Here are my character's stats from the end of the first book:
TREASURE: 10 gold pieces
EQUIPMENT: Sword, Pipe, Blimberry Juice (restores 3 Stamina), Beeswax, Key (54), Bomba Fruit (doubles Stamina from eating), Ragnar's Armband of Swordmastery (+2 Attack Strength when using a sword), Skullcap, Key (12)
In addition to the stats and items noted above, I will also be able to call on help from the assassin Flanker, and a personage of Kharé named Vik. Flanker shows up in a couple of different places, and you have to keep an eye out for specific page numbers to know when he's around (as with the spells in the game, you're not allowed to write these numbers down; you have to memorise them). I'm not sure how Vik helps in the book, but his name is apparently given as a spell option when his aid is available. I'll definitely be on the lookout for it.
Alright then, with that out of the way let's get going.
I started the adventure by sneaking into Kharé through the South Gate, using the key that the Svinn Chief had given me. Right away I passed by a building with barred windows, and an old man sitting inside. I tried to ignore it and continue on, but some guards sneaked up on me, threw me inside and locked the door. I was trapped. (It sucks that you can't avoid being thrown in prison, but I suppose that Steve Jackson had to give you his exposition somehow. It's just a shame he couldn't think of a way to do it for players smart enough to avoid imprisonment.)
The old man in the prison told me all about the four-part rhyme I would need to get through the North Gate. (I still think it would be easier to leave the city and cross the Jabaji River somewhere else. How rough can it be?) Rather than waste a spell escaping, I decided to wait for the guards to return. While I was waiting I shared a meal with the old geezer (leaving me with no provisions left). I still didn't trust him, though, so I stayed up all night watching my gear (which reduced my Stamina to 14). In the morning the guards came, and we were both released.
We soon came to a junction with three paths. The old man turned right, and I decided to turn left. Some guards were approaching me, so I ducked into a nearby building. This was either a great decision or a terrible one, because inside the hut were three Black Elves puffing a hookah full of smoking weed.
The temptation to partake of their weed was strong, but I figured that no good could come of it. Instead I tried to get some information out of them. They gave a vague indication that a scholar lived down the road somewhere, but that was all I could get out of them, so I left.
Further down the road I passed a small pond, which contained a silver fish and a single gold piece. The fish appeared to be trying to speak to me. I was suspicious, so I cast a HOW spell (reducing my Stamina to 12). The spell informed me that despite its nasty bite the fish was nothing to be afraid of, so I leaned closer to listen. It was definitely trying to communicate something, but the water and bubbles obscured its message; it sounded something like "Bwrthhrs", which wasn't very helpful.
Incensed by the fish's inability to convey its message to me, I reached into its pond to take the gold coin. The fish bit me (reducing my Stamina to 11), but with a successful Luck test I was able to snatch the coin. (My Luck had been reduced to 10, but I now had 11 gold pieces.)
At a fork in the road there was a hut, with a horse tied up outside it. I approached the horse and tried to climb on its back. As I mounted it the horse bolted, and I clung to its back to see where it would take me. (Horses are the devil, and I can't believe I left my fate up to the whims of one of those vile creatures.) It galloped back past the South Gate, but a lizard caused it to rear and throw me off. I was unhurt, but the horse had ran off while I was recovering. (This actually worked in my favour. I had taken a different path the first junction, but now I was back in familiar territory, and knew where to go to find the first line of the poem I needed.)
I found myself on a road with a hut on either side. I investigated the hut on the left, and found that it was a Chainmaker's shop. I decided to have a look around, which required some delicacy if I was going to do so without rattling chains and drawing the Chainmaker's attention. I succeeded at the requisite Luck test (reducing my score to 9) and found 3 gold pieces (raising my total to 14).
I tried to continue my search, but this time my Luck test failed (reducing my score to 8). The Chainmaker appeared and attacked me, so there was only one thing to do: I killed him and looted his shop. Theft and murder aren't always the right way to go about things, but in this case I was well rewarded for my behaviour: I found 10 gold pieces (raising my total to 24) and a magical chain. This chain is pretty great; once an opponent is reduced to 3 Stamina or less, you can use it to wrap around the enemy so you can score an automatic kill. The only catch is that the chain is hard to unlock, and any time you use it you need to succeed at two Luck test to release the catch. If you fail, the chain is locked permanently and you have to leave it behind. It's a cool item, and sounds like just the thing for winning those battles that go right down to the wire.
Once outside I crossed the street and entered the other hut; perhaps a spot of murder would be useful here as well? Before going inside I announced myself, and the person inside warned me about the vial of liquid perched over the door. I avoided the trap and entered. Inside was a kitchen, with a squid-headed humanoid known as a Flayer cooking up a storm.
Having spied an interesting box under the Flayer's table, I cast a DIM spell on it (reducing my Stamina to 9), and stole the box. Inside the box was a mirror, a parchment scroll, and 2 gold pieces (raising my total to 26).
