After making his talent selections, Jim found himself alone in the camp. Only the sentries and a few hunters specialising in nocturnal game stalked through the cold night air. For another night, Jim was unable to shut his thoughts out. Four more deaths now weighed on Jim. He’d personally been responsible for a fortieth of all the camp refugees dying. The debt of lives he owed to Andrew had been part of the reason Jim accepted the councillor’s offer, and why he’d picked the Governance and Leadership talent specialisations over the more mainstream, player-focussed Piercing Weapons or Guilds talents.
In an attempt to rationalise away his guilt, Jim thought that maybe things were turning out for the best. The computer-generated people of Andrew’s refugees would be more reliable. Players, on the other hand, were like the inconstant moon that monthly changed her circle orb and would prove likewise variable. Jim’s relationship with his daughter rested on his success in Platinum Online. Playing with non-players removed the risk… even if it cost a few of their lives. The tide of blood he had spilled or caused to be spilled eroded Jim’s psyche and he suspected that it always would. He felt slightly unclean.
Torch in hand, Jim strode toward the river. Filth, both physical and mental, clung to him from the last two days labour and he was glad that the game hadn’t yet mastered the human sense of smell. Jim stuck the torch into the soft ground by the river and bathed in the chill water by the flickering torchlight. When finished, he emerged from the river to grasp the torch and inspect the changes wrought by his recent actions.
Immediately noticeable were the changes caused by his transformation into a Lizardman. Rather than a faint tracing of scales beneath his skin, Jim was now completely scaled anywhere the bone protruded: Forehead, brow, cheekbones, jaw, collarbone, elbows, knuckles, everywhere. The number of grey patches surprised him, and he couldn’t feel a difference between skin and scale except with his fingertips. They should itch, he thought, but they don’t. Weird. Facial hair had always bothered him for that exact reason, but now he had a distinguished grey shadow that he quite liked.
Less noticeable, and something that endeared Jim to the changes even more, was how different his body looked. His muscles and posture had improved remarkably. An emaciated ruin of a human no longer stared back at him from the water. Instead, a striking mirror-image of his father, but scaled, stood proud in the torchlight. Just as when he’d noticed his eyes upon first entering the game, the similarities between Jim and his long-departed father warmed him greatly and he felt tears weigh heavily upon him. He smiled, genuinely, and brushed the memories away. He had work to do.
Rather than returning to the camp to cook or find some animals to skin, Jim scouted the riverbank for something he knew he would find. A little over a kilometre downstream, by his estimation, Jim found a completely flat, completely solid square of land that lined up exactly flush with a deep section of the river. Jim thought that the area had likely been a small shipyard for the river ferries that must have serviced the old city… or perhaps a sawmill had been built here, just as Jim planned to do now.
Satisfied that he had found the proper location, Jim used his new Town Planning talent to designate the area as the construction site for the town’s sawmill. He hadn’t yet consulted with Andrew, but he doubted his fellow councillor would object to Jim’s planned use of the recovered sawmill blade. After he had finalised the decision, Jim brought up the construction interface for the sawmill. The list of resources required was massive, and while he could not fill much of the building’s demand, there was one he could do something about.
The quality of the material used in construction will affect the productivity and durability of the completed structure.
Build Points: 0/1500
Jim found the work physically tiring, but just as when he spent an entire night digging graves, he found that he could push through the exhaustion without suffering any real negative consequences. By sunrise, he had gathered a full half of the stone required and laid them into place. The build points did not increase by his effort, however, and it seemed that the stones would have to be cut correctly to make headway there. Jim hauled rocks worn smooth and flat by the river’s current up to the building site. He spent hours gathering a large pile of stone, using the monotonous labour to distract him from his worries as well as increase his strength to be on-par with his constitution and dexterity. The construction guide directed for the stone be hewn and distributed in a 20 by 30 grid as the floor of the sawmill. Jim lacked the tools to hew the stone, but he placed what he did gather into the grid, hoping that it would mean that better-equipped townsfolk would be able to complete the work quicker.
Langdon and the rest of the militia came to find Jim sometime after breakfast. Andrew and Anne followed behind Jim’s men and women. Andrew was amazed by Jim’s overnight progress and tacitly approved of his building initiative. Anne seemed outraged.
“Would it have been too much to ask,” Anne began, “to be consulted before you began significant projects, Councillor James?” Jim did not want to antagonise the older woman, so simply apologised.
“Well, it’s too late to change things now. I suppose we must make a sawmill our next priority.” Andrew adopted a placating tone, but, in an uncharacteristic gesture, winked at Jim.
“I suppose we must.” Anne filled her final word with venom and then left. Perhaps she thought she would earn points for being difficult; Jim couldn’t think of any other reason to look such an obvious gift-horse in the mouth.
