Story: To the Valley (Happy New Year: Chapter 30!)

Discussion in 'Fan Works' started by Alkanthe, Jun 20, 2016.

  1. Alkanthe

    Alkanthe Supernova

    I may or may not continue this, but I was suddenly inspired to write a new sort of tale. Most of the Stardew Valley stories I've seen focus on the people and relationships, and while those are all well and good, there's magic and fighting in the game too. So, without further ado, let me present to you a most magical tale.

    New chapters will be added to the OP as they're written. Comments and reviews are appreciated and I will love you forever.

    My grandfather only visited me about once every year. He said he only came because I was there, a girl after his own heart. Because I had the same fascination with magic that he did, even when my parents and other relatives wrote him off as crazy. I was the only one he opened his heart to.
    He used to tell me stories about a place known as Stardew Valley. He said it was the most beautiful place on Earth, and more than that. It was magical. He told me about the people and things of the valley: a wizard who lived in a tower alone and communed with nature, a mine that had been abandoned when strange creatures began appearing in it, tiny candle-like beings that disappeared when you looked straight at them. I was young then, and ended up forgetting most of what he said. All I had left was an envelope Grandpa had given to me, saying that when I was old enough, I should open it and follow its directions, to continue the work he couldn't finish.

    I found the envelope on my twenty-first birthday. Foregoing college, as it was overpriced and questionably useful, I'd entered the workforce straight out of high school. Since then, I'd stayed in the same place I'd been born and grown up in. Sure, I went on vacations to see my relatives or visit the seaside every once in a while, but even that was stale to me now. Now, I stared at a computer screen through eyes that were never the best, but had probably been made worse by reading long lists and lines of code for so long.
    There had to be something better than this. Something where I could really thrive, instead of just surviving.
    My eyes fell on a corner of paper sticking out of one of my desk drawers. I was fairly sure I'd put my stuff away more neatly than that. I opened the drawer to shove that rebel paper back where it belonged - then I saw it. It wasn't just any piece of paper. It was an envelope that had appeared on top of all the rest, pushing itself out of the drawer to be seen, as if by magic. And I recognized it. It was the very same one Grandpa had given to me. A chill ran down my spine as I lifted up the old-fashioned wax seal and carefully opened the envelope.

    Dearest Rebecca, or Reb as you so like to be called,

    If you are reading this, there's a very good reason this message has come to you at this moment in time. If you are reading this, it's time to go. No, I don't care if you're in the middle of a cruise or whatever. Swim yourself ashore if you need to. It's time to leave; time to go and take your destiny by the horns; time to carpe diem!
    Below are directions, from the starting point of your parents' house, to Stardew Valley. (The GPS might not be able to get you all the way there.) Once you get there, your new home is only a few steps to the right.
    Love, your Grandpa Kellsen.

    I had to laugh at Grandpa's choice of words. Reading the letter made it seem like he was right there with me again. I couldn't help smiling, it felt wonderful, almost too good to be true. I remembered now all that Grandpa was: his light, his magic, his passion for what seemed like fiction but was just too coincidental to write off entirely. Like the appearance of his envelope in my drawer.
    I immediately began making plans to travel to this Stardew Valley. I would quit my job, I said, and then explain to my family where I was going. They'd probably call me crazy, I thought, and this thought discouraged me from pursuing the plan quite so passionately. It took me a while to build up the courage to tell them. Of course, they were surprised, as I hadn't really hinted at doing anything like this since I was very young, but their responses were generally better than what I'd expected. With the hard part over and done, all I had to do was pack up my things and follow the directions in the envelope.
    It was almost spring when I loaded the few items I'd chosen to take along into my tiny car. The car wasn't my favorite color, perhaps, nor was he a new model, but I'd fallen in love with him back when he was a family car, and named him Max. Since I'd stayed here, Max was now mine, and he was the one ray of sunshine in my life. For it turned out I loved driving, and would drive Max on the freeway for hours, only stopping every once in a while to check out a particularly interesting sign. This habit unfortunately cost me in fuel and time, so I rarely took trips like that now. But this trip that I was about to take would be even better than those - because I knew what was waiting for me at the end, and it was going to be entirely beautiful and magical.

    Or so I thought.

    I was tired of driving before I got halfway. Looking down at the directions instead of having my navigation system recite them to me wasn't something I was used to, and I didn't like it too much. Especially since I was driving alone. Though I knew I was a capable enough driver, glancing down at the directions still made me nervous. Part of it was the fact that I'd never driven in this part of the country before; all these roads were new to me. And as I approached my destination, the roads narrowed and became less maintained, which was an adventure. I was constantly afraid I'd missed a turn, but somehow I never did, and finally I began to see signs for Stardew Valley indicating it was only several long minutes away.
    Finally, I turned in and slowed to a stop beside what looked like an old tour bus. It was the end of the road, but it didn't end in a house, or even a true parking lot. Max was resting on grass, for crying out loud! Still, all signs said that this was the place: Pelican Town, they called it. Looking around, I could make out the tops of some houses to my left. But the letter, I recalled, checking it to make sure, had said my new home was to the right. How much had things changed since Grandpa had been here?
    I resolved to head over to civilization on the left and ask them about Grandpa's house - damn, I didn't even know anything about it, except that it was his. What if it wasn't even there any more? I cursed myself for jumping into this so blindly as I walked.
    "Civilization" was a very small town, it turned out. A cobblestone path led into what must have been the town square, and on the far left of that were a clinic and a general store, respectively. I recognized the clinic by the red cross over its door. The general store - well, that was the place I decided to go into and ask about Grandpa.
    As I opened the door of the store, a bell tinkled. I had to smile at that, a reminder of the family store my mother grew up in as well as countless other small businesses. The shelves inside held a great variety of items - nails, gumdrops, and probably everything in between. The checkout counter was directly across from the door, and behind it stood a dark-haired, bespectacled man. I wanted to browse the shelves, but I didn't want to risk buying something I didn't need, and besides, I was on a mission. Instead, I approached the man behind the counter, somewhat unsure.
    He greeted me first, with only a trace of an Oriental accent. "Are you lost? How can I help you?" Not something you'd expect a shop owner to say to just any stranger, but maybe I just looked that uncertain. Or maybe Pelican Town was just that isolated...
    "I don't think I'm lost. That is... is Michael Kellsen's place still here?"
    "Yes..." he answered slowly. "Why do you ask?"
    "Well, I was thinking of moving in there." I felt I needed to add more of an explanation than that. "I'm his grandkid, you see. Trying to continue the tradition."
    I don't know if he really got what I was trying to say, but he nodded deliberately before picking up a (cordless, at least) phone. "I'll call Mayor Lewis. He knew Kellsen." Perhaps he can make more sense out of this than I can, was the unspoken addition. "Feel free to look around while you wait."
    All I really wanted to do was sit down, but there didn't seem to be any chairs. The closest approximations were a couple barrels and boxes in a back corner, but I was afraid they weren't built to hold the weight of a person. So I chose a spot off to the side to stand in, and waited.

    Mayor Lewis, I saw as he walked in, was old. Not just plain old, but he seemed to have plenty of hair still, and his clothing was distinctly old-fashioned, but in a good way. I'd always had a weakness for the style of those days, even if their culture was not to my liking. His face was kind and lacking the wrinkles I'd expect. Perhaps he was younger than he looked? I felt like I'd gone back in time somehow.
    "So this is the granddaughter?" he addressed the shop owner, gesturing toward me. His voice, I noticed, was not old.
    "That's her."
    "That's me," I said almost at the same time. "Rebecca Kellsen, grandkid of the late Michael Kellsen." I repeated what I'd told the shop owner earlier: "I came here to continue what he started."
    Lewis looked me up and down, considering. "You do look like him. You have his hair... his face. Why, if you were a boy I might think you were young Michael again!"
    Right then, I wished I were a boy. Being Michael's granddaughter as I was, it felt like there was a barrier keeping me from his legacy, just because I was female. If I were a boy, I thought, everything would be so straightforward and make sense. But all I said was, "Could you take me to his house?"
    Lewis nodded. "Follow me."

