'All hail, great master, grave sir! Hail! Welcome ever smiles, and farewell goes out singing...'
In this light-hearted but immensely challenging look at The Bard's world throught he keyboard of modern man, you find yourself, after watching too many Shakespeare plays (or perhps reading them) wandering around a strange land. Here they use a richer language than usual and some of the scenes remind you of certain Shakespeare plays. How you are going to return succussfully to the present day is something that you will have to find out for yourself!
Why does the adventure take place on three different dates? What is the significance of the lady Portia's caskets? Why does Yorick sometimes say "Golesida" and sometimes something else? Why do you suddenly find yourself wearing an ass's head? These are just some of the tantalising puzzles that you'll meet when you welcome AVON...An exhaustive knowledge of the Shakepearean Canon is not necessary as, in most cases, just the problems rather than the solutions are taken from Shakespeare. If you get really stuck, Topologika's much-praised on-line 'Help' system is there to stop the sighing...
Avon is Jonathan Partington's first release since his best-selling Kingdom Of Hamil (also available from Topologika).
1st April 1989
My Dear Aunt Jocasta,
How are you? How is Uncle George? I hope you got my letter from Paris. The Louvre was just amazing, and the hamburgers in the fast food opposite Gare du Nord were nearly as good as yours.
I will be eternally grateful to you both for enabling me to see Europe. Despite having been born and brought up in the States, I still feel, like you, so British! Seeing the land of one's ancestors in one's youth is surely better than hanging on for one's retirement. It's a shame your health wasn't up to the trip.
Thank you for your card. Yes, I had an interesting twentieth birthday. I treated myself to an excursion to Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare's town. 'Treat' is probably not the correct word. It was the weirdest trip I've ever known.
It began like any other. According to the coach driver, we had six hours free. I tried to stay with Araminta (that girl I wrote you about from Paris) but she went off with some 'Nam veteran.
Anyway, Ann Hathaway's cottage was out of this world. I had a cup of English tea, then bought some postcards (I've put one in with this letter to save a stamp), then found this guaint old antique shop. That's when things started to go wrong. Well, not exactly wrong. They just started to, well, happen. I'll try to explain.
This old, brass cauldron in the shop window caught my attention as I walked by. The shop was run by these old ladies, and when I said that I was interested in viewing the cauldron, they flipped. I mean they seemed to think I really did want it, and wouldn't take 'no' for an answer. Of course there was no way that I could have shipped it back to the States. It was even more enormous than that old rocking chair you used to have! (Did Uncle George ever fix it for you?)
My refusal seemed to offend them. They began to cluck and moan. I felt like I was in a Spielberg movie! I was out of there quick, I can tell you. I could swear one of them was after me with a broom. Outside the shop was this enormous pine tree which seemed to groan - yes, groan - as I ran past it. I took refuge in a pet shop a couple of blocks away, where an asp tried to bite me! I dived into the museum (strange to be in a country where people have to pay to check that no one has run off with their own heritage). I got out of there when an ass's head looked me up and down.
Well, all this had brought on a migraine, so I asked a policeman where I could find a drug store. He looked at me kinda strange, as did the chap in the drug store, shoving this green, bubbling phial under the counter as he sold me some pills.
Outside, the spring sun was still up, so I headed for the river. The Avon was as beautiful as Fodar's said it would be. I began to feel a whole lot better, strolling along, letting the pills and the fresh English air do their thing. Maybe I'd imagined it all. Maybe I was just overtired. I'd sure done a heck of a lot of travelling in the last few days. Maybe it was all just a bad dream, and I'd wake up in a minute or two back on the coach.
I must have taken a wrong turning. Suddenly I had the strangest of feelings. Don't ask me how, but right then I began to realise what was going on, and the thought sent a shock down my spine. Before my very eyes, the scenery was changing. The woods across the river looked like Scotland, the streets might have been Egypt, or London or Venice - anywhere. There was nothing I could get my bearings from. Modern Stratford was leaving me behind.
Even the ground at my feet looked different, unnatural. It was made of boards. I wondered if I was on some sort of platform or stage. Maybe I'd strayed onto some sort of riverside film set, I thought: that would explain some things. But the whole area looked too realistic: those were real trees, real buildings, and across the river, the suddenly muddy, boiling river, were real people.
But wait: why were they pointing at me? It was horrible; I hate people staring at me. This was worse: they were talking about me too, their voices drifting across the churning water: "Marry, 'tis a strange churl, that standeth over there. Methinks it knoweth not the time of day!"
Then I realised something even more horrible. Their clothing was completely different to mine. Where I was wearing Levis and my old football shirt (I know you disapprove of that, Auntie, but when one is travelling) these olde worlde hippies had on long flowing garments that swung stiffly in the increasingly chill breeze. It felt like winter, was winter, and it would be dark within minutes.
