Zharradan Marr is the primary villain of the Fighting Fantasy gamebook Creature of Havoc. He is a necromancer 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. He is remembered for his deep background and his unique influence on the playable character's fate; and for being the villain of arguably the hardest gamebook of the series.
Birth and Studies
Zharradan Marr was born in Allansia: the most featured continent of the world of Titan, in the wretched village of Dree populated solely by evil witches. They use travellers for their foul experiments in Marrhanga, a technique they invented consisting in the transplantation and transformation of living organisms. As such, the village is filled with miserable lifeforms resulting from failed experiments, who waste away in indifference, unfit to live properly.
Zharradan Marr was born to a witch from Dree and a Hell-Demon, and raised by the Sisters of Dree, younger triplet sisters of Romana Dree, founder of the village, and named Zharradan Dree. While the three are notable for being far less malevolent than the other wretched denizens, Zharradan grew up to become far, far worse.
In his teenage years, he was sent for apprenticeship to the infamous wizard Volgera Darkstorm, where he became friend and (mostly) rival with two equally powerful and malevolent pupils, Oldoran Zagor and Balthus Dire. The trio, later known as the Demonic Three, quickly grew in power and skill so much that Darkstorm himself began to fear them.
However, Zharradan despised his surname reminiscent of a village he deemed unworthy of him. So he performed a powerful ritual to change his name in everyone's memory, becoming known as Zharradan Marr, marking both his interest for Marrhanga and his superiority complex.
The Demonic Three eventually grew tired of Darkstorm's attempts to curb their ambition and limit their knowledge, killing their now useless teacher with a Rain of Knives spell. They shared loot of his library and belongings and parted ways, likely entering a (not so) friendly contest to see who would take over Allansia first.
Rise in Power
Zharradan Marr disguised himself as a prospector, to dig himself a subterranean lair below the Moonstone Hills without raising suspicions. To his surprise, he really discovered gold and opened the Yellowstone Mines, gaining enormous wealth in no time. He hired the greedy Mage Hannicus to direct his mines and recruited an huge army of men, dark elves, orcs, trolls, goblins, lizard-men, chaos warriors, Marrhanga creatures of all sorts and Soulless undeads.
He had a Training Ground built for his soldiers, and later conquered a large domain in Eastern Allansia, from the Moonstone Hills to the dangerous Trolltooth Pass. Using both fear and mind-control drugs to keep his subjects in line, Marr abducted hundreds of people over the years, to increase his mining workforce but also to feed his monsters.
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 elven kind in the whole world of Titan, who live away from the world in secret villages), atop the trees of the very dangerous Forest of Spiders and protected by a considerably powerful concealing spell.
Each white-haired elven queen is impregnated by a deity during her crowning, giving birth to a Vapour, a spirit that grants a special ability to those who breathes it. 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 coveted the Vapour of Elven Magic, whose power could raise his own to nigh-unstoppable levels. Marr shape-shifted into a Rhino Man to get close to the white-haired elf Daga Weaseltongue, and managed to gain his trust. He then used a Creature Control spell to magically compel Weaseltongue, ordering him to steal the three Vapours from Eren Durdinath. Fortunately, Marr never got his hand of the third Vapour and lacked sufficient knowledge about Elven Magic to use it to its full extent. As such he resolved to invade Eren Durdinath itself.
He later heard about the Galleykeep, a magic ship sailing into the sky. Reasoning that a village hidden atop the trees would be easier to locate from the sky, he personally led his squadron of Tookis (Griffins bred for wars) and took it over. Marr then used the surviving crew for his most advanced experiences and imprisoned them in his fortress.
Marr later made the Galleykeep his new headquarters, and created a netherworld from the reflections of a mirror to live in. By doing so, (he thought that) none would be able to reach him, let alone threaten him.
Powers and Abilities
Zharradan Marr is a highly powerful and knowledgeable wizard, and a consummate master of Dark Magic and Necromancy. He is able to raise undeads from the grave, and to call forth stronger undeads spirits, and likely to create (or empower) unique undeads, granting them special abilities and characteristics.
