Monday, September 28, 2015

Extermination Teaser 1

“The temperature in here will always stay the same,” I explained. “But the rain and light are controlled by these levers. The one on the left turns off the lights, like this.”

I grasped the heavy iron lever and pulled it up. The huge room was plunged into darkness, relieved only by the faint glow of a few weak lights in the ceiling eight feet overhead. About as bright as moonlight, they were just enough to let anyone caught in the room when the lights went out find an exit.

Most of my audience gasped in surprise, but at least no one panicked. That was a good sign.
I turned the lights back on, and reached for the other lever. “This one makes it rain. There’s a little dry area here by the doors, but it should cover the rest of the room pretty evenly.”

I threw the switch, and a light drizzle began to fall from the sprinkler system on the ceiling. The farmers in the audience just stared, but both dryads stepped out into the warm rain and spread their arms.

“I’m never going to get used to this, milord,” the taller of the two dryads said. Her name was Ilona, if I remembered right.

“I can feel Lady Elin’s power in the water,” Gabi, the other dryad, added. “She’s very kind to us.

I smiled. “Yes, she is. But let’s not turn the field to mud just yet.”

I turned off the rain, and turned to the old man who stood at the head of the little group of former peasants. Hrodir had been the headman of his village before Fimbulwinter, and he was by far the best person I had available to take charge of this project.

“So, you’ve got about half an acre of land in each of these chambers. Elin and I only have four of them finished right now, but I expect we’ll get the other twenty set up over the next few weeks. I’ll leave it up to you to organize who works which plot and what they should plant. The soil is a couple of feet deep, so I imagine it should work for most of your normal crops. Just keep in mind that with the dryads blessing the fields you’re going to be pulling in a harvest every few weeks instead of just once or twice a year.”

We’d warned the men up front that they’d be working closely with the dryads on this project, and the volunteers were all relatively young and unmarried. But even so, there was as much fear as lust in the looks they gave the naked nature spirits.

“There, ah, ain’t no blood sacrifices or nothing in makin that happen, right?” One of them asked nervously.

Ilona laughed. “We only feed our trees the blood of enemies, silly. Fertility rites are a different kind of magic, and not one I’ve ever seen a man object to.”

“I don’t know, sister,” Gabi said. “There are only six of them. They might not have the stamina to handle us both. Especially not if we bless the fields morning and night, like we were talking about.”

It took the men a moment to realize what the dryads were getting at, and even then they didn’t seem to know whether to be intrigued or terrified. 

The dryads were quite attractive, if a little odd looking. They both had brown skin the same shade as the bark of their trees, and their long hair was the same green as their leaves. Their lean, athletic bodies had more than enough curves to catch a man’s eye, and with their deceptively young-looking features they could have passed as human teenagers if not for their odd coloration. But they were nature spirits, and contrary to what Disney might tell you nature isn’t about cute little furry critters singing songs and living in harmony together. The average dryad was about as tame as a wolf, and considerably more dangerous.

Well, they’d work it out. 

“I can always find more men if you need them,” I said. “Now, half of every harvest goes to me, as rent. That’s what we’re going to be feeding our troops with soon, so be sure you plant a decent variety of crops. The rest is split evenly between you and the dryads, although since they don’t need to eat I expect they’ll end up selling most of theirs.”

“How do we do that, exactly?” Gabi asked. “I mean, I think I sort of get this human idea of buying and selling things, but it all sounds very complicated. I don’t have a clue how we’d actually do it.”

“You may want to get the men here to help you with that,” I told her. “They’ve all done it before, and considering how high food prices are these days they should be able to get you good deals. Everyone, I want you all to remember that this project is a partnership between dryads and humans. Odd as it may seem we’re all on the same side here, and we need to work together if we’re going to survive.”

“That means no cheating the girls just because they can’t count money,” Hrodir put in. “You boys are lucky sons of bitches to be here, and anyone who screws things up won’t be for long. Right, milord?”

I nodded firmly. “Yes. This is one of the most important jobs on the island, and anyone who doesn’t pull their weight won’t keep it for long. If you can’t handle the work we may just shift you back to the general labor pool, but if you cause trouble Hrodir is going to boot you right off the island.”

