Taking refuge in the infamous House of Hell has to be the worst mistake of your life!

Since I started this blog up there’s been one title I’ve looked forward to reading again more than any other, and here we are, ten books in, ladies and gentlemen, I give you House of Hell!

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It’s sometimes tricky to do these introductions as I’ve found that with some titles I really do have absolutely nothing of worth to say about the book or I just can’t remember anything about it, but with this one, I do have a few comments to make. I should quickly just jump in and state that I realise that I am actually setting myself up for a big fall here, as while the 8 year-old in my head tells me this book was awesome, 31 year-old me may have a very different opinion! Regardless, in terms of style and theme, I think I’m gonna enjoy this one.

What I do remember from the 80’s takes me to a couple of places, one of which was my grandparents house. They lived some distance from me and it was a big event to go and visit them, my grandfather was a strong Catholic, we’re talking picture of the Pope hanging in their living room, quite unlike my agnostic parents and my atheist self. He was quite aghast at seeing his young grandson curled up in an armchair reading a book about hell. Poor chap. I also remember being taken out by my dad of a weekend to walk in the Dales and a Fighting Fantasy book would often accompany me to read on the journey out to wherever we were going that day. I’m pretty sure that House of Hell came along on a trip to Howarth, which apparently has many haunted buildings. My dad would always bore me to death by taking me into a new-agey shop called Spooks that sold crystals and the like. Some friends and I recently went walking in the area and before we hit the pub afterwards I had to grab a picture of the place as it’s amazingly still in business all these years later.

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Film is a big passion of mine, but for every beautifully shot, stunningly acted piece of cinematic art I’ve indulged in, I’ve watched ten-fold number of awful straight-to-DVD horror trash, hunting for that hidden gem that should have gotten a theatrical release. Stuff like House of Hell is a big reason my brain became fascinated by the macabre and one of the earliest Fighting Fantasy books I read was Phantoms of Fear, a book which had horrendously twisted illustrations by Ian Miller and House of Hell is blessed with a similarly abhorrent creation. I am most disappointed to discover his Fighting Fantasy work is not more plentiful. Interior illustrations by Tim Sell are not without their evil traits either as @ffantazine on Twitter recently told me, one image was actually removed from early editions as it featured a bit too much nudity. Thanks to Titannica for the cursed image in question… not exactly up there with the imagery created by the ending of Richard Matheson’s Hell House, but maybe not for kids I guess…

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As with Caverns of the Snow Witch, this title began life in the form of a short adventure in Warlock magazine, which thanks to Fighting Fantasy Collector and Tumblr, looked a bit like this…

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House of Hell has seen a fair amount amount of attention in recent years, although given the love I have seen for it from my Twitter followers, perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised! You probably know of the excellent Tinman Games mobile version of the book, but what boggled my mind when I heard of it a few years ago was the House of Hell movie!

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I was amazed that a Fighting Fantasy film was being made, let alone such a relatively obscure title being the focus, why House of Hell and not Deathtrap Dungeon or Warlock of Firetop Mountain? Although as I type this question having just watched some production video diaries, I answer it in my own head: budget. The official site of the film has all the information there that is available for public consumption, the key selling point appearing to be that it allows the audience to decide the flow of the story with multiple scenes available to choose from, but as to it’s current status, I don’t know. The production companies forum thread has unfortunately not been posted on for some time and their Twitter account hasn’t been used in three years. Oh dear. Hopefully it will at some point see the light of day.

Until then, I’d best get reading… hold me.

Caverns of the Snow Witch – Conclusions

Book 9 felt very long. So much so that I was quite happy to finally get to the end of it, but that’s not to say I didn’t like it. Up until I encountered the Snow Witch’s spirit, I was really enjoying the story, but then when the third act kicked in, I was starting to feel a little jaded. I was surprised to find that every time I expected the adventure would draw to a conclusion, it just kept going and going. It felt like the 400 pages were stretched out over a long story arc as opposed to being used to provide choices and different routes, my map (excuse the coffee stain!) shows very little in the way of unexplored routes and even some of those were not actually given as options to pursue in the text.

