Through the portcullis I traveled north and west, always north and west. I ended up crawling through a tight tunnel until I was forced back during which time the cave echoed with evil and foreboding laughter. I narrowly escaped falling into a pit trap and shortly thereafter discovered a door which looked like a trap in waiting. Instead of going through that door I walked into a completely different door, and trap as it turns out! A puzzle floor which when I chose the wrong path I was attacked by apparitional hands. Freeing myself I moved forward eventually found a river that needed crossed. Taking a meal on the beach before my eventual swim I was attacked by a sandworm which I handily dispatched. Then as I muscled my way into the water I was swept away by a current but luckily found myself at a ferry crossing. I paid the ferryman his due and he took me across the river where I am now. I am faced with three choices, a door to the northwest, a door north and a pathway to the east.
Now we continue…
With three choices of direction I decide straight ahead as again I’ve been consistently moving north and west. I go through the door but the room is very dark and I haven’t relit my lantern yet. As my eyes begin to adjust the door slams and I feel a sharp blow to the back of my head. I fight for consciousness but it eludes me as I fall to the floor. I wake sometime later with no idea whether I am in the same room. On the walls are peasant’s tools, such as shovels, picks, scythes, etc.… I’m lying in a corner; another body is opposite me and some barrels in one of the other corners. In the center of the room are four men standing holding weapons. I call them men only under the assumption that they were once such, now their skin is grey and sickly and their clothing is in tatters, the vacant expression in their eyes and on their faces, leads me to believe they are undead.
I try to talk to them hoping perhaps there is reasoning left in them but it merely agitates them into picking up their weapons and coming after me. I could run but I decide they should be released from this undead torment and so I dispatch them. An easy task given their shambling movements. The looks left on the faces of the dead zombie men looks almost pleased to have been released from their state, however I feel that who or what was controlling them is also sure to know that they have been dispatched. I check out the tools in the room but find nothing more impressive then the sword I already carry. I hear a shriek through the door to the north and always out to save an innocent I run through the door.
Through the door is a crypt. There are some stone coffins on the floor and a small alter to the north. Fancy draperies hang from the walls. I investigate the alter feeling that perhaps it hides a secret but as I check it over I hear the grating of stone. I turn to see a pale white hand pushing aside the lid to a coffin as a vampire rises from within. He beckons me toward him. A vampire sounds like a tough opponent but I feel that leaving one without attempting to at least kill him is probably a larger mistake so I draw my sword and charge. He does indeed turn out to present a fair challenge and I receive a couple of injuries before I’m able to finish him. As he falls to the ground I watch his body decompose over the span of seconds, aging decades in mere moments. Before the body completely turns to dust I hear a shriek, as a bat bursts from the chest cavity. I swing wildly at it but it manages to fly away and climb through a crack in the ceiling before I can stop it. Amongst the belongings I find as I finish searching the room are thirty gold and a stick in the shape of a Y. A dowsing rod perhaps.
I exit the room to the west and begin my constant trek north and west. I follow the passage curving around back towards the east at one point and as I go I find a passageway carved into the north face of the tunnel which I of course take. Through it I find stairs leading down and follow them. As I reach the bottom of the stairs I am choked with the stink of death and decay. I enter the south end of a room which contains nothing but three corpses. Across the way is a door with more stairs leading up. This is so clearly a trap… but I check the bodies anyway. Sure enough, I called it. The first body had some gold coins but the second body leaps up and takes a swipe at me with its ghoulish claws. This undead is quicker than the zombies and manages to cut me a couple of times before I put him down though. After two tough battles, I take the opportunity to rest and eat a snack, after of course searching the final body. All told I come out of it with thirteen more gold, a bottle of holy water, a pair of gold ear rings and a map of a place called ‘The Maze of Zangor’ that is worn and difficult to read. Some of the letters are discernible but I can make no sense of it but stuff it in my pack anyway.
