Creature of Havoc – Part 5

After my escaping the dungeon and my encounter with the witches I took a well earned rest. Consolidating what I had achieved so far, the text indicating that I felt as though I was developing wisdom! Quite a development from the hulking mass, uncontrollably smashing up and eating hobbits that we knew from the start of the book. A big boost of 8 Stamina and 2 Luck were mine as I set out the next day, fully refreshed and looking to find the Sculliweed roots for the witches. Out in the open, I had options aplenty, with all four compass points open for exploration I set off to the east into the woods. Another junction split off into three, this was signposted as ‘Coven’ to the north, ‘Bilgewater’ to the south and ‘Testing grounds’ to the east, so I continued east. A rustling in nearby bushes startled me and the next thing I knew, an axe was flying past my head!

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As soon as the fight with the woodcutter began it was over and in the distance I could see a river, as I got closer to it, the lush green vegetation around me began to turn to spindly, dying plants. The stench of the river picked up and I was again in the company of the Bilgewater river, carrying indescribable filth and excrement. Apparently that signpost was wrong then. I followed the river downstream, at one point even descending a waterfall. Just imagine that, a poo waterfall. Eventually the water flowed to a large, calm pool, steam rising across its wide expanse. Can you imagine anyone or anything using this as drinking water? I mean, you’d have to be a complete and utter… oh…

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…seems this thing was guzzling away at the steaming, lumpy water. Apparently, this thing was an Ophidiotaur and of all my options, the option to try and mount it was the glaringly obvious one to pick. A quick Skill test later and I’d sneaked up to it and had leaped onto its back, a shrug and a snort and it’d accepted being ridden as it’s reality. That was until I kicked my heels in and it took off at a gallop, crashing through trees and eventually coming to a stop in a clearing, thankfully before it could throw me off. Not long after my arrival, the quiet didn’t remain as a couple of Brigands bundled in out of nowhere through the trees, beating the hell out of a thin and nimble man.

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Initially the three were unaware of my presence, but as I came charging towards them to help the man, all three stopped and stared at me incredulously. But that didn’t last as I was soon in combat with the two Brigands (8/7 & 8/9) who managed a couple of hits, but did not live for very long. The man I had saved was in fact an elf, he revealed his name to be Whiteleaf from the village of Ethelle Amaene and was at my service. All I could ask about though were a few fairly uninspiring topics, so I asked to hear about Stittle Woad. Odd, as I’m not sure my character knows of Stittle Woad at the moment. Whiteleaf told me that the settlement was about two days east of here, close to the Rainbow Ponds and that it was hidden underground. Great, but not really of any use to me at the moment.

Leading out of the clearing was a path heading northwards which led me onto an east-west junction, which I followed to the west. Pushing on, the foliage got denser and thicker and eventually produced a small building. It was however in ruins and I took the opportunity to explore these ruins, the doorway still intact. Through the doorway was a big mess, the place had been trashed, broken furniture and rubble was strewn across what used to be a room. Poking through the debris was a skeletal hand holding a green bottle which I pocketed and quickly moved on before the skeletal arm could try to grab me.

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Oddly enough, given the adventure so far, the arm didn’t try to kill me and I was able to head off on my merry way with a shiny new bottle. My progress was short-lived however as the vegetation in the woods was getting thick, so dense in-fact that my path onward was reduced to what resembled a small tunnel which I needed to crawl into to be able to fit. Fairly predictably, this was a bad move. The tunnel began to move and close in, vines tightened around me, the more I struggled, the tighter they got, I was in something of a pickle. I was offered the option to drink the contents of the bottle I had just wrestled from the dead and so I gave it a try. What I had drunk was a slow-acting poison. Initially I thought I’d picked the right course of action as the Gluevines instantly released their grip on me and I was able to crawl free, however they had merely detected the fact that I was now pumping poison through my system and didn’t fancy eating me anymore. I detected that I was pumping poison through my system when I clutched my stomach, doubled over and died in agonising pain a few minutes later. My adventure was over!

