Kas logged into light.
Which was strange because he had been expecting to log back into the traveler's pine where he had logged off. In the half-a-second it took him to realize where he was Liv appeared in front of him.
"Greetings Kastigan, I apologize for bringing you out here, but one of the Unbinders desires to speak to you. If you will wait just a moment." Liv's voice was the same as before, it just felt strange to be in this bright place, and even as he thought that the world around him shifted.
Still bright, but that was because he was above the clouds. On a single mountain peak flattened at the top with a small pagoda. The temperature was a little cold, the wind felt like it was trying to pull his clothes off. "The unbinder is handling another issue currently, but they will be with you as soon as he is able." Liv was still standing next to him. The wind's voice was loud, but he could hear her perfectly, despite the wind rather than over it.
Somehow the primal rage of the wind grounded him, chasing away the momentary fear that had sprung upon him by the lighted void. "What is this about?" Kas asked.
"The unbinder will explain it all to you. But the subject I was given was: 'Improper companion allocation.'" Liv answered. The unbinders were the lore-friendly name for the game masters of Livia. He remembered reading that there had been a lot of blowback because non-combative classes missed their companions. He got a sinking feeling in his stomach, were they going to take Shura away from him?
The surroundings altered again, and he was in a hallway. A handsome woman wearing a black pencil skirt and white blouse was standing next to a door, and she smiled at Kas, "Welcome Kastigan. Please come in and have a seat. I'm Cassandra, one of the Unbinders for Western Kiddesh." She moved aside so that Kas could do as she requested.
When they sat down, Cassandra put a hand on her desk's reader, and a display appeared between them. "Sorry for the inconvenience, as you might have heard there was an issue with assigned companions for non-combative bound. You were flagged because you were one of the bound who never met with your assigned companion, and since you're still playing the character, we're here to discuss how to remedy the situation."
"Sorry, Cassandra, but there seems to be a mistake. I got my companion." Kas said, relieved there must have been an error in the script, and he was erroneously flagged.
Cassandra frowned and glanced at her data again, a few quick flicks of her hand, and Kas could see a representation of himself pulled up in front of her. "Hmm, that isn't what this is showing. You hired on Johannes then?" The image of Kas was joined with an older, and very weather-beaten man that Kas vaguely remembered seeing in Tallrock.
Kas shook his head, "No, my companion is named Shura." As Kas said her name, another image depicting Shura appeared next to the two already present. Cassandra eyed the new data for a moment taking it in.
"Hu? Oh, I see why you would think that. Wow, yeah, especially since she gave you a blood oath." Cassandra gave a perfunctory smile and dismissed the image of Shura. "I'm happy to say that while Shura is indeed filling a similar role as Johannes was supposed to, she was not the companion you were assigned. As such, we have a couple of options going forward." Cassandra palmed her reader again, and Kas' sheet disappeared while Johannes stuck around, and several more images appeared next to him.
"We can redirect Johannes to your location, and he can fill the role originally intended. Or, you can choose one of a few different boons. Please note that we've decided to extend the subscription of all affected unbound by a month as compensation, and you'll be receiving that regardless of your other choices." Cassandra said and she gestured to the first option. "First, we're prepared to grant you a free tier-three building for your farm." The image she gestured to rotated between a windmill, a watermill, a large barn, and a couple of housing options.
"Second," Cassandra continued, "we can give you an additional minor affinity selection. Or you can have five increased experience gain tokens. That would be double experience for a week per token."
Drew looked at the four options and considered, "What skill set does Johannes have?" He asked, looking at the man.
"Johannes is an experienced field hand; he can work your fields and do some basic construction, maintenance, and pest control around your property. In return, you would need to provide him with shelter and a small weekly payment or share of the farm's proceeds. Whichever you agree to when you meet him."
"I guess there isn't a way to get another land token?" Kas joked as he looked at the options.
"Oh, let me see." Cassandra said, placing her hand on the reader and rapidly rotating through options in the interface. Kas blinked, another land token would be great, but so would some of these other options. Expanding the tier 3 building options, he looked at the watermill, barn, and housing options.
Building Name: Watermill (3)
Benefits: Using an external water source, the watermill will generate mechanical power that can be used for a variety of purposes. The tier three structure can provide power to two additional structures. Includes either a gristmill or sawmill.
