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Chapter 600 Who are these Folks?
[So your people are called… the Folks?]
[So… The Folk?]
[That is correct.]
[Is that like… a nickname, or a translation thing? Or is it just… The Folk?]
So far, the wolf-like guy has been placid, a cold yet calm air of dignity surrounding him. For some reason, after my repeated questions, a crack begins to show in his façade.
[Our people are collectively known as the Folk. It is a name we chose for ourselves, hundreds of years ago and it remains our name today,] he says shortly.
[Right. It’s just…]
A hint of anger in his eyes causes me to change my words.
[… such a cool and interesting name. Really great. I know that if I could name my community whatever I wanted to, I’d for sure, call it The Folk. If it wasn’t taken, I mean. By you. What a good name.]
[You don’t like it do you?]
[I think it’s a bit weird.]
[I see,] the wolf closes his eyes, his face a mask of calm discipline, [your thoughts belong to you and you are worthy of them. Nonetheless, the name of our people does not change, we should move past it if our discussions are to bear fruit.]
Was that some sort of dig? Big words coming from one of ‘the folks’.
[Sure. Well, I know you’ve spoken to one of my siblings already, Coolant would have explained to you who we are and what we’re about around here?]
He nods, his eyes still sharp.
[Yes. This Coolant, was quite respectful. I enjoyed my conversations with her. For one so young, she possessed a settled and insightful mind. I had wondered if all of your kind were similar, but I see that I am wrong.]
[Oh, totally,] I agree, [if you want some more peaceful, relaxing and well-mannered conversation, you should talk to Vibrant. Absolutely the most zen member of the family.]
He eyes me for a moment as if trying to determine my intentions. Good luck trying to get a read on an ant, buddy. We don’t even have a face, it’s all bones on the outside. We can tell quite a bit about each other’s state of mind just by watching antennae, the more subtle cues of the stance and of course scent, but I doubt this guy has managed to achieve that level of insight in a few meetings with one of us. I can’t wait to see how he deals with the chattiest ant to ever exist.
[Then I look forward to speaking with this… Vibrant. I hope that the exchange will result in mutual benefit.]
[Oh, I’m sure it will. So, do you two have names, or would you rather I continue to refer to you as ‘The Folk’?]
He raises a hand and I notice that his nails are long and curved, more like claws than human fingernails. The hands are also larger than what a human might have. Perhaps that’s just a trait of this individual, but I suspect that it might be a common trend amongst the wolf-like folks. The girl, who has remained silent to this point, is certainly much shorter than he is, and much more delicate. Her fur is snowy white, and her features much more delicate than the harsh angles of a canid. Definitely more of a weasel type.
[We are not so quick to share our names among those we do not consider friends. Considering how our relationship began,] he pauses for dramatic effect, just to remind me that our ‘relationship’ such as it is, began when we abducted them in the Dungeon, [for now, you may call me Grey, and you may refer to my apprentice as White.]
As in, the colour of their fur? Seems a bit… simple? Also, she’s his apprentice? Were they on some sort of teaching journey through the Dungeon?
Could it be the case that this is another community with as bad a naming sense as the Colony? I mean, it’s not like my own naming sense is particularly good, just take a look at the council for an example of that. My own poor sense seems to have been adopted by them to an almost absurd degree and spread throughout my family. It’s nice to think we may have some kindred spirits.
[Sure. Grey, White, nice to meet you. You can call me Diamond, I suppose.]
The two of the run their eyes over my glittering carapace and I can’t help but feel proud of my splendid shininess. You could shampoo your fur every day for a year, Grey, you still wouldn’t look this slick.
[First thing I’d like to do is extend an apology, on behalf of my family, for abducting you in the Dungeon. We aren’t in the habit of kidnapping people… or folk… against their will and imprisoning them. We aren’t intending to keep you. Once our discussions are complete, we will be happy to return you to where we found you, and repair the damage to the safe house. If it weren’t for the circ.u.mstances we find ourselves in currently, we wouldn’t be so quick use such harsh measures.]
The two of them nod graciously to accept my apology.
[Indeed,] Grey says, [your situation has been described to me in some small detail by Coolant. A war with the empire of stone. Your Colony will find it difficult to survive, I fear.]
[We may, but I don’t think we’ll be the easy food you and they seem to think we will be. I have to say, you don’t seem to be quite as upset by the idea of a sentient ant Colony as I might have expected. Most people we talk to don’t react quite so… calmly.
[What would I gain from showing otherwise,] Grey replies dryly, [I would hardly be wise to announce my hatred and disgust of your kind when surrounded in the seat of your power.]
[However,] he continues, [it is true that the Folk do have a more relaxed att.i.tude towards those such as you. Intelligent monsters are not something we are unfamiliar with.]
Well that sounds nice.
[I must tell you, the Folk have suffered greatly from the scourge of ant-type monsters in the Dungeon, much as all races have. I should also say, that we are not a nation, as you might think we are. We are a loose conglomeration of tribes without any form of central government. I would be pleased to bring word of your Colony to my people, but I cannot say what effect that news might have. Some will want to destroy you, others will seek you as allies against the threats we face, whilst others would be indifferent. There would be no consensus, and indeed, there would be no attempt to enforce one. I know that this may not be what you want to hear, but the strictures of my tribe demand that I am honest with you.]
Grey has adopted a more formal tone as he drops this bad news and as he finishes, he bows toward me and White mimics his action. Might think this is bad news, but frankly, the fact that they wouldn’t all immediately want us dead is a ma.s.sive win. Better than I expected!
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