ENTER…

(NOTE: Please make it easy on yourself and click the blue links to proceed! Also, the ‘back’ button on your browser should allow you to retrace your steps.)

You are in the Crooked Eel Tavern in Smallhaven, unwinding after a long day spent bragging and drinking ale in the same venue. The tavern is small but cosy, its patrons mostly familiar to you, and for the last hour you have been chatting to a gnome called Giblith. When you tug on his beard, his head bobs up and down like he’s nodding. You think that’s hilarious. You’ve drunk a lot of ale already, but you fancy another.

You lean back in your chair and toss a coin towards the bar with a sort of lazy animal grace. It hits Kelea the serving wench between the eyes, right between her beautiful blue eyes.

‘I love you,’ you tell her. ‘Can I have another ale, please?’

You sense that you may be rather drunk.

You are interrupted by a sudden noise just behind you. It is the whisper of metal against leather, like a sword being drawn from its scabbard. Do you:

A: Get the drop on your would-be assassin by toppling off your stool backwards, rolling upright and delivering a haymaker to his presumed location. Go to 64.

B: Roll off your chair to the right, at the same time unsheathing your own blade and thrusting it in the direction of the sound. Go to 28.

C: Dive to your left, grabbing your stool by its leg and swinging it at the source of the noise. Go to 104.


2

As you step into the market square, the crowds gathered around its edges roar with approval. Or disapproval, you’re not quite sure. You work them a little, flexing your muscles and striking athletic poses, and then you take your shirt off nice and slow. You greased yourself up thoroughly beforehand, so the effect should be pretty striking. In fact, this is probably the most excitement these bumpkins will have in their entire lives.

Then they fall quiet, and at the far end of the square they part to let your opponent enter.

He’s a big lad. Hairy too. You don’t generally like to cast aspersions on a man’s family background, but there could be a bit of troll in there.

‘I’m going to pop you like a grape,’ he says.

Do you:

A: Drop to one knee and fake a seizure. Go to 96.

B: Point behind him as if something interesting is happening there, then jump at his face and start punching. Go to 8.

C: Go in low and fast, aiming to disable him with a strike to his testes. Go to 119.

D: Square up to him like a man and tell him to take his best shot. Go to 10.


3

The other patrons gather around you in a silent circle, looking down at the body on the floor. She looks more peaceful than you might expect. You are beginning to sober up a little.

‘You’ve killed Talitha,’ someone says.

‘Poor old Talitha,’ says the barkeeper.

‘She was such a character,’ says Kelea, wiping her nose on her sleeve.

To be honest, they’re all saying more or less the same thing and after a while it starts to grate on your nerves. Who wears a leather shawl, anyway?

Do you:

A: Say ‘We shouldn’t be mourning her death, we should be celebrating her life!’ then buy a round for everyone. Go to 57.

B: Try to blame it on the gnome, claiming he told you an assassin was creeping up on you. Go to 95.

C: Tell everyone to stop whinging and lighten up. She’d had a good life and she didn’t suffer much at the end. Go to 13.


4

‘You don’t know me!’ you shout, pushing the onlookers aside and staggering away.

Who are they to judge? Their sneering faces, their cackling laughter… You feel that if you could just get a bit of air, everything would be okay. You’re suffocating in here.

You make a dash for the door but trip over something on the way out, possibly the body, and fall headlong into an ornamental spittoon, cracking your head on the rim. Luckily, you pass out before you realise you’re face down in someone else’s saliva…

Go to 97.


5

‘Hmph! Wasting my time on such an important day,’ he grumbles, spinning on his heel and striding back towards the tree. The guards shake their heads slowly, as if they can’t believe anyone would do something so inconsiderate.

You didn’t want to visit their stupid tree anyway. Forget about these chumps and move on to 109.


6

‘Good morning,’ you say cheerfully. The mayor looks surprised.

‘You’re in a lot of trouble,’ he says.

‘I love trouble,’ you reply. You’re not going to let him intimidate you.

‘You’re lying,’ he says. ‘Nobody loves trouble.’

You shrug.

‘Listen,’ says the mayor. ‘I’ve got a proposition for you. Ordinarily, you’d hang for a crime like this, but you happen to have certain… skills that I’m in need of at the moment. In fact, just before you first arrived here, Old Talitha predicted that a warrior like you would come, one capable of righting the many wrongs which have befallen us.’

‘She saw me coming, eh?’ you say, chuckling. The mayor doesn’t seem to get it. These petty officials never have a sense of humour.

‘She said that a great swordsman would arrive in our town, a man of courage and valour. Are you such a warrior?’

‘It’s been said,’ you say.

He doesn’t seem entirely convinced. ‘Well, I’m going to give you the chance to prove yourself in a trial by combat. It will take place in the market square at noon today. If you win, we will talk again.’

‘A trial by combat?’ you say. ‘Sounds like my kind of justice.’

How hard can it be in a small town like this?

Go to 2.


7

You travel for two days deep into the forest. The path seems to branch off endlessly, but you stick to the broadest trail and try to keep yourself pointed in the right direction.

On the second night, you are just settling down to sleep beside the embers of your campfire when a noise in the bushes startles you. For some moments you wait in silence and then you hear the noise again, this time a little closer. Taking no chances, you spring to your feet and draw your sword.

The hunched figure of a man emerges from the darkness into the small circle of light around your fire. He is clad in rags and supports himself with a staff as he walks. Beneath his hood, you can make out little of his face except for a greying beard.

‘Good evening traveller,’ he says in a soft voice. ‘May I share your fire?’

How will you respond?

A: Tell him to get lost. Go to 52.

B: Invite him to join you. Go to 62.


8

Distracting him momentarily, you launch yourself into the air and grapple onto his chest, punching and kicking wherever you can. It’s not your most dignified assault, but it seems to be quite effective. You wrestle with him for a bit until he manages to get you into a sort of bear hug. As he starts to squeeze, you make an involuntary sighing noise.

How will you counter this?

A: Start to hug him back. Go to 84.

B: Bite his nipple. Go to 48.

C: Work your body to and fro like a salmon, relying on the motion and the copious amounts of grease on your torso to pop yourself free of his grasp. Go to 80.


9

It takes a while to retrace your steps, but eventually you stumble back on to the path. You’re beginning to get a little tired of trees by now, so you decide to press on while the light holds.

Go to 112.


10

You regret this course of action almost as soon as you have decided on it. It plays out pretty much as you would expect it to.

‘Take your best shot,’ you say.

He takes his best shot and knocks you half way across the square. You end up on your back, gargling teeth.

He strides forward and towers over you, grinning.

What next, champion?

A: Grab his ankle and pull, hoping to topple him. Go to 93.

B: Pretend to be dead. Go to 71.

C: Flip back onto your feet and deliver an Illandrian horse-kick to his solar plexus. Go to 12.


11

‘Your simplicity and honesty are almost touching,’ she says. ‘However, I really am rather busy today. Thank you so much for sharing in my Birthing, warrior. May your loins be a fount of fruitfulness!’

You thank her for her kindness and back out of the tent.

Go to 18.


12

An Illandrian horse-kick was probably a bad choice. It’s a notoriously tricky move and one you’ve never attempted before. You can’t remember if you should lead with the left or right leg, so you throw both at him and hope for the best.

In an unfortunate but predictable turn of events, you end up flat on your back while the crowd roars with laughter.

The downside is that this is one of the three most embarrassing moments of your career so far. The upside, however, is that your oafish opponent now feels confident enough to turn his back on you and approach the audience, holding his arms up and gurning gleefully.

From this position you have a new set of choices:

A: Run away into the crowd. Go to 20.

B: Pick up the biggest rock you can find and throw it at the back of his head. Go to 125.


13

‘What do you mean?’ says the barkeeper. ‘She had years ahead of her yet. She was saving up to visit her son in Farhaven.’

‘Aaahh…’ you say dismissively, waving a hand as if you were swatting away a fly. You don’t want to hear it.

‘Yes,’ says some other smart customer. ‘She told me yesterday she was looking forward to the warmer weather, said she would go horseriding in the hills.’

‘Oho!’ you say. ‘Oho! Horseriding in the hills, would she? That old bag! That’s a laugh! I can just see her on a horse…’

You start on an impersonation of Old Talitha riding a horse, galloping around the bar with your head lolling on your shoulders, waving one of your hands in an effeminate way. Everyone looks a bit shocked.

On your third lap you trip over something, possibly the body, and fall against a table. The bang you hear is your own head hitting something hard. Everything goes black…

Go to 97.


14

You tell her of your quest to rescue the mayor’s daughter and kill Clavius Boon. She nods and smiles sweetly throughout and you begin to blush.

‘I wonder if you would do me a great favour?’ she says when you’ve finished.

Curiously, you only seem to have one choice.

A: Say yes. Go to 69.


15

Following the light back through the tree stump, you emerge blinking into the forest and treat yourself to a bit of a stretch. As you examine your shiny new sword you reflect that sometimes it pays to be daring. It certainly is a beautiful piece of weaponry, made from the finest steel and etched with an elaborate pattern of whorls and loops. There seems to be an inscription running down one side of the blade, but it’s not in any language you know.

Make a note of your new sword, relegate your old one to your backpack, and go to 9.


16

‘You missed me,’ you say, clambering to your feet and forcing yourself to grin.

He roars with laughter and all the bells on his bonnet tinkle at once, like birds startled from a tree. It’s a bit disconcerting.

‘That was just a warning shot,’ he says. ‘Welcome to our forest, traveller. It is your fortune this day to have encountered the most fearsome bandits in all of Langlorn.’
He indicates a number of dirty-looking men who have formed a loose circle around you. You glance about at them but your eyes are drawn back, as if by a powerful magnetic force, to their leader’s hat. It really is something.

‘What’s in there?’ he asks, indicating your crotch with his sword. You’re about to tell him you were blessed at birth when he prods the bag of coins with a loud clink. He smiles.

How will you deal with this situation?

A: Swiftly knock his sword away, then attempt to break through the ring of men and make a run for it. Go to 72.

B: Appeal to his better nature, telling him you are taking the money to an orphanage on the other side of the forest. Go to 111.

C: Offer to pay him twenty gold coins for safe passage. Go to 33.


17

You relax all of your muscles at once, using a technique taught to you many years before by a Slathian shaman. It works, and you fool him into thinking you have fainted. However, if you had been expecting him to show compassion to an unconscious enemy, then you were very much mistaken. Instead, he picks you up by the feet, spins you round and launches you across the square.

You decide to drop the pretence whilst in mid-air, and the crowd is delighted by the spectacle of a man apparently waking up seconds before he slams into the side of a house. They howl with laughter.

Clambering groggily to your feet, you reassess the situation. Will you:

A: Try a frontal assault. Go to 8.

B: Execute an Illandrian horse-kick to his solar plexus. Go to 12.

C: Goad him by challenging him to take his best shot. Go to 10.


18

The Rootkeeper conducts you back through the tree to the great doors through which you entered. He seems to be sulking a little. Probably miffed because you got to witness his mistress popping out sprogs and he didn’t.

‘If it’s any consolation, it was pretty disgusting in there,’ you tell him. ‘That sort of thing is best left to the ladies, really.’

He gives a little shudder as if he can’t believe what you’ve said and needs to shake the words back out of his head. At the door, he doesn’t even bother to say goodbye.

Take a deep breath of good fresh air and continue on your way to 109.


19

‘Clavius Boon,’ she growls. ‘Did you know he has poached seventeen of my acolytes in the past year? I can’t understand the appeal of a cult based on the worship of a worm! The man is a charlatan!’

She pauses to force a couple of new entries into the world, and then continues in a conspiratorial whisper.

‘You would be doing me a favour if you rid the world of Clavius Boon. Once you are inside his tower, you will find it difficult to move freely under the vigilant eyes of his minions, but I may be able to assist you there.’

She whistles shrilly and two small figures detach themselves from the roof of the tent and flit down to perch on her shoulders. They have the appearance of a tiny winged man and woman, no bigger than your hand but of almost unearthly beauty, and they glow with a soft golden light.

‘These are two of my most trusted piskies, Azazam and Calazis. Once you are inside the tower, they will act as your eyes and ears. They can pass unseen through the most watchful of defences.’

The piskies bow to their mistress and swoop down towards you. Chattering busily, they bury themselves into your rucksack. You suppose that’s okay, so long as they don’t mess with your stuff.

‘Go now, with my blessing!’ says Mallandrina.

You don’t need to be told twice. Make a note of the piskies, perform your best bow and duck out of the tent to 18.


20

‘Move!’ you yell, charging toward the startled onlookers. They don’t seem inclined to obey that command, but you surge into them regardless with your arms flailing. You give a pretty good account of yourself, knocking over at least two girls and one old man, before they force you back into the arena.

Your rival is waiting patiently for you, scratching his arse and yawning.

What will you do now?

A: Strike low, aiming for his orbs of power. Go to 119.

B: Goad him by challenging him to take his best shot. Go to 10.

C: Shout something and jump at his face, hoping a berserk rage will take hold and carry you to victory. Go to 8.


21

‘You might say that,’ he says, grinning at you from beneath his hood in a rather unnerving way.

You’re on the point of asking him to elaborate when he flings himself forward onto all fours and begins to snarl and writhe. This is not a welcome development.

Go to 121.


22

You swing your blade at his head but he dodges slightly to one side, and you only manage to lop off an ear before he is upon you, slavering and snarling and generally making a mess of your mortal coil. As you are borne to the ground in a welter of your own blood, you find time to marvel at his immaculately coiffed hairstyle. Is that a werewolf thing, or does he use some special compound when he washes his hair? The answer is pretty moot, but the shock you are clearly experiencing is a kindness, distracting you from the gory reality of your last few moments in the world…

Your quest ends here, warrior.


23

The next morning is a bright and glorious one, filled with birdsong and the hearty aromas of village life. In the square the mayor is waiting for you, along with a small delegation of decrepit elders. He waves in a suspiciously cheery way as you approach.

‘Ah, the warrior has arrived!’ he trills. ‘Good morrow, sir!’

‘Good morrow,’ you say. ‘Where’s my money?’

He laughs as if you’ve made a joke, but he does at least hand over a suitably weighty bag. You start counting. You’re not particularly good at doing more than one thing at once, but you have a vague impression that the mayor is still talking while you count.

…198…199…200!

‘Lovely,’ you say. ‘I’ll be off, then.’

You may need this,’ says the mayor, pressing a map into your hand.

He’s quite right, of course. If you travel to the tower without knowing where it is, you might not be able to find your way back again. You might not even be at the right tower to start with. You thank him and tuck the map into your jerkin.

Right, no point wasting any more time in this backwater. The open road beckons like a Calloonian dockwalker.

Bid your farewells, make a note of the gold you have received, and go to 82.


24

‘Why don’t you come over here and find out?’ she says. Something tells you she is planning to kick you in the balls, but you brush this fear aside. Sauntering over, you reach up to caress her cheek.

She kicks you in the balls.

You purse your lips and make a noise like the wind blowing through Calloonian pines on a stormy night. You repeat this sound until you feel better, by which time she has walked to the top of the hill.

‘So long, warrior,’ she calls, before waving and disappearing over the ridge.

Proceed on your way by going to 75.


25

If you went running every time somebody screamed, you’d never get anything done. Calmly, you unpack your lunch and spread it out in front of you. Lovely. Some jellied eggs, a cold ham, a nice fresh loaf of gnome bread…

There is another shriek, this time a little louder and accompanied by snarling noises. Once again, you ignore it. You must be strong, you tell yourself. Focus is one of the three most important attributes for any aspiring hero.

You tuck into the bread first, followed by some of the eggs and a long cool swig from an earthen flask of ale which the mayor had thoughtfully included. That really hits the spot! You’re just about to tackle the ham when there is another scream, this one extremely loud and not as tuneful as the first two. It rises to a blood-curdling crescendo then tails off into a series of strangled yelps. After that, silence.

You finish your meal in peace and pack the remnants away carefully for supper.

Try not to let your conscience bother you, and proceed on your way to 75.


26

You continue walking and at the edge of the forest you come to a crossroads, with paths branching off in three new directions. There isn’t much to choose between them, although the middle one seems slightly wider and more frequently used.

Which one will you follow?

A: The left-hand path. Go to 31.

B: The middle path. Go to 100.

C: The right-hand path. Go to 76.


27

You traipse through the forest for several hours while the path seems to become fainter with every step. Just when you are beginning to worry that you have chosen the wrong route, you stumble upon a deserted campsite. A sorry looking tent sags with accumulated rainwater and an old pot stands neglected on the remains of a fire. On the other side of the campsite, the path continues with renewed enthusiasm for its job.

What will you do?

A: Examine the campfire. Go to 114.

B: Search the tent. Go to 40.

C: Ignore the site and continue on the path. Go to 116.


28

You’ve made this move before. Hundreds of times. You could do it with your eyes closed and one thumb up your arse.

‘Nice try!’ you say, as your blade thrusts home into living flesh.

Unfortunately, you have just slain Old Talitha, the local wise woman. She had entered the tavern to beg for alms and the noise you heard was the sound of her drawing a tin bowl from under her leather shawl. Perhaps if you hadn’t been so drunk, you wouldn’t have made such a mistake. That’s something to think about for next time.

Go to 3.


29

You lower yourself down until you are hanging by your fingertips with your feet dangling in empty space. You have no way of knowing how deep this hole is, nor do you have any source of light about your person. At the back of your mind, a small voice tells you that only a committed fool would let go of the stump.

You have two opposing choices:

A: Pull yourself up and try to find your way back to the path. Go to 9.

B: Put two fingers up to reason and let yourself drop. Go to 53.


30

You push hard against his thighs and your head comes free like a cork from an Altaxian wine bottle. You backpedal at speed across the square before toppling onto your arse about twenty yards from your opponent. He is laughing like a big hairy idiot.

How are you going to teach him a lesson?

A: Scream abuse and attack his fat face. Go to 8.

B: Run away into the crowd. Go to 20.

C: Run straight at him, then dive between his legs at the last moment. Go to 65.


31

You follow the path as it winds through a narrow gorge and then descends into the great wooded valley which marks the start of Langlorn Forest. Here on the outskirts it’s really quite a pleasant place, leafy and tranquil. You are lost in your thoughts when there is a sudden whooshing noise, uncomfortably close to your face, and an arrow buries itself in a nearby tree.

You drop to the ground and consider the situation carefully. There seems to be only one possible explanation – somebody shot an arrow at you. But who? And why? To be honest, these questions are pretty academic. The main thing is to get to a safe place as quickly as possible. You begin to crawl towards some dense undergrowth but are brought up short by the sight of a large boot directly in front of you.

‘On your feet, traveller,’ says a voice from above you. Squinting up, you see a tall man clad in a leather jerkin and what seems to be a huge green bonnet hung with silver bells. A movement behind him suggests he is not alone.

What will you do?

A: Stand up as nonchalantly as possible and greet him. Go to 16.

B: Cling to his boot and beg for your miserable life. Go to 36.


32

The skeleton addresses you in a dry whisper. Without a tongue, you’re surprised it can even manage that.

‘Welcome, warrior,’ it says.

‘Thank you,’ you say. When dealing with the undead, it never hurts to be polite.

‘Many are those who have come searching for my treasure, but few are those who have found it, and none are those who have claimed it as their own. Only answer my riddle and the Sword of Valathrion shall be yours.’

You perk up a little. You quite like riddles.

