“Report,” James commanded through the steam of Spiced Cider that was held close to his mouth.
“The buildings and other various construction that we discussed yesterday have all been completed, Si…” Birger stuttered to a pause mid-sentence. James raised an eyebrow. “James, not sir, James,” Birger recited, mostly for himself. James smiled and took another sip of his warm cider. “My hunch was correct and everything we completed received various buffs from your builder’s interface-”
“Great,” James interrupted, “Anything I should know about?”
“The buffs?” Birger confirmed. James nodded. “We received various benefits should we ever be attacked, benefits for trade, for crafting professions, and for food, among other things.”
“Which building grants the food buffs?” Michael asked.
“It is actually a building for the Oana. We upgraded their camps with improved fireplaces, meat drying racks, and even built them a shack or two. They didn’t seem to appreciate it much, but I managed to grab some dinner from them last night and it was markedly better than it was the night before.”
“Interesting,” James mused, “did you know building an improvement to their camps would grant such a benefit?”
“Actually, no s..” Birger forcefully swallowed, “No, I did not. My workers had actually completed all their work while you were away so I was just trying to keep them productive. I saw the upgraded camps long ago when the Oana lived with us in the Great Martyr city. Admittedly, I am at a loss at how you got the building plans that granted them the buff. I was not expecting that.”
“Neither was I,” James said, taking a moment to think. Everyone silently took a sip of their cider. “I know I unlocked the Oana style of building, but I never got the plans for an improved camp, even though I have been to them. Maybe I unlocked bigger building plans by unlocking the constituent parts, or I simply unlocked all the basic Oana buildings because I have a hidden builder level that reached a certain number, or-”
Patrick cleared his throat.
James did the same, “Ah, sorry about that. Either way, it is great news. Maybe you, Omero, and I can discuss it later. In the meantime, I will keep an eye out for new buildings that I have managed to unlock.”
Birger nodded and took a step back.
“The Culture Initiative had its first meeting last night,” Michael said, “So far it consists of myself, Omero, Freydis, and three other villagers from broad and impressive backgrounds. So far, we have decided that the first thing we need is a center of knowledge on the main avenue of Dreng’s Rest. We would like it to be as accessible as possible, but we can work those details out later. This Center of Knowledge, if you will, will serve as somewhere we can work out of for future endeavors, a storage facility for Omero’s growing number of books and any other books we manage to translate and get ready for...,” Michael pause for dramatic effect. Without missing a beat, and again letting James know he wasn’t dozing off, Patrick pulled up his dirty cloth shirt and patted his stomach to the tune of a drumroll. “A SCHOOL!” Alex announced excitedly.
“Oh!” James said, genuinely surprised, “It sounds like you will need a big building then.”
Alex nodded, “Yes, the bigger the better. Freydis seemed rather passionate about being a teacher. She said that learning everything from Omero’s notes would be good for her and teaching people sounded way better than looking after twenty cubs.”
“Didn’t she only have ten?” Patrick asked, confused.
“Those were her exact words,” Alex answered with a chuckle, “I think they wore her out to the point where she felt like there was twenty of them.”
Torunn gave a solemn nod, well aware of the energy required to raise just one Martyr cub, never mind ten.
“Where are the cubs anyway?” James asked the group.
“They are still training in the Great Savanna,” Torunn offered, “there is much about their land they must learn before they are accepted as adults."
“I see,” James said, rather sadly, “Well I hope they finish up soon. Who is next?”
“Meee,” Torunn growled, ‘The humans we rescued are improving. We were able to waken every single one of them. Unfortunately, none of them have managed to say anything that has made any sense yet.”
James sighed, “Well, improvement is still improvement. I will stop by and visit them today.”
‘That would not be wise, brother” Torunn warned, causing a confused, and slightly offended look to find its way onto James’s face.
“Uh,” Omero began with a step forward, “I have been visiting them rather regularly James. The human contact is good, but I fear too much of it will overstimulate them. I want them to get comfortable with just Torunn, Frode, and I so they begin to trust us. Adding anyone else to that may have the very real chance of complicating their recovery."
“Okay,’ James conceded, “That makes sense. Please let me know as soon as I can visit them without risking their recovery. Omero nodded and took a step back. “Everyone good?” James asked as he leaned forward, his hands ready to clap.
“I have something!” Patrick interjected. James's hands fell. He was excited to get started on his crafting, but that didn’t stop him from being intrigued by whatever Patrick had to say. “I am getting much stronger. BIG things are coming for Patrick,” Patrick said with a smile that almost reached his ears.
James blanched, “Is that all. How are you getting stronger? What big things?”
Patrick held up his hands and shook his head, “I can’t say, it will be a surprise! I will give you more information when I am ready.”
The inner circle all stared at the red-head. James knew from experience though that if Patrick didn’t want to do something, or vice-versa, he wouldn’t, so James didn’t press him any further.
James leaned in, spread his hands out wide, and purposely brought them together with a clap. The inner circle did the same and James was seconds away from doing a happy dance, That was, until he heard one, poorly timed, rogue clap. He looked around for the culprit.
