Comic 150 - Hang back

24th Jun 2018, 2:15 PM in High Roads, Low Roads, Threeroads
Average Rating: 5 (2 votes) Rate this comic
Hang back
<<First Latest>>

Author Notes:

Morgenstern 24th Jun 2018, 2:15 PM edit delete
You hang back for a minute, watching the pyre ant disappear into the ground with the chest clutched between its mandibles.

"O-... one or two ants aren'tabigdeal," Ranse states. "I... don't know. About the whole colony."

Ranse's burn resist concoctions would give you a substantial defense against their main method of attack (that is, the fire sprays). However, you don't know what kind of defenses pyre ants normally have in their main base; they could have ants stronger than the ones you've battled before.

That, and you're not sure if it's a good idea to be invading the ants' space in the first place.

"If they are willing and able to negotiate," Emerald replies, "then we should establish diplomatic connections with the ants' leader. If they are NOT able or willing... then they are a threat."

You're really not sure if pyre ants are smart enough to engage in diplomacy. ...They're just big, fire breathing ants, after all.

"A week ago..." Ranse takes a breath, "I'd have said the same. About slimes. ...J-justsaying."

You do some speculating--if the ants communicate via pheromones, and can signal for threats... would it be possible to douse yourself in the opposite type of pheromone? Something to make the ants think you're one of them?

"Y-you don't... want to know. Where they keep, those ph-pheromones," Ranse replies. "I've... d-done. Worse things. Thanjerkingoffants. For science. It's... just not a quest forthehistorybooks."

Emerald's face shows something between disgust and confusion... which is a treat to watch, because it looks like she's making that face for the first time. "What on earth have you done that's worse...?"

A smirk starts to tease at Ranse's lips, but she doesn't respond immediately. ...Nor does she look directly at either of you.

You're not sure if Ranse was ever going to answer that question, because shortly after, ants emerge from the hill...

one of which is decidedly not like the others. One, because it's flying.

Two, because it's armed.


"The ants are clearly intelligent enough to forge weaponry!," Emerald points out.

"N-Notunheardof," Ranse manages. "C-Crude iron and... and chitin. If they c-cooperate theycanmakefirehotenoughto--"

The ant with the shield and spear screeches, its wings fluttering rapidly. It hovers awkwardly, seeming to struggle a bit with its own weight, but it does hover nonetheless. The two (more conventional) pyre ants that accompany him seem eager to attack, but are... holding back? They may be waiting for the soldier's word.

And while you don't speak much in the way of ant, this does... definitely look like a soldier. You don't think he's here to discuss the terms of a truce.


G. Sansa 24th Jun 2018, 3:15 PM edit delete reply
Offer rum and irregular foliage. And 1 albacore. Drunk pyre ants, what could go wrong?

And tell Emerald that if she wants diplomatic relations now would be a good time to reveal her crown.
G. Sansa 24th Jun 2018, 3:16 PM edit delete reply
Oh, and drink the burn resist concoctions. Don't want to be vulnerable to a sneak attack.
G. Sansa 24th Jun 2018, 3:18 PM edit delete reply
And if they like iron, we have some swords for them too. But don't trade away everything up front.
MakePeaceAndLove 24th Jun 2018, 3:34 PM edit delete reply
I feel the irregular foliage has the best chance. Offer one at a time... wish we had a language potion right now, it let us pull surprise diplomacy with the spider earlier, here that seems like our only chance to avoid a fight.
Lu!dot 24th Jun 2018, 3:20 PM edit delete reply
Seeing as how the not-flying ants didnt charge forwards at the screech, i think that was our warning to back off. If they're giving us a chance to back away right now then we should take it and ease off. I dont think we're really able to negotiate right now unless if they speak what we speak. It might be good to come back later when we have a potion that lets us talk to monsters.
MakePeaceAndLove 24th Jun 2018, 3:35 PM edit delete reply
Yeah, if they're letting us back off, let's do so now. If only we had a language potion we could negotiate, but not like this...

We can try leaving the irregular foliage for them to just take even as we retreat... either hoping they'll focus on it and not follow us, or maybe remember it as a gift for our next encounter. But that's up to you folks.
GS 24th Jun 2018, 3:37 PM edit delete reply
+1. Let's get out of here, at least for now.

We can come back later, better prepared.
ZincFingers 24th Jun 2018, 4:03 PM edit delete reply
Yeah, let’s leave for now, come back when we have a means to communicate.
1977 24th Jun 2018, 3:21 PM edit delete reply
Emerald said it best:
"If they are willing and able to negotiate," Emerald replies, "then we should establish diplomatic connections with the ants' leader. If they are NOT able or willing... then they are a threat."

