Khare – Cityport of Traps – Part 2

After the dancing and joy of the festival, I set about looking for a way into the city itself where I expected things to get much dirtier and despicable, and that’s exactly what happened as I worked my way through some winding alleys to find a chapel. Inside, a supposed holy man was preaching to a crowd of people, all kneeling before him in robes. The topic of conversation appeared to be Slangg, the god of malice. Preacher man said that anyone who could answer his question would be granted a wish by Slangg, failure to answer would mean renouncing your own faith and becoming a follower of Slangg. So naturally, I stepped up.

s2 009Declaring myself a follower of Libra, the preacher stated he’d never heard of her, he re-stated the rules and gave me my question.

‘Bigfoot the Elder walked south for three furlongs sowing oats, then east for two furlongs sowing corn, then north another five furlongs sowing wheat, and finally south-west for four furlongs sowing hay. Have you got that?’

You bet! I had drawn a little diagram in my notes so I could answer the question truthfully and without guess-work… the crowd waited with baited breath for the question…

‘What was his favourite colour??’

FFS. I had been stitched up there, I’d drawn a diagram and everything! All very much to crowds amusement. But this literal joke of a question was soon replaced by a real one, and it was a fairly simple number pattern puzzle.

‘In Bigfoot’s family are 6 sons. Bigfoot is nearing the end of his life and he wishes to divide his wealth exactly among his sons. He gives 5 Gold Pieces to his second youngest son, 13 Gold Pieces to his eldest and 9 to the fourth youngest. Do you know how much the other sons received and how many Gold Pieces he possessed in all?’

To the amazement of the preacher and the congregation, I gave the correct answer of 48! As we learned earlier, my main goal in Khare is to obtain the four parts of the spell which will open the North Gate, allowing me to continue my journey to reclaim the Crown of Kings. My question was to ask if he knew anything of the spell and he was actually able to tell me one line – ‘I bid you, portals, open wide.’ I also got to restore my Luck to its Initial value and left the chapel having apparently rocked the world of everyone in there with some simple numerical acrobatics.

Night was closing in by now and so the nearby inn, The Wayfairers Rest, was to grant my my bed for the night.

A noisy, bustling place greeted me as I passed through the doors, ably displayed by John Blanches wonderful illustration. It reminds me of why I loved Ian McCaigs work on City of Thieves so much, all that detail, all the little stories and interactions, could look at it for ages finding new things.

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Before I got stuck into a night in the pub, an old friend was spotted. You may remember my encounter with Flanker in The Shamutanti Hills, I was told to check a specific reference in this book to see how he would help me and was given two page numbers to remember and was to turn to a specific page when I reached those numbers. Page 110 was one of those and so I turned to my secret Flanker reference to see how he was to help me out in the pub. A quite clearly pissed Flanker was with a couple of dubious looking friends but came over to me to share the wealth of his apparent lucky night in the gambling halls! 5 Gold Pieces were now mine along with the warning that the ale in here has quite a kick and I shouldn’t have more than 2 pints. He linked arms with his pals and flounced off into the night.

The Wayfairers Rest was a sailor venue, a nearby port was flooding in its workers to take advantage of the pubs ale and buxom wenches. I took advantage of Flankers gift and ordered myself some hot food, but as I started eating I was joined at my table by a rough-looking sailor. He tried to make conversation and offered to buy me a drink. Uh-oh. I accepted though and indulged him in conversation, telling him of my need to get the North Gate open. He drunkenly told me that while he’d like to help, obtaining one of the lines meant killing the undead and he wanted no part of that. Another ale was offered by my new and possibly homosexual drinking buddy and desperate for information, I again accepted. Further probing revealed that the undead in question may be vampire, I also heard something about a friend of his getting killed for kissing the god Courga on the cheek in his temple. When a third drink was suggested I remembered Flankers advice and headed off to bed.

I awoke the next morning to find myself in something of a pickle.

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It turns out that the innkeeper is something of an utter maniac and in my sleep had trussed me up in some sort of trap. Which was I suppose a scenario to be expected now and then given the name of the book. The innkeeper stood by my bed grinning his face off as a blade hung above my neck, presumably eyeing me up for his kitchen – just what did I eat last night? Anyway, via a convoluted series of pulleys and ropes I had to make a choice, do I pull or release the rope? One would raise the blade away from me, one would drop it on my neck. I frankly couldn’t be arsed to try and work out the decision by the illustration, and I couldn’t even be sure if it would work anyway, so I made a total guess and released the rope. A wonderful stab in the dark it was too as the blade floated up and I was able to get out of bed with my head still attached, the innkeeper could only curse and let me leave. What an odd fellow.

Leaving the pub I crossed the Jabaji River via Harbour Bridge and arrived a junction where I took a right turn into a square, which looks a bit like a Lowry painting in parts.

