My character in Night is a veteran warrior, owner of a magic sword named Nightslayer, currently returning home after three years of fighting the forces of evil alongside the Knights of Telak. According to some discussions I've read, poor stats are not a guarantee of failure, so I won't bother allocating rolls this time round.
Combat could be a challenge, then. There's one other stat, Will, but that automatically starts at 6.
It is late, and as I ride past the stone circle known as the Nine Maidens, three hooded brigands emerge from hiding and charge at me, startling my horse, which throws me and bolts. As I prepare to defend myself, a fourth figure appears out of the shadows. His black robes, skull mask and amethyst globe mark him out as a Death Acolyte. I've encountered his kind while I was away with the Knights, and I'm pretty sure we weren't allies.
My assailants must have really rubbish Skill scores, as I have so little trouble fending them off, there's not even any need to roll dice. The Death Acolyte stays out of the melee, though, and casts a spell, blasting me with a bolt of energy that knocks me to the ground. Before the thugs can take advantage of my prone position, I get up again, ready to press my attack, at which point they turn pale and back off. Something near my feet seems to be distracting one of the rogues, so I risk a quick look down to see what's got his attention.
On the ground is a dead body with a smoking hole in its chest. It takes me a moment to notice the remarkable similarity between the corpse's face and the one I see whenever I look in a mirror. Then I get quite annoyed. It's not often that a gamebook kills my character before I even get to make a decision (though that does happen from time to time). At least on this occasion my death doesn't bring the adventure to an end. It just means that I'll be playing my character's ghost.
When I wrote up an attempt at Night at a no longer extant FF forum (in a series of posts that did not come back from the dead after the forum expired), for a joke I concluded the first post at the point where the Death Acolyte's spell slew my character, temporarily giving the impression that that was the end of the adventure rather than the beginning. By the time I posted the account of what happened between my first death and the second one, someone unfamiliar with the book had already made a post criticising the game design that permitted use of such a lethal attack on the player character in the opening encounter.
The ruffians are all terrified, though they manifest their fear in different ways, while the Death Acolyte begins another incantation. I turn my attention to him, and the book uses inappropriately loaded terminology to describe my options. This man's first spell murdered me, and now he's working on another, so choosing to attack him rather than ask questions isn't mercilessness, it's self-preservation.
He continues to work on his spell, and as his Skill is equal to mine, there's a definite risk that he might complete it. The dice fall in my favour, though, and after a couple of blows from my spectral sword, he decides to cut his losses and run, distracting me by hurling his sphere to the ground and dazzling me with the eldritch energies released when it shatters.
Having nothing better to do now that I'm a ghost, I decide to try and find out why I was murdered. There are several places where I could look for answers, but I feel drawn to two locations in my immediate vicinity: the stone circle and a burial mound. Walking over to the Nine Maidens, I see strange energies radiating into the sky, and hear women singing. As I approach the altar stone, the energies converge on me, allowing me to increase my Skill, Stamina and Will beyond my starting scores, and providing a Luck bonus I can't use.
Three of the stones retain the form of an archway, and I see a vortex beginning to appear within it. I'm not yet ready to head towards the light, so I leave the circle and head for the mound. This barrow is ancient, and sealed with a large stone. Sensing something unpleasant within, I attempt to move the stone. This requires me to roll against my Will and, when I succeed at that, also my Stamina (though the number of dice required for the second roll makes the outcome a foregone conclusion with a Stamina as high as mine). The stone moves, and I realise that I've just manifested my first ghostly talent, which the book designates as the Poltergeist ability. Encouraged by this, I enter the mound to find out who's he-ere.
In the burial chamber I find the decaying corpse of an ancient king, surrounded by mouldering and tarnished treasures. Scattered around the throne are what appear to be human bones, some of them looking alarmingly well-gnawed. The remnants of the dead king's eyelids flick open, and he momentarily takes me for another grave robber before recognising what I really am: 'a knight of the living dead'. Yeah. The sepulchral stand-up gloats that the Lord of Shadows is coming to reap a harvest of souls, and when I heckle him, he leaps to the attack.
This is a nasty fight: not only does the Ghoul King have a higher Skill than my enhanced score, but if he manages to wound me three times, I lose a Skill and he gains it. And the effect is cumulative. Some lucky rolls (each followed by a Lucky roll) enable me to win the fight at the cost of just 1 Skill and 8 Stamina, but the victory brings no reward other than the prolongation of my existence (if 'existence' is the right word).
Now I can resume my journey towards Valsinore Castle, my home, or seek the assistance of the Wisewoman of
To reach the cliffs I must cross the tumulus-dotted stretch of land known as the Barrowmoor, which has its own supernatural denizen. No, not the A'Wight. A legendary phantom hound known as the Barghest (which has featured in at least one other gamebook), its howl purported to presage a death, though it seems a bit slow off the mark tonight, as it only starts howling now. Perhaps wishing to erase all witness of its tardiness, the Barghest attacks me. This fight doesn't go as well as the last one, though we have equal Skill scores, but I do just win, and absorb a little of my slain foe's power, which restores a quarter of the Stamina I lost in the fight.
Nothing else troubles me on my way to the beach, and I soon find a cave with a driftwood fire in it. The hermit senses my presence and emerges, paling when he catches sight of me. Luckily, he remembers me from when I was alive, and is not put off by my ethereal status. For a hermit, he turns out to be quite well-informed about goings-on. There are strangers at the castle, people are being troubled by bad dreams, the Black Dog has been howling (though that may not be an issue any longer), and the Burgomaster of Sleath has summoned a ghost hunter.
I ask for more news of the castle, and the hermit tells me that villagers are no longer allowed in, but Bertild the Blacksmith occasionally comes out for supplies, and has given some indications of sinister shenanigans being afoot in there. Around a year ago, just after a stormy night, some mysterious knights with plain black heraldry turned up, and have been there ever since. They're only ever seen during the hours of darkness. On a more cheery note, there's a big banquet being held tonight in celebration of the return of the castle's owner... Oh. Awkward.
The uncomfortable silence is broken by the emergence of a monster from the sea. The hermit flees into his cave, leaving me to confront the Sea Demon. This is another opponent that outclasses me, and while I do manage to wound it once, it has little trouble shredding my spectral form.
That death isn't the end, either, but as it's been a week since my last post here, I shall treat it as an opportune moment at which to terminate this entry, and my character's restless spirit shall return from slightly further beyond the grave on another day.