Orphan At The Edge Of The World Chapter 54"Three weeks it took us to reach here and now the driver says he won't take another step. It's over twenty miles of trail into this mountain pass before we reach your valley! If it was a problem, they should have said so before we got this far. Droya should catch up to us in a week and if this lard sack is acting like this then you know there's not a lick of work been done on the manor... We're going to be stuck between two mountain ridges with no chance for help a whole winter and sh*t for shelter" Gan ranted and raged for over five minutes before he finally calmed down enough to realize that Orison had summoned two golems, one leveling and one pounding.
Orison walked over to the driver and said, "I can either pay you for a bit more road or I can send your equipment back when I finish its delivery myself."
The nervous driver said, "Look mister, I know I didn't say nothing but I figured you'd understand when you saw it. Ain't nobody getting through there til the trail's rebuilt and nobody who ain't crazy's gonna do that til spring."
Orison's eyes narrowed. "Golems don't get tired and if one falls, I'll summon another. The trail will be twice as safe and we'll travel half the speed but if you dump my goods on the ground here, I'm going to dump a golem on your head. These goods are going with or without you. Since you seem to be a man who cares about his people and equipment, I'll compensate you for the extra time. What will it be?"
The driver said bitterly, "Ain't leaving me much choice are ya!?"
Rune, the leader of the mercenary group that came with them, came up to Orison. "Had the men ask around Widow's Weal. The construction crew made two trips up to your place. On the second trip back, a part of the trail collapsed due to heavy rain but they were speaking about seeing monsters and such. The woodsman in employ by the patrician family that runs this land said that there was no sign of anything save the workers and found no conclusive evidence that sabotage was involved. The woodsman said he wouldn't rule that out either though."
Orison snorted. "One way or the other, I'm not going to mess with them. I'll give your home office a ten percent claim on beating my deposit out of them minus the transport fees and material that actually made it to the valley. Pass the message, if they lie about that like they lied about all their other promises, the boss can use what money he embezzled to buy or renovate a crypt."
Rune chewed on a long piece of some wild grass and said, "How much was the original deposit?"
Orison said, "Eleven thousand of what should have cost six but I wasn't going to complain when there wasn't any others rushing to offer. I should have known it would be a damn scam but I thought I could scare them straight. Damn a**holes showed me. Just collapsed the damn trail and spread rumors. That's alright. I only want my money back and every spit-to-miss village from here to the capital aware not to use their services. They have to have competition."
Rune shook his head. "Nope. Well, small time sure but manors and keeps are a different game."
Orison said, "If that's the case, were the blueprints for a few of the better manors and keeps built in similar areas as my valley to fall into my hands, I'd pay twenty gold apiece for the best two of each kind and an extra five for ones that have building design notes up to 200 worth."
The young mage was screaming in his head, "I just got done playing diplomat. Now I have to be Bob the freakin builder to have a place to live in!? I get what he's saying. The average stubborn person can raise a little ranch house, cottage or barn but talk more than that and it's real craftsmanship with sh*t I have next to no idea about."
Rune scratched his head. "Dusting off records and scrolls isn't our normal bag but the gold's good. I'm sure someone'll be up to it."
"Um, excuse me Patrician Cantrip but if you don't mind taking a few directions with your rock men, our tools are a little light but a three story affair should be doable as long as we can get some more lime." A somewhat timid stork of a man in his mid twenties had stepped up.
Orison said, "Patrick, right? I remember the master mason you were apprenticed to seeming pretty happy to sell you off. This might seem a bit late but since you want me to invest in materials beyond the scope of your hire, I need some assurance... Rune, I still want what I want and it's going to take hours before we're past the initial collapse. We'll wait on you or whichever one of your men want to run my request to the post."
Rune nodded and headed off while Patrick 'interviewed'. "As you can tell, I'm Highland descent. Father was a proper centurion but never made his honorable. Mostly due to mom I think. Truth is, Master caught me reading his son's architecture material and has wanted me gone ever since... My father paid good money to that man to teach me and I basically was forced to steal what- It doesn't matter. The point is that I can do up to three stories with stone if your golems help. I wont promise a finger width more than that but I can do what I say."
Orison said, "Could you plan a simple village layout that can grow with a sewer and flood ditches as extra obstacles?"
