“Did you have a destination in mind?” Andrew asked Langdon.
“I thought we’d just see the lay of the land, and the like.”
“There’s no need for that. Here. Take this map.” Andrew gave Langdon a copy of the map Jim already had. “Since you have no specific goal, may I suggest one?” Langdon nodded in reply. “Good. I used to live in The Grand Plateau, off to the north of the crossroads where we parted with Captain Jonathon. If you follow that path along, you will eventually come to my old village. Head even further north, and you will find my father’s sawmill. Ordinarily, travelling to a ruined sawmill would be worthless, but the key reason to my father’s success was his enchanted sawmill blade: It would never rust, never dull, never break… Important attributes when you live so far from an advanced blacksmith, I’m sure you’ll agree.”
“So, ya want us to go get the blade?” Langdon asked.
“And any other supplies that you can salvage. We’ve unloaded the large carts with your help. I’ll send two with horses and drivers to go with you. Bring back what you can.”
Quest received: Family Heirloom.
Alderman Andrew has revealed the existence of an enchanted sawmill blade that belonged to his family. He has asked that you lead the militia to retrieve the blade. The area has not been scouted, and minor dangers may threaten your party. Be prepared.
“There’s just the two of us,” Jim protested, though he accepted the quest anyway. He had an idea. Jim gestured down at the leather clothing that hung loosely from his meager frame. "... and I'm not in the best shape for an adventure."
"I'm afraid that there's little I can do about that, James. Ordinarily, Lizardman elders would be great shamans, but I am just an aged farmboy at heart. Perhaps once the town is established we will be able to attract someone to guide you in the eldritch arts."
Jim sighed. He'd been hoping to exploit his ludicrous intelligence to compensate for his child-like strength.
“Can you spare anyone to help out?”
Alderman Andrew nodded. “There are a few former soldiers of our bloodline that were cast out of the army. Now they’re refugees like the rest of us. The midday meal should begin soon. Why don’t you check there?”
Langdon nodded, and he and Jim left.
“Jim, I’ll meet ya the cookfire. I’m gonna go get Martin.” Langdon jogged on ahead before Jim could respond.
Jim trudged toward the centre of the camp in Langdon’s wake. Though the encampment wasn’t large, perhaps only 150 metres in diameter, Jim still got to the campfire after Langdon had run his errands and fetched both Martin and Vanessa.
“’ey Jim! Over ‘ere!” Martin called out, unnecessarily loudly. Some of the other refugees stopped to look at Jim as he approached the two soldiers; most looked away, but a few of the burlier men recognised that there was adventure afoot and began to crowd the periphery.
Before Jim could sit down, Martin launched into the plan that Langdon had obviously put together.
“It’s all ‘cause of Vanessa, see. We had this idea for Langdon and you to lead two different groups of people, right? Me and Langdon will go find nine more burly fellas and fight in the front lines, while Vanessa can go and find some of the other hunters and then your mob can shoot from behind.”
“Yeah. That.” Langdon said, rolling his eyes as Martin made goo goo eyes at Vanessa.
“How long do you think it will take to gather the people?” Jim asked. Martin leaned to the side to look around Jim. Behind him, the burly men and other hangers-on that had lurked within earshot had shuffled closer to the small group.
“Oh. Not long.”
Within fifteen minutes, after a rushed meal, Langdon and Jim each had 10 people each join their militia squads and gathered around the two large wagons the alderman had prepared. Langdon’s men each wielded a spear, while Jim’s hunters and huntresses each had simple hunting bows. The militia member’s levels, Jim noticed, had raised to match their commanders. Jim again felt odd to be in charge when he was so much less skilled than Langdon. He’d have to rely on him a lot.
Langdon, level 5 Human soldier
Martin, level 5 Human soldier
Level 5 Human (Reptile bloodline) militia 
James Cartwright, level 2 Human (Reptile bloodline)
Vanessa, Level 2 Human (Reptile bloodline) hunter
Level 2 Human (Reptile bloodline) hunter 
The small force departed to the west, back toward the crossroad, immediately. The entire party took turns alternating between marching alongside the slow, heavy wagons, and riding in the wagon beds. Jim was just too slow to keep up, however, over the uneven terrain between the camp and the road and had to spend disproportionately longer getting carted along.
