The Seven Serpents – Conclusions

The Seven Serpents was a book I played through in a single sitting and totally loved the experience. As ever, there is the odd quibble here and there, but overall I had a great time with this book, the wild environments were exciting to explore and the chase of the serpents was a very satisfying goal. Having to pursue their weaknesses as well as the serpents themselves was a particularly nice extra layer of difficulty and an additional option of how to take the serpents down when you did find them. But here seems like a good place to bring about a criticism, and that is towards the illustrations. The wonderful hyper-fine-detail of John Blanches work seems to be underrepresented here, with the likes of the ruins being the few occasions where it features, seemingly with a focus on heavier lines, almost akin to what we saw in Caverns of the Snow Witch. Not necessarily a bad thing, just a personal preference. But mainly my complaint is that the iconic serpents that the book is centered around are mostly ignored. Only the fire serpent is actually shown, I’d have loved to see what a moon serpent or a time serpent looks like – opportunity missed!

Something I missed was this opportunity to go shopping, apparently somewhere is a salesman who has shelves full of his wares for you to browse. I loved the idea of this illustration, when you get to buy some supplies in Fighting Fantasy books it’s always an exciting moment, to get to see the things on offer is not something you get often.

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One interesting encounter I had was with Fenestra, interesting as I never did really establish what was going on with the serpent appearing in her orb. Well, a reader in the comments section pointed me in the right direction and had I discussed magic with her she would have told me a bit more about herself. She too had an issue with the serpents, the water serpent especially as her father was killed by the beast. I was also filled in as to why the image of a serpent was in her orb, ‘I have here the Sun Serpent, lured down from the skies with a rain spell. I offered it shelter – for the Sun Serpent cannot tolerate water – and magicked it into my orb. Eventually, the Water Serpent will come looking for its companion, and when that happens I will be ready’.

So that’s what was going on. I suppose that you cannot actually face the Sun Serpent yourself? So if that is the case, surely this book is The Six Serpents and only two escaped me and made it to Mampang? That’s two more than I’d have liked anyway, there was much of the book I didn’t explore.

Mostly I took left turns, I have no idea why, but you can see in my map that I stuck very much to that side of the world.

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I did like the circular section towards the end though in the forest, certain paths overlapping and different routes leading into each other, the silly insta-death section on the edge of the lake aside of-course. Some of the wildlife was quite dangerous and I did like this image of the stalking Snattacats.

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I never met this chap either, but he does have a look of Gimli about him, a sort of exotic, tribal Gimli anyway. There’s some Yosemite Sam in there too I think…

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My favourite section of the book was the barren Baklands section, the feeling of eerie isolation was very well conveyed in the writing and gave me similar feelings to that of the utterly wonderful PS3 game, Journey.

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One final thing – the time serpent. I think that puzzle wasn’t hard enough! I was prepared for some proper code-breaking stuff there and it turned out to be just roman numerals? More could have been made of that one I think, but even still I did like the use of a visual puzzle. But anyway, best book of the three so far? I think it probably was. But now, please excuse me, there’s an 800 page doorstep sitting ominously on my desk…

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The Seven Serpents – Part 3

Having just avoided being eaten by a bush, it was time to press on to the end of this chapter of the Sorcery saga. My first step was to take a left hand turn at a junction which took me up a winding path through the forest which at one point skirted round the edge of a hillock, and from within I could hear sounds. Further inspection revealed a door in the side! Interested to potentially meet a hobbit, I tried the door and entered the hillock. A dimly lit passageway was on the other side and I edged down it, clearly hearing voices coming from the end of it. A spindly creature sat in a candle-lit room, hunched over a glowing orb, whispering to the image of a serpent.

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Seems this creature is the thing on the cover, and despite the fact it was chatting with a serpent, I decided to be nice and not attack. Before I could even announce my presence, I was acknowledged and addressed, ‘All right, all right. Don’t just stand there jittering like a Half-orc. Come in and sit yourself down.’ My charismatic host introduced herself as Fenestra, a sorcereress. I gave her a vague outline of my quest and she seemed interested, listening intently. I asked her about how I might cross Lake Ilklala and for a mere 2 gold she offered to sell me a whistle that would call the boatman. Given my past experience at the lake, this seemed like a sensible purchase. Before I could leave though, Fenestra offered me a gift, I had the choice of a medicinal potion, a lucky charm and a… calling-whistle! She must have a whole box of them. Considering I was in single-digit Stamina, a medicinal potion was the obvious choice, but on accepting it I found that what it actually did was clear me of my Yellow Plague! Two Luck points were mine for my discovery too. I’m gonna need those to power through any combat that comes my way. We said our goodbyes and I left Fenestra in her little hill… but just what was her orb doing exactly and why was she talking to the serpents? I hope I didn’t have to kill her, she was nice.

