Temple of Terror

“It’s like a diabolically lethal episode of Sesame Street.”

Temple of Terror by Ian Livingstone

Well, this is embarrassing. It seems this one is a sequel to The Forest of Doom. So: I definitely got the dust of levitation, managed to get that casket open, killed the ghoul, and got the hammer to Stonebridge, where I’ve been resting up after my adventure in the National Park of Doom.

Plotwise: find some stuff and kill the villain. This is a generic adventure with some magic loaded in. Not the simple magic of Citadel of Chaos, but the more risky stamina bleeding type from the Sorcery books. About a third of the adventure is trekking through the desert to the site of the real action, too. Variety is the spice of life, folks. The lost city really doesn’t feel like a city, just some passageways to wander through.

Statistics

Skill: 10
Stamina: 20
Luck: 8

Equipment: Standard issue sword, backpack, leather armour, 10 provisions. But no potion. Who needs potions when you get magic? I suppose I also have that gaudy helmet from the end of Forest of Doom.

Onward to Adventure!

I’m resting up in Stonebridge after recovering the hammer of the Dwarves when Yaztromo comes bustling in to town and recounts a story about how some evil wizard is going to go and find some magical dragon artefacts, turn them into real dragons, and then some Dark Elves will give this evil wizard some ancient evil secrets and then… oh, right. Death, destruction, chaos, the usual. He asks for a volunteer to go out into the Desert of Skulls, find the lost city of Vatos, and take down this Malbordus character.

Killing wizards is what adventurers do best. “I’ll do it!” I boldy cry. Yaztromo answers with “Do I know you?”

I remember the time warping powers of Darkwood Forest and tell him it’s not important. He then leads me out of the village and back through the forest – such a novel experience to travel south through Darkwood – and eventually we get to his tower. He offers to teach me some magic, which sounds handy. I opt for Create Water, Fire, Open Door, and Read Symbols. All self-explanatory, and useful. I enquire about the handy magical items he usually sells, figuring a backpack full of magic items is always handy.

“Them? They’re cheap junk for rubes.”

Right…

I am promptly sent off towards the Catfish River, which I can follow to Port Blacksand and then catch a ship to the Desert of Skulls. Alternatively, I can take an overland hike. I figure a ride on a river barge will be relaxing, and pay for passage. Eventually Port Blacksand comes into view. Naturally, a band of ruffians tries to rob me within two seconds of my getting off the barge. They’re probably employed by the Port Blacksand Tourism Board. When your city has a reputation as the City of Thieves then you want to make sure people don’t go away saying, “no-one tried to rob me, what a rip-off!”

I find an inn called the Black Lobster, and arrange passage on a ship headed south. Since this is a drunken pirate tavern, it’s only a matter of time before I end up in a fight with someone, and I skewer him good and proper. The next day I skip down to the wharf, find the ship, and the captain tells me that I’ll have to help load the cannons in any battles, because one of the gunners was killed in a tavern brawl by some madwoman.

Right. Off to a good start, then.

Naturally the first ship we meet is a man-o-war, and the Belladonna is sunk quickly. I swim for the ship, hoping they aren’t the sort to execute pirates. It turns out to be a ship full of Dwarves, so I make with the fast talking and the name dropping and they offer to give me a ride to the desert. Things are looking up, since the alternative was swimming there. Unfortunately, the desert is exactly as advertised, and so I trudge along the coast gloomily wondering why all-powerful wizards can’t procure magical maps. Alas, my day at the beach is cut short due to some warnings marked out by shells, so I have to turn inland. I’m promptly beset by three enormous wasps. I trek onward, looting a corpse, and later trading a silver button I looted from the robbers in Port Blacksand for some water from a passing camel rider. I know, killing people for their buttons is wrong, but they probably stole those buttons from someone else in the first place. So, actually, I liberated the ill-gotten buttons from the evil thieves, who are in a way sort of like tax collectors. I’m practically a folk hero!

After the sandstorm that springs up as soon as I think how it could be so much worse and at least there’s no snowstorms like up in the Icefinger Mountains, I find a discarded bell. I’m an experienced adventurer so I don’t think twice about hoarding every stupid item I come across just in case they come in handy later. Onward, I find a tent staked out in the middle of nowhere. It turns out the occupant is a trader, and he sells me some interesting items, including a gristly bracelet of mermaid scales. I know it sounds wrong, but he assures me they were evil mermaids.

