The Let's Play Archive


by Seorin

Part 38

Chapter the Thirty Seventh: To Keep Afloat Amidst Still Waters

I hastily glanced over at the blades, not really caring one way or another about them after my chat with Virgil. Despite that I was looking straight at them, I barely even noticed them. I was too preoccupied with my own insecurities to think of anything else. After all this time, Virgil, you still don't trust me...? I needed a drink.

I stormed across the snowy courtyard with the ugly statue in it that made up the main square of Stillwater, pushing my way into the bar on the other side. I planned on just storming right up to the bar and ordering myself a whiskey, but I overheard yet another tavern philanthropist gloating after somebody failed to answer his trivia question. Well, I know just what will wipe the smile off his face.

I grinned smugly as the man counted out 500 coins to me. Something about thievery, legal or not, always made me feel better for some reason. Since I'd come to the bar to get my mind off of things anyway, I looked about to see if anybody else had any questions they thought unanswerable. Naturally, I was in luck. Stillwater certainly wasn't lacking in fools.

Now that's very much to my liking. Thievery was but a fleeting joy, however, and my foul mood strongly persisted. I needed something that would persist along with it. I wandered over to the bar and slapped down four coins, glancing up at the bartender expectantly, "Two shots of whiskey, good sir."

"Coming right up," he said, fetching two clean glasses from the shelf behind him and sliding them onto the bar in front of me. "You new in town? Just passing through?," he questioned as he filled up the shot glasses with that sweet fire I so desperately wanted.

I tossed back the first shot before he'd even finished filling the second. "Something like that, yeah."

I remembered suddenly the vicious and unnecessary murders of H.T. Parnell and Gar, the world's smartest orc. Just what I needed, even more weighing on my guilty conscience. I tossed the second shot down. "Bunch of hogwash, nothing more. Lies. Give me another shot."

The bartender acquiesced with my request and I slapped another few coins on the bar. "You're free to believe what you like, madam, but strange things do happen way out here in the middle of nowhere. Take Marley, for example. Nobody used to like him at all, but in no time at all he's become a sought after friend, and lover to the women. Not a week ago nobody would go within ten feet of him unless they needed somebody to spit at! Strange, don't you think?"

I grumbled, setting down my third emptied shot. "What's strange is there's still an empty shot glass on this counter. I've got sorrows to drown, dammit!"

He shook his head at me sadly, pouring my fourth shot. "You think you've got it bad, madam? Have you heard of Adkin Chambers' tragic past? He was crippled by Garrick Stout, blinded for the rest of his days. On top of that the love of his life was stolen from him. Whatever ails you, friend, remember, it could always be worse."

I looked at the shot sitting on the bar and sighed deeply. Adkin Chambers... right, the dodge master... I was planning on paying him a visit at some point. With or without Virgil, there's still too much to be done to waste away in a backwater tavern like this one. I pushed the shot away, "My sorrows are my own, and they aren't yours to judge... but drinking myself into a hole isn't going to solve anything. Take that shot for yourself, my good man, and please tell me what you can about any elves in these parts."

"Thanks for the tip, friend. I'll go searching him out." I dropped another few coins on the bar and pushed my way out grumpily.

"Excuse me," Virgil said as I stalked away from him. I stopped. "Are you alright? You don't seem yourself... to be honest, I'm worried."

I couldn't hold onto it any longer. It was perhaps some combination of my foul mood and the whiskey that was rapidly impairing my judgment, but I'd been carrying around my burden for too long, and the weight of it was too much to bear. I'd desperately wanted to swap stories with Virgil, but he didn't trust me enough to tell me even the first thing he was hiding. "Do you remember when we first met, Virgil?" His trust didn't even matter anymore, what I needed to say was for my benefit and mine alone. I just wanted somebody to understand me, to reassure me that they, too, were every bit as horrible as I.

Virgil seemed suddenly nervous, "Y-yes..." He looked confused and even more worried than ever, having no idea of what I was trying to say. Don't we just make a darling couple of friends? You don't trust me, and I'm using you to feel better about myself. The sad part is I really do consider you a friend, one of the best I've ever had.

"I ran away, Virgil... that's why I was on that zeppelin. I picked up everything in my house that wasn't nailed down and I sold it all for a zeppelin ticket and this dress that I've long since ruined. I didn't live alone, and the things I sold... they didn't belong to me." Everytime I paused for even a fraction of a second he opened his mouth to try and say something. When I finally paused to take a deep breath he cut in.

"That's it? That's what you're worried about?" He sounded almost happy, like he was about to laugh. "Samantha, please... that's nothing... so what? Nobody's a saint. I'm sure your roommates or your family or whoever it was has long since forgiven you. If anything they're probably worried, waiting for you to come home to them."