‘Here is my question,’ says the skeleton. ‘Eyes they have, yet they cannot see. What are they?’

He drums his bony fingers on the arm of the throne and awaits your response. What will your answer be?

A: Potatoes. Go to 115.

B: Storms. Go to 55.

C: Blind men. Go to 58.


33

‘I have a better offer,’ says the chieftain. ‘You seem a likely sort of fellow, and we’re short for amusement here in the forest. I’ll give you the opportunity to wager your money on a small test of skill. What say you?’

Well, what say you?

A: Say yes. Go to 46.

B: Say no, choosing instead to hand over all your gold. Go to 49.

C: Say nothing and make a dash for the trees. Go to 111.


34

This time the light doesn’t move away, and you creep towards it through the pressing darkness of the cave for quite some time until you are close enough to see that it’s hovering by the side of an ornate throne. Seated upon the throne is the skeleton of a tall man clad in rusted armour and holding a surprisingly shiny broadsword in his hand.

As you’re wondering whether or not you should risk stealing the sword, there is an odd sucking noise and the ball of light is drawn into the skull through its eye sockets, illuminating it from within. The skeleton shifts slightly and opens its mouth as if it’s about to speak.

What will you do?

A: Freak out and punch it in the jaw. Go to 89.

B: Remain calm and wait to see what happens. Go to 32.


35

After a few moments, the door opens to reveal the mayor of Smallhaven.

He is a little round man dressed in a ceremonial smock of purple velvet. There is something on his upper lip which may be a moustache.

‘Good morning,’ says the mayor.

Do you:

A: Say ‘Good Morning.’ Go to 6.

B: Ignore him. Go to 86.


36

Sobbing uncontrollably, you plead with him to spare you, claiming a wife and several snot-nosed kids who’ll starve unless you return to them soon. You glance up to see how he’s taking the performance and notice a look of disgust on his face.

‘Get up, you craven dog!’ he commands. ‘I am the most feared bandit in all Langlorn, and I have little time for men who cower like worms. On your feet and give us your gold, or this day will have an unquiet end for you.’

‘But I don’t have any gold,’ you snivel, dragging yourself to your feet. As you stand up, the crotch of your trousers, weighted by the bag of gold, catches on a tree root and rips open. The men’s eyes widen in surprise as your loins pour forth a golden bounty of newly minted coins.

Whooping happily, they dive in around your legs, catching the money in their hands and letting it trickle through their fingers, while the leader watches you closely with his sword pressed against your throat. There is something a little bit undignified about the whole situation.

As they depart, he turns and adds insult to injury by lecturing you on the subject of cowardice.

‘You will find,’ he says, ‘that a brave man makes his way far more easily through this forest than a coward.’

That’s easy for him to say when he has a dozen other blokes with him. How dare he lecture a bona-fide hero like you? After he’s gone, you tell him exactly what you think of him. And his hat.

Repair the damage to your trousers and go to 47.


37

You reach out an unsteady finger to snap the little bit of string. You’re already chuckling slightly at the thought of Kelea’s shocked expression when her tunic drops to the floor and her pert breasts are exposed to the whole room. Unfortunately, your hand-to-eye coordination is still not up to scratch and you end up poking her rather firmly in the sternum. She topples backwards into a table, squawking.

‘He’s crazy!’ shouts the gnome.

‘Woman-hater!’ says someone else.

Somebody, probably the gnome, picks up a chair leg and hits you over the head with it. Everything goes black…

Go to 97.


38

You yell for the guard until a small hatch opens in the middle of the door and a pair of piggy eyes squints in at you.

‘What is it?’ says the guard.

‘Listen,’ you say. ‘I really do have a very important message for Mallandrina and if you don’t let me out you’re going to be in big trouble when she finds out.’

The guard thinks for a bit. ‘I’d better get the Rootkeeper,’ he says.

‘No, don’t do that!’ you cry, but your words fall on deaf ears as the brainless jobsworth stomps away down the corridor. Some time later he returns with an irritable-looking Rootkeeper in tow.

‘Against my best advice, Mallandrina has decided to show mercy on her Birth Day and let you go,’ he informs you. ‘Now, if you really do have a message for her then you have one last chance to prove it.’

What will you do?

A: Decline to prove anything and let the guards escort you from the tree. Go to 42.

B: Attempt to bribe the Rootkeeper with some of your money, offering to pay him fifty gold coins if he gets you an audience with Mallandrina. Go to 108.


39

‘There is no Ulcifer Thrax in Farhaven,’ says the chieftain.

You nod slowly, kicking yourself for having fallen into such an obvious trap.

‘I’ve tricked you,’ he says, just to make it absolutely clear what has happened. ‘Still, there’s no shame in being caught out by me. I am considered the best liar in seven kingdoms. Now, let’s have that gold.’

What will you do?

A: Give in and hand over the bag of gold. Go to 49.

B: Make a run for the trees. Go to 72.


40

You stoop and peer inside the tent. Amidst rotting leaves and puddles of rainwater, the only objects of note are a tiny bottle containing a bluish liquid and a battered old hat.

How will you proceed?

A: Drink from the bottle. Go to 118.

B: Try on the hat. Go to 123.

C: Refuse to pick through someone else’s old rubbish and continue along the path. Go to 116.


41

You roar with injured pride and charge towards him. He turns around just in time to receive your lowered head in the centre of his chest, and goes flying backwards into the guards. In your fury, you must have forgotten there were guards.

You all roll around together for a few minutes, exchanging blows and insults in a colourful cloud of petals. Probably if you were watching this fight from a distance it would look quite pretty, but participating in it is more painful than anything else. The doorkeeper may not be up to much but the guards have an aptitude for creative violence.

By the time three more guards arrive on the scene you’ve had enough. You surrender with good grace and allow yourself to be shackled and led into the tree. The doorkeeper follows you, screeching and holding his bloodied nose.

Go to 61.


42

You are escorted from the tree and pitched out into the sunlight again. Once you are a suitable distance away, you speculate loudly about the moral integrity of the guards’ mothers.

Feeling a little better, you continue on your way to 109.


43

Arriving at the top of the hill, you see below you a young woman struggling in mortal combat with a lean and vicious wolf.

She is clad in a russet jerkin tailored to show off her slender but curvaceous figure, and your eyes are drawn to her fiery red hair and shapely alabaster legs. Even though she is some distance away and fighting for her life, you think you can discern a wanton glint in her emerald eyes.

The wolf just looks like a wolf. You’re not a zoologist.

How will you react?

A: Shout a war cry and rush to her aid. Go to 79.

B: Sneak back over the hill and continue on your way. Go to 75.


44

You unsheathe your sword and try to insert its tip between your forehead and the creature’s flesh. As soon as the blade touches it, the skull-crusher loosens its grip and drops onto the floor. It seems the little bastard isn’t keen on the touch of metal.

Skewering it neatly with the point of your sword, you make a mental note not to try on any more suspicious items of millinery. Continue on your way to 116.


45

You find yourself on a wide balcony high up in the branches of the Mother Tree, with a spectacular view out over the forest of Langlorn. In the centre of the balcony is a large tent of richly patterned silk. You breathe deeply and admire the scenery. Even a hardened warrior like you can appreciate the serenity of a nice sylvan landscape.

‘Uuuuuuh!!!’ The noise from the tent was unexpected. It had the timbre of a bellowing Althraxian bull and the volume of a Kantarian Marsh Screecher. It also made you adopt a crouched position against your will.

‘Military training,’ you explain to the Rootkeeper. He doesn’t seem interested.

A small winged creature buzzes out from a flap in the tent and weaves through the air to perch on the Rootkeeper’s shoulder. It is humanoid in form, either a piskie or a fairy, you’re not sure which. Somebody once told you that you can tell them apart by buttering their wings, though you’re not sure exactly how that works.

The creature whispers something into the Rootkeeper’s ear and then flits back into the tent. The Rootkeeper turns to you with a surprised but strangely docile expression, like a cow eating a thistle.

‘Mallandrina wishes to see you,’ he whispers hoarsely. ‘I don’t know what you have done to deserve such an honour on her Birth Day, but you have been given permission to enter her tent.’

He may not know what’s going on, but you’ve heard about these woodland nymphs. She probably had a little peek outside and liked what she saw. And who can blame her?

‘Don’t wait up,’ you say, smoothing your hair and approaching the tent.

Go to 94.


46

‘Splendid!’ roars the chieftain, his bells jingling with the force of his excitement. All his men start to cheer and laugh, throwing their hats in the air and howling like idiots. You suppose that if you were the sort of man who chose to live in a damp forest and follow the orders of a patent lunatic, then you might be cheering too.

Rather surprisingly, all the men then dash out of the clearing into the tree-line while their leader unwinds a long length of grubby cloth from around his waist and ties it across your eyes.

‘This is an excellent opportunity for us to test our ambush skills,’ he informs you. ‘We’ll give my boys a minute or two to hide themselves, and then I’ll take the blindfold off and you’ll tell me how many you can see.’

‘Fine,’ you say, wondering how they came up with such a ridiculous pastime. ‘Do you give all travellers this test?’

‘No,’ whispers the chieftain. ‘Sometimes we make them wear the ladysuit.’

‘What’s a ladysuit?’ you ask.

‘Shhh,’ he hisses. ‘If they hear that word, they’ll get over-excited. Just be thankful I’ve given you the ambush test.’

You follow his advice and spend a few moments being quietly thankful. Then he takes the blindfold off and directs your gaze towards the forest with a sweep of his hand.

‘How many can you see?’ he asks.

(NOTE: THE ACCOMPANYING ILLUSTRATION SHOWS A VIEW OF THE FOREST IN WHICH 15 BANDITS HAVE HIDDEN THEMSELVES, WITH VARYING DEGREES OF PROFESSIONALISM)

A: 14. Go to 102.

B: 15. Go to 68.

C: 16. Go to 91.


47

You continue along the path until you reach another fork, with identical paths branching off to the left and right.

Which way will you go?

A: Left. Go to 27.

B: Right. Go to 7.


48

Pinned against his hairy chest, you feel the life being squeezed from your body, but you’re not finished yet. Summoning up your last reserves of strength, you crane your neck forwards and clamp your teeth around his nipple. It is as large and soft as an Altaxian date, slightly salty but not unpleasantly so. Snarling like a dog, you shake your head and attempt to tear it from his chest.

Your opponent howls with a mixture of rage and pain. There’s probably a bit of surprise in there too. He stops hugging immediately and flings you away from him, but as he does so there is a soft ripping noise and the entire nipple comes away in your mouth. You fly backwards through the air and land with a thud on your back. GHRRRK! There’s something in your – HRURRK! GRRHK! GLUP!

Pushing the knowledge that you’ve just swallowed a man’s nipple to the back of your mind, you concentrate once more on the fight. Your opponent has turned his back to search for something on the ground, and you have two new options:

A: Run away into the crowd. Go to 20.

B: Pick up the biggest rock you can find and throw it at the back of his head. Go to 125.


49

You reach down into your trousers, pull out the bag of gold and grudgingly hand it to the chieftain. He weighs it in his hand to appraise it.

‘It’s nice and warm,’ he comments. You don’t know what to say to that.

As you leave the clearing, the chieftain instructs his men to set up a loud cheer to speed you on your journey, and they wave their hats at you until you are out of sight, which feels a little bit like adding insult to injury. Still, you suppose they mean well.

Two hundred gold coins poorer, you have no choice but to continue on your way. Make a note of your loss, and go to 47.


50

You abandon the path and head into the undergrowth, following the mysterious light. Every now and then you think you are about to catch up with it, but then it flits ahead again through the trees.

You have a vague memory of someone telling you about these lights in the past, probably when you were drunk. They’re supposed to lead travellers either to great treasure or great danger – you can’t remember which. Still, it can’t hurt to find out.

Just when you’re beginning to tire of the chase, the light stops above the huge rotten stump of an old tree. As you approach, it disappears as if sucked into the ground. Peering down at the stump, you see a dark ragged split in its middle, just wide enough for a man to enter.

What will you do?

A: Leave the stump alone, and try to find your way back to the path. Go to 9.

B: Lower yourself down into the stump. Go to 29.


51

‘Phew! That was hot work,’ you say, reaching up and dragging your shirt off over your head in one fluid motion. You shake imaginary droplets of sweat from your hair and strike a pose, shading your eyes with your hand as if you’re looking for further wolves on the horizon.

She doesn’t look very impressed, which in your book means that she almost certainly is.

‘What are you looking for?’ she asks.

‘Wolves,’ you say. ‘They usually travel in flocks of five or six. You should stick with me if you want to stay safe, Princess.’

‘I’m nobody’s princess, warrior, and I travel alone,’ she says.

Before you can argue she is walking away from you up the hill. When she gets to the top, she turns and calls back to you.

‘Wolves travel in packs,’ she shouts. You have no idea what she’s talking about.

She disappears over the ridge, and you proceed on your way to 75.


52

‘Go make your own campfire,’ you say, pointing at him with your sword for emphasis.

‘I only wish to warm myself for a few moments,’ whispers the beggar. ‘I promise I won’t disturb you.’

You tell him it’s too late for that. You’ve already been disturbed and besides, it’s not a particularly cold night. If he wants a fire, he can find his own sticks.

He chuckles beneath his hood and you’re about to ask him what’s so funny when he drops to all fours and begins to snarl and writhe. Something is very not right here.

Draw your sword and go to 121.


53

Your stomach flips over as you drop into the darkness. Luckily, you only fall for about eight or nine feet before you hit a stone floor. Rolling forwards to absorb the impact, you bang your nose against a wall. It hurts a little.

As you’re gingerly checking your beak for signs of a break, you become aware of a soft distant glow to your left. It looks the same as the one you followed in the woods, a floating ball of wispy light which illuminates a small circle around it. Everything else down here is pitch black, so you have no way of knowing what sort of cave or chamber you’re in.

Anyway, you’re not dead and you do at least have a light to follow. That’s just the sort of freakish good luck that caused you to be barred from every dice game in Farhaven. That and cheating.

Your only option now is to follow the light to 34.


54

‘His name is Clavius Boon,’ says the old man, spitting out the words with real anger.

‘That’s a coincidence,’ you say. ‘I’m on my way to slay that very warlock.’

He regards you carefully. ‘Clavius Boon is a wicked man,’ he says. ‘I once stole a few crumbs from his table, so he cursed me to become a senseless beast whenever my appetite grew too strong. I can no longer live among men because of him.’

He leans towards you across the fire. ‘I will leave now, warrior, and spare you the dreadful fate which might otherwise have befell you this night, but I have one piece of advice for you. If you are to face Clavius Boon, be certain to have smeared your body with garlic beforehand. This is the only defence against his curses.’

After imparting this odd bit of kitchen wisdom, he melts backwards into the darkness and disappears from view. What a strange old man.

You pass an uneventful night and continue your journey in the morning. Go to 128.


55

‘Hehehe,’ croaks the skeleton. ‘So close, warrior. The true answer is needles.’

‘But it could be storms,’ you say. ‘That fits just as well when you think about it.’

‘Do storms have eyes?’ says the skeleton, leaning forward in his throne.

‘They can do,’ you say. ‘Haven’t you heard the expression ‘in the eye of the storm’?’

He clearly has because he’s quiet for a long time. Then he reaches out and hands you the sword.

‘Don’t trip over and fall on it,’ he says. You could be wrong, but the way he says it sounds a bit graceless.

You cheerily tell him that you won’t, and watch as the light leaves his skull and floats off across the cavern.

Follow it to 15.


56

‘I’m going to kill Clavius Boon,’ you say. ‘Provided it isn’t too dangerous.’

That’s odd. You’re sure that you meant to say something different. Still, no harm can come of speaking the truth to such an elegant and genteel young lady.

‘That’s fascinating,’ she says. ‘I wonder if you would consider doing me a favour?’

Strangely, there only seems to be one choice available to you.

A: Say yes. Go to 69.


57

‘You think drinking solves everything!’ says Kelea, her blue eyes blazing.

She’s wearing a little black tunic, laced up with a length of string which you notice has frayed slightly near the top. You bet you could break that string with one finger, just reach right in and… snap! The whole thing would probably fall right off her.

‘Are you listening to me, you big meathead?’ she says.

You wish she hadn’t called you a meathead. Now she’s got everyone at it. They’re all talking at once and you feel like you’re going to have to bust some more heads if they don’t simmer down soon.

The way you see it, you have only three choices:

A: Roar ‘Enough!!!’ and start tearing clumps of hair out of your chest. Go to 99.

B: Reach right out and snap that little bit of string. She’ll probably love it. Go to 37.

C: Run out of the tavern. Just get away from there. Worry about all this later, when you’re alone in a place where you feel comfortable. Go to 4.


58

He pauses for a moment to consider your reply.

‘I can see your logic, but the answer is needles,’ he says. He spreads his bony fingers and there is a popping noise as he attempts what is probably a shrug. ‘Sorry, warrior.’

‘It could be blind men, though,’ you say. ‘Blind men have eyes, but they can’t see out of them. I once lifted a whole plate of coins from right in front of a beggar in Farhaven, and he didn’t move a muscle’

The skeleton waves this information away with a creaky hand.

‘Fine,’ he says. ‘Take the sword and follow my light back to the surface.’

He reaches out and hands you the broadsword. It has a pleasant heft in your hand.

You thank him and watch as the light leaves his skull and floats off across the cavern.

Follow it to 15.


59

Noticing that he has already sustained a wound to his leg, you drop into a crouch and sweep your blade across the ground just as he rushes towards you. There is a loud crack as it makes contact and the werewolf howls in agony and tumbles forwards. You stand over him and aim carefully before driving your sword down into his chest with all the force you can muster. He erupts in fury and manages to stretch upwards enough to deal you a pretty nasty nip on the wrist, but you hold firm until he finally slumps lifeless at your feet.

You kick the body out of the clearing, bandage your wrist as best as you can, and catch a couple of hours of restless sleep. In the morning, you pack up your camp and prepare to continue your journey.

Make a note of your wounded wrist and go to 128.


60

You find a suitably dense bit of shrubbery and crawl inside. The bells draw closer and are soon accompanied by the soft thump of hooves.

You’re not sure exactly why you’re hiding, but you pass the time by remembering some of your old adventuring comrades, most of whom would have been far too embarrassed to crouch beneath a bush on account of a light tinkling noise. Still, they’re almost all dead now, and you decide to draw a lesson from that.

You don’t manage to catch a glimpse of either horse or rider, but you wait until the sound has passed and then emerge from your cover and continue along the path.

Go to 128.


61

You are taken into the tree, carted through a number of bustling and beautifully appointed antechambers hewn from the living wood, and dumped into a cell the size of a Slathian privy. The only illumination is a finger of light which enters at an angle through a tiny hole in the wall. The door is a slab of solid wood, and you hear occasional footsteps from outside as a guard paces in the corridor.

Some hours pass. Have you formulated an escape plan yet?

A: Yes. Begin to chew your way towards daylight through the wooden wall. Go to 124.

B: Yes. Try to convince the guard that you have an urgent message to deliver to Mallandrina. Go to 38.

C: No. Just sit here and see what happens. Go to 106.


62

‘Take a seat, granddad,’ you say, indicating a gnarled root on the other side of the fire. He thanks you and sits down stiffly, laying his staff across his lap. You engage him in conversation and learn that he is a hermit who left his village some years earlier to live in the forest.

‘Why did you leave?’ you ask him.