We messed up there then (yes I’m portioning some of the blame to you, the reader), so let’s go back to the start of this part and instead of heading east, let’s go south. I found myself in the town of Coven, but instead of a bustling settlement I found a run-down collection of shacks, residents fleeing at the sight of this giant green monster, stomping down their streets. But with a crack, one door flew open and a half-orc tumbled out of it, a bare-chested man followed with a crowd of people urging him to finish off the orc.

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Taking pity on my beastly brethren, I jumped in, claws flashing, and destroyed this smarmy looking villager. The problem now was all the other villagers who’d just watched a big green monster eviscerate one of their mates in the street and a gang of them were now advancing on me. The half-orc beckoned me to follow him and shouted ‘Quick! Come on!‘, and so I ran off after my new best friend. He looked like a sturdy fellow, carrying a sword though I’m not sure why he hadn’t drawn it back in the village, but nevermind. He told me to call him Grog and that he wanted to travel with me. The text instructed me to look out for references ending in a 7, deducting 52 from that number would take me to a reference where Grog would interact with me. Indeed, the next reference was 107, so I went to 55 to find a section where Grog went into a disused building we walked past, talking about a sentimental heirloom he’d buried in there and emerging with a backpack containing what looked like a large box. Curiously, he didn’t say what was in there. Discussion quickly moved onto what my current goals were, but not being able to speak, I was only able to communicate through nods and shakes of the head. I managed to convey that I was looking for something, but had no idea where it was. He exclaimed that someone called Rosina would be able to help, so that was where we went.

To the west we travelled and a small hillock rose up that appeared to shelter a small hut within some rocky caves in the side of it, Grog confirmed my assertion that this was where Rosina would be found and he gave me 2 gold pieces which he told me I would need. I wandered in through front door. Inside was what appeared to be a stereotypical fortune tellers booth. Incense burned, rich woven cloths hung about the walls and a crystal ball sat in the middle. Rosina of Dree was her full title and she wanted 2 gold pieces so that she could help me fulfill my destiny. Amusingly I was given the option to start a fight with her, but I chose to hand over the gold and let her do her thing instead.

Tarot was her weapon of choice for telling the fortune of a giant monster and after a little fore-shadowing of the finale of the book we’ll get onto next time, she deduced that I had been enlisted by the Sisters of Dree to help them find their Sculliweed root, ‘You have been set an unfair task. For the blue-stemmed Sculliweed grows only in the Swamps of the Toadmen on the southern shored of the Deedlewater‘.

Let’s croak us some toads!

Creature of Havoc – Part 4

Last time around I had the smug smile wiped from my face as the puzzle in my way I thought I’d solved remained sitting there, making fun of my pathetic yellow bracelets. All other options exhausted, I had some back tracking to do.

My first instinct was to look at the earlier choice I had been directly presented with inside my current route. The yellow bracelets I had coveted had not been the only item I discovered in the seemingly precious sack carried by Strongarm and co, there had also been a pendant. So, I went back to that point in the story and picked up the pendant, hoping it was a little more useful than the one on offer in Dark Souls. Thankfully this gave me a new thread to tug on as this dull, metal pendant had a little trick hidden up its sleeve. With it, I was able to detect the presence of hidden passageways within the catacombs. If I came across any passage in the book starting with the text ‘You cannot see a thing…‘ then I was to deduct 20 from the reference to find my hidden area. Recalling a section of dungeon just after the shadow creature being blacked out, I set off in that direction.

Reference 257 did indeed start with those words and some simple maths triggered the pendant. The dull piece of jewelry started to hum and a red beam fired out of the center to point at a stone wall ahead of me, and following the beam, my eyes were drawn to what seemed to be a piece of stone hanging in mid-air. Pulling on the stone set off a release mechanism of some kind and a hidden door in the wall creaked and crumbled open. The text then readjusted the rules for finding secret passages, stating that any reference I found starting with ‘You find yourself…‘ was to have 20 added to it to reveal a secret. This was making me remember something potentially very important, but firstly I had a secret door to check out! Within a small chamber, a single glowstone provided just enough light for me to make out a chest. Inside were two items, a shield and a large lump of crystal. Having already translated part of the diary of Zharradan Marr in part three, I knew full well to keep my eye out for a crystal club, so my selection here was a no-brainer. My lump of crystal was revealed to in-fact be a crystal club which I could use by turning to reference 333.