I wanted to cry, and I was such a wreck that I almost gave in. I let out a few sniffles, but nothing that I couldn't write off as a symptom of standing out in the snow. "You're wrong, Virgil. That was just the tip of the iceberg. I did something horrible, something I couldn't stand to live with. Then, instead of facing it, I ran, and I didn't care who I hurt in the process. All I could think about was getting away."

Virgil stared down at the ground, his voice barely above a whisper. "We all have our burdens, I suppose. I wouldn't presume to say yours is any easier to live with than mine, but listen... forget about all that, please. Who you once were doesn't matter, because you're somebody else now. You're an adventurer, traveling the world, chasing down mysteries... you're my friend, and together we've helped a lot of people. Doesn't any of that count for something?"

I couldn't hold the tears back any more. I wanted to believe in what Virgil was saying, but I knew better. "I wish any of it did count, Virgil, but everything I do now is based on the destruction of the person I once was. None of the things we've done together, good or bad, would have happened if I'd never ruined my life in the first place. We've a lot in common, you and I, so tell me this one thing: if you could take back the one thing you regret most in your past, would you do it... knowing that it would undo everything good you've done since that point?"

Virgil fell completely silent for several moments, obviously giving a lot of thought to what I'd just said. If it weren't for the whiskey I probably never would've said anything at all, knowing the pain it was causing him, the same pain that I'd been trying to ignore since we first reached Tarant. At last, he spoke, "Randver was right about you... you've a wisdom beyond your years, it seems. You know that I would, and in saying that I know that you would as well. I can understand how you feel. Is... is that all? Can we move on now? I don't think I really want to dwell on this any longer."

I reached over to Virgil and I gave him a hug, although it was cold and distant through the plate mail. "Yes, you're right, Virgil. I suppose that dwelling on it doesn't really stop assassins from chasing us down, now does it? Come on, let's take a look around Stillwater and take some time to calm down, then seek out this Myrth fellow."

He sighed, patting me on the shoulder with a metal glove, "Yes, that sounds like a good idea."

The first place we stopped was back into the blacksmith's shop that we'd left not too long ago. The shopkeeper called out a greeting as we entered.

"Greetings, Richard." I glanced around the shop, gently itching at my forearms. "I've heard a bit about Stillwater blades before, but never had the opportunity to actually see them. Would you mind telling me what's so special about them?"

He picked up a blade off of a nearby counter and stared at it, running his finger along the flat of it as he spoke. "We do a lot of trading with the dwarves... they have the best ore in Arcanum, and it makes well-balanced weapons. My family has been making swords in Stillwater for 400 years. I don't mean to be wordy, lass, but if there's anyone in this land who knows more about bladesmithing than I do, I'd be very surprised..."

I could tell that the blade he was holding wouldn't be particularly agreeable to me. "Do you enchant the weapons as well?" A smith who enchanted his own wares would be a rarity indeed.

I noted the look of concern on in Richard's eyes and started to become a lot more interested. "I believe it's Tuesday, my good man. Is there a problem?"

He nodded slowly, setting the blade down and scratching the top of his bald head. "That's strange... old Cyrus was supposed to come down here yesterday. I haven't had the time to check in on him, and today I'm especially busy with an order from the Caladonian Guard. I sure hope he's alright..."

Although I was interested in more details on his order for Caladon I also wasn't in the mood to think about my former home at just that moment. "Perhaps I could look in on him, for you..." I was mostly interested in any kind of compensation he could offer me for my time, but I also had some genuine desire to help. After all, if something happened to the old wizard then Caladon's newly purchased blades wouldn't be enchanted at all. If nothing else, I was helping my hometown in a rather roundabout way.

Why do people always say I seem trustworthy? Are they just that daft or am I a better liar than I give myself credit for? There wasn't an easy way to say 'your store makes me itch' so I just accepted. "Sounds like a fair trade, I'll do it." I could always sell the blade off afterwards.

He sighed an obvious sigh of relief. It seemed that he had an awful lot of faith in my abilities. "My thanks to you, stranger. His house is just northwest of here... just follow the path outside of town. When you've made sure the old wizard is fine, then return to me."

"I'll do just that, Richard. Until then." I waved at him and stepped out of the shop, traveling in a northwesterly direction. After walking for only a couple short minutes I encountered what I assumed to be the house. At the very least there weren't any other houses I'd encountered along the way, but such was the nature of Stillwater.

Although the air was cold and my nose was chilled to the point of being barely functional, I could never mistake the scent of blood.

