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The same, young, camp sentry from earlier greeted Jim with another nod of his head.

“Hello,” Jim said. “Do you know where I might find the Alderman?”

“Ah, yeah. He’s prob’ly up front with the captain and the other mucky-mucks. They’ll be sleepin’ or otherwise, though, I suspect. You’d best not disturb ‘em.”

“Oh. I’ve just brought some food, is all. Ten pieces of rabbit meat.”

“Oi, I’ll take them off your hands if ya like. I’ll give ‘em to our cook. We’re right sick of trail rations, ya see, even the captain. I bet he’ll show you some cold, hard gratitude, too, if ya catch my drift.”

Bonus Objective: The sentry has offered to take the rabbits off your hands in exchange for “gratitude.” Bargain with him to determine exactly how grateful the mercenaries will be when you sell them the Small Animal Meat instead.

Reward: Bonus money if you accept his offer; +1 charisma.

 
Jim thought about turning the man down. The quest was, after all, to bring the Alderman 10 Small Animal Meat in order to feed the refugees. However, one small feeling changed his mind: Even though the sky overhead harboured a still, black night, Jim did not feel tired. Could this be the benefit of being a digital copy of myself? Of being a machine? There were more rabbits in the field, and his torch should last a few more hours…

“Oh. Well, the Alderman personally asked me to hunt some food for the caravan. He’s afraid that we’ll all starve without some forage…” Jim laid it on thick.

“Ah. Don’t worry ‘bout that. Us soldier folk are starvin’ too and the captain could be very grateful if you helped us out.” The sentry leaned close and palmed some coins. Jim reached out and took the coins. He felt perhaps 5 or 6 coins. Jim passed them back and decided to fish for more.

“I’ve got a daughter you see. You might have seen me with her earlier. Her name’s Vanessa. She’s so hungry that she can barely sleep.”

“She your girl, is she?” The mercenary sentry’s tone softened. “I s’pose the captain could be even more grateful if I put a word in. Maybe he could donate a few coins extra and you could pay for extra food next mealtime.”

Yes, Jim thought, young men always have a sweet spot for young ladies. Jim didn’t think Vanessa would mind the charade. She was of the practical sort.

“Well, all right. Thanks…” Jim focussed on the man until his nameplate appeared.

Martin, Level 5 Human soldier.
HP: 150/150


“…Martin. I’ll make sure to let Vanessa know where her supper is coming from, tonight.” Jim struggled, initially, with how he would hand over the rabbits. The system had not yet instructed him on how to access the magical dimension where ‘loot’ seemed to go. However, sensing his intent, the system opened an inventory interface that allowed Jim to quickly hand over the rabbit meat.

Martin handed over ten coins, nodded and gave Jim a grin that quickly turned to a confused gape when Jim turned around and walked right back out into the night.

Bonus objective complete. You have bargained with and sold the meat to Martin. He has given you a small sum of money.

Reward: 10 copper coins; +1 charisma; +100 reputation with Jonathon’s Mercenary Company (100/200 neutral)

Your base charisma has been calculated. You now have a base charisma of 28. The charisma attribute controls the opinion of the inhabitants of Platinum Online when interacting with you. Each point of charisma increases the starting reputation of all newly encountered groups by 1.

Milestone reached: 10 charisma.

You now have 10 charisma and possess the charisma of an average adult human. You may now barter with vendors for their goods. Each point of charisma alters the value of bought and sold goods by 0.1% in your favour.

Milestone reached: 25 charisma

You now have 25 charisma and possess the charisma of a moderately influential person. You may now persuade people you encounter. The successful chance of persuading someone to accept depends on a combination of factors that include your wisdom, your target’s wisdom, your target’s opinion of you, and your target’s opinion of your proposed course of action.

 
Utilising his earlier method of burning rabbits to death while they slept, Jim killed and collected the corpses of ten more rabbits to complete the quest. The task took him a few hours and, while night was well and truly upon Jim, he still did not feel tired. He knew from his earlier conversation with Martin that the computer-generated people of Platinum Online slept, and he didn’t want to disturb them.

With his staff, several bundles of dry grass, a great deal of joint and lower-back pain, and an utter lack of compassion for computerised critters, Jim collected rabbits until a system prompt forced him to stop.

Your inventory is full. If you carry any more, you will become encumbered.

 
Jim checked his inventory. His limit, it appeared, was 40 kilograms, four times his strength, of Small Animal Meat. He took the last rabbit corpse, anyway. How much difference could one kilogram make?

Small Animal Meat (41)
Ingredient.
You are encumbered. Movement speed reduced by 50%.


Jim almost collapsed from the weight. Picking up the items earlier, other than hurting when he bent down, did not affect him at all. Adding that single extra rabbit into his inventory made him feel like he’d thrown a bag of cement over his shoulder.

“I am too old for this.” Jim threw the excess rabbit a short distance away and walked back to the camped wagons.

A different, much older, sentry stood in Martin’s spot. Jim had hoped to sell Martin another 10 rabbits and increase his reputation to the next milestone, but he didn’t want to try persuading a new person. The older man’s grim look made Jim think that using his “daughter” as a bargaining chip would be ineffective. Daybreak loomed on the horizon, anyway. The alderman and camp mercenaries would surely be early risers.

Sure enough, at the front of the caravan, Jim found the two older men leaning over a map held in the captain’s hands.