    So I did.

    As it turned out, Grandpa's house really was just a few steps to the right. Lewis led me back the way I'd came, past Max and the bus, down a path that was shamefully overgrown. That was the first bad sign. The second was when we emerged into a clearing and saw the house - an old, rickety farmhouse that had definitely seen better days and seemed to have no interest in reliving them, or doing anything more taxing than rotting.
    I had no idea what to say. Ask if there was someone who could help fix the house? Ask for a different place to stay? Curse myself for not having a backup plan? Thankfully, Lewis took the initiative. "Rebecca, this may not look like much, but there's a carpenter up the hill who can fix it up right quick. Shall we go up and meet her?" I nodded quickly, and he showed me the path, which started right behind Grandpa's house and went up the hill, meandering higher until it reached the top, overlooking a reasonably large house. I could see a telescope out in the yard, and plenty of flowers and plants beside the house. It looked familiar, though I'd never seen it before, and comfortable.
    We headed down the slope, and then Lewis knocked on the door. "Come in," called a muffled voice, so we did, and were greeted by the most beautiful lady on Earth. Well, perhaps not the prettiest I'd seen, but with her laugh lines, her almond eyes, and her lovely long black hair tied back in a bun, she was definitely up there. Despite her small frame, she gave off an impression of strength and confidence, and I could almost immediately tell she was a mother.
    Lewis introduced us to each other. "Rebecca, this is Robin Howe, our resident builder and carpenter. Robin, this is Rebecca Kellsen, Mike's granddaughter. She's fixing to move into his house, but it'll need some repairs first."
    "Some repairs? I might as well tear it down and rebuild it from the ground up!" Robin's voice was melodic, but her response was anything but reassuring.
    "Now, now, Robin..." countered Lewis. "Michael built to last. I'm sure the situation isn't that dire."
    "I'd just like somewhere not-rotten to stay tonight," I interjected. "I haven't had any real sleep since I left home."
    Robin looked up toward the ceiling, then back down at me. "Well, that can be arranged. I think we have an extra room we can spare for you tonight. The matter of your house we can take care of tomorrow."
    I yawned and looked down at my wristwatch. It was only about 5 in the afternoon, but the lack of sleep during the long drive had caught up with me. "I think I might go to bed early."
    Robin and I set up the room - well, she did most of the work, with the help of her husband Demetrius. He was tall, but not so intimidating on account of his friendly smile. I wondered what he did for a living, but was too tired to formulate the question. Once the bed - a cot, really - was set up, I lay down, pulled the covers over me, and fell asleep almost immediately.

    I don't usually recall my dreams, but I remembered the dreams I dreamed that night. I was in Max again, traveling down a road, but it was a dirt road, at night, so I had my headlights on. Then suddenly, Grandpa was beside me, hand on my shoulder, comforting me, navigating me. He knew the roads by memory.

    Then I somehow reached a dungeon in the side of a mountain, the kind you find in RPGs. Usually there would be monsters inside, but I didn't see any. So I went in, but cautiously, in case they were invisible. It was completely empty. All I could hear and feel was the wind whistling through the cavern.

    I dreamt of my family and being left behind.

    Of emptiness.


    Stars and static.

    When I woke up, I was disoriented for a moment. Was I at home? No, the cot was not my own bed. The surroundings, too, I realized, were unfamiliar. My watch read 5:45. Rather early, but I had never been one to sleep all the way through a night. The ten or so hours I had gotten were a rare achievement for me. I sat up and listened for any noises in the house that would let me know I wasn't up too early for its inhabitants. It was quiet all around. I probably wouldn't be able to go back to sleep, so I weighed my options. Staying in bed sounded nice enough, but I was in a new area. Better yet, I had no one to answer to, so I was free to explore.
    Careful not to make a sound that would disturb any of the sleepers, I got out of bed, slipped my shoes on, and made my way to the front door. It was unlocked, which likely meant a safe neighborhood. A good thing for a walker like myself. Stepping outside, I breathed in the fresh air and realized it was the first day of spring. A fitting day for the beginning of my new life, I thought.
    I decided to head back up the hill. I'd glimpsed a couple other trails branching out at the top, but hadn't really had the time or interest to investigate any further. Now, the world was mine. When I reached the hilltop again, I saw a patched yellow tent to the right, partly concealed behind some bushes. Not knowing what to make of it, I went over to investigate.
    The tent was in a clearing at the top of a cliff. This wasn't really a hill, I thought, but a mountain. In the center of the clearing was a fire pit, but nothing else. Whoever was here last knew how to "leave no trace".
    I stepped over to the cliff, wanting to see what I could see from there. Below was a river dotted with lily pads, and across the river, what appeared to be the entrance to a mine. Beyond that was a house guarded by trees, such that I could hardly tell it was there. And beyond the house, a canyon.
    "Hey!" I turned around, startled by the sudden voice, but careful to keep away from the cliff edge. "What are you doing here?" asked the voice, which belonged to a man with long, gray hair and a beard thicker than any I'd seen before.
    Nervous I was, but I did want to know who this man was. "I was just exploring, Mr..."
    "Linus is my name. I live out here." He gestured to the tent.
    "Out here? You don't have a house?"
    "I don't need one," he said, and the way he said it, I knew I'd said something wrong.
    "Sorry. Sorry... I'll just..." My face heated with embarrassment; I couldn't really look him in the eye. Instead, I hurried back down the path, back to Robin's house, and sat myself down on the grass beside the door.

    I don't remember how, exactly, but soon enough Robin had me sitting at the table in her dining room and was cooking us a breakfast of sausage and eggs. I'd asked her about Linus, and she'd assured me that he meant no harm. "He chose this life," she explained, "and he does not disturb us, so we are all right with him. But some are not so tolerant."
    I wondered what he'd thought of me. Was I just some city girl who'd trespassed on his property? Did he see me as rude and ignorant? Did he even care at all?
    Demetrius soon wandered in and started brewing a pot of coffee, asking me if I would like some too. I said yes. I didn't usually drink coffee, but I couldn't deny that it tasted pretty darn good. "You should try Gus's coffee some time," he remarked. "It's quite... unique." Gus, it turned out, was the proprietor of the Stardrop Saloon, which was the town restaurant and bar. I was not interested in visiting a place like that, and what Demetrius had said about the coffee only made me even more wary.
    I finally got a chance, once we were all at the table, to ask Demetrius what his job was. I likely worded it awkwardly, but he didn't seem to care.
    "I'm a biologist," he announced in that tone that I knew so well, the one that said I could talk about this for hours, maybe even days. Robin chuckled a little. She'd probably been through this many times before. "I study the varieties of plants in and around Stardew Valley, to determine if, in what way, and to what extent their physical and chemical properties are affected by the unique environment."
    I had been prepared to search my brain for terminology I'd learned back in high school, but I didn't end up needing to. He'd defined his field of study in a way that a layman like me could understand. There was one thing, however, that I had to know more about. "What exactly do you mean by 'unique environment'?"
    Demetrius sighed. "I'm not sure how to explain that, actually. I haven't figured out what exactly is different about Stardew Valley. The best explanation I can come up with, for now, is magic."