Following the advice of the trader I set off southward, and suddenly am beset by a sandworm. I’m overcome with a sense that this thing is very familiar, but I can’t quite place it. I kill it anyway. Onward, through the scorching desert I travel. Over dune and through… that gap between dunes, whatever it is… past the obviously poisoned oasis, ever closer to my goal. It’s not so bad out here, really. There’s monsters, sure, but the splendour of the stark environment is to be marvelled at. Take, for example, the interesting pile of rocks I found. Look at the interesting way they have tumbled together, and the way the sand has partly covered them. Look, if I move one you can see… me being stung by a scorpion.

I don’t like this desert any more. It’s a rubbish desert.

In the crevice I find a bag containing a glass ball, inside which a tiny sprite is trapped. I smash the ball, and the little sod throws some pixie dust at me and says I should make a headscarf out of the bag, since eventually I will die of sunstroke, and also that golden winged helmet looks ridiculous. It’s probably a good idea, and so I do. The desert heat is a bit much, after all. After some more walking through the endless sands, I come across a city half buried in the sand. Vatos! My Open Door spell makes quick work of the side door next to the half-buried gate, and I make for the nearest building. Inside, my adventurer instincts take over and I start looting everything in sight. I’m having a ball, because this is a lost city so I should be in the clear to do whatever I want. Thus, when I walk around the corner and am tapped on the shoulder, I’m quite shocked.

It’s not the Vatos Police, instead it’s an emaciated slime dripping thing which gurgles “DEATH” at me. Oh blast, it’s the Messenger of Death. This annoying creature is legendary, not only for it’s disgusting appearance, but also because it has a pathological need to play stupid games. “So,” it says breezily, “here’s the deal. I run around the city and scribe the letters of the word DEATH-” it reverts to the horrible gurgling for that word “-and then if you find them all, I get to kill you!” The Messenger of Death shoves a pencil and small card into my hand. It has the letters d, e, a, t, and h in bold print, and a checkbox under each one. “So, check off the letters so I know if you’ve seen them, okay? And remember: DEATH.” With that it runs off. I look down at the card and consider that maybe I should have told Yaztromo to do this quest himself. I sigh and continue into the city.

Further on I find a hidden door, and inside am attacked by a giant centipede, which is guarding a bucket hanging from the ceiling. Well, let me tell you, any bucket being guarded by a giant centipede is a bucket I want to look inside! It turns out it’s lucky I did, because one of the dragon artefacts is inside. Through the other door of the centipede bucket room I meet a giant floating spiky ball with a single eye. “You,” I say, “would look cooler with tentacle eyestalks.” This only serves to make it very angry, and it tries to mesmerise me. I respond by closing my eyes and stabbing wildly, taking it out in one hit. No problem. After wandering through some more passageways I find a ladder, and clamber up. In the room at the top is a gnome, who stares incredulously at me. “Are you wearing a bag on your head?” he asks. “It was hot outside,” I reply as I sheepishly take it off, replacing the helmet on my head. The gnome fills me in on the city. It seems the lost city is not so lost any more, and some of the passers-by who stop in the city for shelter stay. The high priestess sends out raiding parties to loot caravans for food. It all sounds a bit unstable to me, but I suppose it’s how things are here. The gnome asks me if I have a telescope, and I trade one I picked up somewhere for a look through his cache of flotsam. The gnome just so happens to have the crystal dragon, meaning I have three more to find.

I travel deeper into the maze under the city. After killing skeletons and raiding tombs, the corridor slopes downward into a chamber half filled with water. I figure there’s got to be something horrible in there, and wade in. Thankfully the tentacled thing runs away from my bracelet of mermaid scales, probably because anyone wearing something that evil is to be avoided if you live in the water. Further on, picking up the sliver dragon which was left lying around, I come across a phantom, who tries to murder me with its deadly gaze. Whatever. I just throw a button at it and it collapses into a pile of dust. The undead in this city are particularly flimsy. Further on I find a long display of tapestries, and I steal one with an impressive phoenix picture embroidered on it, because that’s what adventurers do. Then I go and look at a mural depicting orcs driving a horde of undead to destroy a massed army of humans and dwarves. It’s not bad, and the artist is still working on it. It’s part of the high Priestess’ Vatos Arts Festival. Win, or be sacrificed to the evil gods. I have finally found a group of people more foolhardy than adventuers. How the hell do they get past the sandworms to get here? Stab the things with their paintbrushes? Embroider them to death?

