Bodiccea (Act I)
Now, many versions later, I understand that the Amazon has been overhauled for the better. In particular, while Jab was nerfed by making it dependent on weapon speed, the other spear skills were improved. Back when I first tried it, Fend was nothing but a slow mockery of Zeal, and the "lightning damage" spear skills were pathetic. Now, if they really are more useful, a Spearazon might be fun. If not... it's back to Jabbing again, and I'll need some attack speed boosts to compensate for the nerf. Extra movement speed might help too, for closing in on those pesky archers and mages. Come to think of it, could a melee fighter gain much from lots of extra movement? There are "speedazons", but they use bows. I've never equipped anyone like that, which makes it a good thing to try now.
My plan is: a pure Spearazon, with as many boosts to attack and movement speed as I can lay my grubby little hands on. At high levels, her main attack skill will probably be Fend, but I'll try the lightning skills to see how they've changed. No Pikes -- I'll restrict myself to fast spears like the Brandistock class. They have serious dexterity requirements, as do Amazon-specific spears, so she won't have any problem hitting things. Doing enough damage might be difficult. A big investment in Critical Strike would be a good idea, and if I can swing it, some gear with Crushing Blow. But speed takes priority.
All I need now is a name and a personality. Hmm... she'll be a fast girl with a high dexterity, relying on skill and technique more than muscle. She might not even be strong enough to handle the really big sticks. Every now and then, there might be a few sparks, but mostly she'll come in fast and fend of anyone who tries to get near her. Most importantly, she must have a sense of humor. I know the Amazon sounds very noble in-game, but I'm in the mood to write something just plain SILLY. Besides, any woman who's built like that better have a sense of humor about it. Her name will be Bodiccea, after a tribal warrior woman of the British Isles who rebelled against Roman rule. Apparently, she was a hottie too.
The Amazon seemed to come out of nowhere. The two Rogues guarding the gates never saw her. She didn't climb over the rickety walls. Without warning, she was suddenly there, standing next to Warriv by the fire, armed with a simple spear. "I need to get more sleep," he thought as he went to greet her. She was undoubtedly safe. No marks of Hell could be seen on her, and besides, the honor of an Amazon warrior is never in question. Wherever she came from, an ally is an ally, and they all had a great need for them.
"Greetings! I'm not surprised to see one of your kind here."
"Oh, hi!" the Amazon smiled, bouncing on her toes. "I'm Bodiccea."
Warriv smiled, keeping his eyes high. It wasn't easy, she was taller than him by a few inches. "I am Warriv, master of this caravan."
"Uh huh. All two wagons. But that's ok."
"Ah..." He scratched his head. There were only two wagons sitting in camp. Didn't seem like much of a caravan, even to him. "The others are around back. I suppose you've heard about the terrible events in the Rogue citadel?"
"Yeah, yeah, I know the drill. The town of Tristram, Diablo in the catacombs, mysterious Dark Wanderer, Andarial took over the monastery, lotsa Rogues fell under an evil spell that's making them run around naked, et cetera, et cetera. You're married, right?"
Warriv's heart skipped a beat. He'd been married long enough to know that women like to ask loaded questions, and any answer he gave to this one could be dangerous. "Yes. Very happily, for nearly 20 years."
"Damn. The only other guy in Act I is Gheed, and he's gross. Hey, could you wait here a second? I just thought of something. Be right back!"
The Amazon walked over to Gheed's corner of camp. No one else besides Charsi ever went over there. Warriv heard a thump, an unidentifiable noise, then a scream of pain that lasted a lot longer than any he'd heard out of Gheed before. Then the Amazon came back, wiping her hands on a torn piece of Gheed's coat before throwing it in the fire.
"Is there something wrong?" he asked.
Bodiccea laughed. "Nope. I can't go hostile on anyone in town, so I can't hurt him. I had to settle for a Power Wedgie."
Warriv held up his hands, eyes wide in mock terror. "You cruel, heartless beast! You speak strangely, Miss Bodiccea, but you have obviously encountered Gheed before. Any enemy of Gheed's is a friend of mine!"
"I couldn't have said it better myself," Kashya said as she walked over. "Well, well. I never expected to see an Amazon here."
"Without a Windforce or Titan's, you mean? Don't worry, I'm not getting rushed, I'm doing this legit." She grinned and bounced on her toes again. "Hi! I'm Bodiccea."
Kashya nodded quietly. "Named for the legendary queen who rose up against oppression and struck down the men who violated her daughters and her home. We Rogues honor her memory. I hope you have the strength to fill her shoes."
Bodiccea looked down at her exceptionally ample bosom. "She also inspired the words 'bodice' and 'bodacious'. I don't think its her shoes I need to fill out."
Warriv suddenly took a great interest in a bug crawling through the grass. Kashya opened her mouth, closed it, and opened it again. "Queen Bodiccea was a leader in the war against persecution! The memory of her uprising is revered by all women!"
"Yeah, she was a great fighter," Bodiccea nodded. "And, she had a really impressive bod! You can have both, there's no law against it. Anyhoo, I gotta go talk to Akara."
"Yes, you should," Warriv suddenly said. "She is the leader of the Rogues... but it seems you already know that."
"Sure, everybody does."
"Akara may be the Rogues' spiritual leader," Kashya snarled, "but I command the sisters in battle! Combat is not a duty for the frivolous."
"Chill, sis! Jeebus, you're tense. How long has it been since you got any, anyway?"
Quicker than you'd expect for a man his age, Warriv jumped between them. "Yes, going to see Akara would be a good idea! She's the leader of the monastery, you know. In charge of important things! Why don't you go over to her tent right now?"
Akara paced outside her tent, barely more than a blanket thrown over a single wooden post. She never looked up as Bodiccea approached, but greeted her anyway. "Greetings. I am Akara, high priestess of the Sisterhood of the Sightless Eye."
"Hi! I'm Bodiccea. Say, you always have that purple hood pulled way down over your face. Are you blind or something?"
"I see very well, child. At times, it is more of a curse than a blessing."
"That tent is the blessing. How the heck do you stash all those tomes, scrolls, potions, staves, wands, and scepters in there?"
"Very efficiently. But it does mean I spend a lot of time in the rain. From what I have heard, you and Kashya did not see eye to eye on your first meeting."
"Nah. She's way too uptight. I need to do that, um... that quest thing, you know?"
"Hmm. Perhaps a small quest to prove your mettle would smooth over your differences with Kashya. Andarial's forces occupy our monastery, and have blocked the pass so that no one may travel through the mountains. More immediately, our poor shelter is being menaced by a gathering of evil forces in a nearby den."
Bodiccea snapped her fingers. "Yeah, the Den of Evil! Got it. Um..." She frowned, and chewed on her lower lip. "There's something else..."
"You have spoken with Warriv and Kashya, and met Gheed. Thank you for that small service, by the way. I have wanted to do something like that for days now. Have you met Charsi yet?"
"THAT'S IT! Thanks, back in a flash. Bye!"
Bodiccea bounced (quite literally) across camp to Charsi's blacksmith stand. "Hi!"
"Oh, hi!" Charsi said, dropping a dozen arrowheads in water to cool. "I'm Charsi!"
"I know! I'm Bodiccea. Can I ask you something?"
Her head cocked to one side, Charsi said, "Uh huh?"
Bodiccea looked to the left, then the right, and finally leaned forward to whisper, "Has Kashya always been such a B. I. T. C. H?"
Eyes wide, Charsi leaned closer and loudly whispered, "GAWD, yes! The other day, I was, like, talking about Barbarians, and how studly and hunky they are?"
"Yeah!" Bodiccea laughed, eyes wide. "I hear they're huge!"
"Ooh, yeah! I would so like to meet one!"
"I want to do more than meet one! But I won't see any until Act V! Wah!"
"Forget it. What'd Kashya do?"
"She got up and walked away! I could not buh-LEEVE it!"
"Whoa! Maybe she's a lesbian."
Charsi shook her head, glancing heavenward in utter disgust. "I would so totally not be surprised. I mean, she rags on men ALL the time!"
"Guys are great! They're so much fun to play with."
"I think my dad was a Barbarian! That would be so great! Wouldn't that be great?"
"No way! Look at you. You've gotta be an Amazon!"
Charsi's eyes widened. "You think?"
Bodiccea grinned, and shook her head. "Sure! We've got the same hair color. Barbs all have black hair!"
"Ooh ooh ooh! I love black hair! Do they wear it long and loose and wild?"
"Yeah, the ones that don't shave it. Guys should keep it long. I like long hair!"
"Ew, shaved heads are yucky. I keep thinking they had lice or something."
"Yuck. Listen, I gotta go out and prove my womanhood or whatever. I'll come buy stuff when I get some money, 'k?"
"Sure thing! I got some spears here. And armor. It comes with pants, you know..."
"Nah. I got it, why hide it? I just wish there were more guys here. See ya!"
And so, Bodiccea went out into the Blood Moor, her spear at the ready. The mucky soil was scarred by the imprints of thousands of bodies, ambushed and slain without mercy or skill as they tried to leave the Rogue camp. "Good thing I'm not on b.net," she thought as she ran out to find her first Quill Rat.
For some reason, Quill Rats weren't as easy to find as she expected. Just past the almost-disintegrated remains of a few hundred Bone Walls (wow, did they look old) Bodiccea found her first monsters: some Fallen outside a house. The little guys squealed, squawked, and ran around in circles as she approached like angry blonde death. They were kind of funny, but also the most dangerous things on the moor and she was only level 1, so she took them on one at a time. They got in a couple of hits, and there were more inside the house, but leveling up took care of her injuries. It's amazing how all the burns, cuts and contusions can heal instantly sometimes.
Bodiccea looted the house, and the stash hidden under the rock that's always outside and to the north. There was no bed, so no chance of a Zombie appearing, and she got a pair of shoes, a leather coat, and enough loot that she could afford to buy a half-dozen keys from Akara. The shoes were low quality, with ugly scuff marks and one sole flapping loose, but better than nothing. The soft leather was a crappy rare utterly typical of the Blood Moor; again, better than nothing, but not by much.
Further west, some Zombies were wandering around. With a confident grin, Bodiccea went in... and retreated at the first whiff. Ick! Why couldn't she have been a bowazon, anyway? They don't have to get near yucky monsters. Oh yeah... because Amazons who use bows lop off one tit to make drawing the string easier, and she didn't want to. While she was pondering why anyone would want to, the nearest Zombie noticed her presence and came shambling after her, unholy hunger lighting up its eyes. "Brains..."
Bodiccea dropped to one knee and braced her spear to impale the Zombie as it charged... and charged... and charged... She looked at her watch, then stood up and moved closer, breathing through her mouth so she didn't have to smell it. The Zombie kept coming, softly moaning "brains..." until finally, it was close enough to hit. Then it stopped, sniffed a bit, grunted in disappointment, and wandered off, still groaning "brains..." "HEY!" Bodiccea ran after the Zombie, stabbed and bashed it to bits, and kicked its head into a wall. "I do so have brains! I just hardly need 'em."
Back in camp, Bodiccea was selling the fifth cap she'd found to Charsi. "Are you sure you don't want to wear one of these? Or a good strong pot helm? Kashya always says 'even if you protect nothing else, protect your head.'"
Bodiccea's nose wrinkled in disgust. "I hate caps, they're just plain ugly. Pots aren't much better. And they both mess up my hair."
"You could tie it back, or braid it. And button your coat. I mean, your stomach's kind of exposed like that."
"I LIKE my hair. And I can't button the coat."
"Sure you can!" Charsi said. "It'll fit ok, just..." she grabbed the lapels and tried to pull them together. "Um... well, I guess it fits your shoulders..."
"Almost," Bodiccea laughed. "It's ok. An open leather jacket over a tight top is a good look on me. Guys dig leather. What I need is better boots. You got any?"
"Sure!" Going through the pile of stuff behind her, Charsi came up with four pairs... none of which fit. "Um... sorry, I only have women's sizes."
"Damn. Story of my life."
Charsi nodded, looking curious. "You mean, the other Amazons aren't as big as you?"
"Amazons're normal-sized, mostly. I just had to be different. Like, when I was growing up, we all had to study gymnastics, you know?"
"All the huntresses take gym until they're 18. I was taller than any of them by the time I was 12. Then, puberty hit. There was no way I was doing acrobatics after that, so they gave me a spear and made me a temple guard."
Charsi smiled. "Do any of you follow the path of the Sightless Eye?"
"Nah, we don't do Zakarum stuff, just the old goddesses. Zerae, Athulua, her consort Kethryes, all those."
Frowning a bit, Charsi asked, "Um... so Kethryes isn't a goddess?"
"No, she is. And she's a she." Bodiccea shrugged a little. "Don't ask."
Charsi's eyes went wide again. "Um... ok."
There was a long silence. "Look, they're just goddesses. Besides, I like Zerae better. I got put in her temple."
Charsi nodded quietly. "What's she goddess of?"
"Lightning and revenge. The revenge part isn't cool, but she's married to Hefaetrus, god of fire. He's hot."
That made Charsi laugh a little. "The god of fire is hot. Ok."
"Well, sure! He'd kind of have to be, it's his job to keep Zerae from going too nuts."
"So she's, like, violent and stuff?"
Bodiccea laughed. "Violent? Jealous? Vindictive? A perma-PMS-ing witch? Yeah, but she's better than the other two."
"Are they goddesses of anything important?"
"They're just the heads of the pantheon. Athulua's the goddess of the sky, weather, and the seasons. She also does all the weirdo magic stuff. Bowazons -- I mean archers like her for Guided Arrow and Strafe. Kethryes is... kind of her little help-mate.
Bodiccea laughed. "Don't take it seriously. I don't. I sure didn't make 'em up."
Charsi giggled. "Do you have a love goddess? I'd think you'd want to be in her temple."
With a sly smirk, Bodiccea replied, "Nope. A love god, Onan. Only the handsomest men become his priests. Every week, they all come out to greet the huntresses when they come back from the jungle. Mmmmm."
Grinning, Charsi whispered, "Does the girl with the biggest catch get the biggest... ?"
"Girlfriend!" Bodiccea squealed, only half-trying to whisper, "nobody has to do anything they don't want to. But since priests of Onan train their whole lives for it..."
"Wow... that's kind of weird," Charsi grinned, blushing up to the roots of her hair. "So... um, are the priests... uh..."
Bodiccea blinked. "Oh, I'm not a huntress. I've never gotten to, you know..."
"Oh, yeah. Sorry, I forgot."
"It's ok. I hear they're unbelievable."
"I guess. I mean, if they really don't ever do anything else."
"Yeah." Bodiccea shifted from one foot to the other, looking off into the distance, then said, "I better get going. Still haven't found the Den of Evil."
"Oh, sure. See ya!"
Crossing back and forth over the Blood Moor, Bodiccea met and conquered many a Zombie and Quill Rat, fortifying herself for her journey into the den. Many items passed under her eye -- crappy rings, crappy weapons, crappy armor, and even more caps, all of them as ugly as a Fallen Shaman's butt. She collected the valuable stuff, things Akara would pay good money for. By the time she met Flavie at the entrance of the Cold Plains, she was wearing a new suit of studded leather, custom fit by Charsi.
"Turn back! There is mortal danger ahead for the likes of you."
"I'll bet you say that to all the heroes. Whatcha doin' out here?"
"Keeping a watch for Andarial's minions. We know she's planning something to destroy what's left of us and cement her claim to our monastery."