Building Name: Barn (Medium)
Building Name: Longhouse
Building Name: Farm House
Cassandra's voice interrupted his inspection. "I'm sorry, but you currently have both a location and level lock on your ability to gain additional land claim tokens. You will only be able to acquire them through in-game means."
"Any suggestions on how to do that?" Kas asked, as he glanced over the buildings, considering.
"I'm afraid I'm not authorized to do that," Cassandra said with a smile. "Have you decided on your boon?"
Shaking his head slightly, he considered the options. The farmhouse would certainly improve morale, but that wouldn't help him get the money that he needed, the longhouse had the same downsides. Which left the barn or the mill. The barn would be convenient, they could probably sleep inside it during a storm even, but...the mill would make getting all those other buildings easier. If he chose the lumber mill, he could create planks for the rest of the buildings much faster, or the gristmill would allow him to grind his grains into flour and sell them for a higher price.
"The mill," Kas said after a minute of thought.
"Excellent, would you like a gristmill or a lumber mill?" Cassandra held up a token for each.
Put on the spot, Kas tried to think the pros and cons through quickly. With the mill, either would make getting the other faster, and he would definitely make an effort to get the other one as fast as he could. Which was harder to make? The mechanics behind them were probably about the same, so would it be harder to get a saw or a millstone? He had a smith; he didn't have a stonemason. Would Costache be able to craft a saw? He couldn't shape stone, but with his high earth affinity, he might be able to make a spell that would do it.
"Which would be harder for me to make?" Kas asked aloud, and to his surprise, Cassandra answered.
"The gristmill. Stone shape is a fairly advanced and taxing magic, and even if you could craft it, you would have a hard time moving the stone into position." Cassandra replied and slid the gristmill token across the desk. "Plus, your farm is poorly positioned for a lumber mill. Normal procedure is to use the river as free labor to move the lumber, but since you're at the base of a waterfall, you would have to haul the logs upstream, which will require a beast of burden."
"This is a summon token. Using it will allow you to use the placement tool. Once it's placed, it'll take about 24 hours before the building can be used." Cassandra smiled as Kas pocketed the token. "Well, it was a pleasure helping you. Is there anything else I can do for you before I send you back?"
Kas pondered for a moment and then shook his head, "No, I don't think so. Thank you very much."
"It's my pleasure, and we apologize again for the error. We hope you enjoy your time in Livia."
White filled his vision again, and he was suddenly back on the mountain with The Dryad.
Liv stood next to him, her face full of radiant life. "There is an old saying." Her voice carried to Kas over the rushing of the wind. "That no good deed goes unpunished." Before he could respond, she bowed slightly and Kas found himself on his bedroll under the wandering pine.
You have lost 500 points of Karma.
Kas blinked. He had lost 500 points of Karma? Wasn't that a bad thing? He distinctly remembered fantasy games created long ago about wandering through a wasteland. In those games, you gained Karma for good actions and lost it for bad. Did that mean the game saw his actions as bad? But then why had the dryad called it a good deed? And why was he to be punished for doing it? And why had she looked so…full of life as she said it? So happy? She had seemed very nice when he had met her before.
The internal debate over the meaning of his loss of Karma was interrupted as Dino and Dianne hopped out of their den, the two little compies chirping excitedly as they butted their heads into his hands. He reflexively gave them the scratches and pets they were demanding even as he could feel himself losing control.
Talking to Lexie, talking about Elam to Shura and the events of the morning all added up to something that he suddenly couldn't deal with anymore. He pulled Dianne into his arms and hugged her tight even as tears streamed down his face, discoloring her scales. Dianne wriggled in his arms and Dino hopped about, squeaking in agitation. It was clear the two compies could tell there was something wrong but that they couldn't determine what the problem was.
It didn't take long to cry himself out, his tears sat in a shallow reserve these days. Kas lifted Dianne up to kiss her head and then let her go. "Thanks, Dianne." Rubbing his eyes, he went through the well-rehearsed actions to remove any trace of his tears. His create water spell allowed him to scrub the streaks from his face. He then pinched the skin on his face to get back some color and cleared his throat. Once he was done cleaning away any traces of tears, he stood up and exited the wandering pine.
There was already quite a bit of activity around the camp. Shura was making breakfast while Forthan double-checked his men's gear. The miners sat off to one side, they were hefting the short spears and clutching tight to the utility knives on their belts as they stared around uneasily. Slung across each of their backs was a heavy-duty mining pick, and hard hats containing small round rocks in a wireframe covered their heads. Kas assumed these would be enchanted with the light spell they had mentioned the night before.
