By Paul Mason & Steve Williams
Slaves of the Abyss was never a firm favourite of mine when younger. I now feel that I was mistaken as this was a great adventure with an intricate plot.
That’s better than most recent rolls and gives me a decent chance of success.
In this book I am a great adventurer summoned to the town of Kallamehr because it is under attack from a mysterious army to the East. The Kallamehr army is away defending another border so it is up to a handful of adventurers to try and find out what this invading horde is.
I am given a few choices of staying to defend the city or try and get the army back but I decide the best way forward is to ride out to see what this invasion is about. I am briefed and have a meal with several nobles of the land before leaving that night on my horse. As I am about to leave, one of the nobles, Sige the Silent appears to give me a pomander of herbs that will stop me needing to sleep. That should help on this race against time.
The first day passes uneventfully and by nightfall my horse is tired so I stop and rest. Due to the herbs I, however, don’t need to rest so I just lie down for a while. I spot some Dark Elves edging towards me, thinking me asleep and when they are close enough, I pounce, killing one instantly. The others stop going through my things and I have to fight these two. On their dead bodies I find a lot of gold and a golden fist statue.
The next morning I set off again and pass through several villages. The people in the villages don’t seem very friendly, however, and some appear openly hostile. As night is falling I decide to seek hospitality in a local temple. The old priests, however, are even less friendly and call me a dog! They then demand that I open out my backpack and when the golden fist falls out they get very excited – it seems that it was stolen from the temple recently and now they think they have caught me red-handed (or golden fisted?). The fist does some funky magic and the priests are now young again. I, however, am slung in a jail cell where I remain until the head priest talks to one of the nobles who is able to vouch for me. He then grudgingly lets me go.
Moving on, I keep to the roads and come across an overturned cart and a dead Ox that sees to have a hooded figure feeding on it (I wonder if JK Rowling read this book…) The figure runs off into the forest when it sees me but I don’t follow it, instead I look at the ox and cart and find something which makes a bit of sense of the past few days – on the floor there is a wax mask of my face! Someone is trying to set me up!
I carry on down the road and unsurprisingly everyone is a lot more friendly now – obviously the imposter did not get this far. At nightfall I come to a village where the hospitality is great so I decide to stay for a while. In the night, an old woman arrives and states that I am the saviour for the village so I decide to help them out. During the night, however, I am rescued by the Riddling Reaver (second time I have met this dude in my playthroughs) who berates me for forsaking my mission to help some peasants. He also gives me what he tells me is a sense of humour that I can give to my enemy when the time comes so I guess this was a good encounter after all. The villagers seem upset that I am forsaking them, however…
In the light of the morning I see that the Reaver has left me close to my horse, who is tied up with a riddle. I don’t really get the significance of the riddle so I carry on down the road. I ride for a long time but eventually come to a deserted village. There is a spooky knocking sound coming from a house so I decide to investigate. The knocking is coming from behind a door that has been purposely wedged shut. I open the door to investigate and am immediately grabbed and hauled to the floor. I have to fight the wretch inside and after killing it I have a look at the body and it comes alive and attacks me again! I manage to get away and out of the door, remembering to wedge it shut again. The spooky regular knocking continues shortly afterwards so I go to investigate some other houses.
The other house seems to be a wizard’s house and inside a cupboard I find a small girl covered in green gunk. I help her out and ask her what is going on. She doesn’t know much, only that she was told to hide by the wizard who owns this house, Enthymesis. I decide to keep her with me and help reunite her with her parents in another village. Before I leave, however, I rummage through the wizard’s things and find three potions. They are all labelled with strange words I don’t recognise and I am given the option of drinking them or taking them with me. As my skill and stamina are both very healthy still, I decide I will probably not gain much from drinking the potions and potentially have a lot to loose so I stash them in my backpack. I also find a note telling me that if I am in the shifting forests, I should follow the brushbearer’s gloves. Interesting…. I head off with the girl to find her village.
I find her village, which seems to be inhabited but there is a huge army swarming towards it – this must be the army I have come to gather information about. I decide to race down the girl’s village to warn them. I get there in time, re-unite the girl with her parents and get them to evacuate before the hoard arrives. I now have a choice. I could try and gather information about the army, go back to warn my city or try and find Enthymeses to see if he can help. I decide to do the latter and head off Northwards.
I ride North for some time until suddenly I am engulfed by a sandstorm. When the storm subsides, I see that there is a forest in front of me. This must be the shifting forest so I head into it. After entering the forest, the path forks and there are some foxgloves towards the left hand side path. Ah, brushbearer…. I take heed of this and go left. I come to a clearing where I see a man stuck down a hole with ants crawling all over him. He asks for help so I pull him out of the hole and get bitten by the ants for my troubles. When he is out of the hole, he turns out not to be very grateful and attacks me. I manage to kill the ant symbiote but get bitten by some more ants before he dies. That will teach me a lesson for helping strangers in distress…
An anteater then comes out of a clump of foxgloves to the left to have a feast. I take the hint and go left down the next path. In the next clearing I am ambushed by the most incompetent group of Goblins ever. They hit each other over the head, and shoot each other with crossbow bolts in a comedy of errors and I don’t take them too seriously until I bump into a huge Ogre round a corner. He provides my strongest test yet in combat but I kill him. Before this happens, however, one of the Goblins drops the crossbow. It doesn’t mention in the text that I can pick this up so I am not sure if I can – it becomes more important later on. I have no choice at the next junction and have to carry straight on.