‘A terrible curse was put upon me by a sorcerer, one which caused me to murder my own wife and children. I could not bear to remain in my home and so I fled here to the woods, where I look for provision to whatever small animals I can trap, and the occasional generosity of passing strangers such as yourself.’

Wow, that was way too much information. If you’d killed your family, you very much doubt you’d be so chatty about it. What’s up with this old codger?

How will you continue the conversation?

A: Ask who cursed him. Go to 54.

B: Ask how he was cursed. Go to 83.

C: Ask if he expects you to feed him. Go to 21.


63

You stride purposefully towards the sound and before long you spy a stately white horse approaching through the trees. Perched atop the horse is a delicate looking damsel, her gold hair braided into a long plait. As she draws alongside you, she stops and smiles down demurely. She is the most beautiful creature you have ever seen.

‘Well met, warrior,’ she says. ‘What brings you to the forest of Langlorn?’

You feel a little dizzy as you look up into her pale blue eyes, and your tongue seems heavy and bloated in your mouth. What will you do?

A: Tell her about your mission. Go to 14.

B: Lie to her. Go to 56.

C: Run away. Go to 66.


64

Your plan works perfectly and you feel a satisfying shock run up your arm as your blow connects.

‘Ha!’ you say, before looking down at your fallen foe, prepared to gloat.

Unfortunately, you have just slain Old Talitha, the local wise woman. She had entered the tavern to beg for alms and the noise you heard was the sound of her drawing a tin bowl from under her leather shawl. Perhaps if you hadn’t been so drunk, you wouldn’t have made such a mistake. That’s something to think about for next time.

Go to 3.


65

You rush towards him and at the last second fling yourself forwards in a low dive between his legs, rolling on one shoulder and coming up facing his back. This is your preferred view of any enemy.

What next?

A: Run away into the crowd. Go to 20.

B: Pick up the biggest rock you can find and throw it at the back of his head. Go to 125.


66

As soon as she speaks to you, you giggle furiously and run away into the trees. Once you have put a suitable distance between yourself and the object of your admiration, you pause to catch your breath and reflect on your unusual behaviour. You haven’t run away from a girl like that since the very earliest days of your romantic career, when you had a crush on the rat-catcher’s daughter. You feel very embarrassed but, at the same time, something tells you that you may have had a lucky escape.

Ignoring your confusion with practised ease, you push on to 128.


67

‘Who is the message from?’ he asks brusquely. He’s clearly not as stupid as he looks. You’re going to have to think fast.

How will you answer him?

A: Tell him it’s from the mayor of Smallhaven. Go to 81.

B: Tell him it’s from the King of Slathia. Go to 110.

C: Tell him it’s none of his business. Go to 85.


68

The bandit chief clasps your hand tightly in his and squeezes. ‘What eyes!’ he exclaims. ‘What admirable eyes!’

His followers all emerge from the trees and echo his praise, clapping you on the back and telling you what a great addition you’d make to their gang. You can’t imagine a worse fate than being stuck in a damp forest with this bunch of malnourished misfits, but you tell them it would be an honour if only you didn’t have obligations elsewhere.

‘Well, you may go with our blessings,’ says the chieftain. ‘I’m a man of my word and I won’t take a single coin from you. In fact, I’d like to give you a small token of our esteem for you to remember us by.’

He reaches into his jerkin, fishes out a length of twine on which three wolves’ teeth have been threaded, and hangs it around your neck.

‘We hope you’ll consider yourself an honorary member of our little troop,’ he says. His hat is jingling softly with emotion, and you notice that one or two of the bandits seem to be fighting back tears.

Deciding that it’s best to leave before things get any stranger, you bid farewell to your new friends and set off into the forest while they wave you out of sight.

Go to 47.


69

‘When you meet Clavius Boon,’ she says. ‘I would like you to give him a gift from me.’

She withdraws a diaphanous green kerchief from her sleeve and places it in your hand. It is so light that if you closed your eyes you would never know you were holding anything at all.

‘It is a small token of my favour. Tell him it is from Leanola.’

She smiles one last time and clicks her tongue delicately. Her horse trots away into the trees.

You’re not quite sure what has happened here. In fact, you can hardly remember who you have been talking to, or what you discussed.

Make a note of the kerchief, and proceed to 128.


70

You avoid entering the clearing and follow the line of trees around its edge. You are just about to rejoin the path on the other side when a sudden squeak from beneath your foot makes you jump back in surprise.

Looking down, you see a tiny bearded man dressed in a suit apparently made from leaves and acorns. Between his teeth there is the stump of a broken pipe and he clutches the other half in his hand. He looks as surprised as you are but he also brings a bit of anger to the mix. Evidently, you have just trodden on him while he was enjoying a pipe.

How will you make amends?

A: Stamp on him again. Go to 107.

B: Apologise courteously and offer to fix his pipe. Go to 74.


71

You writhe momentarily, extend one clawed hand to the gods, emit a terrible rattle from deep in your throat, then slump motionless. It’s a consummate performance and you have no doubt that it will work. After all, you didn’t survive the battle of Balther’s Peak by twitching. Let’s see what this bumpkin does when he realises he’s murdered his town’s only hope…

He thinks for a moment, then stamps on your hand very hard.

You squeal and jump to your feet, adapting with fluid ease to the shift in circumstances.

What’s your next move?

A: Strike low, aiming for his orbs of power. Go to 119.

B: Goad him by challenging him to take his best shot. Go to 10.

C: Shout something and jump at his face, hoping a berserk rage will take hold and carry you to victory. Go to 8.


72

‘Steal a better hat!’ you shout, slapping his blade to one side and making a dash for the trees, chuckling at your own witticism.

One of his men is directly in front of you, and as you approach him he tries to jump out of your way to the left. Unfortunately, you also decide to move in this direction, with the result that you both crash to the ground in an ungainly heap. You just have time to tell him what an idiot he is before someone hits you over the head and you lose consciousness for the second time this week…

When you come to, the clearing is deserted. Your first instinct is to check your crotch, and you groan in despair as you realize that your bag of gold has gone. Almost as annoyingly, they have also taken your trousers, presumably as some sort of bandit prank. You now regret having insulted the chieftain’s hat.

You have no choice but to continue on your way, poorer by two hundred gold coins and naked from the waist down. Make a note of these changes to your inventory, and go to 47.


73

You claw desperately at the skull-crusher but it refuses to relinquish its grip. Your vision begins to swim and you realise that you must do something quickly or end your adventure in ignoble battle with a carnivorous hat.

What will you do?

A: Try to prize it off with your sword. Go to 44.

B: Slam your head against the ground, hoping to shake it loose. Go to 78.


74

He seems to calm down a little and cautiously hands you his pipe. It really is a tiny little thing and you’re not sure now why you offered to fix it. You push the two parts together in the vague hope that it will somehow become whole again but you only succeed in crushing it completely.

The little man lets out a screech of rage and nips you rather smartly on the ankle, then runs off into the forest. You cast around for something to throw at him, but by the time you find a suitable rock he has disappeared into the trees.

Examining your ankle, you find that the bite has swollen into a nasty red boil. Make a note of this and continue to 109.


75

You continue walking for an hour or so until you come to a fork. The road to your left leads down into the vast and mysterious Langlorn Forest, while the right hand path will take you towards the Mountains.

If you’re confused, remember that your right hand is the one you hold your sword in.

Which way will you travel?

A: Left, towards the forest. Go to 26.

B: Right, into the mountains. Go to 129.


76

You follow the path into the dense heart of Langlorn, walking for hours as the canopy thickens and the light fades. Around you, the forest seems to throb and purr with hidden life and you begin to feel as if you are being watched. Now and then you glimpse a movement in the bushes or hear the call of an unseen creature. A lesser man would be feeling pretty nervy by now, you tell yourself.

Gradually, you become aware of a faint light deep amongst the trees to the left hand side of the path, keeping pace with your progress. When you try to focus on it, it shifts away from your gaze.

What will you do?

A: Plunge into the forest to determine the source of the light. Go to 50.

B: Ignore it and keep walking. Go to 112.


77

As you draw closer to the tree, you begin to fully appreciate just what an awesome bit of botany it is. There are indeed doors and windows all over its surface, along with balustrades, staircases and all manner of decorations. It towers so high into the sky that you can see clouds passing beneath the green of its canopy. There are tiny figures moving here and there upon the trunk, and you guess that there could be a whole town’s worth of people living inside it, although it seems strange that the clearing itself is deserted.

There is a large doorway set into the base directly in front of you, flanked by two burly guards, and a thin man dressed in yellow robes dashes out from this entrance as you approach. He waves a hand at you in an impatient sort of way.

‘Hey! Stop right there,’ he says, bustling up to you and catching his breath. His exertion has shaken loose a colourful swirl of petals from the flowers which are strung about his neck in heavy garlands and twined throughout his thinning hair.

‘May you be covered with the love of Mallandrina,’ he gasps. ‘May her green energies fire your seed and make you ever fruitful.’

It seems a nice sentiment, but you can tell as he speaks that his heart’s not really in it. For one thing, he’s peering at you as if you were a Pithian crotchlouse.

‘The same to you,’ you say. ‘What is this place?’

‘This is the Great Mother Tree, the home of Mallandrina, Chief Dryad of all Langlorn. If you’ve come for the Birth Day then you’re far too late. The invitations said very explicitly that last entries would be at noon.’

‘Whose birthday is it?’ you ask.

‘It’s Mallandrina’s, of course! It only comes once a year, so I really can’t spare the time to stand around here chatting with you. Now I’m afraid you’ll have to leave.’

What will you say?

A: Tell him that you have a very important message for Mallandrina. Go to 67.

B: Threaten him and demand to be let into his treehouse. Go to 87.

C: Tell him that you’re just passing by, and have no interest in his party. Go to 5.


78

Shrieking uncontrollably, you drop to your knees and begin to slam your head against the ground in the hope of dislodging the creature. Unfortunately, you simply assist it by hastening your own blackout…

In the days and weeks to come, the skull-crusher will clean your bones with the finicky precision of an Altaxian serving eunuch, leaving them for later travellers to discover. Your quest, warrior, ends here.


79

You yodel furiously and charge down the hill brandishing your blade aloft.

As you approach, the wolf makes a pounce for his intended victim but she moves nimbly to one side and catches him below his jaws. Just as you arrive she pulls back on his head with a terrible crack and breaks his neck. He slumps lifeless at her feet.

Giving a triumphant yell, you plunge your sword into him regardless. Experience has taught you to be thorough.

‘Lucky I was passing,’ you say. ‘Or you might have made a delicate morsel for our friend here.’

She gives you a look.

Time to turn on the charm, you think. An old hand like you knows a thousand ways to woo even the iciest of maidens. Which approach will you opt for today?

A: Heat things up a little. Assume a roguish smile and suggestively ask her how she plans to reward you. Go to 24.

B: Praise her, saying you’ve rarely seen such skill from a member of the fairer sex. Go to127.

C: Find an excuse to take your shirt off. Go to 51.


80

Your tactic works and you pop from his grasp in a shower of grease and sweat, turn a perfect somersault above his head, and land facing his back. A polite ripple of applause runs through the crowd, and you congratulate yourself on a fine piece of showmanship.

What will you do now, warrior?

A: Run away into the crowd. Go to 20.

B: Pick up the biggest rock you can find and throw it at the back of his head. Go to 125.


81

‘Oh my goodness! The Mayor of Smallhaven! Why, you must be let in at once!’ he cries.

You smile broadly. This was much easier than you’d expected.

‘Roll out the Carpet of Green Delights!’ he shouts to the guards. ‘Fill the flagons with Illandrian nectar! A messenger from the mayor of Smallhaven!’

One of the guards is shaking a little bit as if he’s stifling a laugh. Sarcasm was never your strong point, but even you can’t fail to catch on now. This jumped-up doorkeeper is making a fool out of you…

‘Come back on a less important day, you great ape,’ he mutters as he turns and stalks away.

What will you do?

A: Swallow your pride and leave. Go to 109.

B: Charge after him and teach him a lesson with your fists. Go to 41.


82

It’s nice to get a bit of fresh air and exercise, and you feel pretty good as you bounce along the road away from Smallhaven. An added bonus is the purse of gold coins which is filling out the line of your trousers to splendid effect.

You pass verdant fields and quaint cottages until the road begins to climb into the foothills of the Man’Athor Mountains, the peaks of which you can see towering in the distance, pale and unreal against the blue sky.

At around midday, you sit down to eat your lunch, thoughtfully packed for you by the villagers, when you hear a sudden and piercing scream just to the west of you. It seems to be coming from over the brow of a nearby hill.

What will you do?

A: Unsheathe your sword and rush to investigate. Go to 43.

B: Refuse to be disturbed, and calmly continue eating your lunch. Go to 25.


83

‘Perhaps it’s easier if I show you,’ he says, chuckling in an unpleasant manner.

Before you can disagree, he flings himself forward onto all fours and begins to snarl and writhe. He is clearly not a model guest.

Go to 121.


84

You wrap your arms as far around him as you can manage and start to give him a taste of his own medicine. Some members of the audience seem to find the spectacle amusing, which is a little off-putting, but you keep squeezing even as you feel the air being forced from your lungs and your vision begins to blur.

Suddenly, he drops you onto the ground and staggers backwards. He’s wheezing a little; that’ll teach him. It takes you a few minutes to get to your feet, but once you’re upright again you assess the situation expertly and find there are three choices open to you:

A: Second guess him by repeating your earlier tactic, throwing yourself at his face with renewed vigour. Go to 8.

B: Execute an Illandrian horse-kick to his solar plexus. Go to 12.

C: Drop to one knee and fake a seizure. Go to 96.


85

He bridles visibly at this but you can see he has enough sense not to provoke you before he knows for certain whether or not you’re lying.

‘I’m the Head Rootkeeper to Mallandrina,’ he informs you sniffily. ‘I must know the business of any visitor to the Mother Tree.’

You turn as if you’re about to walk away. This is just like haggling for a horse.

‘Then go and tell her that an important messenger came to see her and will return each day until her idiot Rootmaster lets him in.’

‘Rootkeeper,’ he says. After a moment’s pause, he beckons sulkily for you to follow him and walks back towards the tree.

Go to 90.


86

‘What’s the matter with you?’ asks the mayor.

You can’t be bothered to answer him. Who does he think he is, jumped up little fart? You didn’t get where you are by grovelling every time a local dignitary said ‘good morning’ to you.

‘I’m going to leave this room, and when I come back in, I hope you’ll be more receptive,’ says the mayor, sternly.

He leaves the room, slamming the door behind him.

Go to 35.


87

‘Listen,’ you say. ‘Either you let me into this tree, or I’m going to bring down a whole mess of trouble on your flowery head. You understand me?’

For a moment he just stares at you, and you’re not sure whether he does understand you or not, but then he shrieks for the guards and sprints back towards the tree. You chase after him and bring him to the ground with a diving tackle, but before you can figure out your next move the two guards from the tree pile into you.

You all roll around together for a few minutes, exchanging blows and insults in a colourful cloud of petals. Probably if you were watching this fight from a distance it would look quite pretty, but participating in it is more painful than anything else. The doorkeeper may not be up to much but the guards have an aptitude for creative violence.

By the time three more guards arrive on the scene you’ve had enough. You surrender with good grace and allow yourself to be shackled and led into the tree. The doorkeeper follows you, screeching and holding his bloodied nose.

Go to 61.


88

You face the werewolf and draw your new sword. It seems to hum slightly in your hand. As he charges, you swing upwards, bracing yourself for impact with his hairy bulk, and are very surprised when no impact comes. Instead, the sword cleaves through the monster with no more resistance than if it were cutting through warm butter, and the momentum of his charge sends him flying past you in two separate pieces. He dies in halves, noisily but fairly quickly, and as he does so his body transforms back into that of an old man.

Wow, that was really something. This sword is pretty much your dream weapon. You test it out a bit more on some local trees, but desist after you fell two in one go and are almost crushed by the falling trunks.

Settling yourself down to sleep once again, you pass a comfortable night and awake feeling unusually refreshed.

Shoulder your pack and continue to 128.


89

You screech hysterically and plant one on the skeleton’s bony chin. His jawbone goes clattering away into the depths of the cave and the glowing light flickers and dies, leaving you in complete darkness.

Hmmm. That may have been a mistake. You hear a strange set of creaking and knocking noises, as if the undead warrior is trying to stand up from his throne, so you back away carefully…

You’re not sure how long you spend under the ground – maybe hours, maybe days – but it seems an eternity as you grope your way around a huge disorienting cavern, feeling your strength ebb with every passing minute. In the surrounding darkness you hear an occasional shuffling, as if the skeleton is searching for you, accompanied by other, more unsettling noises. As you crawl about like a vulnerable infant in the slimy, gibbering depths of the earth, you start to go a little bit crazy…

An indefinite time later, just when you are considering ending your misery by falling on your sword, you spy a faint glimmer of light above you. Somehow you manage to claw your way back up the wall and into the forest.

You rest for a while, restoring your strength with berries and edible roots. Your subterranean ordeal is over, but you have acquired a violent nervous tic which will remain with you for the rest of your days. Make a note of this, and go to 9.


90

You enter the tree and are surprised to find it a hive of activity on the inside. Garlanded servants bustle here and there with platters of food, wine and floral displays. The Rootkeeper leads you through a number of beautiful antechambers, all hewn from the living wood, until you arrive in a large central room which extends upwards as far as you can see. All around the walls, cages are being raised and lowered by some invisible mechanism.

He leads you into an empty cage and you begin your ascent into the higher reaches of the trunk. For some while, you wait in silence.

‘So this is all made of tree, is it?’ you say, gesturing vaguely at your surroundings.

‘Yes,’ says the Rootkeeper.

Eventually the cage arrives at the top of the shaft and you are whisked through a further selection of tastefully decorated chambers and into a long broad corridor, at the end of which is an imposing set of oak doors. As you approach them they swing open and a serving girl rushes out and past you, clutching a bundle of something wrapped in white linen.

‘After you,’ says the Rootkeeper.

Precede him to 45.


91

‘Ohhh!’ exclaims the chieftain, clapping his hands to his temples and grinning ruefully. ‘You were so close, wasn’t he lads?’

The bandits all nod and murmur in cheerful agreement as they emerge from the trees, and you’re won over by the general atmosphere of fellowship until the chieftain spoils it by sheepishly reminding you of your debt.

There’s no choice but to pay up. Go to 49.


92

You stroll through the village and out to the edge of the fields. Various peasant sorts are grubbing around in the soil, doing whatever it is that makes crops grow. You’ve never taken much of an interest in farming.

‘I will give you one hundred gold pieces now, and three hundred on your return, if you will perform a rather delicate task for me,’ says the mayor. ‘Some distance to the north of here stands the Tower of Clavius Boon. He is an evil man, a practitioner of vile magics and the high priest of an unholy cult, the Children of the White Worm. Few have made the journey to that dread tower and returned to tell of it. They all fall under his spell or are butchered as sacrifices to his terrible gods.’

He pauses for effect. He seems to be waiting for you to say something.

‘That’s awful,’ you say.

The mayor nods and chews thoughtfully on his moustache for a moment, before continuing in a low voice.

‘Three moons ago, some of Boon’s acolytes came to the village. They demanded that we pay a tribute of three hundred gold coins or three virgins every year. We do not have a steady supply of either but there is no reasoning with sorcerers. It seems to me that we have only one chance at survival. I want you to kill Clavius Boon! You will be well rewarded if you succeed.’

