Now, I must be honest with you. At this point, I'm suffering from some severe Magnakai fatigue. Playing one of these adventures every two weeks has given me the chance to see some of the strengths of the series and its weaknesses. I'm hoping that this one will be suitably dramatic, and bring the Magnakai series to an enthusiastic climax.
To arm him for this, I give him psy-surge, leaving psy-screen as the only Magnakai ability we're lacking. I also note that at this point in the series, the curing ability gives Lone Wolf the ability to spontaneously regenerate 20 endurance points if his own ever drop to or below 6 during combat, which will doubtless be useful when I'm fighting more of those chaos gods with a billion hit points again.
When we last left Lone Wolf, he was hurtling back through time and space, heading back in the direction of his homeland once again. I arrive back, only to find that almost a decade has passed and the Darklords have taken over the world, because I wasn't there to stop him, because everyone in the world is useless except for Lone Wolf.
The head of the wizards finds me, with Banedon in tow, and pronounces that I have returned and that "the prophecy has been fulfilled" by my return. Y'know, there's a prophecy for everything in fantasy stories. One of these days I'm going to have to shout out "The prophecy has been fulfilled!" when a waiter brings me dinner at a restaurant.
Thankfully, there's a plan to defeat the darklords. Apparantly their leader, Gnaag, is chilling back in the city of Helgedad with only one other darklord for company, while their armies are out fighting. I have to run a naval blockade to get through enemy lines, then trek to a fortress where I'm to meet a contact, the slavemaster. The contact will then tell me where in Helgedad I must go in order to find Gnaag's power core and plant a bomb on it.
To help me on my way, the wizards set me up with a boat, and a new scabbard for my sword because Gnaag can see the sommerswerd anywhere as clearly as Sauron can see someone wearing the One Ring. Banedon also gives me a Golden Amulet, which I wear around my neck along with the Kazan-Oud Platinum Amulet and the Crystal Star Pendant, making sure that I clatter like a cat with bells on its collar wherever I go. The next morning, my ship, the Intrepid, leaves.
It turns out that running the blockade is especially simple, requiring Lone Wolf to only spot the ships from a distance and scream "Hard to port" to evade their canon fire. Once we're past them, the captain changes course to bring us through the chill waters near Kalte, which we all remember from our third adventure.
Far more threatening and dangerous than the blockade is the rampaging Xargath, a giant sea monster, which attacks the ship and proceeds to swallow a lot of seamen... wait, that doesn't sound right. I'm given the option to shoot it through the ear and killing it with one hit, but I'm not lucky enough to land a good shot, so instead I'm forced into melee combat with the brute. It has a phenomenal 100 endurance points, but only 10 combat skill, so it's actually a pretty boring fight as I hit it over and over and over and it barely does a thing in return.
Eventually I'm able to slay the Guarydos or whatever it is. The captain, however, is happy with my victory, but he is badly wounded in the attack. He commands the first mate to take control of the ship, and authorises giving me a bunch of gear. The ship is in pretty bad shape after being eaten by the mini-kracken, so it'd be a really bad time for the blockading warships to catch up with us... which is exactly what they do.
Several vessels open fire on us, and their troops board the Intrepid. I cut down two of them, dodge an arrow from one of their archers, and command the sailors to cut the enemy grapping lines to help repel the boarders. That's all going great, until the attackers fire their canons at us and set fire to the ship.
Naturally, Lone Wolf isn't one to let either burning to death or drowning in the frozen sea bother him, so he simply swims away and climbs aboard one of the enemy vessels to continue his work of killing any enemy troops within a hundred yard range of himself. I run around the ship, killing the crew as though they were skittles and I was a world-class bowling champion.
When I find the captain, he's busy trying to aim the canon at the surviving sailors as they cling to bits of the sinking Intrepid, because he's evil and stuff. So naturally I kill him too. Y'know, the 'K', 'I' and 'L' buttons on my keyboard have really started to wear out since I started these Lone Wolf gamebooks...
A massive explosion knocks Lone Wolf out cold, and by the time he comes to he is floating away from the wreckage. We manage to get onland, and after evading a Giak patrol we sleep under the night sky (avoiding the option to sleep in a cave which is evidently an animal's lair, knowing my luck it'd be a razor-haired flesh-eating Khazakhahamster or something). The next day I get my bearings and realise that I've got about 300 miles to go before I reach the fortress where I'm to meet the contact. Oh, joy.
The trek towards the fortress takes us along a mountainous region. I'm given the option of cutting through one of the enemy's outposts, but I'm really not feeling up to dying pointlessly. Instead I wander around the cliffs for a while, finding a cave full of happy edible moss. Pocketing some, I continue along the mountain pass. It isn't long before I find a large crack in the cliffside which, when I peer into it, issues forth a spectacular mass of tentacles. The game describes this monster as an Ictakko, but I think we can all consider it to be 'hentai bait'.
After a while, we begin to formulate a better plan than walking 300 miles, namely that we're going to dress up as one of the darklord's foot soldiers and sneak aboard one of the ships when they dock at some of the towns nearby. Lone Wolf finds a patrol without too much difficulty and proceeds to shadow them for a while.
When he catches one of the soldiers on his own, Lone Wolf fires on him with an arrow, and the soldier is "killed instantly by your deadly shaft" which is exactly a kind of death that can occur to people in the FATAL roleplaying game (yeaaah, nobody's going to get that reference). I pop on the soldier's clothes which are a perfect fit, including his ever-handy 'evil minion' helmet that conveniently covers his entire face. Frodo and Sam had the same luck when they were in Mordor, as did Luke Skywalker when he was in the Death Star. My theory is that evil empires need better uniforms.
