Adam checked in with Sharky while he stirred the stew. It was always a good experience when he did so. Sharky had gained 1200 exp giving Adam another 140exp meaning he now had just over a thousand saved since his level dropped to 5. Sharky had discovered that going any further from the underwater cliff revealed a new area called the depths. To the South past the sunken ship was a maze of partly submerged rocks and to the North past the river delta was a new area of shore to explore. The Depths were ruled out when Adam noticed the system was allocating 20,000exp as a reward for exploring them. That was too high level for Sharky. Torn between his curiosity of what lay beyond both the mountains and the forest Adam decided to delegate the decision to Sharky sending the order to explore both. That way Sharky could chose which order to perform the task in and Adam didn't have to decide.
Adam's watch showed six o'clock in the afternoon as the vermite started to emerge from their warren. First came Rai to relieve the fourth watch consisting of Frey and Ail. Rather than head back into the warren the two vermite came and helped themselves to the stew and joined Adam around the fireplace. They sat and chatted about the excitement of being out on watch through the day as the other vermite slowly joined them. Adam observed the groups of vermite form and mix as they sat to eat. Some sat as family units while others would leave the family group as they came out of the warren to sit with friends.
Most the guards collected on one side of the fire sharing the stories of their shifts. Adam heard the whole group laughing as Ti recounted how Rai had rung the alarm to show it worked and she thought they were under attack. There was a change to the group as Rai reappeared behind them; like a lunchroom when the boss walks in. He quickly rattled off orders for the night, giving each an assignment and mixing the pairs from the day. Only Ti had stayed in her relaxed posture as Rai spoke, going over to him once the others had dispersed.
"Good plan. Keep busy before naming ceremony." She said, punching him in the arm.
"Not busy," said Rai "Keep safe, not busy." He frowned at the idea that he wasn't taking his role seriously. Ti stuck her tongue out to show she was winding him up. Rather than continue watching Adam waved and walked over to speak to the pair.
"How come you ended up in charge of the guard duty Rai?" The vermite had always struck Adam as carefree and playful before.
"Me like Adam. Don't have to like to do it, but best person for the job." Came the reply. Ti shrugged and nodded to agree with Rai. Adam imagined that she might have taken a similar casual approach to avoid being given the job herself.
"Yes, Rai is sensible. He knows what is good for the vermite. Also he is strong now, good for the others to look up to." Added Ma who had overheard and come to join the conversation. In a similar way to Rai she had given out tasks to the remaining vermite who were spreading out around the camp to start their chores.
"Ti mentioned a naming ceremony, what's that about?" Asked Adam, knowing with Ma around he would get a full answer.
"Look." Ma pointed to a young vermite following Ell towards the pigsty. "The pups are coming of age. From tonight they have survived long enough to be named. Now we are a big family here we will have a ceremony to celebrate."
Adam stared at the young vermite for a moment. It had only been a few days since Kai and Wu had joined the camp, he concentrated and worked out it was actually seven days. The pups had only been a couple of days old when they had arrived. He had blinked and missed the fact that they had been growing each day to the point they were now no longer babies. Using Discern he focused on the nearby pup. Juvelnile Vermite - level zero.
"Ah - so they aren't adults yet." Said Adam aloud, earning him a quizzical look from all three of the vermite he was talking to. "I mean they can't haven't fully grown up yet." He added.
"No, that is the purpose of the naming ceremony." Said Ma. "Once they have a name they will be given responsibilities and have to help the group rather than just play like children. I think what you are meaning is can they have a class or profession like a grown vermite."
"Yes, I was wondering that, but also when they will become fully grown." Adam asked Ma, hoping she wouldn't be bothered by what would seem very simple questions to her.
"This is simple. They are ten sleeps old - this is the naming day. After another ten sleeps they will be fully grown." Came the reply.
During their conversation the group had walked out through the gate in the inner base and were stood in the clearing outside looking around. He could sense which were his followers and realised at this distance he could even tell roughly where his followers were without looking. He picked out the five pups who had now grown to the point he had to work to distinguish a couple of them from the adults. What suddenly stopped his scanning of the group was the discovery of another litter of pups that he had previously assumed were Wu and Kai's litter. Looking more carefully he was pretty certain that at least one of the other vermite was pregnant as well.
