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Stepping over to one of the walls of the keep, Velin projected her map onto it, zooming in to show the valley. Three spots were marked out in red, eye-catching among the many other markings and notes on the map.

“The valley is a naturally defensive position with a single entrance, a pass between the Twins. This means we have three important locations. First, we have the keep which holds the control node for the valley, located at the far end of the valley. At the other end we have the entrance to the valley. This is the only known way into the valley. Close to the pass, we have Greymane Village where the respawn point is located. We need a plan that will cover all three of those locations.”

Stepping forward, Thorn examined the map. Mina and Akira had finished mapping the whole valley in the day he was gone. After a moment of thought, he turned to Elder Havva.

“Elder, is there any significance in the positioning of the old temple?”

“Hmmm? You mean here, where we stand?” The elder peered around as he thought about it. “No, not that I know of. The original temple was built on top of the village that our people originally settled. Over time, the village became the temple and a second village was started. That is where Lord Greymane and the Night Walkers were based. When the temple was destroyed, the Greymane of that generation built this keep.

“The temple will exist wherever the Wolfkin build the altar. Tradition has dictated that the statue of Hati watches over the valley, but when we fled the valley, we moved it with us, carrying it to the village in the mountains. You would know better than I if Hati required the altar to be constructed in a specific place.”

“Good.” Thorn grinned. “I’m going to be moving the temple.

“Moving the temple? What temple?” During the conversation, Mina had wandered over. Now that there was a chance to jump in, she did not want to miss it.

“Here.” Thorn’s large finger landed on the entrance to the valley. “We will place the Temple of the Moon in the pass that leads into the valley. I think it would make more sense to control the entrance then it would to try and control the rest of the valley. Frankly, if we can’t control who gets into the valley, then there is almost no point in trying to hold the keep. On the other hand, this will allow us to keep a firm grip on the resources we’ve discovered.”

“Oh, did you see that we found more of those glowing rocks when we were mapping?”

“Yeah, I just noticed that. According to Elder Havva, it sounds like those stones are moonstones. The Wolfkin use them to improve their racial abilities. They will be a great source of income if we get a lot of new Wolfkin players. Thanks for mapping everything.” Thorn smiled at Mina, and turned to look at Velin. “If we want to build a fortress monastery in the pass, what do we need?”

“Time, people, and money.” Velin pulled out her notebook and began scribbling in it with a frown. “There are a couple ways to build new buildings in Nova Terra. The first requires the labor to be performed in game and, so long as the material is available, costs nothing but time and effort. This is by far the most popular way to build. The other, less popular way is to pay for the game to construct a building from scratch. This would automatically create the structure in-game according to a blueprint that the player inputs. While this seems easier than building by hand, it is not a good option for us.”

“Yeah, it’s a trap.” Mina tossed in from the side.

“Trap? What do you mean?”

“The cost rises exponentially per feature you have the system build. It is much more cost effective to spend the money buying the materials and hiring workmen.”

“But that takes time. Something we don’t have the luxury of.” Thorn’s eyes locked on the Elven Priestess’.

“I don’t think you are recognizing the depth of the cost. Building a house would bankrupt most people, let alone a castle. We should spend our effort on a defensive line. Or trying to negotiate.”

“Negotiate?” Thorn’s voice dropped slightly.

“Yes. Ragnarok is not unreasonable. While we currently hold the valley, there is little chance that we will be able to keep it once the Crimson Snakes find it. I could use my connections to help us negotiate a split. Then we would at least be left with something.” Noticing that her surroundings had become silent, Velin looked up from her writing to find Thorn staring at her with a dangerous look in his eyes.

“Velin, I am going to assume that you are making that suggestion out of your concern for our group’s wellbeing.” Thorn’s deep voice was not loud but it still sent a shiver down the spine of everyone who heard it. Slowly lifting his hand, he planted a finger on the map. “We will not negotiate. If Ragnarok wants to take something else from me, they will pay for it in blood. We build the new temple here.”