    Magic. I could hardly believe it. The real world, life had taught me, did not contain magic. It was a fantasy device only found in stories. But some part of me nodded and smiled and told the doubting part, I told you so. After all, I reasoned, Demetrius was a biologist. The way he spoke implied he'd much rather be able to explain the strange goings-on in scientific terms, but so far he could not. That piqued my curiosity: unexplained phenomena were right here, active, in Pelican Town. I knew now how I would be continuing Grandpa's legacy.
    "Rebecca?" Demetrius asked again. I'd forgotten that he'd been talking to me.
    "Magic, you said? That happens to be exactly what I came here for."

    After I explained the events that had brought me here, Demetrius had a few things of his own to say. First of all, he reminded me that I would have to provide for myself in some way, in addition to the paranormal investigating I'd need to do. Grandpa's place, he told me, had been a farm. Robin expressed an interest in having less expensive locally grown crops to buy, instead of having to go to the next town to get vegetables. For my part, I knew nothing about farming or the market price of eggplant. Were there any other ways I could make a living? I wondered.
    There was foraging, though that meant lots of legwork and little reward. Fishing, which I'd seen done and thought I could maybe do myself - but I'd never tried. Mining, which was hard, backbreaking work, and would have to be done in the abandoned mine. Demetrius warned me that it had been abandoned for a good reason - a sudden infestation of monsters. Of course, I'd never fought a monster, but that was also something I might be able to do. Fishing or maybe farming sounded like my best bets, and exploring the mine might lead to an explanation of the goings-on around Pelican Town. All three were things I'd never done, so I crossed my fingers for luck. Demetrius wished us well, and then Robin and I left for Grandpa's old house, to see what needed to be done to fix it up.

    The place was a mess. What had been an expansive field of crops was now full of trees, wild grass, and even some large rocks. The house itself was at least recognizable, though there was a hole in the roof and some of the planks in the floor were missing. Thankfully, there was no mold, which Robin said would probably have warranted tearing an entire wall or more down. As it was, she declared the remaining roof tiles functional, the walls mostly intact (but in need of fresh wallpaper), and only the porch in need of replacement (a generation or two of raccoons had burrowed under it and made a general mess of the area). The windows would be fine with a little shining, and the single door, which was made of hardwood, had survived beautifully. Robin complimented the craftsmanship of the door, but did not know who had made it, as it clearly outmatched the rest of the house, which my grandfather had made, in quality. It was probably imported from somewhere, I thought.
    As Robin left to go get her tools, I stopped her. "Do you have a truck or anything to carry your things in?" I asked.
    She shook her head. "I can easily fit my tools in a backpack, and all the wood I'll need is right here," she declared with a sweeping gesture toward the forest that had once been farmland.
    "Is there any way I can help you?"
    "Well... you can come get your cot. Unless you brought a bed in that car of yours - Max, was it? - you'll need somewhere to sleep."
    So I did, and then got to work sweeping out the cobwebs with a fallen branch I'd found on the ground outside. The place wasn't much, but it was starting to feel like home. Well, home if I'd lived two generations ago. After that, I headed outside and watched Robin work, helping out wherever I could, sometimes holding a tree or piece of wood steady while she cut it.
    I saw it first, out of the corner of my eye, as I was resting against a tree. Then I turned, and it was gone. It was a wild animal, I thought, but too big to be a squirrel or chipmunk. What was it? I wondered, staring into the woods where I'd glimpsed the strange animal. But I didn't see it again.
    As the sun set that day, Robin and I were both exhausted. She invited me back to her house for dinner, and I gladly accepted. "Maru and Sebastian ought to be around now," she added. "They're our children."

    When I heard the word children, I had imagined preteens or teenagers, perhaps independent ones who went to school and hung out with friends, or the kind in books who would go fishing all afternoon and swim in the old swimming hole together. This was not what Robin had meant. When she and I returned from our day of hard work, it was decidedly not a young teenager that I saw setting the table as Demetrius brought food out from the kitchen. She was about my height, with small, round glasses and short wavy dark hair. Her outfit of a plain T-shirt and overalls gave her a slightly androgynous look, of which I could approve.
    I mistakenly asked if she was a friend of Robin's who came over for dinner. Robin laughed at that. "No, this is Maru, our daughter!" Demetrius must have heard me all the way from the kitchen, because he started chuckling too. Either that, or Robin's laugh was just that infectious. Maybe it was, because even I had to smile.
    Once the table was set, Robin apparently remembered something she'd forgotten. She muttered something (probably a curse) under her breath and hurried out to the hallway. "Wait, dear," Demetrius began, but she was already halfway down the stairs. I shot him a questioning look, and he explained. "She went to get Sebastian, our son, but he isn't here; most likely with his friends at the moment." I had to smile at the irony of the situation, even though it meant I probably wouldn't be able to meet the mystery child, or his friends, that night.
    Robin reentered the dining room with a sigh and joined the rest of us at the table. "Apparently it is just us for dinner tonight. In any case," she addressed me, brightening up a bit, "you do get to meet Maru! She's really a bright young lady; you should see her-"
    "Mom..." Maru interrupted. "I think I'm capable of describing my own creations, but thank you." She offered a slightly apologetic smile. "Currently, I'm experimenting with robotics, though Dad likes to drag me into chemistry or biology every now and then... I haven't really got anything to show as far as robots go, though; I'm afraid I'm still at the learning stage."
    "I get how it is with learning." I chuckled. "That's about where I've been for the last few years, I guess, and now I get to put all that book learning to the test."
    "I didn't know you'd read books about monster fighting," chimed in Demetrius with a grin.
    "They're called fantasy," I rejoined, fully aware that such books were very unlikely to prepare me for the reality that awaited. "I've read about... I don't know, three hundred?" That was probably a gross overexaggeration, but I really had read so many books I couldn't possibly count them all.
    Maru giggled. "If that was all that was required, Sebastian would be an accomplished monster hunter." Yet again, I was reminded that I had far too little experience in the skills I'd need to accomplish my goals here. But after all, I might have a lifetime to practice and hone those skills. I had no reason to leave, either; I had practically all the time in the world.
    Robin and Demetrius refused to let me help with the dishes again, and as Maru excused herself to her room, I found myself yet again with free time and nothing to do. I was only slightly less tired than I'd been before dinner, and I still had to make the trip back to my house - my house! - so I decided to go ahead and take my leave. The fact that I'd have to walk past Linus's tent in the dark only gave me pause for a moment, as I remembered Robin's words: "He does not disturb us." I trusted her; she radiated clean-cut sincerity, so I tried to remember that as I trudged up the mountain path. I couldn't help watching that side of the trail, though.
    There was a fire in the fire pit. Beside it, on a box, sat Linus, who was apparently just enjoying the warmth. As I approached, he turned toward me, and I swear my heart skipped a beat. I kept walking, though, and only felt relieved when I reached the tiny cabin, closed and latched the door, and set my flashlight up on the floor as a makeshift light. The cabin did, surprisingly enough, have outlets, but using them would either require a running generator or a call to the district electricity provider.
    I suddenly realized what that meant for running water, and ergo showers. Robin specialized in wood; she'd apparently overlooked these things during her inspection of the house, and I hadn't thought of them either until now. Ah well, I thought, I could deal with tricky things like that tomorrow. Scribbling a note to myself so that I wouldn't forget important things like getting water and electricity, I slipped on my pajamas and flopped into bed.
    Damn, moving is hard.

