The conversation about what to do with the frontlines, now maybe being turned into a town, went on for hours. I was surprised that we got so sidetracked on the issue, but then again, I suppose we weren’t all going to be in the same place for some time, and Toxic and I were the experts on the subject.
With the current plan Night and I had hatched, my expertise was going away for some time. If we were going to resolve the issue, we were going to resolve it now.
On the “turn the place into a town” side, we had Nature and Bulwark, with Night leaning in that direction.
On the “call the place a disaster” side, Toxic and I were the staunchest supporters, with Brawling providing eager, if haphazard support.
“The economic realities, and difficulties of forming a new town, strongly support that we divert the current resources in an optimal fashion.” Bulwark pointed out, circling back to the fundamental argument that he was working off of. Large-scale construction like this was insanely expensive. It was hard to overstate how expensive.
“Getting a number of healers to immigrate to the new town shouldn’t be terribly difficult. Indeed, it should be simple to lure them to this place, with the allure of a constant stream of patients.” Night pointed out, trying to be somewhat neutral but once again showing that he was leaning towards the “Town” faction.
“Yeah, but then how are you getting people to join?” Brawling ‘innocently’ pointed out. Dude was shrewder than he let on. Asked ‘dumb’ questions, which were striking at the heart of the problem.
Half the time he acted like an oaf, and the other half he acted like a cunning strategist. I kept yo-yoing if the first one was entirely an act that he put on, to make people fall for the ‘dumb brute’ stereotype, then he could whammy them when they weren’t looking.
“Telling people ‘Move here! Pay frequently for healers because it’s poisoned!’ isn’t going to encourage a lot of movement.” Brawling continued to point out.
“Speaking of the economics of the situation.” I jumped in. “What’s this place even going to produce? All the money that had come in here was from soldier’s pay. Without that money coming in, what would this theoretical town even make?” I asked. “With no trade goods, nobody will come. Like Laconia.”
I swear I almost saw Origen’s smiling face, as I half-parroted his arguments, his reason for becoming an Inscriptionist and his detailing of the problems that Laconia faced. Arguably the last thing he’d ever managed to teach me.
“People will come.” Nature argued. “Cheap, plentiful land is attractive to any number of retired soldiers, and others who are being crowded out of some of the more compact cities. Where would you rather live? In a small apartment in the capital, or being able to purchase a large tract of land, inside city walls, for the same price? Not everyone will take the offer, but enough will. What people do from there is up to them, but there’s more than enough land to grow enough crops to support the city on its own merits. Heck, the Formorian land might be some of the richest land we’ll ever have the chance to expand onto. They would’ve cleared out anything and everything that could be a threat. Almost monster-free land? People will be lining up for it.”
I decided to switch track, to a potentially more profitable line of argument.
“Sure, people might grow stuff. Wheat, even. Poisoned wheat. Who’s going to want to buy it? Putting that aside for the moment, what woman’s going to want to come here, and poison all her kids? Knowing that kids are more vulnerable, that it takes less poison to kill one.”
I glanced over, and saw Arthur’s blanched face.
“Sorry Toxic.” I said, patting his arm in what I hoped was a reassuring way.
“How many?” Hunting asked, contributing for only the third time in three hours.
Toxic instantly knew what Hunting was asking, and had a response.
“371 people in the last 430 days.” He said, without a moment’s hesitation, a small shudder going through his body. Numbers that must be carved into his mind, a litany recited.
“The camps are – were – huge.” Hunting pointed out. “The number of dead versus the number present are highly suggestive that, while it will be a problem, it’ll be a minor problem at worse. Also, conjured material decays over time. Worst-case, eight years from now there’ll be no poison.”
“It’s accelerating. Also, we thought this might take years. I didn’t directly conjure the poison. I enhanced an existing poison. It acted a bit like one of Dawn’s diseases, where it multiplied inside the Formorians. It’ll last decades, if not centuries.” Toxic pointed out. Then again, that was new information to us, since we had no way of knowing that.
“It’ll hopefully decelerate now that you’re no longer contributing more poison to the mix.” I said, feeling like a traitor for making a point against the “Disaster” team.
Still. I had strong notions about fair play and discussion, and it’d be unfair for me to not bring it up.
“At the same time, it would probably keep accelerating for some time, as the poison builds up and reaches critical mass.” I said, trying to give the other point of view.
“Also, while women might not want their families poisoned, it’s usually the Patriarch of the family who’s making the decision.” Bulwark pointed out, in what was a fairly diplomatic manner.
Still had me somewhat annoyed. Also, Bulwark was obviously not married.
“You think that the Patriarch’s wife doesn’t have his ear, and can’t twist it as needed?” I asked him, in that soft tone that let him know that he was on dangerous, thin ice.
Bulwark looked at me, heard my tone, and decided to shut up and concede the minor point.
