East of Vakkiri is the road to Watchhill, where Ellhrah’s fort is supposed to be. You’re not sure what to expect from a servile fort. It must be another Shaper ruin; none of the buildings you saw in Vakkiri were of servile make. You’re not even sure what a servile designed and built structure would actually look like. The Vakkiri serviles all claimed abandoned Shaper buildings and have done their best to keep them from falling entirely to ruin. In a way, it’s a form of sincere dedication to the Shapers. You doubt the Awakened want to hear that, though.
You quickly find rogue thahds patrolling the road. Fortunately, they’re patrolling one by one. Careful, methodical movement allows you to pick them off one by one without being seen and without any thahds ambushing you from behind. No serviles patrol these roads. You find a sign that reads “Ellhrah’s Fort – North,” but you pass it by in favor of the main road.
Unfortunately, the widest, clearest road terminates in a dead end in a thick copse of trees. Moving quickly and quietly among them is beyond your skill. You backtrack and head north into paths tromped hard and flat by thick-headed thahd. There’s still evidence of undergrowth on some of the paths, so much of this traffic has to be recent activity.
More thahds patrol up here. Your fyoras burn them up swiftly, more efficient than any mundane incinerators at burning up living tissue.
You are at the entrance to an old Shaper watchpost. It is a burrow under a large hill. From the top, Guardians and Agents kept watch over the surrounding lands, looking for rogues and other sources of trouble.
The guards lived in the warrens under the hill. It is a common arrangement. However, these caverns have been taken over by savage rogues. A cacophony of their growls and grunts echoes out of the tunnels.
For now, you decide it’s better to locate Ellhrah’s fort than to explore rogue-riddled warrens. The detour past the roadblock isn’t entirely safe, though.
Two thahd ambush you in a clearing. Your new fyora takes a savage beating and barely survives long enough for you to heal it. The two creations manage to tear apart one of the thahd despite their injuries.
You carefully keep the fyora between you and the remaining rogue. Ducking a thahd’s punches is more excitement than you really like. After you crush the last rogue, you head south. Here you find a few signs of sapient life, though by now you know better than to expect human company.
The entrance to this fort is watched by servile guards. This one is a young male, at the peak of his strength, and wielding an old and dented but still usable sword. He looks at you with the expected fear and uncertainty.
“Welcome, Shaper. I wish you well,” he says.
As is becoming your custom, you greet him by asking questions. “Who lives in this fort?”
“This is the home of Ellhrah, founder of the Awakened. He has told us that you are welcome here, and no harm is meant to you as long as no harm is meant to us.”
“Is there anything I should know about this region?” You’ve killed your way through miles of it now, but more information on the northern warrens would probably help your chances of clearing the rogues out.
“There is a great deal of danger. The woods are full of rogues, and we don’t know where they’re coming from. If you travel, you should beware.”
You sigh. “If I wanted to help rid these woods of rogues, where should we start?”
“There is a hermit living to the northeast. Her name is Seerula. She was a powerful fighter in Vakkiri before she left. She hates the rogues. She might help you,” the guard suggests hopefully.
That’s a start, at least. “Anything else?”
“We know that there are a lot of rogues in a tunneled out hill to the northwest. There are lots of rogues guarding the entrances, but they go out hunting a lot. If you waited outside, you could ambush the guards.” He pauses. “They’re pretty stupid.”
You’ve already killed most of those guards, you suspect, but there may be more. It’s worthwhile to be cautious. “I know Vakkiri is to the west. What other settlements are nearby?”
“The nearest settlement besides Vakkiri is Pentil. You could get there by going east or north.” The other guard is starting to look more openly at you, and you suspect you’ve exhausted their useful information.
You strike off to the east, where you soon find yet another sign. “Thorny Fens – East. Pentil – Farther East.” How charming.
I’m not making up this shit about the signs. I’ve probably left out half the signs. This section of the game has signs EVERYWHERE.
You decide to take the guard’s advice and seek out Seerula. The right track leads you to a small, isolated Shaper ruin. It was probably a small guard shack or perhaps a more hermitic Shaper’s refuge before Sucia Island was Barred.
You meet a servile hermit. She is old, her skin is papery, and her robes are tattered. However, she moves with the precision and strength of an old warrior. Her motions seem like they would be more fitting to a Guardian than an aging creation.
She looks up at you. “Greetings, Shaper. I am Seerula. I am sure you have a reason for disrupting my privacy. I prefer to keep to myself.”
“Why do you live out here?” you ask. Serviles were made to crave the company of other serviles, not isolation.
“Shaper, I am a private being. I wish for you to respect it. My disagreements with Vakkiri are my own business,” Seerula says. Her desire for privacy is almost as alien in a servile as her coldness to one of her creators.
“What do you think of all of the rogues around here?” Maybe you can find some common ground with her. Even Brodus Blade, while wary of you, wasn’t this standoffish and arrogant.
“They disturb my serenity. I would gladly be rid of them, but I am not eager for the danger and the effort.”
“Why don’t you help me get rid of them?”
Your suggestion triggers a dainty snort of disbelief. “I came here to avoid contact with others. Even you, Shaper. That would be even worse for me than the rogues,” Seerula says.
Again, we have another set of choices. They can all influence how other serviles see us. Regardless of what some of the Awakened say about avoiding the Obeyers and the Takers, it’s pretty clear that the serviles on Sucia Island have a robust grapevine, because all factions instantly know our attitude towards servile independence and keep a tally on how we act.
