Talisman of Death – Part 2

Through the gates of Greyguilds we went, still alive after most of the inhabitants of Orb seem to be out to kill us. Does anyone actually know I have the talisman on me or are they all just being dicks? My paranoia that everyone is out to get me will have to be shelved for now though as the city must be explored for a way to get back to Earth, the streets were busy with shoppers and young people carrying books and scrolls, it was time to get stuck in. I was currently on Moorgate and opted to go down Store Street instead of Smith Street. Walking down the crowded street, a woman in a plain green robe caught my eye as she was looking straight at me. Before I could assess things further she had crossed the street and was asking me who I was and where I was from, believing I was new to the city. On learning the truth, that I had crossed the wilderness, she asked if I had met an old man dressed similarly to herself? Obviously I hadn’t, but I decided to lie and took a guess at his name, a lucky guess too as Wodeman was exactly right. Delighted, she revealed herself to be Lillantha, Priestess of the All-Mother, Fountain of Life, and she wanted me to go and pray with her. A friend is a friend, so I agreed.

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In a very pretty, grassy square we kneeled and after a few short moments she took me aside and told me that the All-Mother had spoken to her of my quest and wanted to help me by providing me with some magical chainmail. Very nice of her, but the +1 Skill bonus would have taken me over my Initial score, so that wasn’t much use. More interestingly though, she told me the potentially useful fact that the gates of the city are guarded by followers of the All-Mother on evenings of market-day and the three days following.

Returning to Store Street I soon found the general hub-bub of the people was thinning and separating as a large black carriage drawn by two black horses was making its way along the street. As it passed me it came to a halt and I could see a coffin inside, a coffin with my name inscribed on the lid! The rider stepped down from the carriage, a man dressed in fine clothes, the funeral director perhaps. He greeted a nearby store keeper and then turned to me. ‘I am the envoy of Death; I have come for the Talisman’. That’s my earlier question answered then. Slowly, his form began to change, what the world was seeing was some sort of illusion and I saw the things true form, a ragged skeleton gripping a small rapier.

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Fortunately, the envoy of Death was a bit of a pussycat at only 8/4, his trick was that a hit from him would deduct a point of Skill as well as the Stamina cost, but he was down before he even had a chance. Clearly I was now in great danger, if Death himself is onto me, I’m going to need to get the hell out of here as soon as I can. Store Street led onto Booker’s Walk, a tree-lined route that took me up to two notable buildings, one grand stone building with white haired men in togas flocking around it, the other was seemingly a library, I made the latter my destination. Taking the time to learn a little about Greyguilds itself, I read some local history which revealed religious sects control everything, a temple of Death exists, along with the most popular, Vagar, the god of thieves and cut-throats which is the most popular in the city. Then there are the two opposing religions that guard the city, worshippers of the good-aligned All-Mother and the evil-aligned Fell-Kyrinla. I stayed in the library so long that people began to file out as it was now getting dark, so I decided to follow suit and get set for the evening.

Walking down the dark, unfamiliar streets I scanned for the inviting glow of an inn, but all I found was the sudden pain of a man-trap snapping shut around my ankle for the cost of 2 Stamina. The cost was likely to get much higher too as shadowy figures began to emerge from the murk of the city and descend upon me, their sickly pallor glowing in the moonlight. ‘We are the priesthood of Death, we have come for what is ours’, said one of the figures as it tore the talisman from my stricken self. Oblivious we were to the riders descending on the group, members of the Fell-Kyrinla group attacked the Death priests, felling enough of them to claim the talisman for themselves before tearing off into the night, leaving me in the trap to rot. That could have gone better.

Running out of options slightly, my desperation was answered by a stranger who came by and stepped on the release mechanism of the trap, setting me free. He even offered me a place to stay for the night, and even though I probably wasn’t at that much risk anymore, I agreed all the same.

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My nights rest regained 4 Stamina and my host was quite talkative, asking if I needed further help. I spilled my guts and he listened intently, my host was apparently a sage of history named Apothecus and he was more than aware of the importance of the talisman. Just as aware as the Fell-Kyrinla, he supposed their High Priestess, Hawkana would have it in her possession by now. To regain the talisman he suggested trying the Thieves Guild by seeking a contact in the Red Dragon Inn on the Street of Seven Sins. To further help me on my way he gave me 5 gold, a +1 Skill ring (another useless Skill item) and a jade rose so he could trust my identity. I set off for the Red Dragon.

