Shadow on the Sand

Shadow on the Sand – Attempt 2, Part 5

Aside : Long entry today with bonus social commentary, where I arguably read WAY too much into a single sentence of a gamebook!  In other words, a day ending in ‘y’.

Back to it.

Anyone who has watched either an episode of Lost or the classic 1966 Batman television show will know all about faux cliffhangers.  That is, the ones where the episode ends with the hero in mortal danger or a secret about to be revealed, together with the dreaded ‘to be continued’, only to find out next week that the danger wasn’t so imminent or the secret not so awesome after all.

You know, this kind of stuff.

Joe Dever certainly knew all about this, as demonstrated by the ending of paragraph 399.

Aside : The best ever deconstruction of the ‘to be continued’ trope was at the end of an issue of the seminal comic ‘Y The Last Man‘.  Check this out :





Anyway, to make a long story short (too late) the ominous ‘kaboom’ at the end of our previous entry was actually just the dwarfs firing primitive rifles at the Kraan / Drakkarim combos, killing one and driving the rest away.

Project Aon link – Bor dwarf with ‘gun’

Safe for the moment, Banedon turns the ship south, and I am asked to make an R10 check.

My score of 6 means that, as the dwarfs are clearing the deck from the debris of battle, a Drakkar that appeared to be dead leaps to his feet, and makes ready to hurl his axe AT MY HEAD.

Its a scene reminiscent of the end of many a classic movie.

Best Christmas movie of all time, amirite?

Before I can get too worried, my Kai skills (in either Sixth Sense or Hunting, take your pick) enable me to easily dodge the thrown axe.  The Drakkar is blown away by one of the Bor guns, and Banedon helps me to his feet.  It is now that I can clearly see that his bandage is soaked with blood and he is pale, and weak on his feet.  The dwarfs show no indication as to why they considered clearing the deck of debris was more important than tending the wound of THE ONLY PERSON WHO CAN KEEP THE SHIP IN THE AIR.


I guess their discovery of the seemingly dead Drakkar is an argument in favour of their chosen course of action.

I suppose.

My healing skill manages to give Banedon some relief and now a couple of dwarven healers step up to the metaphorical plate to steal my glory.  While his wounds are tended, its an information-dump!




Bullet points, you never let me down!

  • I fill Banedon in on my adventures, including the knowledge of the Book of the Magnakai.
  • Banedon, interestingly, makes no mention whatsoever of the reasons for him and his magical ship being present in Vassagonia, but rather agrees with me that the rescue of the Book of the Magnakai should take precedence over merely escaping from this hell-hole.
  • Although Banedon had not heard previously of the Book of the Magnakai, he has heard rumours of the Tomb of the Majhan, which is apparently a ‘terrible place’ of ‘horror and death’.
  • Resisting my urge to sit back and allow this ‘terrible’ place to systemically take out of its own accord as many of the searching Darklords and their minions as possible, I prepare myself to retrieve the Book.
  • Apparently there is only one man who has entered the Tomb of Horrors *ahem* Tomb of the Majhan and lived to tell the tale – Tipasa the Wanderer.  Banedon will now abandon whatever quest he was on to take me to this person (who is hopefully not ‘wandering’ as we speak.

As Banedon guides us with his psychic captain’s wheel through the mountains, the crew notice my discomfort at the narrow gaps and tell me to relax, because ‘the captain will see us through’.

I seem to recall Han Solo saying “I know what I’m doing.” moments before disaster struck an awful lot of times.




Anyway, I’m invited below deck to join the crew for their meal and, presumably, a game of poker.

The meal ensures that I’m back to peak Endurance, and I deny a kind offer to partake in the strong drink known as ‘Bor-brew’, what with it being banned in half the countries in Magnamund and all.

Because drinking heavily before secret stealth missions is, what was that Zooey?




The dwarfs are not offended by my refusal, and I take the opportunity to ask the group how they wound up with Banedon (which I totally don’t ask in the manner of a best friend asking “How did you wind up with her??”




The dwarfs’ story is meant to be lighthearted, but is actually deeply disturbing.

  • Although the term isn’t used, the dwarfs are basically slave s.
  • Banedon ‘won’ a ‘normal’ seafaring ship, along with their crew (ie. the dwarfs) in a card game (!!!).
  • It is also heavily implied that Banedon won the card game through use of his magic.
  • Banedon then obtained the flying ship (knows as the Skyrider) from the Magicians of Dessi in return for helping themdefeat some monstrosity called a Gagadoth.
  • The Skyrider was returning from Dessi when they came across me.
  • The dwarfs are ‘excited’ about the prospect of further adventure.

