Zanbar Bone, the Night Prince, is an immensely powerful undead demon warlock, who serves as the primary antagonist and final enemy of the Fighting Fantasy gamebook City of Thieves and its sequel The Port of Peril. Port Blacksand, the titular City of Thieves would become a major recurring element of the Fighting Fantasy universe.
Zanbar Bone's past and rise to power was not described in City of Thieves, which presents him as a powerful Dark Lord exerting his influence all over the world of Titan, known and feared by everyone. His origins were defined in Titan the Fighting Fantasy World and Out of the Pit, two books describing in detail the Fighting Fantasy universe, though it is stated that none but a few scholars know about it, with most people only caring to know that he exists for as long as anyone can remember. His background is confirmed in The Port of Peril.
Zanbar Bone was born as a human in the prosperous city of Fang in Allansia, the most featured continent of Titan. He was the son of two merchants from the highest social class, who secretly led a cult devoted to Myurr, one of the three most powerful Demon Princes of Titan, with whom Zanbar Bone seems to have some sort of link. Since the first day of his life, he always had eerie cat-like green eyes that revealed an immense demonic power, which manifested more and more frequently in intense spates of violence.
As he grew older, his parents grew irked by his increasing influence over their sect and sent him to the world's best school of magic in the Forest of Yore. There, Zanbar Bone's immense power, focus, intelligence and thirst for knowledge made a huge impression on his teachers, with the exception of the great archmage and school master Vermithrax Moonchaser, who kept watching him.
Zanbar Bone was only rivalled in power and skill by the three Star Pupils; three students who joined the school a few years after him, who were later to number among the greatest and most respected mages in the whole world of Titan: Arakor Nicodemus, Gereth Yaztromo and Pen Ty Kora the Healer. Zanbar Bone hated them with a passion and developed a bitter rivalry with Nicodemus, who like him was the son of rich merchants from Fang and knew gloomy rumours about Zanbar Bone's parents' no-longer-so-secret cult, of which he himself was unaware.
Over time, Zanbar Bone's evil nature became increasingly blatant, frightening teachers and pupils alike, as he often dwelled in darkness, where he claimed to feel safe, and developed a huge interest in Elven Magic and especially Dark Elven Magic.
One fateful night, Arakor Nicodemus witnessed Zanbar Bone murdering an elven student girl named Ellanor, who likely killed her to perform some dark ritual. Zanbar Bone attacked Nicodemus with red tentacles of demonic fire, battled and quickly overpowered him. Nicodemus only owed his life to Vermithrax Moonchaser himself, who barged in alerted by the noise of the battle, alongside many pupils and wood elves, and dispelled Zanbar Bone's magic. Furious, Zanbar Bone unleashed a tremendous onslaught of magical energy at the archmage, who deflected it back at him. This day marked both the most impressive display of magic ever seen in the Forest of Yore and a turning point in the school's history.
Severely wounded and reduced to a living human skeleton, Zanbar Bone disappeared into the night not to be seen for decades. It is said that he returned to Fang and murdered his parents, taking over their wealth and their cult and using it for his own sinister agenda. He later willingly turned himself into a lich, becoming the skeletal demon depicted in City of Thieves and rose into power to become the formidable Night Prince, whose awful reputation and influence spread all over Titan.
At some point, he seized a territory in the north of Allansia which he turned into a lifeless, accursed land, before building his Black Tower and surrounding himself with a court of monsters and demons. It is likely that Arakor Nicodemus kept opposing him without being able to fully take him down, given that the powerful mage is the only one who knows how to kill the Night Prince.
Given that Nicodemus, who first met Zanbar Bone when they were teenagers, is a retired old man in City of Thieves, and considering that powerful mages can live over two centuries, it can be guessed that the Night Prince exerted his evil for many, many decades.
AppearanceZanbar Bone is described as a skeleton with shinning green eyes, wearing a golden crown and a black robe. The official illustrations of City of Thieves depict him with many horns all over the skull, spikes around the neck, claws, and cat-like eyes. He is also depicted with a diadem instead of a crown, and carrying a scythe which makes him look somehow similar to the Grim Reaper.
In The Port of Peril, Zanbar Bone is described as even more demonic looking, with longer horns, cloven hooves, and huge, black, bat-like wings. The illustration depicts him with two long straight horns and wearing a dark armour.