I left the Flayer's house and continued, eventually coming to a crowded market. There I met my friend Flanker, who directed me to the house of a scholar friend of his who he thought might know a line of the poem. Flanker left, and I knocked on the door of Lortag the Elder.
Lortag was a friendly chap, but before he would tell me the line he wanted me to help him solve a puzzle. (For reference to the puzzle, and my genuine hatred for it, check my first post on this book.) With no idea of how to solve it I took a guess, and picked the third rune. Success! (At this point the book explains the answer: the runes represent spots on a gambling die, and the correct rune is the missing one. I'd have less problem with this if Lortag hadn't described the runes as a sequence; they're not presented as such, and their arrangement doesn't match any of my dice. I still hate this puzzle, but I'm happy enough to have guessed correctly.)
Lortag taught me a line of the spell: "So tumblers two sealed deep inside." He also gave me a green wig (useful for language-based spells), and my Luck was restored to 11.
Leaving Lortag's house behind, I came to an area where tradesmen where showing their wares. I investigated an artist with no hands, who was exhibiting portraits of some of the nobles of Kharé. He invited me into his tent to see his magic paintbrush, and like a twit I followed him. Inside there was a paintbrush that was working by itself, and it was painting a picture of me!
I didn't trust this business at all, so I decided to stop the brush from finishing its work. This resulted in an absurd duel, where I tried to hack it out of the air with my sword before it could complete the portrait. (I had to kill it in five rounds, which I barely managed). I left the hut, having destroyed the livelihood of a poor, no-handed artist.
A few twists and turns later, I encountered a fellow named Slangg. Everything he said was a lie, so I asked him for directions to someone who would know the next line of the spell. He said: "At the next junction ahead, do not not carry straight on. Eventually do not take a left turn." Following his instructions, I turned right rather than carrying straight on, then turned left at the next junction until I found a chapel.
The people were congregated to listen to a priest, who was asking if anyone would take the test of Slangg, the God of Malice. Anyone who answered correctly would be granted a wish, while anyone answering incorrectly wold have to renounce their god and worship Slangg.
I accepted the challenge, and was asked the following question: "In Bigfoot's family are 6 sons. He gives 5 gold pieces to his second-youngest son, 13 gold pieces to his eldest and 9 to the fourth-youngest. How much gold did he have in all?" The pattern was that of odd numbers descending, and so the total number of coins was 48. Surprised that I had been trained in mathematics, the priest gave me another line of the spell: "I bid you, portals, open wide". (To be honest you don't need this line to find the answer to the North Gate puzzle, but I suppose the magic won't work without it. I also wonder, though, why I didn't ask for a more substantial wish, something like "I wish I had the Crown of Kings already." I guess the priest can only grant wishes that are within his own power.)
(The last encounter also raises the question: was the lying man really Slangg, the God of Malice? Given that everything he says is a lie, I would say no. He tells you his name is Slangg, so he's definitely not Slangg. Unless he is the God of Malice, and he's been giving a false name all this time...)
Night was falling, so I hastened to an inn. There I met Flanker again, who gave me 5 gold pieces from his gambling winnings (raising my total to 31). He also warned me not to have more then two mugs of ale, before he departed with some friends for some obvious mischief.
I paid 4 gold pieces for a meal. An old sailor sat down with me and offered to buy me a drink, which I accepted. I also accepted a second drink from him (the food and drink combined raised my Stamina to 14). He was a gregarious fellow, and told me that the Third Noble of Khare knew a line of the spell, but had been cursed with living death. He also warned me against kissing the cheek of the god Courga's idol in his temple. I followed Flanker's advice and refused a third drink, and retired to bed (paying another 4 gold pieces for the privilege, which reduced my total to 23).
I awoke to a genuine predicament - the innkeeper had tied a string to my wrist, which was connected to an elaborate sequence of pulleys, and a guillotine that hovered over my head. One wrong move, and I would have been beheaded. I could pull the string, or let it go. I let it go, and the guillotine rose safely away from my neck. (Normally solving this puzzle involves careful study of the accompanying illustration, but luckily for me I remembered the solution from last time. It also seems to me that it would be easy enough for the hero to move out of the path of the guillotine before making his decision, but that kind of thinking does ruin puzzles like this. Regardless, the rest restored my Stamina to 16.)
Leaving the inn, I came to a fork in the road and went left. The area that I was passing through was full of spindly folk who walked around with their eyes closed. They seemed able to see well enough, and a gang of youths spotted me and started talking in sinister tones.
The whole scenario made me uneasy, so I ducked down a sidestreet. The young men followed, and I made a headlong flight to escape. I took several turns, but eventually ended up at a dead end, and was forced to fight. I tried casting a HOW spell (reducing my Stamina to 12), but it seemed that there was no safe course of action to take. The young men were Red-Eyes, and they blasted my wrist with a beam of fire from their eyes (reducing my Stamina to 10). Thus disarmed, I was taken away by the Red-Eyes, stripped of my gear, and thrown into jail.
