The dark, twisted power of the young Malbordus is reaching its zenith! All he needs now is to retrieve the five dragon artifacts which have been hidden for centuries in the lost city of Vatos, somewhere in the Desert of Skulls. Each day that passes brings him closer to them and only YOU can stop him! YOUR mission is to reach the lost city before Malbordus and destroy the treasures he seeks. But beware! Each step you take leads you closer to your doom …
And so here we are again, sat in the tower of Yaztromo, awaiting the start of our journey. Bits of warhammer aren’t on our shopping list this time though, now it’s all about dragon artifacts and we need to beat evil swine Malbordus to them or else he’ll be commanding a blaze of dragons, and we don’t want that do we? Yaz has guided our hero back to his tower from Stonebridge entirely unharmed by the creatures that lurk within Darkwood Forest; apparently they wouldn’t dare to mess with the power of Yaztromo. Might have been nice of him to accompany me back in Forest of Doom then and stopped me getting toasted by wyverns and the like… Regardless, he’s here to make life easier for us by teaching us a limited selection of magic to take on our journey.
Our choices are fairly self-explanatory but we only have time to learn four of them – Open Door, Creature Sleep, Magic Arrow, Language, Read Symbols, Light, Fire, Jump, Detect Trap and Create Water. I opted for Language, Read Symbols, Open Door and Jump, given that I’d been very lucky in rolling a 12/21/12 Character, I didn’t think I’d have much trouble in combat situations.
It was time to leave the forest and Yaz sent me on my way with a warning that it wouldn’t be long until Malbordus knew I was on his tail and would be sending some assassins to get in my way. Not a problem, I had a few things to sort out before being assassinated, to find Malbordus we need to find the dragon artifacts, to find the dragon artifacts we need to find the lost city of Valos, to find the lost city of Valos we need to find the Desert of Skulls… and that, according to Yaztromo is reached either by an overland journey or can be sailed to via the Catfish River and Port Blacksand. Being quite fond of Port Blacksand, and also quite lazy, I opted to sit on my arse on a boat and take the gift of 25 gold pieces he offered.
Despite the gold burning a hole in my pocket, I haggled the captain down from 5 gold to 3 and had a nice long snooze on a big pile of rope. I was awoken by a tap on the shoulder as we passed under a great archway, passing through the city walls of Port Blacksand itself. After the barge was moored up, nightfall was settling in and I set about finding shelter. I was however not desperate enough to head off down an alley with an old man who offered a room, soup and bread for a single gold piece. From Clog Street I walked to Harbour Street and as darkness and concern began to envelop me, the sounds of singing and laughter caught my ear and sent me towards the Black Lobster tavern. One gold is the going rate for rooms though apparently as that’s what the barman said I could stay here for, another gold piece was all it took to get him to tell me who to speak to about sailing south in the morning. Pirate Gargo was the man to speak to, prices hiked up at this point though, ten gold and I had to work for my dinner, with options limited, I agreed to meet him on-board the Belladonna in the morning. Retiring for the night, I headed up to my room only to have a large man carrying three flagons of ale bump straight into me, just like at a gig. Telling him not to be so clumsy is a fairly safe bet when you have a Skill of 12. He smashed me in the face for 1 Stamina damage, so I killed him. Murmuring onlookers did nothing as I took a leather pouch from his body which contained only a small amount of pirate booty – 2g and a large pearl, I’d had enough for the day and headed off to bed. A restless night was explained by the cold light of day which revealed that my single gold piece had bought me a flea-ridden pile of straw for a mattress, so deciding against a lie-in, I headed straight to the Belladonna. Which as it turns out, is a Pirate ship. Oops.
Gargo was stomping around complaining that one of his gunners had been killed in a bar-fight last night and that I would have to fill his place, my job being to load cannonballs. Of course, within a short time we were making a move to attack a merchant ship, although on closer inspection it turned out to be a rather more dangerous man-of-war vessel… nice pirating, guys. Standing no chance at all, the Belladonna began to sink and only a winning Skill test kept me from being sucked down with it. Getting the attention of the man-of-war crew wasn’t too hard though and I was soon hauling myself aboard using the rope they threw to me. Surprisingly though, this was a boat full of dwarves! I filled them in on my quest, convincing their suspicious minds I wasn’t a pirate by correctly recalling their kings name, Gillibran. Turned around, they looked after me, feeding me up, restocking my provisions and providing two days rest as we sailed to the edge of the Desert of Skulls where my adventure would begin properly.
