The predawn air is heavy with dew, and the streets are quiet; the few people who are awake are handling domestic concerns rather than going out yet, so the departure of the two young travellers goes unseen.
Adria takes a deep breath, and hikes energetically along the path north, seeming more cheerful than Serle has yet seen her.
Serle smiles while walking behind her, obviously more at ease now that his companion is, and easily keeps up. He's in good shape, obviously a farm hand back home, and the weight of his bag never seems to bother him. Or at least, he never says anything.
The pair head north along a dirt road that gives way to a large grassy path through the woods. Before long, the sun begins to rise, making it obvious that there's a brook with a small bridge across it ahead.
Serle: We should stop and fill up. Never hurts to have more water. And it's good mousepadding.
Adria: Come to think of it, did the water in your skins come from your town well?
Serle: Well, yeah. Where else would it come from?
Adria: I figured. I can tell you it's not tainted, at any rate.
Serle: Whew. That's good.
Serle: I'd hate to get sick this close.
Adria: And this is running water, I'm pretty sure it's fine.
Serle nods, and moves over to the brook to fill up the skins.
Adria pulls out a couple skins of her own, one of which is clearly much larger than Serle's, the other only being a little bit larger.
Serle fills up several skins, all on the small side, and packs them away in his backpack.
Adria moves to the brook and starts filling her large skin as well.
Serle: How much further, do you think?
The birdsong, meanwhile, becomes more prevalent as the sunlight increases.
Adria: The tavern's proprietor said it was only a couple of miles, so it shouldn't be too much farther.
Serle: Do you want to rest a bit, or keep going?
Adria fills her smaller skin, then drinks the whole thing and fills it again. "I don't need rest yet."
Serle: Okay. We should reach it by midday.
Adria: I doubt it'll take that long.
Serle: Prolly not. Ready?
Serle: Ladies first...
Adria crosses the brook and continues north.
Serle follows her, stepping lively, the weight pulling his shoulder down a bit.
It's only another hour before the pair see a riot of colors in the distance -- a masterfully created garden surrounding an ivy-covered carved wooden temple or palace.
Serle: Wow...it's beautiful...I've never seen anything like it...
A rabite hastily bounces off into the woods as they get near.
Adria: Indeed not. I should imagine such a wonder is singular.
Serle pauses, and slings his backpack to the front, digging around inside and producing a small knife. Sharp, but obviously used for cutting rope, not flesh. He puts the backpack away and continues moving, watching the Rabite cautiously.
The rabite quickens its pace away into even denser foliage.
Serle relaxes a bit and keeps walking toward the palace, tucking the knife into his belt.
Adria: If you don't threaten or provoke it, it's unlikely to bother us.
Serle: Can't be too careful. They attacked a dog once, I heard.
Serle keeps striding toward the palace, obivously getting nervous.
Adria seems to be calm enough.
Once the pair is near the palace, it's clear that many of the plants in the garden have been damaged. Furthermore, there's a tiny form with red streaks lying near the entrance.
Serle blinks, looking a bit disturbed, and dashes toward the tiny form.
Adria hurries afterward, clearly concerned.
Serle calls out ahead of him.
It looks to be a striped light grey cat in a small pool of its own blood... made possible by a slash down its side by large claws. The wounds show a six-inch clawspan.
Adria: ...I don't think Most Holy Humility will be in the best of moods today...
Serle turns to look at Adria, his face ashen. "Do you have any weapons?"
Adria shakes her head. "I've never needed them."
A low rumbling growl can be heard inside the Wood Palace.
Serle purses his lips, and takes the wooden sword and holds it out to her.
Serle: Just...aim for the nose. If it comes near you.
Adria shakes her head. "You know how to use that. It'd just get in my way."
Serle: The knife will be more useful to me...
Adria takes the sword in her left hand. "...if you say so..."
Serle draws the knife. "Stay behind me, okay?"
Adria nods slightly.
Serle takes the knife and holds it in front of him, though he's obviously no knife fighter. He starts moving forward, cautiously, watching his surroundings, headed for the palace.