Here is the choice we don’t take: 1. You are a servile. I am a Shaper. I command you to aid me.
“If the rogues aren’t stopped now, they’ll only get stronger,” you tell her.
She’s not impressed. “I will deal with that when that happens.”
“If you don’t get rid of the rogues, Vakkiri will. That means dozens of warriors trudging through your woods, invading your privacy,” you say, channeling your most infuriatingly reasonable logic. How could anyone argue with the simple facts?
“All right.” She sighs heavily and slings a pack of javelins over her shoulder. For an old servile, Seerula is alarmingly well armed. “I am surprised that you have convinced me, but you have. If you wish, I will aid you in your battle against the rogues.”
“Thank you. Please travel with me for a little while,” you say. She wordlessly grabs her weapon and takes your side.
You need a Leadership score of 5 to convince Seerula to help you. If she kills something, you won’t get XP, but she’s a useful damage sink for a character as fragile as Solution. Seerula isn’t immortal, either. She can die. I don’t recall if she actually drops anything useful — I suspect not. You won’t get XP from her death unless you finish her off. A rogue killing her doesn’t count! You can’t command Seerula in battle. She follows you at medium range, and her AI controls her in and out of combat much like a creation with less than 2 Intelligence points. She has both a melee attack and a ranged javelin attack. They’re quite a lot stronger than what Solution and the fyorafriends have.
Seerula ended up under my combat cursor in this screenshot. Alas, the rest of the shots have her hidden by geometry. I think the AI was fucking with me.
Fighting with Seerula along proves both helpful and frustrating. She’s completely deaf to your commands and suggestions, but utterly fierce in a fight. She takes her time covering your trail even though where you really want her is up front. She no doubt knows that, but isn’t willing to take any blows meant for you. Still, Seerula is terrifyingly strong and kills a couple thahds outright with her thrown javelins. By the time you reach the warrens, the woods are completely clear of patrolling rogues. Nothing will strike at your backs while you investigate what’s going on inside the old watch hill.
The inside is laid out simply enough. You follow the main corridor around, picking up a few old healing pods as you go. They’re useful little things packed with magic powder that almost instantly revitalizes wounds. The pods are no good on creations, but perfect for you. What’s more, they all seem intact.
You can see two things of great interest in the chamber ahead. First, there is a pool of essence. However, it doesn’t look right. It is dark, and viscous, and it puts off an unpleasant vinegar smell. It’s not anything you could use. It’s very strange stuff, and not made by Shapers.
Second, there is a creature there, rooted to the floor like a huge plant. It’s a horrible, slimy beast, with three large tentacle-like tubes sticking out of the top. As you watch, it quickly squeezes a small fyora out of one of them.
If this horrible thing is a Shaper creation, you’ve never heard of it before. As you watch in horror, it absorbs some of the gray essence and begins to create another creature. The mystery of where all of the rogues came from has been solved.
The text isn’t really accurate in my experience. The monster generator here always produces thahds for me. If there’s a chance to produce fyora, it might be very slight. I’d honestly rather fight the fyoras…
The next few minutes stretch into what feels like hours. The spawner creature squeezes out thahds every handful of seconds, putting you and your creations to the test. You’re caught in a narrow corridor with your fyora in front and Seerula behind. As you direct the fyora in clearing out the spawner’s creations, you hear Seerula engage more rogues behind you. She has to fend for herself, as you quickly lose track of her while trying not to be mashed into paste by thahds who’ve stumbled into a lucky pincer attack against you.
The spawner proves alarmingly resilient. It continually regenerates tissue, always managing to avoid the brink of death. However, despite its best efforts, the spawner can’t pump out enough thahds to crush you. One of your fyora finishes it off with a fireball. The spawner dies with a disgusting pop of gloppy, oozing flesh that melts into a custardy texture.
Despite this victory, your work is unfinished. You hear the echoing stomps of more thahds wandering around the watch hill’s halls. Moreover, there’s no sign of Seerula. You call out to her, but receive no answer. You have a nagging feeling that somehow the thahds managed to kill her so thoroughly that there’s not even a recognizable body. You search among the dead thahds, but there’s no sign of her.
Guilt creeps in. Despite her attitude, Seerula obeyed you in the end and followed you to help destroy dangerous rogues. You failed to defend her from them.
The best you can do is ensure that no more serviles are killed by rogues. Maybe you can find clues about how this spawner was created and who did it. As far as you know, no Shaper would make such a thing. The secrets of creation are meant for Shapers alone. A creation that can itself create is a dangerous abomination. The shaping of such a thing is so wildly irresponsible that it’s insane. You can’t imagine what kind of madness would cause anyone to create a creature like this. The thahds and fyoras it made were all utterly feral and almost mindlessly aggressive. There’s no use for creations like that.
But your investigations yield little more than some old equipment. Whoever put the spawner there didn’t leave behind any convenient clues. You clear out the rest of the rogues and discover another canister. This one allows you to create a thahd yourself. As troublesome as they are when rogue, thahds make great bodyguards. You just have to make sure they don’t drown during rainstorms. At least you got that much.
Your search for Seerula’s remains turn up nothing. Half hopeful and half nervous, you comb through the woods and circle back to her hut. Just as you step inside, Seerula surprises you from behind. She seems irritated to see you.
“I was looking for you. I’m a Shaper, you know.” It sounds almost petulant when you say that aloud. “Why do you have so little respect for me?”
“A Shaper who is as stranded on this island as I am. I am Awakened, Shaper. I do not hold you in awe,” Seerula replies.
What else is there to say? She’s correct.