Published on February 13th, 2013 | by PJ Montgomery0
Caverns of the Snow Witch – A Fighting Fantasy Flashback part 1
Book 9: Caverns of the Snow Witch
Written by: Ian Livingstone
Illustrated by: Gary Ward and Edward Crosby
First published: 1984
“The dreaded Snow Witch of Allansia plans to dominate the world!
Deep within the Crystal Caves of the Icefinger Mountains, the dreaded Snow Witch is plotting to bring on a new ice age. A brave trapper dies in your arms and lays the burden of his mission on your shoulders. But time is running out – will YOU take up the challenge?”
I’d probably better, or there’s going to be very little for me to write about here. After the Scorpion Swamp, with it’s Khul setting and unique style of gameplay, it’s good to be back on familiar ground with an Ian Livingstone penned Fighting Fantasy, set back on the continent of Allansia, and featuring a number of familiar faces and settings. While the main villain of the book is the titular Snow Witch, Shareella, the book also introduces us to Pen Ty Kora, the Healer, the third of the star pupils of the Grand Wizard of Yore to be featured (after Gereth Yaztromo and Arakor Nicodemus). While this book would be the only time either one would physically appear in the series, they would both end up as popular characters in the franchise. The book also introduced Allansia’s frozen northlands, and the monstrous Ice Demons, into the franchise, and featured a return to both the dwarf village of Stonebridge (with a brief appearance from Bigleg, the dwarf who dies and sets you on your quest at the beginning of Forest of Doom), and Firetop Mountain. As you can probably guess from this, the adventure ends up much bigger, and ranges far further, than the title might initially suggest. This is one of the reasons the book was a firm favourite of mine in my youth, and I was quite excited about taking up the challenge once again.
As an adventurer hired to protect trading caravans by a man named Big Jim Sun as they travel to remote, frozen outposts in northern Allansia. Easy enough for a warrior of my talents, you might think. And yes, it is, until we arrive at an outpost which has been ravaged by some immense beast. Big Jim asks me if I’ll hunt down and kill the creature responsible, and since I’m such a big hero, I agree. If he’ll pay me fifty gold pieces. What? Heroes need to eat. And buy shiny things. And I spent all my Deathtrap Dungeon winnings on a horse which died in a tragic falling of a cliff incident.
The next morning, I set off in my pursuit of the creature, soon arriving at a wide crevasse spanned by an ice bridge. I opt to cross the bridge, passing a successful luck test to reach the other side in one piece. Continuing on my way, I encounter a couple of snow wolves, which try to eat me and end up a bit stabbed for their trouble. I carry on my way, only for the wind to whip up a blizzard. Not being an idiot (depending on who you ask), I immediately start digging a shelter in the snow. I have to eat two portions of provisions in my makeshift igloo, but at least I don’t get frostbite or anything…
My journey takes me to a hut stood underneath an overhang of rock, with some footprints leading away from it. Being the sort of person who assumes everyone on Titan would like a visit from me, I decide to go into the hut, and help myself to some stew, a war-hammer and a spear. Looks like my visit to the City of Thieves has left a lasting impression on me.
I follow the footprints away from the hut, coming across the trapper I presume lived in the hut I just raided being viciously mauled by a yeti. Figuring the yeti is the creature I’ve been hunting, I leap to the attack, throwing my spear into its chest for good measure. This doesn’t kill it, but does make it easier for me to kill the beast with my sword. I kneel beside the body of the trapper, finding he’s not quite dead, who tells me that he’s found out about the evil plans of a Snow Witch, who wants to bring about a new ice age and rule the whole world. The trapper has found the entrance to her lair, which is hidden by an illusion spell, making it appear as simply a part of the mountainside, and has marked it with a piece of fur. Then he dies.
I mull over what to do next. I could return to Big Jim, claim my fifty gold, and let the rest of the world go hang. Well, I couldn’t because the book doesn’t give me that option, but the thought occurs. Instead, I head off to find the Crystal Caves.
As I make my way up the mountain, I hear the sound of an avalanche, but luck is with me, as it passes harmlessly down a ridge adjacent to the one I’m on. Phew! Not long later, I reach the entrance to the Crystal Caves, and walk through the illusory wall. Finding myself at a junction, I head right, where I come across some yellow liquid in a bowl. I decide to risk drinking it, discovering it to be a potion which protects the Snow Witch’s followers from the cold.
I head back down the tunnel and bump into a mountain elf, one of the Snow Witch’s followers. I tell him that I’m here to join the cause, but he doesn’t believe me, and show me an obedience collar around his neck. Apparently, all of the Snow Witch’s people where these, to keep them subservient to her. Okay, fine, I’m here to kill her. This pleases the elf, and he gives me his cloak to use as a disguise, and tells me to head right at the next fork. I head off, following the elf’s advice, and find myself outside a kitchen, staffed by a gnome and a Neanderthal.