In the next clearing there is an interesting sight. I see a Troll dragging a sapling behind it. I am given the option to shoot him with a crossbow but I just let him go. After a lot of walking I eventually come to a clearing with a hut in it. I wait but nothing happens so I decide to walk under the hut. As I do this I look up and see an opening, the hut itself then bends down to pick me up… weird! In the hut I see a woman in a bare room. As I enter she shows me a vision of souls trapped in the abyss and suggests this might be my future…
The woman then asks me to say her name – she must be the person old Enthymesis was looking for which would make her Aletheia. Correct! She then goes on to tell me something very interesting about the pomander of herbs that will protect me from the baddies crystal breath when in the abyss. Sweet. She then introduces me to her snake before telling me that the army is surrounded by hornets that are able to suck a man’s soul into the abyss. The only thing that can stop the hornets is the smoke from burning Jheera leaves. As luck would have it there is one such small tree growing in the forest. But ah no, the tree is missing, she shows me a vision of the hole in the ground where the tree used to be! I remember the Troll and realise that the sapling he was dragging must be the Jheera tree. Alethia sends me directly to where the Troll is so I can get it back…
On encountering the troll I see that it is trying to poke the tree into a hole to get at the animal. I suggest he strips off the leaves to make it easier. He does this and I grab up all the leaves. This also enables the troll to get at the creature, which is a bit spiky. He still eats it and gets it stuck in his throat. He blames me for this and attacks me so I am forced to kill him. Still, I now have the Jheera leaves. I quickly find my way out of the forest and after I leave it disappears! I head back towards the army with my weapon.
I quickly find the army of hornets and light my Jeera leaves on a torch that I prepared. I ride down to face them but to my dismay the smoke is dissipating. I remember seeing a cave earlier so I head up to the cave to try and concentrate the smoke. The cave is occupied, however, so I have to slay the poor caveman occupant – ah well, for the greater good and all that. After killing the caveman I grab the torch again and wait for the hornets. Sure enough, here they come and they start dropping like flies when they come into contact with the smoke. When they are all dead, I head out of the cave again to face what is left of the army.
I come face to face with the commander who tells me that I will pay for killing the hornets. I don’t think so! I show him the sense of humour that the Reaver gave me earlier and his eyes widen in horror. I open the bottle and the commander collapses in hysterical laughter. I then attack the Slave Master with my sword but he is still a formidable foe. Thankfully I manage to kill him but as he falls to the ground, a dark cloud emerges from his body and starts talking to me. He tells me his name is Bythos, Master of the Abyss and that he lives on in the abyss itself and is still able to conquer the land from there! With that he disappears and leaves the huge army behind who just stand and stare blankly into the distance. It appears I will have to hunt down Bythos in the Abyss…
Alethia’s snake then appears and tells me that there is a cavern near here that contains a gateway to the Abyss and that I must get there to take on Bythos. By the river I find a cave that leads towards the cavern. My way is blocked, however, by a wall of flame. I decide that I must risk it and jump through. It is an illusion and I am unarmed. In the room behind the fire wall I see a group of adventurers who are having trouble opening an iron door. I help them out and get the door open – they go on ahead and a few seconds later they come running back in my direction screaming! An ominous sign. I decide to go ahead cautiously.
I enter the cavern and encounter Enthymesis – he is not in a good way and is dying but he tells me not to go near the sands as they lead to the Abyss. Pah! That’s exactly where I want to go so I stand in the middle of the sand. I sink into the sand and end up in another world! There is a strange mist and there are treasures everywhere. I gobble down the pomander of herbs, remembering what I was told about them. I decide to ignore the treasures, thinking them a diversion and head off into the mist. Strange creatures fly all around me and start eating some treasures. I then hear three distinct noises…
I head off towards a moaning sound and am given the option of climbing a chain to find the source of the noise. I am also given another chance to investigate the creaking noise so I take the hint and do this. The creaking is coming from the floor which starts to crack and spray out a black liquid. A creature also comes up through the floor and I have to fight the Anemorus. I rush off as more creatures spew through hole and come to a crater. I decide to wait around to see what happens next…
The crater contains more treasures and as I wait some Crystal Warriors arrive and start pounding the treasures into dust. When they have done this, they leave. I take this opportunity to climb into the crater. When inside the crater, I am joined by a hooded man who seems rather surprised to see me! I manage to parry two Javelins that he creates out of the dust and manage to kill him before he can make any more. The Gatherer was holding a sack so I take this and take his robe and dress in it before I leave the crater and head towards a waiting carriage. The driver doesn’t notice anything strange and the carriage takes me directly to a Crystal palace. Here I am shown to some broth which is being made for Bythos. I am left alone with the broth while the master is summoned.
So, what do I do? Drink it? Knock it over? Add something to it? I decide that this is probably something that Bythos needs so I hope to poison it by adding all of the potions I got earlier – one of them must be poison, surely? Once I have done this Bythos strides in – he is huge! He looks much stronger than before. He seems to recognise me so I take out my sword and rush at him. He breathes his crystal breath on me by the pomander of herbs mean it has no effect. He briefly looks a bit worried before he makes a sword and fights me. He his too strong, however, and I die here heroically fighting till the death. Ouch. So close but yet so far, I guess I should have drunk some of that broth.
I must say, though, that I really enjoyed this adventure. It has a great epic feel, the otherworldly atmosphere of the Abyss is great and the plot is really quite interesting with some twists and humorous interludes.