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Some pretty memorable encounters were had though, I particularly liked the pursuit of the fuzzy little Yeti at the start and would have liked to see a whole book in an environment like that, wilderness survival etc. I also liked the fact that the encounter with the dragon felt quite epic, more of an encounter than dragons I’ve faced so far anyway. I think that may have been helped a little by the ferocious looking illustration, but I’ll come back to the art soon.

One thing I said I would come back to in the first part was using the warhammer against the Crystal Golem thing. You may remember that I’d freed a genie a little earlier and he would give me the ability to sneak past one adversary… well if I had said I didn’t have the warhammer, then I would have been asked if I had the promise of help from the genie and could have avoided the fight altogether! I would have liked to have been given that option from the start and then I wouldn’t have had to waste my Stamina potion recovering from the battle with the sparkly one. A pretty big deal as I was struggling for Stamina at the end of the book, another book here with a lot of 10+ Skill enemies causing me real problems, especially after the Brain Slayer got hold of me. The Birdman was particularly irksome, after the bad-ass dragon he certainly didn’t look like an enemy that should have a Skill of 12!

As far as the end goes, this is the first book I haven’t actually reached an end scenario in. The fact I had already died once at the hands of the Snow Witch and I was getting a bit sick of Redswift and Stubbs meant that I was happy to draw things to a close there. Plus it seemed like a reasonable point to end anyway, I’d rid the Icefinger Mountains of the Snow Witch, but in death she still managed her revenge. Had I continued, we’d have had a short trip to find a Shaman who would have helped cure me. With the dragon eggs I carried, I think I had the items I needed to survive too, so I wasn’t that far off the ending anyway.

As for the illustrations, provided by Gary Ward & Edward Crosby, the unique style really worked I thought, the stark, heavy lines seemingly match the environment. A couple of encounters I missed had some particularly notable images. The Night Stalker is probably the most horrible thing I’ve seen in the books so far…

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…and the Banshee frankly looks like it belongs on the cover of an Iron Maiden album. Ooo… Download soon…. \m/

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Caverns of the Snow Witch – Part 3

It probably goes without saying that as I begin Part 3, despite the Snow Witch killed and my treasure awaiting, the adventure wasn’t yet over. Hacking away at the frozen wall encasing an ornate trunk of jewels and gold the first piece I freed was a golden idol, which on my touch grew and became a life-size version of itself, a Sentinel intent on preventing me from getting to the rest of the treasure.

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Yet another reasonably tough battle he was too at 9/9, but I was soon sifting through the chest which I eventually hauled out from within the ice. Within I found 600gp and for every 50gp I took along with me, I would have to abandon an item. Unsure how much the gold would be of use to me I chose to take 100 and deposited my trusty warhammer and…. something else I forget as I’ve lost my notes, but I’m sure it was something of no use anyway. Before I could attempt to decide my next move, the sound of running footsteps preceded the entrance into the chamber of a dwarf and an elf, these ex-slaves apparently delighted that I’d killed the Snow Witch. They told me that I’d have no chance of getting out the way I got in as the Snow Witch’s followers were waiting for me and showed off their inside knowledge by leaving the cavern through a door hidden by illusion, much like the entrance to the caves found by the trapper in Part One. A narrow, torch-lit passage forced us to walk single-file until we hit a T-junction at which we took a right turn.

My companions revealed their names, the Elf was Redswift and the Dwarf, Stubb. Redswift was from the Moonstone Hills and Stubb from Stonebridge, near a certain forest. We planned to get the hell out of here and head to Stonebridge, but before we could move onto discussing what we’d be having for dinner a 20m stretch of footprints were seen out in front of us. Two sets ran in parallel, one white, one black. I decided to try and walk down the corridor without treading on either set. While I tip-toed through, Stubb thought it would be a good idea to let out a bloody big sneeze, rolling a 5 on a D6 meant that I was able to avoid stumbling and continued along the path without further incident. Sparkling in the dim light was a small circular metal disc, don’t know what it’s for, but it has to be for something, so I took it along with me.