On my way a group of students in the blue togas I keep seeing around were having an argument which eventually broke into a fight. During the struggle, a small brass tiger charm was dropped by one of them so I snatched it up, put it around my neck with a mischievous grin and entered the Inn.

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Curiously, the text asked if I was wearing a brass tiger charm… outside of my own control I then started to talk to the barman, ‘You fat pig, pour me a drink before the sight of your squalid, pus-ridden face makes me vomit’. As you may imagine, this didn’t go down too well and before I knew it, the barman was hurdling the bar with his club, ready to correct my error along with the help of some of his patrons. This was a bar brawl though, not a fight to the death, when the barman (7/8) was reduced to 4 Stamina and his pal (8/9) to 5 Stamina, the battle was over. During the scuffle, the brass tiger charm fell from my neck and it dawned on me that it was this thing causing my unnecessary tirade against the barman. Regardless, it seemed I had earned myself some respect, ‘You are truly a mighty warrior – you could even be a match for Tyutchev’, the barman exclaimed. Tales of this legendary warrior were told and whilst we were getting chatty I decided to bring up the Thieves Guild. I was told the entrance to their lair was through a storm-drain near Trader’s Row and that they would meet me there tomorrow at midday. Our cosy chat was then interrupted by two figures entering the Red Dragon.

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‘Tyutchev, Cassandra, welcome!’, the forced smile of the barman suggested he actually wasn’t all that happy to see this pair. They took an interest in me though as my table suddenly became their table when they sat next to me. I introduced myself and stated that I was looking for the talisman of Death and was looking for some thieves to help me out. A flicker on interest passed across the face of the man, but then they quickly upped and left saying they had no time for such things. He went outside and started to talk to what looked like a group of thieves. Perhaps I should have kept my mouth shut?

I left the Red Dragon (gaining 1 Luck for doing so alive) and headed down Merchant Street where a number of market stalls were operating, but one shop stood out. ‘Alembic the Alchemist’, read the sign. In his window was a small plate with five hazelnuts on it alongside a stuffed lynx. You see that shop, you’re going in it aren’t you? Alembic greeted me cheerfully and showed me his wares, an Elixir of Life (12g), Barkskin Ointment (7g), Fortunate Luckstone (10g) and Vapours of Speed (10g). The first three just sounded like Stamina, Skill and Luck potions under a different name, so I stumped up the 10 gold for the Vapours of Speed which should increase the speed of my actions when I inhale them. I bid Alembic farewell and headed down Carriage Street where the Silver Trinket Inn proved quite a draw as it was starting to get late. For 3g I got a cooked meal, a bed and 4 Stamina points; I’d give this place a higher score on Tripadvisor than the Red Dragon anyway. In the morning, I set off for my meeting with the thieves.

Like a child though, I became quickly distracted by something completely other, a group of people were watching a man in a long grey cloak performing magic tricks, making flowers appear and disappear. Does this really pass as being that impressive in a world where people can raise the dead? Apparently so as I stood and watched, but my attention was then diverted to a man servant who had given me a gold-embossed card inviting me to have a sherry with Mortphilio, who I was told was one of the city elders. Free drink? Screw the talisman and the end of the world, let’s roll. Down a number of tree-lined streets we went until we came up to a large, gothic looking house adorned with umpteen gargoyles. I was led into a dark room in which a decrepit-looking figure sat beneath a blanket in the corner. The servant lit four black candles and left us alone, ‘Thank you for coming. It is seldom that I entertain anyone who looks so vital and full of life’, said Mortphilio. But it seemed I had been lured into something of a situation here as Mortphilio then commanded a skull on his mantlepiece to attack me! I fought off the winged skull (7/6) and was next being pursued by a group of skeletons also summoned by Mortphilio, who was seemingly a reasonably accomplished Necromancer.

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Does he think I still have the talisman? Who knows, but I stumbled through a drape across the corridor and found myself in what could only be the temple of death. Hundreds of black robed figures knelt in prayer around what was a dark, evil church. The high priest Somnus started his ritual, punctuated by the sound of an organ, his altar produced a phantom lake of boiling blood from which six mounted wraiths appeared, ‘I charge you, Instruments of Death, to recover the Talisman!’, he cried. Totally metal. I had remained hidden through all this by snatching a black robe that had been hanging by the entrance. I saw another black robed individual pick up a helmet and suddenly vanish, this seemed like a good way to get out of here so I did the same and found myself transported out of the temple to the streets outside. So now we have to parties actively trying to take back the talisman…

Getting back on track, I headed down to the storm-drain where I was to meet with the thieves. I jumped down, ankle-deep in slime and came to a small round door in the wall. My Luck roll did not hold out though, I heard a click and felt a thud in my back. Looking down a harpoon protruded from my stomach and it was all I could do to stop my entrails spilling into the slime. Death took me swiftly.