Night spent most of this looking thoughtful.
“Toxic. How difficult would it be for a Classer with the right skills to remove your efforts, and restore the place to its natural state?” He asked.
Arthur sucked in air through his teeth.
“Decades, if not more. It’s spread far, it’s spread deep. It’s spread all the way to the Formorian lairs, it got deep inside their hive.”
Brawling slipped in another ‘innocent’ question.
“Can’t you just grab it with your skills and be done with it?” He asked, wide-eyed and ‘innocent’.
If even I had caught onto his act, I doubt it was fooling anyone else. It did give a nice avenue for Toxic to expand.
“I’m not a Poison mage, I’m a Poison ranger. I create, enhance, and spread, I don’t manipulate or anything like that. I can’t go around and grab my poison; I can’t pick it back up. That’s the purview of a different class.”
“It doesn’t help that I built a poison that wouldn’t degrade naturally. We thought it’d take a lot longer for this to have an impact.”
I had a moment of inspiration.
“Remember how Brawling sprayed water everywhere earlier?” I asked, getting some nods and side-eyes as people tried to figure out where I was going with this. “Imagine a week later, a month later, coming back here and trying to pick up every drop of water that he sprayed. That’s the problem with Toxic’s poison. It’s had time to spread out and travel. It’s not easy to just wave a hand and fix it.”
We continued the discussion and argument for hours more, Destruction waking up and joining in the later half. He was mostly lost as to what was going on, and kept mostly silent.
“Right.” Night said, once we’d all had a late dinner, having spent way too much time on the matter. “I believe I have an acceptable compromise, which I would like to bring forth as a proposal for how we shall move forward on this matter, and how we shall advise the powers that be to act on the matter.”
“First. The location should be turned into a town. Economic realities demand it.”
I was throwing Night a sour look, which just bounced right off of him.
“However, the matter of Toxic’s work can not be ignored. Those wishing to come here shall be well-informed of the matter. Additional healers will be well-incentivized to come, potentially being paid for by the governor. After all, they are providing a constant service to all. That particular point may need some negotiating with whoever ends up taking command of the area. Lastly, we will need dozens of men with the appropriate classes and skills to come, and work on purging the land itself, freeing it from the insidious toxins that have come to rest in it.”
Interesting. Between my upcoming work with Hunting, the impending civil war, this area being somewhat safe and needing some healer’s presence, I saw the possibility that I might be here for quite a few years. Maybe bouncing back and forth between here and the capital. I’d still want to see my family.
I reluctantly nodded my approval at the plan.
“I don’t like it.” I said. “I’d rather nobody died, and the area was closed off until it was totally purged. But….” I trailed off, looking around. “There’s no way I’m getting that, is there?”
The looks I was getting suggested that, no, I wasn’t getting that.
“Fine. But I’d like to make a minor suggestion. Advertise heavily that I’m against it.” I said, crossing my arms, trying to throw Night another pointed look.
Everyone else had more suggestions, more little modifications to the plan that we pitched in and added.
As everyone was talking, a realization dawned on me.
Long term planning. The frontlines, probably going to be turned into a town – tentative name Feronia, although we didn’t decide that – was going to be a ghost town for some time. People would need to move, immigrate. A governor would be needed, etc. Shame that the camp followers were all ‘gone’, if they weren’t they’d be the perfect start to the town. They just wouldn’t leave, and boom! Roaring town.
Anyways. The long and the short of it was, there was large amounts of land for extraordinarily cheap prices here, right now. Over time, over decades and centuries, if all went well, the town would become populated, squeezed by the walls, and real estate prices would rise.
I had wagonloads of money. Ok, technically, as the law saw it, my dad had wagonloads of money. He knew better than to try and argue it with me. He’d tried once, and mom had given him such a telling off, then made him sleep in the vestibule for a week. Anyways.
Sentinel pay was lucrative, on top of my healing business. Sure, I only got a tiny fraction of what I could be getting, but I was still pulling two large, generous incomes. I was probably going to find myself living in Feronia anyways, to help with the poison. Night’s example of ‘how to become fabulously wealthy as an immortal’ was still in mind.
I grimaced to myself. I was about to be a massive hypocrite wasn’t I? “Don’t move to Feronia! Ignore the fact that I’m purchasing huge swaths of land here!”
The optics were subpar to boot.
Although… everything being in my dad’s name to the rescue! I wouldn’t be buying it, oh no. Marcus Elainus Cato would be buying it, and generously allowing the Sentinels to base out of the estates while any Sentinel is in town. It was long-term excellent for me, it worked short-term, it just made me feel a hair icky.
Blah. The more I bought, the more expensive everything else would be. The whole thing was a messy, convoluted circle, and I had perfect entry-level theoretical knowledge on the subject, courtesy of [Pristine Memories], from having read a book on the subject decades ago. Didn’t mean I knew how it’d turn out, nor which theory would be correct and apply.
