Breaking open a coffin in a Fighting Fantasy book is always a risky decision, and the fork-tongued, ‘human’ corpse that sat up in my face from the box I had disturbed was proof enough that this theory holds water. The thing said something I couldn’t understand and fixed its eyes on me and set about laying a curse upon me which would knock 2 off my Initial Skill and 5 off my Initial Stamina. Harsh, but it was indicated that I could potentially remove the curse in the future. My friend in the coffin then closed his eyes and left me alone. From this room, the option of four potential exits was offered, although as far as I could tell, only the door to the East would actually allow me to progress.
Holding my Luck, I managed to to successfully cross a bridge that led me over a foul, stinking river flowing along the bottom of a chasm deep below me in the caves. Safely on the other side, the passages continued to intelligently light my way through glowstones in the walls, leading me up to two doors. The door to the east was emitting heavy breathing and snorts, the north door was silent and so I took the easy way out and went north. Crashing through the solid door shoulder-first cost me 1 Stamina, but brought me into a room containing numerous racks of parchments tied with string. As I went to investigate the parchments, a noise startled me and out of thin-air, something started to materialise in front of me.
A Rock Demon was the result, and it didn’t seem friendly. I readied myself for combat but I shouldn’t have concerned myself as my fists swiped through the illusion in front of me and by pure accident my foot came down on the small mouse which this illusion had been cast, dispelling it instantly. Someone didn’t want me to read these parchments it seems. I went back to them and found that as previous, I was still unable to decipher the language used. Surely somewhere there must be a cipher I can use to crack the code? Confused, I returned to the corridor I had just come from and yet again smashed through a large wooden door to the cost of 1 Stamina. What I found was a large, hairy creature hunched over a half-eaten human carcass. This one was not an illusion.
I was a little wary at combat with the Manic Beast, it was only 7/8, but due to its ‘manic’ state, with every combat round I won, it would gain 2 to it’s next attack roll. However, a glorious double-six meant I wiped the thing out, stone-cold dead with one flash of my claws. I love being the monster. I declined the option to eat either the human-carcass or the manic beast as neither seemed like they would be that appetising or hygienic and carried on to the east. Another door was soon upon me and this one was also producing sounds, but nothing that sounded like it was coming from a creature, the sounds were voices speaking. Being as stealthy as a giant, spined monster can be, I decided to sneak into the room rather than charging in, claws at the ready.
Stepping inside, the voices stopped. I was in a circular room with doors on all four sides, between the doors were a number of archways, which were all too dark for me to see how deep they were. Not wanting to move on just yet, I had a look into the archways and only then did voice speak up again. At first, it spoke in the gibberish I have become accustomed to, but then it changed to something I could actually follow, ‘What about this? Is that better? Ah, yes you can understand me. Look, I can help you. Maybe you would like me to direct you to a tasty morsel? Two fat Hobbits? Or shall I tell you about he who knows all your secrets? I speak, of course, of Zharradan Marr’.
Now, like you I’m sure, I was very interested to hear more as at this point I still had absolutely no idea what was going on in this story other than that I’m an absolute beast, aimlessly trudging through some caves. Working as intended, I’m sure. So despite my suspicion rising after the Hobbit comment, I went over to talk to the voice.
No glowstones lit the way inside the arch the voice was coming from and inside I could make out the body of a man laid on the floor, his head covered by a cowl. I lifted it up to see a decaying corpse with hollow eye sockets and staggered back in fright. From above, a Chattermatter descended and covered me in a sticky web and soon I was succumbing to its deadly poison. This creature was apparently able to speak in a number of tongues to lure in its victims and I had just been duped.
So let’s take a step back then and pretend we didn’t talk to this sadly description-less foe and check out some of the other archways. The next was similarly dark, but part of the rear wall had fallen away. Behind it was a strange glittering, a sparkling light floating in the air. Curious, I moved in and climbed over the collapsed rock to discover what was Elven dust, an essential ingredient in Elven white magic; someone had been trying to wall it in and now I had received a covering of it. I turned my attention away from the arches now and went back to the circular room. Only two doors would actually allow me to progress, the north and south.
Heading south was not a good idea, a very brief sequence of events saw me falling victim to a blackmouth floortrap, a shimmering black circle on the floor which acts like some sort of black-hole. I was sucked in and was subjected to an gruesome fate, the specifics of which were unknown. North it is then.
This route perplexed me too. A cross-road and a T-junction came up in quick succession, none of which led to a path I could continue down except for one passageway which led into a small, round room. Unfortunately, as I entered, the exit from the room vanished. A roaring sound kicked up in the depths and the room started getting hotter. I was asked if I had yellow metal bracelets on – I did not. As a consequence I started to breath air so hot it scorched my lungs, I was trapped inside this furnace and soon I was dead. I’m fairly sure this is the point at which my childhood attempt at Creature of Havoc ended too.
It was time for some back-tracking then as I’d clearly hit a dead-end. Why is it always Steve Jackson books that embarrass me like this in front of everyone?
We’re looking for some metal bracelets then… and after a little scanning over my map, I picked out a couple of unexplored routes and found something that may prove fruitful. Just after the encounter with the flesh-feeders I chose to go east rather than west. Heading west took me down another dark, glowstone-lit passage, bending this way and that until I could hear a faint echo. Footsteps were ringing out up ahead. Turning a corner I walked straight into a group of adventurers, Strongarm the warrior and his two un-named companions. Naturally I slayed all three of them and went through their possessions, the objects catching my eye were a pouch of shiny metal discs, a dull pendant aaaaand… two shining yellow metal bracelets! Perfect! I swiped up those bad-boys and walked off to try and make my way back to the oven that I could presumably now emerge from un-cooked.
The foul smelling river I had crossed in my previous attempt reared its head again as I left the dead adventurers, but instead of crossing the decay and excrement on a rickety bridge, I was descending down the side of the chasm on tiny steps which I needed to pass a Luck test to get down without mishap. Continuing north through a cavern oddly abscent of glowstones to guide be onward, I fumbled through into another junction where I took an easterly turn into an area lit by torches. What looked like a pile of black cloth lay on the floor ahead of me and I bent down to pick it up, but as I did it vanished before my eyes! Before I knew it, I was being stabbed in the back by the Shadow Stalker I had mistaken for some discarded fabric.
A pretty cool enemy is the Shadow Stalker, it emerged from my own shadow and slashed and stabbed with a knife leaving my physical form completely defenseless. The illustration is quite cool too as it offers an insight into what we actually look like… assuming the thing on the cover of the book isn’t supposed to be us? Maybe I’ll find that out as I continue… Regardless, I had to deal with this thing and to fight a shadow, light seemed like a good weapon so I went for a flaming torch. This only earned me a slash to the forearm and so I tried a different strategy – run away! My Python tactic worked a charm too as I retreated to the darkened areas my shadow began to fade, seemingly worrying the Shadow Stalker, who backed off to the lit room and reverted to his ‘cloth’ state. I think in that encounter I managed to shed about 8 Stamina in total. I need some fat, juicy Hobbits.
Onwards, back to the oven it is then in part three…