Ven: It's here. I saw the site on a map a few months back. It's smaller than I thought, however... We won't find any shelter to sleep in, but with a bit of luck we might find some information. I've never been so close to the river. Not as far south, in any case. The air smells good, and the heat... It's really very different from anything I've known before.
Frida: It's true that it smells good. I haven't been this hot in a long time. Let's take the opportunity to visit.
(The crow caws happily.)
Frida: Doing better now, are we? Little turd...
Frida: It's not snow that falls up there. It's walls...
Reijo: You are brave! During the several years that I've lived here, I've only seen three or four people crossing the mountain pass in the dead of winter...
Reijo: It's true... Nonetheless, it was dangerous! You didn't break anything?
Frida: No, everything is fine. The air here is good, and this sun... You would think it was summer.
Reijo: It's always like this, here. It's true that we are still in the very northern part of the kingdom, but the climate by the river is very gentle. In summer there is barely any snow! It rarely snows here and there are many fish. It's what pushed us to settle here, my wife and I. Among other things.
Frida: Among other things?
Annukka: My husband and I come from two villages that are relatively far apart. This was place perfect to go visit our respective parents. Thanks to the river route, it is even easier. (She smiles.) Well, some days I wish it weren't SO simple.
Frida: I see. So we can use the river to get around?
Annukka: Of course. Most notably, Captain Livari's barge passes through here regularly. If you're interested, go see Otto. He takes care of it when he's not hunting.
Frida: Thank you for the information. Goodbye!
Frida: Uh, yes. Are you in charge of the boats docked here?
Otto: It's true! It's not a big fishing port, as you can see: three houses, all in all! But the boats on the river need to make regular stops. Before, there was just a jetty here, where an old man lived. Over time, there were several of us who settled here. I took over the old man's house when he died.
Many boats stop herethere's no other jetty on the river for several kilometers. Either that or they're in bad shape. Also, captains appreciate the fact that there is a trustworthy man here to guide the transfers. Especially Captain Livari. He's the one who pilots the biggest barge on the river. The only one to travel the entire river, actually. The other boats have difficulty going against the current and the tow paths are few and far between.
Well, that probably doesn't interest you.
Frida: Actually, it does. I'd like to take a boat to Sapphire Bay.
Otto: Really? Well then, in that case I advise you to take Captain Livari's barge. He's the oldest of the carriershis barge is gigantic and he's a nice man. He'll put you to work if you can't pay for the voyage. The man knows the river by heart, and it's also the only boat that can cross the biggest rapids.
She comes by here about once or twice a month. You are lucky. She should pass by here in less than a week, but I can't say when. Her last stop is not too far north from here, so when you see her pass it means she won't be long on the way back, and she passed by a little while ago. She doesn't dock for long, so don't miss her! A few hours at the most. It's best if you wait on the dock.
Frida: I'll sleep on the dock until she arrives then. Is that ok?
Otto: Bah! That's what travelers mainly do in summer. In the winter there are few people and they rarely sleep outside, but... you're a mountain girl, right? In any case, we have only one extra bed here and Valio is occupying it at the moment.
Frida: That's the way it is. See you later then.
Frida: You aren't from these parts?
Valio: Ah, no! I am a merchant in Sapphire Bay. Since the Queen has federated the northern territories, business has been greatly facilitated. This allows people like me to develop their business. Even if certain ministries are beginning to be a little too... invasive.
Frida: There is an armed clampdown? I am just heading toward Sapphire Bay...
Valio: Really? Incredible! This town grows day by day. The Queen's aura has a beneficial effect on the region! The clampdown... there is a little, it's true, but it is quite light. The Queen is a mysterious person, but widely appreciated by the people, and she pays them back well.
Frida: That cannot facilitate business.
Valio: Oh, I'm a merchant. I know something about it. No, in fact, the Ministry of Tranquility and Majesty has little influence on the people. They actively recruit soldiers, of course, but no one is recruited by force. It's particularly the Ministry of Eternal Snows which impinges on the business territory. We are beginning to have taxes no matter what... (He sighs.) Oh well, it's inevitable.
Frida: The river must be a godsend for you.
Valio: Absolutely, absolutely! It's the best and the biggest business route in the kingdom! Particularly the southern region, but the northern region where we are is still very good territory. Less frequented, certainly, but less competition also. One is always certain to do business, if one does not fear too much the solitude and the cold.
