Published on January 23rd, 2013 | by PJ Montgomery0
Island of the Lizard King – A Fighting Fantasy Flashback part 1
Book 7: Island of the Lizard King
Written by: Ian Livingstone
Illustrated by: Alan Langford
First Published: 1984
“Can you save the young men of Oyster Bay from the evil Lizard Men?
Kidnapped by a vicious race of Lizard Men from Fire Island, the young men of Oyster Bay face a grim future of slavery, starvation and a lingering death. Their master will be the mad and dangerous Lizard King, who holds sway over his land of mutants by the strange powers of black magic and voodoo. Will you risk all in an attempt to save the prisoners?”
Another week, another Ian Livingstone classic for us to look at. After the urban setting of City of Thieves, and the dungeon based perils of Deathtrap Dungeon, Island of the Lizard King takes you to the lush, wild setting of Fire Island, and an adventure that journeys through jungles, swamps and mountains. Iain McCaig, who had so brilliantly illustrated the previous two books, would not return (except to draw the cover) for Island of the Lizard King, with the book instead marking the Fighting Fantasy debut of FF stalwart, Alan Langford as internal illustrator. Another fan favourite monster would also make its first appearance, in the shape of the nightmarish Gongchong parasite, as well as the return of the evil shape-changer. But how did my journey across Fire Island go? Read on and find out, though beware, as anyone wishing to play the book will encounter spoilers.
In this book, I’m an adventurer who desires a little bit of R and R, so journey from Fang (the home of Deathtrap Dungeon) to the peaceful fishing village of Oyster Bay, where my old adventuring friend, Mungo, has settled as a fisherman. Unfortunately, there will be no rest for me. Upon my arrival, I learn that the young men of Oyster Bay have been kidnapped by lizard men from Fire Island, and are being forced to work in the evil Lizard King’s slave mines. Mungo begs me to help, and being a lovely sort of chap, I quickly agree.
The next day, Mungo and I sail to Fire Island (during the journey, Mungo tells me about his father, who took on the Trial of Champions, never to be seen again. I don’t have the heart to mention that I beat it just last week), arriving after several hours sailing. Upon reaching the shore, we choose to head to a cove on our left, where we see an abandoned hut. Heading towards the hut, we’re attacked by a giant crab, which grabs Mungo in its pincers. I battle the crab, successfully killing it, but too late for poor Mungo, who dies from his wounds. Not to speak ill of the dead, but Mungo was a bit useless then, eh? Still, at least he admits it, then asks me to get the Lizard King for him.
I continue to the hut, inside which I find a trapdoor. Opening it reveals a box, containing a potion which provides immunity to plant poisons. Figuring that could come in handy, I down it immediately. With nothing else of interest in the hut, I take my leave and head west into the trees. Not stopping to rest, I head deeper into the jungle, where I’m attacked by a group of headhunters. They argue over who gets my head, but it turns out to be none of them, as I kill them pretty easily. I eat their food, gaining a stamina point, then head towards a plume of smoke, which I guess must be the headhunters village.
As I get closer, the sound of drums seems to confirm my suspicions, and I continue towards them. When I reach the edge of the village, I spot a man tied to a post in the middle of a large group of headhunters. Looks like they’re after a new head. Determined to save the man, I decide to be sneaky, and set fire to one of the huts. One successful luck test later, and their whole village is ablaze, distracting the headhunters enough for me to free their prisoner. Well, not quite enough, as one of the headhunters chucks a spear at us. It hits me, and I lose three stamina points, while the man I just saved now charges the headhunters to save me. He’s quickly killed, and I find myself in combat with the headhunter chieftain. I kill him, nick his spear, and leg it into the jungle.
The jungle soon gives way to marshland, which makes for difficult, and wet, going. A small, reptilian creature quickly moves passed me, and for some reason, I decide to call out to it. It turns out to be a marsh hopper, creatures who know safe ways through marshes, but are also renowned for leading unwary travelers to large predators in return for a share of the spoils. The marsh hopper beckons for me to follow, and I weigh up the risks, then ignore them and follow it. Predictably it leads me to a massive, two-headed hydra. I chuck my spear at the hydra, taking out one of its heads straight away, and then begin my combat with the other. Unfortunately, no sooner do I kill the hydra, then I’m attacked by a giant water snake. Looks like the marsh hopper has led me to several predators. Git.
I kill the snake, and get out of there as fast as I can. Making my way out of the marsh, I arrive at a gorge between two hills, and opt to head up the hillside. This proves to be a fortuitous decision, as a rock slide suddenly hits the gorge. I gain a luck point, then decide that now would be a good time for me to navigate the gorge itself. In the gorge, I stumble upon a boulder with the words “Turn back or die” written on it. Nothing ominous about that then. Soon after, I find a snuff box on the ground, which contains a gold nugget and a note telling me where a raft has been stashed, left by someone who failed to escape the Lizard King.
