Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Go Where Ya Haveta Go

I put my attempt at Slaves of the Abyss, Fighting Fantasy gamebook 32, on hold when an ambiguity in the rules made it unclear whether or not I'd survived a fight. Attempts at contacting one of its authors have proved unsuccessful, but a little checking through paths not taken in the book provides evidence that can be taken as supporting the outcome in which my character is still alive. It is actually possible to avoid the fight in which I received a fatigue-based penalty to Skill (though I'd have had to do things differently earlier on in the book), and the combat-free route says nothing about having my faculties impaired by lack of sleep. So either the penalty was only supposed to apply to that one fight, or my tiredness permanently damages me, but only if I attack the two guards. The latter seems unlikely enough that I'm going to say that I was back to normal Skill for the fight with which the previous blog entry on Slaves ended, and thus narrowly survived.

Things now get a bit muddled mechanics-wise. I've been choosing which way to go at each junction based on textual clues alluded to in a hint I found earlier. But at each turning I've been instructed to note down a number, and the text also states that if I've already noted down the number associated with one of the paths leading on, I have to take the other one. The clue indicates that the right turning is the correct one to take here. The number-noting rules insist that I go left. While I'm prepared to accept that the rule takes precedence over the clue, I have to wonder why they contradict each other at all: changing just one word could have had the clue and the rule both point in the same direction, and it wouldn't make any difference for any readers who'd missed the clue and were using some other criteria to determine which way they turned.

Anyway, I take the turning I must, and soon reach a fast-flowing stream. On the far bank is a Troll, dragging a sapling behind him, and I keep quiet so as not to be noticed. Before long the path takes me back into the forest, and had I had the preceding few encounters in a different order, I would proceed to get lost and go round and round in circles until I ran out of Time (while I haven't previously mentioned it, there is a grid of boxes inside the front cover of the book, and every so often the book says to cross one of them off. Run out of boxes, and Kallamehr falls to the enemy). As it is, I only wander around for a short while before reaching a clearing that contains a hut on legs, with no obvious door. I walk under it and see an open trapdoor in the middle of the hut's underside, and as I'm wondering how to get up there, the hut squats down, so I position myself below the opening.

The interior of the hut is surprisingly uncluttered: it contains only a woman, who shows me a vision of people trapped in cells in a void. She tells me that I must rescue them, and asks if I know her name. Guessing (and remembering from previous attempts at the book) that she's the Sage whom Enthymesis sought, I say the name that Mema mentioned to me, and am congratulated on my intelligence (though the Sage also gets in a dig about my appearance). She tells me that more trials lie ahead, but I may be Bythos' nemesis. Noticing the pomander I still carry, she tells me that if I eat its contents when I reach the Abyss, I will be protected from the Master's breath (but if I try doing so in this world, I'll just get sick).

A snake wraps itself around my neck, and is introduced to me as Caduceus. The Sage then shows me a vision of the hornets I saw above the advancing army, and explains that their sting banishes people's spirits to the Abyss, leaving their bodies as slaves to their Master. However, they can be killed by burning the leaves of the Jheera tree, and there just happens to be such a tree growing in the forest. Or rather, there was one, but the vision conjured to show me it reveals only a hole in the ground from which a tree has been uprooted. I mention the sapling I saw the Troll carrying, and the Sage says she'll control the paths through the forest to lead me to the Troll, and then back to my horse. She warns me not to come back here afterwards.

I find the Troll attempting to stick the sapling into a hole in the ground, but it won't fit. I point out that it'd be easier if he pulled off the leaves, and he takes my advice, so I collect the leaves as he strips them from the tree. He is then able to get the sapling into the hole, and pry out a spiny animal that was hiding down there. Cramming the creature into his mouth whole, he rapidly comes to regret not having removed the spines first and, blaming me for the consequences of his own stupidity, attacks. I cure him of all the woes attendant upon life and get back to my horse. I leave the forest and, just in case I was thinking of disregarding her final warning, the Sage then transforms it into a vast lake.

I have work to do, so I set off in search of the enemy army, catching sight of it as it engulfs another town. After manufacturing a crude torch from a tree branch, the leaves and a strip torn from my clothing, I move closer, leaving the torch unlit as I don't know how long it will last. This proves to be my undoing, as my horse throws me when the hornets start heading in our direction, and the fall incapacitates me for long enough that the hornets catch up to me before I can light the torch. Next thing I know, I'm one of the void-imprisoned mob I saw in that first vision.

Another failure, then, but I've learned a couple of things that will be useful to know the next time I play the adventure.

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