A three-way junction was my next decision and I took a left which led me back down to the area with the bear I went through on the way up to the lake. As I reached the shore I got my shiny new whistle out and blew on it to take me to page 199. A silent note rang out and sure enough, from the nearby undergrowth an over-weight, un-washed and quite jolly man came into view.

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In exchange for taking me across he wanted 4 gold which I wasn’t willing to pay, I’d already had to buy a whistle, I’m not paying again! So I drew my sword and went into combat, but it was short-lived as I only had to reduce him to 4 Stamina from his initial 7/8 stats so as to force him to yield and take me across the lake for free. He dragged a boat from the bushes, shoved it out into the water and barked at me to get in and get rowing. He seemed much more aggressive towards me now, I can’t think why. Continuing to be a bit of a dick to him, I refused to entertain the idea that I would be doing any rowing myself. At this point he became deflated, and I mean this in a very literal sense as his body began to wilt and a jet of gas rose into the air. Going on what I’d been told earlier in the ruined temple, I had just met the air serpent.

Pressing the serpent for information with my serpent ring I was advised that when in the dark chamber of night I should not use a blood candle. Ok. Now as my memory was serving me correctly, I knew exactly how to kill this serpent. I picked up the limp skin of the ferry-man and ripped it to pieces with my bare hands! Before I could celebrate killing off serpent number two though, the water around the boat began to bubble. Lurching in all directions, my boat threatened to launch me into the water, but a Luck test kept me aboard. A snake-like coil with watery wings rose up from the lake to face me, I guess this’ll be the water serpent then. My quick question-time with the serpent revealled that I should respect Naggamanteh the torture-master, which given that he’s a torture-master, seems like a good idea. Unfortunately, the weakness of this particular serpent was unknown to me and so I would have to take it down in combat. Around about now I remembered that I could call upon Libra and so I asked her to sort out my dwindling Stamina, but not only that, I also cast a WOK spell, creating a shield out of a gold piece which allowed me to deduct 2 from the serpents attack strength. At 10/11 it wasn’t too much of a struggle with the shield in use.

Taking a quick breather after my battles, I realised I had now crossed the lake and was on the shore of the Vischlami Swamp. Before long though, I was disturbed by voices. Standing my ground, I waited until the voices turned into figures. Three marsh goblins were walking through the swamp and were evidently very surprised to see me! But instead of cutting them down, I tried to communicate, casting the RAP spell which allows me to speak a foreign tongue.

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It became apparent that Fenestra had sent these three green-skins off to take down a serpent of godly power and that the scroll pictured above held the key to defeating it. Thanking the goblins for the information, I bid them farewell. The text informed me that there was a page reference hidden within the image of the scroll and that when I confront the time serpent I should turn to the given reference. I set about figuring it out straight away, the potential cypher was worked out, I assumed the ‘LIX’ heading was the reference and the numbers could somehow be obtained by studying the symbols and letters below… Oh how I scribbled and pondered…

About two seconds later, the serpent of time popped up. ‘So the Anlander has the serpent ring!’ hissed the serpent and proceeded to divulge the secret that the Archmage may well be disguised up in Mampang, he will not be as he seems. When it came to take him down, I had no idea what I was doing as apparently the cypher idea wasn’t working. And so, I thought some more and eventually tried what would be the successful option – Roman Numerals. Yep, the only important thing on that scroll is the ‘LIX’ heading, the rest is a total red herring, which led me to page 59 and a formality of an encounter with the severely weakened 3/14 time serpent.

And that was that, the final serpent and the end of this leg of the journey. I went through a section where I was asked how many serpents I had slain, taking out 4 of the 7 was the middle option and earned me no penalty and no reward. Three serpents raced ahead of me to inform Mampang what I was up to, I’d need to be careful now. Entering Low Xamen, the craggy Zanzunu Peaks lay ahead and a climb to the Fortress of Mampang was what I had to look forward to, and incidentally this Mordor-like scenario is depicted in my favourite illustration from this one. We’re reaching the end of the journey and the final book now, wish me luck!

