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.
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.
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.
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 Vlax's 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.
Beneath Nightmare Castle
Settings of the Story
The game gives you a Willpower score which helps you to keep calm when confronted to Xakhaz's horrors. The more horrors you witness the more willpower you lose, and if your score was to drop under 6 points, you would go mad and the game would be lost.
You play as a famed war veteran and a close friend of Baron Tholdur, the ruler of Neubourg, whom you decide to visit. Unfortunately, when on your way, you get ambushed and thrown to jail. There, you are rescued by a mysterious figure and you must promptly escape to save your life. You learn that Baron Tholdur recently went to Zagoula and came back with an army of southern warriors, who now have a huge influence over Neubourg.
All the recent troubles are eventually revealed as the doing of the witch Senyakhaz, a worshipper of the Howling Gods who commands the southern warriors. She brainwashed Tholdur, revived Xakhaz and is now providing him with the corpses he needs to create the awful Lovecraftian creatures that plague the town. While Xakhaz directs Senyakhaz's actions and remains the biggest threat, he remains trapped during the whole course of the game; thus making Senyakhaz the central antagonist of the story.
The Course of the StoryWhen in town, you must go to Oiden's temple to speak with the priest, before heading to the market (while not pursuing the pickpocket girl to avoid a disturbing fight with murderous children) to buy the head of the trident of Skarlos, a powerful magic weapon.
You must then enter the castle, but not by the front doors lest you get killed by the southern warriors. By entering the caste by the garden, you can gather useful artifacts and even immediately head towards the basements, avoiding all the part in the fortress. Should you enter the fortress, you might encounter many monsters and even Baron Tholdur's adopted daughter, whom Senyakhaz put in a clawed suit of 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). Considering that she is innocent and that you lose 2 points of luck when killing her, it is best to flee the battle.
You might also encounter Baron Tholdur himself and his mysterious hooded advisor (Senyakhaz in disguise). The witch’s mind-control prevents him from recognizing you and he sentences you to jail. If you use the ring that he gave you before the story, he will remember you and Senyakhaz will be forced to welcome you, while sending assassins after you later. It is best to avoid this confrontation.
Upon heading towards the basements or being thrown to jail, you might meet the young priest of Oiden who freed you at the start of the story, who will give you the Talisman of Loth: a powerful anti-evil artifact. You can also discover the second half of the trident of Skarlos, gaining an ace card against Xakhaz. Then, you will finally confront Senyakhaz herself.
- If you meet Senyakhaz alone, she pretends to be a servant maid and tries to hypnotize you. If she succeeds she feeds you to a monster. If you resist, 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 you die trying to chase after her.
- You must find three “servant maiden” (in fact the witch and two illusionary doubles), whose dance hypnotizes you. You must test your willpower to resist, or she feeds you to a monster. You must now strike the maid on your left, lest you strike a double and must test your willpower once more. If you strike both doubles, she hypnotizes you and feeds you to her monster.
- When unmasked, Senyakhaz attempts to flee. You must chase her through the door on your right, or risk either a pyrrhic victory or a game over when she escapes through her magic mirror. Senyakhaz distracts you with the illusion of a giant spider, you must dash through its web lest she escapes.
- Do not use the Talisman of Loth, for it is lethal in front of mirrors and she knows it. Do not talk to her or she hypnotises you into exhaustion, costing 4 stamina points. You must attack Senyakhaz at once. She proves to be a dangerous enemy with 9 in skill and 8 in stamina, who fights with a dagger.
With Senyakhaz dead, you must use her magic box to reach Xakhaz's vault and put an end to the archmage's madness once and for all. You must chose right when using the magic box, otherwise you might get teleported leagues away and lose the game; or even return to the past when Senyakhaz is alive and must be fought again.
Upon reaching Xakhaz's lair, you are 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. You can win without fight by displaying the trident of Skarlos. The trident severely wounds your foe and the Talisman of Loth gradually weakens it.
The Final Battle
Upon confronting the abomination that is Xakhaz, his atrocious aspect alone forces you to win a test of willpower (risking a game over with less than 6 willpower points). If you lose with more than 6 in willpower, Xakhaz's blow costs 3 stamina points but your only choice left will be to engage the battle.
If you own a green globe and can infuse it with the Talisman of Loth’s power, you can test your skill to use it like a Holy Hand-Grenade. If you succeed, the blast obliterates Xakhaz without fight. If you fail but win a test of luck, you lose 3 stamina points but Xakhaz gets severely wounded and is reduced to 10 in skill and 9 in stamina, making the battle way easier. Losing both tests means that no one gets hurt. Xakhaz is a highly powerful foe with 14 in skill (2 over the normal maximum) and 32 in stamina. The Trident of Skarlos is almost mandatory, since it significantly increases your skill score and costs him 7 stamina points per wound inflicted. Also, the Talisman of Loth reduces Xakhaz's skill to 13, which means that with both items you can defeat him without major trouble.
With Xakhaz defeated 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 you his heir.