There was no sign of Costache or Shannon yet, nor was breakfast ready, so he walked over to his crops and began tending to them for the day while he considered where exactly he wanted to put the mill. His wheat was doing well, it had advanced again and was now classified as a growthling; according to what he found on the forums that meant it was halfway done. Which means it took six days to grow. His potato field had been the second thing he planted, but they matured much more quickly and were also growthlings. He would probably be able to harvest them tomorrow. The corn would likely be ready to collect the same day as the wheat, as it was now in the sprouts stage.
Timing on crops was going to be a thing he would need to pay attention to, having a bunch of fields in need of harvest on the same day might be a good thing or a bad. He'd have to see how involved the actual harvesting process was. He dealt with the daily tending requirements for the first three fields, then played the minigame to clear the fourth field. Wanting to take advantage of the new mill he had acquired, he also planted wheat in this field. After watering all four plots, he headed back towards the campfire only to discover that breakfast was already over.
"I saved you some," Shura said, nodding her head towards a plate set aside near where she was cleaning out the pot.
"Thanks, sorry I missed it," Kas said between bites.
"No problem, I figured you'd want to get your crops done before you go down into the mine that way if you have to spend the night you wouldn't miss a day," Shura answered absently. She glanced around to make sure none of the rest of the group were within earshot. "I wanted to talk to you about the Kobolds."
Nodding his head, "What's up?" Kas asked, curious to know what Shura would want to talk to only him about.
"Many people think Kobolds are evil. They are not." Shura's voice was cast in such a way that he doubted anyone would hear them over the babble of the river. "They are mischievous, which makes them less than desirable neighbors, but they aren't malicious. I know everyone is getting ready for a fight, and I'm not saying you shouldn't fight back if they attack you. But not every problem needs to be solved by conflict."
"So, you don't want me to kill the kobolds?" Kas frowned. He had been mentally hyping up having to kill them since the day before.
"Well, they might not give you a choice. I doubt you'll have a common language, just keep your eyes open. You are going to be invading their homes, they will be scared." Shura put down the pot, having finished cleaning it. "Put yourself in their shoes and see if you can find a solution that doesn't end in blood."
"Uh..." Kas' brain hadn't entirely caught up with the conversation, "I'll try? I mean, I don't want to kill anyone." Which was true, he didn't want to kill anyone. The whole point of him choosing to be a farmer was that he didn't have to kill sentient creatures. He would have included animals on that list, but frankly, he found the food in-game far better than what was available to him, in reality, these days. Shura nodded her head and then walked away, leaving Kas alone to finish his breakfast and ponder. The latter lasted longer than the former and ended only when Shannon sat down next to him.
"So, we gonna do this or what?" She asked, and Kas was glad she had dropped her fake accent, she still sounded vaguely exotic, but he couldn't figure out where her accent came from.
"Yeah, I guess we should," Kas said, and he stood up and quickly washed off his plate and put it on top of the others. Then followed Shannon over the clearing where Forthan was still giving some last-minute instructions to his men. Costache and the miners were listening to him provide some basic weapon instructions while the tribesmen demonstrated what he was talking about. Occasionally one of the miners would try to mimic one of the movements.
"Sorry about the delay, everyone, wanted to get the crops tended before we left," Kas said, and there was some grumbling but everyone mostly just started picking up their gear. Forthan made his way over to him and nodded.
"I'm gonna go get the rest of my men while you're down there delving. I'll be back tomorrow. If that's alright?" Forthan added the last part almost as an afterthought. Kas was technically his boss, even though Forthan was far more qualified to be running everything.
"Oh, yeah, sure. We never did get to talk about where we wanted to put everything, but where were you planning on putting the gristmill?" Kas asked, looking around the valley and trying to determine a good spot from here.
Forthan paused, and then pulled out a thick folded up piece of paper from his pocket, flipping it open he exposed a reasonably well-done map of the immediate portions of the valley. "The river get's narrow and deep here; water flows fast and should provide plenty of power." Forthan frowned, as he looked at Kas, "Why?"
