I have been concerned over the damage to my protuberance by the confounded fire-demon.
So much so, in fact, that I decided to take professional advice from the Priestesses of Wisdom and Sudden Health. There are a number of their priories scattered about these parts and one lay on a side road beyond the end of the swamps.
We bade farewell to our escort and entered a greener, hilly country with many resinous pine groves. The priory was surrounded by one of those and near a lake. The Holy Sisters gave us a good welcome but immediately removed our provisions. We began to feel apprehensive but I insisted to Iubba and the twins that we continue.
First came the Strenuous Worship Racks and heavy weights were used to stretch our muscles - there were few to stretch. After iron ingots had been hung from our limbs for some hours we were despatched to the Calm Relaxation and Contemplation Cells.
Here, Orcish foot masseurs ministered to us. Do not take that to imply that they massage your feet. Far from it - they walk up and down your frame with their calloused soles, occasionally cracking a joint for good measure. During this they sing ... a cheerful Orcish song in a traditional, atonal mode, very like a spitted seagull.
By that time we were beginning to fed Healthily Holy - the first of many states of painful bliss advocated by the Sisters - and so were locked in the searing insides of the steam baths along with some 40 other pilgrims. Thus, said the Sisters, we would purge our sins and cleanse our bodies for fresh triumphs against evil. Zul and Zel liked that not, having spent many months developing their distinctive smell.
|Gordo sweats it out with other pilgrims at the Priory of Health|
While we sweltered in the awful heat we talked. Paul the Taylor and Twang the Archer of Acklam were both bewildered by the mystery of the Stitched Swamp on Espionage Island - an old but constantly recurring problem. Well, this is a sort of play on words, for stitched means the same as sewn. Sewn has all the compass points to follow. Do so and be safe.
Grak Howard of Wigston Magna had had ill luck guiding Sherlock to Leatherhead. Cylar the Shadow, steaming healthily, told him that he should call a cab, climb in and say to the cabby "Go to King's Gross Road." On arrival he should climb out of the cab, head north-east four times and wait for the train to appear. To board, just climb in. That may do the trick.
A northern barbarian, Heally Odinsson of Oslo, told us that he was continually arrested in his search for Hampstead. Whenever he attempted to change from his tracksuit into more respectable clothing lawmen would appear to charge him with indecent exposure. If, as I suspect, he wishes to don his tweeds, the best and only place to do so is the second-hand clothes shop itself.
Healey and Ablon the Abbot of Alkborough found they had common problems in their quest for the Dragontorc. As they sipped their drinks of soured sheep's milk they asked me how to find the letters X, I and T which enable escape from the Vaults of Locris.
The Archmage Hewson himself has instructed me in the matter. Listen well then. One letter may be found in a pile of old rubbish near the entry to the Vaults. A second is concealed where a skeleton lies at the back of a room. The last is more difficult - to discover it you must open all three chests scattered around the place. Take the key from the final chest to a room with a stool and fireball. Use your servant to touch the stool. It should then shapechange into yet another chest. Unlock it to find the last letter and sundry other treasures.
Graham the Scott of Sirius, Lochmaben offered me useful maps of the Lands of Midnight - for which my thanks are due. He will offer guidance to travellers in Ket, Middle Earth and many of Level 9's spells if you write to him courier prepaid. In return he asked me how to enter Castle Oops in The Quest. He told me, too, that he had an unreadable scroll. That is a false document - seek the real item elsewhere. To enter the castle it is wisest to simple utter the spell "Open South".
Philip the Alchemist of Noctorum and some other weary warriors had discovered a Golden Key in their travels with The Hobbit. None could find any use for it. Gilbo the Great told me long ago that there was no use to the thing. It is mere treasure, slightly pink and fishy.
Korah Swiftaim, Sorceress Extraordinaire, proffered advice on the search for the Red Moon of Baskalos. "I will pass on a few tips," says she "that those who follow in my footsteps may find the going easier. Once you have the horseshoe you may obtain iron coins from beneath the grating - for the shoe is in reality a horseshoe magnet.
"Always wear a cloak to pass the cloaked statute and wear a mask if swimming underwater. If a watchdog blocks your path put pills into its meat and feed the brute. Oh, and there is a spell which destroys mummies - say Obis and then Ollabin! Lastly to cross the chasm, drop the scroll and the acorn and then read the scroll."
She asks if there be a way to pass by the Blacksmith Giant without killing him or being killed - being a pacifist she would prefer to keep the peace but her other reason is that his ghost keeps reappearing with evil intent and blows.
Michael the Slightly Green of Surrey boasts of completing The Hulk. He offers assistance to all who write prepaid. As a taster he suggests that when faced with empty holes the curious should delve deeper. Kill no ants but dispose of your vulnerable areas.
So, at last the Sisters released us into the blessed cool. My body ached with so much good health and holy pain that I completely forgot my belly and its burn - so, indeed, their treatment works. All of us lay very quiet and very still that night, though the twins sought out a stable to re-establish their aroma.
Farewell, in terrible pain, until next moon, my friends.
|Gordo Greatbelly, Landlord|
|If you have a tale to tell, or are in need of a helping hand, write to the Landlord of the Dancing Ogre c/o Sinclair User, London.|