In the cell with me was an Elvin, who had been held captive here for months. I asked why he hadn't used his magic to escape, and he told me that there was a Scramble Spell neutralizing all magic within the cell. I had no intention of staying put, but with no magic I didn't have many options. I tried a key I had found earlier (marked with the number 54), but it did no good. I had no choice: I would have to call on the goddess Libra.
Libra unlocked the door, and the Elvin and I were able to escape. (Luckily I was able to retrieve all of my gear.) We parted ways, but the Elvin was so pleased that he cast a spell that restored my Luck to its initial level.
Further along the street a market was being set up, and I decided to take a look. There were a number of items on offer, and I bought them all: a tinderbox, some snake-bite antidote, a broadsword, and a bow with a quiver of silver arrows. I also bought two meals, and after all of this I was left with a mere 3 gold pieces. The only item with special capabilities was the broadsword: if used in battle it would inflict 3 points of damage instead of the usual 2, but at the cost of a -1 Attack Strength penalty. Nice for finishing off weaker foes quickly.
I left the market, and came to a graveyard with a large crypt. The inscription on the crypt indicated that Lord Shinva, the Fifth Lord of Khare, was buried here, so I decided to have a look. There was a suspicious black circle before the crypt's entrance, so I cast a HOW spell (reducing my Stamina to 8). The spell informed me that there was no safe way forward; indeed, it seemed the only safe path was for me to turn around. I was determined to enter, though, so I readied my bow and silver arrows (suspecting undead, you see) and jumped over the black circle.
I descended some stairs, and came to a tomb with a single coffin. A ghostly figure was guarding the coffin: a Death Wraith. I loosed a silver arrow at it, and struck it dead centre (by rolling under my Skill on two dice). Luckily, I had chosen the only weapon capable of harming the creature. The Death Wraith had a Stamina of 8, and I had ten arrows; I would have to hit it four times to kill it. (This combat is resolved as normal, except that you have to make a successful Skill check for every hit in addition to winning the Attack Round). The Death Wraith hit me twice (reducing my Stamina to 4) but I was eventually able to destroy it.
I exhausted after the battle, so I rested and ate. I also ate my Bomba Fruit, which doubled the healing value of my meal (restoring my Stamina to 8). After I finished eating, the ghost of Lord Shinva appeared to thank me for breaking his curse. He also told me a line of the spell: "One lock made out of Golem's hide". In addition, he gave me another clue, that he claimed would help me in the lands beyond Khare: "For sleeping of the sleepless ram, seek the one they call The Sham". It was rather cryptic, but help rarely comes in the form of straightforward answers when you're on a mythic quest.
I left the crypt and continued. A talking well tried to convince me to throw some gold into it, but I ignored it. Soon I could see the North Gate in the distance; I was near my goal, but I only had three lines of the spell.
As I was resting on an old stump, a blind beggar asked me for alms. I tossed him a gold piece (leaving me with 2), but a pair of Harpies swooped down to steal it from him. I decided to help the old beggar, and cast a DIM spell to confuse them (leaving me with 6 Stamina). I had to aim the spell, which required a successful Luck test (reducing my Luck to 10). I hit one of the Harpies, taking it out of the fight, and the beggar and I polished off the other one.
It turned out that the beggar was once the Seventh Noble of Khare, and he knew a line of the spell: "By Courga's grace and someone's pride". The old man's memory was failing, and he could no longer remember the name of the god of pride. He recommended that I visit Courga's temple, to ask the answer from the god's idol. He also gave me a silver ring that would protect me from serpents, marked with the number '130'.
The Shrine of Courga was close by, and I wasted no time in entering. I stepped up to his idol. A sign instructed supplicants to kiss the shape of a cross on the idol's face, finishing with the lips. I kissed it on the left eye, the right eye, the forehead and the lips. Though I was not of Courga's faith, the idol said that I could ask one question of it. I asked the name of the God of Pride, learning that it was Fourga.
Now armed with all four lines of the spell, I made my way to the North Gate. I still had to get past the guards, however, and I had no gold to bribe them with. I would need to use a spell to get rid of them. None of the spells on offer seemed all that useful, but out of desperation I chose RAP (reducing my Stamina to 5). It seemed that this was the correct option; the spell allowed me to speak in their native Crolian tongue. Convinced that I hailed from Mauristatia, they were happy to allow me to approach the gate.
I recited the spell:
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!
Success! I had made it through, and the deadly traps of Khare lay behind me. Before me, however, were the deadly plains of the Baklands. My journey had been perilous, but had the feeling that things were about to get a whole lot worse.
Well, that was a bit of luck, wasn't it? I was right in my thoughts after my last failed attempt at this book: if I could guess Lortag's puzzle, I'd be fine. I did guess it (with a 1-in-3 chance), and now I'm ready to move in to The Seven Serpents. I have very few memories of this book, so I'll be mostly in the dark. Something about a witch, and a lake? That's seriously all I remember.
Next: You'll have to wait a little bit for me to tackle The Seven Serpents though. First I'll be looking at Warlock Magazine #2, and the second half of the revised version of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain.