For this attempt I rolled scores of Skill 7, Stamina 22 and Luck 10 (raised to 11 at the end of book 1). Passable. In most other books I'd be gnashing my teeth at that Skill score, but in Sorcery! it ain't so bad.
I won't dwell on The Shamutanti Hills or Khare - Cityport of Traps for too long. I got through them without too much trouble, following my usual paths. The only new thing I recall discovering is what happens if you keep making successful Luck tests while trying to rob the Chainmaker: eventually you're caught in a net, and the old man from the prison at the start of the book shows up to let you out at the cost of returning everything you just stole. It's a rare case where it's better to fail a Luck test, as you get to keep the Chainmaker's stuff as well as kill him and take his magic chain.
I also traded for the Large Backpack in the Gnome's shop. It's not particularly special: it lets you ignore the text whenever you're instructed that you can only take an item by leaving one of your own items behind. In theory it's a handy thing to have, but I don't recall being told to do this anywhere in the Sorcery! epic. So unless it happens in The Crown of Kings, the backpack is basically worthless.
I began The Seven Serpents with a Stamina of 12 and a Luck score of 10. I went through the opening scenes of the book, fighting the Nighthawks and visiting Shadrack. I discovered that you can't escape the Nighthawks by casting a WAL spell; birds can just fly around a magic wall. It was worth a shot. I'll try anything to get out of that initial battle, even though I suspect it's a futile effort.
Following my visit with Shadrack I encountered some Centaurs and befriended them. This time I decided not to visit the snake-charmer, and had the centaurs take me to the Black Elf caravan, where I posed as a merchant and bought a whole raft of stuff: a Hewing Axe (useful for cutting trees, but with a -2 penalty in combat), an Orb (can be thrown to hurt enemies, but has a chance to break every time), a Pearl Ring (worth 10gp, and useful in casting the invisibility spell), some snake-bite antidote, a vial of water (labelled as holy water, but actually not blessed at all), and a spellbook. The spellbook was from Analand, and I was forced to destroy it so that it could never fall into the wrong hands, but buying it gave me the opportunity to have a look through the spells again and refresh myself. (I can always use a refresher on the Sorcery! spells. There's a small selection that I know well, and a lot that I never use at all.) All up this stuff cost me 36 gold pieces, and left me with but a single coin to my name.
After leaving the Black Elves I camped for the night, eating my last meal in conjunction with the Bomba Fruit I had obtained in book 1 (which doubled the Stamina gain from the meal). At this point my Stamina was 16.
The next morning I headed north-west. (This was off my usual path, but I had to do some exploring to find a way to defeat the Time Serpent.) The plains in this direction were empty, and all I had to show for it was a day of uneventful trekking and a night of bad sleep, all done on an empty stomach. (All I lost from this ordeal was a single point of Stamina, which seems a bit lenient. Based on that my character could survive about 20 days without food, which initially sounds ridiculous but is actually quite accurate to real life.)
After finding nothing to the north-west I veered back north-east. I encountered a whirlwind, but previous games had warned me against it, so this time I just left without investigating. Again I headed north-west (exploring in a zig-zag pattern, for no particular reason), and came to a village of primitive humanoids known as Klattamen. The Klattamen invited me into their camp to eat some roast meat, and I heartily accepted given that I hadn't eaten in over a day. The meat restored my Strength (raising my Stamina to 17), but there was obviously more to this than good hospitality. Sure enough, I was soon called out to face the best warrior in the tribe in single combat.
|Skippin' leg day.|
I could have cast a spell here, but it seemed dishonourable, and I also thought it might hurt my chances of winning favour with the Klattamen. Instead I fought the Klattaman Champion with my sword. He wounded me once (dropping my Stamina to 15), but after that I made short work of him. (Though I considered magic dishonourable in this situation, I wasn't above using my magical Armband of Swordmastery. It's hypocritical, but it's also pragmatic.)
The Klattamen regarded me with respect following my defeat of their champion, but instead of hanging around and lording over them I decided to press on. They seemed pissed about it, but none of them tried to stop me, and I was able to move on. (I'm wondering if I missed anything here. There seems to be no benefit in this encounter at all.)
Soon I came to the outskirts of the Forest of Snatta, and after a night if undisturbed rest (restoring my Stamina to 18) I made my way inside. At the first junction I chose the right path, and found my way blocked by an infestation of Strangleweed. (Readers with a good memory will recall that I was killed by this encounter on my first run through the book.) Undeterred, I took out my Hewing Axe and carved a path forward. (And most satisfying it was, too.)
At the next junction, within sight of Lake Ilklala, I took the left-hand path and came to a hillock with a door in it. I went inside, where I met the elf sorceress Fenestra. Rather than rush straight into a conversation about the Seven Serpents (as I did last time), I decided to ask if she had any magic that might be useful to me. She got pretty excited to be meeting another wizard, and offered to trade me any item might aid me in spellcasting. I didn't take her up on the offer, though, because she wanted two of my items for one of hers. I guess it makes sense, because logically she already has everything, but it didn't seem like a fair deal to me.
