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Shadow King (Fighting Fantasy)

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The Shadow King is the main villain and final enemy of the Fighting Fantasy gamebook Night of the Necromancer. He is a demonic Death Lord who aims to take over the Earthly Planes. He is worshipped by a doomsday cult which seeks to bring about his reign, but he is eventually defeated by the playable character, the Lord of Valsinore.

About the Shadow King

Not much is known about the Shadow King in himself. He is described as one the Death Lords, but no further explanation is given. He might be a minor evil deity, or at least of Demi-God status, and was certainly a high-ranking follower of the High Lords of Evil and Chaos: the Demon Gods Death, Disease and Decay. However, we never learn exactly how he came into existence. Also, the fact that he is referred to as a Death Lord implies that there might have been others, but there is only room for speculation.

What is sure is that he is on a more or less equal footing with the Demon Princes themselves; that he has considerable influence over death, undeath, afterlife and malevolent souls; and that he is worshipped by many evil doers in the continent of the Old World, and perhaps in the entire world of Titan. He seeks to enter the Earthly Planes and raise all the deads from their graves to take over Titan, cover it in darkness and claim the souls of its entire population.

The Shadow King is described as a ghastly creature made of pure darkness, twice as tall as a man, with no visible face except from two bright red eyes, wearing a shroud and a dark armour with a crown-like helmet; much in the same way as the Witch-King of Angmar.

He is a highly powerful being, whose influence alone troubles the rest of the departed souls, plagues the slumber of livings with nightmares awful enough to manifest as spiritual entities, takes control of magic creatures trying to delve in his domain, and causes the rise of many ghastly monsters. He is able to break the spirit of those he speaks to and make them his slaves, to raise undeads at will, to open gates between both sides of the Veil to send his servants to the Earthly Plane, to prevent his followers from dying, and to allow his worshippers to channel his power through magical orbs.

Given his influence over death, it can be guessed that he was one of Death's champions, probably linked to Death's major lieutenant Voivod the Waster. He most likely took part in the First Battle, which opposed the Gods of Titan to the Demon Gods, and escaped after his masters were banished into the Void (just like Voivod and the Night Dragon), and was very likely unable to leave the Spiritual Planes ever since.

In Night of the Necromancer

Game introduction

You play as a powerful holy knight, member of the Templars of Telak the God of Warriors; just like the hero Evrain Peredur who defeated the Dread Lord Belgaroth. You just spent three years fighting against a Cult of Death in the principality of Bathoria. Now that the sect has been destroyed, you return to your domain of Valsinore, located in the country of Ruddlestone, which you left under the care of your chamberlain Count Unthank.

However, just as you come close to your castle, you are ambushed by a member of the Cult of Death who kills you with a bolt of dark energy. Now a ghost, you resolve to discover why you were murdered and to punish the culprit. However, you soon discover that Valsinore has been cursed by evil forces, with spectres, undeads and monsters roaming the land.

Despite being the major threat of the story and the source of the scourges, the Shadow King has yet to enter the Earthly Planes, thus making the mysterious true master of the Cult of Death the central antagonist of the story.

You playing as a ghost is a unique feature of the gamebook. You cannot hold any object and you absorb your defeated foes' energy to get healed. You cannot go through doors marked with a rune that repels spirits, and you develop several ghostly powers as the story progresses; becoming able to make things levitate, to fly, to possess people’s body and gain their skill (power level) and stamina (life-points), to turn invisible, to cause awful illusions, among others. You also have a score of willpower to keep your calm in frightful situations.

If you were to lose all your stamina, you would get sent to the Land of the Dead and what happens next depends on how you led your quest. You will encounter the Watcher of the Gate, guardian of afterlife, who might allow you to return to the Earthly Planes if you are convincing enough. If you can tell the Watcher the name of the Cult Master, he will give you the traitor's Hourglass of Life and send you back whence you came to put a definite end to the traitor's wretched life.

