(You had not warned Ven of your sudden departure, but it was no surprise when you saw him catch up with you several hours later. You have the impression that he never sleeps, that he always knows precisely where you areit seems, however, that he doesn't care. You cannot make him out. For the moment, you don't care.)
(He has been walking next to you in silence for several minutes before he finally speaks.)
Ven: I'm glad you picked the path that follows the river. The main road didn't appeal to me very much. (He pauses. His distracted gaze seems to float somewhere between the river's waters and the horizon of mountains.) That old man was kind. I also spoke with him a little. We often spoke of you.
Frida: It's simple: if I stop, I won't continue.
Ven: (He smiles gently.) You seemed a little more joyful when we boarded the barge. That's not the impression you're giving me right now. Did it, once again, come about for a reason of which I am unaware?
Frida: Yes. I'm not sure I feel like talking about it.
Ven: (He pauses again.) I don't want to force you, but I think I figured it out, anyway. Why not talk to me about it? We're alone here. In the time that we've been traveling together, you've started to know me a little better too, right? You're not risking much.
Frida: ...Did you know that it is possible to completely forget part of one's life?
Ven: (He takes his time responding, as if he were measuring each word.) There are people who run away all their lives and we never know what they're running away from. Sometimes they've forgotten everything. Sometimes they don't want to remember. Sometimes they remember but it changes nothing.
Frida: I'd forgotten everything. I knew that something wasn't right. Now I feel like a hare nailed to a tree.
Ven: (He stares at the river's waters, blankly.) Tell me. Tell me what you know. I'll help you with the rest.
Frida: But isn't that exactly what you do?
Ven: (He smiles.) I don't pretend to be good at itI'm trying to be honest with myself, because it's a good start when you're trying to figure things out. Spending several years voluntarily ignoring an entire part of your life, on the other hand...
Frida: Let's assume that's true.
(You walk slowly, both of you, along the calm waters. The rapids behind you, the river is almost silent. The timid early morning light plays with the leaves of the trees. It's the first time that you have seen this kind of vegetation. The snow is more scattered.)
(Ven nonchalantly slips his hands into his pockets. You feel good with him, strangely. This feeling reminds you of the first time you met him.)
Frida: I... I was nineteen, I think. I was a virgin. I was probably late. It was one of my father's best friends. A man I adored.
(A continuous sound of trickling water comes from the river. The sun shines pleasantly. No clouds in the pale sky.)
Ven: At nineteen? It's somewhat late... Well, there's not really any age... (He sighs.)
Frida: It's true. I was late for my age... I was often told.
Ven: Did they want to marry you?
Frida: Perhaps. I don't know anymore. I think that there was quite strong pressure from the village, but...
Ven: And him?
Frida: He was already married. Sygg. She wasn't an especially pleasant woman.
Ven: Did your father know?
Frida: I... What do you mean?
Ven: About this man. His weaknesses. His attitude.
Frida: I... I don't know. He... I saw him, standing in front of the house, while... I'm sure I saw him. I imagined it? No. I...
Ven: Excuse me?
Frida: I... I don't know. I dreamt it, I think... Anyway, let's put it aside for a moment.
Ven: (He sighs.) Yes, let's walk a little. You must be tired. Let's find shelter.
The Father: It's her choice. She is an adult. I am not going to force her.
Othilde: An adult? Ha! Look here. She won't be happy. She will not have any children! That's not good, no, neither for her nor the village. You know that, don't you? Who will look after her when you are no longer here?
The Father: (He shrugs his shoulders.) It was her mother's way of life. Her grandparents agreed with me.
Othilde: (She sniggers.) Her mother? Dead in childbirth at the other end of the kingdom, hundreds of kilometers away from her parents? Do you want her to be like her mother, perhaps?
The Father: (He smiles softly.) No doubt.
[Back to orbs again... . Though I believe Episode 4 was the last one made before the whole bankruptcy thing, so I don't blame them too much.]
[These are very light blue-bordered tiles that can be either hidden or not, and they push us two squares if we even get within one tile of them.]
Frida: "From the east a river falls, through venom dales, with mire and clods..."
(Frida becomes a cloud of sand, hot and dry, and denies her melancholy.)
Ven: Awake? You slept like a log. (He smiles.) Shall we get back on the road? Let's try to find something resembling a bed for the night.
(Later, along the road...)
Frida: I... No, it's nothing. It's just that... Sorry to bother you with all this.
Ven: Don't worry. It doesn't bother me. Just take care of yourself.
Frida: (Amused.) I don't know if that's really in my nature.
Maija Lisakki: (She laughs.) It's particularly that Veikko was in love with the little Frida that he stuck to it! What a child!
Anelma Lisakki: (She smiles.) I don't think so. They have always been very good friends, that's all. They have taken their time, the essential thing is that it's been done. No doubt we will have a beautiful baby in a year or two.
Kati: It's sure that it's not Frida who will have a baby very soon. How old is she now? Seventeen? (She sniggers.) Still no man, no wedding in sight... She will break a record.
Maija: Her? She will end up an old maid! It's obvious. She is not interested in boys. Nor girls for that matter. A real kid! She is older than both of us, but it doesn't show.
