2.9 – Hanging Lanterns

Lanterns save lives. Your duty is to make sure they stay lit, you hear me? Out there, right outside those walls, monsters live, and like it or not, people get stuck outside at night more often than you’d think. That’s why we establish way points, safe houses where folks can stay and wait the night through. And a lantern marks Each. One. Of them. They’re what keep the monsters at bay. I’ll say it again. Your jobs are to make sure they stay lit. The wards you learn are precisely for that reason. So don’t be pansies. You walk out there an hour before sundown and you don’t come back until you know each lantern on that road is flickering, you hear?

— Frederik Long at the initiation of new Seven Cities Wardsmen

 

“Finally! For the first time in my life! I’m getting my own room! Woohooo!”

“What are you, a kid? You don’t have to get so excited.”

“What do you know? You’ve never had to live with seventeen people in a three-bedroom house before. Look at all this space you have!” Nattiq gestures at the expanse beneath my tree.

“S-seventeen?” I sputter. “You have that many people in your family?”

“Ah, no. I have more. That’s just Mom and Dad and the younger kids. My three older brothers and my older sister are married already, so they’ve moved out. You’ll make me a cool room, right?”

“Make it yourself. I’ve got other things to do right now.”

“But you said you’d make me one.”

“Alright, alright already. Give me some space. I’ll make it. But there’s something else I want to do first, so just sit there and watch quietly.” I take a deep breath and shake out my shoulders. I can’t believe how much better I feel now that I have a body. I feel so much more confident about everything. I grin.

“Here I go,” I say under my breath. I grab as much ice I can with manipulation and drag it along in a semi-circle. Soon, I have a deep, wide ditch almost completely circling the tree and a small mountain of ice piled up where the circle would connect. It slumps against the base of the tree. Hm. I strengthen and shape the ice and then hollow out the underside so the ditch runs underneath, then create a series of ice handrails on either side. A bridge, granted, a steep one, but aesthetically pleasing nonetheless.

I begin to shape the hole that marks the entrance to my underground caves, or rather the ice around it. The hole itself is still pretty enough, with the garlands of vine-shaped ice, but lets continue the vibe I’m creating. I raise pillars in a semi-circle around the hole and decorate them with carved hydrangea flowers. A sloping octagon for the roof, peaked at the center and flaring at each corner, carved tiles that look like scales and a statue of Timp decorating the peak. A pagoda. I hang Chinese lanterns on the underside of the roof and light them with |aura of light| and |aura of warmth|.

The pagoda itself connects the bridge, the entrance hole and the spiraling staircase up the tree. It makes for a good hub. I place railings and benches connected to the railings around it, leaving room for four openings, three to the places already mentioned and a fourth to a carved walkway circling to the other side of the tree’s island. I weave pillows and cushions and hanging curtains for the inside of the pagoda. Looks comfy. Nattiq stands quietly behind me, but I can feel how wide his eyes are at the moment. Don’t you worry fish boy. I’m not done yet.

I continue the walkway out over the ditch, making pillars of ice so it’s a raised one. I zigzag and branch the walkway at seemingly random points, occasionally connecting them to random islands I raise up. At each point of the zigzag or at the dead ends, I create a circular platform. I then raise circular walls and a thatch-style roof, with a beaded curtain for the openings and a few circular windows. Each inside has a fire pit, around which are pillows and rugs. I place shelves circling the walls and place pots on the shelves. I hang hammocks and Chinese lanterns from the ceiling beams.

In total, there’s about twenty-four houses lining the walkway. They are similar, but each one has its differences. I string lines of glowing lanterns, ringing wind chimes, and fluttering flags between the houses and place carved five foot tall lanterns where the walkway meets the ditch. Then, I fill the ditch with water from down below after giving everything I’ve made |aura of protection|. Nattiq explores the village on stilts while I do. The whole thing has taken more than a few hours–most of the night, actually. I’m surprised he hasn’t gotten bored yet.

“This is so cool! Can I have one?”

“Sure, but I was going to make you something else.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, I think it’d be a bit cooler, but you can choose what you want after I’m done.”

“Actually, wait there. I want to get my stuff from home.”

“How long will that take?”

“If I swim fast, I can be back in two or three days.”

