Certain things are forbidden, when starting a tale. One cannot begin at the absolute end, of course, though one can begin at the middle and worm back. No one's ever quite refused 'once upon a time,' and yet it says things about a story that, in many cases, one wishes to avoid.
No one should meet in a tavern, for example. No one should ever remark that two families are alike in dignity, or steal the clever contrast between the best and worst of times.
And under no circumstances should a story begin with "it was a dark and stormy night."
Of course, no one told that to the weather, and so this tale begins with the sound of the wind and the rain, howling against the sides of the little flower shop.
And a wooly falling from the sky, hitting the ground with a tremendous crash.
The girl must have heard the sound from her room. She gasps.
"What are you doing all the way out here in town...?"
She glances left and right, trying to find a sign of the wooly's passage in the rain. It was like he'd fallen from the sky. Because he'd fallen from the sky.
That resolved, she begins, through a no-doubt painful process of some lifting, mostly dragging, to bring him inside.
And is stopped before she quite has to work out how to get his wounded body up the stairs.
The old man's expression sours instantly.
"He's hurt! I need to help him!"
"Well, you coulda done that somewhere else! What'd you go drag it in here for?!"
The conversation avoids, just barely, shouting -- not in temperment, but in the way of two people trying not to attract attention, or wake sleeping family.
Then, more appeasingly,
"Anyway, I'll take care of him myself. I won't let him bother you."
In the end, he can't say anything to that. With a grumble and the occaisonal below-the-breath muttering of "When I was your age, we listened to our elders, you know," he moves aside, and watches as the girl carried the prone creature up the stairs.
She treats his wounds as the rain howls around her. Mostly, they just need some patching and bandaging, a little washing out from where the mud had clung to his fur.
And there, after she'd left to give it some peace, as the night emptied out into morning and the rain gave way to a clear, bird-chirping dawn...
There's a flash of white light,
And our story begins properly, with a young man lying in a stranger's bed.
The world swims into focus. It's dark at first, and my head hurts like you wouldn't believe... But slowly, I feel my fingers and my toes. There's a faint taste of blood in my mouth.
My clothes are cold, and kind of damp. I'm wearing clothes. These bits of information filter in slowly, until a bedroom takes shape around my bleary eyes.
It's not a familiar bedroom. I've never seen it.
I sit up, even though I'm kind of banged-up. Come on, limbs! No arguing! We can do this.
With that... Why am I so sore?
Uh, The strangeness of the bedroom suddenly feels...A lot more important.
No, no. I've never seen anything here before! I look again and again, and it's all completely unknown!
I start running, down the stairs and out through - um, some sort of florist's, maybe? It had flowers -- and into the streets, my heart pounding.
Will I be chased? Am I in trouble? Should I have waited there, and it would have all made sense, maybe after a cup of tea? I'm not sure.
I slow down as I run, though. My body still feels heavy...
And none of what I'm seeing looks like anything I've seen before.
Yeah, maybe I'm still dreaming. It feels kind of real, but doesn't it always feel real, when you're dreaming?
I mean, I can't actually remember how my dreams feel, so... Maybe? Maybe I forget they feel real.
There's someone up ahead, though.
Oh, there's a girl in this dream, too. She's...Kind of a pretty girl. There's something about her, standing silently and looking at something above. A...sort of dignity, or an aloofness. Like a bird, living high above the world...
...Actually, it sounds kind of crazy, when you start saying 'oh, this is how it is in my dream.'
It's probably not a dream, and even if it is, I should respect its dignity!
I hope I'm not bothering her.
Oh, I... I guess I am.
"...Was it something I said?" I mutter, not so much at her as after her.
But before she can leave, or answer, whichever...
Someone else calls out to her and starts walking up.
"I don't usually see you around here by the tree..."
The quiet girl doesn't say anything, though.
I was going to slip away, since I don't want to interrupt them or anything, but then the second girl notices I've been standing here this whole time.
She asks that.
Yes, that's definitely what she asks. It's a very ordinary question.
It's such a simple question, even a child should be able to answer it. It's asked all around the world, every day. It's literally the first thing someone meeting you for the first time will say.
Why am I drawing a blank?
No, not just a blank, I realize.
I didn't know where I woke up, or what this place was.
I couldn't tell you a thing about how I got to that room.
Or what sort of room I should be waking up in, what sort of town streets I should walk on a light spring morning.
This is beyond blank.
I fall silent, the shock of this realization making me go numb.
I...I don't remember who I am.
"...Yes. I...can't remember my name," I feel silly, admitting it, but... If I can't remember anything, there might be something wrong with me.
So I should probably tell someone.