That was a likely death sentence these days, for a man with no connections or special skills. I was hoping the threat would be enough to prevent trouble, but Hrodir had predicted we’d have to follow through on it at least once. Maybe he was right, but I couldn’t see a better alternative.

“What about the dryads, milord wizard?” One of the braver famers asked. “They aren’t under Hrodir, are they?”

“No, the dryad groves are like villages,” I told him. “Each one has their own leader. But Pelagia has agreed to be in charge of making sure all the dryads involved in the farms do their jobs and don’t get up to any mischief.”

Ilonna shuddered. “No one is going to cross the Mistress of Bloody Thorns, milord. Besides, you men have nothing to fear from us. We’re very grateful to the lord wizard, for giving us a place here. None of us want to risk messing this up.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” I said. “But misunderstandings happen, and I know men and dryads don’t usually work together. So men, if you have a problem with one of the dryads take it to Hrodir, and he’ll talk to Pelagia and work things out. Dryads, if you have a problem with one of the men bring it to Pelagia and she’ll see that it gets fixed. Now, any other questions?”

There were a few, but nothing of any substance. After a few more minutes of discussion I left Hrodir to take the men up the long elevator ride to their quarters on the top floor. That had originally been a giant attic space, but I’d turned part of it into a set of private rooms for the farmers. It was easily big enough to house the entire staff for the farming complex now, under conditions that would seem downright luxurious to the former peasants.

Of course, six men was only the beginning. Hrodir was already planning a trip to the nearest refugee shelter to look for more, and considering the volume of food we hoped to produce we’d probably end up with dozens of them. But indoor farming with magical assistance was an exotic enough venture that we’d both felt it was best to start small, and bring in new workers a few at a time.

I found Elin resting near the entrance to Pelagia’s grove, with a group of exotic nature spirits waiting on her hand and foot. She was usually too embarrassed to let them do more than bring her fresh fruit, but apparently she’d made the mistake of letting one of the nymphs give her a foot rub this morning. Now she was sprawled bonelessly across the lush grass that had sprung up beneath one of the dryad trees, with her head in the lap of a dryad who was feeding her orange slices while two nymphs collaborated on what must have been a pretty amazing massage.

I could tell that because Elin’s skirt was up around her waist, and she wasn’t objecting to the hands on her thighs despite the fact that they had an audience. But they’d probably end up trying to seduce her if I gave them the chance, and she’d be terribly embarrassed however that turned out. So I decided I’d better come to her rescue.

Wait, oranges? Where the heck did they get oranges? Aren’t those a new world plant?

My moment of confusion gave the hamadryad who’d been watching the show a chance to intercept me, with another nymph and a couple of dryads in tow. They all mobbed me in a group hug.

“Welcome, lord wizard!” The hamadryad said, just quietly enough not to disturb Elin. “What can we do for our savior today? Do you have time to stay for a bit?”

She looked like a taller, curvier, slightly older version of the dryads, which I found sexy as hell. Especially when she was molding herself against my chest, twining her arms around my neck and giving me a look that said she was mine for the taking. 

The nymph was even worse, with her lush figure and supernatural aura of sexual allure. She trapped my right arm between her mountainous breasts, and went up on tiptoes to kiss my cheek.

“Please say yes,” she said softly. “We still want to properly thank you for our new home.”

The dryads finished my encirclement, running their hands over me eagerly.

A month ago I wouldn’t have had a prayer of resisting them. But being involved with Cerise and Avilla had done a lot to build up my tolerance for feminine charms. So instead of drawing the hamadryad into the kiss she was practically begging for, I somehow managed to keep my head.

“I’m afraid I came to fetch Elin for a meeting,” I said.

The nymph pouted, and the hamadryad actually looked a little hurt. She bit her lip.

“Have we displeased you in some way, milord?”

“How could you have displeased me, when I don’t even know your name? No, I’m just very busy. Keeping this place safe is a lot of work, and I do have my own coven to keep happy.”

