WE TOOK the southern military road from Urtuun to Maru, heading into the scrubland and then the desert proper.
Our stay at Urtuun had been fruitful but we were glad to put the stench of its streets behind us. All of us seemed to have enriched ourselves - myself from the proceeds of the eating contest, Iubba from the sale of a gem which we all suspected was the Eye of the Snake Mens' god Szasassa.
Zul and Zel, being small, had taken a part-time job as rat-catchers in the town's ancient sewers, receiving a bounty on each catch they made. Zul informed us that they had found it best to catch them with their teeth as they crawled along on hands and knees. The twins' smell had certainly grown since taking on this venture - both considered this a vast improvement. We made them ride downwind and wore kerchiefs over our faces.
The empty zone extends for three days' ride and the few water-holes are secret, known only to the black-robed riders who patrol the region. This secrecy is to ensure that any invaders will be near dead of thirst by the time they reach the first garrison, easy meat for the savage fighters who are based there.
Fortunately we had provided ourselves with stocks of meat, water, wine and ale for the dry trip and, as twilight came, found ourselves in a sandy wilderness where the red rocks were split and torn by the awful heat.
As the brilliant desert stars came out we pitched our tents in the lee of one of these outcrops, lit our lamps and partook of a side or two of beef, washed down with a half-hogshead of strong ale. For the first time in many moons I was able to browse through my mail by the glimmer of my trusty oil lamp.
|Gordo Greatbelly, landlord of the Dancing Ogre, offers help to lost adventurers|
Mushroom-munchers invade St Brides
First was a missive from Basher the Black and his Lady Patricia. They dwell at Craigavon, Northern Ireland and have completed 30 or so quests including Sherlock, Mordon's Quest, Planet of Death and the Ket Trilogy. They have also unravelled The Secret of St Brides and offer a hint or two to ease your way.
"Are you grown 12 feet tall and too big to go places? Munch on the other side of the mushroom to shrink again. Do you know a Fir Bolg who craves entertainment? Write it down and rub it out! And those of you who are stumped by the blasted oak should try turning your cloaks inside out." This couple will help those who send their questions with the return post paid.
This mushroom clue should help the fair Korah Swiftaim who writes again from Salisbury for aid in shrinking. Besides this though she has sent me many details of The Worm in Paradise, Level 9's newest spell. "Greetings O Gross One," says she. "I put quill to parchment to give some general guidelines to getting about Enoch City. After you have successfully negotiated the Dream of the Worm you should break your collar and wear it again - you will feel freer for this. If you wish to return home just say 'home' on the pedways. When you are carried to the ET system you need only go south to enter your hovelish habihome.
Lost in Enoch City ... the worm turns
"Once home you will find a poster on the wall, a crack and a nozzle. If you say 'on' the poster will show itself to be a TV screen - the propaganda on it may give you much useful information about the city. Regular showers are vital so just say 'on' to the nozzle to refresh your tired limbs. Most important is the crack - saying 'bed' will show it to be a foldaway bed. If you say bed while lying on it, the bed will close and you will be cast into the undercity.
"If you wish to buy the Dagget - essential to social climbing - wait for the price to drop as the days go by. If you have the dagget and the socialist's wallet you should, if employed, be able to find the man's apartments and obtain a useful invitation." This and more she tells me but this is enough to get you well started. My thanks Korah.
Archmage Haldane of Cambridgeshire seeks help with Quest, wishing to know how he can escape from the forest without the need to kill himself and be reincarnated elsewhere. To the best of my knowledge there are two clearings in the forest. Each has passageways going underground beneath it. One is dangerous, the other clear of hazard. Heading down one of these will bring the Archmage to a cave system where an important scroll can be found.
Robin of Sherlock seeks a train ticket
The Archmage says he has 485 points and rates as an expert - he will help others in the Quest if they write prepaid to him with their questions.
Russell of Uphall, West Lothian is flummoxed by Robin of Sherlock. He tells me he has found the dog, Toto, purchased a railway ticket and boarded the train. But still it does not move! Well, the train is not there to carry such as Russell - fortunately it will take the unbearable Dorothy off to Huddersfield. Get off it and get her on it!
Cutter Taylor of Boston, Lincs answers Freeman David's request for any help at all in solving The Helm. He suggests the way to get over the first problem is to tie a rope to the hook and then go fishing in the lake. With patience this angling should deliver up a key which will open a door in the village. Inside the door is a shovel which can be used to dig up a board from beneath the sign. The board can be used to bridge the gorge leading to a cave. This should get Freeman started.