Frida: The southern region?
Valio: Yes. You don't know? The river is generally easily navigated, which is lucky when one sees the difference in altitude of the regions crossed! In fact, without the river, I wouldn't give much for the relations between the north and south of the kingdom! But moving on... There is still a region, well to the south of here, which is inaccessible. Too many rapids, you see, and navigation is more and more dangerous because of the altitude difference. And there are many big waterfalls, oh yes. No way of passing the big waterfalls! They are hundreds of meters high! You must descend on foot down the face of the cliff. There is another route, but it's a pain. With merchandise it's an ordeal.
Frida: I will have to travel in two stages, then...
Valio: In three stages, even. The rapids go on for kilometers. Even if you go as far as the last stop, which is a risk of stirring up the stomach during the last days, you will still have a least a week's walk to the big waterfalls. More if you dawdle on the way. Think about it, when I hire horses, it takes me several days every time!
Frida: There is nothing one can do. I will do that. Thanks for the advice.
Valio: You're welcome, young lady. Don't hesitate to come back to see me if you need anything!
(Frida walks slowly along the peer, holding her hands together and praying until her mind is clear and still. She searches for a comfortable spot to sit as Ven and the crow do the same.)
[Disappointing what? ]
[What the dialogue box at the beginning was talking about; every turn that you don't move, your Intuition increases by 50, with an upper limit I have yet to reach. It all goes away when you move though, and you have to move to win most encounters, so it's only somewhat useful.]
[These are the little guys we're looking for. Unless you're playing a Huntress, you have to be really close to find them, even with the bonus from Contemplation.]
(The sun rises hours later, and Frida awakens to find Ven cooking a rabbit he caught.)
Frida: Do you think Captain Livari's barge will arrive soon?
Ven: No idea... We could ask Otto. I know the interior of the country, but here... It's quite a new world for me. I suppose that if we wait here a few days, it'll do.
Frida: It's not so bad. This place is good for relaxing and reflection. A bit of calm in the avalanche... (She smiles.)
Frida: I was here, a few months ago. A few months before that, my village was the only place I had seen in the world. One morning, I found myself in this clearing, on the road to Sapphire Bay. I have the impression that I have grown and matured, so much that I no longer recognize myself. I am no longer even the same person.
[These are the inexorables the game talked about. There are a lot of them, and they push you around much like Blizzards in the previous update, only with less range.]
A Bird: A gust of wind, one evening... Do you remember, little girl? Not yet? It's not important. You have time, now. A gust of wind, one evening... You have a goal, a destinationwe are all, doubtless, destined for something. It matters little by whom we are destined and for what, by fire, by strength, or be avalanche.
A Bird: You hold a thread, a spider's thread no doubt. Will you be able to slip through the net? Will you be caught like a fish, devoured? Will you arrive where you think you are destined to be? It is your choice, after all. It's up to you to respect that choice. You must control the helm of your boat. It's your sail in the wind. It's your hair that waves gently in the night air.
A Bird: There are so many paths we could take... How not to get lost? Will you arrive to the place, one day, where you yourself set your destiny?
A Bird: Little by little, you approach him, seemingly by chance. Or is it? You are closeryou can almost see himyou can almost see his blonde bearddid he have one at the time?you can almost see his blond beard, on a ship's bridge. You can almost smell with him the scent of the wash against the river banks and the sound of hummingbirds. There is so much that you do not know about him.
A Bird: I will sail, sad. I will travel. I will understand what you sacrificed for me and for the mother I do not know. On a ship's bridge, my hair in the windI remember, I remember for you. My lips speak for you. I remember.
[There are a few notable things about this encounter. There are hidden Path enemies that will push you away if you come near, and they force you to take the long way around the house. There are also hidden traps that actually heal you, but you need high Intuition, or you need to be standing really close to one, to find them. Finally, and most obnoxiously, when you reach the second and third set of dialogue boxes, enemies appear out of nowhere and get a free round of attacks on you, even if it wasn't the end of your turn when you reached them. I ended this fight with about 50 HP left. ]
A Bird: Will I be carried away by the current? Will I be diverted by the wind? Where will I go? Is it dangerous? Will I often cry? Will I suffer more than I suffer now? I know nothing about this worldwho awaits me and where? Who wishes me harm?