It sounds like something large just got knocked over inside.
Serle: Oh dear.
Serle dashes ahead, toward the noise.
Adria holds the sword so that its length lies against the side of her arm, and follows.
The beast within barely looks small enough to have squeezed through the arched double doors into the palace. The chanber just past it is large enough for it to maneuver, however. The creature has four beady eyes, a long, broad, flat snout, small tentacle-like "hair" on the back of its head, a large, muscular, olive-furred, quadrupedal body, and a thick serpentine tail. Its claws are large and rough as though they were carved of wood, and the right front ones have blood on them. Not far from it is a toppled statue of the Mana Goddess, one of two flanking the only other exit.
Serle watches the creature intently, grip on his knife shifting. His eyes narrow as he focuses his concentration on the beast itself. He advances toward it, slowly, determination spread on his face.
Adria's eyes widen a bit as she steps inside. "Aim for the nose, huh? I don't think I can reach that high..."
Serle: Just stay back. If it comes close enough to bite, you'll be able to reach.
Adria: I don't think it needs to bite...
The monster begins running straight at Serle as though to ram him!
Serle narrows his eyes and grabs the knife firmly, running forward and looking to thrust the knife in at the last possible second.
Serle's blow connects, causing the monster to wince and stop charging, though it counterattacks with a claw.
Serle is struck, his shirt offering no real protection against the claws. His natural instincts do keep him from being torn apart, but bloody claws gashes on his side are clearly visible. He cries out softly, in pain.
Adria starts to rush forward, then stops, remembering his instructions...
The beast backs away from Serle, turning as its goes; then lashes its tail at Adria.
Adria instinctively jumps as it approaches, doing a neat backflip and moving the sword out in front of her so that it faces the monster.
Serle: Adria! Watch out!
Serle staggers a bit, reeling from the pain, before launching himself toward the beast, trying to leap ONTO it, climbing onto the back.
The beast tries to snap at Serle with its jaws as he goes by.
Serle shifts his body to the side, tatters of cloth torn off, but at least this time, avoiding the blow. He tries to leap and clamber atop the beast, reaching for the fur to get a hold.
The beast shakes itself violently, putting everything into trying to throw its passenger off.
Adria takes a deep breath, pulls back her arm, and waits for the creature to be still for a few moments.
Serle clings desperately to the fur, knife adeptly held in his teeth so both hands can grip. Even still, his small frame is whipped about like a rag doll, and one clump of fur, clutched in his left hand, tears free, but he hangs still by one hand.
The monster growls, trying to turn its head to face Serle but failing, then trying to scratch him off like a flea.
Adria shouts, "Hey, over here!" to try to distract it for a moment.
Serle is caught by the paw and ripped free, tossed several feet, landing in a heap in a corner, dazed by the force of the blow.
The creature seems more concerned with Serle than Adria right now; it turns to where Serle landed and takes on a defensive stance.
Serle shakes his head, trying to clear his vision from the blow, obviously still dazed.
The beast charges towards Serle...
Serle manages too shake himself out of it, just in time to see the beast charging. He dives off to the side almost too late, blood pooling on the floor underneath him where he lands.
Adria quickly adjusts her aim, and tosses the sword point-first at the monster's eye.
The sword doesn't quite hit the eye, but does hit near enough to it to cause a fearful roar and make it momentarily forget about stopping itself from hitting the wall. The palace rumbles lightly at the force of the blow.
Adria rubs her shoulder a bit, wincing.
Serle rushes forward, trying to take advantage of the opening, clambering to the top of the beast, knife in his teeth.
The monster backs away from the wall, shaking its head. It doesn't seem to have noticed Serle just yet.
Serle takes the knife out of his mouth and plunges it at the beast's neck, right about where the spine might be on a regular animal.
The creature shrieks loudly in pain. Serle feels more resistance than he expected, but the wound seems to have been major despite its size regardless.
Serle holds onto the knife blade with both hands and starts twisting it as much as possible without snapping the blade...this is the only weapon he's got, can't break it now...
