Wishbringer (novel)

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Publishing Details

Wishbringer is a fantasy and comedy novel written by Craig Shaw Gardner. It is one of the books in the Infocom series written for Avon Books. It is copyright © 1988 by Byron Preiss Visual Publications, Inc.

The novel is inspired by the Wishbringer game by Infocom of 1985, although with a different protagonist than the game.

Library of Congress Card Catalog Number: 88-91504.

ISBN 0-380-75385-5.

Plot Summary

Spoiler warning: Story, puzzle, and/or ending details follow.

Part One: "The Beginning"

  • Chapter 1: Simon is operating a crooked shell game at Festerton's Fun Pier. The current sucker is Brad MacGuffin who is with his girlfriend Shirley. After seeing how easily Shirley can find the pebble, Brad bets a gold coin and loses. When Simon learns it was Brad's last coin (and sees Shirley's very attractive older sister Gloria), Simon returns the coin, claiming that the pebble fell out of the cups and no one won. He refuses to let Brad play again. Gloria tells Simon that was a nice thing he did, and hopes to see him again; Simon is likewise smitten with Gloria. After Gloria leaves, a little man named Mr Sneed tells Simon he did a noble thing. Somehow Sneed watched the entire scam without Simon even noticing him. Then six policeman walk onto the pier; one points at Simon and orders the others to arrest him.
  • Chapter 2: Polite and courteous, the policeman warn Simon not to jump because of the spikes and sharks in the water. They carry him away, telling him how nice his cell will be, and pointing out all the sights en route to the police station. Sergeant MacGuffin is apoplectic with rage, and voices aloud various exotic ways to execute someone. However, he merely orders Simon into a cell and to put him on bread and water. Simon is politely escorted to a cell furnished with a thick shag rug, a cushioned teakwood bunk, and fresh flowers.
  • Chapter 3: The "bread and water" is freshly baked croissants and bottled water from France. The iron door in the hall outside the cell slams open, and Mr Sneed enters. A guard calls out that Simon has a visitor, and Gloria enters a moment later. (No one noticed Sneed.) Gloria confesses her love for Simon, and is glad that the bars will keep them chaste. She came to warn Simon about Festerton's dark secret. When Sneed speaks up that he was going to tell Simon that, Gloria suddenly notices Sneed. Simon's trial will be held first thing in the morning, and they will both speak in his defense. Curfew is called and the visitors leave. Soft piano music is piped in.
  • Chapter 4: After a pleasant breakfast, Sgt MacGuffin appears at Simon's cell to indulge in name calling. The sergeant and Simon are escorted to the courthouse. After the national anthem is sung, the judges explain their "forward-thinking" legal system: three judges, no jury of peers, no prosecutor, no defense attorney. What could be fairer? Simon's crimes are: setting up a game of chance, luring innocents to play it, causing them to bet money, and failing to sing the national anthem. Sneed's testimony is unheard by anyone. Gloria's testimony is discounted because of a romantic bias. Sgt MacGuffin gets his turn to yell names at Simon. Simon may not testify because of his closeness to the case. One judge calls for Simon's death; the second calls for an inhumane death. The Grand Justice says death is far too mild, and instead sentences Simon to be a postal worker.
  • Chapter 5: Simon reports to Mr Crisp, the postmaster of the insanely messy post office. Simon is given a fresh uniform (all the old uniforms are too shredded or bloodstained), a map of Festerton, and a sack of mail to deliver.
  • Chapter 6: Simon decides that his best option is to be the best postman that he can be. He finds a letter addressed to Miss Gloria Magnifico; could that be his Gloria? The largest item in the bag is a heavy box addressed to Miss V Voss at the Festerton Public Library; Simon decides to deliver that first to reduce the weight and use the library as a spot to sort the mail. Sneed appears and apologies to Simon that no one heard him at court, and offers to help Simon in his rounds. Sneed is unhappy about seeing Miss Voss, though.
  • Chapter 7: Miss Voss is easily upset and sour. The library is closed and won't be open until Miss Voss says so. Sneed tells Simon that Miss Voss is a special friend of Mr Crisp's, and hints that nothing too bad can happen in town now, but later... and refuses to elaborate. Simon's next delivery to Hortense D. Fester is more pleasant but odd and cryptic; Hortense gives him an Acme Kitchen Wonder and she has to be prompted to take her own letter.
  • Chapter 8: Simon sorts the mail at the First Church of Festeronian Science. It's obvious that Sneed wants to tell Simon something, but not here and not now. Gloria's address is on River Road; Simon will deliver mail there next. River Road runs along the western edge of the island. They can see another island; Sneed identifies it as the Misty Isle, the kingdom of the platypuses. When asked why River Road isn't called Ocean View, Sneed says the river is hidden underground. Simon knocks on the door of Gloria's house.
  • Chapter 9: Shirley answers the door and tries to take the letter, but Simon insists on delivering it personally. Gloria comes to the door; they gaze at each other adoringly. Simon asks if he could see Gloria later tonight, but she says that wouldn't be a good idea. The girls' father is introduced; he's a professor at the part-time university and master of the small appliance. But no one will explain what happens at night or at the post office, and Gloria tearfully tells Simon he must go and closes the door.
  • Chapter 10: Sneed hints that further up River Road, they might be far enough from town for him to speak more plainly. But Mr Crisp finds them, tells Simon to hand over his sack, and gives him a special delivery letter addressed to the proprietor of the Magick Shoppe in North Festerton. The Shoppe will close in an hour, so Simon can't delay. Sneed has vanished. Further up the road, Simon finds a portable radio. The WFES announcer says that Simon the Postman is this hour's lucky WFES Winning Contest winner, and to claim his prize, he must visit the Magick Shoppe before it closes today. Meanwhile, Mr Crisp is telling Miss Voss that Simon has the letter, and soon everything will be very different.

