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Xakhaz is the foremost antagonist and final enemy of the Fighting Fantasy gamebook Beneath Nightmare Castle. A former human archmage defeated long ago; he was later revived by a follower of his cult and intends to take over the entire continent of Khul. Xakhaz and his awful creations were notably influenced by the works of HP Lovecraft.

Background

Xakhaz was once an evil human archmage. After the dreadful Chaos Wars left the continent of Khul permanently scarred, he founded the Khaz Priesthood of the grim Howling Gods. He had each priest(ess) adding "Khaz" to their name after himself. He described it as a long-forgotten religion, but might have made it up for his nefarious goals.

Xakhaz based himself in the ruins of the city of Zagoula, which had been destroyed during the Chaos Wars, and enticed the local populations into his cult, promising them the prosperity they lost during the war and even more. Then, he twisted their desperate needs into greed and turned them all into fanatic worshippers, who populated Zagoula and assisted him in his twisted experiments to create new life-forms.

In the end, he used his followers and creations as an army to take over Khul, only to be defeated by an army led by the hero Skarlos and helped by priests of Oiden, God of Battles. Xakhaz got slain, but his soul was immortal so the priests sealed it underground and sealed his vault by building the garrison city of Neubourg over the battlefield. However, Xakhaz armies and priesthood were not entirely wiped out, and the survivors retreated to the ruins of Zagoula, now a cursed city which no one dared to even approach.

Appearance

What Xakhaz looked like as a human is not known. In the story, he built himself a new "body" from corpses, resulting in a repellent monstrosity, whose mere sight is hardly bearable. He looks like an immense conglomerate of all sorts of mutated body parts, with a vaguely humanoid upper-body atop of it; sporting a demented-looking face, a deformed right arm with claws and a long, boneless left forearm.

The rest of his body is bumbling and shapeless, defying both biology and mere logic, covered with eyes, nostrils and mouths. It sports several arms of variable size and shape that come from under his “skin”, many tentacles, including one with pincers, two with fanged mouths and six eyes, and a tongued trunk; and stands on four disproportionate legs, including that of an insect and one with a mouth on the knee.

Characteristics

Xakhaz is a cruel, ruthless, sadistic, fanatical, twisted, power-crazed and deeply disturbing madman, who revels in his unspeakable creations and regards them as work of arts that mere mortals cannot appreciate. He is callous, arrogant, haughty and self-important, having his priests name themselves after him, but he is a very skilled orator, able to sway people by cajoling words before manipulating them into becoming his blindly devoted slaves.

Among the many evil wizards who threatened the world of Titan, Xakhaz is one of the only three to bear the title of archmage, the other two being Mordraneth and the Archmage of Mampang, implying that he is much mightier than most mages. His ability to cast spells and to create awful mutants while he himself lacked a body, indicates his level of skill. Xakhaz was also able to seal the soul of his general Vlax the Slayer into his own scimitar, causing its host to possess whoever would seize it, and to devise magical weaponry able to compel their bearer.

Whether the Howling Gods were invented by Xakhaz as a way to rally the southern tribes under his banner, or were aliases used by malignant and destructive deities, otherwise the Demon Princes of Titan themselves, is unknown. The latter would seem more likely though. The witch Senyakhaz who revived the Xakhaz was stated to work for the Demon Prince Ishtra. It might also be the Demon Princes who made his soul immortal, forcing his victors to seal him away.

Senyakhaz

Senyakhaz

Senyakhaz

Xakhaz's right-hand and the central villain of the game. She is the current high priestess of the Cult of the Howling Gods, and consequently the ruler of Zagoula and the southern warriors. While Xakhaz directs her actions and is the biggest threat, he remains trapped and leaves her in command.

She is a beautiful, youthful woman clad in red, who hints to be far less young that she appears, likely expanding her life-span through dark sorcery. She is a very powerful witch and a master of illusions and all forms of mind control, from hypnosis to compelling words. She owns various magic artefacts which she either created or inherited from Xakhaz, including a magic mirror that can teleport through space and time. Finally, she is a very adept fighter who wields a dagger in battle.

Senyakhaz is regal, collected and soft-spoken, but is at heart a vicious sadist who revels in her foes' torment. She is very manipulative and clever, adept in enticing people and in thinking on her feet when things go south. But she is cowardly, always trying to ensnare foes or flee, fighting only as a last resort.

Beneath Nightmare Castle

Story Settings

Les bestioles de Xakhaz

Some of Xakhaz's mutants.

The playable character is a famous war veteran, close friend to the ruler of Neubourg Baron Tholdur, to whom they decide to pay a visit. Alas, on their way to his fortress they get ambushed and thrown to jail. There, they are rescued by a mysterious figure and must flee to avoid execution. The hero learns that Baron Tholdur recently had a trip to Zagoula, and brought back an army of southern warriors who soon rose to considerable influence.

The gamebook provides a Willpower score, measuring the hero's self-control, to keep calm when facing Xakhaz's horrors. The more horrors they witness the more willpower they lose, and should their score drop under 6, they would be driven insane and the game would be lost.

Plot

In town, the hero must visit Oiden's temple and speak with the priest, before going to the market. (The pickpocket girl must not be chased after, to avoid a disturbing battle against murderous children.) They can buy the head of the trident of Skarlos, a powerful magic weapon.

