The primary antagonist of the Fighting Fantasy gamebook Creature of Havoc, Zharradan Marr is very popular among fans, due to his deep background and his unique influence on the playable character's fate. He is also noted for being the villain of arguably the hardest and most complex gamebook of the series. Zharradan Marr is a necromancer of demonic origins, who learnt magic alongside Oldoran Zagor and Balthus Dire, two other major Fighting Fantasy villains, and fought against the latter in the gruesome Trolltooth Wars.
Birth and Studies
Zharradan Marr was born in the wretched village of Dree in Allansia: the most featured continent of the world of Titan. This village is infamous for being populated solely by evil witches, who use travellers for their foul experiments. It was in this village that the magical technique known as the Marrhanga, the transplantation and transformation of living organisms through a mix of sorcery and surgery, was invented. As such, the village was filled with miserable lifeforms resulting from all the failed experiments, unfit to live properly.
Zharradan Marr was born the son of a witch from Dree and a Hell-Demon. He was found and raised by the Sisters of Dree, the triplet younger sisters of the village founder Romeena Dree, notable for being far less malevolent than the rest of the population of the wretched village, and christened Zharradan Dree.
Later, Zharradan became the pupil of the infamous wizard Volgera Darkstorm, where he became friend and (mostly) rival with two fellow pupils of equal power and malevolence, Oldoran Zagor and Balthus Dire. The trio would later be remembered as the Demonic Three. They quickly grew in power and skill so much that Darkstorm himself began to fear them. During his studies, Zharradan who despised his surname reminiscent of a village he deemed unworthy of him, performed a powerful ritual to change his name in the memory of everyone who knew him. He then became known as Zharradan Marr, marking both his interest for the Marrhanga and his strong superiority complex.
The Demonic Three soon grew tired of Darkstorm's attempts to calm their ambition and limit their knowledge, and killed their now useless teacher with a Rain of Knives spell. They then ransacked his library and shared his possessions among them before parting ways, likely entering a (not so) friendly competition for the invasion of Allansia.
Rise in Power
Zharradan Marr took a prospector disguise, intending to dig himself a subterranean lair without raising suspicions, and headed to the Moonstone Hills. To his surprise, he did discover gold and opened his Yellowstone Mines, which quickly made him rich and influential. He hired the greedy Mage Hannicus to rule his mines and set out to build a huge army of humans, Marrhanga creatures, monsters and Soulless undeads, before recruiting several henchmen. He built a Training Ground for his soldiers, which he put under the direction of the half-troll Thugruff, and later conquered a vast part of eastern Allansia, ranging from the Moonstone Hills to the dangerous Trolltooth Pass.
Search for the Elven magic
At one point, Zharradan Marr heard about Eren Durdinath, known by humans as Stittle Woad, a village populated by white-haired elves (the rarest and most magical kind of elves in the whole world of Titan, who live away from the world in secret villages), atop the trees of the dangerous Forest of Spiders, protected by a powerful concealing spell. Each queen of such village is impregnated by a deity during her crowning, giving birth to a magical spirit known as a Vapour, able to grant a special ability to those who breath it. It appears that the latest queen of Eren Durdinath gave birth to three Vapours, the Vapour of Language, the Vapour of Reason and the Vapour of Elven Magic.
Zharradan Marr then resolved to find the Vapour of Elven Magic, as should he add this power to his own, he would become unfathomably powerful and none would be able to stand against him. Marr transformed himself into a Rhino Man in order to approach the white-haired elf Daga Weaseltongue, and managed to gain his trust. He then convinced (or more likely magically compelled) Weaseltongue to steal the Vapours from Eren Durdinath. Fortunately, Marr never got his hand of the Vapour of Elven Magic and he lacked the sufficient knowledge about Elven Magic to use it, so he resolved to find and invade Eren Durdinath itself.
Marr later heard about the Galleykeep, a magical ship that sailed into the sky. Reasoning that a village hidden atop the trees would be easier to locate from the sky, he personally lead his squadron of Tookis (Griffins specially bred for wars) and took over the Galleykeep. Marr then used the remaining members of the crew for his most advanced experiences of Marrhanga and had them imprisoned in his fortress. Marr later made the Galleykeep his new headquarters, and created a netherworld from the reflections of a mirror, for him to inhabit. By doing so, (he thought that) none would be able to reach him, and even less threaten him. This was a further demonstration of Marr's high intelligence, but also of his megalomania and his superiority complex, as he deemed useless to reside in the same world than the regular people he only regarded as potential slaves. This overconfidence and excess of protection would ultimately lead to his downfall.
Powers and Abilities
Zharradan Marr is a highly powerful and knowledgeable sorcerer. He masters Dark Magic and Necromancy to a very large extent, being able to raise regular undeads from the grave as well as stronger undeads spirits, and likely creating (or empowering) unique undeads, giving them new abilities and characteristics. He also demonstrates great proficiency in evil spells and curses, namely his signature torture spell, that he might have crafted himself, and also in shape-shifting magic and magical compulsion. Moreover, he is able to create a distinct (though restricted) dimensional plane from the reflections of a mirror, and protect its entrance so that only those who learn of it could find it.