Once their force reached the road and followed the path to the north, Jim made an effort to lead by example, easing himself down from the wagon. Jim could tell that the militia men and women appreciated his effort from the expression on their faces, even though he still had to stop constantly to rest. He ran himself ragged – which didn’t take a 66-year-old former coma patient long – and in addition to increasing his troops’ loyalty, Jim also increased his attributes by 1 base point of constitution and 1 base point of dexterity, raising his HP to 61 and helping him keep up a little bit better.
The militia marched and rested monotonously into the early evening when they stopped to forage for a meal. The nine soldiers, Langdon and Martin located a spot to fortify a camp for the evening, while Vanessa lead the hunters to bag some game. Jim had no choice but to let Vanessa lead the squad, as even with 4 dexterity now, he was much too slow. Before she left, Jim stopped Vanessa.
“If you get the chance, could you hunt more than we need and bring their corpses here, unskinned? I have an idea.” Jim asked Vanessa. She agreed without questioning her honoured elder. In truth, Jim’s idea was not particularly useful to the militia. He had no plans to use the corpses as bait or any such tactical trickery. Jim only wanted Vanessa to kill as many critters as she could, so he could skin them during the night and keep his mind off the real world.
While Vanessa and her fellows hunted, and while Langdon organised sharpened stakes to surround their wagon-wall, Jim made himself useful by building the fire for their camp. When dusk fell, Vanessa arrived back in camp. She and her hunters were dragging two deer and several smaller critters such as rabbits and squirrels. Jim instructed the hunters to butcher and dress one leg of venison, but to leave the rest to him. They did so, gladly.
Jim joined everyone for a supper of deer-meat, but his side of the conversation was subdued. In planning to avoid thinking about his death and his family, he had caused himself to think about his death and his family. Once the others had eaten, Jim spoke up.
“You all rest. I will take the first watch. I’ll wake Martin up when I get tired.” Jim had no intention of waking Martin, but nobody was going to protest getting to sleep early after so much running through the day. Jim sat on the outskirts of the camp, his back to the fire to keep his eyes alert to the dim night. He spent the entire night skinning and looking for danger. Aside from the occasional nocturnal critter, nothing disturbed their camp and Jim skinned and butchered every animal corpse the hunters had foraged. He stored the hides and meat in one of the wagons.
|Medium Animal Hide 
|Small Animal Hide 
|Medium Animal Meat 
|Small Animal Meat 
Jim roused the militia at sunrise. Since none of them had been on sentry, they all ought to have rested enough to get an early start. They headed north for the early part of the morning, before the road bent to the west, elbowing backward around a large pit. One of the scouts went to investigate and reported that the pit was likely an ore pit or a clay pit. It would be useful to the village in the future, but, for now, it was overrun by monsters.
They travelled along the path through the rest of the day, only stopping briefly to cook and eat some of the meat Jim had butchered last night. By the afternoon, Jim had gained another point of constitution and dexterity from marching alongside the wagons again. They had also started to encounter the first signs of Alderman Andrew’s former home. Rotting barns and farmhouses could occasionally be seen a few hundred metres from the path. They investigated each building, but they’d all been pillaged long ago.
When the path started to curve back north, Jim checked his map and waved Langdon over.
“This quest can’t be that easy. We’re almost at the sawmill and nothing has gone wrong. No one has even so much has tripped over.”
“Yeah, you’re right. We’d best stay alert.”
Despite their caution as they approached the sawmill, still nothing had gone wrong. The hair on the back of Jim’s neck stood on end as one of Vanessa’s hunter friends approached the sawmill and looked through a hole in the rotted, wooden wall. The young woman peaked her head into the gap then immediately drew it back. The girl backpedalled toward the group in a surprisingly quiet series of motions.
“Rats!” she squeaked. “Big ones.”
Langdon went and had a look for himself. Jim wanted to go, too, but he started to think he’d never be quiet enough or agile enough to be a scout.
When Langdon returned, he said. “There’s nineteen ratmen holed up in the sawmill. Eight of ‘em are white and seem to be in charge. The other eleven are sort of cowering at the back of the mill’s main room.”