To cut a long story short, I was standing in a world that, although it was at that moment definitely not Stratford-upon-Avon, still had this Shakespearian flavour. I'd been transported into The Bard's world - the world of his plays - and players.
You're thinking your nephew's gone nutty, I suppose, that Europe has gone to my head. Please please believe me, Auntie. This really happened. I had to use all my wits to get back to the modern woruld. Luckily, I didn't need to know all that much about the Bard himself - or his works.
Not time for any more right now, Auntie. I'll write again in a day or so. Don't worry about me. How is Uncle George getting on in Kashmir?
Your loving nephew,
The top line contains a short description of where you are, together with your current score. The bottom section displays your current location in greater detail, together with your own input and the game's responses.
GO NORTH, THEN EAT THE PIG, E, SW, IN
GET ALL BUT THE DUCK AND GOBLET, AND LEAVE
GET - takes the first relevant object DROP - similar TAKE THE PIG AND UNICORN, WAIT SAY HELLO HELLO - equivalent to saying it LOOK - gives a full description of where you are SAVE - stores your current position on disk RESTORE - brings back the saved game RESTART - begins at the beginning QUIT or STOP VERBOSE - makes program always give the full description of where you are NORMAL - makes program give full description the first time you arrive at a new place, with short descriptions for later visits INVENTORY - lists your current possessions
You may be puzzled why the EXAMINE command is of only limited use. The game is conceived in such a way that in solving the puzzles you are not involved in merely happening to discover things about the objects. It is only by manipulating them where possible, or combing them in some way, that the relevant features are revealed. Some locations, however, do contain hidden depths...
If you get completely stuck, on-line help is available by typing HELP. Look up your problem on the list of hints and give the hint number you require.
You will then be given some sort of clue. The HELP facility is structured in stages so that you will initially get a partial clue, and will be given due warning if the entire puzzle is about to be revealed to you!
Keyword AVON Hints Hint
ANGLER What can I do with the angler? 10
ARDEN How can I get through Arden? 65
What can I do at the clearing in Arden? 66
ASP How can I avoid being killed by the asp? 39
ASS How can I avoid having an ass's head put on me? 33
BANQUET What is the purpose of the banquet? 49
BARGE How can I get off the barge? 40
BEACH What can I do at the beach? 35
BEAR How can I get past the bear? 21
BIRNHAM What can I do in Birnham Wood? 51
BLOOD How can I remove the smell of blood from my hands? 48
BUTT I can't get past the butt of Malmsey wine. 7
CAPITOL How can I avoid being killed in the Capitol? 32
CASKETS How can I tell in which order to open the caskets...
...on January 6th? 17
...on March 15th? 31
...on June 24th? 42
CAULDRON Which object should I shoose from the witches' cauldron...
...on January 6th? 1
...on March 15th? 30
...on June 24th? 46
CELLAR How can I use the information from the Boar's Head cellar?20
CHEST How can I get the large chest at the beach? 36
How can I open the small chest? 67
CLIFF How do I get down the cliff? 56
COLOSSUS How do I get past the colossus? 58
DRINK I can't win the drinking contest. 6
DROWNING How can I avoid drowning in the river? 29
DUCATS How can I avoid having to give back the ducats? 38
DUNSINNIN How can I get back from Dunsinnin? 52
FARM I don't know what to do at the farm. 3
FOG How can I get through the fog? 55
GAOL How can I get out of gaol? 24
GHOST What can I do with the Scotman's ghost? 50
GOLDSMITH How can I avoid the goldsmith taking my ducats as payment?62
How can I avoid the goldsmith taking back the chain? 63
How can I get past the goldsmith when I'm carrying 64
neither the chain nor the ducats?
