So it seems that when I fail to complete a book, I really fail to complete an important book! Take the last Lone Wolf adventure, for instance. I failed to complete it. But, as per the rules of this blog, we push ever-onwards, and now we stand at the start of 'Prisoners of Time' to discover that at the climax of the previous book, Lone Wolf was thrown through a mysterious portal by the Darklord. Oh dear! Quite a cliffhanger, would have loved to see that if only we had just had the right key, eh?
After falling through the space/time continuum, we land on the ashen ground of a great deserted plane of reality stuck somewhere between here, now and everywhere. Immediately a sandstorm kicks up. Grumbling that Doctor Who never had to put up with such adverse weather conditions, I hurry to a small cairne of rocks. As I shelter there from the storm, wondering just how I'm supposed to recover the missing Lorestones (they kinda technically fell through the portal too, but totally not my fault, honest guv) and, more importantly, get back home, something occurs to me. Even though we are stuck in a desert in the middle of universes, the place is clearly inhabited.
Deciding to check out the cairne, possibly assuming that there'll be treasure inside, I instead find what first appears to be a statue. Igniting my firesphere, I find that it's actually the strangest thing - a body which hasn't so much been interred, but has been wrapped in tin foil. I'm now assuming that the inhabitants of this world were trying to cook him.
Sleeping in the cairne overnight, I wake up to watch the storm as it retreats across the plains. In its wake, I witness a very unusual sight. Two large creatures, flying what appear to be dragons, fly across the skies and land. The giants dismount and look around the area, eventually finding Lone Wolf. They confront me, demanding to know why I am sleeping in the buirial mound of one of their greatest hunters. Thanks to my kai skills, my universal translator tells me that they are not going to immediately kill me, so I talk them down to just taking me to their home city. They invite me onto the back of one of their dragon mounts, and we fly off.
The giants, called the Yoacor, escort me to their great silver city called Yanis. There I am given a room to stay in at the Ytavern, a bowl of Yfood, and left to get some refreshing Ysleep. The next day I am introduced to their leader, called the y... actually, he's called the Beholder. Because he beholds. So after trudging up the requisite 300 stairs to the Beholder's palace, I meet the guy, who as is a little fetus dude with a giant brain and no doubt the powers of Akira. The Beholder, who I have dubbed Quato.
Quato takes me on a guided tour of his magic mirror gallery, showing me images of the multiverse and probing my mind with his awesome psychic magic powers. He declares that he is convinced that I'm not, I dunno, a Skrull or something, and decides to help me find the missing lorestone. Using his ganga-ganga mega psychic machine which maps the multiverse, he locates the missing lorestone in a neighbouring celestial realm. That's the problem with lorestones, they never stay in the same continuum you leave them. Anyway, the Beholder opens up a portal through the fabric of the universe for me, and I dive right through it, wondering when this series jumped from fantasy to science-fiction.
So, I jump into a new landscape, with only the advice to find a helpful NPC to assist in guiding me towards the lorestone. Y'know, essentially like the last few books in this series. By this point, the general formula of the books is getting a little bit too transparent. Even so, the setting for this book is different enough, although understandably a huge shift from the previous books in the Lone Wolf franchise. I'm not sure how well received this book is in terms of the fandom, but I'd love to hear your thoughts - let me know in the comments?
Still, we arrive in a verdant grassland, dotted with the occasional peculiar monolith. Jumping from world to world like this definitely reminds me of Spectral Stalkers. I touch one of the monoliths, and it starts to give off an odd humming noise. Fearing that I've just landed in the middle of 2001, I'm about to sprint away when the inhabitants of the world make themselves known. They are small hairy ape-men called the Ookor (ook ook), and they ask if I have arrived from Meledor. Now, it's quite possible that 'Meledor' means 'land where the people that we sacrifice to the volcano god come from', but I decide to answer yes anyway. In for a penny, in for a pound.
Sadly the Ookdudes realise that I'm lying, and attack. So I slaughter the whole lot of them, and trudge on by foot until I arrive at their home city. It's somewhat less spectacular than the previous city, but this one is the home to someone called the Serocca. She is a cat-type prophetess, who tells me that (surprise surprise) I am the chosen one and that destiny has chosen me to do general Chosen One type of duties. She then reveals to me that she was once the Beholder's beloved, which is an image that is more than a little squicky. But more importantly, that the lorestone is in some place called the Nahgoth Forest. The plan is simple - go there, grab the rocks, then go to the old city of Haagadar in order to hitch a lift home through their intergalactic portal.
We head out the next morning with a fully refreshed health pool and a friendly NPC companion, T’uk T’ron the ape commander (hereafter known, like all Lone Wolf NPC companions are known, as 'deadmeat'). We ride on chariots through a nearby village, where a peasant monkey-person reads my tarot and tells me nothing of use, just like any real-life tarot reading. We push onwards to a bridge, where the chariot throws a wheel. While we repair it, a horde of salivating chaos monsters descend on us. With a cry of "To the death", T’uk T’ron gets tired of living and jumps straight into the monster's waiting jaws, because of course he does.