You mull it over for a moment, but you can’t see any reason to decline. You need the gold, after all, and if you get to the tower and it looks too risky a job, there’s nothing to stop you from moving on.

‘Two hundred gold now and four if I come back,’ you demand.

‘Done,’ says the mayor, holding out his hand.

You kick yourself for not having gone higher, but you shake the little swindler’s hand anyway.

Go to 23.


93

You latch onto an ankle as thick as your own thigh and tug. Nothing happens. You keep tugging. He starts to walk around the square, dragging you after him and joking with his yokel friends in the audience. You stop tugging and stand up. There’s no point in making yourself look silly.

What will you do next?

A: Try a frontal assault, trusting to momentum and enthusiasm to get the job done. Go to 8.

B: Dive between his legs and attack from the rear before he knows what’s happening. Go to 65.

C: Go in low and strike for his balls. Go to 119.


94

You flip the tent-flap to one side with the back of your hand and take a long stride forwards, inclining into a deep bow as you do so.

‘My lady,’ you murmur thickly.

As you rise from your bow, you are a little taken aback. In fact, you are a lot taken aback. Instead of the simpering sylph you had expected, there sits before you a lady of gargantuan proportions, clad in a flowing dress of green silk. The vast bulk of her belly almost fills the tent, squeezing the attendant handmaidens against its walls. You raise your eyes in bafflement and find her face somewhere up towards the roof, peering down at you. It would be quite a pretty face if it wasn’t perspiring so heavily and wearing such a strained expression.

‘Uuuuuuh!!!’ she says. You resist the urge to crouch this time, but you don’t manage to find a suitable response to her greeting.

There is an odd sucking noise then a loud pop, and a handmaiden startles you further by dashing out from beneath the dryad’s dress with a linen bundle in her arms. As she rushes past, you think you hear a faint mewling sound issuing from the bundle. Mallandrina gasps for air and then gives a dry chuckle.

‘Did my nursemaid startle you, warrior?’ she asks. ‘It is a magical thing, is it not? The Birth Day of a dryad!’

‘Um, perhaps I should come back later?’ you say in a small voice. It is beginning to dawn on you what is going on here.

‘Nonsense. You have an energy about you which harmonises nicely with my birthing field. I think it will be a wonderful growing experience for both of us if you remain here. Come, take my hand.’

You edge forwards and reach up to hold her hand where it dangles from the side of her colossal body. From up close, you can see strange shapes writhing under her silk-clad belly. It seems to be awfully busy in there.

‘Uuuuuuh!!!’ Mallandrina gives your hand a bone-crushing squeeze and seconds later another nursemaid dashes out from under her skirts. This time, you notice a little red face in the bundle she is carrying, topped by a pair of tiny horns.

‘Ooh, is that a satyr?’ you say. You’ve only seen them in pictures before.

‘Indeed it is. All of Langlorn’s satyrs and nymphs are born of me. What you are witnessing today is the birth of tomorrow’s forest. Now, warrior, what message do you have that could not wait until after my Birth Day?’

What will you say?

A: Tell her that the King of Illandria wishes her a Happy Birth Day. Go to 105.

B: Tell her that the forest is on fire to the east. Go to 120.

C: Admit that you have no message. Go to 98.


95

‘How dare you attempt to shift the blame onto me!’ says Giblith. ‘You are a fraud, sir, a shameless fraud and a hooligan! Why, if I had my axe I’d eviscerate you on the spot and consider it a service to the town.’

You’re not sure what he’s talking about but he’s shouting and it’s making your head hurt. You decide to knock the little bastard out, so you squint to get him in focus then take a swing. Your fist sails over his head. The cheeky scamp ducked, which doesn’t seem fair as he was already down so low.

Overbalancing, you run sideways at the bar and slam your head into something hard. Perhaps it was a table, or the bar itself. It doesn’t really matter. Everything goes black…

Go to 97.


96

You clutch at your chest and drop down onto one knee, gasping and rolling your eyes. Your opponent takes a run up and boots you in the head. The crowd thinks this is hilarious but it really, really hurts. You are now lying on the ground looking up at your enemy as he towers over you, chuckling.

What will you do?

A: Grab his ankle and pull, hoping to topple him. Go to 93.

B: Pretend to be dead. Go to 71.

C: Flip back onto your feet and deliver an Illandrian horse-kick to his solar plexus. Go to 12.


97

You wake up to the gentle sound of birdsong. Sunlight slopes politely into the room between the bars in the window. Your head feels huge and hollow. Slowly, details of the night before begin to come back to you. Kelea had been flirting with you at the bar, little minx, and some dwarf bought you a drink and asked who did the braiding on your scabbard. Also you vaguely remember something else. Did you… hit someone?

‘Wake up, murderer!’ says a harsh voice outside the door.

Murderer? Now you remember. You killed that old woman who’d been begging alms in the square. Shame – you quite liked her.

‘I’m awake,’ you say.

‘Breakfast,’ says the voice, and a tray is slid under the door. It looks disgusting, but you eat it anyway. It tastes disgusting.

You get up and have a scratch, looking around you at the cell. Bare walls, bare floor, one barred window high up near the ceiling. There is a wooden bed and a bucket. Just as you’re formulating an escape plan, a key grinds in the lock.

Go to 35.


98

She breathes heavily through her nose and peers down at you.

‘I may have to revise my opinion of you. What reason do you have for lying to my Rootkeeper, entering my tree under false pretences and disturbing my Birth Day with your negative energies?’

You have to admit, it is an excellent question. Why did you want to see her?

A: Tell her that you fell in love with the very sound of her name, and you had to meet her or perish in the attempt. Go to 103.

B: Tell her that you are tasked with killing the dread wizard Clavius Boon, and were wondering if she could help you. Go to 19.

C: Tell her that you have no reason. Sometimes you just do stuff that you fancy. Go to 11.


99

‘Enough!!!’ you roar, and start in on the chest hair.

By Haaxor that hurts! Who’d have thought chest hair was so stubborn? You’d imagined this would be like plucking an Illandrian goose. After four or five fistfuls you start to regret your decision. At about number ten, the pain becomes unbearable and you pass out. Everything goes black…

Go to 97.


100

You follow the path as it winds into the heart of Langlorn. The air seems to glitter in the broad shafts of sunlight which strike through from the canopy above, and the thick straight columns of the trees give the impression of a giant cathedral. You can’t help but wonder why this forest has such a bad name with travellers.

After a few miles, the path widens even more until it eventually opens into a vast clearing. A distant line of trees marks the horizon in front of you, and the clearing slopes gently upwards to one giant tree in its very centre. It’s quite some distance away but it dominates the view. It must be huge, bigger than any building you’ve ever seen. Tiny dark squares on the surface and at the base give the impression that it has windows and doors set into its trunk.

What will you do?

A: Stick to the tree-line and skirt around the clearing until you can pick up the path on the other side. Go to 70.

B: Approach the tree. Go to 77.


101

‘Then I look forward to meeting you again on a more relaxed occasion. Now, if you’ll excuse me, these little monsters won’t birth themselves!’

She smiles sweetly at you, the effect only slightly marred by the strain of labour. You bow deeply in return and back out of the tent.

Go to 18.


102

‘Ohhh!’ exclaims the chieftain, clapping his hands to his cheeks and grinning ruefully. ‘You were so close, wasn’t he boys?’

The bandits all nod and murmur in cheerful agreement as they emerge from the trees, and you’re won over by the general atmosphere of fellowship until the chieftain spoils it by sheepishly reminding you of your debt.

There’s no choice but to pay up. Go to 49.


103

You’re halfway through your declaration of love when she bellows with unholy gusto and a bustle of activity beneath her skirt points to another happy occasion. When she recovers, she turns to you once again with a smile.

‘Well, that is most flattering. In fact, I think you’d make a rather wonderful seedsman, although I’m not sure that that my pollination cycle will allow for it until next month. If you’re passing this way again, you might like to drop by. You’ll find me a much more appealing prospect once I’ve returned to my usual shape.’

You thank her cordially. You’ll have to think carefully about her offer later. Your first priority at the moment is to get some fresh air.

‘Was that all you wanted?’ she asks.

A: Say yes. Go to 101.

B: Tell her about your quest to kill Clavius Boon. Go to 19.


104

You hit the floor hard but come up swinging. There is an almighty crack and the wall behind the bar gets painted a different colour.

‘Mmm!’ you say.

Unfortunately, you have just slain Old Talitha, the local wise woman. She had entered the tavern to beg for alms and the noise you heard was the sound of her drawing a tin bowl from under her leather shawl. Perhaps if you hadn’t been so drunk, you wouldn’t have made such a mistake. That’s something to think about for next time.

Go to 3.


105

‘You are lying,’ she tells you, seemingly without anger. ‘The fluctuations in your aura are unmistakeable. Is that not so?’

You nod sheepishly.

Go to 98.


106

Nothing happens for quite some time. You sing drinking songs for a bit, but you only succeed in making yourself thirsty. After a couple of hours, the door opens and the Rootkeeper enters.

‘Mallandrina has decided to show mercy on her Birth Day, and has commanded that you be set free,’ he says. ‘If it were left to me, you would rot in this cell.’

He signals to the guards and they drag you back to the doors and eject you into the sunlight. Once you are a suitable distance away, you speculate loudly about the moral integrity of their mothers.

Feeling a little better, you continue on your way to 109.


107

There is a current trend of thought which considers elves, piskies, fairies and all other such woodland sprites to be deserving of the same rights as everyone else, but you don’t hold much truck with modern thinking. Your mother always told you that anything smaller than a cat was vermin.

Wipe your boot on a patch of long grass and continue to 109.


108

You coyly turn your back on the Rootkeeper and fish a handful of coins from the pouch in your crotch.

‘Maybe we could come to some arrangement?’ you insinuate, jingling the coins in your fist.

The Rootkeeper narrows his eyes. ‘Give me everything you’ve got and it’s a deal,’ he says.

Will you agree?

A: Yes. Note the loss of all your gold coins and go to 113.

B: No. Keep your money and allow yourself to be escorted from the tree. Go to 42.


109

You head away from the great tree and continue walking until the light fades, then camp beside the path and catch a few winks of restless sleep. Early the next morning, you set off once more and within a few hours you encounter a new crossroads.

Which way will you go?

A: Left. Go to 27.

B: Straight ahead. Go to 7.

C: Right. Go to 122.


110

‘Oh really?’ he says. ‘And when did Slathia dispense with its senate and appoint a king?’

‘Last week,’ you say, without even pausing for breath. By Haaxor, you’re fast.

‘Did you travel two thousand miles from Slathia in just a week?’ he asks with a sneer.

You don’t have such a quick answer for that one. He snorts and turns away.

‘You are a time-wasting imbecile,’ he informs you over his shoulder. ‘Begone before I have you beaten to a pulp.’

What will you do?

A: Swallow your pride and leave. Go to 109.

B: Charge after him and teach him a lesson with your fists. Go to 41.


111

‘What is the name of the orphanage?’ asks the chieftain.

You struggle to invent an appropriate name, hoping the strain doesn’t show in your eyes.

‘Ulcifer Thrax’s Home for Disorderly Children,’ you say.

‘Is that the same Ulcifer Thrax who used to run troll fights in Farhaven?’ he asks.

How will you answer?

A: Yes. Go to 39.

B: No. Go to 117.


112

Towards nightfall, you come to an unexpected fork, with trails branching off in two new directions. There are the remains of a campfire here, so you decide to follow the example of previous travellers and stop for the night before continuing. You light a fire, enjoy the rest of the meal packed for you by the villagers, and then catch a couple of hours of sleep, interrupted now and then by the lunatic yammering of local fauna.

You rise again with the sun and re-examine the fork. Which route will you take?

A: Left. Go to 7.

B: Right. Go to 122.


113

The Rootkeeper and two guards escort you through the tree to a large central room which seems to extend upwards as far as you can see. All around the walls, cages are being raised and lowered by some invisible mechanism.

He leads you into an empty cage and you begin your ascent into the higher reaches of the trunk. For some while, you wait in silence.

‘So, we’re going up, are we?’ you ask.

‘Yes,’ says the Rootkeeper.

Eventually the cage arrives at the top of the shaft and you are whisked through a further selection of tastefully decorated chambers and into a long broad corridor, at the end of which is an imposing set of oak doors. As you approach them they swing open and a serving girl rushes out and past you, clutching a bundle of something wrapped in white linen.

The Rootkeeper orders the guards to remove your shackles and ushers you through the doorway.

Go to 45.


114

The pot is full of a thick and furry mould which suggests there is, or was, food in it.
All around the campfire are scattered patches of a dark substance.

‘Blood,’ you say, nodding sagely to yourself. You probably wouldn’t risk such a confident diagnosis if anyone else were here, but your suspicions are confirmed when you come across the skeleton of a man at the edge of the clearing. Scraps of flesh cling to his bones, which seem to have been recently picked clean, and he is stretching a bony hand towards the undergrowth. Bending down for a closer look, you notice an iron nail just beyond the reach of his fingertips.

What will you do next?

A: Search the tent. Go to 40.

B: Leave the campsite and continue along the path. Go to 116.


115

‘Potatoes,’ you say. ‘They have eyes but they don’t see.’

There is a long pause and you wonder if he’s fallen asleep. It’s very difficult to tell when he doesn’t have eyelids. Eventually he speaks:

‘I think some potatoes can see a little bit,’ he says. ‘I’m sure someone once brought me a potato which could tell the difference between colours. This was when I was alive, you’ll understand…’

‘Mmm,’ you say. ‘I’m pretty sure that must have been something else. Potatoes are only for eating and they don’t have real eyes – that’s just what people call them. Trust me, I’m a farmer.’

You’re lying, of course. For all you know, there may be some varieties of potato which can juggle. Still, you can tell when a man is unsure of himself – even a dead man – and you’re not prepared to give up this argument just yet.

‘The answer I had was needles,’ he says in a small whiskery voice.

You spread your hands and frown a little. ‘Sorry,’ you say.

Slowly, he holds out the sword towards you. You take it and weigh it in your hand. It has a pleasant heft.

‘This is the sword of Valathrion,’ says the skeleton. ‘In my hand, it has drunk the blood of a thousand men. Oil it at least once every day, and be sure to keep it away from areas of high humidity.’

You agree cheerfully and watch as the light leaves his skull and floats off across the cavern.

Follow it back to 15.


116

You follow the path away from the campsite and press on through the woods. For two more days and nights, you travel across Langlorn. On the third day, the trees thin and you emerge from the forest on the brow of a hill overlooking a broad river. A ship is lying at anchor in the middle of the water, and a small boat is being loaded with goods on the near bank. If you head down the hill, you could probably meet up with the boatmen before they leave.

Which direction will you take?

A: Walk down the hill to meet the boat. Go to 214.

B: Follow the river downstream from a distance in the direction suggested by your map. Go to 213.


117

The bandit chieftain peers closely at you. You arrange your features into an expression of serene, orphan-friendly innocence and hope for the best.

‘Well, even if you are telling the truth, I can’t see how that’s any concern of mine,’ he says at last. ‘However, you seem a likely sort of fellow, and I’ll give you a sporting chance to hold onto your money by besting us in a small test of skill. What say you?’

Well, what say you?

A: Say yes. Go to 46.

B: Say no, choosing instead to hand over all your gold. Go to 49.

C: Make a dash for the trees. Go to 72.


118

You reach into the filthy interior of the tent, pick up the small bottle left here by an unknown traveller and tip its mysterious contents down your throat. Many people would be of the opinion that you deserve to be poisoned.

Luckily for you, it’s Slathian vodka and has no effect other than imparting a warmish glow to your stomach.

What will you do now?

A: Try on the hat. Go to 123.

B: Leave the campsite and continue along the path. Go to 116.


119

You dash in like a ferret and strike for his nether regions. Unfortunately, he jumps backwards just as you trip over a rock, sending you plunging towards him. Your flight is arrested when he catches your head between his thighs.

It’s dark and pungent in here, and you don’t really know what’s going on. He seems to be shuffling around the square, dragging you after him. You think you can hear the muffled sound of laughter from the outside world.

What now, warrior?

A: Brace your hands against his legs and push, hoping to free yourself from this undignified position. Go to 30.

B: Go limp and pretend to have fainted. Go to 17.


120

‘You are lying,’ she tells you, seemingly without anger. ‘The fluctuations in your aura are unmistakeable. Is that not so?’

You nod sheepishly.

Go to 98.


121

His ragged clothes are ripped even further as his body shudders and buckles, swelling in size. With a low growl he lurches upright and you see the full extent of his transformation. A werewolf! You thought they only changed when the moon was full, but he probably knows more about it than you do.

You have no choice but to draw your sword and engage him in combat. If you possess the sword of Valathrion, you may turn to 88. Otherwise, you have three options:

(NOTE: THE ACCOMPANYING ILLUSTRATION SHOWS THAT THE WEREWOLF WEARS A CRUDE BANDAGE AROUND ONE OF HIS LEGS)

A: Chop at his head. Go to 22.

B: Thrust for his body. Go to 126.

C: Swing at his legs. Go to 59.


122

You press deeper into the forest as the canopy thickens and the light begins to fade. For two days and nights, you follow the faint line of the old path and camp beneath ancient trees. On the third day, just as you are considering climbing something to get your bearings, you hear a faint jingling noise, like harness bells, approaching through the trees.
What will you do?

A: Hide in the undergrowth and wait for the sound to pass. Go to 60.

B: Boldly walk towards the noise to determine its source. Go to 63.


123

You have fallen prey to a Kantarian skull-crusher!!! The moment this hat-shaped creature touches your head, it begins to contract in powerful spasms. Spikes of pain shoot through your beleaguered bonce.

How will you react?

A: Draw your sword and try to cut the skull-crusher from your head. Go to 44.

B: Drop to your knees and try to beat it off by banging your head on the floor. Go to 78.

C: Try to pull it off with your bare hands. Go to 73.


124

You attack the wall like a rabid beaver, gnawing at the wood with your teeth. It is surprisingly soft and you can chew off whole mouthfuls at a time and spit them onto the floor. The only problem is the pungent sap of the tree, which leaves a powerful aftertaste in your mouth. After several minutes, you begin to feel very queasy and are forced to take a lie down. Your stomach is squirming like a hooked fish.

Some time later the door opens and the Rootkeeper enters your cell. You are sick a little bit on his foot.

‘Ugh!’ he says. ‘What have you done to our cell?’

You roll over and look at the wall behind you. In the increased light from the doorway, you can see that your only achievement has been to mar the décor a little.

‘Mallandrina has decided to show mercy on her Birth Day, and has commanded that you be set free,’ says the Rootkeeper. ‘If it were left to me, you would rot in this cell.’

He signals to the guards and they drag you back to the doors and eject you into the sunlight. Clutching your delicate stomach, you limp off into the forest, following the path on the other side of the clearing.

Go to 109.


125

You find a sizeable rock and hurl it with all your might at the back of your enemy’s bonce. There is a slight thump, muffled by his greasy hair, a long pause, and then he begins to fall forwards. As he hits the ground, a great cloud of dust puffs up around him.

‘Hurrah!’ you say, punching the air. The giant is down!

You can’t remember the last time you felt this good about yourself. You begin to walk around the square, strutting like a cockerel, beckoning with your hands, blowing kisses to the girls.

Most of them look a bit shocked, like they did last night in The Crooked Eel when you killed that old woman. Still, you don’t let it dampen your spirits. These bumpkins wouldn’t know a great warrior if he turned up in their village and hit them with a rock.

