Pharmen isn't the most glamorous place; it's only on the map at all because it's a common waypoint for pilgrimages to the Wood Palace. If not for that, it would be just another backwater farming village, albeit a very successful one, rather than a small tourist town surrounded by well-tended farmland.
A young lady of about 15 makes her way into town, looking around at the area. The girl has a graceful manner, but an unusual appearance; her hair is a light seagreen color, and her eyes are a striking clear blue.
Many villagers go about their business sparing no more than a stare or a double-take, though two or three seem afraid of her and at least one little boy seems awed.
The girl self-consciously pulls a traveling cloak closer about her form as she starts attracting stares, though she leaves the hood down.
A man dancing outside of an inn blinks at the girl, but then clears his throat. "Er, welcome, welcome to Pharmen, traveller. Do you need a room for the night?"
An open-air market is visible farther down the street.
Adria nods slightly. "I will, later. For the moment, I have more need of supplies and information."
Innkeeper: What sort of information do you need? The market's over there, of course.
Adria: Any information on the temple is probably of some use, though I already have some of that. As for the rest... I'm not sure where to begin, yet.
Adria: Perhaps when I return, I will know better what to ask...
Innkeeper: Ah! Well, the --
Innkeeper stops short at the rest of what Adria says, raising an eyebrow.
Adria seems to give off a vague sense of sadness in her speech, even though emotion is not readily visible from her.
Innkeeper then shrugs. "Well, the Wood Palace is to the north. The Wood Altar is an actual living plant! Don't go poking around it without the permission of Most Holy Humility, though -- look, don't touch."
Innkeeper: And most people don't get to see her. Some say it's because few people are worthy, but I just think she's a very busy lady.
Adria nods. "I have come in large part to speak to Most Holy Humility, so I hope it will be possible."
Innkeeper: Quite a garden she keeps, though... oh, really? Well, there are always prayers and offerings. Just don't try to give her anything dead -- she doesn't like that.
Innkeeper: One of the tourists thought she'd like a flower bouquet and didn't wake up for a week!
Innkeeper shakes his head.
Adria nods. "That seems understandable."
Innkeeper: You really ought to spend some time looking at those gardens, though. Really spectacular stuff!
Adria: I'm sure it is. Please excuse me, though. I'll return later.
Innkeeper: Oh, and don't mind the cat, it's supposed to be there. A little girl offered her a kitten that nobody else wanted a few years ago.
Innkeeper: See you later! And enjoy yourself already!
Adria: ...Indeed? That was kind.
Adria: ...enjoy myself? Yes, I suppose.
Adria glances around at some of the townspeople who are still staring.
Adria: Strangely, I feel more at ease here than I did before...
Adria starts walking toward the market.
Most of the ones who stared have wandered off only to be replaced by about half as many others.
Adria: Perhaps it is only because I know I won't be here long...
"Fresh cut bacon!" "Baskets! Small ones only 2 apiece!" "A sweater, ma'am? It'll be fall soon."
Adria approaches one of the food vendors with more varied cuisine.
Vendor: Hm, aren't you an interesting one. Are you interested in some dried fruits? I have apples here, strawberries, raisins of course...
Adria frowns. "Dried? No, thank you."
Vendor frowns. "Are you sure? It's good for long trips! Helps fill you up on your way back home..."
Another vendor across the way calls, "No, no, try some of my crackers! I even make filled ones! Or gingersnaps for dessert!"
Adria shakes her head. "I've tried it before, but I didn't like the way it made me feel..."
Yet another calls, "Bah, you call that food? For a trip nothing beats jerky!"
Vendor: Hm, well, if you say so, but be sure to remember me if you change your mind.
Adria shakes her head again, and moves on.
Further in, Adria finds stands with fresh fruits, vegetables, ingredients, and fresh-cut meat. The locals look mildly surprised that a tourist is taking interest in these stalls.
Saleswoman: Would you like an orange, ma'am? Only ones you'll find this far from the tropics!
Saleswoman: I know what you mean about drying, you lose way too much character...
Saleswoman eyes the other vendor playfully.
Adria nods. "I'll take half a dozen."
Saleswoman looks very surprised, but does open her purse. "One apiece, please."
Adria takes out some coins from an inner cloak pocket.
Saleswoman accepts them gladly. "Take the six you like, and please come again!"
Adria nods slightly, and doesn't even have to more than glance to select the best available.
Saleswoman looks impressed.