The monster struggles, shaking itself up and town and lashing its tail, but not very effectively.
Serle grits his teeth, head swimming from blood loss and pain, but he continues to drive the knife in, trying to sever the spine, like one might a chicken...
Adria tries to take advantage of the confusion by running over to grab the sword.
This is easily done, as the monster is rather distracted by Serle's doings.
Unfortunately, the knife doesn't seem big enough to get all the way through the monster's spine, though it seems to be having a much harder time moving and to be in a lot of pain.
Adria tosses the sword in the creature's direction, aiming for the nose this time.
Serle keeps at it, doggedly pushing and pulling, desperation beginning to show as he realizes the inadequacy of his tools.
In its worries about Serle trying to cut vital parts in two, the monster is in no shape to dodge Adria's next attack. Something snaps as the sword strikes, and its cry of pain is feeble..
Serle continues to worry at the knife, holding on tighly, blood staining his arms.
The creature suddenly rocks from side to side quickly...
Serle clings to the neck, for the moment, abandoning his work, now more concerned with hanging on.
The monster starts to roll over.
Adria: Serle! Jump!
Serle lets go and dives off, skidding face first along the floor a bit.
Serle is struck lightly by the tail as he skids away.
Adria runs over to Serle, trying to see how badly hurt he is.
Serle is a bit dazed, and still bleeding pretty well, but otherwise appears in decent shape. He'll need attention to the claw wounds soon, though.
Adria turns and puts herself between Serle and the monster, waiting for it to act.
The beast turns to face the pair, panting and gathering itself.
Serle looks up, eyes still blurry. "Adria...watch out..."
The creature lumbers up to Adria and attempts to rake her with a large, quick vertical slash of its claws.
Adria jumps and twists expertly, evading the attack, but her footing is bad as she lands and she slips, falling onto her side, some of the contents of her pack spilling out behind her.
The beast snaps at Adria with its wounded jaws next, wincing immediately afterward.
Adria tries to evade, but is grazed by the attack, and clearly frightened. She fumbles behind her for something to use as a weapon, and her hand closes around the smaller of her waterskins.
Adria quickly throws the waterskin at the monster.
Moments before it would hit the creature, the waterskin suddenly explodes, as shards of ice and jets of water force their way through its material and toward the beast.
The monster roars loudly in pain, stumbling backward in fear.
Serle stares at the occurrence, blinking, looking around for the one who accomplished the feat.
Serle tales stock of the area, and then dashes quickly to the fallen statue. "Hey, over here, you big dumb cat!"
The creature pauses and hunkers down, almost as if taking a quick nap, though the short tentacles on its head wave wildly. There's a green sparkling and the brief appearance of a sort of transparent second skin around it.
The beast then snorts, growls, and charges at Serle.
Serle waits until the last possible second, and dives out of the way, trying to get the beast to smash into the statue.
The creature tries to slice at Serle with its claws but snaps the wrist of the fallen statue of the Mana Goddess instead, causing the stone carving of a sword it was holding (and the hand holding it) to slide into the middle of the room.
Adria shakes her head and tries to stand.
Serle dashes toward the stone sword, trying to get to it before the beast can realize what's happened.
Indeed, the beast seems more worried about trying to attack Adria now, rolling sideways towards her like a deadly barrel.
Serle takes up the sword, and watches for an opening to once again, take up a position on top of the beast.
Adria seems transfixed for a moment, but as the beast gets close she manages to move quickly toward the other end of the room.
The beast rights itself, and tries to lash its tail at Serle as he starts to climb on again.
Serle jumps out of the way as best he can, landing on his feet, but a bit uncertain, wobbling some.
Adria starts circling around the monster, looking to make her way back toward where the wooden sword landed.
The monster slowly turns towards Serle, seeming both dizzy and worn down.
Serle makes a dash toward it, jumping, trying to get back onto the back of the beast, now armed with a better weapon.
The creature shakes its head, but can't seem to muster up the resistance it did earlier.
Serle gets into position as quickly as possible, and drives the sword back to where the knife dug into the beast's flesh.
