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The Usurper manual

THE USURPER: THE MINES OF QYNTARR
by Scott Thoman, Sir-Tech, 1988

INTRODUCTION

When you wake up, it is almost dark. The forest trail doesn't seem as friendly as it did when you lay down to rest. You are shivering, and you feel foolish for falling asleep and leaving yourself with a long walk back to camp in the dark. You dig your jacket out of your backpack and put it on.

You hear a sound. Someone seems to be weeping in the woods to the east. The sound comes from not too far away, and is oddly familiar. You realize that the weeping has gone on long enough for you to become accustomed to it. It was this sound, in fact, that woke you.

You push through some light brush toward the sound. At the rustling of the brush, the weeping stops, then there is silence as you stop moving to listen again. You think someone must be lost in the forest, and you wonder why he--something in the sound of that hushed crying makes you think it is a man-- is quiet now, why he doesn't call for help. There are no bears or wolves in these woods for him to be afraid of. But then, you think, maybe he doesn't know that.

You call out, "Hello!" and you feel vaguely silly about doing it: suppose it's an animal and not a person? But you call again, and then once more. The third time, there is an answer. It sounds like "Here. Please help me," but the accent is strange, and the voice could be saying something else. Stepping forward, you find a man lying in a small clearing only a few feet from where you called.

The sunlight is almost gone now. You use the flashlight from your pack to examine the man. He is wearing heavy woolen clothing of an odd cut. The jacket and trousers are so dirty it is impossible for you to decide on their colors. The man's face is grimy under his tangled hair, with lighter streaks where tears and sweat have washed away the filth.

The man is gaunt, and pale under the dirt. His clothes are loose, as if he has lost a lot of weight. He has several days' growth of beard, and his lips are dry and cracked. You might think he was dead except for the way his eyes flinch from the flashlight.

"Water." His voice is as dry as his lips. You hurry to remove your canteen from your belt and open it for him. He snatches it from your hands and drinks greedily. Much of the water spills down his chin and onto the ground under his head. "Easy, easy," you urge him, but he is asleep almost immediately.

Working quickly, you gather armloads of dry leaves from the forest floor and cover him with them. You know you can't leave him to go for help, so you sit leaning against a tree, watching him. It takes surprisingly little time before you begin to feel drowsy.

In what seems like only a second, the sun is already well up. You've slept badly and your neck is stiff. The man is still in his bed of leaves: It takes you only a moment to determine that he will never wake up. You think about what you should do, then you brush away the leaves that cover him and, gingerly, you unbutton his coat. You find the sheaf of papers immediately.

Fine, almost spidery writing covers most of both sides of each sheet of paper. Its appearance is so unusual that it is only after several minutes that you realize that the writing is in English, and is, in fact, quite clear. Your initial puzzlement was partly due to an unfamiliar handwriting style, but was mostly caused by the jumble of what seems to be abbreviations. Apparently the man was keeping notes in some kind of personal shorthand, and you can make no sense from most of it. 

By contrast, the final pages are a model of clarity. When you realize what you are seeing, you sit on a fallen log and read:

"Hail:

"Rolat, son of Kendar, son of Hothar, son of Pethon, greets thee.

"At last I have seen that sight spoken of only in the oldest of the old manuscripts. This morn (and now I know what is meant by "morn"-- I emerged from that which is termed The World's Exit in the scroll of folk apocrypha compiled by Jenal the Elder. Yea, it exists, that Exit, and I saw the Sun. The Sun! Glowing with a blaze brighter than all the forges of the Smithies' Pit, throwing a light that would dim the eyes forever were one foolish enough to try to encompass it with a stare! Yet such blindness were brilliance, if only it were under the blessed Sun, against the darkness I and mine before me have endured this score of scores of years. Even the light of the Sun on the largest of the gian forms that be 'trees' (if the legends read true) was as nothing when compared to the light that shone in the recesses of my mind. So much that was hidden is now discovered! So much that I have seen, and saw as dreams only (so strong is the working of the mind to cast the strange in familiar moulds), I see now as the real stuff of the world. So much that I took for quaint tales to be told as passing entertainment for babes, I see now as the merest and most obvious of truths. Oh glorious Light that brings legends to life and so offers hope to the oppressed in the bowels of the earth!

"Ah, but thou, stranger, who sleep against yon tree while I scribble by light stolen from thy strange cool torch, how do I tell thee what causes me to babble so? How can I tell thee what a few brief hours under this Sun that is thy natural birthright (and mine!) have done for the light of my understanding? How do I describe the hope that arises unbidden in my breast?

"Our poet said 'Begin at the beginning." And so I shall. And for the first time I tell this tale as truth, and know that it has a beginning and, by extension, an end.