I head up the north stairs and at the top take a quick right turn to the east at which point a portcullis slams home behind me blocking me off from escaping. Guess I’m pot committed now, whether I want to be or not. I’m wandering halls now checking for secret passages a lot (it became an option in the book now which screams that at some point I will find one). While checking for passages a gremlin wandered into my area and attacked me so I slaughtered him quickly, poor fool. As I am currently unable to go north or west I finally break habit and try an east hallway that ends in a dead end with no secret passage but there is a north door which I go through. Inside I find four gnomish looking men (that is to say short but old and fully bearded) playing poker. They turn out to be friendly and they tell me I’m now in the Maze of Zangor. Given the information they gave me I compare that with the letters from the map and still make no sense of it. They give me some directions from their room to find my way but don’t sound terribly confident about it. Still its better then what I have so I follow them.
I check for passages as I have been doing and find none. What I do find is a sharp pain and dizziness before I pass out. I wake up not in the same place so I must start another map just in case. After a few movements, I figure out where I am on the original map. I check another dead end and bam, down I go. Great… I can see how this is going to go for a while. This happens once more before I finally find a new doorway to open. As I enter I see smashed clay pots all over the floor. Also, there is a bowl filled with gold coins and a jar containing water. All of this I see before I see the minotaur who slams the door behind me. Shit.
Or at least he seemed easier. Only the top couple of coins were real, the rest were fake and the pot with water in it contained a key with the number 111 inscribed on it. First key I’ve found, keeping that. I wander the maze a while longer before I find another door and enter. There is a miserly old wizard there with a pet dragon on his shoulder. He looks up angrily at me and I try to explain to him that I’m lost but suddenly, BAM I’m out again and wake up in a junction. I wonder now if this isn’t the prick who built this maze. I wonder around some more, for what feels like forever and finally I exit the maze after following a hairpin turn and end up in a large cavern. I smell smoke and see fire. Then I see red eyes. Then I see a red dragon. If this doesn’t mean I’m’ going in the right direction I don’t know what does.
We beat each other up decently but I still come out on top which is super satisfying. I moved on through his cave and into a hallway that was down a hallway across from where I entered. Down this hall I find a door that is slightly ajar. Inside is an old man seated at a table with a deck of cards. This is it! I’m certain of it so I open the door. I slide into the room and hail him. He looks up and then his features change. His stature grows, he is taller and bigger, his features change from old man to a smart looking man in his thirties who wants me to die. He teleports across the room far from my sword range. With the ability to teleport I’m not sure what exactly I should do to beat him. Lucky me I notice that he left his cards on the table. He sees me eyeing them and we both make a rush at them but I manage to get there first.
He screams and berates me more but he also shrinks back to normal man size. I’ve clearly weakened him and now it’s time for the kill! I rush him, sword in hand and easily slay him in his weakened state. That seems almost too easy. Across the room is a large door with two locks on it. Two locks. I only have a single key and I do remember the villagers saying that there would be two locks. I barge the door. Numerous times. I hear thunder in the room but ignore it. It drains me but I do finally break the door down. Inside there is a chest. It has three locks. NO! Dammit, I pull my sword up into the air to bring it down on the chest and then see a flash as a bolt of lightning emanates from nowhere. Luckily, I let go of my sword before the bolt strikes it and shatters its steel blade. I have no way to open the chest. To my knowledge I have no way to backtrack through the dungeon. Even if I could just slide backwards without being given the options to do so I’ve been blocked off by a portcullis. My journey has ended in defeat. I am sealed in the last half of the dungeon with no way to continue. I assume I will die here of old age and starvation even though I would also think the gnomes, dragons or other dungeon denizens can come and go somehow the point is I have been defeated.
What a trip! I forgot how awesome and frustrating these books could be. My eldest son who is fifteen now is excited to start the book himself and we rolled his stats the other day. Considering how many books they released I feel like it will be well worth hunting the others down. I’ve got the first five already so I’m starting Citadel of Chaos soon and looking super forward to it. Hopefully reading this will convince you to do the same. Soon I'll be starting the 2nd book from the original series, The Citadel of Chaos!