The quest in itself

The first thing you must do is to deal with the Death Acolyte who killed you. The Acolyte must be dealt with directly or he might banish you to the other side of the Veil. He has only 7 in skill and 7 in stamina, but he escapes when weakened enough. Then, going near the cromlech of the Nine Maiden gives you a significant power up but you must leave immediately after and the quest can really begin.

You can enlist the help of the seer Madame Zelda; but if you ask the witch Mother Toadsfoot for assistance, her familiar will get corrupted by the Shadow King's power and kill her before attacking you. Also, beware Baron Blood, the ghost tasked to bring wandering souls to the Land of the Dead. If you go to the village of Sleath, you will have to destroy the Phantasmal Fiend born from the nightmares caused by the Shadow King's influence and free the villagers. In the cemetery you will have to free the souls of the departed from the grasp of a dangerous Grave Golem, at the risk of becoming one of its captives for all of eternity. Finally, avoid contact with the Ghost Hunter Josef Van Richten, for he attacks you on sight and might trap you for eternity within a bewitched bottle.

If you decide to explore the countryside, you can investigate the ghost village of Fetchfen, hometown of Count Unthank, and learn that decades ago, he made a pact with the Shadow King and offered him the souls of all the villagers (including his own) in exchange for eternal life. There, you must defeat Nosferatu of Bathoria, a former Vampire Lord driven away from his domain by your crusade in Bathoria, who took shelter in the ghost town but degenerated into a grotesque humanoid bat because he had nothing but corpses to feed upon.

  • Before fighting, you must win a test of willpower to resist the vampire's hypnotic gaze, or become his slave for eternity. Nosferatu is a powerful enemy with 11 in skill and 14 in stamina. If you flee, Nosferatu calls forth a swarm of bats that deals a dice roll worth of damage.

You can also head towards the Icefinger Tower and fight the fearsome Winter King to gain the Spirit Stone.

  • Before fighting, the Winter King calls forth frozen undeads with 7 in skill and 6 in stamina. The Winter King himself is a powerful enemy with 11 in skill and 14 in stamina. If you lose these fights, you get turned into one of the Winter King's Ice Ghost servants and the game is over.
L'assassin et le nécromancien

Unthank (right) and the Acolyte

After entering your castle, you might reunite first with your loyal hound Korzen, who provides significant help against corporeal enemies, then with your younger sister Oriana who provides valuable information.

You will eventually learn that the responsible of your death is none other than Count Unthank, who is in fact a necromancer and the true master of the Cult of Death you fought in Bathoria. The cunning necromancer used the Bathorian branch of his cult to lure you away and take control, then spread the Shadow King's influence over Valsinore and brought in many powerful Dread Knights. Because of this, you must be cautious when talking to people as many will mistake you for an evil spirit mimicking you and will attack out of fright.

You must possess someone to venture into the crypts. There, you will have to fight against a dangerous Hellfire Golem and a Wraith Queen who took your magic sword Nightslayer from your corpse.

  • The Hellfire Golem has 9 in skill and 12 in stamina. Without a magic sword, your blows might cost it 1 stamina point instead of the regular 2. It can attack with regular blows, powerful blows that cost 4 stamina points, or fireballs that cost the result of a dice roll in stamina.
  • The Wraith Queen first summons a monster for you to fight and tries to compel you into obedience, which can only be overcome by winning a test of willpower, then she attacks. She has 9 in skill and 10 in stamina, and she can attack with her claws, her ghastly wail (which costs 1 in stamina and 2 skill points for the following attack round), or by summoning an imp with 6 in skill and 6 in stamina to fight by her side.

You will have to possess someone and to answer three enigmas before entering the dungeons. There, a necromantic spell assembles a bunch of bones into a Bonebeast which attacks you; the Bonebeast's nature and power being determined by a dice roll.

