I’d completed the mission. Standing back at The Thorny Sword, it felt like there was so much to do. Had to find Alex, find out what her problem was, and try to help her.
But there was some comfort in the fact that I had done things: gaining new skills, Attribution Points, and so on.
The bartender glanced at me as I entered. “Mission completed,” she said. Then she went under the counter, grabbing a glass that she then used to pour beer for another customer.
“Good to see you again,” Raine said.
“Yeah,” I said. “You too.”
Joey sat next to her, looking up at the ceiling, mesmerized. My gaze followed his, and so I saw it: a sword hanging from the ceiling.
That confused me, but before I got a chance to speak, Raine said, “I have another mission for you.”
“That’s great,” I said, maybe a little too loudly — maybe a little too eagerly. “I’d like that, but I’ve got a, uh, thing to take care of.”
“Yeah, okay,” she said. Didn’t sound particularly okay, but I…
I had to get out of there. Had to figure out where Alex was, where I could even begin to look for her.
I was so wrapped up in my own thoughts, I forgot to say goodbye to everyone.
The temple seemed like a pretty good place to figure things out at.
I mean, I really didn’t know where I could find Alex. And there was no guarantee that any of the NPCs in this world would know.
But if the priestesses had absorbed all that knowledge in an attempt to become Sages, they were bound to know something. Of course, I also could’ve gone straight to the Thorn Sage, but something in my gut told me not to.
For one thing, he gave me the creeps. But more than that, I wasn’t sure he’d be honest with me. He had this smarmy air about him, like a moldy aristocrat.
And so I walked through Charon. While walking, I opened up my Skills Tree. I had a Skills Point I hadn’t placed yet. An Attribution Point, too, but that I was waiting to get two more of, so that I could use three Attribute Points to level up my Durability.
The two Skills I was really struggling to decide between were Thorn Protect and Vine Grab.
The former was nice, because I didn’t have much in the way of defensive capabilities, and my armor was still shit. The latter was nice because Vine Grab would let me pull things closer. In sword duels, the distance between you and your opponent can shape the whole nature of the fight, so that wasn’t an insignificant thing.
Still I decided on Thorn Protect. It’d be nice to be able to defend myself, even if it had to be in a pretty meek fashion.
Having bought the Skill and exited out of the Skill Tree, I saw that there weren’t too many identifiable PCs in the streets. Odd.
It was even odder still when I entered the temple. For the first time, they didn’t seem to be busy. Instead, they were sitting in a circle in the middle of the stone temple.
There weren’t any accoutrements — no chairs, not much of anything — and so they merely sat on the floor.
The three of them wore long purple robes, which contrasted oddly with their star-like heads.
Two of them had their backs to me, while one was facing towards me. The one facing towards me said, “We have no adventures for you at this time, storied Hero. You must ind–”
“I’m not here for a mission.” I imagine my statement surprised her, but since I couldn’t see her face, the surprise didn’t show. The glow of their heads gave the priestesses such a mysterious quality.
“Then why have you come?”
“For wisdom,” I said.
“You cannot become a Sage,” the Priestess said. “The Rose Sage was a woman. So too will the future Rose Sage be a woman.”
The topic made me uncomfortable. So quickly, I said, “I don’t want to be a Sage.”
“Do you desire wisdom for wisdom’s sake?”
“No,” I said. It was hard. There was no point in plainly asking them where Alex Solonik was. They wouldn’t know her by that name. She could be anyone in here. Given her admin abilities, she wouldn’t even need to be a PC.
She could be anything.
“I want to know your God.” The words tumbled out of my lips.
“A true God is a being of belief. To know him would not necessitate belief, and thus he would not be a god,” she said. “You can know powerful beings, but God? Impossible.”
“Your creator,” I said. “What of her?”
The priestess nodded her starry head. “You want to know of big things. Sit with us. At this hour, few Heroes are active. And so we have time to teach you many things.”
I sat down, excited to learn more about the world, and Alex’s relationship with it.
Still, there was one question I couldn’t quite escape from, one that I couldn’t help but ask, no matter how much I knew I wouldn’t like the answer. Why is this game so weird? And why are so many of the NPCs this self-aware?
The truth is that Alex had always been a weird, weird woman.
The truth is, as much as I loved her, Alex also scared me.