“I should be done making what I have by then, I think.” He bounds off.

While I’m filling the ditch, I think. What’s my biggest problem right now? There are two, both just about equal. One. The System of the world isn’t the System I have. Which came first is a chicken and egg problem, but from the story Nattiq told and the problem with the river of souls, I’m willing to bet that the System I have now was the original System. That means that at some point in time, the System that is working now hijacked the world from the original System. Why? It might have something to do with souls. The question, though, is the thing that is eating the world’s souls the same thing that produces the red screens? I’m willing to believe it is.

What does that mean for me though. Well, according to the last fight with the eiras, my domain has an effect on the souls, namely, they return to the river of souls rather than being eaten. I highly doubt that the thing eating the souls, this soul devourer, likes that. I have a feeling that it isn’t able to touch the souls in the river. As a result, I have a bounty on my head. And considering how whatever it is can influence and even possess people, that means that I’m going to be bothered a whole lot in the future. That’s problem one.

The second problem is I’m ill-equipped to fight against the coming waves of things after my head. I simply don’t have enough resources. Sure. I have ice. Lots and lots of ice. And I can create whatever I want with it, so that helps. I have plants and animals, however, most are microscopic sea creatures that do nothing to add to my fighting force. I’m planning to try a new way of evolving them though, rather than relying on the System to do it for me. But still, I kinda doubt I could turn a krill into a fighting machine, but who knows. So, my fighting force consists of the flying fish, Niko, Oroesi, Timp, Ah’m, Nattiq, and whatever else I can make or whoever I can drag into my cause. Not a whole lot.

What can I do to solve these problems? Well, solving the second does a whole lot to solve the first. If I can grow strong enough to fight against the people after me, I can work towards solving the matter behind the red screen. I have a real vendetta against it now, and I highly doubt it would be willing to leave me be. Ever. That’s the feeling I got. So, I just have to beat it before it beats me.

Back to what I can do, though. Easiest way to get resources… One is via paths. Karma may or may not help in getting me the things I really need. But each path gets more and more expensive, and when I factor in how my leveling has changed, I’m actually not getting as much as I used to. That means I need to think even more carefully about what I spend them on. Second, I need to build like my life depends on it, ’cause it does. I haven’t been building as much as I should have, so I really need to ramp things up. Having good defenses will do a lot in saving my life later down the road. Third, I need to experiment with everything in my arsenal. Plants, animals, elemental manipulation, projectiles, anything else I have that could give me a fighting chance. If I can discover new auras, all the better. I can feel big things coming my way. The tension is rising.

Forth, expand. It goes along with building, but I’m thinking of it in a little different way. Specifically |aura of the lost|. That one is a special one. It’s so different from all my other auras. Because of it, I’m effectively the center of a hub. I can feel the different spokes even now, all settled in various places around the world, but the aren’t set. They’re like flickering doorways that are sometimes open, sometimes closed. I need to solidify the connection. Why? Even though it’s risky, people who are lost are usually looking for something. They have a longing that drives them forward, a desire to struggle against the cruel nature of the world. Just the type of people I’m looking for. If they find the world as unreasonable as I do, I can rope them into my cause and expand my fighting force.

Basically, I just need to get stronger. Let’s add more weights to my training room, while I’m at it.

I sigh. I have a semi-plan for now. It’s workable, but it’s a lot to do all at once, especially since I don’t know how much time I have until the first invaders come. I stare down at the lake as I top off the water. It’s a serene seen. Wind rustles through the hanging leaves of the massive tree above me. It creates ripples in the lake that lip against the shore and stilts of the quiet village on the water. It flips through the flags and wind chimes like its playing. It’s a nice chorus of sounds the wind makes.

I suck in another breath as the sun shines through the branches above, hitting the water with golden highlights. I’m struck with the thought that this was something I made with my own two hands. Two hands even that I made myself. What a strange place I’ve come to, where one can create anything they can imagine. And, for the first time since I’ve arrived, I can say I’m glad I came.

Well, let’s get crackin’. Onto the next section. Let’s put all these depressing thoughts aside for now and focus on something more fun. I’ll just relax for a while and keep creating my own fantasy land. I haven’t really had chance to go all out. I can always focus on defensive stuff later. I have time. What I need is something to help me de-stress.