  • The Chimerical Bonebeast has 9 in skill and 11 in stamina, the Living Fossil has 10 in Skill and 10 in stamina, and the Dragonkind has 11 in skill and 12 in stamina. It attacks with its claws, its tail (which costs 2 stamina points and 1 in skill for the following attack round), and its bite which costs 3 stamina points for the Chimerical Beast, 6 for the Living Fossil and 4 for the Dragonkind.

Many very useful items can be found in the dungeons, including the Codex Mortis (Unthank’s Grimoire), the Oil of Midnight, the magic scythe Amethyst Blade, and the magic Soul Shield. Finally, you must fight a powerful guardian with 10 in skill and 10 in stamina before settling your score with Unthank once and for all.

Confronting Unthank

Unthank is found in the cromlech of the Nine Maiden, surrounded by many Death Acolytes, ghastly shadows and Dread Knights; and prepares to use Oriana's life-force during a moon eclipse to bring the Shadow King on the Earthly Planes.

  • The easiest solution is to rush towards Unthank, who blasts you with a surge of dark energy costing 3 stamina points. Immediately after, he brings forth the Shadow King... who casually kills the now useless necromancer with a scythe.
  • Using an amulet only serves to weaken you. Then the Shadow King will rise and dispose of his servant.
  • If you try to sneak into the ceremony, you will have to fight two shadows and watch Unthank bring forth his lord and get killed.
  • Using the Codex Mortis enables you to cast three spells that can weaken, destroy or strengthen the two shadows that will attack you, while the necromancer bring forths his lord and gets killed.
  • Shattering the Spirit Stone unleashes a swarm of ghosts who destroy Unthank's servants. If you take profit of this to rescue Oriana, you will have to fight either a Death Acolyte or the Grandmaster of the Dread Knights (a very powerful foe with 12 in skill and 12 in stamina), and the Shadow King will rise and kill Unthank.
  • If you shatter the Spirit Stone and attacks the necromancer, you need the Soul Shield to deflect his spell or get banished to the Land of the Dead. You can kill your foe without fight by shattering the Hourglass of Life that the Watcher of the Gate gave you; otherwise, Unthank attacks you with a black dagger. The necromancer has 11 in skill and 10 in stamina, making him a powerful enemy. The Shadow King rises right after the wretched traitor is dealt with.
  • If you have the Watcher's hourglass, you can kill Unthank without fight by shattering it, but you will be attacked by two dangerous Dread Knights with 9 and 8 in skill and 9 in stamina, whose blows can cost 3 stamina points instead of the regular 2; and the Shadow King will enter the Earthly Plane.

Confronting the Shadow King

After Unthank’s death, you get resurrected by the life-force that the necromancer stole to live long beyond his time. As such, should you die again, your soul will belong to the Shadow King and the game will be lost. The fearsome Death Lord orders you to bow down before him and you must win a test of willpower to avoid becoming his slave and losing the game. If the Great Spectre killed Unthank himself, he will raise him as a dangerous undead with 9 in skill and 8 in stamina, who deals grievous additional damage if he strikes you twice in a row.

The Shadow King is a very powerful and dangerous foe with 13 in skill (1 point over the regular maximum) and 18 in stamina. If you lack a magic weapon or an item allowing you to win without fight, you are doomed. Shattering the Spirit Stone or using the Codex Mortis unleashes a swarm of ghosts who overwhelm and destroy the demon. However, using the latter forces you to win a test of willpower; should you fail you will become the Shadow King’s slave and lose the game. Also, using the Oil of Midnight against the Great Spectre costs him 2 skill points and 6 stamina points.

When fighting the Shadow King, you gain 1 skill point if you wield the sword Nightslayer or the Amethyst Blade. Also, striking the demon with Nightslayer costs him 3 stamina points and striking him with the Amethyst Blade costs him 4 stamina points. With both the Oil of Midnight and one of the two magic weapons, the Shadow King can be defeated with little trouble.

With the Shadow King gone and you and your sister safe and sound, the rising sun destroys the vengeful ghost of Unthank before he can strike and banishes him to the Realm of the Damned for eternity; ending the threat of the Cult of Death for good.

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