"Oh, sure. What do you think of my look?"
Flavie shrugged. "Not a lot of coverage for someone in the middle of combat. And not wearing a helmet is a big mistake."
"You should talk. But, it's all good. Blizzard only put all this cheesecake in Act I so geeks would buy the game. Wish they'd put in something for us, though."
"What are you talking about?"
Bodiccea thought about it a minute, then grinned. "Ah, I guess I can tell you. It's not like you're going to walk back to camp and tell everybody else. Look, you know that whole 'know thyself' bit?"
"The key to wisdom, yes."
"Around here, 'know thy audience' is wiser. I mean, lookit here..." Bodiccea reached out in a direction Flavie never knew existed, grabbed something, and dragged it back. It was a boy, maybe 14 years old, and small for his age. Thick glasses and acne scars covered his face, and a noisome odor drifted off his body. While not fat, there was hardly an ounce of muscle on him -- it was all flab.
"<font=fixedsys>WUG? WUG? WTF? OMG N00B IMA 1337 H@><0R..." Then he caught sight of Bodiccea, who was holding him by the collar at arm's length. "Uh... buh... buh... BOOBIES!"
"Behold: our target audience."
His head turned to see Flavie so fast his scrawny neck should have snapped. "BOOBIES!!"
Bodiccea nodded, holding her nose. "Yep. Frustrated adolescent male gamers --"
"... who apparently got weaned too early."
Slowly, Flavie started nodding. "You know, this kind of makes sense. I mean, why is the official Rogue uniform so skimpy? We're up in a mountain pass, and it's raining. Don't these clowns know that means it's COLD up here?"
Bodiccea smirked. "That's part of it. There's a reason this is called 'nipply weather'."
"NIPPLIES!! BOOBIES!!! BOOBY NIPPLIES!!!! WEEEEEEEE!!!!!"
"I think he's OD'ing. Either that, or he needs his asthma inhaler. I better put him back." Bodiccea shoved the boy back into whatever basement she'd found him, and wiped her hand off on the grass. "So anyway, that's the nub of the gist."
Flavie shook her head. "This is ridiculous."
"Well, yeah. You don't see me taking any of it seriously. Anyway, I've finished clearing the Blood Moor. After I get my real quest, the waypoint, I'm off to the den. See ya!"
The Den of Evil was as evil as it ever was, full of the same monsters as ever: Fallen and their Shamans, Zombies, and big, hairy, squeally Gargantuan Beasts. The Beasts kind of reminded Bodiccea of her last boyfriend, only without that annoying fixation on his mother. In the den, she found a Lizard's Ring of Strength and a scepter with +2 to Thorns, putting more money in her stash than she'd need for the rest of Normal. Strange how an item that gives +1 to one skill is worth more than one that gives +1 to all of them.
Bodiccea went through the den quickly. First priority were Shamans, then Beasts, Fallen, and finally Zombies. The Zombies were last because they ignored her. Idly, she wondered if they ignored the other characters this much. The den was a small place, just three medium-sized hall sections and a final loop where Corpsefire lurked. Even though she didn't need to at this point, Bodiccea decided to get some practice with strategy. She walked in, and when one or two came after her, walked away to deal with them alone. When Corpsefire was the last thing alive, she went in and killed him. Again. He's a Zombie, you know.
"You have cleansed the Den of Evil," Akara said with satisfaction.
"Yeah, piece of cake. Hey, you don't have anything with "cannot be frozen" on it, do you? The last Zombie whacked me with Spectral Hit, and I don't want anything slowing me down."
"I am afraid not. But you have earned my trust, and may yet restore my faith in humanity. The only reward I can offer is --"
"Trashing Gheed again? Speaking of which, I haven't hurt him for hours! 'scuse me a minute." She ran off. A few seconds later, another scream of agony erupted from across camp. Akara allowed herself a smile, but wiped it away before Bodiccea got back.
With her most neutral look, Akara said, "I was thinking of training in a skill of your choice. Kashya and I have much knowledge we will be glad to share with you."
Bodiccea made a face. "You know Inner Sight?"
"The Sightless Eye teaches that gift. I am certain it will serve you well."
"Cool. Better than trying to deal with Kashya."
"Young Amazon, it pains me to see two strong women squabbling over petty differences. Perhaps I should send you for a lesson from Kashya."
"No! Please don't! Ok, I'll be good."
Akara nodded. "And do not merely avoid her. Smooth out your differences, or we will have no peace in this camp."
Bodiccea kicked at the dirt. "Oh, all right. I'll deal with her. Tomorrow, ok?"
The next morning, Bodiccea went to see Kashya. "Hi."
The other woman frowned, visibly irritated and not hiding it at all. After a short silence, she finally said, "Hello."
Gritting her teeth into a passable smile, Bodiccea said, "I just wanted to say I'm sorry if I got on your nerves. I joke about things when I'm nervous. Okay?"
"I take it the den taught you how funny Hell's forces are." Kashya said with a smirk.
"Oh, yeah," Bodiccea nodded, ponytail wagging up and down. "I know exactly how big of a threat they are. Now I do, I mean. Anyhoo, if we're both cool about this, I'm gonna go out to the, um, to the pass and kill some more things. Gotta get 'em all, you know?"
"Andarial's minions are summoned straight from Hell. Our arrows send so many back where they came from every day, but their numbers never seem to diminish. The demon queen herself must be struck down."
"Yeah, that's the idea. Still, it'll take me a while to get to the monastery. Know any local hot spots I should look out for on the way?"
Kashya's thin lips tightened to a line. "Only one."
Bodiccea slowly nodded, obviously waiting. "Yeah, and... ?"
"This is a threat that shows the den to have been no more than an advanced camp for the enemy. My oldest friend, Blood Raven, fell under Andarial's evil spell. I know not how, but she is in our graveyard as we speak, raising our own dead to march against us!"
"Whoa. What an abomination."
"My thoughts exactly," Kashya hissed. "This cannot be allowed to continue! Blood Raven was our order's deadliest archer, even more than myself, and I am sure Andarial has warped her into something even more formidable than before."
Bodiccea nodded, idly watching the chickens run around camp. "Sounds pretty nasty."
"I have heard that the warriors of the Amazon isles are the best archers in the world..."
Bodiccea smirked. "Don't think much of spears, huh?"
"I know many ways of fighting, and the weaknesses of many weapons. Were you not so sure of yourself, I could share what I know of the way of the bow."
"Oh, I know how to use a bow!" Bodiccea laughed, and held up her spear in her left hand like it was a bow. "You hold this part, pull back the string, then release and whap yourself in the tit like I did the last time I tried to use one."
Kashya didn't laugh. "I see. Do not the Amazons --"
Bodiccea quickly cut her off. "No thanks, I'll stick with spears. They're easy, you just gotta use a little stragedy! Run and dodge a lot, hit hard and fast. Simple!"
"From what my scouts have reported, you are not as fast as Blood Raven. Attempting to close with your spear would be folly."
"I guess I'd better work on hitting hard, then. I'll get a faster spear later. First comes the Brandistock, then a War Fork, and I'll finally work my way up a Mancatcher."
A sudden twitch suddenly moved across Kashya's mouth, lingering at the corners, and she blinked twice. Bodiccea grinned. "Hey, did I almost see a smile?"
"Yes it was! You thought of a funny, didn't you? What? What? What?"
"Aw, c'mon! I'm so sure you did!"
"No! I didn't think of anything!"
Glancing heavenwards in exasperation, Bodiccea sighed. "Wimp. I'll say it for you: 'But Boddy-baby, you already have two of the biggest, bounciest man-catchers in the whole wide world, what do you need another one for?'"
Kashya glared. "That WASN'T it!"
Bodiccea giggled. "It would have been better if it was."
"That's something GHEED would say!"
"Hey, thanks for reminding me!" Bodiccea bounced over to Gheed's corner of the camp, and a cry of anguish soon trumpeted out into the morning air. She came back dusting her hands. "Yuck, his undies are really crusty today. See ya!"
As Bodiccea vanished through the waypoint, Gheed came over. He was wearing a pair of chainmail pantaloons, perhaps in the hope that having steel britches would protect him from further assaults. Unfortunately for him, the mail only made his suffering worse: they had been yanked up and over the back of his head, bending him nearly double. He had to waddle up to the fire, facing backwards, arms flailing desperately to keep his balance. "SOMEBODY GET ME A CROWBAR!!"
Out on the Cold Plains, Bodiccea stopped to talk with Flavie. "Hey, how's it going?"
"Same as last night. There are more Zombies, thanks to Blood Raven."
"Don't worry, I'm on it. Which way's the graveyard?"
"To the left. You take care. The Corrupted Rogues ahead are not to be trifled with."
Bodiccea smirked. "I don't trifle with naked women, no matter what our audience wants."
"Ew. Did you have to remind me of that?"
"Sorry. Well, I'm off for my first slice of cheesecake. See ya!"
It didn't take Bodiccea long to find her first Corrupted Rogues. A swarm of Fallen Ones were milling around a burning house. While she was drawing a dozen or so away from their Shamans, three axe-wielding Rogues showed up. They were deathly pale, with jet black hair, and some animator over at Blizzard had a good time getting all those jiggles juuuuust right. After killing them, she got the Shamans, then the inside of the house, and chased Fallen into all the corners. The Shaman in the house dropped a grand charm, a "stout" one, which didn't suit Bodiccea at all. She's not stout. Well... women should have curves.
The Cold Plains were full of Fallen and a few Rogues. Chasing the little fartknockers down got to be a real drag. Monsters that come right up and stand there while you kill them are so much easier to deal with. Bodiccea experimented with Jab and Power Strike a few times, but hardly needed either. The mana cost was too much at this point anyway. On the plains, she found a 3-socketed spear, two chipped sapphires and a chipped ruby, gloves, a pair of boots that actually fit, and a large charm with +3 dexterity.
Bishibosh was in a camp near the entrance to the Stony Fields. Say what you will about Blizzard's artistic choices, Bodiccea approved of making the dangerous beasties different colors. She'd already met a unique Rogue spearwoman who was beige instead of white; her only mod was Stone Skin, so Bodiccea killed her minions first. A Shaman like Bishibosh is different. When she spotted his snot-green bod on one side of the camp, she walked away, drawing a dozen Fallen after her. Once they were out of the way, she ran back, dodging fireballs, and jabbed Bishi until he exploded. He only dropped one magic item, an amulet with fire resistance. Seems like you never find what you need until after you need it.
Bodiccea's last stop on the Cold Plains was a house with a dead Rogue on the floor. Rogues seem to die in suggestive poses a lot... maybe it's just the outfit. Next to the house was the Cave. Before going in, Bodiccea went back to the Rogue camp to dump some loot.
Beside the wagon by Charsi's, a pale, skinny, very tired-looking man was waiting. For now, the too-full pack he'd been carrying around for years was sitting in the wagon. As soon as Bodiccea walked up, he got to his feet. "Howdy, Miss Thang! I'm the Mule!"
"It's about time!" Bodiccea huffed, then grinned. "Whatcha got for me? Let me guess: Bloodthief, the unique Brandistock?"
"Sorry, babe!" he shook his head. "Minimum level 17."
"Uh... any Brandistock?"
"Nope! You're getting the best starter equipment I've ever given ANYBODY!"
"Yes, indeedy!" The Mule reached into his pack. "And now... for your edutainment... the one and only one we've got... Sigon's Complete Steel, minus the shield!" In one swell foop, he smashed a disorganized collection of gleaming metal plates over Bodiccea's head.
"Wish you were a Javie, you'd get the whole thing," the Mule grinned. "No need to thank me now! Maybe later, when you get out of all that stuff. I'll be by with a spear for you when you're big enough for it. Ta ta!"
There was a soft poof, like resident memory being reallocated. "Hey!" Bodiccea called out, her voice echoing around her ears. She could barely see in that helmet, but knew he was gone. Burnished armor plates now completely encased her body in magically hardened steel, polished like a mirror and chased with gold, from the heavy greaves on her feet up to the gleaming golden horns on the great helm. Her hair had even been braided.
A Paladin, obviously, would cream his green jeans for this stuff. Bodiccea had her own opinions. "Hey! Get back here! I don't want this! Where's my old armor? Hey!" Nobody answered. "I'm not running around in this! How do I file a protest? HEY!!" All it did was make that ugly helmet echo. Frowning, she snarled, "Ok, that does it. CONFERENCE!"
Bodiccea turned around, pried open the side of the Rogue camp grounds, and stepped back into the space beyond. After a short, electrifying trip, she made her way to an unused memory block where the others were waiting. They'd set up a conference room, tiled in malachite and paneled in oak, decorated with brass ornamental wirework in an art deco style. Frosted glass windows covered one wall, letting filtered sunlight fall on the white marble table that dominated the center of the floor. To the north was a fully stocked bar, with a bronze, steam-powered automaton pacing back and forth aimlessly.
"Wow," Bodiccea said. "Nice room."
"We borrowed the graphics from the First City Bank and Trust," Thaddeus said. "It makes this easier."
"That explains the robot, at least."
"Never mind the robot," Tearlach bellowed. "What is your problem, woman?!"
"This!" Bodiccea threw Sigon's helmet down on the table with a clang, and shook the braid out of her hair. "Look at me! That stupid mule came swooping out of nowhere and without my permission, stripped me and put me in this stuff! I look like a fun house mirror! I hate heavy armor, and that damned helmet is U! G! L! YYYYYY!! I want my old stuff back, and I want it right now!"
Amanita laughed, lighting a cigar. "Meaning you haven't teased Warriv as much as you want to yet."
"Well, no," Bodiccea bounced on her toes. "I mean, look at this. I can't even bounce in it, my chest doesn't move at all. How am I gonna drive Warriv completely to distraction with my big guns covered up?"
"First, you leave Warriv alone! He's nice." Xanthippe crossed her arms. "Then, you be happy you got that stuff. I would have killed for that set back then."
Amanita looked at Xanthippe. "You'd kill if someone didn't put enough marshmallows in your cocoa."
"I would not! I don't even like cocoa that much."
Of all the things to be dragged kicking and screaming out of retirement for! I will grant you, the opportunity to feast my eyes upon the Amazon is what tempted me, but now that I have done so, it is perfectly clear that "there is such a thing as too much of a good thing." From a distance, she is statuesque, an indomitable goddess in red and gold. At closer quarters, her over-abundant charms threaten to slop out of that tin suit and entomb us all in a quivering avalanche of pale, veinous flesh. However, her complaints have some merit. Personally, I wouldn't be caught dead in that hideous steel conspiracy.
"Speak for yourself," Xanthippe sneered. "Corpsefire almost caved my skull in."
"Ha!" Tearlach laughed. "Only because you were too foolish to stick to your meager strengths. A Sorceress in combat! What idiocy."
"Idiotic enough to make Matriarch, something you haven't done..."
Tearlach grunted. "What a shame, I'll never be a Matriarch. Idiot."
Slowly dragging a Bec-de-corbin off her back, Xanthippe hissed, "Would you like to qualify for Matriarch? I could make a lot of girls incredibly grateful..."
"That will be enough!" Thaddeus rapped his caduceus on the table. "Xanthippe, stand down. Tearlach, you are out of line. Apologize to the lady at once."
Eyes glinting like blue volcanoes, Tearlach slowly turned to face Thaddeus. "I will say this once. If you even think of giving me orders again, I will stomp a mudhole in your neck."