Turning a corner revealed an iron casket in the left wall of the tunnel with a large brass handle in the shape of a serpent, of course we had to open it, so drawing lots it was decided that Redswift would be the one to do the honours. Good job too as his elven senses alerted him to a a hidden trap which he was able to disengage before any harm came to us. Inside the casket was a pair of grey elven boots. Redswift was very excited by this and said that they would render their wearers footsteps inaudible to those around him. Now as he pulled them out and is actually an elf, it seemed to me like he should get them, but again we drew lots and who came up trumps? Me! Some nice new boots, an additional point of Luck and a couple of jealous companions were now mine.

Turning another corner and a brief piece of combat with a Cave-man followed. I could see a theme forming too as from his remains I pulled a star-shaped metal disc to go with the circular one I found earlier… Redswift and Stubb had gone ahead and as I followed, the only way forward was through a large wooden door. On the other side, I was greeted by a fairly awful sight.

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Whether you call it a Mind-flayer or a Lovecraftian nightmare, this was the Fighting Fantasy version of a tentacled thing that messes with your mind and the Brain Slayer before me was using its hypnotic powers on my comrades. Unfortunately, as I didn’t have an Amulet of Courage, I was next up and one of its tentacles wrapped around my head I lost not only my consciousness, but 2 Skill and 6 Stamina! It seemed the worst was over though as I came to on the floor alongside Redswift and Stubb, they too arose shortly after and said they had been drawn into the cavern, powerless to resist. The Brain Slayer appeared to have buggered off though, all that remained in the room were two recesses in the walls, one containing a red pot, one a grey pot. Inside the the red pot was a square metal disc – do I have them all yet Mr. Livingstone? Inside the grey was a scroll, sealed with wax. On breaking the seal and unrolling it, the words on the scroll began to fade, but a quickly passed Skill test meant I was able to quickly read the words ‘Gul Sang Abi Daar’, which was apparently a spell to protect against an attack from an Air Elemental. But you probably knew that, I know I did.

I led on, Redwift and Stubb following through the corridor until we met another doorway, this one with a dagger stuck into it. Realising it’s probably just another trap and what the hell am I gonna need a dagger for anyway, I left it there. On the other side was a good spot for a break so I shared out some of my provisions (3 rations!) and half an hour later, we walked further down to a T-junction at which I took a left. A dead-end was what greeted me, but there was a shield hanging on the wall which i decided to nab. The inevitable consequence was a whirlwind flying down the corridor towards me, a good job that I had my trusty anti-air elemental spell to hand and so I was able to avoid the attack and obtain a brand new shield to restore one of my lost Skill points.

Soon enough, our path was blocked by another door, and on that door was a piece of parchment with a message written in a language I could not understand. I asked Redswift if he could translate it and the horrified look on his face as he read it suggested that he could, he tore it into tiny pieces and refused to tell me what it had said. Moving on through the door, yet another narrow tunnel greeted us, this one slowly widening into an area of stalactites and dripping water. I used my shield to stay dry and threw it back to the others so they could do the same, lord knows what the consequences here would have been without it!

Eventually, the tunnel opened out into a large chamber which contained the scene presented upon the books cover. A large glass globe sat on an icy plinth, in which the Snow Witch’s face appeared, an orc entering the room at the same time. The image of her face spoke, gleefully telling me that we had only killed her body and that her spirit lives on, and to prove her power, she choked the orc to death, Vadar-style. Before she could turn her attention fully to me, I pulled out my trusty sling-shot and fired off an iron ball which cracked the globe, sending out a flash of white energy which luckily missed me and slammed into the wall behind me. Still she sat there though, preparing her next move. She now moved her strangle-hold to Redswift and Stubb, but quickly let go and only then did I appreciate what her next move was as it shuffled into the room.

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It was indeed zombie replicas of my travelling partners. As soon as I defeated them the next challenge was presented, a game of ‘discs’. Yep, this is where those little metal discs I’d been finding around the place came into play. I had managed to find all three and they were to be used in what was basically rock-paper-scissors, but with shaped pieces of metal. Square beats circle, circle beats star and star beats square. I chose square… she chose circle! She shrieked as she realised what had happened and her image in the globe was replaced by white smoke. As is the case when any big bad-guy dies, her demise seemed to trigger the destruction of her lair as the place started shaking, rumbling and cracking up. A large piece of ice smacked me on the head, costing 4 Stamina, but the three of us managed to escape before  we were trapped. We set out for Stonebridge as agreed.

