|“||You may not fear death. But during an eternity of servitude you shall learn to fear me.||„|
|~ The Shadow King|
The Shadow King is the arch-villain and final enemy of the Fighting Fantasy gamebook Night of the Necromancer. He is a demonic Lord of Death who covets the Earthly Planes. He is worshipped by the titular Necromancer and his doomsday cult, but they are all destroyed by the playable character before they can bring about his reign.
Little is known about the Shadow King in himself. He is described as one the Lords of Death, but his exact origins and whether there are more like him is never explained. He might be a minor evil deity, or at least of Demi-God status, and was most likely a high-ranking follower of the Demon Gods Death, Disease and Decay.
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.
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.
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 glowing 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, enabling them to banish spirits and to hurl deadly spears of black energy.
Like a typical Dark Lord, he is a villain of pure malevolence, who promises power to his followers to entice them but kills them the second he stops needing them. He is callous, overconfident, scornful and imposing, but also hateful and unforgiving, reacting to opposition with mockery and endlessly tormenting the souls of his victims. However, when facing foes he deems worthy, he tries to make them his slaves before fighting to kill. He seeks to enter the Earthly Planes and raise every dead from the grave to take over Titan, cover it in darkness and claim the souls of its entire population.
In Night of the Necromancer
The playable character is the lord of the domain of Valsinore, in the Kingdom of Ruddlestone, as well as a powerful holy knight from the Templars of Telak the God of Warriors; like the hero Evrain Peredur who defeated the Dread Lord Belgaroth. The Templar spent the last three years fighting a Death Cult in the principality of Bathoria. Having destroyed it, the hero returns to Valsinore, which they left under the care of their chamberlain Unthank.
However, just as they reach their beloved castle, they are killed in an ambush by one of the Acolytes of Death, who conjures a dark energy spear. Now a ghost, the Lord of Valsinore vows to find their killer and get justice. However, they discover that Valsinore has been cursed by evil forces, plagued by spectres, undeads and monsters. Despite being the major threat of the story and the source of the scourges, the Shadow King has yet to enter the Earthly Planes, making the mysterious true master of the Death Cult the central villain of the story.
Playing as a ghost is a unique feature of the gamebook. The Lord of Valsinore cannot hold objects and heals by absorbing energy from fallen foes. They cannot go through doors with a spirit-repelling rune, but they gradually gain the ghostly powers of levitation, flight, invisibility, illusions and possession – gaining people's skill (power level) and stamina (life-points. They also have a score of willpower to keep their calm in frightful situations.
If the Lord of Valsinore was to lose all their stamina, they would get sent to the Land of the Dead and what happens next depends on their progress. They meet the Watcher of the Gate, the divine guardian of the afterlife, who might allow them to return to the Earthly Planes if they are convincing enough. Having a serious bone to pick with those who cheat death, it they can name the Cult Master as their assassin, he will give them the traitor's Hourglass of Life and send them back to put a definite end to his wretched life.
The Quest in Itself
The first thing the Lord of Valsinore must do is to deal with their murderer. They must attack the Death Acolyte at once or else he banishes them 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 grants a significant power up, but the Lord must leave immediately after to avoid banishment beyond the Veil, and the quest can begin.
The Lord can visit the seer Madame Zelda; but if they visit the witch Mother Toadsfoot, either the power-boost she grants forces them to kill the first living being they meet, or her familiar gets corrupted by the Shadow King and kills her before attacking. Beware Baron Blood, the ghost who brings wandering souls to the Land of the Dead.
Near Sleath Village, they must destroy a Phantasmal Fiend spawned from the nightmares spread by evil to free the villagers. In the cemetery, they must destroy a dangerous Grave Golem to free the souls in its grasp, risking becoming one of its captives forever. Finally, the Ghost Hunter Josef Van Richten must be avoided, for he is a fanatic who attacks all ghosts on sight and risks trapping the Lord forever in a bewitched bottle.
Entering their castle at last, the Lord might reunite with their loyal hound Korzen, who follows them and constantly harasses corporeal enemies, weakening them. They might reunite with their beloved sister Oriana, who provides valuable information, but risk getting exorcised by the benevolent Father Umberto who mistakes them for yet another evil spirit.