I wander past various torture chambers, riddle rooms, and boring nondescript passageways until I find myself in at a door with a donation box. Wondering what will happen, if anything, I drop a coin in. It causes a panel in the door to flip up, with the letter T scrawled on it. I wince in pain, because the messenger of death uses a really ugly font, and cross off the letter on the card. Inside the door it is pitch black, and so I can’t see the blade set at shin height.

After my adventure in the Corridor of Hidden Knives I come to a room strewn with garbage. It’s a bit disgusting, but I consider searching through it all. Unfortunately then a one-eyed mutant with a magic blasting rod comes in. “I’m collecting for charity,” I say, hoping it doesn’t notice the sword and armour and blood running down my leg. I frantically dig out that bell I found in the desert and ring it, as though I’m collecting for orphans. The sound causes the undead monstrosity agonising pain, which is good. But it drops the rod, which somehow causes the ceiling to lower. I grab the rod, open the door using a key I happen to be carrying, and saunter out, throwing the rod over my shoulder and listening with a wry smile to the crunch of the Night Horror being crushed.

I find myself in a room being used by a wood carver, who is working on a wall carving of the city being attacked by sandworms. I inspect it more closely, and find a secret panel containing yet another dragon statuette. One more to go. I carry on through the next door, and find myself in a room full of weapons and insane cultists. To be honest, I’m surprised it took this long. I make up some story about delivering a gift to the high priestess, and they buy it, but won’t let me wander around to find her. I hand over one of the now-useless keys made of valuable metals I already found the door for and make a hasty exit. After killing some stone hands stuck to the walls (i.e. I hit them until they stopped trying to hurt me), I reach a turning where to go straight on I have to pass under a shower of golden ran. This is possibly a bad joke, but I know the high priestess is in here somewhere and if I’m right the last dragon will be there too. I step through. Inside is a luxurious room, with wonderful works of art, and splendid furniture, and cushions everywhere, and an angry guard, who I kill. Feeling tired after murdering my way through the city, I decide to take a nap.

I’m woken by someone coming in to the room, and before I can explain – by which I mean, make up a story – he summons an air elemental. That’s not good. I notice the phoenix symbol on his hat and drag that tapestry out of my backpack, and at that he believes anything I say. Once he’s gone I turn to the door, and try to magic it open, only to find my ability to cast spells has been taken away by that shower of rain at the door. I’m forced to use my sword to smash the lock, and then I find myself in a short passage with two doors at the end, each with ancient runes inscribed in them. That would have been no problem if only I had the ability to cast spells. I go through the right hand door, and come to a room full of hieroglyphics. Wow, I bet they would have been interesting to read. What a shame I can’t cast that useful spell any more. My attention turns to the clay pots on the floor.

One pot has a copper ring, which may or may not come in handy. Another jar contains a monkey paw, which will no doubt be bad news, and the third contains… the letter E. It’s not that I have to mark the stupid letters off on the card, it’s that they magically hurt me when I see them. If the Messenger of Death picked a longer word, e.g. apostrophe, he’d be guaranteed to not have to turn up after a victim finds the last one. I carry on, and come into a room filled with treasure. Now this is what people get into the sword wielding maniac profession for. I grab myself the incredibly valuable golden skeleton statuette, then open a golden casket and find a note which says “The Messenger of Death awaits you.” This is confusing, because I’m not sure if this counts or not. It hasn’t seared me with supernatural power, and though I’ve just seen all the letters in the word “Death” all at once no slime drooling monster has turned up to kill me. I decide to get out of there in a hurry anyway.

I wander on, pillaging a fruit bowl, and find a pair of skeletons guarding an archway. Or, really, part skeletons. They only have skulls for heads. Skeletons are normally not a big deal, so I figure these half-skeletons will be even easier, since they can bleed. Through the archway I find Leesha, High Priestess of Vatos, who is being fanned by a servant. She snaps her fingers and the fan-wielding fiend attacks. Fan versus sword is not going to go down as the most heroic of battles, so I won’t go into too much detail. Suffice to say, I find it to be a breeze.