Two days of walking later, we came to the River Kok and paid 10gp for a boat-man to take us across. Shortly after beginning the journey across the Pagan Plain to Stonebridge we could see dust rising on the horizon, Redswift dropped his head to the ground and listened, reasoning that the source of the dust was centaurs. Looking to avoid conflict, we hid in the scrub and managed to avoid their patrol.

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Further across the plain, a figure came towards us, an old man who offered us information at the price of 2gp. Being flush, I indulged him. He told us that the nearby watering hole was poisoned and that a group of trolls have been gathering to the Northern side of Stonebridge. This one seemingly doesn’t end does it?

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The next random thing to try and kill me came from the skies, a fluttering of feathers and claws that belonged to a very powerful Bird-man! Oddly almost as powerful as the dragon from earlier, with stats of 12/8, he died, but after the conflict I was practically dead. Things not looking good.

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Seeing the watering-hole mentioned by the old man, I passed it by despite my crippling thirst, costing 1 Stamina point. The dead, face-down ogre in the water suggested this was a fair trade-off. Now only a day from Stonebridge, we continued and Stubb made a terrible discovery as we came across the body of a dead dwarf. A dwarf he identified as Morri the ironsmith from Stonebridge, we had a drink of his water for 1 Stamina, buried him and made for Stonebridge at double-speed to warn the town.

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Despite the new-found urgency, we took the time for a thankfully uneventful overnight camp and set off again in the morning. As we reached the outskirts of Stonebridge we could see wisps of smoke rising from the settlement, but also a party of six hill trolls overlooking the area. Taking two each, we slayed the would-be invaders, Stubbs leaving us little choice to though as he went charging in before us, like a certain Mr. Jenkins.

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On entering the town, Stubbs took us to speak to his friend, Bigleg. The people were terrified that they were being laid siege to by the trolls, but it also transpires that as we discovered in Forest of Doom, an eagle had taken King Gillibran’s famous warhammer and dropped it somewhere over Darkwood Forest. Stubb stated his desire to find it, Redswift and I decided it would be best to get the hell out of Dodge and so set off for the Moonstone Hills.

One we were clear of Stonebridge and the trolls, Redswift sat me down. He told me to think back and remember the parchment that he didn’t want to speak of back in the Snow Witch’s caverns. It was a Death Spell and having read it, both him and me were doomed. Our only chance was to find a healer that lived in the hills. The text asked me if I had drunk a health potion that belonged to a Dark Elf. As you know, I had not, and so the inevitable came about, the spells grip began to tighten and we both slowly began to lose consciousness. The Snow Witch had her posthumous revenge on us.

At this point, I was willing to concede defeat, my adventure was over.

 

Caverns of the Snow Witch – Part 2

Ten of the Snow Witches’ followers stood before me, all worshiping the huge ice effigy of a demon, all of them wearing long, hooded robes of the style that I was already wearing thanks to the defector I had met earlier. My luck held and I was able to walk past the group un-noticed and into the tunnel leading out of the opposite side of the hall. Arriving at a T-junction, a door to my left was my chosen path as I could hear cries for help coming from behind. Behind the door was a dwarf who had apparently slipped into a pit and was clinging onto the edge, ice boulders crashed down onto him from a shaft above, followed by laughter from the same direction. Falling to the bottom of the pit he begged me for help, pointing out that I didn’t have a control collar on, so I had no excuse not to! A little wary that I was about to effectively break my cover, I helped him out to the annoyance of the unseen crowd who had been pelting him. Before leaving me he told me to ‘beware the white rat’ and also gave me a leather bag containing a slingshot and three iron balls.

Returning to the T-junction I took the only remaining path which took me into another large hall, this one with three doors leading out of it, the central one being carved into a giant skull. Out from this central door stepped a man described by the book as being ‘ugly’.

