Wow, this is doing a lot better than the last time around! Well, here's to hoping it'll get even better.
I want to give a lot of credit to Deer Salt for giving me the advice to kind of fix these next few chapters. As I've mentioned in my profile, I tend to play favorites with my characters (if my profile doesn't show any indication as to who my favorite character or pairing is). So hopefully I'll be able to make the side characters less boring and backgroundish and more relevant to Amy and her story. This probably won't come until later in the story, but I'm planning on making the chapters longer so I can get to the more juicy bits faster.
Anyway, without further ado, this is chapter 2!
Amy was suddenly jolted awake by a bump in the road.
"Oops, sorry about that little lady," she heard a deep male voice call over, "It's a bit of a bumpy ride."
Amy suddenly froze. She didn't recognize this voice and looking around could realized that this was not the train she had boarded earlier that morning. She remembered having to get up at four in the morning to catch a damn train. She wouldn't get to Knothole until about 8 or so in the morning, so she had decided to take a little nap...
And now here she was, on a wagon, not knowing who was driving it and where she was going.
She took a small shuddering breath, "You're Wynmacher, right?"
"That's me, Mari-an's uncle," he turned around, "Sorry about the scare, just didn't want to wake you up. That's a long ride from Station Square to here you know."
Amy released the breath she had no idea she was holding, "Thank God, I thought I was going to have to make a run for it or something..."
Wynmacher gave a small laugh, "With all the stuff you brought with you? You've got some serious tenacity."
Amy smiled a bit allowing her heart to slow. So the circumstances of her being on a hay wagon with a strange brown echidna were way out of the ordinary. Even after the initial scare she hadn't been this relaxed in a long time. The sky was beautiful, it was a clear spring morning in a green, hilly country side. She had her suitcases on the side and a box filled with the books Mari-an had given her. On top of that she had a new rucksack that she was now using as a pillow. The ride was bumpy and her back was a bit stiff from the weird sleeping arrangement but for the most part, she was comfortable.
"I think I could get used to this," Amy thought as she relaxed back into the haystack.
"Amy, look, I'm glad you're getting a new start and all but once we have everything on your farm taken care of, we need to check in with the harvest goddess!"
Amy opened one eye, annoyed that her nap had been interrupted once more. And of course it was the one person that had caused her all of the grief in the first place. It wasn't that she hated Nicole or anything, she was a lovely little chao who, when not pushed, was actually rather polite and fun to be around. The problem lay in the simple fact that she was the bearer of bad news. Amy couldn't help but feel it was all her fault she was on this journey to begin with. The fact that Nicole had been nothing but polite yet maturely firm about the whole ordeal just made it worse for Amy.
"Yes, Nicole. I understand," she said in a low murmur she had learned to keep when conversing with her, "I also understand I had to ask for medical leave for a year just so I could do this."
"Of course I understand the sacrifices you have to go through to do this for us, and for her," Nicole planted her hands firmly on what could have been her hips, "But it's not just a matter of saving her whenever we have the time or when it's most convenient. We don't even really know what's going on with her. All I know is that she's weak and in pain and that she needs help. The sooner we see her, the sooner we know what to do, the sooner you get home."
Amy looked off to the side, both guilt and annoyance crossing over her heart and face. They'd had this conversation many times before she left Station Square, "Did I really need to buy a farm here of all places?"
"The farm is only a temporary thing," Nicole reminded Amy, "True it's a lot of work at first but if you fix it up a bit, you can turn it around for a profit to someone else who can take better care of it. Then you can go back home if you wish..."
Amy only growled at the logic. Nicole had argued away all the misgivings she had had about helping the Harvest Goddess on the first day she arrived. The money was loaned to her from the mayor of Knothole, to be paid back in full on a later date of her choosing for the land and the house.
"What if it takes longer than a year?" Amy had argued.
"The Harvest Goddess has a year at best," Nicole had argued forlornly, "I know the Goddess, she hates to ask for things. If there hadn't been a chance for her survival she would not have asked for your help. But if you are still worried you are free to leave once she is healthy."
"Yeah, well, where am I supposed to get all the stuff? It's not just a house, it's a farm I'm getting. I need money to pay back the loan!"
"There's a blacksmith near where you will be living. He's a very generous man, I wouldn't be surprised if he refused payment from you. At least until you want to upgrade your equipment. There's also a general store and a carpenter all of whom are very helpful. It's a small town and if I remember correctly the land you're buying is small and you won't be needing much."
"But it's a house! And land! How am I supposed to go back to school if I'm stuck with a house and farm miles away?"
"It's a small piece of land," Nicole had waved her hand as though the whole matter were trifling at best, "Most people would find a life like that very charming. If you put the house and land on sale along with any other improvements you would have made in the mean time, it would sell fairly easily."