"In a time so long ago that it is a legend even in legends, my people were sovereign in this land, All the slopes of this mountain and into the valleys around they farmed, and they harvest the fruit of the earth. Deep they dug into the flanks of the mountain, and mined iron and copper, and precious silver and gold. As the mines grew, the empty tunnels and rooms were used as great storehouses for the crops of the land that surpassed the people's needs. Indeed, the mines were so well dug that folk lived in their dark fastnesses by choice. The mountain and the country were called 'Qyntarr:' 'Sunfruit' in the language of the fathers of the fathers of the people.

"And Qyntarr prospered. The fame of our goods spread many days' ride in every direction, and the people were able to trade for all that they were unable to grow or dig themselves, and there was abundance for all.

"It was not to last, gentle stranger. In the land of Tor to the north was a King, called Aken, the Usurper, the Master of the Foul Arts (would I had more of thy sweet water to wash his name form my mouth), and he coveted Qyntarr and all within it. This Aken of Tor sent forays of his soldiers to test the mettle of the people of Qyntarr, and many of the people were killed, but many more escaped to hide within the mountain.

"From time to time for a score of years Aken sent his armies; now for a month, now for a season, they besieged Qyntarr. But all his men and all his mighty engines of war could not daunt the people of Qyntarr in the fastnesses of the mines. Then it was rumored that the foul King himself would march on the people. Many lost hope at this news, because he drew his strength from the Pits of Blackness, and it was said mortals cold not withstand him.

"But Baellon, the wisest of the wise men of Qyntarr, also heard of Aken's approach. Baellon did not despair, but prepared a mighty weapon against the King. A great blue stone it was, hewn from the depths of the mountain, and it was polished into the shape of an Orb. And the wise man locked the power and light of the Sun itself into this Orb, and gave it the strength to turn the King's evil back on the King himself.

"Alas! Even as the great task was done, some of the King's soldiers made their way into the mountains, as they did from time to time, and by ill fortune came upon the wise man. Now, the stone had no power to fight these men with their swords and spears, so the wise man fled before them, and he was able to roll the Orb into some deep recess in the mines before the soldiers caught him. When Baellon was brought before Aken, he called on his inner strength, and was able to resist the questioning of the King, and died without revealing the whereabouts of the Orb. The King had, by his arts, perceived the existence and might of the thing the wise man had made, but not even the skill of his torturers could extract the secret of its hiding-place.

"The wrath of Aken knew no bounds. Never before had his will been flouted thus. But he also knew fear, for any man might find the Orb and use the King's own power to destroy him. So Aken walked into the doorway of the mines and caused strange shapes and powers to walk before him. So terrible were these forces of Aken that the people of Qyntarr fled into the deepest and darkest recesses of the mountain, which were unknown even to Aken, and sealed themselves in with a multitude of rooms full of food and firewood and provisions of every sort which they had prepared against just such an eventuality.

"Then, to spite the people, Aken called forth great demons of power, and he changed the shape of the outer mines, and set many traps and foul devices. He put beasts and monsters and man-like things into this place, and called it 'Fibiod,' from words in his tongue meaning 'buried alive.' Then he built a great castle, and when it was finished he went within, and cast fearsome spells of power and concealment. And the castle became invisible to the eyes of men, and time ceased to pass within its walls. And Aken sat himself on a great throne in the castle hall, and prepared to wait for the people of Qyntarr to venture forth once again. It is said that he sits there still, attended only by his minion K'Vin, Lord Lieutenant of the armies of Tor and second only to his vile master in the practice of evil. The legends of my people (and I no longer think them legends!) tell that he waits for the Orb to be uncovered, so that he may destroy it and establish his dominion at last, and that he dares not leave, for fear it will be found in his absence and used to overthrow him and his works. It is also said that a small scroll of the secrets of Baellon the wise man, found at his cruel questioning, is hidden in the castle of the King, and that Aken draws much strength from it.

"And for all the time since these things were done, my people have hidden in their secret place beneath the mountain of Qyntarr, so that none can now remember any existence but that of rats scurrying in the burrows. The tales say that only the great Orb of the wise man will undo the evil of Aken and allow the people to walk forth into their inheritance under the Sun.

"It was to find this Orb that I, Rolat, ventured forth on the first day of my fortieth year, as did my father, and his father and grandfather before him; as did, indeed, every firstborn son in my line back to the first closing of what has become our prison. When I passed through the secret passage from Qyntarr to Fibiod, I gave up hope. I knew that I, like my forefathers, would never return to the poor caves that have become my country, where the numbers of my people grow smaller each year. I knew I would never see my children and beloved wife again (and, indeed, I now know my forebodings of that hour have come to pass). And I was bitter, and I cursed the long tradition that thrust me out from my family, for in my ignorance I was like most of my countrymen in these latter days, and thought the legend of my country no more than a myth arising from a people doomed since the beginnings of things to live under the rocks of the earth.