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Now, I messed up a bit here as I was offered the option to say I was here to play for the Snow Witch if I was carrying a magical flute. I entirely forgot that I’d picked up the flute earlier and so took the other option – ATTACK! Sneering, ugly man rubbed the prism he was carrying and suddenly there were three of him, all bearing down on me with daggers. His tricksy illusion left me with no option but guesswork and so I swiped out at the one to my left only to see my sword pass straight through him, followed by laughter and then a dagger stabbing into my shoulder out of nowhere for -2 Stamina. Swiping my sword in a huge arc across all of them seemed the only option and a winning Luck test broke the illusion as I managed to make contact, dropping him to the ground. I took the chance to smash the prism he was clutching and the illusionist scrambled away, running down the corridor from which he came. Smoke rose from the fragments of the prism, coming together to form a figure; I had released a Genie! The smokey little guy thanked me and said that he would repay me by allowing me to turn invisible, but on one occasion only, and with that he vanished. I opted to follow the illusionist through the skull door which led me into another large cavern which was occupied by a Frost giant.

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Lifting a huge wooden chest onto a high shelf, he was just begging to be taken down and so, testing all I’d learned from David & Goliath, I took my sling and launched an iron ball at his head. He crumpled to the floor like a rag-doll as the ball smacked him on the temple, the chest he carried breaking open on the ground, spilling its contents; three rings and a cracked bottle. The bottle seemed only to have contained perfume, but a gold, silver and copper ring were up for grabs. I went for the gold first and gained 1 Luck as the ring bestowed its wearing with protection from the cold, quite a bonus deep inside a glacier. The copper was my next try and bingo, another 1 Luck point and the ability to summon a warrior to aid me in combat! As before, I decided not to push it and elected not to put on the third, a silver ring.

Arriving at a cross-roads, I was interrupted by an approaching humanoid before I could make any decision as to my progress…

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A crystal warrior stood before me, presumably sent by the Snow Witch, and as he was made entirely of quartz I was informed that edged weapons would have no effect on him. Thankfully, the warhammer I had taken from the trappers hut would do the job though. Well, I say thankfully, and I’m sure some of you know what I allude to… but we’ll come back to that one when I write up my Conclusions! Regardless, this guy was frickin’ tough at 11/13 and he took me all the way down to 2 Stamina before I finally smashed him to pieces. As soon as the fight was done, I popped my Stamina potion to get me going again. I decided on the left turn and took the junction into yet another cavernous room with a sarcophagus in the centre. A white rat jumped out of it and began to scurry towards me – a ‘white rat’ I had been warned of by the dwarf I assisted earlier. Uh-oh. Right before he reached me, the rat stopped and started to grow and change shape, the text asked if I had any ground minotaur horn. I did not and so had to watch the rat complete his transformation into a White Dragon.

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And yep, this guy was about as tough as they get with 12/14 stats; just what I needed right after the crystal warrior. But hold on! The copper ring I found was able to come into play here as I was offered the option to use it to conjure up some assistance. Praise the sun! Fantastically, I actually got the best option, a Knight, who I can only name Solaire and he brought along stats of 9/10 to the fight. I sent Solaire in first to do whatever he could to soften up the White Dragon before I got stuck in. Useless bastard that he is though, Solaire didn’t manage to land a single hit on the dragon and was utterly destroyed, leaving me to do all the dirty work. Brilliant. My other ring came into play here as well, the dragons icy-breath would have potentially done a load of extra damage to me, but I was able to negate that thanks to the cold protection of the gold ring.Given that I ‘only’ have a Skill of 10 though, this was still another damn hard fight and a few Luck rolls managed to get me through it with only a couple of Stamina left. Provisions would be eaten heartily. It was then that the sarcophagus got my attention, as I approached, a womans eerie laughter filled the cavern and a beautiful woman in white rose from the sarcophagus. It was fairly obvious by this stage that she was a vampire.

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It was at this point I realised I was in deep trouble as I possessed little in the way of the Fighting Fantasy staples for offing a vampire – no garlic, nothing made of silver… I was however surprised to be given the option to use the runed stick I had found in the kitchen as a stake to destroy her with. But unfortunately my Skill was deemed too low at 10 and yep, she sunk her teeth into my stupid, scrawny, garlic-less neck and I was to live as her servant forever in the world of the undead. My adventure was over.

