Year 82 Month 1
A new year, but same old threats. The demons found the volcano, and now we fight a three-way battle. The native golems, the demonic forces who seemed to be interested in the same mana-source in the volcano, and my beetles. This to me, is sufficient confirmation that the demons are looking for mana-rich sources, and so maybe they will look to my [ThreeTrees of Mana] soon.
Without the walkers, it isn’t that difficult to defend these two locations, but I am having some trouble with the demon knights, so I do need to deploy Horns, Lausanne, and the Valthorns. I mean, I could root strike the knights, and I do every now and then, to delay and postpone the battle until I can get Lausanne and gang into battle.
The reasoning is really simple. I’m way too high level that defeating the knights is really quite pitiful for my experience gain, even with my overpowered experience gain. It’s far more fruitful to save mobs of this level to Lausanne and the budding initiates, such that they get to a level where they can be of some use against the demons.
At first, they were excited.
But after one full month of constant battles throughout the volcanic area against the demons, Lausanne and the initiates are beginning to realise the enormity of the task.
“Wars are not nice.” One of the young initiates, she’s 8, as she sat next to Lausanne at a campsite. She sipped on a small wooden flask containing a kind of healing fluid. There’s a few subsidiary trees here so they benefit from my [healing aura] and [demonic suppression aura], so it’s a relatively good campsite.
One of the captains, who came along nodded. “Good that you realise that when you’re young. It’s not a nice feeling going out to fight, and realising you might not come back. We’re lucky that our Tree Spirit watches over us, in this area.”
The volcanic area’s outer area is mostly conquered by my subsidiary trees by now, effectively forming a ring of trees to block out the demons. I call it, the Volcano-TreeLine. That didn’t stop the demons from trying to break through, occasionally with 500-1,000 strong forces.
Lausanne sighed, she massaged her left shoulder. A wooden vine surrounded her, an effect of the special tree familiar. She’s level 42 from a whole month of demon-fighting, most of it from taking on a few demon knights. “Doing it every day is quite different from fighting occasionally.”
The captain smiled. “You may be a genius, Lady Lausanne, but fighting daily is a reality for most common soldiers and guards in small villages.” There was a group of soldiers who also came along. It didn’t look good to leave the fighting to young kids.
She nodded. Jura did tell her stories of the past, when Freeka was still the village of Freeka, the men frequently patrolled the woods to defeat monsters. But still, nothing beats the experience of active duty, to know what it’s like. “If only we can stop this for good.”
The captain smiled and patted Lausanne on her lean shoulder. “Honestly, New Freeka has it good. The protection of the Aeon’s beetles meant we soldiers can fight more carefully, and less frequently.”
Lausanne twirled her right hand, and the vine formed itself into a spear. “Ah, let’s not have this talk.” She twirled her fingers again, and the spear unmade itself into a vine, and then into a wooden sword. This is one of her daily practice routines, to hone her mastery over the flexible vines from the special familiar. She would alternate the vine’s forms, a spear, a sword, a whip, a lasso, a bow.
The rest of the initiates watched. To them, it’s a bit like a magic trick.
They would rest for an hour, before continuing their journey home. Thankfully, the beetle army carried them. A few of the beetles have things resembling seats, and since each beetle is about the size of a large rhino, about 2-3 could fit on each beetle. Except for one of the centaur Valthorns. She’s one of the younger Valthorns, from the 2nd batch, but centaurs tend to be bigger and larger despite having similar ages. She would gallop next to the beetles, and her stamina is pretty good.
The soldiers who return to relieved family members, happy to see their family returning safe. The Valthorns would mostly be greeted by the ladies of their orphanage.
The orphanage is frankly overloaded, the number of kids aged 3 to 13 is close to 1,100, and Laufen and Belle are tasked with supervising the expansion of two additional buildings. The population is generally supportive of the orphanage, so there really wasn’t any challenge in terms of funding or land, though the politicians see it like a private military academy, given the extensive combat training in their curriculum, so according to my people-watcher Ivy, there are little pockets of discontent.
In fact, the expansion of the orphanage meant about 30% of the Order’s budget is now used to fund the charitable segment. Both the death-services, orphanage, and birth gifts all do not generate money.
One of the priests suggested ‘Tithes’ or ‘Donations’, but I shot down the idea. I feel if people start giving money to priests, that’s going to just send us into a downward spiral of corruption. So no, I insist on the priests being paid a salary, and no donations or tithes.
Instead, the Order has to do work for money. We run a vegetable market, food market, and herbs market.