They eventually learn that the one who ordered their death is none other than Chamberlain Unthank, in fact a necromancer and the true master of the Death Cult that the Templars of Telak fought in Bathoria.
The cunning necromancer used the Bathorian branch of his cult to lure the Templars and the Lord of Valsinore away and take control, then spread the Shadow King's influence and brought in the Dread Knights of the Order of the Black Shroud: powerful undead chaos warriors.
The Lord of Valsinore must be cautious when interacting with people. With so many evil spirits running wild, most will mistake them for one mimicking their liege and attack out of fright. They must avoid Sir Marrok of the Eldermark, a visiting Templar deceived by Unthank into attacking on sight.
But Bertild the blacksmith trusts them from the beginning, and Cador the captain of the guard can be convinced. Both provide crucial intel, and all three can be possessed. (Though only Marrok, Cador and Father Umberto own a weapon that can harm spirits.)
The Lord of Valsinore must possess someone to venture into the crypts. There, they must fight a dangerous Hellfire Golem, and the Wraith Queen who took their powerful magic sword Nightslayer from their corpse.
- The Hellfire Golem has 9 in skill and 12 in stamina. Without a magic sword, the Lord's blows might cost it 1 in stamina instead of the regular 2. It attacks with regular blows, powerful blows costing 4 in stamina, or fireballs costing the result of a dice roll in stamina.
- The Wraith Queen first summons a monster to fight in her stead, before trying to compel the Lord into obedience, forcing them to successfully test their willpower. 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 in skill for the following attack round), or by summoning an imp with 6 in skill and 6 in stamina to fight by her side.
In the dungeons, a necromantic spell assembles a bunch of bones into a fearsome Bonebeast, whose nature and level of power is 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 (costing 2 in stamina and 1 in skill for the following attack round), and its bite which costs 3 in stamina 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 handwritten Grimoire), the Oil of Midnight, the magic scythe Amethyst Blade, and the magic Soul Shield. Finally, the Lord of Valsinore must fight a powerful guardian with 10 in skill and 10 in stamina before reaching the final setting.
Unthank is found in the cromlech of the Nine Maiden, surrounded by many Death Acolytes, ghastly shadows and Dread Knights. He is preparing to sacrifice Oriana and use her life-force during a moon eclipse, in order to bring the Shadow King on the Earthly Planes.
The Lord of Valsinore can chose many option to settle their score, but unless they shatter the Spirit Stone to destroy his sabbat and fight him personnaly, or break his Hourglass of Life to kill him without fight, Unthank will succeed in bringing the Shadow King on the Earthly Planes, who promptly kills his now useless servant, making his contempt and disgust of him quite clear. If the lord kills the traitor themselves, the Shadow King rises nonetheless.
Confronting the Shadow King
After Unthank's death, the Lord of Valsinore is miraculously resurrected by the life-force he stole to live beyond his time. Should they die again their soul will belong to the Shadow King, ending the game. The fearsome Lord of Death orders them to bow down before him, forcing them to win a test of willpower to avoid becoming his slave and losing the game. If the Undead Lord killed Unthank himself, he raises him as an undead that must be destroyed.
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 the Lord of Valsinore lacks a magic weapon or an item that can destroy him without fight, they cannot harm him with normal weapons and everything is doomed. Shattering the Spirit Stone or using the Codex Mortis unleashes a swarm of ghosts who overwhelm and destroy the demon's physical existence. However, using the latter forces them to win a test of willpower; should they fail they become the Shadow King's slave and lose the game. Also, using the Oil of Midnight against the Ruler of the Night costs him 2 skill points and 6 stamina points.
Against the Shadow King, the Lord of Valsinore gains 1 in skill with the sword Nightslayer or the Amethyst Blade. Striking the demon with Nightslayer costs him 3 in stamina and striking him with the Amethyst Blade costs him 4. With both the Oil of Midnight and one such magic weapon, the Shadow King can be defeated with little trouble.
With the Shadow King gone and both the Lord of Valsinore and Oriana safe and sound, the rising sun destroys the vengeful spectre of Unthank before he can strike them and banishes him to the Realm of the Damned for eternity. With Valsinore purged of the evil influence and the threat of the Death Cult terminated for good, it is time to enjoy the second life granted by the gods to its fullest extent.