The primary antagonist and final enemy of the Fighting Fantasy gamebook Stealer of Souls, Mordraneth is an immensely powerful evil archmage, whom you must defeat before he can take over the entire world of Titan.
Mordraneth is a dark wizard whose mere name strikes fear in the heart of everyone in Titan. No one knows when he was born and where he learnt magic, but what his sure is that he owns a large domain in the continent of Allansia, which he either inherited or more likely conquered, and that he wants to take over the entire world.
Mordraneth is described as a classic evil wizard wearing a hooded robe and a cape. He is often referred to as a demonic being and even his face is described with demonic features, such as his shinning green eyes, evidencing his evil nature. His few lines depict a cruel, sadistic, impatient, arrogant and scornful man, who likes to taunt his foes and laughs when he harms them; yet he praises their valour (though he still considers them beneath him) and proves cautious and determined to know how his foes could work around his traps.
He controls an army of monsters, undeads and corrupt humans, and he has many spies all over Allansia and the continent of the Old World, if not Titan as a whole. Mordraneth taught dark magic and armed combat to his many pupils, referred to as the "Dark Priests", who are his most powerful and trusted followers.
Mordraneth is in permanent conflicts with the mages of of Pollua, capital of the country of Lendleland in the continent of the Old World, led by the Great Mage Vanestin, who keep foiling his schemes for world domination.
Powers and Abilities
Mordraneth is far and away one of the most powerful wizards ever seen in Titan, rivalling if not surpassing in might Oldoran Zagor, Balthus Dire, Zharradan Marr and Razaak themselves. The fact that among the many evil wizards faced in the Fighting Fantasy series, he is one of the few labelled as an archmage, (along with Xakhaz and the Archmage of Mampang) underlines this difference in power. Mordraneth is the weakest among them all in terms of fighting skills, but judging from his magical prowesses, he could be considered the mightiest in terms of sheer magical might.
This is due to his already great power, being vastly amplified by the countless souls in his grasp, as he drains near limitless energy, knowledge and power from them. He is a highly skilled practitioner of regular Dark Magic but he mostly specializes in both Necromancy and Illusionism.
Mordraneth is able to raise undeads from the grave at will and to capture the souls of the deads, but he is notable for his ability to extract the worst fears from the souls of dead people, especially his victims, and to bring them into existence under the shape of nightmarish illusions monstrously amplified.
These illusory nightmares are made almost real and prove extremely dangerous: a hydrophobia will create a tidal wave, a claustrophobia will make walls get gradually closer to squeeze people, a fear of the dark will create thick darkness able to engulf everything, and finally a fear of snakes or monsters (should they be imaginary) will bring them into existence; the strongest of these nightmares being immune to dispelling magic. This fearsome ability does not only stem from Mordraneth's Necromancy but also from his mastery of illusions, which he mixes skilfully.
Mordraneth is also able to disturb the balance of the magical forces in a given place, so that no one would be able to cast magic in said places any longer. The only way to circumvent this is to adapt one's magic to the disrupted balance, something only Mordraneth and his worthiest pupils know. Mordraneth also devised several spells (mostly dangerous magical attacks) which he taught to his pupils.
Moreover, Mordraneth can warp reality itself to some extent, as demonstrated when he turned the mere caverns of the Steel Crypts into a magnificent and luxurious subterranean palace, also when he created the Empire of Illusion, an extradimensional plane filled with his illusionary nightmares, that somehow expands the aforementioned caverns. He is also fully aware of everything that occur within his lair and he can talk or appear to anyone inside it.
In addition to his incredible powers, Mordraneth is a very skilled swordsman who uses a sabre as his weapon of choice, and a highly intelligent tactician, able to set clever traps and to turn his enemies' strategies to his advantage.
In Stealer of Souls
You play as a famed mercenary hired by Vanestin, the Great Mage of Pollua, who asks for your help in his war against the dreaded Mordraneth. The wizard Alsander, who was spying on the Supreme Necromancer and who discovered something extremely important about his nefarious schemes, was abducted and is kept captive on the Island of Despair, one of Mordraneth's secondary bases.
Vanestin asks you to head to the Isle of Despair and rescue Alsander, while he sent several ships full of his bests mages and warriors towards Mordraneth's domain; faking a high-scale attack in order to attract his attention. Vanestin cannot send a wizard, as the only magic which works inside Mordraneth's lairs is his own, and a group of warrior would be easily spotted by the enemy.
