The primary antagonist and final enemy of the Fighting Fantasy gamebook The Keep of the Lich Lord, Lord Mortis of Balthor is a powerful necromancer warlord who was slain two hundred years before the start of the gamebook. Mortis rises again as an undead Lich and tries once more to take over the archipelago of the Arrowhead Islands, only to be destroyed for good by the playable character, whom the Titan canon labelled as the Choosen of Lhyss.
Mortis was the ruler of the island of Balthor, in the Arrowhead Archipelago located off the north-east coast of Khul, one of the three continents of the world of Titan and a counterpart of some sort to medieval Asia. Mortis most likely inherited his title of Lord of Balthor. What is known is that he trained heavily in both Dark Magic and the art of war, and that he was a merciless, cold-blooded and sadistic tyrant, who was married to an equally evil woman called Lady Lotmora of Balthor. Mortis of Balthor was famous for his silver armour and his ominous black banners in tatters, symbols of Plague.
Two hundred years before the story told in The Keep of the Lich Lord, the evil warlord set out to conquer the entire archipelago, which may have been the first step of further plans of conquest, perhaps including the entire continent. Given Mortis' powerful army, talent of strategist and practice of necromancy (with which he raised fallen soldiers from both his army and the opposing ones) he posed enough of a threat for every kingdom in the Archipelago to fight together, forming an army led by the hero Khalamyn, helped by many elven tribes.
Mortis sent powerful living-deads to kill Khalamyn in his sleep, but this plan was thwarted by priestesses of Iatro the Goddess of Healing. Khalamyn ended up duelling Mortis one-on-one while their armies clashed, using the powerful Ivory Spear crafted through elven sorcery. Khalamyn threw the spear at his enemy, killing him at the very same second when he got struck and killed by a dark energy blast.
Mortis was buried in a crypt in Stayng Island near the place where he fell and peace returned. Yet, the necromancer's magic was so strong that he was bound to return under the shape of a Lich, and only the Ivory Spear, which was never removed from his dead body, prevented him from rising again.
Powers and Abilities
Mortis of Balthor is a highly skilled warlord and strategist, able to threaten an entire alliance of kingdoms with his sole armies, and a very skilled warrior in his own right who uses a mace in battle, wielding it with great strength and proficiency. Mortis' military talents are displayed all over the gamebook, through the description of his different squadrons of undeads and the strategic alliances he makes with the equally evil Chaos Pirates.
Despite Mortis being referred mostly as a powerful wizard in the gamebook, it is his warlord aspect which is primarily displayed. It must be noted that Mortis, like many other powerful villains, is overconfident, which sometimes prompts him to brag his strategies before his enemies, though he acts with caution even with enemies he deems inferior.
Magically speaking, Mortis of Balthor is a remarkably proficient master of necromancy, able to raise the deads from the grave as undead soldiers, but also by casting a Living-Death spell that kills people and turns them into undeads immediately after. Mortis can raise any kind of undead, from the classical zombies and skeletons to fearsome spectres, wights and even vampires, and summon powerful Skull Beasts that reside outside the worlds of both living and deads. He even created an elite squadron of the fearsome Knights of Alptraum, powerful undead souls sealed into a suit of armour. Finally, Mortis' undeads soldiers (and also Mortis himself, given that he is a Lich) are surrounded by an Aura of Fear that can weaken even the most determined warriors.
The Lich Lord is also able to attack with blasts of dark energy or ghostly smoke, to set magical traps, to magically seal entrances among other things. It must be noted that Mortis only raises undead for warring purposes, and as such, his undeads servants can do nothing but fight. Also his undeads cannot cross rivers and water ponds and they are all (including the Lich Lord himself) weaker during daytime.
In The Keep of the Lich Lord
You play as a famed mercenary who served for several years in the prestigious White Tiger regiment, in the huge Arrowhead Archipelago. As your time in the regiment is coming to an end, you are about to leave when you are summoned by the Triumvir, the Council of Three who rule the Varadian Alliance (the common government of the entire archipelago) who asks for your help against an upcoming threat. The Triumvir just received a report from Lord Braxis, the wise governor of Stayng Island, informing them that his castle, the Bloodrise Keep, is besieged by a powerful undead army led by a knight in a silver armour, and is about to fall.
The Triumvir tells you that the knight is the infamous Mortis of Balthor, who has risen from the grave. Mortis is about to strike an alliance with the Chaos Pirates from Blood Island, who wage a continuous war against the Alliance but who are no match for the powerful Varadian fleet. If Mortis' undead army and the Chaos Pirates were to make their junction, the Alliance would not be able to resist and Mortis would take over the entire archipelago. Given that the entire Varradian army has to repel a high scale attack from the Chaos Pirates, you must venture alone on Stayng Island to destroy Mortis, guided by the General Chaideshu, who keeps in touch with you through a Communication Ring.
Very early in the game, you can head to Mortis' Crypt, where you discover that a foolish graverobber awoke the mighty Lich Lord by taking the Ivory Spear of Khalamyn, and get the spear for yourself. The spear is a very powerful weapon which inflicts a loss of 4 stamina points (life points) instead of the regular 2 whenever you strike an undead. It must be noted that when facing an undead, you must test your resolve to see whether or not the Aura of Fear will weaken you during the fight.