The doors to the house were flung wide open and there was blood on the edge of the door frame, running down the length of it and making a thin pool at the bottom. The inside of the house looked to be in rather extreme disrepair as well. Magickal trinkets and other such oddities had been scattered about the table and floor haphazardly. There was a chair in the middle of the room that had been knocked over and one of the legs was broken off. This is not a good sign at all.

"Beg your pardon," Vollinger called out to me from outside the house. I wandered over to him and he pointed at the snow on the ground. "Take a look... those are tracks, larger than the ones even Virgil is making in that suit of armor he's wearing. If I were to guess, you didn't find a body inside the house, did you?"

I shook my head no, "What are you thinking, Vollinger? Should we follow them?"

He thought about it for a bit, bending down and tracing the outline of one of the tracks with his finger. "At first I'd suspected these might belong to a half ogre, but actually they're a bit large even for that. If I were of a mind to believe in legends and folktales I might suggest that the old wizard has been abducted by the stillwater giant."

I tapped my foot impatiently, starting to get cold from standing outside in the wind. "...but you're not the type to believe in legends or folktales, and neither am I. So what made these tracks, really?"

"Probably an ogre. Powerful beasts, but stupid. Nothing we couldn't handle, if it's not already too late. The wizard went missing yesterday already and ogres are not known for their patience."

"Well, if it's something you think we can handle then let's go. Even if it's too late for old Cyrus we can't let this ogre continue to abduct people." I followed the tracks as they twisted and wound around the nearby mountains, occasionally turning back on themselves. Eventually they ended at the entrance to a smallish cave carved out of the mountainside. I cautiously stepped inside.

It wasn't a large cave by any stretch of the imagination, though it was somewhat tall and it did widen out towards its end. As it widened I took notice of a crude jail cell that had been made by jamming heavy iron bars in-between the walls of a small cave-in. Behind the bars, trapped inside of that little room, I saw a gnome wearing a garish robe. Thankfully he was still alive. "Help! Get me out of here!" He was shouting loudly, his voice echoing off of the cavern walls. "That old ogre has got it in his mind to eat me!"

I fumbled with the lock on the door, having a hard time fitting my pick into the damaged device. "Cyrus, I presume? Richard Leeks sent me to find you..."

I fumbled at the lock with my pick some more, unaccustomed to locks of such heavy yet poor construction. "I'll do my best... give me a moment here..." Just then I heard a series of loud, rhythmic thumps from behind me.

I turned just in time to see a massive ogre lumbering directly towards me. Damnation! No time to even hide! I pulled out my axe and ran straight for him, hoping he wouldn't expect me to be so bold. He swung a massive hamfist at me, but I held up my axe and parried his attack. I could hear the sizzle as his flesh contacted the scalding hot blade. The ogre let out a roar, pulling his fist back all too suddenly, leaving behind several layers of skin that had instantly cooked and stuck to the blade. His knuckles began to bleed heavily.

Vollinger fired off a shot, penetrating the beast's shoulder with great force. The ogre lumbered backwards, knocked briefly off balance, and I sprung into action. I darted behind the ogre faster than he could turn his neck to follow my movements and I sunk my axe into the unprotected backside of his knee. He howled yet again as his knee exploded outwards, sending him tumbling face-first into the ground. I finished him off quickly, then, not wanting even a lowly beast such as he to suffer any more than he had to.

I turned back to the crude jail cell and, taking my time, finally forced the lock open with my pick.

I'm not the stars, but I'll accept your thanks anyway. "Alright. Good day to you Cyrus..." I half smiled at him as he ran out of the cavern so fast he nearly tripped over his own robe. I shook my head, shrugging at the other two, and began heading towards the cave entrance myself. Cyrus had been saved and the ogre threat was eliminated, so I returned to Richard to tell him of what had transpired.

"Greetings, Richard," he spotted the fresh blood stain on my dress and started to look very worried. "I found Cyrus. He'd been waylaid by some old ogre who thought he looked like a fine meal. He's fine, though, and that old ogre won't be bothering Stillwater any longer."

I glanced at him thoughtfully for a moment, reaching out and carefully taking the blade. Even simply holding it made me itch terribly. "Say, Richard, I've recently come into the possession of a rather fine Stillwater blade. I'd say it's at least as good as the others you've got here for sale in your shop. Would you perhaps be interested in buying it?"

He glanced at me confused for several moments before finally slapping his knee and laughing whole-heartedly. "If you'd wanted money, stranger, you should've just said so. Sure, I'll take that blade back and give you some coin instead."

"Much obliged, Richard. It was nice doing business with you." I took the coin from him and finally headed out the door. I quickly stopped into the General Store next to pick up some more jerky for Terry. I tossed a piece to him, which he devoured hungrily, then set about my search for Myrth. "Terry, old boy... do you think you can find me an elf? There's only one around here." He woofed gently, sniffing at the ground and walking along slowly as he sniffed more.