"Yeah!" Xanthippe said. "Just 'cause you made Patriarch first doesn't make you the boss of us."
Paige: "The boss says you should quit fighting, it's stupid. And the Amazon should be happy with Sigon's set."
Thaddeus blinked. "How did you get all that?"
Mizor: "Rmmf." (looks smug)
"Can't you guys at least fight over me?" Bodiccea pouted. "I don't like not being the center of attention."
Amanita leaned against the wall, taking a draw on her cigar. "Trust me, we know."
"Quite so," Varnae smiled. "Allow me to introduce myself: I am --"
"Forget it, deadboy. I'm not interested."
Oh! Cut off so sharply, so callously! I knew something about this vision reminded me of my dear, departed deadly nightshade blossom. Her armor is also familiar; I recall recovering exactly such a suit from Baal's twitching corpse. Given the nature of our relationship, there is every reason to believe that she has chosen exactly the suit which I provided through our mutual acquaintance! Ought I to mention this? Ah, but no! I already feel the first stirrings of affection in my tender bosom, and invoking a material debt could poison any possibility of reciprocation in its infancy. She simply is not ready, perhaps due to some recent tragedy. My devotion must remain unknown to all, for now.
Xanthippe rolled her eyes. "Look, you over-inflated bimbo, get this through your head: it's not all about you!"
"Yes, it is!" Bodiccea snorted. "It's my story arc! You had your chance, it's my turn!"
"Sorceress, I'm afraid she is right," Thaddeus muttered, a bit ruefully, before turning back to Bodiccea. "The decision is always yours, though abandoning some of the finest armor available at this point in your career seems... ill-advised."
"There's no good reason for it!" Xanthippe shouted.
Tearlach raised an eyebrow, a smirk growing on his face. "If she wants to go back to the skimpy leathers... no true, red-blooded man would mind. The rest of you might even agree." Thaddeus frowned. Even Varnae looked a bit insulted.
Mizor: "Rrr..." (Hears no translation from Paige.) "Rrr?" (Looks around. Where'd she go?)
Meanwhile, in the bar to the north, Klatu gave the little bronze robot a kick. "Does that thing ever shut up?"
Kasim poured some beer into the robot's boiler. It shuddered to a halt and collapsed, gasping about failing to understand... creation. "That got it."
Behind the bar, Khaleel finally broke into the cabinet where the good stuff was kept. After some chilling, he started passing it around. "So... who do you think's got the worst boss?"
Paige: "One of you guys. Fuzzy Wuzzy's hard to figure out, but he's not so bad."
After taking a swig of the bank's finest hooch, Klatu sighed. "Ah... it has to be me. Look at that ass out there. Turns everything into a fight."
Paige: "I don't have to, I can hear him."
"I can smell him," Kasim laughed. "Still, you think he's worse than deadboy?"
"The Barb is pretty bad," Khaleel said, draining the last of one bottle, "but I gotta tell you, no one comes close to my boss for creepy."
Paige: "Hmm, maybe. He's hitting on the Assassin again."
"Did he live?" Kasim asked.
"Would being dead stop him?" Klatu asked.
"He'll probably try to dress her up," Khaleel took another long swig.
Paige: "Assassins like to dress up. Black leather and bare butts. Bleah."
The three male mercs stared at her, then shrugged. "Oh, I dunno..." Kasim muttered.
Paige: (laughs) "Man, you guys are predictable."
Khaleel laughed. "So, are you gonna drink or what? It's almost gone."
Paige: "Yeah, gimme some." (Drains cup.) "So, what do you guys think of the Amazon?"
All three of the men remained silent, lost in thought. Finally, Khaleel said, "She isn't even close to being as nice looking as you."
Paige: (Rolls eyes.) "Ah, ha. What was that all about?"
Kasim grinned. "I think it's called 'dodging a bullet'."
Klatu patted Khaleel on the back, almost knocking him into the bar. "You speak like a man who knows the ways of women."
"Hey," Khaleel shrugged, "I've had to hang around with deadboy this long..."
As laughter filled the bar, Bodiccea finally shouted loud enough to make herself heard over the din in the conference room. "HEY!!"
Tearlach looked a bit surprised. "You have good lungs, woman. I should have guessed."
"Shut up. I have a solution to this."
"Then speak," Thaddeus said. "Anything to resolve this mess."
"Right," Bodiccea smiled. "I'm supposed to be a fast spearazon, right?"
They all nodded. "So I shouldn't wear anything that slows me down. Sigon's Shelter is Gothic Plate, and slows movement by 5%. I looked it up."
There was a stunned silence. Finally, Xanthippe blinked. "When'd you grow a brain?"
Bodiccea grinned. "Neener, neener, neener! I'll take my leathers back, thank you. And lose that helmet. Sigon's boots, gloves, and belt are enough to get me most of the worthwhile set bonuses."
"The armor offers lightning resistance..." Thaddeus offered.
"I'll worry about that in Act II. Gimme my leathers!"
Amanita laughed, and stepped out of the room. "And people think I'm the leather fanatic. Give 'em back, she's earned 'em."
"Well..." Thaddeus sighed. "We'll tell the Mule. They'll be waiting outside the Cave."
"Thank you, kind ladies and sirs. That will be all. Ta ta!"
When she got back to the Cave entrance, Bodiccea's studded leathers were waiting for her, with a short note:
-- The Mule"
Skin-tight armor too skimpy to be of practical value... check.
No helmet, so my to-die-for hair won't get mussed... check.
Huge, clunky boots polished like mirrors... check.
Massive belt that covers more territory than the armor... check.
Ginormous steel gloves so I never chip a nail... check.
Not bad, she thought... then it hit her. "Ohmigawd. I'm dressed like an anime bimbo." After another moment's reflection, she realized it could be worse. She was still wearing more than an Assassin in leather would be, and had extra attack speed, movement, 10% life leech, 16 belt slots, and a few decent resists. Besides, she was going to wind up looking like some kind of bimbo anyway. Only the heavy armors have butt coverage.
Inside the Cave, Bodiccea found her first Skeletons. All of them had raggedy bits of Rogue leathers on, especially boots. That was kind of weird, because all the Zombies were males. Do girls rot faster than boys, so they still have flesh while girls skeletonize? Maybe Blizzard didn't want any Zombies to look female because poor dead girls are too pitiful, but Skeletons can be from girls 'cause they're just bones and don't look like anything anymore. Maybe it's the whole cheesecake thing -- if they made some Zombies female, you just know some artist at Blizzard would try to make them sexy. Dead sexy is good, but dead and sexy is yucky and gross unless they're Vampires, who mostly look alive anyway.
Past the Skeletons were some champion Hungry Dead... who still wouldn't pay any attention to her. What, does she have to wave a dead cow at them or something? With Sigon's gloves, Jab was insanely fast. Bodiccea could barely see how quickly she was moving the spear. When she gets a Brandistock, maybe with a couple of Shaels, watch out! Corrupted Rogue archers were hiding in some of the long halls, and the Fallen had set up camp in side alcoves with dead tortured Rogues and Zombies hiding in barrels. It was nice to be using a normal attack, with a low level weapon, and still not lose any health. Leeching is so handy, it's no wonder they nerfed it.
Way in the back, near the stairs to the second level, Coldcrow was waiting. Bodiccea knew she was not going to have fun with this. That witch is tough, fast, hits hard, likes to run away, and she's Cold Enchanted. Getting to her first means you'll have to take on her pack chilled from her frost nova, but saving her for last means taking her shots while you chase after her minions. Breaking up the pack was always an option... nah, leave clever tactics to the Bowazons. Bodiccea charged in and backed Coldcrow into a corner, jabbing away and leeching back the damage. After the frost nova went off, she ran away in slow motion, just fast enough to avoid the minions' arrows until the chill passed. Once the last minion was cornered and dead, she thought, "Ok, that settles it. 'Cannot be frozen' is definitely on my list of things I need."
Downstairs in the Cave, Bodiccea found herself on a shallow platform with two sets of steps down, one to the right, and one to the left. There's always a boss off to the right, so she went that way. There wasn't a boss -- there were two. Both were Skeletons, one Stone Skin, the other Cursed, with a few Fallen wandering around in case things weren't exciting enough already. The Shamans were behind everybody else, far out of reach, able to raise their dead or chuck fireballs to their little hearts' content.
Right, Bodiccea thought: first things first. She took a position at the top of the steps and waited for the first batch of Skellies. Slowly they came, and she had plenty of time to take down the minions one by one, leaving the boss. Some Fallen came around up the other stairs, so she turned to attack them whenever she needed more health. The Shaman could raise them, but that wasn't so bad since she couldn't leech off the Skeletons. The instant the Cursed Skeleton came within reach, Bodiccea gave it her full attention, and didn't let up until it broke into pieces. Her situation was bad enough without being cursed. Once the boss was dead, she killed the remaining minions, pounded the Stone Skin boss into the ground, got the Shaman, and took care of the Fallen for the last time. Problem solved. Her armor was shredded, but thanks to her gear, she was still in the pink of health.
"Hiya, Warriv!" Bodiccea bounced and grinned.
"Ah, miss Bodiccea!" Warriv smiled, still keeping his eyes high. "You were gone for so long, I began to worry! And from your condition, it seems I had good reason."
"Huh?" She looked down at her armor, taking a deep breath. "Oh, golly. I guess I'd better get this fixed. I'm not exposing myself or anything, am I?"
Warriv closed his eyes and shook his head. "Heavens, no."
"You're not even looking!"
With a pleading glance heavenwards, Warriv shifted nervously from foot to foot. "Miss Bodiccea, perhaps Gheed would be happier to look at your --"
"Hey, that reminds me!" Then she was off, bouncing over to Gheed's wagon. One wail of anguish later, and she was back. "Wow. Cast iron BVD's. Didn't know they made those."
Trying to ignore the whimpers of pain drifting through the air, Warriv said, "Maybe you shouldn't be so cruel to poor Gheed..."
"Aw, you're no fun! Not hurting Gheed would be boring. You know I'm too innocent and naive to even think about restraining myself."
Warriv frowned a bit. "Hmm... I'm sorry, maybe when you were younger, but I'm afraid the 'innocent and naive' bit doesn't work for you, even ironically."
Bodiccea stamped her foot and pouted. "I know! Once I got to be tall, no one believed me when I tried to act sweet and innocent."
"It... does stretch one's credulity."
"Hey, you're not supposed to believe me!" she gasped in feigned shock. "You're supposed to be baffled into submission by my blatant disregard for truth and reason."
Chuckling, Warriv rocked back on his feet and said, "Careful, young miss. You may give away too many of your sex's secrets."
"That's not a secret. Everybody knows women are completely unreasonable. Guys talk about it all the time, but they can't do anything about it. That's why girls rule!"
Warriv sighed. "Why don't you go and bother Charsi?"
"Cause I'd rather stay here and bother you?"
"How kind of you," Warriv grumped. "I had no idea you cared so much."
"But how could I resist your overpowering charisma? Those broad shoulders, that manly, rugged beard... it makes me weak just thinking about it..."
Warriv snorted. "My wife says it tickles."
"Ooh. Tickles her where?"
This time, Warriv frowned and looked Bodiccea straight in the eye, with one eyebrow raised. "Why don't you go and bother Charsi?"
"Oh, no! The look!" Bodiccea giggled. "Ok. See you later."
"Looking forward to it," he grumbled.
She leaned over and breathed huskily in his ear, "I know you are, sweetie. Bye!"
Sweeping out the last of the Cave was much easier, and around the second to last corner, Bodiccea found her very first Golden Chest of Joy. There wasn't anything good inside, but she wasn't likely to find anything better than what she already had anyway. Well, maybe new rings. A bronze ring and one with +1 to light radius were nothing to brag about. Asking Warriv for a ring would probably make him turn a really funny shade of pink.
With the Cold Plains and the Cave cleared out, it was time to hit the Graveyard. It was a miserable place, with lots of empty graves and open crypts. Also, nude women sculpted into the gateposts. They never let up, do they? Bodiccea cleared the Zombies and Skeletons out of the perimeter of the yard first, then went in past the Mausoleum. In the center of the yard, next to "Satan's Christmas Tree", Blood Raven was waiting.
"My army will destroy you!" she howled, and raised a Zombie from the cold earth.
"Ok, this is just wrong," Bodiccea said, jumping behind a large tombstone. "Hey, how come all your Zombies are guys?! This is the Rogue graveyard! They should be women!"
Above her snarling, fang-filled maw, Blood Raven's bloodshot eyes blinked. She looked at the Zombies gathered around her with what might pass for confusion. "Uh... but dead girls are ugly... um... DESTROY THE AMAZON! FEAST UPON HER BRAINS!!"
So much for incapacitating her in the crushing grip of reason. The Zombies milled around, sniffing the air in vain. Bodiccea shouted, "Your Zombies will never find me, none of them have noses!"
An arrow blasted the top off Bodiccea's tombstone. "Then how do they smell!?"
Bodiccea grinned. "Awful!"
A demonic howl screeched in her ears. "BEHIND THAT STONE! KILL! FORGET THE BRAINS, JUST KILL AND KILL AND KILL AND KILL!!"
So much for lightening the mood with sophisticated humor, too. Bodiccea leapt out as a dozen Zombies wandered in her general direction. A fiery arrow zinged past her ear. Damn bowazons... so snooty. Blood Raven was fast, faster than her, but she couldn't run forever. She had to stop to shoot, giving Bodiccea a chance to get in close. After she got Blood Raven backed up against the wall of the Graveyard, it was over fast.
"I can hardly believe you've defeated Blood Raven!"
"Hey, bows aren't everything," Bodiccea shrugged. "She had to stop running sometime. So, anyway... it's getting late, and I still need to clear the rest of the graveyard. There's lots of dead things down in those tombs."
"You have proven far more formidable than I thought," Kashya said. "I seem to have misjudged you. Perhaps I should have known to expect better from an Amazon."
"Nah," Bodiccea waved her hand. "Amazons can be as stupid as anybody. I should know. Anyway, if I remember right, you don't need all these Rogues to guard the camp now."
"No, we do not," Kashya smiled tightly. "You have brought hope to us, you know. I believe we may one day stand in our monastery again."
"Sooner than you think. Now, who's your cheapest fire merc?"
Kashya frowned. "We Rogues have served as mercenaries in the past... but none of us are cheap!"
"Oooh, sorry," Bodiccea said, then cleared her throat. "Among these fine archers arrayed before me, who wouldst sally forth to the field of battle at my side, and not set me back too big a pile of cash?"
After a long, very dirty look, Kashya motioned a Rogue over. "Meet Heather."
"Um, hi! Wow, you're tall."
"Yeah, puberty hit me kind of hard."
"Believe me, we've all noticed," Kashya said. "You'll have to get your own gear for her."
"No problem, I still have the bow Blood Raven was using."
"Cool!" Heather grinned. "Can I see it?"
With a Hunter's Bow of Maiming, a socketed pot helm and some hard leather, Heather was ready to face anything. Not up to killing it, mind you, but ready. The Mausoleum was full of Zombies and Skeletons, and the Crypt was more of the same. Also, there were exploding barrels. Bodiccea got knocked on her ass more than once. Didn't everybody get tired of the damn things back in Diablo I? The tombs netted loot from several undefiled graves (which Bodiccea promptly defiled with no objections from Heather) and two Golden Chests of Joy. Heather was very nice to talk to, and attacked the enemy with great spirit. Maybe bow girls aren't so bad after all... when they know who's boss.
