For this game, I rolled a Skill of 9, a Stamina of 19, and a Luck of 12. Not terrible stats, but I didn't fancy my chances in that unavoidable battle with the Giant Sandworm. There are two paths at the beginning of this book: you can either take a boat downriver to Port Blacksand, or you can journey to the desert on foot. I'm not sure where these two paths converge, so I decided this time - after choosing my spells from Yaztromo (Create Water, Read Symbols, Open Doors and Fire) - to travel overland in the hope that I wouldn't have to tackle the Sandworm this time.
After an hour of travel through scrubland, I spotted a plume of smoke rising to the east. I decided to investigate, and saw that the smoke was coming from a burning hut. Two Dark Elves in black hoods were shooting flaming arrows at the hut. When the owner of the hut was driven outside by the smoke, they shot him dead.
|Paragraph 316 says I just burned down your|
house and shot your ass full of arrow.
Figuring that the Dark Elves might be servants of Malbordus, I attacked them with my sword. The first Elf (Skill 5, Stamina 6) got one blow in (reducing my Stamina to 17), but I managed to kill the second (Skill 6, Stamina 5) with ease. On their corpses I found 2 gold pieces (which brought my total to 27), as well as a bow and two arrows. I took time to bury their victim before moving on.
Further south I came to a patch of land that was completely blackened, with a smell of decay in the air. In the middle of this area was a bronze medallion etched with the letter M. Taking this for another sign of Malbordus' passing, I ignored the obvious danger and picked it up. Instantly my hand started to burn, and I dropped the medallion to the ground. Luckily I had not used my sword hand, but the medallion still left the letter M branded on my palm. (The hand I used was determined by a Luck test, which I passed (reducing my score to 11). The burn dropped my Stamina to 16.)
When night fell, I took shelter in a clump of boulders and went to sleep. During the night I was awakened by heavy footsteps, and attacked by a Cave Troll (Skill 8, Stamina 9). The fight went well for me initially, but the Troll responded viciously, and by the time I killed it I was close to death myself. (It dropped me all the way to 4 Stamina. At one point it won four consecutive combat rounds, so things got pretty hairy.)
In the morning I ate a meal (restoring my Stamina to 8, and leaving me with 9 provisions). Not long after I set off, I saw a bird-like creature swooping down at me, and heard a piercing shriek. I was being attacked by a Harpy, and I knew enough to stuff cloth into my ears to keep out its mesmerising call. (This was assumed by the book, not a decision I had to make.) With no Magic Arrow spell, I was forced to fight it with my sword. The Harpy (Skill 8, Stamina 5) proved to be an easy foe, and I emerged from the battle unscathed.
As I continued, a leather pouch dropped from the sky, containing a note from Yaztromo. He informed me that Malbordus was ahead of me, and that he had sent a Giant Eagle to speed me on my journey. I gratefully boarded the Eagle, who carried me south, but that gratefulness became shortlived when a screeching Pterodactyl swooped out of the sky. I shot it with an arrow (requiring a roll under my Skill on 2d6+3), but when I tried to shoot it again I dropped my bow. There was nothing I could do now but hold on as my Giant Eagle (Skill 6, Stamina 11) battled the Pterodactyl (Skill 7, Stamina 9). I had my doubts as to whether my Eagle was up to the task, but despite sustaining some wounds it managed to kill the Pterodactyl, and we were soon on our way again.
We flew over the Whitewater River, and at dusk we reached the edge of the Desert of Skulls. I camped for the night, but when I woke up I discovered that the Eagle had flown away. I would have to make the rest of the way on foot. After a short time in the desert sun I became parched, and had to use a Create Water spell to refresh myself. I also took the chance to eat a meal (restoring my Stamina to 12, and leaving me with 8 provisions).
Soon I walked past the bones of some huge creature, and noticed a box half-buried in the sand. I decided to open it, and found a mirror and a sealed clay pot. Curious, I cracked the pot open, and got a face-full of poison gas for my trouble (leaving me with 6 Stamina, and reducing my Skill to 8).
|Is this the only skeleton in FF history that|
doesn't spring to life and attack?
That night I slept out in the open, and ate a meal in the morning.. By mid-morning I was getting thirsty again, but I found some water by cutting open a cactus. I ate another meal before pressing on. (These two meals restored my Stamina to 14, and left me with 6 provisions remaining.)
Suddenly my foot sank into the sand, and I felt a sharp pain. I stabbed my sword into the ground, and was shocked when a great beast emerged, like a crocodile with two grasping tentacles. It was a Sand Snapper, and I would have to sever both of its tentacles to survive. The first tentacle (Skill 7, Stamina 7) wounded me twice before I could cut it off. The second, though, managed to wrap itself around both of my arms, and I was helpless as it dragged me below the sand to my death.
|A lesser author would have called this a|
Croctopus. And by lesser author, I mean me.
I didn't actually lose all of my Stamina in that last fight. The Sand Snapper has a special ability whereby it gets an automatic kill if it wins two consecutive Attack Rounds, and that's how it did me in. I probably owe my death the the Skill penalty I copped when I breathed in the poison gas; I'll have to avoid that next time.
Unfortunately, that early death meant that I didn't get to find out where the two paths at the start of the book converge. I was hoping to check both out fully, so that I could assess which of them looked the most likely path to victory. I have stronger memories of the Port Blacksand path from playing this as a kid, so I suspect that's the one I need to take. At the moment, though, I have no idea, so I have to keep trying both.