Randidly sat in his cabin, meditating. Slowly, his eyes opened, his piercing green eyes burning a hole through the wall, looking towards the South.
It had been three weeks since the Safe Zones around theirs and the neighboring village had expired. During that time, they had scouts combing the surrounding area. They had found the two dungeon locations, the one near them being Lvl 20, the one West, past the other town, was only Lvl 14.
They had also encountered a few Tier I Raid Boss, the most troublesome of which ended up being a Lvl 25 Rhinoceros Pack Leader, surrounded by a few dozen of its Rhinoceros children.
Almost the entirety of their force had mobilized, the 2nd Unit of tanks and both Decklan’s and Dozer’s personal units moving to kill it, with support from Clarissa. Ultimately, it was overkill, but Dozer did earn a belt that gave him a huge boost in health regen, and they had brought several powerful Rhinoceros bodies back with them.
Then next time they found a raid boss, as long as it hadn’t established itself, they could probably handle it with only one elite unit and mage support.
What they hadn’t yet encountered was their Tribulation. So Donnyton’s leaders waited. Randidly waited, his patience dwindling away, leaving a bubbling cauldron of frustration.
Most people weren’t informed about the details of the Tribulation, just the new dangers that might appear anytime, so the village continued to grow unabated. The greatest change in the past week was the completion of housing for almost everyone involved.
Sam’s builders were really starting to click, and they could throw up enough rooms to house an extended family in an hour. Some of the more enterprising, and fed up, individuals among them had worked out a pretty sophisticated plumbing system, which finally eliminated the need for latrines.
They had even figured out how to get a pretty sustainable and working power plant out of mages, but they didn’t really have any infrastructure here to make use of it; nothing required power.
The one change that Randidly did appreciate was that budding mages were forced to repeatedly heat water with the fireballs resulting in a functioning bathhouse. It really made a world of difference to wash with hot water.
Due to that rising demand, an NCC woman gathered herbs, planted a garden, and began selling soap. For the first time in a long time, the people of Donnyton were clean.
Their numbers were currently just under 3000, with around 800 of them taking classes, mostly men, although an increasing number of women who had been training up skills were getting interesting classes. Many of Regina’s group had gotten healing style classes and were now fully integrated into the regular squads. There was even one woman who received the class Green Mage, and had shyly come asking him for advice.
He calmly told her “Practice” and returned to his own training.
Those of Regina’s group that hadn’t chosen healer had usually gone a mage route, quickly bolster their previously pathetic mage corps. Just recently, after obtaining a specific skill they wanted to base their class on and leveling it a decent amount, they were now taking classes, getting even more specialized skills, preparing to be an active participant in the village’s defense.
Over the past three weeks, he had also taken Thorn hunting several times. The little bugger was vicious, moving invisibly underground and springing upward, sinking its many thorny vines into the victim's body and wrapping the unfortunate monster in a death grip on its throat before it even knew what hit it. Unfortunately, it seemed like it had become very picky about blood after eating the Sphinx, and hadn’t leveled again.
His own training with the spear had gone very well. Although he hadn’t gotten Equip high enough to use the stat bonuses, despite a bunch of shitty, high level equipment he had gotten from Sam, he was now used to the new spear’s weight and rigidity.
It wasn’t a change reflected so much in skill level, but comfort in battle. More than anything, Randidly had focused on solidifying the foundations of his spear techniques, practicing the strange forms and exercises Shal had taught him.
If he were to meet the Tribulation now, he had no doubts in his mind that his powerful spear blows would rip wide holes in its body, even without his oppressively powerful magic.
In terms of productivity of mage skills, these weeks were spent mostly focusing on Fireball, trying to raise it to the point that it was comparable to Spearing Roots. However, it seemed like that wouldn’t be the case for a long time. Instead, Randidly now hoped that he would get a Fireball path, and obtain a more powerful flame spell that he could focus on, with a higher potential.
He did have the option of going and checking if there were any skills he could learn from the Skill Challenges, but until he went through the Apprentice path himself, he was leery about spending SP to learn something that he might be able to get on his own.
