The Lost City of Zork

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Publishing Details

The Lost City of Zork is a fantasy novel written by Robin W. Bailey. It is one of the books in the Infocom series written for Avon Books. It is copyright © 1991 by Byron Preiss Visual Publications, Inc.

Library of Congress Card Catalog Number: 90-93398.

ISBN 0-380-75389-8.

Plot Summary

Spoiler warning: Story, puzzle, and/or ending details follow.
  • Chapter 1: The Road to Borphee. Caspar Wartsworth is on the road to great port city of Borphee to become a sailor and encounters an old man named "Zil". Zil says he's invented a new card game called Double Fanucci. Zil warns Caspar that Borphee is in chaos, and has soldiers on the streets and new restrictive laws. Zil warns Caspar not to tell anyone they met.
  • Chapter 2: The Big City. The Gatekeeper of Borphee seems to have gone somewhat mad, who writes down Caspar's name and particulars with Caspar's own blood, makes up rules as he goes along, and charges a gate fee (only one zorkmid, but that's all the money Caspar had). Caspar has barely begun to browse the marketplace when he is attacked by a group of guardsmen led by the Gatekeeper.
  • Chapter 3: Royal Hospitality. Caspar regains consciousness, naked in a locked jail cell. Olio the jailkeeper takes offence when Caspar kills a roach, and forcefully takes Caspar through the palace (including the harem) to the king. However, it's not King Zilbo the Third as Caspar expected, but King Duncanthrax. The cause of Caspar's woe is a leather wine bottle with an ornate "Z" on it that he got from "Zil"; the Gatekeeper noticed the bottle and it becomes clear that "Zil" was probably Zilbo. When Caspar tells where he met Zilbo on the western road, Duncanthrax rewards Caspar by sending him to the galleys.
  • Chapter 4: Antharia on Fifty Lashes a Day. Caspar is now locked to his oar on a battle bireme, and given nothing to wear but a loincloth. He is now known as "Number Twenty-Two"; his benchmate is "Number Twenty-Three". He meets the cabin boy "Sunrise", and the ship captain, Chulig. Once a blue-robed figure is on board, the ship casts off. When the ship rams through the oars of another ship trying to leave the harbor, Chulig kicks his first mate overboard.
  • Chapter 5: The Screaming Queen Goes Down. When Chulig orders Sunrise to whip Number Twenty-Three for talking, almost every other oarsman and sailor eagerly clammors to be whipped instead. When Chulig asks Caspar if he doesn't fancy a taste of the long Betsy, and Caspar says "One of us is having a severe personality lapse", Chulig orders Caspar to be whipped instead. Sunrise tells Caspar that Caspar will get Sunrise off this ship; it's the anger in Caspar's eyes. Later, past the shores of Mauldwood, the ship attracts the attention of a sea serpent. Sunrise unlocks Caspar's manacles from the oars during the confusion. The blue-robed figure, Satchmoz the Incomparable, casts a vaxum spell on the serpent to make it friendly. Too friendly: the sea serpent coils around the prow with the serpent figurehead, and rips it away. Caspar falls helplessly into the ocean.
  • Chapter 6: A Day at the Beach. Caspar and Sunrise are saved by grabbing the great drum of the cadence master. Satchmoz has also survived. The three make their way to the shore, and there, Satchmoz dries out his robe and spell scrolls. We learn that every ship in the fleet has a wizard; they are Duncanthrax's weapons, and the ships are heading to the island of Antharia to invade it. Sunrise was a homeless youth and thief in Borphee, rounded up and enslaved a month ago. They figure that Zilbo must've been hiding in Borphee since he was deposed and only recently escaped the city. Satchmoz uses rezrov to unbolt Caspar's manacles from his wrists.
  • Chapter 7: Satchmoz the Incomparable Explains It All For You. They start a fire with gathered wood and a radnog spell. Wizards don't have spellbooks yet; every spell scroll can only be used once. Satchmoz only knows one spell permanently, a spell that ties shoelaces together. Satchmoz passes around a berzio potion to sate their hunger. Satchmoz says he has to return to Borphee to rescue a talented enchanter named Berkzip. Duncanthrax gained control of the Borphee Guild of Enchanters by imprisoning Berknip, but now, everyone will think that Satchmoz is dead, and that gives him a chance at success.
  • Chapter 8: The Fur Starts to Fly. Then they are attacked by Kobolds. They survive but get separated. When Sunrise and Caspar take a bath in the ocean, that's when Satchmoz uses aimfiz to teleport beside them. Now he has to dry his robe and scrolls again.
  • Chapter 9: Mauldwood. The group travels northward, trying to stay near the sea, but it's a swamp filled with snakes, spiders, and underwater predators. Satchmoz falls into the water again. Reluctantly, they head into the woods where at least they can be dry. Everyone is on edge. Caspar builds a campfire. They settle in for the night.
