Lorist was prepared to build a new house to spend the winter. During the morning, just as he was about to look for Ashu, the latter came over to look for Lorist and brought with him two magical goat skins and a sack of dried meat.
He apologetically said that as he had no other valuables and that those resources were the most he could offer and he hoped that Lorist and Reidy would be able to survive the winter.
"Thanks, Ashu. I also plan to build a house over here since we will definitely die if we spend winter within that shack. I wonder if you can help me borrow some tools?" Lorist asked.
"Build a house?" Ashu mused curiously. "But winter is coming in less than 20 days. Do you have enough time? It took tens of people two whole months to build that hunchbacked old man's old wooden house. Do you think the two of you can do better?"
Lorist nodded and said, "Don't forget that I'm a Gold ranked instructor for architecture from the Dawn Academy. If I can't do it, then no one can."
Given the straightforward personality the barbarians usually had, Ashu believed Lorist's words without much debate and nodded before he said, "Alright. I will go tell the mountain chief about it and if she agrees, I will bring you some tools."
He left and returned quickly and said that the mountain chief had agreed to Lorist's request to build a house. But apart from being allowed to borrow tools, the two wouldn't be provided any manpower. On the other hand, Ashu was tasked to supervise Lorist and Reidy while they built the house.
Lorist looked at the building tools Ashu brought with him. Apart from an axe, a shovel, a hoe and two rusted saws of different sizes, the rest were farming tools like sickles and pitchforks. According to Ashu, the barbarians usually didn't farm and would at most would only grow a few vines which they would use for their travels. He also mentioned that the tools were left behind from a long time ago. Apart from seeing them once when he was still small during the construction of the old man's house, Ashu said that the tools were usually left within their storehouse unused.
If Lorist could use his internal energy and Reidy could activate his Battle Force, building a house that would allow them to survive throughout the winter was an easy task. But right now, both of them could only be considered stronger than average normal people. With Lorist also having lost his sword, he could only improvise with the tools he had on hand.
During the first day, Lorist dismantled the shack with Reidy. With the hole within it as the center, they drew up a plot of land of 3 meters wide by 5 meters long and started digging. Ashu watched in stupor before he stopped Lorist and said, "A house this large with so much space would be hard to keep warm! The smaller it is, the warmer it will be."
Lorist laughed and said, "No worries, my house will be warm even though it's large. You'll understand when it's completed."
Ashu could only hold his doubts and wait.
On the second day, Lorist asked Ashu where he could get some clay before sending Reidy to a stream nearby to dig up some of it during noon. In the afternoon, they mixed the clay with the mud that they dug out the night before and added some fibrous vines and dried grass into the mix to make some bricks.
On the third and fourth days, Lorist and Reidy cut down more than 50 trees with diameters up to 30 centimeters under Ashu's supervision. Ashu himself also helped out a lot and brought four work horses to help move the logs into the stockade. Had he not contributed, Lorist and Reidy would have taken at least four more days to move them all there.
On the fifth and sixth days, Lorist and Reidy sawed the tree logs into two halves under the curious gazes of the people of the barbarian settlement. They looked at the both of them work as they wondered what kind of house those 'dumb slaves' would build.
On the seventh day, the both of them stacked up the almost-dry bricks and filled the seams between the bricks with more wet clay. Following that, Lorist had the logs that were cut in half all sharpened and one end before lining them up along the insides of the brick walls. Soon, the wooden logs circled from one end to another and a conical wooden wall could be seen within the hole they had dug out. Apart from the entrance which was left unblocked, there weren't other windows or openings on the walls.
Ashu wondered as he asked Lorist, "Why do you need another wooden wall inside the clay brick wall?"
Lorist was applying some clay into the space between the logs as he said, "When winter comes, the clay wall will freeze up and won't be able to retain as much heat. By adding an extra wooden wall just behind the clay wall, it can prevent more heat from escaping. This is called double insulation."
Ashu nodded as if he understood Lorist's explanation before asking two more questions. "Why don't the walls extend straight up from the ground but slanted towards the middle instead?"
Lorist then drew an inverted v shape on the ground with a stick and said, "If the house is built slanted like that, it won't collapse from the weight of the gathered snow. That's why the walls are built with a similar angle to the roof."
It was then when Ashu's doubts had been cleared.
On the eighth to tenth days, Lorist worked almost entirely on the roof. It extended all the way from the top to the ground at a slanted angle and the whole house looked like a triangle when viewed from the side with a hole right in the middle where the entrance was.
On the eleventh day, Lorist started to work on the fire pit and stove, with the smoke channel having already been dug in the ground beforehand. However, there was no cover above the fire pit and Lorist couldn't just put a piece of wood atop it either as it would easily catch fire. He had to somehow find a way to separate the wood from the fire.
