A the end of my last post, I was standing at the edge of an underground river, deep in the stygian bowels of Firetop Mountain. I had a few options for crossing: a bridge, a raft and a bell I could ring to summon the boatman. Or I could just try to swim across. As my good friend Mad Johnny Chairleg had told me to respect the boatman, I decide to ring the bell. The boatman rowed over from the far side, and offered to take me over for the price of 3 gold pieces. His sign had said 2 gold, and when I complained he mentioned inflation, which is a weird thing for a subterranean boatman to be talking about. I could have remonstrated, but instead I just shrugged my shoulders and paid him. My money problems will vanish when I stab the Warlock to death, you know?
On the far bank I could go north-west, east, or through a door straight ahead. I went north-west, and found a guy sleeping in an old boat guarded by a seriously harsh-looking dog.
I woke the guy up and tried to talk to him, but he had some serious attitude towards adventurers, so it was time for a bit of the old ultra-violence. I had to fight the dog first, and the revelation that it was a fire-breathing HELL-HOUND was not altogether surprising. That the guy was a WEREWOLF was a little more startling, I have to say. Come on Steve Jackson, you gotta describe the dude as extra-hairy or something!
I would have expected to need a silver weapon to kill the Werewolf, but my regular sword did the trick. I claimed a set of boat-house keys from him, as well as a jar of pickled eggs from his larder. Seriously. The Werewolf has stocked up on pickled eggs. This dungeon keeps getting weirder.
Back at the river I went east, and came to a heavy door with a barred window. Looking through I saw a bunch of SKELETONS building boats, and you know what? It's surprising that more fantasy settings don't feature the undead as a cheap labour force.
I decided not to go this way, and went back to the river and through the door to the north. This may have been a bad idea, because I was instantly clubbed unconscious. I awoke in a room with four ZOMBIES, and judging by their armaments they were probably Zombie farmers.
Despite some Vietnam-style traumatic flashbacks from my youth (I used to be seriously unsettled by this encounter), I laid into these guys with my sword and emerged triumphant, without a scratch. A search of the room was in order, and the most interesting thing I could see was the corpse of another adventurer in the corner. On his person I found a shield, some armour, a sword and a crucifix. Already armed with some wooden stakes, I decided to complete my anti-Vampire arsenal, and claimed the crucifix. I also took the sword, and was delighted to discover that it was enchanted, granting me a +2 bonus to my rolls in combat.
At that point a noise startled me, and I moved on. I don't know why, because I had just become Death incarnate, but in gamebooks - as in life - your destiny is not entirely your own. The next room was piled with coffins, and it didn't take me long to do the math: stakes + crucifix + coffins = VAMPIRE.
Yes, a Dracula came rising out of his coffin, and I considered it my duty to do some slaying. Holding it at bay with my crucifix, I advanced on the Dracula with my stake and mallet. But then, disaster! I tripped! And then a weird thing happened. It was a serious Inspector Clouseau moment, as a successful Luck test sent my stake flying straight into the vampire's heart, and it shrivelled into a bat and flew away. I shrugged my shoulders and collected my loot: some gold, another y-shaped stick, and a book. The book was given no other description at all. It could be a copy of Warlock of Firetop Mountain, for all I knew. I took the gold and left the rest behind.
Past a junction I came to a scene of animated tools digging a tunnel and singing Disney tunes.
With nothing to do there but watch, I returned to the junction and headed north. Soon I found some stairs heading down, and came across three dead bodies. Time for looting! The first body I searched had some gold pieces, which I duly tucked away. The second lashed out at me with claws, also providing an illustration that fuelled my childhood nightmares for years.
It was a GHOUL! Apparently I would be paralysed if it hit me four times, but with my new enchanted sword it wasn't able to hit me even once before I cleft it in twain. I searched the remaining body and found a map and a vial of holy water. Normally I would keep holy water to splash on Draculas, but instead I drank it, and was rewarded with some major healing. It was apparently blessed by the Overpriest of Kaynlesh-Ma, which is meaningless to me, but I bet it gets referenced later when the Fighting Fantasy books are stitched together into one setting. The map was for something called the 'Maze of Zagor', but it was quite faded and not very helpful.
I went further north until a portcullis crashed down behind me, blocking my way back. I was now in the Maze of Zagor, and let me just say that this thing is a bastard. I've mapped it enough times now that I have it memorised, but as a youngster it used to drive me mad. It's very well written, though. You have to pay careful attention to the text, or you can very easily end up going around in circles. The traps that teleport you to another part of the dungeon aren't helpful, either. Nor is the option to search for secret doors, which more often than not activates a trap or attracts a wandering monster.
I had three encounters within the maze. The first was a group of friendly DWARFS. I talked to them and got some directions through the maze, then left them to their poker game.
The second was a MINOTAUR, an aggressive chap who turned out to be one of the toughest opponents in the dungeon, with a Skill of 9. I still ganked him with little effort, and claimed his gold pieces and his key numbered '111'.
My third encounter was with the Mazemaster, a bearded old man who I intimidated into giving me directions out of the maze. As it turns out, his directions are utter bollocks.
Eventually I emerged from the maze, right into the lair of a DRAGON. Take a look at his eyes, I'm pretty sure I just woke him up from a nap.
Recalling the spell that I discovered earlier in my quest, I threw up my hands and shouted: 'Ekil Erif, Ekam Erif, Erif Erif, Di Maggio!' The Dragon tried to breathe fire, but the spell lodged his fireball in the poor bugger's mouth, and it ran off crying like it had just inhaled a whole bottle of Nando's sauce.
I continued on, and in the next room I encountered... the dreaded Warlock!
Zagor seemed pretty confident, but after my encounter with his painting I was pretty sure I knew what to do. I held up the Eye of the Cyclops, and watched in satisfaction as he shriveled up and disintegrated. My quest was over! I turned to section 400 to claim my prize, and... Wait, what? There's a locked door between me and the treasure? Never mind, I whipped out two of the keys I found earlier and opened it up. Wait, the treasure's in a chest with three locks? And I need to add up the numbers on three of my keys to see if I have the right ones? I had only found three keys: one under a snake, one inside an Iron Cyclops, and one guarded by a Minotaur. No problem, they were the right ones, and I claimed the Warlock's treasure for my very own.
The final page of this book is pretty cool. Not only did I find a whole load of treasure, but also the Warlock's book, which I was assured would give me unlimited power. It didn't seem to have helped the Warlock any, but never mind that. The possibility was even raised that I could remain as the master of Firetop Mountain, but no thanks. You never know when some adventuring bastard is going to break into your house and put a sword through you. No, I claimed the chest, loaded the treasure into my seemingly bottomless backpack, and headed back to the village, where many a weeping damsel awaited me.
(As in the previous post, some images were taken from fightingfantasyproject.wordpress.com.)