"Ma, how long does a pregnancy last for your people? And how many pups are normally in a litter" He asked, trying to work something out in his head.
"Seven sleeps for a pregnancy. Each litter has three to seven pups." Came the reply. "Why are you asking?"
"Just curious." Adam replied as he started to work out some maths. Ma shrugged and left him to his thoughts for a while as she chatted to Rai.
To make sure his had his facts right he checked and found out that vermite needed to be thirty sleeps old before they would get pregnant, not the twenty he had assumed. Either way this meant they would reproduce and the population grow at an astonishing rate. If you included the newest litter of pups there were forty-five vermite in the camp now. Five pups; five juvenile and thirty-five adults. Just over half the adults were female meaning with an average litter of five vermite meant the population could more than double every thirty days. In theory the growth would be exponential at first as both the older vermite and newly mature vermite could birth a litter going forward. If there were no changes to a mammal's life cycle then the mother's could have a second litter while the first was still maturing.
A few nights ago Adam had been worried that he would run out of vermite to become his followers at some point. Now he realised how foolish this concern had been. The bottleneck in followers was going to remain his GP and how many times he could use Transfer in a twenty-four hour period.
"One more thing before you go Adam." Said Ma, waving off Rai and Ti. "I was wondering if you are able to do something for the vermite with a class? I remember you made me a Leader and said it was like the blessing." Adam nodded and waited for her to continue. "Well, you were able to also give a blessing to Lei to help him with his work. Are you able to make another vermite a Leader as well?"
Adam could see her watch Rai and Ti walking away as she asked her questions. It was not something he had considered before and a quick check of the Transfer skill showed him it was possible.
"Yes, I can do that. You think Rai or Ti should be in charge of that group?"
"Not Rai or Ti. Rai." Came the reply from Ma, surprising Adam until she went on to explain. "Rai and Ti talked about it and then all three of us talked again. While Ti wants to keep the vermite safe as much as Rai she is not interested in planning and staying here most the time. Also Rai has shown me a hidden depth recently and once he was given the task of organising the guard he was excellent at executing it."
"Well if you have already decided I am happy to make it official." Adam looked over at Rai and mentally selected him as a Leader of the vermite. With his greater awareness of his powers he noticed a thin golden thread stretch out from his chest towards Rai and circle his head a few times before resting as a crown and disappearing. Adam saw Rai's back straighten as he stood taller when the circle of gold was absorbed. Ti smiled at him and punched him in the arm once more as he glanced back towards Adam.
"Sorry, no secret surprise this time. I told him I would speak to you about this." Said Ma, noting Adam's look of mild disappointment at the reserved reaction from Rai.
"That's ok Ma." Adam replied. "I shouldn't always use my powers without asking, should I?" He chuckled at her raised eyebrow in response to his question.
"No, I suppose you shouldn't." She said curtly back.
Person watched the camp from a vantage point in the foothills. They had spent most of the day in the mine and were frustrated with the lack of progress. Adding the spiders on the upper level to their horde was easy enough but the boar refused to go deeper into the mine and the slimes on the lower level were resistant to their mental attacks. Trying to reach the second spider nest had been too painful as it stretched the link with the boar. Giving up on this Person had gravitated towards the only area remaining that held a source of power he could easily reach, the vermite camp.
He had already sent a pair of bats to scout out the camp and been both angered and surprised when one of them had been shot down by an arrow coming out of one of the towers. The creature was still alive, but with an arrow through it's wing was crawling at a pitiful speed back towards the main group. Now a third bat, possessed by Person directly was heading towards the camp.
Circling higher than his previous scouts Person saw the three towers positioned around camp. Their vision easily picked out the central cores of the vermite below them. A surge of hate hit as they saw Adam in the compound practicing his skills with the two highest level vermite, a bright beacon of power for Person to absorb. Retreating back to their position on the hills they hatched a plan on how to attack.
Ghi had been very excited at spotting the bats which had appeared over the camp. She knew one of the creatures had been hit by her arrow and was debating with Dee about whether to head out of camp to find their foe when Rai appeared.
