Welcome to the Great Wizard's Exclusives Page. The artwork created by Fighting Fantasy artists has always been spectacular, and so are Wizard Books' new range of covers. These have no doubt inspired many of you to create your own images depicting your favourite monsters, characters and scenes from the series. Here we present our exclusive look at unseen artwork and sketches, as well as short interviews we've had with the cover artists themselves.
Exclusive 2: The Thief of Arantis by Dave Morris and Mark Smith
The following information was originally published on the unofficial AdvancedFightingFantasy.com detailing at the time exclusive unseen discussions and material from the original Puffin Fighting Fantasy series. At the time I was fortunate to perform many interviews with many of the original Fighting Fantasy contributors, authors and artists and they were kind enough to reveal much about their work for the genre. In a number of these interviews via email, mail and telephone I presented and revealed information regarding unseen Gamebooks, proposals and artwork that has never seen the light of day. These included details on unpublished titles that Puffin was considering for publication at the time namely; 60 Saga of the Stormchaser by Jonathan Green, 61 The Thief of Arantis by Dave Morris, 62 The Wailing World by Paul Mason, 63 Pirates of the Black Skull by Jonathan Green, 64 Deathlord by Andrew Chapman & Martin Allen, Deathtrap Dungeon 3 by Dave Morris, 65 Night of the Creature by Marc Gascoinge and 66 The Keeper of the Seven Keys by Dave Morris & Jamie Thomson. Other titles such as the [Redacted] plot known as [Redacted] by [Redacted], Labyrinth of Death by Dave Morris & Jamie Thomson, a Sequel to Curse of the Mummy by Jonathan Green and [Redacted] also by [Redacted]. As originally presented on AdvancedFightingFantasy.com here is the information as provided by Dave and Mark on the unseen Thief of Arantis.
Dave Morris has been fantastic to Advanced Fighting Fantasy.com and myself in that we have now had a number of conversations. During a recent chat I asked about Bloodbones (more soon!) and other FF work. He informed myself that he never heard anything about the Bloodbones FF gamebook although he expected it was just another proposal.
He did reveal however, that he was asked along with Jamie Thomson to write a sequel to Deathtrap Dungeon - this was when we they were working as consultants at Eidos about five years ago, and it would have been released to coincide with the DD computer game. They started work on it, based on the level designs of the game, but it never happened for some reason, and it turned out Penguin had never made any firm decision to actually do it.
Along with this exciting bit of information, he also provided me with the storyline for a very detailed proposal called the Keeper of the Seven Keys, which was to be a book where you assumed the role of the "bad guy."
In actual fact you are not really the bad guy, but a misunderstood sorcerer whom everybody thinks is bad, but actually you're the only person who is able to keep the arch demon bound. This gamebook was going to be unique in that you find lots of "good guys" invading your castle - a bunch of martial artists, an amazon and a team of barbarian dwarves, etc. (Alough Dave thought he ought to stress that this was years before the Dungeon Keeper game was even thought of!) Sadly, the editors at Penguin decided against it. Maybe they didn't like the humorous approach or something, he doesn't know. He still has all the Maps and the intro somewhere. When he can find them AFF will be delighted to reveal the proposal.
The Thief of Arantis was the proposed FF gamebook (FF 62?) that never got used and Dave Morris later turned into "Twist of Fate", one of the Virtual Reality Gamebooks that he wrote along with Mark Smith. The original proposal in the form that it was seen by Penguin in 1989, can be read by clisking on the link. He believes it has some curiosity value. ("Twist of Fate" was published by Mammoth in 1994 and may eventually be reprinted by Paul Mason, who is now publishing a series of Gamebooks in electronic form.)
This gamebook takes as it's setting the ports and coastal waters of Arantis. Its flavor, however, is derived from the Thousand and One Nights. It deals with the protagonist's picaresque adventures as he or she rises from being a common sailor to the exalted rank of adviser to the Sultan.
Stopping off in one of the richer ports of Arantis, the protagonist hears talk of a marvelous egg bigger than a house. This egg, laid by the fabulous giant Roc, is prized for its qualities of good fortune and rejuvenation. A single piece chipped from the shell could be worth 10,000 gold pieces or more. Naturally, as with most tavern stories, the details are hard to pin down. Everyone knows of the Roc's egg, but no one has much idea of where it might be found. Nonetheless, the protagonist is sure that it truly exists (he saw it on the cover of the book, after all) and sets out in search of the Roc's eyrie.