The sun shone faintly over the Rogue camp palisade when Bodiccea opened her eyes. Last night was exhausting -- wow, the Rogues know how to put on a pillow fight. Amazing how they'd all managed to save their best lingerie when they fled the monastery, too. Of course, Bodiccea's was even better: genuine Amazon spider-silk so sheer, you can hardly see if it's there at all. After one last snuggle under the warm blankets, she threw them off and rose to her feet. A long, languorous stretch pulled silky whispers excitingly over her bare skin. Her leathers were where she'd left them. Slowly, she fit them to her body: buckling, tightening, adjusting straps and pulling on her high boots and gauntlets. A final shake of her hair and just a touch of red, red lip gloss, and she was dressed to kill.
Outside the tent, Heather was looking at her funny. "Um... what was all that for?"
"Fan service," Bodiccea smirked. "Let's hit the trail. Oop, gotta talk to Akara first."
Heather nodded, and walked with her. "Lady Akara was really happy to hear you got Blood Raven. She thinks it's kind of her fault Andarial took over the monastery, like she didn't see it coming so she's to blame for it."
"Nah. Nobody saw it coming, that's the way it was set up."
"You think it was planned?"
Bodiccea rolled her eyes. "Uh, yeah. The queen of Succubi shows up, and your sisters start killing people naked? And there's all those other demons she had with her..."
"Oh," Heather laughed a bit. "Yeah, duh. But who planned it?"
Her eyes widened. "So you think the rumors are true?"
"Uh-huh. He's the man of the hour." Akara was pacing back and forth in front of her tent, looking less mournful than usual. "Hi, Akara!"
"Hello, daughter," Akara smiled warmly. "Your defeat of Blood Raven was truly remarkable. I feared that she, who I raised from a child, might be the death of all of us."
"Yeah? So, why's she called that? I mean, who would name their kid Blood Raven?"
"I am afraid I do not remember. More pressing matters occupy my mind. It is clear that we face an enemy who is difficult to comprehend, let alone combat."
Bodiccea shrugged. "It's not that hard..."
"My knowledge of demonkind was inadequate; I did not recognize the signs. I fear we may be lost without the advice of one wiser than I."
"Nah, just whack Andarial. Diablo put her in there, so we kill her and --"
"Your confidence is laudable, brave Amazon," Akara intoned. "I suspect that what you say may be true, but could not bear to send you to our monastery without being certain. There is one who may know the answers to all of our questions: Deckard Cain, the --"
"Oh yeah! Mr. Stay-a-while-and-listen." Bodiccea grinned.
"You know him, then. That is only natural, his reputation extends to the four corners of the world. He lived most recently in Tristram, where many of our sisters went when rumors of the Lord of Terror's reawakening began to spread. No word has come from Tristram for some time, but if Deckard Cain still lives, his learning would be invaluable for our cause."
"Not to mention free Identify. So: how do we get to Tristram?"
"In a stony field not far up the pass, you will find a cairn of five stones, set in a ring."
Bodiccea nodded. "You do know that a cairn is a pile of rocks, not a ring?"
"Yes, child," Akara said with barely detectable annoyance. "The ring is enchanted to form a gate when the stones are touched in the proper sequence."
"Which you don't remember either, right?" Bodiccea smirked. "I mean, we can't make this easy, now, can we?"
"The ring has not been used for some time," Akara said as Heather elbowed Bodiccea in the ribs. "The code is recorded in the bark of the Tree of Inifuss."
"Which is in the middle of a dark scary forest?" Bodiccea said, rubbing her side and glaring at Heather.
"Yes. You may reach the forest more quickly by means of an underground passage. The entrance is in the cliff wall near the stone ring."
"Got it. Ok, that's enough to keep me out of trouble for one day. See ya!"
As they walked to the waypoint, Bodiccea hissed, "Hey, what'd you hit me for?"
"Akara is wise and good. You should be more respectful." Heather frowned. "She's been like a mother to all of us!"
"Yeah, boring," Bodiccea stuck out her tongue. "Ok, ok, she's trying to be nice. But this quest has got to be the most irritating one in Act I. We've got to clear the Stony Field, the Underground Passage, and find both the Tree of Inifuss and the Dark Wood waypoint before we can take a break. And get through Tristram."
Now Heather looked confused. "Um..."
"You'll see." Bodiccea stepped on the Rogue camp waypoint. "We'll come out on the Cold Plains. Don't attack anything, just follow me to the Stony Field. Ok?"
The Stony Field entrance and the Cold Plains waypoint were almost on opposite sides of the plains. Bodiccea actually had to stop and rest, so she and Heather killed Corrupted Rogues to pass the time. Bishibosh threw fireballs on their way past, but they didn't stop again until they found the Stony Field. Just inside the entrance was a house full of Carvers.
"These little guys are all over the place, aren't they?" Heather asked as she put an arrow through a Carver's eye.
"Yeah, either Andarial or Diablo brought in a whole bunch of the little whiners. Don't know why, they're so pathetic."
"Did you see that green one? He didn't look pathetic."
"That was Bishibosh. He's pretty nasty."
"Oh! Some of them were saying that before we killed them."
"Yep." Bodiccea looked around at the now-dead Carvers. "And Colenzo, and Rakanishu."
"Who are they?"
"Haven't met them yet. We will, though."
Heather blinked, then thought about it. "Oh, because if they're calling for one of them, the others are probably around too, huh?"
"Oh, yeah," Bodiccea said, turning over the rock northwest of the house. "Hmm, socketed leather. You want to try this on?"
"Sure." Heather retreated inside the house to change while Bodiccea looked around some more outside. "Don't go too far!"
"I won't. Hey, here's another rock with stuff under it."
"Yeah," Heather called. "When people came through the pass, a lot of them used to hide stuff under the stones around here."
"Cool. Used to be when I turned over rocks, all I'd find was worms or ex-boyfriends. You have a boyfriend, Heather?"
"No... we're not allowed to."
Bodiccea paused, waiting for elaboration that didn't come. "Yeah, but did you?"
Heather came out of the house, wriggling and brushing a little dirt off the leather. "No, I never had a boyfriend."
"Never even tried?"
"Nuh-uh." She looked a little bashful.
"Ever thought about it?"
"Well..." Heather shrugged. "Not really."
Bodiccea shook her head. "We've got to get to work on you, girl! Everybody's got to have a boyfriend. They're too much fun not to have at least one!"
"There's not a lot of boys around here..."
"Gawd, I know. I'll buy you one when we hit Lut Gholein," Bodiccea grinned.
Heather nodded, more than a little confused, and quietly followed as Bodiccea moved off.
Just past the house was a unique Foul Crow pack, whose boss had the Holy Fire aura. "Holy my ass," Bodiccea thought, "that's a demon," but they probably didn't want to change all the aura names just because they were giving them to demons now. Beyond the crows was a small group of Skeletons, and the waypoint. Foul Crows never appeared again, and Carvers were scarce too. There were plenty of Skeletons, Hungry Dead, and Moon Clan Goatmen. They were kind of a disappointment. Goatmen looked a lot better in Diablo I.
While Heather was plinking away at some encroaching Zombies -- they sat up and noticed HER, anyway -- Bodiccea found the Moldy Tome, and read up on the Countess. "Say, do you think they based the Countess on Countess Elizabeth Bathory?"
"The Countess! Bathed in the blood of a hundred virgins."
"Oh!" Heather shivered. "The Bloody Countess. No one knows what her name was, it was stricken from all the records."
"It probably was Elizabeth, she was nasty. You know, there are a lot more evil females in the Rogue pass than anywhere else. There's Blood Raven, the Countess, and Andarial."
Heather came over and looked at the book. "Is the Countess alive?"
"Yeah, Andarial raised her from the dead." Bodiccea closed the book. "The only other female superboss I can think of is Battlemaid Sarina. No, wait, I guess there's the Maggot Queen. It has to be a female thing, but I dunno..."
Slowly, Heather said, "I'm sorry, but sometimes, I have no idea what you're talking about."
Bodiccea smiles, and patted her on the shoulder. "I'll explain later. There's too much to do today. Promise."
The rest of the fields went by smoothly until they found the circle. "These stones serve some magical purpose," Bodiccea found herself saying. Ok, so the Assassin doesn't have a monopoly on crappy in-game dialogue. Heather moved in to the center of the circle, and found Rakanishu on the other side. Her first arrow set off a spray of sparks, which wouldn't have been too bad if either of them had significant lightning resistance. A voice in the back of her head reminded her that Sigon's Shelter has 30% LR... but she ignored it, and ran in to deal with li'l sparky herself.
As she ran up to Rakanishu, an experience shrine came into view. A wave of fond nostalgia came over her, remembering back to the days when those were actually valuable. For old times' sake, she hit the shrine, and then Rakanishu. The life leech from Sigon's stuff almost took care of the lightning; she was only half-dead when he fell. His reward for her? A magic ring with lightning resistance. Bastard.
The Underground Passage was long and boring. There were Misshapen and Corrupted Rogues in the cave. Bodiccea had fun using Jab to make sure the Misshapen never got a chance to run, and when she reached level 12, got to put a point in Impale. That skill would have been really handy for Rakanishu, but too late now. On the lower level, she and Heather met a boss Rogue named Sin Skin, an even more unlikely name than Blood Raven. Maybe Andarial renamed her. The Golden Chest of Joy yielded up some Necromancer heads. They weren't that good, but heck, a girl can get to like a little head every now and then.
At the entrance to the Dark Wood, Bodiccea said, "Heather? We need two things: the bark from the tree of Inifuss, and the waypoint."
"Ok. What do we do then?"
"Go back to the stone circle, make the gate to Tristram, and go rescue Deckard Cain."
Heather nodded. "And somehow, you know he's still alive."
"And needs to be rescued."
"But how do you know he's still alive?"
"'Cause it would be completely depressing if he wasn't. The world doesn't work that way. Now we go up into the woods. Watch out for wolves."
"The kind that throw fireballs?"
Bodiccea grinned. "Yep."
The Dark Wood was dark, and wooded. Bodiccea stepped out of the Underground Tunnel and looked around, motioning to Heather to follow. A sparse forest stretched from one side of the pass to the other. There was a clearing to the east, and what looked like an empty corral to the north.
"Ok, here's the plan," Bodiccea began. "We'll spiral out from here until we hit a wall, then follow that around, keeping it to our backs. If you see the Tree of Inifuss, don't go near it until we have the area cleared."
Heather nodded, and with a tone of exasperation, asked, "So you know there's there something guarding it?"
Bodiccea sighed. "Ok... I guess we all have to be told sometime. It's kind of hard to explain, so I'll just show you. Could you give me your hand?"
Bodiccea threw her head back and shouted "conference!" With Heather's hand firmly in hers, she stepped back through the ground into darkness. Heather struggled a bit going through the monitor cord, and skinned her knee on the CPU fan (if only Blizzard let mercs wear boots) but Bodiccea held on tight until they reached a flat plain of grass next to a few bushes and a strange building. On second glance, Heather saw it wasn't grass: the ground itself was green and painted with a grass-like texture. The bushes were made of triangular tubes, with flat, angular leaves and orange fruit faceted like gems. Every surface of the building was perfectly flat, and the corners were as sharp as the edges of a knife.
"Hi, guys!" Bodiccea waved to a group of strange people gathered around a large pool of water. "Hey, Fuzzy! Can your merc talk to my merc?"
Mizor: (smiles) "Hwerro!"
"Wha...? Where are we?" Heather squeaked.
"Um... I think it's the entrance to the temple of the Nali water god, but I'm not sure."
Paige: "Hi, Heather! Nice to see you made it."
"Paige! How'd you get here? Where'd you get plate armor? Hey, nice bow..."
Paige: "It's not bad. (to Bodiccea) Have you told her anything?"
"Nah, I couldn't figure out how. I'll let you two talk, m-kay?"
Paige: "Sure. You see, Heather, it's like this..."
Over with the others, Bodiccea sat down, pulled off her boots, and dangled her legs in the pool. "So, how's it going?"
"It never changes," Tearlach said. "You know that. A life of a million cursed Meph runs would be better than this idleness."
"Don't be so sure," Thaddeus said. "I must have done hundreds of Hell cow runs, trying to get some of the higher runes. Never found a single one above a Hel."
"Maybe you had too much magic find," Bodiccea smiled.
"No, I had none. And yet, I still found magical items. I found the Immortal King's Will, Kuko Shakaku, Fleshrender... but no good runes."
"Bleah," Bodiccea said. "High level runes are too damn rare. Hey, how come I haven't seen the Mule lately?"
Mizor: (raises an eyebrow.) "Wiireehioo aheetuff?"
Thaddeus nodded. "Quite right. Even if you weren't in the habit of rejecting gifts, you're not big enough."
Bodiccea arched her back and breathed in very deeply. "How about now?"
Tearlach smiled. "Mmmm. I wish that was what tin-man meant."
"Heh." Thaddeus frowned a bit. "You'll be getting a grand charm when you're 14th level, and some more things when you reach 18."
"Phoo, I'm only 12th. Golly, I guess that means I'm not legal yet. Ow!" Bodiccea pulled her feet out of the water. "Stupid fish."
From where she was sitting under a strangely angular palm tree, Amanita lazily looked over and said, "That's why we didn't go in the water."
"Quite so," Varnae smiled, hovering near Amanita. "There is also the shark, should any of you feel that life has grown too tedious."
Bodiccea looked around. "Hey, where's the Sorceress?"
Tearlach snorted. "Chasing the bunnies. She wants to pet the stupid cowardly things."
"Ha!" Bodiccea grinned. "What is it with her and bunnies?"
"Not just rabbits," Amanita smiled, ignoring Varnae's presence. "Kittens, puppies, horsies, butterflies, whatever."
Varnae mused for a moment. "If she wants a puppy, I suppose I could go and make her one. The spare parts lying around my workshop should be sufficient."
Amanita's eyes slowly opened. "That is wrong. Sick, twisted, and totally wrong."
Varnae smiled. "Why, thank you."
Amanita grinned. "So when are you going to do it?"
"Hush, my dear. These things take time, and must be presented at the proper moment."
"Varnae..." Thaddeus sighed. "You will do no such thing. We all know you are a poison Necromancer, not a Skeleton or Revive Necromancer."
Is it any wonder no one with any taste likes Paladins? The common colloquialism "killjoy" leaps to mind. Relieving the tedium of existence with unprovoked cruelty to the deserving is a right and a pleasure I have no intention of ever denying myself. Besides... that beautiful dark angel favored me with her smile! For but one more, I would face the united stuffiness of a thousand of his armored ilk! Still, he has a point: I lack the knowledge, a fact not lost on any aware of my reputation, which includes all our present company. The Amazon's new girl... ah, the other Rogue is pointing me out... and she has turned white as a sheet. It is astounding how easily one may become infamous in these circles.
"So..." Heather's brow knitted in concentration. "This is all, like, an act?"
Paige: "No. You really are saving the world."
"It's the world that's an act," Kasim said.
Khaleel grinned. "Life's but a walking shadow, and we are poor players who strut and fret our hour on the stage until we are heard no more."
Paige: "Uh... yeah."
Kasim snorted. "Sorcerers."
Khaleel shrugged. "Hey, I read books."
Paige: "The point is, the world needs saving, but there's another world outside it. We're out there now, and you can look back in."
"Where?" Heather asked, still utterly bewildered.