I decide to try stabbing Leesha with a sandworm tooth, for no good reason other than the thought pops into my head. She flees, since I have found her one weakness. I’m not sure that qualifies as a sorcerous weakness, considering sandworms are enormous and can kill hardened adventurers. It’s more like a general weakness everyone has. I pursue, pausing to poke at a statue of a dog. A golden dragon falls out, completing the set of evil artefacts. Poking at the fittings has never been so productive. I chase the evil priestess down another corridor, and come across a badly sunburnt dwarf, who is carrying a hammer. I stop and ask him what he’s doing here. Apparently he was sent by Yaztromo to deliver me a warhammer, since nothing else can smash the dragon artefacts. Always with the last minute advice, these wizards. “Hey, this hammer looks familiar,” I say. “Yes, it’s the hammer of Stonebridge,” he replies. “Try not to lose it.” With that he falls over dead. You know, any old warhammer would have been fine. I bet if he’d died in the desert I’d have had to go trekking around the dunes looking for the damn thing.

I run onward, and find myself in a room with a circular pit. I feel overwhelmed with the urge to smash some things with a hammer, and wallop the bone dragon into splinters. So far, so simple… Except Malbordus comes floating out of the pit. He’s not very happy that I beat him to the dragons. Unfortunately for him, the ring I hauled out of that urn turns out to block his baleful magic, and so it comes down to fight to the finish: evil sorcerer with a cursed sword against magicless woman with a warhammer and an ostentatious winged helmet. I prevail, and then smash the remaining dragons to pieces.

Victorious in my quest to slay the evil sorcerer, and destroy the evil artefacts, I wander out of the room and find my way up some stairs and outside. I’m in the middle of a temple full of evil fanatics, in a city full of evil raiders, in a desert full of giant sandworms. No giant eagles are forthcoming to snatch me from the battlements and take me home. I shrug, and head for some nearby steps to get down to ground level and find my way out of the city. Nothing in the job description says the adventure stops just because the villain is dead.

I’m just not sure how things will go in the desert now I can’t magically create water any more…

Wrapup

Livingstone is notorious for making his books require certain items to win, but here it’s not too bad. Five dragons, one telescope, and a hammer. Only the telescope isn’t clearly laid out at the start (I would assume that talking to the dwarf with the hammer is obvious). Most of the other items that make the book easy to solve are non-essential, so it’s entirely possible to get through it with minimal struggles – provided you have decent stats and make a few lucky dice rolls. Some of the spells are not essential either, and that makes the book really fun. Unfortunately the telescope being required does mean there’s only one way to get to the city. Miss any of the dragons, and the adventure ends just before the spot where the climactic battle would happen with you seeing Malbordus flying away on one of the ones you missed.

It’s a very lethal adventure. You need about twenty units of provisions to make it through, since you’re burning stamina for spells and there’s some mandatory combats and also mandatory heavy damage moments. But you only get the usual ten. This makes the book a much more worrying affair.

The Messenger of Death seems silly, but it makes every moment searching around the city ominous, since you have to find five items and poking into every nook and cranny is the way to do so. There’s also a double-cross where the last letter is hinted to be in a certain location by another character, and thus it’s possible to skip past that point, think one is safe, and walk right into it.

Suspension of Disbelief Shattered: When the text said I was sitting down to have a rest in the middle of the high priestesses chambers. No, that’s a bad idea. No. No, please don- oh well.

Ridiculous Battle: The sandworm. Higher stats than the main villain? It should have been sent after Malbordus instead of me.

Victory: You get to smash some more dragons, and then trek back out of the desert, while optimistically thinking Yaztromo will teach you some more spells. There is an assumption that the player looted the best stuff out of the not-so-lost city. The reality is it’s possible to walk out of there with nothing.

What Was I Thinking? Taking Create Water – it’s impossible to finish the book without getting something to trade for water anyway. I should have guessed that, but was overcome by a sense of immersion and wanted to be a real adventurer ready for anything the journey can throw at me.

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One Response to Temple of Terror

  1. Rob Lee says:

    Your adventurer should seriously consider packing an umbrella in default!!!

    I mean … you’re travelling across a blazing hot desert, right??? Not to mention an umbrella could come in useful in that Golden Shower room ^^

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