Saleswoman murmurs something about a quarter of her stock, stunned.
Adria: ...I don't suppose you'd know anywhere I could find some soup?
Saleswoman: Hm? Well, you'd have to go to one of the taverns or the inn for that.
Adria nods. "Makes sense."
Saleswoman: You saw the inn on your way in, one of the taverns is just past the market, and the other is at the far end of town.
Adria nods again. "Thank you."
Saleswoman: Oh, you're very welcome!
Adria continues through the market.
Adria purchases a waterskin, and heads past the market, looking for the mentioned tavern.
The tavern isn't hard to find, as people trickle in and out of it at a reasonable rate and there's an actual glass mug hanging by its handle from a post over the door.
The tavern is active, but not especially so, as it is still the middle of the working day. Mostly people taking quick breathers from their work are stopping by here to have one drink before going back to their jobs.
Serle enters, looking uncertain. He's young, barely a teenager, in simple earth tone clothes with a simple wooden sword strapped to his hip. The sword itself bears some markings on it, crudely carved by hand. He has dark blonde/brown hair and dark eyes.
Adria walks up to the counter.
Serle walks up to the bar uncertain.
Barkeep: Well, hello! I'd ask if you two were together but you don't look it...
Barkeep seems to be holding back a comment about Adria's appearance.
Serle blinks, looks at Adria, and shakes his head. His bangs fall over his eyes, making it hard to see his face. Especially as he's looking down. "N...no. J...just came in to g...get some w..w..water, please."
Serle has a small pouch on his hip that jingles softly, and a backpack with the top hanging slightly open, as if to ensure air got in.
Barkeep nods, noting Serle's apparent shyness, then gets some clear-looking water from a pitcher.
Adria glances at the boy next to her for a moment, then back to the bartender. "What do you have as far as soup?"
Serle: H...how much, ma'am?
Barkeep gives the mug to Serle, then looks to Adria. "There's beef soup on the menu today, if you want some of that."
Barkeep: Heh, for water? Only one lucre for a bottomless mug.
Serle reaches into his pouch, and places two coins on the counter, without really looking up. "Thank y...you."
Adria: It'll do. I'll have some, and a glass of ale.
Barkeep: Thank you, sir! Ah, and give me just a moment, madam.
Barkeep scoops up the payment and apparent tip.
Serle: C...could you tell me where the p...palace is, p...please?"
Barkeep then heads back through a door. "Just a couple of miles north," he calls over his shoulder.
Serle: T...thank you!
Adria turns her attention back to the boy. "Have you also business with Most Holy Humility?"
Serle looks over at Adria and nods. "Y...yes'm. My villiage is very hungry and our crops are dying...I came to ask Most Holy Humility to please help us."
Adria nods slightly. "Makes my concerns seem somewhat trivial, I suppose. I'm told she does not see many people. If you bring an offering, do not bring something dead."
Serle: I have a m...mouse.
Serle holds his hands about 4 inches apart. "Little one."
Adria frowns slightly. "I'm told Most Holy Humility has a cat."
Serle: Then maybe the cat is hungry?
Adria shrugs, and pulls an orange from her bag, looking at it for a few moments.
Barkeep returns with a bowl of steaming soup and sets it before Adria. "You keep hold of that rodent, son. Don't need that loose here."
Serle: He's in a cage in my bag.
Barkeep then turns a knob on a small barrel, filling a mug with ale for Adria.
Barkeep: All right, then.
Serle: Do y'wanna see?
Adria says, "A fruit. Not alive, but not dead either. Indeed, it contains the very potential for life." She then puts it back in her bag. "I shall have to give the matter more thought."
Barkeep: No thanks.
Adria turns to the barkeep. "Thanks."
Barkeep sets the ale before Adria. "Three lucre for the soup, one for the ale, refills extra."
Barkeep: And you're both welcome, of course!
Serle looks over at Adria. "So you're going to the P...palace too?"
Adria tosses a handful of coins on the counter. "I'll be wanting about 7 refills, unless a lot more people show up."
Barkeep coughs. "Y-y-yes ma'am!"
Barkeep takes the cash quickly.
Adria nods. "I may have undertaken my journey with too little forethought. Still, it's a good place to start, I suppose."
Adria starts on her soup.
Serle: W...why are you going?
Adria: I'm hoping that Most Holy Humility may have some insight toward questions that no one has yet been able to answer for me...
Serle tilts his head, questioningly.