"Right over there," Kasim pointed back in the direction they'd come. Heather could see an empty field. The Underground Passage entrance was in the right half of the field, and her own picture was hovering in the upper left.
Paige: "Yeah. Miss Bodiccea? Could you say 'Q' so we can see your quests?"
"Sure! Q!" Half the field vanished, and an array of six pictures with a bit of glowing text appeared. As they watched, the upper middle picture (a red and black bird with an arrow under its wing) disappeared in a swirl of gray, with the loud tolling of a bell.
"Ow," Bodiccea held her ears as she came over. "I wish they hadn't put that noise in."
"Who put that noise in?" Heather asked.
"The Powers What Is, also known as Blizzard. They like to mess with us."
"Oh. Why is my picture there?"
"'Cause you're my merc," Bodiccea smiled.
"What does that make you?"
Heather nodded quietly... then grinned... then giggled. "Um... you know, Kashya called you that earlier..."
Bodiccea's eyes narrowed. "Oh, did she? I'm going to have to have a little talk with her."
"Like you have talks with Gheed?"
Bodiccea slapped her forehead. "I knew I was forgetting something! Quick, we gotta go back! Nice seeing you guys again! Bye!"
Bodiccea grabbed Heather by the scruff of her neck and dragged her back to the Dark Wood, then cast a town portal. Running straight past a surprised-looking Warriv, she made for Gheed's corner. After a short pause, there was some thumping, and Bodiccea yelled, "Get out from under there, you coward!"
Warriv sighed, and looked at Heather. "Was it you that reminded her?"
"Uh..." Heather grinned a little. "I guess it was."
Warriv shook his head as loud screams could be heard across the camp. The screams rose and fell in pitch once... twice... three times, then reached a crescendo so painful Warriv had to cross his legs, even though he was standing up. Then there was a loud splash.
Bodiccea came running back. "Three points! Clear over the wall and into the river!"
"By Heaven, woman!" Warriv looked aghast. "You are going to leave him without any reproductive capacity whatsoever!"
"You say that like it would be a bad thing. C'mon, Heather!"
From the Underground Passage, Bodiccea and Heather moved out in a spiral pattern. The first enemies they found were Dark Hunters, then a burning house full of Carvers. For the first time, the Shaman inside the house actually came out to fight, and Bodiccea was happy to take him up on the offer and impale him just outside the door. A few Spike Fiends were firing quills from the edge of the woods. If they were actually dangerous, Bodiccea might have hidden behind trees or dodged the spikes, but there wasn't much need. After two rounds around the wood, they found a wall and followed it from then on. Heather had a new rare hunter's bow by this point, and some ring mail from Charsi.
At one point, they ran across a small barn, with a cow inside. "Wow," Heather said. "They let it live."
"Uh-uh! All the regular cows are dead. That's an ambassador from the Moo-moo farms."
Heather blinked. "It's just a cow..."
Bodiccea grinned. "That's what it wants you to think. Look into that monster's eyes. It's tasted human blood! That cow's a man-eater!"
Heather looked at the cow. It looked back, slowly chewing. "Miss Bodiccea, sometimes I just don't know when to take you seriously..."
Heather shrugged. "Ok."
While they were clearing out a Carver camp, and another right next to it, Bodiccea spotted the Tree of Inifuss. To her credit, Heather went nowhere near the tree. Once the camps were cleared, Bodiccea went over to the strange-looking tree and peeled some of the bark off like a scroll. A guttural growl announced the arrival of a huge Brute, but he only had two minions and was quickly dispatched. "That's one," Bodiccea thought. "Now, where's that stupid waypoint?"
The waypoint, as it turns out, was right next to where they'd first found the outer wall. By the time they found it, they'd pretty much cleared the entire Dark Wood. If only she'd gone right instead of left... Swearing mildly, Bodiccea hit the waypoint and ran to the stone ring, or cairn stones, or whatever it was called. Akara had already translated the scroll, so she hit the rocks in the right order, and in a flurry of lightning, a red gate appeared.
Tristram was a sad sight. Every building was in ruins, and flames belched greasy black smoke up to the starless night sky. "It's as if a great war were fought here."
"Um," Heather murmured, "wasn't it? Paige said Diablo's demons attacked here."
"Hey, that's my line. It ain't Shakespeare, but I gotta say it. Hey! We can't lose!"
"What makes you say that?"
"I!" Bodiccea pointed at her gold inventory. "I just noticed, I have 1337 gold on me! I am 1337! That means I can't lose!"
Heather quietly stared at her for a minute. "You know, you're really kind of weird."
Bodiccea grinned. "You know, you're right! Let's paint the town red."
"I think someone beat us to it, but ok."
The cleared the perimeter of the town first. Past a cow -- which Bodiccea just HAD to poke, spattering them both with bovine guts -- they went into a mostly open area, with Skeleton archers and some Night Clan Goatmen. For some reason, the Cathedral was walled off. It would have been fun to look inside, maybe see if there were any naked bat chick statues in the graveyard, but it was not to be.
On the north side of town was Gillian's body, charred and almost unrecognizable. Ogden was lying by his inn door. Wirt was still out among the rocks, though Bodiccea wasn't as sad to see him. Pepin was a jumble of burnt bone next to his hospital. Farnham was a mass of flame that probably had enough fuel to burn a week longer than the rest of town. The east end of town was behind the wall, so there was no sign of Adria. Bodiccea sighed, and holding her spear up high, screamed to the uncaring heavens, "Damn you, Blizzard! You didn't give them any running animation! Damn you! DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL!!"
The noise must have been what attracted Griswold. The dead smith came stumbling out of the southwest corner of town, with a stone skin Skeleton boss. "Oh, NOW he can move," Bodiccea said. "Heather, you pick off the minions, ok? I'll take the big boys."
Heather killed all the other skeletons before Bodiccea had even made a serious dent in ol' Griswold. Well, at least Blizz made him as tough as he should be. She tried Jab, Impale, and Power Strike, nothing whittled him down faster than he was smashing her. Finally, with great reluctance, Bodiccea did something she hadn't needed to do in since Blood Raven... drink a red potion. It was embarrassing.
After Griswold and the skelly boss finally died, they cleared the rest of town. For some reason, the usual crowds of Champion Shamans were absent. Cain was hanging in his cage, shouting for help. "Hi there!" Bodiccea smiled.
"Hey, I want to ask you something..."
"Help me! They've trapped me in this accursed cage!"
"Yeah, but there's this thing about your portal. When I let you down, you make a portal and disappear. Why don't you just cast your portal now?"
Cain stared at her. "What the devil are you talking about, woman? Get me out of here!"
"I mean, if I'm making the portal, I should be able to go through it, but if you..."
"I have a portal scroll," Cain shouted, "but this cage is too small for the portal to appear inside! If I made the portal now, it would appear outside the bars!"
"Ohhh..." Bodiccea lowered the cage and pried the door open. "Ok, here you go. See you in the Rogue camp! Hey, how do you know where the Rogues are now... ?"
But he was already gone. "Wow. He's speedy for an old guy."
Heather nodded. "Are we going home now? We've been out a long time now."
"Yep." Bodiccea started ticking off her fingers. "I get to talk to Akara, and get a ring I'll probably sell right back to her. Charsi will want the Horadric Malus back, but first we go into the Black Marshes and deal with the Countess. Oh, and see what the Mule dropped off, I'm 14 now."
Heather smirked a little. "Funny, you look older than that."
Bodiccea giggled. "I'm big for my age."
"You're big for anybody's age!"
Bodiccea laughed! "Hey, girl! You're getting sassy. I like that, keep doing it."
"Good morning!" Cain smiled as Bodiccea and Heather approached. "I want to thank you for rescuing me from that accursed cage. As a token of my gratitude, I will identify any arcane items you might find free of charge!"
"Well, that's mighty white of you," Bodiccea smiled. "You want this ring? I've got no use for a Bronze Ring of Light."
Cain regarded the ring, shaking his head slightly. "Akara told me that she would give you such a reward. Though not the most powerful item I have seen, you must understand that it is the best she can do for the moment. She and I are both truly grateful."
"Eh, no biggie. You're both in the same boat: lost, homeless, and in a hell of a situation." Then she grinned and glanced over at Warriv. "So, Warriv... how come you've never shown me your eternal gratitude with fine jewelry?"
Warriv, who'd obviously been hoping she wouldn't notice him, glanced heavenwards and mumbled, "Are you sure you only want jewelry?"
"Only because you won't give me what I REALLY need," Bodiccea pouted, running a hand down her thigh.
Cain cleared his throat. "Regrettably, I could do nothing to prevent the tragedy that befell Tristram. I fear the Lord of Terror walks the earth once more!"
"You don't sell jewelry, do you, Warriv?"
Warriv shook his head. "No, I manage caravans, not goods."
"Aw, phoo! Not even nipple rings?"
Warriv raised an eyebrow and frowned. "Certainly not."
"How about nipple shields, like Janet Jackson was wearing? Do you think I'd look good with one of those? Or maybe two of them?"
"I said," Cain repeated a bit louder, "The Lord of Terror walks the earth once more!"
"Yeah, yeah," Bodiccea nodded absent-mindedly. "Well... maybe wearing two at the same time would be too much." She looked down at her chest. "On your other hand, too much might not be enough with me. What do you think, Warry-dear?"
Warriv was massaging his temples. "I'm trying not to think about it."
"Well, that's no fun!" Bodiccea pouted, "Oh, I know what you're trying to say! You're really saying, 'Boddy baby, you're perfect just the way you are. You don't need jewelry covering anything up!' All the cheap guys say that."
Heather leaned over and whispered something in Warriv's ear, then stepped away with an innocent smirk on her face. Warriv turned to Bodiccea and smiled. "Maybe Gheed would want to see you in nipple shields."
Bodiccea made a face. "Ew, yuck."
"Especially since they have spikes on the inside to hold them in place."
"Ew! Ok, Janet Jackson is nuts."
Cain plaintively asked, "Doesn't anyone want to hear about the Lord of Terror walking the earth once more?"
"Huh?" Bodiccea said. "Oh, yeah, sure. Um, just a minute." She ran to Gheed's corner of camp. There was a crash like a door being kicked in, the sound of Bodiccea shouting "spiky nipple shields, huh?" and a tremendous banging mingled with cries of pain. The screaming abruptly cut off, and Bodiccea came back, wiping her hands on another piece of Gheed's coat. "Sorry, what were you saying?"
While Cain described the horrors of Tristram, Warriv was gazing up at Gheed, who'd been hoisted over his wagon on a pole shoved through the waistband of his underpants. "I almost feel as though I should salute him."
"Yeah, kind of," Heather agreed. "I didn't know you could swallow your own arm up to the elbow like that."
Warriv shrugged. "I'm more surprised his nipples are intact, frankly. You know, he's been threatening to take the Rogues to court for failing to insure his safety."
Heather rolled her eyes. "Lady Akara can't do anything about it."
"That might be true," Warriv chuckled. "But he will try legal action."
"So why doesn't he sue her? She's the one trying to wedgie him to death."
"You're forgetting one of the first rules of a successful lawsuit: never sue someone who would physically attack you if they lose."
Meanwhile, Cain was just finishing up. "It is clear that Diablo is headed to the east, making for the city of Lut Gholein, where his brother Baal, Lord of Destruction was imprisoned long ago. Andarial must be in league with him, and is here to block pursuit through the pass. It is imperative that you make your way through the monastery, destroy the Queen of Anguish, and halt Diablo before he reaches his goal!"
Bodiccea was quietly nodding. "Uh-huh. You know, my uncle Acheor has shoes almost exactly like those. Are they prescription or something?"
Cain frowned disapprovingly. "If Diablo locates his brother Baal --"
"Okay, okay!" Bodiccea smiled. "I'm on it. Just gotta clear the pass first. Andarial's got a lot of minions running around."
"The danger will be great," Cain said, "but worse still if Diablo is able to reunite with his brother demons! The Three together --"
"Would be unstoppable, they'd drench the world in a wave of blood and nightmares, we'll have Hellspawn coming out of our beer mugs, dogs and cats living together, uncontrollable mass hysteria... I get it. First, Andarial. After her, we deal with the big boys."
"Hmm, yes," Cain said, calming down. "Well, you must, of course, strive towards your goal one step at a time, but it is important be aware of where your steps are taking you."
"Sure. I know where I'm going, and it's gonna take a while. You wait right here, ok? I'll be back soon."
From the waypoint, Bodiccea and Heather ran to clean out one last bit of the Dark Wood, near the center. It was worth the trip: they killed a set of four Champion Carvers, each its own color. The Berserker was cobalt blue (or maybe "kobold" blue), a lot nicer than the usual Carver baby blue. The Forgotten Tower was right next to the Black Marsh entrance, and the waypoint was on the other side of the river running through the middle.
Their first encounter was a spectral hit Blood Hawk pack. Next was an extra fast Night Clan herd and a group of Corrupted Rogue archers. Things got easier after that, until Bodiccea's spear started splintering. It was easy to fix, of course, but after another couple of Carver camps, it started breaking again. Damn that low durability. Why'd Blizzard saddle spears with that, anyway? In reality, swords need the most maintenance. Whatever, the socketed spear wasn't cutting it anymore. It took too long to kill anything. Gheed has some tridents, but they're so slow... Maybe she could pester the Mule for one of the low level unique spears? Sure, they suck, but all low level uniques suck, and they can't suck as much as the ones Charsi has...
They didn't find much in the Black Marsh. Bodiccea kept kicking the fallen logs, expecting something to pop out, which confused the heck out of Heather. "Why are you doing that?"
"Force of habit," Bodiccea said. "They hide stuff in logs in Kurast."
"Oh. I guess that makes sense."
"There's so much stuff hidden around here it's screwy. Heck, every third rock on the Stony Field had goodies under it. I mean, is it supposed to be that hundreds of thousands of people came through the pass, hid things under rocks, then forgot which rock?"
Heather shrugged. "Well, this kind of is the only easy way from the western kingdoms to the Twin Seas. Unless you go by boat."
"And how the heck do you fit a polearm under a rock?"
"You got that off that Blood Hawk."
"Even worse!" Bodiccea laughed. "Oh, well. It'll only get stranger. Wait 'til you see Flayers dropping pikes and full plate armor."
Heather smirked. "The anticipation is killing me."
"Hey!" Bodiccea glared at Heather. "Sassy is good, sarcastic is not."
"Yeah. The Flayers will be what kills you."
The Hole was in the first half of the Black Marsh, on the other side from the tower. Inside, there were Corrupted Archers, Brutes, and a pack of Misshapen with the Fanaticism aura, in addition to the usual Carver camps. One of the Brutes was fire enchanted, but that wasn't a problem at this point. There were lots of Rogues, both corrupted and dead... man, the cheesecake is laid on thick in this act. Might that be because Act I got released as a demo to help sell the game? Nah, probably just a coincidence. Level 2 of The Hole was Carvers, Carvers, and more Carvers. One corner had a boss pack, 4 Champions, and two Shamans together in one group. This Golden Chest of Joy was well earned.
Outside, Bodiccea hit an experience shrine, then the Countess' tower. The place reeked, worse than any undefiled grave, and was full of exploding barrels, Ghosts, Blood Clan goats, Dark Archers, and a unique Devilkin pack. The usual, in other words. Bodiccea still didn't get the point of exploding barrels. Hiding Skeletons or Zombies in a barrel to jump out, sure, but what were they keeping in there that would blow up? One pack of Champions included that rare and ridiculous beast, the Ghostly Ghost. It was yellow, or maybe orange -- it's kind of hard to tell when every monster turns blue the second your Rogue sees it.
