A hint of nervousness stung Jim’s skin. His neck prickled, and his palms sweated. He looked over the militia that he controlled, noting the small gestures among the men and women that indicated he wasn’t alone in his feelings.
The militia formed up in full strength in front of him, waiting for the arrival of Nate’s raid party. Including himself, his forces numbered 48. Jim personally took charge of the group of five earth mages, whose powerful magic would allow them to heal injured fighters and build on-the-fly defences. Those defences would be manned primarily by Langdon’s heavily armoured group of seventeen Hoplites who now wielded the Ancient Bloodlines weaponry and armour that Smith created. Gathered up in a large group, these soldiers, all burly men, looked like they’d stepped out of Age of Empires. They also looked the least nervous on the surface, though their body language and the way they hid behind their shields showed Jim that they weren’t completely immune to the situation.
The less combat-oriented squads of the militia were Vanessa’s hunters and Burke’s peasant forces. Vanessa’s 9 hunters and huntresses moved like a living shadow across the town square. The entire group was now clothed in the dark, earthy colours of the mud-brown river beast hide. Their new equipment combined with their magical camouflage talent made them difficult to distinguish from even the ordered stone-paved ground. Comparatively, Burke’s forces of fourteen expressionless recruitment-hall-generated peasants stuck out like a sore thumb. While the wore the same kit as the Hoplites, minus the shield, they stood robotically still. In the churning mass of nervous men and women that they might as well have talented in whatever the opposite of camouflage was called.
Other players gave the gathered militia a wide berth, and Jim overheard their remarks.
“Man, look at that… wait? Are they all NPCs?”
“Yeah. That’s Jim’s group. He’s the one in the orange dress.”
“Damn, that’s cool. Look how geared his guys are.”
“Hell yeah. I’m amazed he’s only level 6. I bet levelling as leadership sucks ass.”
Jim shuffled his feet and looked away from the two, too-loud players. His guys and girls were geared, but would they be geared enough?
He reviewed the two quests that he’d been planning for these last few days; the quests that so much of Jim’s future rested on.
Quest Progress: The Lost People.
You have saved 45% of the refugees.
Rewards: 20000 experience points; Refugees will join your town and will unlock new options for your town.
Quest Progress: Mage Guild.
Samouel has revealed that a number of basic magic spellbooks exist in the world. Collect all of the volumes in the set and deliver them to Samouel.
Rewards: 3000 experience points; Samouel will help construct a mage guild in Andrew’s Refugee Camp.
Although Jim hadn’t thought it through at first, The Lost People represented the culmination of whatever story the game had given him to start the game. If Platinum Online were like other games, the last, large quest would have the greatest rewards. His and Margaret’s futures relied on it having great rewards. If that failed, Jim knew at least one incredibly valuable set of items would come from the second quest.
Jim assumed that the slavers that held the last of the refugees likewise held the tomes required to finish the mage guild quest. If Jim could acquire all of the tomes, he’d be able to at the very least exchange access to them for enough money to keep himself going for another month.
And, with any luck, I’ll also be able to earn the trust of a few people that aren’t imprisoned in this game.
Shortly after, Nate arrived in the town square. Nineteen of his guild members followed him, the lowest of whom were level 4. Every single guild member wore shimmering ghost-steel armour, even the lightly armed mages. Nate stood at the front of what Jim assumed must have been the guild’s elite. The five players, four men, and one woman, wore the Panoply armour and Hoplon shield that Smith had pioneered. In their hands, they carried long, curved swords. Nate held his aloft in a friendly wave, and Jim inspected the weapon.
Ghost Steel Khopesh
“Hey, Jim,” Nate greeted. “Your militia is impressive.”
“I think yours might have me beat. Where’d you get the swords?”
“What? You…” He laughed. “Just before we were about to leave, Smith rushed them out to us and told me that I owed you. I thought you’d asked him.”
Jim opened his hands and shrugged.
“Well, he softened me up. Before we get this thing started, I thought it’d be a good idea to work out the split of the rewards. I was going to offer you 60 – 40 yesterday when you asked, but since you’ve got about 50 people and I’ve got 20, I thought 70 – 30 might be a bit fairer.”
“70 sounds good to me.”
“What? The 70’s mine.” Nate overacted the joke a little. He gave Jim a few seconds to react but, when he didn’t, Nate held out his hand. “30 is good with me.” Jim shook Nate’s hand and they finalised the deal.
“Alright. We’re all dressed up and ready to go. What’s the quest?” Nate asked.
“Here.” Jim opened up his quest log and shared The Lost People with Nate, who shared it with his group.