“Invite them all, if you’d like,” she suggested. “The hospitality of the Red Thorn Grove is justly famous in certain circles. See how gently we’ve handled Lady Elin, when she’s barely awakened to her own passions? We’d be happy for the chance to treat your ladies well, my lord.”

I had to admit, getting Elin to relax that much was an impressive feat. She was usually wound pretty tight, and anything that hinted of sexuality tended to make her pull back into her shell. She was so used to thinking of herself as a hideous monster that she had trouble letting anyone touch her, even within the coven. But here she was, apparently enjoying herself.

“We’ll see,” I temporized. “But right now I’m here for Elin.”

“Of course.” She stepped back, and hesitated for a moment. “Milord? My name is Nomiki.”

“I’m Xenia,” the nymph said, suddenly grinning. “And the girls here are Carla and Hella. So now you know our names, and you can ask for us next time you visit.”

“Or send for us,” Nomiki added, not missing a trick.

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

I walked quietly to where Elin was lying, and knelt beside her on the grass. Her little court of lecherous nature spirits all looked disappointed at my arrival, but none of them said anything. I bent, and gently kissed her.

“Mmwah?”

Her eyes opened, and she blinked up at me uncertainly. Then they drifted closed again, and she languorously returned the kiss.

“Mm, Daniel.”

I chuckled. “Having a good time, sweetie? I hate to interrupt, but it’s almost time for the staff meeting. Not to mention lunch.”

She seemed to suddenly realize what a compromising position I’d found her in, and blushed faintly. “Um. This isn’t… I wasn’t... I mean… oh, drat. They got me, didn’t they?”

The nymphs giggled.

“Did you enjoy your massage, milady?” One of them asked. “See, we told you that we can control ourselves. We won’t do anything you don’t want us to.”

“Come back anytime,” the other one added. “It’s fun to have a challenge to work on.”

“A challenge? What do you mean, a challenge?” Elin squeaked indignantly.

“Why, you get so tense that it’s a challenge to get you to relax,” the first nymph said innocently.

“They may tease a lot, but they’re also serious about the offer,” Nomiki said. “You’re welcome to call any of us up to your rooms whenever you get yourself all knotted up like that. Massage is one of the special skills our grove has long sought to perfect. It would be very nice to have someone new to practice on.”

“I have to admit, that was heavenly,” Elin said. “Perhaps I will. If you really don’t mind?”

They all assured her that they’d be delighted, and I certainly wasn’t going to object. Although I resolved to have a private word with Pelagia about it, and make sure they weren’t just setting up a seduction ploy. A little pampering would be good for Elin, as long as they didn’t end up pushing her into things she wasn’t ready for.

Elin sat up, and then frowned. “Um, Daniel? My legs don’t seem to want to work.”

“That must have been some massage,” I observed, and scooped her up into a bridal carry. She squeaked in surprise, and threw her arms around my neck.

“Daniel! I didn’t mean for you to carry me!”

“I like carrying you,” I told her. “It’s not like you weigh anything. You just relax, and let me know when you can wiggle your toes again.”

She giggled, and leaned against me. “Oh, you! Fine, carry me then. You’re probably cheating with force magic, anyway.”

She relaxed against me, and started kissing my neck as I carried her out of the dryad habitat. That was one of her little signals that she was feeling amorous, and I reflected that it was too bad we didn’t have more time. But if we delayed any longer we’d end up being late, and I wasn’t going to be the asshole boss who made everyone else sit around waiting for him.

41 comments:

  1. Pretty darn good start.

    Question: Is Daniel aware of the potential hazards of disease in plants in an enclosed environment? I'm supposing that the character eventually gets some decent talent out of the refugees, including a gardener.

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    1. Would seem natural that the magical plant people handled any problems on that front.

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  2. Ostensibly, plant disease won't be much of a problem with nature spirits blessing the fields on a daily basis.

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  3. I've been waiting for this!

    And just out of curiosity but are the dryads, hamadryads, and nymphs completely separate beings? Or does a dryad that has aged a lot/acquired a lot of power become a hamadryad?

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    1. Hamadryads are both dryads and nymphs.

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    2. They're three different types of being.

