A cloud drifted across the gaze of the early afternoon sun and cast a shadow over the assembly. The group of Donnyton’s elites had met Randidly atop the Observatory, which was the building that sat at the summit of the mountain that served as the main residential district for Donnyton. The retractable roof was slid down and a single long table was set for eight. Aside from those eight, not a soul was present.
Although they had been escorted up here by almost two dozen guards, those guards all waited outside. Randidly had thought it awkward, but the meal had already been laid out and prepared on the plates beforehand.
But still, were the guards necessary for any reason at all? After all, no one who climbed to the peak of power was weak. Simon’s warning for the future of Donnyton held true.
Randidly looked slowly around those in attendance. At the head of the table sat Donny. To his left was Mrs. Hamilton, to his right was Sam. Beside Sam sat Regina Northwind. Beside Mrs. Hamilton was Daniel.
Next to Regina was Alana, and next to Daniel…
Once more, Randidly glanced curiously at the fidgeting man that Randidly had met in his little bakery as he had arrived in Donnyton. When they had first locked gazes, the man’s jaw had dropped. As the luncheon went on and the group conversed and joked with each other, the man had remained mute. Both Mrs. Hamilton and Sam had clearly noticed, but they didn’t seem to understand what could have caused it.
But indeed, they looked with amusement at Randidly, with expressions that said something like, ‘of course you would have already dealt with this problem.’
But was this baker a problem? Randidly was a bit surprised when he scanned the man and he was a Level 46 Laborer, but it did seem like the man’s bakery was a labor of love that he performed with his family rather than his main job. Perhaps he was heavily involved in the construction of Donnyton? The man had been introduced as Ed but no further explanation had been given.
Donny had been too amused by Randidly’s situation this morning.
Still, it was a bit strange to Randidly that he was given a seat at the table, especially when Randidly recognized all the remaining individuals. Not that it really mattered. It was just idle curiosity.
Almost as one, every individual at the table set down their silverware and pushed back their plates as that long cloud drifted across the sun. Donny leaned forward and steepled his fingers. “So, I suppose it's time we talk about the real reason we came here. Mrs. Hamilton?”
Mrs. Hamilton nodded sharply and turned to look at Randidly. “I suppose it’s best to start with a little bit of background. Since you have been busy with other projects, Donnyton has grown immensely. Due to a rather aggressive focus on military and industrial production, Donnyton is the most powerful economy on New Earth.”
“Special thanks to Daniel for the currency idea,” Donny commented, nodding toward the chubby man. Daniel flushed.
“Indeed,” Mrs. Hamilton confirmed. “Zone 1 was established first, but ultimately it was difficult to make the other Villages accept their currency. We would have had a similar problem… if not for Daniel’s idea: make coins from materials that are exactly that denomination in value. In this case, metal. It was difficult to choose the base value for the coin, which led to some early instability, but since then it had proceeded swimmingly. On the basis of the monetary policy and the focus on military…
Looking down, Mrs. Hamilton checked her notes. Which struck Randidly as strange. He knew Mrs. Hamilton well enough to know that she had the numbers memorized. He could feel it through the Aether that bound them together. Therefore she was looking at her notes as either a cover for some other behavior or to make Randidly think a certain way about this presentation.
How deep do your games run, Mrs. Hamilton? Randidly wondered. But he didn’t have any idea why she would behave like this.
It only took a half second, then Mrs. Hamilton looked up with a smile. “We currently have 100 Squads within Donnyton, roughly sorted by power. Each Squad includes 10 individuals, so exactly 1000 Elites. Plus the 25-person Squads given to Decklan, Annie, Dozer, and Sam, plus the 50-person Squads underneath Alana and Donny, 1200 elites. At this point, even the lowest Squad has the ability to overcome a single Level 50 monster, which we believe is an acceptable level of strength. Moving forward, all groups of people able to demonstrate that amount of strength will be accepted as an official squad of Donnyton.”
“Always more Squad crests to make,” Sam cut in with a groan.
Mrs. Hamilton continued her stream of information without stopping. “Aside from that, we have groups of irregulars totaling almost 2000 that are various traveling forces, generally from Franksburg, East End, and East Providence that are training on rotation underneath our trainers. These groups have a similar level of strength to the mid-tier squad, between 60 and 30. Below that, there are probably 5000 Classers that are training to become part of a squad that participate in the weekly war games for coins and recognition.