"What have you seen?" He asked the pair who were startled to see him, forgetting to raise the alarm in their excitement. They snapped to attention, which for the vermite meant concentrating on him rather than each other.
"Bat." Said Ghi "Hit one and scared both away." She added with pride.
Rather than praise Rai looked on sternly. "What about alarm?" He said, reprimanding them for not following the simple plan if anything approached the camp.
"Sorry. Forgot." Was the simple reply. Noticing the disappointed and embarrassed looks in their eyes Rai changed his tone. He wanted to take his new role seriously and knew the other vermite looked up to him, it wouldn't be a good start if he told them off for every little mistake.
"Did you say you hit one? Your archery must be getting better." He added, smiling at Ghi. She perked up again at this comment nodding.
"Yes, hit one and other scared away. Can we go find it?" She asked, hopeful that Rai would let them off guard duty to hunt.
"No, stay on duty." Came the reply. "Don't forget the alarm next time." Added Rai as he continued his walk around the camp defences.
Midnight came quickly as Adam spent some time in the training area with Ti earning him 20exp as well as the opportunity to practice with his spear and bow. Next he helped Pa and Pel complete the crafting area and the forge. He had then used the rest of the evening to try and help Lei develop the ability to manipulate metal and fire mana; explaining the process of concentrating and moving the mana from his core to develop channels out and interact with the metal itself. Adam realised he could adjust his vision to watch Lei's progress with the task; focusing on his perception of mana around Lei's core allowed him to see the metal mana move out into the new channels as Lei worked. With only 5 mana it did not take long for Lei to exhaust his mana pool but he had grasped how to develop his skills further.
Adam instructed him to continue practicing until he could move the nuggets of ore with metal mana and heat a bowl of water with the fire mana. It had been hard but rewarding to teach the skill to another and Adam was a little disappointed that the knowledge of how to use the mana was not automatic like the with the other classes and professions. He tried not to dwell on the fact and just accepted that while other skills might be learnt straight away, using mana would take a little longer.
Ma had used the gong Rai had installed as an alarm to gather the vermite for the naming ceremony which was essentially little different to a birthday party for the five juvenile vermite. Each of the five was brought up to a small raised platform where Ma, Kai and Wu were seated. They were led up to the platform one at a time reminding Adam of a graduation ceremony. The three older vermite would talk in a whisper to the pup and then to each other before Wu announced the name. All three then presented the newly named vermite with a gift before they headed back down off the platform and raced over to show off their gifts to different members of the collected group.
Em was first bouncing down after being named to show Ell the small carved boar she had been given by Ma. Adam recognised her as the juvenile that he had seen helping at the pigsty eariler. Nu had a small training bow that he raced to show Cade and Rae had what looked like a carved fork and spade. The final two pups were named Yor and Yen, they both were given training staves and quickly started an impromptu duel in front of Rai while both tried to be the first to show him their gift. All five had been given a jerkin by Kai and a small pack by Wu. Adam had a sneaking suspicion that Kai had probably made these too but they had been embroidered with a pattern that looked distinctly like Wu's influence.
After the naming and the gifts the evening became a lot less formal with plates of cooked vegetables and slices of venison being passed around to feed everyone. As with most birthday celebrations a dessert finished the meal with some of the older vermite making a pudding out of fruit and nuts. Once this had been distributed and eaten the vermite started to head back out to continue their work. Ma had approached with two vermite named Hal and Bea once she learnt about the discovery of a Quarryman. These two joined the ranks of followers alongside a third vermite who wanted to be an archer. He helped Ma who was forming a small delegation to head to the quarry and mine by suggesting they take the cart with them for the completed stone. Ti decided to lead the party and grabbed two more vermite so there was a group of six that Adam joined in waving off for the rest of the night.
Adam was thoroughly enjoying being able to take advantage of the new bonus now the defences were finished properly. His restful evening spent teaching meant that he had full stamina as midnight hit and it was decreasing at a quarter of the normal rate. This meant that rather than rushing to his hut he was still awake and shaping some metal into arrowheads for Cade when the attack occurred.