Now I say I remembered something potentially important, before I began this read-through I had been tipped off by some readers and my own research that there was an error in one section of the book where the correct trigger phrase had not been used, rendering the book nigh-on impossible to complete. Sounding familiar to the mechanics of my new toy, I checked it out and lo-and-behold, the trigger phrase left out was ‘You find yourself…‘ which should have started reference 213, that reference instead starting with ‘You reach a dead end‘. I’ll save my seethe for now and leave it until the Conclusions section!

So where is section 213? Around the portion of the book where I thought the yellow bracelets were the answer amidst a selection of dead-end cross-roads, that’s where! Geographically, I was on the right track, I could continue from the spot where I obtained the crystal club and make my way back through the area where I met Hannicus in part 3, past the Chattermatter from part 2 and get my pendant swinging on page 213. Finally making some progress past my end-point of around 25 years ago!

As with last time, a beam of light projected from the pendant onto a seemingly solid wall, fumbling around on its surface released a hidden catch, sending jets of smoke bursting from the edges of the door that was now sliding open in the rock. Awaiting me was an entirely pitch-black room which as I stepped in started to light up as several little flames popped out of the gloom, four in total and all revealing a human face! An instant later and they were speaking to me –

‘Your progress has been watched, foul creature of destruction. So far you have done well though you know not why or what, but you have caused two of the vapours to be lost. Zharradan Marr himself has decreed your destiny. You shall remain in his dungeons and do my bidding for i am Darramouss your master.’

If you can understand him turn to reference ninety.

‘Your first order is this: Report for duty at the Yellowstone mines. Leave now and head there immediately. I will be waiting.’

Hannicus had told me about this guy and I was on full alert to find a moment when I could grab him and make use of the ring he had armed me with. The lights came up and my environment was very different, no longer was I in a cold, stone cavern, I was in an area adorned with rich drapes and gilt-framed paintings. Darramouss confirmed that I was a magical creation of Zharradan Marr and while my fate was yet to be decided, my immediate future would see me being sent to work in the mines. Resistance would be met with my demise. Gritting my teeth and growling my dissatisfaction I wasn’t even given the option of going along with the idea of becoming a miner and Darramouss started casting a spell. My moment had come so I added 50 to the reference and hoped my gift from Hannicus would do the trick.

….the Ring of Holy Blessing! Where did you get that? Give it to me! This instant!’, he yelled fiercely. Hannicus, you’re a star, sorry for leaving you to die. Grinding the jewel of the ring into the wall a sweet-smelling gas filled the air, Darramouss stepping back and hitting a panel in the wall to open up a secret passage, but he was too late. Clutching his throat he hit the deck, the gas had done the trick and the awful creature was dead. I headed north through the passage opened up by Darramouss as he attempted to flee. On my way I yet again crossed the foul-smelling Bilgewater river and continued until I arrived at a heavy looking door carved into the rock. Opening up, a dark-skinned man stepped through and began asking me who I was and if I had been granted permission to leave Marr’s dungeon. Of course, I said yes. Please, god, let me out. It clearly wasn’t going to be that easy though and he asked me what the secret gesture was. I chose to play dumb and made out that there was no ‘gesture’ to pass on. The end result was that for the price of my pendant, the guard would let me through. I figured that it’d served its purpose by now and handed it over.

Rummaging through keys, the guard let me through a cold metal door which led up a flight of stairs and into a dark, stone-walled room decorated with carvings and patterns. A crack of light shone through  the ceiling and edging around the room revealed a door which I swung open to be hit by the cool night air and a wide-open-space. I was out! The moon was described as a large white orb, this was the first time my creature had been outside I guess, the description of what sounded like a graveyard and church was all that I had to go on to accompany the ‘orb’. Still in awe of my new surroundings I decided to check out the ‘old building’, which I’m assuming was a church.