"Then why is the mayor giving me the money to buy the place if it's so hot?"
"Loaning, not giving," Nicole had argued, "And the property is...fair. It's the land surround it that's in trouble and the Goddess is too weak to save it. If you help her, you're really helping yourself. If you sell your land after you've saved the surrounding area and you've made the improvements you'll have enough for school and more..."
Amy thought back on those arguments and gave a low groan. Yes Nicole was polite to her but she had been merciless with logic in what should have been a huge leap in the wrong direction for Amy's life. If anything the logic Nicole presented annoyed her more than if she had come by without a clue about what to do about everything.
"At least then I could have found a way out of it," she thought to herself.
But no, she already knew she was going to take the job, even as she argued with Nicole about each of the problems she would have to face. Even as she looked at her grades and all of the classes she had yet to take, she could never shake the memory of the weak Goddess from her dream. The fact that she had chosen her out of all the people in the world to save her meant that she had to be able to do something. She wasn't sure what, but something was bound to come up. Amy was willing to do anything to figure that out if it meant helping the Harvest Goddess from her childhood.
Still, it didn't make Nicole's constant reminders about saving her that much more tolerable. In fact, Nicole had gotten more insistent as time went on, even when Amy agreed to leave for a year. The closer she got to the day she would leave the more frequent her reminders became about seeing the Harvest Goddess.
"I mean, I'm scared for her too, can't she see that?" she thought to herself, "She's the only reason I'm even going! Why can't she lay off for a bit, just enjoy the ride we have right now..."
Rob and Mari-an had been hovering around her those last few days as well. Both had been a bit concerned for her health, especially after what happened with the computer. Still they supported her decision and were glad that she could broaden her horizons a bit. Rob gave her some extra money for spending money: about 1,000 rings and helped pack up her few possessions. Mari-an had given her a few books on farming and taking care of animals, although the books were rather outdated. Amy took them with thanks and started reading them as soon as she got them.
Still there was more concern on her part as well. When she spoke to the Mayor over the phone he was more than happy to sell it to her for what he called a fair price: 5,000 rings. Again, it was a small fortune for Amy but it wasn't enough to cover the cost for most cars, much less a house and land. Amy hadn't seen any pictures of the land or the house but from what she gathered from the price she suspected it wasn't going to be a five star hotel living condition.
"I suppose it could be worse," she finally murmured out loud, "I can enjoy a year off of school and saving a Goddess from peril is certainly something to be proud of. Too bad I can't tell anyone about it once it's done."
"Yes," Nicole answered, "Especially considering you are on leave for psychiactric reasons rather than physically medical. Still, you will be greatly rewarded for the work and all the other chao will be most grateful, I promise!"
Amy gave a small smile in response.
Amy heard a slight grunt from the front before she heard the echidna speak again, "So, I'm sorry to bother you but what's your name again?"
"Amy, Amy Rose," she answered.
"That's a beautiful name," the echidna replied, "I know I already said my name is Wynmacher, but just call me Wyn. I'm one of the owners of Horn Ranch."
The conversation died for a moment before the echidna cleared his throat again,"So if you don't mind, I'd like to ask a few questions. It's only a little longer to your house but we get so few newcomers to town, it's always such a treat. Is that alright?"
"Great! So, what's your favorite food?"
Amy started at the question for a moment, "Umm...I'd say icecream. Especially vanilla icecream. I know it's not the most nutritious but it really is my favorite."
"I see..." Wyn studied the remark, "Sweet, aware of how others think but firm in her beliefs..."
"Oh nothing just my own mumblings," he answered, "So when is your birthday?"
"An autumn baby, huh?" he laughed, "Same as my boy Kneecapeon...smart, intuitive, insightful, if a bit mistrustful."
"Oh, how old is he?"
"6 months today," he gave a proud smile, "He's smart as a whip and he's crawling around quicker than anything, it's hard just to keep up with him. I don't know how my wife does it all. You'll meet her soon, once we pass through Albion Ranch. We have to to get to your place in the Ring Lake district."
Amy nodded her understanding, "Sounds like a really big job! I hope I can do a good job with my place."
"It's not easy work," he admitted, "Especially nowadays...things haven't been running so smoothly for our town."
Amy frowned, "I've heard rumors about that. Like even the fires are weak and won't start?"
Wyn nodded, "It's rather random actually. We try to start them but they tend to be weak. Then sometimes they flare up as though we poured kerosine everywhere. Either way, the fires are useless. The winds are dead and gone except for the odd storms and the earth just doesn't yield as much as it used to. What little it does is ok, but not nearly as wonderful as it used to be. The sea is the most troubling. No one can get home from the other cities. We have three of our own that can't get home. You'll meet them later I'm sure, but we're all so worried about them."
"And the mayor thinks I can help?" Amy asked.