At least temporarily.

I had a similar dead-end encounter back in Citadel of Chaos where some lovely chaps known as the Ganjees got in my way, and so like then, I decided to backtrack a little. Looking over the options on my map, the route so far had been relatively linear and only a couple of turns hadn’t been explored at this point. I went back to the T-junction where I faced the crystal warrior and this time took the right turning which took me to a door leading into a store-room which was apparently being maintained by a zombie.

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At 6/6 he was a bit of a nothing opponent, especially given the bounty of treasures he guarded. A quick face-palm from me occurred when I read the list of things I could take from the store-room – a jar of ground minotaur horn, a box of teeth, a jar of pickled lizard tails, some garlic and four dragon eggs. I was however only allowed to take three items due to backpack space. So, given my knowledge gained from my failed encounter earlier the ground minotaur horn and garlic were the obvious choices, the budding Khaleesi in me elected to take the dragon eggs as my third and final item.

Heading back to take on the white rat for a second time I was able to avoid the dragon encounter altogether by merely sprinkling a little minotaur horn onto the morphing little swine who promptly turned back into a rat and scurried off into the dark. The Snow Witch was still a bit of a handful however, the garlic was only enough to throw her off-guard and instead of insisting on me having above a Skill of 10 to succeed in thrusting the runed stick into her chest, I was allowed to continue with just a successful Skill test. Two dice thrown and she emitted a piercing death wail and was reduced to a pile of dust on the floor. Frozen into the icy walls of the sarcophagus chamber was a clearly defined shape of a chest and now seemed like a good time to check out my treasure!

And we’ll find out what that was in Part Three I think…

 

 

Caverns of the Snow Witch – Part 1


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Caverns of the Snow Witch

The dreaded Snow Witch of Allansia plans to dominate the world! Deep within the Crystal Caves of the Icefinger Mountains, the dreaded Snow Witch is plotting to bring on a new ice age. A brave trapper dies in your arms and lays the burden of his mission on your shoulders.

Caverns of the Snow Witch is a title which drip-feeds its story to you, bit by bit you progress through a series of tangents and varying environments which we’ll cover all in good time. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s start at the beginning. Our employer is Big Jim Sun and his travelling caravan of traders is who we’re being paid good money to protect as it travels across a wintery northern Allansia. During a trip to the base of the Icefinger Mountains, Big Jims base camp is attacked by an unknown creature which leaves no survivors and some enormous footprints. After pushing him for a fee of 50 gold, Big Jim sends us out for vengeance on whatever abomination was responsible for these events. Now, 50gp doesn’t sound like a lot of money to me, but maybe Big Jims trading isn’t going too well this winter.

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Having talked out a plan of action the things footprints had, much like its victims blood, now been covered in falling snow and so all I could do was head in the general direction towards the mountains which the beast had taken. Knee-deep snow was the first thing to hinder my progress, the second was a large crevasse. Spanning the crevasse however was a large ice bridge which I decided to risk crossing. I’d had some luck in rolling out my stats (10/24/12) and so the Luck test to cross the bridge was a formality as I scooted safely across to the other side. The weather seemed to be getting worse as the wind picked up, blasting snow into my face, but soon the howling wind was replaced by something with considerably more bite; the howl of wolves! That ham-fisted segue brings us to the first encounter of the book, a couple of snow wolves, both with a Skill of 7 and both getting taken down without landing a blow on me.