After disembarking, all alone with no further dwarvern assistance, I might add, I headed south along the beach and not far along I noticed a strange pattern of shells in the sand and skewered in the sand was spear decorated with feathers. My Read Symbols spell came in handy here as I was able to deduce that this was actually a warning not to progress any further as walking on this sacred ground would anger the beach demon. Pondering what a beach demon might be, I decided to instead head inland to the east. Buzzing above me though were three large needle-flies, all very weak enemies though, all of which were dispatched with ease.
A half hours steady walking later and I came across a figure in the sand, a robed man laid face-down. I stopped to check him out and within a small leather pouch in his hand was a gold key, which is now my gold key. In the shimmering haze ahead of me was another figure, but this one wasn’t in the dirt, this one was mounted on a camel.
Hoping he didn’t know the corpse I’d just looted, I spoke to the man who was simply on his way to join a merchant caravan. He obviously wasn’t very well stocked as he was willing to trade a canister of water for the pearl I took from the dead pirate. We said our goodbyes and headed off. Unexpectedly though, the sky grew dark and the wind began to pick up, before I knew it I was enveloped in a howling sand-storm which cost me 2 Stamina points, a successful Luck test though saw me find a small object when the sands died down, sticking out from the sand was a brass handbell which I took along with me to the east. It was here I was cursing my stupidity at not learning a Create Water spell when I knew full well I was heading into a desert, but also very happy at the stupidity of the would-be merchant who has just traded me his water cannister and helped prevent my death for the moment.
Another figure then appeared on the horizon, but this time, it was merely a tent. It seemed to belong to someone though as on getting closer I could see a horse. I felt I should venture inside and say hello.
The horse and tent belonged to Abjul, a very friendly nomad who welcomed me inside, fed me and watered me for 4 Stamina points and then had a variety of interesting wares for me to buy; Sealing wax, Ivory Beetle Charm, Bone Flute (all 2g) – Onyx egg, Bracelet of Mermaid Scales, Crystal key, Ebony Facemask (all 3g) – Silver Mirror (4g). I took the Bone Flute, Crystal Key, Ebony Facemask, Silver Mirror and left the tent a happy traveller. Not long after I left the tent though I felt a tremor, then the ground began to move, it was definitely tremors. I was feeling tremors. So of course, I was being attacked by a Giant Sandworm.
A fairly colossal foe, matched by its stats of 10/20, but still not a match for me and I managed to emerge victorious having only taken a small number of hits and took a chip off one of its tooth as a trophy, perhaps even as a weapon. Night was coming though and with no Fire spell I was getting very cold, to the extent that enduring the night cost me 3 Stamina points. As you might imagine though, this didn’t last and as the sun came up I was soon toiling in the heat once again, but not far to the west I could see what resembled a small cluster of trees with large birds circling up above. Surprisingly this wasn’t a mirage but a genuine oasis, but the circling birds did concern me so I decided not to drink and instead investigated a small pile of rocks only to have a scorpion run out and sting me for 4 Stamina points of damage. Pushing rocks away revealed a small cotton sack which contained something spherical, what had been hidden away was a small glass ball which was forming a sort of prison to sprite! A light tap on a rock cracked the ball and set him free, to which he squeaked his appreciation in a high-pitched voice, a sprinkle of magic dust giving me 1 Luck point and he advised I make a head-scarf out of the sack. Great advice too as after a quick swing of my water canister, temperatures began to soar and the text asked me if I was wearing a head-scarf, my new apparel seemingly helping me avoid a mis-hap here.
Finally, on the horizon, shimmering in the sand, was the walls of a city. ‘Vatos!’, I said to myself.
Ignoring the option to cast a Jump spell and go sailing over the city walls, I went for an Open Door spell on a small door next to the main entrance which sent me into a deserted courtyard. On the opposite side was an archway, leading down some stone steps into a torch-lit corridor. Down here was an iron casket, which seemed like a good enough place to hide a Dragon Artifact, so I had a peak inside. All I found though was an iron helm, a useless additional Skill point was offered to me, I took the helmet along anyway. As I walked away I felt a light tap on my shoulder…
Something that belonged in House of Hell met my gaze, a quite horrible illustration of what was known as The Messenger of Death. Into my ear it gurgled the word ‘death’ and I somehow knew what had happened. Yaztromo had warned me of assassins and this was a rather playful message from Malbordus. The Messenger would stay one step ahead of me, hiding letters of the word ‘death’, should I find them all he would return to drain my life away. When scouring an ancient city for ancient artifacts, that’s something I could have done without…