Way, way down, past more cellars than anybody would ever need for anything, Bodiccea and Heather found the lowest level of the tower. Right outside the entrance chamber was a lightning enchanted Blood goat -- exactly what she didn't want while she was stuck with a low damage weapon and no lightning resistance. Impale and a lot of life leech worked well on it, and the rest of the pack brought Bodiccea's health up to full again. Instead of clearing the side chambers first, Bodiccea decided to get the Countess first.
In the back of the hall, past the cauldron of boiling virgin's blood, Bodiccea and Heather met one last pack of Ghosts. Some of the Countess' minions came out and tried to lure them into her chamber; they killed the Ghosts first, then went in. Firewalls sprung up in the entrances, and the Countess' giggle echoed through the chamber.
The battle went smoothly. It's hard to find a really challenging fight in Act I anyway, and Sigon's gear made everything easy. The Countess, her minions, and some Blood Clan goats were in the room, but the speed and life leech took care of everything. Heather didn't even stand in the firewall. Herself dropped Death's Guard and some blues, and there was an El rune in her chest. Typical. The side chambers had gold and a few items, but nothing worth mentioning.
"Well, that was boring," Bodiccea said after they portalled back to town.
"Yeah, I guess." Heather bit her lip. "Everything in there was really scary-looking, but not that hard to kill."
"Nope. Good money, though."
"Hey!" Kashya shouted as they approached. "You! I want to talk to you."
"Hmm?" Bodiccea asked. "You're not the one who's supposed to ask me to get the Horadric Malus."
"You have heard of the Horadric Malus?" Cain began. "That is a legendary artifact, a tool infused with the raw power of chaos to --"
"Skip it," Kashya cut him off. "Keep your hands off Gheed. He's threatening to take us to court if we don't stop you from abusing him."
Bodiccea hmphed! "What's he doing suing you? He should sue me. Hey, Gheed!"
A high-pitched voice wailed out of a tree next to the Rogue camp wall, "Get the hell away from me, you evil bitch!! I'm staying out here with the monsters!"
Bodiccea stood at the gate of the Rogue camp, spear in hand and a fist on her hip, and announced to the tree, "This is to hereby notify you, party of the first part, that I, party of the partying part, that I am suing you for suing the Rogues and not suing me!"
The tree was silent for a moment... then laughed. "Very well. I agree to drop my suit against the Rogues... if you agree to abide by the court's decision after I sue you!"
"And to behave yourself in the courtroom?"
"No prob. Now get down here and take your medicine for being such a jerk!"
"Oh, no," the tree laughed again. "I'm staying right here until our court date."
"Where do you think you're going to find a judge around here, anyway? Or do you think Akara's going to do it?"
The tree shook with laughter. "You just wait. You'll see."
The next morning, no matter how hard she looked, Bodiccea couldn't find Gheed, either inside the camp or out. He wasn't under his wagon, in a tree, behind the woodpile, in any of the tents, or anywhere. Annoyed, she resolved to hurt him very badly when he showed his slimy face again and went to the waypoint. Waypoints are a kludge, but a convenient one. Sure beats having to scamper through all those areas after they've repopulated. Saving a level empty might be more realistic, but running back to where you stopped would take an awfully long time, and the file size would be ridiculous. Besides, how could you do item runs if Meph stays dead?
Half of the Dark Wood was left, so Bodiccea and Heather went back to the old routine, criss-crossing back and forth to make sure they cleared it completely. Near the obligatory burning house (shouldn't they go out after a while?) they ran into their only serious fight, a unique Carver Shaman with teleportation. When he did his thing, it sounded almost exactly like a fat guy farting. Bodiccea stopped chasing him a couple of times because she got the giggles, but eventually she pulled herself together and killed him.
"Hi, Charsi." Bodiccea dropped her almost-splintered spear on the table. "It's me again."
"Oh, hi! Don't worry, it's ok. Good thing this isn't enchanted, or this'd take a lot longer. All that's in there is the gems."
"I always knew I was high-maintenance." Bodiccea grinned, then laughed. "Gawd, that Shaman sounded silly. I don't think I've ever laughed that hard!"
Heather nodded. "Yeah, well, I guess we kind of took the wind out of his sails."
"Or deflated his ego," Bodiccea laughed. "Oh, wait! This one time, I was on duty, and this guy was coming on to me? I could not believe it, he actually tried 'Is it hot in here, or is it just you?' on me."
"Ew," Heather said.
"Seriously, I could not buh-LEEVE anybody'd try that! That is SO LAME! Anyway, I was about to whack him in the nuts, when he farted."
"Oh, that's awful!"
"And he just keeps talking, ok? He keeps smiling and trying to act like it didn't happen!"
"He was probably too embarrassed..."
"Heather, guys don't get embarrassed. They just keep talking and hope you forget about it, like we're stupid or something. Anyway, he was talking, and I was holding my nose, which he ignored, when one of the priestesses came in. She just kind of looked around, you know, then said, "Guard, there is a dead animal in here somewhere. Find it and throw it out."
"What'd you do?"
Bodiccea grinned. "I threw him out. He didn't come back, either."
A slight frown creasing her brow, Heather nodded. "Um, ok." After a moment's thought, she said, "I hope he was all right."
Bodiccea sighed. "He was fine, I only beat him up a little. Heather, you gotta stop being so nice. Guys'll walk all over you like this."
"Excuse me?" Charsi said, and handed Bodiccea's spear back. "That's fixed about as good as I can get it. Are you sure you don't want to buy a trident? They're stronger, and Gheed has plenty for sale."
Bodiccea made a face. "Gheed is... uh, tridents are too slow."
"Gheed isn't here, you mean? Yeah! I wonder what happened to him?"
"For once," Heather said, "it wasn't her."
"Hey!" Bodiccea said.
Heather bowed her head, mostly to hide the smirk she couldn't quite keep off her face, and said, "You said I should stop being nice to everybody."
"I didn't mean to me!" Bodiccea glared, then laughed. "I'm sorry, have I let my inner bitch out a little too often?"
A snerk of laughter choked out of Heather, and she muttered "inner?" to Charsi. Charsi smiled, and said, "You are kind of mean to Gheed. I don't know why, I think he's funny."
"That's just my inner bitch. You know how some people claim to have inner strength, or inner sight, or an inner voice? I don't believe in any of that. I do believe that every woman, every single one, has within her an inner bitch. Like right there: whatever Heather just said to you, I know that she has finally found her inner bitch."
"It wasn't that bad," Heather murmured.
"Then you need to let her out more, girl!" Bodiccea grinned. "Our inner bitches give us strength. Like this other time I was in temple, and this old lady in rags came up to me. She asked me, 'Please, may I have a bit of money to buy a crust of bread?' I reached into my purse and gave her a copper, and said, 'There you go. Goddess bless you!'"
"That sounds all right," Charsi said, frowning in confusion.
"Yeah," Heather agreed.
"Sure, but my inner bitch was saying, 'Bullshit, lady! You're going to get a bowl of narlant and smoke yourself blind instead of dealing with your problems, aren't you?' At the same time, I could hear her inner bitch saying, 'One damned copper? You useless cunt, what the hell am I supposed to buy with this?' She smiled at me, and I smiled at her, and we shared a beautiful inner bitch moment together."
Charsi blinked. "Oh." Heather looked stunned.
"The part of you deep inside that says 'Ok, cut the crap,' that's your inner bitch! The day you decide your middle name is not 'welcome', you have found your inner bitch! We need our inner bitches! Without them, men will run right over us and take over everything."
"The old lady was a man?" Charsi blurted out.
"No! I meant men or women who are bitches. Whatever. My point is, you shouldn't be nice to everybody."
Heather smirked. "I guess that's why you don't try."
"Heather!" Bodiccea laughed. "I am in touch with my inner bitch. I like her, and she's good for me. My inner bitch is reaching out to your inner bitch, but your inner bitch is being such a bitch my inner bitch may have to slap her around a bit if she's not careful."
Charsi laughed a little. "Where's the inner child fit in?"
"My inner bitch isn't a child anymore. We like boys too much."
"Is Kashya in touch with her inner bitch?" Heather asked.
"Kashya IS her inner bitch. Either that or they're touching each other so much you could make money charging people to watch."
Heather giggled, glancing over her shoulder. "I don't think you could charge people to watch Kashya being a b-i-t-c-h."
Bodiccea nodded. "Yeah, the market's kind of flooded."
By now, Charsi was blushing to her blonde roots again, trying unsuccessfully to suppress her laughter. "I shouldn't be laughing at this..."
"That's just your inner bitch, trying to get out! You just need to let her. Hey, I've got to get going, there's demons to kill. Were you going to ask me about the Horadric Malus?"
"Oh, yeah! That's the one really valuable tool I have. I had to leave it when we all fled the monastery. If you could get it back for me, that would be wonderful. I'll use to imbue an item of your choice with magical powers."
"Thanks. I just wish it was a little more reliable."
"Yeah, I can't predict what it will do. But it'll be good!"
"Not in this patch, it won't. Anyhoo, see you soon!"
There were Blood Hawks in the Dark Wood, and exactly one Blood Hawk nest. They just kept pouring out of it like clowns out of a car, only smellier. After killing a unique Rogue archer (who had an Ocher Ring of Thawing, very nice for this level) they made it up into the Tamoe Highlands. Before Bodiccea had a chance to ask where the name "Tamoe" came from, they found another one of those eternally-burning houses and were soon chasing Carvers and Devilkin all over the place. As usual, the little fartknockers liked fleeing towards other monsters, like Thorn Beasts and Dark Stalkers. Many of the rogues were corrupt enough to have horns... making them horny naked demon babes. Bodiccea gritted her teeth, reminded herself that it still wasn't as bad as in a lot of other games, and fought on.
In addition to stuff under rocks, there were a lot of chests out on the highlands. Maybe it was supposed to be luggage dropped while fleeing the monastery. One of them had Diggler's Dirk inside, prompting Bodiccea to wonder out loud why some nice Rogue archer would keep THAT in her nightstand. Much giggling ensued. Heather said she thought she knew who used to have it. Then, there was a corral -- and no sign cattle had ever been there. It had to be for the Bovine invasion force, but Bodiccea didn't tell Heather. That much of the awful truth would have to wait.
Bodiccea nearly broke her spear on a fire enchanted Returned boss, and again on a cold enchanted Dark Lancer. Of course, the Lancer had a huge pack of minions and a bunch of other Rogues with her, and Bodiccea had to kill the boss last for Heather's sake. Once the area was clear, they went down into the pit, and immediately ran into a lightning enchanted Stalker. Worse yet, she only had two minions, nothing to distract Heather from shooting at her. After a very short battle, Bodiccea fled back to the highlands, and give Heather a short lecture about the joys of lightning enchanted beasties and what the Impale skill is for. Much enlightened, they went back and killed her without further mishap.
The rest of the Pit was pretty boring. There were horny Dark Archers, an extra fast Bone Warrior, and on the second level, enough Carvers to make Bodiccea want to throw up. She couldn't wait to get out of Act I and fight some different monsters for a change. There wasn't even anything good in the Golden Chest of Joy. Phooey.
The monastery was a big building, done up in a "starburst and nude lady" motif. Bodiccea had two goals in mind: the waypoint in the middle of the garden, and getting to level 17 so she could use Bloodthief. It's no Lycander's, but combined with Sigon's stuff, she'd have 22% life leech, which is just godly in Act I. It might even keep up with a lightning enchanted boss' charged bolts.
Right inside the monastery door, there was a unique Carver Shaman with a big horde of minions. That much fire hurts; Bodiccea had to drink a potion and toss one to Heather. The waypoint was in the central area of the gardens, along with Razor Spines and more exploding barrels than you could shake a stick at. Of course, Bodiccea had to poke her nose into each and every one of them, knowing all the time that this would be a really embarrassing way to die. She also discovered that Yeti know how to open doors. How civilized.
A fountain in gleaming white marble graced the center of the gardens, with three heroically sized Rogues back to back in martial poses, forever defending the clear water bubbling up from under their feet. "That's a pretty fountain," Bodiccea said.
"Oh, yeah!" Heather said. "Those are the founders of the order."
Bodiccea smirked. "Good thing you told me. I might have thought it was a monument to Sanctuary's first wet T-shirt contest."
There was a long pause before Heather turned to stare at Bodiccea. "You know... you're kind of weird."
"Nah, just uninhibited. Let's keep going, I'm really close."
Starting from the left, they cleared out the gardens. The entrance to the barracks was in the leftmost wing this time, and after killing a multishot Bone Archer, Bodiccea hit level 17 and went back to the Rogue camp. New presents were waiting by her stash: Bloodthief, some two-socketed Studded Leather, a Tal rune and an Eth rune, an Ember Brandistock of the Leech with two sockets, and two Rusty jewels, with a note:
-- The Mule"
"Is that normal?" Heather asked.
"Nuh-uh. Hey... you don't think this has anything to do with Gheed, do you?"
"I don't know... I mean, he doesn't know, does he? He can't know."
"Not unless he's smoked even more narlant weed than I thought." Bodiccea grinned. "This could get kind of wild."
"I thought you liked wild."
"Yeah. Let's go see what's going on."
The place Bodiccea and Heather arrived this time was new, and at the same time strangely familiar. In appearance, it was an utterly typical roadside inn and tavern. The crackling fire and the smell of beer and hot shepherd's pie were instantly familiar, but it went beyond mere recognition of a place like hundreds of others throughout Sanctuary. Outside the door was a sign showing a rising sun. Next to it, a meek and humble-looking man stood as if waiting for customers. Inside, the floor had been cleared except for a table at the far end of the room, two tables facing it in the middle of the room, and a dozen chairs set up in two rows, looking over the space between the tables.
All kinds of people were crowded into the hall. A handsome, regal young man dressed like a sultan was seated in a place of honor at a table at the head of the room. A blob of a man dressed like a genie stood wavering next to him. At one of the other tables, Thaddeus was sitting next to Gheed, who looked very proud of himself. At the other was Amanita, with an empty chair. The twelve chairs were full of people, with Varnae at the corner nearest the sultan. Several other people were sitting and lounging by the other side of the room, drinking beer, smoking, looking smug, or more than one of the above.
"Hi," Bodiccea said. "What's up?"
"You're up," Gheed grinned, malice slathered across his face. "It's our court date. You didn't think I could set this up, did you?"
"Well, phooey! I wanted trial by combat."
Gheed grinned even wider. "We can do it that way. Of course, I get to declare one of those present my champion, if I want..."
Bodiccea glanced around, realized that more than one of the NPC's could probably kick her ass at this point, and sat down by Amanita. "Hi. Guess you're council for the defense."
"Somebody had to do it," Amanita said, never taking her feet off the table. "At least I didn't get stuck sitting next to Gheed."
"Eh, Pallys love to play martyr. Ooh, who's the judge?"
"Lord Jerhyn. He's the only one with legal experience, so he gets to be judge."
"Ooh, he's cuuute... and he's a lord, too?" Bodiccea adjusted her armor, fluffed up her cleavage, and batted her eyelashes when Jerhyn's gaze fell over the defense table.
Amanita raised an eyebrow. "Huh. Whatever. Keep doing that, maybe you can get a mistrial. You're sure not going to win on your case."