The monster makes a squealing roar that trails off into a gurgle, then slumps to the ground.
Serle pants, and wobbles some, blood loss beginning to get to him. He climbs down and moves over to Adria. "Adria...are you okay?"
Adria is breathing a little heavily too, but seems in pretty good shape. "I... don't know... really..." She seems a bit shaken, and she glances back toward the remains of her waterskin.
Serle wobbles a bit more on his feet. "Wh...where's Most Holy Humility?"
The beast starts to glow brightly...
Adria turns her attention back to the monster...
Serle doesn't notice, exhaustion and blood loss clouding his vision.
A white shockwave is emitted from the beast, then the light fades to a more tolerable level... and to green. The monster's remains shrink into a hovering image of a little tree-person with a miter and scepter, looking rather like a dead woman floating on her back in the sea...
The image bursts suddenly in a dense shower of green motes.
Serle notices this much, turning, blinking repeatedly, but silent.
Adria stares. "...I think we really caught her on a bad day..." she comments quietly, almost despondently.
Serle: Is...that her?
Adria: ...I don't know. But it would seem like it...
Serle: M...most Holy Humility?
No response. The light levels are back to normal, the blood and the light collateral damage being the only trace of the battle.
Adria: ...we should bury her cat...
Serle: W...what do we do now?
Adria sighs, and sits down on the floor, pulling her knees up to her chest and folding her arms over her legs. "Don't know..."
A panicky, slightly nasally feminine voice is distantly heard from no particular direction. "Most Holy, Most Holy! The communion went crazy, what's..." Then, a gasp.
Serle turns to look for the voice, swaying unsteadily on his feet.
No immediately apparent source...
Serle continues to look around, confused.
Adria lowers her head and puts her hands to her temples.
Serle: W...who's there?
Adria: ...are you...?
Another Dryad, this one not decked out in regal fashion like the one that was briefly seen, appears before the pair.
Dryad: I-I'm sorry, but... are you... I mean, did you see... er, is this your fault?
Adria looks at the Dryad, curious at first, but then drops her head again as she speaks. "...probably so..."
Serle nods softly.
Dryad wrings her hands. "Oh no, oh no, oh no, what are we supposed to do?! I can't do anything useful without her directing us..."
Serle: I...killed her?
Adria: ...I don't know... I don't know...
Serle speaks very softly. Almost a whisper.
Dryad: Well, she just got killed apparently and there's blood on your hands but you don't seem like the kind of people who would intentionally disrupt the course of Mana so what happened?!
Serle: There...was a giant beast.
Dryad looks desperate to get some direction from anyone.
Dryad looks to Serle with anxious anticipation.
Adria: ...don't blame him... he had a good reason to come... he needs help... I should have known better...
Serle: It attacked us.
Dryad: And... I guess you fought back, maybe?
Dryad seems very uneasy making even the most obvious of conjecture.
Dryad: W-well, I guess I'm not stupid, then, but... Most Holy Humility is dead... Maybe... um...
Dryad shakes her head, the leaves that form her hair rustling.
Dryad: I-it has to be my fault... I-I knew something was wrong, but I just didn't think... I mean, it couldn't have been...
Dryad: Um, two days ago... I thought she was fine... everything seemed all right, but I don't know anything I guess...
Adria seems like she wants to say something, but she's too shaken from recent events.
Serle stays silent.
Dryad double-takes at Adria. "U-um, who are you? I dunno, you just seem... um..."
Adria: ...I don't know... I came to find out...
Adria slowly stands, and starts walking toward the exit.
Dryad: W-wait! Where are you going?!
Dryad floats after Adria rapidly.
Adria pauses. "...Most Holy Humility had a cat... we saw it as we came in... but it had been slain by the beast we found here..."
Dryad stops and gasps...
Dryad: B-but if there was a beast here that would do that... wouldn't she stop it?...
Dryad: Unless... no, no, silly of me...
Adria: ...she was inside it...
Dryad: B-but it didn't feel like she was being eaten...
Adria shakes her head.