At some point, you halt in an inn when you can meet Kandogor, a surviving soldier from Bloodrise Keep and a vile traitor who swore allegiance to the Lich Lord, who offers to follow you (in order to better backstab you). Avoiding contact with him is the best solution. You can also meet the female Elf Elindora, who asks for your help to destroy Lady Lotmora, Mortis' wife whom the Lich Lord resurected as a Vampire Lady and who is terrorizing the nearby town. If you are followed by Kandogor, the traitor will try to dissuade you to listen to Elindora, and might even kill her before killing you in your sleep.If you agree to help Elindora, you go to the graveyard to find the vault of the vampire. If you immediately head to the north-east part, you will found the vault during daytime and slay Lady Lotmora and her vampire minions without resistance.
- If you encounter the vampires in the evening, the powerful Vampire Lady will have 9 in skill (level of power) and 11 in stamina (life-points), and will fight you alongside two weaker vampires, while Elindora deals with the last two vampires. You must defeat them in less than 9 attack rounds, or else night will fall and every vampire will gain 2 in skill and 5 in stamina. If the vampires are found at night, Lady Lotmora will have 11 in skill and 18 in stamina.
- This challenge can prove very hard, as Lady Lotmora and even her minions put up quite a challenge, even with the Ivory Spear. Before fighting, she always tries to hypnotize you, forcing you to win a test of resolve to overcome it. (If the test is failed by night time, the game is over. Otherwise, it "only" weakens you.) Moreover, if Lady Lotmora wounds you, she can cause a temporary loss of 1 skill point.
- If Kandogor followed you and Elindora, he will make sure that you only find Lady Lotmora by night and will fight you alongside her, making the battle worse and trying to flee upon the vampires’ demise. Only throwing the Ivory Spear can kill the cowardly traitor.
After this, Elindora will give you a powerful magic ring and you might be given other valuable items if you meet the elven tribe, who give shelter to many denizen of the island in their forest, protected from the undeads by their powerful magic.
You will also fight the Chaos Pirates, who are invading villages all around the island to take the population as slaves for their warships. You can sneak into the pirate ship and kill the wretched and cowardly Captain Jarmesh, ultimately freeing every slave. If you visited the Temple of Lhyss, you may also go to the menhir of Whistlestone Tor, where you will face an ordeal by Lhyss (the local name for Sindla Goddess of Fate and Luck), and receive her benediction, which significantly raises your skill and stamina.
- You can also venture in a town plagued by a Skull Beast, summoned from the Land of the Dead by Mortis. The beast is a dangerous enemy with 9 in skill and 10 in stamina, who only loses 1 point of stamina when you strike it with anything but a mace.
Upon entering the Bloodrise Keep, you notice that Mortis has made a dam of bones and corpses to block the Scort River, emptying the moat around the fortress and enabling his undeads to go in and out as they please. If Kandogor fought you alongside Lady Lotmora and survived, he will attack you with a ballista and only a special trick can avoid a gruesome demise.
Because it is daytime, neither Mortis nor his undeads can leave the fortress, but they are still active within its walls and you get an Alarm Value, which rises depending on your stealth while sneaking into the fortress. The higher the Alarm Value is, the more dangerous the fortress will be. You can interact with human servants that Mortis kept alive to do the chores that his undeads are incapable of.
You can also meet Lady Iola, the noble mother of Lord Braxis and a priestess of the goddess Iatro, who is protected from the undeads as long as she remains near the goddess’ altar. Lady Iola can teach you the Disruption Charm, a powerful holy spell that can destroy all nearby undeads and proves extremely useful. You must also avoid the powerful Knights of Alptraum, who have all 10 in skill and 9 in stamina.
After meeting Lord Braxis, whom Mortis kept alive but imprisoned in a far too small cell, you can decide where you will confront the vile Lich Lord, which is a major innovation in a Fighting Fantasy game. You can either exit the Bloodrise Keep to head for the dam, which is the easiest path, or enter the dungeon to reach Mortis’ throne room, the hardest path.
Battle at the damWhen you begin climbing the horrid dam made of bones, Mortis of Balthor himself exits the Keep horseback to get rid of you, in spite of daytime. If you can use the Disruption Charm, it will destroy the dam and free the river, causing a huge tidal wave-like flood that will swallow and destroy the Lich Lord without fight. The undeads will then set the Bloodrise Keep on fire to destroy themselves, and their freed souls will fly away to the other side of the Veil, under the shape of countless white birds.
If you own the Ivory Spear of Khalamyn and launch it at Mortis, you must win a test of skill. If you succeed Mortis will be destroyed once and for all, otherwise there is no other choice than to battle to the death. Mortis is not at his maximum but he remains a powerful enemy with 10 in skill and 20 in stamina. Given the Lich Lord’s very strong Aura of Fear, you automatically lose 1 skill point and must test your resolve. In case of failure Mortis will lose only 1 stamina point when struck (2 with the spear) and the battle will prove very troublesome.
Battle in the throne roomReaching the throne room can prove quite dangerous, as the higher the Alarm Value is, the more powerful the undead guards will be. If the Alarm Value is too high, you will get killed by a magical trap set by Mortis who has spotted you, upon entering the throne room.
If you own the Ivory Spear of Khalamyn, you can once again throw it at the Lich Lord to destroy him without fight, should you win a test of skill. Given that night falls when you confront Mortis, the Lich Lord will be at his full power. Mortis is a powerful enemy with 11 in skill (only one point below the maximum) and 20 in stamina. Oddly enough, nothing is said about his Aura of Fear and there is no test of resolve, so the Lich Lord is not that harder to defeat than when fought on the dam of bones, though much harder to reach.
Mortis of Balthor shares similarities with Voivod the Waster and Belgaroth, two other Fighting Fantasy villains who are also powerful dark knights defeated long ago, who rise again and must be defeated with a magical spear.