William in Aprait at the meeting
“People quiet down. You have had two months to vent your frustrations, and now we need to move forward again!”
“I am sure you would like that, wouldn’t you?” Samuel Arderne, the representative of the Arderne family, immediately shoots back. “As I recall it was your cockamamie idea to gather as much mana in one location as possible and just ‘see what happens.’”
I had expected people to be upset, but the meeting has taken a nasty turn where people, I am sure for political reasons mostly, are pointing the finger at Andrew and me. Me, as the whole mana hunting thing was my idea, and Andrew as he was my most direct backer and had guided the conversation in that direction. I am not sure what they are after, but I am sure that they had been preparing for this and are now ganging up on us.
“For years you and William have been increasing your influence over this council, steering us from the shadows in the direction of your choosing. You will see that growing your clout here also increases your exposure when you fail.” Laura Northamn calmly says.
Now I am sure that they have been preparing for this. I am a little hurt that Laura has been playing both sides. On the one hand, she has promised us support for the vote to come on sending the expedition to the new zone sooner. While on the other hand, she was also conspiring with the dissenting voices on reducing our influence here.
I can’t blame her on playing smart politics here. Usually the Stallwar family, Fogg family, and my Elliot family are pretty tight, so we need just one more vote to win, giving us a reasonably high chance of driving our opinions through.
The Arderne, Foremann, and Miros families are so focused on the internal goings-on that they barely leave the town and their own castles to train and clear the areas. If they didn’t need the mana and keep their people safe, I doubt they would ever leave their little bubble.
Laura’s family focusses on crafting and is exceptionally reliant on materials we bring in from outside which usually puts her in our camp giving us a four to three majority, but it seems that she has seen a way of signaling that she isn’t on our side, without hurting her own interests. Smart woman.
“As you are all aware off, just hiding in our little corner of the world is not going to cut it forever” Andrew calmly responds to their attacks. “That is what some of the other communities that have been destroyed had tried, and where are they now?”
“Also, even if we could hide, if our community is to grow, we would need to expand into beasts areas, and we would then lack the strength to take their land. Would you have our people grow hungry as we don’t have enough land to farm anymore?” James backs Andrew.
I look at Laura and see her smile. She knows that we have to send more people and that increasing mana levels had been a calculated risk we took. I am sure she is orchestrating a specific outcome here, and I am clueless about what she is aiming at.
“Let’s calm down now” Laura says calmly. “Placing blame, regardless of how fun it can be, is not useful here. Sure Andrew and William dropped the ball before, and I am sure we can talk for many hours on how their supposed leadership has led us to many of our friends and families deaths.”
Here it comes, let's see what it is she wants.
“How about we have them, together with the Stallwar family, send their expedition members ahead of the actual expedition to clear the site. Their families are more focused on combat anyway, and I’m sure this fits right into their wheelhouse.”
So this is what she wants. She wants her family members to be relatively more safe by sending ours out first. If they clear the zone, there is less risk for the others, and if they are to die and fail, then the other families can choose not to send their own groups with the excuse that it is too dangerous.
She knows that we won’t be able to claim any areas ahead of the rest as we wouldn’t risk building miserable hovels when the Arderne family would be right behind us with talented builders that can make real houses and defenses.
This also means that we need to prepare more food to send with our groups than the other families would as our delegation would be out there longer and the Foremanns’ are the experts on edibles for restocking supplies.
Of course, I am sure after this meeting she is going to propose to us to send a powerful with someone from her main branch family to join the first group so that her group gets the dense mana advantage and doesn’t lose out there.
Smart play, this way her group has no responsibilities but gets to gain strength, she also seems to have taken the lead in punishing us and Simon and Samuel think that she has given them an easy out. A way to get more land without risking their family members.
Looking at this little play, I wonder why she never played for a more influential role on the council. Perhaps she is more of a shadow influencer than a foreground leader.
“I agree to those terms.” James Stallwar immediately jumps on the opening provided by Laura. I am sure he mostly sees fewer people to share the mana with when they reach the new zone, and this is actually exactly what he would like to happen.
Arthur, sitting next to me, nudges my side a bit. He is probably afraid that the reason why I wouldn’t be willing to send him ahead would be the slipup with the bear before, and he wouldn’t be wrong. Mistakes like that can cost you your life, and I would have been much more comfortable with sending them out had that mistake not happened.
I quickly write down that I will agree and slip him the note. However, I don’t want to blindly accept as that would make it seem like Laura is in charge. Either Andrew or I need to make an amendment to the proposal to save some face here.
Luckily it seems like Andrew has thought of something as he smiles at me before turning towards the groups and starts speaking.
“Of course it makes perfect sense to send the stronger families out first to clear the land, but you can’t expect them to sleep on the ground for an extended period while the rest of you sit around waiting for the frontline to clear out the land.”
“I propose we send out three groups. First, our three families will go and clear out the land. We will set up a triangular-shaped perimeter with enough space in the middle for the rest. The second group will follow two days later and will consist of the Arderne family to start setting up buildings and the Miros family to gather resources.”
“Finally, the Foremann and Northman families will join our delegations once it is safe to start farming and crafting.”
That devil! He just put Laura on the spot and cut off any of her future plans before she could propose them. The last group, which in this configuration would not even be housed on the outskirts, would get the least mana and have the worst living conditions in the new settlement.
I can barely hold my smile while I say; “perhaps the third group should wait a bit to join, seeing as it has low priority to clear the lands enough for any farming to happen and as it is just a day travel tools can still be provided by our main town here.”
It feels good to ruin someone's plans. Especially when those plans were a double-cross on your own arrangements. I would even go so far as to say we are triple-crossing Laura here. Especially considering I had just implied that her family would not really be needed in the new settlement, essentially calling her group useless.
Simon Miros is actually considering this proposal. His group would be sent soon enough for more mana to be gathered, but not in the first wave so the risk should be lower. Samuel Arderne backs into his chair, smiling. Knowing him he probably feels like he wins either way. His family will never be in the last group, nor in the first balancing risk and reward.
“I disagree!” Kinsley says. “We would not start farming immediately, but setting up a consistent method of water gathering is of utmost importance and can’t wait until the town is already there. Else I foresee you all setting everything up and then having no water supply and having to resort to medieval water-carrying.”
Arthur next to me chuckles. I’m sure he is imagining people carrying big jugs of water on their heads walking back to the village. If we can get six representatives to go for this, we will have cut down Laura, the one with the deciding vote, from the political position she has been crafting for herself.
Not unexpectedly, Laura recognizes the direction in which the meeting is going and caves. She agrees to send two waves, with her family joining the second one, with the second one just days behind the first.
Now perhaps the risk of being the first is higher than the reward of two days of fewer people to share the mana with, but if they can get three clearings to set up before the rest arrive, they will guarantee a prime location for our families new residences.