Jury duty. Could any other pair of words carry such profound connotations of tedium and idiocy? Well, perhaps 'physical exertion' or 'religious epiphany' better qualify. Regardless, our young Lordling has shown wisdom beyond his tender years by elevating me to the position of jury foreman. I realize this means he has placed the burden of responsibility for this witless assemblage's decisions squarely on my shoulders, but I cannot dispute his reasoning. I shall punish him later. The rest of the jury is as follows:
To my right: Alkor the alchemist. It assures me to know that his calm, objective, diplomatic approach to human relations will be put to use in this important matter.
To his right: Lysander the alchemist. He and Alkor should get along well. One is deaf, and the other doesn't give a damn what anyone says.
To his right: Fara the paladin. Her light-hearted, easy-going personality should assure a fair and balanced approach to this sensitive case.
To her right: Asheara the sorceress. We duped her into coming by telling her Gheed would be the one on trial. I may be wrong, but they seem to have a history together.
To her right: Xanthippe the sorceress. I do believe she wants to do even worse things to Gheed than Asheara.
Behind me: Ormus the mage. In any legal matter, clarity of expression is very important, and I know we can all rely on Ormus for that.
To his right: Greiz the mercenary captain. Gheed should be pleased Greiz is serving. Anyone repeatedly thrashed by a woman will find a sympathetic ear in him.
To her right: Jamella the... whatever it is she does. A comely enough female, though a bit of a fashion disaster and unpleasantly taciturn. I'm not sure why she was approached for this.
To her right: Halbu the armorer. A package deal with Jamella. He appears to be advertising his wares by wearing all of them at once.
To his right: Atma the tavern keeper. There is nothing like a recent, tragic, blood-curdling loss to provide clarity of judgment.
To her right: Elzix the innkeeper. Well known for his respect for the boundaries of property, this is another fellow who should feel great sympathy for what Gheed has suffered.
There were other prospective jurors, of course. The wizard Drognan is politically connected with our judge, and can not legally serve. Captain Meshif has business dealings with the plaintiff, and the werebear Mizor suffers from a speech impediment. No one from Harrogath would participate in a trial that did not promise bloodshed. Additionally, it was decided that those from the Rogue camp might be biased against the plaintiff (by virtue of having met him) and could not be invited. Finally, our Barbarian was not told of this, in the forlorn hope that his absence might bring calmness and clarity to the proceedings.
"Session," Jerhyn said quietly.
"This sex, um is --"
"Session," Jerhyn said, a bit more forcefully.
"This sex um is in session! Of the court! This session of this court is in session!" He looked over his shoulder at Jerhyn plaintively.
With a sigh, Jerhyn stood. "This first session of this Civil Court of Sanctuary is hereby called to order. Members of the jury: you are hereby instructed to set aside all biases and opinions concerning both the plaintiff and the accused, and concern yourselves only with what is presented here before the court."
About half the jury burst out in laughter, and there was plenty from the watching audience too. Gheed glared around the room, and slapped Thaddeus on the shoulder. "Aren't you going to object or something?"
Thaddeus never looked up from his book. "I object to the defense, not the judge."
Amanita smirked. "And I object to you, too."
Jerhyn continued, "Here we decide the case of Gheed of Westmarch vs. Bodiccea of Amazonia, on charges of --"
"What?!" Asheara shouted.
"On charges of assault, kidnapping --"
"Did he say 'salt hill tapping'?" Lysander asked.
"Kidnapping," Fara said. "Though on what grounds I know not."
"That b!tch threw me to Andarial's monsters!" Gheed whined.
"I heard about that," Elzix grinned. "Grabbed him by the goodies and threw him right over the wall."
"Heh," Greiz guffawed. "Sounds like my kind of woman."
"Did she?" Asheara smiled. "I've heard about Amazons. Good to know it's all true."
Bodiccea waved at the jury. "Hi!" Then she went back to flirting with Jerhyn.
"You know," Amanita said in a low voice, "you're lucky little Xany can't see you from this angle."
"Oh, damn. Do you think we could move the table?"
Jerhyn sighed again. "Kidnapping, assault, and assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm."
"There's another kind?" Greiz asked.
"Hey, she can assault me any time," Elzix opined.
"And no doubt will," Alkor spoke up for the first time. "I want nothing of her! She reminds me too much of my happily departed wife."
Meanwhile, out in the audience, Hratli said to Khaleel, "Events are proceeding predictably. Tell me, why do you think I was excluded from the jury?"
Khaleel smirked. "'Cause pasty doesn't want anybody in there who's funnier than he is."
"Quite so. I am surprised to see Alkor participating at all. No doubt he is relishing the opportunity to sit in judgment of his fellow man."
Khaleel shook his head. "Jeez, if you think she's a man, you need your eyes checked..."
Hratli smiled. "Her fate is not in doubt. His is, though he does not realize it."
Jerhyn sat down again, and Geglash rapped his halberd on the floor twice. "All may be seated."
"You never asked them to stand," Jerhyn corrected him.
"Oh, everybody stand up!" After a bit of milling about, most of those present stood. "Now sit down again. Uh... next, the persecution speaks."
Varnae guffawed. "That'll be you, old boy."
Thaddeus put down his book and stepped around the prosecution's table to the center of the floor. "For my first witness, I would like to call Bodiccea to the stand."
"Meee!" Bodiccea vaulted out from behind her table and bounced over to the chair next to Jerhyn's table. "Hi," she breathed huskily, leaning over so far her breasts threatened to pop right out of her armor. "I've heard you're rich. I find that fascinating."
A hiss of indrawn breath came from the far right end of the jury. Thaddeus cleared his throat, and asked, "Bodiccea: did you or did you not break into the plaintiff's wagon and administer to him a Mongolian Prostate Probe wedgie this last Tuesday?"
"I did!" She turned back to Jerhyn. "Do you believe in love at first sight? Or do I have to say hi again?"
Trying to ignore what sounded like a volcano about to erupt among the jury, Thaddeus continued. "And did you or did you not, without provocation, administer a Sweet Nutbreaker wedgie to the plaintiff the day before?"
"That was me! You simply must know I adore a man in a beard. It makes you look so distinguished, so... in command!"
The room started to shake. Thaddeus stepped back to the prosecution table and got his helmet. "And did you or did you not employ a 7-10 Split wedgie on the plaintiff, followed by hoisting him up a pole in front of the entire Rogue camp?"
"Yeah, already! Excuse me, I have some very important seducing to do."
"ALL RIGHT, THAT'S IT!!!" Xanthippe screeched and jumped to her feet, casting a spell. Suddenly, the witness chair burst into flames.
"AieEEP!" Bodiccea jumped out of the chair. Then, after a moment's thought, she jumped on Jerhyn's table, her rear upwards. "My Lord Jerhyn! I've got a burn in a terribly intimate place! Could you please help me apply the ointment?"
"You're completely shameless, aren't you?" Thaddeus asked.
"Hey, it's not like any of this matters," Bodiccea laughed, before Xanthippe jumped her and they both tumbled off the table into the audience.
Thaddeus sighed, and went back to his table. "Your witness."
Amanita stared at Thaddeus. "How the hell do you know so much about wedgies?"
"I went to seminary, remember?"
After putting out her cigar, Amanita stepped to the center of the room. Xanthippe and Bodiccea were wrestling and rolling under the tables, sending chairs and NPC's flying. "No hair pulling! Fight like you mean it!"
"You don't have to get jealous just 'cause your boyfriend thinks I'm hot!"
"HE DOES NOT!! He doesn't go for peroxide-soaked, over-inflated SLUTS!!"
"I am NOT a slut! I'm just way more popular than you!"
Amanita considered her options, and said, "All right. Gheed, get on the witness stand."
Gheed crossed his arms. "Not until someone puts OUT the witness stand!"
"Oh, that's just the Enchant spell. It'll go out in a few minutes."
Among the jurors, Elzix had started a betting pool, with odds set at 2:1 in Xanthippe's favor. "I think I'll take you up on that," Lysander said, putting 10 gold in.
"No way," Asheara said, betting on Bodiccea. "Amazons are warriors. No melee sorceress has enough staying power."
"Don't you find this a little crass?" Fara asked.
"Yeah," Greiz smiled.
Atma frowned, and moved over to speak with Fara. "Lady Fara, I have a family to mourn and a tavern to run. I have no time for this foolishness. There must be some way to put an end to this."
Halbu leaned forward. "What do you need?"
"Something to put out that sorcerous fire."
"Or something to render it irrelevant." Fara quietly bowed her head, and a warm red aura appeared under her feet. Soon, everyone was surrounded by the same friendly glow.
"Hail to you, champion," Jamella said with a smile.
After persuading Gheed into the witness chair, Amanita started her interrogation. "Let's make this quick. Did you or did you not knowingly make an ass of yourself last Tuesday?"
"What kind of a question is that?" Gheed demanded. "I deny that completely!"
"Let it be known that the defendant is lying."
"The plaintiff," Thaddeus corrected her.
"Whatever. The complainer makes an ass of himself every day of the week and twice on Saturdays, so he's lying under oath."
"Perjury," Thaddeus said, not looking up from his book.
"Per jury or all of them together, he's a dirty rotten liar."
"I am not lying! And I'm not under oath! That lummox forgot to swear me in!"
Jerhyn looked at Geglash. "Bailiff, swear the plaintiff."
"Unnh? Oh, yes sir." Geglash turned to face Gheed. "Screw you and the horse you rode in on, mister."
Amanita made a face. "That sucked."
Geglash shrugged. "I'm sorry, I'm not as good at it as you."
Gheed glared over at Thaddeus. "Shouldn't you be objecting to some of this?!"
"Oh, no. I object to all of it."
"You should have objected when she put me in a headlock and forced me into this chair!"
Thaddeus shook his head, still reading. "Actually, I didn't object to that at all."
Suddenly, there was a metallic KLONG from the audience section, followed by a CRACK like metal on bone. Mizor shuffled onto the floor, hefting his maul. Quietly, he deposited an unconscious Bodiccea in her chair at the defense table, and a reeling Xanthippe in her seat in the jury section.
"Ah, that's a shame," Lysander said. "But this just goes to show you: it's always the quiet, unassuming ones you have to watch out for."
Elzix tsked. "Well, you know what that means: the betting pool's closed."
"So give us our money back!"
Elzix threw his hands up in the air and shook his head. "Sorry, folks! The bet was which one of 'em would win! It looks like both of them lost, so there's no payouts today!"
Greiz's face darkened. "You do want to keep the body parts you have left, don't you?"
"And besides," Lysander said, quickly hobbling over to Xanthippe, "our dear little girl here is much closer to being conscious than the other one! Aren't you, my precious?"
Xanthippe was grinning. "And the lights went out all over the world..." She fell on her face with a loud thud.
After a short pause to restore order and a wakeful state to all participants, the trial resumed. Jerhyn turned to the prosecution table. "You may make your final statement."
Thaddeus nodded, and turned to address the jury. "Ladies and gentlemen, the defendant freely admits to everything she was accused of, has shown no remorse, and will doubtless resume her activities the first opportunity she has. There is no doubt that she is guilty, and a danger to this man's... to this man. Thank you."
Jerhyn nodded, and turned to Amanita. "And for the defense?"
Amanita stood up. "Why lie? She's guilty. She looks guilty. She smells guilty. Throw the book at her and let's get this over with."
Bodiccea sneered as Amanita sat down. "I do not smell."
Amanita smirked. "Maybe it's from getting manhandled by the bear."
"Thank you both. Now, let the jury convene and reach a verdict."
Alkor looked at Varnae, who had dozed off, and smacked him on the back of the head. "Wake up, pasty man! It is time for you to pretend you know what is going on."
"Hmmh?" Varnae woke with a start and looked around. "Oh, is all the inane babbling over with, then? Excellent. Members of the jury: is there any doubt as to what the proper, legal outcome of this case should be?"
"Very well." Varnae stood up, and addressed Jerhyn. "We, the members of the jury, find the defendant... very charming."
"Aw," Bodiccea grinned.
"And guilty as sin."
Gheed's face erupted in a broad smile. "Very well," Jerhyn said. "I shall pass sentence. Bodiccea of Amazonia, you are hereby ordered by this court to pay to Gheed of Westmarch a fine of one (1) piece of gold --"
"WHAT!?" Gheed screamed.
"... and to administer to Gheed no less than one (1) Twirling Death wedgie before leaving this courtroom. Case closed."
"WAIT JUST A MINUTE HERE!!! YOU CA-AAAAHHHH!!!!"
"Round and round and round he goes!" Bodiccea said, spinning Gheed around the room by his undergarments.
Amanita re-lit her cigar. "Well, that was fun. Anyone for chinese?"
Suddenly, the door fell in with a crash, and Tearlach stepped into the room, the meek man from outside stuffed into his armpit. "Damn!! Why didn't you idiots tell me we were finally going to meet in a tavern!?! LINE 'EM UP, BARKEEP!!"
"Aw, I knew this was going too good to last." Bodiccea released Gheed, sending him crashing through the tavern's back window. "C'mon, Heather. Our job here is done."
Heather followed Bodiccea out of the tavern. "Now we go back to the monastery?"
"After we get some sleep. I'm bushed."
"Yeah. Court cases are such a trial."
Bodiccea blinked, and looked at Heather. "Did you just make a pun?"
Heather shrugged, then grinned. "Yeah!"
"Well... try to make a better one next time."
Back at the Rogue camp, Bodiccea got her new stuff together. "Ok... runes in the armor, that's Tal-Eth... jewels in the burning Brandistock. It's level 18, I'll have to wait. Until then, Bloodthief!" Bodiccea brandished the spear. "That's 22% life leech! Life is good."
"Did I get anything?" Heather asked.
"Sorry, babe, not this time. Maybe the Mule's waiting until you're higher level. The low level unique bows are kinda crappy."
"Huh. That spear's called Bloodthief?"
"Uh-huh. Nice damage, good speed, lots o' leech. There's even a strength bonus."
"Why is it white? Shouldn't it be red or something?"
Bodiccea looked at Bloodthief again. "Huh. Yeah, other life leeching things are red. Mana leeching things are blue."
"Maybe it's because it's vampiric or something."
"That's it!" Bodiccea grinned. "Look at me! I've gone goth."
Heather laughed a little. "No, you haven't."
"Sure I have! I have pale skin, and I whine and moan about everything all the time."
"But you're not wearing black. You're wearing silver and red."
"Hey, if Necro-boy can pull it off, so can I."
Still looking dubious, Heather said, "You're also blonde. Goths aren't blonde."
"Necro-boy has light-colored hair."
"Um... I think he dyes it."
Bodiccea laughed. "You think?"
"I don't think it's natural."
"I don't think anything about him is natural. Besides, goths are supposed to be skinny. I'm never gonna be skinny in a million years."
After a short, diplomatic silence, Heather smiled and said, "So, are we heading back to the cloisters? Andarial must have restocked them by now." "Yeah, they're full again. But we'll have another chance to see that fountain. It's pretty."
The fountain was still pretty, and the cloisters were full. For reasons known only to herself, Bodiccea had to kick in each and every one of the exploding barrels. Call it a compulsion, but she did get one halfway decent drop. On the way to the barracks, she managed to dodge a Razor Spine quill: the dodge animation played and everything. Her old teachers told her she was way too big to pull off acrobatics, so doing it anyway was very cool.