Eventually he came to a stop in front of another house and looked up at me expectantly. I dropped him another piece of jerky and knocked on the door. Somewhat to my surprise the door was not answered by an elf, but instead it was a little halfling. I sighed and glanced down at him, "I don't suppose your name is Myrth, is it?"

He looked confused, and laughed a bit nervously. "No... I'm Gildor Nightwalk. Myrth is to the northeast, not far from here."

I sighed again, glancing down at Terry as he continued devouring his jerky. "Thanks, Gildor."

He paused for just a moment before closing the door, then stopped with it partway closed and called out to me again, "Say, madam, if you're looking for Myrth... you wouldn't happen to be headed to the Glimmering Forest, would you?"

I stopped, glancing at him curiously. "Yes, actually, my travels do take me in that direction. Do you have some work that needs doing?"

The best part about being a thief is having others look at me and tell me that I do not look like a thief. "Perhaps I am more stealthy than I appear, Gildor..."

The halfling gave it some thought and finally spoke again. "I am going to tell you a story. The tale will give you a greater insight into the task you are going to attempt. So please, be patient and listen.

"As a youth I was pressed into service by a group of travelers. They were a rowdy, barbarous lot seeking to gain great wealth and reputation while adventuring throughout the land. I found my place among them, for at times stealth was called for and this was my greatest ability. As time progressed, I proved to them that I was no mere impressed servant, and became a valued member of the group. We adventured together for several years, following old tales and discovering lost treasures. It was a rich and wild time in my life..."

He paused for several moments, completely lost in his memories. After a heavy silence he snapped out of it and continued his story.

I started chuckling and I gently slapped him on the shoulder, "Not exactly on the up and up, eh?"

He looked annoyed, "Shh! Do you want me to tell the story or not?"

Inwardly, I was rolling my eyes at his presumed self-importance. "Sorry. Please, continue."

After taking a deep breath the halfling continued his story. "It took Nightfire, a half-breed elven member of the troupe, nearly two days to spring the lock and open the chest. Since Nightfire was an expert with a lock, there was much anticipation and speculation done over the supposed contents of the box.

"Inside the chest, we were disappointed to find only a few coins, several interesting baubles, and a book. As I was the only literate member, I was given the book to review. Here..." he handed me a worn old journal. "I still have the book, why don't you read it for yourself. Tell me when you have finished and I will continue."

In the center of these stones stood an altar, and upon that altar was the largest ruby I had ever beheld.

It was several moments before I could take my eyes from it, so mesmerizing was the jewel. It was then that I noticed Kallon, not far off to the side. As I watched, he began to run towards the altar, it appeared he was intent on gaining the ruby.

I shouted for him to wait, but he paid me no heed. Before I could stop him, Kallon passed by the first marked stone. As he did so, a most unnatural beast burst forth from the ground. He cried out in terror, and turned to flee, but the horror was upon him. The beast killed him before he had even taken a step back toward me, a look of absolute terror frozen to his face.

I stood powerless, frozen in fear at the apparition and macabre scene before me. Oh horror! I dared not move toward the beast. Instead, I ran from that most accursed place as fast as my feet would carry me. I was forced to leave my precious Kallon where he lie, for I never found the courage to return.

I warned the surrounding farmers of the horror in the woods. All children were forbidden from venturing far from home from that day forward. I can only pray that the beasts are tied to that wicked place, and will never be let loose upon us.

It has been years since that dreadful day. Many have forgotten what happened that day in the woods. Yet I still mourn the loss of my beloved Kallon and have never been able to remove the vision of that hideous creature from my mind. To this day it haunts my sleep.

I am old and soon shall die. I leave this record as warning to anyone who might venture deep into the haunted woods. Beware! Let no other souls be consumed by the beast of the jewel!

Tannon Wroughtbringer

I handed the journal back to Gildor and stared at him expectantly.

"As we neared the locale, it was as the letter described. The hairs on our necks raised and the forest sounds ceased. You could feel the apprehension in the air... Then we came upon the clearing... and the ruby. It was amazing. Never have I beheld a more beautiful thing. We were all mesmerized, dreaming of the pleasure we could enjoy once in possession of such treasure.

"Two of our troop suddenly ran forward to grab the jewel, and all others save me followed. For I never join in battle, my strength not lying in combat. 'Wait!' I hollered. 'Remember the beast!' But it was too late. As the two men passed the first stone, a hideous creature emerged from the depths. My comrades drew their weapons, but they were clearly outmatched.

"In horror I stood there! As the fighting moved about, more beasts materialized to join the fray. I counted 7 beasts that dreadful day, one for each of the strange stones that filled the clearing. The death cries of my comrades were quickly silenced. And rather than turning on me, as I feared they would, the creatures disappeared back into the depths as the last body fell.