The hero can now head to the castle. However, entering by the front doors gets them killed by the southern warriors. By entering the caste from the garden, they can gather useful artefacts and even immediately head towards the basements, avoiding the fortress altogether. Should they venture into the fortress, they might fight many monsters and even Baron Tholdur's adopted daughter, who was put in a clawed armour that forces her to attack anyone she sees, much to her despair.

  • Tholdur's daughter is a powerful enemy with 10 in skill (level of power) and 8 in stamina (life-points). Given that she is innocent and that killing her costs 2 points of luck, it is best to flee the battle.
Tholdur sous contrôle

Baron Tholdur controlled by Senyakhaz.

The hero eventually learns that every trouble plaguing them and the city are the doing of the witch Senyakhaz, a worshipper of the Howling Gods. She brainwashed Tholdur, ruling Neubourg through him, revived Xakhaz and is now providing him with the corpses he needs to create the awful Lovecraftian monsters plaguing the town.

The hero can also reach the throne room to speak with Baron Tholdur and his mysterious hooded advisor (in fact Senyakhaz in disguise). The witch's mind-control prevents him from recognizing his friend and he sentences them to jail. If the hero shows the ring he gave them, it triggers memories that Senyakhaz cannot suppress and Tholdur welcomes them warmly. Senyakhaz however, will only feign hospitality to lower the hero's guard before sending assassins after them. As such, this meeting is best avoided.

When heading towards the basements, or being thrown into jail, the hero might meet Cernic, the young priest of Oiden who freed them at the start of the story. He can be attacked, but he is very weak and killing a benevolent character causes great penalty, so it must not happen.

Upon heading towards the basements or being thrown to jail, the hero might meet Cernic, the young priest of Oiden who freed them at the start of the story. He can be attacked, but he is very weak and killing a benevolent character causes great penalty, so it must not happen. Cernic gives the hero the Talisman of Loth: an anti-evil artefact that can weaken foes by 1 point of skill, but must not be worn in front of mirrors on pain of death, as Loth was a powerful hero undone by his narcissism.

The hero can also discover the second half of the trident of Skarlos, gaining an ace card against Xakhaz. Finally, they confront Senyakhaz herself.

Confronting Senyakhaz

  • If the hero meets Senyakhaz alone, she pretends to be a servant maid and tries to hypnotize them. If she succeeds she feeds them to a monster. If they resist however, she escapes through a magic mirror, leading either to a pyrrhic victory in which Tholdur is freed but Senyakhaz and Xakhaz are still alive; or to a game over in which the hero dies trying to chase her.
  • The hero must meet three "servant maiden" (who are in fact the witch and two illusionary doubles), who try hypnotizing them with their dance. They must win a test of willpower to resist and avoid being fed to the monster. They must now strike the maid on their left, lest they strike a double and must test their willpower again. If the hero strikes both doubles, she mesmerizes them and feeds them to her monster.
  • Senyakhaz flees when unmasked. The hero must chase after her through the door on the right, or risk a pyrrhic victory or a game over after she escapes through her magic mirror. Senyakhaz distracts them with the illusion of a giant spider, so they must dash straight through its web or she escapes.
  • The hero must not show the Talisman of Loth, for she tricks them into looking through a mirror knowing it will kill them. If they speak to her, she compels them into exhaustion with words alone, costing a crippling 4 in stamina.
  • Senyakhaz must be attacked on sight. She is a dangerous enemy with 9 in skill and 8 in stamina, but she has run out of magic tricks.

With Senyakhaz dead, the hero must use her magic box to reach Xakhaz's vault through her magic mirror, and put an end to the archmage's madness once and for all. They must chose right when using the magic box, otherwise they might get teleported leagues away and lose the game; or even return to the past when Senyakhaz is alive and must be fought again.

The Final Battle

Upon reaching Xakhaz's lair at last, the hero is greeted by a Shinning Warrior who claims to be the hero Skarlos (in fact a replica created by Xakhaz), who serves as the archmage's last line of defence.

  • The fake Skarlos is a powerful foe with 11 in skill and 14 in stamina. It can be defeated without fight by showing it the trident of Skarlos. If not, the trident severely wounds it and the Talisman of Loth gradually weakens it.

As the hero is confronting the abomination that is Xakhaz, his atrocious aspect alone forces them to win a test of willpower (risking a game over with less than 6 willpower points). If they lose with a willpower score higher than 6, Xakhaz's blow costs 3 in stamina, and the only choice left is to engage the decisive battle.

If the hero owns a green globe and can infuse it with the Talisman of Loth's power, they can test their skill to use it as a Holy Hand-Grenade. In case of success, the blast obliterates Xakhaz without fight. Failing the test of skill but winning a test of luck severely wounds Xakhaz, reducing him to 10 in skill and 9 in stamina, making the battle way easier at the cost of losing 3 in stamina in the blast. Losing both tests means that no one gets hurt.

Xakhaz is a highly powerful enemy with 14 in skill (2 over the normal maximum) and 32 in stamina. The Trident of Skarlos is almost mandatory, since it significantly increases the hero's skill score and costs him 7 stamina points per wound inflicted. Also, the Talisman of Loth reduces Xakhaz's skill to 13. Meaning that with both items, he can be dealt with without major trouble.

With Xakhaz destroyed and his soul trapped forever in a tiny box, Baron Tholdur is promptly freed from the spell and he banishes the southern warriors, before naming the hero his heir and throwing a lavish celebration.

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