      A dryad is a minor nature spirit tied to a particular tree. They can spontaneously appear in areas of dense primeval forest, but they can also reproduce in the usual way (in which case all their children are dryads). Despite their lustful nature they are rather childlike in some ways, and are unable to fathom many of the complexities of civilization.

      A hamadryad is a more powerful type of nature spirit, usually associated with a whole forest or a group of dryads. They tend to be smarter, more mature and less childlike than dryads, as well as more talented with nature magic. Dryads tend to view hamadryads as their natural leaders.

      A nymph is a type of lesser goddess. The nymphs are descended from various Greek gods and Titans, who apparently wanted to have offspring without creating more deities of their own rank. Most nymphs prefer a life of sybaritic indulgence, either as attendants to the gods or in their own magically-created wilderness abodes. But their native magic is considerably stronger than that of humans, and the few who bother to apply themselves can become quite powerful over the course of their immortal lives.

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  4. Very fun snippet, can't wait for the book!


    The Deposed King

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  5. Awesome, I can't wait to buy the book :D

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  6. Another question about disease. It's just that you can get penicillin from moldy bread, and you won't ever find that in the kitchen with Avilia around. That and the making of alcohol both use germs. And pickles. Probably a few more that I can't think of right now.

    But with food being such an important issue I was wondering if a magical disease or pestilence could be created. Daniel Black might be immune with all the help he's getting but the rest of the town wouldn't have the benefit of his help or otherworldly knowledge.

    Personally, I think he would be better off taking the caverns apart and turning the whole thing into a giant bomb shelter with built-in gardens.

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    1. Penicillin is a waste of time during the apocalypse when one has healing magic/flesh sorcery.

      The keep/island is already the closest thing to a bomb shelter possible while on a hard time/resources limit.

      There are lots of things that could be better off, but both your comments seem like a waste of time for the author to answer. Think about it for five minutes, and you can come up with the answer yourself.

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    2. doesn't really matter now anyway, the book is pretty much finished so it time for specatulation about what is going to happen next

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  7. random thought, if the crops are growing so fast, then wouldnt there be a need to use a lot of fertilizer on the soil or is everything just explained away with nature magic?

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    1. Nah. banish the depleted earth and then summon some more!


      The Deposed King

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  8. I still say that something should be done with the caverns underground. At the very least the skeletons should be smashed and the place filled with cement.

    Flesh Magic could be used to hurry up the conversion of sugar into alcohol. But could the man make potions?

    I also wonder how many more women Daniel "The Harem King" Black is going to get his hands on. I'd also like to see an angry boyfriend or brother in the mix to keep things interesting.

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    1. Judging by the coven slots, at least 2 more women, although 8 more be possible if Daniel wants to go for the full 13 people coven (although unlikely because its a pain in the ass creating that many fleshed out characters and keeping them relevant).

      Also, given his past romantic history, Daniel doesn't seem like the type of person to shack up with a woman that already has a lover (and would probably dump her in a second if said woman was lying about not having one).

      Angry brother scenario isn't that likely either since apparently, in Norse-Apocalypse-Europe, trying to shack up with a nice, powerful man is one of the biggest goals in life for your average woman.

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    2. And as for potions and alcohol, doesn't Avilla have that covered?

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  9. Daniel should replace his nerves with superconducting metal with his flesh/earth sorcery for fast reactions in battle everyone bad guy in the book's moves way faster than him almost every time.

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    1. Sorry to shoot your idea down, but unless the world that Daniel came from is an alternate Earth, then that's impossible because there are no usable forms of superconducting materials that Daniel could integrate to his nerves. Hell, there aren't even man-made ones.

      And although there are highly experimental techniques that can use liquid metal to bridge two ends of cut nerves together, completely replacing the human nervous system with metal probably isn't very likely.

      And besides, super-conducting nerves aren't really cracked up as sci-fi novels make them out to be since the time it takes for the electrical signal to transfer between the brain and muscle is near instantaneous anyways. It'll probably just be "lol magic" that lets Daniel operate on his body to make it go faster (seeing as Cerise already has been elevated to super-human status from her original human one by magic).