It takes a while to arrive at a port city, and by the time we get there I'm rather impressed that nobody has told me that I'm a little short to be a minion of darkness. Shortly after arriving, I find a large iron-clad ship which is likely going to destroy much of my home country. The game offers me the chance of blowing it up with the bomb I'm carrying, but I keep that for Gnaag's power core. Instead, I steal some insulation from the ship's engine, which should make it overheat, eventually, maybe. Content at my petty vandalism, I push onwards.
As I make my way onwards, the idea dawns on me that I could just swipe a flying monster from the army and fly my way into the rest of the adventure, a la one of the earlier adventures. But as I try to find one, my work is interrupted by a source of palpable evil. It appears that one of the other, lesser darklords has been overseeing the construction of the iron-clad, and is not happy. He finds me, turning his evil mind-reading powers towards me. For the life of me I can't remember the name of this nasty, burn-faced darklord, so I'll just call him Darklord Git.
Anyway, I'm able to convince him that I'm just one of his messengers and have important information for him. He lets me get in close for me to tell him the info, at which point I whip out the Sommerswerd and thwack him. Darth Git screams and summons a whole bunch of crypt spawn, which I kill, while Git tries to quickly phone his boss by means of a magic communication pool. Thankfully I'm able to throw my sommerswerd at him and chop off his dialing finger before he can finish making the call, leaving me able to knock Darth Git's head off before he can truly raise the alarm.
Having beaten the boss monster, I grab a flying beast and take off into the very heart of Mordor or whatever it's called. It's a lovely place, full of volcanoes, where the sky is brown and the water is brown and all the buildings are corroded ruins (much like Lincolnshire). After swooping down to land in the fortress, it's easy enough to find the contact. Each of the Lone Wolf books, in an almost formulaic structure, has an NPC that we are to meet in order to get the information to complete the goal, and in this book we have a slavemaster who has grown tired of the darklords basically exploiting their workforce and has decided to betray them, because that's cheaper than paying the union fees. The slavemaster gives me a new costume, this of a darklord ambassidor, and tells me that I can use this to sneak into Helgedad. He also tells me that the power core that keeps not just Gnaag, but all of the darklords alive, is located in Gnaag's tower.
Following this, the slavemaster escorts me to his method of getting me into Helgedad, which as it turns out is a giant truck-type thing similar to what the Jawas use in Star Wars. I slip aboard, dressed as an ambassidor, and find a small cabin. Just as I'm kicking back to relax, one of the crewmen turns up and tells me that the captain has invited me to join him for dinner. Rather than risk potential discovery due to some etiquette faux-pas, I turn down the offer and go to sleep. That night I aware to find that someone has stuck a giant glob of goo with a mouth to my ceiling, because of course they have and of course that is a thing.
The creature, called a Plaak, attacks me and I chop it into pieces, wondering all the time exactly how a creature like that could possibly exist in any realistic ecosystem. It seems that nothing actually happens to further that assassination attempt, because for the rest of the journey nobody says a word to me, and by the time I arrive in the industrialised metropolis of Helgedad nobody seems to have any idea about my real identity. Weird.
Anyway, we depart the train at platform 11 and wander through the smog-filled streets, looking at the factories. Helgedad, capital of the Darklords, is essentially the industrial sector of Victorian London. It's packed full of people and bustling with crowds, but nobody gives me a second glance.
At least, not until one of the temple guards decides to smash my head in because I looked at him the wrong way. He isn't too hard to kill, but the game is sure to ask if I want to use the sommerswerd to do so first, just to tempt me. I kill him without too much effort, and take two items from his body - a black key, and a black cube. I'm reliably informed that the cube is a highly explosive device, so I figure it should be useful at some point.
It isn't too long before I'm able to work my way into Gnaag's experimentation laboratory, and of course he has one. Why wouldn't he? It's only behind a single locked door, and the black key unlocks it without any trouble, so I assume that it's fairly easy to get access to. Anyway, I look around the place and find a magical arrow that he had been working on. I pocket the arrow and push onwards into the armoury, at which point the black cube explodes. Which, in turn, makes the bomb that I'm carrying explode even bigger. And kills me. And half of Helgedad.
So, I guess that it wasn't meant to be a useful object to my quest, then?
This is, frankly, a phenomenally cheap death at this stage in the book, so naturally I decided to check out a few of the other options as to how the book could progress. If I had not taken the cube, the next segment would have asked me to pick between two seemingly random names to give to a guard to introduce myself, with the 'wrong' one resulting in instant death. No, I think that by this point even the author was getting a strong sense of fatigue in the series.
Still, if you're able to get through it, you fight Gnaag who dies when you whip out the sommerswerd. But never mind that, that is denied to us as a result of the city being blown to pieces. Technically I'm sure Gnaag died in the explosion too, or something.
Right, so, tune in next time when we bid farewell to the Magnakai series and all of its eccentricities. I must be honest, I'm left rather cold to this one. Not really because of the ending, but because I can't help but feel that this was a missed opportunity, never really reaching the potential that it could have truly had.
Tune in with us in another two weeks for the first in the Grand Master series, "The Plague Lords of Ruel"!!
Lone Wolf Statistics at this point
Combat Skill – 15, Endurance – 25
Kai Skills – psi-surge, 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 - Bronin Vest (+3 CS), Silver Bracers (+2 CS, +1ED), Firesphere, Silver Rod, Map, Crystal Star Pendant, Korlinium Scabbard, Psychic Ring, Green Mask , 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 dark fantasy stories - "Return to 'Return to Oz'", "Cthulhu Doesn't Dance" and "Diary of a gay teenage zombie". His newest novel, book one of "Twilight of the Faerie", is available now)
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