"(It may be a marvel to thee that I would hesitate to abandon the abode of my heritage. Was this abode not a cramped warren, dank and noisome in the mountain's roots? It was-- nay, it is!-- that. Yet it was my home, and the home of my people for generations. I knew of no other, better place. My people's captivity in the caves that had been their sanctuary had endured so long that those caves seemed all the world. The long training of my youth and manhood told of a larger, outside world, but the teachings seemed frivolous tales against the hard stone of the caverns. Could a place exist that had not walls and ceiling of rock, and where a great ball of fire provided light from the heights of a blue firmament? My poor thoughts, bound to the depths of my prison, told me it could not. I had even ceased to wonder from whence came the drafts of sweet air and the trickles of clear water that enabled us to maintain our existence.)

"I spent three fortnights and half of another in the dark passages of Fibiod-that-was-Qyntarr. I have seen sights meant to twist my mind and my soul, just as Aken twisted the beauty that he found in the mines of my people. There are things now in those depths that never existed in our land or in our dreams (although mayhap they might not seem so strange to thee, stranger), and I was often in terror and mortal peril. At last, at the beginning of the forty-ninth day of my wanderings, I found escape from the deeps, and, as I have told, I walked forth under the sun.

"I did not find the Orb, nor did I meet or find the foul King. But the Sun exists! Just as is told in our oldest tales, the Sun exists. So it may be that all that is told in those tales in equally true, and the Orb's power may yet be made to work against our dread captor. Thus was my thought when first I emerged, blinded and blinking in the glare of the Sun's light this morn. It was this that impelled me to this place where thou found me, though it was sore labor to come here. I could think only of finding another being to whom I could pass the torch of my seeking.

"For it is too late for me. Even as I write I can feel the life ebbing from me: I shall not see the Sun again.

"So I beseech thee, stranger (and I wish I knew thy name), help us. Help us. Enter the mines that were Qyntarr in better days. Enter black Fibiod. Use thy wits and thy strength to find the great weapon that has been hidden for centuries, and use it to destroy Aken. Destroy that foul and hideous enchanter who has kept a good people enclosed in the depths of this mountain for four hundreds of years.

"But perhaps I ask too much. How can I plead for thee to leave the brightness I have found here to face the peril of the pits of Fibiod? I would tell that if thou succeed, thou will earn the undying gratitude of my people. I would also tell thee that the legend of my folk contains the tale that the Orb of Qyntarr resisted the work of Aken, and the King was deceived by its power and left all the tools for his undoing in the dark tunnels. If this tale be true, then there is hope.

"And remember, there is danger even if the Orb is found. Aken the Usurper wants it to be found, so that he may smash it and end the fear that has hung over his evil heart through the generations of our captivity. If thou undertake this quest, thy life may yet end, even if thou find the great gem, even as my life is now ending.

"For my end is near. As the sky begins to lighten with what must be the coming of the Sun, I feel my fingers becoming numb and stiff, and my writing must soon cease.

"Heed my plea. Help the people I sought to help, and whom I shall not see again in life. Go south from this place. Enter Fibiod. Thou are the only hope of a people who suffer the undeserved enmity of an implacable foe. Help them."

You look up from the papers. The face of Rolat seems peaceful now, and somehow satisfied.

Then you think of the message that Rolat spent his last hours writing. You read it again, and you remember that it was written for you. Can it be true? Can there really be families of people trapped under this mountain? How could they survive for four hundred years? Surely their food should have spoiled long ago, no matter how much they had in the beginning. And this part about a magical orb and an evil king in an invisible castle certainly must be nonsense.

But Rolat is real. You are not imagining his pale corpse lying beside you in a forest clearing. Isn't a person supposed to tell the truth on his deathbed? Why would Rolat tell such a story if he did not believe it.

You make up your mind. You will check on the man's fantastic story. After all, it will only delay you a short time if the story turns out to be false.

The flashlight is lying by the body. It is still turned on, but the batteries are dead. You leave it where it is. You eat the last sandwich from your backpack, and drink the last few mouthfuls of water from your canteen. You look to the south where Rolat's footprints in the soft ground disappear into the dense underbrush. You decide to leave your backpack and few items of equipment here: they will only hinder you in the brush. You start off.

Rolat's trail is easy to follow. Even where the ground is too firm for footprints, you spot branches and twigs that have been broken by his passage, and often there are threads from his rough clothing hanging from threads.

In less than an hour, you can see a clearing through the brush ahead of you. You push forward...

