Seven deadly and magical serpents speed ahead of you to warn the evil Archmage of your coming. Will you be able to catch them before they get there?
Apparently, this one is a hard one.
Ok, we’re half-way through now so to re-cap, I am trying to reclaim the crown of kings before the evil Archmage of Mampang can use it for something unmentionably evil, our journey has led us over the Shamutanti Hills and through the very bowels of the city of Khare. Now, on the edge of the Baddu-Bak Plains we pick up the story in The Seven Serpents. Look, here’s a map, work it out yourself, why do I have to do everything?
Travelling out of Khare it became obvious that conditions were going to be harsh, a barren wasteland surrounded by desolation and a whole load of nothing. An hour later and all I had was a blank horizon to look at. I suddenly became very aware that my Stamina was still in single figures after the last book and I had absolutely nothing to eat or drink with me. Although having said that, if things get bad, I do have a bottle of poison to quench my thirst. Before I could continue contemplating suicide on the first page of the book I had a more immediate issue to deal with, from out of nowhere four Nighthawks were circling and preparing to attack. I see, page 1 and something is already trying to kill me, that’s how it’s gonna be, huh?
Given my precarious Stamina situation, I steered away from magic and leaned on my able sword-arm. The Nighthawks all had a Skill of 7 so I was easily able to make it through the required three attack rounds before turning to the next reference where I was given a brief respite from my situation by a Goldcrest Eagle who came shrieking into my battle and ripped one of the Nighthawks to bits, the rest of them fleeing into the clouds. My eagle buddy had been sent to deliver a message by the King of Analand which he delivered by dropping a sealed scroll at my feet. Beats a pigeon, that’s for certain.
And so here we have the goal of this book… seven serpents are speeding towards my enemy with information on me and my arrival and I’m guessing I have to kill these scaly gits. Seven sounds like a lot. Oh god. Anyway, as you may remember, from the previous book, a blind beggar sent me into this one with a little something to help me out, a Serpent Talisman. The power this talisman gave me was one of control over these serpents, when I meet them I am to deduct 14 from the page reference and they will reveal a secret piece of information to me. Beyond that, I don’t know what to expect from them, so as the letter indicates, Shadrack should be my first port of call, wherever he might be.
Several hours of walking later and a solitary leafless tree creeped up from the horizon. Taking a moment to rest under its branches, I began to hear a voice speaking to me, the trees branches forming the face of an old man. It spoke of Shadrack and that he was waiting for me to the east at Fishtail Rock. Seems legit, so I headed east.
And would you believe it, the tree was right.
Although on closer inspection, the face I had seen appeared to be that of Shadrack himself, his powers allowing him to deliver his message via the branches of a dead tree. I was greeted warmly and he explained that he would help me with whatever I needed and all he wished to know was of recent events within Khare. We talked of the outside world and thankfully, he gave me a meal to eat whilst I filled him in on the latest goings on in Khares sewers. Once that was covered, we came onto my goal and I found that the seven serpents were once attached to a hydra slain by the Archmage, twelve years ago. Black magic resurrected the heads as seven winged serpents that became his servents, each bestowed with a single power – that of the sun, moon, earth, fire, air, water and time respectively. However, each one also comes with a weakness. Shadrack was able to tell me one of these weaknesses, the air serpent has the ability to leave its body and turn into a puff of gas, during this time it’s body is vulnerable and should be destroyed as it will die if it cannot return. Adding 3 Stamina to the 2 I already gained from the meal, I stayed the night in Shadracks cave and he sent me on my way with the gift of the Galehorn, an item that will let me cast a wind spell. An all-round good egg that Shadrack.
I rejoined the path I had originally been following before the tree advised deviating and I wasn’t alone for long when a cloud of distant dust began to get closer and closer, three riders were approaching, the horses creating the cloud eventually became clearer and it was now obvious that they were in-fact centaurs.
Keeping things friendly, I didn’t leap into combat and talked to them, they announced themselves as Baklands Horsemen and asked my purpose for being out here. I skirted around the details of my quest and said I was headed for the Forest of Snatta in the north. One asked another about seeing if I had any valuables worth taking, but this idea was shut down quickly as their leader was seemingly afraid of someone willing to walk in the plains alone. He asked if I was a Sorcerer, which I confirmed and made up some nonsense about casting a Luck spell on them. I faked a spell-casting, which they were naively delighted to receive, in return they offered to take me to one of two nearby attractions, the snake charmer to the north-west or the caravan to the north-east. I opted for the former and off we rode.
A strange musical wailing met me as the horsemen rode off, not wanting to meet Manata the snake-charmers pets. Manata has what can only be described as an unconventional existence. Here he is, miles from anyone in the middle of the desert, sitting in a pit, playing a flute to some snakes. What a life.
I shouted down to him and found him to be reasonably pleasant, he unsurprisingly spoke with a bit of a lissssssp and invited me to hop down into the pit with him. Perhaps a risky move, but I went with it. We had a chat, but it quickly became obvious that he wasn’t going to be much help to me, however he did offer to exchange a bottle of holy water for an item in my inventory. I proposed a counter-offer, I would kill him, keep my stuff and take his. Predictably this meant killing his snakes too, all six of them, but with Skills ranging between 5-7 and Stamina 1-4, they didn’t provide their master with any meaningful protection and the charmer himself was no issue at 6/7. I continued on my journey with a brand new bottle of holy water and a bamboo pipe.
Continuing on a north-westerly direction, night soon fell and I spent a fairly miserable, if uneventful, night under the stars and gained 2 Stamina for it. Sticking to my current heading I eventually came across evidence of civilisations past and a crumbling ruin appeared over the cusp of an incline.
No evidence suggested what this building had been for or who had made it, but on venturing inside, a set of hieroglyphics potentially offered a clue. I set about trying to transcribe them, but on conducting a quick safety check with a SUS spell, I understood that all reading the hieroglyphics would do was trigger a trap so I left well alone and turned my attention to a nearby trapdoor. Creaking open the ancient passage down, light streamed down a flight of stairs revealing an extremely startled, bearded old man and an awful smell. Desperately happy, he explained his situation, he had been the priest of the temple and had been imprisoned in his own building by Klattamen, whatever they are, who had ransacked the place, taking anything of value. Now it seems odd to have a half knackered temple in the middle of a desert… who worships there exactly and how has this man survived?! Regardless, I was in a charitable mood and agreed to release him, smashing his flimsy chains with my sword. Beside himself with joy, he was able to help me out by telling me about the weaknesses of two serpents. The moon serpent is weak to fire and the earth serpent is powerless when not in contact with the ground.
Unbeknownst to us though, the old man was sick with yellow plague, which I assume was the reason for the smell. In helping him, the disease had been passed over and at the end of every day 3 Stamina will be lost until a cure can be found. And here we end part one… we might be diseased, hungry and alone in a desert, but we know how to kill three of the seven serpents. I’m calling that a win.
Now where the hell are they?