Palpable waves of force radiated from Thorn, causing everyone around him to instinctively cower. There was a bloody edge to him that had not been present the last time Velin had seen him. Rather than struggle against his aura, she quickly bowed her head.

“I’m sorry, I spoke out of turn. I did not think through the issue properly.”

Hearing her admit her mistake, Thorn’s anger lessened, though a burning ember of discontent refused to be extinguished. Taking a deep breath, he did his best to soften his demeanor.

“Let’s continue. Knowing that we lack time, what do we need to do?”

Finally free of the paralyzing aura, Mina was about to throw a fit until Velin caught her eye, giving a shake of her head. Biting her lip, the short Ice Witch scowled and stomped off. Ignoring her, Velin resumed where she had left off as if she had never brought up the idea of negotiating.

“Without time, we will need people and money. A lot of money. Nova Terra is not a pay to win game, despite the fact that money can be spent on an astounding number of items that grant advantage. Anything that can be purchased can be earned in-game, and the cost for purchasing through the store is beyond prohibitive. Building is a great example of that. A house costs a million credits base. Each room doubles the cost.” Not seeing a response from Thorn, she sighed and continued.

“To top it off, there are no ready-made designs for sale. If we want to buy a castle, we’ll need to buy plans. This will add expense as well. Prices for property blueprints are astronomical since it is assumed that only those who are too rich for their own goodwill bother paying the system to build.”

“Money is not an issue. I’ll handle that part. How do we submit the design?”

“If you’ve ever accessed the Fantasia shops from inside Nova Terra, it is the same. There is an office that handles building requests.”

“Thanks. I need to deal with Greymane Village and the bandits. Please organize the Wolfkin here and move everything of value to the entrance to the valley. I’d like you to organize them into groups and have them patrol outside the valley. We need to know when Angdrin gets here. I’ll meet you in the pass in two days.” Not waiting around to see how she took his commands, Thorn turned and left, heading for the throne room.

Watching his broad back as he walked away, Velin closed her eyes and sighed. Furious, Mina ran up to her.

“How could he do...”

Before she could continue, Velin blocked her mouth.

“Leave it. We were the ones that disappointed him first. It is only reasonable that he be on his guard. Plus, I was overstepping my bounds, so it is only right for him to chide me.”

“What? No way! This isn’t how you treat friends.”

“It’s more complicated than that, Mina.” Frowning, Velin lifted a hand to rub her temple. “We’re friends that picked our own interest first, friends who tried to take what was rightfully his. And now we’re his employees.”

“But...”

“Leave it.” Velin hugged her friend tightly. “I know he said that everything could go back to normal, but it will take time. Time and effort. No matter how much he wants to pretend everything is okay, there are bound to be wounds. And if this is the only cost to regaining his trust, it is worth it. Now, let’s get these Wolfkin organized.”

Inside the keep, Thorn was walking up the stairs glumly. His outburst seemed to have come from nowhere, blazing into existence before he could control himself. Even now, he could feel the uncomfortable burn of his anger, settled firmly in the pit of his stomach. He had not meant to take it out on Velin, but when she mentioned negotiating with Ragnarok, he had almost lost it completely.

It had only been with supreme effort that he had not accused her of being a traitor right then and there. Despite the fact that he had managed to hold the words in, Thorn had no doubt that she had guessed exactly what he was thinking.

“So much for trusting,” he sighed. Despite his nice-sounding words and his best intentions, he seemed to have fallen at the first pass. Walking into the throne room, Thorn pulled up the [RMS], immediately noticing that the population count had shot up by 500. After hunting around for a moment, he found the button to relocate the valley’s control point.

Relocate Control Point

Selecting Yes will convert the control point for this territory into a [Control Orb] for 24 hours. Using the [Control Orb] will allow you to set a new Control Point for the territory. After 24 hours, the [Control Orb] will expire, and the Control Point will return to its original location. A Control Point can only be assigned once per week.


Would you like to relocate this Control Point?