I head back over to the pagoda after making a few boats tied to the stilts and nets to decorate the walkway. I was aiming for a fishing village after all. At the pagoda, I climb a little way up the stairs clinging to the outside of the tree. A little past the height of the top of the pagoda, I grow a tree limb stretching out from the stairs. On top of that I make a platform and a railing. Then, I climb further up, about three-fourths of the way up the tree all while adding a railing to the stairs and fixing their shape so they look like they’ve grown right out of three. There I create more branches connecting to the stairs, branching out in all directions, shaped wide and flat like walkways before drooping down like the rest. Some reach down far enough to brush the surface of the lake.

I place a railing on each branch, with breaks every once in a while. I form little porches at each break with couches and cushions. Then I head up to the top of the stairs to the patio, where I do the same thing to the branches at the top, only instead of porches, I create a series of pagodas much like the one below, only smaller and more like gazebos. On the underside of each pagoda, I hang a massive chain. It was tricky, but I placed the pagodas in such a way that they lined up with the porches of the branches below. I weave a chain that reaches all the way down to platform I made first on the stairs. The chain loops through a pulley system with weights at one end and a hanging basket on the other that rested on the platform. A makeshift elevator. Considering it for a second, I decide to make three more on each side of the tree for the sake of convenience. It’d be a pain to have to walk up the stairs every time.

As for the chains connecting to the pagodas, they have a similar pulley system and connect to four chains near the bottom. Those chains are connected to a platform that rests just level to the porches. On each of the porches I make a house. The houses are bigger than the ones in the fishing village. They’re also square, their roofs matching the pagodas. The walls are posts and thin ice that almost looks like paper after I add |aura of warmth to them|. The doors to these slide open. Inside are raised floors covered in woven mats for two-thirds of the room. Inside walls suggest two other rooms which contain low, cushioned beds, while the part that’s not raised contains kitchen cabinets, counters, and a fire pit. A ladder in one corner leads to a loft which contains different things in some houses, but mostly just more cushions and pillows. If the residents ever wanted two, there’s a rope that activates the pulley system. It’ll raise or lower the whole house either up to a series of branch walkways under the pagodas or all the way down to the water’s surface, or even just hanging randomly in the air. The way I positioned most of them at the moment is like that, scattered at random levels all around the tree. They look like handing lanterns from below.

A hanging village. More pretty than practical. I like it. Hehe.

After a thought, I growl in annoyance. I then spend the next couple of hours working out a working plumbing system for both the sinks and the toilets. If I’m going to have actual people living here sometime, it’s better to be thorough. More hygienic. So, the toilet plumbing leads to a treatment plant I worked really hard on that will filter and sanitize the stuff, where I can then use it as fertilizer for my plants. It involved a whole lot of pipes that I had to disguise as branches and roots.

I have to thank the |trap schema| and a kid named Julio Martinez from my memories for the whole thing. I saved him from some bullies and we hung out together for a while before he moved. He was really proud of his dad, who had a job–not many did in this area–at a waste treatment plant. Kids would tease Julio for it, said he always stank of poop, but even with that, the kid never got ashamed of his dad. I had to listen to him talk about the whole treatment process over and over again at lunch. So, I knew the process down to a ‘t’ at least. It was gross, but who knew it’d help me.

As for the Asian influence to everything, I had Chloe Liu to blame for that. I only knew her for a year. Her mom moved into the area for a job and then promptly moved out again after she realized how bad the area was. Chloe took me just one time to her grandmother’s house out in the suburbs of some city. Her grandfather had built a Chinese style house when they immigrated. It wasn’t big, but I had fallen in love. In the years after that, every once in a while I would research Asian architecture in passing. It always help my mood. One day, I was going to build my own house with that kind of architecture. Well, I guess now I can say I have. I look proudly up at my hanging village and out across my fishing village.

Honestly, there was no need to create something like this at the moment. One or two houses would have been fine. But, it was soothing. It helped me think and decompress from everything that has been happening recently like I thought it would. And, more importantly, I recently found that crisp memories tended to surface. Like those of Chloe and Julio. I remembered things when I built, and that in itself helped me settle more than I can say.