Along the way his ship is wrecked on an inaccessible stretch of shoreline. Luckily he alone survives and is brought before a wizard, who listens to his story with great sympathy. Moved by his plight, and taking his survival as sign of the favor of the gods, the wizard gives him some magic slippers that allow the wearer to levitate - once only. These should enable him to reach the Roc's eyrie.
Soon after arriving at the next city, however, the protagonist is mistaken for a notorious thief and is thrown into gaol, charged with having stolen a magnificent ruby from the Sultan's treasury. There a beggar who tells him a story about the legendary Roc befriends him. In return, the protagonist might choose to tell the beggar about his magic slippers. If he does, his trust is rewarded with treachery: he awakes the next day to find the beggar has escaped using the slippers, leaving behind only his mangy cat.
Unless he still has the slippers and uses them to levitate to freedom, the protagonist is still in the gaol a week later when the real thief is caught. This fellow, Azenomei, is thrown into the same cell, but the gaolers make no move to free the protagonist, assuming that even if he did not steal the ruby there must be some other crime he should pay for. That night the protagonist mentions his obsession with finding the Roc's nest. Much to his surprise, Azenomei agrees to help him on condition that they first go to the rescue of his sister, who has been carried off by a sinister Jinni to a citadel on the western edge of the Plain of Bronze.
Assuming the protagonist agrees, they escape from gaol that very night and within a week they have reached an oasis in the Desert of Skulls. The protagonist is summoned to the tent of a nomad princess who turns out to be a hideous ghoul. Although he should be able to survive this encounter relatively unscathed, it forces him and Azenomei to flee into the desert without filling their water bags. A few days later, weakened by thirst, they stumble on another oasis at twilight. A stranger they meet here tells the protagonist he has found the Oasis Beyond The Mirage, and reveals a vision where the protagonist's reflection in a pool seems to be accompanied by an evil, gold-eyed man. When they awake the next morning there is no sign of the oasis or the stranger, though they now have full water bags.
After a few further adventures they reach the Jinni's citadel. It seems deserted. With pounding heart the protagonist begins to search for Azenomei's sister, but somehow he loses Azenomei in the maze of corridors. At last he finds a scented chamber where the girl reclines on a divan to which she is bound by a golden chain. He is about to free her when the Jinni appears. It is his former companion, the one who called himself Azenomei! This is the meaning of the vision at the oasis. The Jinni reveals that he truly believes the protagonist to be the notorious jewel thief that the Sultan's guards mistook him for. The same thief once stole a great gem ("as big as the egg of the Roc that perches in its eyrie atop the Isle of Palms") from the Jinni's own hoard, and that is why he has lured the protagonist here. The protagonist's protestations of innocence are ignored and he is forced to fight for his life. Various items must have been gathered to stand any chance against the Jinni, but in fact the girl, who reveals knowledge of combat sorcery, helps the protagonist. After the battle she tells him she is actually the Sultan's daughter. Her old nurse taught her magic to her. However, she was not taught any spell to unlock the enchanted shackles binding her. For this, she says, the protagonist must get a jeweled key from the eyrie of the Roc.
Fortunately the Jinni has mentioned where the Roc can be found: on the highest peak of the Isle of Palms, which lies in the Gulf of Shamuz. The protagonist travels there and must use his magic slippers to levitate up to the nest. If he has already made use of the slippers, it is possible to succeed if he has bothered to keep the beggar's mangy cat. This miraculous animal has the property that its tail grows longer whenever an outrageous lie is spoken in its hearing. If the protagonist has treated the cat well and has learned of this power, he can cause the tail to reach right up to the Roc's nest and can climb up to get the jeweled key...
The protagonist might not have met the Sultan's daughter, of course, in which case he can just take part of the egg as he originally intended. This will make him rich beyond the dreams of avarice. If he takes the jeweled key instead, though, then his reward is even greater. After freeing the girl and returning her to her father, he is rewarded with a Robe of Honor and becomes the Sultan's vizier. Throughout the city he is lauded as the most daring thief in the world, for he stole the jeweled key from the Roc's nest and the princess from the Jinni's palace. Thus, one who began by being mistaken for another ends by becoming the one he was mistaken for.