Wyn shrugged, "I'm not sure. Maybe some new blood will help. That's what he seems to think. I hope he's right, too."
Amy was suddenly not tired. She murmured to herself quietly, "Why does the fate of your world have to be my responsibility?"
Wyn laughed, "It doesn't. That's all your decision, isn't it?"
Amy started at this, first because he heard her and second because he responded, "Why wouldn't it? It's the right thing to do isn't it?"
"That's true," Wyn said, "But that's not why you came, is it? You came to buy a farm and start a new refreshing life. Sure the climate affects your way of life and it would help you to do something about it. But you're just a young lady. What can you do to change the world like that? I'm sure the town understands that and I know the mayor does too. Trust me, running a farm is hard enough on its own. Worry about your own happiness first. Then move to help everyone else. The world is not your responsibility. You are your responsibility. And now your farm is too.
"And to be honest, I don't think the mayor was looking for a change in climate," Wyn added, "I think he was looking for something more along the lines of new ideas and new revenue, you understand, right?"
Amy couldn't help but smile at this. Sure she was still going to help out anyway she could, but to be told it was ok if she couldn't, that it wasn't totally make or break her if she couldn't pull through...
"It's a relief," she concluded.
"Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if the issues with the land and the Harvest Goddess were tied together," Nicole murmured, "I'm sure once we save her the land will be saved too..."
Amy growled and grabbed a hank of hay from behind her. She waved it ominously in front of Nicole as her eye began to twitch, "Please stop...I get it. We have to help. It's not a big deal. Please just stop putting all this pressure on me..."
Wyn turned around, "What's the matter, Amy?"
Amy's eyes widened as she suddenly realized that to Wyn it seemed like she had just pulled a 180 in her mood, "Oh...nothing. There's a mosquito that's been buzzing in my ear for a while. Just swatted it away..."
"Mosquito, huh?" Wyn gently massaged his chin as Nicole looked at her indignantly, "It's a bit early for mosquitos, I hope that's not a sign for things to come..."
Amy just gave a nervous laugh, "Oh don't worry, I'm sure things will be just fine..."
Wyn gave a smile, "I suppose your right. And don't worry, that's my farm coming up in the distance right there. You can see the windmill from here."
Amy gingerly stood on the wagon and took the whole scene in.
To the very left of the farm, there was a giant windmill with a white octogon shaped base. It coned up into a red brick like tower which was topped with a green cap that held the giant fan in place. To the right of that mill was a small wooden gate that led to the rest of the farm. To the right of the gate opening, Amy could see the barn, large and white with the same red brick like roof tiles as the windmill. Attached was a huge green feed sill, perfect for all of the animals that the farm housed.
"Just behind that barn is my house," Wyn smiled with pride, "We sell everything you could need there: feed, fodder, shears, cheese, milk. You name it, you can bet if it's ranch related we have it! I'll admit it's not as big as it used to be but we have all of the essentials sold there."
They pulled into the gated area and instantly they were greeted by the clucking of hens and a lovely red echidna with beautiful, half-lidded purple eyes. She wore a mustard yellow dress that came down just to her ankles with brown work boots and a white apron. The sleeves cut off just below her shoulders and she had a red baby echidna saddled on her hip.
"Uh oh," Wyn murmured, "Something's come up."
"What's the matter?" Amy whispered back.
"She looks beat," Wyn answered, "And I don't see Knuckles anywhere."
Amy wore a confused look on her face again, "Knuckles is...?"
"Wyn! There you are!" the woman seemed out of breath, "I know the mayor asked you to help pick up the new girl and settle her in, but we have a big problem!"
"What's the matter Lara?" Wyn asked, "Where's..."
"The bridge between the Mining district and the Ring Lake district was taken out by the storm last night," she cried, "And you know the mine cart is still out. Knuckles is trapped in the mining district and we've been without help!"
Nicole gave a small gasp, "The Harvest Spring is in the Mining District. There's no way to get to her..."
Wyn ran his hand through his hair and sighed, "I'm sorry, Lara, is there anyway this can wait until I drop Amy off with her things? She doesn't have much and the house is furnished from what I recall. It should only take maybe an hour."
Lara sighed in return as Amy heard the baby coo on her hip, "Ok, but just so you know: the morning's already half gone and only the chickens have been fed today..."
The lady came closer and Amy realized just how dead tired she looked. Her eyes had bags under them and she was sweating. Her hair, while a long and beautiful crimson were fashioned into dreadlocks that were held together by golden rings. The baby was the most energetic, seeming to have sucked it right out of her. He was red with his fathers blue eyes holding a small rattle that he took no small amount of joy in shaking randomly.
"I'm sorry you had to hear that," the woman extended her hand out, not sounding the least bit apologetic,"My name is Lara-le. Please just call me Lara."