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    2. Nerve impulses propagate surprisingly slowly (40-60 m/s for motor signals to control the limbs, for example), so technically there's a delay of several hundred milliseconds one could hope to get rid of. But yes, there's no biologically compatible conductor Daniel knows of that he could use.

      There are also a lot of other difficult problems, like the fact that the human motor cortex is fired up to account for the delay in signal propagation to various parts of the body. If that delay suddenly went away you'd be unable to control your limbs properly, and you'd have to completely re-learn how to walk and manipulate objects.

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  10. Hmm I did some quick calculations and think he might still be a bit short on food. Assuming 12 acers from snippet and 4 week growth cycle and about 1 million calories per acre per cycle and about 2000 calories per person per day that only covers about 260 people for full output. We can fiddle with those numbers a bit but even with magic I dont think it woukd be believable to feed more then 350 or so from that acerage. Can somone check my numbers. I guess simplest solution would be to add few more chambers or maybe some vat grown meats using flesh sorcery.

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  11. There's also the fact that only 50% of the food is going to the defense force whereas the other 50% is going to probably be sold in the market. I'm assuming that nobody bothered to run through the numbers though. [Random bitching] Why are a dozen farmers getting 25% of the production anyways? That's probably the modern equivalent of earning 6 or 7 digit salary just by fucking fairly hot girls daily and farming. Unless that money is being distributed to the rest of the civilians in the fortress anyways. [/End Random bitching]

    Just out of curiosity, but where did you get the 1 mill calories per acre from?
    I looked at some studies, and depending on who you ask and what you plant, the amount of people you can feed on 12 acres of vegetables ranges from the low hundreds up to almost a thousand (assuming a 12x growth multiplier due to the fertility magic).

    But yeah, you're right. Daniel can convert energy into flesh and just hook it up to an auto-replenishing system can't he? Since if it is just replicating a slab of meat, it shouldn't be that complicated to do.

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    2. Sorry, those calculations were only for a single acre. So the actual range is between the high hundreds and the low thousands for the amount of people that can be fed on just the 12 acres of magically enhanced crops.

      Super, super optimistic estimates as well as maximum efficiency could probably barely scrape the 10,000 people mark.

      And damn, I need to start rereading my posts before clicking the publish button. I've had to redo them way too many times.

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    3. Daniel is giving the individual farmers a big cut of the income from their farms because it's a simple method of ensuring they grow as much food as they possibly can. In the modern world there are all kinds of other schemes one could try to accomplish the same goal without giving up that extra 25% of the harvest, but since Daniel doesn't have an army of accountants and managers at his beck and call he's falling back on more basic techniques of motivation.

      Besides, 'just' farming in this context means doing backbreaking manual labor from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed. It's not exactly a cushy position, and if they end up ten times as wealthy as normal peasants that's still dirt poor by any reasonable standard.

      On the issue of food production, I've done pretty much the same calculations you guys have been doing and come up with similar numbers. Depending on your assumptions he could end up with food for anywhere from several hundred to a few thousand people, so Daniel will have to just wait and see how it works out.

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  12. Was from random article I googeled they had 1 acre per person per year with modern farming methods at about 2700 callories per day so about 2700×365 calories per acre per growth cycle, which also gives the low hundreds figure for 12 acers 12×12, but I am curious how would that go to a thousand unless you meant about 100 people off 12 acres with regular farming and got it to thousand with 12 multiplier. As for number of farmers I figure they would need mor then a dozen if they harvest every few weeks, of course that depends if Daniel has some time to make some magical farming equipment which he probably wont have time for at least early on if chambers themseves would take few weeks, guessing here about a chamber a day or so thats 3 weeks right there.

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    1. If I'm not mistaken, the 1 acre per person is based on a meat-eating, developed diet with things like sugar-based goods, meat, etc. Seeing as the energy efficiency of supporting cattle is horrible, you could actually cut down the land usage by a lot if assuming a purely vegetarian diet.

      A search of "how many people does one acre of land sustain" or anything similar brings up the people land ratio. Most estimates go from 2 people per acre (low), to 6 people per acre (most results seem to be around this range) all the way up to 66 people per acre if using some special farming techniques.


