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