Moreover, Zharradan Marr is probably the most skilled practitioner of Marrhanga that the History of Titan remembers. His intensive researches in this vile form of Dark Magic led him to perfect it more than anyone else before him. He is very likely responsible of the creation of the only viable species created through the use of Marrhanga, including the Rhino Men who were counted by hundreds in his army. All his experiments in mixing different species into one make him somehow reminiscent of Doctor Moreau, the mad scientist from HG Wells' novel The Island of Doctor Moreau.
Aside from his magical power, Marr displays great intelligence and shrewdness. He knows how to tempt people and to manipulate them to do his bidding, and he can come up with very clever plans. Though not as well versed in the military arts than his generals, Marr has also proven to be a very skilled strategist and thinker. However, like many other evil geniuses, his judgement can be clouded by his inability to consider that someone can outsmart him and that his own creature can rebel against him or refuse his offers.
Zharradan Marr recruited several skilled and corrupt people (or creatures) as his lieutenants, who lead his mines and his army in his name, along with other tasks he cannot perform himself.
Marr's first lieutenant, Vallaska Roué is a cruel, ruthless, greedy and overweight man who, despite lacking particular skills in magic, battle or strategy, has an uncanny ability to find the needed talent and knows many evil beings and ruthless assassins. Roué serves as Marr's assistant and spokesperson, who conducts investigations and recruits new followers. He followed his lord on the Galleykeep, where he personally commands the new crew of monsters and conveys Marr's orders.
At first, Marr hired the greedy mage Hannicus to rule the Yellowstone Mines. Hannicus' administrative skills and knowledge of Elven legends first proved of great use to Marr, but he endured the necromancer's wrath for not being able to prevent thieves from sneaking into the fortress and was thrown in jail.
Hannicus was replaced by the horrid creature known as Darramous. An undead half-elf wizard of vast magical power and near invulnerability, Darramous' power and malevolence nearly rivals that of Marr himself and as such, he became one of his most trusted, devoted and dangerous followers. Darramous not only ceased to pay the employees of the mines and treated them like slaves, but he had anyone captured in Marr's domain sentenced to labor in the mines, which he had guarded by powerful demonic beings. Darramous can only be killed by the magic of a Ring of Holy Blessing, which ironically enough is in possession of none other than Hannicus.
An evil and ruthless half-troll, whose cruelty and physical strength fit his origins, but who is also gifted with remarkable intelligence and considerable skills with both weapons and strategy. Thugruff was recruited by befriending the equally brutal Vallaska Roué, and was appointed as the commander of the Training Grounds and the general of Marr's army, making him one of Marr's predominant lieutenants.
It was mostly thanks to him that Marr's army became so fearsome and was able to counter Balthus Dire's strategies during the Trolltooth wars. When fought, Thugruff is a very dangerous enemy with 11 in skill (power level) and 14 in stamina (life-points). Fighting him is a very bad idea though, as even if he gets defeated, the player is killed right after by his soldiers.
A powerful weather-mage (wizard whose magic can control the weather) able to slay even the most fearsome beasts by conjuring a tornado. Nimbicus is a very grumpy old man who doesn't consider himself as Marr's servant but merely his associate and often threatens to leave without notice. He resides in the Galleykeep, where his spells are essential to preserve the flying ship from storms and to always make it go in the direction needed. Because of this, Marr cannot afford to lose him, which seems to explain his lack of deference, unusual in the necromancer's ranks.
An undead skeleton, very likely raised from the grave by Marr himself, Quimmel is Marr's personal surgeon and physician. He can extract still-living organ for Marr's experiences of Marrhanga and is strangely able to control spiritual beings, giving him a great role during the Trolltooth Wars. He is found on the Galleykeep. When fought, Quimmel Bone is virtually invincible. In spite of his far from impressive stats (8 in skill and 8 in stamina) he is able to reassemble himself whenever he gets defeated, therefore trapping you in a never-ending cycle of battles, whose only issue is a game over.
The Hellfire Master
An extremely powerful undead individual, very likely created by Zharradan Marr himself; he is not only sentient and talkative but he also has the fearsome ability to create and control fire, which coupled with his incredible physical strength makes him a truly fearsome foe. The Hellfire Master is found on the Galleykeep next to Marr's quarters and seems to be the necromancer's personal bodyguard. A confrontation with the Hellfire Master must be avoided at any cost, as he has 14 in skill (2 points over the regular maximum) and 14 in stamina, making him virtually invincible. Should you succeed in vanquishing this formidable enemy, he would raise one last time and shoot fire streams from his eyes, putting a gloomy end to the player's quest.