"Cautiously, I approached the stones, yet dared not pass their mark. As I observed the morbid scene that lay before me, I noticed that there was a warning carved upon each stone. It read, 'The Great Ruby of K'alru is found. Heed this warning ere you move around. He who walks without a sound shall pass the death beneath the ground.'"

I nodded understandingly, "If only they had read the stones..."

"...and so you left." I said the words heavily and sympathetically. In truth I didn't particularly care for the halfling's plight, it being a seemingly fitting punishment for excessive greed, but I knew that one day I would suffer a similar punishment.

Gildor looked almost ready to weep, and his voice was terribly strained. "I fled from the scene of the carnage. I wandered aimlessly for a time, before making Stillwater my home. I have never left again. I fear my adventuring days have come to an end. Yet, as the author of the journal says, the jewel and the beasts still haunt my sleep."

Thinking forward to the task that the halfling had in mind I asked, "So you did not retrieve the ruby?"

For 1500 coin I'd retrieve your mother's corpse from a thrice-cursed mausoleum. "I will retrieve it for you, Gildor!"

He smiled, his voice gaining back some of its strength as his mood improved. "Here, I will mark the location of the glade on your map." He dotted a location on the Northern side of the Grey Mountains, far east of the Glimmering Forest.

"Thank you, Gildor. It will take some time for me to travel that distance, but I will return when I have the ruby. I bid you good day." Turning, I tucked the map back into my purse and started towards a nearby house to the north. I glanced over at Terry curiously, wondering just how much of what I said he really understood. He sure knew how to get me to give him more jerky, though.

Reaching the house I was headed towards, I knocked on the door. It was answered moments later by a spindly looking elf. I finally found you. The elf looked severely annoyed. "What? What is it?"

Bloody hell can elves ever be annoying when they want to be. "I'm looking for the city of Qintarra. It's quite important."

He stared at me, repeating my question back, "Qintarra? You seek Qintarra?"

I nodded very intentionally slowly. "Yes, that's what I said. Do you know where it is?"

I started to growl and curse under my breath. Is this some kind of bloody game to you? Do you enjoy lording your knowledge over outsiders? "I realize it's in the forest..." my patience was wearing thin.

I saw the blasted elf start actually smirking, no longer able to hold himself back. He really did think his little game was funny. "Then why are you asking me where it is?"

That's it. Out with it already! "Do you know where Qintarra is located or not?"

I can't tell you how badly I want to stab you! "Out with it, man!"

He tried to hold back his laughter, mostly unsuccessfully. "In the Glimmering Forest."

"Yes. I bloody know it's in the blasted forest already, we've been over this. Look, this isn't funny. Where, exactly, in the forest is Qintarra?"

"IN WHAT TREES?!" I shouted at him impatiently. Virgil placed a hand reassuringly on my shoulder, trying to calm me down. I took a deep sigh.

"The trees in the forest." the elf said, full out laughing now.

I stared him straight in the eyes. "Please. As I said, it's urgent that I find Qintarra."

He sighed, his little game finally starting to wear thin even to him. "Why is it so important that you find Qintarra, if you don't mind me asking?"

I narrowed my eyes at him, still silently seething. "No, I don't mind at all that you ask."

He stared back at me for several moments, looking more and more puzzled. "So? ...Why is it so important?" I merely stared at him. He started looking rather grumpy and began tapping his foot. "Well...?"

Finally it was my turn to look at him with a stupid smirk on my face. "I said I didn't mind you asking, not that I'd tell you." Whether you tell me where the damned city is or not, at least I bloody got you back.

Although it surprised me somewhat, the damned elf actually started laughing. "Ha! Very good! A woman after my own heart!" He laughed some more. "Qintarra... yes, I know where it is."

Not this again... please, anything else. "Can you tell me where it is located?"

On second thought, I think I preferred the word games. "And how would I go about doing that?"

He smirked slightly and I could feel another horrible game coming on. He turned his head up slightly, staring down at me. "I'm not quite sure you'd be up to the task... this is a rite of passage for young elves - a cultural tradition. Very old, and VERY difficult."

As if I've got a bloody choice, you bastard. "I can do it. Just tell me what I need to do." My words couldn't have been any more annoyed sounding if I'd actually tried.

A plan was already starting to formulate in my mind. Oh this ought to be good... keep talking. "The Stillwater Giant, eh? What can you tell me of it?"

I could tell easily that he was lying through his teeth. "It is an ancient, mystical creature. From a time before the Age of Legends. A fearsome beast, reputed to have magickal powers."