“If we get an early start and leave now, we ought to be able to pass through the foothills before nightfall. I would feel much safer if we could camp in a more defensive posture on the plateau. We tempted fate, last night, sleeping with our wagons strung out in a line.”

“I agree, Captain. The extra travel will be hard on the little ones and the elderly, but it is better to sweat now than to bleed later.”

The two men, having reached an agreement, turned away from each other. The alderman noticed Jim.

“Ah. Mr Cartwright. Did you have any luck in finding fresh food?” At the mention of food, the Mercenary paused in his step and turned to listen to the conversation.

Jim nodded at them both. “Yes, Alderman Andrew. I have collected the ten pieces of meat that you asked for and more.”

“Mr Cartwright. Did I hear you say that you have spare food?” the captain asked. The man did not reveal any signs of discomfort, but his tone, friendlier than Jim had ever heard from the man, betrayed his intentions.

“I do, Captain. However, since the alderman sent me on this quest, I would like to give him the first chance.” The captain didn’t seem happy at Jim’s answer, but he did seem to respect it.

“I’m sorry, James. The caravan doesn’t have any spare coin to buy the food off you. All I can offer is my gratitude. How much excess do you have? Perhaps the captain and I can come to an arrangement.”

“I have collected 40 pieces of rabbit meat in total.”

“Forty!?” The captain’s composure shattered. “In one day of hunting? You must be a famed rabbit-slayer of legend!” he joked. The alderman also looked taken aback. “Between me and all of my men, we could not eat more than twenty rabbits. How about this: I will purchase half of your rabbits for 15 coppers in total and you the rest of the meat may feed the caravan. In exchange, alderman, I will not ask for extra pay for the longer trip ahead of us today.”

“I agree, Captain.”

Quest complete: Feeding the masses. You have delivered the required Small Animal Meat to the alderman.
Reward: Completion of the tutorial; 50 experience points.
Congratulations, you have reached level 1. Your attributes have increased.
Bonus objective complete: For refusing Vanessa’s help and capturing rabbits with your wit and cunning, you receive an additional reward:
Reward: +1 intellect; +1 wisdom.
Hidden objective complete: For drastically exceeding the requirements of the quest, you have impressed yourself upon both the alderman of the refugee caravan and Jonathon’s mercenaries.
Reward: 15 copper coins; +100 reputation with Jonathon’s Mercenary Company (0/500 friendly); +200 reputation with Alderman Andrew’s Refugees (0/500 friendly); 200 experience points.
Congratulations, you have reached level 2. Your attributes have increased.


After James finished reading the prompts, the system automatically brought a user interface screen into his field of vision.

The now-empty inventory screen that he was already familiar with occupied the right third of the screen, but it had been expanded: It also included a list of objects he had equipped. Currently, he had only rough clothing and his walking staff.

The middle third of the screen pulsed with subtle flashes. This panel was divided in two: His attributes were listed in the top half, while a short list of traits occupied the bottom half. Jim focussed on his attributes first. He had 8 new attribute points to distribute and, considering his abysmal physical statistics, he raised all three to a roughly equal value and clicked accept. After doing so, the system informed him that his points had increased, but not in the way he expected. Rather than having 7 constitution, he had 5 + 2. Additionally, his Wisdom and Charisma had also been altered, even though he hadn’t allotted any points to those two attributes.

Constitution: 5 + 2 Hit Points: 51
Strength: 4 + 3 Damage bonus: 4
Dexterity: 3 + 3 Critical chance: 0.31%
Intellect: 31 Spell power: 31
Wisdom: 32 + 2 Mana: 326
Charisma: 28 + 2 Discount: 2.86%


Jim focussed on the numbers next to his constitution and quickly learned that ‘bonus’ attributes from levelling and probably items would multiply the effectiveness of his ‘base’ attributes.

Constitution: 5 + 2: Increases your hit points by 51
Base constitution of 5: Increases your hit points by 50.
Bonus constitution of 2: Increases the effectiveness of your constitution by 2%


He then focussed on the two attributes below the small table of statistics:

Reptile bloodline:
Members of the reptile bloodline gain a bonus to wisdom when they grow in power, while humans gain a bonus to charisma. To reconcile this, you will receive 4 free attribute points to spend each level, rather than 5, and will compulsorily gain 1 bonus wisdom and 1 bonus charisma each level.
As a predominantly human creature, the maximum values of your base attributes will be limited to 50 for all attributes.
Elder:
For being an elder, you receive a significant malus to your physical base attributes:
- 10 to all physical base attributes; -10 to maximum value of physical base attributes.
For being an elder of your species, you receive a significant bonus to your mental base attributes:
+10 to all mental base attributes; +10 to maximum value of mental base attributes.


Base attributes, Jim realised, were incredibly powerful, while bonus attributes would only be useful if you already had a high base to work with. He was glad he’d taken the opportunity to earn additional attributes from the tutorial. He also lamented that increasing his level would not help him feel any less ancient; he would have to find another way to increase his physical base stats.

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About the author

ForgottenManOnline

Bio: Hi,
My name's Tim and I'm writing Forgotten Man Online, a game-literature light novel web-series that I plan to release here, on Royal Road, and eventually hopefully through Amazon's Kindle platform.

I studied writing at university for three years and then became a high-school English teacher in Australia (6 years in). Hopefully, that means you will find my content to be of a high standard and that you will enjoy it, provided you can stand the British spelling of words :).

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