"Was it really necessary to construct a council meeting chamber? We hardly ever have a meeting"
It's quite nice too. They even have what appear to be ant specific chairs. They look like a padded bench in three sections, one for each of our body segments, joined together at the right angle for us to rest on them. Interestingly, this means that there's a specific chair for each of us due to the polymorphic nature of our colony. One size doesn't fit all when it comes to us. The chairs are arranged in a wide circle with a low round table carved from pure rock in the centre. Atop the table sits a flattened map of the dungeon engraved on the surface in perfect detail.
"I can't help but feel like this is more effort than was needed."
Since we entered from the roof, the walls are free from openings and host an incredible panoramic carving of the twenty, with myself featuring prominently, because of course. It's nice to see Grant is also given pride of place, her sacrifice remembered with a wonderful mural of her service to our family. Her death still weighs on me heavily, perhaps that's a large part of why I needed to get away from the colony after the battle. Don't worry Grant, I won't run away anymore
"It's fine, isn't it Eldest? These meetings are usually important, right? Seems like we should hold them in an important looking place," Wills gives her thoughts.
"I can see what the Eldest is saying," Tungstant muses, "this space is close to the centre of the nest and could have been used for all sorts of things."
"Right? We can hold these meetings in any tunnel, no need to get fancy," I press.
"Well, I think it's nice," says Antionette as she settles onto her chair. "We need to be worthy of the space our family has prepared for us."
That's a good sentiment. A little hesitant, I crawl over my own seat and gradually lower myself down into it, allowing my not insignificant weight to fall on it. It's surprisingly comfy, allowing my legs to just hang loose, without any need to support the rest of me.
"I think it's important that we clearly assess our current situation," Victor leads off, "what are our threats? Where is the enemy?"
"It may be more valuable to understand where the colony stands as a whole, as opposed to focusing on our foes," Sloan disagrees.
"I'm more interested in that, to start with," I say, "There's so much happening right now that I don't know about. The development of our knowledge, techniques and craftsmanship is way beyond what I expected at this point."
Each of the council members shifts and wiggles their antennae with glee, pleased with this compliment, especially the carvers.
"We only did as you asked of us, Eldest," Mendant answers me, "we tried to draw every ounce of information from the humans that we could and adapt it to our needs."
"I'm just surprised at what you picked up. Like, the magnificent carvings and artworks," I gesture to the walls with one antenna, "not exactly the sort of thing I expected the colony to prioritise."
The rest of the council shift slightly to take in the walls a little better.
"Well, to be honest, most of us didn't really see the point of it," Cobalt admits.
"It was really only a small group of carvers who decided to pick it up in earnest," Tungstant says.
"Any idea why?" I'm curious.
"I'm not sure, you might have to ask them yourself. The rest of the carvers who specialise in construction have picked up the Skill to one degree or another. Once the bar for aesthetics had been set, we were determined that it would uniform. Since it doesn't detract from the function of the spaces, there's not really any harm," Cobalt says.
"Fine. I just want it put on the record that I'm uncomfortable with having so many images of myself hung up everywhere."
"Uh What's the 'record'," Coolant asks.
"Like, a written record of our meeting."
"Ooh" they chorus.
"Let's do that," Mendant says.
"No problem, I'll write it all down later and we can publish it in one of the central tunnels. That way anyone can read it," Bella declares.
"Alright, fine! Now what the heck is going on with the colony?"
"I'll start!" Vibrant throws an antenna into the air. "You all talk too much! So, after you left we took a whole bunch of new territory and expanse', you can see them here, here and over there." She raises up a leg to point at the map. "We got a whole bunch of foot and experience. New nest is here, new nests going over there and around here somewhere. We think there's an underground city around here somewhere and -"
"Wait, what?!" I shout.
"A city, or something like it. The signs are there, at least. Shaped passages, footprints, noises So, anyway -"
"We need to seize that city."
Silence falls at the table, no scent hanging in the air.
"That's unusual, coming from you, Eldest," Advant observes.
"Portals. I explained this to Coolant and Propellant already, but our foes can move vast distances in an instant with this magic. If there are portals in that city"
"They'll appear right next to us?" Sloan asks slowly.
"Right. This blank zone which might have a city in it that's right between this nest and the proposed third. If an army were to suddenly appear there, we'll have a difficult fight on our claws."
"The Eldest is right," Victor says, "we need to strike first to neutralise this threat. We can mobilise a force in two hours."
"We can't move that quickly!" Advant protests. "We have no idea what we're going into. We cannot afford to throw lives away before this conflict even begins!"
Another moment of contemplation.
"I agree with Advant. We should still have a little time, they still don't know exactly where we are. A few days. Scout it out, push deeper and get a clearer picture. We need to act fast."
"Great!" Vibrant cheers.
"I'll head to the village and talk to them about this. There may be a way they can help. I want Cobalt and Mendant to come with me. I have a few things to discuss with you two. We'll come back to this meeting in a day, when we know more. And can someone please get me a count of how many ants there are!"