“You’ve gathered a lot of material in one day, Jim. I’m very pleased to see my choice in a fellow councillor was well founded. We desperately need a source of timber to build houses for the refugees, and this mill is vital. Would you, perhaps, consider keeping your militia in town today, and help us gather the resources? I will pull every available labourer from the entire camp and work through the night if it means we can have this operational by tomorrow.”
Zone Quest Received: WarpTen
Councillor Andrew wants a sawmill built and he wants it done yesterday.
Gather materials for the sawmill’s construction and bring them to the construction site to the northwest of the village hall.
Reward: 1000 experience points; 500 reputation with Andrew’s Refugee Camp; Unlock ‘Building’ Personal Talent specialisation.
Failure: The quest will fail if not completed within 24 hours. No penalty for failure.
“I will gladly try, Andrew, but I don’t think my militia of seventeen men and women will be enough. I also don’t know where I’d begin crafting a waterwheel or its mechanism.”
“I have solutions to both of your problems. I have made the quest available to everyone within the refugee camp. I suspect you will find many idle hands to make short work of the resource gathering. In regard to the Waterwheel, I will arrange some of the townspeople to construct it out of disassembled wagon timbers. For the Waterwheel Mechanism, however, you will need to seek out a smith in the camp. Hopefully, he will have enough tools and rivets to convert wagon axles into what we need.”
“Well. I suppose I’d better get to work gathering the materials and finding this smith.”
“Indeed. I will organise the builders and the labourers.”
Andrew departed, and it wasn’t long until a swarm of people converged on the building site. Many of the computer-generated townspeople brought stones and timbers from the nearby areas. Jim also saw, for the first time, other players. Five players, grouped using the Guilds skill that Jim had passed over in favour of Leadership, had begun harvesting and weaving river rushes into thatch. He almost went over to introduce himself but reflected upon his earlier thoughts. He didn’t think regular young adults playing the game for fun would be able to empathise with an old, digital man’s plights. Jim shook his head and assigned jobs to the militia. He variously set the strongest militia to gather rocks and fell trees, while he tasked the more agile among them, mostly the hunters, to weave thatch. Jim himself head into the camp to find a smith.
Jim had expected to have to talk to every townsperson he came across and engage on an elaborate fetch quest. Instead, immediately upon approaching the centre of camp, Jim’s ears were assaulted with the relentless pounding of metal upon metal. A young man hammered upon the various pieces of scrap metal that Jim had brought to the town the previous day.
|Smith, level 3 Lizardman blacksmith apprentice.
Blacksmith Smith was a very young Lizardman and looked 16 at the most. Jim approached the boy and, before he could speak, was hammered with word after rapid word.
“Hi there, Councillor James! I’m Smith. Councillor Andrew told me you’d stop by. I’ve already started on the mechanism. I just need to turn some of this scrap into metal plates and strip down a wagon’s axle and join them with rivets and…” Smith’s speech rambled through the process of creating a waterwheel mechanism. Jim tried to follow, but the boy’s quick speaking soon lost him in the details.
“When do you think it will be ready?” Jim asked when Smith first paused for breath.
“Oh, tonight. Sure. No problem. I’m sure I’ll have it down before sunrise and…” Jim had to wait a significant time before the chatty youth stopped.
“I will see you tonight, then.” Jim turned away from the boy’s enthusiastic farewell and returned to the construction site.
Jim and the militia spent the entirety of the day labouring alongside players and townsfolk alike. Jim exchanged simple greetings with the players who spoke to him, but none wanted to join the old man’s group. That suited Jim fine and he focussed on foraging for resources. Jim was especially careful to be out gathering material when Smith stopped by to drop off the Waterwheel Mechanism.
By nightfall, they had gathered all the required materials aside from the thatching for the Sawmill’s roof. Construction was still able to begin, however, and the overtired townspeople built through the night. Jim and several other players who opted not to log out to sleep spent the night weaving the remaining thatch and, by morning, the sawmill was complete.
Construction complete: Sawmill
The sawmill is complete and can now be used to process logs into Boards and Planks. Logs can be converted into Boards and Planks at a rate of 1:12 and 1:6 respectively.
Due to the Enchanted Sawmill Blade used in construction, this sawmill produces Boards and Planks 20% faster.
The Sawmill can be upgraded into a Lumberyard.
Quest complete: WarpTen
The sawmill is complete, and Andrew’s Refugee Camp will be able to quickly process timber Logs into the more efficient timber Planks.
Reward: 1000 experience points (2292/2500); 500 reputation with Andrew’s Refugee Camp (500/2500 honoured).
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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 :).