Friday, 19 June 2015

Lone Wolf 5 - Shadows on the Sands playthrough

(You can follow Justin McCormack on Facebook and Twitter.
You can also support Justin on Patreon and receive exclusive content including an advanced preview of next week's Fighting Fantasy playthrough, "The Crimson Tide"!
Justin is the author of two bestselling novels, a collection of horror stories - "Hush!: A Horror Anthology", and the young adult coming-of-age comedy "Diary of a gay teenage zombie".
The first in his newest series of books, "Tales of Monsterotica" - a series of erotic comedies, is available now.)

"Shadows on the Sand" by Joe Dever, illustrated by Gary Chalk

Almost a year had passed since the previous book. It's during the cold winter that I am again summoned by the king, who is obviously under the impression that I have nothing else to do with my time, even after he ordered me to rebuild my damn monastery. The king asks me to go and sign a treaty for him.

It seems that the emperor of the neighbouring lands is close to death, and he wants to have the treaty signed before the old man kicks the bucket. So, why me? Well, remember the bandit leader from the previous book? Yeah, seems that he was a rogue from said neighbouring country, so I'm betting that the king is secretly more than a little suspicious.

Right, that's the into summary out of the way. I take a shield with me this time around (I really should have done that in an earlier book) and grab my final kai skill, camouflage. The only skill I've not bothered to learn is mind blast. With these sitting happily on my character sheet, I begin the adventure, boarding the ship that the king has prepared for the voyage. Given how these books seems to work, I expect the ship to become a wreck in about two days.

Amazingly, the ship survives the trip! I promptly celebrate. We dock in the neighbouring country, which is like every Arabia ever seen in movies. No sooner do we arrive, them we notice that everyone is wearing black, black flags are flying, and the entire place reminds me of my trips to the Whitby goth weekends.

An envoy approaches me and tells me that the emperor is dead. And, worse, the new emperor wants me to surrender quietly, or a large group of heavily armed men will kill me and my ship's crew. Before I can even say "Wait, what?", he takes all of my possessions and jabs me with a poisoned needle. I wake up in a cell, where the guards tell me that the new emperor thinks that I'm an assassin.

I'm not really in the mood to sit in a cell all day, so I explain to the guards that I want to go for a walk. And by 'explain', I mean 'violently murder with my bare hands', of course. They're not much of a threat to me, even without my sword of over-poweredness. I take their keys, unlock the armoury, kill another of their friends, and steal a rather petty jeweled mace.

Heading upstairs out of the prison cells, I find my possessions stored comfortably in a cupboard, as well as a 'prism' (made of what? Gold? Crystal? I take it anyway, hoping it's made of awesomeonium). Using a key that I found on the guards, I open a door leading up to the upper floor of the palace. Question - the guys put me in the palace dungeons, not a separate prison. Why are palaces built with dungeons in the basements, perfectly ready for escaping prisoners to flee into, navigate the hallways of and kill the emperor? Answers on a postcard, please.

Curiously enough, I noticed that to unlock the door to the upper levels involved turning to the number which was on the key, a type of anti-cheating failsafe I've not seen in this series before, but one that I'm sure all Fighting Fantasy readers will be familiar with. The door leads through a grand, beautiful arboretum, and then to something even stranger - a halfway point in the adventure. Yeah, this book is split into two halves, for a reason I'm not entirely sure of.

Still, the cliffhanger for the first half is interesting enough. From a balcony, we're presented with a cutscene from before cutscenes were a thing, showing the emperor meeting with one of the darklords. From this, we learn a few things. First, we learn that in exchange for an object called the Orb of Death, the new emperor has offered to hand me over to the darklord. Second, we learn that the darklord's forces are searching the area for a relic called the Book of the Magnakai, which contains all of the wisdom of the kai. Make you wonder why we leave those things just lying around the place.

So, armed with the plot of the second half of the adventure, we press ever onwards. I'm immediately sighed by a pair of guards while I watch the previously described events unfolding, the guards attack and I kill them, but not before they raise the alarm. Without any break between the parts of this story, I can't think of any reason that the book is divided in two in the first place.

Anyway, a chase sequence breaks out. I race through an archway, dodge a guard wielding an axe, and climb up into one of the castle's towers, faster than you can say "goodness, this Joe Dever chap writes some good action sequences". After hurling a signal drum down the stairs to cut off my pursuers, I try to climb down the exterior of the tower with rope, cut the guards shoot the rope as I'm descending and I fall.

Landing in what I think is a pond (I wasn't too sure, a baby on the bus was screaming madly as I was reading it and I've already moved past that section, so I won't flick back to check), I recover and scramble back up a pathway into the castle, quickly finding my way back into the arboretum. Here, I need to hide from a search party lead by a powerful undead creature called a Vordak, who searches the room with his mind powers. I'm lucky to escape that bit, as I'd almost failed by roll, and was only saved on account of my kai skills giving me a bonus. Once he's gone, I make a break through the undergrowth, up the stairs, and into the bell tower.

At this point, Lone Wolf is struck by the genus idea of running down to the palace's aviary and flying away on the back of a giant bird. I've tried to write that sentence three times, and that's the least silly way I can phrase it. In his usual style, he hurried along towards the cages full of giant birds, murdering their keeper who was unarmed and defenceless in the process. After all, this is "Lone Wolf book 5: Mass murder simulator". Also, while I'm running around massacring innocent bird keepers, remember that I was sent here on a diplomatic mission of peace.