"I'm Amy," Amy gave a soft handshake, "I'm sorry for giving you so much trouble."
"Please no fuss about it," Lara smiled, "It's just that it's already 9 and we have so much work to get done. Honestly it's way past time for the store to be open."
Amy couldn't help but smile back, "Well, if you'd like, I'd be more than happy to come back and help out a bit once I'm all moved in. It should only take a little bit."
"Amy!" Nicole cried, "Be reasonable. We need to fix the bridge as soon as possible."
Lara smiled over Nicole's cry, "Thank you that's so kind of you. But you'll have a lot of work cut out for you. But if you'd like to help us out..."
She turned for a moment and pulled a large glass bottle out of her pocket, "This is fresh milk from our farm. Tails is fixing the bridge and I'm sure he's hungry. If you could give this to him I'm sure he'd appreciate it."
Amy took the bottle and put it in her rucksack, "Got it! I'll give it to him right away."
Lara nodded, "Good. Oh, before I forget..."
She pulled out a small present, "I was planning on giving this to you once you were all settled in later. I can see now that there's no way I'll be able to leave today. It's a sickle. You're going to need this to help you get rid of the weeds that pop up on your plot. It's also great for cutting grass for fodder. Trust me, this will make your life a lot easier."
Amy took the present and put it in her rucksack, "Thank you so much!"
"Good," Lara then turned to her husband, "Come back soon. We need all the help right now."
Wyn saluted his wife, "You've got it"
Amy held on tight as the wagon jolted to life again. She kneeled against the wall of the wagon so she could see the scenery pass in front of her. Wyn was going pretty fast, he really wanted to get home. Amy decided it was best to let him concentrate on the road and let him get on with his day. To be honest she hadn't been in much of a talking mood to begin with.
They passed a small watermill built on the side of a sheer bank along a large river. Just south of the river she saw a large purple cat sitting on the bank just fishing. They crossed a large stone bridge that passed over the wide river. They made a sharp turn to get around a huge hillside. As time passed Amy realized that the river they had passed let out into the ocean not a few yards in front of her. It made her cling to the wagon just to see the sharp, long drop to the bottom. As they passed, however, the drop got smaller and smaller until they reached a beach. They almost seemed to fly past as Amy finally saw her farm in the distance.
As she suspected there wasn't very much to it. There was a small plot of land with six cherry trees on one end with a few plants already there. She couldn't see what from that distance.
Suddenly the wagon stopped and Amy was almost sent flying from the wagon from the sudden jolt. She took that as the cue to leave. She grabbed her rucksack and her box of books. She brushed off the stray pieces of hay and jumped down from the wagon. Wyn jumped from his post on the front of the wagon to help out with her other two suitcases that had been on either side of him. Together they quickly hauled her things to the front of her house...
It was a dilapidated single-story yellow house with the same brick red roof that seemed popular in the town. There were roof tiles missing and boards of wood leaned against what could have been a porch. The windows were so filthy you couldn't see through them. There was a chicken coop directly next to it and a barn akimbo to that that were in no better shape.
"This farm has seen better days," Wyn admitted, "But I'm sure you'll get it back to good order."
Amy's eye was twitching at the horror before her as she thought, "I knew this was a big mistake..."
Still, Amy forced a smile on her face and directed it back at Wyn, "I'll do my best."
"So, I'm sorry I have to leave you Amy but I really need to help my wife out and..."
"Don't worry about it," she answered, "I'll be fine. I just need to unpack before they mayor gets here and I'll be ok."
Wyn smiled back, "Alright great! Good luck!"
He waved goodbye and jumped back on his wagon. Quickly he snapped the reins on the horse and he was off again. But not before calling back behind him, "Be strong Amy! You can do this!"
Amy waved back, allowing the words to touch her. She found her anxiety slightly soothed by Wyn...
Suddenly a tile slid from the roof of the house and collided with a small pile of brick tiles on the side of the house. The noise shook Amy from her thoughts and drew her attention to the small pile and to the hole in the roof. Apparently this had been happening for a while. She sighed as she reviewed the state of the house once more, mentally tallying off what needed to be fixed and about how much each repair would cost.
Amy sighed, sending Nicole a meaningful look, "This is going to be even more work than I thought it would be..."
"Well, it is a ranch..." Nicole replied carefully, "It's not like it was going to be easy work to begin with."
Amy glared at Nicole before she sighed in defeat, "Ya well, whatever. Let's just get unpacked and clean up while we wait for the mayor to come by..."
Amy walked inside the house for a pleasant surprise. The house had been described as a one room ranch house. For a one room it was surprisingly spacious. The floor was spotless and despite the missing tiles on the roof seen earlier the ceiling was intact and clean as well. There was a twin-sized bed to the far right corner, a simple tan wood with a soft green comforter and a fluffy white pillow. Amy had brought her own from home but it was good to have options. Directly to the left was a small wooden dresser. Nothing very special but it would serve her purposes for the time being.