Dryad circles. "More like... maybe, something was wrong with her... communion went all wrong suddenly... mm, n-no, no, felt it some yesterday... oh, it's my fault, it's my fault!"
Adria: ...yesterday... last evening, just before dark?
Dryad nods shakily, still sobbing.
Adria: ...I felt something, faintly... but I dismissed it because I was... er...
Dryad: Sh-she trusted m-me... had me take... take th-this duty... duty t-to be here, cl-close by... oh, this had to be why... should've been here to protect her... or do something!
Dryad: Wh-why me?! I-I'm not much! Can't have there b-been another... another Dryad who could do it better?
Serle looks down at the floor, sighing a bit, swaying on his feet.
Adria shakes her head, starting to recover a bit from her shock. "That's not going to help..."
Dryad looks up and over to Adria through her haze of self-blame.
Dryad: Wh-what is, then?... Only the Mana Goddess can ch-choose the next Most Holy Humility... and I won't know where I'm needed until then... not that I'm much help, but I try.
Dryad sighs. "Should I be tending the gardens or the nearby crops? Helping the predators find their right prey? Even journeying alongside some great hero of the Mana Tribe who's been found? I don't even know!"
Adria: ...I think we should bury the cat. I can't think straight, but I think that'd help give a sense of closure... Then we can talk about the consequences of... this.
Serle nods at Adria. "Y...yeah. It deserves that..."
Dryad: ...Well, um, yeah... teach them to cast magic with me, and stuff...
Serle: W...who is it?
Dryad: ...But yeah, I guess... I guess I can get Most Holy Humility's gardening spade and all... she says... er, she always said... doing what the humans do h-helped her see her own role.
Dryad: I-I don't know...
Dryad: There hasn't been a Mana Tribe for almost 12 centuries... but...
Dryad glances at Adria. "Y-you remind me of... well, of something, kinda, I guess."
Serle stays quiet.
Adria sighs and lowers her head. "I'd hoped Most Holy Humility could tell me about my parents, or why I am how I am, or something..."
Dryad: I... I-I think I'd like to know too. Maybe the other Most Holies will have an idea of what to do a-a-about this... this new imbalance, too...
Dryad: It's going to... to be dangerous. The animals...
Dryad trails off.
Serle: ...Is there some w...way we can help?
Dryad: ...You'd probably be more help than me...
Dryad: I'm just one spirit now. I can't do much without her help...
Adria walks over to her belongings, discarding the smashed remains of some oranges, and picking up the remains of her small waterskin.
Adria whispers, "...and what did I do to this...?"
Dryad peers over Adria's shoulder... "You don't know?... Hmm. I thought I felt a water spell, and that reeks of it... but there's no Undines around, are there?..."
Dryad seems confused.
Adria: All my life, I've been strange, a 'freak', but... I've never done something like that...
Serle stays quiet, moving slowly toward the door, staggering somewhat.
Dryad looks back to Serle. "W-wait. You shouldn't be going like that..."
Dryad floats over and draws in some energy, then shapes it into a spell cast over Serle.
Adria turns toward the Dryad, and looks pleadingly at her, but it's not clear whether she wants the incident explained, or dismissed.
Serle shivers a bit, and then nods. "T...thanks."
Dryad smiles meekly at Serle, then returns Adria's gaze with a helpless shrug. "You have a lot... a lot of Mana. And I can't find an Undine who could've shaped this spell..."
Dryad: But it was... well, I'm pretty sure it was water magic.
Adria closes her eyes for a moment, then drops the tattered skin and heads for the door.
Dryad fades out, though soon materializes outside with a hand spade that looks to be made of some sort of smoothly-polished fancy hardwood.
Adria heads to the fallen body.
Adria kneels before the body of the cat, looking over it.
Serle stands nearby, looking sad.
Dryad: Wh-where should we bury it exactly?...
Dryad looks around uncertainly.
Serle: Is there a graveyard here?
Dryad shakes her head. "No, not on palace grounds."
Adria: Somewhere near the garden where we won't be displacing anything growing.