Of course, it was Patrick, he thought with a mental roll of his eyes.
“Sorry!” Patrick chuckled, “I distracted myself.”
James left the training area and wandered around his village for a while, looking for a good spot to choose a crafting skill and get to work. He took a pull of cider from his mug and passed the tower of stairs. He turned away from the mountain and looked down his main avenue. A long cobblestone road stretched out before him. In the center was a raised area that housed a variety of colorful flowers being carefully tended for by an aging female Martyr. In the center of the raised area was the back of the Statue of the Legendary Chieftain. James walked up to Dreng and placed a hand on the statue to pay respects. He stood there for a moment wondering what advice Dreng would offer him if he were still alive.
You would probably tell me to forget about crafting and just focus on fighting, James thought with a smile before chuckling, Although, you got pretty open-minded toward the end there, so who knows.
James bid farewell to his old advisor and mentor and got the odd feeling that Dreng wouldn’t have any advice for him if he were still alive. The thought made James feel both alone and proud.
Nah, I have Torunn and everyone else, we will figure this out together, James thought. For the first time since Omero fled an Abominar attack, James thoughts were not focused on the Lich King’s dungeon, or the Oana threat, or anything else related to the game. They were centered around Earth, and what the hell he was going to do about… it.
Is this really my home now? He thought as he took in the sight of Dreng’s Rest. He could see human villagers begin to emerge from there cozy cabins. Behind a row of those cabins and various empty shops that flanked the main road, he could see Oana villagers, lazily going about their simple lives of roasting large chunks of meat and hanging out by a campfire. Above him, he could see Martyr guards changing shifts among the labyrinth of hanging rope bridges. He found comfort in knowing that the Martyr cubs were out in the Great Savanna, learning about the wildlife, animal migration patterns, and food chains, while the remaining Martyrs slept in like they were apt to do.
It’s not a bad one, as far as homes go. I have roots down here. People I love and care for, James thought with a sigh. He finished his mug of Spiced Cider. A villager he vaguely recognized waved at him. James was ninety percent sure the villager’s name was Jim. He waved back.
“Okay,” James chanted to himself as he tossed out bundle after bundle of fur from his satchel. He made sure to keep the pile of furs he usually slept in separate from the others, especially the Abominar fur that he used as a pillow. Inside the cabin on the cliff, James had pushed all the tables and chairs against the walls and set up various equipment he would need for crafting. He managed to find a tanning rack from the Oana villagers, which was inside temporarily until he figured out how to use it. The first camp he went to seemed rather upset he was taking their tanning rack. They didn’t attack, but they did show some teeth and shoot James some nasty glares that motivated him to put the rack back and try a different camp. The villagers there seemed indifferent about losing the rack. James figured it might have been since they had an Oana that could craft a new one or some other reason. Either way, he took it as a good sign. James also managed to find variously shaped needles of different diameters, along with some thin string in one of the empty shops. The majority of the shops that flanked the main road of the village were empty, but the one with the gear he needed was filled with various odds and ends. He figured that Lilly must have just dropped everything of use off there. Eventually, James would have to come up with some sort of currency and find someone to manage the shop. The village was running fine now, but once more people leveled up crafting he imagined that some sort of commerce would have to take place. The sort of socialist, everyone gets what they need and sometimes what they want, system they had probably wouldn’t work forever. Besides, returning to a familiar commerce system would probably be comforting to the humans. Coming up with a completely new system was a novel idea, but James didn’t have the time or energy to deal with the unknown issues that were bound to crop up with one.
“Okay,” James chanted again, “time to get to work.”
James said down on the floor of the cabin. He grabbed an Ingo skin from his pile. Then he looked at the pile of needles and grabbed a hooked one with his other hand. That was when James realized he had absolutely no idea what he was doing.
A long moment later, followed by an even longer moment of mental blankness, a moment of inspiration hit him. It wasn’t the sort of inspiration that drove great artists to create something legendary, but it was enough to get James moving. He opened up his interface and looked for gaps in his gear.
Left Hand – Legion Commander’s Short Sword (Legendary)
Right Hand - Martyr Skinning Knife (Widespread)
Feet - Reinforced Leather Boots (Uncommon)
Legs - Ingo Cloth Pants (Widespread)
Chest - Ingo Cloth Shirt (Widespread)
Shoulder – Empty
Wrist – Empty
Back – Thick Ingo Skin Cloak (Common)
Head – Empty
Neck - Necklace of Lucidity (Uncommon)
Ring 1 – Brutus’s Ring (Extraordinary)
Sheath 1– Clunky Short Sword Sheath (Widespread)
Sheath 2- Oana Scythe Sheath (Common)
Bag - Adept Adventurer's Satchel (Uncommon)
James figured he could either create something for his head, shoulders, or wrists since he lost the uncommon bracers he had the last time he died. He racked his brain for a while, mulling over the logistics of creating each item in his head. He settled for creating bracers since they seemed like the easiest option. He could always create a head and shoulder item when his skill leveled up, and hopefully, then he would just be given the knowledge of how to create them.
