It’s fair to say that we (and by which, I mean ‘I’) failed completely in the last part, reminiscent of the Gangees from Citadel of Chaos, I had nowhere to turn. Surrounded by guards, the only way for any progress was to find out exactly where I’d missed out on finding the blessed hardwood spear. So to my map I went and from the start of the book started exploring some of the routes I had not been down on my trek through the mountains to Mampang Fortress. Thankfully, this turned into a much easier task than I envisaged as the first piece if the puzzle was very early on indeed. After the initial section of picking a cave to sleep in I was offered the choice of taking a rickety bridge or climbing the mountain path further and I took the bridge. What I should have done was take the right-hand path and left the bridge well alone. It would have been down that path that I would have come across some hoof-prints…
Yep, actual boobs on what basically looks like Joey Belladonna. These She-Satyrs were quite clearly carrying spears. Blessed ones made of hard wood? We shall see, but I was stopped dead in my tracks as a pair of them emerged from behind a group of rocks and chucked one of their spears at me. Being very aggressive, they branded me a ‘weak-bowelled cur’ and demanded to know what I was doing here, I went along with what they wanted. As we spoke they realised my accent was not that of a local and asked where I was from. I partially revealed my origin was in Analand and their attitude changed to one of fascination as they desired to learn more about the outside world and the events taking place there, it wasn’t long before they offered to take my back to their village for more story-time. It was here that things fell into place, I spoke with their leader Sh’houri and told her about my quest, a cause to which she was thankfully sympathetic and gave up much information. First she told me of the Throben Doors, I now know that there are four in total and so I believe I’d already made it through two of them? Next up she gave me a hardwood spear! I was told I could get it blessed by a man named Colletus. Now if you remember in Part 1 I had already picked up a clue about Colletus, knowing that he could be found at the Groaning Bridge. Sh’houri told me of a whistling technique that could be used to get his attention from within his hiding place, for which I had to deduct 30 from the relevant reference to reach him. Ahhh! Finally, I was offered a number of spell casting reagents which I could exchange for an item in my inventory.
Making a direct route onto the Groaning Bridge I did my little whistle and sure enough, out pops Colletus. The man was completely blind and confused as to who was calling on him, but on asking him of his skills as a holy man he was genuinely flattered someone had sought out his abilities and he was more than happy to bless my spear. Hooray! So, now that little puzzle is out of the way, lets jump back up to Mampang Fortress and back to the section where Ridd the Gnome had rushed me with a gang of guards…
This time, I wasn’t frogmarched away to a cell. This time, all 12 guards were dead within a few minutes as a simple touch with the tip of this spear can kill a man in an instant. As for Ridd the Gnome, a rather brutal end was his, instead of simply touching him, I rammed the spear straight through his throat! That is totally metal. My path to the next Throben Doors was now clear and I took the password I had learned from Valignya and they clicked open without frying me with lightning bolts or anything like that, which was nice. So NOW that’s two doors done. Through these doors I had progressed into the inner keep, a solid wood door to me left appeared to lead into the main keep, but was guarded by two bird-men.
To my right was an unguarded door spouting steam and clanking noises, and that was where I headed towards. On closer inspection, this was actually a kitchen entrance. The unpleasant smell of todays special hit me, swine offal and lizard entrails. Lovely. Small nervous creatures scampered around, these minions serving the orders being barked out by a large hobgoblin cook, whipping them around the head with a sapling branch to get them moving. It’s all very Dungeon Keeper in here. Wonderful illustration too, that kitchen looks beyond dirty!
Rather than sneaking through or mercilessly slaughtering all in my path I decided to announce my presence and have a chat with the cook, she couldn’t see very well and as soon as she’d finished beating her minions, through squinted eyes she asked me what I wanted. For some reason I decided that asking for some food would be a good idea. The best she could offer was pickled dung-beetles, having realised my error of judgement I tried to back out but this quickly angered her, so rather than cause a commotion I just agreed to sample something from the larder. Ant Meatballs seemed as good an option as any. I don’t know how much meat you get on an ant, but they were actually very tasty and restored my Skill and Stamina to initial values! As I went to compliment the chef on her work, she shrieked ‘Oh no! Not THAT jar!‘. She unfolded a crumpled piece of the jars label to reveal its actual content, ‘Mutant Meatballs’. Oops. I was told to roll two D6 to find out what my mutation would be!
My face started to ache. I reached out and was shocked to find my nose was growing and growing, hanging down my face like a proboscis! As well as making me look ridiculous, this made breathing a little difficult and so I had to reduce my Initial and Current Stamina by 2. Leading on from the kitchen was a passageway that presumably led onto the guards’ mess-hall, I say presumably as on making my way along here I heard gruff voices and the sound of chain-mail which led me to hide in the shadows where I unwittingly discovered an escape route. A dark, damp passageway descended below and then back up to floor-level, taking me to a door which opened out into an arched cloister. Three doors led out of here, one to the right, one in the opposite wall and another marked by a sign ‘Nylock- Merchant – Open‘. As merchants are always fun and I have a load of cash to spend, I had a look in there.
Two things struck me about this image, our merchant friend has a very similar hat to Valignya, must be a cool style up here in Mampang. Also, the two framed pictures on the wall… is that supposed to be two of our favourite fantasy gamebook writers?? Anyway, I ignored the option to steal his wares and went to see how much it would cost to buy out his inventory. He had a supposedly enchanted, Rusty Cutlass (3gp); a set of candles, one made of wax, one blood (2gp); a variety of spell artifacts (5gp each); a birds nest containing a golden egg (2gp) and some silver pieces (4gp). I took the lot to varying degrees of success. The enchanted cutlass was actually just a rusty cutlass and would have cost me 1 Skill point if I had to use it, the candles and spell artifacts were as advertised, any function of the nest and egg was not yet apparent and the silver pieces screwed me over – they had infact burned a hole through my bag and I lost the third item written on my inventory, which I believe was some glue. I was then forced on by the text through another door leading into a widening passage that opened into a hallway. Here I had two options, a small ornate door and one huge double door. The latter I deduced was likely a Throben Door, so not knowing how to get that one open, I opted for the smaller door.
Behind the door was a room empty save for a large piece of machinery made of brass and iron, it’s function seemingly to be some kind of metal-working apparatus. Having no idea how to work it I had to pass a Luck test to get it working, but when I did I realised it was a machine for sharpening blades! I got to work on my weapon and was able to add 1 to any of my future Attack Rolls. Back out into the hallway I had only one option, the double doors, which I’m 99% certain are about to kill me. Curiously, they sat ajar and as I walked over to them a huge fire flared up, behind the doors was an absolute inferno that I could not pass. Now rather frustratingly, I’d have quite liked to go back and explore some other areas, but the only option granted to me was to run head-first into certain death. Very single-minded this hero of ours. So yes, I took a run-up and blasted with heat, screaming wildly as my blood boiled and my body destroyed, my adventure was over. Told you.