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“Okay, I can work with this,” James said as turned a small metal sheet over in his hands, “Good job, uh Smith.”

“Thank you, sir!” Smith said through a coal-stained face, “I can make much more if you need it. It is rather simple actually. Now that I have the required skill I am filled with ideas on how to make your leather armor stronger. I could make chainmail straps, some curved plates for helms, even some lightweight mesh. Oh and-”

“That’s great,” James said with an exaggerated nod, “I can see that you're passionate about blacksmithing, but give me a bit to figure my side out.” Smith’s zealousness fell to a manageable excitement. “I will be back in an hour or two. Keep making more of these studs until then.”

“Roger that sir!” Smith said, saluting with a hammer still in his hand.

James smiled in reply and motioned for Alex to follow him out of the open-walled hut.

“Won’t he need to sleep or something?” asked James in hushed tones.

Alex shrugged and said, “I think he will be good for a while. Last night he told me he is working on his willpower by working for long hours. He told me that he once pulled a 24-hour guard shift and got an increase of will from it. So I think he is okay with staying awake. Besides, Torunn gave all the guards some of that health and endurance reserves potion. I think he still has some.”

“Okay,” said James, “Well let's get some work done. I want to enter the dungeon right after all of our fighters leave the village.”

“Roger that, sir!” Alex said, saluting in his best impression of Smith.

“You sir, are an asshole,” James laughed.

Alex shrugged, “Never pretended to be anything else.”

When James entered the Cabin on the Cliff he was greeted by his assortment of crafting supplies. Noma and Salmaana were still fast asleep, no doubt exhausted from the long journey to Dreng’s Rest. By the fact that he couldn’t hear any creaking coming from the second floor, he figured the merchants were still asleep as well. James carefully emptied the contents of his hand on the table. Metal studs rolled and scattered. Noma stirred but didn’t wake.

Okay, just need to craft some things before they wake up, James thought as he carefully grabbed a leather strap and took a seat at the table.

He picked up one of the metal studs and examined it. On one side it looked like just a normal ball that was cut in half. It was about the size of a quarter. The other side had two spikes in it.

“Hmmm”, James whispered as he brought the studd spike down into the leather strap. He pushed, but the spikes did not go through easily. James envisioned leather armor that was filled with the studs. He was good at imagining a finished product now, and getting better as his crafting skill increased. What he wasn’t getting magically better at though, was how to actually make the finished product. Sure, he had a general idea, but the minutiae was uncertain and clearly needed to be discovered.

After a grunt that came out louder than expected, James succeeded in pushing the spikes out the other side of the leather strap. He flapped his hands around, letting the blood return to his fingers and replace the pain.

He studied his small accomplishment, then deflated with a sigh, there is no way I can add hundreds of these by hand.

***

A half hour later, James had all of his crafting equipment moved into the recently vacated cabin next door to the blacksmith. The villagers that lived there couldn’t stand the sound of a hammer hitting an anvil during the day, and apparently, the fact that Smith worked the entire night was the last straw. Omero said that they were frustrated at first, but ended up being happy with the move since the cabins across the street were slightly larger. James agreed that it was for the better and added that all the villagers should live across the street, that way they will all be furthest away from the crafting buildings.

Despite James’s concern, Omero also offered to help bring the crafting equipment down from the cabin. He argued that the soldiers were busy prepping gear and there was nothing else he could add at the moment. James agreed to the extra help, only because he knew just how organized of a leader Omero was. If he said he could help and still get the soldiers out of the village by noon, then who was James to question that.

“Alright!” James said inside his cabin. Smith could be heard banging a piece of metal into shape next door. He enjoyed the sound and the mood it set. The cabin was nice but disconnected from the rest of the village. “I might as well just make this my home.”

He surveyed his workspace. The cabin was essentially one large room with a ladder that lead to a loft. He had one door in the front that opened into the main cobblestone street, and another in the back that gave him quick access to the Oana camps and occasional Martyr tents. His tanning racks were all moved out to the back of the house and all his remaining tools laid inside on his only table. The sole window of the cabin faced the main street. It didn’t have any actual glass, like all the other windows in the village, but James didn’t mind.

The cabin must get more of a breeze since it is up the mountain some ways, James mused as he organized the small hammer and stone Smith had given him. He set the stone on the packed dirt floor, laid a leather strap across it for testing purposes, then put a metal stud in one hand and his small hammer in the other. With one quick and precise hammer-strike, the stud was successfully embedded into the leather strap. James picked it up and as he hoped, the spikes were through and bent outward, thanks to the stone, and wouldn’t pull out easily. James smiled. Then he got to the real work.

Noon came at about the same time James finished punching studs into all of his armor. He even managed to create two extra Studded Leather Curaisses. One each for Alex and Patrick. He figured that Patrick would probably rather wear heavy plate armor or something, but Smith was just not high enough level to make that yet and neither was Alex. He would just have to make due with what they had for the moment.

James had been aware of soldiers forming up outside his window for the past hour or so but did his best to tune out the chaotic noise of it all. A knock on his door told him that he couldn’t tune it out any longer and that he wouldn’t be able to create more pieces of armor like he had hoped.

“They are ready to move out,” Omero said as James opened the door to his workshop.