You’re still striking poses when the last of the crowd disperses and the mayor approaches you.

‘Hmmm,’ he says. ‘That was unorthodox, but perhaps that’s just what we need – a warrior who’s willing to take an unconventional approach to problems.’

You don’t know what he’s talking about, but you nod anyway.

‘Sounds like I’m your man,’ you say.

‘I have a proposition for you,’ he says. ‘Come and walk with me.’

Go to 92.


126

You point your sword at his midriff and drop into a low lunge just as he charges towards you. The combined force drives the blade deep into his chest but the experience bothers him less than it would most people, and he simply keeps coming, driving in until he slams against the hilt. His breath hits you first, followed closely by his teeth.

With your sword stuck firmly in his body, the only thing you can do as he bears you to the ground and rips you to pieces is to spend your last few moments in the world as wisely as possible. You choose to scream and thrash wildly…

Your quest ends here.


127

‘That was nifty work for such a pretty lady,’ you say, sauntering over to her as she crouches beside the wolf. What is she doing? Looks like she’s cutting something… Yes, she is, she’s… oooh!

You wince as she puts her trophies carefully into a leather bag hanging from her belt.

‘What were you saying?’ she says.

‘Nothing,’ you say. ‘Just wondering what brings you to these parts.’

‘That is none of your business, warrior. I tread my own road.’

‘Fair enough,’ you say. ‘I… err… I just thought you might care for a little company on your journey.’

She seems to soften and for a moment you think she might be about to smile.

‘If you’re ever passing the sign of the Black Boar, ask for Shamarra,’ she says.

Then she turns and walks away over the hill. Something tells you not to push your luck by following.

Make a note of her name, and proceed to 75.


128

For two more days and nights, you travel through Langlorn until you finally come to a place where a number of different paths converge and the trees begin to thin. By nightfall you have reached the forest’s edge and can spy a flicker of lights in front of you. The faint sound of voices and the skirl of a badly-played pipe brings a broad smile to your face and a familiar dryness to your throat. You have a sort of homing instinct for taverns.

Follow the lights to 160.


129

Spotting a relatively well-fed pig rooting around in a small hamlet, you approach the nearest cottage and bang on the door with the hilt of your sword, then step back and assume your most martial pose. When the door creaks open, you are met by three almost identical faces with ruddy cheeks and small cautious eyes. They squint at you in silence.

‘Greetings, good peasants,’ you say, launching into a well-practised speech. ‘I am passing through your backwater on an important quest, and have decided to honour your hovel with my presence this night. In return for a bed and whatever food and drink you can spare, there is a chance I will regale you with fantastic stories of faraway realms.’

They open the door and shuffle back nervously. You stroll inside and look around: one large straw bed, a broad table and a wide hearth occupied by a dead pig, cooking slowly and fragrantly on a spit. An assortment of boxes and sacks are neatly piled around the walls.

‘Most satisfactory,’ you say, nodding with the assurance of a seasoned traveller.

How will you make yourself comfortable?

A: Seat yourself at the table and wait to be served. Go to 236.

B: Collapse on the bed and enjoy a well-earned rest. Go to 169.


130

‘I’ll take the lot,’ you say, clapping your hand to the hilt of your sword. Before you can unsheathe it, however, the wizard has dropped all his merchandise onto the table and produced a crooked wand from his sleeve. He’s surprisingly sprightly for such an elderly man.

‘Leave now, warrior, or face the consequences,’ he says, backing away towards the far wall.

Will you take his advice?

A: Yes. Leave the hut and continue on your journey. Go to 211.

B: No. Open your pack and start to fill it with the magical items. Go to 202.


131

The road climbs up into the mountains, allowing spectacular views of the countryside below you, with the vast carpet of Langlorn forest stretching as far as the eye can see on your left hand side. You walk for several hours until you come to a fork.

Which way will you go?

A: Straight ahead, following a road which looks as if it will take you between two mountains. Go to 134.

B: Right, following a road which climbs in the direction of the highest peaks. Go to 143.


132

The boatmen tell you that their captain would never admit someone who couldn’t work for his passage, and they bid you farewell and pile back into the boat. As they pull away from the shore, you realise that you do feel a little self-conscious, for all your brave words. New trousers are a priority.

Continue on your way to 215.


133

‘I’m sure we could do great things together,’ you purr suggestively, leaning in across the table. The innuendo seems to pass right by her. Perhaps she thinks you’re out of her league.

‘Not only is Clavius Boon a powerful sorcerer,’ she says, applying a finger to your forehead and pushing you gently back into your chair. ‘But his chamber is surrounded by guards, both human and otherwise. He will not die lightly.’

You nod and make your serious face, imagining the two of you sharing a celebratory romp in Boon’s velvet-lined chamber.

‘Look at my face when I’m talking to you’ she snaps, breaking your reverie. ‘I have been working on a plan to get myself into the chamber. Do you know what this is?’

She holds up a purple rock.

‘It’s a purple rock,’ you say. If only all questions were this easy.

‘It’s a Hastening Stone,’ she says. ‘Made by a wizard using elements of my own body and soul. If you shatter it, I will be pulled instantly through space to the point at which it was broken. Are you following me?’

You nod cautiously.

‘I had been wondering how I could arrange for it to be broken in the chamber of Clavius Boon,’ she continues. ‘You will help me. When you reach his chamber, smash this stone upon the floor and I will be by your side in an instant. I will keep my sword on me at all times in readiness.’

She hands you the stone, tips her drink down her throat and stands.

‘I have business to attend to elsewhere,’ she says. ‘The next time I see you we shall be ridding the world of a great evil. Perhaps, once that is done, we will couple.’

She spins on her heel and stalks away through the door. Did she say ‘couple’? Why are you holding this stone? A mixture of confusion, arousal and thirst vie for attention in your brain.

You decide to attend to the thirst first.

Do you still have the bag of gold coins the mayor gave you?

A: Yes. Go to 205.

B: No. Go to 155.


134

You follow the road for the rest of the day and camp out under the stars. With first light, you set out again and travel until you find yourself in a narrow pass flanked by steep cliffs. Walking through the pass, you have the feeling that you are being watched, and your suspicion is confirmed when a shower of stones causes you to look up and spot a small figure crouching on a ledge. It ducks from sight into a crack in the rock.

What will you do?

A: Keep walking, pretending you haven’t noticed anything. Go to 241.

B: Call to the figure to show itself. Go to 136.


135

You awaken to find yourself staring at a plank of wood right in front of your face and your first thought is that you have been buried alive. You howl in panic and kick out at the plank, which flies away from you and crashes onto the floor. It’s okay – you were just sleeping under a table.

‘You’re up,’ says the innkeeper. He is cleaning around the snoring forms of his other patrons and whistling softly to himself.

‘Where’s my money?’ you ask, checking your trousers.

‘Why, you spent it all,’ he says. ‘You were very generous, I must say. And we did try to stop you from getting that tattoo, but you wouldn’t listen.’

‘What tattoo?’ you ask.

‘That one,’ says the innkeeper, pointing at your face. You wander over to a bucket of water and peer groggily at your reflection. It appears that you have a large tattoo of a dragon on your face, its wings spread across your cheeks, its tail vanishing into your mouth and its head grinning lopsidedly from just above your own eyes. You feel slightly nauseous and decide to stop looking and hope it will go away.

‘The gnome who did it for you will be long gone,’ says the innkeeper. He looks as if he might be smirking a little but you’re too hungover to make an issue of it.

You gather up your stuff, breakfast on leftover food and stumble out into the sunlight. You feel better for the fresh air and head off downhill towards the ferry.

Make a note of your new body art and the loss of your coins, then go to 153.


136

‘Show yourself!’ you shout, and after a few seconds the figure emerges from the cliff face. You can’t quite make it out in the shadows, but you’re certain that it’s a lot smaller than you are, which is reassuring.

‘Who are you?’ you ask.

‘I am a friend,’ says a small voice. ‘A gnome of the tribe of Fahal, worshipper of the Great Thunderer. I was curious to see a lone stranger passing through the mountains. Why are you travelling this road?’

What will you say?

A: Tell him you are on a mission to slay the evil warlock Clavius Boon. Go to 237.

B: Tell him you are a trader from the hill farms. Go to 175.

C: Tell him to get lost, and hint that if you see him again there’ll be an unspecified but very serious bit of trouble coming his way. Go to 141.


137

You bang loudly on the door and listen for a response. Your knocking wakes the boy, who wanders over for a closer look at you, a bubble of snot inflating slowly from his left nostril. As you wait for an answer from the hut, his attention begins to get on your nerves a little.

What will you do?

A: Ignore him. Go to 177.

B: Ruffle his hair. Go to 196.

C: Give him some food. Go to 213.

D: Give him a kick. Go to 208.


138

‘Clavius Who?’ says the gnome. You’re just about to fill him in on the particulars when he appears to lose interest and nods to one of the others in a way you don’t like. The second gnome steps forwards and hits you very hard on the head with a short club. Your vision swims and you lose consciousness…

Go to 151.


139

‘To wives and daughters!’ you shout. ‘May they never meet!’

You drain your cup slowly, gargling a little with the dregs. It really is an excellent drop of something. Next to you, incredibly, the farmer is still talking.

‘Blah blah blah,’ he says.

You smile at his daughter. She really is pretty, maybe the prettiest girl you’ve ever seen. She has lovely ears, lovely big ears like seashells…

‘You’re like a lovely mermaid,’ you whisper to her. ‘A lovely mermaid on fire.’

‘Perhaps we should get some sleep,’ says the farmer.

What will you do now?

A: Agree and head off to collapse on the bed. Go to 169.

B: Insist on proposing a last toast to something. Go to 209.


140

You draw your sword and howl abuse at your assailants, laying into them with undisguised fury. By Haaxor, it feels good to cut loose once in a while! They scatter in panic and scamper up the cliff faces away from you. There’s no way you’ll be able to follow them up there.

Feeling much better, you sheathe your sword and allow yourself a hearty chuckle before continuing on your way.

Go to 229.


141

You point your sword at him and make it very clear that you do not appreciate being followed by sneaks of any species. He seems to take the hint and melts back into the cliff face, leaving you to continue your journey in peace.

Go to 229.


142

You deftly untie the rope and it slides out of your hands and snakes up into the rigging. You glance over at the captain but he has turned his attention aloft and is yelling at some other poor bastard. That’s a relief – you must have guessed correctly.

After a while the activity on deck seems to quieten down a little and you return to your routine of discreet loafing. The captain approaches you and slaps you on the shoulder.

‘We’ll be at the tower in an hour or so,’ he says. ‘Are you sure you want to go there, lad? I’ve heard rum things about Clavius Boon. You know, we could use a capable hand like you on board.’

What will you say?

A: Tell him you are on a quest to kill Clavius Boon, and wouldn’t think of turning back now. Go to 227.

B: Ditch your quest and agree to join his crew. Go to 144.


143

The road winds upwards through narrow gorges and is very steep in places. You’re considering turning around and taking the other route when a short cough disturbs your ruminations. You turn and see a shabby-looking gnome perched on a boulder by the side of the path.

He doffs his cap to you, revealing a wisp of greying hair. Even if you had a cap, you doubt if you’d reciprocate. You don’t really go in for doffing.

‘What do you want?’ you ask.

‘I wish to beg your help,’ says the gnome. ‘My cart overturned a short distance from here and I cannot right it on my own. If you would help me, I’d be happy to reimburse you for your time with some of my merchandise.’

Are you feeling helpful?

A: Yes. Follow the gnome to the site of his accident. Go to 145.

B: No. Tell him you’re in a hurry and press on along the road. Go to 191.


144

You forget about Clavius Boon and sign up for the voyage to Calloonia. You fancy a change of scenery and the seafaring life has always appealed to you. Within a few weeks you’ve learnt the ropes and prove to be a surprisingly able sailor. At the year’s end, you’re sitting in a tavern on the island of Azak Na’kul when a gaunt gentleman approaches you and asks if he might have a word.

You switch your eyepatch to your right eye so you can get a better look at him. You’re still not sure why these things are so popular – they look good but sometimes they interfere with your vision.

‘What do you want?’ you say.

‘I bring a message from the mayor of Smallhaven,’ says the man. ‘He wants his money back.’

‘That wasn’t part of the deal,’ you say. ‘I tried to kill Boon but his magic was too strong. He had all these crazy spells. Anyway, your mayor can whistle for his money.’

The messenger spreads his hands. ‘I’m just the messenger,’ he says. ‘But I must warn you, the next man he sends might not be as gentle as me.’

You watch as he leaves the tavern and reflect that a longer sea-voyage might be in order. Your adventures on the high seas are just beginning, but your quest for Clavius Boon has ended…


145

You agree to give a hand and traipse off behind the gnome. He leads you up a steep incline and then down into a wide circular crater in the ground. Without warning, he suddenly dashes up the far slope, leaving you alone in the centre. A trap!

You draw your sword and pivot on the spot as more gnomes appear around the rim of the crater. You estimate there to be about twelve in total, all armed with short spears.

What now, warrior?

A: Wait for them to come to you, relying on your superior swordsmanship to see them off. Go to 224.

B: Try to convince them that you are a simple trader from the hill farms who has nothing of value. Go to 199.

C: Lay down your sword and surrender. Go to 192.


146

You leg it back to the path without a second thought and don’t stop to rest until you have put a suitable distance between yourself and your diminutive tormentors. It would be foolish to head back that way now, so you press on up the hill.

Go to 191.


147

You don’t fancy sleeping in the open, so you find the stables and creep up into the hayloft where you stay awake most of the night brooding and listening enviously to the sounds of merriment from next door.

In the morning you slip outside and get your bearings. The inn is part of a small cluster of buildings on the edge of the Dalatha river. Snagging a pair of trousers from a nearby clothesline to counter the prudishness of the locals, you head downhill towards the ferry.

Make a note of your restored clothing and go to 153.


148

A skill which has helped you through many difficult situations is your ability to quickly pick out the runt in any litter of opponents. You’ve spent countless battles fencing with elderly militiamen while your more eager comrades were off getting mashed by trolls.

You apply this ability now and single out one particularly weedy gnome from his fellows. Rushing towards him with a savage yell, you swat his spear aside with your sword and shoulder him to the ground before dashing past and up the slope of the crater.

You have broken free of the ambush and can now trust to your longer legs to carry you to safety.

Go to 146.


149

You spin around and charge in desperation at your guards. Dodging the lowered points of their spears, you plough into their midst and attempt to force your way through the crowd using a sort of swimming motion. Unfortunately, the current is too strong and they bear you backwards towards the giant’s open maw before pitching you straight in with a loud cheer.

Go to 220.


150

You deftly untie the rope and it slips away from your hands and snakes up into the air. The captain howls in fury as one of the sails swings across in a great arc, knocking a handful of slovenly sailors out of the rigging and into the water. That will teach them to be more observant.

The ship lurches violently and you are thrown onto your back. When you get up the captain is glaring down at you, surrounded by a crowd of angry faces.

‘Throw this idiot overboard!’ he yells.

There is no time to react before you’re picked up and hurled without ceremony over the railings. You hit the water with a splash and come up yelling obscenities. The ship glides past and you strike out towards the nearest bank, the one from which you boarded. Luckily, you are a strong swimmer and it doesn’t take you long to reach the shore.

You dry out as best as you can, decide a sailor’s life is not for you, and continue your journey along the riverbank. Go to 215.


151

You wake up gradually, tugged back into the world by the pulsing of your injured head. Vaguely, you remember being hit across it from behind. Why do people keep doing that? You suppose it could be a sort of poetic justice.

You start to take your bearings, noting that you are in a dark, damp chamber, probably underground, with a single door in the wall in front of you. When you try to move, you find that your arms are stretched above your head and shackled to a large iron ring.

‘You’re awake,’ says a thin voice on your right-hand side. Peering into the gloom, you make out an old man in a similar position to your own. His white beard glows softly in the darkness like a Kantarian marsh-light.

‘I think so,’ you say.

‘Thank Mallandrina,’ says a husky voice on your other side. ‘A real man.’ Squinting
in this direction, you discern an altogether more attractive companion – a buxom and barely-clad female with a mane of dark hair.

‘Where are we?’ you ask.

‘We are captives of the gnomes of Fahal,’ says the old man. ‘They are keeping us in their loathsome lair beneath the mountains.’

‘I’ve been in stickier positions,’ you say, exhibiting a bravery which is not completely honest.

‘I bet you’ve been in all sorts of positions,’ purrs the woman.

Is she coming on to you? That’s so inappropriate it’s kind of erotic.

What will you do next?

A: Talk to the old man on your right. Go to 214.

B: Cosy up to the woman on your left. Go to 186.


152

You follow the path for a few hours, buoyed by the thought of an inn at the end of it. Strong drink, raucous company, the possibility of an amorous engagement or two… This is why you became an adventurer in the first place.

Towards nightfall, you catch a glimpse of twinkling lights through the trees and pick up your pace.

Go to 160.


153

You stroll downhill past clusters of shabby houses and arrive at the riverbank just as the ferry is pulling in. A few people are already waiting here, a motley assortment of traders and one or two pale and nervous-looking youths.

The ferry is a rickety old barge poled along by a couple of local simpletons and captained by a weasely looking fellow in a fur jerkin. He jumps off onto the pontoon and announces that the ferry will be leaving shortly, free of charge thanks to the munificence of Clavius Boon.

The other passengers begin to shuffle on board.

What will you do?

A: Join them and board the ferry. Go to 242.

B: Engage the ferryman in conversation. Go to 233.


154

You hear the scraping of bolts being drawn back and the door is flung open. A gnome enters carrying a torch.

‘Which of you will go first to the Thunderer?’ he muses, strolling up and down before the three of you and holding up the torch so that it throws light on your faces.

You may not get another opportunity like this. Your situation limits your options but three possible courses of action occur to you:

A: Swing your legs forward and wrap them around his neck, aiming to throttle him. Go to 218.

B: Wait until he’s close enough then boot him in the face, hoping to knock him out with one kick. Go to 157.

C: Try to reason with him. Go to 228.


155

‘Who will buy a drink for a poor veteran, just home from the wars?’ you ask. Strangely, nobody seems willing to meet your eye. It saddens you to see such a lack of patriotism.

‘I’ll buy you a flagon, warrior,’ says the gnome from his table in the corner. You’re a little wary of drinking with gnomes these days, but a flagon is a flagon. The two of you pass a few hours in tipsy companionship, exchanging tall tales and competing to see who can belch the loudest.

The innkeeper lets you spend the night on one of the benches and in the morning you breakfast on the last few scraps of food in your pack and hit the road, heading downhill towards the ferry.

Go to 153.


156

A handful of pieces, both black and white, are strewn across the chess board at random. One or two of them seem to have been bitten in half.

The scholar moves up beside you. ‘I didn’t dare try to teach him the full rules,’ he says. ‘I remember how frustrated he got at drafts. The way we play chess here is to choose a colour for each player and they try to say how many pieces of their colour are on the board. The one who gets closest wins. Simple as that. Whatever you do, though, make sure you-‘

‘CHAS!!!’ shrieks the dragon. He makes an odd clicking noise in the back of his throat and points a talon at the scholar, who shuts up immediately and backs away.

The dragon scoops up all the pieces in his beak and then drops them onto the table. One or two bounce to the floor. He taps a white piece and scrutinises the board for a while.

