Daniel raised his hands helpless, a smug Nul standing behind him. “I didn’t know! How was I supposed to know? Nul wouldn’t say-”
“You had a theory, however.” Regina Northwind said, folding her arms across her chest. “That something would change if you upgraded the village. And you did it, without consulting any of us.”
“I…. yes….” Daniel visibly deflated in front of the older woman, looking frazzled.
“At any rate…” Donny said slowly, glancing around at them all. Decklan was out handling a recently spawned Tier I Raid Boss, but the rest of the important people were here. Dozer, and Annie, who had become head of the Archers; Regina and Sam’s furious form, standing behind her in support; Mrs. Hamilton and her assistant; Ptolemy and Glendel, the representatives of their mages; and finally Donny himself. “Glendel, it has only been a half hour… but what can you tell me about the situation.”
Glendel closed his eyes and felt the whispers of his bound ghosts. Although the Spirit Caller could only manage a finite amount, it did not seem like Glendel had that restrictions. The spirits floated everywhere, giving them an almost perfect picture of what was happening in the surrounding 20 miles.
After a few seconds, his eyes opened. “Looks like incidence of Raid Bosses has tripled… there is already one directly between us and Turtletown, and it looks like another is forming to the south, along the route between us and Franksburg. Both the dungeons have exploded like volcanos; the monsters are numerous, but they are still only Lvl 12 or 13. We will take the monster horde from one, and looks like most will be soaked up by Turtle Keep, and their infinite bullets.”
Donny rubbed his head. Even in the best case, it likely wouldn’t be for a few days more before the caravan to Franksburg returned. But still… “I move that Dozer and Annie head to the south to remove the Raid Boss from the route to Franksburg. Immediately.”
“Seconded,” Said Mrs. Hamilton.
“Thirded and Passed,” Said Daniel with a sigh.
Dozer nodded and immediately stood, Annie sighing theatrically and following him.
“Monster incidence is also up, generally, both in level, a little, and quantity, a lot,” Glendel added.
Donny just rubbed his forehead.
Regina frowned, and then spoke. “Samuel, what is our perimeter like?”
“Well, Ms. Northwind,” Sam said with an uncharacteristic bow. “Likely quite secure… The monsters have never had much success coming up over the mountains, and we have small teams on rotation to watch out for such incursions. The Arena built up the valley to the North converted very well into a small fort. Really, the only weakness is the road that leads directly through the Mountains to the NCC village, and the new farming expansion down to the South, following the valley.”
“Thank you for you analysis Samuel,” Regina said with a smile.
“Anytime,” He replied, his smiled widening.
Mrs. Hamilton rolled her eyes, and then said. “I move for Sam’s men and 4 Numeral squads to move to the Southern Farming expansion and clear the area of trees as quickly as possible. Extending the area double as far as the expansion was planned, and clearing ground for a fort.”
“Seconded,” Ptolemy said, after a small hesitation.
The rest of the table was silent. Every few days they held short bouts between the squads. If the lower won, they switched places. If they lost, they stayed the same. Excluding the irregulars, they now had 30 full time squads on call, who lived, ate, trained, and fought together. 4 single digit squads were 40 of their best men, with an average level of just short of 20.
“….I’m not sure if I get a vote, but I think it should happen, and immediately. That’s the direction of the dungeon that will hit us hardest. They will arrive in a little over 6 hours.” Glendel gave Regina a nervous look.
After a sigh, she just smiled and shook your head. “Yes, you get a vote. And that’s three, and the resolution passes. I move that we send the Heavy Mages to set up a roadblock a little ahead of the NCC village, in case something nasty comes down that direction.”
Their mage squads were divided into two teams, The Heavy Squad, which was effectively leaderless without Clarissa. They focused on pure power, breaking through heavy lines of monsters with fire, thunder, ice, or poison.