He displays great proficiency in spells and curses, notably his signature move: the gruesome torture spell, which he might have crafted himself. He is also very adept in shape-shifting and magic compulsion. Moreover, he could create a distinct (albeit restricted) dimensional plane from the reflections of a mirror, and make it so that only those who learn of it could find it. Moreover, Marr is likely the best practitioner of Marrhanga that Titan remembers.
His intensive researches in this vile form of Dark Magic led him to perfect it more than anyone before. He is very likely responsible of the creation of the only viable species created through it, including the Eyeless Archers and the Rhino Men who numbered by the thousands in his army. His experiments in mixing different species into one make him somehow reminiscent of the mad scientist from HG Wells' novel The Island of Dr. Moreau.
Marr is highly intelligent and shrewd. He knows how to manipulate people to do his bidding and devises clever plans. Though not as well militarily versed as his generals, he proves a skilled strategist. He is very collected and refined, with unshakable composure and false politeness laced with threats and sarcasm. He is mostly cruel, unforgiving, merciless, sadistic, scornful and uncaring ; treating his slaves no better than his foes, having no qualm whatsoever about getting rid of valuable followers as soon as he stops needing them, or even loses interest.
However, like many evil geniuses, his judgement is clouded by his utter inability to consider being bested. To the point that he cannot fathom that his own creature (whom he made sentient but neglected to compel) could disobey him. He is horribly overconfident and megalomaniacal, with a huge superiority complex, refusing to live in the same world than normal people he only regards as slaves and guinea-pigs. Unsurprisingly, this proves his undoing. To cut a long story short, he is one of the series' most despicable villains, which is saying quite something.
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 right-hand, a cruel, ruthless, greedy and overweight man, who in spite of his lack of skills in magic, battle or strategy, has an uncanny ability to find the needed talent and knows many evil beings and ruthless assassins. Roué is Marr's advisor, assistant and spokesperson, conducting investigations and recruiting followers. He followed his lord on the Galleykeep, where he 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 greatly useful, but he endured the necromancer's wrath for being unable to prevent thieves from sneaking into the fortress, and was thrown in jail.
Marr replaced him with the horrible Darramous, a very powerful and nigh-invulnerable undead half-elf wizard, as malevolent as Zharradan Marr himself. He soon became one of his most trusted and dangerous followers; not only stopping to pay the miners and enslaving them, but sentencing anyone caught in by Marr's soldiers to slave labour 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 owned by none other than Hannicus.
A ruthless half-troll with cruelty and physical strength befitting his origins, but very intelligent and considerably skilled with both weapons and strategy. Thugruff befriended the equally brutal Vallaska Roué, and was appointed commander of the Training Grounds and field general. He made Marr's armies so fearsome mostly by himself.
When fought, Thugruff is a powerful enemy with 11 in skill (power level) and 14 in stamina (life-points). Fighting him is a very bad idea though, as even when defeated, his victor gets killed right after by his soldiers.
A powerful weather-mage who can slay even the most fearsome beasts by conjuring a tornado; Nimbicus is a very grumpy old man who regards himself as Zharradan Marr's associate instead of a mere servant, often threatening to leave without notice. He resides in the Galleykeep, where his control of the weather is essential to keep away storms, to always make it go in the direction needed, and to blast enemies on the ground with lightning. Because of this, Marr cannot afford to lose him, which might explain his lack of deference, very unusual in the necromancer's ranks.
A sentient undead skeleton, very likely raised from the grave by Zharradan Marr himself, serving as his personal surgeon and physician. He can extract still-living organs for Marr's experiments in Marrhanga, and is oddly able to control spiritual beings, making him a pivotal asset during the Trolltooth Wars. Quimmel Bone can be met on the Galleykeep. He is virtually invincible despite from his rather standard stats (8 in skill and 8 in stamina), as he can reassemble himself after each defeat. Because of this, he must never be fought, at risk of getting trapped in a never-ending cycle of battles whose only issue is a game over.
The Master of Hellfire
A considerably powerful undead individual, very likely created by Zharradan Marr himself. He is fully sentient and wields incredible physical strength and the fearsome ability to create and control fire, making him a formidable foe.
The Hellfire Master is found on the Galleykeep next to Marr's quarters, being apparently the necromancer's bodyguard. He must be avoided at any cost, for he has 14 in skill (2 points over the regular maximum) and 14 in stamina, making him virtually invincible. Should the hero prevail despite the odds, he would rise one last time and shoot fire streams from his eyes, putting a gloomy end to their quest.