Amy pulled the suitcases over to the dresser and began to unpack. Once she opened the drawers, however she was again surprised to see how much space there was in that little dresser. There were only three drawers but she was able to fit all of her clothing and jewelry into two. To the left of that was a huge book case, where several books on farming and local mythology were already sitting. Instantly Amy hauled the box to the bookcase and added the books Mari-an had given her. Amy then looked up at the clock that sat on the other side of the house where a large four chair dining table sat. It was almost ten and she was basically done unpacking.
"Well this is nice," Nicole said as she settled herself neatly onto the bed, "It doesn't seem like much on the outside, It's looking to be a fair year in here, don't you think?"
Amy had her hands on her hips. She gave a slow smile as Wyn's words sunk in again, "Ya, I guess you're right."
It wasn't until she reached for her rucksack that she realized there were a few things missing in her house. For one thing the kitchen was small, about three counters long. It had an oven installed in the right most counter and nice, old-fashioned cabinets for dishes.
"There's no sink..." She thought, "Where am I supposed to wash the dishes, in the lake?"
"Speaking of a wash...I don't see a bathroom anywhere either."
Suddenly she panicked and realized just what the description truly meant when it said, "One bedroom ranch house." She started looking around the corners and the floor and realized there were no vents either. No heater. No airconditioning.
She was just about to go into a rage when she heard a knock on the door. She took several deep breaths before she opened the door. On the other side stood a tall slender squirell with short dark auburn hair and rather large eyebrows. His fur was a dark tan while his muzzle was a lighter creamy tan. His blue eyes held a friendliness that seeped into Amy and made her rage slowly subside. It didn't help that what he wore completely complemented his color scheme: a deep blue coat that was etched in deep golden yellow.
"Hi there, you're Amy, right?" he asked, his voice light but firm. The voice of a leader.
"Uh, ya! And you are...?"
"I'm Mayor Elias of Knothole Village. Do you mind if I come in? There's a few things I wanted to talk to you about."
Amy moved aside and motioned for Elias to come in. His posture was straight but not stiff as he made his way towards the dining table. He sat and motioned for Amy to sit as well. She followed suit and allowed a small sigh to escape her.
"This really isn't going to be as easy," she thought, feeling the last of her rage being quieted and making way for anxiety, "Not when these people and this place are constantly making my emotions do yo-yo tricks."
Amy was able to calm down much more once Elias explained that the bathroom was outside.
"I'm sure you've heard that we've been having some...issues...with our climate for a while?" he said delicately, "As it were our sewage system was affected by this and it's caused some major problems for us. Thankfully, your house has no indoor plumbing so there wasn't as much damage done here."
Amy was startled for a moment before she asked, "Damage?"
"That water system has been unable to take on the flow from the sea and from the storms we've been having," Elias answered, "So we've had to shut down our water and do things pretty much the old fashioned way. Thankfully there's a river nearby and we were able to sink a well in front of the Church so things are ok for the time being."
Amy suddenly felt the pressure come on again. She was faced with a great task of reviving the land, changing the climate and saving a dying goddess.
"Damn that bridge," she thought, "And damn Wyn for making me think this wasn't my responsibility to begin with!"
"So...I kinda get the out house," she said, slight disgust shivering through her body, "But what have you been doing to bathe?"
Elias scratched the back of his head as he fought with a blush, "Maybe I should give you a tour of your farm?"
He stood and walked to the door. Elias held it open as Amy walked outside directly facing her small farm plot.
"That's your field," he started as he shut the door behind him, "We've already planted a few crops to get you started."
Amy felt a small smile bloom on her face as she saw what was on her field. There were the six cherry trees she had seen on the road earlier in full bloom. The petals fell delicately onto the other twelve crops on her plot. Three cabbage heads popped up from the ground, small but still rather prominent. Given about another week and they would be ready for picking. Three turnips were maybe a day off from being perfectly ripe. Next to that was a row of three strawberry plants. They all had small white blossoms but a few small green pods were starting to pop up from some of the blooms. A few more weeks and Amy would have strawberries. And just to the left of those strawberries were three potato plants. The stalks stood tall but the flowers hadn't bloomed yet. They wouldn't be ready for another week or so.
Amy's smile was slow, but full. Elias relaxed, feeling the danger slowly fading, "Those were donated by Chaotix farm. I'm sure you'll meet with them later. They also wanted to give you these."
He held out a hoe, a watering can and a small bag filled with turnip seeds, "They weren't sure what you brought with you but we figured we could help you out as much we can."
Amy's eyes widened. She gingerly took all of the materials with her and placed them in her rucksack.
