Jim returned to Platinum Online through the portcullis. The chains supporting the drawbridge and grating rattled and clanked and Jim’s skin crawled as he returned to the world that Platinum Interactive owned.
He stepped out from the ether and into the dusky orange sunlight. His militia forces readied themselves and the earliest risers had prepared a morning meal of more coarse bread and more tasteless stew. Jim joined a grumpy mob of spearmen in the food line. He hunched beside them and ate mechanically.
The desire to hire a cook forced itself into Jim’s brain in the same way that he forced the food down his throat. Once he’d completed the upcoming quest, he’d ask around town for someone that could prepare game meat in more ways than boiled in water or burned over the fire. He wished he could make it a priority, but the prospective loot haul that a quest for rescuing over a hundred people and his dire need for cash subsumed any minor conveniences. He didn’t know, for certain, though, just how long his forces could continue to be inconvenienced without circumstances changing.
The quiet demeanour of the men and women around Jim reinforced the idea in his mind. Now that the group had gotten larger, the easy camaraderie had faded. Troops separated themselves between different logs and ate with the same people for every meal; Jim would have drawn a parallel between a high-school except everyone was just so morose. Jim started to speak to the men beside him and an idea sparked in his head
“You know,” Jim started by activating his Conversation skill; he’d started to realise that he’d underrated the basic skill that came with even a minimal level of Charisma. The spearman looked at Jim to listen courteously. Jim usually spoke to the group during a mealtime out of social pressure and the man’s eyes glazed over slightly. He prepared to have another generic meal-time conversation with the militia leader.
“I think we need to get a real cook.”
The man’s eyes widened slightly, and he immediately replied. “Yes, sir. I think that’s a good idea.”
“A cook?” the scarred woman at the end of the log asked. “Did I hear that right?”
Dozens of metres across the camp, a huntress with particularly sharp hearing yelled out, “Are we getting a cook?”
“My sister’s not a bad cook.”
“Your sister’s eleven!”
The idea spread through the militia much more rapidly than Jim had anticipated, but even the thought of a good meal livened things up, and smiles transformed the faces of all the militia in sight. The rewarded quest discovery made Jim crack a smile of his own.
Quest discovered: Morale.
As Jim had suspected, the game adapted to Jim’s situation. He didn’t know if this were Margaret interfering on his behalf, or if the game had always been this generous when he’d tried to eke out a quest from a situation. The more he thought, the more he seemed to think that his reserved way of playing had slowed his development. He stood up on the log to find Langdon and waved him over.
Langdon saw Jim and walked over.
“Morning Jim,” he said.
“I’ve gone and done it now, haven’t I?”
“Oh, it’ll be fine. Someone will have an aunt or a cousin or something. In Jonathon’s group we had this skinny fella that ran away from the press gangs. We’ll have two or three waiting when we get back from dealing with the last of the slavers. Might even be a cook there that we can, ah, liberate.”
Jim exhaled a chuckle. “Alright, if you’re not worried, neither am I. Come on, let’s go meet the rest of the expeditionary force.”
“Let me get Burke and Martin sorted.” Langdon turned and walked back to his log, where he fetched his brother. Before Langdon could get to Burke, the older man realised that they’d started the day’s plans and walked over pre-emptively. Vanessa likewise saw Martin move and came over herself. After a quick greeting with each-other, the militia sub-leaders followed Jim to the town’s square on the south side of the town hall.
Nate stood in the shade of the townhall and directed a small army of guildmembers. A pile of weapons and armour emerged from the blacksmith. Two glistening spears, identical to the dory Langdon had left with the other militia, crowned the weapons pile, and both Burke and Martin whispered to each other excitedly. Jim noticed, though, that the entire pile of weapons consisted not just of a few dories, but every one of the darker metal spears was also made from the unique, ancient design. There were far more than the twenty-odd he’d need to equip the regular militia; far more than Smith could have made on his own. He supposed that he couldn’t begrudge Nate for snaking his armourer’s epic talent in exchange for the amount of help Jim planned to extract from the guild leader but making unique rare weapons could have helped solve his money issue.
The disruption caused by the five of them walking in the opposite direction to the train of tired craftsmen while staring off to the side, rather than not crashing into people, caught Nate’s attention. Once Jim cleared the column of labourers, Nate waited with his hands outstretched.
“Morning, Jim! Are these your elites?” Nate gestured at Langdon and the others, referring to them as the game term for stronger-than-usual characters. He surprised Jim, by holding out his hand to shake their hands, too.
“Good morning. Yes. This is Langdon,” Jim introduced his friends as Nate shook their hands, “Martin, Vanessa, and Burke.”
“Morning mate, it’s nice to meet ya,” Martin said. Vanessa smiled, and Burke crushed Nate’s hand between his fingers.”
