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Chapter 502 Holy ground
Beyn Antseeker, for that was now his name, tread forward with reverence. This was a sacred place, and one toward which he felt only the deepest respect. They were all around him now and he did his best not to disturb their paths and they moved pa.s.sed him with purpose. They were always so sure of themselves, the Path was clear before their multi-faceted eyes and their many legs could not stray from it.
[Hurry your step, human. There is much work to be done.]
[I apologise, holy one. I was distracted, also it is difficult for me to carry these with only one arm.]
It was true. Currently, Beyn was carrying an arm load of ten unstrung bow staves in a delivery to the Colony under his one good arm. There had been tremendous excitement amongst the faithful when the offer of the Colony to enchant weapons for the Village. Such a thing was yet more evidence of the righteousness of their cause. How could anyone continue to hold doubts as to the nature of this Colony, to the sanct.i.ty of the Great One? Such an offer only put more fuel on the fires of faith and Beyn had immediately held a public gathering to preach in the Village square, praising this news to the heavens.
Enid had been quite annoyed with him at that. Considering the transaction hadn’t been finalised and the craftsmen in particular had not yet agreed to take part. Beyn had scoffed at such meagre constraints. Such things would be swept away by the current of destiny that had seized them all in its waves!
She’d hit him after that and he had executed a tactical retreat. It was frustrating to Beyn that none were closer to the ants, or the Great One in the village than Enid was, yet she held herself back from truly embracing the new Path. She’d never been particularly religious and Beyn had many disagreements with her acting as her Priest, yet he believed that deep down the faith burned strong within her.
How could it not? She had witnessed the miracles of the Colony from just as close as he had!
[Are you sure that I shouldn’t carry them for you?] His escort flexed her mandibles to demonstrate their willingness to help.
[I must decline,] Beyn hastened to say. [The agreement stated that we must deliver the material to you directly and I do not intend to shirk my work.]
[That’s good then.] The ant nodded its antennae and continued to lead the way toward the nest.
Even though this particular Mage had no idea why the council had agreed to let this human inside the nest she would do her job and escort them properly. If he so much as looked at a brood chamber he was getting chomped.
The Priest was quite aware that he was in danger. He knew a great deal about the Colony, more than the ants suspected in all likelihood. He couldn’t help it, he was endlessly curious about this manifestation of a miracle, as were his followers. Once the ants had begun to interact with the people of Village in an attempt to learn what they knew of production, construction and civilisation, the faithful had begun an earnest campaign to learn about them. There was nothing malicious in their hearts, they simply yearned to grow closer, to learn anything they could about the object of their reverence.
And so when they were approached by the Colony to share they knowledge, they did so gladly and when they felt they could, they politely, respectfully and tactfully asked questions back. Most of the time the ants would refuse to answer. They didn’t seem to particularly trust humans and were, quite naturally, very insular. It was to expected, after all. Divine monsters they may be, but the nature of the Colony was to be loyal to itself. Even so, every drab of information was h.o.a.rded, a.n.a.lysed and ruminated on. Every utterance of an ant was taken as holy gospel, to be studied and dissected.
In this way, tiny tidbits of information were accrued in order to paint a picture. A blurry picture, with giant gaps. But a picture nonetheless. For instance, they learned that it was the will of the Great One that directed the Colony to interact so closely with the Village. They also learned that the Colony was actively making use of their newfound knowledge as much as possible. Enchanting, forging, building. Every day the ants would come back with more detailed questions, as if they’d taken what they’d learned that day, tried to apply it through the night, then come back for more insights.
But the holy grail, the most coveted prize of all, besides further words with the Great One, was to have access to the nest. They craved it! Oh how they craved it! Even though he knew it was a pipe-dream. As if the ants would ever let them inside their most precious abode! If there was ever to be a chance, it would be through the strengthening bonds of cooperation between the two communities. This exchange had provided an in and Beyn Antseeker was determined to seek with all his strength!
[Hold up there, human Beyn.] He was warned by his escort and he stopped.
After a few moments of silence another, larger ant emerged from the ground to his right. He started. He hadn’t even noticed the opening in the ground and yet now a monster had just sprung from it.
[Greetings, human Beyn.] Came another voice. [My name is Cobalt. Please follow me.]
A name?! A named ant?! They’d heard whispers of this select group of individuals but there had been precious little information about them.
The ant… Cobalt… turned around and vanished once more beneath the ground, leaving the wary Priest little choice but to follow. It was awkward, he was unbalanced due to carrying his cargo under his one arm and the low ceiling, clearly not made for creatures of his height, forced him to stoop.
But he persevered. Indeed, his heart was alight with joy! He would gladly walk over hot coals in order to get even a glimpse into the inner sanctum of these holy creatures! As he shuffled through the tunnels, it was clear that he wasn’t being shown anything the ants were not prepared to allow him to see. He saw no young, no sign of the Queen that had been sighted during the battle against Garralosh. Instead he saw something even more shocking. Chamber after chamber that had been shaped and purposed for crafting. Forges, complete with stone floors, magically operated bellows and ventilation. Enchanting chambers filled with cores and decorated with special, ant comfortable stations in which the creatures could work.
[Your weapons will be enchanted here,] Cobalt finally stopped and indicated a particular chamber with his antennae. [Please leave the staves and bring another load at this time tomorrow. We are confident we will have worked out the process after a week, maybe two.]
Not daring to speak, Beyn lay down his burden and bowed deeply towards every ant he could see before he was escorted out. Though his face was calm, his heart burned with renewed fervour. He hadn’t dared to imagine they could come this far. What could they be but divine?
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