A Bird: What will I discover? Will I be disappointed? Who awaits me and where? Are you waiting for me?
(You awake gently from a long sleep. You think you hear some noisescases are being moved, people are speaking loudly... You open your eyes with difficulty. A gigantic wooden vessel appears at the place where, a short while ago, there was a river. Captain Livari's barge. You must hurry.)
Livari: (The old man laughs.) Yes, we had some difficulties up north. Nothing serious. So, my friend, what's new this time? There seems to be a lot of people for a winter like this!
Otto: Valio stayed one or two weeks waiting for you. The poor thing had no luck, he came by the day after you left. Otherwise there is a young lady and her... companion sleeping over there. She came through the mountain pass four days ago. I don't know how she survived. She's been sleeping and meditating for three days. Has barely said a word to anyone.
Livari: (He laughs again.) At this time of year? In this lousy weather? That's brave! We've lost more than one man between one side and the other over the past twenty years. Should see about waking her, because we're not going to be hanging about. Unless she wants to sleep for another month and a half!
Frida: I am already awake. (She sits up from her cross-legged pose and walks over to the group of people talking, all of whom are a little startled by her sudden movement.) My name is Frida. Do you have room for me on your barge?
Otto: (Otto smiles at you.) He's a good man, don't worry. He won't sell you to a Gallic slave trader or anything. (He turns to Captain Livari.) Well, Livari, let's finish loading Valio's cargo. Is no one getting off?
Livari: No, not today. I don't have much on the way back, you see. Sometimes going, but at this time of year, no one really comes down from the northern villages. And things have become a bit worse there. The winter is harsh. There are certainly a few who flee, but most try to... make do. Anyway. (He sniffles.)
Otto: Very good. Let's finish loading the cargo and you'll be able to leave. Reijo is going to lend me a hand.
Livari: Right boss. I'll help the young lady on and then I'll come to help. (He turns toward you.) Come, young lady, follow me. Let's find somewhere to put your belongings.
Frida: Let's go.
(You hear a voice outside the cabin.): That's it captain, everything has been loaded! We can go now!
Otto: Goodbye Livari, goodbye Jarkko! Bring me some alcohol next time!
Livari: (He laughs.) We'll remember! Alright, see you soon Otto. Peter, can you take hold of the rudder? I need to take care of our new recruit...
(Suddenly, the boat starts to move. You almost fall. That takes you by surpriseit's a strange sensation. A few seconds later, you hear the footsteps of Captain Livari.)
Livari: I thought I heard that you were going to Sapphire Bay. Is that right?
Frida: That's right.
Livari: Well, if you're going to Sapphire Bay, then you will stay with me until the waterfalls. The trip is simple: we have two stops until the first rapids, after that it gets a little choppy, and then another stop several kilometers before the falls. There, it's far too choppy; I don't go any farther. You'll have to go to the town at the bottom of the falls by foot.
Once you reach town, there are boats that sail to Sapphire Bay, or for the next stopover town. That's your choice. They also invented a new machine to make the journey from the next town. They call it a locomotive. It was a scientist from the Arenite tribes who brought it back. They say it goes quickly over land, just by burning coal! But in the end, it's not been much of a success.
So, here's how it is! I'm not going to ask you to pay or to work too much for your place on this boat, but you will have to help. Come to see me every day, or if I'm busy go see Jarkko. He's my second. We'll give you a little work. Cooking, carrying crates, or simply keeping watch... There's not a lack of work on a barge like mine. We see many people in the same situation as you.
Livari: That's it. Today, I won't ask anything of you. Look around the boat, rest! You'll come to see me tomorrow morning. And come to see me if you have any questions. I am old, but there are advantages to that. I know a lot of thing! (He laughs.)
Frida: Thank you very much, sir. Farewell for now. (She leaves and begins to slowly pace the ship, trying to get used to its rhythm.)
[Level up! +50% HP is good enough by itself. Sold.]
Frida: Seems like we found a use for you...
Frida: I am looking forward to it. Thank you for coming with me, Ven.
Ven: Not at all. It certainly is interesting traveling with you.
[The writing exaggerated the size of the barge a bit, I think. It's just these two screens, plus a few below-deck rooms. Also, Ven says later on that he paid his way onto the ship, in case anyone is wondering. Just didn't have room to get to that point in this update.]