After thinking it over, Thorn had decided to go see Thomas in Greymane Village to turn in the quest and activate the temple as a respawn point. That way, should anything happen, he would not be respawning days away in Berum.
Leaving Captain Del'har and the girls to guard the castle, Thorn ran back through the woods. By himself, he covered distance at a fantastic rate, cutting the trip that had taken two hours that morning down to only twenty minutes. The village was quite different from when they had first arrived, and the loud sounds of a party could be heard spilling from the ramshackle tavern that stood near the center of town.
As soon as he ducked into the bar, Thorn was hit full force by the scent of alcohol and roasted meat, and his stomach let out an involuntary grumble. The village leader, Elder Thomas, and Captain Charles noticed him at the same time and smiled happily. Yet, suddenly, their expressions froze and, with a horrified look at each other, they quickly ran over, both bowing low and seeming quite nervous.
“My Lord!” The elder’s face was pale and white. “We were just celebrating your magnificent ascension to the throne. We were going to visit you first thing tomorrow to bring tribute.”
“Oh, that is great, uh. Actually, I just had a couple questions, so I thought I’d come over.” Thorn looked around, totally oblivious to the terrified stares of everyone in the tavern. “Um, I’m kinda hungry, could I maybe get a plate of something?” he continued, absentmindedly scratching at his face.
“Yes, of course, my Lord! Quick, bring out something for his lordship to eat!” Thomas, trembling slightly, led Thorn to a nearby table, shooing the occupants away. Scrambling to their feet and bowing repeatedly they seemed almost eager to get away from Thorn, who was finally starting to notice the deep silence in the tavern.
“Why is everyone so quiet?” Thorn whispered to Charles.
“Um... My Lord, have you seen yourself recently?” asked the alchemist gently. “You look something awful. No offense, your Lordship.”
Frowning, Thorn looked down at himself for the first time and noticed that his outfit was in utter shambles. The armor he had gotten in Berum was twisted and bent beyond recognition, and his body was absolutely covered in dried blood, both his and his enemies. No wonder everyone was staring at him in fright; he looked like the main monster out of a horror flick. Disgustingly, flakes of dried blood would fall off of him every time he moved.
Blushing until his face was the same deep red as the rest of him, Thorn asked for a bath to be drawn up, and despite his hunger he spent the next 45 minutes scrubbing the evidence of his battle away. The warm water was soon filthy with blood and grime, and Thorn had to replace the bathwater twice before he felt clean. As he scrubbed himself, he thought carefully about all that had happened since he first logged in. In a way, everything that had happened to Thorn in the past few months was utterly unbelievable, and he still hadn’t fully wrapped his mind around it.
But a couple things he had certainly realized: first, he had no way to log out apart from going to Fantasia, which, at this point, he wasn’t really interested in, and second, he was currently the new Lord Greymane. Regardless of how he felt about it, he was stuck here in Angoril for the next fourteen years, and the local population all now knew him as the ruler of Greymane Keep and the surrounding region. A part of his mind worried that the role he had inherited would restrict his freedom, but at the same time, there was an excitement in knowing he could be at the center of something grand.
Assuming, that is, that he could hold the castle. In the little bit of research that he had done, Thorn had read that towns, cities, castles, and even whole countries could be held by players if they had the strength and capital. The major issue was that Thorn, while he had plenty of capital, was only a single player. Compared to a guild his power was quite insufficient, even with Mina and Velin.
Relaxing, Thorn’s mind turned to Oberlin. He had sent the thief south after a long conversation, and from Oberlin’s last message, it sounded like the trip was going to pay off. Hopefully, he would make it back within the next week. If it took much longer, Thorn might be in real trouble.
Soon after, a refreshed and somewhat bashful Thorn made his way back down the groaning stairs and into the tavern’s main room where the villagers were engaged in subdued conversation. As he re-entered, the villagers got their first good look at their new lord, and all were quite impressed with what they saw. While huge, Thorn was well muscled but not bulky, handsome but by no means a lady killer. A gentle air emanated from him, and his eyes were deep pools of blue, a testament to having seen and survived great suffering.
Overall Thorn gave the impression of a stately mountain, solid and unyielding, certainly an improvement over the last Lord Greymane. Elder Thomas walked over to Thorn grinning.
“Feeling better, m’lord?” he asked, chuckling at Thorn’s blush.
“Yes, I am. Sorry about that, had a lot on my mind,” replied Thorn, scratching his head bashfully. “So, how about that food?”
“Of course, of course. Please be seated!”