A problem for future-me. I should get in the habit of reducing the number of future-me problems.
We finally came to a consensus on how we Sentinels wanted to handle the question of the new town. Of course, we’d need to convince the powers that be – the Senate, in this case – to our viewpoint, which meant convincing command, the endless meetings with Senators. Which had me come to a realization…
“Ocean’s going to hate us for this. His input would’ve been great.” I lamented.
That got a few chuckles around the table, which quickly turned into roars and howls of laughter.
Brawling was wiping a tear from the corner of his eye.
“He. He he. Yeah. I’ma buy him a beer then break the news to him. You should all come watch. Make bets how far he sprays it.”
Night was also chuckling.
“Sadly, I do not believe we will all be present for such an event. Bulwark. I believe with our current plans, that you have work that you should do. Is there anything that would prevent you from deploying here?”
Bulwark cocked his head, spending a moment drumming his fingers on the table.
“Not that I can think of. Let me know how long you can spare me, it’ll let me know what’s priority to build, and how much effort I can spend on it.”
Made sense. He couldn’t just blink and be done; he had a ton of planning to do. A one-man civil engineering department. If he only had a week, he’d probably do slap-dash repairs on the walls about to fall over. If he had a month, we’d get a solid grid of roads to go with it. If he had a year, the foundation of a dozen homes and businesses would be laid, temples and marketplaces laid out, with the city divided into planned grids, ready for people to descend upon it.
If he had a decade, with all the resources at his disposal and no pesky people in the way to slow him down, he’d build the framework of a city that would last for centuries.
Of course, if he was told he had a decade, then three weeks later got pulled to a critical hotspot, none of his work would be usable. He would’ve spent the entire time measuring and planning.
There was a long pause as Night thought, juggling hundreds if not thousands of things in his mind. The more I saw of Night the more impressed I was. Not only was he a peerless fighter, arguably the strongest we had in spite of Destruction’s new class, but he was also a brilliant administrator, inspirational leader, and learned mentor.
“Eight months. I believe you can be away, here, for eight to fourteen months, depending on how the flow of the whole mess occurs. This is predicated that there is not another incident like Massalix which threatens to have us lose an entire city.”
Night got an angry look on his face as he thought of that, and angrily spat out.
“I do not wish to speak ill of the dead, but Sky, that moron, has left us in a critical bind. Not only have we lost the Pegasus, but Sky himself is dead, unable to assist us with rapidly deploying into critical locations.”
Night spent a few more moments thinking, as we all traded awkward looks with each other after his outburst.
The silence was only awkward if we made it awkward, and oooooh boy, did we make it awkward.
“Right.” He said after a moment, breaking the silence. “I am exercising my emergency powers. We have a quorum of Sentinels present. Does anyone object to Ranger Falerius being promoted to Sentinel?”
I was not as up to date on the potential Sentinel candidates among the Rangers. I wasn’t going to throw wrenches here and ruin it though. I indicated that I had no objection, along with the rest of the Sentinels.
“Ranger Falerius is hereby promoted to Sentinel, title Maestrai. Brawling, his team should be approaching Deva. You are tasked with retrieving Ranger Falerius, informing him of the good news, and heading towards the capital with him.”
It was going to suck for his team though. “Hey, yeah, one of your stronger Rangers? We’re yoinking him. Good luck not dying on the rest of the round!”
“Bulwark, as we just discussed. You will be staying here, working on turning the encampment into a town.”
“How many squads can I take?” Bulwark asked.
“One Century.” He said. “Be careful to only take a Century from a general who declares himself to be entirely neutral. Elsewise, we risk being accused of subtly sabotaging one faction or another.”
Bulwark saluted his understanding, mouth twisting in distaste. Politics.
“Hunting.” Night said, dishing out orders rapid-fire. “I apologize that we did not get a chance to thoroughly discuss this in-depth. I need you to scout the Formorian lands, and hunt down any remaining Formorians. We need certainty that the threat has been terminated, once and for all. Investigate their lairs, burn their home, crush any eggs you find. Dawn will accompany you for support purposes, primarily to mitigate Toxic’s poison should it prove to be at a sufficient quantity to cause issues once you are so deep within their territory.”
Hunting didn’t salute, just gave a weary nod.
I saluted, having enough self-control not to give Night a knowing look. “Did not get a chance to discuss this in-depth” I was totally interpreting as Night deliberately putting the item last on the agenda, then rushing it through. Didn’t want other people digging too deeply into it. Maybe he’d let the others know once we were gone.
“The rest of us shall return home, to respond to any problems that have arisen in our absence. If there is nothing else…?” Night trailed off, giving us a chance to say anything. A series of shaking heads confirmed the non-answer.
“Dismissed.” Night said.