While he was once a human wizard, albeit a human with demonic characteristics who could be considered half-demon, Zanbar Bone is now a frightful evil being, being at the same time an undead lich and a high-ranking demon. The Port of Peril focuses on his demonic nature, as he now sports decidedly demonic features, and is described in a grimoire as a Skeleton Demon. It also states that his essence was cast to the Demonic Planes of Existence after being vanquished, and that in the same way as a demon, he can never be fully destroyed and shall eventually return. Still, contrary to the demons who regenerate over the centuries, he had to be resurrected through a ritual.
Powers and AbilitiesAs a young human, Zanbar Bone was already powerful enough to battle an archmage, and he might be even mightier as a lich. Despite being one of the very few Fighting Fantasy villains never faced in a direct battle, Out of the Pit sets his statistics at 14 in skill (power level, 2 points over the normal maximum) and 20 in stamina (life-points), making him one of the mightiest villains of the series. However, the IOS adaptation Fighting Fantasy Legends sets significantly lower (albeit still formidable) statistics at 12 in skill and 17 in stamina. It must be noted that enemy statistics are not always the same between the gamebooks and the IOS game. It is stated in The Port of Peril that he is at a similar level to the Demon Princes themselves, somehow in tune with the Out of the Pit statistics.
He resides in another Plane of Existence (likely the Demonic Planes or the Astral Planes) by daytime, and can only be faced after sunset. Attacking him the normal way would be useless. To defeat him, one must first break his evil power before using magic methods, after which he is reduced to ashes. It is stated in The Port of Peril that while he can be bested in battle by mighty warriors, even with the most potent magic and weapons, it would be only a minor inconvenience to him.
Zanbar Bone is a master of Dark Magic, expert in Necromancy and Demonology, able to cast curses on objects, people or entire towns. He can create skeleton warriors by throwing his teeth to the ground, raise a large army of powerful skeleton warriors (that dissolves to ashes if he is destroyed), create unique and powerful undeads and monsters, conjure eldritch forces, and summon demons. He can shape-shift at will, and he apparently enjoys turning into a black cat, as among the illusions encountered when the player enters his room is a black cat who "is not what they thought it was". He can also see and talk where he is not physically present, though it is not known if he can do it anywhere or simply inside his tower, and to cast powerful illusions to mask his presence.
Zanbar Bone's most prominent powers are his hypnotic gaze able to paralyze anyone, and his ability to absorb people's life-force by touching them, until they die and turn into one of his undead servants. When it comes to magic battles, Zanbar Bone's favourite means of attack are a demonic red fire which he can apparently shape at will, into tentacles for instance, and blasts of magical energy of variable might.
Zanbar Bone resides in his Black Tower. He controls many monsters, fiends and living-deads, which he frequently sends out for the simple tasks; and he created powerful kinds of monsters like the frightful living-deads known as the Spirit Stalkers, which he uses as messengers and entrusts with the most important missions, and the bloodthirsty Moondogs. Everyone in Allansia, and very likely everywhere in Titan, has heard of his frightening reputation, and those who tried to destroy him all met a grisly end, likely now serving as his undead lackeys.
Zanbar Bone has no desire of conquest, but he does not need to conquer any land, as he already exerts his reign of terror beyond the limits of his domain. Him sending his Spirit Stalkers in a town to demand a young citizen brought to his Black Tower in City of Thieves implies that he does this often, exposing those who refuse to dire consequences. No one knows what he plans to do with the people he abducts but, considering his past, it can be assumed that he sacrifices them in some dark ritual, or some foul experiment on Dark Elven Magic.
Zanbar Bone rarely leaves his Tower, which while still being dark and gloomy, befitting a Dark Lord of his level, is much more luxurious, decorated and overall well-kept than many other demonic hideouts, hinting that the Night Prince has very good taste and lives here like any wealthy human lord would.
Little to nothing is known about his goals and intentions, though he seems content with spreading terror and taking what he needs, but like your typical Dark Lord, he is horribly cruel, hateful, demanding and vindictive. He acknowledges the merits of his foes, though he does not fear them and scoffs at the idea of being defeated. Judging by his backstory, he appears selfish, entitled and greedy, hating anyone who could shake his control over the situation and reacting violently to opposition. However, he appears calm, collected and regal, and pretty tactical and intelligent, preparing ambushes, hiding relics that can counter his magic under his watch, and taking great care in removing his enemies as a threat before making his move.