However, my adventure was not over. Talisman of Death has a sort of built-in cheat system whereby incidental death is seen by the gods and you are resurrected in the story a short point before you were killed… So next time, I’ll have to make sure I pass that Luck test. You know, I have a really good feeling that I will pass it too.


Talisman of Death – Part 1

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Talisman of Death


Dark forces are at work to unleash the awesome might of the Evil One, but their plans cannot be completed without the legendary Talisman of Death. YOU are the one who carries the Talisman, and only YOU can stop the Dark forces. YOUR mission is to destroy the Talisman before the dark lord’s minions reach you. But beware! Time is running out!

We begin Talisman of Death by waking from a state of unconsciousness in an idyllic cloud-dwelling castle, elaborately furnished and under beautiful blue skies. Unfortunately we have no idea at all why we are there but seem to have acquired a sword and the ability to use it very well, I had rolled a reasonably competent 10/20/9 character after all. Before long we are addressed by a resplendent song-bird, ‘Welcome, Champion of Fate. Do not be dismayed, you are not yet in danger.’ YET. The bird went on to tell me that this was the Garden of the Gods and I had been plucked from Earth to assist the world of Orband that his masters would tell me more. Descending a spiral staircase into a large circular room, two shimmering figures gave me my very non-specific reason for being plunged into this world without warning. ‘We have summoned you here to the world of Orb because we wish to prevent a fatal upset in the balance of nature… It is not right for us in the Garden of the Gods to set things right. We cannot fight him who would bring chaos to Orb. Rather we use men as our tools‘.

So they have pulled someone from Earth to do their dirty work… am I from present day Earth? Am I English? Why is my character not completely freaking out his mind right now? And who is ‘him‘?

We are sending you down to the surface of Orb. If you fall into the clutches of Death we cannot aid you. Do not fail us!‘, they continued. ‘Fail in what?‘, both my character and I asked. I did however note that ‘Death’ was capitalised… But then I lost consciousness again and was being sent down from the gardens to awake in a huge vaulted chamber on what I suppose is the planet of Orb. No windows lit the room, only dull flaming torches, which revealed two archways and very little else. Almost straight away I was disturbed by dreadful noises in the distance, infernal howling and clattering footsteps filled the air, I stood my ground and waited with my sword drawn to see what appeared from the gloom.

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A perfectly set-up but desperate looking party of adventurers came crashing into view, apparently being pursued by whatever was making those howling noises. Equally surprised to see me the leader, a shield-maiden with a crossbow demanded to know who I was and what I was doing in ‘the Rift’. Deciding to go with the truth, I said I was from another world and with a little spell-casting, the parties priest was able to confirm I was telling the truth. ‘Perhaps this warrior was sent by the gods to continue the quest?‘, he correctly supposed. It seemed this band of four were trapped in this place by a pursuing force and they only had the ability to teleport one person out of this dead-end catacomb. It was at this point our new friend, the priest, laid down some knowledge and actually told us what was going on here. Long ago, the minions of the God Death created a talisman that would allow them to summon their god to the surface of this world when the time was right. That time is now and should they be successful, the world of Orb would be turned to dust. Thankfully, a band of crusaders, the party before me, had stolen the talisman from the depths of this evil place, The Rift. Unfortunately their plan seems to have gone awry as they’re now turning to me, a bewildered idiot who they’ve never met before. But the fact that I have come from another world excited them as if I could take the talisman there, it would be beyond the reach of evil. The wizard prepared to teleport me, advising I head west to the city of learning, Greyguilds-on-the-Moor, where I may be able to find a way to return. My new pals not only handed over the Talisman of Death, they even gave me 10 gold pieces spending money. They wouldn’t be needing it though as the last thing I saw as I was teleported to safety was a cave troll and a group of dark elves catching up with the party and cutting them down.