But she keeps smiling blithely, only a confused glint in her eye changing.
"You can't remember your name? Why not?"
I mumble. I'm still hoping I can find something -- anything. Anything to make me feel like there was a yesterday.
Amnesia? Does that mean I hit my head or something? Could I have some sort of brain damage that's keeping me from remembering?
I chuckle uneasily, putting aside my panic with a smile.
No, wait, I probably should be panicking, right?
Because that's the right thing to feel if you think you might have some sort of brain damage, right?
How do you even check for that?
Well, if she doesn't know, how should I?
"Um, maybe there's...some sort of doc--"
Oh, um. OK. Alright.
She turns to the other girl.
"Raven, could I ask you a favor?"
"Yes. I'll explain in a bit."
Then she turns back to me.
I freeze for a minute. I really don't want to just give up on finding my name, not unless it's a last resort...
But I really should answer her.
I blurt, finding the first idea for a name that comes to mind.
I have to admit, I feel better, having something to call myself. Ramza. Alright, OK. I can be “Ramza.”
At least until I can remember, Ramza will do.
The girl giggles.
"Now, Raven...About that favor... Could you take Ramza to the Sharance Tree?"
Wait, what about seeing a doctor?
Shouldn't we be more concerned? I mean, I don't remember why I have amnesia -- maybe there are other things wrong.
Can I still do math?
"Yes, you. Could you do that as a favor to me?"
4x4=16. That's the same as 8x2 or 14+2.
A^2+B^2=C^2. That's triangles, isn't it?
"Well, then. I'm going back to my house to see my grandfather."
Wait, how do I know the answers I'm coming up with are the right ones? If I was wrong, thinking I was right, how would I know the difference?
Uh, what about --
Excuse me, but...
If they're not worried, then maybe I'm OK? I mean, I'm talking just fine, so that's good.
I guess I should just do what I can for right now.
I ask the red-haired girl who the other girl (she never introduced herself, I realize.) keeps calling Raven.
I get the feeling no one's really as worried about this as I am...
Up the steps leading up what I had thought might have been some sort of odd cliff, but...
As I look up, I realize...
It's a tree. An enormous tree, covered in pink buds.
I think I can say with confidence I've never seen a tree this size.
...Um, sorry, that was a lie. I can say it with confidence, but I can't actually believe it for sure.
But it seems unlikely.
I climb up the steps to...Someone carved a door in here. How odd.
Well, down the rabbithole I go.
There's a giant room in here!
No, scratch that! It's basically a house!
While I’m looking around, the girl – Um, Raven – turns and starts towards the door.
Maybe she wants to say something, but doesn't know what to ask a guy with no memories?
I wouldn't know how to talk to me, either. Let's give her the benefit of the doubt, I think, as I flash her a smile that probably comes out more timid than I mean it to.
"Yes. My work is done."
"Wait, before you go... Why did you bring me here?"
"Now that I've done so, I'm leaving."
Before I can tell her I hope I see her again, the girl whose idea this -- whatever this is -- was comes running up.
I answer, a little bit more cheerfully than I have been. I feel better knowing that, wherever this is going...At least someone knows.
Anyway, she seems very friendly, so why not be friendly back? Or even if someone's not that friendly, it can't hurt either, right?
What does that have to do with my amnesia, exactly? Are they implying I live here? No, wait.
They know this place, but needed me to introduce myself. So that can't be it.
I guess I should be neutral.
Probably. I think if I had, I'd have thought of this as one sooner. I know things, just not...Um. Things.
"Staying here? What are you talking about?!"
Shouldn't I be seeing a doctor? Or trying to find where I actually live?
Do I have family? What if they're worried?
She just smiles, all sweet and innocent.
"You're going to be living here now, Ramza!"
”Exactly! There’s a lot of things you don’t remember! You don’t even know who you are, or what you’re doing here!”
Um, I'm not sure how reasonable it is to go from that point A to this point B...But...
She is right.
"Also, I think that there must be a reason you ended up in this town, Ramza."
That doesn't sound like a very good reason at all!
But no, there's something more important than saying that.
"Of course! I even got permission from my grandpa!"
"So don't worry about it, and make yourself at home!"
Well, if she went through all that trouble...
"And that's Raven over there."
Oh, she spoke to me!
"Come, follow me!"
Shara whistles happily as she trots me over to a box on the other side of the room.
...Do I have any of those?
Do I need any of those?
”You should put any items you’re not using regularly in the storage box!”
That does seem to match my idea of how backpacks are. So that's something.
I know how backpacks work.
"Did you get all of that?"
"Uh, yeah. It's...A box. You put things in it, so it's not like that's complicated."
