Oh god, if I keep to my customary three-part write-ups, this might be a long one. I think at some point during this book, Ian Livingstone hit a giant red button marked ‘ILLUSTRATE EVERYTHING’ as I’ve scanned over 15 images for this part of the read-through, just about every encounter had a picture towards the end, which is cool enough, just means more work for me! It was quite an eventful concluding run too, so let us re-join our hero, me, on Fire Island after we had just discovered the lizard man camp along the river.
Declining the chance to sneak past the lizard men before me, I figured that they might have some keys or something of use to me, a successful Luck test later and I’d slain one after emerging from my hidden position and killed the second (9/8) in combat. And would you believe it, a set of iron keys. I’m a genius. Heading down a path away from the huts I found the entrance to the mine and descended out of the tropical sunshine into cramped, torch-lit passages. A left-right junction sent me left towards a long ladder that went even further into the gloom. At the foot of the ladder I found myself in another passage where I could hear the faint sound of singing in the distance, but also the sound of footsteps, which I attempted to conceal myself from. A lizard man was walking the corridor with a bucket of water, I having unfortunately drunk the potion of clumsiness earlier, I dropped my sword, but a good Luck roll meant he didn’t hear it and so I was able to stealthily take him out from behind.
Cavernous dark greeted me at the end of the passage, save for the lights of the team of dwarves being whipped into shape by a supervising lizard man, I engaged him in combat, but after two round the spirit of revolution stirred in the dwarves as they took up their tools and battered their oppressor to death. Saved me a job anyway. Telling the dwarves of my quest, they agreed to lead me to where other prisoners were working and took me further into the mine. My Luck held up as I passed some lizard men, draped in a cloak, leading the dwarves as though they were my prisoners. Sure enough, they led me to an area being worked by a group of men and elves, guarded by two orcs. The orcs were soon beaten to death by the dwarves; I could get used to this. My new best friends told me of the main prison fort, being used as a base of operations for the lizard king, and so that was the destination for me and the 63 men I had freed. We took to the lizard mens huts and smashed them to pieces, killing anyone inside. Whilst a dwarf did a jig for the easily entertained onlookers, an elf told me of why my quest was going to be harder than I envisaged. The lizard king had been on an unnatural quest for power and immortality and so had allowed a powerful parasite, a Gonchong, to fix itself to his brain. A shaman hidden on the island knew how to deal with it however and I was advised to seek him out. My new army would make their way to the fort while I went to find him alone.
Setting sail again on the raft I’d ‘borrowed’, mosquito bites were initially the only issue, but they were soon replaced by a swelling Water elemental which I somehow managed to catch within my pouch of unlimited contents! Plus 2 Luck points! Unfortunately though, I couldn’t take him with me to do my bidding and instead decided to bury the pouch and leave the poor guy underground in a bag. My raft was starting to break-up now though after the struggled and I was left to progress on foot.
Night was settling in and I had no provisions left, so a few bananas picked later and an additional 2 Stamina, I took a peaceful nights rest. A refreshing drink of rain water and I was off again the next morning, but it wasn’t long before I realised the shaman knew I was looking for him, a message was left on a rock telling me that if I came in peace to the shaman I should tie a feather in my hair. Okie-dokie, so a bird has to die, pronto. It seemed I was heading towards the volcano at this point, but my journey was interrupted by an aggressive, warty, drooling hill troll (9/9)… why does everything have 9 or more Skill on this damn island?? Still, I took a few hits, but he went down eventually. Good artwork for this one, I thought.
What have we here? After my battle, a conveniently placed dead seagull lay on the ground. One feather was plucked and tied to my hair, that’s that sorted then! And what’s this? A cave entrance painted in bright colours with a skull on top? That sounds shaman-ey! Laaaarvley! I climbed to the entrance.
Well, she didn’t look like a shaman. And she threw a spear at me. I guessed this wasn’t the shaman, so I killed her, which was a nice change of gear as she was fairly easy at 5/5. Her cave was largely empty though, save for rotten food and fur bedding. There was however a bowl of red powder which I decided to daub across my face. Apparently it was left by a wizard who had been imprisoned by the lizard king and it would make me immune to mind control, useful given that the lizard king can supposedly control his men telepathically with the power of the Gonchong, I was awarded 2 Luck points.
Eventually, I reached the base of the volcano, I trailed along the lower reaches until I came across a steaming hot, gaseous mud pool. Laid within were two bizarre looking eggs which I of course decided to poke at, and of course, something lethal came flying our and buried its teeth in my neck. A Razorjaw, which thankfully wasn’t as tough as the picture had me believe at 6/5 and it was dispatched without landing a blow on me. I crushed the second egg under my boot and continued up the side of the volcano.
On a level piece of ground a stone circle surrounded a collection of fairly random items, thinking this was perhaps a selection of offerings for the shaman, I added the coil of rope I found way back in part one. A line of the rocks lit up red and indicated I go further up the volcano, which I did, only to be confronted by what must be the shaman who jumped out from behind a rock. And according to the picture, he lacks a neck.
Seeing my feather, he spoke to me and I told him of the Gonchong and my desire to kill it and the lizard king. Clearly alarmed at the presence of a Gonchong, he agreed to help, but only if I could pass three of his tests; Luck, Strength, Dexterity, Fear, Revulsion and Pain. I picked up a big rock for the Strength test, hit an orange with a dagger for the Dexterity test and resisted some pain for the err.. Pain test, all fairly simple Skill-roll style stuff. I was given three pieces of information to defeat the lizard king…. 1. The Gonchong connects to his brain by its proboscis and this must be severed after the host is killed to prevent it switching hosts, 2. The host of a Gonchong can only be hurt by fire swords and the lizard king disguises these, his choice of weapon, under and illusion of rusty knives and 3. the lizard king is terrified of monkeys. Yes. Monkeys. I didn’t see that one coming either.
