By Mark Smith & Jamie Thompson
Talisman of Death is the 11th Fighting Fantasy gamebook and is the 2nd that was not written by either Ian Livingstone or Steve Jackson.
Excellent stats, I stand a decent chance here…
In this adventure, you are from Earth and have been transported to another universe called Orb. You have been asked to destroy the Talisman of Death, which, if allowed to remain in Orb will eventually destroy the world if it falls into the wrong hands. The only way to destroy it is for a person from another world to take it with them, through a portal, to their own world. So, this is not a quest for personal riches, but a whole world is at stake.
The adventure starts with a meeting with four adventurers who I blab all to. Thankfully, they are good and noble people so they lay down their lives so that I can be transported away from the approaching creatures. I find myself near a chasm and I need to make my way to the town, Greyguilds. I decide against going over open ground and head towards the forest. On approaching the forest I come head to head with a Wolf protecting her cubs. I decide the best course of action would be to back off, and it works, she is not interested in me.
Heading on, I see a Basilisk asleep on a rock. Luckily it does not notice me as I creep past and I can continue on my way. Next I come to an old woman drowning in a pool. I decide to help her but it turns out not to be an old woman at all and is in fact a Grendel, a betentacled creature with a large beak. I slay it without any real trouble.
Before long, as I am walking along the plain, I am approached by 20 warrior women on horses. I stupidly tell them that I am not from this world and they tell me to hand over my sword so that I can be taken to Greyguilds. I decide that there are too many of them to argue with so I do as they say. Eventually we arrive at Greyguilds and I am taken to Hawkana. I am searched and she snatches away the Talisman. She seems delighted to have it in her possession – Oh dear, I will have to get that back! I am then throw out into the street outside.
I am now free to explore Greyguilds so I head off down a street called Smith Street. I duck into an Armorers and am able to buy a new sword to replace the one I lost – excellent, I can restore 2 skill points. Walking further down the street things take a turn for the worse, however, as a Minion of Death tries to take the Talisman from me. It does not believe me when I say I no longer have it and attacks me anyway. It’s icy touch reduces my skill somewhat during this battle but I defeat it.
Before long this street turns into Silver street and I overhear some thieves talking about how they are going to rob a jewelers down the road. I run off to warn the jeweler and he is very pleased when I help him fight them off. In fact, he is so pleased that he gives me some gold and a large ruby. This ruby comes in very handy later on in this adventure. I bid the jeweler farewell and soon see some Monks entering a large building so I decide to investigate. There is not much of interest in this building except for a red book, which upon reading it I discover to be a Tome of Misfortune. I lose another luck point.
Walking further down the street, I notice that night is starting to fall. I am too busy not looking where I am going, however, as I walk right into a mantrap that snaps shut around my foot. I am then surrounded by some dodgy looking priests who ask for the Talisman. For the second time in this town, I am quite pleased I don’t have it anymore. I tell them this and they seem displeased but are scared off by the City Guard. They do not help me out of the trap, however, and just leave me where I stand. Thankfully before long someone does arrive to help me out. He seems like a kind man so I accept his offer of a bed for the night.
He has no ulterior motives and I have a nice restful sleep and in the morning tell him my story. He listens and tells me that I stand the best chance of recovering the Talisman if I enlist the help of some thieves. I decide to take his advice and head towards the Red Dragon Inn (Red Dragons are a bit of a theme in this adventure, the tome of misfortune was made from red dragon scales) but not before the man gives me a ring that increases my skill and invites me back that evening.
On my way to the Inn a couple of arguing monks walk past and drop a tiger broach. Like the good samaritan I am, I pick it up and give it back to them. I gain some luck for being so honest.
On arrival at the inn, I chat to the barman for a while who tells me a story of a man called Tyuchev. He seems to be a nasty sort of chap so I make a mental note not to get into a fight with him. I then introduce myself to a group of thieves. I tell them I need some help with some unfinished business and they tell me to meet them later on in the Thieves Guild. Just at that moment, a man enters with a young lady.
It seems that this new arrival is Tyuchev. At this point I should have run away but for some reason I stayed where I was when he sat opposite me. I must have tourettes or something as when he insults me, I taunt him! I have to fight them both and they are both strong opponents. In the end I reduce Tyuchev’s stamina and he calls on the God of Anarchy, who enables him to escape. Phew.
On my way to my dinner appointment with the Sage, I am accosted by a small child. He seems to want to show me something so I follow him to see what he wants – a small child can’t be luring me into a trap, right? Turns out he is employed by some scholars who have successfully genetically engineered a nasty beast and they want to test out it’s fighting prowess on a willing volunteer. That happens to be me! I end up killing their creation, however, and they appear a bit sad and don’t give me the reward they promised. I push the point, however, and they hand over a potion of Agonising Doom! Sounds like something I had the other night! I say goodbye and head off to my dinner date.
Over dinner the sage tells me I need to head to a mountain in the East to find the portal home. He also tells me that to get out of Greyguilds, I need to find a gate in the cemetery and that if I ever get into serious trouble I can call on the Earth Mother god who will save me. This is great advice! It is also good food and I add 4 stamina points. I leave and head off to the thieves guild
On my way to the guild, I see a magician. I decide not to stop to take a closer look, however and hurry into the guild. Sure enough, there are plenty of thieves there! I decide that telling them exactly what we are looking for is a good motivator and it seems to work, they take me to the temple where the talisman is being held.
We reach the temple in no time, and they are very adept at gaining entry and disarming traps. They did, however, miss an old serving man so I decide to knock him out to silence him. I am given the option of running him through with my sword but can’t bring myself to do this so instead just bash him over his head. I stop the other thieves from killing him but sadly this means that I knock a dagger out of one of their hands. It alerts the guards. Oh dear, I’m in the dog house!