    I didn't remember my dreams that night. I kept getting cold and having to pile on more blankets, or tug the sheets up to my ears, or slide them back over my toes. I thought I was fortunate to actually have enough blankets for the night, as I'd had a history of not packing for cool enough temperatures in the past. But Robin had provided these blankets, and she knew what early spring was like here.
    When morning came, I wanted to stay in my pile of blankets where it was warm, but the thought of being without basic amenities was enough to get me out of bed, and a growling stomach reminded me where I could find food. So I headed out on the trail that was becoming more and more familiar to me, to Robin's house.
    Some of the flowers beside the path were budding, even though it was only the second day of spring. Perhaps spring came early in Stardew Valley, I thought. Linus was outside his tent again, this time at the edge of the cliff, looking out over the river. I suddenly felt the urge to go up to the cliff edge and do the same, but I didn't really want to do that while he was standing there. So I turned away and headed on down the mountain instead.
    Robin greeted me as I stepped inside. "Did you sleep well?"
    "Actually, I was a bit cold. Thanks for the blankets, but a space heater might be nice for next time." I chuckled.
    "I think I might actually have one of those that we aren't using at the moment."
    "Well, I was kinda joking, but I'll take it!" Then I remembered why I'd come to Robin's house in the first place. "Um, but I'll need electricity to plug it in, right?"
    Robin smacked her forehead with a palm. "That's what I forgot!"

    Fortunately, it did not take long to set up electricity and water; the process was surprisingly quick for such a small, remote town. But it reminded me that I needed a way to make money here, or I'd find myself lacking some pretty important items when what I'd brought from home ran out. Fishing and farming were my best options, I'd decided earlier, so I asked Robin where I'd be able to get the basics for starting out in the respective trades. She directed me to the general store - Pierre's, it was called - for farming, and said that I could find all the fishing gear I needed down on the beach, at the pier. I'd known that Pelican Town was near the coast (hence the name), but not that it had a pier. I wondered what kind of pier would have so much fishing gear for sale in a small, quiet town. But, letting my curiosity lead, I hugged Robin goodbye and set out for the general store.
    I started up the mountain again, then considered the length I'd have to travel to get to the store. This was the only way I knew to get there, but surely there was another? I tried to imagine how the mountain road circled around, then the path from my house to Max to the store. Logically... I turned around and saw another path leading in the opposite direction of the mountain trail. If there is another way to the store, this is where it would be, I thought. Feeling adventurous, I decided I'd see where that path really did lead.
    First, I walked through a small forest, but a good number of the trees there were just stumps. Signs of Robin's work, I realized. The stumps and surviving trees thinned out and the path opened into a large clearing. I noticed the river was closer to the path now; it was just to my left. To my right was a large, plant-covered building, which had apparently been abandoned just like my grandpa's house. As I kept walking, I saw benches out in front of the building, a single tree in the middle of the clearing, and a playground tucked into the farthest corner. The building had a clock tower, with a single large clock that had apparently stopped in the 4:00 position, and painted on the front above the door were the faded words "PELICAN TOWN". This building was larger than the general store or Robin's house, I realized. It might have been important in the past, before it was abandoned. I almost wanted to go closer to investigate, but up ahead I saw the cobbles that I knew meant the town plaza and therefore the general store. So, stashing the matter of the mysterious building in the back of my mind to investigate later, I headed onto the cobble path and soon found myself right beside the general store. I had so many places to explore here, but I'd gone barely anywhere, I reminded myself. Just like home. God, Rebecca, why can't you go somewhere without giving yourself all these reasons not to just get out there and see what there is to see?

    I entered the shop, enjoying the musical tinkle of the bell as the door opened. The shopowner was standing behind the counter again, but this time he recognized me. "Welcome back, Rebecca!"
    "Just Reb will do, actually," I said, thinking that Rebecca sounded a little too fancy for a place like this. "Say, what kind of tools do you have for farming?"
    "Farming? Well, I haven't really had a reason to stock up on tools for that, but... I might have a few tools in the back. They're not the best, but they're adequate. Clint might be able to fix them up, now that I think about it." He walked out, around the counter, and paused for a moment. "Stay right here, I'll be back in a minute." Then he strode over to one of the two doors in the back of the store and through it, leaving me alone in the store.
    I guess he doesn't consider me the thieving type, I thought. Then I noticed that the other door was slightly open. I didn't think much of it until it moved a little, but then I grew curious and approached the door. As I drew near, I heard a little shuffling from behind the door. I paused. "So... did he send you to spy on me?" I accused whoever was behind it, jokingly.
    "Meow," came the reply.
    Gently, I pushed open the door and found a small, black cat. I kneeled down and held out my hand, trying to appear friendly, as the cat stepped back uncertainly. Patiently I waited, until it made up its mind, turned, and ran away. I stared after it for a bit, but decided not to pursue it for now. After all, the shopowner had told me to stay here. So I returned to the spot I'd occupied before, and waited for him to return.

    The shopowner returned with an old hoe, scythe, and watering can, and a few seed packets. I took this opportunity to ask his name. "Daniel Pierre," he replied. At that, I tried my best not to look doubtful, but then he explained. "My grandfather was French."
    "Ah... so, one other thing. What's the name of your cat?"
    "We... don't have a cat."
    "I saw a black one in here just now... do you know where it came from?"
    "Was it all black?" Daniel tilted his head.
    "Yeah, I think so."
    "I've never seen a cat like that before."
    Then what was it doing in your store? I wondered, but decided to return my attention to the task at hand - farming. Daniel explained, "I found these parsnip seeds in the storage room beside the farming tools. Apparently whoever was planning to use them didn't. Tell you what: I can give you these for free, to start out with, but you'll have to pay for any more seeds or tools you buy. Oh, and... I don't usually sell many seeds here; normally, I order some from the next town whenever they're needed, and the next day you can pick them up from here."
    "Can... you write that down for me?" I asked, still trying to get past 'I can give you these for free, to start with'. Thankfully, he obliged, and after bidding him goodbye, I set out with the farm tools under one arm and the seed packets in my hand. It was only when I'd reached the house that I realized I hadn't gotten any tips on how to use them.
    I tried it anyway. Clear ground with the scythe, break up the soil with the hoe, make rows, plant seeds, cover them up and water them. The steps I'd learned a long time ago and had never had occasion to use until now. I hoped I hadn't left anything important out as I stepped back, wiped the sweat off my brow, and looked doubtfully at the little space I'd planted the parsnips in.
    "Meow," said the cat.
    I set the mostly-empty seed packet on the newly rebuilt porch, kneeled down, and looked around carefully. I could barely see the cat, who was making its way through the overgrown field like it owned the place. I whistled, hoping to get its attention. It turned and looked at me with glowing green eyes. I whistled again and held out my hand, and it paused, seemed to consider my offer. Then, with a flick of its tail, it leaped over a fallen log and was gone.
    It took me a few minutes to recall what I'd wanted to try next: fishing. Farming would take a while to try out, but it wouldn't take too long to tell if fishing was for me. The place where I could get supplies was at the pier on the beach, I remembered. I stashed the tools and seed packets in a corner of my house, and headed out.

