Khare – Cityport of Traps – Conclusions

I write this one up after a holiday and so I’m sitting with my book trying to remember just exactly what the hell happened in this part whilst the streets and hills of Los Santos are trying to pry me away.

What I do remember is that I certainly enjoyed the book and that the quality and feel of the series continues to remain high after The Shamutanti Hills, which I enjoyed a great deal. With Khare though, I did have a few problems too. The lesser of these problems was down to my own expectations if I’m honest. I was hoping for another City of Thieves style experience, but I seemed to spend most of my time in the outskirts of the city or underneath it in the sewers! Having said that, while the sewer section was a bit boring, the small, ramshackle huts scattered around the city outskirts were very colourful and I had some great encounters there, especially the bizarre Flayer chef. I think that I missed this one though, a great little bunch of characters were drawn for this group or half-orc children.

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I think my biggest problem was some of the puzzles, as I mentioned in my read-through, the main culprits being the guillotine, rune puzzle and the order of the spell lines. I would be interested to know if the pulleys and ropes in the guillotine puzzle illustration actually correspond to the outcome? I simply lost interest when I realised how much time I was potentially going to waste trying to figure it out! I am informed by a reader that the rune puzzle corresponds to numbers on the face of a dice, personally I would have never made that connection in a million years. And with the spell, the lines seem to flow in any number of combinations making solving that puzzle pure guess-work, which I don’t think is ever a good thing. Unless I missed something that tells you the order in which they fit together?

Despite this though, the fact the book was a bit harder than The Shamutanti Hills made up for these issues, that there was actually something for me to work towards and search for meant there was a great deal more tension, especially as I neared the end of the book. It’s just a shame that I messed up and forgot my Flanker reference or I’d have made it all the way through in one uninterrupted go!

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The illustrations generally continued to be of a high quality, but before I go onto some of the better ones I missed, there has to be mention of some of the half-arsed ones. Some encounters seemed to be accompanied by what should have been incidental illustrations to space out the text, but blown up to be full-page drawings, much like this one.

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Compared to the supremely detailed scenes that decorate the rest of the book, it was a shame to see some pages with so much white space. To get us back on track, here’s one encounter that like the Harpies, I had previously only been aware of from Out of the Pit, the severely messed-up Living Corpse.

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Images of the city itself were something I would have liked to see more of, like this brilliant, higgledy-piggledy scene with the wonderful little cat scampering across the street.

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What there were plenty of though were interiors, lots of shops, inns and residences were detailed in this book and even though I encountered plenty, there were still many I never visited. The first one in particular looks very intriguing – so much detail!

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And the last one there, with its magic paintbrush, very much makes me think of that wonderfully creative quest from Oblivion.

To finish up, here’s a happy looking fish to send you on your way.

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Next step, the apparently hard-as-nails, The Seven Serpents. Never-fear though, I have a ring a blind man gave me!

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Khare – Cityport of Traps – Part 3

Gravestones were scattered around the graveyard that stood before me, in the middle of which was a large stone crypt. Above the doorway was a sign which read ‘HERE RESTS LORD SHIVA – FIFTH NOBLE OF KHARE‘. So given all I’ve learned, at this stage I’m pretty certain a line of the North Gate spell is hidden somewhere inside and so I pressed on. Before I could enter though, a shimmering circle of darkness lay on the ground along the overgrown path leading into the crypt. A quick Luck test and I hopped over it. Flinging the door open, I jumped inside and found the entrance room to be quite small and quite empty, save for a small staircase that led down further. Damp air, dripping water and a stench of decay were the first things I discovered. A coffin was the next thing I noticed and with a sudden creaking sound it was a coffin whose lid was starting to slide open! To make things worse, from an alcove in the dark, I was joined by this abomination…

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Too shocked to cast a spell, I readied my sword and began combat with the 9/8 Deathwraith. Unfortunately, my sword literally just couldn’t cut it, a silver weapon was needed to harm this thing and so all I could do was buy time. On winning an attack round I simply bought myself a Luck roll. Having no other option available to me, it was time to call upon Libra. Blinding light shot down the stairwell, seemingly being emitted by the radiant figure of a woman, whom I’m guessing is this Libra chick I apparently worship. She’s a bit of a badass though as all she needed to do was point at the coffin and the terrified Deathwraith slid into the coffin, it’s life-force apparently being drained. And all of a sudden, everything was quiet and it was done.