James placed the skin he was working with on top of another skin and used his Legion Commander’s Short Sword to cut two long and thick strips from it. He folded each strip over his wrists and marked where they should be cut so they would fit him. James made the cuts, then threaded his string through the hooked needle. James had watched a doctor give him stitches before, so he figured this couldn’t be much different. He couldn’t have been more wrong. The first problem was that he had no idea how much space the stitches should have between them. It was also way harder to stitch the material since it wasn’t like stitching a human at all. If he went in too deep he just pierced the other end of the fur. James had gotten a few stitches in multiple different times, only to realize he had gone too deep on one loop and essentially closed off the hole that his hand would have to go through. Eventually, James completed one bracer and started on the other. The second one was still a struggle, but slightly less so.
James finished his bracers and slipped them over his wrists. For some reason, that was when it clicked - they were fur bracers.
Leather, I want leather. What will fur bracers do? James chastised himself as he flung his arms in the air. The fur bracers slipped over his hands and each landed somewhere different inside the cabin.
James stood up and waddled over to the tanning rack with legs stiff from sitting on the wooden floor for too long. He inspected the rack. It was a large open rectangle with legs that kept it upright. He figured that the skin would go inside the square and be stretched out and fastened in place with the thick hooks that hung from equal distances along the inside of the rectangle.
Pretty easy, James thought. Once again, he couldn’t have been more wrong. He destroyed at least a dozen Ingo skins because they were either too small to be stretched so far or they were too thin and tore when he pierced them with the hooks.
James stood back from his tanning rack, growing pile of ruined skins, and dwindling pile of good skins and cupped his chin. He contemplated his life.
“Okay,” He chanted once again, “I just have to find the perfect skin for this size rack. Simple.”
A minute or two later, the inside of the Cabin looked like the house of a cruel and opulent collector of exotic animal pelts. James emerged from the Cabin, dragging his tanning rack behind him, all set up with the perfect Ingo fur. James set it out in the sun.
Now what? He thought with his hands on his hips. He looked over his village and whistled a tune. A rogue thought crept its way into James's brain. A thought that he didn’t want to think. The thought said that if he ever wanted to be any good at leatherworking he would have to get a bunch of tanning racks so he would have a constant supply of tanned leather to work with. James checked on his tanning Ingo skin. It was still soft enough to sleep on.
“Dammit,” he sighed as he kicked the dirt. James finally caved to his rogue thought and marched down the Tower of Stairs, into the general shop to grab some woodworking tools, over to his Ingo mounts to say hi, across the village, and up to one the Oana camps.
The scaled humanoids studied him with a lazy interest. He pulled up a rock and sat down next to one of them. He grabbed a nearby stick and poked at the campfire. James had gotten rather experienced bonding with strange creatures over a campfire. It was arguably one of the main reasons he felt so close to Freydis. After a long couple of hours, that felt like days to James, he had built that bond with the Oana villagers. It was the bond that couldn’t be seen, but could only be felt. It was a bond that could only be created by retreating into your brain and contemplating the many beautiful and complicated facets of life in the silent, shared company of others. You also had to poke the fire and restock the woodpile every now and then for maximum bondship, James found.
A day later, and only after his morning meeting in which James tasked the Culture Initiative council members with coming up with prospective currencies and ways to stimulate trade so he could put merchants in all the empty shops, James had ten new tanning racks, all produced from his friends over at Oana Camp Lagoon and Oana Camp Silent Contemplation. He lined the racks up outside the Cabin on the Cliff, where the old training area used to be.
“Okay,” James said with a nod, “Alright.”
He walked around the corner of the cabin to gather some skins. Along the way, he stopped at his original tanning rack to check on his first prospective leather. It was still soft enough to sleep on. With horror, James realized the skin still had fur on it.
He gave a long, long, dramatic sigh. After that, he decided that he probably needed another cup of Spiced Cider.
Three cups of cider and two hours later, James sat on the floor of the cabin, buzzing with jittery amounts of morale and the exciting knowledge that if he shaved the Ingo skins before he put it onto the tanning rack, they turned to leather much faster. James set a piece of successfully tanned Ingo leather onto another one and cut it into the same long and wide strips he needed for bracers. He wrapped them over his wrist to measure them and cut again. He grabbed his hooked needle with string and set to work. The leather was much harder to pierce, a quality that he hoped would translate to increased armor levels, but at that point, James's hands were already callused from manipulating the needle and he didn’t have many additional problems sewing the hide together. It also helped that James's hands seemed to be getting familiar with the required motions. He finished up his bracers and slipped them over his wrists. The measurements and cuts he took were perfect, so he did have some trouble getting them on, but at least they wouldn’t slip off.
Congratulations! You have received Shoddy Leather Bracers (Widespread)
Congratulations! You have learned the Leatherworking skill! (max level = 10)
“Yes!” James exclaimed as he threw his Shoddy Leather Bracer covered wrists into the air and fell back into a pile of untanned furs. The new bracers might have only been of widespread rarity, but they felt Legendary to James.