I almost wanted to see what other hogwash the elf would come up with to try and mislead me. "And where might I find this Stillwater Giant?"

He grinned widely. "I recommend you speak with Stanley Xavier Hippington... he's the local expert on the Stillwater Giant."

"Very well, I shall do so." I curtsied slightly towards the elf and departed. After I'd gotten a good distance from his house I glanced over at Virgil, "What say we make another run to Tarant so you can stock back up on potions and whatnot. Does that sound good?"

He looked a bit confused. "Uh... certainly. I suppose I am running a bit low."

Once again we journeyed back to Tarant. Virgil restocked as he'd been planning on and then I walked with him over to the abandoned old store that used to be H.T. Parnell's. With Virgil's help I pried the boards loose from in front of the door and snuck into the building. As luck would have it, nobody had bothered to clean out the old place just yet. I crept over to the display case with the obviously fake pelt in it and picked the lock. Taking the pelt off of its cheap, skeletal frame, I folded it up and placed it neatly in my purse.

Having gotten what I came for, I headed straight back to Stillwater. I'd wasted enough time doing random other things and I was quite focused on reaching Qintarra as soon as possible. The journey was long, as usual, but thankfully uneventful. I was growing so accustomed to long journeys that I scarcely even remembered all of the details.

Arriving back in Stillwater, I paid Myrth another visit. He seemed almost surprised to see me. "I've got your pelt, Myrth."

"The pelt you wanted. Here it is." I handed it to him and he looked over it.

Looking back up at me with a smug grin on his face he said, "Really. And just where did you get it?"

If you think to catch me in a lie you're sorely mistaken. You and I both know there is no Stillwater Giant. "Actually, I stole it from H.T. Parnell's museum in Tarant."

"Thank you, Myrth. I can't say it's been a pleasure, but you had your fun and I've got my destination. I'll be going then."

He cackled as I left, and I merely sighed. I looked at Virgil and Vollinger, then pet Terry gently on the head. "Well, it's about time, isn't it? Let's get a move on."

Bonus Content

As most people who have played the game before should know, I skipped a small chunk of this section. I did it because I felt that's simply how Samantha would do things, but it's also one of the more amusing quests you can get in this game so I'd like to show it off in a pseudo-update.

First, you find and talk to the guy that Myrth referred you to.

I hear you are the man to speak to about the Stillwater Giant.

The Stillwater Giant, Gigantopithecus Arcanus, is an extremely primitive species of giant thought to be extinct for over 25,000 years. It was a rather strange offshoot of the Gigantopithecus genus.
Strange? In what way?
Well, besides the fact that it was extremely hirsute for a giant, it had large horns. But the most fascinating aspect of the Gigantopithecus Arcanus was its ability to shape shift.
Hirsute? What does that mean?
Excuse me, I forgot that I was speaking to a layman. Hirsute simply means that it had inordinate amounts of hair. Do you understand, now?
I take offense at your tone, sir.

(I included that picture just because of the second dialogue option)
Well then, it is fortuitous for both of us that you have sought me out. Most people feel that the capturing of the Stillwater Giant would be an impossibility, but I have devised a way. I have tracked it to its lair, and I have been searching for a big game hunter to implement my plan.
Tell me what I need to do.
Excellent! I have constructed a special trap here, somewhere... Ah! Here it is! Use this to trap the giant. [He hands you a small trap.]
This trap is ridiculously small. How can I catch a giant with this?
That is the beauty of the plan. We take advantage of the giant's unique shape shifting abilities. It takes an enormous amount of food to feed a creature of such enormous size, so it changes to a relatively small size to conserve its energy whenever it is in its lair.
How will I know it's the creature if it is in its small state?
It bears a strong resemblance to a rabbit, of all things! Its only distinguishing characteristic to differentiate it from your run of the mill rabbit is that it is blue in color.
A rabbit? You must be joking! This is a joke, right?
It is no joke, and you should not treat it as such. Besides conservation of energy, its small state is also used to lure in unsuspecting prey, as the giant is not the quickest of creatures in its large form. So if you startle it, I suggest you run, as it is likely that you can outrun it.
What will keep it from changing to its full size after it's captured?
There is a slight magical field within the trap that will retard the creature's ability to transform itself.
How can I get close enough to trap it without startling it?

Ahhh, that is the easy part of your task. I have built this house as near to its lair as I dare. Simply take the path behind out back until it ends at a cave entrance. The giant resides somewhere deep in the labyrinth of tunnels within.
Many thanks.

Then you run off to the cave, apply the scent, and probably fail to take your armor off. It doesn't actually matter if you do any of these things. You find the blue bunny and use the trap on it.