  • Chapter 10: "You Mean, Whistle a Happy Tune?" Everyone is rude and ill-tempered the next day. Sunrise finds some spenseweed for them to eat. Frightened, jumpy, and angry, they follow a stream in the woods. Sunrise attacks Caspar, and Caspar holds Sunrise's head underwater. Satchmoz laughs: the sound restores some sanity to Caspar, and he quickly pulls Sunrise out of the water, begging forgiveness. Satchmoz realizes that the woods are magical, alive, and evil. They decide to fight woods' evil influence with forced joviality and restating their friendship, even if they feel like they hate each other right now.
  • Chapter 11: The Castle and the Smart-Mouthed Statue. Near sunset, they find a castle in the woods. Sunrise picks the gate lock. Inside the gate is a statue who companionly informs them that they're in trouble and he's got to sound the alarm. The gate relocks itself. Caspar and Sunrise topple the statue, but he sounds the alarm anyway. Inside the castle, attempts to explore prove awkward; they keep finding themselves reentering the entrance hall. Satchmoz sits and meditates to study this new magic.
  • Chapter 12: Caspar Finds a Sleeping Beauty and Things Turn Nasty. Caspar and Sunrise follow a cat to a high tower room that contains a girl in a glass coffin. Urged by Caspar, Sunrise kisses the girl and she wakes up. The girl is Esmerelda; the cat is Meezel. After some difficulty (they keep ending up in the library), they rejoin Satchmoz. Then the owner of the castle arrives: Nasturtium (or just Nasty), who is a both Esmerelda's stepmother and a witch, and also the one who put her into an enchanted sleep. Nasty and Esmerelda argue, ending with Nasty letting them all go, including Esmerelda and her cat.
  • Chapter 13: The Big Wind. Esmerelda is somewhat spoiled, and her constant complaining irritates everyone. Caspar explains why he left his hometown of Djabuti Padjama: he was run out of town because he tricked Jelboz Stumpbiter, a friend of Caspar's uncle, into falling into a pit of animal waste after Jelboz took sexual advantage of a poor and needy older female friend of Caspar's named Thyrsobel. They meet a surmin on the road, but despite their extreme caution, Meezel chases after it and soon they are all covered with the extremely powerful stench of the surmin's fart.
  • Chapter 14: The Red Cock. They find an inn called The Red Cock, but the six rough men there want together to do with the "stinkers", except for Esmerelda who they intend to rape. The two groups fight until Satchmoz frotzes the brigand leader; the men think Nasty is after them. Exhausted, Esmerelda gives Satchmoz a spell scroll she stole from Nasty: it's the aimfiz teleportation spell.
  • Chapter 15: Burble, Burble ... They all join hands and Satchmoz teleports the entire group to the Wizard's Guild in Borphee. Satchmoz himself lands right beside the only resident left: a brogmoid named Burble who (unfortunately for Satchmoz) was taking a bubble bath in Krepkit's bathtub. (Krepkit is the head of the guild.) Everyone takes a separate bedroom, and Burble runs hot baths for each of them. The next morning, Caspar indulges in another bath, and Burble brings breakfast.
  • Chapter 16: The Earth Moves For Caspar. Caspar finds Satchmoz in the guild library. The building trembles; Satchmoz says it's because of the Frobozz Magic Tunneling Company. When everyone is awake and enjoying tea and biscuits in the guild's crystal chamber, Satchmoz informs everyone that they've all been absent from Borphee for two months because of leakage in whatever time spell Nasty cast on Esmerelda's coffin. To her horror, Esmerelda learns she's been asleep for almost 500 years. Antharia lost the war; the initial salvo was a feint to get the Antharian navy to attack at Fort Griffspotter where the Quendorian fleet and best wizards defeated them utterly. But if the war's over, where's Berknip and the rest of Satchmoz's guild?
  • Chapter 17: A Stroll Through Town. Caspar and Sunrise, left to themselves, decide to explore Borphee. Satchmoz enchanted the front door with a "rap at the door" to deter them, but it doesn't slow them down much. In the deserted harbor streets, they are taunted by prostitutes and chased by soldiers for breaking curfew. Sunrise's superior knowledge of the city helps them escape, and at Caspar's insistence, they decide to visit the palace to find out what's going on.
  • Chapter 18: A Guard Gets Kissed Off. The palace is too well-guarded to break into on a whim, so they return to the guild hall. Esmerelda is angry with Caspar; she doesn't understand why they don't just leave. Satchmoz reappears, but with no new info. He agrees that the palace probably has the knowledge he seeks. Esmerelda outlines a bold plan which is very risky but has some chance of success. Leaving Burble in the guild hall as their aimfiz anchor, Sunrise sneaks the rest of them to the palace. Unfortunately, Meezel comes along too. Caspar kisses a palace guard when the guard is reluctant to arrest him for breaking curfew.