As soon as I took a second to relax, the coffin began to open again, but this time, instead of a Deathwraith appearing, a man climbed out. A very old man. He thanked me profusely, he had been trapped and tormented as the living dead for so long he felt he owed me a debt. We spoke of my quest and as I’d hoped, he did have a line of the spell for me – ‘One lock made out of Golem’s hide’. It turned out that he had another little bit of information, a rhyming couplet that read ‘For sleeping of the sleepless Ram; Seek out the one they call The Sham’. I had no idea what he was wittering on about, but I earned 2 Luck points for my discovery.

Now I really was leaving the centre of Khare, city streets were turning back into the huts I saw on my way into the city itself, I was off the cobbles and onto a dirt track. Stopping to give a gold piece to a blind beggar, things got lively again.

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I always wondered where the slightly freaky image of the Harpy in Out of the Pit came from, now I know, it comes from right now as Harpies descended upon the old guy from the skies, his possibly paranoid cries telling me they were after his gold. I think they were just being dicks. Combat time, but as I hadn’t used any magic for a while, I thought it was time for a spell! Being quite flush at the moment (as nobody seems to want to sell me any god-damn provisions!), I cast WOK, which instead of summoning a furry bro from Kashyyyk, turned one of my gold pieces into a shield. For the duration of the next fight I could deduct 2 from my enemies Attack score. This could potentially be quite handy as even though the harpies weren’t very strong (7/6, 6/6) I was being assisted by the beggar who was unsurprisingly rather weak (2/8) and I wanted to keep him alive so they had to die as quickly as possible. Lots of Luck rolls to nuke them with maxed out damage later and my new buddy made it through, but with only 2 Stamina left!

This man was a good man to help. After the fight he told me he was once a Noble of Khare and had suffered a pretty major fall from grace to where he is now. Indeed, he had a line of the spell to share with me, ‘By Courga’s grace and… ‘someones‘ pride’. Yes, he couldn’t actually remember that bit, but he did tell me that the god of grace had a temple nearby and I should be able to find the name of the god there. He gave me a tip for that too ‘the left eye leads the way‘. As a final gesture he gave me a silver ring, fashioned as a serpent which has a page reference attached to it for use in the next book!

Having now left Khare-proper, the North Gate sat before me in all its terrific splendour; gargoyles and stuff making it all like, impressive and shit. But I still had a temple to hit! The Shrine of Courga was to presumably be my final destination. A vast, echoing entry-way greeted me, giant stone gargoyles leaning into the room over multi-coloured depictions of Khares mythology, accompanied by presumably very valuable ornaments and beautiful tapestries. Standing on an altar was a large golden statue of Courga.

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Before I got onto that though, I decided it was time for a little magic. I cast my SUS spell which would help reveal traps, and indeed I did find a dark circle on the ground before the idol that I would me mindful of. I then turned my attention to the valuables! Rather comedically as I picked up an attractive looking gold chalice, the gargoyles hanging above me predictably began to creak into life, I replaced the chalice and they went back to sleep. Problem solved. And so, the idol was next and as you can see in the illustration, he bore an instruction ‘On Courgas face you kiss a cross and finish with the lips, for answers to your questions must not err or else me spits’. A cross, you say? As I’d learned earlier I should start with the left eye and avoid the cheeks, so I went left eye, right eye, forehead, lips. Bingo! Worked a charm. The idol spoke to me and granted me a question, wanting to complete the third spell line I asked the name of the god of pride, ‘Fourga‘ was my answer. I left the temple and headed towards the gate.

Of course, the gate was heavily guarded, I guess they don’t want it being opened given the evil stuff that’s out there. But being the responsible adventurer that I am, those gates are getting opened anyway. I cast a DUD spell, temporarily disguising a worthless piece of my inventory as something infinitely more valuable and used it as a bribe to get the guards out of the way. I think I used my Bomba apple, my notes are in another county at the moment. Regardless, it worked and I moved onto the gate! As I approached the gate, a phantom voice spoke to me, asking for the spell… the fact I only had three of the four lines was a problem. I was instructed to start again.

My adventure was over.