Yes

No


Hesitating for a moment, Thorn finally punched the no button. His plan was to handle the village first before he built the new temple at the entrance to the valley. With three to four days left to go before the enemy arrived, Thorn was confident that he had time to move the Control Point later. Having decided to wait, Thorn took stock of what he still needed to do.

There were only a few days until the Crimson Snake scouts would start arriving, so he wanted to make sure that the important defenses were in place first. Not only did he have to relocate the temple, but he had to help rebuild Greymane Village and deal with the bandits. Truthfully, Thorn was not confident that they would be ready in time for the influx of players, which would complicate things immensely.

Currently, the valley was largely unoccupied, which made controlling it fairly easy. However, if he could not fight off Ragnarok and consolidate his control before players started spawning, it would become infinitely more complicated. Taking a deep breath, Thorn headed for Greymane Village. It was time to get to work.

The forest was quiet and cool. Tall trees filtered out the heat of the morning sun, as thin beams of light spotted the forest floor. Walking along with Akira in his arms, Thorn took a moment to appreciate the peacefulness. Soon this peace would be broken.

“How do you like our new home?” asked Thorn, petting Akira’s furry head.

“Master, it is so wonderful. The trees and places to climb and the trees! I love it. Master, I am going to bring my whole family to visit! Can I?” asked the excitable furball, bouncing up and down.

“Haha, of course. Your family can visit any time. This is your home after all.”

“Oh, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.” With a flick of her tale, Akira flashed to a nearby tree, where she scratched a little symbol into the bark. “This tree is mine! And this tree is mine! This tree is mine! I claim this tree!”

Startled, Thorn watched as Akira bounced from tree to tree, marking them with a small symbol while proudly claiming all the trees as her own. With a chuckle, Thorn got down to thinking about how he was going to find the bandits.

Ultimately his goal was to keep them from preying on others in the area, and based on what Elder Thomas had said, he had a couple of ideas of how to deal with them. As he solidified his plans, Thorn idly pulled the large spike that he had gained from his epic showdown with the Greater Werewolf out of his inventory.

Six feet long and still covered in grime and dried blood, it tapered from eight inches in width down to a blunt point. The large end that had been buried in the ground still had bits of mortar on it, but they soon crumbled off, revealing a dark pitted metal underneath. Slightly less than halfway up the spike and right before the point there were thick rings that still held bits of chain hanging from them. Hefting the spike in his hands, Thorn decided to find a blacksmith who could refine it into an actual weapon.

Swinging it through the air created a very satisfying thrumm, and Thorn thought it a weapon particularly suited for his strength. Continuing to practice his swings according to the rhythm Master Sun had taught him, Thorn walked on through the forest until he got close to Greymane Village. Taking a break from swinging his spike, Thorn called for Akira again. It took a while since she was still frantically staking claim to all the trees they had come across, but eventually, Thorn got her to come over with the promise that she could have as many trees as she wanted later.

“Akira, Ailuridae have pretty good noses. Do you think you could find some humans for me that are not part of this village?” Thorn asked, gesturing to the town in front of him. “They’ll be a big group. More than 100 people. And they will have weapons and armor as well.”

“Pretty good? Ha, Ailuridae noses are the best! And I’m the best Ailuridae!” Arching her back proudly, Akira turned up her nose at Thorn. “Just you watch how fast I find them!” And without another word, she shot off to the village. Strolling in after her, Thorn was pleasantly surprised to find that the village had already changed quite a bit. It had only been half a day since he had granted Thomas the money to rebuild the town, but based on how busy everyone was, they were not wasting any time.

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If you've enjoyed what you read and are interested in reading more, please consider supporting me on Patreon where you can read all of Book #2 and advanced chapters from Book #3. Come explore the world of Nova Terra and help me determine where the story goes.

You can find out more about me at sethring.com


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WildCard

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. I post a chapter every Friday around 12 pm EST. To get advanced access to chapters you can support me on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/SethRing.

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