Dryad gazes to the left for a moment.
Serle nods at Adria.
Dryad then gazes to the right.
Dryad: I... think that would be either in a path, or just outside the grounds.
Adria: Is there a particular spot it liked to rest?
Dryad: I wouldn't know best... Most Holy Humility knew it well, but not me...
Dryad: But anywhere where it could be in the sun, it liked.
Serle: Maybe...this path, then?
Dryad: ...I, uh, think it might bother somebody on this path.
Adria: I think the number of people who might be trampling the grave should be kept at a minimum. Perhaps there's an out of the way path that might be suitable?
Dryad: Hm, maybe one at the far end of the south side...
Adria carefully picks up the body of the fallen animal.
Dryad: Ohhh, I wish I could ask Most Holy Humility's permission but she's not here...
Dryad looks anxious, but leads the way anyway.
Serle follows, quiet.
Adria follows the dryad quietly, with an expression that seems unreadable and yet still conveys a sense of intense emotion.
It takes about 45 minutes for the pair to bury Most Holy Humility's cat at a T intersection in a path near the back.
Adria appears to shed a few tears during the process, even though the normal telltales of crying are notably absent. After setting up a makeshift gravemarker from a couple stones, she sits back and closes her eyes for a few moments.
Serle doesn't cry. He's deeply saddened, but he doesn't cry. He remains absolutely silent the entire time, however. His wounds slowly healing.
Adria turns to the Dryad. "We couldn't do anything for Most Holy Humility... so this will have to do as far as that goes... Honestly, I'd like to just go home and try to forget about this right now..."
Adria shakes her head. "...but that's not really an option. The consequences of what happened here are no doubt dire... it doesn't matter whose fault it is... it has to be dealt with..."
Dryad nods slowly. "Mana is out of balance now... probably the only reason no animals have attacked yet is because the power of the Wood Altar keeps them at bay."
Serle: H..how do we fix the balance?
Dryad: I... don't know if I really should be doing this... b-but Most Holy Humility said something about letting a warrior touch a sword to the altar in an emergency...
Dryad: I don't really understand the s-significance now, with her gone...
Dryad: And... well, the only idea I have after that is to try to get the help of the other Most Holy Wisdoms of Mana... or at least warn them...
Adria nods. "I think that's a good place to start."
Serle looks at Adria. "D...do you have that wooden sword?"
Adria: It's inside.
Adria: Serle, you have your own mission to worry about as well, though.
Serle: M...maybe we should do that...if we're going to travel to the other Wisdoms...
Dryad: Other mission?
Serle: M...my village...is starving...b...but without Most Holy Humility...to help us...there isn't anything we can do. M...maybe if we can help her...she'll help us.
Dryad: ...w-well... I could try to help, maybe.
Serle brightens. "Y...you could?"
Dryad: If it's a crop failure or something, I... might be able to help even with the world in this state.
Dryad: I can't be sure... but I'll try...
Serle: Please help us?
Dryad: I-I will. I feel guilty about all this, and don't know where else I'm needed...
Serle nods. "Then Adria and I can seek the other Wisdoms, and they'll be able to help us."
Adria: I think, at this point, you're most needed doing what can be done to address the imbalance, and I think that means journeying with us.
Dryad pauses, then nods to Adria. "I can even help you learn how to cast spells with me, so I'd be less of a burden..."
Adria glances toward the direction of the discarded waterskin remains. "...spells..."
Dryad: As you saw, when I cast by myself it does little, but... are you OK?
Adria: ...I've always seemed to have... some connection to water, now that I think of it... but...... to be able to do that......
Serle watches quietly.
Dryad: Well... it could help things make sense, if you learned how to cast this way...
Dryad starts back towards the door in. "Maybe we should talk on the way to the altar?"
Adria doesn't move. "...can a human do that... without a spirit's help...?"
Dryad stops and looks back to Adria.
Adria turns her head away, looking downward.
Dryad: There are ways, but they usually involve taking Mana power from another source. But that depends on knowing what you're doing in the first place...