    I could've sworn I saw the cat walking through the forest beside me. Multiple times. But each time, it was only a glance, and then it was gone. Shaking off the creeping feeling that something was not right, I kept going. South from Pierre's store, then a couple turns on small paths, passing a few benches and a large, not-so-well-kept white house. Then I came to a bridge over a river (the same river that wound its way down from the mountain) and saw that there was someone on it: a very tall, imposing someone with golden hair that ran partway down his back. He was staring out at the river, leaning on the stone railing.
    I decided to leave him alone and be on my way, but he must have heard my sneakers on the cobblestones, for he turned around and looked at me, eyebrows raised. "So you must be the new farmer I've heard so much about!" He extended his hand, and I made my best impression of a handshake. "Elliott Lemande, at your service."
    "I'm Rebecca Kellsen, but you can call me Reb." His clothing and manner were intimidatingly formal to me. "I was just going to the pier to get some fishing stuff. I'll... talk to you later." And with that, I was off to the beach, which I walked carefully, trying not to get too much sand in my shoes.
    The pier, unfortunately for said shoes, was a long, gritty walk away. But it wasn't just a pier. There were two long, planked walkways that extended out into the ocean, and beside the one on the left was a shack which was also elevated above the waterline. That, I figured, was where I'd find the fishing equipment. And I all but knew it when I got closer and smelled the unmistakable scent of fish. As I walked into the small building, I was greeted by its lone occupant, a rather short man sporting a well-worn cap at an angle upon his head. "Hey, you're in luck! I just got back from my fishing trip. I've got plenty of fish to go around. Name's William Richards, but you can call me Willy." His thick accent matched his full beard, which, unlike his clothing, was carefully cared for.
    I introduced myself yet again. "Do you... have a fishing rod or something I could borrow? I'm thinking I might want to do some fishing too, see what I can catch."
    Willy nodded thoughtfully. "A beginner, are you?"
    "Heh... yes."
    "I'll get you a rod, then we'll see how you do." He found one in the back corner and handed it to me, then slid over a small tin of worms. "These oughta do for now." We both headed outside, then I attempted to bait the hook but ended up having to enlist Willy's help. I was afraid my attempt at casting would hook myself or him instead of a fish, but somehow I got the line in the water, not in someone's clothing. "Relax and wait for a bite," he told me. So I did, and soon enough I felt a tug on the line.
    I have to admit, I panicked a little, but Willy noticed my distress and put his hands over mine, and carefully we reeled in the line together. Fortunately, despite my inexperience, the fish didn't get away, and soon it was flopping on the deck.
    "So... you have a ways to go." Willy chuckled. "But hey, you have a fish now. What'cha want to do with it?"
    I really wasn't sure at all. It was getting late in the day, though, so I decided to take the fish and head home. Luckily, Elliott was no longer on the bridge, but I saw Maru observing a butterfly by the benches and said hi to her as I passed. "Are you planning to have dinner with us again?" she asked.
    I looked down at the fish I'd caught, an idea suddenly coming to me. "Maru, do you know what kind of fish this is?"
    She took it and looked it over. "That I do."
    "Is it good to eat?" I nearly laughed at myself for asking such a silly-sounding question.
    She nodded. "Quite. Are you planning to have that tonight?"
    "Dang, however did you know?" This time, I actually did laugh at myself. I'd been so obvious in asking my questions, and Maru really was smart.
    She just smiled at me. Not out of pity or condescension, but the kind of half-smile that you give when you get the joke. Which I'm sure she did. "I'm sure Mom would appreciate some fresh fish."

    And that's how I ended up in Robin's kitchen, preparing the fish I'd caught to serve for dinner. Demetrius worked alongside me, getting the rest of the meal ready, and then we set the table and called Robin and Maru. I was proud of how my fish had turned out, and got compliments all around on its flavor (though I wasn't sure if they were genuine or just because I was new at this whole fishing deal). Then we related our respective adventures. Maru had gotten to a point where she couldn't think of the next step to take, which was why she'd gone outside to help Demetrius with his observations and research. After that, he'd gone inside to compare notes, while she'd gone down to the park to watch butterflies, which was a hobby that she definitely enjoyed. Robin, on the other hand, had visited the blacksmith to get her tools fixed up, as they'd been relatively unused for a while before I'd come along, and, as she told me with a wink, "I expect I'll have plenty of things to build soon." I smiled at that, but wondered, How will I ever clear enough space, get enough money, and get to the point where I'll need to have so many things built? Robin didn't seem to have any doubt in my abilities, even though I'd hardly accomplished anything so far, and had only just arrived in town. Perhaps she saw something in me that I did not, but I couldn't for the life of me figure out what that could be.

    The next morning was dark and overcast, signaling an approaching storm. I didn't bother watering my plants, for that reason, but instead headed over to the Howes' house as had become my routine. Robin was making coffee, but took time to greet me with a smile. "Demetrius and Maru should be up soon; this coffee was for them, but you're welcome to it." I couldn't refuse her. When Maru entered the kitchen, I was comfortably situated with a mug of it in my hands.
    "Hey, Reb, fancy meeting you here," she teased. "Is this your second home now?"
    "It might be." I grinned back at her.
    She also poured herself some coffee, making sure to add plenty of honey. "I'll be at the clinic today, helping Harvey out. Speaking of which, have you met him yet?"
    I had to answer with a sheepish "No."
    "You haven't? Hmm... have you met Penny?"
    I shook my head.
    "Emily? Sam?"
    I said no again, and Robin joined in asking. "Clint? Caroline? Evelyn? Elliott?"
    "Elliott I've met... I'm afraid I don't know the others."
    "Well, that's got to be fixed." Robin announced. But she seemed rather at a loss on how to do it. If she simply told me who to see, I'd probably have a hard time remembering who I had and hadn't met. Maru suggested writing everyone's names down on a sheet of paper, and having me cross off each name as I got to it. The problem with that was the imminent storm, which would ruin the paper. But that, in the end, could be eliminated by using my phone to make the list. So they dictated the names to me, and I typed them in.
    The first person to visit, we decided, would be Harvey. I would go with Maru, and she would introduce us to each other. So after hugs all around (Maru also hugged Demetrius, who had finally gotten up), Maru and I set off down the path toward the town square. She stopped every so often to point out an unusual critter or identify some kind of tree or plant. The critters I liked, but I could barely remember all the plants' names, let alone tell most of them apart.
    We ended up sprinting the rest of the way to the clinic when it finally started raining. Even though Maru got there first, she stood out in the rain, holding the door for me, with a silly grin on her face. It was really a game; neither of us minded the rain too much.
    Inside was white and clean, the very model of a doctor's office, though perhaps a bit small. Behind the counter stood a tall - but not wide - bearded man, also wearing glasses, though the thing that most stood out about him was that he wore a turban. "You must be the new farmer I've heard about," he said, in an accent I couldn't describe as anything but cultured.
    Maru piped up from behind me. "Yes, this is her. I just brought her here to introduce her to you. Reb, this is Harvey Singh. Harv, this is Rebecca Kellsen."
    "Nice to meet you," I said, hoping vainly that he wouldn't offer a handshake.

    After that ordeal, I decided to head next door. I'd met Daniel Pierre before, but he had a wife and daughter whom I hadn't yet seen. As I opened the door, I again heard that familiar jingle, and Daniel greeted me. "I didn't expect to see you back so soon. What can I help you with?"
    "Actually," I said, "I was just going around town to meet everybody." There didn't seem to be a good way to ask if I could meet his wife and daughter. "Um..."
    Fortunately, he was able to connect the dots. "You want to meet Caroline and Abigail? Good timing. They're both still home... I'll call them."
    So he did, and soon a relatively short lady, dark-haired and smiling, entered from the back. "Hey! Welcome to town, even if it's a little late. I'm Caroline, Danny's better half." Daniel cracked a smile at that, and I couldn't help grinning either. Caroline seemed to have the personality of a ray of sunshine.
    "I'm Rebecca Kellsen, but please call me Reb," I replied, keeping a wary eye out in case she decided to shake my hand, too. Thankfully, she did not.
    "Then, miss Reb, you can call me Care. Because I do!" she added playfully. "But for now, I think you might want to meet little Abby." And as if on cue, the back door opened again. The person who entered this time was a little taller than Caroline, but still not quite as tall as me. Her hair was long, straight, and a bright purple that almost seemed to sparkle. She wore the unusual combo of a long, blue jacket over a dark shirt and pants.
    "Abigail, I presume?"