  • Chapter 19: Breaking and Entering. In the jail cell, Caspar waits until the rest of the group aimfizzes beside him. Satchmoz rezroves the door open, and huddles down in Caspar's place. Everyone else leaves the cell, but Caspar and Sunrise lose sight of Esmerelda and Meezel as they start their explorations. In a dark room, they find maps of the new underground highway and several spell scrolls. Later, while hiding from a patrol, they find several harem outfits, which Caspar suggests they change into so they don't have to sneak around. There's too much commotion in the halls, so they attempt to return to Satchmoz. They have some difficulty with various guards, but manage to get back to the cell where Esmerelda rushes them in. As the soldiers storm the cell and Satchmoz casts aimfiz, Meezel jumps to attack a guard and is left behind.
  • Chapter 20: Satchmoz Turns His Trick. Burble was waiting in the guild courtyard; Satchmoz lands in its fountain, soaked yet again. Everyone changes into new clothes. Back in the crystal chamber, Satchmoz warns no one to get comfortable. He expects the guards to storm the guild hall at any moment. Caspar and Esmerelda fill a sack with scrolls from the library. Burble packs a bag of food. Satchmoz and Caspar copy the spatial displacement spell they got from Nasty's castle onto two scrolls. Satchmoz uses the spare to enchant the guild hall so the entering guards will keep ending up in Krepkit's bathroom. In the courtyard, Nasty arrives on her broomstick, agitated because of the tunneling under her castle. She joins the group as they run from the guild hall.
  • Chapter 21: "They Don't Call You Nasty For Nothing". Catching their breathes in the wharves, they compare notes. Satchmoz and Nasty learn just how extensive the tunneling is getting, and that Duncanthrax has spell scrolls; the one Sunrise found was a very potent vaxum. (Nasty frotzes Satchmoz's nose so he can read it.) Wizard and witch both agree that a potent magic, not just mere digging spells, can be felt from the tunnel. They agree to re-enter the palace; this time, Nasturium will fly into the courtyard on her broom, and Satchmoz will aimfiz everyone in after her. Esmerelda carries the bag of spells, and rips off Caspar's sleeve so Satchmoz can hide his glowing nose with it. In the courtyard, they find that Nasty has put all the guards to sleep.
  • Chapter 22: Soft Laughter in the Dark. Inside the palace, Nasty puts more guards to sleep. Without anyone noticing, Esmerelda goes in search of Meezel. There's a laugh in the darkness, and when Satchmoz's nose stops glowing, Nasty frotzes her broom. Their search takes them through the harem, a torture chamber, and even further underground. When it's obvious that a grue is following them, Caspar plucks and drops the glowing straws off Nasty's broom behind them to keep it at bay. Without warning, the floor drops out and they fall down a chute into a glass chamber with a solid crystal door. Then the broom goes out, and the grue falls into the room amongst them.
  • Chapter 23: The Underground Highway. Burble is knocked away by the grue before Nasty frotzes it. Before their horrified eyes, the maddened grue pounds on the walls while its fur and flesh boil away, leaving glowing bones behind. Duncanthrax himself jumps into the room, angry about his pet grue. But before anyone can attack, he vaxumes them all into adoring subjects. Duncanthrax asks how Satchmoz how he escaped from Antharia, and explains that the other wizards (such as Krepkit) are working in the tunnels and that they too will help build the highways. He opens the crystal door with a wand, but then Esmerelda falls into the room and plows into Duncanthrax. A harsh word from him breaks the vaxum spell. Then Meezel emerges from a tunnel and lands on the king's back. His robe falls off and with everyone closing in, he escapes through a hidden door that locks behind him. Amongst the robe's contents are several scrolls, but only three types: katpil (digging), vaxum, and plasto (disguise). Nasty frotzes some daggers for light, and the group enter the highway through the crystal door.
  • Chapter 24: No Place Like Home. They find a group of large people working zombie-like on the tunnel, including the true King Duncanthrax, all ensorcelled by vaxum spells. Duncanthrax, when freed of his vaxum, tells Satchmoz that the usurper is Drespo Molmocker, the president of the Frobozz Magic Tunneling Company. One of Duncanthrax's last memories was telling Drespo that the cost of Drespo's tunnel project was too high. Esmerelda comforts Duncanthrax by introducing his face to her cleavage. Meanwhile, Burble has been whispering words in people's ears to break their vaxum enchantments. Satchmoz is worried; they can't return the way they came, but then thinks he can use the spatial displacement spell he learnt from Nasty's castle to get everyone home. Sunrise and Caspar note how amorous the king and Esmerelda are, and suspect Nasty cast an enchantment while everyone's attention was elsewhere. Satchmoz tells everyone present, including Burble, to concentrate on their homes for the enormous amount of presence that the spell will require. Everyone chants "there's no place like home" as Satchmoz casts the spell.

