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Literature / Phantoms of Fear

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Sweet Dreams, Eldenurin...

Phantoms of Fear is the t28th entry in the Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks, written by Robin Waterfield.

You are a Wood Elf from Affen Forest, but no ordinary elf: your father was a great warrior, your mother a powerful shaman, and as their son, you are a gifted warrior capable of wielding magic and the power of entering the Dream World, typical of shamans. Your powers and connection to the Dream World earned you the title of Eldenurin, the "Defender-Shaman of the Tribe", and now your powers are required to save Khul from evil. In your dreams you sense the threat of the diabolical Prince Ishtra, one of the Snake Demons, who's building a secret invasion force in the depths of Affen Forest itself, corrupting the land. With your arsenal of spells and your enchanted sword Telessa at your side, you must brave the chaotic forest, infiltrate Ishtra's Pit and find a way to defeat the Demon Prince and his terrifying minion Morpheus, master of Nightmares.


The book is overall original thanks to some characteristics of your character, including the ability to journey into the Dream World using Power points, which can help you avoiding some dangers, or make things even harder for you. Notably, while its plot also involves collecting vital artifacts for the finale, an alternative solution is offered.

Phantoms of Fear provides examples of:

  • After Boss Recovery: After the long dream battle against Morpheus your Power score is brought back at his fullest.
  • All There in the Manual: In a curious aversion, you get a small bio of some of the unique enemies you fight (like the irritable cook or Shikara the jailer) when you fight them.
  • Anti-Magic: When you reach Ishtra's Pit you're left unable to cast spells. To compensate, you can travel to the Dream World while you're awake.
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  • An Axe to Grind: Eric Rune-Axe's Weapon of Choice is a gigantic, enchanted axe.
  • Bad Boss: You outright state that Ishtra is so vile and terrible that even his own minions would leave him if they could. He employs black magic to enslave them.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: If your Power score is high enough, you can forfeit the ritual and challenge Ishtra to a duel in the Dream World.
  • Big Bad: Ishtra the Snake Demon, who wants to launch an invasion of Titan.
  • Blob Monster: One of the threats in the forest is a disgusting worm-shaped slime being formed from the pollution oozing from the corrupted trees.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Eric Rune-axe is a wild, dangerous lunatic when you first meet him. He becomes a precious ally if you manage to heal him.
  • Catapult Nightmare: The story starts with one you have after dreaming of Ishtra's attack.
  • Cool Sword: You start the game with one, named Telessa.
  • Dem Bones: The Skeleton Spirit is an animated, invincible skeleton bound to some talismans. You need to cover his hand under a boulder to keep him from rising again.
  • Demon Lords And Arch Devils: Ishtra is one of the three Snake Demons along with Myurr and Sith, ruling over the four Night Demons and being one of Titan's strongest foes.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Fighting Morpheus in his own dream world qualifies as this. One can defeat Ishtra via Dream combat without the spheres with enough Power. The explanation is that mortals (even elves are mortal, compared to demons) have the capacity to grow.
  • Door to Before: Conveniently enough, the cavern where Ishtra is fought contains a secret passage to the surface.
  • The Dragon: Morpheus the Lord of Nightmares has agreed to serve Ishtra and guard his personal shrine.
  • Dream Land: The Dream World, which you can access in your sleep. During the second half of the book you can enter it whenever you have the chance, mixing the real world with incredible landscapes.
  • Dream Weaver: You can manipulate your dreams to some extent, which includes fighting incredible enemies who'll normally be out of your league. For example, dueling Ishtra himself if you have enough Power points.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: You dream of Ishtra's invasion in the beginning, which starts your quest. Parodied at one point where you dream of an horrorific and terrible future which is our world.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: As much as it disgusts you, you have to infiltrate Ishtra's base by dressing as a Dark Elf.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: Ishtra's caverns are an underground maze populated by evil creatures, minions of darkness and traps.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Morpheus is a shapeless, horrific entity that manipulates nightmares and can spawn all sorts of terrible monsters from his body.