I shortly run into a few more ookie monkies, who proceed to shoot at me. Rather unimpressed with this greeting, I tell them off via the means of giving them a very harsh telepathic lecture. They then proceed to do what every person in this book has done so far, which is to take me back to their base to introduce me to their leader - enough of this already! It feels like I'm caught in a repeating cycle of being introduced to NPC after NPC! Anyway, this particular leader is Lorkon Ironheart, who is leading the battle against the gribbly chaos beasts.
So as it transpires, the lorestones landed in the middle of Ironheart's family crypt, which is a massive dungeon right here in the middle of the forest, because convenience. The door to the crypt is locked with a 'guess the pattern' riddle, which is one kind of puzzle I'm genuinely good at, so we gain access with no problem. Inside the crypt, it's as quiet as a very quiet crypt. Eventually we find the lorestones lying just where they must have landed when the portal dumped them, and I'm just about to grab one when a mysterious figure jumps in and nicks them.
I'm able to hold my own against the mysterious figure in combat without any problem, and he drops one of the lorestones during the fight, but promptly flies off with the last one. At that point, a mass of chaos gribblies invade the crypt and I'm forced to fight my way out. During the escape, I find the mysterious figure's sword and recognise it from the info that the cat woman gave me earlier, thereby learning that he is a spy from the city of Haagadar. Which is my next destination anyway. Convenient.
As I flee from the crypt with the aid of Ironheart's army, a chaos master bursts through the forest undergrowth and attacks us. The thing is a giant, taller than the trees and has all the power of a primal god. Naturally, I don't stand a chance against him - or at least, I wouldn't if it hadn't been for the healing touch of the lorestone, which buffed my health back up to max just shortly before the fight, allowing me to be able to barely scrape through this thing. I mean, the thing has over 60 endurance points! Am I near the end of this book yet? That felt like a massive climactic battle.
Nope, not finished yet! Because apparantly Joe Dever decides at this point in the adventure that he is tired of the player, and opts to throw a bunch of things at us in a gauntlet style. As we ride to Haagadar, without any chance to fully heal from fighting a freakin' forest god, we are faced with a rampaging dragon, some brain-melting Nazgul-style dark riders, and a swarm of ghosts. These two come so soon after each other, which in turn come so soon after the chaos master, that I'm onto 4 health by the time I've got through it all.
Then God shows up. Yeah, Lone Wolf is evidently so hysterical with blood loss from having run the gauntlet of ghosts, dragons and the Witch-King of Angmar that he is now hallucinating the god Kai appearing to him and telling him that he's a very special boy. When he eventually recovers from this episode, he finds himself standing before the walled city of Hedgiewhateveritscalled. I clamber over the city walls, because the only other option is to squealch through the sewers and I'm refusing to do that on grounds of that I don't want to get eaten by an alligator. Knowing this book, any alligator I meet would be called a Grikhagator and deal 30 extra damage on each bite attack.
Infiltrating the city with ease, I slip into the temple and find... Okay, here goes. This is a bit unusual. Inside the temple, I find that five of Sommerland's most evil people are sitting around plotting, all under the leadership of Vonotor, the evil hunchbacked wizard from way, way back in book two and three. I guess that when the King said that they put him in a prison, they really meant "We chucked him through a portal to another dimension, Lord Blackthorn-like". The entire idea that Vonotor has formed his own Legion of Doom is so full of promise, of potential to really develop a strong series of recurring antagonists, to really throw the setting into some involving and genuienly exciting adventures...
Oh, no, wait, Lone Wolf just charges in and murders the whole lot of them.
So much for that, then.
Grabbing the last lorestone, Lone Wolf jumps through the portal to return to his homeland. Will he make it back, or will he be trapped in this strangely ill-fitting new setting forever? Will we ever see Vonotor and his Injustice League again? Will we ever find out what Joe Dever was smoking when he wrote this? Tune in again in two weeks for the next adventure in the Lone Wolf saga, "The Masters of Darkness"!
Lone Wolf Statistics at this point
Combat Skill – 15, Endurance – 25
Kai Skills – animal control, nexus, invisibility, divination, huntmastery, pathsmanship, curing, weaponmaster (+4 CS). Lore Circles - Circle of Fire, Solaris and Light (+2 CS and +8 E)
Carried in hands – Sommerswerd (+8 CS), Bow (arrows x6)
Special Items - Firesphere, Silver Rod, Map, Crystal Star Pendant, Psychic Ring, Kazan-Oud Platinum Amulet, Silver Helmet (+2 CS), Padded leather waistcoat (+2E), Fireseeds (x3)
(If you've enjoyed this article, be sure to check out Justin MacCormack's two bestselling collections of horror stories - "Return to 'Return to Oz'", "Cthulhu Doesn't Dance" and the young adult coming-of-age comedy "Diary of a gay teenage zombie". His newest novel, book one of "Twilight of the Faerie", is available now)