“I made that decision and stand by it,” Dreng confirmed.
The chieftain had dark bags under his eyes and looked completely drained. Usually, he had a healthy and powerful presence about him, but it was diminished in some way today. James chalked it up to the fact he now had a huge litter of cubs to care for and moved on with their conversation.
He and James had been discussing the destruction of the guard tower and why it happened. Dreng said that the Martyrs traditionally gave birth deep in the Great Savanna, so nothing could be destroyed. The chieftain also said that this litter was too important to him to risk doing so with the Oana threat and instructed Frey to stay in the village, despite her objections.
James put up his hands. “I think it was a good decision and would have suggested the same thing had I known she was having a litter… or uhh...” he trailed off.
His and the Chieftain’s relationship had grown since he had first been adopted into the clan. The legendary Dreng even grew himself, as a leader, and so had James. They got along well and were usually on the same page about everything. Even when they were not, they settled the argument as equals. Dreng no longer used his debuff powers to silence James. James was happy that he was now respected, but deep down he wasn’t sure he deserved it. Dreng was on an entirely separate level to James when it came to power and respect. The chieftain led his race away from their destroyed great city and ensured their survival even before he was fully grown. He had also fought and survived countless battles since then. He even seemed to die in one of them, but still stood with an explosion of energy that beat back an invasion of countless Oana warriors. James hid his high regard for the chieftain though. He was respectful, but falling to his knees every time he saw the Martyr wouldn’t be productive.
“The decision now is one of construction. What will we build next?” James said, pausing for a moment as the chieftain seemed to drift off. He had seemed slower on the uptake with information this meeting. Again, James chalked it up to him being tired from dealing with a bunch of crazy Martyr cubs running around. “I suggest that we build a bridge that stretches from the top of the remaining guard tower to the top of our stone wall.”
Dreng nodded his head. “Yes, I agree that it is important we fix the blind spot issue. I also like your idea of the rope bridge. It is efficient and will make our people feel more at home.” The Chieftain met James’s eyes, “You are doing well James. Making these decisions is never easy. Building one thing over another, doing one thing over another; there is always consequences and there is rarely ever one that is easier to take. You handle it well.”
“Um,” James said, realizing for the first time that he never had a father figure, at least not while he was an adult. His father had died when he was a young teen. James didn’t have anyone to tell him he was doing good or not. He often had to fulfill that roll for his younger brother Michael and the only reason he did so was because he was slightly older, not wiser. It felt good to be on the receiving end of praise, even though it was coming from an entirely unsuspected source. James cleared his throat, “Thanks.” He said, “So we are agreed then. If I can find the resources to make a rope that can carry the weight of Martyrs we will build a bridge.”
“Yes,” Dreng nodded and looked away again, “See Frode. I think his father worked with the builders of our great city. He might have passed the knowledge down to our very own Advisor.”
James nodded. “I will find him after this meeting. What should we work on after this is complete?”
The Chieftain drifted off into thought again. Just before James was about to bring him back on track, the chieftain came back to life. “Can we build anything that would help us get additional resources or use the ones we have more effectively?”
“We only have the resources to build shacks or something called a Sculptor’s Hovel. Since we finished the wall we don’t really have a purpose for the stone we are mining. The Sculptor’s Hovel will allow us to use it.” James paused. “I wanted to ask you what you knew about the Great Savanna. Are there any nearby towns or other settlements? If so I might be able to go and learn how to construct their buildings. At the very least, we need someone to trade with.”
Dreng narrowed his eyes and studied James. “There is a town, a human town, on the other side of our Great Savanna.”
James listened in anticipation. He was curious to discover the other races of this world, like elves, trolls, or even something more interesting, like Noma’s race, the Praxk. But James would always be happy to see other humans. Maybe he would be able to find some more humans from Earth. He hoped to eventually gather them all up and unite them. If he did they might be able to piece together what happened to their planet and why they all got put in this game world.
The Chieftain cleared his throat. “But you will not be able to get to it. The Oana capital lies directly between us and them.”
James frowned, “Can we go around?”
“It will take much longer and there is a big risk of being followed by a scout who would trace you back to our village. They send patrols out everywhere in the Savanna. The Great Savanna is large, but anytime you are in it you risk being discovered.” Dreng’s face turned dark as he considered his words. “That was a lesson I learned the hard way. If we venture back into the Savanna we need to be ready for war.”
James made a popping noise with his mouth as he thought about the dilemma. To grow stronger they needed resources. There was a good place to get those resources across the Savanna, but they couldn’t go because of the Oana. They couldn’t fight the Oana, or shouldn’t until they were stronger. It was all very frustrating.
James was okay if he and the other Earth humans went on suicide missions, attacking the Oana capital, respawning, and doing it again, but he didn’t think it would be smart right now. They would eventually lose all of their gear if they died enough times. The gear they did have wasn't easy to come by either. James would rather be well-equipped if they were attacked than be the one to do the attacking without any gear. Maybe it was a tactic they could use later, when they had a blacksmith or something, but not now.
“I think we are stuck with what we have for now,” Dreng commented. “The snow will help camouflage us. I think we are the safest we have been for a long time. We should hole up and build what we can with what we have for a while. We can plan an expedition at a later point or when we get new information.”
James nodded. He didn’t like the idea of holing up, but Dreng was right in that they could always make a new plan when they got more information. No one was sure how snow on the Great Savanna would affect things. It was probably best to wait and see. Still, the plan didn’t seem very Dreng-ish to James.
“Alright, so we will build the platforms on the walls, possibly a rope bridge, and then the Sculptors Hovel. That is the plan until we change it.”
Dreng agreed with a nod. “It is settled then."
James stood up to leave, but Dreng called back to him, “Two more things, James. If you see Patrick can you send him to see me?” James was confused about the request but agreed anyway. “And I wanted to ask you how Torunn is doing?”
James blinked. Why would he ask me that? “Uhh, he is good. He seems to be growing much faster than I thought he would, but I am not really experienced in Martyr biology.” Dreng nodded but otherwise remained silent, his face wearing the opposite of his far-away expression from earlier. “Umm, what else do you need to know?” James asked.
Dreng shrugged his massive shoulders, “No.”
James stared at the chieftain in utter confusion. The chieftain stubbornly met his gaze. “Okay… anything else?” James asked.
Dreng shook his head, and James finally left the tent. A few minutes later, he found Patrick and let him know that Dreng was looking for him. Patrick gulped, and James shrugged. Then the two parted ways and James set off to find Frode and learn how to build bridges with rope.