Role in City of Thieves
You play as a famed adventurer who enters the opulent city of Silverton. You find the population tense and wary and remarks that the doors and windows have been reinforced with iron bars. After entering the local inn, Mayor Owen Carralif enters in a rush and asks to speak with you.
He explains that the dreaded Zanbar Bone has cursed the town. One day, several Spirit Stalkers arrived and told Carralif that Zanbar Bone wanted his daughter Mirelle to be brought to his tower, but he vehemently refused. In retaliation, Zanbar Bone sends each night six fearsome Moondogs to Silverton to kill as many people as possible, causing dozens of casualties. The population hides in their homes at night, but the situation is no longer bearable, and some citizens began considering sending Mirelle to the Night Prince.
Carralif hires you to find the famed mage Arakor Nicodemus and ask his help to destroy Zanbar Bone. The problem is that Nicodemus retired himself in Port Blacksand, the infamous City of Thieves, inhabited by the worst kinds of scoundrels of the entire continent. As you leave the inn, you stumble upon a black cat, who could be a shape-shifted Zanbar Bone, given that he takes this form before the final battle.
You must venture illegally into the heavily guarded Port Blacksand, to meet the legendary mage, who tells you how to destroy Zanbar Bone. You will first need to make a silver arrow to pierce the Night Prince's heart, then get the hair of a witch, black pearls and lotus flowers to create the compound that would kill him. You must also get tattooed with the picture of a white unicorn on a yellow sun, to be protected against Zanbar Bone’s hypnosis.
You then start exploring the labyrinth-like town, dealing with countless thieves, crooks, pirates, monsters, corrupt guards and troll mercenaries. You can fight against a witch in the sewers of the city, and if you manage to overcome the spell she casts, you will cut a lock of her hair. The black pearls are found in a pirate ship in the port, and must be taken from a sleeping pirate without waking him up. The lotus flowers are found in the city's small public garden, the silver arrow can be made by the city’s goldsmith, and the tattoo is the last element gathered.
At some point, you will be involved in a fight with Fatnose and Sourbelly, two trolls from the city guard, forcing you to flee the town, whether or not you fight them. If you get captured by the trolls or has not collected all you need before leaving the town, the game is lost.
- Fatnose has 9 in skill and 10 in stamina, and Sourbelly has 10 in skill and 11 in stamina, making them powerful enemies. You can flee after killing Sourbelly, but you lose 1 in skill throwing your shield at Fatnose, so beware.
Now is the time to venture into the Night Prince's domain where dwell many of his loyal monsters. There, you receive a message from Nicodemus, stating that only two of the three ingredients are needed for the magic compound. You later head to Zanbar Bone's gloomy Black Tower, filled with many monsters and deadly traps.
- The tower is guarded by two powerful Moondogs, with 9 and 10 in skill and 10 and 9 in stamina.
- Then, a dangerous Spirit Stalker, who can only be destroyed with a silver arrow, is fought in the tower's hall. The mere contact of its hands decays the living flesh, so do not lose any time in useless attempts and immediately shoot him.
After killing the Spirit Stalker, you can take one of the two shields exposed here. One of them has been cursed by Zanbar Bone and will harm you, while the other belonged to a hero killed by the Night Prince and increases your skill. You must by no means spend the night sleeping in the tower, lest you get killed by Zanbar Bone’s servants, nor meeting the female vampire dwelling there without garlic, lest she turns you into her thrall.
Zanbar Bone is located in the room with a black door on the fourth floor, and his voice is heard out of nowhere, taunting you as you come near. However, you can explore further before reaching Zanbar Bone, and set free a magic-wielding dwarf locked inside a glass orb on the tower's roof, to get fully healed in prevision of the upcoming battle. Finally, you must fight a mummy to obtain the Ring of the Golden Eye.
The Final Battle
Upon entering Zanbar Bone's room, you need the Ring of the Golden Eye to overcome a trap of illusions, otherwise you get killed immediately. Zanbar Bone then summons three skeleton warriors that you must defeat before challenging your enemy at last. Fortunately, the skeletons do not pose a big threat.
Zanbar Bone has no defined statistic. Defeating him involves winning skill tests with dices and guessing right. First, you must win a test of luck to shoot Zanbar Bone in the heart with a silver arrow. Then you must choose one of the three possible magic compounds, which you will put on his eyes to destroy him and win the game.