Barkeep seems curious as well, but keeps working on checking the stocks of various drinks.
Adria shrugs. "I suppose, to put it simply, I'm hoping she can tell me why I'm such a 'freak', as many have concisely termed it."
Serle blinks. "Y...you are?"
Adria looks over the boy again before answering. "I don't dye my hair this way, you know."
Serle nods, clearly not understanding.
Barkeep: Is that hair color common where you're from, boy?
Serle: Well...n..no, but...my village is very small...
Serle: I've n...never been outside it before.
Barkeep shrugs and returns to work.
Barkeep: You don't see it much, outside of sprites. But I'm guessing it's more than that?
Adria: I can beat anyone in this room in a drinking contest, even in consecutive contests, without getting disoriented. I can survive for days on little more than soup and yet can't even stomach travel rations. There's more, but I'd rather not get into my life story just yet.
Barkeep: Hm, you don't say...
Adria: ...I can't help feeling out of place anywhere, either, though I can't really say why...
Serle: M..maybe Most Holy Humility will be able to help you too...
Adria: Perhaps. I don't really know if knowing the answer will make a difference, but it seems worth pursuing.
Serle: M...maybe we should g...go together? if it's far, it could b..be d..dangerous.
Adria shrugs. "We've both made it this far. Still, I exhausted my supplies, I could certainly benefit from someone who has a better sense of how to plan for a journey."
Barkeep: Always good to have someone to talk to when travelling, too.
Serle: The village elders helped me.
Adria: Is it?
Barkeep seems surprised at Adria's words. "Well... it can get lonely, and talk normally keeps dangerous animals at bay. Typically they fear humans."
Barkeep chuckles. "Rumor had it that a Dryad complained last year that they know their place better than we do, but I don't buy it -- Dryads aren't that outspoken."
Serle nods at the Barkeep, confused.
Adria: Lonely? I suppose I'm accustomed to taking that for granted.
Barkeep shrugs. "If you ask me, finding a way to end that might be more important in the long run than finding your answers -- not that I don't think you should try that too..."
Serle: M...maybe I...I can help.
Adria doesn't look like she understood the Barkeep's comment.
Barkeep: It's said that the Mana Goddess created the world in such a way that interdependence was a necessity, for humans and spirits alike.
Barkeep: Whether by spiritual communion or by simple companionship, we need each other.
Serle takes his water and drinks, quiet.
Adria replies, "Makes sense." in a noncommital tone.
Adria finishes her soup.
Serle: S..so...do you want me to c...come with you?
Barkeep hrms, but doesn't press the issue. "Would you like some more, madam?"
Adria turns to Serle. "If you want to. I'll want to get an early start." To the barkeep, "Please."
Barkeep takes the bowl out back.
Adria downs a quarter of her glass.
Serle: W...when is that?
Adria: An hour before sunrise.
Adria: If you need to leave today, I suppose I can cut things short here.
Serle: I just...d...don't have anywhere to sleep.
Adria: There's an inn on the other side of the market.
Serle: I d...don't have much m...money.
Adria shrugs. "I guess just share my room, then."
Barkeep returns and sets Adria's next bowl of soup before her.
Barkeep: Here you go.
Serle: I...I can?
Adria shrugs. "I don't see why not."
Serle smiles broadly. "Thanks! B...but I don't even know your n...name."
Barkeep grins but says nothing.
Adria: It's Adria.
Adria pronounces it with a short a sound.
Serle: I'm Serle.
Serle: Nice to meet you.
Adria replies distractedly, "Is it...?" before finishing her first glass.
Serle: W...well...yeah...shouldn't it b..be?
Adria shrugs. "I don't know."
Serle: You've b..been...very nice to me, Adria...
Barkeep blinks, but again remains oddly silent.
Serle: You didn't m...make fun of me or nothin'.
Adria: ...make fun of you for what?
Adria shrugs again. "I don't suppose anything seems that weird to me. When you grow up being the weirdest thing around..."
Serle: You aren't...that weird.
Barkeep just smiles as he heads out back to do some work there.
Adria shakes her head and doesn't respond.
Serle: Should we get some rest then?
Adria: I need to ask some questions while I'm here. After that.
Adria spends the next hour or so moving around the tavern and talking with the patrons, getting her drink refilled periodically. She seems to be trying to find something out about travellers who have come through some years back, but her manner is so odd, and her questions so vague, that she doesn't really seem to get anywhere with it. Finally, she makes her way back to her original seat.