GRAVEYARD How can I get east of the graveyard? 41
HOUSE How can I get into the house? 25
How can I avoid being killed in the house? 28
HOVEL How can I get into the hovel? 27
HUNCHBACK How can I help the kingly hunchback? 34
ILLYRIA How can I tell which house to enter in Illyria Court? 15
LEAR How should I advise King Lear? 19
MAZE I can't get through the maze of mountain paths. 2
MELTING How do I avoid my flesh melting? 44
MOOR How can I avoid being killed by the Moor? 14
MOOR'S CODE How can I decode the Moor's code? 16
NAME What name should I give when I'm asked? 61
OBJECTS Tell me the use of a particular object. 69
PASSWORD How can I interpret the jester's password? 18
PHIAL What should I do with the phial? 23
PINE What can I do with the howling pine? 26
PORPENTINE What is a porpentine? 59
How do I get the porpentine? 60
SAVE Why is saving sometimes regarded as an "ill deed"? 22
SHIELD How can I get the shield from the Scotsman? 54
SHREW How can I get the shrew? 37
ARROWS How can I avoid being killed by slings and arrows? 53
SPEAR What do I do with the spear? 8
STATUE What should I do with the statue? 5
TAVERN How do I get into the tavern? 57
TREASURE What should I do with my valuable items? 4
I can't find all the treasure. 70
COUNTRY How can I get through the undiscovered country? 45
VASTY DEEP What can I do at the Vasty Deep? 11
How can I call spirits from the Vasty Deep? 12
How can I avoid being killed by the Vasty Deep spirits? 13
WARM How do I avoid feeling warm? 43
WATCHMAN How can I get past the watchman? 68
WITCHES How can I persuade the witches to give me more than one
items at once? 47
WORM What can I do with the worm? 9
My Darling Jocasta,
How I miss you! It must be more than thirty years since we spent more than a couple of days apart. I woke up this morning longing to see you again, though it's less than a week since we said our farewells. The flight was relatively uneventful; a little bumpy and I confess that I had to seek solace from a teeny glass of whisky. I do hope you'll forgive me.
I hope you'll find it in your heart to forgive me something else too. The tale that I was flying to Kashmir was a little - in these days I dare hardly say white - a little lie. I flew to Murdac. I know that both the fact that I have deceived you and that I have returned to the land of my birth will strike horror in your veins, but I beg you to understand that I had to come back. I just have to find out the truth about Murdac before it's too late.
Duessa met me at the airport. I still don't know how she got there, although for a fragile woman of indeterminate years, probably more than ninety, she is amazingly agile. I hired a car and together we drove to her cottage on the edge of the forest of Murdac for my first visit since childhood.
It was exactly as I remembered it: dark, mysterious, broody, even more isolated now that I'm old enough to appreciate it. We passed a few people on the road; drab, grey people who turned their eyes away yet still, from inside, watched us.
Duessa, on the other hand, always uses her eyes to look one straight in the eye. My fater, rest his soul, used to say she could read the runes at the back of one's brain on the blackest of nights, that she knew secrets that nobody else in the village did - like what it meant if you saw a rabbit hicupping the night of the full moon. My mother told me that the reason he only lived to be 101 (when his father had reached 112) was because he had tripped over Duessa's cat when drunk. "She's a woman to be wary of," she had told me, "especially if you want to come home without growing an extra ear on the way. She can turn milk sour just by scratching the end of her nose."
This woman whom I'd grown up to think of as a witch lit the log fire while I perched on the end of her rank, rickety bed. Flakes of snow began to scour the window, like ice-cold eyes come to see who had dared step foot in Duessa's cottage. It was full of strange and interesting objects: glass apparatus billowing noxious vapours; a stuffed platypus; icosohedral prisms; many other curios. A cockroach would have scurried between my toes had I not been warming them above the now blazing fire.
Duessa was muttering incoherently to herself, busily looking for something. The only sign of her immense age, I observed, was this tendency to talk to one as if she was talking to herself. "This one looks brighter than the last," is what I thought her mumble. "It is time that the quest were done. The wizard needs help. But as for the manticore..."
These were the fragments that I heard, my darling Jocasta, as the old woman returned with a teapot. I'm telling you this exactly as it happened, like a story, for even though this is only the beginning, and even though it is happening to me, I don't really want to believe it.
"So you think I'm a witch?" she said. It wasn't a question, just something she said to the fire, to the teapot, perhaps to me. Just as I was wondering what to say in reply, and whether or not it was safe to accept what I thought was her gestured offer of a cuppa, she flooded the hearth with the contents of the pot and gazed at them raptly.
"If you want to find out the secrets of Murdac," she began, gazing at the two leaves swarming in the hearth, giving them a loose-toothed smile as if she'd said something and seen something that pleased her after all these years. She began to utter instructions, which I repeat here in case anything should happen to me. If it should, I want you to ask Jonathan to continue the quest. He's a good lad, despite the clothes he wears, with an adventurous soul and a warm, brave heart. I hope he's enjoying England.
"You go down a certain path at midnight on Halloween," she said. "You go down it until you come to a clearing. You draw a pentacle, and stand within it. You should PANGORY PANTHRODULAN -" She repeated these words thrice, as if they had some powerful significance. I repeated them to her, struggling to get the same intonation, images coming into my mind that getting it wrong might mean death by rotting in some gloomy dungeon for ten thousand aeons, tormented by creatures from the lower planes.