And yes, I finally have an illustration to brighten things up. I hope you like hags.

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Chattering to each other and to me in equal quantities, these weird sisters three were the Women of Dree and said they could influence my destiny. They set me a quest, a relatively simple one, to collect some Sculliweed root for them before the next full moon and they would tell me everything. Well, I’m several thousand words into this now and I’d quite like to have a tangible goal to pursue, so ladies, by all that I stand for, you shall have your Sculliweed root!

Although I have no idea what it is, what it looks like, where to find it or even where I am.

Sigh.

Creature of Havoc – Part 3

Quite justifiably scared of my own shadow, I retreated back to the previous darkened cavern and took my only remaining option, which was to head west to another junction which after a right turn, branched off to the west and to the north. Persisting with my westerly track, I was soon bothered by the sound of footsteps ahead. Being a giant green behemoth I eschewed the option to turn back and continued directly towards the sounds. It was difficult to see who the footsteps belonged to as the passage winded back and forth, but when a straight section did appear, two human faces appeared in the faint light of the glowstone. Holding their ground, two non-descript adventurers were soon being torn apart by a charging creature who really had no time for face-offs. Just before I began my attack though, one of my victims put a brown sack down on the floor to one side and so that was my first item of interest to investigate. What had been held inside was another phial in a wooden box, much like the one I had found earlier in remains of the Flesh-feeders lunch. Sure enough, the bottle unstoppered itself and a swirling gas rose to form the face of an old man.

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Another round of gibberish followed, however a slightly different result followed. This was actually the ‘Vapour of Tongues’ and the spirit had bestowed upon me the gift of language! At last I had access to a cypher to help figure out the writings I had found and the speech of other entities I encountered. However, it isn’t entirely fool-proof. Here’s the exact description of how to translate.

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So lets’s give it a try shall we? Right at the start we met a dwarf who screamed ‘Kff pebw by afrp momf‘. I work this out to mean ‘Keep away from me‘, which does make perfect sense in the context the sentence is used. I have used a certain amount of guesswork though, the rules don’t mention how to handle consonants at all. But I’ll come back to this puzzle system in the conclusions I think and give some smart-arsed reader the opportunity to explain what an idiot I am for not understanding it properly!

So, I think I now have a handle on how to interpret the information imparted to me! I set about translating the piece of leather I found on the body of said dwarf, I came up with –

‘Swinebeard of yore. You have been found guilty of the crime of wilful and malicious arson a most serious offence in the dry region of Salamonis. As punishment you are sentenced to undertake a perilous mission of recovery. You must travel northwards and enter the undergound domain of Zharradan Marr there to seek out and recover flasks of swirling vapours. These are the vapours of Stittle Woad. You must find the three flasks containing these vapours and return them to this court. ON NO ACCOUNT MUST THEY BE OPENED. This is the sentence of the court and the geas has been cast. This is your punishment. You must succeed or die in the attempt.’

So these vapours are precious to someone (Stittle Woad is marked on our region map) and Zharradan Marr has taken them to his underground lair where I have found myself. Am I supposed to be protecting them maybe?

I went back to the text of the previous vapour I had released after the flesh-feeders and translated that –

‘I am released from my rest. Foul creature what do you know of the forces with which you tamper. But nonetheless my purpose is ordained. I bestow on you the power of reason. From now on you are in control of your own destiny. And now may i return to my peaceful rest until once more the heavens take their oppositions.’

And that I believe led to my ability to make decisions and not have to make dice rolls to assert my choices.

Christ, no wonder this was listed as a hard one. I was a clever kid, but never would I have been able to handle this stuff! Regardless, we struggle onwards, mind expanded and slightly boggled. What I found was something welcomly more mundane – a junction. An easterly turn took me down a passageway which ended at a large wooden door which was far too big and sturdy for me to break down, on the face of the door was a metal plate with a metal ball hanging in front of it. Apparently a knocker, I used it and waited to see who would answer.

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The Rhino-man shuffled through the door towards me and spoke and I was able to interpret –

‘Come on then. what business have you here. Answer quickly.’
If you can understand the creature turn immediately to reference sixty two.