    Abigail seemed to stare right through my eyes and into my soul. There was a certain deadliness about her, one that made me realize suddenly how inexperienced I was. She may have been shorter than me, but I certainly couldn't use my extra three inches against her.
    Then she smiled. "Looking for adventure, I take it?"
    "I... well, yes, of a sort. Basically."
    "You'll find plenty of it here." With that, she turned and swept out of the room, her long vest fluttering behind her. Caroline, however, would not settle for such a laconic greeting, and immediately went after Abigail to bring her back. Then we had proper introductions - excepting the lack of handshaking - and I was able to explain to both Caroline and her daughter exactly what I was here for.
    "You want to figure out what the magic's all about?" asked Abigail after I was done. "I suggest talking to the Wizard - his tower's down west of the forest lake."
    "Wait," Caroline interrupted. "Before you run off looking for him, you should finish introducing yourself to everyone here. This is where you'll be living now, after all."
    "But Mom, that's not why she's here."
    "Why don't you let her speak for herself, Abigail?"
    I shifted my wristwatch on my arm, as I tended to do when put on the spot. "It might not be the best idea to go look for the Wizard in the rain. Besides, the storm also means people are more likely to be in their houses as opposed to exploring or something outside, right?"
    Caroline nodded. "Then it's settled."

    And so it was. From Pierre's, I headed east to find a pretty white house with blue trim, plants decorating the window sills and flowerpots outside. A mailbox painted sky blue and pastel green completed the scene, which was only marred by the grayness of the sky above.
    I knocked on the door, as there was no doorbell, and was answered by a slightly stooped older lady. Her hair was gray and her eyes kind. "What are you doing out here in the rain?" she asked, evidently quite surprised. "Come in, come in." Opening the door further, she stepped aside, and I gladly entered the house, wiping my feet on the provided mat. She motioned to a coatrack, on which I put my jacket, then stopped and said: "So, what brings you to Pelican Town?"
    "I moved here a few days ago," I replied, and repeated what I'd told the Pierres: that I'd come to investigate the strange things happening in the valley.
    She merely nodded. "I'm Evelyn Mullner."
    "Rebecca Kellsen, but you can call me Reb."
    "Kellsen?" Now Evelyn showed interest. "Not Michael Kellsen's kin, are you?"
    "His grandkid, actually."
    "Oh Yoba... I should've known. You look just like him." She smiled, and I felt a sense of pride. "Continuing his work, of course. Just like old times..." She trailed off. I marveled that she hadn't mentioned the most obvious difference between Michael and myself - that I was a girl, and he hadn't been. Perhaps, I thought, it didn't matter to her as it did to Lewis... and the rest of my family.
    "Ah, but I forget myself." Evelyn seemed to snap back to the present. "Let me introduce you to my husband." She led me into a room just off the main hallway. It was governed by an old television set, which rested on a table in the middle of the floor. Behind the TV sat a bespectacled man, who seemed thoroughly engrossed in whatever was playing.
    "George! We have a newcomer!" Evelyn called to him. He didn't seem to hear. She sighed and walked over to him. "George..."
    "Not now, Evy dear."
    "At least be polite and introduce yourself."
    He nodded reluctantly and muted the TV. "All right, who are you?"
    I told him.
    George studied my face through his glasses. "That's Kellsen's grandkid?" he asked, and his tone said Prove it. Evelyn gave him a warning look, but he held his gaze.
    "I could show you my letter," I offered. "I think... yeah, it's still in my jacket pocket."
    "Ah, no need." He seemed more or less satisfied. "I'd wish you good luck with picking up the pieces. But I don't believe in luck."

    From the Mullners' house, I was directed to cross the river and go south. There, Evelyn said, I'd find the blacksmith. I was starting to get hungry, but I headed for the smithy anyway. On my way, I passed a modern-looking building that seemed to fit the city much better than Pelican Town. The sign in front of it read JOJA MART.
    I tried not to look at it. The building reminded me of what I'd come here to get away from, and the last thing I wanted was for all that to invade this small town.

    But it was there, and I couldn't pretend it wasn't.

    After introducing myself to Clint Ironside, the blacksmith, I decided to get something to eat. Clint suggested I get something from the Stardrop Saloon, which didn't really sound like a place I wanted to be, but I was hungry enough at that point that I didn't care. So that was where I went.
    The place had a rustic feel. The outside was all wooden planks, with a large sign that read:
    It was the "SPIRITS" part that bothered me, though I reasoned that most people 21 or older would appreciate it.
    The interior of the Stardrop Saloon was suffused with warmth, light, and the smells of food cooking. It wasn't so bad, I guessed. Behind the bar stood a rather large man, sporting a mustache and a yellow jacket that seemed to clash with the rest of him. And he didn't really fit his surroundings, either. Where the bar was old-fashioned and subdued, the man was loud and striking.
    "Hey, you! Haven't seen you around here before, miss. Welcome to the Stardrop Saloon - I'm the owner, Gus Morello." His voice was booming, as expected, and quite jovial.
    I remembered, suddenly, what Demetrius had said about Gus's coffee. But first things first; coffee didn't make a lunch. "I'm Reb Kellsen," I said, "just moved into the farm to the west. What d'you have in the way of food?"
    After some deliberation, I settled on a small pizza. Of course I had to try the coffee as well, and that took less time to make, so I ended up sipping it as I waited for the pizza. The waiting was starting to get monotonous, when a particularly unique young lady walked in.
    Her hair was blue, and styled in a way that reminded me of Nancy Drew. She wore a red, layered dress, which flowed nicely and was obviously tailored for her specifically. Yet the fabric looked sturdy and dependable, not flashy and thin like a mainstream tailor might use.
    She turned to me and grinned. "Emily Green, at your service. What can I do for you today?"
    What could she do for me? I had no idea. "Uh..."
    "What's your name, honey?"
    "Re... Rebecca Kellsen." I was still trying to figure out exactly what she'd meant.
    "That's a cute name! Mind if I call you Becky?"
    I frowned. I couldn't help it. Becky wasn't a name I wanted to hear again; not for a long while, anyway. "Please don't."
    "Oh..." Emily drifted away, sensing the change in mood. I remained quiet, lost in memory, until Gus called out that my pizza was ready.

    After I finished my late lunch, I decided to head back to the Howes'. I was in need of a mood lifter, and the coffee, as usual, hadn't done anything. Or so I thought. As soon as I got outside (the rain had stopped, finally), I felt a sudden burst of energy. I could move faster, it seemed. I was able to cover the distance to the Howes' in almost half the time it would've taken me normally.
    Demetrius immediately knew what had happened. If there were visual signs of the coffee's effect, I couldn't tell what they were. Perhaps he'd heard that I went to Gus's and reasoned that I'd probably try his coffee. I didn't know, and he didn't tell me. All he said was, "Tried the coffee, I see."
    "Yup!" Okay, maybe it was pretty obvious. "It sure is something!" The energy I felt was spilling over into my voice. I sounded like a girl - well, a stereotypical girly girl.
    "I'm still not sure what's in it. Gus wants to keep it a secret... and he won't allow me to take any out of the saloon, otherwise I'd have figured it out by now."
    "That's an odd rule."
    "He made it especially for me." Demetrius grinned sheepishly.
    I giggled. "Must be a pretty important secret if he goes to such lengths to keep it."
    "Ain't that the truth."
    The energy I felt was dissipating now. I wasn't exhausted, as might be expected; just back to normal. "Well, that was... an experience." I shook my head. "Good for getting places in a hurry, I guess."
    "It's best at night," Demetrius said. "Quick energy, wears off just as quickly. But..." He paused. "How long has it been since you had that coffee?"
    "Only a few minutes." I checked my watch, then gave an estimate.
    "Well, it doesn't usually wear off that fast."