"Thank you," she said, "I didn't really think about it. I was just going to go to the general store and grab some."
"Just as well, the general store is cut off thanks to the bridge," he turned to the west and pointed up a path that wound around the pond to the left of her house, "That path leads to the Mining District. You'll find the carpenters, the blacksmith and appraisers there. The carpenter will help with extensions to your house, barn and chicken coop. The blacksmith will upgrade your tools when they're ready. And the appraiser will process the raw ores you may find in the mine.
He turned to the east back down the path Amy had taken from Albion Ranch, "That leads back to Flute fields. Whenever you get the chance you should go say hi to the men at Chaotix farm. You can buy more seeds and any fruit and vegetables you may need from there. And when you're ready for livestock on your farm, Albion ranch can take care of that for you.
He pointed back to the west but this time at the path that led southward towards the beach, "That's the path that leads you to Knothole Village. Maybe after you've gotten acquainted with everything on your farm you could meet everyone in town."
Elias then proceeded to show her around her farm, from the barn and chicken coop who's insides were just as well put together as the house's; to the outhouse that was right behind the coop. This included all of the shipping bins that Elias assured Amy would be taken care of at the end of every day, even the holidays. Then...
"This is your hotspring," Elias finished.
He'd led them to the northeastern part of the property. The stairs led down and to the right into a small private clearing that was protected by bamboo. It was a small clearing, maybe a quarter of an acre large but what it held made Amy even happier. To the left was a small natural hot spring. It was maybe three feet deep with a stone rim about two feet deep to serve as a place to sit. Small round stones made up the lip of the hot spring giving it a surprisingly clean look to it. To the right was a small shack, big enough to fit maybe four people at a time. It was made of the same wood that leaned against Amy's porch but inside was tile, bright white and pale blue alternating on the floor an half way up the walls. There was a drain in the center of the 10X10 room along with two long benches.
"You can bathe here," Elias said, "I know I said we have no running water but you can use water from the hot spring to bathe and relax."
Amy felt another wave of calm fill her. Everything was taken care of despite the minor set backs. It meant she could wait however long it took for the bridge to get fixed to see the Harvest Goddess. The locals had given her several serious head starts and all she had to do was work a little in the fields.
"And I have a hot tub!" she thought, "I'll be fi..."
"The hot spring is dead," Nicole murmured.
Amy shot a look at her trying to get her to shut up but realizing that it was still pleasantly cool in this area rather than being hot and steamy. Nicole was bent over the spring, her hand in the water.
"Ah well, water is water, and it's nice and private," she thought, trying desperately to retrieve that element of calm again. Still her face was in a forced smile that looked more like a scowl.
It did not go unnoticed by Elias, "I'm sorry, I didn't realize the fire had died here too."
Amy gave a shocked and embarrassed look to Elias and waved her hand dismissively, "No! Don't worry about it, it's not your fault, water is water and once things are settled down and I have enough money I can just renovate the place and get a shower and things installed!"
In that moment another thought popped into her mind and the weight was firmly thrust onto her shoulders again, "Wait...this fire is dead? You mean...you haven't had hot water either?"
She remembered someone saying that fires wouldn't start on the island anymore. How was that even possible? And what else did that affect?
Amy paled, "And how long have you all been unable to cook?"
Elias gave a laugh, if a slightly bitter one, "We can still cook things, it just takes longer because the fires are so weak. We can still do roasts and things just not anything that requires a boiling or a hot fire like grilling. At least not a fire we can trust."
Amy gave a small sigh of relief, "That's good. But how long have things been like that? How long have you all gone on without running water and a good fire?"
Elias paused before giving that answer, "The troubles started a year ago, when the Harvest Goddess' tree began to die. We didn't know what was going on or how to fix it. We've tried so many times to do something but the forest path that leads to the Harvest Goddess is blocked by trees and wild creatures. It's like the forest itself has blocked us from her. When that happened the harvest from the fields became fewer and less profitable. Then the storms started hitting and made things harder for us."
"Why haven't you left?" Amy asked, "Why stay here if it's all so hard?"
Elias immediately shook his head, "This is our home. There are so few places on this earth that are like here. We can't just abandon it because it's gotten a little harder to be here."
Amy paused at this. She slowly began to understand the reasoning behind it. She'd felt the same way about school.
"Yeah, I guess you're right," she sighed, "What can I do to help?"
Elias smiled, "Thank you, but we really need someone to look after this land. Maybe if you can come up with any ideas, come see everyone on Sundays at the church. We have meetings there before Nate begins the sermons."
"Nate?" Amy asked.
"He's the preacher for the Church of the Harvest Godess and her brother the Harvest King," he explained, "You'll meet him once we get to town.
"Speaking of town, it's getting a bit late," he looked down at his watch, which had been sitting in his pocket, "10:30, I really need to get back to town. Are there any questions you have?"
