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. Zanbar Bone is the villain of the book that introduces one of the most important and recurring elements of the Fighting Fantasy series: Port Blacksand, the titular City of Thieves.
AppearanceZanbar Bone is described as a skeleton with shinning green eyes, wearing a golden crown and a black robe. The official illustrations of the books City of Thieves and Out of the Pit (a book that further describes many of the notable monsters of the Fighting Fantasy universe) 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.
Zanbar Bone's past and rise to power was not described in the gamebook itself, which presents him as a powerful Dark Lord exerting his influence all over the world of Titan and feared by everyone. His origins are defined in Titan the Fighting Fantasy World and Out of the Pit, 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.
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's magical prowesses were only rivaled by those of 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 the three 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 day, 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 the intervention of Vermithrax Moonchaser himself, who rushed here alongside many pupils and wood elves alerted by the noise of the battle, and dispelled Zanbar Bone's magic. Furious, Zanbar Bone unleashed a tremendous onslaught of magical energy at the archmage, who managed to sent it back. 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.
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.
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.
When City of Thieves takes place, Zanbar Bone is still based 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 in Titan has heard of his frightening reputation and those who tried to destroy him all met a grisly end, likely serving now 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 intention, 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 and hiding things that can counter his magic under his watch.
Powers and AbilitiesZanbar Bone's power was already enough to threaten an Archmage while he was still a young human, and it might have grown even higher when becoming a lich. Despite being one of the very few Fighting Fantasy villains who is never faced in a direct battle, it is stated in Out of the Pit that his level of power stands at 14 skill points (2 points over the normal maximum) making him one of the mightiest villains of the series.
He masters Dark Magic and Necromancy to a very large extent and he is able to cast curses on objects, people or entire towns. He is able to shape-shift at will, and he apparently enjoys turning into a black cat given that the player meets a black cat at the very beginning of the gamebook and that there is a black cat among the illusions when the player enters his room (which does not sound like a coincidence). He is also able to see and to talk where he is not physically present, though it is not known if he can do it anywhere or simply inside his tower. He can also summon demonic forces, cast illusions and create skeletons warriors by throwing his teeth to the ground.
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. It must also be noted that he cannot be killed in daytime, even when striking him with his weaknesses. 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.
Role in City of Thieves
In City of Theves, 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. Upon entering an inn, Mayor Owen Carralif asks to speak with you, and 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. Infuriated by Carralif's refusal, Zanbar Bone sends each night six fearsome Moondogs to Silverton to kill as many people as possible, causing dozens of casualties. The population reinforced their doors and windows 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 such, you must venture illegaly into the heavily guarded town to meet the legendary mage. You eventually meet Nicodemus, 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, some black pearls and some 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 labyrinth-like town, dealing with countless thieves, crooks, pirates, monsters, corrupt guards and troll mercenaries to gather everything you need. You can fight against a witch in the sewers of the city, and if you manage to overcome the spell she casts, you will get some 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 flower 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.
- These troll guards are powerful enemies with 10 and 11 in skill (level of power) and around 12 in stamina (life points). You can flee after killing Sourbelly, which given the trolls' might can prove quite wise.
If you get captured by the trolls or has not collected all you need before leaving the town, the game is lost.
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 demons, deadly traps and even a female vampire.
- Two powerful Moondogs, with 9 and 11 in skill and around 10 in stamina guards the tower.
- 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 strike with the silver arrow.
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, nor entering the room where lives the vampire without garlic, or else the game is lost.
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, a magical artifact needed to defeat the Night Prince.
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 gaining 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.
- 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