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The streets were starting to get busy in the early morning sun and a crowd was gathering around a monument in the center of the square, those gathering had strange features, thin and spindly, all with their eyes closed. A pool of shimmering water was inside the monument and I pushed in to get a better look, much to the annoyance of the onlookers. I soon got my comeuppance though as I bent down get a closer look at the pool and like Bishop Brennan, I was given a good, hard kick up the arse. Floating down slowly through the air I eventually emerged from the pitch black into light and then plummeted into a pool of slime and excrement. I had found the sewer system. My attention was immediately grabbed by the sound of rushing liquid coming from a chute near my head. I was then given the choice of allowing a torrent of faeces splatter me in the face or ducking beneath the surface of a pool of faeces to avoid the contents of the chute. I didn’t ask for this… I stood there and took a blast of crap to the face, vomiting as a response and losing 3 Stamina into the bargain.

What followed was a Maze of Zagor-esque maze of confusion, page after page of choices such as ‘Continue ahead, then first left, first right, first right, first left? Turn to 10‘. I applied a brute-force approach and just kept choosing random options, going round in circles a little before I stepped out into a dead-end passage where out of the knee-deep sewage rose the Slime Eater from the books cover.

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Being a fairly weak foe (7/11) I chose to avoid losing Stamina by spell-casting and cut the awful thing down with my sword. Finally, a way out presented itself, a bucket hang from a rope into what must have been a disused well, I climbed out of the sewer slowly, losing 2 Stamina to fatigue, but gaining 2 Luck for getting out of that vile place. It seemed I was actually starting to head towards the outer edge of the city again, I had apparently just crawled under a significant portion of it. There I stood, covered in human (and god-knows what else) waste products, holding only one of the four spell lines I needed and I had almost left Khare. Things were not looking good.

Although, I was in sight of a graveyard… to get one one of the lines I have to kill the undead? Interesting…

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Khare – Cityport of Traps – Part 1

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Sorcery #2

Khare – Cityport of Traps

KHARÉ, where every doorway or alley may conceal sudden danger – or unexpected help!

Unexpected help? I bloody hope so, as I mentioned last time, and have been told by numerous readers of this blog – it gets harder than The Shamutanti Hills! We’re gonna head straight into book 2 here, no messing around, but I will just reveal that I am cheating. At least I think I am, I’m not sure, maybe you can tell me. My moaning about losing my sword in book 1 was clear to all involved and I restricted myself to maintain the Skill penalty through the latter stages of the book despite having my stats restored. However, going into this book I’m giving myself my sword back, I figured the Svinns wouldn’t send me on my way unarmed, they took their time to heal me up after all, so I can justify my decision somewhat I think. Also, screw you, don’t judge me, it’s my blog, I’ll do what I want 😉

Khare is a morally crooked settlement that has grown up around the only viable crossing point of the Jabaji River, it is for all intents and purposes, Port Blacksand. Or Mos Eisley, whichever you prefer. Cityport of Traps is a name denoted to it due to the large number of defense mechanisms employed throughout the city to combat the ne’er-do-wells that roam the streets looking for a quick, illegally-made, buck. Khare itself doesn’t interest me however – what lies beyond it is my focus, but to get there, the river crossing is something I need to negotiate by passing through this most dangerous of ports. Having traversed the hills I approached the city from the south, and I was coming equipped with a key…

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Turning the key I got from the grateful Svinns in the south gate lock allowed me to slip into the city unnoticed; I can only assume that getting in would have been much more difficult had I needed to justify myself to the guards. Nobody was around, but I moved carefully and swiftly into the shadows to avoid any unwanted attention so early. Once I was happy I’d made my way in safely I checked out a nearby building and saw a near-bare room containing only a small wooden bench on which an old man was sitting.

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I decided to pop in and say hello to the guy and found the door to the room locked, but the key was in the door. I let myself in and before I could say anything, the door slammed shut behind me and was locked. Bugger. At this point I realised I am a total idiot as this is obviously some sort of jail cell. I started talking to my new cell-mate and found he was an ex-wizard who had his career in magic shortened when an Ogre took his left arm off. I was only half paying attention though as I thought this leg of the adventure was off to a good start as I had the key… two minutes in and I’m already somebodies prisoner! Still it wasn’t all bad as my new friend started to reveal a little in the way of insider knowledge on what it would take to get through Khare, or more accurately, what I would need to get through the north gate on the other side. Four Nobles of Khare have a part of a spell that will open the gate as it is magically sealed to protect the city from the evil which lies behind it. The evil which I’m making my way towards, I should add. So I’m guessing that by the time I reach the north gate I’m going to need access to this spell. In the meantime, I can open simple locks myself and so I used my DOP spell to get my friend and I out of the cell for the cost of 2 Stamina.