And so the night passed. The villagers soon realized that Thorn wasn’t at all stuck up and got back to celebrating their new lord with copious amounts of alcohol, and it wasn’t until the morning dawned that the tavern finally emptied. As the man of the hour, Thorn had been inundated with free drinks, all of which he readily consumed.
Despite his young age in real life, he had consumed alcohol before and, while he was indifferent to the taste, it was practically impossible for him to get even the slightest of buzzes due to his abnormally large body.
The early morning light of Nova Terra’s sun saw Thorn supporting a staggering Charles while carrying a completely blitzed Elder Thomas over his shoulder as he walked them home. The evening had been pretty intense, and everyone in the town was going to get some rest. Like the rest of the town, the two men were soon in bed, sleeping off the effects of their wild celebrating. Thorn, on the other hand, walked around greeting the few people who were up and getting a better feel for the town. As he made his rounds, he stopped at the rundown temple and placed the silver wolf statue in its proper place.
You have unlocked Greymane Village’s respawn point by returning the statue of Hati. You have gained Hati’s favor.
Greymane Village was situated on a hill and, at one time, had been encircled by a large stone wall about a quarter of the way from the top. That wall had long fallen into ruin as the village had been sacked again and again. Instead, it was now surrounded by a fragile looking palisade that ran around the very top of the hill. The town itself had been reduced to a handful of stone buildings and wooden shacks with a barely functioning guard that was often away from the town hunting for food.
Merchants had long since abandoned the road that cut through the forest, despite how long it took to go around, because of the danger the last lord had represented, and Greymane Village suffered as a result. The good news was that the forge was still in relatively good shape despite being rarely used over the last few years, and the town had just gained a rebirth point in its small temple.
One of the notifications Thorn had received said that Greymane Village was unlocked as a starting location once the shrine had been restored and, opening up a browser, he looked for information on that process. After a couple minutes of hunting, Thorn learned that the town would go through a countdown before opening up as a new start location option. During this time, new natives would move into the area and set up, waiting for the incoming players.
A bit more exploring led Thorn to figure out that it was going to be really important for the town to be a strong, defensible location, as beginner towns were hugely important. Each beginner town had a spawn point, allowing players to bind the town as the spot they would be resurrected if they died. If a guild or organization could hold on to a spawn point, they would possess a massive advantage in the area, as they could set the rules for using the rebirth shrine. In fact, that is why Thorn had to pay to use the respawn point in Embersplit. That money had gone into the coffers of the guild that controlled the city, and they in turn paid for the guards and other city improvements.
Opening up his inventory, Thorn took a look at what sort of money he had available. Currently, his purse was woefully small, holding only a few gold. However, money was the last of his worries, as Julia had set up an account in Fantasia with a few million universal credits which, when converted, came out to 15 million gold. Surely enough to rebuild the town and castle.
The real issue was in finding enough people to help him hold the area. It would be maddening to sink tons of money into improvements only to have the town and castle snapped up from underneath him. Mulling over all of this, Thorn left a message for Elder Thomas and Charles to come see him at the keep and ran back with some breakfast.
The girls had logged out for a couple hours, so Thorn and Captain Del’har ate the breakfast Thorn had brought and then spent the morning demolishing the rotting parts of the castle while they waited for Thomas and Charles to arrive. Inside the crumbling wall of Greymane Keep were four other buildings besides the stone keep itself.
A few hours later, just as Thorn was ripping the last of the rotten roof off the castle smithy, the village leader and the alchemist made their way into the yard, looking around in astonishment at how different everything was. All of the buildings except for the keep had been reduced to their bare states or simply ripped down entirely if they were rotten. Del'har had watched in awe as Thorn leveled entire buildings in minutes with little more than his bare hands.
Seeing the two of them come in, Thorn quickly finished snapping the wooden slats. Throwing them into the fire they’d built in the center of the courtyard, he made his way over to the others. Instantly the two men dropped to their knees, but Thorn stopped them and told them to cut it out. Already uncomfortable towering over others, he instinctively disliked when they saluted on one knee.
“Enough of that. If you have to do something, just salute. Anyway, come on inside. We have a lot to talk about.” Waving them inside the keep, he introduced the tall wolfkin as they walked in. “This is Captain Del'har, he is the Captain of the First Company and my second in command. Okay, grab a seat because this might take a while.”
Getting comfortable in his throne, Thorn waved for the three natives to pull up some of the chairs he had moved into the throne room and then began to outline the issue as he saw it.
“First, let me lay out the problems. Problem number one, this castle and the surrounding areas are a complete and utter wreck. We have no economy, no infrastructure, barely any people and no money in the treasury. Given the number of people who will be coming, the whole area is likely to be in utter chaos soon.”