Anelma: She isn't very smart, it's true. She hasn't changed much since she was little. Always in a dreamworld, can never be found when wanted... (She sighs.) It's good to be naïve.
Kati: It's not naivety, it's stupidity! That girl is retarded. If she spent more time at the fairs and less time playing with little Leila...
[The moral of this scene: no matter the time or place, teenagers have always been shitheads.]
Anelma: (She sighs again.) Don't talk to me about it. Jesper has talked about it every day now for some time. He doesn't miss an opportunity to grumble. It has to be said that an heir to his father's house would be welcome... Anyway, nothing can be done about it.
Kati: She could do something about it! She should make a little effort. We all make sacrifices. She is just a spoiled brat!
[Only with Blue Screen do we survive this battle, and even then barely. Whispered Despairs hit like brick walls, and they are an enemy where having a bunch of clones of ourselves can be a bad thing, since they heal when they kill them.]
[We make it to the next shelter along the river.]
(You are unable to sleep. The dreams of the previous night, the chaotic memories of your childhood and adolescence... Everything is vaguely mixed up in the half-light of the refuge.]
Ven: Did you manage to reconstruct your memories a little?
Frida: (She shakes her head.) No, not really. I think that my father wanted it to end that way. From the little that I remember, he always told me to do what I wanted. I was free.
Ven: Free to marry no one?
Frida: Yes. It didn't really please the village. I think that, despite myself, I managed to make myself hated.
Ven: You weren't attracted to men, or...?
Frida: I don't know. Even now... I don't know.
Ven: I understand. (He chews pensively on a blade of grass as he looks at the worm-eaten beams.) It happens. We don't all mature at the same rate. How long did it last?
Frida: Did it happen again, you mean? No. I wasn't in any shape to do anything. He... used to come to the house often. He was the village woodworker. My dad was a carpenter. They worked together, building the houses in the village...
Ven: (He clears his throat.) I suppose it's always more complicated when it's someone that you know well.
Frida: Yes... I can't resent him. I've been finding excuses for him ever since I remembered. For him and for my father...
Ven: I think that's part of the problem. You can't hold it against themhim, your father, your village... Somehow you think you're at fault, by default. No? Isn't that also what they wanted you to believe? But sometimes it's nobody's fault. You don't have to blame someone if you don't want to. Neither you, your father, nor this man.
Frida: I... I'm not sure that helps.
Ven: I don't doubt it. (He smiles.) And this Hans... How did it happen? You found yourself alone with him.
Frida: I think we were supposed to go fetch wood from behind the house, among the trees. My father was afraid that there were wolves.
Ven: That's sadly appropriate.
Frida: I... I was a little stupid. I often walked about uncovered, like a little girl. Everyone found me very pretty.
Ven: I can see very well.
Frida: When we got past the first trees, he caught me. I told him no, but it didn't change anything. He couldn't hear anything anymore.
Frida: He undressed me quickly. He took me there, in the snow. I thought I was going to die. I begged him. It made no difference. He stood behind me for a long time, watching me. I was crying. I was vomiting. Afterwards... Afterwards I don't remember. I stayed there a long time, on my knees in the snow.
Ven: (He clears his throat.) I see.
(A silence sets in. You cry silently, your head buried in the blankets. Ven says nothing. You each remain on one side of the room, each in his own solitude. After a moment, you fall asleep.
Hans: How is your daughter? We haven't seen her today.
The Father: (After a silence.) She must still be hiding somewhere.
(Hans laughs softly, followed by more silence.)
(Rat-a-tat, rat-a-tat, the sound of wood. Swish, swish, the sound of the bevel.)
The Father: And you, what about yours? How is she?
Hans: Always agrees with her mother. (He moans.) I would have been better off marrying a tree.
The Father: (He smiles.) Huh.
Memories: It's simple, so simple. One word, a gesture. A mistake. One can lose everything for a smile.
Memories: That's the way things are. There is nothing to say.
[As long as we don't try to burn them, it doesn't matter if the Whispered Despairs heal by killing our clones, so I use that tactic here instead of Pyre Princess. We just don't have the damage resistance to burn all of them.]
Memories: Little girl, you liked that sound. You liked the repeated sound of the bevel on the wood. You liked the sound of houses being assembled. He is gone, taking all the light with him. He took all the light, do you remember?
Memories: The shadows of a pyre. The day which rises like an execution. The shadows of a pyre, again. And from pyre to pyre, the time stopped.
Memories: That's the way things are. There is nothing to say.
Ven: Hi! (He smiles.) Do you want to eat or drink something before we get back on the road?
Frida: I'm not hungry. Do you have any water?
Ven: There's plenty here. (He hands you a full gourd.) Are you sure you don't want anything to eat? I haven't seen you eat anything since we left the barge.
(You feel your stomach tightening painfully. You hardly ate anything on the barge, these past few days.)
Frida: No. As I told you, I'm not hungry. Shall we get going?
Ven: (He looks at you strangely, then shrugs his shoulders.) Very well then, let's go.
Frida: (Shrugs her shoulders.) No worse than usual.
Ancient Shadows: You didn't know, no, no.
Ancient Shadows: But we knew. Kid, we understand you better than you understand yourself. We know what is good for you. Follow our lead. Be our shadow.