(As you lower your eyes, it has disappeared. Did the current take it away? You walk along the river, searching the water with your gaze, without finding your reflection. It is no longer there. You go so far as to lower yourself over the river, at the risk of sinking in, but you don't see it. You are afraid of falling in.)
River Spirit: (A soft voice murmurs, a voice that isn't yours, a voice that doesn't seem human. I am the spirit of the river. I take and give, I don't count. Sometimes I am not where one expects me. And yet, wherever you look, it is always me that you see. (The voice becomes cheerful.) Like you, I travel without moving from my bed. I am lazy. Don't you think? (She laughs.)
I am a magician. Watch out for me. I seduce men and women, regardless. You will not slow me down. You will come with meyou can do nothing to me. I erode mountains. I dig continents. You are but a little girlyou will follow me. Such is the way things go; there is nothing to add.
[Well, this turn-based game is fun, but you know what it needs? Fights where you lose health in real time, instead of by turns. Yeah, and the damage should increase over time too! The only good thing I have to say about these battles is that you can forfeit them even if you get 0% success.]
[So of course, there are mermaids everywhere whose attacks deplete our movement points, making it take even longer to reach the exit, and making us take even more damage. At the start, we take about 50 damage in the time it takes to click even one ability and for the animation to play, then another 50 damage to spend all our movement points, increasing up to 150 by the end. On top of things attacking us.]
[But it's not enough to stop us this time.]
(Frida is not particularly disturbed by the dream. She has faced mountains, forests, storms, and the ugliness of mankind. One river spirit is not of much concern.)
Kukka: (She approaches you and hugs you tightly.) How are you? Have you been here long? Did you take the cliff road? Not me! You'll never guess what happened to me!
Frida: But you're going to tell me, aren't you?
Kukka: Imagine, I almost got thrown in prison! Imprisoned, can you believe it? For a tiny little fight! Barely a broken arm! I escaped, as you can imagine, but those thugs finally got their hands on me. Luckily, they don't have a decent prison in that rotten little village... (She spits on the floor.) And so the guard was rather cute and he felt, as I did, that I had no business being locked in that little room. (She laughs.) Anyway, cute as he was, I gave him the slip after a few days. I slipped into the merchants' caravan during the night. They don't know what hit them! Except I started getting hungry. And needed to use the toilet. Well, maybe it wasn't the best idea, all things considered, but I made it! And I'm here! I just have to find that famous recruiter... I told you that I wanted to join the army right? And you, what are you up to?
Frida: ...Wow. Umm, I worked to earn a little money. I'm going to catch a boat to Sapphire Bay.
Kukka: Excellent! Perhaps we'll see each other there!
Frida: I hope so! See you later!
Frida: I've scraped together the money you wanted.
Elena: Excuse me? (She seems perplexed.) Oh! I remember you. You came to see me a few weeks ago, right? What kind of transportation were you looking for again?
Frida: I would like to go to Sapphire Bay. I have thirty coins.
Elena: Thirty pieces? Hmm... That could be complicated, at least by river. Tariffs have gone up this month and most captains are increasing their fares. No barge will take you for less than twenty coins for at least a good month. I might have a good solution for you, however. The train!
Frida: What are you talking about?
Elena: The train. I can find you transportation to Boreale for twenty coins in a barge that arrives in three days. You can finish the trip by train for only five coins instead of the fifteen that normal transportation would have cost you. It's a new thinga metal carriage on metal wheels that swallows kilometers of plains and tundra at a phenomenal speed.
Frida: Hmm. What's the trade-off?
Elena: There isn't one. (She grimaces.) I don't understand why most people refuse. It's a comfortable and fast way of traveling. It doesn't make sense. It's progress, for God's sake! The Queen paid the engineer who led this project handsomely. This country seems backwards, sometimes. Anyway, it must be the novelty and the speed that scares the faint of heart.
Frida: Not me. I'll take it with pleasure! I am not faint of heart.
Elena: Perfect. That'll be twenty-five coins. (She takes your money and smiles.) Here is your ticket. Don't lose it. Your barge will arrive in three days and will leave the next day at dawn. You'll probably have to get on board in the evening and sleep there.
Frida: Perfect. Note taken.
Elena: Until next time!
Frida: At last.
(And now Sapphire Bay, that intangible destination, that voluntarily inaccessible dream, is close at hand. This troubles you. Is it really what you want? You can't fall asleep. Finally you decide to walk for a bit.)
Frida: A little peace, I suppose.
Kir: (She smiles.) You have to like being soaked from head to toe to come on this pier. But it's a place I have a lot of affection for. Why not stay here for a little while? Looking at the water escaping, one can discern many things. (She takes a drag from a long, strangely shaped pipe. The smoke comes up your nose and stings your eyes.)
Frida: Mmm. Yeah.
[That's right, we spend some time smoking up with our former boss and have a vision. This game is amazing.]
Distant Voice: From it come The Three; the so-called shoreless;
The one who became; and the one who will become;
And the one who will become more every day.
They cut everything into the wood with their nails.