“What’s your plan?” Jim asked.
“I reckon we bottle ‘em up inside the mill. The twelve of us with spears and staves hold the doorway and stick ‘em as they try to escape. Vanessa and the hunters stand back and shoot any that get any ideas.” The plan seemed simple, but effective, so Jim agreed. Jim knew little about military tactics, most of his gaming had ignored anything beyond glorified single combat, but what he did know consisted of two simple rules: Don't get attacked from behind. Run when you're losing. He would have to rely on the soldiers until he had a chance to better familiarise himself with the game.
Langdon silently motioned the ten soldiers, including Martin, to gather with him on either side of the doorway while the hunters stayed off to the sides. Jim was to be the bait and come in last. Once everyone was in position, Jim did his best to join them quietly, but his slow and loud footsteps drew the attention of the ratmen. As soon as the first ratmen poked its snout outside to sniff around, Langdon and Martin charged to fill the doorway, thrusting their spears into the white ratman.
|Albino ratman, level 3 monster 
|Ratman vermin, level 2 monster 
The two, named militia soldiers impaled the single ratman on their spears. Two crimson red 16s ripped themselves from the albino leader’s body as he fell to the ground in a lifeless mess. The other seven albino ratmen, and the other nine soldiers, wasted no time joining the fray. Red 7s and 8s bled from the enemy, punctuated by the occasional 16, 17 or 18 from Martin’s or Langdon’s spears. In retaliation, very few of the albino ratmen landed any hits. A red 3 or 4 wounded the occasional militiaman, but with their prodigious health pool of 50 as level 5 soldiers, they all stood proud and firm.
By the time Jim squeezed himself into the line, every albino ratman was dead. Unfortunately, the dying squeals of the white vermin attracted their brethren, who swarmed the line. In their panic to escape, the ratman vermin accidentally executed a very clever manoeuvre. One after the other they swarmed the edge of the doorway, scrabbling over the same soldier to try and escape. Jim was able to thrust his simple spear into the belly of one as it passed overhead, doing 8 damage and pushing it into another soldier’s spear, but seven of the ratmen survived and scrabbled over the same soldier, their claws each slashing the man for 2 or 3 points of health. The man, an unnamed soldier, fell to the ground wounded and bleeding. He still had 18 HP left, so he was unlikely to die, but he required medical attention.
Jim, lacking any bandages, turned to pursue the vermin instead. Of the seven that escaped, the leading two were brought down by arrow fire from Vanessa and her hunters. Each arrow punched a red 3 or 4 out of a ratman’s torso. Sensing the danger of the archers, the five remaining ratmen swarmed one hunter that was slightly distant from her peers. The young woman that had scouted out the sawmill shrieked in terror. The five beasts clawed and bit. The other hunters launched a second volley. Langdon’s soldiers slammed into the rear of the ratmen. Jim ran to try and catch up, to try and help. They were all too late to save the poor girl, whose 20 hit points evaporated in a brief, brutal stream of red 2s and 3s.
Jim felt a bit shocked. He knew that Platinum Online was a game, but the crimson digits were every bit as horrifying to behold as blood. He just stood and stared while Langdon checked on the dead girl, shook his head. He pulled a blanket from his pack and covered the girl. He couldn't bear to look closely. He couldn't dare search her face for anything that would remind him of...
None of the others seemed as shaken as Jim. Evidently, life was harsh in Platinum Online. They buried the dead hunter with limited ceremony.
“Come on, Jim,” Langdon said, forlorn. “Let’s see if it was worth it.”
Upon walking into the abandoned sawmill, Jim received an after-action report.
You have received the following from the battle:
|Enchanted Sawmill Blade.
|Seasoned Hardwood Log 
The experience raised Jim’s progress bar for level 3 to 387/1000, but his inventory contained neither the blade nor the logs. He would still have to find, disassemble and load his loot. Jim was still a bit too shell-shocked to be much help with plundering the dilapidated sawmill. He mostly just watched as Langdon organised work parties to tear down the blade and search for the logs that would still be of use to the village.
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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 :).