Last time around we’d just taken in the story of an old pile of rags who was actually a human woman down on her luck, shuffling through her existence in the courtyard of an evil Archmage. I’d left her with the promise that I’d try and sort out the Sightmasters who had been giving her some trouble, so I moved on away from a group of guards towards a group of individuals who apparently seemed familiar to me. And would you believe it? A group of large-eyed beings that could only be Sightmasters, the guys who had sent me on my merry way all the way back in The Shamutanti Hills. These fellows were therefore likely traitors to the cause and they seemed to realise who I was. Damn those serpents. I was beckoned over went to see what they had to say.
As expected, they talked to me as though they knew exactly who I was and my intent in Mampang, what wasn’t expected was that they were making out that they were trying to help me. I was offered a disguise in the form of a very heavy looking coat, held together by thick buckled straps. Now I don’t know about you, but this is something I would usually regard as a straight-jacket and was reluctant to wear it. Remembering my promise to rag lady I ignored their comments completely and launched straight into combat. A very easy fight awaited, they might be blessed with giant eyes or far-sight or whatever, but they can’t fight for shit. With stats of 7/4, 6/4 and 6/5 the battle was a formality. Many travellers must have been accosted by these guys as they had a nice little stash of loot for me to take away with me; 20 gold, some sand, a vial of glue, a ring of green metal and enough food for three meals were all mine for the taking. Remembering to deduct 100 from the reference I went back to tell rag lady. ‘You’ve made an old woman very happy‘, she sobbed and so the rewards kept flowing. Firstly this came in the form of a luck pendant which not only restored my Luck to initial value, but increased the value by one, taking me up to 12. She also gave me some holy water which could be used in a healing spell. Information was probably the key thing she handed over though, she told me that ahead lay one of the Throben doors and that I should in no way attempt to open them without the password. Valignya knows the password, but to get to him I would first have to contend with the Mucalytics. I have no idea who Valignya is or what a Mucalytic is, but I guess I’m going to find out pretty soon.
A small victory had been achieved in that I had now crossed the courtyard in one piece. That I had just slain three men in plain sight seemed to have gone unnoticed. I assumed that the two large wooden doors ahead of me were the Throben Doors that I had been warned of, so I steered clear of them for now and so was left with the option of exploring either a small door to the right or a perculiar-shaped metal pole in the ground just in front of the doors. Taking a look at the pole, I found it to be covered in ornate markings and had a number of weapons laid at the base. Not in a very trusting mood, I took the chance to try a SUS spell and of course a warning flared up so I left the weapons be and went over to the small door. The door came swinging open as I approached it and I was beckoned in by a short, stocky creature who asked if I was there to torment the Mucalytics. Well, I wasn’t, but if I had to torment something, then that’s what I’ll do, I just want to get past the things. He showed me to a door on the left whilst standing by a door to the right. I had no idea what was going on so I just went with it. I should have exercised more caution, but we’ll get to that later…
So this is a Mucalytic then. A sort of cross between and elephant and the ‘stink god’ from Spirited Away. Slumped in a mess of slime and rubbish it stood up to about the size of a bear, holding a hand to its ear as though trying to hear what I was saying, even though I wasn’t saying a word. I wasn’t particularly interested in its opinions or smells and so I tried to leg it across the room to the door on the opposite side. A gunky arm swung out and before I knew it I was fighting this thing, 8/9 weren’t too shabby and I think it even landed a hit or two but I did manage to finish it off before it could get three hits in, which would have presumably had a negative effect based on the text. For some reason I had a sort through the slime afterwards I managed to actually find some useful items; a bone bracelet, two Goblin teeth and 5 gold pieces.
I continued through the door on the opposite side of the room and found myself in short corridor. To my left was an empty room with a table and chair, perfect for some food and drink, but a raised portcullis hung above the doorway. Ahead was another door bearing a sign – ‘Enter Only Those Who Will Pay The Price’. I decided to have a look at this crappy little dining room as I could do with a rest at this point. 2 delicious Stamina points were given along with a question – had I visited anyone called Shadrack on my travels? Well as you may remember, this very helpful chap met us in the desert at the very start of The Seven Serpents and as I sat at the table eating some dinner, a ghostly shape appeared in front of me and began to speak – it was Shadrack. Some exposition followed as he told me about the Throben Doors, the secret to opening them held by the Archmages most cunning followers. As we already knew, Valignya ( who Shadrack referred to as ‘the miser’) held one, Naggamanteh the torturer another, alas the final was unknown to Shadrack. Good news came in the knowledge that a group within the fortress known as the Samaritans of Schinn would be allied to me as they too opposed the Archmage and his desire for power – but specifics were unfortunately lacking. On asking why he had come to tell me these things, he sadly revealed that the Archmages men had paid him a visit two nights ago and that his body had died this morning, I was being visited by his actual ghost. I swore revenge on the bastard murderers of this friendly little hermit!
Curiously walking out underneath the inactive portcullis I ventured thowards the pay warning and before I could grasp the handle, a voice came from inside – ‘Inside! But do not waste my time unless you carry gold!’. Well at this point I had about 50 gold, so I think I’m about to blow this guys mind.
I’ll be honest, keep the Crown of Kings, that guys hat is amazing and I’d hand over 50 gold for that thing right now, it is surely more powerful. But as this wasn’t an option I gave him a chance to speak. What he wanted was a single gold piece to actually converse any further, he mocked my ‘tawdry rags’ and doubted I had money at all. I had been under the impression that he was a merchant of some kind, but based on the advice of rag lady and Shadrack, I realised that having passed the Mucalytic, this must be Valignya the miser! Paying no real attention to his request I told him he could make use of me as a hired sword to help guard his finery. I was of course ignoring the fact that he had a large black jaguar sitting under his table doing just that. He heard my statement, which was now taken as a challenge and set me up against his jaguar to see who was the better. Naturally, I was the better, and despite being given the opportunity to spare the beast when it was reduced to 2 Stamina, I killed it in front of its master. ‘That was unnecessary!‘, he sobbed. Well so was making fun of my clothes. I grabbed his throat and demanded to know how to gain entry further inside the keep. Reluctantly he gave me the password to the next Throben Door – ‘Alaralaramalana’. Letting him go, I headed off to the doors.
Making my way back through the Mucalytics room, I could hear voices in the room beyond. Opening the door I found the short, stumpy character who ushered me in screaming at a group of at least a dozen guards, ‘There you are! I told you! The Analander! And when you capture the dog, remember to tell our master that it was I, Ridd the Ghome, who gave you this information’. The little swine. He had been very eager to get me in there, now I know why. Curiously, I was asked if I had a blessed hardwood spear. I did not.
I was totally outnumbered, with no chance at survival I was quickly pinned to the ground and then frogmarched out of the room, captured and unable to succeed in my mission.
It was at this point I started trying to figure out where I’d gone wrong, I retraced my steps through the last stages of the courtyard segment, the metal pole, through the Mucalytic and Valignya, yet every route ended up with me being rushed by a large group of guards and without this ‘blessed hardwood spear’, I had absolutely no way to progress any further.
For now, my adventure was over.