Continuing on my way, I’m soon attacked by a giant lizard, but I dispatch it without too many problems, and arrive at a pond where some birds are drinking. Feeling thirsty myself, I opt to join them, but the pond also turns out to be home to a spit toad, which naturally spits some venom at me. I avoid the venom, kill the toad, then have my much-needed drink. As I’m drinking (and regaining a stamina point), I notice a wooden casket in the middle of the pond. I decide to go for it, because spit toads are solitary creatures, and there won’t be another one here. I totally knew that. Honest.
The casket contains four items, a glass phial with a liquid in it, a pair of boots, a ring and a pouch. I drink the liquid first, only to find I’ve ingested a potion of clumsiness. Now, at the beginning of every fight, there’s a chance I could drop my sword, and automatically lose the first attack round. Brilliant. I try the pouch next, which turns out to be a pouch of unlimited contents, which I can store absolutely anything in. That’s better! Figuring I have one more good item, and one more bad, I put the boots on. Nothing happens, but that’s better than something bad, so I decide to ignore the ring and continue on my way.
I’m now walking across a plain, and in the distance I spot a pig running towards me. I’m feeling peckish, so (vegetarians look away now) chuck my spear at it, kill it, cook it and eat it. Yum. After regaining three stamina for my meal, I continue onwards until I come to a river, and locate the raft mentioned in the note in the snuff box. I’ve not been on the river long when I’m attacked by a crocodile. Unfortunately, the potion of clumsiness kicks in and I lose the first attack round, but I win all the others and kill the croc. Good thing my spear was in my pouch of unlimited contents too, otherwise it might have gone over the side.
Further along the river, a man on the bank starts waving and calling to me, so I punt over to him. He turns out to be mental, and tries to kill me. I’m forced to fight him with my bare hands (which at least means I can’t drop my sword), and I soon knock him into the river. I continue along the river for a while, until I come to a group of mud huts. I steer into the bank, and sneak into the small encampment, spotting two lizard men standing behind one of the huts. I realize I must be near the Lizard King’s gold mines, where he is working his slaves, and decide the sneaky approach is in order. Which means charging at the lizard men, killing one instantly, then fighting the other one, defeating that too, and nicking some keys off their corpses. I’m like a bloody ninja.
Entering the mine and turning left, I climb down a ladder and find myself confronting a lizard man with a pail of water. I kill this lizard man too, since lizard men are all bastards, and take the pail of water with me. Soon enough, I arrive at a part of the mine where a group of dwarf slaves are being whipped by another lizard man. I attack the lizard man, but only have to survive two attack rounds before the dwarfs finish him off for me. I give them some water, and they agree to lead me to the other slaves.
I steal the cloak off the body of the dead lizard man, thinking I’ll disguise myself and pretend I’m a lizard man guard herding the dwarfs through the mine. Of course, since I actually look nothing like a lizard man, and a simple cloak isn’t going to disguise that, there’s no way that this is going to work, and… Oh. It works. Turns out, lizard men are deeply stupid creatures.
We arrive at a part of the mine where some orcs are guarding some humans, and the dwarfs take care of the orcs for me. At this point, the book simply asks you to roll a dice to determine how the rest of your journey through the mine goes. I end up with sixty-three men, and lose two stamina points on my adventures. I lead my motley crew out of the mine, and we attack the guards still in the mud huts, taking the small settlement for ourselves. The slaves celebrate their freedom, but an elf takes me aside and tells me that we can’t win against the Lizard King yet. It turns out, the Lizard King has allowed a Gongchong to bury its proboscis in his brain, making him invincible. To kill the Lizard King, I also need to kill the Gongchong. But no one here knows how. Luckily, according to the elf, there’s a shaman on the island who will know how. I tell my small army to head to the Lizard King’s fort, and I’ll meet them there after I’ve found the shaman.
Given the choice between travelling by land or river, I opt to walk it, soon coming to a fruit tree. My stamina isn’t great at this point, so I decide to risk eating the fruit, and gain a stamina point. Phew. I next come to a small sack hanging from a tree, which I cut down, and find it contains food. I eat the food, gain two more stamina points, then get attacked by a bear. I win the fight, and take a small whistle from a collar the bear was wearing. I then eat the last of my provisions, since the bear reduced my stamina to a single point. Git.
After an uneventful night, I come to a pool of water where I spot some chalk marks on a rock. I read the markings, which tell me that if I’m seeking the shaman, could I possibly wear a feather in my hair? Sure, why not. I mean, with the unicorn tattoo I’m sporting right on my face from my City of Thieves adventure, I could hardly look more ridiculous anyway. After killing a troll who ambushed me, and therefore automatically won the first attack round, I find some dead birds, so attach a feather to my head. Bet I look awesome now.
