"Uh, Captain? Aren't we a little far out? Maybe Halp's ant and the one we killed were it," Osmal half-whispered, his eyes scanning the surrounding lush green plains. The Halfling youth looked extremely nervous. Back in Rindol Field, however, he had been bright-eyed and filled with the folly and exuberance of an eager cadet.

Now he knows this is real. He's seen one of those monstrosities up close and in full attack, Captain Kasey Umbertroe thought. That brought a grim smile to the Halfling fighter's lips.

They had set out by themselves with direct approval from Mayor Dorbin after Halp Grimbo's discovery of a giant ant attacking his gardens. Not that Kasey would have waited for the mayor's approval anyway. This concerned the fate of Rindol Field and its people. It was her home, and these were her people. Kasey was going to find out the source of these ants and the degree of the infestation. She had planned on going out alone, but unfortunately Osmal Maradin had decided to tag along. Kasey was reluctant at first, but Marki Blant, one of the most respected combatants in Rindol Field, had suggested it would be good experience for the untrained Halfling youth. Kasey was sure that old Marki just wanted to get the bothersome Osmal out of his hair for even a few hours.

Unlike Osmal, Kasey was a seasoned veteran. She was strong for one of their race, with wavy, dark brown hair reaching her shoulders, and unnerving ice-blue eyes. Dressed well for this expedition, she had worn a heavy forest-green cloak with a bronze throat clasp over full earth-toned leather armor. Normally she'd prefer heavier armors, but for a mission like this, mobility was far more important. Lastly, the well-worn and loved long sword Kasey used two-handed was sheathed over her shoulder.

Osmal had not prepared as well for this adventure. He was short, even for a Halfling, and had tousled blond hair that kept falling into his pale brown eyes. He had on chain mail that was too big for him, and was lugging around a hefty brown pack over his shoulders that was filled with random items. He had a brand new, never-used short sword sheathed at his side. Kasey prayed to any gods that listened that this remained a reconnaissance mission, and that the apprentice fighter would never have to draw his sword near her again until he learned not to stab with his eyes closed.

Osmal had almost skewered her when one of those monstrous ants had attacked them. Thankfully it was alone, and Kasey did not have much trouble dispatching it in a single blow. However, Osmal had released a high-pitched scream and went on a stabbing frenzy with his sword. Kasey had to dodge him as the untrained Halfling flailed about. It took roughly ten minutes to calm him down and assure him the ant was dead.

That ant was dead, but that meant nothing. There were more, Kasey knew. And as they passed by a jutting rock in the grassy landscape, her proof erupted in front of her. Three giant ants, much larger than her, rushed out to attack the two Halflings. Kasey's sharp eyes spied their tunnel emerging from a nearby hillside, almost completely concealed by vegetation. The ants moved with surprising speed, their mandibles clacking, and their antennas wagging rapidly.

Kasey could hear Osmal whimpering behind her, but did not have time to deal with him. Unsheathing her longsword and gripping it tightly with both hands, she charged at the ants. Her first move was brilliantly executed - a sweeping slash towards the creature's legs. The blade tore through the insect's chitinous hide, and severed the legs, causing it to crumble to the ground. She realized that was her only free shot, however, as one of the other ants moved in to bite her. Bringing her blade up to parry, she fought off the mandibles, but was pressed back by the strength of the abomination.

As the Halfling veteran kept on the defensive, looking for an opening, she suddenly realized that if she was only fighting one of the ants, that Osmal might be in serious trouble. Stealing a glance, she saw the trainee waving his sword about wildly at the ant, who seemed unsure of getting too close. The glance cost Kasey though. The ant she was engaged with tore its mandibles into her, ripping through the armor and tearing a deep scratch across her right arm. Grunting in pain, she lunged forward before the ant could recover, thrusting her longsword completely through the ant's head, causing the creature to twitch and fall to the ground, dead.

Immediately, Kasey whirled around to deal with the last ant. Horror struck her as she realized it had disarmed Osmal, and was about to move in for the kill. Dashing directly at the creature, the Halfling soldier let out a loud shout as she leaped into the air, and came down with the sword in a chopping fashion. The ant whirled around at the noise, and received Kasey's well-kept longsword right into its skull. Fluids leaked from the wound as the creature collapsed, and Kasey, breathing steadily but heavily, wiped of her sword and re-sheathed her weapon.

Osmal had closed his eyes, pressed up against a boulder, and was weeping. Kasey sighed, reached into a pouch at her side to produce a roll of bandages, and started dressing her own wound.

"Osmal, are you hurt anywhere?" she asked quietly.

"N-no," the youth replied, and looked up at her with a dirt and tear streaked face. "I want to go home."

Kasey sighed, and nodded. "Yes. Let's get you home, then." Tucking the bandages away, she reached a hand down to help the young man up. Osmal brushed himself off, adjusted his pack, and gave a weak smile in return.

As Kasey started to head back towards Rindol Field with Osmal in tow, she realized now that the fight was over that there was a sound of activity over the next hill. Frowning, she turned to Osmal.

"Wait here."

Without pausing for a response, Kasey walked quickly up the hill. Stopping near the crest to put a hand on her weapon, she hit the ground and edged up slowly. Peering over the edge, the Halfling's blue eyes widened in astonishment.

Ants. There must be thousands of them, she thought. She watched in terror for a few seconds as the creatures scurried around on the plains below, intent on their gathering of food. Osmal had disobeyed Kasey's order to stay put and now stood behind her. She gave a horrified whisper to the young Halfling:

"We're going back right now Osmal, and we are telling everyone about what we've seen. This is serious..."

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