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Literature / Return to Firetop Mountain

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Return to Firetop Mountain is the 50th entry in the Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks, written by Ian Livingstone as a Milestone Celebration and nod to the first book of the series, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain.

Ten years ago, a heroic and selfless adventurer braved the dangerous maze under Firetop Mountain and faced its diabolical master, the evil Warlock Zagor, eventually killing the evil master of Chaos once and for all... Or so it was thought. Chaos Wizards such as Zagor himself have ways to cheat death, and the Warlock was prepared. After ten years of silence and peace, a new threat rose from Firetop Mountain: the animals fell ill, the soil darkened and the people of the nearby village of Anvil were attacked by night horrors who kidnap people and drag them back under the mountain, where their bodyparts are harvested to reconstruct Zagor's body. You are an adventurer looking for fame and fortune, and the dire situation of Anvil's village is the right situation for you to be the hero. With the help of the people of Anvil, Kaad, and Yaztromo the wizard, you'll have to find a way to infiltrate the dungeons under Firetop Mountain, make your way to the sanctum, and defeat Zagor one more time, for the good people of Allansia.

The book is to The Warlock of Firetop Mountain what Trial of Champions was to Deathtrap Dungeon, an elaborated sequel which revisit the same location with a fleshed-out backstory, brand new puzzles and encounters and a new set of plot coupons to gather in order to finish the game alive.

The Zagor trilogy finally concludes itself with the third and last book, Legend of Zagor.

