As I flee down the dark, cold tunnel of the second strata with my pets, I try to get a sense of the strength possessed by the Golgari behind us. The first few are just massive. Hulking titans of humanoids that seem way too large to move the way that they do. I know that unlike monsters, size doesn't equate to strength with the sapient races. At least, not directly. According to Beyn, the stats that humans possess aren't linked to their mass, but rather the capacity to channel mana through their bodies. Having said that, he did explain that someone with a larger might stat is going to be bulkier than others. Looking at these behemoths, I'm reminded of his words. They look like the hulk covered in gleaming stone. Or like the thing, but not a joke. I never thought I'd see a non-monster that could arm wrestle Tiny, but here we are. Comparatively, the armoured figure is smaller, although still a regular Golgari height, pushing three metres. But something about the way they move is giving me the heeby-jeebies. If I had money, I'd be betting all of it that the armoured figures are the strongest in the group chasing us.
Not only chasing, but gaining!
[Come on, Tiny! Pump those ape legs! We need more speed!]
The giant ape roars in my mind and out loud as he spreads his wings, beating them furiously in an attempt to build up more speed. It does help, but not enough as the Golgari gain on us. They're doing it so easily too. The expressions on their faces are so calm and confident, as if we represent no threat to them at all.
Good thing that we were prepared for this sort of eventuality. One thing about a hive mind of individually intelligent creatures, there's enough brain power to go around to cover for all eventualities. Certainly, the Colony was never going to leave me hanging out to dry. Not far up the tunnel are our reinforcements, ready to spring from their hiding places and assault the enemy in numbers. Before that happens, I want to try my own mandibles at the fight, see if we can't bring this to a standstill before I need to call out my siblings.
[Get ready to turn and fight!] I call to my pets and they each respond with determination.
[ That means you need to climb off me, Crinis.]
[Oh! Right. Sorry, Master.]
Yeesh. I can feel her reluctantly pulling herself away from my carapace as we continue our mad dash for a few seconds longer.
As one, the four of us dig in our heels and slow our momentum, turning around to face the enemy. A flicker of understanding ripples through the Golgari eyes as they heft their weapons and prepare for contact. It's Tiny who commits first, as it should be. His face distorts in a raw bellow of rage and delight that shakes the cavern, causing a rain of dust and stone before he leaps high into the air. His wings unfold and brush against the ceiling and he draws back both fists over his head. Those ham-sized fists glow fiercely with bright light before he descends like a god hammer toward the huge Golgari in the front. The frontline stone-people gather in an instant, combining their strength to withstand the mighty blow that's coming.
But the bag of tricks isn't empty yet, not by a long shot. As Tiny falls, his image blurs and shimmers and he appears to slide to one side. Then, with a distorting flicker, there are four Tiny's descending on the enemy! With ease and precision, Invidia weaves an illusion to protect the great ape as he strikes at the foe. One of the soldiers slashes wildly with his oversized blade, bisecting two of the images cleanly, but before he can strike once more, Tiny lands amongst them.
The stone beneath my feet shakes as an explosion of dust fills the tunnel, showering me with pebbles and dust. What became of the Golgari at the point of impact, I've no idea, I can't see a thing. I briefly consider a little air magic to clear the debris, but I decide against it. This is perfect cover for my own approach! Gweheheheheh. Fear the ant that you don't see coming!
I lower by body and dash forward, firing off a few acid barrages as I move, trying to avoid Tiny's last known location. Even using mana sense right now isn't helping much, since there are so many bodies of powerful energy present. Oddly enough, it's my heat sense that gives me the clearest indication of where Tiny is, since the Golgari, who are sealed in stone, don't release all that much heat. Behind me, Invidia takes up an unobtrusive position as his green eye blazes with energy. I can already feel the mana around him whirling in an intricate dance as his ridiculous brain power goes to work, weaving many spells at once.
For her part, Crinis is forming up her body from the ooze she'd reduced herself to, all three mouths gaping and gnashing horrifically as her tentacles begin to spread. Not only is she reaching and grasping toward the Golgari, but dozens of limbs are plunging into the darkening shadows around her, sinking into the floor and walls only to reappear closer to the enemy.
This is exciting! The gang, assembled at last, standing united against the enemy with the Colony at our backs. It's enough to really get the blood pumping! I can't help but clack my mandibles in excitement, my six legs blurring as I speed through the tunnel. From my Vestibule come a thousand tiny voices, urging me on, demanding that they be given the chance to fight alongside me. I take that energy and channel it, filling my body with that drive until I feel like my heart will explode.
The Colony is with me!
"FOR THE COLONY!" I scream as large stone shapes loom out of the darkness.
A glint of metal and a sound like a collapsing tidal wave set my antennae blazing as I duck and angle my carapace to receive the blow.
My poor legs creak as a titanic strike digs a chunk of diamond from my thorax before deflecting above me. Didn't expect me to be that tough, did you?! Now revel in the power of my mandibles!
The dark energy manifests around my jaws and I clamp them down on the gleaming giant in front of me.
Yikes! This guy's tough! Whatever material they used to create that skin, they sure as hell picked a hard one! With my mandibles gripped around the Golgari I spin my body and throw them away, using my far greater mass to send them stumbling backward as I press forward to find Tiny. Crinis has started to take a more active part of the battle now, her tentacles reaching and grasping. Once she latches onto someone they instantly become encoiled by a dozen limbs that dig and tear at them relentlessly. I'm fairly sure she has more up her sleeves as well, judging by the strange behaviour of the shadows around here. Things are starting to heat up!