Meanwhile, the Light team was lead by Ptolemy, although Glendel featured heavily in their operations. They were primarily their healers, support spell casters, and hexers. The communication abilities afforded to them by Glendel and the other Spirit Caller were a nice bonus.
Donny and Mrs. Hamilton spoke at the same time, then looked at each other surprised, before smiling.
“Resolution passes,” Regina said with a flourish, and Glendel closed his eyes, sending a ghost to whisper in the ear of the second in command of the heavy unit.
“You know…” Mrs. Hamilton said suddenly. “Perhaps ask Decklan his condition, if he seems fine, point him in the direction of the other raid boss. You know how much he likes to kill the boss type monsters.
“Agreed.” Regina said, and then she turned and smiled at Daniel, who was shivering. “And now…. Perhaps you should explain to us all the new options we have as a Trainee village. After all, spending large amounts of SP should be a group decision.”
Randidly finished his hole, wiped the sweat off his brow, and then moved onto the new spot and began digging again. The idea was to dig a defensive ditch around the entirety of Franksburg, which was an intimidating notion. The process was simple, if effective.
One person, in this case Randidly would dig holes to a predetermined depth at predetermined points. Then another person would follow and clear out all the dirt between those two holes, working on getting it all down to that predetermined depth. A third would follow later, and make it even, and then another crew would come in and reinforce it, either as a defensive trench, or fill it with stakes.
Randidly raised his hand to his eyes and looked behind him. His second man was nowhere in sight, long left behind by Randidly’s ridiculous speed at digging holes.
It was a rather fruitful activity too; Randidly had gotten to level 3 in Manual Labor, and Lvl 5 in Digging. Even Physical fitness had risen by 1 level.
To Randidly’s pleasure, these skill levels were enough to finish up his Apprentice Path.
Congratulations! You have completed the The Apprentice Path, Applicant of Ash! You have walked a path fraught with danger and ash, and climbed to summit of the volcano. You peer inside, and see a face in the lava, with closed eyes. And as you watch, they slowly open….
Be ready, traveler, for you stand to be tested before the Patron of Ash.
Commencing Teleportation in 10….
Randidly’s eyes narrowed. This was unique. Did everyone who made it to the Apprentice Path get tested like this…? He supposed it was possible. If he had been warned, it would be easy to prepare for, in advance. In a self-mocking manner, Randidly looked down at his dirt covered furs.
Hopefully the Patron of Ash wasn’t a stickler for cleanliness, but Randidly felt like he didn’t really need to worry about that.
The world around him blurred, and he was suddenly standing on a huge slab of black stone, suspended over a volcano. The surround land was covered in surging lava, large waves of cooling rock and liquid metal the only landmarks in the distance.
Before him, high above the slab of rock, hovered a face of stone, its eyes white hot and dripping, its open maw cherry red and grinning.
“You…” It spoke slowly, almost surprised. “None have chosen me as a patron in a long… long… time…. Apparently… My standards are…. Too high.”
The face gurgled, and spat up a blob of lava. “You are…Lvl ….you have no Lvl….That is… unexpected. Thus your opponents will be… Lvl 25. Survive for 10 Minutes, and you may have my blessing.”
The platform rumbled, and began to descend. With raising eyebrows, Randidly watched as they neared the lava. He might be strong, but surviving exposure to actual lava was still a little…
But, around 2 feet above the lava, the platform stopped. A bubble of lava grew and popped, spewing liquid rock onto the platform. The area was relatively big, but still…The heat was almost unbearable. Randidly suddenly wished he had heat resistance.
Then a glowing form reached out of the lava, gripping the platform, slowly pulling itself up. It was a Lvl 25 Lava Golem. Randidly removed his new Bone Spear from his inventory, spinning it lightly. He would need to be fast with his strikes, because he didn’t want to risk his spear melting-
A noise from behind him made him turn, curious. 4 More Lava Golems were clawing their way out of the lava on the other sides, slowly standing and turning to face him with burning eyes.