After finishing up their personal business in the Library at Howling, the party returns to Tail with Switches and discovers some new faces in Emerald’s posse. Emerald has not only hired new muscle to guard his merchant trips to Red Fern, but four new adventurers have found their way into Emerald’s care.
The first, a former Red Fern soldier just released from his enlistment, is named Thin Boots. A somber fellow lacking a sense of humor, he was impressed with how the party handled the battle with the Commander’s troops in the mountains (Speartip Attack) and has come to Emerald seeking to join the Green Men, as the peasants are now calling them. The second man is a beast of a fellow named Ox, who is as strong in muscle as he is weak in thought. The third man is a familiar face to the party: one of the guards they frequently passed in the guard shack on their way back and forth from Tail to Red Fern. And the fourth man is even more familiar: the very farmer the group knocked out in the Red Fern Inn and later interrogated and exorcised to find out about the location of the Church of the Bandit (Return to Tail).
Though wary of the skill of the newcomers, the party agrees to take them under their wing in the coming adventure to the island in the south. Moon even pays to outfit the former guard shack guard, endearing the man to Moon in the process. The party also agrees to give Switches some money for his help in the library, where he has exhausted his purse in an attempt to further his knowledge about the southern island.
The party and its new members, including Switches, board Emerald’s new boat the next day. Bill takes Thin Boots and immediately approaches the Captain of the ship requesting that they be allowed to learn how to crew the boat alongside he and the rest of the crew. The rest of the party agrees that this is a good plan, and all except Marble spend the time on the trip south learning boat-craft skills. Marble and Moon manage to squeeze in some other time for personal studies. Total travel time is around two weeks.
The entire complement of the boat is 40 men. There are the party and their four hirelings. There is also Brand, who represents Emerald’s interests, and Switches. The captain’s name is Misty Bellows (Captain Misty). The Navigator is Stargazer. The carpenter is Thickest Knot (just Knot). The first mate is called Good Wind (just Wind). There are twenty-six other sailors. The ship has a deck and a hold. It has private quarters for only three, and the Captain and Navigator have two of those. The third was given to Switches because his supplies are fragile when not stowed and he could study in bed. Note that a “private quarter” is barely a bed with a table and stool fixed in place. It’s private because there is a wall between you and others, though anything could be heard easily. The rest of the men sleep in shifts in hammocks in the hold. The party is actually sleeping on hammocks put amongst the supplies which affords them a little privacy. There are twenty-four oars and a single stout mast. The boat is at maximum capacity for men and the supplies to feed them and can go almost continuously by rowing if shifts are made. The boat’s name is Faraway Treasures. She’s about 80 feet long and 10 wide with a shallow keel. The keel means that she’s dangerous in rough seas, like in the Cauldron, but easy to beach and fast on calm water.
The trip thus far is quiet, and the boat stops at a trading center along the way to resupply. The trading center is called Ends Mouth and has a small village built around the local port. The party takes a liberty boat to the port and is led by the first mate to the local bar. There, they meet a few traders who are interested in what they have to trade (which is nothing) and a heavily armored fellow, named Winding, with a proposal for the first mate. He has a small chest which needs to be delivered to a barbarian tribe to the south, and after getting the Captain and Winding together, a deal is agreed upon to transport the chest.
After the ship finishes supplying, everyone boards, and the trip continues south. The drop off of the chest to the southern barbarians is uneventful as Moon leads a small group out in a dingy to complete the transaction. The barbarian settlement is, while simple, quite difficult to assault from the look of it.
The trip continues, and the island begins to shape in the distance. Soon, a thick fog begins to cover the water, and then the water itself begins to bubble. The party decides to move in from the south near a smaller island called Whistler’s Island, which had separated from the main island over time. In the process of moving through the turbulent and superheated water, the boat takes some damage and, though the process is harrowing, finally makes it to Whistler’s Island.
While repairs are completed on the boat by the crew, the party ventures out over the small island to get a better look at the main island. After reaching the top of the island, the party can spot what seems to be a partially damaged/sunken ship off the shore of the southern tip. The ship sits in front of a large black stone-looking tower with an odd shape on the top of it. The tower is surrounded by a more simple looking wooden palisade, and behind this a thick jungle. The three volcanoes Switches had mentioned before can be seen in the distance on the northern end of the island. Bill uses the vantage point to take control of a passing seagull and get a better view of the area, but short of a more detailed view, he finds nothing more on the main island nor Whistler’s Island. The party returns to the boat, and, after an overnight stay, repairs are completed and the trip continues.
Trying to skirt around the bubbling waters, the boat makes its way to the northwest side of the island, and after noticing multiple “sea monsters” moving through the water around the boat, the group decides to make a hurried landfall just south of the western-most volcano. On the way to the landing sight, the boat manages to take damage from some coral and begins taking on water again. The party finally lands near the volcanic rock formations made of soft rock and of igneous rock. They decide not to venture too far from the boat while repairs are made but are unsure of whether to leave the boat and its crew here or send them back out to sea with a later return date to meet them.
During the first night on the “beach” near dusk, a dark cloud can be seen to be rising from the ground. The party, unsure of what to do, can only watch as a large mass of foot-long insects rise in front of them. Bill decides to take matters into his own hands as the insects charge the panicking boat crew and party. Closing his eyes, a wave of psychic energy bubbles from him having a noticeable effect on the insects. The insects manage to gang up on two boat crewmen and devour them in seconds, but Bill’s mental attack pushes the remaining insects back, and they soon flee the scene.
Bill questions the defensibility of the boat from the insects that night, so Red spends some time working on a cave which can hold all of the party and crew. He completes it, and although super hot inside, everyone stays safe throughout the night. Repairs continue on the boat the second night, and once again, everyone is forced to sleep in the cave and suffer the long, hot night.
On the third day, repairs are complete and the party decides to stay on the boat and move south along the coast. While passing near a desolate-looking swampy area Bill decides to try an emotive touch in the area and realizes there are three sea monsters all around them, but at a certain distance away. When he tells Switches this, Switches points to the green ring he believes allows safe passage to the island from his studies. Bill also notices dark emotions from the swampy area and mentally vows to stay away from it if he can.
The party finally decides to make land just before the coast turns from south to east and pulls the boat to shore there. Moon manages to convince the crew with some fancy language that they need the party to be able to make it past the sea monsters, so fleeing without the party would be a bad idea. In the meantime, Bill finds a safe hiding place on the boat for Switches to stash the ring in case the sea monsters can make it up on land.
The party emerges from the boat, ready to go visit the tower in the south.