Meeting With Squall
After proceeding to the actual fort from which Fort Mar gets its name, you are put into contact with a skittish man named Leaf Ears whose office contains a square of cloth of indeterminate size and shape – it’s a little unclear. Keyrock finds time to take a break from whoring to join the group in meeting with the Southern Forest’s monarch, Mel Squall. Captain Squall turns out to be a female half-elf with a penchant for expletives.
Squall agrees to give you information about the recent orcish incursions in the Forest if you do a favor for her: go investigate a ship that went missing a few days ago and recover from it the contents of a special chest and all the captain’s logs. Your transport to its last known location leaves the next morning. You stay at a local public house: the Crab Roof Inn. Amaranthe makes use of its famed shingles by pilfering a handful and using them to barter for your stay and food.
Your ship sets out and after a few days of travel you become aware that the ship you’re seeking has been caught in the arm of a gigantic whirlpool. The captain sends you out to it on a raft, which you promptly lose to the current after failing to moor to the side of the sinking ship.
Oh, yeah – the ship is sinking. There are signs of a battle all over it, including a blood trail that leads you past a message reading: “I must admit, going down within this ship, I couldn’t have a better crew to travel with. If I make it in one piece back to land, I will never sail again,” to the dying and desperate Captain Fragor, who ran the ship you’re currently on till there was a mutiny and subsequent massacre.
Ember stays with Fragor while the rest of the party proceeds below deck (via a hidden chute) to a cargo hold where crew members are ransacking the crates and barrels in order to find life rafts, according to them, but that’s quickly proven to be a ruse, given that they hulk out into some weird were-lobster things. After babbling about some sort of master/creator who shares Amaranthe’s sadistic tendencies, they’re taken down, but one of them takes the boat down with him, smashing a hole in the hull and escaping.
After thoroughly pilfering the quickly-filling cargo hold, the party goes back above, where Captain Fragor and Ember have come up with a plan to fire the lot of you out of the ship via gigantic experimental cannons. This succeeds with only minor injury, much to everyone’s surprise, and just before you’re rescued, Fragor confesses his love for a woman named Lavender.
Back To The Fort
On the ship everyone discovers that there is a cog in the chest which somehow attracts the stone Amaranthe carries. Nobody knows why, but the swag you stole from the sinking ship makes you forget. Back in Fort Mar, you rob the irritating merchant Billwater on the docks, then, while waiting to meet with Squall, thoroughly disturb a blacksmith of indeterminate gender who gets the side of his/her smithing shop punched.
In general Squall seems pretty pleased with the results of the trip, all things considered. Except for the fact that Ash Stillward carries Elfwoe The Blondslayer, a weapon forged of cold iron that was used to slaughter thousands of elfkind in Etern over the past few years. Oh, well. Dianthus Willowisp returns the skeleton of a kitten to Squall and gets a phantom cheetah in return. Yay.
After Squall gets super upset with Fragor for secretly dating – and subsequently misplacing – her sister, Lavender (who loved travel and had some kind of “holy field,” which Squall despises, along with an unnamed farmer), she advises you to travel into the Southern Forest proper, although it’s a little dangerous, since all sorts of weird phenomena are taking place there recently – patches of the Forest are becoming corrupted somehow. The decision is made to set out for the Forest the following morning. But what a night it will be in the meantime.
Night Of One Thousand Sins
Returning to the Crab Roof Inn, it is revealed that the proprietor has placed a sentry on the roof to guard against a rash of crab shell burglaries. With this in mind, Amaranthe sets out to pilfer once again. She manages to make the relief sentry brain himself falling off a ladder. The real sentry is extremely distraught by his best friend’s subsequent brain aneurysm and demise, so much so that he seeks solace in the arms of Amaranthe and a bottle of booze. The dead boy turns out to be the owner’s nephew, as well, so everybody’s really sad, which makes it the perfect opportunity for Chert and Ember to steal a shit ton of the crab shells from the roof. Sensitivity! Despite amorous alternatives, everyone stays in their own rooms overnight.
Into The Woods
A labyrinthine trip through the southern tip of the Southern Forest takes you to a few interesting locations. One being a Weirdwood grove (where a mystical tree will sing you prophecy if it likes what you gave it or just likes you), where you again encounter Captain Fragor. He has been unable to get it to say anything to him, but it talks to you guys plenty. It sings you these things:
- Child of Forest’s Haven / And the Woman Who’s None / Shall find when shaven / That which is gone.
- She Who Wanders is not truly lost. / To meet the Son of Jack, life’s the cost.
- In a Belltower overturned, / Suspended in chain, / Hidden in sight plain, / A piece yet un-learned.
- The Unkindness’ Center / Assembles That Which Did Rend. / For godhood to enter / Blood shared marks the end.
Whatever that means.
You guys wander around the woods some more till you run into a few orcs. Which turn out to be a lot of orcs. Like a lot a lot. Running away from them you encounter Grunt, a large orc who is into all sorts of scary things: riding around on a hyena monster; saying he knows someone you’ve met just by smell; wearing the bones and teeth of elves as his armor; and, oh yeah, slaughtering elves (turns out Elfwoe is his, and it wants to go back to him). So continuing to run seems a prurient option.
Running through the forest takes you through the aforementioned corrupted land, which is like some kind of cancerous swamp. Gross. But then, whoa – the ground goes out from under you and you slide into an underground cavern. Turns out it’s a gigantic cave network that’s been constructed by…
Finding a subterranean dwarven settlement at the shore of a lake – aptly named Lakeshore, you’re (re)acquainted with your biggest fan, Garbleback, who’s signed on as some extra muscle in town, since the dwarves (who have apparently established a gigantic underground tunnel network that stretches the entire length and breadth of the Southern Forest) have been having all kinds of trouble with orcs in recent days. He suspects that the orcs have used the tunnels that the dwarves dug in order to escape Etern to do exactly the same thing. He suggests you travel the tunnels and blow some of the tunnels to cut off their advance. You also visit a gold seller where you immediately supersaturate the pearls market in Lakeshore.
A Proper Dungeon Crawl
Traveling up Tunnel 35, you reach its intersection with Tunnel C (after a frustrating trip through a stretch of tunnel that kept teleporting you around), where the guard station had been totally bombed out.
The dwarves inside were all dead, killed by some kind of something that shoots lightning and something else that left a sandy, golden dust behind. In a room with a locked safe, you find a passageway that soon becomes slick and difficult to navigate. Those who can’t keep their footing (Amaranthe the first among them) slide to a near-death experience in a spike-filled pit. You all eventually manage to get onto a ledge atop the pit and climb down to a statue-filled room. The statues try to kill you all, because Ember took a key out of one of their hands, but they’re pretty slow, and as soon as Keyrock tells them to stop, they do. They turn friendly and tell you guys to go away after giving you some swag. Tying yourselves together you manage to get back to the room, unlock the safe, and take the stuff inside (some riches, armor, and weapons).
The abandoned guardhouse is no longer abandoned – there’s some floating crystal there that attacks you. Blowing it up reveals that it’s one of the things that attacked the dwarves. You take off and eventually find a passageway that goes upstairs in the east and down a fog-filled path in the west.