    The next morning dawned bright and clear. It meant I could head over to see the wizard, which was good, but also that I needed to water my plants. It had only been two days since I planted the parsnips, but they had already sprouted and grown green leaves. I didn't know much about farming, but it seemed the crops were growing distinctly faster than crops should. I resolved to ask Demetrius about that when I got back.
    Daniel Pierre was just opening the store when I stopped by. I greeted him, then asked, "So where is the forest lake, exactly?"
    "It's just south of your farm; you can also access it from the south end of the town square... Wait. You don't have any idea where things are, do you?"
    He reached down behind the counter and pulled out a sheet of paper. "Here's a map... haven't had to use this in years, but it could be helpful to you." I accepted it gladly. Locating Pierre's was easy enough, and from there I traced a path down to the forest lake in the southwest. Beside the lake was a symbol that looked like a tower, and the label "Wizard".

    It took me a surprisingly long time, considering that I had a map, to actually find the Wizard's tower. It was tucked away on a hill, with a winding path leading up to it, but to get there I had to navigate my way through a maze of trees and shrubbery. Once I did, though, I was struck by the magnitude of it all.
    I was standing in front of a wizard's home.
    A wizard. A real live wizard with allegedly real magic.
    My hands were shaking so badly, I could barely lift the door knocker. But somehow I did - then let it fall - then waited anxiously for a response.

    I jumped, nearly dropping the map, and backed away from the door.
    "Uh... mortal." I realized that my response probably wasn't loud enough, and tried again. "Mortal!"
    "Rebecca Kellsen! I moved here to investigate the odd things that've been occurring around here, and-"
    "...Thanks." I cautiously approached the door and pushed, and it swung back on hinges obviously in need of a good oiling. The inside of the tower was dark, and a purple-grey mist wisped out of the open door. I shivered, but stepped inside.
    The air in the room was heavy and smelled of the forest. To one side, there stood a large black cauldron. On the other side was a diagram, drawn on the floor in chalk, with candles placed at certain intersections. It wasn't a circle, exactly, nor a square, but it had both in it as well as plenty of extra lines.
    In the center of the room stood the Wizard. His hair was a striking purple, similar to Abigail's in color, but much of it was hidden by his wide-brimmed dark hat. He wore a long cape over a waistcoat and a shirt that wasn't quite magenta. Gold glittered at his neck, in the chain which held his cape together.
    I couldn't speak. I just stood there staring at him, staring at the room, trying to take it all in, my mind shouting Danger! Get out now!
    "What seek you here?" the Wizard asked. That seemed to loosen my tongue, and I stammered out my story. He listened intently, then after I'd finished, began pacing the floor. "To come here now... Michael's granddaughter... impeccable timing."
    I wasn't at all sure what he meant by timing. How was my arrival any more well timed than any other moving day? But I was afraid to interrupt him, so I simply waited.
    "Well." He stopped pacing at last and turned to me. "Let us start with the basics. Do you have any affinity for magic?"
    "I... don't think so. I mean, unless Grandpa did. My family's all very un-magic."
    "Just a minute." The Wizard closed his eyes and turned to face the diagram on the floor. He began muttering, words that I couldn't hear, but I knew that they meant something. Finally, he stopped, raised his arms, and... nothing happened.
    "Uh... excuse me, but what was that supposed to do?" I asked.
    "What see you here?" he answered, gesturing to the diagram.
    "Nothing happened." I squinted, but still could not see any difference. "It's still the same."
    He nodded. "You have no affinity." Then he repeated the motions he'd performed before, only in reverse, and when he finished he looked back at me.
    "But... nothing happened." I was beginning to get suspicious. "This isn't The Emperor's New Clothes. If there'd been something I would have seen it."
    "Not all that is believed must be seen." He shook his head. "But this seeing, I can help."

    I waited, curious, while the Wizard muttered to himself, browsing through the tall shelves on the side of the room and every so often pulling out a book or a jar. These things he set in neat piles on the floor, and when he was finished, he picked up one of the books and riffled through it. He stopped at one page, read through it, and nodded. "This will work," he said to me. "It should be ready by this time tomorrow."
    I checked my watch: it was nearly noon. Surprisingly, I wasn't yet hungry. "So I should come back at noon tomorrow?"
    "Yes." He turned back to his piles of jars, and I figured that was my cue to leave.
    Directly outside of the Wizard's tower waited the black cat. I fully expected it to run away, but it didn't. Instead, it looked up at me expectantly.
    "Uh... hi?" Maybe I was supposed to talk to it, I thought.
    "Meow to you too."
    The cat meowed again, then turned and ran away into the forest. Why hadn't I asked the Wizard about it? I wondered, but decided not to disturb him again. Maybe I'd ask him tomorrow when I came back.

    As I came into town from the forest (which was labeled Cindersap Forest on my map), I passed by a couple houses which were built side by side. This was Willow Lane, according to the mailboxes. Outside, a lanky blonde with the look of a retro rocker was practicing on a skateboard. I hadn't seen him before, but I really wasn't too keen on introducing myself to him.
    However, it didn't turn out to be my decision. As I walked past, he called out to me. "Hey, are you the new farmer?"
    "Yeah, that's me," I replied a bit reluctantly.
    "Well, welcome to Pelican Town, kid. I'm Sam Johnson." He hopped off his skateboard and flipped it into his hand, but in a casual way. Not to show off.
    "Reb Kellsen." Looking past Sam, I saw the door to the second house open. A girl - no, a woman - stepped out. Her long, wavy hair was also blonde, and I found myself wondering how many blondes lived in this town, especially now that I was here. She looked like the typical modern southern belle, or perhaps a Gem Shore girl. The latter was more likely, given our location, but still unusual for a small town like this. "Well, in any case, I've gotta go. Lunchtime, y'know?"
    "Isn't it already one o'clock?" Sam asked, confused.
    "I got a late start." With that, I took my leave of him and began walking over to the Stardrop Saloon again. Despite the name, it appeared to be a restaurant as well as a bar, and as I didn't yet have a kitchen or a freezer to store groceries, I figured it was my best bet for lunch unless I imposed on the Howes again. Plus, it was closer.
    On my way there, I was interrupted again. The Gem Shore girl, who'd been walking in the same direction as me, turned and saw me and apparently decided I was worth talking to. "So, you're the new farm girl?"
    "That's me," I said, feeling like a mouse before a cat.
    She studied my face, and probably my clothes too, before finally announcing: "I really like your makeup."
    "I'm... not actually wearing any." This was true; except for a couple of theater performances when I was younger, I'd never worn makeup. I could never get used to the feel of it.
    "Oh. I knew that." She had not known that, judging by her reaction. An awkward silence fell, and she began walking away.
    "Hey, wait!" I realized I'd forgotten something. "What's your name?"
    "Haley," she said over her shoulder. "Haley Green."

    Both Gus and Emily were behind the counter when I arrived at the Stardrop Saloon. Emily, dressed in a sapphire-blue blouse that matched her hair, gave me a friendly wave. After ordering, I had to ask. "Emily, are you related to Haley Green?"
    "Haley? Yeah, I'm her sister." She giggled. "Not that you can tell by looking!"
    I had to agree. Haley was stereotypically dressed, but Emily's clothes, like the rest of her, had an unconventional flair. Emily was somewhat plump and an inch or so shorter than me; Haley was thinner and clearly taller. "How do you two get along?"
    "Not very well, honestly." Emily lost her sunny disposition for a moment, but recovered. "We're not quite used to how things work around here yet. I was just lucky Gus here needed an assistant!"
    "You're new, too?" I was pleasantly surprised. I'd thought the town was basically stagnant, except for me.
    "Yeah, a little. Actually, we moved in about a year ago. The house was vacant, so... we fixed it up."
    "How bad was it? Not as bad as mine, I hope."
    "Certainly not! The previous owner'd just left, actually, to move into his shop. He'd left it in good condition, too."
    "The previous owner?"
    "Yeah, his bakery is to the east of the blacksmith's. I think the path is blocked right now, though. A tree fell, and nobody's moved it out of the way yet."
    "Why hasn't Robin done that?"
    "I don't know."