Adria downs the last of her seventh refill, and comments, pretty much to herself, "Not much good. I don't really have enough to go on yet, I suppose."
Serle: Most Holy Humility should be able to help.
Adria: Hmm. Perhaps.
Adria: Anyway, we should get going.
Serle nods quietly.
Adria rises from her seat and moves to the door with a fluid gracefulness that should not be possessed by someone who just had 8 ales.
Serle follows quietly, after setting his mug very carefully on the bar, hoisting his bag as though it were a bit heavy for his shoulder.
Adria pauses at the door, frowning.
Adria shakes her head and continues outside.
Serle follows dutifully.
Adria: Do you still need any supplies for the journey?
Serle: No...I'm packed for it. The elders didn't want me going hungry.
Innkeeper: Ah, welcome! 20 lucre a room a night, including breakfast.
Serle's eyes go wide.
Innkeeper: Why, something wrong? This doesn't come close to the price of those city inns.
Adria fishes a handful of coins from an inside cloak pocket.
Serle: I have...three.
Innkeeper counts the coins, then stows them in a small chest. "I presume you'll be sharing a room? You two behave yourselves!"
Innkeeper: Hm. I thought that might be the problem.
Innkeeper: But don't worry, she's covered it if you don't mind sharing.
Innkeeper: Be glad you didn't have to go to Wendel instead!
Innkeeper shakes his head.
Serle: W...who's that?
Innkeeper chuckles. "Not who, where. The holy city, where the greatest Mana cathedral built by ordinary men can be found."
Adria seems to miss the Innkeeper's meaning. "I'm sure we won't damage anything..." she says, sounding confused.
Serle: Yeah...we'll be good...
Innkeeper: Ah, not like that. Very well, very well... up the stairs, room two.
Adria nods and heads up the stairs.
Serle follows quietly.
Serle speaks very softly, "I won't break anything, I promise..."
Upstairs, there's a hall with three doors on the side facing away from the way out, each marked with a number. The other side of the hall has a long window up high.
Adria opens the door marked two and enters.
The room is simple, just having white walls, three plain-looking twin-size beds with faded red sheets, and a small endtable with a candle next to each.
Serle seems a bit relieved when he sees the room, letting out his breath.
Adria immediately sets down her bag in a corner, then removes her traveling cloak and sets it over top of it.
Serle looks around, and finds a corner to set his things down in, gently placing the bag and sword there.
Adria starts doing some stretches. "Carrying around heavy things like that always makes me feel like I'm going to be bent or pulled into some misshapen form..."
Serle smiles softly. "I'm used to it, there's a lot of carrying to do back home."
Adria: Perhaps I'll get used to it during my journey.
Serle nods, silent.
Adria: ...I don't suppose it'll be that easy to arrange a bath out here, but I never quite feel right without one. Oh, well. Hardships of traveling and all.
Serle nods again, obviously not really sure what to say.
Adria starts digging some lighter clothing out of her bag.
Serle finds a bed, one of the outside ones, and starts turning down the sheets.
Adria sits down on the edge of the other outside bed and removes her boots.
Serle yawns a little, and starts fussing with the pillows and such.
Adria blinks slightly and looks over toward Serle.
Serle seems to not notice, deeply focused on preparing the bed.
Adria shakes her head. "Maybe I did have a little too much."
Adria seems lost in thought for a few minutes.
Serle: Are you okay?
Adria: I'll be fine... Just get forgetful, sometimes, if I've had enough to drink.
Serle: Do you need something?
Adria: I just have a feeling I'm forgetting some sort of social propriety or something.
Adria starts changing out of her daytime clothing. "It's probably not that important."
Serle blinks, his eyes go wide, and he dives under the covers, hiding himself.
Adria pauses slightly as she starts putting her nightclothes on. "...or was it? Are you all right?"
Serle speaks through the covers, muffled. " 'mokay."
Adria starts folding and packing up her day clothes once she's dressed for bed. "...if you say so." she replies, sounding a little down.
Serle calls out through the covers. "Are you decent?"
Adria: Decent? I'm doing okay, I guess.
Adria: Oh. Yes.
Serle peeks his head out of the covers, much like a big turtle. "Oh, good."
Adria shrugs helplessly. "I'm an only child, so I actually haven't shared a room with someone before. But I'm not sure where else one would change."
Serle blinks and considers this a moment. "Well...I could wait in the hall."