Part Two: "The Middle"

  • Chapter 11: Waiting at the bridge to North Festerton is Sgt MacGuffin, who orders Simon to deliver that letter or else. The barren island has a single path that leads to a cliff with a Victorian house at the top of the hill. Simon climbs up the hill, and enters Ye Olde Magick Shoppe. After a delay, an elderly woman appears, and asks Simon to read the letter. It's from her sister Gladys, except Gladys calls herself The Evil One. Gladys specializes in nastiness and freelance dictatorship, and plans to take over Festerton and then the entire world. The islands that make up Festerton are magical, and one of the sources of magic is the Wishbringer stone. Normally the proprietor would give to the postman to use to foil The Evil One's plans. Six o'clock strikes; Festerton is gone.
  • Chapter 12: Festerton has been transformed into Witchville, an evil place. The radio turns itself on and announces that Simon is a winner. The proprietor gives Simon his prize: a pair of Magick Glasses. Although they look like cheap empty frames, when Simon wears them, he can see true magic glowing from the radio and the Acme Kitchen Wonder. She then reveals that she let Gladys steal the stone, but also put an extra spell on it that made it teleport three feet away and turn invisible when Witchville appears. No one can find the stone without the magic glasses. All Simon has to do is capture the stone before midnight. And he finds himself leaving the Shoppe.
  • Chapter 13: Thick fog hides everything. WFES is no longer broadcasting, but Simon finds WTCH elsewhere on the dial. He then finds out that he can see through the fog when wearing the glasses. After some hesitation, he brings the climb down the hill.

Part Three: "The End—Or Is It?"