When you manage to set foot on the island, you can enlist the help of the Sea Giant and of the native tribe who live there, before entering the Steel Crypts where Alsander is kept prisoner. You must remain wary, as the Crypts form a maze full of monsters and traps, rather long to travel through. The most dangerous enemies encountered being the two Dark Priests, who learnt much from Mordraneth's lessons, a frightening Death Skull and a fearsome Skeletal Warrior.
- The first Dark Priest ambushes you shape-shifted as a captive. If you fall for his trick, he casts a spell that engulfs you in a shadowy sphere and costs 6 stamina points. He is a tough opponent with 9 in skill (power level) and 13 in stamina (life-points) who fights with a club.
- The second Dark Priest conjures a flurry of energy darts that you must dodge, or else it costs over a dice roll worth of stamina. He fights with a double flail and has 9 in skill and 12 in stamina.
- The Death Skull has 9 in skill and 10 in stamina. It fights with its jaws and the streams of blood from its eye-sockets, but the demonic vibrations it radiates cost you 1 skill point for the battle and 2 stamina points before you can even raise your sword.
- The Skeletal Warrior is a powerful foe with 10 in skill and 10 in stamina, who wields a great broadsword. It is advised to avoid fighting it.
Later, you rescue Alsander, who was being tortured by Mordraneth's servants. Indeed, Alsander discovered the way to use magic inside Mordraneth's lair, and the Supreme Necromancer wants to know how he did it. Alsander reveals that the whole situation is in fact a very clever trap devised by Mordraneth, who is secretly based in the depths of the Steel Crypts.
Mordraneth arranged the situation to make Vanestin believe that he always remained in his domain, for Vanestin to concentrate his forces on an empty target. He then turned Vanestin's trick against him, and is now ready to strike from behind with all his forces and get rid of his defenceless archenemy for good. The Supreme Necromancer devised a way to turn the worst fears of his victims into illusions, and he prepared an immense army of these dangerous nightmares. An army which would grow along with the casualties it would cause, and which would enable Mordraneth to take over the entire world of Titan.
Alsander then gives you many indications and teaches you several useful spells, before teleporting back to Pollua to warn Vanestin. Yet, should Vanestin be warned he still would not be able to call back his forces on time. This makes you the only one who can prevent the Supreme Necromancer from enacting his plan. As such, you venture into the Empire of Illusions, filled with Mordraneth’s countless illusionary nightmares.
Said illusionary nightmares will prove very dangerous, as facing them without a trick often leads to a very painful demise, and that the Anti-Illusion spell alone is seldom useful against the strongest ones. You will need several artifacts to overcome the nightmares safely. (The most dangerous being the claustrophobia, the Blue Dragon, the pit full of snakes, the hydrophobia and the Mammoth Spider.) Finally, you enter Supreme Necromancer's palace and engage the final battle of the gamebook.
- The Mammoth Spider is a bothersome foe with 8 in skill and 12 in stamina, who emits waves of pure fright that cost 1 skill point for the battle and 2 stamina points. You can destroy it without fight if you own a bandana, but the Anti Illusion spell will only cost it 4 stamina points.
Mordraneth first casts a Fireball spell that you need to dodge, or else you lose 6 stamina points (only 1 if you wear a magical ring.) You can also cast a spell of your own and engage an attack round against your enemy. (The one who wins will strike the other with his spell.) Then, you will have to climb the staircases to reach Mordraneth, knowing that the Supreme Necromancer can cast a Firebolt spell that costs 4 (or 1) stamina points, or a very dangerous spell that conjures thousands wires of dark energy, which can kill you outright. If you wear a silver ring the spell will be cancelled, otherwise you must dodge it and you will automatically lose 4 stamina points.
At last, you can battle against Mordraneth, who is a skilled swordsman with 10 in skill (2 points below the maximum) and 17 in stamina. Despite being a powerful and dangerous enemy, Mordraneth can be regarded as disappointing, considering the formidable final enemies that the same author would create later, such as the fearsome Count Reiner Heydrich and the nightmarish Night Dragon. This can be explained by the fact that Stealer of Souls is Keith Martin's first Fighting Fantasy gamebook. Do not take him lightly though, for he can prove quite the challenge if your skill score is not at the maximum.
With the wretched archmage dead and gone, every soul in his grasp is freed from its torment and departs to the Afterlife, while his Empire of Illusion vanishes from existence, leaving you free to exit the caves towards Pollua to savour your triumph.