‘HREE!!!’ he says at last.

‘The dragon guesses there are three white pieces,’ says the scholar, raising his eyebrows at you.

Stupid beast. There are clearly four of them. You’ve never learnt to play chess properly but the rules to this version seem simple enough: you just have to say the number of black pieces on the board. What will your answer be?

(NOTE: THE ACCOMPANYING ILLUSTRATION SHOWS A CHESS BOARD WITH FOUR WHITE PIECES AND FOUR BLACK PIECES ON ITS SURFACE)

A: Four. Go to 183.

B: Five. Go to 174.

C: Six. Go to 194.


157

Your plan works like a dream. Just as he passes in front of you, you kick yourself away from the wall and swing one foot in a perfect arc towards his face. It connects with a satisfying thud and he drops to the floor in an instant. Out cold.

‘What did you do that for?’ shrieks the old man.

You patiently explain that you have knocked out the guard so that the three of you can escape, and that he might show a bit more gratitude for your efforts.

‘But how will we escape?’ he says. ‘Can you see any keys on him? And even if there are, how will you unlock the manacles with them? Why you big oaf, you’ll get us all killed!’

You resent being called an oaf and if you weren’t shackled he’d be eating his words by now. Still, he has a point. The gnome does seem to be pretty keyless.

You roll the little fellow about with your feet for a bit anyway, just to show willing, but before long the sound of footsteps alerts you to the approach of more guards. There is a small and undignified scrabble as you attempt to push the body towards the old man, who does his best to block your efforts, then two gnomes enter the room.

‘He did it!’ wails the old man before you have a chance to speak.

The gnomes edge forwards and retrieve the unconscious body of their fellow, then carry him from the room. As they leave, one of them turns and points at you.

‘You’ll be first for the Thunderer,’ he says.

Go to 232.


158

You haggle for a while but he drives a hard bargain and won’t go under two hundred for a single item. ‘If that’s all you have, I’ll take it,’ he says. ‘But really, my apprentice must have slipped me an idiocy potion this morning. These things will sell themselves, you know…’

If you wish to spend all two hundred of your gold coins on either a miracle stone or a love potion then make a note of your purchase. Whatever the case, there is little point hanging around in this hovel any longer than is necessary.

Hit the road again and go to 211.


159

‘Reach down into my trousers,’ you say. ‘I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.’

The gnome eyes you with suspicion, but after a while he reaches out a hand and pokes you tentatively in the crotch. There is a soft chink as he disturbs the bag of coins. He smiles.

One good thing about gnomes is that they always keep their word, especially where money is concerned. You bargain for a bit and he agrees to let the three of you go for all two hundred of your gold coins. To make it look like an escape, he roughs himself up rather professionally by running into the wall a few times, then unlocks your manacles and points out your exit route on a map. He’s clearly worked this game before.

On your way out you grab your equipment from a storeroom. There’s all sorts of other junk in there but the only things which look as if they might be useful are a Slathian bow and a quiver of arrows. You grab these and make haste to follow the advised path until you see daylight ahead of you. Moments later, you emerge onto the mountainside and suck in a deep welcome breath of cool air.

Make a note of the loss of your gold and the acquisition of your new weapons and go to 164.


160

You approach the tavern with an eager bounce in your step. It is a large ramshackle building made of wood, its windows dancing with lights. A sign depicting a black boar swings squeaking from a pole above the entrance.

You don’t waste time, but throw open the door and call out for a drink.

Are you still wearing your trousers?

A: Yes, of course. Go to 223.

B: No. Bandits took them. Go to 230.


161

As you near the peak of the mountain, you become aware of an ominous grumbling noise beneath the chanting of the gnomes, like the roll of distant thunder. It grows louder as you arrive at the summit and look down into a huge crater containing one of the most horrifying things you have ever seen…

Below you is a great bearded head the size of a house, the thick neck below it jammed into a fissure in the ground. When the giant sees you, he roars so loud that the earth shakes and the air seems to quaver.

One of the gnomes, whose ludicrous headpiece leads you to suspect he is some sort of elder, steps forward from the crowd. He raises his staff and the giant stops roaring and squints at you through cloudy eyes.

‘Behold the Thunderer!’ says the elder, as if anyone needed direction. ‘Today we offer a fresh sacrifice, a renowned warrior to sate the Great One’s appetite. Feed him!’

All the gnomes take up the elder’s last two words and start to chant them over and over. At the same time, the guards untie your ropes and prod you towards the giant with their spears. He opens his mouth and you’re hit by a blast of warm foetid air. Presumably, the lazy bastard is expecting you to jump straight in.

Well, warrior, this could be the end of your road. There are only a handful of choices remaining to you. Choose wisely.

A: Rush forwards and jump into the giant’s gaping maw, hoping for either a miracle or a quick death. Go to 220.

B: Charge at your captors in a last, frantic attempt to escape. Go to 149.

C: Take the two hundred gold coins from your trousers in a desperate bid to either distract or bribe the gnomes (this is only possible if you still have the coins). Go to 168.


162

As you draw near, you wonder why none of the boatmen will look you in the eye. Then you realise that they are all staring at your lower body. You become uncomfortably aware of your semi-nudity.

‘Okay,’ you say, putting your hands on your hips and squaring your shoulders. ‘We’re all grown men here. What’s the problem?’

‘Where are your trousers?’ says one of the boatmen.

How will you respond?

A: Admit that they were stolen by bandits. Go to 217.

B: Brazen it out, implying that real men don’t need trousers. Go to 219.


163

You’ve never claimed to be a doctor, so you can’t really be blamed for not knowing how long the digestive tract is, or how little air it contains…

In any event, you are way beyond caring when you finally emerge from the giant’s colon a couple of days later. Your bones are used to make cutlery and your skull becomes a conversation piece in the chief elder’s boudoir. Your adventure, alas, ends here.


164

The old man and the woman are both heading to Blackhaven, which is in the opposite direction to your chosen path. They thank you for your assistance and wish you luck on your journey.

‘I will tell your tale for the generations to remember,’ says the old man. The most he knows of your tale is that you once bribed a gnome with a bag of gold from your crotch, but it’s still a nice thing to say. You thank him.

‘So long, warrior,’ purrs the woman, walking her fingers playfully over your chest. ‘I hope we can bump into each other in the future.’

Did you find time to flirt with her in the dungeon?

A: Yes. Go to 178.

B: No. Go to 184.


165

You spend the rest of the afternoon wandering around the deck, pulling on things that other people are pulling and pretending to test the wind with your finger. Towards evening a stiff breeze gets up and the activity on deck increases. Sailors dash up into the rigging and the captain starts bawling out orders which you don’t understand.

‘You!’ he shouts, pointing a finger unmistakeably in your direction. ‘Loosen the rope to the topsail now!’

You happen to be standing next to three ropes and nobody has been thoughtful enough to label any of them. Still, a one in three chance is pretty good odds.

Which rope will you loosen?

(NOTE: THE ACCOMPANYING ILLUSTRATION SHOWS A VERY UNNAUTICAL TANGLE OF ROPES SNAKING UP THROUGH THE SHIP’S RIGGING. THE RIGHT ONE IS ATTACHED TO THE UPPERMOST SAIL)

A: The left one. Go to 150.

B: The middle one. Go to 225.

C: The right one. Go to 142.


166

It’s a poetic gesture, but a futile one. Your attack simply discomforts the giant so that he feels it will be easier to swallow you alive rather than persist in trying to masticate you. His mouth floods with saliva and he gulps you straight down into his digestive system. You suffocate before his stomach acids begin to break you down, which is a small mercy.

Your adventure ends here…


167

You pop open another bottle and slop the golden liquid into your cups. It may be your imagination, but the two females look almost as if they disapprove of the proceedings. The man, on the other hand, is beginning to come out of himself and engage you in conversation. You learn that he is a pig farmer who is of high standing in the local hamlet, hence the quality of his provender.

As the evening progresses, you slip into a comfortable state of intoxication and begin to take an interest in your surroundings. The daughter is not as plain as you first thought. She’s sort of coy-looking with a cheeky dark curl snaking out from under her bonnet. Come to think of it, the wife isn’t bad either – something wanton about the lower lip. You’re willing to bet she’s like a Slathian warcat in the sack.

‘Do you think it’s the same for horses?’ says the farmer.

You have no idea what he has been talking about, but two ways of covering your ignorance spring to mind:

A: Say you are very tired after such a busy day, and head off to sleep on the bed. Go to 169.

B: Say ‘I think we need more drink!’ and toast the farmer’s wife and daughter. Go to 139.


168

You tear frantically at your trousers, ripping them open and unleashing a golden shower of newly-minted coins.

‘Don’t let him eat me!’ you cry. ‘Take my gold! Take my gold!’

The elder looks thoughtfully at the growing pile of money between your feet. Gnomes like money. More importantly, they consider it a dishonour to take money by force or without giving anything in return. You can see he has something of a dilemma.

After a short deliberation he appears to reach a decision and raises his staff for silence.

‘The warrior’s gold is good,’ he says. ‘We will choose a new sacrifice. Take him to the slave pens!’

You almost faint with relief and allow yourself to be carried off to 207.


169

The bed takes your weight with a long groan of complaint, but it seems to be up to the job and is very comfortable. Within a few minutes you are slumbering as peacefully as a Kantarian honeymouse and you pass a restful and restorative night, interrupted only occasionally by memories of a hairy villager punching you in the face.

In the morning, you wash and rummage around the hovel for a bit of breakfast. The peasants are shuffling about on their own business and getting under your feet a bit, but you try not to lose your temper with them. A hero, you reflect, should treat everyone with respect and kindness.

Once you’re suitably refreshed, you step outside and take your bearings. The air is bracing and the view from here is magnificent. The whole great range of the Man’Athor Mountains looms in front of you, the highest peaks sparkling white in the sunlight. You shoulder your pack and follow the road with a light heart.

Go to 131.


170

You stroll down the hill and call out a cheery greeting to the boatmen. They turn in surprise and stare blankly at you as you approach.

Are you still wearing your trousers?

A: Yes, of course. Go to 180.

B: No. Bandits took them. Go to 162.


171

‘But I don’t have any money,’ you plead.

‘That’s a shame,’ says the gnome. ‘Because you’re first on the list to meet the Thunderer.’

He flashes you a wicked smile and leaves the room, slamming the door behind him.

Go to 232.


172

You’re not a dentist, but you know an enormous fractured tooth when you see one. You struggle across to the left side of the giant’s mouth and start to lay into the cracked molar with all your strength. The results are pretty much immediate – his tongue bunches up behind you and you almost drown in a rush of saliva, then you are expelled with a tremendous flobbing noise and find yourself skidding at speed across the crater, only coming to a halt when you crash into the Chief Elder.

Sodden and disoriented, you clamber groggily to your feet. The gnomes press forward and form a silent circle around you.

Go to 226.


173

Unfortunately, another opportunity never presents itself. You continue working for the gnomes as the weeks turn into months, and the months turn into years. You are promoted to foreman of the Nether Levels and even win Slave of the Year on three consecutive occasions before ill health forces you to take up a less demanding role on toenail duty.

Eventually, as an old man, the gnome elder calls you to his chambers and offers you your freedom. You get as far as the door to the mountainside but the blue sky seems alien and terrifying, and you decide to stay on with the gnomes as a volunteer. You spend the rest of your days in servitude to the Great Thunderer.

Your adventure is over…


174

‘Five,’ you say.

The dragon stoops and picks up each white piece in it’s beak in turn and drops them to the floor. The scholar counts nervously as he does so. The total is four. The dragon rattles his wings in annoyance.

Then he repeats the process with the black pieces. The total is once again four.

‘A draw,’ proclaims the scholar in a wavering voice. ‘Each player was one point away from the total.’

The dragon shrieks in anger and knocks over the table with one of his talons, then launches himself into the air and flaps around the cavern before disappearing out of sight behind a large gilded screen. You hear the sound of smashing porcelain.

‘Get out of here!’ whispers the scholar.

You don’t need telling twice. Leg it out of the cave and continue on your journey to 193.


175

‘It is a good thing you said so,’ says the gnome. ‘You don’t look like a trader, and my fellows and I have been considering setting an ambush for you. Still, the covenant will not be broken by us, and we respect your trade routes.’

With that, he fades out of sight amongst the rocks and leaves you in peace to continue your journey.

Go to 229.


176

You abandon your quest and travel with the widow to Blackhaven. A bit of tactical hulking in the background ensures that her dead husband’s family pay up and she sets up a thriving laundry business with the money. You have nothing much to do but drink the proceeds and spin yarns of your adventures in the local taverns. The months swim by in a happy haze. Towards the end of the year, you lose a large chunk of the widow’s savings on a troll fight, so to divert attention from your mistake you offer to make an honest woman of her. The wedding is a sumptuous affair, with live peacocks and a fountain of Calloonian mead.

After marriage, your wife’s attitude towards your lifestyle begins to change. She frowns on your excessive drinking and begins turning up in taverns wearing the expression of a Slathian pit-cobra. Arguments become commonplace and on one occasion she does such damage to your fundament with a branding iron that you are unable to sit down for a month. Still, life is comfortable and you gradually come round to her way of thinking and start to take more of an interest in the business. Your girth grows in direct proportion to your standing in the town and within ten years you cut a nicely patrician figure, clad in fine silks and surrounded by a brood of unruly and obnoxious children.

Your life is content enough, but your days of adventure are a distant memory…


177

The door creaks open to reveal a wizened old man dressed in a long purple robe . He peers up at you and chuckles slowly.

‘Ah,’ he says. ‘Another traveller come to ask the wizard Yazazam for assistance. Come in, come in.’

You follow him into the gloomy interior of the hut and wait by the doorway while he shuffles about lighting candles. You’d have thought a wizard could just wave his hand or something. Eventually he turns back to you and speaks.

‘You have come from the North,’ he says. ‘And your destination has special significance for you. You are a good man at heart, an independent thinker who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Sometimes, you feel that other people don’t understand you.’

Wow, he’s good. That’s spot on.

‘Now,’ he says. ‘You must tell old Yazazam what brings you to his house.’

‘Just passing through, really,’ you say. ‘I’m on a sort of quest.’

‘Ah, a quest. I see. Perhaps I have something here which can help you…’

He rummages through a low cupboard and returns with a handful of reddish stones and a box of glass phials.

‘These are Miracle Gems,’ he says, holding up one of the stones. ‘If you ever find yourself in a position of great danger, simply rub one and close your eyes and you will be removed to a place of safety. And these are love potions…’ He takes one of the phials and jiggles it up and down suggestively. ‘I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how useful they can be.’

You reach out to examine them but he scoops them all back to his chest and frowns at you. ‘They are not free,’ he says reprovingly.

Are you prepared to pay for these items?

A: Yes. Get out your bag of gold coins and start to haggle (this is only possible if you still have some gold coins). Go to 158.

B: No. Ignore this junk and continue on your way. Go to 211.

C: No. Draw your sword and bully the old fool into giving you the items. Go to 130.


178

‘Listen,’ she says. ‘I told you I was a widow, and it so happens that my husband had a fair bit of money put aside before he died. I’m going to Blackhaven to get my share of the gold from his family, but I’m only a weak and defenceless woman and I fear they may not treat me fairly. Now, if I had a strong man by my side it would be a different matter. He could help me get the money and we could set up a very profitable business together. Of course, he would be thoroughly rewarded…’

She raises an eyebrow. If there is one thing in the world guaranteed to paint a smile on your face, it’s the raise of a widow’s eyebrow.

How will you respond?

A: Ditch your quest and offer to accompany her to Blackhaven. Go to 176.

B: Decline her kind offer and continue on your journey to Clavius Boon’s tower. Go to 181.


179

You fill a jug and pass it round, and your hosts seem to brighten visibly at the courtesy. By the end of the meal, they have relaxed enough to allow a little conversation, and you learn more than you will ever need to know about pig-farming. They also tell you that the simplest route through the mountains is to take the left hand path when the road forks just north of their home, and to follow it straight ahead through the pass. If you meet any gnomes, they advise you to tell them you are a trader from the hill farms. The right hand path leads up towards the high peaks and is a more difficult route, used only when the pass is blocked. They also warn you not to stray towards the peaks themselves, as they are home to all manner of dangerous beasts.

After the meal they make up a comfortable bed for you on the floor, and you pass a restful and restorative night, interrupted only occasionally by memories of a hairy villager punching you in the face.

In the morning, you bid farewell to your hosts and set out upon the road. The air is bracing and the view from here is magnificent. The whole great range of the Man’Athor Mountains looms in front of you, the highest peaks sparkling white in the sunlight. You head north with a light heart.

Go to 131.


180

The boatmen greet you warily and you treat them all to your broadest grin.

‘Doing a bit of sailing?’ you ask.

‘Yes,’ says the tallest of them. ‘We’re bound for the open sea and Calloonia.’

You ask if they could take you to the tower of Clavius Boon and are told they’ll be passing the tower but only take passengers who can make themselves useful.

What will you say?

A: Assure them that you are an experienced sailor and follow them aboard. Go to 210.

B: Bid them farewell and continue walking along the riverbank. Go to 215.


181

You shake your head ruefully. ‘I’m afraid I made a promise,’ you say, ‘and I never break my word.’ You feel strangely noble for an outright liar.

‘That’s too bad, warrior. You and I could have done great things in Blackhaven.’

She gives you a little squeeze where it counts and whispers in your ear to look her up if you’re ever passing that way, then she turns and heads off with the old man in tow. As they pass out of sight you can hear her haranguing him about something, and reflect that you may have had a lucky escape.

Shoulder your pack and press on to 191.


182

You step into the cave and find yourself walking down a broad corridor which twists and turns into the mountainside before opening into a fairly roomy cavern of surprising opulence.

A beautiful Calloonian rug is laid out in the middle of the floor and a host of paintings and tapestries hang from the rough cave walls. There are all sorts of expensive-looking statues, ornaments and vases, some of which have been curiously placed upside down. Books are scattered haphazardly across the floor, and in the middle of the room is a table laid with an Illandrian chess board and pieces. The general effect is stunning but chaotic, as if it had been decorated by a very rich lunatic.

A man emerges from behind a statue of a naked blacksmith and walks towards you slowly, holding his hands up in front of him. He is wearing an expensive silk gown and a slightly pained expression.

‘Move… very… slowly,’ he says. Could this be the lunatic in question?

What will you do?

A: Take his advice and slow your movements. Go to 185.

B: Ignore him and stride forwards into the chamber, drawing your sword to show you’re not a man to be trifled with. Go to 212.


183

‘Four,’ you say.

The dragon stoops and picks up each white piece in it’s beak in turn and drops them to the floor. The scholar counts nervously as he does so. The total is four. The dragon rattles his wings in annoyance.

Then he repeats the process with the black pieces. The total is once again four.

‘I win!’ you say, slapping your hands together and grinning, but your glee is cut short by the sight of the scholar’s terrified face.

‘Run!’ he hisses.

You make it half way to the door before the dragon opens his throat and sends a jet of superheated bile in your direction. The first you know about it is when you look down and see it blasting out through your midriff. It’s a colourful way to die, but not a particularly comfortable one.

Your quest is over…


184

You bid farewell to your two fellow captives and watch as they set off on the road to Blackhaven. Whistling a jaunty Calloonian air, you shoulder your pack and continue your own journey to 191.


185

You freeze. Something in the man’s eyes convinces you to trust him.