What was significantly slowing his progress was… everything else. Randidly knew logically that his attitude was getting worse and worse. He struggled, but failed to refine energy shards to a stronger version of themselves, allowing him to discover the next tier up from potions.
Since their fight a week ago, Randidly no longer bothered with lessons with Lyra in regards to mana control, and she hadn’t bothered to come and ask about it. Both of them appeared to be agreement, at least on this subject, and for some reason this annoyed Randidly even more than the fight had.
He could sense the cool mana and warm stamina flowing through him, strengthening him, being used for his different skills. He just couldn’t…. Affect it at all, and Randidly didn’t know why. To him, it felt akin to trying to affect the flow of his blood. Yes, he could feel his heart pound, and the blood flow through him. That didn’t mean he have any method of interacting with the blood, controlling it.
These frustrations, and the lack of the Tribulation, really seemed to sap away the effectiveness of his skill training. It just hadn’t been increasing like it used to. Something needed to change.
Sighing, Randidly returned to the present and stood. He had waited long enough, and he was now quite sure of his theory. It was time to talk to the Council.
Although Donny was the nominal Chieftain, Donnyton was basically now run by three people: Daniel, Regina Northwind, and Mrs. Hamilton. Honestly, although she led the NCCs, Mrs. Hamilton had the most influence, due to the sheer number of people who had chosen not to take a class yet, or ever. She controlled access to coffee, to the baths, to soap, to the mass produced potions, and to the food.
Needless to say, she usually had the deciding vote.
Every night, the 3 of them met to discuss the direction the town was headed, what resources they needed, and what the big project for tomorrow would be. There was a standing invite to Donny and Sam, and they showed up occasionally, but they were largely absent. Dozer and Decklan had no interest in it, and preferred to spend their nights training.
They also didn’t invite Randidly, but he sorta assumed that this was because he made his unwillingness to be involved in the small details quite clear to them all.
So when Randidly showed up, dragging a confused Donny, the three were very shocked.
They glanced at each other nervously, at their luxurious meal of baby wolverine, with freshly harvested herbs as garnish. The new, trendy strain of coffee filled their mugs.
Of them all, Regina recovered herself the quickest. “Ah, Ghosthound. Lovely for you to join us. Would you like some-”
“No, and I’ll make this short.” Randidly’s face was grim. “I’ve put it off for some time, but I think something needs to be done. I will lead the caravan south, to gather additional refugees in Franksburg.”
The group blinked.
“But what about the tribulation,” Daniel blubbered.
Randidly grimaced. “That’s the whole point. I… suspect it won’t come as long as I am here. In fact, I suspect it was the reason I discovered the other tribulation in the first place…”
After picturing the wounded cat that led him to the Sphinx for several seconds, Randidly shook his head. He had assumed it had died, or had been eaten by the sphinx, but he had never seen any proof…
“At any rate, we cannot constantly stay at the ready forever. I suspect… it is a different variety of tribulation than the other village experienced, but no less dangerous. Just less confrontational. For the trip, I think Alana, Clarissa, and Devan will suffice.”
The three were silent. Not because the choices were bad… but because the choices were some of the hand picked few they were considering sending south already. Had he been monitoring their communications…? Not that there was anything to hide, but…
Meanwhile, Randidly simply chose those three because it made sense. Devan was the first person to successfully complete the mentor system with Donny, and was the knight with the highest level, other than Donny. His squad, which would accompany him, was ranked 16th currently. Alana obviously knew the path, and would be a good guide of the area, and Clarissa’s magic would be useful, as well as exposing her to danger, which she had thus far been insulated from, due to the structure of their squads.
They could take one of the junior squads for manpower, and would be able to handle basically anything that Randidly had seen thus far.
Besides, they were traveling back into a zone covered by the Newbie Zone. Any more would be overkill.
“I’m glad to see you agree,” Randidly grunted, and left them.
Donny, feeling awkward, sat down and began to eat the food.
“So,” He asked, talking with his mouth open. “What were you guys talking about? Wow, this is good!”