And thus, he tore apart his outer robe and took out the six thin steel plates that were embedded within it to provide better defense for the wearer. Lorist had Ashu ask for the help of an Eight Ringed Ulay, a wielder of the 'power of the mountain spirit', that was roughly equal to a Two Star Silver rank in terms of Battle Force cultivation, and had him use his blade glow to cut out a 1-meter-long, 0.8-meter wide and one inch thick stone slab with which Lorist placed upon the fire pit. He paid the Ulay two of the steel plates for his services.
After that, Lorist traded two more steel plates with Ashu for 30 kilograms of kudzu root, some lamb and a large earthen jar, because the food he had been given by that old man which was supposed to last for that month was almost finished.
Lorist then gifted the last two plates to Ashu as thanks for his help thus far. Troubled by the fact that he received something for free, Ashu got a dagger and gave it to Lorist in return.
The next few days saw Lorist being incredibly busy working on the door of the house, some clothes for Reidy, collecting enough charcoal as well as making two sets of wooden bowls and spoons. Most importantly, he also had to get some food that he will need to survive through winter as well as some salt.
Upon the completion of the house, Ashu fostered a deep-seated respect for Lorist. Never would he dare imagine that a shabby shack like that could be changed into a cosy house within a little more than 10 days. He was especially impressed with the fire pit Lorist installed into the floor and was shocked to find that it could be used to also heat up the bed during the night. Additionally, the whole house was able to maintain its internal warmth, much to his surprise.
During the time he spent constructing the house, Lorist had already understood most of the things about the barbarian tribe that was led by the chief of Whitesnow Mountain. According to Ashu, it was originally called the Nubik Tribe, and Ashu and the mountain chief were originally people of the Habibaba Tribe. A few years ago, the leader of the Habibaba Tribe went to the Smormilgen Mountain to participate in the Kubawesson Festival that was held once every 12 years during which they will make offerings to their mountain gods. And during the Bywessi Conference, a Jambassen would be chosen to be the leader of the tribes in the nearby area.
After that, the leader of the Habibaba Tribe declared himself the Jambassen and led his warriors to conquer the other seven tribes within the mountainous area, one of which being the Nubik Tribe. However, unlike the other tribes that were absorbed into the Habibaba Tribe, the Jambassen had his beloved daughter become the new leader of the Nubik Tribe and gave her control over the nearby barbarian territory before declaring her the chief of Whitesnow Mountain. And so, the Nubik Tribe changed its name to the Whitesnow Tribe.
Ashu was the playmate of the Whitesnow Mountain chief since his childhood and he had naturally become her attendant when she became the leader of the tribe. Ashu told Lorist that there were around 1300 people within the Whitesnow Tribe, but Lorist doubted it because he didn't even see that many people and remarked that he only saw the elderly, women and children when they collected wild fruits and firewood. Apart from the men that Lorist traveled with in the troupe, he didn't see any other barbarian males.
Ashu said that it was to be expected because the Ulays and 400 plus men of the Whitesnow Tribe followed the Jambassen to war. One year ago, the Habibaba Jambassen got into conflict with the Jambassen of another area and both of them plotted to take over each other's territory, causing disputes between the two factions. The Whitesnow Tribe had also sent 400 men to join the war effort and they would only return after the first round of snow that year.
Lorist finally realized that the reason the family's development during the past two years didn't get disrupted by any barbarian attacks was due to that. Apart from the 1000 plus barbarians who attacked the army camp at the intersection point of the two mountain ranges two years ago before they were driven away by Josk's mounted archer brigade and Pajik's garrison company, there were no other reports of barbarian skirmishes. He now understood that it was because the barbarians had changed their target. At that moment, Lorist hoped that the barbarian tribes would be in conflict for as long as possible.
What he found most laughable was what Ashu said about his fate. While Lorist was the first flatlander slave of high status of the mountain chief, he was also the first flatlander slave she caught. And right now, she had no idea whatsoever about what she would do with Lorist.
It wasn't like the barbarians didn't own slaves; the shabby wooden shack was built for the very purpose of housing them. However, as those slaves were other barbarians, after two or three months of foraging and hunting with the tribe, they would quickly assimilate into it and become one of its members.
However, Lorist and Reidy were known to them as flatlanders and after they become slaves, they wouldn't be allowed to join the tribe. Currently, they were waiting for the Habibaba Jambassen to return from his military expedition, after which the chief of Whitesnow Mountain would show Lorist off to him. But in the meantime, she had no idea what to do with Lorist.
Quickly, winter arrived and the barbarians of the Whitesnow Tribe all entered that large cave to spend the winter. And as flatlander slaves, Lorist and Reidy were forbidden from entering their sacred cave. Because of that very reason, the female chief granted Lorist permission to build his house without any objection because she was fine as long as Lorist didn't escape when they were within the cave. In actuality, given Lorist and Reidy's current condition, if they tried to leave during the winter, they would no doubt die, so there wasn't really much of a difference.
Had it not been for their status as slaves, Ashu would have moved into the newly-built house with them right away. According to him, the cavern extended quite deeply and there was even a small subterranean stream within it. But during the three months the barbarians stayed within the cave, the air within would smell progressively worse even though it might be hard to realize it in the beginning.