“Herbal soup, herbal soup.” Well, there’s actually a lesser-variant of ginseng, grown by our herbalist. It doesn’t have the full effect of the [Ginseng Plant], and this variant’s boost is temporary. We thought of using the term ginseng, but then that might ruin the branding of the real ginseng plant, so decided for just plain old herbal root soup.
“Ginger tea, ginger tea!” An employee of the Order shouted.
“Cotton!! And clothes!”
Yeah. A market. I thought of having a more upmarket feel to the premises, but somehow it just organically transformed into this chaotic mess of a market that wouldn’t feel out of place in any Asian or middle eastern metropolis. I wonder whether this is what the Grand Bazaars of Baghdad would be like.
I would usually tune out the shouting match in the markets. There’s only so many times you can bear a middle aged lady repeatedly shouting, “Potatoes for sale, Potatoes for sale.”. Listen to it for too long, I find that those words end up repeating in my thoughts too.
Thank goodness, like the [rootnet], I can tune out all these chatter.
But Ivy likes the market. She says the gossip in the markets is her top 5 ways of getting information. The things ladies share with each other while haggling over carrots and tomatoes is quite... interesting.
95% made up, by the way, but still, that 5% is worth it.
Oh. And the bigger orphanage kids are usually tasked with security. If there weren’t in the orphanage, they’d be the ones stealing. I thought it’s a good way to deter the food-thieves, and you know, it takes a thief to catch a thief.
Until we got some rather interesting comments from the general populace.
“Why can’t we just give our surplus away?”
“Can we just run charity kitchens for the poor and hungry?”
Hmmmm... the council already does have some kind of community kitchen, a legacy of the New Freekans’ origins as refugees. The generation that came and survived the move to New Freeka generally appreciate the community kitchen.
“Never mind.” I decided to just stick to the plan.
The little tree of prayer shipped to Ransalah has safely arrived and planted in a small public garden. A rarity in Ransalah, from what I hear.
Sadly, because it’s way too far from any of my other subsidiary trees, it is not connected by root, to the rest of the rootnet, so I can’t really communicate with that tree. All I know is, it lives, and it’s there in that little garden somewhere.
My [rootnet] needs to get some kind of wide-area network service. I mean, do we have like 4G transmission trees? Or [Wide-Area Network]?
Ah. Nothing much I could do, except to find a way to extend my roots into that area of town, so for now, I hope that [tree of prayer] is well taken care of. It’ll take a few generations of rootnet upgrades before I’ll get there.
In a way, my network of trees is essentially a subterranean cable line, kind of like those subsea fibre optic cables that cross oceans to form my homeworld’s internet. Of course, the scale of my rootnet is miniscule in comparison, but I’d like to think, with all the research and advancements I’m doing, I’m like a precursor to DARPA, and my rootnet’s like... root-arpanet?
So, I’m TARPA? Tree’s Advanced Research Projects? Wait. Isn’t that TARP? TARPANET?
Never mind. That’s horrible. I mentally told myself that set of names is to be forever banished from existence.
Year 82 Month 2
[Demon King Sabnoc has arrived]
The news came like a wave. An actual energy wave swept through the world, coming from all directions. I felt it, and I’m sure everyone felt it too.
But, the wave stayed, like some kind of background... disturbance. Buzzing. Like... white noise from a radio.
Jura gathered all the leaders. “What’s going on?”
“We... we don’t know. None of my [message] spells are working.” Madeus looked afraid. “It seemed like the demon king has somehow managed to interrupt all long range communication spells.”
I tried to check on my beetles. And got no response.
I lost contact with all the beetles that wander too far off from my [subsidiary trees]. Immediately, I ordered all beetles to stay close to my subsidiary trees.
“Lausanne’s out on patrol.” I spoke to Jura. Looks like here, near my main tree it still functions. I can’t contact her.
“We’ll have to do it the non-magical way. Couriers, messengers. Escorts.” Jura looked, and the captains ran out to summon as many couriers and messengers they could get.
Madeus sat, there’s another mage I rarely see next to him. “This has never happened.”
Well, times have changed. Certainly, this new demon king seems to try rather exotic strategies. I wonder whether he’s a reincarnator. That would be something very, very scary to think about.
In the past, dedicated couriers, messengers, or even scouts used to travel long distances to deliver highly classified messages, before the encrypted magical means of communication were invented by one of the heroes a few generations back. These days, diplomats and merchants take over the role of official documentations and treaties, and the magical encrypted messages are the mode of communication for discussions. Magical obsolescence, I suppose.