So, to sum up, Banedon (a ‘hero’, mind you) thinks nothing of treating the crew as property to be won in a game of chance and, to add insult to injury, doesn’t even win said game fairly!


There is no given option in the text for “After you find the Book of the Magnakai, will you lead the dwarfs in a revolution to gain their freedom”.

But there should be.


Base Stats : CS : 17, E : 24, GC 50

Modified Stats : CS : 29, E : 26

Weapons : Sword, Sommerswerd (+8 CS)

Backpack : 2 Meals, 2 Laumspur potions (+4E), Prism, Hourglass, Silver Comb, Canteen of Water

Special Items : Gaoler’s Keys, Jewelled Mace, Copper Key, Map, Crystal Star, Shield (+2 CS), Sommerswerd, Padded Waistcoat (+2 E), Chainmail Waistcoat (+4 E) Blue Stone Triangle Pendant, Diamond, Ornate Silver Key, Dagger of Vashna, Brass Whistle

Kai Rank : Savant

Kai Disciplines : Camouflage, Animal Kinship, Tracking, Hunting, Sixth Sense, Healing, Mind Over Matter, Mindblast (+2CS), Mindshield

Paragraph : 291

22 thoughts on “Shadow on the Sand – Attempt 2, Part 5

  1. Interesting take on it. I didn’t interpret the passage the same way. It simply says that Banedon took over as the new captain of the ship but nothing about them being slaves. They are simply in the employ of a new boss in my opinion, but still free to quit if they so chose, as there is no indication that they are required to remain in his employ.

    Now yes, Bandon’s cheating at cards in order to win ownership of a ship is a tad sketchy. He’s not sworn to the same high moral standards as those of a monk, it would seem. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. On fake cliffhangers my favourite worst was in Sunset Beach where Ben doesn’t realise the friend his girlfriend Meg is meeting in hospital is his lost amnesiac wife Maria (they don’t either) but he and Meg are becoming puzzled by Maria knowing things Meg tells her. Finally at home with Meg he declares there’s a mystery here and he’s had enough of it, throws on his coat and leaves saying he’s going to the hospital to get the truth. This was on a Friday, we impatiently wait through the werkend to Monday only to see its now the next day and Meg says to Ben its such a shame that by the time he reached the hospital it was closed 😤

      Re priorities, In fairness to the Dwarfs its a FLYING ship and would stay flying even if Banedon dropped dead, plus since Darklords use explosives getting the bodies off the deck FAST could be a lifesaver.

      You avoided the Bor-brew??? I thought it was understood we had to drink it everytime it appeared (although I felt repeated drinking should give some immunity). Yes I do have Irish, Scottish and Viking blood? Why do you ask?

      In curiosity, did you drink it as a youth but now you’re an adult you play more mature or did you avoid it as a youth also?

      Re slavery, in line with Nym90’s comment when my first employer (Quinnsworth) was bought out by Tesco all staff automatically became Tesco staff, business not slavery.

      As for the cheating, there may be a reference to riverboat gamblers all being cheaters anyway so Banedon just outcheated a cheat, plus the guy (a Dwarf named Quan) would have lost the boat sooner or later anyway if he was stupid enough to gamble it (“friend” of parents lost his restaurant because of his gambling addiction, his staff lost their jobs), the Dwarfs appear happy with the new arrangement. Should also add that if Banedon magically changed just the cards in his hand he’d soon have been knifed as a cheat so the reference to his chosen profession could just refer to his understanding of mathematical probabilities (Mum was also a maths teacher). End of the day, its left vague enough that we can reach conclusions based on our view of Banedon. It also ties in with the message that Magnamund is a mess and we know all Sommerlending have to have a lord even while telling/deluding themselves they’re free.

      Ultimately, if there was an option to free the Dwarfs that would confirm they’re slaves.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I take both of your points, but stand by my original assessment. If the dwarfs were simply ’employees’ who were working on a particular ship, and therefore stayed with that ship, wouldn’t they have stayed with the original vessel when it passed out of Banedon’s ownership, rather than being dragooned into serving on the flying ship?

        I’m reminded of a scene in ‘Batman : Year One’, when Bruce Wayne is pondering the possessions ‘left’ to him by his father, and includes Alfred (!) in the list!

