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Thomas did as Rock had instructed and together with Belle, made his way toward The Swans Nest. This time he walked side by side with Belle, and although they didn't talk much Thomas could feel that Belle wasn't as cold today as she had been yesterday. There'd been no Reputation notifications, but the look of pity had faded from her eyes. He guessed that showing he was willing to work hard had impressed her, at least a little bit. It didn't really matter to him, but if he had to choose he would pick friendly over unfriendly any day.

It didn't take long for them to arrive at their destination, or for Belle to do as she had done the night before. Once the room and meals were paid for Belle left without a word. Martha gave Thomas her usual motherly smile, "Welcome back Thomas. I'll go and get dinner ready for you, just pick a seat and relax. Sounds like you worked pretty hard today."

Thomas couldn't help but chuckle at the mysteries of women. Belle hadn't spoken more than a few sentences to Martha but it felt like Martha knew everything that he had done today. After taking a seat Martha was quick to bring him a delicious meal, the side dishes were the same but the meat was an 'orc chop'. It was delicious, a little salty, a little fatty, and tasted heavily of pork. Who knew orcs could taste so good?

After his meal, Thomas addressed Martha, "Is there a way to get hot water to wipe down with? Or better yet a bath?"

Thomas was significantly dirtier today than yesterday and he could feel the grime against his skin. Martha smiled and nodded, "We have both. A hot pitcher of water is free, but if you want to take a bath it will cost three gold, Rock didn't cover that in what he paid for you to stay tonight."

Just three gold? Thomas nodded and plucked the coins out of his purse and passed them to Martha, "One nice hot bath please!"

Martha took the coins and sent a young servant girl off to fetch and heat the water to fill a tub. Then turned back to Thomas, "It will just be a bit to get it ready then I will take you over to the tub."

Thomas leaned back in his chair and just relaxed, basking in the afterglow of a delicious meal. The portions weren't massive, but they were just enough to fill his belly and make him feel content. He glanced down at the bag he'd been carrying around for the last two days and frowned. Why the hell hadn't he put it in his inventory? Shaking his head at himself he thinks 'Inventory'. Nothing happens. Frowning he tries a few other keywords he can think of and just thinking about opening a space to store items. Still, nothing happens.

Letting out a sigh Thomas just shook his head while thinking to himself, "They really went for 'realism' in this game! I can't believe there isn't even an inventory!" With nothing else to do while he waited Thomas opened his character sheet and decided to invest the experience he had earned from today's quest. He evenly bumped up both Power and Endurance to seven leaving him with just fifteen experience points left over. Now three of his four attributes were sitting evenly at seven points.

Spoiler: Character Sheet

Shortly after he finished making himself a tiny bit stronger the servant girl returned and spoke to Martha, which prompted Martha to lead Thomas into a small room. Inside of the room was a small wooden tub, he would barely be able to fit into it with his knees bent to near his chest. Holding in his sigh Thomas entered the room after thanking Martha. After closing the door he let out the suppressed sigh. The tub was just way too small, how was he going to relax?

Well, it was better than nothing. Thomas stripped bare and first used a cloth soaked in hot water to rinse the sweat, dirt, grime and metal flakes off of his skin. As he was working he noticed something that made him smile. His little gut was gone! Wiping his chest and abdomen clean Thomas noticed that his pecks had developed well and his abdomen was showing signs of developing abs. They were very faint and he was by no means ripped, but he definitely looked fitter and stronger than he had two days ago when he first arrived.

Seeing the fruits of his labor Thomas was ecstatic as he stepped into the tub and crouched down to try and let some of the heat soak into his muscles and relax his body. While trying to relax he did some rough calculations in his head. With his Power pumped up to seven, he should have a punching force of somewhere around 300psi and a full body lifting force of around 700 pounds. With his Endurance at seven as well he should have enough energy to run for over 300 meters at a full out sprint.

He lifted his arms and flexed his fists, according to his attributes he should be about twice as strong as he had been upon his arrival. With his fists clenched he could see his muscles flexing and showing more definition, but it was hard for him to really notice much of a change in his strength. He'd probably have a better understanding of it tomorrow at Rock's.


After finishing his somewhat uncomfortable, not nearly as relaxing as he'd hoped, bath Thomas discovered another issue he would have to deal with. He had no clean clothes! While grumbling to himself about how sometimes too much realism was just plain annoying, Thomas put on his linen outfit. It was dirty, sure, but he'd only sweat in it. That was much better than the padded armor outfit that he'd sweated in and covered in soot from the forge.

