With my circle around me, I eventually find my way into town. It's a shocking transformation that's taken place. Cobbled roads with drainage ditches, a smattering of proper, stone buildings, way more people than I remember and a plethora of other indicators of a thriving, happy community. To think that mere months ago this place didn't have one brick on top of another. There's still quite a few ants about the place, watching the humans go about their business, helping out here and there. Most of them are mages, of course, but every now and again a carver pops up with a mage escort to perform the mind magic for them.
The Colony really has taken my instructions to learn from the humans very seriously. It seems as though they won't be satisfied until they extract every little piece of information they can get their mandibles on. Considering the rate of improvement that they've shown, it's working like a charm.
Corun and Torrina draw a lot of strange looks as they accompany me into the town. Being Golgari, they stand head and shoulders above even the tallest human in town, not to mention their glittering stone skin and general lack of clothing. But even they, as strange and new to these people as they are, don't seem to be enough to distract from the spectacle of forty robed 'ant-people' escorting me through the streets. Having them just be there is one thing, but the shouting adds a whole new layer of awkwardness.
"MAKE WAY FOR THE GREAT ONE!"
"DO NOT SULLY THE SHINE OF HOLINESS!"
"PAY PROPER RESPECT! MAKE WAY FOR THE MANDIBLES OF JUSTICE!"
I thought I was the only one who called them that Regardless, this public display of devotion receives something of a mixed response from the gathering crowd of onlookers. Some people, presumably those who've seen me before, possibly during the battle against Garralosh, cheer and wave as they see me, or clasp their hands and join the shouting, which is less great. Others appear more curious than elated, likely those who haven't seen an ant of this sort of size or apparent importance wandering around. Then there's others who seem less delighted to have a giant monster in quite such close proximity to themselves.
I should have waited outside of town. I just got a little enthused and wanted to see all of the changes that had taken place. They've worked hard, these people. Can't help if I wanted to have a bit of a sticky-beak.
[You seem popular up here,] Corun laughs over a mind bridge.
[When you save people's lives from a horrible death by monster, they tend to be grateful, even if you are a monster.]
[Even so, some of this feels a little religious, don't you think?]
[I'm not sure I get what you mean]
[The robes, the singing of praises and such. Granin might be on the right track with you, you've already managed to create your own cult!]
[Antenna Cult?] Torrina says.
[I was thinking 'Carapace Cult'.]
[Whoa there, hold on. First off, I do not have a cult. Second of all, you're cult is the 'Cult of the Worm'. Before you try and start making fun of other people's cults, not that I have one, you might want to examine your own situation first.]
[It's nice to finally see some humans treat Master with the respect he deserves!] Crinis remarks, snippily.
[They are slowing me down though,] I sigh, [being up here can't be any more comfortable for you than it is for me, Crinis.]
[No you aren't, but not to worry, we're nearly done.]
Despite the ever increasing crowd of onlookers, we do eventually push our way through to the newly constructed town hall, a two story building of simple stone construction that is nevertheless very impressive considering how quick they whipped it up. It's nothing compared to what the carvers are building underground, but hey, they're only human.
I use my mana sense and reach out with a mind bridge once I find the person I need.
[Enid! You can't possibly tell me that you didn't know I was coming. Half the town is out here gabbing.]
[Oh, I know,] she sounds equal parts irritated and weary, [but I've been stuck in here listening to people natter on about their issues which apparently can't be put aside for the sake of a monster.]
[Are they lacking gratitude to that extent?] I'm incredulous, [I hate to interrupt, you but I can't stay up here for long. One more evolution and you'll probably never see me on the surface again! Any chance I can break up the meeting? We've got some big stuff going on down there.]
[By all means. It's hard to focus on mental communication when people won't stop talking to you.]
Not if you had better mental stats. Enid needs a few more levels if you ask me. Although, she may be a touch too old for Dungeon delving. I turn to one of my ant-headed bodyguards and whipped together a quick connection.
[Hey there, it's me, the giant ant standing next to you.]
The fellow I'm talking to, a middle aged looking chap with a weather beaten face, leaps a metre into the air before turning to look at me with a panic stricken face.
[Hey, buddy, just breathe, alright? Stay cool. I just need you to grab some of your people, go in there, and make sure Enid can come out and talk to me. Okay? Keep it simple.]
Seemingly unable to form a coherent response, he nods jerkily, and then thinks better of it and bows deeply. After a moment to collect himself, he grabs two others and drags them into the building, whispering furiously to them as they go. The chap looks a touch glassy eyed, I hope he's alright. It's better than having that one armed priest Beyn around, goodness knows what would happen if he were here.
Not long after they went in, the three ant-robed people bring out a rather startled looking Enid being carried in their arms. She knew that something was going to happen, but I'm not sure that she expected this.
[Hey, Enid,] I greet her with a friendly wave of an antenna, [been a little while.]
[It certainly has. Have you changed colour?]
[What? Ah, no. That's Crinis. Say hello, Crinis.]
A section of gloop detaches from my carapace and forms a barbed tentacle, much to the horror of most people watching. Crinis extends the limb towards Enid and waves it playfully before retracting it back into her main mass.
[She says hi.]
Enid shakes her head slightly, before she brushes her skirts down and shoos away the hovering ant-people.
[Apparently there's something important happening going on down in the Dungeon? Must be big if you've come back up here, it can't be pleasant for you. Does it have something to do with your two Golgari friends?]
[Look, it's not great to be here, and that's no knock on the company. I'm not sure exactly how to phrase this delicately, so I'm just going to come out and say it. I might have accidentally started a war with the Golgari which is likely to kick off sometime in the next week. There's also a city under us, apparently? We'll be trying to take control of that over the next few days.]
Enid just stares at me.
[You WHAT? With the Golgari?! Then why are they here?] She points an accusatory finger at Torrina and Corun who look back coolly.
[They, uh, just really believe in me? They're on our side because, reasons.]
She massages her temples for a moment as she closes her eyes to think.
[What do you need from us?] She says, her eyes calm and steady when she opens them again.
[I really thought you'd be a little more shocked by this.] I admit.
[There's no point, is there? Things move so fast around here that I'm better off just accepting and not thinking about it for too long. I'll need to get the town council together and discuss this, but I'm willing to pledge you our support.]
That takes me back a little.
[Really? I was just going to let you know what was happening, I didn't have any intention of asking you to fight]
[Anthony, if the Colony is destroyed, we won't last much longer. Anyone who's cooperated with monsters as we have, isn't exactly looked on favourably. For good or for ill, our fates are tied to yours.]
I scratch my head with an antenna.
[Well, sure. I guess we'll take any help we can get. Probably best if you think about what you have to offer, since I have no clue. We'll be able to coordinate more closely after that.]
[Alright. The work never ends around here,] she sighs.
[When ants are involved, it tends to get like that,] I laugh.
We exchange pleasantries for a few minutes before I decide to end the conversation. If anything, the surrounding crowd has only grown in size as we've talked and I don't want to deal with the unpleasant feeling of my core bleeding out any longer. Saying farewell to the mayor, I turn and head back toward the nest. I have a core I need to collect in there.