Piers Anthony’s “Xanth” series: Castle Roogna


Castle Roogna (1979)
It is 12 years since the events of “The Source of Magic”.  Dor, the son of Bink and Chameleon, is 12 years old.  His talent is communication with inanimate objects, which is considered a Magician-level talent, so Dor is the heir apparent to the throne.  King Trent and Queen Iris have a daughter, Irene, a year younger than Dor, who has the talent of growing plants, which is not considered a Magician-level talent, and in any case, a woman can’t become the ruler.

Bink and Chameleon are often on trade missions to Mundania for the King, so Dor is left in the care of Millie, his nursemaid, who is 29 years old. Millie’s talent is sex appeal, and Dor has reached the age when he is starting to notice the opposite sex.  Millie had been a ghost for 800 years, but had been brought back to life in “The Source of Magic”. (However, people continue to refer to her as “Millie the Ghost”.)  She has a frequent visitor, Jonathan, a zombie.

King Trent gives Dor a quest, as practice for becoming king. He must find a way of bringing Jonathan back to life, for Millie’s sake.  So Dor goes to Good Magician Humfrey.  Humfrey tells him he must travel back in time 800 years to the past, to consult with the Zombie Master.  (The Zombie Master’s talent had been to bring the dead back to the half-life of a zombie.)  Humfrey gives Dor a spell to enter the tapestry in Castle Roogna, which shows moving images of the events of 800 years ago.

Dor casts the spell and finds his consciousness transferred to a big strong warrior from Mundania, in the Xanth of 800 years in the past. But the spell had also accidentally picked up a tiny spider from the tapestry, who became a man-size spider within the tapestry world.  Dor places a piece of spiderweb on his shoulder, and using his talent, gets it to translate the spider’s language.  They become allies and travel together, helping each other through the hazards of the wilderness, and fighting creatures such as goblins and harpies.  As they travel, the spider, whose name is Jumper, learns the human language from Dor.  Dor heads for the past version of Castle Roogna, to find out where the Zombie Master is.

On their way, they are joined by the 17-year-old Millie (back before she had become a ghost), who is also going to Castle Roogna, to get a job as a maid.

They meet King Roogna whose talent is to modify magical objects or spells for different purposes.  His castle, Castle Roogna, is in the process of being built by centaurs.  But he has a rival, Magician Murphy, whose talent is to make things go wrong.  They have come to an agreement that if Roogna can complete his castle by the end of the year, he will remain king.  But if not, he will abdicate, and the resulting chaos will no doubt favour Murphy as the dominant power.

And things are going wrong.  The goblins and the harpies are planning a war against each other, and their paths will meet at Castle Roogna.

Dor, Jumper and Millie have learned the location of the Zombie Master’s castle, so they go there, to ask that the zombies come to defend Castle Roogna.  Dor also asks for a way of bringing a zombie back to life.

But the Zombie Master rejects them.  As Dor, Jumper and Millie leave, they are attacked by Mundane warriors.  Jumper is injured, and they return to the Zombie Master’s castle.

Dor knows the location of the healing spring, so flies there on a zombie roc, and returns with the elixir, which cures Jumper, and also allows the Zombie Master to repair zombies.  The Zombie Master also makes the potion Dor has asked for, to bring a zombie back to life.

Castle Zombie is besieged by the Mundanes.  The zombies defend it, commanded by Dor and Jumper.  During this period, Millie tries to become close to Dor, but Dor rejects her, knowing that he will be returning to his own time soon.  So instead she becomes friendly with the Zombie Master, and they become engaged.

Dor and Jumper sneak out of the castle to get help from the Dragon King, lord of the jungle.  The Dragon King brings all the monsters of the forest to fight against the Mundanes, and so, with Dor, Jumper and the zombies fighting as well, the Mundane army is defeated.

The Zombie Master agrees to bring the zombies to defend Castle Roogna, so they set off.  Dor and Jumper scout ahead.

Dor and Jumper arrive at Castle Roogna.  The goblins and harpies start attacking the castle, each with their allies.  Dor organises the centaurs, who are archers, to fire at the attackers. Neo-Sorceress Vadne (not a full Sorceress), who is also in the castle, helps in the battle. Her talent is changing the shape of things, so she uses it to change enemies into balls or blocks.

The zombies arrive, and it is necessary to lure the enemy away to allow the zombies in.  Dor, riding Cedric the centaur, and accompanied by Jumper, plays a pied-piper flute, and lures a portion of the goblin and harpy forces away to the Gap Chasm, where he detonates a forget-spell, so the enemy can’t remember what they were doing.

So the goblins and the harpies are defeated.  Dor also finds solutions to the goblins’ and harpies’ grievances.

But Murphy’s curse is still operating, and tragedy strikes Millie and the Zombie Master.