Still staring Burke in the eye and continuing the shake in a few seconds of competitive machismo, Nate spoke to Jim again. “I’ve gotta say, your armourer is amazing. Every crafter in the guild blew off work to stay logged on and copy him. We depleted our stocks of everything and have so much stuff it won’t even fit in the marketplace. We had to ask Andrew to set up stalls in the square while we work on the upgrade for it.”
“You’d better not be thinking about taking Smith off me. The plans for the weapons are one thing, but…” Jim half-joked.
Nate laughed. “Some of the guild tried, but that kid’s your biggest fan, and don’t worry about the plans. We won’t rip you off too badly. We set aside a few extra sets of gear.”
Jim nodded, then smiled at Nate. “Actually, would you be able to sell them for me? For credits?”
Nate frowned briefly in confusion but then said, “Of course, Jim, I’ll just cut you in on the sales if that’s the case. But… won’t you need them when you get to level 4 leadership?”
“Need the cash, unfortunately.” Jim looked aside.
“Yeah, a lot of the guild want the same for their cut. A few have even quit their job to work the game full-time instead. I guess you’ve done the same and that’s why you want our help with this big quest?” Nate nodded with his head and led the group towards the equipment piles.
“Something like that,” Jim replied
“I just can’t believe how much money and time some people are willing to spend on a game. A couple of guildies with families have been talking about building houses and using the game space as an extra room slash backyard. My mum even asked me to make her one! PTI is going to make a killing off this game.”
Jim didn’t know what to say to Nate. He seemed so enthusiastic and positive about the game and Jim wanted to reveal the massive conspiracy that belied what Nate thought. All Jim could come up with in reply was: “Yeah, crazy.”
“Anyway,” Nate said, “I’ve gotta get this sorted, then I’ll bring the raid party over in, like, twenty minutes. Meet here?” Nate had brought them to the pile he’d set aside for the militia’s gear. Dozens of sets of leather armour, heavy armour, spears, and shields had been laid on the stone of the town square. Most notably, the chain mail armour Jim had requested had been replaced by thin-plated heavy armour.
Jim’s group bent to pick up individual pieces of equipment and marvel at them. Vanessa wasted no time and took the set of rare-quality leather armour that Smith had made for her. The dark-scaled riverbeast leather had been fashioned into a lightweight chestpiece of hardened leather sections that had been riveted together. The ensemble left her arms bare and free to move and the rest of the set had more in common with leather clothing than armour for the same reason. Only the sections that covered Vanessa’s wrists and shins were hardened. The young woman looked imposing.
Riverbeast Leather Armour
“Wow, ‘Nes, you look great,” Martin said, holding onto her leather armour at the hips. She leaned in, gave him a kiss and whispered something into his ear.
Vanessa then stepped out of Martin’s embrace and came over to Jim, holding a small pile of leather. “Jim, there was some here for you, too.” She handed the pile to Jim as he turned around, holding ghost iron wristguards in each hand. She pushed the leather clothes into his hands. “I’m going to get the rest of the militia to come and collect their gear. Back shortly.”
Jim bent awkwardly to toss the wristguards back into the pile and inspected the gear set aside for him. Smith had crafted an extra set of leather armour, but rather than the hardened chestpiece, Jim’s chest armour was a simple tunic that would fit under his gaudy orange Flamecaster’s Robes.
Riverbeast Leather Clothes
Five minutes ago, Jim would have thought that a sixfold increase in his armour value was amazing. Compared to the heavy armour Smith had made, though, the leather armour seemed like almost an afterthought.
The shields were a novelty for Burke and the others who, even though they were now technically Hoplites, had never actually used a shield before. The rare shields that the officers in Jim’s militia would use stood out dramatically from the common quality shields in the adjacent pile. Smith had shaped and carved the shields from the dark seasoned hardwood in a deep, round dish, a metre diameter. The thin, outer ten centimetres of the shield had been sheathed and sharpened in gleaming lightweight ghost steel. The common quality shields had the opposite colour scheme, being made from lighter timber, but darker iron.
Since all three men wanted to put their armour on right now, Jim was the only person with free hands to help. The panoply armour looked like the stereotypical ancient Greek armour set that Platinum Online had partially based Lizardman culture on, with a few modern adjustments. The key piece was, of course, the thin plate cuirass that Jim had to tie under everyone’s arms and waist. Jim realised he’d made a mistake when he helped the others put the chest armour on first. None of them could completely bend at the waist, so he also had to help each man equip their armoured skirts and tie their shin guards over their armoured leather boots. Fortunately, they could still tie their own wristguards and don their own helmets. He’d managed to suit up Burke, who’d complained the loudest, and Langdon, who’d asked the nicest, when Vanessa and the rest of the militia arrived to complete the gearing-up process.
Support "The Forgotten Man -- Platinum Online"
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 :).