VERB LIST

Following is a list of some of the hundreds of verbs recognized in The Mines of Qyntarr. (If you enjoy an extra challenge, you might wish to avoid reading this list). If a word in this list is followed by a letter or letters in parentheses, you can use the letter or letters instead of the word.

This list is intended to help you if you become "stuck," but we hope that the game's "intelligence" in recognizing many different words will help prevent that from happening.

1.  Approach			25. Jump			49. Run
2.  Attack			26. Kick			50. Save
3.  Break			27. Kill			51. Say
4.  Call			28. Kiss			52. Search
5.  Climb			29. Lift			53. Smash
6.  Close			30. Light			54. South (S)
7.  Cut				31. Lock			55. Southeast (SE)
8.  Dial			32. Look (L)			56. Southwest (SW)
9.  Down (D)			33. North (N)			57. Stab
10. Drink			34. Northeast (NE)		58. Take
11. Drop			35. Northwest (NW)		59. Threaten
12. East (E)			36. Open			60. Throw
13. Eat				37. Place			61. Tickle
14. Enter			38. Play			62. Unlight
15. Examine			39. Press			63. Unlock
16. Extinguish			40. Pull			64. Untie
17. Feed			41. Punch			65. Up (U)
18. Fight			42. Push			66. Use
19. Follow			43. Pull			67. Wait
20. Get				44. Quit			68. Wave
21. Give			45. Read			69. Wear
22. Go				46. Remove			70. West (W)
23. Help			47. Restore			71. Yell
24. Inventory (I)		48. Ring

QYNTARR CRITTERS

Here, gentle reader, are some of the "beasts and monsters and man-like things" that Aken placed in the depths of Fibiod, and that are rumored to wander there to this day. Note that you don't have to panic if you meet them, but it's not a totally bad idea, either.

The Bag Lady:

This dear old thing wanders about the mines looking for someone to help. Help, in the opinion of this grandmotherly person, consists mostly of relieving other people of their burdens. Permanently, if she has any say in the matter. In her blue-haired frowsy way, she is a Robin Hood type, if you think of Robin Hood as keeping the booty himself.

The Blooble:

The evolution of the blooble is uncertain. Some think he was once a prince who was kissed by the wrong princess. Whatever his origins, this shy denizen of the depths bears witness to the wisdom of the old folk saying, "If it croaks like a frog and eats like a pig, it might be a blooble, if it isn't my cousin Freddie or something else entirely."

The Chelazzion:

Ooh, ugh! You want to talk about bad? The chelazzion is it. From snouts to tail, this critter is triple-distilled unadulterated nasty. Some think the only way to destroy a chelazzion is to convince the head with the brains that the other one is sneaking up on it. This has remained a theory due to no one ever locating the head with the brains.

The Dragon:

Most experts say this charmer may have escaped from that ancient kingdom with the Welsh spelling, while a few dissidents claim he fled from sinking Atlantis. Who knows? Anyway, one thing is for sure. Like a grizzly bear, a dragon doesn't like being annoyed. Also, HE decides what annoys him, with dissenting opinions subject to heated rebuttal.

The Elves:

You might believe in high-toned namby-pamby elves that are either cute little guys who dance in the moonlight, or tall handsome guys who dance in the moonlight. Well, forget it. THESE elves are obnoxious little stinkers with a sadistic sense of humor and bad table manners. Moonlight or not, they only dance when they get the better of their betters. They dance depressingly often.

The Fibians:

The residents of Fibiod are probably not human. They are probably not very nice. If we can ever get one to hold still for an interview, we'll find out more about them. Probably.

The Ogre:

You think you know all about ogres? You've heard all the old wives' tales, like ogres are big; ogres are ugly; ogres are mean and eagle and vicious? Well, ha, ha, ha! Are you ever going to be surprised when you find out the truth about ogres. We're here to tell you those old wives knew a thing or two! Believe us, if there was something nice about an ogre, we'd tell you right now just to prove you're wrong about something. We can't. But don't get smug about it, because we know where you live. And we have this ogre....

The Pirate:

This leftover from the days when you could get away with stealing stuff because the navy couldn't catch you seems to be making a comeback. He's a real example for the community, combining the morality of Al Capone with the generosity of the IRS. But don't worry, he likes you. He envies you. He'd like to own everything you've got.

The Snowbeast:

Br-r-r-r! Here's some fauna to chill your soul AND your body. He's like a big cat, but he's no snow leopard-- he's not warm or friendly enough. But take heart. He may have a soft spot somewhere. If you can find it in time.

The Yallou:

If there was ever an animal that should have been left off the ark, the yallou is it. She's a cowardly little sneak who lurks in dark places to waylay the unwary. If you're unfortunate enough to meet her, she'll make you wish you hadn't. We'd tell you why, if we could bring ourselves to describe such a disgusting thing.


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