"It be fearful," she went on, her rasping, ancient voice only just audible above the cackling fire. "Ye certainly tremble. The trees move around you. You see a path that stretches for miles. You take it and the trees link arms behind you. There be hours of tireless trudging until you come across a beautifully laid-out garden and a small stone hut."
For some reason, mention of that hut made me sit up straight, cold sweat descending from my brow. Duessa continued to ignore me, dipping a skeletan finger into the tea leaves. She shoved some into the corner of her dribbling mouth.
"Ogres," Duessa added, her voice fading, drifting up the chimney like a spirit leaving a dying man. "And the cannibals," she mumbled. "And the Old Man of the Sea..." I hoped that she was just falling asleep, for there was one last thing I wanted her to do.
She was. With that Duessa began to snore, her near-transparent, bony skull resting on her flat, heaving chest.
She's been asleep for over an hour, my darling Jocasta, while I've been composing this letter to you. I'm leaving now to explore Murdac in the way she described. I shall leave a note beside Duessa, asking her to post this letter to you. I hope you'll find it in your heart to forgive me for misleading you about my destination.
Give my love to Jonathan. And don't worry. We'll be together again soon. My fondest Love and Deep Affection.
Your Ever-loving husband,
Keyword MURDAC Hints Hint
ALTERNATIVE How do I get out of the alternative universe? 21
ASTROLOGER'S What can I do in the Astrologer's Sanctum? 25
Why does a voice sneer at me in the Astrologer's 51
BLACK HOLE How do I get out of the black hole area? 18
What happens to the objects I drop in the black hole? 19
How do I recover objects dropped in the black hole 20
CANNIBALS How do I avoid being eaten by the cannibals? 37
CENTAUR How do I get past the centaur? 26
CHIMERA What can I do in the room with the chimera? 31
DARK How do I see in the dark? 50
DAUGHTER How do I befriend the Wizard's daughter? 40
How do I rescue the Wizard's daughter? 42
FINAL REGION How do I get out of the final region? 49
FOOTPRINTS Who made the footprints on the beach? 17
GEYSER How do I avoid being scalded? 34
GNOEVAL What does GNOEVAL mean? 32
GRAVE What use is the grave? 4
What use is the message on the tombstone? 5
HAUNTED How do I navigate safely through the haunted house? 44
HOUSE How do I get into the haunted house again? 55
HOUSE How do I get into the hut? 8
HUT How do I get into the hut? 8
ISLAND How do I get to the island? 36
How do I return from the island? 39
KEEP How do I get out of the keep safely? 47
How do I get objects out of the keep? 48
LAKE What use is the lake? 7
LAMP How do I turn on the lamp? 10
How do I turn off the lamp? 10
How do I see in the dark? 50
LION How do I calm the lion? 33
MANTICORE What is a manticore? 28
How do I avoid the effects of the manticore's poison? 29
MONKEY Is there any other way out of the monkey puzzle room? 30
MONSTER How do I re-animate the monster? 12
How do I stop the monster from dying? 13
How do I stop the monster from killing me? 14
What use is the monster? 15
OGRES How do I get past the ogres' wall? 1
How do I get back from beyond the ogres' wall? 2
How do I stop ogres attacking me? 9
OLD MAN OF How can I avoid being strangled? 35
OOZELUMNY What does OOZELUMNY mean? 22
What does OOZELUMNY do? 23
PIGEON How do I get hold of the pigeon? 24
PLATFORM How do I move along the platform? 45
How do I get off the platform? 46
POLTERGEIST How do I avoid being killed by the poltergeist? 43
POOL What can I do at the pool? 27
SANDPIT What use is the sandpit? 6
SCORPIONS How do I avoid being stung by scorpions? 38
SCROLL How do I read the scroll safely? 52
SHAWM What is a shawm? 3
TIDAL WAVE Why do I get killed by a tidal wave? 54
TOAD How do I pick up the toad without harming it? 16
TOMBSTONE What use is the message on the tombstone? 5
TREASURE Where should I keep my treasure? 56
TREMOR Why is there an earth tremor? 53
TROLL How do I get past the troll twice? 41
WALL How do I get past the ogres' wall? 1
How do I get back from beyond the ogres' wall? 2
WIRES How do I cross the wires safely? 11
This game was mentioned in the following articles:
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dave_e, an authority on collecting games for the Acorn Electron, says:
The Avon & Murdac double-pack is a very difficult game to track down physically (Only seen on eBay twice in the last twenty years!), presumably due to Interactive Fiction titles (text adventures) being seen as outdated by the time of its release. The games themselves are very sophisticated examples of the genre, and fans of Shakespeare will undoubtedly love Avon especially. The rather attractive slipcase and manual that presents this game is just as desirable.
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