[We also get the last of the Norn-form abilities, as well as access to the other three previous ones. Including Valkyrja, the damage-dealing power. Time to ! ]
Distant Voice: When you are older, you will understand! But be careful. If you pay attention, you will see... Sometimes life is indifferent, like Skuld; sometimes it keeps an eye on us, like Verdandi; sometimes it reminds us of ourselves, like Urd does so well. If you listen, you will see.
Distant Voice: You are our prophetess. You are our liminal musician. You play both our end and our release. You don't know it yetperhaps you will never know itbut it is through you that all things begin. You are one of our two Queens. Look. Look for the books to deliver us, to deliver us like ash released into the northern wind.
(Frida stands tall in the middle of the cave, watching the remaining shadows retreat from the blazing light of her body.)
(The murmuring stops, finally. Little by little, the barge appears, accompanied by the deafening sound of the falls.)
(Frida nods and smiles.)
[Frida tries to chase the high a little by knocking back a couple beers.]
Mies: ...Rosa Gallica is different, that's for sure. You'll see, Kukka my dear, it's a magnificent town. Gigantic gardens, marble houses... Incredible. I haven't sailed there often, but it's a pleasure every time. And they have the best brothels in the world, I swear. (He catches himself.) Well, I mean...
Kukka: (She laughs.) What would a city be without bordellos, eh? Seems fantastic! I'd love to go there too! Well, in my business, it would most likely be to burn it. Here, have another beer, buddy, and tell me all about what goes on in those bordellos in Rosa Gallica. I bet a local could do better than a Gallican!
Mies: (He laughs.) Oh yeah? Well, gotta see, I'm not convinced...
(He finishes his beer. Given the direction the conversation is taking, you think it's better not to participate.)
River Spirit: You will leave. You already know it, don't you? You were born in a port. You were born over there, in Sapphire Bay. There where your father left his words, his smile, and his life. You are not one to sit. You are like mealways moving, always about to go somewhere. Always unpredictable. (As she talks, you see your reflection walking farther down, on the water's surface. You follow it. Behind you, the spirit of the river smiles.) You are a traveler. You still have very, very far to go on the river, by road, by burning coal... And your hands in the wind... You will leave. It's in your nature. Such is the way things go; there is nothing to add.
[Duuude... My reflection is walking on its own. I have to follow it, man.]
[At least we have something friendly to help us this time... though its range starts out at one, and only increases in increments of one. It's better to just dash for the exit.]
[Where are we, me's?]
(Frida spends most of the day chatting with Ven and Chichi. They eat, laugh, and tell stories together. They like Frida's stories best; hers are old, dark, and powerful. Whenever she finishes one, Ven considers it in silence for a few seconds before Chichi inevitably tells an awkward joke. She does not tire of it, but as the sun begins to set, Frida decides to try to sleep.)
[Yay! We do have friends down at the bar. Cheers!]
Frida: Are you an illustrator?
Vainamo: That's right! Having said that, I prefer to see myself as a painter. I got a degree from the Art Department of Sapphire Bay. (He smiles lightly.) It's a wonderful place, don't you know? The towers of the citadel tear the sky. They never stop betting bigger. It's as if the ministries are having a competition. But what splendor! What grandeur! And the climate... The climate lends itself to wonderful plays of light.
[Why hello there, likely game-artist-insert-character.]
Here is nice too, though. It's... different. The play of fog and shadow is very interesting. Another style. The people here are also of another type. I've done some portraits. There are some good things. What a shame that I must leave soon.
Frida: You're leaving?
Vainamo: Alas. Or luckily, I don't know. I'm tired of this voyage. I'm a bit of a homebody, I suppose. I never went farther than Boreale. I never even went to Port Ellen! I had the opportunity recentlyI was offered a job to paint a mural in the little librarybut with the war, you understand... Anyway. My barge leaves before the end of the week.
Frida: I see. Well then, good day.
Frida: What are you doing here at night?
Raisa: Dad says there have been enough women here recently that the atmosphere is different, or something, so I can help out more before it gets too dark. I guess I have you to thank for that. Thanks!
River Spirit: There is no destiny. There is only that to which the being, despite itself, destines itself. You will leave because you are thus. It is in your nature. It was in your mother's nature. It was in your father's nature.
Frida: I say this with the utmost respect, good spirit, but you are quite wordy. And trust me, if you had been through what I have, you would understand the significance of that statement.
River Spirit: The Dog struggles at the tomb's entrance
They burned the veils that held back the Beast
I can see that far. Do you think that I regret it?
Destiny is better... And yet, it is beautiful.
[Oh fuck you.]
(The vision disappears. You must be tired. Or drunk. It's more than time for bed.)
[I'm a little worried that Frida appears to need to drink to be able to sleep, but I suppose there are unhealthier ways to cope.]
(You collapse on your bed, clothed, and fall asleep in a few seconds. It's almost noon when you awaken. It's your second-to-last day in Longmorn. Tomorrow night you are leaving. This makes you sad. Half-awake, you go down to the common room.)
Frida: I feel fine. You have to learn to pace yourself, Kukka.