Then you return to Hippington.
I have captured the Giant, sir! [Show him the trapped giant.]
Yes, yes, I see. [He examines the giant.] Excellent. Now, we need authentication.
Authentication? I thought you said this was it.
This is it. We simply need the authentication of the scientific establishment in Tarant to legitimize it. We couldn't even hope to publish our findings without their backing. Bring it to Dr. Tristan Fenwick of the Tarant zoological society, he is a genius. I'm sure he will help us.
I don't care about publishing, I want to see this thing transform!
Are you insane? That thing would tear us both limb from limb as soon as we were to release it! Bring it to Dr. Fenwick, he will find a suitable habitat where we can watch its transformation from a safe distance.
I'm off to see Dr. Fenwick, then.

Tarant, at a minimum, takes 11 days by foot so now is about when you curse for not playing a mage with mastery in Conveyance (Teleport is awesome). Also, kill some Molocheans on the way to Tarant.

Then stop by the zoological society.
I need to speak with you about the Stillwater Giant.

Hahahahahahahahaha. Oh, I just love you practical jokers. A blue rabbit! Hah! Nice paint work, though.
It's the giant, not a rabbit. You know it's a shape shifter, right?
You can't honestly believe all that guff about the Stillwater Giant, can you? Hah! Gigantopithecus Arcanus! I love it! The whole thing is a hoax, young miss!
Dr. Hippington has extensive evidence supporting its existence.
Hippington? He has gone completely loon! Poor sod, convinced that the giant is real. His evidence is all based on a badly reconstructed skeleton, comprised of giant bones mixed with ape and whoever knows what other kinds of odds and ends. He never was too bright.
He says that you are a genius.
Heh! That proves he's insane. Calling me a genius, imagine that. If I were a genius, I'd be making some real coin instead of working here.
Hoax or not, I need to find the pelt of one, somehow.
The only place you'll be finding something that obviously fraudulent is over at H.T. Parnell's museum. I think they actually have a slapped together pelt of the "Stillwater Giant" on display.
Thank you for the advice. Good day.

And that's how the game leads you to doing exactly what Samantha did. It's all entirely unrequired, as I made the update without ever doing this step and just re-loaded a backup save to get these pictures to show it the "right" way. I've always been amused at the skeleton standing in the display case at H.T. Parnell's after you take the pelt.

With the fake pelt in hand, then you run back to Stillwater. Also, kill more Molocheans on the way.

If you like, you can go yell at Hippington for his lunacy.

Dr. Fenwick said it was a rabbit, and the giant itself is a hoax.
Wha... he couldn't, I ah, mean, he is a scientific genius. I don't understand this at all.
He says the rabbit was painted blue, and that you are insane.
Lies! All lies! I have been duped somehow. Perhaps you switched the creature with a rabbit, eh? No, wait, I know, Dr. Fenwick has been possessed by other worldly demons intent on my destruction! That must be it, unless he ah...
I'll show myself out.
No, not demons, he wants to steal my discovery for himself... for some reason, I feel there are demons involved somehow... the giant has mind control capabilities! That's it!... or, uh...

The rabbit, unfortunately for it, is now completely useless. Unless you want to carry him around with you forever, you just toss him in a random chest, drawer, or even rubbish bin. Rubbish bins get emptied regularly, so I put him in there and I like to think the garbage man found him and gave him to his son as a pet.

Poor little bunny. Of course, there is yet another alternative. They kind of had to include a way out for people that killed Myrth within 4 seconds of first speaking to him. I know that's the only reason I ever knew you could do this all differently. By killing or pickpocketing him (you need a rather high skill for the latter, he's wearing it) you can obtain the N'Tala amulet.

Yeah, remember that old thing? It's more or less impossible to know he has it on him unless you kill and loot him, or explicitly pickpocket him and look at his equipped things. However you get it, you take the amulet all the way back to Shrouded Hills and give it to the elf that mentioned it.

I have located your amulet!

[she takes the amulet from you - holding it lovingly] Oh Thank you! I thought it was forever lost! My mother came from a family of healers. This amulet had been handed down for generations, until it was stolen nearly 70 years ago! Here is 1,000 coin... I realize it is worth so much more, but it is all I have. Thank you so much Samantha Colburn!
My pleasure. Would you know of Qintarra's location, perchance?

Now that I've covered all that... remember the quote I posted earlier from the Arcanum QA bug list? "Upon entering Stillwater, two naked men kick a blue rabbit to death." That should be a whole lot funnier now.

Requested by MuShRoOmFaCe

Here's Harrow. It's pretty cool, but no way in hell am I going to use it. I would consider giving it to Magnus if I still had him, but even then it would likely suck compared to...