James nodded and stepped out, clad in an entire set of studded leather armor. He walked around the backs of the soldiers, who were milling about in a casual formation, gear at their feet. Other villagers meandered about, wishing their friends and brethren a safe journey and successful return. Everyone quieted when James turned the corner of the formation and found a place in front of it. He removed his Studded Leather Helm and studying the fighters. He recognized all of them. While he couldn’t say he was friends with any of them, they were all still close. They shared a bond created by mutual hardship and strengthened through grueling combat drills in the training yard. Everyone in front of him was a fighter. James had been sparring partners with all of them at one time or another. He shared their sweat. He saw in their faces the same focus and determination they wore in the training yard every day. They were here to defend their home. More importantly, they were READY to defend their home.

“Looking at all your faces, I see determination, grit, and ferocity,” James started, “I don’t need to tell you why it is important that we defend the Savanna. I don’t need to explain why it is us that have to do it. You all already know. I see it in your eyes,” James met the eyes of everyone in front of him individually. Some nodded as he did so. “Something threatens our home!” he said, raising his voice as he paced, “And we will defend it!” Someone hollered. “There is nothing else to say about it, it is a simple fact.” The three fighters with shields banged their weapons against them. “What isn’t simple is what comes afterward. Once we seal in the Great Savanna and take it under our control, the real work will begin. We will swing hammers until our hands are raw. We will craft until fingers bleed. What happens after will be the next phase of our lives. We will prosper! We will be happy. And we will figure out why the fuck we are here!”

The formation roared. James slammed his fist into his chest in a Maryrian salute, paying respect to the late chieftain, the current chieftain, and everyone that was wise, intelligent, and fearsome enough to defend the Great Savanna against any enemy that threatened it. The acknowledgment was accepted and returned by the formation, and even some of the older villagers that wished they could still fight. With a wave of James’s hand, the formation of soldiers set off, flanked by the merchant’s cart made heavy with supplies.

James found Patrick and Alex, “Now it’s our time to shine,” he said, pulling out his extra cuirasses from his satchel, “Put these on and let’s go.”

***

James studied his party member icons as they walked into the beginning tunnels of Ogrim’s lair.

James – Level 30 Embrant Leatherworker
Health - 300 of 300
Energy - 110 of 110
Mana - 360 of 360

Patrick - Level 29 Warrior Stoneworker
Health - 530 of 530
Energy - 200 of 200

Alex - Level 21 Apprentice Weaponsmith
Health - 320 of 320
Energy - 300 of 300

He could see that Patrick had leveled up his Health slightly, no doubt putting the rest of his points into strength. He was also quickly catching up to James in the level department. Pretty soon he would have to choose his next class. James made a mental note to talk to the red-head about it right after the dungeon. Alex managed to level up the most and clearly put his free stat points into energy, which was useful for him since he moved around the battlefield the most and used a lot of energy based strikes.

“Hey Alex,” James said as he unsheathed his short swords, “What did you choose for a class after level twenty?”

“Oh!” Alex said as he removed his satchel, “I almost forgot.” He pulled out a blue-tinged short sword. It glistened like a freshly polished car in the torchlight. “Here I made this for you the other day.” James grabbed the short sword.

Congratulations! You have received Short Sword of Weeping Wounds (Uncommon) A weeping wounds debuff is sometimes applied to an enemy, causing them to bleed for an extra 10% of weapon damage over 10 seconds.

“Nice!” James said after reading the item’s description, “How in the world did you make this?”

“I chose another crafting type class at level twenty. It allowed me to specialize in making weapons like I wanted to do. The idea for the sword just kind of popped in my head and I figured out how to do the rest. I can’t really control the special effects of the weapons yet, but I have a feeling that will come later.”

“Interesting…” James said as he blasted a firebolt at an unsuspecting Brute. He caught on fire after the initial blast and took a few flaming steps toward the party before collapsing. Patrick charged to meet the two other Brutes.

“Thought you weren’t doing that anymore?” Alex asked as they both ran after Patrick.

“I don’t really have another option since I couldn’t learn a different mastery,” James said as he dodged a pickaxe, “Besides,” he brought his new short sword up above his head and slammed it down into the Brute’s arms. They fell away from his body. “Besides,” James yelled over painful screams, “I have been thinking. Maybe I can raise my mastery without any risk. What if my body is only affected when I choose abilities, augments, or classes related to the mastery?”

Alex bent over to sort through the dropped loot. He stood up with a green rock in his hand. “Malachite. This is the stuff that adds the special effects to my weapons. But yea, that makes sense to me I guess. I hope that is the case though because we are going to need your spells when we get to Ogrim.”

“Yea,” James said tilting his head to Patrick, who was already trekking down the tunnel again.

James was beginning to know the twisting tunnels of Ogrim’s lair like the back of his hand. Before he knew it, the party had easily slain a few groups of miner Brutes and where outside of the tunnel that lead to Ogrim.

“Everyone ready?” James said, already having checked their icons to see if anyone was missing any health or endurance.

“Yes,” Patrick bellowed in an extremely deep voice. James’s saw the words come out of Patrick’s mouth, but his brain still had trouble believing the voice came from him. Before he could comment, Alex spoke up.

“Let’s ruin this dudes day and piss on his makeshift throne,” he added.

“Dibs on calling him bald,” Patrick rumbled, before slowly turning his wide body around and squeezing through the tunnel.

Alright… let's do this, James thought as he followed his party.

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About the author

BigMartyrs

Bio: Writer of disparate LitRPG stories.

Current works = Legends of the Great Savanna (published) , Milton (Ongoing)

Stay in touch at JLLincoln.com

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