We bid our goodbyes and I headed back down the volcano to meet up with my awaiting army, however a ravine crossing blocked my way alongside a hobgoblin, but he was bribed into leaving me alone with the gold nugget I discovered in the snuff box. Quite a nice illustration too.
Then it all went wrong. You see, I had only 10 Stamina left and then bloody Livingstone decides that combat with lizard men wasn’t tough enough and mounts them on bloody dinosaurs. I should have brought my army.
Yep, that’s apparently a Styracosaurus and nowhere on Wikipedia does it say there is any archaeological evidence that they had a Skill of 11. The thing beat me down hard, I didn’t hit it once. It’s here that my adventure should have ended, but I’m not doing this entirely by the book, so if anyone asks, we killed the Styracosaurs, right? I put an extra 20p into the gamebook and hit continue for a full Stamina bar.
And then the 9/9 Mutant lizard man rider attacked me… it never ends! He was more on my level though and wasn’t such an issue to kill. I took his shield for +1 Skill, but as I can’t go above my initial Skill, I was still stuck at 9 – hate that rule!
Forcing my way through poison thorns for -3 Stamina, I found the next piece of the puzzle I’d forgotten I was even looking for. A monkey. And being a primate keeper at a zoo, I’m gonna say that’s a Golden lion tamarin, but don’t hold me to that. Anyway, I released the little guy from his dead master and he hopped up on my shoulder, just in time for end-game!
Things got sexy then as Raquel Welch appeared behind me with a sabre-tooth tiger companion. Not wanting to have to fight something else that was gonna rip my throat out, I tried to communicate that I was friendly and that I definitely hadn’t killed one of her mates a little while ago. This seemed to do the trick though, she couldn’t understand me, but was happy for me to back away and leave her and kitty alone.
As I approached the prison fort, it was clear that the part had already gotten started as my army of prison captives was in full combat with the lizard kings minions, I helped by cutting down a 6/5 hobgoblin. And does this count as an angry orc swinging something? Maybe this is more ‘brandishing something’.
The battle wasn’t going well though and a number of my ex-con compardres had fallen, leaving me to pick up their spirits. Lacking the Horn of Valhalla which the text tempted me with, I had to kill one of the lizard kings big guys… a bloody big cyclops was nearly as bad as the dinosaur (10/10), but I was much healthier this time and used up a bit of Luck to bring him down quick. And I know it’s perspective, but I do like to think the lizard man to the left is a tiny little one…
Spurred on by my bravado, the freed prisoners fought on again, pushing back the lizard kings men to the forts courtyard. I followed in and took the opportunity to enter the fort via a set of double doors. I had entered a prison area and before me sat a quiet old man who gave no reaction to me. I should have smelled a rat, but I thought ‘why not?’ and let him free…
But of course, not even freeing an old man can result in anything but combat with a very strong enemy in Island of the Lizard King, so he promptly revealed his true self, morphing into a Shapeshifter (10/10), one of the spiky green fellows we met back in Forest of Doom. I brought him down, but I was running low on Stamina and Luck by this point… I should never have given that dude in the tree all my provisions!
The iron keys I found earlier now proved their quality though as they opened up the nearby wooden door, taking me into the torture chamber. And what’s this? Rusty knives? Don’t you mean FIRE SWORDS!?! Haha, thankyou shaman, and screw you lizard king! An additional 2 Luck and 2 Skill were mine, except for, as discussed, the Skill points. I’m not bitter. Another door led me to a storeroom, I decided to drink from a bottle and was delighted to find it was water from an enchanted stream, restoring 2 precious Stamina points and a additional Skill point. Yeah, thanks for that.
Continuing my exploration through the fort, I found myself in the lizard kings laboratory, where he presumably creates all his awful evil things. Before I could search properly though, I was interrupted by a two-headed lizard man kicking a dwarf through the door. Not something you see every day. After killing him I set free the dwarf using the lockpick I traded all my food for. I got 1 Luck point. Woo. I’d have rather left him locked up and kept my dinner.
Despite my resentment, I sent him off to join the raging battle outside and continued exploring the fort from the inside. A connecting corridor took me to a spiral staircase which I felt compelled to climb to a doorway. Opening the door slowly revealed that I was up on the battlements and was standing right behind the lizard king who was commanding his troops below from the high vantage point. He wouldn’t even look at me however, clicking his fingers to command his black lion to attack. I have to say though the illustration was a little disappointing compared to Ian McCaigs cover art; the lizard king looks unfinished and somewhat effeminate, the lion is in the wrong aspect ratio.
At 11/11 though, this was even worse an opponent than the Styracosaurs, but a series of stupidly lucky Attack and Luck rolls meant I scraped through by the skin of my teeth. The lizard king was just as surprised as me at my success and turned to face me, only to be utterly terrified by the sight of my monkey, who had somehow willingly sat on my shoulder through a number of harrowing conflicts. His cowering lowered his Skill to a pathetic 6 and so I was able to slice him up real nice with my glorious fire sword without taking damage. As soon as he fell I severed the proboscis of the Gonchong before it could leap to me. I tore the Gonchong off the lizard kings head and threw it to the courtyard below, my men cheering and the lizard kings men fleeing. I had freed the slaves and killed the lizard king.
Mungo would have been proud.
Or so the text says, they don’t know a dinosaur killed me, so shhhh.
My adventure was over.