So, attempt human style diplomacy first and if it not works then slime style.
When Emerald eats the pyre ants we can see if she adopts their abilities (firebreathing) as well.

For the tactic if the fight I recommend taking the small ones out first with a single windstrike, then concentrate forces on the soldier.
Begin with a tornado.
1977 24th Jun 2018, 3:36 PM edit delete reply
Just thought about the usefulness of the tornado against flying enemies.
Maybe destroy his wings first, so he can't ignore the tornado by flying over it.
For extra stylepoints destroy the wings when he just flies over the tornado so he plummets into it.

Not sure what exactly the other 2 should do in the fight.
Ranse can't use her pyrespewer, not sure about alternates for her.
Emerald use consentacles. Binding them?
GS 24th Jun 2018, 3:38 PM edit delete reply
I'd like to suggest leaving, at least for now.
We don't have a heavy hitter with us.
Lapdragon 24th Jun 2018, 3:40 PM edit delete reply
Crude iron and chitin? That spear is ON FIRE.
(and the shield looks kinda fancy too).

We can try popping the crown and negotiating, but I vote that we leave the mound for a better party and have Valley, Inzo, and Justice come back for that flaming spear and shield, and we head out for fights where our current party is better equipped.

If we do stay to fight (or critically fail at negotiating), I say that we should get some distance from the mound, dose up on pyre protection potions, tornado the soldier to immobilize it while we kill the two drones, and then once we've dealt with the little guys, wind slash it's antennae (to screw with it's perception), refresh our tornado (to keep any combat pheromones up here with us rather than alerting the mound that there's a problem), and then we just beat the snot out of it with sword, board, and as many tentacles as Emerald wants to get involved - don't forget she can paralyze and acid touch - I expect her acid is fairly effective against ant chitin (it being organic). I'm not sure what Ranse is going to do in this fight, unless she's got a few of Inzo's gob lob potions or wants to practice with a sword and shield - I really don't think that she should try getting into dagger range while that ant's got a spear.

We -might- do ok if Nast casts the initial tornado and then goes sword & shield and lets Ranse take the wind wand to get some experience with it, but tell her to be careful with the wind slashes while Nast and Emerald are in melee, and warn her about the kick in the gut mana-wise that'll happen when she uses the wand, as she's likely never done anything like this before.
ZincFingers 24th Jun 2018, 4:08 PM edit delete reply
Does Ranse even have mana? She’s an alchemist not a magic user, the lore says that alchemists are in no way magical.
Lapdragon 24th Jun 2018, 5:01 PM edit delete reply
Wands are typically described as "magic for non-mages" - anybody can use a wand, but it takes practice and either wand charges or personal mana supply - in Nast's world it apparently takes personal mana, which is presently unknown whether everybody has it or if it's just a "magic user" attribute - I suspect everybody has personal mana, so that they can use whatever specials they've got.
ZincFingers 24th Jun 2018, 5:31 PM edit delete reply
Huh, might be worth looking into then, when we have access to a controlled environment.
Iago 24th Jun 2018, 4:04 PM edit delete reply
1- Be ready to run.
2- Be non-threatening, without looking too weak.
3- Offer something, as a sign of goodwill. One of the recovereats, maybe ? Loose iron ? Do we have real food ? Anyways, just enough to make our wish to speak with the management clear. Might as well try to tell them, in case soldier understands language.
Krylo 24th Jun 2018, 4:06 PM edit delete reply
That ant does seem intelligent which gives me pause.

I think we could take them, and in a different situation maybe should, but this is our first meeting and we don't know if diplomacy is a possibility yet.

So instead, I suggest backing away slowly about 10 feet while using body language to suggest we aren't a threat (hands up and open in front of our chest), and attempt to speak to see if the ant understands our language.

In other words: Attempt to communicate.

If communication is impossible at the moment, continue backing away and ask Ranse what she'd need to make another language potion.
ZincFingers 24th Jun 2018, 4:10 PM edit delete reply
If we can’t get another language potion in a reasonable time frame, it may be quicker to return with Justice.

Nevermind, just checked the lore, her ability does not include the language of monsters.
1977 24th Jun 2018, 4:13 PM edit delete reply
"Tongues: A passive blessing, Justice can speak and read all languages (but not the languages of monsters)."