  • Chapter 14: An interlude with Violet Voss and Corky Crisp. They long to consummate their overwrought passion, especially now that they're in Witchville, but they must first eliminate the postman.
  • Chapter 15: One of the kitchen wonder's functions is a flashlight. The fog is behind him as he approaches the bridge. The radio, refusing to stay off, warns Simon about the Boot Patrol making its rounds, and how he is about to be eaten by an ogre. The ogre is attracted to the noise and tells Simon that there's a toll. Festerton money is worthless, but the ogre is willing to eat a half a limb. WTCH plays a "talking song", and the ogre jumps into the sea to get away from it.
  • Chapter 16: At the Magnifico home, Gloria and Shirley have both made themselves ready for dates with the Boot Patrol. Their father is drunk. A knock at the door reveals a skinny postman; Gloria doesn't remember Simon and isn't interested, but offers Shirley instead if he wants a date. Simon leaves, sick and stunned at the change.
  • Chapter 17: Simon hears faint whispering; it's Sneed trying to materialize. Sneed's hold on reality is tenuous, but the Witchville spell has also ignored him. Sneed used to be a postman, but feels that his immunity and invisibility makes him an asset against The Evil One. A cry for help on the beach reveals Princess Tasmania, a platypus, trapped by a metal trap; the beach is littered with them. Sneed suggests using the Acme Kitchen Wonder Trap Neutralizer to free her, which Simon does, and Tasmania tells him to use the wonder's magic whistle attachment if he needs aid.
  • Chapter 18: After putting the platypus into the ocean, they hear the chanting of the Boot Patrol approaching! Sneed vanishes and the radio screams to do something, so Simon blows the whistle and arrives at the Misty Isle. Tasmania introduces Simon to her father, King Anatinus, and the king introduces his advisors. They offer to help Simon locate the Wishbringer stone, and send him back to Witchville. Back on the beach, the Boot Patrol is gone, but then there's a scream: Gloria!
  • Chapter 19: Simon discovers Gloria and Brad making out on the porch swing. The Boot Patrol emerges from the woods, pick up Simon, strap him upside-down inside a giant boot, and carry him off to Sgt MacGuffin and more name calling and threats. Simon throws up. He is taken to a tiny dungeon cell, deep below ground. Food and water is left, but the water is scummy, and the food is moving. Simon passes out.
  • Chapter 20: Sgt MacGuffin thinks about taking over Witchville after The Evil One passes on. He has decided not to hand Simon over to Mr Crisp, but to kill Simon himself. He picks up a riding crop and heads to Simon's cell, considering which method of killing would be most suitable. WTCH wakes up Simon, who apologizes for not listening to it. WTCH reports that Sgt MacGuffin is heading down the stairs to kill Simon. Simon begs for more help, and WTCH reports a secret escape route from the cell. When he finally pushes the correct stone, the floor falls away.
  • Chapter 21: Simon falls down a chute in utter darkness falls onto a female grue; WTCH screams that no one has seen a grue and lived to tell about it. Which is true, the grue explains, but as long as Simon never sees her, she won't have to kill him. Her name is Amy Sue Grue. Simon explains his situation; Amy Sue directs him to a tunnel that leads up to the movie theatre where The Evil One shows short films from her HQ. And wherever the HQ is will also be where the Wishbringer stone is.
  • Chapter 22: Simon emerges outside the theatre; Miss Voss is the ticket taker. Amy Sue drags Simon back into the tunnel. He went the wrong way; another branch of the tunnel emerges inside the theatre itself. The "visit with The Evil One" short is in 3-D, and is only clear when Simon wears the magic glasses. But not only does Simon see The Evil One at the First Church of Festeronian Science, she can see him! Until he takes off the glasses. But before he can leave, he finds Gloria coming in, followed by Mr Crisp (who handcuffs him) and Miss Voss.
  • Chapter 23: Crisp and Voss decide to take Simon to the library to torture. Gloria wants to watch.
