The keep was empty when Thorn arrived, stripped of anything of value that could be carried away by the Wolfkin. It had regained some of the palpable gloom that had shrouded it the first time Thorn had seen it. The crunching gravel under Thorn’s feet echoed loudly in the now silent courtyard. Even Akira, normally chatty, had fallen silent.
Climbing the stairs to the throne room, Thorn ran his fingers along the uneven stone walls. Soon this derelict castle would join the old ruler of the valley, relegated to history. Thinking about it made Thorn wonder if someday he too would be overtaken, if the temple he was about to build would fall into disrepair, its original architect forgotten.
Shaking the depressing thoughts from his head, Thorn approached the throne, activating the familiar relocation option. Last time, his hesitancy came from the time limit on the [Control Orb], but after handling both the bandits and Greymane Village, he was confident that he would be able to finish everything he needed to in time.
A bright yellow glow lit the room as soon as Thorn clicked the button, and a glass orb appeared, hovering over the Wolf Throne. Like molten gold, rays of light poured over the back of the chair, melting it away as they fell. Once the throne had disappeared entirely, the rays shot back up to the glass orb, filling it with swirling golden light. Floating gently through the air, the orb stopped in front of Thorn, allowing him to grab it.
You have acquired Greymane Valley’s Control Point. Activate this [Control Orb] within 24 hours to select a new Control Point location. If a new Control Point is not assigned within 24 hours, the Control Point will return to its original location.
Stuffing the orb into his inventory, Thorn took one last look around the keep before leaving through the front gate. Taking in a deep breath of the crisp night air, Thorn called Akira and began to run toward the entrance to the valley. Passing quickly under the massive trees of the old growth forest, it did not take long before the Twins came into sight.
The entrance to the valley was dominated by two tall peaks, referred to locally as the Twins because of their symmetrical shape. With the pass between them being the only entrance into the valley, the Twins were a perfect natural defensive line due to their height. Thorn planned to place the temple squarely in the center of the pass, blocking the valley off from the outside world.
The map that Mina had compiled showed the valley to be rich in resources. Combined with the fact that the valley was going to be opening up as a spawn point for players choosing to play as Wolfkin, Thorn had been thinking a lot about how to leverage his position as Lord Greymane. Less concerned about the monetary benefits of controlling a territory, Thorn had a different idea in mind, and the first step was creating a place for his influence to grow.
Practically flying across the forest floor, Thorn soon made it to the foot of the Twins. Another ten minutes, and he was standing in the pass. Campfires burned low, and the soft breathing of the sleeping Wolfkin sounded clearly in the silent night. A sentry at the edge of the Wolfkin camp had nearly swallowed his tongue when Thorn rushed up the hill, but after patting him on the back and forbidding him from announcing Thorn’s arrival, Thorn headed to the main tent.
The camp had been set up around a large central tent. Seeing a light still glowing from a crack in the tent’s door, he pushed aside the flap and ducked his head as he entered. Leaning over a large map of the area, Velin was occupied in a low-voiced conversation with Captain Del’har. Hearing the swish of the flap, they looked up, stopping their conversation to salute.
“How many times have I told you not to do that?”
“Sorry, my lord. Old habits die hard.” The captain rose from where he had kneeled.
“And what is your excuse?” Thorn shot a glance at Velin before turning his attention to the map they had been studying.
“It seems the correct thing to do.” Velin was serious, straightening from her half bow. Silence fell on the tent as Thorn stared at the map. As the atmosphere got increasingly stifling, Thorn sighed and shook his head.
“Velin, I’m sorry.” Seeing that she was about to respond, Thorn held up his hand. “No, I am. I should not have snapped at you the other day. It is obvious that I am not as over what happened as I thought. Your suggestion was reasonable, but for whatever reason, I took it badly. I know that it wasn’t fair for me to shut you down like that. I’m sorry, and I will try to do a better job in the future.”
“Thank you, Thorn.” Velin’s normally cold face broke into a small smile as she looked down, adjusting her hair behind her ear. After a moment of warm silence, she returned back to her business-like attitude, obviously uncomfortable with such personal conversation. “Once it was clear that you are determined to control the valley, I started planning. Take a look, and let me know what you think.”
Turning his attention back to the map, Thorn listened carefully as Velin outlined the situation. Crimson Snake scouts had been spotted less than a day’s march from the valley, which meant that the army was going to arrive slightly ahead of schedule. Assuming that the army was less than a day’s march behind the scouts, the invasion was eminent.
“Our ability to defend the valley will rely on a few things. First, we’ll have to be able to defend it physically. What I mean is that we are going to have to win the battle. The invading force is almost five times our number. They have as many player soldiers as we have native soldiers. Normally, this sort of battle would be unwinnable. Our only option is fortifications if we want to put up a fight. Thorn, I’m not sure what you have in mind yet, so I have not planned a defensive strategy.
“Assuming we can stop the army outside the valley, we’re going to have to face the second issue. We don’t actually have a way to make them leave. This is a game, so the players can just respawn, which puts us in a bind. There is nothing to stop the Crimson Snakes from camping on our doorstep until they wear us out. My only idea is to put pressure on Angdrin from inside Ragnarok, but to do that, we would have to give up some control.” Pausing, she looked at Thorn. “Both of these things are out of my hands. I’m afraid I’m not going to be much help in terms of planning.”