Creature of Havoc
Contrary to most of the other Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, you begin the story alone and amnesiac, not knowing neither why did you ended up here, nor even knowing who you are. Even worse, you are not even human but a horrid, large, reptilian humanoid monster, unable to understand human speech, completely lacking reason or free will, and acting only out of instinct. Because of this, your first actions are decided either by luck or by the circumstances. You break free of the jail in which you awoke and set out for answers, ultimately discovering that you are involved in a case that far exceeds who or what you are.
During your quest, you kill several adventurers searching for the Vapours and manage to find the Vapour of Reason, enabling you to take decisions, and the Vapour of Language, enabling you to understand and speak to people. The gamebook in itself proves to be extremely difficult, as you need to decipher many complex codes and avoid countless dangerous situations and traps, while having to complete several sub-quests.
You eventually learn about Zharradan Marr and his projects from the three sisters of Dree who raised (and disowned) him and by a fortune-teller, and you befriend a half-orc who carries a wooden box. (A box containing the Vapour of Elven Magic that Marr needs to become Titan's most powerful wizard.) You will later speak with Daga Weaseltongue and sees through his lies, before finding a way to set foot on the Galleykeep and to meet Zharradan Marr himself, discovering the netherworld in which he is hiding and the mirror that links it to the physical plane.
Confrontation with Marr
Zharradan reveals that you used to be the captain of the Galleykeep, who was captured when the necromancer took over the flying ship, and used as a guinea-pig for the Marrhangha experiment that made you what you are now. Marr orders you to give him the Vapour of Elven Magic and offers to make you his second-in-command, which you can accept. (If you do so, Marr takes over Allansia and you work under him, but the gamebook states that this will last until Marr gets tired of you or considers you disposable, in which case you will get killed.)
To defeat Marr, you need to have been showered with magical Elven Dust in order to resist his torture spell, and to have a Crystal Club to shatter the magical mirror and trap Marr forever in his own netherworld. Banishing Zharradan Marr cancels all his evil magic (likely destroying the power that animates Quimmel Bone and the Hellfire Master) and turns you back into your human self, enabling you to take back the control of the Galleykeep.
The events described in the gamebooks Citadel of Chaos and Creature of Havoc, both written by the co-creator of the Fighting Fantasy series Steve Jackson, were later retconnected by Jackson himself in the novel Trolltooth Wars. In this novel, the conflict between Balthus Dire and Zharradan Marr, only hinted in the gamebooks, is developed into a full-fledged war between both dark wizards’ armies.
It all began when one of Balthus Dire’s patrols of goblins mistakenly ambushed and took over a convoy of Cunnelworth (a powerful magical herb used in rituals to communicate with the Spiritual Planes) destined to Zharradan Marr. Marr retaliated by declaring war to his former friend, rushing their now inevitable clash.
This risky situation had a priceless strategic advantage, as the victor would be able to take over his enemy's forces and gain more than enough military strength to invade Allansia. Both armies fought more or less evenly, as if Balthus Dire was a better warlord and strategist, Zharradan Marr’s very powerful and talented generals could turn the tide of a battle by themselves.
Marr managed to take control of Balthus' dreaded Ganjees, but Balthus used the Cunnelworth to summon the even more dreadful Sorqs, who laid devastation on Marr's armies until the Sorqs and the Ganjees battled directly. The battle was such that it tore open a path to the Spiritual Plane, where they were all sent back.
Balthus soon drove Marr into a corner, but the necromancer launched several desperation attacks, having his best troops led by his mightiest generals target Balthus' commanders, to incapacitate their hordes while Balthus was trying to summon back both the Sorqs and the Ganjees. Eventually, Marr pierced Balthus' defences and was about to win. Then an unexpected turn of events happened.
King Salamon, the ruler of the Vale of Willow, rightfully feared the wars' outcome, so he tried to make sure that neither army would emerge victorious. To do so, the king ordered his own army, and especially his most skilled captain, the famed hero Chadda Darkmane, to neutralize both wizards and incapacitate their forces.
Chadda Darkmane, grudgingly aided by the last of the Demonic Three Oldoran Zagor, managed to set foot on the Galleykeep, the flying ship that Marr took over. There, he threw overboard the magic mirror that Marr used as a gateway to his pocket dimension. However, this was not enough, and the former captain of Galleykeep destroyed the mirror with a Crystal Club, trapping Zharradan Marr forever in his own netherworld and freeing himself from the wretched necromancer’s curse. (He does the same in Creature of Havoc.)
As for Balthus Dire, he ended up trapped forever in the Spiritual Plane, probably by Darkmane or the mages of the Forest of Yore. (Instead of being slain by a student of the magic school of Yore, as in Citadel of Chaos.)
With both wizards sealed away, the Salamonian army and the student mages of Yore could destroy the infighting remnants of their armies, securing the Vale of Willow and Allansia as a whole. However, Marr's and Balthus' defeat also served the interests of Oldoran Zagor, who found himself without rival and with his own army intact.