Creature of Havoc
Contrary to other Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, the story starts with the playable character alone and amnesiac, not knowing how did they ended there, nor even who they are. Even worse, they are not even human but a huge and revolting reptilian humanoid monster, unable to understand human speech, completely lacking reason or free will and acting only out of instinct. Because of this, the titular Creature's first actions are decided either by luck or by circumstances. They break free of the jail in which they awoke and set out for answers, being compelled to kill and devour creatures in their wake, ultimately realizing that they are involved in a case far beyond a mere quest for identity.
The gamebook in itself is extremely difficult, forcing the Creature to decipher many very complex codes and avoid countless deadly situations and traps, while completing their fair share of very risky sub-quests.
The Creature will be forced to kill some adventurers searching for the Vapours. They quite quickly get their paws on the Vapour of Reason, enabling them to take decisions, and the Vapour of Language, enabling them to understand people and speak freely. They eventually learn about Zharradan Marr and his plans, from the fortune-teller Rosina in the village of Coven as well as the three Sisters of Dree who raised (and disowned) him. The Sisters only give their intel in exchange of the magic Scullyweed plant they need for their fortune potion, but they also give a priceless truth ring.
The Creature later saves the half-orc Grognag Clawtooth, Grog in short, from angry villagers. The two become friends and travelling companions, with Grog carrying a wooden box (which unbeknownst to the Creature contains the Vapour of Elven Magic that Marr needs to become Titan's most powerful wizard.) Alas, Grog later sacrifices his life to save the Creature.
The Creature later speaks with Daga Weaseltongue and needs the Sister truth ring to compel him to tell the truth, least he sends them on pointless errands with his lies. Daga tells them a way to set foot on the Galleykeep, where they could meet Zharradan Marr himself. But to do so they need to learn about the netherworld in which he is hiding and the mirror that links it to the physical plane. The creature must reach the point where the Galleykeep fetches its supplies and hide in it to sneak on board.
Thugruff's training grounds must be avoided, for the Creature dies if they fight him. And if he admits them among Marr's troops in the Galleykeep, they will gladly serve under him for the rest of their life.
Confrontation with MarrZharradan Marr welcomes his Creature, congratulating them for the brains and brawns that they displayed to reach him. He gleefully reveals that they were once the captain of the Galleykeep, whom he captured after taking over the flying ship, and turned a monster in what he deems his greatest achievement in Marrhanga.
He even arranged for the Creature to stumble upon the Vapours, as he threw them in the dungeons in which he tests his creations, to test the Vapours he had no use for on a living being. He is aware that Grognag had found the Vapour of Elven Magic, and fully expected the Creature to reach them and bring it to him.
The necromancer orders the Creature to give him the final Vapour and offers to make them his right-hand, which they can accept. (However, this enables Marr to take over Allansia. The narration clearly states that the Creature might live in luxury, but only until he gets tired of them or finds them disposable, and unceremoniously kills them.)
To defeat Marr, the Creature needs to have been showered with magical Elven Dust in order to resist his torture spell, otherwise they will have no choice but to give him the Vapour, leading to a game over. They also need a Crystal Club to shatter the magical mirror and trap Marr forever in his own netherworld. Attacking him with anything else is useless and he disappears right after, leaving the Creature to be slaughtered by his guards.
Desiring revenge for their fate and their former crewmen, the incensed Creature prepares to banish the increasingly panicking Zharradan Marr, who uselessly tries to stall them. Removing the wretched necromancer from the Earthly Planes for all of eternity cancels all his evil magic, (likely destroying the power animating Quimmel Bone and the Hellfire Master.) Now human again, the former Creature of Havoc takes back control of the Galleykeep and sails free towards their destiny.
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 of the Vale of Willow sent his own army and his best 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, set foot on the Galleykeep, the flying ship that Marr took over. There, he shattered the magic mirror serving as a gateway to Marr's pocket dimension.
However, the mirror reformed, since only a magical mean could destroy it for good, until the former captain of Galleykeep destroyed it with a Crystal Club, trapping Zharradan Marr forever in his own netherworld and freeing himself from the wretched necromancer's curse (as he does 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 the Forest 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.