Patrick flushed red a little as he said, "You give me some reference material, a test area and some time and I can. Just... I'm only one person and that's a lot to do."
Orison mulled it over and said, "Here's a hundred. I assume you know what to order to get what you need 'reference wise'. Write up material requests as you think of them and when the rest of my people catch up, report it to Droya, my mother, or Morrel, my steward."
Patrick said, "No offense but we'll be up in the mountains, snow locked til spring before those books make it back."
Annoyed, Orison said, "I know but when spring comes we're hitting the ground running and I can personally make a trip through the Abyss itself to get our supplies when it gets here. Believe it."
It took four days to get the caravan through twenty miles but the trail had transformed into a road wide enough, if barely, for two wagons going opposite direction to pass one another safely. It also had drainage ditches and small stone bridges packed over with gravel and dirt where water seemed to congregate most frequently. It's not that he wanted to spend that much effort when there were critical needs to be met but when Orison saw how little building material had made it through to the valley, he wanted to make sure he had a valid reason to murder the next caravan driver who refused to deliver goods in a timely manner. And if there happened to conveniently be another 'heavy rain' collapse, someone would die for that too.
With Patrick's help, the first day there was spent surveying, checking fault, water and all sorts of lines and other small details Orison never would have thought about until it was a problem. Once done, They came up with the initial usable area. The five mile long and three mile, at it's fattest part, wide diamond of a double ridge locked valley had three major problems. The extreme eastern and western sides were avalanche and rock slide hazards. The widest and lowest part in the middle was a flood plain in spring.
Orison marveled over the raw beauty and potential of the place but inherently understood why it had never been developed and why the only locals where two families of goat and sheep farmers on the western side. Without a lot of time and effort, it was too harsh and cruel to live here. Anywhere between three to five months out of the year, you couldn't reach it. Late winter could damage or even destroy structures for nearly a third of the valley on either side and the middle third could wash away.
After some discussion and good deal of convincing Patrick he wasn't suicidal and would be able to deliver on a through-the-winter work schedule, the first set of modular and movable buildings for what would be his thirty plus people were built on the northern side of the flood planes. Wood was fell in the south and brought to the north while multiple golems were summoned daily from the center to end their brief magical lives laying out a growing bank that was raked over to make raised land up to the northern tree line. A week later, Droya had a teary reunion with her son and Gan was released from assistant duty by Rithus.
Orison happily handed administrative and resource matters back over to Droya almost as tearfully grateful as their actual reunion hug was. Claudius and his brother, got to work getting to know everyone and gathering as much intelligence about the area as possible. Completely freed from social and organizational duties, Orison was finally able to return attempting to work himself into an early grave without distraction.
Another week later and Cray had proven to be the most immediately useful of everyone. A smoke house, built to his design, was preserving meat the archer and Gan had hunted. A cave with signs of copper deposits on the west end was uncovered as well as a couple of small 'hidden valleys' within Orison's property lines that weren't in the land report. One held a natural lake, part of the reason for flooding, teeming with fish. All Cray's merits.
With the end of that week, came Morrel and his group of Domain refugees. Their trip had not been uneventful but quick thinking and a few bribes had gotten everyone through unscathed. Old infrastructure in place, things began running smoothly as clockwork while the first sight of morning frost showed itself. All would have been gathered in place but Duran and Medea were still a no-show by the time the last large load of goods was delivered along with three journeyman mages that started setting up shop with snide comments on their rustic domicile.
After Orison kindly informed the two destruction mages and one restoration specialist that they could feel free to f*** off to where they came from or sleep in the snow for all he cared, a war of silence emerged. It was a war Orison was destined to win. He needed nothing from them and Therridel, who came riding in from the north two days later was crack enough at restoration that Orison could lord properly with subordinates for every minor task needful in a season of nothing to do in the valley but prepare for winter.
If Cray was the all-star in early fall, Therridel was the all-star for mid. The fifty year old gold elf, twenty-something for the non-human races, brokered peace with the other mages. The two destruction mages were coaxed into knocking off the east peak and creating a back-slide area for snow. It would take some time but by the end of next spring, an ambitious project that Orison was starting to hatch would begin unfolding. With one last mildly dangerous trip to Widow's Weal, Orison and Gan brought back Patrick's study materials and a small library's worth of magic and mundane books/materials meant for the mage's guild but Therridel managed to convince the restoration mage to play school teacher and librarian until spring. The woman would have happy hands full stuffing knowledge into the handful of young minds in the valley and the residents would have a respectable winter recreational activity.
