Valerie lives alone on a Darzian plantation where she harvests wheat and a small variety of fruits. Most people who meet her would describe her as “strange.” And she would be proud to hear it.
Valerie helps Serafina on her journey to Castle Krondolee. She would happily play a large role in the events to come, if only Serafina would let her…
from the visual novel
“I… I think that’s her house up ahead!” cries Nikolaos, just as I think I will crumple to the earth and never get up again.
“Your friend is a she?” I blink through the glaring daylight and spot the small wooden structure in the distance. My curiosity renews my strength. I’ve never met another woman before, except for my frightening encounter with Belatrix. The prospect would be exciting if I hadn’t already had enough excitement to last me for months.
“Yeah. And I suppose I should warn you.” He rakes a hand through his choppy black hair. “Valerie can be a little… strange.”
“Strange?” I laugh at the notion. “Any person is ‘strange’ to me. I don’t really know what ‘normal’ is.”
“True.” Nikolaos manages to smirk at me, even though his dry lips crackle from the effort. “You really don’t get out much, do you?”
“NIKOLAOS!” A shrill but mildly pleasant voice, like an excited bird waking me up in the morning, flutters across the landscape. “You arrive like medicine after several days of illness.”
She comes skipping through the grass, her dress so vibrant and pink that for a moment my eyes ache. But I force them to adjust so I can continue to study her in a state of pure wonder. She has a small frame, but she seems so full of life and energy, like the Polisk flowers of the deep jungle that can survive any turn of the weather. She has short, curly blonde hair that falls in wisps around plump, rosy cheeks. Her bright blue eyes are like windows to the sky as she returns my curious stare.
“And what have you brought me?” she asks Nikolaos.
“Valerie, this is Elsa. Elsa, Valerie.”
Valerie’s pink lips curl with a smile. “Does she come from beyond the horizon, where laws break and dreams fly?”
I grab Nikolaos’s cloak and dart behind him. It’s not a conscious decision. But I don’t know what to say or do around Valerie, so hiding from her seems like my only option. Nikolaos forces a smile on my behalf. “She’s, uh… she’s had a rough few days.”
“Pity,” says Valerie, lifting one of her thin silver eyebrows. “I would have loved to sift through her memories.”
What is that supposed to mean?
“I’m afraid we’re both exhausted. And… hungry.” Nikolaos’s stomach growls with perfect timing. “So if we could stay with you tonight…”
“And what will I get in return?” asks Valerie.
“Um… I have some money. And gold…”
Valerie rolls her eyes. “Yes, of course, the hillsides are drowning in money and gold. Can you give me joy? Can you give me sustenance?”
Valerie is, indeed, a strange woman—as far as I can tell. But as I look around her large plot of land, I see that she is in need of assistance. Her crops whither and die under the glaring sun. Whatever she is trying to grow, she is certainly not succeeding.
Before I fully think it through, I step away from Nikolaos and raise my voice. “I can help you with your crops.”
Nikolaos seems surprised by my offer, but Valerie’s eyes just glitter at me. “Can you now?”
“I’m very good at tending plants. That’s what Papa tells me, anyway.” I glance at the land around us. “By the look of your field, you need to sift the soil. Maybe throw in a few larzi worms.”
“You want me to put worms in my soil?” Her nose wrinkles with disgust. “Those things eat roots!”
“Yes. They eat dead roots, or rotting ones, like those in your field right now,” I explain. “After the larzi digest the rot, they excrete useful nutrients. They also ward off other parasites.”
Valerie’s frown shifts slowly into a smile. “You bring me knowledge. I like knowledge. But how did you acquire it?”
“I just… learned, I suppose. I’ve grown many plants in the jungle.”
“In the jungle, you say?”
Nikolaos jumps back in front of me, beaming at Valerie with a grin that feigns innocence, but looks the farthest thing from it. “So then, do you have room at your hearth for two weary souls?”
“I suppose something can be arranged.” Valerie’s eyes linger on me a moment longer, but finally she turns and leads us towards her little wooden house on the horizon.