“In terms of weapons and armor production, we dominate the high-end end-product portion of the market due to your activities…” Mrs. Hamilton gave Randidly an amused glance. “Zone 1 has cut significantly into materials production. However, their drone activities run parallel with ours, and increase the overall demand for metals, so ultimately it is a wash. There are other players in the materials market, however. Franksburg has set itself up as something of a powerhouse on the lumber and silk fronts: most of the… Weavers that you brought to Donnyton moved to the forests around Franksburg and now work in tandem with the government there. East End’s elementals have enabled them to process materials in an extremely unique way, so many enchanted gems and symbolically powerful materials flow from there. Luckily, the transportation lines are quite safe and quick, so the money flows easily between our groups.”
“If only the other Zones were so easy,” Donny sighed. “The island region to the Southeast still considers itself independent and only does small scale trade with us. And the new Chinese Zone-”
“Please stop harping on it,” Regina cut across. She folded her arms across her chest. “They had a plan, and it failed. I have no doubt that they will reconsider and enter into negotiations with us soon.”
“Their weapons are crap,” Sam snorted. Regina threw her hands up into the air. Donny leaned back in his seat and scratched his neck.
Mrs. Hamilton smiled at Randidly. “Well, we will get to broader concerns later. So there are generally 8200 fighting Classers under Donnyton’s control at any one point. About one half are present in the city at any one time due to patrols and addressing Raid Bosses. Which doesn’t include the Orders, who each have maybe twenty to fifty members within Donnyton, but they aren't’ really under our control.”
“And Donnyton’s population?” Randidly asked.
“A little less than seventy thousand.” Mrs. Hamilton answered promptly after a glance at her notes. “Although there are a dozen or so farming hamlets in the surrounding area that are technically allied with Donnyton, and thereby receive the protection of our patrols. Puts us up closer to eighty thousand in the Greater Donnyton area.”
Randidly whistled. That was quite a few people. No wonder he saw basically no familiar faces in his time wandering through the North of Donnyton. The city had indeed grown, but Randidly really hadn’t processed by how much just from the slew of unknown neighborhoods that popped into existence in the surrounding areas. These numbers hit home what that confusion had not.
They were big. The most powerful economy on New Earth, they claimed…
Randidly looked to Mrs. Hamilton with a tilt of his head.
She shrugged. “If you have more questions, I can answer them. At this point, we mostly export food, weapons, and liquor. Oh, and potions. Most of our construction materials and furniture comes up from Franksburg. Relatively speaking, we have enough money coming in and out that the government of Donnyton could continue to function for almost a year even if we were all to refuse to take any personal action. That’s the weight of the momentum we have built. That’s why everyone understands Donnyton is the strongest in the world.”
“Fine,” Randidly said. He carefully looked around the table. He appreciated the explanations, but he didn’t quite understand why he was on the receiving end of them. Sure, he valued the information. But why were they providing it to him? And without any context?
The agreed upon reason for the meeting was to catch up. When they said catch up, Randidly had meant that he wished to inform them in person of the things that he had learned about the Calamities from Tellus. Had they perhaps thought that he wanted to interfere more directly in how Donnyton was run…?
If they did… then perhaps this was their way of telling Randidly that they were doing fine.
That made Randidly smile wanly. Yes, Donnyton was more than capable of handling this level of hardship. But ultimately the monsters they faced now were just environmental factors prodding them forward. The only real opponent they faced during this time was the threat of infighting amongst the humans. Was avoiding that so admirable…?
Perhaps so. And Randidly couldn’t deny they had raised Donnyton much more skillfully than he would have been able to. Considering how his Soulskill recently went… much more skillfully. Yet he couldn’t help but keep returning to an unpleasant truth.
It wasn’t enough.
Randidly walked through these streets filled with peaceful people who told him of their dreams and passed on bits of their Aether to him… The Crown of Upheaval and Gloom throbbed in his chest as he recalled the arduous process. Randidly winced; he wasn’t the true harbinger of what was to come, but he was the one who possessed the knowledge of the brutality it would cause.
Underneath the weight of the Calamities, those soft dreams would squish and collapse.
On Tellus, he had buried too many bodies due to the hubris of the world leader. He recalled the stacks of the dead along the banks of the Hallat as the division Randidly was with was forced to gracelessly retreat. If Randidly hadn’t been able to stall the Wight advance across the river...
Everyone was looking at Randidly expectantly. “Fine,” he said again. “But what does Donnyton want to be to the world?”
Hopefully, the answer to this question would demonstrate to Randidly their resolve. Because Earth would need them to be firm.