Leaving the room with the bathtub Thomas tracked down Martha in the main room and inquired about getting his clothing clean. After coughing up another two gold coins Martha called over the servant girl from earlier. Thomas hadn't paid too much attention to her earlier, but from up close it was hard not to notice her. She was probably somewhere around sixteen or seventeen years old with long dark hair worked up into a bun and wearing a simple dress. She had plain features but gave Thomas a charming smile as she accepted his dirty clothes from him and some instructions from Martha. It turned out her name was Maggie.

With a promise that his clothing would be clean, dry and ready for him in the morning Thomas retired to his room. Though he'd stopped working before dark the sun had now set and he would need to be up early tomorrow to head back to Rock's place and get some blacksmithing experience. He only had five days left before his one-week deadline was up. In two days he'd only managed to get his blacksmithing to six. Which didn't seem bad on the surface, after all, if he could gain six ranks a day it would only take him four days to get to rank twenty-five. The problem was the growing amount of experience needed for each rank.

After doing the math he realized he would need a grand total of 3,240 experience to reach rank twenty-five from no rank. At just twenty experience each he would need to forge a total of 162 swords, counting the ten he had made that left 152 over five days, or thirty swords per day. That was just plain impossible unless he worked all day and all night without rest. Thomas was starting to think that 'impossible' was the point of Hekrin giving him the quest in the first place.

Thomas needed a different method than just cranking out cookie cutter swords to gain the experience he needed. The problem was the game was too new and no one would know any good grinding methods yet. After all, in the real world, it had only been about ten hours since AoG was released. With a time dilation of four game days to one real world day, it would still be a while before hardcore gamers like him would log out and maybe write something on forums. He would need to experiment on his own and see if he could discover a way to gain more experience faster. The worst part was if his experiments didn't pan out he would just be wasting time.

After going back and forth with himself for a while Thomas decided on a plan. Tomorrow he would hand forge a simple weapon, a dagger, and when it was done would determine if the time spent and the experience gained could help him accomplish his quest or not. If it worked he would then forge a more complex weapon and see what happened. Hopefully, the complexity of the weapon would help him earn more experience. With his plan in mind, Thomas used 'Serenity' to calm his mind and let himself drift off to sleep.


The next morning, as promised, his clothing was clean. He swapped his dirty linen clothing for the padded armor clothing and dropped two more gold coins into Maggie's hand to have the linen clothing cleaned so he would have something clean to sleep in that night. Even if Rock didn't pay for it tonight Thomas intended to stay at The Swans Nest. His breakfast was the same as yesterday. According to Martha, their breakfast is almost always the same, they only change dinner to match what meat is available and what veggies are in season. The inn wasn't a restaurant so they kept the menu super simple.

After breakfast, Thomas headed back to Rock's and simply walked past Belle this time like he belonged there. He figured that for the next few days he did. At the moment he was Rock's 'apprentice', even though he likely had more knowledge on forging than Rock did. Now he just needed to get his Blacksmithing skill up to match that knowledge... It would probably only take a year or two in-game.

After a warm greeting with Rock, Thomas gestured to one of the smaller forges, "Hey Rock, you mind if I borrow that forge for a bit? I want to try some stuff. I'll pay a rental fee and for the materials I use if you want."

Rock rubs his stubble covered chin as he thinks, "Tell you what kid." Rock grins playfully, "Since Hekrin was the one who sent you over here I'll just charge him if you waste anything." Rocks eyes were practically gleaming with joy at the thought of sending the crotchety old dwarf a bill.

Rock was impressed with Thomas, especially after producing that 'excellent' grade sword yesterday. Plus, Thomas never quit or complained and did his job like a professional. Hekrin was always sending off people that wanted to learn his Magitech Engineering craft to the other artisans in the district so they all liked to find little ways to get back at the old goat. With his good impression of the boy Rock didn't mind letting him use a forge for a bit to see what he would come up with, having gone that far Rock spoke up, "You can use the forge and materials here kid. I expect you to make something great so show me what you've got!"

System Notice: New Quest!
Rock has challenged you once again. This time he wants you to make an item all on your own. Once you have submitted an item to him he will grade it and give you his final word on it.
Rewards: Experience based on Rock's evaluation of your final product.
Time Limit: 10 hours
Bonus: ???
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A note from thomasdarkrose

I know this one is a bit shorter than usual, but this was a good spot to stop before I got into Thomas experimenting with Blacksmithing to see what happens. Tomorrows chapter will have plenty of crafting in it, promise!

For those of you wondering why I sometimes switch between written number and 123 numbers, it's pretty simple. I find the larger a number is, the more tedious it is to write out with words. I don't mind writing simple numbers using words, but generally, anything above one-hundred will be written out. It's also easier to understand 3,260 than three thousand two hundred and sixty. At least for me it is.

Enjoy and look forward to tomorrows release!


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About the author

thomasdarkrose

  • Georgia, USA

Bio: Just your average self-employed American with some spare time that enjoys reading, and now writing.

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