As I climb a hill towards the volcano which gives Fire Island its name, I spot a cave adorned with skulls. Figuring it could contain something useful, I approach the cave, only for its current inhabitant, a cavewoman, to chuck a spear at me. Fortunately, luck is with me, and I dodge the spear before fighting and killing the cavewoman. Exploring her cave, I find a red powder, which I opt to dab on my face. Not only does it protect me from anyone trying to control my mind, but it can only make me look even more amazing than I already did.
Leaving the cave, I come to the foot of the volcano, and decide to take a walk around it. I find some suspicious looking eggs, and not wanting to risk my stamina by annoying whatever laid them, I choose to ignore them. I begin my climb up the volcano, and find a pile of artefacts inside a small stone circle. Figuring these are gifts left for the shaman, I leave my own gift, of those nice boots I found earlier, and continue on my way.
As I head up the trail, I meet the shaman, and thanks to the feather in my hair, he lets me tell him all about my mission, the Lizard King, and the Gonchong. The shaman is surprised to hear about the Gongchong, which is clearly not meant to be on the island, and is a source of real badness. But he still won’t help me unless I pass some test. Cheeky bugger. Find another adventurer willing to try and save the world then!
Or, no, I could just take the tests. I choose the dexterity test first, which requires a test of my skill to throw a dagger at an orange. Easy enough. I choose the fear test next, figuring a hardened adventurer like me should find that a doddle. The shaman gets in my head and makes me see some terrible images, but the stylish red powder I have on my face means that I’m able to resist him and pass the test. Finally, through the scientific means of pointing with my eyes closed, I end up taking the pain test. This simply requires me to grit my teeth and bear the pain. Having now passed three tests, the shaman is satisfied, and tells me that the Gonchong looks like a giant harvest spider on the Lizard King’s head. Okay, kill the giant spider-looking thing. He then tells me I need to kill it quickly, by severing its proboscis, as soon as I kil the Lizard King, so that it doesn’t try and take me as its next host. Of course, while he has the Gongchong, the Lizard King is invincible. The only thing that can hurt him is a fire sword, and wouldn’t you know it, the Lizard King just happens to have a collection of them which he keeps disguised as rusty knives. Finally, the shaman tells me that the Lizard King with the Gongchong is a formidable enemy, and I should get a monkey. I’ve always wanted a monkey! Something about lizard men being scared of them, and the fear will cripple him even through with the Gongchong’s influence, but I’m not really listening at this point ‘cos I’m so excited about getting a monkey.
I take my leave of the shaman, thinking monkey thoughts, and come to a bridge over a ravine being guarded by a hobgoblin. A quick bribe in the shape of my gold nugget gets me across the bridge, but I then face an unavoidable encounter with a lizard man riding a styracosaurus. I manage to kill the lizard man’s dino-mount, but only with one stamina point left. Again. And I still have to fight the lizard man! Thankfully, luck is with me in this battle, and I manage to triumph. I take the lizard man’s shield and walk on.
I manage to scratch my leg on a plant, but the potion I drank in the hut on the beach protects me from harm, and I don’t even notice. My next find is a little more exciting, as I come across a dead seaman lying face down on the ground with, yes, a monkey held to his hand by a chain! I free the monkey, and take him with me, naming him Smiley the Lucky Monkey.
I continue on my journey, Smiley the Lucky Monkey perched on my shoulder, and we soon encounter a wild girl with a pet sabretooth tiger. I try talking to her, but she doesn’t understand me, so I back away slowly, not wanting to startle her and have her unleash her tiger upon us.
The next stop on my travels is the Lizard King’s fort, where I’m reunited with my small army. Without even taking a moment to rest, we attack the fort, and I find myself locked in combat with a lizard man who I swiftly kill. However, looking around me, the battle doesn’t seem to be going well, and I don’t have something called the Horn of Valhalla, which I’m guessing would rally my troops. Instead, I decide to try and kill the enemy commander, who turns out to be a large cyclops.
I battle the cyclops, testing my luck during the battle in order to try and end it quickly and avoid getting wounded, which would kill me, and manage to prevail, but now I’m low on both stamina and luck.
Deciding to head further into the fort, I’m given the choice between some doors straight ahead, and some to the left. I take the left doors, and find an old man in a cell. Hoping desperately that the old man might somehow be able to heal me, I decide to free him. Unfortunately, he turns out to be a shape-changer, and I’m forced into another battle. It’s one battle too many, as I meet my death at the shape-changer’s claws.
To be continued…