        I tried the Bor-brew ONCE, then learned better.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The genius of the “Ka-boom!” cliffhanging fake-out is, Lone Wolf doesn’t know what a gun explosion sounds like. The only explosion I can recall is at the end of Fire On The Water, and since there’s no beam of light streaking out of your Megasword, he’d assume it was some Darklord weapon destroying the whole ship. I’m reminded of The Great Brain children’s books, about a family in the 1890’s. The kids are distressed that their father bought some of that newfangled indoor plumbing, They’re in their room crying over the thought of having a filthy, smelly latrine actually in the house, when they hear a “Ka-boom!” They fear their Pa has been killed in an explosion, turns out, it was just the toilet flush we all take for granted. I like to think that this scene was playing out between Ma and Pa:

    By the way, why has no one mentioned that in the “Bor-dwarf with ‘gun'” pic, the Yankee Doodle dwarf has apparently SLICED TWO LINES IN HIS FOREHEAD AND STUCK A FEATHER UNDER THE SKIN FLAP!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I actually remember the Great Brain books from my youth, and that story with the indoor toilet was (I think) from the first chapter of the first book. As a refugee from eight years of a Jesuit school, the book about Tom (aka the Brain) going off to boarding school with the Catholics resonated strongly.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ooh, Tom going off to boarding school was my favorite. Tom matching wits against a powerful enemy (though the Jesuits did care for the kids; it’s just Tom chafed against their strict rules). As a casino dealer, I’m partial to the one where Tom offers the other kids an enormously fun game where someone wins a prize with every spin of the wheel. It was, of course, a massively profitable enterprise with the odds in the house’s favor. That kid who seemed really lucky at first, winning a huge fortune of $3, then making 3-4 bets per spin to keep the action going? Lifelong gambling problem.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Okay, I can kind of see the hat now. It’s weird since his eyebrows are so bushy, they can’t be contained under the hat. I’d still prefer to think of it as a near-fatal head wound that never fully healed, and he sticks a feather in there to show his defiance toward death.

        “Lawrence Leung’s Choose Your Own Adventure … depicts Leung setting out to achieve the dreams he had as a ten-year-old boy living in the 1980s.” Such as completing the most epic gamebook series ever? Contemporary, indeed.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. @T-Man, never thought about it but good point that Lone Wolf wouldn’t know what gunfire sounds like, he even assumes they’re magic staffs at first. Good point. Also I always assumed the dwarf had a feather through his skin, they drink Bor Brew for Kai’s sake.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Well again, we don’t know that they are being forced to stay with Banedon. It’s ambiguous. They may have just grown to like him and thus chose to remain with him, and/or they can’t find better work. They certainly don’t seem unhappy with the situation.

    Maybe the ambiguity was Joe’s intent. It does make the plot more interesting if Banedon isn’t as “good” as he outwardly appears.

    Of course Lone Wolf himself can do some morally questionable things as well (killing innocent people, not putting in your best effort to save the innocent, etc.). One of the themes I see running through the books is actually one of “ends justify the means” to some degree, in terms of that you’re usually better off looking at the big picture as opposed to sweating the small stuff.

    I better not go too far down this rabbit hole, or else I might not like these books as much as I do. I could also, like you, be way overanalyzing it. Since the target audience for the books was preteens, it’s probably the latter.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Lone Wolf could kill attackers in Gorn Cove when they try to kill him. But there’s no option to surrender and he can still choose to escape so thats up to the player. In the Cauldron of fear circumstances can also lead to him fighting who should be his allies. Neither really counts as killing innocents as they attack first. If his troops kill the two Redeemers in The Chasm of Doom he feels pretty bad about it. I can’t recall him ever deliberately killing innocent people who aren’t trying to kill him.

      He does have a tendency to take everything that’s not bolted to the ground, but thats only when he’s on the run for his life.

      In both cases context is usually everything, but Dever doesn’t gloss over that war is a messy business. My own opinion.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was thinking of the situation in Fire on the Water in Gorn Cove where you can choose to kill someone other than Parision with no consequences. You can either choose a much easier fight against Halvorc, or you can fight Viveka if you want the greatest possible financial reward.

        Also later in that book, when you have to choose whether to give the Magic Spear to Rhygar or not, you are always better off keeping it, even though it’s obvious that he has no chance of survival if you do. Joe appears to be expecting you to consider the success of your mission and thus your own safety to be more important than Rhygar’s (or at the very least that Rhygar is doomed either way, and thus you should keep the Spear).

        Also in Flight from the Dark, you are better served by running away from the battle at Alema bridge as opposed to being courageous and helping Prince Pelathar (if you do that, you have to fight a difficult combat against a Gourgaz, with no real advantage to you ultimately for having done so).
        And when the children are attacked along the road to Toran by the Kraan, you are likewise better off running away than protecting them.

