Published on January 24th, 2013 | by PJ Montgomery0
Island of the Lizard King – A Fighting Fantasy Flashback part 2
Yesterday, we witnessed my attempts to kill the Lizard King cut short close to the end when I met a shape-changer, who killed me quite convincingly. How will I do on my second attempt?
The higher skill score gives me a little more confidence, even with the slightly lower stamina and luck scores. As my adventure begins, we go the same way, Mungo is once more killed by the crab, I go to the hut, drink the potion, head into the jungle, kill the headhunters and eat their food. This time, I decide to try and go around their village, and head further into the jungle.
In the jungle, I stumble across a human skeleton, which has an axe and some rope with it. Taking the items, I continue on my way, coming to a place where I spot a platform in a tree. Thinking that’s worth checking out, I begin my climb, only for an old man to pop his head over the edge and tell me to go away. I ignore him, so he starts lobbing coconuts at me. I shout an offer of some food at him. The man turns out to be a thief who was exiled to Fire Island before the Lizard King set up shop, and offers me some information in return for more food. Okay, why not? He gives me a map of the island, then offers me something “really useful” for even more food. Since I’m a sucker, I take him up on it, and trade yet another portion of provisions for a set of lockpicks.
I take my leave of the man, and push on through the jungle I’m soon attacked by a giant dragonfly, which I swiftly kill, then come across some fungus, which I decide not to eat. Next, I find myself in a clearing with a large crystal in the middle. I head in and touch the crystal, gaining three stamina points in the process. Figuring that cutting a bit of the crystal off would be a bad idea, I leave the clearing, and find myself ambushed by a small group of pygmies. I try to communicate with them, to no avail, and end up having to give them three portions of my food to escape. Balls.
Next up, I’m back in the marshland, and here comes the marsh hopper. I ignore him this time, heading into the marsh on my own, only to be attacked by a slime sucker. I kill the beast, then find myself covered in leeches, which cost me six stamina points and, because I need salt to get rid of them, even more provisions! Bloody leeches. I should’ve followed the marsh hopper to the hydra.
I manage to find my way out of the marsh, arriving at the hills, and once more tread a familiar path, the only differences being that I don’t drink the potion of clumsiness and, since I have no spear this time, don’t get to eat the pig either. I find the raft and make my way down the river, this time ignoring the crazy man waving from the bank, and kill the crocodile before arriving at the mine. Dealing with the lizard men again, I enter the mine, and this time go straight on.
Finding an overturned hand cart, and what appears to be the skeleton of a deceased dwarf, I also note a borehole in the wall. Probably the lair of whatever killed the dwarf, I decide against exploring the hole, and carry on down the passage. I come to a chamber where I’m attacked by some small grannits, but they’re dealt with easily enough, and I carry on my way.
At the end of the passageway, I find myself at the edge of a steep, vertical shaft. At first thinking I’ll never get down there, I’m surprised to find that the boots I got from the spit toad’s pond turn out to be magical boots of climbing! I walk down the shaft and find a pretty sword, which I take with me. With nothing else of interest, I climb up the shaft and retrace my steps, then head to the part of the mine where the lizard man guard is whipping the dwarfs.
I free the dwarfs, make my way through the mine, and end up with sixty-three men again, this time for the cost of four stamina points. Once more, I learn of the Gongchong, and head off to find the shaman. Deciding this time to journey by river, I’m bitten by mosquitos, but a test of my luck means nothing particularly bad happens to me. At least, not until I’m attacked by a water elemental. I manage to trap the elemental in my pouch of unlimited contents, but then bury the pouch, worried about releasing the elemental.
I eat the last of my provisions, then head to the shaman by the same route as before, this time leaving my axe as a gift, and passing the same tests as before. Taking my leave, I bribe the hobgoblin, cross the bridge, fight the lizard man and his dinosaur, meet up again with Smiley the Lucky Monkey, leave the wild woman alone and end up at the Lizard King’s fort.
We once more battle his forces, though this time, my first opponent is a hobgoblin. I’m then forced to fight the cyclops again, before making my way into the fort. This time, I ignore the shape-changer, and carry on to a door which leads to a torture chamber. I take a whip, then take a knife from a rack of rusty knives. It turns out, these are the Lizard King’s fire swords. I can hurt him now!
There are some barrels in the room, so I open one and drink the liquid within, which turns out to be enchanted water, giving me extra stamina. I cross the room, and find myself in a laboratory. Hearing someone coming, I hide myself away, and witness a two-headed lizard man walk into the room, dragging a dwarven slave with him. I attack the freak, and thanks to a successful luck test, kill him instantly.
Using the lockpicks I received from the old man earlier, I free the dwarf, then go after the Lizard King. Up some stairs, I come face to face with the titular villain, who sends his pet black lion to kill me. But I’m too tough for some big cat, and soon end this threat. Now facing the Lizard King himself, I notice that he’s a bit angry. However, as soon as he sees Smiley the Lucky Monkey on my shoulder, he becomes a big coward. He tries to defend himself, but he’s so paralysed by fear that he turns out to be an easy fight. However, before I can rest, I need to kill the Gongchong, so I quickly sever its proboscis. Victory is mine.
Island of the Lizard King is another strong book from Ian Livingstone, which also has some major differences to its predecessors. While Forest of Doom, City of Thieves, Deathtrap Dungeon, and even The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, required you to find specific items that were easy enough to miss on a play through, there’s only really one item you need to beat Island of the Lizard King, and that’s the fire sword, which is pretty easy to find. Other items make it easier, but you can still win without them. Livingstone likes to make you collect things in your adventures, so this one is a bit of a departure, and there are actually multiple routes you can take to the end. That’s not to say that Island of the Lizard King is easier than the previous books, which is the mistake I made going in. There are more unavoidable encounters with bastard-hard monsters such as the styracosaurus and the black lion. Had I not rolled such a high skill score on the second attempt, I’m quite sure it would’ve been another failure. But still, there’s such a diverse cast of grotesque beasts on Fire Island that you still have fun wandering around and meeting (and fighting) them. Livingstone is ably assisted by Alan Langford, who would go on to draw plenty of Fighting Fantasy books, and whose style is well suited to the tropical type setting of the book. In particular, his renditions of the marsh hopper and the hydra are brilliant, though, his depiction of the Lizard King does suffer when compared to Iain McCaig’s original cover. Still, this book makes three in a row for Livingstone-penned books being absolute classics, and he’d soon furnish us with another one in Caverns of the Snow Witch. But before that, we move on to the first book to not be written by Ian Livingstone or Steve Jackson.
Coming soon: Scorpion Swamp