Something about the way he looked at him gave Kas the creeps, and he just shrugged, "No particular reason." He pulled the map out of Forthan's hands. Playing around with his interface to copy the data on the map on his personal map before handing it back. "I'll look through these suggestions and see what I think. Should be able to do that while we're traveling." Kas tipped a finger against his eyebrow in a mock salute before heading out towards the mine, the rest of the group falling in behind him.
The map itself was actually quite well done. There were clear demarcations for fields, housing districts, a central market, industrial sector, and more. The group took a few more minutes to get into motion, and Kas zoomed out enough on the map to get a good idea of where the mine was in relation to Forthan's plans. "Guy's, let's follow the river for a bit." He called out, some obvious things needed to change, but the location of the mill wasn't one of them. For example, Forthan had taken an excellent plot of land to use as the fighting arena. Kas mentally dragged that over to a small half bowl off to one side of the valley.
Then he rezoned the area around the bowl to act as a barracks and training yard area. Giving the entire endeavour a larger footprint while also removing its centrality. Next, he set aside a large section near the lake itself for a park. Making it bigger than was strictly needed, so that he could add some large buildings on the outer edge of it. If Miranda Valley ever did become a major hub, this would give him plenty of space for the government areas. He also added a few more tweaks to some of the roads, mostly to widen them. Which had a good bit of ripple effects as he was forced to move the entire thing out a lot more than Forthan had initially set it up.
Unfortunately, a lot of the external areas weren't explored yet, so it was speculation, the map in that area fuzzed over instead of the clarity that it held in places he had actually been to. He made a mental note to search for herbs in the less explored areas, even drawing a few routes onto his map to save for later. Ten minutes into the march, they came to the location the mill was planned for, and Kas told everyone to wait a minute while he took out the token.
A holographic green outline of the mill appeared in front of him. Next to the mill were a series of numbers, listing how many newtons of force the river would produce with the current configuration, as well as the total square footage and something called displacement index. A quick search of the help menu told him that the displacement index was just a measurement of how much dirt would be moved to a pile on one side of the building by the summoning. After playing with the location for a few minutes, he found a spot that he liked and mentally accepted the structure's position. Immediately a dense fog appeared on the riverbank.
The tribesmen and miners all called out in alarm, some of them having been relaxing inside the fog. A few hasty retreats, and everyone was safely outside the building's zone. "Sorry about that everyone, I got a building token and I wanted to put it in before we left since it's going to take a day for it to finish summoning." Most of them lost interest when they discovered that it wasn't likely to improve their housing situation. But Shannon asked him a few questions about how he got it. When he told her about his morning meeting with Cassandra, she frowned.
"I wonder if that means I wasn't designated as a non-combat class." Shannon with a slight pout. "Not really fair. If I had made my build a little less combat-capable, I'd be able to get a companion. Wish I would have known that going into it. Could have gotten a few more of the things I wanted."
"What sort of build are you going for?" Kas asked as they started back on their way to the cave.
"A bunch of ranged stuff, and stealth and survival skills. I figured I'd be off on my own a bunch, and that would give me the best survival chance. Now I wish I would have picked up animal bonding like Shura has. I think it would be handy to have a bunch of animals following me around." Shannon groused.
"Well, you can always get it with an upgrade. What are your affinities?"
"Major affinities in divination and earth magics and then cartography, archery, and magitech. Minors are all over the place, I took a recommended package. There are a ton of prereqs for doing the whole dowsing thing well. I won't even be able to do most of them until I get a bunch more affinities, so trying to do animal bonding too would delay a lot of those pretty far." She swatted a tall reed out of her way with a bit of waspish anger.
"Well, part of the whole point of this is creating something for other people to take advantage of. Give it a bit of time, and I'm sure we'll have some beasts that will help you on your travels." Kas said with a shrug, he knew Shura was looking for more helpful creatures, but from the sounds of it selling bonded animals would be a great addition to his sales. He mentally added a larger ranching area for Shura to the list of changes he needed to make to the valley's layout.
"Tell you what, when we have something you want, I'll give you a good deal on the first thing you buy."
"First thing? Assuming I'll want to buy more than one?" Shannon quirked an eyebrow.
"Oh yeah, Shura is gonna find some awesome stuff. We're gonna try for a cloud wolf soon, and some other mounts and beasts of burden too."
"What's a cloud wolf?" Shannon asked, and Kas told her about their first time in the valley. The two talked about what sort of creatures they would like to have as a mount, each time their choices got more outlandish until they arrived at the mouth of the mine.