“No problem.” Thorn’s gaze rested on the map as he considered the two problems Velin had outlined. “I’m working on the second problem as we speak. For now, let’s focus on dealing with the fight we have coming. I’ve got a plan drawn up for the temple that should help with our defense. It ended up going sort of a fortress monastery style. Big walls and that sort of thing which should allow us to minimize our disadvantage.” Opening his interface, Thorn sent the design of the new temple to Velin and Captain Del’har. “I’ve never fought a war before, so I don’t know if we need to make any modifications. Take a look, and let me know what you think.”
“This…” After looking over the design Velin was lost for words. She had expected a sketch and had instead gotten full architectural blueprints showing elegant buildings behind a towering wall. “Where did you get this?”
“Ah. I drew it a few years ago. Went through a castle phase and had a lot of time on my hands. Like, excessive amounts of time. This design is based on Punakha Dzong, a fortress in Bhutan. I thought it looked the most temple-like, but it is also easy to defend. Though, this is a bit bigger because of the width of the pass. Anything jump out at you that wouldn’t work?”
“No, my lord, this looks quite impressive.” Captain Del’har shook his head.
Seeing that Velin was still speechless, Thorn nodded and stepped outside the tent. Knowing that Thorn was going to be building the temple in the pass, the Wolfkin had made camp a ways away from the entrance. After making sure the area was clear, Thorn opened the store and uploaded his blueprints.
A few adjustments had to be made to allow the temple to fit in the space properly, but within less than half an hour, the order was ready to go. Giving everything a once over to make sure he was not missing any of the details, Thorn smiled and hit the accept order button.
“Behold, the Temple of the Moon!”
Error: Insufficient Funds due to account spending cap
Your order exceeds the fund limit set on your account. Please contact your guardian regarding raising the spending cap on the attached account.
Blushing with embarrassment as Captain Del’har and Velin stared at the empty pass, Thorn quickly called his aunt.
“Xavier! How are you? Are you having fun?”
“Hi.” Still bright red, Thorn got straight to the point. “Can you raise my spending cap on my account? I’m trying to build a building, but the system says I can’t because my spending is capped.”
“Oh? Your limit is five million. What on earth would you spend more than five million on?”
Rather than trying to explain everything from the beginning, Thorn just sent his aunt the blueprints and shared his vision through the call.
“Remember that valley I told you about? Well, its mine and I’d like to keep it. I’m going to build a big fortress here to block the only way in.” Thorn pointed to the entrance to the pass. “However, the cost is pretty serious. Sixty million.”
“Sixty million credits?! Are you crazy?” Julia’s eyebrows shot up when she heard the price. “What on earth could make it cost so much?”
“Well, I’m trying to make it both a temple and a fortress, so it is a bit bigger than most castles. And there are two sub levels that can be used as extra barracks or storage, plus a mini shopping district. And some towers for ballista. And I might have added three heavy duty gates. And a giant wolf head on top of the fortress with a waterfall coming out of its mouth. Oh, and I made the walls taller.”
“Xavier, the base price for a system built castle is twenty million. Twenty five, tops. There is no way that stuff cost forty million credits.”
“Well, this is more of a town than a castle.”
“Yeah. After all, people are going to need places to stay, right? So I added a pretty large hotel, and there are storefronts for people to rent. And I saw that I could add all sorts of different production facilities, so I did. This way, as our guild adds players with production classes, we’ll be set up already. Ah, and I bought a bunch of resources, too. That was at least three million.”
“You built a town? You better be mining gold out of that valley if you want to make sixty million credits back.”
“Gold? Haha, I have something better. A race. The Wolfkin spawn here, and their racial advancement quests are tied to the valley, as well. So, anyone who wants to play a Wolfkin is going to be spending time here. There is also at least one ancient ruin in the mountains behind the valley, probably more than that. According to Velin, any time there is a new race, there is a large influx of new players or people buying race changes.
“Even if it is not a popular race, we can expect at least a million players. If each of them spends sixty credits in the valley, our cost will be pretty much covered. To say nothing of the merchants that will come in to serve the new players. Add the other natural resources the valley has to that, and whoever controls this valley will be making bank. I intend for that to be us.”
“And here I thought that you were just playing around.” At the prospect of making money, Julia’s eyes lit up. “I’ve adjusted your spending cap, you shouldn’t have any problem. You’re doing great, hun; I’ll see you soon, okay?”
“Thanks! Love you.” Closing the call, Thorn turned back to the empty pass and tried again. As he hit the button to accept the order, the world shimmered, as if a wave of heat passed through the air. As the world stabilized, a familiar figure appeared.
“Hello, Myst.” Thorn smiled at the beauty in her shimmering blue dress.
“My system indicates that you have made a large purchase. I am here to ensure satisfaction. Please indicate that the details here are correct. If they are correct, please initial at the six highlighted locations, and sign on the last page.”
“Thanks, what is the time frame on the build?” Thorn asked after flipping through the document on the pad Myst handed him.
“That is a great question, traveler. The time frame on the construction of your ordered building is forty-seven minutes and thirty-six seconds from the project’s commencement.” Accepting the pad back from Thorn, Myst tapped it a few times. “Thank you for finalizing your purchase. Would you like to give a name to your project?”
“Yeah. Let's call it Moon Wolf Citadel.”
“Thank you, traveler. Your project is commencing, please standby until it completes.” With one last smile, Myst turned and walked into thin air, disappearing just as fast as she had appeared.
The air in the pass shivered again and froze. Curious, Thorn reached out, only to feel a smooth, invisible wall blocking his hand. In the center of the pass, a large blue box appeared with a large white zero on it.
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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.