Slowly, the old man rose to his feet to greet the newcomers. Doctor, professor, whatever his title was (he had been around so long none of them really knew), the man by the name of Miller was the leader now. Wise from his many years of experience, he had always counseled the group, but with the departures over the long summer, he had to take more control.
The year previous had been a prosperous one, but the band of mountain men had run into a trap in the spring as they searched for gold along the coast. Not prepared for a battle of large magnitude, they were pushed back to their homes, high up among the peaks. Unfortunately, however, their failure by the sea turned out not to be the end of their troubles. Before they could escape back to the high ground, the warriors they encountered at the coast took Andre, the strongest among them, captive. And when they returned home, Master Ujiri, the smartest member of the high council, decided to pack up and leave for a new country to the Northeast. Furthermore, another member of the high council, by the name of Karl, was banished after nine years of leading the men. It got worse later in the summer, as the group suffered another loss. Brewer, the most energetic of the bunch, got restless and wandered off to the east to a forested land filled with lakes and run by wolves.
Suddenly, the ranks that were to bring them wealth and happiness for many years were decimated. Over the summer they tried to replace what they had lost, but it will never be the same. The high council went east in search of a new leader and came back with a bald, battle-tested man called Shaw. On their journey east they traded a one of their giant’s, called Koufos, for a grizzly bear named Arthur. As the high council made their way back to their mountain home, they came in contact with a small, energetic bull whom they captured and brought back, naming him Nate Rob. Upon returning home, the high council left straight away to scour the west in search of even more help. Near a large lake not too far away, they found an aging musician named Foye who joined the group. And up in the forests of the northwest, they rescued J.J., a man taking a trail leading nowhere.
And so the grizzly, the bull, the musician and the lost soul came back with the high council to join the mountain men. As they entered the giant, dimly lit hall with thousands of seats, the old man called Miller rose to greet them. He welcomed them to the mountain and offered them a seat on the large floor where the rest of the group was gathered, discussing their plans for future prospecting missions. Left among them was the three foreigners, a giant from the land of snow called Timofey, a man of many traits from across the ocean named Danilo, and a young, rather unknown newcomer who went by Evan and was from a place close to Danilo’s. Back from a far away land himself, was the hard working, tattooed one who went by Wilson. Then there was the tree-like Pierre; a lighthearted man with a lot of hope for the future. Of course there was also Manimal; raised by bears, he had a fierce, unrelenting attitude. Joining the old man, Miller, as one of the smallest members of the group was the speedy Lawson, who like Manimal, had seemingly unending energy. Just learning the trade were the youngsters, Q, and Jordan. And finally, there was Randolph – a straggler who didn’t really belong, but had hung around so long the others just let him stay.
So this was the new group the high council had selected to bring back gold to the mountain: the old man Miller, the energetic Lawson and Manimal, the tree-like Pierre, the hard working Wilson, the foreigners: Timofey, Danilo and Evan, the lost-soul, J.J., the musically inclined Foye, the youngsters Q and Jordan, the grizzly bear Arthur, the bull Nate Rob, and finally the forgettable Randolph.
Looking at the group, it is easy to see why there is concern. Without the foundation of years past, it will be a struggle to hold everything together this year. It will take time for the newcomers to become accustomed to the mountain. Successful missions will be fewer and farer between. As always, the search for gold will lead this band of mountain men across far distances. And as always they will face many obstacles, challenges and battles along the way.
The warriors from the coast who sent them running last year will be even stronger this year. Also along the coast, but south of the warriors is a bunch that can leap so high on single bounds that it seems as if they’re flying. To the northwest are the men who create trails, who bolstered their ranks over the summer. Far to the east are groups of hungry wolves and grizzly bears. But the real danger is to the south. First there are the gods from the plains that can create thunder. Further south are a smart and powerful bunch of rocket building scientists. Close by, a group of grizzled old cowboys roam the land.
The mountain will still be tough to break into, but it will take more effort. Worn out from protecting their home, prospecting efforts will struggle. The group will need to focus its energy on protecting their mountain and preparing for the future. This will not be a year of great prosperity. Last year’s journey turned out to be shorter than expected, and to make matters worse, the men will return to their mountain even earlier this year, and with fewer riches gained.