Serle: Jus...not s'posed to see you without clothes on.
Adria: Hmm. I wouldn't generally go out in public in these clothes either, though, if that's the criteria...
Adria: Do you mind if I open the window? It's easier for me to sleep with the fresh air, but I understand most people are bothered by the cold, and I don't know what night's like out here.
Serle: I don't mind, the cold isn't too bad.
Adria: Oh, right...
Serle: An...well. You shouldn't be naked with people that aren't family...
Adria stands and walks out into the hall.
Adria: Let me know when you are decent, I guess.
Serle: Oh...I'm okay. I sleep in my clothes.
Adria walks back in. "I feel too uncomfortable that way, myself."
Serle: I only have the one set...haveta.
Adria shrugs. "I haven't had to worry much about finances, I suppose. At least, not yet."
Adria opens the window.
Serle: How come?
Adria: My foster father was reasonably well off, and he left me most of his possessions.
Serle: He doesn't need them anymore?
Adria glances at Serle, then out the window. "Indeed not."
Serle: That was nice of him.
Adria: I do wish he'd left me more information about my parents, though...
Serle: What kind?
Adria shrugs. "I don't know. Just... something to give me a sense of... well, maybe some idea why I am like I am, in the situation I'm in... I'm not really sure..."
Serle: Maybe Most Holy Humility will help.
Adria: Perhaps. Maybe I'm just expecting too much, though.
Serle: Why do you say that?
Serle: Most Holy Humility is very powerful...
Adria: Just seems like I don't really know what I'm looking for.
Serle: You wanna know about your parents. Seems simple ta me.
Adria: Not really sure what I want to know about them, or why it matters. I suppose I really want to know about myself, but what if there isn't anything to know but what I already do?
Adria turns away from the window, and lays down on top of her bed. "It's getting late."
Serle: Yeah. Should prolly rest. Most Holy Humility will be there in the morning.
The night passes quietly...
Adria wakes quietly, sensing a change in the air, and lights a candle on the bedside table.
Adria looks over to the other occupied bed.
Serle is still sound asleep, not snoring, but sleeping quietly.
Adria changes into fresh clothing and packs away her previous garments before attempting to wake Serle.
Adria gently shakes Serle.
Serle comes awake with a start, eyes bolt open, sitting upright. "Wha?"
Adria: It's morning.
Serle looks outside the window, rubbing sleep from his eyes. "Are you sure?"
Adria shakes her head. "I don't understand how people can just sleep through the best part of the morning."
Adria: I'm going to be heading out in the next fifteen minutes or so. Up to you if you're coming or not.
Serle: Okay. Let me get my things.
Adria sighs slightly. "Definitely had too much last night," she comments, and fishes an orange out of her bag. "I feel like I could drink a small lake."
Serle fishes around in his bag, and takes out a small waterskin. Maybe a pint or two. "Catch?"
Adria holds out a hand.
Serle walks over and hands it to her. "Drink up, I have plenty."
Adria seems a little confused, but thanks him. She then proceeds to drink the whole thing. "I need to make sure I find some fresh water to replenish my own supplies today..."
Serle: The Elders said it would be a 3 day journey, and packed 5 days of water.
Serle: Just in case.
Adria: I didn't think to bring containers large enough for that, I'm afraid.
Adria hands the waterskin back.
Serle: I have lots of little ones.
Adria nods. "Anyway, that's another weird thing about me. Most people get hangovers the next morning. I just get very thirsty."
Adria starts on the orange.
Serle: I've never had beer, I don't know.
Adria shrugs. "It's safer than water in some places. I can usually tell if water's tainted, at least."
Serle: That's helpful. Mom thinks that maybe our well is bad and that's why the crops don't work.
Adria: Have people gotten sick from drinking the well water?
Serle: No...just sick from not having anything to eat.
Adria finishes the orange. "Sorry, can I impose on your water supply again?"
Serle roots around, and pulls out another one, tossing it behind his back. He realizes as soon as he does, whirling. "Oops..."
Adria reaches out and catches it deftly.
Adria: For what?
Serle: Didn't warn you I was tossing it.
Adria shrugs. "It might be a problem when I'm drunk, but usually I'll notice things like that. Don't worry about it."
Adria quickly empties this waterskin as well and hands it back.
Adria: Anyway, if you're ready...
Serle buckles his sword on, slings his backpack, and nods resolutely.
Adria pulls on her cloak and picks up her pack.