While there was quite an extensive network of smaller caverns within it and even a few openings for ventilation, the combined waste excretions of the thousands of people and livestock would cause the stink to permeate the whole cave. After winter, everyone who came out of the cave would smell absolutely horrible. While the hunchbacked old man couldn't enter the cave because of his injuries and had to stay outside to monitor Lorist and Reidy, many other barbarians actually envied the fact that the old man didn't have to spend winter in the cave.
Ashu then pointed at the other derelict shacks within the stockade and said, "Look. Apart from your old shack which was built to house slaves, the other shacks here aren't that much better. While they are still habitable during summer and autumn, nobody would be able to survive in those shacks during winter period and the spring rainy season and can only stay within the cave. I hope that after this winter, the mountain chief can order the other people of the tribe to aid you to build more houses like that for us..."
I don't want your help, thank you, Lorist thought. When I recover my internal energy, I will return to my family dominion right away. Who would want to stay here for a few years to help you build your houses? Despite that, Lorist maintained his smile and asked Ashu how he could get enough food and salt for the winter.
Ashu said that the tribe can't give Lorist and Reidy food from their public food stores given their status as slaves and it was already quite hard for them to bring out the month's worth of kudzu roots before. If Lorist needed more food, he would have to get them himself. Ashu said that hunting was one of the best ways and whatever Lorist caught would belong to him. As for salt, he suggested Lorist to travel to a saltwater lake across the mountain where there would be ample salt chunks scattered around the bank. He also added that some people would be sent there for a trip later and he would ask them to bring Lorist an especially large chunk for the time being.
Sigh, so slaves have to rely on themselves to survive too... Even so, Lorist still found it surprising that being a slave of the barbarians was far better than being a citizen of most other dominions of nobles. As a barbarian's slave, the prey one hunted would belong to oneself whereas commoners who hunt within the dominion of a lord are obligated to give at least half of their gains to the dominion lord as tax, with some worse rates going up to as high as 75 percent. For example, if a commoner killed a wild boar, it would be fortunate if he was still left with even the boar's head after the lord came to collect the tribute.
I wonder how many commoners would come running here to become their slaves if this spreads, Lorist thought, before he shook his head and stopped thinking unnecessary thoughts. As a slave, he should be aware of his own status. Since he was a flatlander, he wasn't allowed to venture too far and couldn't carry any weapons with him. The prey he could hunt in the nearby area were also very sparse, with only some wild hares and pheasants which he could catch.
He did however not require any weapons to catch those two animals. Lorist recalled a practical method he learned during his days as a mercenary to make hunting traps. Using a vine and some goat skin, Lorist managed to make more than ten traps which he laid within bushes and shrubs. When he checked the traps on the next day, he found that he had gotten quite a good harvest of three pheasants and four hares. As winter was just days away, these animals were all plump with fat. Lorist was elated and thought that if his gains continued for the rest of the days at that rate, he would quickly be able to gather enough food.
Lorist used a pheasant and a hare to trade 25 kilograms of kudzu roots with the hunchbacked old barbarian and two other hares for a few more magical beast skins. Additionally, he gifted Ashu with a pheasant and cooked one for himself that night for dinner. He then smoked the remaining hare meat to save it for the winter.
After another night, Lorist went to check those traps again and found three captured pheasants and three hares. This time around, he used one of each animal to trade for a wooden bucket with which to carry water and just like that, the house was equipped with the basic daily necessities.
Seeing Ashu looking at the traps curiously, Lorist casually taught him how to make them. However, he didn't expect that after Ashu learned the skill, it spread to all the other barbarian children and when Lorist checked the trap site two days later, he realized that the whole bush was laden with traps belonging to others. With so many traps cramped together, how would the pheasants and hares of the mountain not notice them?
However, after he saw Ashu's innocent expression, Lorist was so frustrated that he didn't know if he should even get mad at him. Without the hares and pheasants, Lorist turned his attention to the stream around the mountains.
The barbarians didn't eat lots of fish were because they didn't have any nets, didn't know how to fish them, and also because fishes had too many fine bones, making them relatively hard to consume. Even if they did want to catch some, they only used the spearing method and could only catch the larger varieties of fish, albeit with little success.
While Lorist didn't have any fishing tools with him, that didn't stop him from using his wit. After spending a day digging a large pit with Reidy at the riverbank, Lorist made a small bypass from the river to the pit he dug and allowed water from the stream to flow into it. On the next day, he made a small wooden 'gate' with the twigs he found and installed it in the middle of the small stream to redirect the fish to swim into the pit. Following that, he cut the pit off from the river before removing the water within with a wooden water scoop and caught more than 100 fish in one go, among which 20 were of rather large size.
Seeing that his method worked great, Lorist woke up the next day with the intention of repeating the process. But just as he was bringing the wooden gate to the stream, he saw the female chief of Whitesnow Mountain head there with her attendants. She then told Lorist and Reidy, "Come with me. I will bring you two to see my daddy."