The book the Puffin editors went for in the end, The Keep of the Lich Lord, was actually our least favorite of the bunch. The one reproduced here, The Mists of Horror, might have been fun to do but we were keener on four others: Curse of the God Kings (based on one of our epic role-playing campaigns with Oliver Johnson, Mark Smith and others), The Best Thief in Arantis (which I was very very glad to eventually write, located instead in its correct Arabian Nights setting, as Twist of Fate), The Keeper of the Seven Keys (very ambitious that one; you played the bad guy in what would have been a gamebook precursor of Dungeon Keeper) and Jamie's favorite, Dinosaurs of Death, which did exactly what it said on the tin and surely would have pleased boys everywhere. Including us two boys who wanted to write it.
Maybe we'll run some of the others later, but for now here's the pitch we made to Puffin Books for...
The Mists of Horror
You are a journeyman-sorcerer travelling to a new College of Magic where you intend to continue your studies. Your journey takes you from the city of Harabnab across the wild moors of Ruddlestone's hinterland. Full of high spirits, you decide to ride on ahead of your retinue to arrange lodging at an inn along the road. As you return to join them, you find yourself riding into gathering fog banks. You can find no sign of your servants, nor of the books and travelling-chest that were on the mules with them. You go on to the inn, expecting your servants to turn up there, but night falls and still they have not arrived.Having crossed the circle of mist around the village, the protagonist finds himself in the Otherworld - a magical envoironment where events follow a strange dreamlike logic. His success will be decided in part by his ability to adjust to the different ways of thinking that this environment demands.
Outside, the fog has closed its grip on the countryside. You can see it sitting along the ridges of the moor like the ranks of a phantom army. You realise you would have no chance of finding your servants now, so you return to brood by the fire. It is nearly midnight when a man staggers in, his clothes torn as if by brambles and his face white with shock. The landlord recognises him as the miller from the next village down the road. He mutters a few cryptic remarks about "the Faerie King" and "the Unseelie Court" before collapsing in delirium.
The next day, you look out of your window to see the village encircled by fog. Stray wisps creep across the ground outside, and it seems the fog is closing in.
You go downstairs to find the villagers gathered in the common room of the inn. There are mutterings about an old stone circle out on the moors, and the village priest fearfully relates the ancient story that this was a portal leading to the Otherworld, where the spiteful fays of the Unseelie Court reign supreme. The ancient tradition was that a blood sacrifice should be made once in every hundred years to keep the portal closed, but since the locals turned to the worship of the benevolent Hamaskis, God of Wisdom, they have not kept up the rituals of their forefathers.
Now the mutterings in the inn begin to grow, and soon panic at the thought of Otherworld magic turns the villagers into a crazed mob. Fearful for their lives, they seize the innkeeper's daughter - a friendly girl who served you food and drink the night before. They mean to sacrifice her to the callous Old Gods in the hope that the magical portal to the Otherworld can be closed again. You are horrified at such a suggestion, though you realise that their terror is such that you cannot hope to reason with them. Along with the priest, you manage to persuade them to at least let you have one day in which to find the stone circle and try closing it with your own magic. What you do not tell them is that you are only a journeyman-sorcerer, and you have scant hope that your own power will be enough. Still, you must try - or else an innocent girl will go to her doom, and her blood will be on the hands of these honest but frightened villagers.
The protagonist's task is to find the Unseelie Court, which corresponds in the Otherworld to the stone circle's position in the real world. His missing servants are being held captive oat the Court. There he must battle the Faerie KIng to drive the Otherworld back and close off its contact with the real world. Throughout the adventure, a major worry for the protagonist (as expressed in the narrative) will be the need to conserve his magical power for the initiation tests he expects to face at the College of Magic.
In fact, victory will only be won by attacking the Faerie King with no holds barred - seemingly giving up on the hope of entering the College later. However, this in itself merely constitutes a moral choice for the protagonist: in order to win he has to forget his own selfishness. Making the correct choice in this situation means the reward of a second victory on returning to the village: not only are the villagers (including the girl) safe from the threat of the Otherworld, but the fellows of the College of Magic have learned of the trouble and now deem the protagonist worthy to enter their ranks.