I walk into the kitchen, but the gnome gets annoyed, telling me dinner’s not for another two hours. But then he decides I look a little worse for wear, and offers me some stale cake. Um… Yummy? Still, even stale, the cake gives me an extra stamina point, and I continue on my merry way. I next come to a large cavern, where a group of the Snow Witch’s minions are worshipping an ice demon effigy. Good thing I’m wearing a cloak as a cunning disguise which they definitely won’t see through. Unless I fail a luck test. Balls.
My cunning disguise penetrated, I opt to fight my way out, but I’m soon overwhelmed by their numbers and presented to their ice demon statue. Which turns into an actual ice demon. However, they soon get scared and leave me alone once I kill their all-powerful master, and I carry on unchallenged, with just a hint of a swagger in my step as I leave the cavern.
I soon come to a t-junction, and decide to head left towards what sounds like cries for help. I end up at a pit, at the bottom of which is a dwarf, trying to climb out as boulders are lobbed at him from somewhere above me. He asks me to help, and since I’m the nice type, I pull him up. He gives me a sling and some iron balls, and tells me to beware the White Rat, before running off. I turn the other way, and end up in a room with three doors at the far end, two regular door shaped doors, and one shaped like a large skull. Nothing ominous about that, then.
Before I can pick the skull door, a man with a glass prism steps out of it and walks over to me, telling me to bugger off, since only the Snow Witch’s personal servants are allowed beyond this point. With no other option available to me, I attack him. Unfortunately, his prism turns out to be magical, and he creates duplicates of himself. I’m now faced with three identical men to attack. I swipe at the one on the left, but my sword passes harmlessly through him, and I get a dagger in my shoulder for my trouble. I opt to go for the swing my sword through all three at once tactic, and a successful luck test sees the illusionist fall to the ground, a large gash on his side. I go to step over him, but he gets up again, laughing, completely healed. Realising a change of approach is required, I go for the prism, wrestling it from his hands and smashing it on the floor.
That does it, and the illusionist turns and flees, as the smoke from the shattered prism coalesces into the form of a genie! Damn. I was hoping for another smoke helmet. Still, the genie offers to make me invisible once, at the time of my choosing, in gratitude. Um… Thanks? After the genie disappears, I head on through the skull, finding myself in a room with a frost giant carrying a treasure chest. I like treasure, so decide to attack him for it, firing an iron ball at him with my sling. It hits him full on in his giant face, and he falls to the floor. I open the chest, and discover a useless bottle of poison and three rings.
Trying on the silver ring turns out to be a bad idea, as it drains my life force, and I lose seven stamina points, but the gold ring enables me to resist the effects of freezing cold, and the copper one allows me to summon a warrior to my aid once. I carry on, and find myself attacked by a crystal warrior. It’s a tough fight, and I’m only able to hurt him thanks to the war-hammer I’m carrying, but I just about prevail.
At the next junction, I head right, coming to a wooden door, which I knock on. I was raised properly you see, and never, ever just barge into places and take stew, spears and war-hammers without permission. Honest. The door is opened by a zombie, and since nobody likes a zombie, I kill it deader, then raid the store room it was guarding. I’m only able to take three items, and opt for ground minotaur horn, some garlic and some dragon eggs, before going back the other way and ending up at another wooden door.
My brief flirtation with manners is now gone, and I simply walk through this door, discovering a large chamber with a sarcophagus in the middle of it. A small, white rat leaps out of the sarcophagus and runs towards me, then starts to grow and change shape. I sprinkle some of the minotaur horn on it, because as everyone knows, ground minotaur horn stops metamorphosis spells, and rat stays a rat. Take that, ratty! Now, what could possibly be in that sarcophagus? Good thing I brought some garlic…
Oh, look, it’s the Snow Witch, and she’s a vampire! Oh no! I’m shocked! But, since I have some garlic (remember, if a Fighting Fantasy book gives you a chance to get some garlic, you damn well take it), this should be easy. Or at least, it would be if I had a wooden stake. But, er, I don’t. The Snow Witch manages to overcome her garlic phobia, and drinks my blood until I’m dead.
Could be worse. I know what I’m doing once I reach the caves now, so those rolls should be fine. This time, at the outset of my journey, I choose to avoid the bridge and make my way around the crevasse. Unfortunately, I soon run into a huge mammoth, which I’m forced to fight. And the mammoth kills me. That went well.
To be continued…