      This was probably one of the more useful articles I found:

      "The minimum amount of agricultural land necessary for sustainable food security, with a diversified diet similar to those of North America and Western Europe (hence including meat), is 0.5 of a hectare per person. This does not allow for any land degradation such as soil erosion, and it assumes adequate water supplies. Very few populous countries have more than an average of 0.25 of a hectare. It is realistic to suppose that the absolute minimum of arable land to support one person is a mere 0.07 of a hectare–and this assumes a largely vegetarian diet, no land degradation or water shortages, virtually no post-harvest waste, and farmers who know precisely when and how to plant, fertilize, irrigate, etc."


      -FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) of the United Nations

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  13. That first article I looked at might have been way off, after bit more looking I found usda report on average yelds in 2014 it showed about 7500 pounds per acre for corn/rice, with about 400/600 callories per pound that would give closer to 4mil calories per acre per year and another article about corn yield conest indicated that a triple of that is possible. So your numbers might be closer to correct then mine, so we might not worry to much about it unless daniel wants to feed the city as well.

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  14. I think you guys are getting way too far into your numbers. If healing Magic is being pumped into the fruits and vegetables the calories might have an X = ∞ on them.

    Realism is nice but magic is bullshit.

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    1. Yeah, any sci-fi and fantasy author could probably get away with hand-waving and saying "magic/advanced science", but it's always cool to see (even magical) events grounded in scientific phenomena like mass-energy transfer.

      And to be honest, it's just a nerd thing; the reason why I really liked Black Coven wasn't because of the attractive girls, battle against the gods, etc. (although that certainly helped). It was more because of the whole "what type of bastion could you build during the apocalypse using magic, fantasy creatures and science.

      It's kind of like the people who calculate just how to build a Death Star or calculate the oxygen content on Middle Earth. Sure, it's probably useless but its fun.

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    2. Very true. In fact magic handwaving could be as simple as saying it increases the yield per harvest due a combination of promoting growth per plant and preventing disease. Thus caloric needs are met by bountiful harvests rather than relying on an increase in the number of harvests.

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    3. Just throwing in my 1.5 thousand %'s pennies in, with the dryads increasing nutrients (i assume), every bite is going to be more. If you have a bite of something that is nutritionally low, it will take more to get full/content/not-starving. Also Daniel didn't say they were going to stop making more of those chambers, just how many they would build in the next couple weeks.
      With his flesh sorcery, making healthy gmo should be relatively (though possibly time intensive), the only reason i can find that current gmo's are bad is that they are designed to grow cheaper, absorbing the poison (pesticide) that is sprayed on them instead of be harmed from it, which those who eat gmo's inevitably eat with their gmo food. Is gmo bad? Not in and of itself. It does exactly what it is designed to do.

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  15. Is there a date when Extermination will be available?

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    1. No fixed date, according to the author the book will be on Amazon at the end of October.

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  16. I am confused about just one thing. The total land granted to him was a square plot of 10 acres and he has used parts of it to make a castle and town. Where is he getting the 12 acres from? Did he get granted more land which is unlikely considering his relationship with the prince or did I miss something?

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  17. the land is stacked on top of each other in a big green house structure

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  18. Yeah and he had two potential wings beside the current structure he could expand out on potentially. I think it was an acre equivalent on each side? Do another twenty floor stack on each and suddenly you're in the money. Or rather food.

    Plus he could put up in door agro farms for the city at large eventually. Let the mighty mages of the city figure out a way to duplicate his dryad growth plan.


    The Deposed King

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  19. In the medium term, contributing fruits and vegetables to the city might be a better option than grain; vitamin deficieny could weaken the army's efficiency as the winter drags on.

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  20. The groves are already going to be producing fruit and nuts to supplement Daniel's farm operation. Another point to keep in mind is that Daniel is getting the fishing fleet back into operation. Daniel could certainly turn out some fishing trawler type boats using force magic for propulsion and set up his own little fishing fleet. With the water spirits helping, fishing could be a major protein source. Daniel could also buy up some pigs and chickens if he has the grain to feed them. Food isn't going to be a long term problem.

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