But I suppose a return to the analogue ways has it’s... interests. “What do we know?” Jura sent out the couriers and messengers to all the nearby kingdoms, requesting for status updates. A new set of magical seals were made, to facilitate these sort of letters and messages/
The merchants was the first to quickly summarise the effects of the demon king. It seemed they managed to retain some form of communication network throughout the continent, though their intercontinental networks are now broken.
“Message spells are unreliable at 10km. High-tier communication spells are unreliable at 30km. Warnings on summons, magically controlled monsters have a chance to break their servant-master link at a distance of 500m to 5km, depending on the type.”
Hmmm... all my subsidiary trees are still in contact. Rootnet is still online.
“Message integrity decays at 5km onwards. Merchant’s guild is still experimenting with supercharging magical messages.”
The [Message] spell is essentially the communication ‘backbone’ of the present society. War, commerce and trade all rely on it. A [message] spell is essentially a message wrapped up into a magical ‘container’, and sent like an invisible ‘letter’, where it then arrives at the other side as a letter. It is possible to ‘secure’ the ‘packet’ by way of encryption codes, and similarly, it is possible to ‘intercept’ them as they pass through.
All [message] spells travel along corridors high up in the sky, known as the Aurora currents. These currents help to reduce the mana load required to travel long distances, as the Aurora currents have a positive, ‘recharging’ effect on these [message] packets. Apparently, and this is also something that is debated, the Aurora currents were created by some heroes a long time ago, to facilitate their anti-demon efforts. Some day, it’s made by the gods, because why else would the currents be so convenient? It boggles the mind that a supposedly ‘natural’ phenomenon can be exploited to function as a global airborne [message] superhighway.
A mage learning how to use [message] learns about the worlds’ magical currents, and sends the ‘coordinates’ along the packets. The way I understood it, as Madeus explained it, is that the [message] network is essentially like a collection of email servers, with some snail mail features.
For example, a mage who wants to send a [message] from New Freeka to say Ransalah, must know which ‘current’, ‘node’ and ‘sub-node’, kind of like a traditional country-state-city hierarchy common in addresses and old school mailing systems. The [message] packet itself is then wrapped with some ‘identifiers’ and ‘locators’ so that it can ‘locate’ the intended receiver. Or what most nations have, is a magical artifact that acts as an ‘anchor’ to receive the [messages], sort of like a ‘post box’.
But now, this network is unusable. The chaos is perhaps similar to what happens when the internet went out. Learning the intricacies of the [message] system works, only when the system goes down, is like how people start to study the intricacies of how planes work after a flight crash occurred. A little too late.
Merchants especially, scrambled to find alternatives to their usual sources. Trading prices for certain goods started to fluctuate, because the merchant’s ability to obtain market price information from other cities is now gone, and a merchant’s willingness to purchase local goods dropped significantly, because he’s unable to guarantee his own ability to make a profit by locking in another deal in some other part of the world.
“How about scrying and remote viewing?” I observed the mages in New Freeka’s mage guild, in a discussion with the local merchants. Thankfully, this newfound magical interference from the demon king didn’t affect my ability to see my own trees, and I believe my own energies are repelling that interference somewhat.
It really brings back memories. The guys banging on our IT admin’s tables, demanding to know why are the payment systems down, and how soon we can fix it.
“Doesn’t work either... and we do not have mages who focus on such spells.”
“Then what works? I’ve got a warehouse full of goods, and I can’t find out where to send them, or whether the route is even safe! There’s got to be something?!”
“I’m afraid the best chance, at this point, is a messenger.” The mage tried to placate the angry merchant.
“That’s too slow!”
“We’re still trying...”
Over at the military side, Jura attended a meeting with the New Freeka council, together with a lot of military guys. A strategist under the council’s employ was present to give a quick briefing on the situation.
“One, our ability to coordinate our military with our allies is now significantly reduced. Two, our ability to locate the demon king and demon walkers, on a close to real-time basis is also almost gone. This meant the blood sacrifice spells used to bombard the demon walkers is effectively useless.”
Ah. Shit. That is a bad thing. What use is a nuke if you don’t know where to shoot it?
“Also linked to that second point, we’ll need to rely a whole lot more on scouts to monitor the demon’s movement.”
I suppose they need to return to flares, fire-signals and stuff like that?
I still haven’t heard from Lausanne, so I decided to send some [subsidiary trees] towards her last known location.