*Note: I apologize now, but I couldn't find any artwork from the book on the net to use and I didn't think to check that before I got into the book, so I'm not going back to try and find the artworks I did run across. Sorry...
I must say that while I wanted to change this year up from the Fantasy novels of Fighting Fantasy by moving into some of their other genre type things, that after playing Freeway Fighter (Mad Max) and Starship Traveller (Star Trek), I’m happy to be back in the setting. Interesting note here; this book is the first I’ve seen really continue off another book I’ve already played. This one assumes that I am the hero from Deathtrap Dungeon and that I succeeded in my quest (which we all know I failed… twice…) so I thought that was neat. If I’d saved my character sheets I’d use the same stats, but I didn’t so I had to re-roll and ended up with some mediocre ones instead.
After carousing with my fame and fortune for some time in the city and surroundings of where Deathtrap Dungeon took place I become a little bored and want to wander again. I use a significant amount of my winnings to commission myself a castle to be built. Then I hear of a rising evil in a distant land that wants to swallow the earth. Apparently, a Shadow Demon is amassing his power and this seems like a tempting challenge to me. I gather to me a large army of various races and types of troops numbering 220 soldiers and prepare to march forth to stop this evil before it can begin its frightening bid for power.
As my army prepares for march I’m approached by the captain of a ship docked at the town. He offers my army passage on the ship for a fee and points out all the time we could save marching by simply sailing down the river. I agree and though the ship doesn’t look like much, (old and rickety) we board and head out. Some ways down the river we come across a floating barrel which we take on board. It is half full of apples which I pass around to the crew and we enjoy. Later we find that the apples were poisoned and I lose 10 men to illness, luckily, I overcome my sickness.
As we round a bend and are attacked by raiders in canoes who fire catapults at the ship. While they don’t do tremendous damage, they manage to kill 5 men and the raiders begin to board the boat. I choose to keep my men hidden and wait for the inevitable surprise. As the raiders come over the rail they are quickly taken by my men, those not killed or who didn’t leap back into the water are press ganged into the army replacing some of my losses (10 men). I take a fine shield from the leader of the raiders which gives me some skill. We sail on. Later we also come across an unconscious man floating on a log. Nope, not doing that one, poor bastard can float.
Nearing the end of our day we see a bearded man in rough furs and cloth at the edge of the river signaling our boat. I decide to let us approach and as we do more men come from the forest. A northerner tribe who offers to fight for me (at cost of course) against the evil that they’ve heard I’m going to counter. I pay them and they join the army giving me 10 more men. The leader gives me a gift of a tooth of a yeti that he says will protect me from Lycanthropes and Werewolves; a gift that I happily accept. At the end of the day we drop anchor at a slow area of the river. We have the choice of staying aboard the ship and being somewhat cramped or going ashore and pitching camp in a field. I choose to stay aboard.
I am awakened late at night by a sound and as I begin to explore the deck I narrowly avoid being skewered by a steel triton thrown at me. The noise wakes others but the raider has leapt over the side and disappeared into the water. Judging by the wet, webbed foot prints it was a lone fish person looking for food or some other valuable. We post extra guards and have no other issues before we set sail in the morning. On our second day of sail we do not have much better luck. The lookout lets a call of “pirates!” and the captain and I look through the spyglass. A large Viking style pirate ship is coming upriver under sail and oar and is built with a powerful ram on the front. Having no real options (and remember the description of our ship as “rickety”) to fight this but having some time to react before they reach us we make way to the edge of the river and unload the men marching upriver a bit away from the ship. As the pirate ship comes near I hail the captain telling him that any treasure he thinks he’ll get has been offloaded with my men, (who at this point are arrayed for battle) and he is welcome to unload and come get it. He thinks this over for a bit, but not long before he moves away and passes our ship by. Good, for both sides I suppose. We board and continue our journey to the next town down river uneventfully.
Upon reaching the town I put my lieutenant in charge of camping the men outside the walls of the town while I head into town and the local taverns to recruit more men for our mission. Along my way I come across a golden ring in the gutter bearing only a number on it and as I pick it up am accosted by a large brigand claiming it is his. I look at his hands and can tell quite clearly it is not so I deny him at which points fisticuffs ensue. Though bloodied I am victorious, though I cannot celebrate my victory as the town guards are coming and I leave the scene heading for the tavern. I finally reach my destination and enter the den of roguish people where I order a beer and take stock. There are some shady rogues, some drunk vagrants and some other choices.
I move onto some vagrants who say for 100g not only do they know of my quest, but they claim to know of the Shadow Demon, but where he is at and how I can defeat him. Uncertain of my ability to trust them this still seems like a good lead so I take it. They mark on my map the location of the Demon and tell me of an Oracle at the Star caves whom I should seek for help killing him. I thank them for their information and take my leave of the tavern. I leave the tavern and move on down the street where I come across a pet shop. I go in and after some talk with the owner I purchase a magic familiar who looks like a small kangaroo and if the owner is truthful can turn me invisible when I speak the words one, one, one. I thank him and move on eventually coming across a pawn shop where I’m given the option to buy a number of things and I buy them all, a brass owl, copper lantern, green vase and an ivory box. (The way these books go, I’ll need them).
After some more wanderings in town I come across a small mercenary headquarters with some soldiers for hire. They look tough and capable and after sparring with the leader I hire them at a reduced fee to join my army. I leave finally eventually making my way through the town to a friendly looking inn. The keeper there seems nice and recognizing me as an adventurer we exchange stories. He apologizes for regaling me with tales of his past but I insist they are interesting. Eventually he is so taken with me and my quest as well that he trades me swords, my good sword for his magical sword. I pay or the room secure in the owners’ establishment and get a good rest regaining some HP. The next day after a very short exploration I leave town and meet up with my army. Our marching orders are either to the Forest of Fiends where the shadow demon is or east. Since I need to visit the oracle I assume east is the way to go. We travel for some time before stopping to rest where we drink from a natural spring. However, the demon’s spies have poisoned it and much of the army becomes ill. I decide to take a small group of men with me and continue to the oracle.
Along our way we encounter an old beggar woman. I give her a gold and she reads my palm. She tells me that my quest is great, but that if I am to survive I must be sure to drink the water from the fountain of the gods. We continue until we reach a junction. I can go to the town of Karn or into the hills; I choose the hills. Eventually we reach the Starstone Caves; home of the oracle. I enter (apparently alone like an idiot). Some exploration leads me to a puzzle. There are three skulls with different numbers etched on them and I must choose. I select the middle number and the door opens. I come to a room with a large fountain and the statue of a goddess with the name Libra carved into it. I drink from the fountain and though I do not feel empowered I also do not feel dead, so that’s a win. I head further into the tunnel and reach a box with a sign that says, ‘give generously’. I drop 50 gold into the box and continue. I reach a junction that contains three passage ways, each with a doorway carved in the visage of a monstrous face and each with a number. I again choose the middle and head down the hall.
Come back soon for part 2!