However, as I prepared to start over again, maybe explore the port this time, maybe avoid getting showered in sewer poo, I realised I’d screwed something up. In my notes I realised I’d missed a bit! Flanker was to meet me at two page references in the book, I had been to both of these references, but only remembered to turn to the relevant page on one of those occasions! So we have a loose thread, lets pull on it a bit…

All the way back to the festival we go and this time amidst all the dancing and fighting, I bump into Flanker. Who’d have thought it! And yes, as we start conversation, he almost instantly tells me of a friend who may know a line to the spell. D’oh. Lortag the Elder was his name and I headed over to his hut.

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Three raps on his giant brass knocker and he came over to see me with slight apprehension, he asked for my weapon before he would let me enter, perhaps foolishly I agreed and went in unarmed. As Flanker promised, this chap did know a line to the spell, but he wanted me to help him solve a puzzle first. A number of runes lay on the table before him, as you can see in the illustration, but one more followed in the sequence and he wanted to know which of the following it was.

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Now I’ll be totally honest here, I didn’t have a bloody clue as to what I was looking at. Complete and utter guesswork to the right answer followed. 274 was the correct one, the runes apparently matched those on a gambling die and I am still none the wiser. Anyway, the now happy-chappy Lotag gave me his spell line, ‘So tumblers two sealed deep inside‘. I left his hut and followed the path round until I arrived at the chapel I visited in part one. And there we have it, I now had a path to the end that had me gather all four lines of the spell. Back to the gate we go…

The four spell lines need to be placed in the correct order and three of them contain a number, which together give a page reference. After a brief mental fumbling around I realised that ‘Fourga’ was meant to represent ‘four’, and so I came up with this…

So tumblers two sealed deep inside,

One lock made out of Golem’s hide,

By Courga’s grace and Fourga’s pride,

I bid you, portals, open wide,

…and turned to 214. To be honest though, the lines fit together in just about any order, but we got there in the end. With a big creaking sound, the gates opened up for me.

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The Baklands awaited me and as I had been told at the start, from this point onwards, my progress will be watched… ooo.

Khare – Cityport of Traps – Part 2

After the dancing and joy of the festival, I set about looking for a way into the city itself where I expected things to get much dirtier and despicable, and that’s exactly what happened as I worked my way through some winding alleys to find a chapel. Inside, a supposed holy man was preaching to a crowd of people, all kneeling before him in robes. The topic of conversation appeared to be Slangg, the god of malice. Preacher man said that anyone who could answer his question would be granted a wish by Slangg, failure to answer would mean renouncing your own faith and becoming a follower of Slangg. So naturally, I stepped up.

s2 009Declaring myself a follower of Libra, the preacher stated he’d never heard of her, he re-stated the rules and gave me my question.

‘Bigfoot the Elder walked south for three furlongs sowing oats, then east for two furlongs sowing corn, then north another five furlongs sowing wheat, and finally south-west for four furlongs sowing hay. Have you got that?’

You bet! I had drawn a little diagram in my notes so I could answer the question truthfully and without guess-work… the crowd waited with baited breath for the question…

‘What was his favourite colour??’

FFS. I had been stitched up there, I’d drawn a diagram and everything! All very much to crowds amusement. But this literal joke of a question was soon replaced by a real one, and it was a fairly simple number pattern puzzle.

‘In Bigfoot’s family are 6 sons. Bigfoot is nearing the end of his life and he wishes to divide his wealth exactly among his sons. He gives 5 Gold Pieces to his second youngest son, 13 Gold Pieces to his eldest and 9 to the fourth youngest. Do you know how much the other sons received and how many Gold Pieces he possessed in all?’

To the amazement of the preacher and the congregation, I gave the correct answer of 48! As we learned earlier, my main goal in Khare is to obtain the four parts of the spell which will open the North Gate, allowing me to continue my journey to reclaim the Crown of Kings. My question was to ask if he knew anything of the spell and he was actually able to tell me one line – ‘I bid you, portals, open wide.’ I also got to restore my Luck to its Initial value and left the chapel having apparently rocked the world of everyone in there with some simple numerical acrobatics.

Night was closing in by now and so the nearby inn, The Wayfairers Rest, was to grant my my bed for the night.

A noisy, bustling place greeted me as I passed through the doors, ably displayed by John Blanches wonderful illustration. It reminds me of why I loved Ian McCaigs work on City of Thieves so much, all that detail, all the little stories and interactions, could look at it for ages finding new things.