Adria: ...but I didn't know... I didn't know anything... I only felt... felt...
Dryad tilts her head, both curious and confused.
Adria: I was afraid... I felt the danger... I needed a weapon... and I used the water itself as a weapon... there was no how... no sense of what I was doing... I just did it...
Adria turns back toward the others, then drops her head. "Am I not even human...?"
Dryad: ...I'm not even sure.
Adria sighs, and approaches the palace entrance slowly, without looking up.
Serle: Of course you are, Adria.
Adria looks up at Serle questioningly.
Dryad begins leading the way again.
Serle: You look human...sound human...
Adria: ...I live off diets that could starve a human... I turn bodies of water into deadly weapons in midair...
Adria shrugs helplessly. "It doesn't make any sense..."
Serle: The other Wisdoms will know...but we should get going. If we hurry...maybe we can stop the imbalance before it gets bad...
Dryad stops at the toppled statue, pondering it. "Oh, how do we get this out of your way?..."
Adria nods. "Yeah... it doesn't do any good to back away... if you're set out like I am, that always just leaves you cowering in a corner in the long run. Have to stand up and act."
Serle: I...I think I can move it.
Serle will try to move the statue out of the way.
It's very heavy, but Serle can budge it.
Serle will strain, and push and shove and heave until the statue moves out of the way.
It's tiring work, but Serle manages to push the broken statue slowly aside.
Serle pants when he's done. "Adria...where's that wooden sword?"
Adria hands it to Serle.
Serle turns to the Dryad. "You said I should put this on the Altar?"
Dryad: Just touch it with the sword, if I'm right...
Serle: What will happen?
Dryad: She... didn't tell me. I only understood because of the communion before...
Serle nods. "Let's try...which Altar?"
Dryad: It's upstairs.
Dryad opens the door further in.
Serle: Show us, please?
Dryad leads the way.
Serle follows behind, sword in Hand.
The room through the door is decorated with small live trees and mysterious symbols. Two staircases, one to either side of the room, lead up the the same balcony. There's a double door above it and another beneath it.
Adria follows Serle closely.
Serle looks to the Dryad expectantly.
Serle has a stern, determined look about him.
Dryad floats straight up and forward to the higher door.
Adria keeps her expression unreadable.
Serle looks at the staircases, chooses the leftmost one, and starts walking.
Adria heads for the rightmost staircase.
Dryad waits at the top, barring the way through the door she led the pair to. "But... before you can go in this way..."
Serle tilts his head to the side, curiously.
Dryad: You're... you're supposed to look out over the room from here.
Dryad: And... well, relax.
Serle nods, and turns to the Balcony.
Adria looks out over the railing.
Serle looks over the railing for a moment, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath.
The view is serene thanks in part to the trees. The symbols seem to contribute to the effect too, in a strange way. There's even a large pattern of many types of those carved into a large section of wall above the way they came in.
Serle breathes deep, despite his wounds, relaxing.
Dryad simply waits behind their backs for now.
Adria doesn't seem to have to do anything special to relax, and simply watches the room.
Nothing special seems to be happening to the room, though it's pretty. The runes aren't like quite anything you've seen before...
Serle doesn't recognize them, of course. He finally opens his eyes, turning back to the dryad.
Dryad hrms, then shrugs and fades out, leaving the way clear.
Adria nods, and turns.
Serle heads for the door, and given no resistance, opens it.
The door is pushed open simply enough, though the room beyond feels strange, like stepping forward was somehow stepping past the ordinary world. Vines cover the sides of the room, and in the middle is an altar covered in bark. It's not perfectly smooth; indeed, it looks more like it was grown than carved like the rest of the palace.
Serle blinks, shaking his head a bit. He seems a bit confused, but continues to walk toward the center of the room.
Dryad is floating behind the altar, though she seems more solid here... or are you less?
Adria walks forward slowly, silently.
The room is small, so the altar is easily reached. It's only about two and a half feet high, and seems as though it would be composed of one block atop another broader one, were it stone instead of a plant.