‘What’s going on?’ you ask.

He puts a finger to his lips and continues in a soft voice: ‘This is the lair of a mountain dragon. He may not harm you, but you will have to avoid any sudden movements and be careful not to upset him. I don’t know where he is at the moment, but he will certainly be watching us.’

‘I don’t like dragons,’ you hiss. ‘I want to leave.’

‘I’ve wanted to leave ever since he plucked me from my home,’ whispers the man. ‘But he won’t let me. I’m just another addition to his collection, like all of these purloined artefacts and books. He considers himself to be a very cultured sort of dragon, you know, but that’s not saying much. Imagine, one of the greatest scholars in Illandria stuck here tutoring a reptile!’

You nod sympathetically as you back away from him towards the door. Suddenly, he brings you up short with a raised hand and an alarmed look.

‘Stop walking and turn your head carefully to the left,’ he says.

You do as you’re told and gaze straight into the huge inverted face of a mountain dragon, beaked and crimson, its beady eyes gazing at you with a sort of blank curiosity. The face rotates slowly as the dragon changes its footing and moves down onto the floor of the cavern. A little hiss of steam escapes from its nostrils.

‘CHAS!!!’ it screeches, and you jump backwards in fright. ‘CHAS!!! CHAS!!!’

What will you do?

A: Turn tail and run from the cavern as fast as you can. Go to 187.

B: Draw your sword and attack the dragon. Go to 197.

C: Ask the scholar for advice. Go to 189.


186

You’re not sure on the correct etiquette for dungeon seductions, but you don’t imagine it can differ much from your usual tavern approach. If anything, a dungeon is an even more informal setting.

‘What’s a lady like you doing in a place like this?’ you ask.

She giggles. ‘Lady!’ she says. ‘I like that. I’m just a poor widow from Farhaven. I was travelling with a friend from my husband’s funeral when those gnomes ambushed me. The gentleman who was with me ran off like a cowardly dog. I bet you wouldn’t have left me all defenceless, would you?’

‘I certainly would not,’ you reply. ‘And may I say how sorry I am to hear of your loss. When we get out of here, I would like to offer you my deepest condolences.’

You’re not sure if she can see your expertly arched eyebrow in the half-light, but her filthy chuckle signifies that she gets your drift. You give her one right back, and the two of you spend a few minutes exchanging innuendos and dirty laughs until you start to feel a bit frustrated. If only these chains were longer…

You decide to cool off by turning your attention to the old man.

Go to 214.


187

The mark of a true hero is the ability to act swiftly and decisively. You don’t dither for an instant but leg it straight up the passageway and only look back once you’re on the mountainside, crouched behind a pile of rocks. The dragon doesn’t seem to have given chase. That was too close for comfort…

Continue on your way towards the summit. Go to 193.


188

It’s difficult to time your jump when you are being tossed around like a leaf in a storm, but you make a pretty good fist of it and do at least manage to dive in the right direction.

Unfortunately, your head has only just cleared the giant’s gnashers when they snap shut on your neck, snipping you clean in two. Your disembodied noggin rolls across the ground to the Chief Elder, who lifts it aloft in celebration just as your body is disappearing into the giant’s stomach. Your adventure ends here…


189

‘What does it want?’ you hiss.

‘He’s saying ‘chess’,’ replies the scholar. ‘He wants you to play chess with him.’

‘Chess?’ you say. ‘But I can’t play chess.’

‘Neither can he. Just follow my advice and you’ll be fine.’

‘CHAS!!!’ says the dragon.

What now?

A: Agree to a game and walk slowly over to the chessboard. Go to 156.

B: Make a run for it. Go to 187.

C: Draw your sword and attack. Go to 197.


190

With the fluidity of a striking serpent, you leap forwards and swing your blade in a low arc at the three gnomes in front of you, taking their legs out from beneath them in a shockingly literal fashion. Within seconds, you have leapt over their rolling, howling forms and taken the high ground.

What will you do now?

A: Run away, trusting to your longer legs to take you to safety. Go to 146.

B: Charge back down into the crater, hoping to scatter the remaining gnomes with sheer bravado. Go to 206.


191

You follow the path as it winds up towards the highest peak and gradually peters out. It’s cold up here so you don the warm sheepskins from your pack and wrap up your extremities. You clamber up rocky slopes as drifts of snow swirl past and begin increasingly to regret your choice of route. As you approach the summit, you see a wide cave opening in the cliff just below the peak. The snow outside seems to have been cleared away.

Will you stop to enter this cave?

A: Yes. Go to 182.

B: No. Go to 193.


192

‘I yield,’ you say, laying down your sword and raising your hands. ‘But I don’t have much to give you. I am just a poor veteran.’

The gnomes approach you, tightening their ring, and one of them steps forward and collects your sword.

‘We are not interested in your possessions,’ he says. ‘It is you yourself we require, as a gift to the Great Thunderer.’

You really don’t like the sound of that.

‘I’ve changed my mind,’ you say. ‘Can I have my sword back please?’

He shakes his head sternly and gestures to one of his fellows who steps forward and hits you over the head with the shaft of his spear. There seems to be no other choice but to pass out with as much dignity as possible…

Go to 151.


193

You climb to the summit of the mountain and see the whole land spread out beneath you like a Slathian rug. Over there, the great forest of Langlorn, with one unnaturally tall tree towering above the others; over there, the Dalatha river, a glittering blue ribbon; and away in the distance, a tiny needle of white stone which marks your destination. It’s a pretty spectacle, but you’ve never been one to sit about and admire the view. You press on down the mountainside towards the hilly country below, heading for the Dalatha river and the tower of Clavius Boon.

Go to 203.


194

‘Six,’ you say.

The dragon stoops and picks up each white piece in it’s beak in turn and drops them to the floor. The scholar counts nervously as he does so. The total is four. The dragon hisses in annoyance.

Then he repeats the process with the black pieces. The total is once again four.

‘Dragon wins!’ proclaims the scholar in a voice which hums with relief. The dragon tips back his throat and emits a long, joyful rattle, then begins to stamp around the cavern shaking his wings and crowing.

‘I’m so glad you realised you should let him win,’ says the scholar, pumping your hand enthusiastically. ‘He’ll be in a good mood now for the rest of the day.’

You look over at the dragon, who is perched on a large chest and peering at a book with an expression of refined interest. You’re no librarian, but even you can see that he’s holding it upside down.

‘Well, I’m glad to be of service,’ you say. ‘But I should be going now…’

‘Will you do me a favour?’ says the scholar, pressing a small silver object into your hand. ‘Will you take this whistle and blow it when you’re in an exposed place as far from here as possible?’

You examine the whistle. It’s a whistle. What is he on about?

‘It’s the enchanted whistle of Priathor,’ says the scholar, sensing your puzzlement. ‘The dragon won’t be able to resist responding to its call, and it may give me a chance to escape.’

You nod in agreement and pocket the instrument. You doubt very much if you’ll ever use it – you’ve had enough of dragons for the time being – but it might fetch a bit in the marketplace.

You bid farewell to the scholar, ignoring his invitation to stay for supper, and beat a hasty retreat back to the mountainside. Thankfully, the dragon doesn’t seem to notice your departure. Once you are outside, you breathe a sigh of relief and continue on your way.

Make a note of your new whistle and go to 193.


195

Shamarra buys you a flagon of ale and leads you over to a corner booth.

‘Listen, warrior, it so happens that we have the same goal in mind. Clavius Boon killed my father and I have made a solemn vow not to rest until I have upholstered my saddle with his skin. You may not be my first choice of partner but perhaps we would be wise to work together. What say you?’

Well, what say you?

A: Agree to join forces. Go to 133.

B: Decline, saying you prefer to work alone. Go to 238.


196

You reach down and give his mop an avuncular tousle. ‘What’s your name, my lad?’ you ask.

‘Don’t know,’ he says. ‘Are you a warrior?’

‘I certainly am,’ you say. ‘What gave it away? My sword or my muscles?’

‘Neither. It was your face. Master says all warriors are a bit stupid.’

‘Oh, he does, does he?’ You scrutinise him carefully. Under all that grime it’s difficult to know if he’s being intentionally rude. You decide to give him the benefit of the doubt for now.

‘Who is this master of yours?’ you ask.

‘The wizard Yazazam. He’s a wicked old toad. Sometimes he makes me sit up all night watching the cauldron.’

‘Oh,’ you say. You’re losing interest in the conversation already, so you give the door another thump.

‘If he tries to get you to buy any of his stupid stones then refuse,’ says the boy. ‘They’re all fake. The love potion works okay, I suppose, if you’re into that sort of thing.’

Just at that moment you hear the sound of bolts being drawn back on the other side of the door, and the boy scoots off round the corner.

Prepare your most wizard-friendly face and go to 177.


197

There are specialist slayers for this sort of thing, but you’ve always had a suspicion that they were cornering the market for their own purposes. After all, a dragon is essentially a large swamp lizard, and you’ve killed loads of those.

Unsheathing your sword, you yell a war-cry and swing straight at the beast’s eye, only to find the blade bounces right off with a loud clang. Hmm, you weren’t expecting that. If the eyeball is so tough, imagine what the rest of its body must be like…

Your ruminations are cut short by a blast of steam from the dragon’s throat, closely followed by a rush of superheated bile. The top half of your body is dissolved in seconds, and the lower half is unlikely to do much further adventuring on its own. Your quest ends here…


198

The path winds through a sun-dappled copse, undulating gently. You pass a small traveller’s shrine with a bubbling fount of cold water and stoop to refresh yourself. Looking up, you spot a low house made of logs through the trees. A grubby-looking boy is sleeping against a rock near the door.

Will you approach the hut?

A: Yes. Knock on the door. Go to 137.

B: No. Press ahead along the path. Go to 211.


199

‘You don’t look like a trader,’ says one of the gnomes.

‘You don’t look like a gnome,’ you say.

You don’t know why you said that. He does look like a gnome. Still, it doesn’t seem to have done your cause any harm and they spend a few moments in a sort of silent conference, exchanging glances and rubbing their chins thoughtfully. Finally, the gnome who first tricked you steps forward and speaks.

‘Very well,’ he says. ‘We will not be the first to break the covenant. Your trade routes remain safe and you may go in peace.’

Put these little hooligans from your mind and continue on your way to 191.


200

You find a secluded valley and light a fire on a large flat rock. The villagers thoughtfully packed a few provisions for you, so you tuck into a bit of bread and salted meat before settling down for the night.

At about midnight, something disturbs your rest and you find yourself awake, propped on one elbow and listening intently. Being a light sleeper has ensured your survival more than once, and you’ve come to trust your instincts pretty well.

A distant swishing noise in the sky above you makes you look up just in time to see a huge winged shape swing across the face of the moon. It glides away towards the mountains, and you manage to follow its progress by watching the stars as they wink out and reappear again in its wake. It seems to be heading for the very highest peak.

You drift back into sleep once more and pass an uneventful night, interrupted only occasionally by memories of a hairy villager punching you in the face. In the morning you pack up your camp and continue on your journey along the mountain road.

Go to 131.


201

Bingo! The bottles contain a smooth amber liquid with a definite alcoholic aroma. You carry an armful of them back to the table and begin to pour out cups for yourself and the peasants. The two who are probably female refuse, but the father accepts warily and you toast his health and that of his family.

You drink with gusto while the farmer sips cautiously from his own cup, and after a couple of bottles you begin to feel much more relaxed. You could happily sleep now. Then again, you could also go another bottle of this delicious amber stuff.

What will you do?

A: Sleep. Go to 169.

B: Drink. Go to 167.


202

You’re not going to back down just because someone points a stick at you, so you reach out for the items on the table. Just as you do so, the wizard flicks his wand and a flash of blue light jumps across the room, striking the ground at your feet. You leap back in surprise but are unable to keep your footing and crash into a shelf of pickled curiosities. Swearing liberally, you look down and discover that your boots are missing. Not only that, but your feet have been transformed into ugly hooked talons.

Yazazam gives a dry chuckle. ‘Now I really think you should leave,’ he says. ‘I don’t want to use up all of my wand’s power, but I’m betting I could get a complete chicken out of you before it runs out. At least I’d have a nice supper.’

You know when you’re beat. There’s no point getting boiled and eaten over a handful of old tat which probably doesn’t work anyway. Muttering darkly, you manage to clamber upright and totter from the hut.

The urchin from earlier is still hanging about outside and when he sees your predicament he howls with laughter and starts making chicken noises, flapping his arms like an idiot. You attempt to chase him but quickly realise that your new feet are going to take some getting used to. You can see now why chickens don’t travel much.

Nurse your wounded pride, make a note of your new body parts and go to 211.


203

The mountains were hard going, so the pastoral land in the Dalatha river basin comes as a relief. You’re feeling pretty content with your lot as you stroll through pleasant leafy glades and past giggling streams of clear water.

After a couple of hours, you come to a fork in the road. A rickety signpost indicates that the left path leads to the ‘Black Boar Inn and Ferry’, while the right path will take you to ‘Master Yazazam’.

Which route will you take?

A: Right. Go to 198.

B: Left. Go to 152.


204

You wake up when a lovely dream you are having about a mermaid is interrupted by her throwing up violently into your face. Spluttering and cursing, you stumble groggily to your feet. A moment’s reflection allows you to deduce that someone has just thrown a bucket of water over you.

The probable culprits stand in front of you in a broad line – a sizeable group of hill farmers including your host from last night. They don’t look very happy. The tallest of them steps forward and addresses you.

‘Take the high road that way,’ he says, pointing north, ‘and don’t come back. Your kind are not welcome here. We have taken money from you to pay for the damage you did to our headman’s home.’

You reach a hand into your trousers and feel around. It is indeed emptier down there than it should be.

‘My friends…’ you plead, but the heartless bastards just stare at you. There is nothing for it but to continue on your way, poorer by two hundred gold coins.

Make a note of your loss and go to 131.


205

You reach into your trousers and fling a handful of coins onto the bar. The innkeeper scrunches his face into what he probably thinks is a smile. ‘Keep the ale flowing,’ you advise him.

Over the next few hours, a lot of flowing occurs. The other customers seem to warm to you after you buy them all a drink, and the evening gradually blurs into a long drunken haze punctuated by food, laughter, fighting, vomiting and possibly a dancing bear. Finally, at some point in the early morning, you sleep…

Go to 135.


206

You yell a war-cry and spring back into the fray. The gnomes goggle fearfully and scatter in panic, dropping their spears as they go. You chase after the one who first tricked you and grab him by the seat of his trousers.

‘Going somewhere?’ you quip.

There is a sharp pain in your head and it occurs to you, a little too late, that someone has hit you from behind. What sort of mean-spirited cretin does that? As you fall forwards to the ground, you reflect that your chief mistake was to start quipping before all your opponents had been disabled. You’ll fashion a handy maxim out of the experience later, but for now you must focus all your energies on remaining conscious…

You fail.

Drift away to 151.


207

The guards dump you into a large underground cage filled with grubby captives and issue you with a loincloth. Through the bars of your new home you can see the great cavern in which the giant’s body stands. Huge cloudbanks of flesh press against the walls on all sides, covered in rickety scaffolding. Your life as a slave to the Thunderer begins here…

Go to 239.


208

You have to have a firm hand with urchins. Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile. You remember that bunch of street kids who followed you around Farhaven for a whole morning, commenting on your new velvet trousers. No, the best thing to do is to give them a short sharp shock as soon as possible, to let them know you’re not a soft touch.

You swing out with your boot and the boy jumps backwards out of range.

‘Oi!’ he comments.

‘Oi yourself,’ you say. ‘Clear off out of my sight or I’ll chop you into little pieces.’

The threat seems to do the trick and he slinks away into the trees glaring and grumbling.

Congratulate yourself on your victory and go to 177.


209

‘To high adventure!’ you cry, casting the golden liquid down your throat and subsiding into your chair.

Everything now begins to blur a little. You drink one or two more cups, and you have an argument with a small man who might be the farmer. At some point, you are sick on somebody’s dress and some burly men come in and grapple with you. You manage to steal a hat from one of them, and you are running around the table waving it when they finally wrestle you to the floor.

At some point soon after that, you sleep…

Go to 204.


210

You climb aboard and are immediately approached by a squat, red-faced man. He charges up to you and demands to know your business on his ship. You explain your situation and he remains silent for a few moments. Behind his beard, you imagine he’s mulling.

‘Can you sail?’ he says.

‘Aye aye,’ you reply, hoping that’s nautical enough to convince him.

‘Hmm, we’ll see,’ he says. ‘Fall in with the others and get to work. I’ll have no idle hands on my ship.’

You mingle with a group of sailors who are fiddling with some ropes in the middle of the deck, and try to look as industrious as possible, tying and untying a big knot. Some of your companions look at you in a way which is distinctly askance, probably jealous of your knotting skills. This is going to be a breeze.

Set sail to 165.


211

You follow the path for a few more hours until you reach the banks of the Dalatha river. A gaggle of ancient fishermen raise their hats to you in greeting and you make the same movement in return, raising your hand as if you had a hat in it and causing them to cackle with laughter. They caught you by surprise, that’s all.

Checking your map, you decide to follow the river upstream until you find the ferry crossing which should take you to Clavius Boon’s tower. You’re getting very close now.

Go to 215.


212

The moment you draw your sword there is a tremendous screeching noise and something swoops down on you from above, tearing at your flesh with razor-sharp claws. You lash out in panic at what you imagine to a giant bird but it is far too large and powerful for you to fight. You do the next best thing and run away shrieking.

Thankfully, the creature doesn’t seem to follow you as you leg it back through the corridor. Once outside, you pause to catch your breath for a moment and continue your climb to the summit. Go to 194.


213

‘Here you are, son,’ you say. ‘Have a bit of gnome bread.’

You give him a crust of bread from your pack and he stares at it dubiously then hands it back. Snotty little ingrate. When you were a boy, any respectable urchin would have given his right eye for a nice crust of bread like that. Nowadays, you expect they want candied apricots or suckling pigs.

‘I’ve eaten,’ he says. ‘But thanks anyway. Listen, if my master tries to get you to buy any of his stupid stones then refuse. They’re all fake. The love potion works okay, I suppose, if you’re into that sort of thing.’

There is a scraping of bolts from the other side of the door and he scarpers into the trees.

You turn and prepare to meet his mysterious master. Go to 177.


214

‘Who are the gnomes of Fahal?’ you ask. The old man smacks his lips and draws a long breath. You would bet money he’s about to launch into a boring explanation. You already wish you hadn’t asked the question.

‘They are a tribe of gnomes who serve a giant known as the Great Thunderer,’ he says in a quavering theatrical voice. ‘When he was a baby, this giant was taken by a dragon which flew away with him over the mountaintops until he slipped from its claws and fell into a fissure. The gnomes who dwelt in the caverns below were amazed by the giant’s size and strength, and they fed and looked after him. He grew so tall that as an adult he could only stand by putting his head out through the fissure, and his body swelled so that it filled the cavern beneath, unable to move.. Over the years, the gnomes have come to see him as a sort of god. They dare not attack him for fear the convulsions of his body will destroy their ancient home, but instead they enslave travellers to keep him fed, cleaned and placated. When he is angry, the sound of his rage can be heard all across the mountains, hence his fearful name!’

You drifted off a little in the middle of this unlikely story, but you got the gist of it.

‘So they plan to enslave us?’ you say.

