When the bellow of pure rage shook the stone around the Legion camp, Aurillia was one of the few who didn't start wildly staring around themselves, trying to understand what had happened. She'd soldiered with the commander for a long time, and it wasn't the first time she heard him get angry. She was surprised, to be sure, that roar had shaken everyone, such was the sheer volume and depth of anger contained within it. She just wasn't confused, she knew what had happened.
"What was that?!"
Aurillia turned to see Titus' daughter, the young Morrelia, approach her. The berserker's eyes were wide, as if she wasn't quite believing what she was hearing.
Aurillia raised a brow.
"You've never heard your father get angry before?"
She shook her head.
The tribune was initially surprised at this, but then, considering her parents, it was most likely the mother who'd displayed the most temper. Only in the field did Titus experience these sorts of eruptions. The man himself then appeared, storming out of the communications tent, the rage rolling off him in waves. So powerful was his aura that even experienced Legionaries were forced to draw back.
Morrelia watched, wide eyed, as her usually unflappable father stormed across the camp, his face a mask of black rage. When he reached the stone wall of the tunnel, he pulled back one fist and slammed it into the rock so quickly she couldn't see his hand move.
The stone exploded, sending chips flying throughout the camp and leaving the enraged commander with his arm buried up to the shoulder. With inhuman strength, he yanked it out in one solid pull and shook it, clearly irritated by the dust now coating the armour which had only moments ago been pristine. Aurillia decided to seize the moment whilst Titus was distracted to approach.
Expression carefully neutral, she marched in front of the commander and offered a crisp salute.
"Commander Titus, tribune Aurillia reporting."
"Stop it," he grunted.
She maintained her parade ground perfect form, feet flat, shoulders down, the exact angle on the saluting arm.
"I don't know what you mean, commander."
"Every time I lose my temper, you march over, as formal as possible in a misguided attempt to inject some calm. It's irritating."
"That's why it's irritating."
Titus closed his eyes and drew a deep, slow breath. He focused his mind and concentrated on pushing his anger away, forcing it out of his clenched muscles and pounding heart, out of his racing blood and into his lungs. From his lungs, he imagined forcing the emotion into the air contained therein, which he then breathed out. It only took a moment, but he was noticeably more calm. The almost physical pressure he'd exerted had eased, if not completely, at least enough that it was more comfortable standing close to him.
Though she tried to hide it, Aurillia breathed out a sigh of relief as the waves of anger stopped battering against her consciousness. Whatever had set him off this time, it must have been bad.
"I presume you've just finished communicating with our valued allies?" She enquired as Morrelia tentatively approached.
At the mention of the Golgari, Titus' face twisted once more, but only for an instant before he was able to smooth it back to its normal state of smooth stone.
He paused for a moment, ensuring he had mastered himself before he continued.
"When they requested the Legion assist them in this endeavour, it would appear that the House communicating with us withheld some information."
Morrelia came and stood beside the tribune, a worried expression on her face. She tentatively tried to speak up.
"How bad is it?" Aurillia asked.
"Bad," Titus ground out. "Not only did they not tell us there is an abomination in this Colony of insects, apparently two others might be present, as they have somehow joined forces within Golgari territory."
"Quite a coincidence."
"Indeed," he spat. "If that were all, it would be bad enough. I'd have brought a second Legion on this extermination, just to be sure."
"There's more?" Aurillia sounded appalled.
Keeping information from the Legion simply wasn't done. What sort of colossal moron had decided it was a good idea this time?
"The ant abomination has modified the core of at least one Queen and turned the whole damn Colony Sapient."
There was a moment of silence as the tribune absorbed that.
"WHAT?!" She bellowed.
"That's what I said," Titus nodded.
Morrelia winced at Aurillia's outburst, but mustered her courage and tried to inject herself into the conversation again.
"The species is apparently called Formica Sapiens. Numerous tier three, some tier four specimens spotted, and that was weeks ago. We can expect far more fours and possibly some fives mixed in. On top of that, there are magic capable ants, as well as some with their own pets and healers in the mix."
The tribune was aghast.
"This is a disaster! The potential damage from such a swarm is.. is… monstrous!"
She was staggered by the sheer scale of the disaster. A normal ant colony, when left unchecked, was enough to tear down kingdoms, destroy cities and consume tens of thousands of lives. A Colony where every single insect was intelligent?
Titus breathed out slowly.
"Yes. If I'd been told this ahead of time, I'd have brought five Legions. Cornering the Colony and ensuring none of the damned monsters escape to continue to the species is going to be a nightmare with our numbers. Even managing to engage the filthy beasts is going to be a pain."
Expression grim, Titus began to think about what he needed to do.
"Alright. Aurillia, I want you to assemble the officers. Ten minutes. We have to redraw the parameters of our campaign here. We'll try and get reinforcements, though I think it'll be a struggle to get the numbers I want. That means every soldier is going to have to carry more weight. I want the troops informed of a shift in policy within the hour. Things are going to get rough and they need to be warned."
The tribune offered a crisp salute before she turned on her heel and walked swiftly away, leaving Titus and Morrelia alone together. The commander offered his daughter a weary smile.
"I apologise for losing my temper. I always tried to control it around you and your brother."
Suddenly addressed by the person she was trying to speak to moments ago, Morrelia could only nod.
"Things are going to get ugly here. Sentient monsters are a nasty fight at the best of times. The sort of numbers we're dealing with here? We're going to lose good people. Dead Legionaries, all thanks to that prideful trash pile."
He reached out and placed a hand on his daughter's shoulder.
"Get some rest while you can. There's a lot of killing to do soon. It's not going to be easy, but it's necessary to keep people safe."
So saying, he removed his hand, squared his shoulders and marched forward into the camp. He had work to do.
Morrelia slumped her shoulders.
"Ah, hell," she said.
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