        Admittedly, Lone Wolf’s morality does become more clearly established in later books. Which makes sense as he is aging and becoming more mature (he’s only a teenager in the earliest books). Plus, he is stronger and a more capable fighter and thus it becomes less necessary for him to run from potential combats.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Also later in that book, when you have to choose whether to give the Magic Spear to Rhygar or not, you are always better off keeping it, even though it’s obvious that he has no chance of survival if you do. Joe appears to be expecting you to consider the success of your mission and thus your own safety to be more important than Rhygar’s (or at the very least that Rhygar is doomed either way, and thus you should keep the Spear).

        Spoilers for the Mongoose Books reissue of Fire on the Water

        Some significant changes have been made to this sequence of the book in the newer release. The Noodnics can no longer be encountered unless you give Rhygar the spear, so keeping it means having to fight a Helghast in the tunnel. Besides which, all routes on which you never acquire the spear are now lethal.

        There seems to be some debate among fans over whether this indicates a change in Joe Dever’s attitude towards the utilitarian view, or is just one of Mongoose’s trademark errors.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. @ Aussiesmurf and Nym90. I see your point re Gorn Cove. But the questions there are 1) does Lone Wolf kill an innocent or is it the controlling player who orders it and Lone Wolf is duped and 2) Is there a difference. Put another way, does Lone Wolf really barely survive an assassination attempt and then say to himself, “Hmm, I have to kill someone for this but rather than go for my enemy I’ll attack innocent Halvorc’s because he’s an easy kill”? I agree that the Player is making an immoral choice there, but is Lone Wolf himself being “morally questionable”? Contrast this with games where you can tell your character to blow away one’s they know to be innocent bystanders, there both the character and player are guilty. But for Lone Wolf I personally feel no, but I’m open to correction.

        Re running away from fights he’d lose I’d consider the “stronger and more competent fighter” to be more of a factor with the fights you pick when comparing Flight with later books than maturity or morality. Your number one mission is to get to the King, not get yourself killed in a fight you can’t win. Put another way, if I saw someone drowning and I leapt in to save them then we’d both drown. Obviously I’d look for someway to help but if they drown do I count as having not “done my best” because I didn’t jump in and drown with them? Honestly I would feel I hadn’t, but feelings don’t make something true.

        However I can’t argue with you re Rhygar and the magic spear. Joe Dever had plenty of opportunity to change or comment on that bit, he deliberately left it that you leave him to die. Yes, it can be argued that Lone Wolf will die if he doesn’t keep the spear but he doesn’t know that. However the two rules that come to mind are
        1 Never take a gamble you can’t afford to lose
        2 When there is doubt, there is no doubt.

        Actually Nym90, I agree with the term “Morally Questionable” in the sense its certainly enabled us to debate and question his actions.

        Thanks to you both for the feedback.


      4. @Ed. You just had to post that while I was writing to make my Rhygar comments look as ignorant as me 😉

        Actually as fighting the Helghast for the spear is one of the worst fight in the two books I don’t agree with now being forced to take that route but they may have balanced it more. As again there’s no direct comment from Joe Dever there’s still room for debate.


  4. According to The Magnamund Companion the Dwarfs of Bor are noted “explorers” as well as warriors. They live in a mountain but are also at home at sea. This crew were sailing The Tentarius which is a thousand mile stretch of lakes and rivers, i.e.
    they are not stay at home types. Banedon is called “the dwarfs captain” while the skyship was “given to him”. Bearing in mind that the text specifies they’re looking forward to more adventures with Banedon, given the choice between sailing up and down the same stretch of water and adventuring across the skies which would an adventrous “explorer and warrior” do?

    Put it another way, if the bosses of Berry Family Law decide to move the business to another building what are the odds that you and your excellent PA would say “Oh, we’re comfortable in this office, we won’t move”. You could try, but your old jobs will be gone.

    True its not stated outright they’re not slaves, but would it need to be.

    On other matters I salute your standing up to the peer pressure to drink the Bor brew, whatever about real life I’d always give in to the challenge in Lone Wolf.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Regarding the Bor brew, from a gaming standpoint you were correct to not drink it, as you would have given yourself a random chance of getting a hangover and losing endurance points.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. That’s interesting re: the Mongoose edition of Fire on the Water. The Project Aon version I feel has the superior resolution to the problem. As long as you have either the Spear or Animal Kinship when you enter the tunnel, you are good to go; you only die if you have neither.

    Other versions of the book infamously either were unwinnable if you gave away the Spear (even if you had Animal Kinship) or required you to get the Spear in order to win (whether you gave it away or not), even if you had Animal Kinship.

    Liked by 1 person

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