”Great! Let’s move on!”
"Are you interested in cooking, Ramza?"
Is...Is it really a good idea to let a guy who isn't sure if he can tie his boots operate a kitchen?
Not that I don't think I should, I mean, I might be a really good cook. I might have been a chef or something... It'd be a shame not to try and find that out. Or maybe I've never so much as touched rice.
I guess I just don't know what I'm interested it.
"I think I should try, at least."
I mean, it can't hurt my memory to try things and see if I'm trying new things, right?
"If you have a kitchen counter, you can cook! Talk to the chef in town. He can get you a kitchen counter and different kinds of cookware. You should talk to him when you get the chance."
"Yeah, I guess I should." I should at least get to know the people here, while I try to work things out.
Well, that's handy!
"The calendar also displays the birthdays of people you know."
"Speaking of which, my birthday is Spring 11th! And Raven's birthday is on Spring 29th."
...I just realized...
I don't even know when my birthday is, either.
I had wanted to answer her with mine.
Just smile and laugh, just smile and laugh...
"Whose diary was it before now?"
"These things just come with the house; they don't belong to anyone. Until now!
Anyway, you can write down what has happened to you in it."
Ah, she's right! What if I've got different types of amnesia? I might wake up tomorrow just as confused as I woke up today!
I really think I should see a doctor... I mean, how do you even check for that before it happens?
Eeyup. I know what a bed is, still.
For the first time, I feel like she's taking this problem seriously.
"Let's go downstairs next."
“Hm? What’s downstairs?”
I'm not sure what I imagined at the base of the tree...
But it certainly wasn't all of this. I run ahead of Raven and Shara, looking around at the whole scope of it.
That's...kind of odd. What's wrong with the rest of the soil?
"Yes. The fields are a little overgrown, but you can consider cleaning them up as part of your rent."
The fields are an absolute mess... I hope I'm up to it.
Well, these'll get me started, I suppose.
"Both of those items should come in handy. Also, since we're here, why don't you try tilling the fields some?"
...I've given up.
But before we can get to that...
A monster shows up! I thought this place seemed peaceful... But it had a menacing look in its eyes.
If it wants to fight...
I'm not going to let it hurt the girls.
As they flee, I find myself looking the monster right in the eyes. Its posture, expression, the way it's holding its weapon... There's no room for doubt.
I said that so automatically, I kind of forgot: all I have on me is a hoe.
...I'm not even sure if I know how to fight.
"Use your hoe as a weapon!"
...Well, I guess it's too much to expect her to be an arsenal as well as a real estate agent, right?
I don't want to have to, but...
I don't see another choice.
What do I do with this thing? What do I do?
The hoe's not a good weapon -- I just sort of flail around with it.
I hit the fields about as often as I hit the monster, at least at first...
But then I relax. I stop trying to think about the hoe. Or about the monster. About anything. My body tenses, and I think...
I feel like it knows the way, even if my head's a mess. Is this what they call muscle memory?
Eventually, the orc collapses under another blow.
...It didn't leave a body, though. Not even an unconcious figure -- there was a bolt of light...And it was gone. There wasn't even blood on the hoe.
I run back to where Shara was waiting.
"That was incredible!"
Still, it's easy to see she's unsatisfied. I can't blame her, I mean... If it had just gone a different direction, this whole thing would have gone differently. It was pointless.
"Yeah, I feel bad too..."
Wait, what was that last bit?
"Oh! Well, I've only read about it in books, so I don't know the full details..."
That sounds...kind of nice.
Well, that explains the lack of sign, other than the mess in the field, that there was a fight.
"Yes. The tools and weapons we use are imbued with magic. This magic allows us to send the monsters back to the Forest of Beginnings unharmed."
"Is that right...? Wait, why the tools?"
"I guess it's for situations like this."
...Well, that makes sense, I guess.
I guess our friend there wasn't alone.
"Shara, go somewhere safe!" I can do this. I can do this.
A short man comes running up, a hammer in his hands and an impressive array of weapons with him. But... He's nowhere near close enough to cover for Shara.
"What weapon do you want?"
I'm just guessing -- at what I can use, as well as what he might have.
But a shortsword's not complicated, so it seems good for me.
"Alright, here you go!"
I'm not sure...It's a really good idea to toss a sword around a field. But I guess I don't know.
Hey, I caught it without chopping off my hand! Good work, me!
With an actual sword in my hand, everything works neatly. Not that they don't get their licks in, but... It's different.
My body moves in a fluid, easy series of sword-sweeps. I barely even need to think about it.
But...Fighting like that's exhausting.
Everyone regroups back near the center.