If you miss Zanbar Bone's heart or choses a wrong compound, the Night Prince will turn you into his undead servant with his life-absorbing touch and win the fight. This means that the first try will be very risky, but that completing the game again will be much easier, now that you know which compound is needed.
Role in The Port of Peril
You play as a mercenary warrior who fell on rough times and is looking for a quest in the town of Calice. You then obtain a map that might lead you to a treasure hunt, and decide to give it a go. The Port of Peril is a quite easy and rather linear Fighting Fantasy gamebook, filled to the brim with cameos and references to other books of the series. There are many items and trinkets to collect, but very few will prove useful, so you need to choose wisely.
On your way to find the treasure, the magic Ring of Burning Snakes, you venture in the Moonstone Hills, towards the Skull Crag peak, where you meet and befriend the female ninja Hakasan Za, who becomes your travelling partner, providing priceless help throughout your adventure. Hakasan states that the Ring was taken by a man named Gurnard Jaggle, who resides in the very dangerous Darkwood Forest.
As you set out to find him, you come across a dying stone carver named Horace Wolff, who reveals in his last breath that the recently vanquished Zanbar Bone, has been resurrected. Lord Varek Azzur the wretched governor of Port Blacksand has conspired with the Spirit Stalkers to bring back the Night Prince, before kidnapping Wolff's wife Luanna to force him to carve keystones for Zanbar Bone to bewitch, but he tried to escape and got killed. The hero who killed him having burned the Black Tower to the ground, Zanbar Bone sets out to establish a new, much larger domain to restart his reign of terror even worse than before, threatening Allansia as a whole. To do so, he raised a vast army of skeleton warriors and summoned a very powerful Lesser Demon called Quag-Shugguth.You reach Darkwood Forest and find out that Zanbar Bone is suppressing the great mage Gereth Yaztromo's influence by covering his tower with bewitched black stones. Yaztromo needs Arakor Nicodemus' help, but he cannot search for him himself, as he is busy keeping the Night Prince's forces at bay.
In a call back to City of Thieves, Yaztromo asks you and Hakasan to go to Port Blacksand and save Nicodemus, who was thrown in jail by Zanbar Bone and Lord Azzur to keep him from meddling. Once again, you must venture into the despicable wretched hive, escaping crooks and guards to rescue Nicodemus. Alas, the old mage is powerless without his magic ring that Zanbar Bone stole, none other than the Ring of Burning Snakes you were searching for. It appears that the ring was stolen by a Chaos Warrior named Klash, whom you must track down and kill, before returning to Darkwood Forest with your allies to put an end to Zanbar Bone's threat.
The Final BattleYou arrive just in time to save Yaztromo, whose tower is besieged by the Night Prince’s skeleton army. Upon confronting Zanbar Bone at last, you must first destroy Quag-Shugguth. If you lack a weapon against the eldritch Lesser Demon, you lose 4 skill points, putting you at a disadvantage against this very powerful enemy. On the contrary, if you have the Venom Sword you gain a bonus of 3 skill points against demons, making the battle much easier.
As Zanbar Bone has yet to recover his full might, he is not that hard to defeat if you are well equipped. Once again, he has no defined statistic and defeating him involves winning tests, but one error means an instant game over. You stand no chance without your powerful allies. Yaztromo grants you a huge power boosts, and Nicodemus traps his old archenemy in a ring of white fire that cancels his dark powers and renders him vulnerable. You must use either a charged flintlock pistol or a Demon Dagger to fire at the Skeleton Demon and shatter his skull, destroying his physical incarnation and reducing his soldiers to dust.
Zanbar Bone is destroyed once again, but Nicodemus grimly states that he shall one day return and that the way he was killed before might no longer be of use against him. Still, for now, he decides to prepare for his eventual return and find a way to destroy him once and for all. As for now, he rewards you and Hakasan decides to go to Fang, to try her luck in the infamous Trial of Champions.
- Zanbar Bone shares two characteristics with another villain created by the same author Ian Livingstone, (the co-creator of the Fighting Fantasy series) Razaak the necromancer. These characteristic are the need to wear a ring of truth before facing them and the life absorbing touch.
- Zanbar Bone's page on Titannica the Fighting Fantasy Wiki: http://fightingfantasy.wikia.com/wiki/Zanbar_Bone.