"Ya, how the hell am I supposed to help you when you don't even know what you want me to do?" Amy thought wryly to herself.
"Alright, one last thing before I go?"
Elias reached into his pocket and brought out a basket of strawberries. They weren't quite ripe yet but they still looked delicious, "Tails and Sir Charles are working on fixing the bridge. I'd bet anything they're both pretty hungry right now. Could you deliver these to them? I know they have a huge fondness for strawberries."
Amy took the basket and placed it in her bag, "No problem! It's kinda funny actually, Lara asked me to do the same thing."
Elias scratched his head, "More for Tails than Sir Charles I'll bet."
Amy quirked a brow, "What do you mean?"
He simply waved his hand, "You'll learn soon enough. In the mean time, I must be going. If you need anything that isn't in those books we gave you, please don't be afraid to ask. We're really counting on you, Amy."
Amy gave a small wave as Elias raced down the path back to town.
"Yep," she thought, "It's not even 10:30 and I'm already exhausted by these people. One minute I'm care free and the next I'm squirming to find a way to help them."
She sighed, "Now what do I do?"
Nicole neatly plopped herself onto Amy's head, "Now we do what we can to get this place into shape. It's clear we will not be able to get to the Harvest Spring for now, so we should take care of a few chores before we go to see this 'Tails'."
Amy nodded, "Guess so, for now. Let's see..."
She reached back into her rucksack and pulled out a book, "How do I plant these suckers..."
Nicole gave a small sweat drop and a sigh, "Maybe we should just care for the plants we have now. It looks like they haven't been watered yet today..."
Amy wiped her brow as she surveyed her work.
"Not bad for my first time I think!" she gave a proud smile, "They'll be perfect turnips in no time!"
Nicole gave a forced smile that looked like a worm was trying to escape her face. Despite her earlier advice to save the turnip seeds for later, she was promptly ignored and now...
Amy's furrows were both too deep and uneven. They gave the impression she was building trenches rather than shallow furrows for farming. It didn't help that the soil she had dug into was weak and they had no access to mulch or fertilizer. Nicole was almost positive that Amy had also placed the seeds too deep into the soil.
"I'll fix it later," Nicole decided, "When she's asleep. She'll be out like a light with all the energy she put out..."
"Yes," Nicole finally squeaked, "Not...terrible.
Amy caught the note but decided to ignore it, "It's definitely harder than I thought it would be but I worked off a lot of stress at least!"
Nicole simply nodded, "Well, now that that's done, why don't we take a closer look at the land? It's been a while since I've been to this part of the town but it doesn't seem to have changed all that much since the last time."
Amy quirked her brow at her as she put her watering can away in her rucksack, "I'm surprised, I thought the land couldn't give much of anything anymore. What do you see?
"Those herbs over on the east end of your farm for instance," she pointed, "And I think I see a couple of berry bushes on the south and north ends of your farm. The pickings from there should help support you until your first...harvest...comes in."
Amy pumped her fist, "Alright! Let's go!"
Once Amy had all of her gathered items safely in the shipping bin, she walked the path up north to where the Mining District was located. True to Nicole's word there were several berry bushes and on top of that was a small cluster of edible mushroom that Amy promptly picked. As she harvested the mushrooms, however, her mind began to wander, from the people, to the task that had been set before her to the Goddess herself. Finally as she picked the last of the mushrooms and headed back to the shipping bin on her land she spoke up.
"Hey Nicole," she began tentatively, "Why did the Goddess pick me?"
Nicole looked up at Amy from her seat, the crook between Amy's back and her rucksack, "Hmm...I'm not sure."
Amy shot her a look, "Thanks for the support. While you're back there, there's a spot your knife missed on my back."
Nicole rolled her eyes, "That's not to say you don't have your merits, Amy. I've been giving this a lot of thought as well, trust me."
"A lot more thought than she realizes," Nicole thought to herself, "I'm surprised she didn't ask me this sooner."
"You're a very sweet girl, Amy," Nicole started, "You're kind, strong and have a very deep set of morales and sense of obligation. The question you've asked, however, is one I'd like to ask the Goddess myself once she's better. She used a lot of power sending you that dream and it weakened her considerably."
"Exactly!" Amy exclaimed as they turned back up the northern path, "Why not ask someone nearby? Wyn and Lara were more than happy to help me out and I'm a total stranger! The Chaotix farm sent me a bunch of seeds and plant to get me started and I'm their competition! They seem like they'd be more than happy to do all this and would have an easier time doing it."
"The Mayor did say the Spring was blocked off," Nicole answered, "So maybe they could only help so much."
Amy suddenly remembered exhausted Lara holding her baby, "Only the chickens have been fed. They didn't even have time to feed themselves. I wonder who else has had to work like that?"
