After navigating the very poison-y and maze-like swamp of Gorlab, I arrived in the great northern forest. The name is apt--it's very big, and the trees are somewhat different, with the hollow stumps being brown instead of gray. Among other things, there's the trapper's hideout, a Serpent Gate, and a curiously locked Castle of the White Dragon. The gate is on the site of one of the old Ultima 1 towns, as I recall. There's a dearth of characters up here, save for a trio of explorers, one of whom stole a magic device from one of the few other characters around, the Forest Master, who is from Pagan. The thief, Draygan, is quite friendly, but the burned ship that some of his former companions are rotting on suggests the friendliness is a ruse. The short story is tht you go fetch some herb, and you put Draygan to sleep and kill him, stealing away his orb--it made him invulnerable, but apparently it's easy to steal stuff from him (and not everyone else in the game!) when they are asleep. Interestingly, in a bit of extreme convenience, as soon as you kill him, the Forest Master, who wants his magic thingy back, appears out of nowhere and takes it from you! Why didn't he just teleport into Draygan's hut at night?
In any case, as a reward he gives yu a whistle--are you still keeping track of the unique quest items?--which you use in conjunction with one of the more cumbersome quest items, Cantra's wooden practice sword, to track the little girl down. The whistle summons an attractive and amusing dog, who will also do tricks for you. He sends you off to Shamino's Castle, which, as you might suppose from the name, is the castle once controlled by Shamino. He expresses shock at seeing it again; I express shock that it looks nothing like it did in the old game! We enter through a secret passage and explore a bunch of locked rooms, my favorite being one that has crazy gushing ovens that blast you with steam when you approach. In several rooms, Shamino's former lover Beatrix, daughter of the King of the White Dragon, attacks you, as retribution for Shamino's departure during the days of Mondain even though he was there when *I* dropped by. Don't blame me, Beatrix! Oh, and Shamino...about that princess you had locked in your dungeon back in the day? Or maybe that was how you convinced Beatrix to marry you?
Anyway, I shall cease digging up old bones (pun intended). Eventually you encounter Batlin and his buddies; the latter mostly die, the former escapes, and then you summon Monks to take Cantra's rather gruesome corpse back to Monkey Isle, where she will run around saying disturbing things about desiring your flesh until the end of the game...Eventually, the next time Shamino dies, beatrix heals him and gives him a book of questionable love poetry. In the corner of one of the castle chambers, i know there to be a Dragonslayer sword, which I like to give to Shamino due to its uniqueness, but I'm afraid I was unable to figure out how to open the chest containing it this time through. I am a little overloaded with keys at this point, and I may have missed one...And bashing it didn't work, though I vaguely remember needing to bash it repeatedly? Lockpicks were also not effective...
Tomorrow...The great north!
I should add some more text here to buffer the last image...I guess this part of the game is a little disappointing, because the forest is really pretty big, but you barely spend any time there at all. It's fun to just explore, though.