The thieves disappear and I carry on, running ahead. I come face to face with a guard and kill her quickly (I must do this within 5 rounds, which must be hard if I had a lesser skill score). I step over the fallen guard and find myself in Hawkana’s inner sanctum. She is none too pleased to see me and sends a fireball towards me. I get out of the way but not before it burns me a bit. I decide to use the Agonising Doom on her and it seems to cause her a lot of pain. She is injured but still very powerful so it is a close fight but in the end I kill her.
I snatch back the Talisman from her corpse and run for the door. To my horror, the door slams shut and I look back to see Hawkana has risen again. Damn, will she never die? Thankfully she is much weaker this time and it is an easier fight. This time, when she is down I see a ring on her finger which I take – it is a ring of regeneration so I put it on myself. I decide to leave this place but have to get past the thieves and warrior women first. I manage this but on leaving the temple, I bump straight into Tyuchev…
Seems he wants the Talisman and he is not alone. I am surrounded and all seems hopeless but I remember that I can call on the Earth Mother so that is what I do. I am then swept up by a huge Eagle and taken away from the rather miffed Tyuchev. I am put down somewhere else in the city and waste no time in trying to find the cemetery. I have an odd encounter with a moody monk before finding the graveyard.
On arrival at the cemetery I decide to investigate a lantern. It seems that it is not only moths attracted to light as I am also attacked by a Ghoul. Remembering what happened in the Warlock of Firetop Mountain, I was a little concerned but managed to kill it without too much hassle. Thankfully soon after this I find the gate and can leave the city!
Hoorah, the country air again – I can see my destination in the South East and have a choice of how to get there. I decide to head South first, then East. Nothing much happens on my first day out of the city but during the night I dream of Hawkana – she is even haunting me in my dreams! The next day nothing much happens again but once again I dream of Hawkana. This time I have to fight her spirit in my dream – this is getting to be a bit of an obsession!
The next day is a little more eventful. I am attacked by a Roc. I decide to stand up to fight but it just picks me up and takes me to its nest. It then tries to eat me but I fight back. It is a tough beast but thankfully I manage to stick my sword in its eye early on and it flies a way. I take a feather as a souvenir. Thankfully this night I do not dream of Hawkana and in the morning head off again and come to a waterfall. I decide to take a closer look…
On closer inspection I see that there is a cave behind the waterfall so I go enter to have a look around. I head down the right hand tunnel and find a room with a rectangle column in the centre of it. I read a message on it that indicates that there is a deadly poison furthest from the Scarab beetle. I am not sure what this means but I remember it nonetheless. Just at that moment I notice that the ceiling is falling down at quite a pace. I am just able to jump through the door opposite before it crashes to the floor.
The next room contains various different columns and I am told by a message that I can only read one. I pick the circular one and read the message that tells me behind the symbol on the first door is what I am looking for. This sounds helpful and the other pillars disappear so I move on.
The next room contains four doors with the following pictures on them:
I remember that the one furthest from the Scarab is probably deadly and the first one is the one I want. Therefore I avoid the snake and open the Dragon door. Behind the door is a crypt containing a dead adventurer clutching a Scimitar and a Spear. I decide to partake in a bit of grave robbing and take the spear. The spear has “Dragonsbane” written on it. Hmm… That’s promising! Just at that moment, though, the body rises from the dead (no doubt a bit upset about my thievery) and launches an attack on me. It is a Mummy and I have to kill it. Once it dies, I look around and find an escape route that takes me to a position above the waterfall.
Walking on, I notice a landslide but I flatten myself against the cliff and the boulders fall past without harming me. Pressing on I reach the plateau and I see some hairy Hogmen. I tell them that I mean them no harm. They still seem a bit dubious and I remember that I have a nice shiny ruby. I decide to give that to the Hogmen and they seem delighted. So much so in fact that they take me to their village.
At the village I talk to the chief and ask about the portal. He tells me that the portal is guarded by a Red Dragon and it must be slain before I can enter the portal. He also says that the only thing that can deflect the dragon’s fiery breath is a shield made out of it’s scales. He gives me a gourd of Amber Pine Gum that I can use to stick the scales together to make the shield. I will have to get the scales myself.
I eat with the Hogmen, then go on my way. Before long I find the lair of the Dragon and it smells heavily of Sulphur. I enter the cavern and see a small tunnel heading off to the right so I duck down it. The dragon is asleep and I sneak in and take some of the scales scattered around it. It doesn’t notice me so I leave it’s lair and stick the scales together to make a shield.
I finally arrive at the summit and I can see the portal! Predictably though, the dragon rushes up to block my way. At first I try and reason with the dragon, telling it that I need to go through the portal to save the world. The dragon agrees to let me past but tells me I cannot take weapons through the portal so I must place them on the floor. Hmm.. this seems a bit dodgy so I refuse. It tries hard to convince me but luckily I am not taken in by the dragon and rush forward to attack. Luckily the spear I have is very effective against dragons and I can cause 5 points of stamina every time I hit it.
With the Spear, the combat is not too hard and I quickly get the Dragon’s stamina down to 5 and suddenly it turns into an old man and begs me to spare it’s life. I consider it but remember the words of the Chief Hogman that I must slay it so I ignore his pleas and go in for the kill. And then the dragon is slain! There is nothing between me and the portal so I walk through with the talisman. I have saved Orb and this is the first book I have managed to complete!
Overall I rather enjoyed this book. There were a few tests of skill and luck that may have been harder with a weaker character and the Hawkana encounter was certainly testing but I found the book quite winnable. I am delighted to finally complete one of these books!