Nicole's eyes saddened, "I'm not sure. I was living in the Spring serving the Goddess before I came to be with you. It's funny, in all that time I haven't seen the Harvest King anywhere while she was sick."
Amy's eyes widened, "But she's his sister! Why doesn't he help out!?"
Nicole shook her head, "I couldn't say even if I knew. What he does and how he does things are a mystery to us chao. Only a few are chosen to serve him directly. He prefers to work alone."
"Even while his sister is sick and dying?" Amy retorted.
Nicole sighed, "That doesn't sound like something he would do. I'm sure he has his own plans for saving his sister. Whether they coincide with the Goddess' plans for herself are another story. That's what I'm more worried about."
Amy heaved a sighed, "Once we see her we'll get it all sorted out. Then I'll get the hot spring fixed and I can relax and think for a bit..."
Nicole raised a brow, "Leaving the land, the sea, the wind, and ultimately the Goddess where on your great list of things to do?"
Amy had the great urge to slam her back against the cliffside, "Let's...just go check out the bridge..."
The road wound it's way around the hillside that sat behind Amy's house. It grew larger as she walked closer to the district and the cliffs grew more bare and sheer. The road made a sharp right before Amy could see the district.
The people had been right, the bridge had been smashed all to pieces, but signs of progress had been made. On the farthest end of the bridge Amy could see an older blue hedgehog working on the simple rope bridge. To the hedgehog's left (or Amy's right) was a large waterfall cascading over the sheer cliff forming a small pond before the river ran below the bridge and into the ocean. Around the bend Amy saw the other end of the bridge dangling off of the cliff.
"That's a nasty break," Amy sighed, "No wonder the farm was a mess..."
Amy looked around and suddenly realized that she had no idea what this Tails looked like. She looked back to the old hedgehog and called out to him.
"I'm sorry to bother you sir, but are you Tails?"
The old hedgehog looked up and gave a small chuckle. Amy couldn't hear it over the falls, but his form shook and she could see he was smiling.
"I'm afraid he's on this side working on chopping wood for me. What seems to be the problem?"
Amy explained (or rather yelled out) the situation and the errand she was on. The old hedgehog nodded and called back that he would bring Tails back in a jiffy and just to sit tight. The older blue hedgehog then turned to head back towards the district.
"That would be Sir Charles," Nicole explained, "Almost everyone here calls him Uncle Chuck though."
Amy shook her head, "That's nice and all, but how am I going to deliver their things if I can't get across? It's not like any of us can fly or anything..."
Nicole paused, "It's been a long time since I've seen either of them...still, it's best to wait here for them Amy."
But Amy was no longer listening. Her head was pointing towards the waterfall, or rather just in front of it. The waterfall fell into a small pond which then flowed under the bridge and towards the town, but just in front of the waterfall was a short gap. It was just small enough to jump across without much effort...
Amy made her way towards it, not taking in a word that Nicole said.
She was halfway towards the gap when Nicole finally realized that Amy wasn't listening anymore. She turned to face Amy realizing what Amy was about to do.
"Amy, no!" Nicole cried, "Don't just jump! Think first!"
Amy stopped just as she was at the edge, "Why? It's a short jump, it's not like the waterfall is going to reach out and grab me."
Nicole paused. There was something wrong with this picture...she knew deep down something was nagging at her.
It hit her what it was just a moment too late as Amy jumped off one side of the small ledge. She cried out in terror as Amy, mid-jump, was ambushed from below by what seemed like a large fish.
Amy's eyes widened in horror as the ledge in front of her suddenly rose far too high. She felt herself being dragged below the rushing water as the force on her leg plunged ever deeper. She thrashed in desperation as the creature pulled her one way and the current pulled her the other. Her lungs filled with water as she finally couldn't hold her breath any longer. The last thing she knew was her body being pulled suddenly and forcibly up and away from the pressure on her legs. She vaguely felt her rucksack being set aside as her eyes rolled to the back of her head and darkness embraced her.
I'm going to go ahead and stop right here. There's already been enough talking and if you've already read the summary and you're familiar with Harvest Moon: Animal Parade, you know how the next part.
I'm trying to work with Nicole, but as of yet, only her sarcasm, polite nature and logic have come to light. I'll try working on her character more and how Amy and her react to one another.
And before you ask, no there really were no bathrooms in Harvest moon. The only games that allowed you a bathroom and shower was Another wonderful life and Harvest Moon DS/Cute. I figured I could play with that idea a bit. Although to be fair, none of the other houses ever had bathrooms or showers that I remember either. And before you start screaming, they didn't have ovens either. The ovens you bought and when they came in, they looked like little microwave ovens. I'll be damned if Amy is stuck with one of those.
Anyway, let's see how the next chapter turns out because the changes will be slight but noticeable...I hope...