  • Chapter 24: In the library, Princess Tasmania is dangling from the ceiling by her foot. Miss Voss plans to stamp the platypus flat with her automatic stamper, and they wrap elastic bands around Tasmania's bill to muzzle her. Sneed appears and eventually uses the kitchen wonder to unlock Simons cuffs when Gloria objects to the torture of a helpless animal. Crisp and Voss have a brief argument that transmutes into oblivious passion. Simon takes Tasmania and Gloria out of the library and Sneed follows. A drunk Mr Magnifico falls on Simon and accidently puts on the wrong glasses: he regains his sober Festerton personality when he wears them. Simon takes the glasses back to use them on Gloria, but she tells him off... to The Evil One's approval.
  • Chapter 25: Tasmania, freeing herself, uses the whistle attachment to take herself, Simon, and Sneed back to the Misty Isle and out of The Evil One's grasp. The King sends the postmen back to Witchville, but they land in the northeastern forest. Sneed recognizes the clacking of the wild mailboxes. Sneed also reveals that he's found The Evil One's hideout in the church.
  • Chapter 26: They try to get into the church, but are discovered by Gloria, who calls for the Boot Patrol. Simon and Sneed run for it.
  • Chapter 27: The Boot Patrol pursues them almost to River Road, but WTCH spots Sgt MacGuffin ahead, and reluctantly directs them into the graveyard instead. That route is also trapped by Crisp and Voss, but they manage to entrap themselves in their own net. The Boot Patrol is speeds up, and Sgt MacGuffin is also closing in with a rocket launcher. The postmen race into the graveyard.
  • Chapter 28: Spirit wraiths chase them, and the Boot Patrol enters the graveyard to Sneed's astonishment. The wraiths turn to feast on the Patrol, but they'll only lose a few men that way. Inside an open grave, they enter the tunnel system, but the Patrol continues to pursue. WTCH warns the postmen that they're about to enter a grue's nest. Simon yells ahead to Amy Sue that she has visitors.
  • Chapter 29: Simon turns off the flashlight, and Amy Sue gives them a tour of her closet. After she eats the Patrol, the men hurry up to the surface. Simon finds a hidden door into the church by using the glasses. Heading upwards, they find Gloria, and put the glasses on her. The glasses keep slipping and her personality flip-flops as they try to kiss. At twelve minutes to midnight, they find Princess Tasmania tied up in the bell tower. Simon unties her knots as quickly as he can. In The Evil One's laboratory, Simon asks if Gloria sees anything. WTCH mumbles a warning. The Evil One is here, and she'd also like to know what Gloria sees.
  • Chapter 30: When Gloria refuses to tell, The Evil One grabs the glasses. Gloria says that the stone is in one of the canisters. The Evil One puts on the glasses for a moment to verify, then destroys them. Then she destroys the Acme Kitchen Wonder and the radio. Suddenly, her sisters Gail (the magic shop owner) and Hortense appear in an explosion of smoke. They claim that Gladys has broken too many of the rules. Each sister summons a magical creature to do battle, which the Evil One loses. But when the sisters relax their guard, Gladys entangles them with snakes. Then the Platypus Guard waddles in and rescues the tied up sisters. The Evil One and Simon run to the canisters. He gets there first and flips them over: it's the shell game all over again. When she fails to find the stone, the clock strikes midnight, and Festerton is restored. Gail and Hortense walk back in and tell Gladys that Sgt MacGuffin will be here in a few minutes to take her somewhere to rest. The platypuses return to their isle. Gloria adoringly gives Simon a firm handshake. And Simon returns the stone he palmed in his hand.

Epilogue: Including another false ending or two

  • Chapter 31: Simon is a hero, but has to remain a postman. Only the court can reverse his appointment, and they all went on vacation when Witchville appeared. Furthermore, he's the best postman that Festerton has ever had. Simon asks Gloria out on a date; she agrees as long as there's a chaperone and she's home by ten. Then Mr Crisp, smiling, tells him to drop his bag, and gives Simon a special delivery letter addressed to the Magick Shoppe.
Spoilers end here.

Comments and Trivia

  • A macguffin is the major plot token in a story, the thing that everyone is trying to get. It usually doesn't matter what the macguffin is, as long as everyone wants it. The Wishbringer stone itself is a good example of a macguffin. Ironically, Sergeant MacGuffin isn't someone you want to meet at all.
  • The novel only mentions briefly that the stone can be used to grant wishes.
  • The novel's Festerton may belong on Earth, not Zork. Otherwise, things like the bottled water from France and the song "Stairway to Cleveland" are anachronisms.