Johnny “Bulletfingers” Cumb lit a cigarette, took a drag and closed his eyes slowly, like a cat. He leaned back on the kitchen island and sighed. “Do you know why we kill ants?” He stared at the dust motes dancing clumsily in the midday sun. “It’s not because they’re disgusting. It’s not because they carry disease or eat all of our sugar. It’s because they’re invaders. Violators.” He pronounced each syllable of “Violators” with purpose, landing hard on each beat. 1-2-3-4.
“When you violate a man’s home, you take a bull by the horns. And horn is where the heart is.” Bulletfingers extinguished his cigarette on his 500 dollar Kitchenaid Mixer. “This mixer? You’re gonna be lucky if I treat you as well as I do this mixer.” He then spat on the mixer.
Karl the Ant desperately tugged on his leg, fighting the surface tension of the droplet. Stupid! Why did he go to the kitchen, the most dangerous place in the Big One’s home? But that was a silly question. He knew why: to get water for Nalla, the prettiest ant in the colony. Thirsty Nalla, they called her. She had the royal jelly that made all the drones spray pheromones like sprinklers. He knew that if he was going to have a chance with her, he’d have to provide more water than Anthony, who was a sack of dicks. Think, Karl! What did you learn about surface tension in ant school?
“You’re gonna learn why they call me Bulletfingers, little ant. And you ain’t gonna like it.” Bulletfingers removed the tips of his fingers, each revealing the barrel of a gun and leveled his handcannon at Karl!
Young Ambyr stared at the Darke Marke on her palm, which throbbed and pulsed with Darke Energy. It looked like a moon and a star, or maybe a giant winking. Or perhaps a plate of Old Kremlo’s famous “Village Biscuits” next to a smaller winking giant. In either case, Ambyr stood at the gates of FrostKrag Manor and was lost in the memory of when she acquired her Darke Curse.
It was an unusually foggy night in the Darkewood but Ambyr and Merkel were young and foolhardy and searching for adventure. Old Kremlo had always warned against venturing too far into the Darkewood. He told tales of wolves, bears and worse. The village children whispered names like The Worm What Walks, The Doomslingdinger and Bromo The Clawful. But Merkel was a rascal and when he saw lights in the wood at night, he threw a pebble at Ambyr’s window and the two of them ventured into danger.
Merkel’s torch cast long shadows and the mist nuzzled their boots like family dogs. “Don’t be scared. I’m not,” said Merkel, gripping Ambyr’s well worn jerkin.
“I’m not scared either,” Ambyr said while violently shaking. They made their way deeper into the Darkewood until they came upon a foul smelling cave with blue lights dancing on the walls.
“What’s that sound?” Merkel asked. “It sounds like pots and pans rattling.”
Just then, lurching from the cave was a hunched crone, carrying a variety of swords and shields on her back which dangled on chains, creating a percussive cacophony. The adventuresome youths gripped one another’s jerkins in not fear. The shambling pile of armament waddled closer and they could see her weathered face, her missing eye and her bad makeup.
“Psion of Lighte and Psion of Darke, those twin moppets bechosen by fayte, I am The Swordlord Melphia, Mistress of Battle. You have heard my call. Please, join me for a cup of tea.” She took a few steps into the cave before looking over her shoulder. “Do not think about running, little moppets. You’ll find escape is quite impossible.”
Ambyr looked around behind her and found that forest had drawn in. The branches weaved together to form a solid wall. They had no choice but to follow her inside where they found a table set for tea and a warm blue fire. It would have been quaint and inviting, Ambyr thought, if the walls weren’t chanting.
“Drink your tea, young Psions, and learn of your fayte.” Melphia leaned back unto a portion of the wall, muffling its chants.
“Mmmrpgh,” said the wall.
Melphia’s voice took on a droning quality, as if possessed or bored. “One of you will lead an army and one of you will defeat it. One of you will cast their crown to the sun and one of you will sleep under the azure moon. Oh, Psion of Lighte, you will bear the marke that creates kingdoms fated to be destroyed by the Psion of Darke. Psion of Darke, you will lose everything in your journey.
I see… a well dressed basilisk kissing a companion.
I see… a magic spell that confuddles the strongest of warriors and begrumbles the kindest of innkeeps.
I see… a dragon with an unfulfilling job.
Now, wake up, young moppets. Wake up and smell the cold electric air of the future.”
Ambyr and Merkel woke with a start, holding hands in the woods, palms burning. Ambyr looked down to see her marke, a winking giant. Merkel looked down to see his marke: a farting golem.
The Lighte Marke.
Roused from her reverie by the sound of approaching cherubic hordes, Ambyr took the grip of the DuskBlade and prepared to defend herself! Oh! How the legends would sing of the siege at FrostKrag!
Of course! The secret to surface tension is that you have to break it! Karl whipped his head around, looking for anything that might free his leg.
“What we got here, little ant, are ten little piggies and each one is gonna blow your house down.” Bulletfingers started counting his finger guns one by one. “This little piggy went to market, and shot it.”
Oh no! The only thing nearby to break the tension was a small pile of cinnamon just within the reach of his mandibles. Karl had a terrible experience with cinnamon as a larva. He accidently slithered through some on his way to the Birthing Chambers (his aunt Jessica had given birth to a bouncing baby clutch of eggs). When that cinnamon touched his hind portion it burned with the fury of The Raidmyst. But now, it seemed like it was his only hope…
“This little piggy here? He went home, and shot up the joint.”
As soon as Karl’s mandible touched the cinnamon, he felt fire shooting through his thorax.
“This little piggy went out to the forest and practiced shooting a big ol’ pile of roast beef.”
Struggling through the pain, Karl dropped a few grains of cinnamon into the droplet, breaking the tension. Free!
“This little piggy had none. And he didn’t like that, little ant. It made him reeeal shooty.”
Karl filled his pulsating reproduction sacks with water before dashing back to The Big Crack. Free! Free!
Bulletfingers paced back and forth in the sun. “And this last little piggy cried bang bang bang all the way home.”
This continued for five more piggies.