    Maru found me as I was surveying the land I'd inherited. It was far bigger than I'd expected for such a small house. I didn't know how I'd ever use all of it. The rest would probably remain a forest, which was good. Ever since I was a kid, I'd wanted to have the woods in my backyard.
    "Reb," Maru said, "Mom wanted you to know that Sebastian will be having dinner with us tonight. So, if you wanted to meet him, that would be an excellent opportunity."
    It did indeed sound like an excellent opportunity, so I agreed. After, of course, making sure I knew what time to be there.

    When I arrived, sure enough, Sebastian was there. He didn't look like he wanted to be, though. His asymmetrical haircut and large black hoodie gave him the appearance of someone who didn't really want to socialize much at all. He didn't seem to fit with the rest of the family, and I wondered if he even wanted to.
    It reminded me of myself, a little.
    Demetrius brought out the food, and we all sat down to eat. Robin, Maru, and Demetrius began talking, but I noticed how quiet Sebastian was being. Could I start a conversation with him?
    "Hey... Sebastian, is it? I'm Reb."
    He hadn't really left me anywhere to go with that. "How are you?"
    He obviously wasn't fine, but I left it at that.
    "If you really must know, I'd rather be playing Overwatch." He said that quietly, as if he didn't want the others to hear.
    "Overwatch?" I was surprised to hear of the game in such a small town. "You play Overwatch?"
    He was apparently surprised at my interest too. "Do you?"
    "No, actually... but I've heard of it. Never really got around to buying it... I'm pretty terrible at games."
    "Oh." Sebastian lost interest at that point, and finished dinner in silence, excusing himself to return to his room in the basement instead of staying for dessert.

    Well, at least I'd met him. But that meeting got me thinking: we had some things in common. And I could have easily ignored him - in fact, that's probably what would have been expected - but I didn't.
    Were there any people here that I'd just ignored because of their appearance? Hadn't even tried to connect with? Damn, there were a few already. Sam today... Elliott the other day... and the man who lived in a tent: Linus. Could I have something in common with them, despite the way they acted and looked? Chances were good. Tomorrow, I'd have to go find out.

    Actually, I got a chance to find out as soon as I left the Howes'. I'd chosen to take the mountain path home, and that path led right by Linus's tent. There was a fire going in the firepit, and Linus was sitting on his box in front of it again.
    My heart started beating faster. Robin had assured me the man was harmless, but what if... I reassured myself, saying there would have been ample warning if warning were needed.
    I stepped off the path. Linus didn't move. He probably knew I was there, though.
    "Er... hi."
    My voice seemed terribly loud against the background noises of night. Linus turned around. "What do you want?"
    "I don't know. To talk to you, I guess."
    "Why's that?"
    "I thought you might... want someone to talk to?"
    "I'm fine on my own."
    I shook my head. "Well, I'm Reb. Just moved in last Sunday. See you later!" Without really thinking over that last part, I walked away. If he didn't want to talk, then I wouldn't force the issue.
    I stopped, turned around.
    "See you later... Reb."

    That night I dreamed of the world ending. It wasn't a nightmare to me, though by rights it should have been. The part I remembered most clearly was when someone - the person who ended the world - called me "boy". Instead of my name, which was something different. I was something different. I was a boy.
    I couldn't go back to sleep after that. My mind was too full of uncertainties and what-ifs. What if I was a boy? What would that mean? Was the dream trying to tell me something about myself, or was it just something made-up, without any real-world relevance? I didn't know. And I was afraid to try to find out.

    Chapters 16-30
      Last edited: Jan 1, 2017
    • Gabaw

      Gabaw Spaceman Spiff

      I'm hooked :confirm: The promise of fantasy, adventure, and combat await! It's pretty exciting. Your art is good stuff and I'm glad you got to the writing side of things. Looking forward to more :up:
      • Risukage

        Risukage Giant Laser Beams

        *Deep sigh.* So I can write a bit, but all of you here can draw and write. I am so outclassed. :p

        *Puts another thread on the watch list.*
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        • Alkanthe

          Alkanthe Supernova

          No way Risu, your writing is simply sublime. It paints a picture with the words you use. AND you know music, which is something I have far too little knowledge of. :p But thank you.
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          • Alkanthe

            Alkanthe Supernova

            Here's... chapter 2a? I feel like it should be longer but I'm too tired to write any more. Oh yeah, and I'm getting inspiration for the villagers from @notsnufffie 's diversity mod, of which I am quite fond. It does, however, make a few of their names seem kinda strange...
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            • ApertureGaming011

              ApertureGaming011 Scruffy Nerf-Herder

              I think I should organize my fanfacition like yours, too!
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              • Alkanthe

                Alkanthe Supernova

                Oh hey you! Yeah, you! Glad you were inspired, I was actually inspired to start writing this by how different your fanfic was from the norm.
                • Villain_In_Glasses

                  Villain_In_Glasses Seal Broken

                  I've only been here for a couple weeks and now I want to write a fan fiction too after seeing all the amazing work that's been done :D
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                  • Alkanthe

                    Alkanthe Supernova

                    Chapter 2 is finished! A short addition, but hopefully just as important.
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                    • Gabaw

                      Gabaw Spaceman Spiff

                      Reb did good getting to SDV in one piece. If that was me having to look at a map and drive I'd look up at the windshield at some point and see fish swimming by lmao! :rofl: I'd like to compliment the density and quality of your exposition in the chapters thus far. It's all properly paced and well plotted. It feels very natural.
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                      • Alkanthe

                        Alkanthe Supernova

                        Reb while driving to Stardew Valley: *constant internal screaming*

                        Thank you very much! I'm literally just writing these out with minimal editing, so I have no idea how I'm doing on exposition or anything. Glad you're enjoying it... oh and here's chapter 3. Short, but hopefully just as good as the others.
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                        • Alkanthe

                          Alkanthe Supernova

                          CHAPTER 4! WHO WANTS SOME MORE?!
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                          • Gabaw

                            Gabaw Spaceman Spiff

                            Such enthusiasm! Meet those characters, girl! haha that's what I like to see. Rule #1 always have a backup plan. Story of my life right there :p Looks like Robin's there to save the day. She's great in every and all ways.
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                            • Alkanthe

                              Alkanthe Supernova

                              I love how Reb hasn't even met any of the bachelor/ettes yet. She must think Pelican Town is populated by older people!
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                              • Alkanthe

                                Alkanthe Supernova

                                Chapter 5 is alive! Somewhat shorter, but I felt it'd be better to put the next part as the beginning of Chapter 6.
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                                • Risukage

                                  Risukage Giant Laser Beams

                                  This is cute. It almost reads like daily journal or diary entries, and I like the upbeat, positive feel without it being saccharine. MOAR POSTS, PLZ.
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                                  • Alkanthe

                                    Alkanthe Supernova

                                    That's funny, because I'm absolutely terrible at actual journaling, but apparently great at making first-person stories that sound like journals. :rofl:
                                    I might work on Chapter 6, if I can figure out how a Certain Person is supposed to act... ingame I haven't interacted with him much, so...
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                                    • Risukage

                                      Risukage Giant Laser Beams

                                      Then clearly the solution is to go interact with that character, a lot. Go! Shoo! Play! :)

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                                      • Alkanthe

                                        Alkanthe Supernova

                                        I, uh... if I had my computer right now, I would. But I'm stuck again and my source of all knowledge on said character is away.
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                                        • Gabaw

                                          Gabaw Spaceman Spiff

                                          If it's Penny I got you covered. Just remember to write her as a perfect, flawless angel with a kind heart and a noble soul. Words like "Your Grace" and "Her Majesty" come to mind. LMAO :rofl: but srsly tho

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