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The Seven Serpents – Part 2

As I headed north, away from the ruins with my fantastic new disease, I became rather nervous as I was coming towards the end of the Baklands and had yet to take out any of the serpents feverishly trying to deliver news of my arrival to the Archmage. Ahead of me lay the great forest of Snatta, but before I could reach it, I was happy to see my first settlement in some time, a number of tiny huts making up a little village, presumably able to survive off the forest. However, it seems they also survive off raids into the Baklands too as the inhabitants turned out to be the Klattamen barbarians that had raided the ruined temple. These lanky, animal-skin wearing, semi-nomads aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer though and I didn’t feel at risk. In-fact, I was invited over for a very welcome meal of wild boar, gaining 2 Stamina. As my new crowd of friends grew quiet thought, I realised something was amiss. Turning round I saw exactly my problem.

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I had been drawn in to be a play-thing for their champion and I was about to be bludgeoned. Although looking at the illustration, given how top-heavy he is with that leg/arm ratio, I could probably have just pushed him down. Despite him being quite a strong character though at 9/8, I took him down with a few well-placed Luck tests as my own Stamina was still not in good shape, especially given the continuing effects of my Yellow Plague. When the peoples hero fell, they stood silent and then offered me more meat! Unfortunately, I didn’t take any with me for later and got the hell out of there.

On the edge of the Forest of Snatta night was falling, so instead of ploughing on through the dark, I decided it was nap-time. An uninterrupted night of sleep gained me 3 Stamina, which I instantly lost to the overnight effects of the Yellow Plague I contracted earlier. Leading me deeper into the forest were three options, left, right and middle pathways. I opted to take the left and found myself in foraging mode as a number of potentially useful items became available to me. Up for grabs were five small pebbles, a handful of leaves, sand, stone dust, the feather of a yellow bird and enough nuts and berries for two meals. The only down side was that to take an item, I’d have to drop an item. I gave up my glue, wax and scroll in exchange for the food, sand and stone dust.

Continuing on my previous path I encountered a snake which slithered ahead, looked at me and then went into the bushes next to the path. This seemed like too big a clue not to follow it, so I headed off into the undergrowth. Almost like it wanted me to follow, the snake kept looking back to me, making sure I was following before heading up a tree. As I went up to the tree to investigate, it seemed like I’d found what I was looking for.

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Suddenly the tree burst into flames at what I can say is a fairly safe assumption to be the fire serpent. Rolling 4 on a D6 I was saved a loss of Skill, but still managed to lose 3 Stamina from the heat. Remembering my ring, I confronted the serpent and spoke to it to obtain whatever knowledge it had to give me. The serpent warned me that should I meet him, not to eat from Throgs larder, but that this was unlikely as my adventure was going to be over soon anyway… I have to admit I guessed my way though this one somewhat as I had not discovered this serpents weakness, but the sand I picked up earlier seemed like a logical option. It was the right choice too as the flames were extinguished and all was left of my opponent was the original snake I was following, which at 5/6, died very quickly. That’s one down, six to go!

Getting back onto the path, I arrived at a junction with turn-offs, left and right. Taking the left turn I came into a clearing and quickly found myself in trouble as a wild bear was lumbering over towards me!

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After the flames of the fire serpent my Stamina was now a horribly low 5, spells could not be risked and so again I chanced combat as my Luck was still very high, which was a good thing as this bear was 8/8 and thankfully I was able to dispatch it without taking further damage. When I left the clearing I found myself on the edge of what the map tells me is Lake Ilkala. I needed a way to cross, but I could see no way of doing so, I walked up and down the bank, I waited some more, but nobody was coming.

My adventure was over.

Yes, I was surprised too. My character seemingly just gave up, sat on the edge of the lake and waited there until he died. What an odd way to kill you off. I did what my character would have done in this situation, I turned around and explored in a different direction! I’d only just recently been given the option of a left or right turn, so I went back to that point and tried the right turn.

My new course took me to another left-right junction, and I again went right. As I pushed through the forest though, this section seemed to get very narrow and more and more tanglesome.

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The bushes were actually wrapping themselves around me, trying to drag me into them. I was asked by the text if I had any essence of bark, which I did! These grasping limbs were that of a Stranglebush, a plant which eats animals, by quickly rubbing the essence of bark on my exposed skin, the Stranglebush mistook me for another plant and quickly released its grip on me, allowing me to continue unharmed.

Through a clearing in the trees I could see Lake Ilklala not too far in the distance ahead of me. I was told that I would need to cross the lake in order to reach the foothills of Xamen, climbing these would then lead me to the Fortress of Mampang and the Archmage, my ultimate goal.

But as we know, I haven’t the means to cross this lake, I’m down to 5 Stamina and there’s also the small matter of six more serpents still out there for me to whack… I’ll see you in part three, wish me luck, I think I’m gonna need it at this rate!

 

The Seven Serpents – Part 1

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Sorcery #3

The Seven Serpents

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?

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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?

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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.

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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.

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And would you believe it, the tree was right.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?