Thursday, 4 September 2014

Flaxenmane of Silverton

Here's an interesting one from Steve Jackson's Fighting Fantasy masterpiece, Creature of Havoc, that Kieran Coghlan pointed out to me in the comments on my earlier post, The Allansian Adventurer. Obvious spoilers ahead!

After Zharradan Marr engineered the theft of the magical Vapours of Stittle Woad, he hid them in his dungeons until he could understand their secrets (CoH, pp. 30-31). Fearing that Marr would become invincible, the towns of Stonebridge, Chalice and Silverton sent parties of adventurers to search for the Vapours and return them to safety (CoH, p. 32). It is of course in these dungeons that your adventure as the savage Creature of Havoc begins. Your first encounter in the adventure is with the unfortunate Dwarf, Swinebeard of Yore, who has been sentenced for the crime of arson in Salamonis to enter Marr's dungeons and search for the vapours. On the written sentence from the court that Swinebeard carries with him someone (probably Swinebeard himself) has scribbled Vapour of  knowledge / - Flaxenmane of Silverton = / - Winged helmet (CoH, para. 337).

After what can only be considered to be an unfortunate encounter with a Hobbit (read the book to find out why if you don't know already!), you come to a room with four corpses in it, which three Flesh Feeders are feasting on (CoH, paras. 101 and 447). There are corpses of two 'pug-nosed' creatures, presumably Orcs, and of two adventurers - one dressed in a leather tunic and helmet, the other, described as a Knight, dressed in metal armour and a ornate winged helmet (see the illustration below from para. 447). We can assume that this unfortunate individual, who has been dead a long time (CoH, para. 101), is the character identified on Swinebeard's note - Flaxenmane of Silverton.

We can also assume that Flaxenmane was one of the adventurers sent by Silverton to recover the vapours of Stittle Woad (and indeed he had succeeded in finding one before his demise) and, given that he is wearing fancy armour that he was, unlike Swinebeard, a willing participant in this endeavour. It doesn't look like he is someone from your past, though, since he is notable enough to be described in some detail in the book but isn't mentioned by Zharradan Marr later in the adventure.

Creature of Havoc is a book packed full of detail, and that's part of the brilliance of it, but the attention given to such a minor character in the story obviously invites us to ponder who exactly Flaxenmane of Silverton might have been. As I mentioned at the start of the post, Kieran Coghlan mentioned a fan theory, one which I hadn't heard before, concerning Flaxenmane. At the end of Ian Livingstone's early FF book, Forest of Doom, you are rewarded for returning King Gillibran's magical war-hammer with jewels, gems and a fabulous golden winged helmet, which you proudly place on your head. Could it be that this is the same helmet that Flaxenmane is wearing and indeed that Flaxenmane is this same Allansian adventurer?! It's an intriguing thought that the hero of the Stonebridge Trilogy (and maybe even of other Allansian adventures, such as the Deathtrap Dungeon sequence) might have come to an inglorious end in the bowels of Zharradan Marr's dungeons but, as Kieran points out, he's exactly the sort of renowned adventurer that might have been sent on the desperate mission to recover the Vapours of Stittle Woad before Marr uncovered their secrets. I like this idea a lot, not least for its subversive take on the fortunes of the (essentially Livingstonian) Allansian adventurer. But of course a winged helmet is not a lot to go on, so maybe there's no connection at all (though that would leave us wondering why Steve Jackson took the trouble to describe Flaxenmane that way in the first place). What do you think?