Chrysalis - Chapter 787 - Mad Mages
Chapter 787 – Mad Mages
Having a smaller ant crawl all over my carapace is kind of ticklish and I was frankly a little glad when Smithant was finally finished with her work. I could tell she was pumped up, she was practically radiating the same level of energy as the hatchling by the time she was done. Without so much as a ‘thanks for dropping in’ she rushed about, starting gathering ingots and scratching designs into the ground with her claw before we’d even left the room.
We took our leave and now find ourselves just outside the mana research section of the mage quarters. Here it is that teams of mages along with distinguished members of the other castes put their minds to the great problems of the age, such as how the hell does one unlock spatial magic? How do those frickin’ gates work? What is the most effective magic for a fully trained team of ants to use to annihilate their foes? Among others. The other key area for research is enchanting, the Colony having made massive strides in this department since the early days. The proof of that is in the incredible pudding that I’ve witnessed on this tour. The sheer amount and variety of enchantments that have been employed is stunning to me.
Clearly those ants who are dedicated to this area of study have been raising the rank of their Skills like crazy. I wonder what on earth Smithant is going to be able to make for me in the end? My hopes are getting higher the more I consider it.
“What’s this place?” the hatchling asks as we approach the new section, the spicy tang of fire, ice and other elements brushing against my antennae the closer we come.
“This is where the smartest and most insane ants of the Colony come to unlock the secrets of mana!”
“Smarter than me?” she appears doubtful.
“Of course they’re smarter than you,” I scold the hatchling as she rubs the top of her head with one claw, “you just hatched. Tiny is probably smarter than you.”
“He is not!” she flares up.
“He’s smart enough to listen, now shush. This section of the nest is for magic related research. Mostly mage ants and carvers in here, though there are plenty of others mixed in when there’s a need. Healers are frequent visitors, for example. Nobody has more expertise with healing and restorative magic than they do, obviously, and their services are often required to help repair damage from experiments that… don’t quite work.”
“Does that happen often?”
“Daily, or so I’m told. Let’s go!”
“I can’t wait!”
Rushing down the last section of tunnel, the hatchling draws still the moment she fully enters the first chamber. A central chamber with many smaller workrooms splintering off like the spokes of a wheel, the arcane energy swirling through the air is so thick you can almost taste it. Sparks fly from one room, belching flames from another, ice cold winds with shards of ice from yet another. The glow of runes emanates from everywhere around us, producing barriers, light, heat, channeling mana and all sorts of things.
To my mana sense, this chamber is a chaotic dance of energy that dips and twirls everywhere in tiny eddies and massive currents. The sheer amount of mana moving through this space is staggering, taking in all that the dregs of the wave has to offer. Looking closely, it’s almost as if some of these enchanted arrays are actually assisting the flow of mana, bringing more into this chamber from above and below in order to power the many experiments going on. Is that something we can do now? We can gather mana from the surrounding area using enchantments? Stack them together to produce a flow of mana?
In a round… I’ll say desk in the centre of the chamber sits a rather important looking ant busily scanning through what I recognise as records that have been imprinted with scent. She appears to be… filing? Have we invented ant secretaries now?
“Oh! Eldest!” she starts when she sees us approach and hurriedly slides all the doc.u.ments to one side before turning back to us. “Welcome to the research hub! I don’t think you’ve visited before. Is there anything in particular that you’re looking for?”
She’s not the only one to notice our presence, quite a few ants are sticking their heads out of the many chambers around the room watching my entrance with rapt attention. It’s strange, I can feel their eyes on me in quite a literal sense through the Vestibule, giving me access to their impressions even as I watch them react to my being here. Quite a few are hoping I’m here to help them with their project, or admire the work that they’ve already done. I don’t think I can be of much help, considering that when it comes to actual meta-knowledge of the mana system in this world, I’m sure they are far more advanced than I am, even if my magic Skills and stats are higher than theirs.
“I’m just here to have a sticky-mandible. Stick my antennae in and have a look at what’s going on. I’m showing the hatchling here what the Colony has been doin- wait… where did she go?!”
Dammit, I was distracted by all the attention I was getting and wasn’t paying attention for a split second. How the hell did she manage to identify that moment and take advantage of it so precisely? I hope she doesn’t become an unnamed one, she’d have godly skills of catching people off guard. I quick scan and I identify her thoughts coming from one of the side chambers.
“Found her,” I tell the fl.u.s.tered receptionant and rush off to one of the openings.
Inside I find a large team of possibly a hundred ants working furiously around one of the captured gates, reassembled in all of its glory here for the Colony to work on. Where the heck is she? I know she’s in here somewhere…
“Ah, the gate project,” the receptionant says from behind me after having followed in my wake, “this continues to stump the finest minds we have in the Colony, I’m afraid. Despite having found the correct matrix to draw mana into the gate mechanism itself, without any understanding of how to properly apply said mana, it simply dissipates over time, no matter what we try.”
“You know about this?” I ask her, a little surprised.
“I know about all the projects,” she confirms, clacking her mandibles with pride, “I have to in order to properly manage this research division.”
Not a receptionist… a mage, who’s probably the most knowledgeable of all of them in here. I really shouldn’t pre-judge my insect brethren.
“Can you tell me a little more about this project?” I ask as I scan the room with multiple senses for the little runaway.
“As I’m sure you know, Eldest, the gate project remains a high priority for the Colony. There are three teams this size working on a gate, but progress has been painfully slow. Part of the problem being we simply don’t know how spatial constructs work. As you can imagine, creating constructs from scratch, without any guidance from the System, is practically impossible.”
I nod. The mana constructs are like works of art smashed into intricate architecture. I can’t even be sure if there’s a series of logical laws that underpin their construction or if they are just randomly assembled and work via… magic.
“Has an attempt been made to construct a spatial array from nothing?”
“Of course, those efforts continue. Extensive study of every known construct is a major focus of ours.”
I should probably drop by and produce an image of some kind of the omni-elemental construct, if that’s at all possible. I’m sure they’d love a gander at that.
“Well, it’s important that we – THERE YOU ARE!”
Atop the gate standing proudly is the tiny hatchling.
“This looks so cool!” she yells.