Serle steps closer to the altar, sword in hand. He looks to the Dryad, as if for permission.
Serle sets the flat of the blade down on the altar.
Before Serle can even let go, there's a green surge of energy into the sword; part of the energy crackles into Serle himself as well.
Serle staggers, eyes opening and closing repeatedly, struggling to comprehend what has just happened.
Adria steps backward slightly, but smoothly, without seeming startled.
Dryad winces and looks embarassed.
Serle stops, having no words. The sword is still in his hand, though it seems more by habit than anything else.
Adria tries to speak, but seems unable for a moment. Then she speaks. "The power of the elemental force of Wood gathers right here. That shouldn't be a surprise..."
Adria then frowns, seeming confused at her own words.
Eventually, the energy crackling over Serle disperses, and then slowly the light fades. The sword seems to have become some sort of exotic hardwood, and the runes on it smoothly etched. The blade looks like some wooden replica of a reasonably skilled smith's handiwork.
The edge looks like it could probably cut very well, for wood.
Dryad: Oh, right... That was it, I guess...
Serle nods, dumbly.
Dryad seems more self-conscious than usual, but shakes her head. "Are you both done in here?..."
Adria nods slowly.
Dryad looks to Serle.
Serle: I...think so...
Serle starts stepping backward, not even turning around.
Adria turns with her usual fluid grace and walks toward the exit.
Once the two teenagers leave the room, things seem as they were... well, aside from the sword. It still feels a little different.
Dryad floats after the pair. "I-I'm sorry... I really didn't do a good enough job."
As she steps beyond the threshold of the room, Adria stumbles, reaching out to try to catch something for balance.
Dryad tries to grab Adria's arm as she falls. "Whoa! Are you OK?!"
Serle shakes himself out of his reverie, turning toward Adria.
Adria manages to reach a sort of half-kneel safely enough with an arm being supported. She breathes heavily for a moment, shaking her head, feeling disoriented. "That was..."
Adria: ...I feel like I've been swimming and then all of a sudden am standing on dry ground...
Adria slowly stands. "...sorry. I'm all right."
Dryad lets go of Adria's arm. "Well, OK... and I have heard it described that way before."
Serle: Where is the nearest Wisdom from here?
Dryad: Most Holy Honesty, of the Gnomes. Underneath the Topaz Mountains.
Adria: South, and east...
Adria: If I remember correctly...
Serle: We could get there in two weeks' time.
Adria: You said your village was three days away, is it on the way?
Dryad: Well, should we go, then?
Serle: Prolly should.
Adria looks back at the door behind her for a moment. "Yeah..." She turns back to the railing.
Serle seems...less than thrilled at the idea, though.
Dryad: Staying manifest is taxing out here... Just call me if I'm needed.
Dryad fades away with a twinkle.
Adria suddenly pushes herself over the balcony rail, falling rapidly and landing in a crouch. She gasps slightly.
Serle blinks. "Adria? Are you all right?"
Adria: "...that hurt, actually. But I feel more 'real' now, somehow. Anyway, yeah, I'm fine. I don't recommend you try the same, though."
Adria stands up. "...dunno what came over me, really, but I guess I knew it was safe. I've dropped from nearly that high before."
Serle: Yeah...I think I'll take the stairs. We can head to my village right away. We should get moving, though...the sooner we reach Most Holy Honesty, the better.
Serle: You okay to walk?
Adria heads for the exit. "Oh, yeah, I'm fine. Like I said, I can handle a fall like that."
Adria sighs. "...though I'm not sure I can handle walking into seven more rooms like that..."
Serle follows her. "Think we should provision ourselves at the town near here?"
Adria nods. "I lost most of my oranges. And a waterskin."
Adria: Oh. What about your offering?
Serle: I think I'll set it free...I can't imagine Most Holy Humility minding, considering...
Adria: I suppose I've made my offering, such as it is...
Adria continues out of the palace.
Serle pauses in the garden, reaching into his bag, taking out a small caged mouse, and sets it free. He leaves the cage there, and hauls his backpack up, following Adria.