So, no talking with the ants, the Language Potion is necessary for that.
MakePeaceAndLove 24th Jun 2018, 4:25 PM edit delete reply
Yeah we really need a potion to communicate with the monsters. Or hope one of them can talk with humans, but how lucky would we have to be for that?

If we back off seeming non-threatening, I wouldn't try for that non-threatening body language like raising hands high. We don't know if the ants read it correctly, they might even take it as an invitation to attack us, so, if we retreat I'd prefer if we do it as efficiently and quickly as we can - but without rushing, so quickly but not in a hurry.
ZincFingers 24th Jun 2018, 4:30 PM edit delete reply
The stoic power walk of retreat.
GS 24th Jun 2018, 4:41 PM edit delete reply
Move steadily, but swiftly, and let's get out of here!
Some Random Guy 24th Jun 2018, 5:02 PM edit delete reply
Some Random Guy
+1 on retreating, but slowly at first to see if they stop with the threats.
Hambone 24th Jun 2018, 4:18 PM edit delete reply
If we're going to leave this be for now, I suggest we slowly and deliberately leave something at our feet as we leave. Wolves didn't turn into dogs overnight, and some allies will take time to gain their trust. If I had to guess, outright communication will be a bit too forward at this stage.
ZincFingers 24th Jun 2018, 4:27 PM edit delete reply
So, if we are leaving the nest for now, what’s the next move?

Ask Ranse about language potion ingredients?

Continue on to fungus hunting?

Find a new hat for Emerald because she looks naked without her crown?
GS 24th Jun 2018, 4:42 PM edit delete reply
Fungus-hunt, and afterward head to Lightsend to find us a puppeteer.
G. Sansa 24th Jun 2018, 4:57 PM edit delete reply
+1 to both fungus and TightsEnd.
Krylo 24th Jun 2018, 5:34 PM edit delete reply
Probably shouldn't go to a human town with Emmy Schols quite yet. So if we go to Lightsend next, we'll need to swap characters again.

I say fungus hunt -> language potion ingredient hunt -> disguise ring
GS 24th Jun 2018, 6:02 PM edit delete reply
-1 to the ring quest. We have zero clues about where it is or who has it. We can only get them in towns, so if we can't take Emerald into one yet...
Some Random Guy 24th Jun 2018, 5:00 PM edit delete reply
Some Random Guy
+1 if we leave, but mark the spot.
Some Random Guy 24th Jun 2018, 5:00 PM edit delete reply
Some Random Guy
If they do not stop with the spear and the flames, back away as slowly as possible. Dont take out weapons yet, but get our shields ready.
Green Visitor 24th Jun 2018, 5:17 PM edit delete reply
Drink the burn resist! Then attempt trade and diplomacy.

If necessary let Emerald handle the soldier. She has surprise range and acid. Ranse is her backup, intelligence and healer. Nast has the wind wand, which is enough to handle the other two regular ants or take some opportunity attack on the flier.
Guy Incognito 24th Jun 2018, 5:26 PM edit delete reply
Leave behind a peace offering and get out of there. Also, let's give Emerald Scholar Nast's old Purple Robe to wear. She'd look amazing in it, I think. Let's continue on our quest to get some fungus.
ZincFingers 24th Jun 2018, 5:39 PM edit delete reply
Good call on the robe, it will offer some protection (it is reinforced), and if we bump into any travelers, she’ll at least have some level of disguise.
Guy Incognito 24th Jun 2018, 6:11 PM edit delete reply
And plenty of exposed slime for consentacles to form out of.
Lapdragon 24th Jun 2018, 6:19 PM edit delete reply
Nast is actually still wearing the purple robe (and hasn’t really ever taken it off except to sleep) - it’s the purple “scarf” that is covering his mouth in most of the comics.

I don’t see why we can’t get another one for Emerald tho, aside from her probably accidentally dissolving it. In Nast’s world, most cloth is likely homespun wool or cotton, both of which would be very vulnerable to her acidic “flesh”.
ZincFingers 24th Jun 2018, 6:44 PM edit delete reply
Oh, dang, I forgot we used it as a makeshift scarf.
As for Emerald dissolving any clothing, her external body isn’t acidic, her inner fluid is, she can selectively secrete it when and where she wants.
MakePeaceAndLove 24th Jun 2018, 10:26 PM edit delete reply
Yeah it is Nast's purple scarf still, but hey, we can get different clothes for a disguise for our Emerald Scholar, some scholarly robes would be fitting, right?
Crestlinger 24th Jun 2018, 9:24 PM edit delete reply
Big ol nope! Retreat until we can come back with a giant crowned chicken to eat the whole place or some means of negotiating communication.