    Later, Satchmoz enjoys a pipe in the guild garden, with the young Berknip sleeping on his lap. It's two days later, and things are returning to normal in Borphee. Esmerelda will be Queen. Caspar will be a minstrel and roving ambassador for the crown, with Sunrise as his assistant. Satchmoz is pampered by the rescued enchanters, although Krepkit is sour. Esmerelda gave Meezel to Sunrise. Satchmoz intends to see Nasturium again. The scrolls got scatttered with the casting of the spatial spell. And after a duck dinner, Satchmoz plays the trumpet.
Spoilers end here.

Comments and Trivia

  • The Lost City of Zork shares numerous features with Bailey's previous Infocom book, Enchanter:
    • Puns on names. Caspar's home town of Djabuti Padjama is frequently heard as someone's pajamas, for example. Puns are also made with Nasty and Sunrise's names.
    • Brogmoids. The brogmoid Burble is nearly identical to Enchanter's Cubby. Both have the same dual personalities (street tough vs. three year old), both have mohawk haircuts Burble's is pink; Cubby's is purple), and both wear similar loud sweaters (Burble wears a bright yellow one with "I love Borphee" on it; Cubby's is red with "Borphee is for lovers").
    • Gay humor. Enchanter had the flamboyantly gay dragon Chuck; Lost City fills the entire chapter "The Screaming Queen Goes Down" with suggestive and over-the-top homosexual innuendo, including an oarsman sucking in "air" noisly at an oar hole. Much later in the book, Caspar kisses a male palace guard to get arrested, and even later, Caspar and Sunrise crossdress as harem girls.
    • Friends turn on each other because of evil influences. In Enchanter, the Great Terror was the cause; in Lost City, the Mauldwood forest gives off the bad vibes.
    • Kobolds attack the main characters early in both books.
    • Surmins are encountered by the main characters in both books. Both surmins break wind, and both groups are assaulted by the noxious stink.
    • Grues attack in both books.
  • The book gives an origin for the Great Underground Highway, explains why Duncanthrax was nicknamed "the Bellicose", and how assorted scrolls ended up everywhere in the kingdom.