Uh, well, I don't know for sure, but...
"Call me Ramza."
"You're pretty strong."
"She came to get me when she saw the monsters."
I think my smile's less uneasy than the one before.
...Or maybe I still have a ways to go, because she just walks away.
I don't know what I could have said...
"Anyway, I'm going to head back to work."
Yeah, I'm glad he was there to lend me... Oh, the sword!
"Wait, I should return this --"
"Keep it. Consider it a welcoming present. Besides... It'll give me the opportunity to make a replacement."
He waves his hammer like a third hand and is off. Well, Raven excepting, the people here seem pretty generous...
And even Raven really helped, when she could have just left. I'm sure once we get used to each other, we'll be friends.
I hope, anyway.
“No, I’m fine.”
These are just scratches. I don't want her to worry.
"Still, I can't believe those monsters attacked all of the sudden..."
"Does that happen a lot around here?"
Should I be on the lookout for more trouble?
"The monsters around here are mostly gentle."
So things are getting riled up around here, huh? I guess I really should keep an eye out.
Then her voice turns a 180 and she says, cheerfully,
"By the way, you're quite strong, Ramza!"
I can't help but suppress a laugh.
I just did whatever popped into my head...
"Well...They were pretty strong." I'll be feeling those hits for a while, I'll tell you that.
"Thank you very much."
"I think you saw how well I did with that."
"I don't mean as a weapon!"
"Sure, I suppose."
She nods and looks about eagerly, before settling on a spot in the upper corner of the field.
How...How did she do that?
"I want you to clear all of those weeds off of the field."
I can pick up some of the stuff that went everywhere during the fight while I'm at it, too.
I...sort of get carried away. Like, very carried away.
Eventually, I get around to actually clearing Shara's patch of voodoo weeds, assembling them into a monstrous tower of plant life, several feet above my head.
Soo.... Things I can apparently do: Fight, possibly math, and stack weeds like a boss.
Who the heck am I?
Putting aside existential questions, after that, she walks me through many basics of farming, leaving me with 3 full-grown flowers, a crop of 9 more planted, some apparently useful dried weeds, a bit of lumber, and my pockets full of junk.
"And that's all you need for farming!"
”I forgot to explain RP!”
"Yes, it's very important."
"...What are you talking about?"
This is getting strange. I...I think I might need to see that doctor after all.
Maybe I do have brain damage. Maybe this is all a dream.
"When you run out or RP, you'll lose strength, just like if you were attacked. If you run out of strength... You faint."
Alright. I'll just... File this under concern for my health.
"It doesn't already have a name?"
"No one will mind if you change it! The tree's the same, but the farm is yours now!"
If I'm not naming it for the tree, then... What do farms have? Crops, I guess. Fruits. Weeds and rocks apparently. Um... I've heard some farms keep monsters, like Buffamoo and Woolies...
"...Wooly Farm?" I suggest.
"You have kind of strange taste in names, Ramza."
"Yes, I do!"
Ugh, like being shot through the heart.
"I have more to tell you, but I need to set up my shop first."
"Okay! I'll come see you later."
"Well, if you go down from here, there will be three stores. The middle store is where I live, the flower shop."
...Isn't that where I woke up?
Then she looks me over once more, carefully. I've been hard at work, and I was fighting before that...
And I'm still not sure about all of this, of course. I must look kind of pathetic.
So with a gentle little smile, she asks,
“No, of course not! You’ve been a really big help.”
She hasn't done anything wrong! I don't know what I should be doing, exactly, but... I know for sure that Shara's trying her best to help!
"Okay! Thanks so much for everything!"
"It was my pleasure. Well, if you'll excuse me, then."
I find myself sighing like a deflating balloon at her retreating figure.
While I think, I sow the extra seeds she gave me.
What am I thinking about? Well, she gave me a place to live... But should I be living here? I mean, I must already have a home somewhere. And a family, and friends... I should be trying to find them.
The first thing I should do is work out where I am. "Sharance," doesn't tell me a lot. If there's only one or two places that are along the road to or from Sharance, I'll go look there, until I find someplace someone's seen me. A backwards trail.
But if there's more places, and 'where I was going to' and 'where I was coming from' can't be told clearly... It might be a better idea to wait here. If you're lost in the woods, you shouldn't keep moving. You should wait until help finds you, right? The same principle might apply... If I can't work out where to go, it might be better to wait until someone comes looking for me. At least then, there's no chance of us missing each other!
...Assuming there is someone.
No, no. I shouldn't worry like this.
OK, I'll look into what the surrounding towns are like... And in the meanwhile, I'll do my best here at Wooly Farm!