Torrina Laksham wasn't sure what to think. The more time she spent around that remarkable ant, the more things didn't make sense. When she and Corun had accompanied Anthony to the surface, she'd been stunned to find an entire community of humans who not only seemed to accept the ant and his Colony, but were rapidly approaching something very close to worship.
The moment they'd seen the welcoming party, with their robes and ant-like regalia, she and Corun had shared a long and significant glance. The parallels they could draw between their own Cult and the behaviour on display were far too easy to draw. It was almost disturbing to see such devout actions taking place in clear daylight, in full view of everyone. The two of them had spent their entire adult lives concealing their beliefs and ideology, only to see these humans being so forward and direct with their burgeoning faith. It was, in many ways, shocking.
But also exciting. They were here following the direction of their triad leader, hoping to help cultivate a new ancient, and here was a group of people who responded to Anthony in much the same way that groups all over the world had reacted to the ancients during the cataclysm. To Torrina, it was a powerful sign that they were on the right track. Corun was less convinced.
[These people are backwards hicks from the middle of nowhere. Most of them have barely ever set foot in the Dungeon, let alone faced a monster in combat,] he argued over a mind bridge, [the moment any powerful monster appeared in front of them, they were bound to admire it.]
[Admiration is one thing,] Torrina said, [worship is quite another. Look around you Corun. There are monsters walking through the streets of a human settlement. And nobody cares. In fact, they are respected, revered and welcomed. I'm not certain that such a thing has happened in the entire history of Pangera, from the cataclysm to now.]
Corun just shook his head and looked around a little more. It was hard to deny the argument that his triad partner put forward, but he wasn't ready to commit quite as much. These people were just so backward. He found it hard to put any stock at all in their thoughts and beliefs. That didn't mean he saw nothing that he could learn from their interactions with the Colony, which was why he'd agreed to remain behind when Anthony had returned to the Dungeon.
The two of them had stayed with the Mayor, Enid, the previous night and plumbed her for information on the history of the town and it's interactions with Anthony. The old woman was tough as any stone and quite cagey, but was unable to conceal her own deep respect and unquestioning faith in her powerful insect ally.
[These people are from the backend of the backend,] Corun tried again, [frontier farmers with no foundation, no connection to any of the great powers and no history. Regardless of what they think, is it really that important? You need to remember that Anthony is a special case, a reincarnated human. He's inclined to help these people based on his history, not to mention he's well aware of what the Colony would be able to learn from people such as these. He wanted them to trust him.]
The two of them were walking out of the town, accompanying a group of armed members and ant-robes led by the one-armed priest, Beyn, but Torrina was frustrated enough by his remarks that she stopped to stare at him.
[Do you really think it's so easy for a monster to gain the trust of humans? Or any sapient race? He didn't have the advantage of the god-like strength the ancients possessed, so how do you think he was able to do it? This has never happened before. Do you understand what that means? By its very definition, this is special. You'd have to be a fool to discount the significance of what these people represent.]
By the end of her rant, the usually cool as ice Golgari Shaper had more than a little heat in her gaze as she glared at Corun. Despite being the older of the two, Corun threw his hands up in surrender.
[Alright! Cool down! I'm not used to seeing you get this fired up, Torrina.]
She took a deep breath and felt her ire recede before she continued in a more even tone.
[I find that your own lack of enthusiasm to be more confusing. I feel there is a growing possibility that there is a real chance Anthony will ascend to become the twentieth ancient. The more I consider it, the harder I find it to remain level headed.]
"Everything alright back there?" a voice called.
Torrina and Corun turned to see that their entire group had stalled to wait for them as they'd discussed silently through mental communication. Corun smiled easily and raised a hand.
"Apologies to you all, my compatriot and I were merely discussing a few points and didn't want to disturb you. We won't delay you any further."
The two Golgari towered over the humans, their stone covered bodies and heavily built frames meant that even the largest human looked frail and childlike when stood next to them. This meant they acted in a very polite and reserved way around their hosts, not wanting to cause any accidents or to put the humans off side.
"You have come in support of the Great One, that is enough to grant you a great deal of leeway," Beyn declared.
With his remaining arm, he waved the group forward as they marched toward the towering anthill in the distance. Seeing an opportunity to pick the brains of this key human, Torrina strode forward to speak to him.
"Priest Beyn, may I have a moment of your time? I have questions regarding your own interactions with the Great One."
The priest nodded, but didn't turn his head toward her, instead remaining focused on the nest in front of him.
"I see that you hesitate to refer to him as such. Perhaps you know his name?"
"Yes, I see. I choose not to use that name, instead referring to them with a title I bestowed myself. Perhaps it is hubris on my part, but I feel that being so personal wouldn't be right for someone such as myself."
Torrina tried to look as if she understood.
"I believe I heard, Priest Beyn, that you are the first human to come into contact with the Great One. How did that meeting go?"
The Priest laughed and waggled the stump of his arm.
"He bit my arm off."
Torrina nearly tripped.
"Not the most auspicious beginning, I'll happily admit," Beyn said with a wry smile, "I was confused then, I didn't understand what it was that I was witness to. It took some time, but I eventually was able to see the true path that had been laid before my feet."
"Sounds like you've had quite a range of experiences."
"Indeed I have."
"I'd love to hear more."
The priest was only too happy to talk and she listened intently as the anthill grew to loom over them until eventually they entered one of its many tunnels and plunged beneath the ground. It wasn't long until a representative of the Colony approached the group and led them deeper. There was a major campaign underway and the town would not sit to one side.