Sadly, it looked to the Cantrip Clan that their last two members would not be arriving before spring but Orison had left missives and a mercenary guild reward to provide aid and safe travel for the pair to Widow's Weal where they'd be sure to receive a warm and comfortable welcome. Orison didn't dwell too heavily on it since Gan assured that wherever they were, he could sense that Duran, at least, was still alive. Since that wasn't in the cards, Orison split his time into mass landscaping and coursework with Therridel. After Morrel launched a complaint that time for training should always be made, all the martial folk had morning and evening sessions added and Orison found himself getting personal 'tutoring' from the old wood elf yet again but he could at least share the misery with Rithus.
Wrapping up another intermediate magic theory less Orison said, "So Del, what's your deal? I mean, I get you're the archmage's spy but you are actually a real help and you at least seem to care."
Therridel looked at Orison stunned for a moment. "That was incredibly blunt but no offense taken... I'm not really a spy, you know. I'm sure I was intended to be a first alert if you turned out to have dangerous sentiments but all things considered, I'd almost put you as not enough of a risk taker when it comes to delving into the secrets of magic. I find your approach to be, if anything, more structured and systematic than most academy types but that's not a bad thing."
Orison raised an eyebrow. "So are personal questions off limits or is deflecting a subconscious habit?"
Therridel said, "I- When I first arrived, I thought I needed to prove I was useful before you found a reason to wedge a block between us outside of tutoring. Based off our first interactions, you didn't give me the impression of being open to friendships with gold elves."
It was Orison's turn to be stunned. "What gave you that idea? Look around. I think if I gave anyone a strange impression, to the casual observer, I look like I try too hard to prove the opposite. I can pretty much get along with anyone who doesn't try to hurt me or my people."
Therridel stammered for a moment then chuckled, "Yes, I got that after I arrived HERE but when I wrote to you before you went to your inheritance hearing you were quite hostile. You don't actually know who I am yet?"
Rusty gears turned and Orison realized who stood before him. "You're the stalk, er, guy who sent that artist to get my picture!"
Therridel blushed in embarrassment. "In retrospect that was somewhat untoward. Every mage has some form of obsession and mine is pictures. I have journals full of portraits and landscapes. I've probably spent more money on artists, paint and such than I have on mystical reagents or the like... I've even pursued constructing an advanced model of transcribe capable of capturing what the eye sees rather than a page image for my master thesis."
Orison looked at the elf dubiously. "Well, I was responsible for the death of your father. I kind of took the extra friendliness in a threatening way. Most people don't try to get close to a person who, even if only indirectly, caused the death of a parent for good intentions."
The elf spent some time silently thinking before he responded, "My father was cruel and dangerous to servants and a coward else-wise. My mother wasn't fond of him either... I know there was a certain guard of the household who was particularly concerned for my well being when I was very young and my mother favored him a little too much. Draw your own conclusions about everything else."
Both of them sat in uncomfortable silence for awhile before Orison said, "Oh. Well, whatever. I actually had some thoughts on your thesis that I shared with Gerrald. We kind of agreed to disagree on certain subjects but if you're interested, I could share them with you?"
Therridel eagerly accepted the olive branch and the two spent the rest of the study session filling in the glaring hole that attempting to remove mysticism from magic made.
The next day Orison decided to take a rare break. The first snow of the season had melted over the next few days as temperatures temporarily took a mild turn. The passes were not going to clear but the surrounding area of his valley was accessible for a short window and orison wanted to take advantage. After visiting the long cabin the miserable and bored mercenaries had constructed, he realized that these people needed something to do or cabin fever would potentially turn them into a surly problem for the otherwise peaceful valley.
"Rune, I know you and your right hand are...special. I don't have a problem with that. In fact, I could use you and your men's help with something and I don't need to feel like I'm putting you in danger to do it." Deciding to be blunt, Orison outright admitted to knowing there were werewolves in the mercenary group.
Rune's eyes temporarily flared yellow before he said, "Ballsy brat aren't you. I'm game. What did you have in mind?"