It's the last day before Shekka's Moon, the night on which Nazek will, if not stopped, be able to unlock the Casket of Shadows and free the Infernal Beast imprisoned within, so I have to get to Claybury today. It's north-west of Selwick, where I spent last night, but if I want to go by road (which appears the only option) I'll have to go north to the village of Tallow, and take the road west from there.
The walk to Tallow takes all morning, but is uneventful. As I arrive, I see nobody, but the sound of shouting draws me to the market-place, in which a young woman has been tied to a stake, while firewood has been heaped around her. A hooded figure addresses the crowd of onlookers, speaking of various portents and ill omens that have occurred of late, and the fact that one of the places he names is called Addersfield leads me to suspect that Mr. Green remembered a viewing of Witchsmeller Pursuivant from some point in the decade before he wrote the book.
The hooded man claims that the likes of the young woman at the stake are to blame for the poor harvests, bad weather, disease outbreaks and so on, and the crowd starts calling for her to be burned. A woman on the outskirts, who is not joining in with the mob, pleads with me to help her granddaughter, who is just a healer, falsely accused of witchcraft.
Remembering what happened when I previously got this far through the book, I swig down one of the potions Sam Boggart prepared for me yesterday, and then call out to the crowd, declaring the accused innocent of wrongdoing. The Inquisitor who was addressing the crowd promptly accuses me of being a witch as well, and I am seized, disarmed, and searched. Now, I have on me the Ilithorn Rose that convinced Karad the Witch-hunter of my good intentions, the Holy Amulet of Enthus the Martyr, and Deliverer, the blessed blade formerly wielded by Gwythain the Protector. Confronted with all this evidence that I'm on the side of what is good and just (let's overlook the fact that Deliverer was until recently in the hands of the master-brigand known only as the Mask, which isn't going to be common knowledge around here anyway), the villagers come to the conclusion that... I must be thrown into the local pond to see whether or not I float.
As I hit the bottom of the pond, I grab onto some weeds and hold my breath. The obvious way of determining whether or not I'm able to do so for the three minutes that will satisfy the villagers and Inquisitor (at least as far as this Ordeal is concerned) would be a roll against my Stamina. It is, thus, decidedly annoying that Mr. Green instead opted for a straight roll of the die, with a 50/50 chance of success (odds that were not improved on in the least when the book was supposedly made less unfair in the Wizard Books edit). And while I've made it through all of this book's previous rolls with similarly bad (or far worse) odds, this time the die fails to produce the required outcome, so I surface too soon and am pelted with assorted improvised weapons until dead.
Well, that was one of my two most successful attempts at the book (back in the 1990s I once made it past the pond, only to fail the last of the Inquisitor's trials on account of not having fireproofed myself beforehand, but as I lacked several other items likely to prove essential in the endgame, I'm not sure that having got a section or two further than on this occasion really makes that the greater success). If I ever get as far as replaying Spellbreaker for the blog, I will definitely be restarting from the point at which this specific post commences, because life is way too short for the multitude of attempts it's liable to take to get this far in a similar state of well-preparedness.