The old man lowers his voice dramatically. ‘I have a suspicion we will not be so lucky,’ he says. ‘The gnomes harvest a great deal of mushrooms in their caverns, but this alone is not a suitable diet for the Thunderer. Flesh is hard to come by in these mountains…’

You spend a few minutes in quiet reflection. You no longer feel like conversation and you can’t shake the thought that you may soon be an appetiser for an angry giant. This is an unwelcome development…

Go to 154.


215

You follow the river for the rest of the day and towards nightfall you spy a flicker of lights through the trees. The faint sound of voices and the skirl of a badly-played pipe bring a broad smile to your face and a familiar dryness to your throat. You have a sort of homing instinct for taverns.

Follow the lights to 160.


216

You take the right fork and follow the road as it climbs towards the distant mountains. For the rest of the day you trudge past shabby hill farms under the uniformly suspicious glares of their occupants. As the sky darkens, you begin to cast around for a place to spend the night.

What will you do?

A: Find a secluded spot, light a fire and sleep out in the open. Go to 200.

B: Pick a cottage and cajole or threaten the owners into giving you a bed for the night. Go to 129.


217

Your admission causes a certain amount of mirth, but one of the boatmen is sympathetic enough to offer you a spare pair of trousers from his pack. You don’t think to ask why he carries a spare, but you try them on and they fit well enough.

‘Thanks,’ you say. ‘Listen, are you boys going anywhere near the tower of Clavius Boon?’

‘We may be,’ says the tallest boatman. ‘But we only take passengers who can work, and if you can’t hold onto your trousers then I’m not sure I should trust you with a rope.’

The other boatmen all guffaw at this and they pile back into the boat and pull away from the shore making crude jokes at your expense.

Ignore these prudish simpletons, make a note of your restored trousers and go to 215.


218

As he passes in front of you, you haul yourself up on your chains and swing your legs outwards, clapping your thighs around his neck. He gurgles fretfully.

‘What are you doing?’ says the old man.

‘Kill him!’ says the woman.

You squeeze with all your might as he struggles and gasps for air, but after a few minutes you begin to tire of your exertions. You had thought this would be a lot easier, but it turns out that your thighs are simply too fleshy for garrotting. Eventually, you give up and let him drop to the floor.

When he has recovered his breath, he kicks you soundly in the shin and stumbles to the exit. Through tears of pain, you see him turn and wave his fist at you.

‘You will be the first to meet the Great Thunderer!’ he yells, before slamming the door.

Go to 232.


219

‘I don’t wear trousers,’ you say. ‘Trousers are for lesser men. I like a little bit of a breeze around my parts.’

They chuckle uncertainly but you think you’ve managed to convince them. Time to press the advantage.

‘Are you boys going anywhere near the tower of Clavius Boon?’ you ask.

‘That we are,’ says the tallest boatman. ‘But we only take passengers who can make themselves useful. Can you do a sailor’s work?’

You’ve never worked on a ship in your life, but you don’t imagine it can be very difficult.

How will you answer?

A: Yes. Go to 221.

B: No. Go to 132.


220

You plunge into the dark cavern of the giant’s mouth and land unevenly on the spongy surface of his tongue. It begins to buck violently beneath you as he attempts to throw you in the direction of his clashing teeth, bouncing you around like an unwilling acrobat so that you lose all sense of direction. Periods of darkness alternate with brief glimpses of dancing gnomes framed by giant teeth. The high pitched sound you can hear is your own scream.

This is your last shot, adventurer. If you get this wrong, the next time you see daylight you’ll be a different colour. What will you do?

(NOTE: THE ACCOMPANYING ILLUSTRATION SHOWS THE INTERIOR OF THE GIANTS MOUTH. ONE OF THE MOLARS ON THE LEFT SHOWS SIGNS OF A FRACTURE)

A: Fling yourself into the giant’s throat, aiming to wriggle through his intestines and out the other end as quickly as possible. Go to 163.

B: Wait until you see daylight then dive forwards in a last desperate attempt to escape from between the giant’s teeth. Go to 188.

C: Embrace your panic and start attacking the giant’s molars with your fists. Go to 172.

D: Eat the bastard back, biting into his tongue as hard as you can. Go to 166.


221

‘That’s grand,’ says one of the boatmen. ‘Come with us and we’ll soon fix you up. We can always use extra hands.’

You clamber into the boat with them and they pull away from the shore. As you skim across the water towards their ship, one of them sheepishly hands you a pair of old trousers.

‘We know you don’t like them,’ he says. ‘But I think the captain would take more kindly to you if you were to cover up a little.’

You pretend to be affronted by the imposition but you put the trousers on anyway. To be honest, you were beginning to feel pretty self-conscious, despite all your brave words.

Make a note of your restored trousers and go to 210.


222

The gnome gives you a long, level look then nods to one of the others in a way you don’t like. The second gnome steps forwards and hits you very hard on the head with a club. Your vision swims and you lose consciousness…

Go to 151.


223

You make a dramatic entrance, throwing open the doors and standing with your hands on your hips and a light smile playing across your finely chiselled features. The effect is instant and gratifying – all the customers turn to look at you and even the fiddler stops scratching at his instrument for a minute.

The room is emptier than you’d expected. A burly, scar-faced innkeeper tends the bar while the fiddler entertains a couple of tables of peasant sorts and a gnome sits alone in a corner, shuffling a deck of cards.

If you know who Shamarra is, and have been instructed to ask for her at the Black Boar, then you may do so by turning to 234.

If not, your first priority is to deal with your thirst. Do you still have the bag of gold coins the mayor gave you?

A: Yes. Go to 205.

B: No. Go to 155.


224

You slow your breathing and clear your mind of all excess thoughts, using a technique taught to you many moons ago by a Slathian Shaman.

Gradually, the world around you prickles into sharper focus. You notice the movement of tiny beetles amongst the rocks, feel the hairs on your arms swaying in the breeze and the rough material of your trousers tauten across your buttocks as you settle into a low cougar stance. For seven heartbeats, everything is still.

When they come at you, they do so all at once, rushing down over the lip of the crater like a noose being drawn tight. Calmly, you weigh up your options:

A: Spring forwards, aiming to disable the three in front of you with a low sweep, then jump to higher ground and wheel to meet the others. Go to 190.

B: Wait until they are almost upon you then spin in a circle like a Calloonian dervish, aiming to decapitate them all in a spectacular blur of swordplay. Go to 231.

C: Charge straight at the shortest gnome and try to escape by breaking the ring at its weakest link. Go to 148.


225

You deftly untie the rope and it slips away from your hands and snakes up into the air. The captain howls in fury as one of the sails swings across in a great arc, knocking a handful of slovenly sailors out of the rigging and into the water. That will teach them to be more observant.

The ship lurches violently and you are thrown onto your back. When you get up the captain is glaring down at you, surrounded by a crowd of angry faces.

‘Throw this idiot overboard!’ he yells.

There is no time to react before you’re picked up and hurled without ceremony over the railings. You hit the water with a splash and come up yelling obscenities. The ship glides past and you strike out towards the nearest bank, the one from which you boarded. Luckily, you are a strong swimmer and it doesn’t take you long to reach the shore.

You dry out as best as you can, decide a sailor’s life is not for you, and continue your journey along the riverbank. Go to 215.


226

The elder stands up and adjusts his headgear before scrutinising you carefully. After a few tense moments he turns to address the other gnomes.

‘The Thunderer has rejected the sacrifice!’ he cries. ‘Bring a fresh offering, and take this one to the slave pen!’

Under normal circumstances, a slave pen would not seem like a desirable destination. At the moment, however, it sounds like the most comfortable place in the world.

You sob with gratitude and allow yourself to be carried off to 207.


227

‘Kill Clavius Boon, eh?’ He mulls again. ‘I may be able to help you out there. Come with me.’

You follow him into his cabin and he rolls out a chart onto the table and stabs his finger at it. ‘Here is the tower,’ he says. ‘Now, usually I would moor at the jetty where Boon’s followers trade with the local boatmen and drop you there. However, if you want a quieter entrance, I know of a culvert just here which will let you straight into the tower. Well lad, how does that strike you?’

Does it sound like a good idea?

A: Yes. Ask him to drop you on the bank a short distance from the tower so you can sneak towards the culvert. Go to (TO BE CONTINUEED…)

B: No. Ask to be dropped at the jetty and approach by the front gate. Go to (TO BE CONTINUED…)


228

‘Listen,’ you say. ‘We’re just ordinary people, trying to live our lives in the best way we can. We want to love, laugh, bring up our children in safety. We’re just big gnomes, really. Can’t we work something out here?’

‘Are you trying to reason with me?’ asks the gnome.

‘Yes,’ you say, as earnestly as you can manage. ‘Yes, I believe I am.’

‘You’d be better off trying to bribe me,’ he says.

If you still have the gold coins the mayor gave you, you can attempt to bribe him by turning to 159. If not, or if you don’t want to lose the money, you must go to 207.


229

You travel onwards and within a few hours the pass broadens and begins to slope gently downwards. Ahead of you lies a great stretch of hilly country and in the distance you can spy a glittering ribbon of water. This must be the Dalatha River, as shown on your map. If you follow it upstream you should be able to locate Clavius Boon’s tower. For now, however, you estimate you have a good day’s travel ahead of you through the hills.

Proceed to 203.


230

You make a dramatic entrance, throwing open the door and standing with your hands on your hips and a light smile playing across your finely chiselled features. The effect is instant and gratifying – all the customers turn to look at you and even the fiddler stops scratching at his instrument for a minute. You start to count to ten in your head. At the end of this time you’ll walk slowly to the bar and-

‘We don’t serve your sort in here,’ says the innkeeper, causing you to lose count. He’s a burly man with a heavily scarred face which suggests he’s no stranger to combat.

‘What sort is that?’ you enquire.

He points at your gently swinging member. In your haste for refreshment, you had forgotten you were no longer wearing trousers. There is a scraping of stools and some of the other patrons approach you, pointing at the same spot and muttering darkly. You have a recurring dream which is very similar to this.

You decide to brazen it out. ‘So what if I choose not to wear trousers?’ you say. ‘It’s not against the law, is it? On a mild night like this, it’s very comfortable.’

They don’t seem convinced and you’re about to press the argument when someone throws a flagon at you and the scene looks as if it might get ugly. You decide to beat a retreat from the inn.

Duck out through the door and slope off around the corner to 147.


231

Even by your standards, this is an extremely ambitious move. You hope there’ll be at least one gnome left alive to verify your account.

Bracing yourself, you wait until the last moment before launching into a savage pirouette, scything the air around you in a broad circle. Unfortunately, you misjudge the height
of your swing and the blade sails prettily but harmlessly over the heads of your opponents.

Adapting deftly to the change in circumstances, you charge forwards in a frontal attack but are still dizzy from the spin and veer from side to side before collapsing against one of the gnomes. He is good enough to hold you upright, but then spoils the moment by hitting you over the head with the shaft of his spear. You pass out…

Go to 151.


232

You hang in the darkness for a few nervous minutes, wondering what will become of you and if there’s any way to make it happen to the old man instead. Then the door is flung open again and a whole bunch of gnomes enter, holding torches, ropes and spears.

‘Time to meet the Thunderer, warrior!’ says the lead gnome cheerily.

The next few minutes pass in a fever of sobbing, begging and struggling as you are unchained, bound hand and foot and carried from the chamber, then hauled up through dingy passageways and out onto the sunlit mountainside. There are more gnomes here, hundreds of them in fact, forming a sort of corridor which snakes up towards the peak of the mountain. Your captors lead you up this corridor and the gnomes close ranks behind you and follow in a great crowd. As you climb higher, they begin to chant. That never bodes well.

Struggle as you will, they drag you to 161.


233

You sidle up to the ferryman and slip him a winning grin. He leans away from you and narrows his eyes.

‘Hello there,’ you say.

‘Hello,’ says the ferryman.

You nod amicably. You’re not really sure why you decided to talk to him.

‘Pretty fine bit of ferry, this,’ you say, giving his boat a playful slap on the stern.

‘Please don’t do that,’ he says. ‘I’ve just had her painted.’

‘Oh really?’ you say, feigning interest. ‘Painted, eh? Fascinating.’

‘Are you getting on or not?’ he asks.

Well, you’ve had more scintillating conversations. It’s probably best to let this one drop and board the ferry.

Move onward to 242.


234

‘She’s upstairs,’ says the innkeeper. ‘Who shall I say is asking for her?’

‘Tell her it’s the warrior who saved her from the wolf,’ you say.

He nods and wanders off. A few minutes later the fiery maiden you met in the hills emerges from behind the bar. She is pointing a finger at you.

‘You did not save me,’ she says firmly. ‘And what are you doing here anyway?’

‘You said I should call in if I was passing,’ you say. ‘As it happens, I’m heading to the tower across the river.’

She hawks loudly and spits on the floor. ‘Clavius Boon!’ she says. ‘What business have you with that fiend?’

‘I thought I might slay him,’ you say in your most nonchalant voice.

She peers closely at you. ‘Perhaps you and I should talk,’ she says.

Go to 195.


235

When your shift finishes, you slip away and meet Haffnar by the waste disposal carts. He has a package containing your clothes, sword, backpack and a bit of food, but if you had any gold coins then they have long since gone. You wish each other luck then take deep breaths and plunge into one of the gently steaming carts, ensuring your snorkels remain clear of the surface.

The next hour is unpleasant. Very unpleasant. This is one anecdote which won’t be finding its way into any of your adventuring yarns. When the cart eventually stops, you force yourself to count to one hundred then emerge from your hiding place. A couple of gnome farmers are understandably shocked to see two brownish ghouls burst from the muck they were about to spread on their turnip field, and they run away shrieking.

You shake hands warmly with Haffnar and thank him for his help. He sets off downhill towards Smallhaven while you head upwards towards the peak of the mountain, aiming to get back onto the path you were following before your capture.

You put a good bit of distance between yourself and the gnomes, stopping only when you spot a small pond. It feels good to wash for the first time in weeks, but when you catch a glimpse of your reflection in the water you are surprised to find that your hair has turned completely white. Perhaps it’s the stress of hiding in the cart, or perhaps a chemical reaction with the cart’s contents. Whatever the case, it looks quite distinguished.

Make a note of this change to your coiffure and continue to 191.


236

You sit down at the table and grin at your hosts. On closer inspection, they seem to be a father, mother and adult daughter, although there is little to tell them apart other than clothing and height.

‘I’m starving,’ you say, hoping they take the hint.

They bustle into life and before long the table is laid with all manner of rustic delights. By Haaxor, these peasants eat well! You tuck in with gusto, mumbling your thanks through a mouthful of pork while they eye you carefully and pick at their own food.

The meal, although delicious, is perhaps a little too salty. After a while your throat begins to feel very dry and you cast around for something to help wash down the food. You spot a large barrel of water in one corner and some corked bottles stacked against the far wall.

What’ll it be?

A: Fill a jug of water for yourself and your hosts. Go to 179.

B: Investigate the bottles. Go to 201.


237

‘I have not heard of him,’ says the gnome, melting back into the cliff face. ‘Still, I wish you great luck in your quest.’

Continue on your way to 241.


238

‘I understand,’ she says. ‘Perhaps I misjudged you, warrior. I rarely meet such nobility of purpose in the men I encounter.’

She shakes your hand and then whirls around and stalks away, leaving only her heady animal perfume behind. It makes you cough a little. When you recover, you realise your throat is as dry as a Slathian’s wineskin, and you decide to see about getting a drink.

Do you still have the bag of coins the mayor gave you?

A: Yes. Go to 205.

B: No. Go to 155.


239

You are assigned to the Nether Level, the least desirable location of many, and for the next few weeks you toil incessantly to keep it clean and free of infection. Using a long wire brush and a pail of soapy water, you must ensure that every fold and crevice is scrubbed thoroughly, under threat of the overseer’s whip. At the end of each day your body aches and your loincloth is soaked with sweat, most of which is not your own. This is not the career you had planned for yourself.

You are beginning to give up on ever seeing the sky again when a fellow captive called Haffnar approaches you one morning. He works in Waste Disposal and sometimes gets called to the Nether Level to check on bowel activity.

‘How’s the big fellow today?’ he asks.

‘Pretty regular,’ you say. ‘I’ve been round the front on undershaft duty most of the day, but some of the boys told me there was a blowout earlier. They capped it in the end, I think.’

‘Hmm, I’ll have a word with Nutrition,’ he says. ‘Listen. I wanted to talk to you about something else. They don’t always check the sacrifices for valuables before they chuck them in, you know, and I’ve managed to collect a few bits and bobs from the waste over the years, enough to bribe a couple of the guards to look the other way for five minutes while I make a break for it. The thing is, I could do with a big lad like yourself to help out if things get hairy. Are you in?’

‘How are we getting out?’ you say.

He holds out two crude snorkels made from reeds. ‘In the cart,’ he says.

Well, are you in?

A: Yes. Swallow the last of your pride and agree to conceal yourself within the giant’s excrement. Go to 235.

B: No. Scorn to debase yourself any further and wait for a more dignified opportunity. Go to 173.


240

The gnome stares at you in silence for a moment then says something in a language you don’t understand to his companions, who step forward and free you from the net.

‘We respect your trade routes,’ he tells you. ‘The covenant will not be broken by us.’

He gestures at the road with his arm, indicating that you may continue.

Will you:

A: Continue along the road. Go to 229.

B: Draw your sword and attack them. Go to 140.


241

You press on further into the pass. Just as you are walking along a particularly narrow stretch of road there is a sudden hissing noise and something knocks you to the floor. You try to stand up but find you are entangled in a large net.

Small figures emerge from the shadows all around you, and as they step into the light you notice they are gnomes, albeit of a very uncivilised sort. They point short spears at you and one of them demands to know your business in the mountains.

Do you:

A: Tell them you are on a mission to slay the evil warlock Clavius Boon. Go to 138.

B: Tell them you are a trader from the hill farms. Go to 240.

C: Tell them it’s none of their business. Go to 222.


242

You step onto the creaking barge and take a seat. As the vessel pushes away, you have a chance to consider the imposing spectacle of Clavius Boon’s tower, looming above you on the opposite bank.

It is the tallest building you have ever seen, an imposing column of stone dotted with windows and surmounted by a giant bell-shaped cupola of dark Dolathian marble. Gazing up at it, you feel strangely inadequate. Are you really man enough for the challenge ahead?

You are jolted from your thoughts by the arrival of the ferry at a pontoon. Disembarking, you find yourself in a large courtyard with exits to the east and to the north, in the direction of the tower. The other passengers mostly leave through the eastern gate except for the youths, who cluster in the centre of the yard as if waiting for someone.

How will you proceed?

(TO BE CONTINUED…)

Advertisements

11 Responses to ENTER…

  1. Murray says:

    Hey, this is cool.

  2. lrdr says:

    Hey, I enjoyed this very much and hope you finish it soon, BUT
    I’m pretty sure 199 should lead to 191, not 181. You shoud fix that.

  3. William Else says:

    Many thanks for your kind words. Thanks also for picking up on the broken link. Now fixed!

  4. Lee Williams says:

    Many thanks, Paul. Glad you enjoyed it!

  5. Adam says:

    Any news on when the next sections will be up? Enjoying it so far!

  6. Rob Rendell says:

    Many laugh-out-loud moments – well done 🙂

    Another correction: 117 option C leads to 111, but that’s not dashing into the trees. It’s presumably meant to lead to 72.

  7. aussiesmurf says:

    Loving this – can’t wait for the rest…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s