Noma collapsed into his fur pile without a word to the rest of the party. They were all still discussing how they would survive the cold temperatures and didn’t pay him any mind. James was no doubt still outside appreciating his soul weapon. James had chosen wisely, and it made Noma proud of the human. He was genuinely happy the human had enough control over his greed to resists Noma's offers and think logically. Everything Noma had offered James was truly useful, but couldn’t be combined into anything more powerful. They were all stand-alone items. James was smart enough to see that and chose something with much more potential. Noma was happy James made the decision he did, but it meant that Noma had failed Prince Kil'Lache. He was supposed to make James choose a weak item, but no matter what he said or suggested, James did not give in. The prince would not be happy with him.
Noma had to make up for his failure. He had to make sure he got James to enter the portal and go back to the spirit battleground. Maybe then Prince Kil'Lache would still help him gain control over his greed once again.
James burst into the cabin door and held his short sword up proudly. It gave off a slight golden glow which caught the rest of the party’s attention. They all gathered around to marvel at the item. When James told them how he got it they all turned to Noma for an explanation. Noma tried his best to put a smile on his face as he told everyone that only James’s unique stats allowed him to receive the prize. He explained that the combination of James’s high Wisdom and Intelligence with his party leader skill allowed him to absorb the leftover power from Salmaana. They all nodded and seemed disappointed at first but they soon came around. They all turned back to the sword and Noma heard mutterings of how James deserved it and jokes about how James would actually be able to help them in battle now. Noma tuned them out, relieved that he no longer held their attention.
The party finally stopped gawking at James’s short sword and moved to enjoy some warm cider at the bar. James had used one of the stone kettles that Lilly scavenged to make a huge batch of the magical liquid.
When James first got the recipe for the cider, he was confused by the required ingredients. To his knowledge at the time, he didn't have access to the Horned Moya fruit that the recipe called for. That was until Patrick found one during his mining operations on the cliff. As soon as Patrick handed him the spiky object his interface updated the name of the fruit. Apparently, the Horned Moya fruit grew higher up the mountain and when they were ripe they dropped down the mountain. Patrick figured this all out because the fruit fell right onto his head and stuck there due to its spiked rind. The redhead actually seemed happy that he discovered something in this world, and James was happy for it too for other reasons, besides that fact it meant he could make the cider.
The discovery meant that the recipes he got from his cooking skill always managed to require ingredients that James had access to, even if he didn’t know he did at the time. He never got a recipe that he couldn't make right then and there as long as he did a little scavenging first. James wasn’t sure if it was because of his high Intelligence or just how the Cooking skill worked, but he appreciated the mechanic nonetheless.
It was also strange how James was able to identify the fruit while everything else in the game just got named with whatever nickname his brain came up with at the time. The No-No that killed James a few weeks ago was originally identified as a Horned Rhino in James's interface, but James now had a hunch that if he had gotten some sort of knowledge about the No-No creature before he actually saw it, then his interface would have identified it correctly. It was the same with the fruit. James had never seen the fruit before Patrick handed it to him, but his interface correctly identified it, because he had a recipe that called for it. It was entirely possible that James's would have classified the fruit as just some strange point rock and tossed it away if his interface didn't identify it for him.
The stone kettle of the cider had a cover and could stay warm for hours, so James decided he would do his best to keep a hot kettle of cider always available at the bar. When it got cold, he would just set it by the fire until it warmed again.
James set his short sword down and sipped on his cider. As soon as he felt the warmth of the tart beverage hit his stomach he was instantly motivated to do something. He had been pretty content to just relax for the rest of the day and spend time with his party, but now he wanted to take action. He wanted to check things off of his to-do list.
Heh, morale increases are much better than caffeine, James thought, silently commending himself for choosing the cider recipe over the other one he was offered.
He could see how an increased morale could benefit the growth of his village. He would have to find a larger kettle to make some for the Martyrs, seeing how they were completing most of the construction in the village. James could tell the rest of the party was feeling the effects of the cider as well as he focused on their conversation. They were discussing actual matters of importance and James was all about it.
“What do you think, James?” asked Alex.
James cleared his throat and quickly swallowed the cider in his mouth. “Sorry. I’m not sure how we can get more wood. I had been focusing on other things. Uhh, is there anything we can burn other than wood?”
“Not really,” Patrick answered. “We’ve already thought about that option.”
“Hmmm. Well, Dreng doesn’t really want us to leave the walls of the village, so we can’t scavenge the Savanna - not that that would help too much anyway.”
“Yup, we discussed that already too. Geez, man, get with the program!” Alex said with a lighthearted pat on James’s back.
James laughed and raised a finger. “I’ll have you know I have been very busy, but I agree, we all need to catch up.”
James told the party how he met with Dreng and the plan they came up with. He told them how he met with Frode afterward and found out they could, in fact, make rope bridges and that some of the Martyr builders had already begun construction on them. James let everyone know that as soon as the rope bridge was constructed and the Martyr guards could man the wall they would build the Sculptor’s Hovel. He explained how since they were holed up in the village for the indefinite future they would have to find a way to use everything they had more effectively. They had a surplus of stone now and a seemingly infinite supply of it from the mountain, so they would use it in the Sculptor’s Hovel. Patrick spoke up and agreed that he would be able to sculpt pretty easily since he was already good with stone. Lilly confirmed that her crafting skills wouldn’t carry over well, mainly because she didn’t have the strength required to work with stone. Her crafting skills were sending her down the path to create items from cloth or skins. Alex’s crafting skill was still up in the air, but he said he was getting very good with wood and everything he created required less and less time to finish and was more and more durable.
The party filled James in on how by their calculations they only had a few days left to heat the cabin and how they couldn’t come up with any solution at all. Lilly added that her cloaks where the only minor solution they came up with, but it still wouldn’t be enough. They discussed how lucky the Martyrs were in that they were so large that they were barely affected by the cold. They were slightly worried about the Martyr cubs though and agreed to go visit them first thing the next morning since they were probably asleep by now.
“Well, we are all going to freeze to death right here drinking cold cider,” James said, raising his glass for a toast. Everyone laughed, but the seriousness of the issue was not lost on anyone. “I honestly have no idea what we are going to do…”
Noma popped up to the bar, choosing to extend his legs to bring him up to eye level with the party, instead of taking a chair, “I may have a solution to your problem.”
“My man!” Patrick said as he raised his hand to the soul merchant, who reluctantly returned the high five.
“I don’t think you are going to like it though…”
“Well, we don’t really have many options to choose from. So spit it out,” Alex said as he finished his cider and set his mug down.
“The spirit battleground, It still exists just beyond the portal. Although it is shattered and its magic is gone, the land there should still have plenty of trees, both dead and alive.”
The party exchanged solemn glances, recalling their time in the spirit battleground.
“Isn’t that the Lich King’s realm though?” asked James.
“Sort of… Think of it as a no man's land. The actual Lich King’s realm lies beyond the remnants of the spirit battleground. You can get there from the spirit battleground, but he probably doesn’t have any presence there.”
The party considered his words, asking relevant questions in the hope of debunking the idea and proving it wasn’t feasible, but no matter what they asked, everyone slowly realized that entering the portal was their only option. Worse yet, going to the spirit battleground could provide them not only with wood but with the food they would eventually run low on.