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A steepening climb and swirling snow hinted at the start of a blizzard and encouraged me dig into the snow with my sword, creating a make-shift igloo whilst the bad weather passed. It seemed to do the trick too as I got through it unscathed, although I was forced into eating two of my provisions to sustain myself through the storm. Emerging from my icy hollow, I was somewhat annoyed to see an overhanging rock face with a small hut perched on the top. Could arguably have done with seeing that before I became temporarily subterranean, but then that’s just how Livingstone gets his kicks I guess. Investigating further, the hut seemed to belong to a trapper due to the numerous furs hanging around the walls and ceiling, it also seemed that the trapper had not long been here due to still warm embers in the fireplace. I first helped myself to some stew, restoring 3 Stamina points I hadn’t yet lost and then spied some weapons poking out from under the bed. A warhammer and a spear? Don’t mind if I do…

Ploughing on, the climb into thinner air cost me 1 Stamina point, but it was soon apparent that this was the least of my worries as I had stumbled across not only the trapper, but what must have been the awful creature I was hunting, a giant Yeti! The trapper had clearly gone after a pelt a little too big as the Yeti cut him down with his claws. It’s at this point I should probably bring your attention to the illustration…

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Now I like the illustrations in this book, there’s some great looking work going on i here, but that Yeti looks ridiculous! His eyes are full of sorrow and fear, I don’t feel terror, I want to give the poor Furby-like thing a hug. It’s like he wanted to play with the trapper and accidentally eviscerated him, throwing his hands up in shocked apology; like Edward Scissorhands, he can’t help but get it wrong. Anyway, my way to make him feel better was to sling a spear at him, I was on the promise of 50gp after all. Thudding into its chest, the spear seemed to enrage the beast, but hopefully it had weakened it too, although at 10/9, it still managed to give me a few cuts and bruises before it died. To my surprise, the trapper was still alive and in his last breaths he laid down some expository dialogue about what would become the second stage of our adventure, the Crystal Caves. He had been searching for these caves for years, cut out of a glacier by the minions of the Snow Witch they represented her base of operations as she sought to use her dark powers to bring an ice age across the whole world so that she could rule over all. The legends of treasure frozen inside the caves was the allure for the trapper and quite by accident he had seen one of the Snow Witches minions entering the caves through a secret passage that appeared to be a solid ice wall. This entrance had been marked by the trapper with a hanging pelt. Before he could tell me more, the trapper faded and passed. And so, instead of returning to Big Jim, we’re now off to save the world!

Stormy conditions had passed and I set off looking for the entrance to the caverns under clear blue skies, taking a quick Luck test to avoid an avalanche  I soon stumbled across the hanging fur the trapper had described which marked the illusory wall. Closing my eyes and walking into the icy wall, I passed straight through and was in! Before me was a long passage cut into the ice which ended in a T-junction. My map tells me I took the left turn. Following the passage around a corner to the right I almost walked straight into a mountain elf, his head covered almost entirely in a hooded robe. Trying not to get rumbled from the off I made up some story about wanting to join the Snow Witches forces, only to be told I was an idiot as nobody would follow her by choice, the elf indicating a collar he was wearing which forced him to do her bidding. At this point I came clean, much to his delight, he gave me his robe as a disguise and told me to take the right turn ahead.

Following his advice I took the right hand turn and shortly after, I could see a small passage to the left which appeared to lead into a kitchen, staffed by the unlikely combination of a gnome and a neanderthal.

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I entered the kitchen and was promptly told to get out by the gnome as dinner wouldn’t be ready for two hours yet. He tried to appease me with some stale cake. This would not do. Drawing my sword to attack, the gnome ordered his partner to attack, but not even the carving knife and stool he chose to arm himself with couldn’t prevent his death and I cut him down quickly leaving the gnome running off screaming for help. A quick searching through the kitchen provided a few interesting items though, prising open a cupboard revealed what must have been the gnomes personal possessions; a flute, a runed stick, a rose and a book. Blowing on the flute managed to create a tune without having to finger a note, a magic flute then I should suppose; I chucked it in my bag along with the indecipherable runed stick. Taking a smell of the rose returned 3 Stamina, but knowing that usually these situations usually have one bad choice, I elected to leave the book alone. A bit of fingers-stuck-in-pages action revealed this was a good choice as the book was actually a trap which shot out a poisoned needle, taking 4 Stamina to those who tried it.

It didn’t seem anyone was coming to help the gnome though, so I was able to move on without any issues. That was until I arrived at the enormous ice demon effigy being worshiped by hoards of the Snow Witches minions. Yes, that might cause a problem.

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Good job that mountain elf gave up his robe, eh? We’ll see how that works out in Part Two…