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Before I got stuck into a night in the pub, an old friend was spotted. You may remember my encounter with Flanker in The Shamutanti Hills, I was told to check a specific reference in this book to see how he would help me and was given two page numbers to remember and was to turn to a specific page when I reached those numbers. Page 110 was one of those and so I turned to my secret Flanker reference to see how he was to help me out in the pub. A quite clearly pissed Flanker was with a couple of dubious looking friends but came over to me to share the wealth of his apparent lucky night in the gambling halls! 5 Gold Pieces were now mine along with the warning that the ale in here has quite a kick and I shouldn’t have more than 2 pints. He linked arms with his pals and flounced off into the night.

The Wayfairers Rest was a sailor venue, a nearby port was flooding in its workers to take advantage of the pubs ale and buxom wenches. I took advantage of Flankers gift and ordered myself some hot food, but as I started eating I was joined at my table by a rough-looking sailor. He tried to make conversation and offered to buy me a drink. Uh-oh. I accepted though and indulged him in conversation, telling him of my need to get the North Gate open. He drunkenly told me that while he’d like to help, obtaining one of the lines meant killing the undead and he wanted no part of that. Another ale was offered by my new and possibly homosexual drinking buddy and desperate for information, I again accepted. Further probing revealed that the undead in question may be vampire, I also heard something about a friend of his getting killed for kissing the god Courga on the cheek in his temple. When a third drink was suggested I remembered Flankers advice and headed off to bed.

I awoke the next morning to find myself in something of a pickle.

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It turns out that the innkeeper is something of an utter maniac and in my sleep had trussed me up in some sort of trap. Which was I suppose a scenario to be expected now and then given the name of the book. The innkeeper stood by my bed grinning his face off as a blade hung above my neck, presumably eyeing me up for his kitchen – just what did I eat last night? Anyway, via a convoluted series of pulleys and ropes I had to make a choice, do I pull or release the rope? One would raise the blade away from me, one would drop it on my neck. I frankly couldn’t be arsed to try and work out the decision by the illustration, and I couldn’t even be sure if it would work anyway, so I made a total guess and released the rope. A wonderful stab in the dark it was too as the blade floated up and I was able to get out of bed with my head still attached, the innkeeper could only curse and let me leave. What an odd fellow.

Leaving the pub I crossed the Jabaji River via Harbour Bridge and arrived a junction where I took a right turn into a square, which looks a bit like a Lowry painting in parts.

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The streets were starting to get busy in the early morning sun and a crowd was gathering around a monument in the center of the square, those gathering had strange features, thin and spindly, all with their eyes closed. A pool of shimmering water was inside the monument and I pushed in to get a better look, much to the annoyance of the onlookers. I soon got my comeuppance though as I bent down get a closer look at the pool and like Bishop Brennan, I was given a good, hard kick up the arse. Floating down slowly through the air I eventually emerged from the pitch black into light and then plummeted into a pool of slime and excrement. I had found the sewer system. My attention was immediately grabbed by the sound of rushing liquid coming from a chute near my head. I was then given the choice of allowing a torrent of faeces splatter me in the face or ducking beneath the surface of a pool of faeces to avoid the contents of the chute. I didn’t ask for this… I stood there and took a blast of crap to the face, vomiting as a response and losing 3 Stamina into the bargain.

What followed was a Maze of Zagor-esque maze of confusion, page after page of choices such as ‘Continue ahead, then first left, first right, first right, first left? Turn to 10‘. I applied a brute-force approach and just kept choosing random options, going round in circles a little before I stepped out into a dead-end passage where out of the knee-deep sewage rose the Slime Eater from the books cover.

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Being a fairly weak foe (7/11) I chose to avoid losing Stamina by spell-casting and cut the awful thing down with my sword. Finally, a way out presented itself, a bucket hang from a rope into what must have been a disused well, I climbed out of the sewer slowly, losing 2 Stamina to fatigue, but gaining 2 Luck for getting out of that vile place. It seemed I was actually starting to head towards the outer edge of the city again, I had apparently just crawled under a significant portion of it. There I stood, covered in human (and god-knows what else) waste products, holding only one of the four spell lines I needed and I had almost left Khare. Things were not looking good.

Although, I was in sight of a graveyard… to get one one of the lines I have to kill the undead? Interesting…

Khare – Cityport of Traps – Part 1

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Sorcery #2

Khare – Cityport of Traps

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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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