While it does less base damage and less fatigue damage, at 30-50 fire damage per hit you're absolutely never going to knock anybody out before killing them anyway. That tends to be a rarity in a backstab build in the first place. Samantha could easily kill herself in 2 hits, 1 if it were a backstab crit (which happens ludicrously often at my level of melee). For a tech character there really is no weapon that compares to the pure awesome of the pyrotechnic axe. It's disgusting.

While I'm posting character sheets I figure I'll post Virgil, too. Honestly, I've never looked at his character sheet before.

Well, that's... unexpectedly useful. If it weren't for his 9 strength he'd actually be pretty good! Since he's got a near completely neutral aptitude his heals are fairly weak, but they're enough to be of use. Keep in mind his dex is only as high as it is because of 2 charged rings. If I wanted to make him more offensive instead of defensive I'd give him machined plate, which (with the fan patch that fixes it) would boost his strength to meet the pyro axe's MSR. He'd hit a whole lot more often, and harder, with that change. He doesn't attack often anyway, though. Where his build really fails is his high int. I learned something new, however! He has a full 5 ranks of heal. I should really start giving him some bandages to use on people, he'd become at least twice as useful. Seriously, I never fucking knew his build developed the heal skill. He's also got 3 ranks of pick locks, but Samantha beats him pretty soundly there. If she didn't, he would automatically attempt to pick the lock of anything locked she tried to open.

This is the full extent of the spells he knows. 1-3 are used fairly often, to the point of him frequently drifting dangerously close to unconscious. I don't think his AI is equipped to cast Sanctuary, though. It's just some spell to protect against undead anyway. Undead are pretty nasty, and they tend to dodge a lot, but that just means he heals nonstop instead of ever casting the damn thing.

Alright, seriously, what the fuck. I think the only reason his willpower is 10 is because he's a gnome, so I can ignore that... but why the fuck does he have 4 points in melee? He's also got 5 in firearms, 5 in prowling (very useless for an NPC to have when the PC has worse), 4 gambling (100% useless, he can't possibly use it), and 1 haggle (would be useless even if he could use it, which he cannot). By comparison, Virgil is a fucking godsend. Seriously, I only keep Vollinger around because he's mostly useless, stays out of my way, and...

He makes stuff! (He also doesn't bitch when I do evil stuff, and he's a pretty cool character story-wise.) Seriously, that's a lot of chemistry for me to fuck around with, and can provide quite a bit of help when I need components to use in found schematics. He's also the reason I'm able to make a shitload of guns.

Which means I can basically craft all but a very select few guns without even having a single point in gunsmithing. You may notice that he can't make the very weapon he's using: the Looking-Glass Rifle. There is precisely one that you can steal off of the firearms master who hangs out in Ashbury. I'll give you one guess as to where Vollinger got his rifle.

Only one screenshot of Dog (or Terry if you prefer), because only one is needed. I don't really know why his willpower is that high, but look at those stats. HE'S LEVEL 23. Companions level up when you do and I was already level 38 by the time I got him. You can get Dog right away, no questions asked, meaning he's one of the few characters you can have actually at a higher level than yourself. I waited until very late to get him, if I'd gotten him early he would be even more of a terrifying death machine. I had no reason to hit Ashbury, though, and I'm really liking being better than my companions. Still... 18 strength and dex, maxed dodge and melee (with free Expert training!) is just damned amazing for his level. I think he is, hands-down, the absolute best combat NPC in the game.

Lastly, another shot of Samantha.

This is the only skill that went up since we last saw this character sheet. She had 3 persuasion, 12 charisma, and 5 points to spend at level 38. She should have another 9 points to spend (1 point per level, 2 on levels divisible by 5) but only has 5 total remaining. That means there were 9 points spent. Cha is now 18, so that's 6 right there. 2 more points took persuasion from 3 to 5. The last point was spent raising int to 10 to learn about the stone and the shape.

I've also never posted her tech prowess, because there's not much of it. Straight to charged ring, not even interested in anything else. Charged rings are amazing and awesome. Compared to other characters (and stats) you might notice the excessively low willpower. That's one of the drawbacks I added to my custom background to even it out, and it means Samantha has abnormally low hp and fatigue. You can also see that her alignment is shifting uncomfortably high. Sadly, I've passed the point in the game where it's even possible to play neutral. You either do good quests, kill people for fun, or don't do quests at all. I'm too much of an exp whore to avoid quests. I'm trying to make it in-character, though. Lastly, she's still the same age even though she's been adventuring for 2 full years

Requested by Spike McMayhem

Ooh, I almost forgot! There is yet more to the Virgoo saga. I think this one is my favorite, with the second one being my next favorite. There aren't many left after this, as stupid dialogue is now continually referring to him as 'Virgil' after several subsequent main plot points.