Amazed that I could understand him, Rhino-man, presumably being loaned out from the Citadel of Chaos asked if I was one of Marr’s creatures? I suppose I am a minion then. He realised that I didn’t really know if I was or not and suggested that due to the size of me, I should be heading towards the Testing Grounds, but someone named Darramouss would know for certain. Should I make the Testing Grounds, he had a message I had to pass on to his weapon-master, Legionnaire Twenty-Nine, called Thugruff – ‘Gat H’Ouile has escaped with the ring to the Forest of Spiders’. If I met him I was to add 29 to the reference to do this. I bid Rhino-man farewell and continued onward, following a junction to the east again and entering a door to my left.

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Two blood-orcs leaped from a table and made for their swords as soon as I entered through the door, a man in dirty robes stood behind them and uttered some words –

Who is it? What is happening? What has disturbed us? Please god release this black eye curse.

Needless to say, combat followed, but the orcs being 7/7 and 7/8 didn’t stand a chance. The man spoke again –

‘Have mercy on a blind man whoever you are. If you are friend then lead me from this place. If you are foe then leave me be.  You are strangely silent. Who are you? Do you understand me. My god intruder. If your plan is to do away with me then do it quickly. Otherwise be off with you.’

If you can understand the human turn to reference two hundred.

‘So what is it to be. Is not my misery enough. Show charity. Give me gold and feed me. Or leave me be.’

The man introduced himself as Hannicus, the ex-keeper of Zharradan Marr’s underground dungeons who had been usurped by Darramouss, an undead. Darramouss could be found north of the Chattermatter’s lair, which was roughly where we were heading!  Hannicus clearly had revenge as motivation to take Darramouss down and he produced a ring which he claimed I could use to defeat him by smashing the jewel at its center against the wall, releasing a gas deadly only to the undead Half-elf that is Darramouss. I was granted 2 Luck for my discovery, but Hannicus seemed to want his ring back, he wanted me to help him get out. I had no time for this, I had what I needed and so I took the ring and went on my way. The text informed me that when I encountered Darramouss I was to wait until I had the opportunity to grab him and then add 50 to the reference.

Moving on I found myself in a location familiar to a previous run-through, the coffin room. So, having previously ended up cooking an oven, I had managed to negotiate my way back to this half of the dungeon and so followed the same path I had before, back to the oven room. On the way though, I stopped to translate the scroll I attempted to read where the Rock Demon illusion had appeared. As I thought, it seemed to be a key document.

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‘Biography of Z Marr page ninety three:… thus came Marr to abandon the physical world and take refuge in his own. A strange netherworld which occupies no space in the world we mortals know. A world of illusion in which where he appears to be he is not. And a world in which those searching for him would instead find themselves. He has but one weakness in his new world and that is a crystal club which may be used to destroy forever the gateway between our world and his.’

If at some time in the future you believe you have located the entrance to Marrs netherworld deduct the page number above from the reference you are on at the time and turn to this reference. If you are correct you will meet the necromancer. For having the good fortune to find this parchment you may restore your luck score to its initial level.

So, yes, I guess you could say that was a fairly key document indeed! Amazing it would only be guarded by a mere illusion.

To the oven we go then and as previous, the furnaces roared and the rooms temperature began to rise. However this time I had my yellow metal bracelets I had found on the body of the adventurers in the previous part. Banging on the walls of the oven room I accidentally bashed the two bracelets together, creating a loud ringing noise which seemed to trigger a subsiding of the rising heat. And that was it. I was turned back out into the sequence of junctions I had been stuck in before. No secret door, nothing. Now I know this route is the way forwards as Hannicus had told me so, but clearly the oven puzzle was a mere distraction and not my route forward at all.

Damn your eyes, Jackson!!! What now?? I was certain this would be my way forward…

Here I stand then, stuck in a dead-end, unable to progress any further. I’m now fully grasping that this really isn’t like most other Fighting Fantasy books, my Twitter peeps are aware this one has been driving me crazy and so as I thought, we’re gonna need another part to get this one done. I will return and we will continue!