676 The Siege pt 21

Coolant and Sloan watched, gobsmacked as the fight unfolded before them. At first it seemed as though everything had gone well, after Grey had walked out and spoken with the Golgari, the kneeling form of the Shaper, Granin, had risen to his feet, had his bindings broken and painfully jogged his way toward the gate. It was clear at that point that the negotiations had been a success. In the distance, the small camp the golgari had erected was disassembled by the mages and the two figures of the noble and Grey stood a slight distance apart, both of them watching as the newly freed Granin made his painful way to the nest.

When he arrived the gate was pushed open slightly as a few ants emerged to welcome him. Mage ants all of them, they reached out with their minds to reassure him before leading him inside where he was sure to be greeted and cared for by the two who had pled so strongly for his life. Against the odds, their wishes had been granted and their mentor had been returned to them, all that was left was to witness the outcome of the battle.

"How do you think it will go?" Coolant asked her more martially knowledgeable sister.

Sloan started, her concentration broken.

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"Sorry, what?" she said, distracted.

"Who do you think will win?" Coolant tried again with patience.

The general turned slightly toward her sister.

"How on Pangera am I supposed to know?" she sounded exasperated. "I don't know their levels or Skills even slightly! From what we know, they don't even evolve, so I can't judge from their physical forms or mutations. What am I supposed to go on?"

"They have classes," Coolant offered sagely, "their species doesn't change, but they have a 'class' that gives stats per level. You should know this much."

Sloan shrugged.

"I know it, of course I do," she jabbed a leg toward the two figures in the distance, "but I don't know what their classes or stats are, so I can't possibly make a prediction."

"Does it really matter to us? Who wins I mean."

The thought hadn't occurred to Sloan and she contemplated for a moment as Grey and his opponent began to move, walking apart until there were five hatchling lengths between them. Did it really matter? She had obviously wanted Grey to win, since he was more or less on the Colony's side, though he had gone to some lengths to conceal his motives and opinions from the Colony. They certainly knew nothing of his true strength. Ultimately though, with Granin released to their custody, the outcome of the duel didn't seem to be all that important. The Shaper was only relevant to the Colony because of his connection to the Eldest, nothing their lives depended on. If Grey could win though… that might take an important piece for the golgari off the table. With this, the most powerful of their number removed from the battle, the odds of holding off the rock-people until the wave began improved dramatically.

"If Grey wins, our position will be much stronger. Also, he is an ally, of a sort. It would obviously be better if our allies are stronger," Sloan reasoned.

"That's true," her sister agreed and the two settled in to watch as the distant figures bowed to one another in a strange display of etiquette before they both took a pose.

The golgari had dispensed with his sheath, the glittering blade of stone shining with the same potent energy that rippled through the hardened 'skin' that coated his body. No armour was worn for this duel apparently, the noble had dispensed with it, revealing his true skin for all to see. The stone was streaked with golden rivers of mana that rippled and flowed as he moved, casting light around him in a dazzling display of power. Whatever mineral or ore had been used it was clearly top shelf, Sloan had never seen anything like it. She wagered Smithant would give an antenna to study it for five minutes. The sword itself was slender and curved, but long, perhaps as much as two meters. Held in the grip of the giant warrior, it looked sharp and deadly, a precision implement of death. When weighed against Grey, unarmed and far smaller, dressed in a humble robe with his claws unsheathed, it didn't look favorable for him.

When it began, Sloan could have sworn that she'd missed it. One moment the two were still as statues, watching each other for the slightest movement, the next they had shifted. It was as if they had vanished from where they stood and reappeared in another place, dispensing with the hassle of traversing the intervening distance.

So fast!

Several more times the two of them flickered until finally they clashed. The poor eyes of the ant general caught the impact a second after it happened. The golgari had rushed forward, his entire body a blur as the great blade had come down in an overhead chop. The energy infused in the blade was so great it felt to Sloan as if a thousand tons of rock was descending on Grey at the speed of a lightning bolt. Inescapable. Unfazed by the danger, Grey had swung both hands from right to left, his claws blazing with light that had extended outward and clashed with the blade, diverting it to the side.

The stone shattered under the force of the impact, shards flying as several tons of rock disintegrated. With his opponent unbalanced, Grey lashed out with his claws, once, twice, thrice, almost too fast to see before he danced back out of reach, both hands extended. The noble golgari took his time righting himself as he gripped the hilt of his sword in one hand, using the other to brush dust and stone from his skin. Whatever material he was coated in, it was clearly tough as nails, not a scratch could be seen on him.

The two exchanged a few words which Sloan and Coolant couldn't hear before they once again took a ready stance, giving the two ants a chance to process what they'd seen.

"What the hell was that?!" Sloan gasped.

"Did you see the mana packed in that sword?!" Coolant was shocked. "That was insane! How does it hold that much?"

"Did you see the speed?"

"The power…"

It was clear then to the two council members, that outside of the Eldest and possibly the Queen herself, there were none who could hope to stand against individuals as powerful as these two. Indeed, no matter how many tier three ants they were to throw at the two combatants before them, would it really matter? In the face of this kind of condensed might, only an individual of equal strength would suffice. Unless they could cultivate warriors of comparable ability themselves, the casualties they would suffer to bring down these exceptional individuals would be obscene. And who knew? Were creatures such as these two even that rare in the depths?

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