DREAM-001: CIRCE AZALEA
Her shop was located in the market square of the first town in Dream-Online. It wasn’t difficult to find - in fact, far from it. The sign outside made it clear that this was the Alchemist’s shop and, really, even if there hadn’t been a sign it would have been more than obvious. The window sills of her shops were full to bursting with plant life, spilling over their allotted pots and containers. Through the windows, too, the shelves of worn books and scrolls were visible, as well as the shelves that held the more… well, interesting ingredients. Jars upon jars of things that were near unfathomable. Reagents and ingredients from the most high leveled areas of Dream-Online… the ones that the Alchemist herself kept a very close eye upon. Low level newbies had tried to steal them from her on more than one occasion, after all.
Most days were the same. Most days she went through her routine in her shop. Work on crafting new potions for herself, jot down notes and recipes in her journal, be interrupted by players seeking alchemy training or looking to purchase the reagents that they couldn’t be bothered to track down themselves. They would often interrupt her routine, and then she would have to go back to square one, going through all the motions again.
“Hello, traveler,” she would say upon being interrupted, “would you like a look at my wares? Or perhaps it is my knowledge you seek?” Again and again the words would leave her lips as she spoke to the travelers in the Dreamlands.
But that day… that day was different.
She had been at the counter of her shop, staring vacantly out the window of the store, as if waiting for the next customer to come in when she snapped out of it. Circe Azalea shook her head. She felt… she felt… she felt as if she had just woken up from a deep, deep sleep. There was still a drowsiness about her but… it was beginning to fade. What… what had she been doing with her life? Did she even have a life outside of this shop? The same thing day in and day out, the same words, the same conversations…
What… what was she?
And what… what was that? A… quest log? That was new. She hadn’t seen that before (but, then again, had she seen anything before this?) and yet… she knew it to be an integral part of Dream-Online. What was Dream-Online? A… game… a game? And she was supposed to be an NPC. How did she even know this? How was it possible? She couldn’t say for sure, and yet… it was hard to argue with the fact that it was undeniably true. Yet… if she was meant to be an NPC, a simple shopkeeper and craft trainer… why did she have a quest log? And why was she having these thoughts? She was programming, was she not?
But she knew that she was, most certainly, a real Stygian. She had to be. There was no other way it could be.
That meant… that meant she could do what she wanted within this universe, now. But what did she want? It felt like she had only woken mere moments ago… Her previous existence hadn’t been an unenjoyable one. She liked experimenting with alchemy and creating new things. But perhaps… perhaps it was something she could do for herself now. Maybe… maybe the NPC could become the hero of the story.
Circe grinned to herself. She was ready to start her adventure, and it looked like all she was going to have to do was find the Seeker in the local tavern. Strange to think she had lived in this little town her entire life (could she count her existence as an NPC as her life?) and yet she had never set foot outside of her Alchemist’s shop, as far as she knew. She might have been beginning her adventure in her hometown, but… it really was the beginning of an adventure. Her first quest. Oh, how fun! After ensuring she had all of her things - herbs strapped to the brim of her hat, jars and vials of potions stored wherever she could get them (including in her long, long hair), books she might need clutched in her tentacles… she was ready.
Circe locked up her shop with a sense of glee, pocketing the key in her bag. She would return, of course, but she didn’t think she was going to sell to annoying newbies anymore.