as she squeezes me.

[But I'm going to make sure that you stay safe!]

[That's That's great. Thanks, Crinis]

Phew boy. That's going to need some more time. Thank goodness I have Invidia around now! He's just riding around on Tiny's back, so he'll be rested and down for a chat, surely!

[Invidia! How's my favourite greed demon? Getting used to having all the ants around?]

The eye is watching me, lit from within with a rising glow of green.

[The affectionssss of the dark one They belongssss to you]

[ I suppose so why?]

He doesn't answer, but his eye narrows and burns more brightly.

[Is everything alright there, Invidia?]

[Yesssssssssssssssssssssssss.]

Okay! Creepy as always! I need more time to get used to this guy. The way he thinks is just different. Having exhausted all options of conversation, I return to marching in determined silence. For about five minutes before I start to go crazy. I just can't walk along here, doing nothing! I want to go back and check on the expedition, see how they react when the scent trails vanishes. The chance still exists that it's me that they're tracing, after all. Sadly, it appears as though the council members are able to follow my thoughts now.

I feel a mind bridge reach out towards me and I allow it to connect. I recognise this ant mind.

[Propellant? What's going on?]

[Sorry to bother you, Eldest. Just wanted to ask that you don't go running off on your own.]

[ What do you mean?]

[I think we both know what the long pause at the start of that sentence means, Eldest.]

[ Maybe?]

[The scouts are watching the Golgari constantly. Burke will go nuts if you rush back there again. She doesn't have enough scouts to cover all the directions that need watching and keep a sneaky guard on you at the same time.]

[Wait. I'm being guarded?]

[Not right now. But the moment you leave the convoy you will be.]

[But what if they're tracking me with some sort of magic we haven't seen yet! There's still too much we aren't aware of, Propellant!]

[We've considered the possibility. The others and I want to eliminate all other possibilities before we consider moving you away from the convoy. Right now, the two prisoners are being led on a roundabout tour through nearby tunnels, we wish to see if the convoy is tracking them. At the same time, the scouts are laying false trails behind us that lead just about everywhere. Only when we've confirmed that these methods are ineffective will we chance moving you off.] for visiting.

[I don't like sitting here while others risk their lives for me, Propellant.]

[I know, Eldest. Just please bear with it for a little while.]

[ You said all of you agree on this. Even Leeroy?]

[Ah, no. Leeroy is currently under heavy guard in the centre of the convoy. She's tried to escape nine times already.]

The thought that me trying to run off is even a little bit similar to the behaviour of that lunatic is enough to send a shiver down my non-existent spine. I'll wait!