1084 Chapter 1195 - War and Peace

In times of war, or great peril, many things are put aside. Morality, order, law, hierarchy, respect, such things are often cast away in order to ensure the one thing that matters most to a sapient creature: survival.

We are not that way. Our mission is sacrosanct. Our law is woven into the very fibre of our beings. There is no life, without the mission, there is no future, without mission and there will never be a present, without the mission.

Though the world should burn around us, we continue to serve.

- Excerpt from the 'Dedications of the Nameless'

The nameless one executed the eight-fold genuflection and stepped within the Sanctum of Sleep.

To be embraced by the pure darkness was like being held close by the Colony itself. It was home. Guided by scent alone, she manoeuvred through the narrow and twisted corridors until she found who she was looking for.

The Acolytes, still as a sleeping ant, stood in a loose circle around a dim light sunk into the ground. There, they kept their vigil until the second eight of the day had passed.

The nameless one approached and genuflected once more. The Acolyte to her left, the Acolyte of Shadows, signed subtly, and so she approached.

The Eldest rests, the Acolyte began the ritual greeting.

Eight hours a day, the nameless one replied.

Greetings, nameless one. You are welcome in the Sanctum.

I greet you, Acolyte. What news of the waking world do the shadows hold?

It is difficult. The number of transgressions against the Eight number in the hundreds each and every day. Our ability to snatch the heretics from the battlefield is limited, and thus they escape our wrath and righteous cleansing. They do not sleep, their carapaces remain unwaxed, their antennae laden with grit and ungroomed.

Disgraceful, the nameless one signed savagely. This cannot be allowed to stand. Give me the order, and I will hunt down those who spit acid in the Eldest's face!

Find your inner rest, nameless one, the Acolyte signed, the order is not served by your anger. Put it to one side, and think on what you can do.

With difficulty, the nameless one pushed her anger down and sought the icy calm that served her so well in her long service to the Sanctum.

I apologise for my outburst, she signed, but the Acolyte waved it away.

It is nothing, we are all on edge at such rampant and widespread heresy. There are simply too many, and we too few. We will take those we can, and remember those we cannot. They will have their time in the cells, never fear.

I hear and obey.

The healers are being forced to go without breaks to overcome the shortage in numbers; we shall overlook them today, lest our sisters suffer and die for lack of care. There are several scouts who have spurned the Torpor chambers for several days. Capture them and let them learn the error of their ways.

They shall experience luxurious rest and relaxation before this day is done.

This is well.

Her orders received, the nameless one set out through the dark tunnels once again. Narrow passages and secret pathways that wound throughout the great fortress like insidious tendrils of truth. There was no place she could not reach, and her quarry would not escape her justice.

Eight hours later, she returned to the Sanctum. Three targets she had been given, and three she had delivered. Those scouts now rested in the cells, their blatant violation of the Eight put to rights. There was satisfaction in that knowledge, a quiet joy that warmed the nameless one from the inside. But overwhelming that sensation, was outrage.

The number of violations continued to climb to catastrophic levels. Members of the Colony turned away from the law of the Eldest at every turn. It burned in her gut, just as it burned inside every other member of the Sanctum she saw.

Hopefully, the upcoming torpor would help relieve her frustration, and cleanse her heart of this rage. She was a creature of the shadows. Patience and cold, ruthless logic were her sharpest weapons.

Greetings, nameless one, the Acolyte of Rest welcomed her as she entered the grand resting chamber. I hope your work has been fruitful.

In the centre of the massive room, carved deep into the floor, waited the wheel, separated into eight segments. One portion already stirred as the ants resting there began to wake.

Lethargy already gripped the nameless one as she waited for her chance to shuffle onto the wheel. She needed this rest, as did they all. Service to the mission was always difficult, but in this place, and at this time, it was harder than she could ever recall.

Please take your deserved rest, the Acolyte signed as they finally began to shuffle past onto the wheel, as the Eldest intended.

Before the nameless one could find a suitable space to rest, she felt a change in the chamber. There was a shift in the air, a darkening, a deepening, of the mana. Every ant still awake went into high alert, their senses probing as they employed their Skills to meld with the darkness.

Except, to their shock, they found that darkness was already occupied.

Writhing tentacles pushed them back before sprouting from every surface in the chamber, a forest of pitch black limbs that waved and curled furiously through the air.

A visitation from the Shadow! Such a rare and precious occurrence!

As one, the nameless ones genuflected, their hearts leaping with joy as the tentacles, in sets of eight, responded.

Then they began to sign to them.

My Master's words are being ignored. They should NEVER be ignored. Prepare. We will show them ALL. This entire fortress will be plunged into darkness.

So saying, the tentacles began to retreat, sliding into the shadow and vanishing once more.

The nameless one felt her heart leap for joy. The outrage had gone on too long, even the Shadow had been pushed to the limit. Finally, something would be done about it. It took her several minutes to calm herself sufficiently to enter torpor, but when she did, for the first time in weeks, she felt truly at peace.

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