  • Elemental Powers: You need to recover a series of items symbolizing fire, air and water which are required for a ritual to seal Ishtra.
  • Enemy Civil War: At one point you run into a Troll and an Ogre arguing against each other. If you're not careful though, they'll notice you and fight you together.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Entering Ishtra's shrine from the Dream World, as the Demon Prince set up some deadly defenses. Averted when you finally encounter Morpheus, as the paragraph reads as a game over one, but gives you the option of entering the Dream World where you can fight back the Master of Nightmares.
  • Fiery Salamander: In one dream sequence, you can cross safely a body of magma (a lake in the real world) by dreaming that you are a Salamander immune to heat.
  • Gaia's Lament: A particularly poignant dream has you appearing in a technologically advanced city in a far-future Titan, complete with automobiles, high rise buildings of glass-concrete-and-steel, and emotionally dead nine-to-five workers dragging themselves to soul-crushing smog-spewing factories; to an Elf, a Child of Nature, this industrial monstrosity is as heartbreaking as it is nightmarish to behold.
  • Garden of Evil: The forest of Affen under Ishtra's influence turns into a nightmarish, dark mess of rotten trees and sludge.
  • Golem: In a bout of cruel creativity, Ishtra's dungeon has a Quartz Golem pretending to be a door, ready to attack you if you don't know how to open the door.
  • Gotta Catch Them All: One way to defeat Ishtra is by finding all of the spheres and elemental-themed items.
  • Guest-Star Party Member: Eric Rune-axe, if you manage to cure his madness.
  • Invisibility: A side effect of travelling in the Dream World when awake makes you Invisible in the real world. However, you're not intangible: at least one game over has you shifting to the Dream World to escape a group of enemies, only for them to attack wildly and kill you all the same.
  • Made of Iron: Shikara the Ogress jailer has a scaly hide which reduces all damage taken.
  • Magic Knight: Your character can use both magic and swordsmanship, in addition to the mystical ability to travelling to the Dream World.
  • Mythology Gag:
  • Name's the Same: Your character's sword is named Telessa. The princess you have to save in Waterfield's later Deathmoor is named Telessa.
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: Ishtra's favourite form is a bipedal, goat-headed crocodile.
  • Nigh-Invulnerable: Being a Snake Prince, Ishtra cannot be killed or harmed by mortal weapons, not even magical weapons can do long-standing damage against them.
  • Non-Lethal K.O.: Normal battles inside the Dream World aren't lethal, except when you fight Morpheus or Ishtra or try to cast a spell inside the Dream World itself.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Invoked by Morpheus, as he traps you in his dream: if you kill him, the dreamworld you're in will collapse, taking you with him. You must beat him into submission and then spare him.
  • Oh, Crap!: Ishtra's reaction if you complete the ritual in time with all the six required items and banish him back to Hell.
  • Our Banshees Are Louder: Averted, you meet a Banshee locked in a cavern, but she's so starved and weakened that her wailing does you minor damage.
  • Our Elves Are Different: For once, you specifically play as a Wood Elf, who are pacific forest dwellers. Dark Elves are vile creatures met in Ishtra's service, and the mere sight of them makes your character furious.
  • Our Orcs Are Different: Various types of Orcs serve in Ishtra's army as mooks.
  • Playing with Fire:
    • One of your spells involves fire.
    • Also, Ishtra's favourite method of dealing with enemies.
  • Plot Coupon: Six elemental-based items required for a ritual which will banish Ishtra back to Hell, but if you beefed up your Power Score then they become redundant, as you can duel Ishtra face to face.
  • Riddle Me This: If you get captured by the Nixies, you'll get trapped in a net and dunked repeatedly in a lake. The only way out is to solve a riddle hidden in their song.
  • Riddling Sphinx: A Crio-sphinx, a being known for being devious and deceptive, guards the entrance to Ishtra's domain and tells you that the left path is safe, the right one is deadly. Inverted, since it's from her point of view.
  • Summon Magic: Morpheus summons a series of nightmarish creatures from his very body to battle you.
  • Veganopia: Wood Elves are vegetarian. Becomes relevant when you are looking for provisions and are attacked by a wild boar: even if you kill it, you cannot obtain food from it.
  • Wrecked Weapon: If you fight a quartz golem with your sword, it damages the blade and lowers your Skill. Just to twist the knife, it was guarding an armory, and the door's still blocked even if you win the fight.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: Unlike other Dream Battles, you can die for real if you face Morpheus or Ishtra.


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