Alright, the last run I had ended pretty badly. The Vale of Willow was utterly screwed thanks to the Ganjees. However, I’m not going to leave this unfinished, so let’s see if we can re-work things from the courtyard at the beginning shall we?
Instead of approaching the men arguing over the price of a dagger, I went over to the group sat by the fire, which turned out to be the far superior choice. An odd bunch they were, an orc, a pair of clearly romantically involved goblins and a dwarf. Now, I’m not sure that traditional fantasy relations would permit a dwarf to be hanging out with these guys, but let us not dwell on this as I decided to sit down with the group. Acting the big man, I demanded they give me some information and surprisingly, the attitude worked and they coughed up a password to get into the citadel, ‘Scimitar’. Things took a quick turn though and soon, the fairly weak group were all dead. Taking my pick of their stuff, I walked away with 8gp, a jar of ointment and a Potion of Magic, which would allow me to take on a couple of extra spells when I needed them.
Approaching the main entrance to the citadel, I was now armed with a password, so this time, Rhino-man didn’t beat seven shades out of me and I was able to continue nice and healthy. Again taking an opposite route, I bypassed the descending staircase and opted for the door at the end of the entrance corridor. A sign indicated that I should ‘Please Ring for Butler’, so I rang the bell and a man with teeth as awful as his shoes were excellent slowly shuffled through the door to greet me.
I continued with my tact of pretending like I was supposed to be there by saying I was ‘expected’. It was fairly obvious that he didn’t expect me at all, but when I asked about the reception, he nodded towards the left turn at the T-junction that lay before me. I had to think though, do citadels run by evil black sorcerers usually have a reception? What about a gym or Wifi? Anyway, not really sure it was a good idea, I took his word and went down the left passage. Seems I was right to feel unsure as unless the reception was run by a huge, angry Goblin-Giant hybrid, he was trying to get me into bother. The Gark was a big bugger, but a quick casting of a Weakness spell reduced his Skill from 7 to 5 and he was soon cut down. His death earned me 6gp and an ornate hairbrush.
Taking the right of two doors, I found myself in a library where I was able to ask the irritable librarian for books on specific topics. As I’d had trouble there before, my first selection was for ‘Secrets of the Black Tower’. The tower had been built by Balthus Dire’s grandfather as a sanctuary for the forces of evil and he turned it into a fortress to hide away in; the good bit was a combination to the inner sanctum of the Black Tower, ‘217’. Next, I looked up a book on Balthus Dire himself and learned that due to his focus on black magic, his power comes from the night and sunlight is poison to him. Before I could research the creatures of the citadel though, a noise alerted the attention of the librarian, refusing to run, I waited to see what the noise was. A group of orc guards came storming in, damn that Butler, and one knocked me out cold with a mere puff of breath in my face. Nice.
I awoke in prison, a scene that I actually did remember from my childhood and thought for some reason was where the book began. Well, I was back there again and was waiting for a Calacorm, a two-headed lizard-man, to bring me a bowl of soup. Aw.
After gulping down my delicious (I imagine) soup, it was time to get me the hell out of there with some magic. An illusion spell would do, make the guard think he was being attacked… yeeessss…. My illusion conjured up a mouse. Brilliant. And I say that without sarcasm as apparently Calacorms are scared to death of mice and the thing ended up standing on a table, shrieking like a girl. If it were wearing a skirt I’d imagine it would be daintily pulled up to its knees. Throwing me the keys, the Calacorm begged me to get rid of the mouse, so I let myself out, got to a safe distance and broke the spell.
We can skip forward a little here as I had managed to find my way back to O’Seamus, but took another door this time which led into a wine cellar. A black elf was running things down here and a quick chat resulted in a time out for some wine tasting. Because I’m a learned gentleman, I selected to sample some red and my word, I regained 2 Stamina and 3 Luck! How cultured. Now, excuse me good sire, I have a warlord to murder.
We take a path through and past the golem, back through the dining room, and this time, instead of taking the path via the orc babies, I opted for the left door. What I found was a beautiful, dark-haired woman laid in a luxurious four-poster bed who shot fire out of her eyes at me. Tsk.. women. I told her I had a gift for her and handed over the ornate hairbrush I took from the Gark’s room. Suitably impressed, she started brushing her hair with her new toy, distracting her long enough for me to steal the golden fleece that covered her bed and run off out the door. Looking at the size of the thing, that hairbrush must have been utterly amazing.
So, now we close in on my beloved Ganjees again. Climbing the tower, I bypassed the chest trap this time and climbed to the Black Tower and met up with my old foes. This time though, I had a powerful artifact… a jar of ointment! The voices of the Ganjees were taken aback, ‘What is that?’ they asked, another voice identified the jar as containing ointment of healing. Apparently these guys were in real need of some healing ointment as their ‘bwa-ha-ha-you-will-die-here’ act was soon dropped and they accepted my offer and let me pass. Fairly amazed that such a paltry item was the solution to a situation where powerful magic and violence had failed me, I proceeded on.
Straight from one awful encounter to the next, I climbed another set of spiral stairs and was thrust straight into the body-strewn lair of a hydra. Using a fairly tenuous piece of mythological logic, I chose to brandish my brand-new golden fleece at the thing. Hissing in retreat, the hydra wasn’t too keen on the fleece, giving me the time to run across the room and through the next door.
Reaching the apex of the citadel, a sign warned me ‘HALT. None may pass by order of Balthus Dire’, I figured this was it now. A solid metal door blocked my route onward, but the combination I had earlier learned from the library (which come to think of it, why on earth would you publish the lock combination to your inner lair in a book?) allowed me to pass through unhindered. On the other side however, a trident inexplicably came flying out of the dark towards my neck, which had to be quickly blocked with a shielding spell. Composing myself, I found I was in a military room, maps and plans littered the area with the mighty Balthus Dire leaning against a table, waiting for me in the middle.
Bar his huge armour, an intimidating character he is not. Look at his silly hair. Look how close his eyes are together. Now look at his hair again. You’d laugh at this man, not fear him. ‘Why, I’ll wager you’re not even a match for a Clawbeast!’, he ended up yelling at me as he summoned said beast to come and get me. A quick spell of my own reduced it to a corpse on the floor. My turn now. I used a Creature Copy spell to give me my own Balthus Dire to launch an offensive with, Dire sent it back to attack me though before I turned it again back on him. This power struggle continued until the spell faded and my Balthus Dire left my side. Damn. What was now turning into a battle of magic, not unlike the end of Willow, saw Dire turning himself into a Gorgon, complete with snarling hair of snakes!
Retreating quickly and luckily avoiding its petrifying gaze, I turned its gaze upon itself with O’Seamus’ mirror which broke the spell and left me face to face with Dire once more. Using the pause in the action to my advantage, I remembered the words I read in the library (knowledge is power, kids) and tore down the curtains by the window, streaming sunlight into the room. A blood-curling scream and a cry of ‘The curtain! You fool’ accompanied the final moments of Dire as he collapsed to the ground and crawled to his death. Setting fire to his war-plans, a levitation spell floated me down to the ground from atop the citadel where I could return to a Vale of Willow with a peaceful future.
My adventure was over.