Finally done. I think I got lost in work again. I’m not sure how long I’ve been working for, but I vaguely remember seeing the sun rise more than a few times. More than three. That means Nattiq’s been gone longer than he said he would be. That makes me worried. I ask Ah’m. A week and a half, if I understood him correctly. That’s how long Nattiq has been gone. Ah’m doesn’t seem too worried, but I have this niggling uncomfortable feeling.

“Haven! I’m mean Devin!” Nattiq yelled, looking around for me.

“You’re back! Either is fine. I don’t care which you call me. Forget about, that. Is everything alright? You were gone for so long.” I waved to catch his attention.

“Ah, Devin, don’t worry. I’m fine. I just got a little caught up with–” he heaved as he reached me. I had my feet dangling off the edge of a viewing platform I had placed halfway up the tree. “What is all this?”

“Houses.”

“They’re houses?”

“Yeah, hanging houses.”

“Is this what you were talking about earlier? They’re so cool! They look like lanterns. How do they work?”

“Yeah, that’s them. You can raise and lower them using pulleys. I thought you’d like them. I can make one how you like it on the inside if you want to change it. Where’s all your stuff?”

“Ah, I have it.” He raise a satchel.

“You have so little.”

“Haha, no actually, I have a lot with me. Mostly all my gear and weapons. I have some heavy armor and a few pieces of furniture too. Pots and pans and stuff.”

“You. Fit all that. In there.” I raise an eyebrow.

“Well yeah. It’s an item bag after all. How else did you think I was supposed to carry it all.”

“An item bag?”

“You’ve never heard of one?”

“No.”

“Really?” Nattiq looked at me in surprise.

“I haven’t.” He scratched his head.

“They can store a lot of stuff even though they don’t look like it. The technology came from the ancient era, the Hynafols, but it’s one of the few things that scholars have figured out how to reproduce, and pretty cheaply at that. Basically they can hold anything you can pick up, so your strength actually affects what all you can store in it. One different types hundred items is the max it can hold, and if it’s the same type of items, it can hold a hundred of those as well. So you could put a hundred apples in and have it only count for one slot. But, theoretically someone who was strong enough to pick up a carriage could store his carriage in his bag. Each bag is bound to a person and only that person can open it and store stuff. Though, it comes unbound after death. Adventurers, travelers, and merchants use it the most, but almost everyone has one. They’re given as a traditional coming-of-age present.”

“That’s–” I stare in disbelief. Something as broken as that exists? What kind of world is this?

“Never mind that, though,” he quickly said. “I forgot, but just remembered what I was going to say. It’s a big deal. Haven, an adventurer came through my village.”

“An adventurer?”

“Yeah, from down south. He was looking for you.”

 

Status Menu
Name: Haven [Locked]–Devin Race: Legendary Dungeon Level: 20 Attribute: Green
Health: 308/309 (2.6/min) Mana: 297/318 (2.6/min) State: Normal
Biomes: 3* Floors: ?%Ξ] Named Monsters: 4
Monsters: 45* Animals: 24,959* Plants: 131,800+*
[Ξ]
Path Points: 33
Paths: {Beginner V (0/20)} {Ingenuity II (30/60)} {Valiant II (0/120)} {Defender IV (2/30)} {Architect I (0/50)} {Strategist I (5/25)}
Skills: [Influence V] [Incorporation III] [Ambient Aura VII] [Plant Growth I] [Green Thumb I] [Tamer II] [Karma II] [Natural Projectile III] [Core Teleportation] [Epithet] [Elemental Manipulation X] [Biome Creation] [Fluid Floors] [Golem Creation] [Loyalty]
Achievements: |Ingenuity!| |Powerful!| |Dauntless!| |Against the Odds!| |Crack Shot!| |Breeder!| |Safe Guard!| |Creator of Wonders!| |Leader!|
Causes:  Against the World»| — 3
[Ξ]
Auras: |Aura of Light|, |Aura of Warmth|, |Aura of Fury|, |Aura of Souls|, |Aura of Protection|, |Aura of the Lost|, |Calming Aura|
Fire: Main Water: Main, Ice Earth: Main, Plants, Minerals Air: Main

 


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