Return to Firetop Mountain provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Heroism: As mentioned in the background, the backstory makes clear that the morally dubious protagonist of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain was a noble hero, and Zagor was a standard Evil Sorcerer.
  • Attack on the Heart: Both the Doppelganger and the Undead Chaos Warrior can only be killed if you stab his heart.
  • Back from the Dead: As mentioned in the description, evil wizards can cheat death with Raise Dead spells, which will automatically revive the caster after a set amount of time. This was the case with Zagor.
  • Bare-Handed Blade Block: If you try attacking the Metallix with your sword, the creature simply stops your blade with it's bare hands. And then you realize it's immune to metal weapons. Throwing rocks, on the other hand...
  • Big Bad: Zagor, the (revived) Warlock of Firetop Mountain, now more villainous than before. Well, not that he was that evil in the first place...
  • Big Eater: At one point you can join an eating contest with some of Zagor's servants. You can win a Golden Dragon Tooth from the Barbarian if you do so.
  • Black Knight: You can encounter a Chaos Warrior in his private room, and he's so ferocious he can revive himself even if you kill him.
  • Call-Back: The first, abandoned part of the dungeon is still the same as the first time around in The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. You can even find a room with four skeletons at a table, a sinister callback to the four dwarves playing cards in the original adventure.
    • The player can also find the case for "The Giver of Sleep," but it's empty, the hero of the original book presumably having taken it.
  • Characterization Marches On: The character of Zagor is much more developed compared to his original, one-dimensional portrayal, coming off as a Noble Demon.
  • Cool Sword: You can find one belonging to the infamous Chaos Warrior Darkblade Skullbiter. Subverted in that, rather than use it as a weapon, you barter it with a Chaos Beastman in exchange for a free pass to Zagor's quarters.
  • Deadly Ringer: At one point, you encounter an evil witch who casts Mind Control spells on unwary adventurers, turning them into her slaves, but her enchantment can be broken by ringing a silver bell within her presence.
  • Duel to the Death: The very final duel against Zagor is a mano-a-mano knife fight on equal standing.
  • Eating Contest: A really gross example, but you'll need to win a sheep's eye-eating competition in order to gain one of the four Golden Dragon Teeth necessary for your quest.
  • Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors: Zagor tries to defeat you by summoning a series of four Chaos Elementals against you. To defeat them, you must summon the corresponding Light Elementals in the right order. Earth beats Air, Air beats Water, Water beats Fire and Fire beats Earth.
  • Enigmatic Minion: The Puzzlemaster and the Pitmaster are in Zagor's service and can kill you if you fail their trials, but they're more than happy to let you go if you pass. You even wonder aloud about their attitude.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: Zagor employs a very diverse collection of minions, from goblins and orcs to Troglodytes, Ogres, Vampires, and Gorgons.
  • Everything Is Trying to Kill You: An egregious example is a peculiar talisman which reacts to the garlic in your backpack by turning into a stiletto and sinking itself into your back.
  • Excalibur in the Rust: You can find the legendary sword of Darkblade Skullbiter in the nest of a Goblin, of all things.
  • Foreign Queasine: The menu for the eating contest is a typical Troglodyte delicacy: sheep's eyeballs. In a bout of realism, eating them is disgusting but restores your Stamina, since they're still edible.
  • Frankenstein Monster: Apparently, Zagor's spell did bring him back to life but was faulty, which meant that he needed to replace most of his body parts with fresh ones from the people of Anvil.
  • Giant Flyer: You can hire the service of a Giant Eagle early on to fly from Kaad to Firetop Mountain.
  • Glamour: There is an inescapable encounter with a hag who uses a magic charm to disguise herself as a beautiful maiden in an attempt to trick and brainwash you. She use the same charm to disguise her dog-headed minion as a human, and if you didn't collect a magic ring earlier in the adventure, you'll fall under her spell.
  • Hand in the Hole: This is where you will find the first Golden Dragon Tooth, in a hole near the entrance of Zagor's lair. Unfortunately, said hole is filled with acidic gel which will dissolve your flesh if you aren't wearing a gauntlet.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: If you rescue the blinded Zoot from Zagor's prisons, he will uncover a secret door for you, but will also fall victim to the trap in front of it.
  • Imposter Forgot One Detail: The Doppelganger assassin sent by Zagor, while posing as the good wizard Yaztromo, forgot to disguise his eye colors. Depending if you have obtained a clue from Moose beforehand or not, the text will mention Yaztromo's green eyes, alerting you that the wizard is an imposter.
  • Instant Messenger Pigeon: En route to Kaad on a boat, your friend Moose will send a pigeon to warn you of a Doppelganger assassin attempting an ambush near your destination. You'll need to pass a LUCK Test however, otherwise the pigeon will be snatched away by a hawk and you'll miss out a clue.
  • Kill It with Fire: At one point, you enter a chamber containing six mummies which must be defeated in order to continue. If you purchased a lantern earlier, you can instantly kill one die worth of mummies by breaking the lantern and spilling burning oil on the mummies.
  • Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: If you manage to counter all of Zagor's Chaos Elementals, he will challenge you to a solemn, unarmored knife fight one on one.
  • Multi-Melee Master: While the other books imply that you can use weapons other than swords, this book has an ample variety of weapons you can use, including a sword, a hammer, a knife, and even a whip.
  • No-Sell: The Metallix seems harmless, but is completely immune to any metal weapon and must be dealt with using stones and rocks.
  • Older Than They Look: The Puzzlemaster turns out to be 90 years of age, but could very well pass for someone half his age in an illustration. Likely justified thanks to being one of Zagor's magical minions.
  • One-Winged Angel: In a rather unusual example, if the Chaos Beastman wounds you at least once, he will transform into a stronger and more monstrous Chaos Beast Lord.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Just like in Crypt of the Sorcerer, a seemingly kind and friendly Yaztromo is actually a deadly enemy in disguise.
  • Plot Coupon: The four Golden Dragon Teeth which can summon Light Elementals, as well as the pages of the spellbook telling you which Elemental lives in which tooth.
  • Red Right Hand: Almost literally. Zagor's right hand is grotesquely oversized for his arm, while his left arm is a skeletal stump.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: Dungheap Dan the Mushroom Man, an NPC you encounter early in the quest, speaks only in rhyme for no reason other than to depict him as a Cloudcuckoolander. He is, however, quite harmless and offers you a free shroom if you try communicating with him.
    I'm Dungheap Dan
    The mushroom man
    I'd rather be a poet
    Than a man who has to hoe it
    Take a mushroom, I won't tell
    When you're ill, it'll make you well.
  • Schmuck Bait: One of the Golden Teeth you can obtain is a fake dud.
  • Sequel Hook: After killing Zagor in the final battle, you leave and return with some villagers so that they can see Zagor's corpse for themselves. To everyone's shock, the dead Zagor has a big smile on his face and the stump on his incomplete arm is missing too.
  • Series Fauxnale: This was intended to be the last book in the series, bringing things full-circle and ending things on a nice, round number, as well as finishing after 10 years. However, the special attention given to the series in the anniversary year caused sales to spike and it continued being published by Puffin for another few years after this.
  • Shout-Out: The accompanying illustration of the Slime Beast looks a lot like the Rancor. The pit where you fight it even have skulls littered all over the place.
  • Silver Has Mystic Powers: You can find a rather useful Silver Dagger which can harm the undead and is required in the final battle to kill a rat which is running away with one of the Teeth.
  • Spikes of Villainy: The Chaos Warrior's battle attire.
  • Skippable Boss: The Chaos Beast Man will let you pass if you give him Darkblade Skullspitter's sword. And then there's the Chaos Slime Beast, which you don't need to fight if you take the "PUZZLES" route.
  • Touch of Death:
    • The Doppelganger can drain your soul and turn you into a lifeless husk just by touching your skin. In your battle against it, you need to try piercing its soul while avoiding its touch - lose a single attack round and it's game over.
    • The Plague Bearer is small, frail and seemingly harmless, but can kill you with his infecting touch.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Both the Chaos Warrior and the Chaos Beastman can fly into an unstoppable rage when in combat.
  • Useless Item: You can (read: should) visit a store belonging to an old man named Deep Sea, filled with all sorts of junk you can purchase for your adventure before departing towards Kaad. Deep Sea will give you a list of stuff who might be of use, some which are compulsory while a few are either useless, or used in a route that's unwinnable anyways (the quill and paper, healing balm, and axe comes to mind). One of them is outright harmful the garlic, which accidentally triggers a spell when touching a magic pendant that kills you on the spot).
  • Villains Out Shopping: You can run into a room of the dungeon where a bunch of Zagor's mooks are enjoying some free time partying and having eating contests.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The mirror for the Gorgon, Garlic for the Vampire and the Whip for the Mindbender.