Suddenly blinded by light I was on the surface, stood on the edge of a blackened, rocky fissure which must be the Rift the crusaders told me about. Heeding their advice I set Greyguilds as my goal and had the option of taking a direct route across open ground or a slight detour under the cover of forest, not wanting to hang about, I picked the former. Treking across the open has it’s advantages as you can see your enemies coming, but sadly, they can also see you coming. The two armed groups of orcs and dark elves I spotted ahead of me were now coming straight for me, so I went full Monty Python and chose ‘run away’ as my solution. It seemed a good one too as the pursuing packs of goons collided with each other and started to fight amongst themselves, leaving me to continue on my merry way, rising and descending a hill into a verdant, fern-laden valley.

Being chased down by two armies after being teleported and knocked unconscious by gods several times is thirsty work, so I took in a good drink at a nearby spring underneath a willow tree. Of course, the result was that I fell unconscious again. Drowsily dragging myself out of the stupor it became obvious that this willow tree had been draining something into the water to catch its prey, two eyes had opened up in its trunk and I was being attacked by the branches of this enraged Willow Weird. Fairly tough thing it was too at 8/20, but after four successful attacks I was told to end the combat as I had cut through one of the trees branches and it recoiled in pain, giving in. My prize was some of the healing sap that oozed from its wound which I promptly use to restore the 4 Stamina points I’d lost in the fight.

Continuing my westerly direction I followed the water side until my luck ran out again, some of the dark elves that had been chasing me had caught up after beating orcs with their magic and one was pointing right at me.

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I know I carry the tool to summon Death himself to destroy every living thing in the world, but will people just leave me alone for five minutes! I plunged into the river and crossed to the other bank, somehow managing to lose them again. My relief was momentarily in question again as I had crossed out onto a wide plain and could see figures emerging from a dust-cloud on the horizon, a guy with a death talisman can’t get a rest for 2 seconds on Orb. As they drew closer it became apparent that these were some sort of warrior-women band on horseback, wearing armour and looking decidedly unfriendly. Their leader circled me, demanding to know what I was doing there, so naturally I pretended to be deaf and dumb. I didn’t know how this course of action would pan out, but it actually did the trick as they immediately let their guard down somewhat and allowed me to mount a horse with them. My new gang were members of the Watch from Greyguilds, law-enforcers who apparently have issues with the leniency of the priestesses of the All-Mother. Suddenly though, a cry of ‘ambush!’ rang out, but remembering I’m supposed to be deaf and dumb, I chose not to react. Good thing too as it was a test by the Watch to see if I was true to my word. Ha. After riding a little further we came upon the gates to Greyguilds and they let me dismount and enter the city on my own. So now that we’re here, next goal is trying to figure out how to transport myself and the talisman back to Earth from an completely alien world. Can’t see that being too hard…

The once-peaceful world of Orb is in terrible danger!

So after a short break, it’s now time to stop messing around with Sorcery and eating hobbits and get back to the chronology of Fighting Fantasy by following on from House of Hell with Talisman of Death.

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This copy of the book came from eBay a little while ago just before I opted for Creature of Havoc, so I have been sitting on it for some time now. My previous encounter with non-Livingstone & Jackson penned Fighting Fantasy was Scorpion Swamp, which you might say I wasn’t all that keen on. Talisman of Death was co-written by Jamie Thomson and Mark Smith who you are probably aware of through the Way of the Tiger series of gamebooks.


I was a big fan of those back in the day too and as I’ve mentioned before, at the time I never actually realised that Fighting Fantasy had a variety of writers, so knowing there was a cross-over of talents between two series I read is very cool. Plenty of love still around for the series too as the recently successful Kickstarter project to create collectors editions of the books testifies. Similar to Fighting Fantasy, a few computer games were spawned from the books, one of which I do remember playing at a friends house on his Commodore 64, a ludicrously exciting thing to an 8 year old who hasn’t got access to many games on his Amstrad 6128. I seem to remember punching knives out of the air, I thought it was amazing… we were more easily pleased back then. He also had the books though and that was my introduction to Way of the Tiger, Teenage Mutant Hero/Ninja Turtles were all the rage at the time, so I lapped up anything like this.


Not only do we see a cross-over of talents though, Talisman of Death exists in the same setting as the Way of the Tiger series, the fantasy world of Orb along with a few overlapping characters and illustrator Bob Harvey. Beyond that though, this is another title I really remember nothing about, which is why I’m mostly discussing another book series entirely! I can’t even remember what the title means… is it a talisman that ‘does’ death, or is it a talisman that just happens to belong to Death? I for one am excited to find out. Feedback in the Reviews Archive is generally pretty positive though, so I think combined with the writers pedigree, I should be safe with this one. Just so long as it isn’t as tough as Creature of Havoc anyway, that’s all I’m really asking right now!