What I had seen so far wasn’t the heart of the city itself, I was only on the outskirts. On leaving the cell, the road took me towards a junction, the left path took off towards a group of scruffy looking youngsters with backpacks (Australians, I presume), the right led down towards a collection of ramshackle huts and straight ahead led into the heart of the city. In a ramshackle kinda mood, I headed off towards the huts, which was the same way the man I met in the cell had gone. I followed him over towards a large, dirty-looking hut to the left of the path and went inside.

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Apparently, our ex-wizard had moved onto making chains. An interesting move for a man with one hand. Regardless, the room was actually unoccupied when I went in and so I decided to have a snoop around, a test of Luck needed to keep quiet and this turned up a small box containing 3 gold. Not quite as spectacular as I’d hoped, but a 2nd Luck test was made available to search further. A far superior yield came from this search, two glass bottles are now in my possession; one containing glue, one containing Blimberry Juice, which I can use to cast a healing spell. Curiously a 3rd Luck test was offered, but I’m now wary of the possibility of ‘too much of a good thing’ in these books, so I quit while I was ahead and left the hut.

Outside, a pleasant smell was wafting from the hut directly opposite the chain makers hut and so I followed my nose into someone elses house. I did have the manners to ask this time though, so I knocked first and was met by a voice telling me to come in but be careful as I opened the door. Doing so meant I just about avoided being hit by a falling vial of liquid that was lodged atop the door frame – cityport of traps indeed! What met me was probably the weirdest creation I’ve seen in a Fighting Fantasy book yet, perhaps other books too.

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Working in a kitchen a Hobbit would be proud of was a Flayer. It seems a Flayer is a human torso and legs with a large blob of quivering jelly for a head. The creature has no arms and manipulates objects using tentacles coming from the bottom of its head, the eyes float freely in front of its ‘face’. Oh, and it’s currently cooking dinner. What also caught my eye though was a scroll and mirror poking out from a box underneath the table. Being in an overstocked kitchen, it seemed an ideal opportunity to get some food in me, as we found in The Shamutanti Hills, I do need to eat in these books and a squirrel ate all my supplies some time ago now! My other motive was snatching the mirror and scroll whilst my friendly host was distracted. I’m such a dick. Still, I paid the thing 5g for a meal, which seemed a little steep, but was necessary for my ruse. I tucked into my not-entirely-pleasant bristle-beast kidneys, but ‘accidentally’ spilled my drink and whilst the Flayer attended to my mess I swiped the objects I wanted and got out of there quickly. Seems I’d taken an elaborate golden mirror, a scroll with writing I couldn’t interpret and 2 gold pieces. Not a bad little haul!

At the end of the road seemed to be some sort of festival taking place. Tents and flags were strewn around the area and a large number of revellers were enjoying the many activities, I say many, there appeared to be three. I had the option of checking out the dancers, the dancing bear or a ring where men were betting on fights. To start off with I thought a dance would be harmless enough, it all started well too, the happy atmosphere actually gave me back some Stamina as I clapped along to the music and was eventually dragged in by one of the dancer girls. It seemed we were dancing to some awesome never-ending prog-metal though (I imagine) as the tune just didn’t stop! I started to become more and more tired as the music continued, but by now quite a crowd were watching and I didn’t want things to turn nasty by stopping the dance. One of the less exotic situations Fighting Fantasy has put me in, I must say. My issue was my backpack, including my sword, gold and food, I had to count the number of items I carried and roll 2D6. I think my total was 11 and I rolled below that number repeatedly, each failure costing me 1 Stamina until I had failed five times when I simply collapsed from exhaustion and had to be dragged out of the dancing circle.

Having just collapsed from dancing, the logical next activity was to go and challenge the champion in the ring.

A fight was already starting though, Anvar the Barbarian was about to go head-to-head with the current champion, Skullsplitter the Ogre.

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Interestingly, I had to play this fight out myself, Skullsplitter (9/12) absolutely battered Anvar (7/8) and so I put myself forward to be the next challenger. Anvar had got a few hits in so I thought this would smooth my passage towards the 15g prize. However, Skullsplitters men sneakily cast a healing spell on him before we could get going and so he was back to full strength. A series of incredibly bad dice rolls for the Ogre led me to a very easy victory though, he only hit me once and so I walked off with 15 extra gold in my pocket.

Before I could leave the festival however, one more thing caught my eye, a sign reading ‘Cabinet of Fortune – Try Your Luck – A Prize for All’.  At only 2g, I had to have a go. I went inside the tent and found a grubby, bearded man presenting a large glass cabinet to me. Inside was a selection of prizes which would be dispensed at random by a mite who sat inside the box. A Luck roll allowed me to influence my prize to be a decent one, as apparently there is a lot of crap in there and so I managed to come out with a dwarf-bone bracelet which I can use to cast an illusion spell with.

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I left the tent and the festival, heading towards the innards of Khare.