“Uh, my lord? Who is coming?” asked Charles, confusion written on his face.
“Yeah, that’s right, I forgot to mention that Greymane Village will be unlocked as a spawn point for travelers within two week, and we have gained a respawn shrine there. This means that soon you will have travelers and merchants coming through bringing new wealth, but also bringing new trouble. As it is, the town is woefully unprepared and unprotected.”
“A spawn p..point?” stammered Elder Thomas.
“Yes. I’m sure you know what that means? This whole area is about to be busted wide open for exploration, trade, and settlement. On top of that, we will undoubtedly see an increase in banditry and other criminal activity if we can’t keep a tight hold on everything from the get go. This brings us to problem number two. Our second major problem is that, once this area is announced as a new start location, we will probably have guilds coming in to try to take the town and castle for themselves in a bid to control all the land. This means that, apart from the normal issues we would face in developing this land, we are probably in for a war almost immediately.”
Here Thorn paused to look over the others. Elder Thomas’ face was pale, Charles' face was grim and Captain Del'har’s face was unreadable, though that could have been the fur.
“This means that we need to do three things: repair the city and castle, find people to settle, and find an army. And all of this needs to be done before our two weeks are up. The captain has mentioned he might know where to find some other wolfkin who can help with the castle, any other ideas?”
For a moment they all sat in silence, thinking about the coming changes and all the ramifications of those changes. Finally, Elder Thomas spoke up.
“My lord, we have tried to get new settlers to move out here in the past, but the werewolves and bandits kept them away. You have solved the problem of the werewolves, so more people might be willing to come, if you could deal with the bandits. as well.”
“Talk to me about the bandits. Who are they and how many?”
“Quite a tragic story, m’lord.” The captain spoke up, taking over for Elder Thomas. “They’re mostly hunters and farmers and the odd soldier who, at one time, lived in these lands under the rule of the former lord. However, when the curse came, they were slowly forced off their lands or forced to run from imprisonment, for one reason or another. As a result, they have quite the enmity with Greymane castle and live as bandits, preying on anyone who travels the area. It’s why we see so few merchants these days.”
“Hmmm, I’ll have to go have a talk with them. Any idea where they might be based?” asked Thorn, scratching his chin as he thought.
“No, m’lord, they stay pretty well out of sight. They’re all woodsmen and can’t be found when they don’t want to be.”
“Okay, deal with bandits, check. What else do we have?”
“We could advertise in a couple nearby cities for settlers if we had some coin to pay them.” Elder Thomas looked thoughtful. “Actually, we might be able to pick up some older mercenaries as well that way. You know, give them a place to take their families and half retire?”
“Excellent idea, how fast can you do that?”
“Eh, should be able to get a message to the three closest cities within a day or so.” Elder Thomas stroked his beard before remembering who he was talking to and added a hasty “my lord” to the end of his statement.
“I told you not to worry about that sort of thing. I’m not one for ceremony. I’ll be busy for a few days dealing with the bandits and going with the captain to see about those wolfkin. We have six days until it becomes known that a spawn point is opening up, probably another three days before the first travelers get here. Doesn’t give us much time, so let’s get to work. Elder, can you spend money for the town?” asked Thorn, rising from his chair.
“Yes, my lord, I can. Thing is, we don’t have any money to speak of.”
“Not an issue,” stated Thorn flatly, pulling out a massive pouch and setting it on the table, which creaked alarmingly. “10,000 gold in there, use it to rebuild the village, focusing on defenses and infrastructure. By the time I get back, I want to be amazed. Now, please excuse me. I have much to do.”
Ignoring the utter shock on the Elder and Captain’s faces, Thorn left the throne room through a door in the back, motioning Captain Del'har to follow. The room they entered seemed to have, at one time, been a library or office, but the few books that remained were practically unreadable. Thorn sat down carefully in one of the chairs but sprang back up when it began to crumble under him. Swearing at the previous landlord, he sat on a windowsill instead.
“Think we can trust them?” Thorn asked over his shoulder as he watched the two townsmen leave the castle from the window.
“You did just give them a large amount of money, my lord,” replied the captain flatly. “You probably should have asked that question first.”
“Yes, I guess I did.” Thorn sighed. “Well, we’ll worry about that when we get back. Let’s go meet those friends of yours.”
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Bio: My name is Seth Ring and I am a writer. I create worlds and tell the stories of those who inhabit them. I love exploring these new worlds with other people. To get advanced access to chapters you can support me on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/SethRing.