As well as The Helm Cutter can offer knowledge of El Dorado, Subsunk, Magic Mountain, The Hobbit and Espionage Island. Write prepaid with your specific requests. In return he would like to find a way to avoid drowning in Sinbad and the Golden Ship and where to locate two remaining parchments in Invincible Island - he has those from the Chest, Box, Cave, Pit and the small Island.
Subsunk headaches get the treatment
Burridge the Burrower of Rayleigh has had problems in escaping in Subsunk and also in hunting the Eye of Bain. In the latter he is badly pecked by a magpie who is protecting her nest from his curiosity. Digging in a field will unearth some tasty wriggling morsels for the bird and win its favours. Now to Subsunk.
Both Burrower and Banyard of Sussex cannot obtain the headache pills from the medicine cabinet. Marshman Reed of St Helens provides the answer. "Use a paperclip to pick the lock on the cabinet and reveal the pill bottle. Then drop the black rubber mat on the floor and empty the bottle. Dissolve the pill in a beaker full of water - there, no more pain in the head. But beware! The beaker must be filled with water before you have cleared the overflowing sink with the plunger - otherwise there will be no water to wash the pill down."
This is not Submariner Spencer of Exhall's problem - he needs to know how to open the locker in the submarine. Hugh Watter (or so I read it - this for the benefit of Five Best Shaw, ha!), Hugh Watter of Burpham, Guildford tells us the locker is simply opened by twiddling the hook - the headache cure may give a clue to this as well. Now Hugh is a vastly experienced traveller and has completed nigh on six score games. He will offer help if you write prepaid, so pass your enquiries to the courier quickly.
In answer to Sir Malcolm Beal's plea for a screwdriver blade to Escape from Pulsar 7, Hugh believes that there may be one concealed in a toolbox on the lathe in the workshop.
Tunnel talk in Bored of the Rings
Offering help too is Mad Max of Plympton, Plymouth. For a stamped envelope he can answer specific questions on Red Moon, Urban Upstart, The Hobbit and Planet of Death.
Ringseeker Reily of Northallerton sends me two letters, first a request for news of the rope in the third quest of Bored of the Rings and then the answer to his own plea, to be told for the benefit of other travellers. "Rejoice with me, for that which has been lost is found! Advise travellers thus - the rope can be found in the second quest, near De Lorian. It serves no purpose in that episode but, if it is taken and kept, helpful advice will be given at the end of that part. Heed this counsel. Keep the rope after you have left the mountains in the third quest - it will be needed again." Take note, O Bored Ones!
Many of these folk still cannot get through the Morona Maze - to this multitude, too many to name, I say follow the directions given on the map but look eastward near the end, for an Italian Stallion.
Tancredi Denofrio of Kingston Stert passes on news of Fairlight and its final moments, saying, "To complete the quest you must have the crown. Go to the caverns and unlock a secret door down the passage that leads to a troll. In the room you will find a coffin - open it and fall down.
Final advice for Fairlight adventurers
"You must then get the book and go back through the door. Head for the tower which is guarded by three monks and kill the first one with a cross, the other two with potions. At the top of the tower is the Wizard himself and you must push the book into him. Get the key and go to the main gate."
Gardener Griffith of Cheltenham suggests another way to enter the Wizard's room and advises jumping through the roof, off barrels placed on the top of the tower. He also cautions you all to conserve crosses and potions. These will kill off all spectres if kept solely for that purpose and it is essential to keep one until after you have entered the Wizard's room.
From Simon Allbey of Taunton come tips on the completion of Enigma Force, a way which will keep all characters fit for the final scene on the bridge of the shuttle. "First send Syylk into the room next to the insect armoury where the creatures are standing still. In a while a treaty message will appear. Now kill Zoff and take Zoff's card. Find the blue key card and open the insect armoury then use the Zoff card to open the next door. Go down. Move all the characters into the shuttle and your mission will be finished. Good luck!"
Describing himself as a seasoned ale-swiller, Oaktree Hutchings of Nottingham begs for news on the use of the pale green jewels in Lord of the Rings. An old friend, the Lady Sheila of Duxford, advises him to use one to see off the Barrow Wight. Her problem is in Spoof, however, and she begs someone to tell her the way to board the shabby green barge in this quest. Let me know, friends, so I can ease her pain.
So the oil ran out in my lamp and I lay staring out over the moonlit sands of the Central Desert. Something moved out there, briefly but noticeably. Reaching for my club I got up soundlessly and roused the others. Who can have followed us to this empty place?
More next moon, my friends - let me know of all your travels. Farewell.
|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.|