Strangely enough, the giant bird isn't too happy with the man who just murdered the guy who feeds him, so he tried to peck my face clean off. Using my animal kinship skill, I calm it and fly off on it's back, which is cool, but having a massive sleigh pulled by giant birds would be even cooler. Still, this will have to suffice. Taking to the sky, I fly into the distance, until I'm eventually pursued by the enemies. A Vordak leaps off his giant bird onto the back of mine, and I promptly whack him in the face with my Sommerswerd.

My bird, however, is wounded in the fight and starts to plummet out of the sky. Amazingly, we are close to a lake, and even more amazingly, the lake has a magical flying ship above it upon which I can land. And, in a finale of this triumvirate of amazingness, Banedon, the mage we met way back in book one, is onboard, with a troupe of gun-wielding dwarfs.

The dwarfs promptly make short work of my pursuers, although Banedon is inured. I'm able to heal him, though, and he explains that he is aware of my mission and knows the location of the book, in a crypt near an oasis, and will help me get there. That night, I win over the dwarfen crew by managing to drink their moonshine without vomiting over my shoes, which amazingly enough is the exact opposite of how you impress groups of students.

Banedon accompanies me to the oasis, which is a rather uneventful trip, to meet the guide. When we get there, though, it turns out that the darklords have already kidnapped the guide, because of course they have. Why wouldn't they? They're evil, after all. Nevertheless, I recover his diary, which contains a puzzle that leads me to the next location we need to travel to in order to find the book. Curious, that's two very Fighting Fantasy puzzles in this adventure so far!

We sail through the sky to the crypt which the darklords are excavating, and wait until the cover of night to sneak in. Banedon goes to find the guide, while I search for the book. After sneaking my way past the guards and into the tomb, I find a locked vault. Surprisingly, the vault is unlocked by the prism that I found in the palace, way back at the start of the book! Inside the vault is the map room from the first Indiana Jones film... No, not really. It's just a darklord.

Yes, I'm serious. The darklord himself was waiting inside the vault, with the book of the Magnakai, just waiting for me to turn up so that he could blast me with fireballs. Now that I think about it, why did he want the book in the first place? To destroy the wisdom contained in it? Seemed he had the perfect chance to do just that. Instead, he put it on a stand in the far side of the room, locked the door into his room, sat on a chair waiting for me to show up, and then blasted me with fireballs when I did.

The fight with him is very, very close. Firstly, he vomits out a very powerful mist that turns into a monster itself. I kill it, quickly quaff a potion, and launch into the battle with him. He's definitely the strongest enemy that I've fought in the series so far, and I take an utter pounding in the fight. Very nearly died, too. By the end of it, I'm down to only a handful of endurance points. It's only my relatively high combat score that earned me the day.

So, with the darklord dead and the book found, I return to the flying ship, ready to set sail for more adventure. With the new powers unlocked in the book, I can raise my kai skills to a whole new level, and preserve the teachings of the kai for another generation. And maybe, just maybe, I can use it to explain to the king why I didn't get the treaty signed, and why this diplomatic mission he sent me on ended up with a record number of dead bodies on the floor.

Now, be sure to tune in once more in two weeks' time as we master the arts of the MagnaKai (which still sounds like a Japanese comic book about tentacles to me) and undertake the deadly quest to recover the lorestones, in the next era of Lone Wolf adventures!

Lone Wolf Statistics at this point
Combat Skill – 15, Endurance – 25
Kai Skills - hunting, healing, sixth sense, mindshield, animal kinship, weaponskill swords (+2 CS), tracking, mind over matter, camoflage
Special items – Map, Crystal Star Pendant, Sommerswerd (+8 CS), Firesphere, Blue Stone Pyramid, Silver Helmet (+2 CS), Jewelled Mace, Shield (+2 CS)

(You can follow Justin McCormack on Facebook and Twitter.
You can also support Justin on Patreon and receive exclusive content including an advanced preview of next week's Fighting Fantasy playthrough, "The Crimson Tide"!
Justin is the author of two bestselling novels, a collection of horror stories - "Hush!: A Horror Anthology", and the young adult coming-of-age comedy "Diary of a gay teenage zombie".
The first in his newest series of books, "Tales of Monsterotica" - a series of erotic comedies, is available now.)


  1. Two ships that both survive? Joe must be making up for book 2.

  2. Congratulations on the success of your diplomatic mission!

  3. Combat Skill 15? Well you should survive for a few books more at least :)

  4. It was broken into two parts because advertising. I mean look at that rad SUPER EDITION seal on the cover! What kid is going to ignore that? "MOM, It's two books!"

    As far as the ship surviving, yes it's quite the surprise. Seeing Lone Wolf join your ship or caravan is much like seeing Hercule Poirot board your train. If you can't make alternate plans, you better have your life insurance paid up.

  5. Well, one of those is an Air-ship, and it's probably protected by the mystical aura of Banedon (whose same aura made him one of Lone Wolf's only surviving companions).

    As for the other ship.....even though it doesn't sink, the entire crew gets executed by the tyrant Zakhan (you'll only read that part if you don't get captured immediately though), so it's not really that much better....