Nate let out a quick whistle. “11k experience. Not bad for a day’s work. I already guessed this wouldn’t be a walk in the park, but to offer this much EXP this quest is going to be hard.”
“It’s worth 20k. I guess you must get less because I’m about half-way through?”
“20 thous… Alright. Any idea what we’re up against?”
Jim recounted his experience with the slavers so far. Nate looked at ease when Jim recounted how easily he’d been able to ambush the small group at the Haunted Iron Mine dungeon. However, when Jim went further back and told Nate about Boros the Red, as well as his suspicion that the main slave camp would likely be occupied by five similar, level 10 elite mages, Nate’s face fell.
“Well, that explains why you wanted help. How do you want to handle it? Night ambush like you did at the mines?” Nate squinted one eye and gestured with one arm as if throwing out a suggestion.
“Yeah, I doubt it will be that easy though.”
“Yeah, nah. No chance. We also have no idea how they’re positioned. We’ll have to work it out when we get there, but a night attack is still probably our best shot. How do you want to handle the prisoners?”
“Well, last time we just had to free them and cart them out.”
“You make it sound so easy. Kill the guards, load them up, wheel them off.”
“Again, I doubt it will be and, again, we’ll have to wait and see.”
“Well, let’s prepare for what we can. How many sets of wheels will we need for 110 people? Ten? Fifteen? There’s going to be loot to carry back as well. Probably crafting material. Call it twenty wagons.”
Jim nodded and agreed.
“Alright. Cool. Do you have twenty wagons and is there a road we can follow?”
“No wagons... and I don’t know about the road, but I think I’ve got ideas for both. We can probably borrow the wagons from the town easily enough, I’ll just have to check with one of the others. As for the road, I doubt the slavers carry everything in and out by hand. There’s going to be a track at least, if not a full-on dirt road.”
“Alright. Cool. You go get the wagons and we’ll be off in ten.”
Jim walked quickly into the nearby town hall to find one of the other councillors. He checked their studies in the first rooms of the hall but found none of them. A helpful young woman spotted Jim peeking into Andrew’s door.
“Councillor James? Are you looking for Councillor Andrew?”
Jim didn’t quite connect himself with the title of Councillor, but he responded affirmatively anyway.
“He’s in the back room with the Councillors Anne and Samouel.”
Jim followed the woman’s instructions and headed to the back of the town hall. He passed through the middle room that was busy with older men and women that Jim didn’t recognise. He slowed for a moment and looked around. Jim knew at least of the faces of almost all of the refugees that he’d come to Jamestown with or that he’d saved. He didn’t know anyone here. Where did… Jim stopped briefly but cursed himself. “Damn it, there’s no time.”
Jim hurried the rest of the distance to the back room and walked into the tail end of a discussion.
“So, we’re finally agreed, then? The next priority is additional housing for the migrants?” Andrew said.
“Aye,” the others replied.
“Sorry to interrupt,” Jim said.
“Jim! You’re late,” Anne said. “If you’d come twenty minutes earlier we could’ve had this whole thing sorted already.”
“I’m sorry, I was just—” Jim started.
“Instead, I’ve had to argue with these blockheads about…” Anne ranted briefly about the borough’s construction priorities and Jim, Samouel and Andrew listened politely until she ran out of breath, then Andrew interrupted.
“I’m sure our militia commander has been very busy, Anne. Isn’t that right, James?” He held his hand out in front of Anne, giving Jim a moment to speak.
“I’ve just been organising with some of the pl–… people… to rescue the last of the refugees.”
“That’s wonderful!” Samouel blurted. Andrew looked over at Samouel, smiled, and nodded.
“That is wonderful news, Jim. What can we do to help?”
“I’ve been speaking with a local guild leader, and he believes that we’ll need about 20 wagons to get everything and everyone out once we were done. I just wanted to get your approval before I ran off with just about every horse and wagon the town’s got.” Jim smiled, hopefully persuasively, at Andrew.
“That’s fine, Jim,” Andrew said. “We will make do for a day or two.”
“Good luck, Mr. Jim. May you tread on fortuitous ground.” Samouel spoke with a slow and reverent tone and Jim felt something stir in the air.
“Oh, posh, Samouel. He doesn’t need your pagan blessings. He’ll…” Anne started to scold Samouel, but Andrew interrupted.
“Anne and I wish you luck as well, James,” Andrew said.
“Yes… good luck, Jim,” Anne said. She glared daggers at Samouel when she spoke, but her face softened when she looked at Jim.
Jim thanked them and left to make the final preparations before setting out.
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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 :).