Now that we were getting along, I turned the conversation towards the topic of the Seven Serpents. Fenestra revealed that the Water Serpent had killed her father some time ago, so she had no love for them. She gave me a flask of oil, explaining that it would be useful in killing the Water Serpent. She also revealed that she had the Sun Serpent trapped within her glass orb. I was expecting that I would have to battle it, but it seemed that it really was imprisoned. Instead I used my Serpent Ring, and extracted a secret from it: "beware the breath of the Mucalytics".
I asked Fenestra about crossing Lake Ilklala, and she offered to sell me a whistle with which I could summon the ferryman. I didn't have the 2 gold pieces needed to buy it, so I had to trade her my gold-backed mirror instead. (I chose that item because I couldn't remember the spell that required it.)
Before I left, Fenestra offered me the choice of three gifts: a medicinal potion, a lucky charm, and the whistle (which I had already purchased). I took the charm, which can be used once to restore my Luck to its initial level.
After leaving Fenestra, I came to yet another junction and chose the right-hand path. This might have been the worst possible decision, because I soon found myself confronted by four Snattacats!
I knew that fighting them would be suicide, and I suspected that running away might be equally foolish, so I cast a FOF spell. The magic kept the Snattacats at bay (reducing my Stamina to 14), and I was able to escape.
Eventually, I made my way out of the forest, and reached the shore of Lake Ilklala. It was evening, and I couldn't blow my whistle until daybreak, so I settled down to sleep (reducing my Stamina to 11 due to lack of food).
In the morning I blew my whistle and summoned the ferryman, who offered to take me across the lake for 4 gold pieces. I didn't have the money, so I was reduced to fighting him. I could have used a spell, but it didn't seem worth it, and although he hit me once (reducing my Stamina to 9) I was able to quickly subdue him and convince him to row me across for free.
The ferryman left, and returned with his boat, though his demeanor had become suddenly ruder than before. (Should I be surprised? I just beat the guy up with my sword!) I called him on his attitude, and sure enough discovered that his body had been possessed by the Serpent of Air. Rather than use a spell against the serpent, I searched the ferryman's body, found the Serpent's original skin, and tore it to pieces. That destroyed the Serpent of Air - my first for the adventure.
With the ferryman dead, I was forced to row myself across the lake. Towards the centre I noticed a disturbance in the water, and went to investigate. As I drew closer, something tried to tip me out of my boat, but I was able to stay in with a successful Luck test. That "something" was the Water Serpent, which coiled up to attack, but I was prepared for it: I poured the contents of Fenestra's oil flask over it, and the Water Serpent was destroyed. Two out of seven!
Soon I had crossed the lake, and was wading through Vischlami Swamp. I had to test my Luck at this point, which I did successfully. Nothing happened, so I'm not sure what I just saved myself from. Knowing Steve Jackson, and taking the terrain into account, it was probably giant leeches.
I heard something approaching from ahead, but rather than hide I decided to stand my ground. Three Marsh Goblins crashed into the clearing, evidently being chased by something. Figuring that I'd otherwise be unable to communicate with them, I put on my green-haired wig and cast a RAP spell. The Goblins revealed that they were running from a great Serpent. They had been trying to use a sacred scroll given to them by Fenestra to drive it out, but were unable to read it. I got them to show me the scroll.
I promised to do what I could to destroy the Serpent, and the Goblins continued their flight in the opposite direction. I marched forward to my destiny, presumably with green wig still upon my head.
Before long I was confronted by the Serpent of Time. This encounter would have been certain death, but with the aid of the scroll I was able to defeat it. I read the chant (by deciphering the Roman numerals and turning to paragraph 59), which caused the Serpent to float sluggishly in the air. The resulting combat was a one-sided affair (with the Serpent having an effective Skill of 1 due to my use of the Sham's Serpent Staff), and I crushed it with gusto.
After a brief rest I continued my journey, and soon reached the foot of the Zanzunu Peaks. I had defeated (or left trapped) four of the Archmage's Serpents: Sun, Air, Water and Time. Three of them, however, would no doubt be streaking ahead of me to warn their master. The third leg of my journey was over, but the final - and most dangerous - was still ahead: Mampang Fortress.
(I hadn't used my prayer to Libra at any point during this adventure, so I used it now to restore my stats to their initial levels. Gotta be at my fighting best for The Crown of Kings!)
I did it! As I suspected, the Time Serpent was the last obstacle in this book. I was also correct about where I would find the means to defeat it: the Marsh Goblins by way of Fenestra. In the end this wasn't a super difficult book, although finding and defeating all of the Serpents might add a little extra challenge. I only found four of them in this run through. I know roughly where to find the Moon Serpent, and the Earth Serpent, but I missed them this time. The location of the Fire Serpent remains a mystery. I'm hoping to beat The Crown of Kings in a single attempt, but the chances of that are slim to none. No doubt I'll have plenty of chances to search for the Fire Serpent on my subsequent trips through this book.
That won't be for a while, though, because as I've worked out release dates (based on ads in Warlock), The Crown of Kings came out circa February 1985, about four months after The Seven Serpents. Between those I have five main series Fighting Fantasy books, and two issues of Warlock. For those of you looking forward to the conclusion to the Sorcery! epic that's bad news. For me, who is looking for a break from the Sorcery! epic, it's like manna from heaven. Next up is Scorpion Swamp, which has its detractors. Personally, I have a lot of time for it, and I'm looking forward to re-visiting it.