Inside the barracks, they met Devilkin, Death Clan goats, and Bone Archers. Even with the frequent stops to kill things, Heather started getting left behind, and had to run to catch up more than once. Even so, the biggest danger was getting lost. The barracks twisted and turned like a randomly generated dungeon, and the only thing that worked out in Bodiccea's benefit was a Combat shrine she found just before mixing it up with two unique packs, one Goats and one Shamans. The named goat dropped a Ring of the Leech, giving Bodiccea 25% life leech. Life is grand.
Back in camp, Charsi looked over a crystal sword Bodiccea brought back. "I know we're supposed to use bows, but I love these swords. They're so pretty!"
"Crystal swords are sparkly and nice, I wish they made spears like that," Bodiccea said as she examined another find, an Amulet of the Fox.
"Yeah, kind of... but spears need fixing so much already..."
"Oh yeah," Bodiccea rolled her eyes. "I kind of forgot about repairs. Crystal is pretty, but I don't need to be that high maintenance. Do you think I should wear this?"
"The amulet you've got now adds fire resistance, right?" Heather asked.
"Yeah, and we are running into a lot of shamans, so I need some of that. This only adds 7 life, it's not that good. But, the name..."
Charsi frowned in confusion. "Huh?"
Bodiccea pondered a bit longer, then put on the new amulet. "What the heck. Nothing around here does enough damage for me to need much resistance anyway."
"Um," Heather asked, "do you really think you'll need something hanging around your neck that says 'fox'?"
"Oh, I get it," Charsi grinned.
"Why not?" Bodiccea said. "Some guys have a hard time figuring it out."
"I don't think so," Heather muttered.
"No, no, maybe she's right." Charsi sighed, and a faraway look crept into her eyes. "A while ago, this amazing man came here, a Barbarian from the far north. I tried and tried, but I could never get him to notice me. Maybe I should have tried something like that."
"Uh... yeah." Bodiccea put her old amulet back on, and gave the Amulet of the Fox to Charsi. "Maybe you should wear this. It matches your eyes better than mine. Speaking of insensitive males, where's Gheed?"
"I don't know, I haven't seen him."
"He's probably somewhere thinking of a way to get back at you," Heather suggested.
Bodiccea laughed. "As if. Don't worry, Charsi, someday your prince will come. Mine took a wrong turn, got lost, and is too stubborn to ask for directions. Back to work, Heather."
After enough wandering, Bodiccea had found the stairs to the jails, and pretty much nailed down where the Horadric Malus wasn't. There was only one door left... back at the other end of the barracks. Isn't that the way it always works out, she thought, and headed back, almost losing Heather twice more. Inside that last room, they found a few Devilkin, some goats, and his rotundity, the Smith.
"I will make weapons from your bones!" the Smith bellowed. "Slay them! A rush and a push, and the land is ours!"
Heather's breath hissed in at the sight of the onrushing horde, and she squeaked, "Panic!"
Gritting her teeth, Bodiccea said, "Handsome devil, isn't he?" She lowered her spear and ran to the front, so all the goats and Devilkin gathered around her.
"Death at one's elbow!" Heather shouted, putting an arrow in a Devilkin's side.
"This is going nowhere fast," Bodiccea said as a single Shaman raised the Devilkin. She retreated a few steps, then ran around the horde to the Shaman. "Please please please let me get what I want!"
"You just haven't earned it yet, baby!" the Smith growled, and bashed Bodiccea across the room. Heather ran into the middle of the melee to protect Bodiccea while she got up.
"Girl! Afraid?" Bodiccea asked.
"What difference does it make?"
"Cover me, I'm gonna get that Shaman!"
"But the goats are more dangerous!"
"When should we get them?"
Heather smiled. "How soon is now?"
"Barbarism begins at home!" Bodiccea concentrated on the goats, killing all but one, then ran around the crowd to the Shaman.
The Smith decided to go after Heather, having decided that she was the bonier of the two women. "Unhappy birthday!" he barked, knocking her into the wall.
Swearing, Bodiccea left the wounded Shaman and ran back to Heather. Standing between her and the Smith, she said, "Some girls are bigger than others."
"What she said..." Heather moaned from the floor.
The Smith leered, a drooling grin splitting his face nearly in two. "Well, I wonder..."
Heather's eyes widened. "I know it's over."
"Don't paint a vulgar picture." Bodiccea moved to the side, feinted at the Smith, then ran back to the Shaman and finally killed it. "Ha! There is a light that never goes out!"
Heather ran after her, and hid behind the Smith's forge. "Bigmouth strikes again!"
With a confident smirk, Bodiccea strode out to face the Smith and the few remaining Devilkin. "Stop me if you think you've heard this one before."
The Smith bellowed, "Put the girlfriend in a coma!" to the Devilkin. They looked up at him, their tiny knees trembling. One whined, "That joke isn't funny anymore."
"I started something you couldn't finish," Bodiccea said, and met the Smith in the middle of the room. After two blue potion's worth of frantic jabbing, he fell down dead. Heather killed the last Devilkin while Bodiccea got the Malus. "There. Let's get back to the old house."
"Great," Heather said. "You've got everything now."
"These things take time," Bodiccea nodded. "How you doing?"
Heather thought for a moment. "Weirdly post-punk, in an androgynous kind of way."
"Huh. Wonder where that came from."
Charsi was happy to have the Malus back, but Bodiccea had nothing to imbue just yet. Not that she thought she would anytime soon, or that the imbue would produce anything worth using, but there was a chance and no sense in wasting it. The jails looked exactly like the barracks, except for the addition of cages and torture devices. Most of the torture devices were freshly used, of course. Bodiccea considered asking Heather why the Rogues built so much prison space, or why they had all these instruments of pain and mangling, but she got distracted by a large block of exploding barrels. She still had to kick each and every one, no matter how much it hurt.
And it did hurt. The only monsters in the first level of the Jails were skeletons, Bone Mages and Bone Archers. What good was collecting together such an imponderable amount of life leech if none of the monsters were leechable? Okay, there was a batch of Champion Ghosts in the third secret chamber she found, and later a unique goat with mana burn, but that just meant she had to drink blue potions instead of red or purple.
"I hate skeletons!" Bodiccea snapped, kicking a still-chattering skull across a room.
Heather shrugged. "They don't have any life left to leech. Except for the red bit, they're nothing but bones."
Heather pointed at the floor. "The red organ thing that falls out when they die."
Bodiccea looked down. "Oh, gross! Kill 'em all now!"
"Isn't that what we're doing?"
"Yeah, but we need to do it more."
On the second level of the Jail, they were met by a unique Ghost with stone skin. While they were slowly poking it to pieces, Bodiccea and Heather had a lively debate over whether a stony ghost is ironic or just annoying. It was only halfway dead when they concluded it was both. The Rogues had Gargoyle traps here. Even they were less stony than that stupid ghost. There were goats on the level, though, which made up for it.
The misshapen boss Pitspawn Fouldog was in his usual place, a back corridor with two side rooms -- but this time, his room had bars, he and his minions lined right up by the bars, and Bodiccea had a weapon with enough reach to poke them to death in safety. Bodiccea almost didn't mind almost breaking her spear on his head. Killing him put her up to level 18, and he dropped a rare bow with acceptable damage and life leech. Life is blissful, and it got even better when she tried the jeweled Ember Brandistock of the Leech.
"Ok, let's try this sucker out."
"It's not vampiric, is it?"
"Only a little. Mostly it's fire damage. 'C'!" Bodiccea looked over to the left. "There's my damage with Bloodthief. And now with the -- whoa!"
Heather's eyes widened. "That's over 100 max damage!"
"That can't be right! No, wait... Jab reduces the physical damage a spear does, but this sucker does mostly fire. I guess that makes sense."
"Wow. What's my damage like?"
"'O'! Hey, not bad. But I officially rock."
"Do you think I could get a bow with lots of fire in it?"
"When you hit level 18. See? You're only 13 yet."
"I'd like some of that magic run-faster stuff you've got too..."
"And I'd like a pony. Or a boyfriend who pays enough attention to my needs."
After thinking for a moment, Heather asked, "How many boyfriends have you had?"
"Tons. Well, lots. Several. Ok, three. Two were total momma's boys, and the other thought his career was more important than me, so I dumped him."
"Nothing, I don't know. Can we go back to the jails?"
Bodiccea frowned a bit. "Sure. I want to try this new spear out, see how it does."
"I just said ok."
The last level of the Jails was mostly skeletons, with just one pack of Champion Death Clan goats. For the most part, there was no leeching, but it hardly mattered. Almost everything died in one Jab sequence, sometimes on the first hit. Gargoyle traps melted like they were hardly there. Even a lightning enchanted Bone Mage presented no problems: she hit it with Impale and it took so much damage it never got the chance to make any sparks. Wild ideas about a six-socketed Brandistock with perfect gems, or elemental damage jewels, raced through Bodiccea's mind. Before she knew it, the level was clear. Heather spent more time running to catch up than she did fighting.
The Inner Cloister was empty. Bodiccea looted the body, hit the waypoint, and looked up at the imposing Cathedral. "What time is it?"
Panting, Heather said, "After midnight."
"Yeah, it's too late to go in. Let's get some sleep. You look bushed."
Heather managed a grin, and they went back to camp for the night.
In the morning, Bodiccea and Heather met Cain to discuss their plans for the day. "Hi! Well, this is it: today, Andarial dies."
"You are both fantastically brave to be doing this!" Cain said. "All my years, I have lived a shut-in, scholarly life, and know nothing of the ways of arms. I hope my knowledge may aid you someday... you seem to have had little need for it thus far."
"Aw," Bodiccea bowed her head. "Could you please tell us what you know about Andarial?"
The faintest smile of hope flitted across Cain's face. "The demon Andarial is known to men as the Maiden of Anguish, and the queen of the Succubi. It is said that she is the one who takes the most joy in manipulating mortal souls, as the misshapen, twisted things who serve her bear witness. She is a poisonous creature, always accompanied by a choking mist of pure venom. However, she is not the most warlike of Hell's rulers, and surprisingly for one born in the infernal pit, she is not fond of fire."
Bodiccea grinned. "So we can't call her a flaming queen, huh? It's all cool, I've got a fiery weapon. Heather, shoot lots of fire arrows, 'k?"
"Many of the heroes who fought beneath Tristram reported encounters with Succubi, so many that I would be very surprised if Andarial has any remaining to escort her now. There were never very many, according to the old accounts."
"No Suckers. Check."
A puzzled frown deepening Cain's brow wrinkles. "That is a peculiar thing to call them. Most men use entirely different words for the Succubi. Then again, you are an Amazon, so perhaps I should not be surprised."
Laughing, Bodiccea cocked one eyebrow up. "Any woman who'd take the deal Succubi get is a sucker, in more ways than one."
"Hmm... I suppose that may be so. Most of the histories describe what the Maiden of Anguish does to men, not to the women who fall into her web."
"That's 'cause men wrote them. Anyhoo, it doesn't matter much. We're not men, so we don't care if she's got Succubi or not. We've got fire, we've got estrogen, we'll get some antidote potions... who could ask for anything more?"
"May the blessings of Heaven be upon you! Her minions may have fallen easily, but I fear the demon queen herself will not prove so easy to defeat..."
"Don't worry, we'll be careful. C'mon Heather, let's get started."
As they walked to the waypoint, Heather asked, "Have you come up with a plan?"
"For defeating Andarial."
"Oh," Bodiccea shrugged. "Nah. Never needed one before."
"But she's a demon queen! She wiped out everyone in our monastery! I don't think you should just run up to her and stick her with your spear."
"Her minions wiped out everyone in your monastery. While you were asleep, I might add. We're awake, we've got the gear, and we know what her weakness is." Heather still looked worried, so Bodiccea said, "Ok, how about this: we pull in some little malodorous troll from Battle.net and throw him in there in front of us. He'll see two gigantic breasts and run right in. Then we come in and stick her while she's busy peeling his skin off."
Frowning dubiously, Heather said. "I understand the part about the two gigantic breasts, but how do we get him to go for Andarial?"
"Oh, ha ha. Just aim him right. Male hormones will take care of the rest."
"But won't he recognize her, and know she'll kill him?"
Bodiccea started counting on her fingers. "One: your average b.netter has never seen Andarial. They spend their whole lives either in Hell Cows, running Meph and Baal, or PK'ing anybody actually trying to play the game. Two: even if he has seen her, he won't remember her 'cause male brains turn off the second they see boobs. Three: even if he remembers, he'll probably figure this is the only chance he'll ever get in his geeky little life to touch real live girl things and will go for her anyway."
Heather quirked an eyebrow. "Didn't you tell me most b.netters are afraid of strong girls? I don't know, but I think she qualifies."
"Huh. Yeah, that's true. Ok, plan B: run right up to her and stick her with my spear. You hang around in the back and try not to draw attention."
"Sure. Why mess with something that's always worked before?"
"Sure! Next stop, the Inner Cloister. Hey, wait!"
Heather rolled her eyes. "You noticed Gheed was there, didn't you?"
"Just saw him." Bodiccea rubbed her hands together. "He's not getting away this time!"
Bodiccea ran off, and as expected, a scream soon was heard throughout the camp. But this time, it wasn't Gheed. Two loud popping noises mingled with the scream, and Bodiccea darted back through the camp, wailing with soul-scarred dismay and holding her hands over her bleeding eye sockets.
"Wow!" Heather said, stepping up beside Warriv. "What happened?"
"Something terrible. You might disagree, Gheed."
The fat merchant had stepped up beside them, chuckling with undisguised glee. "What makes you say that, Warriv? I knew she'd come straight for me the minute I showed my face. I think she's gotten no more than she deserved."
"What did you do to her?" Heather demanded.
Eyes wide and innocent, Gheed loudly said, "Nothing!"
Warriv smiled a bit, and chuckled. "I think I can guess... Heather, you know she always goes straight for his underwear?"
Gheed grinned, wider than ever. "So today, I just didn't wear any."
Heather's eyes went wide, and then she clenched them shut, shivering. Over in Akara's corner, they could hear Bodiccea sobbing, "It was horrible... like two pimply piles of chewed bubble gum squishing hairy and slimy into other..."
"Child, do shut up. I just had breakfast. Let me heal your eyes and allow you to continue your quest, hopefully a bit wiser for the horror you have faced."
After her sight was restored and some quick psychological counseling, Bodiccea felt ready to face Andarial. Two Black Rogue archers were waiting to meet them outside the cathedral doors. They fried up nicely. Afterwards, Bodiccea kicked the doors open and they strode in. For the first time in memory, there wasn't a single Dark One in there. In fact, there were hardly any monsters at all, just a few Misshapen and Bone Ash in his usual place by the main altar. There were plenty of sarcophagi, which kind of made up for it on the looting side. It's still kind of weird how mercs don't object to you looting their holiest of holies.
The Catacombs were dark and eerie, full of chests and caskets, and burbling blood in holes in the floor. Neither Heather nor Bodiccea could explain why, if there's that much blood in the floor, the lower levels weren't flooded. The first level of catacombs was full of Dark Ones and Rat Men, except for two Misshapen bosses, one lightning enchanted and one with multi-shot. The lightning enchanted one got Impaled to death. He never got a chance to spark either. Who needs lightning resistance?
Just like yesterday, Heather slowly but surely started getting left behind. If they fought their way down a long dead end and had to retrace, Bodiccea often completely lost sight of her and had to go back. Imagine her surprise one time, when she was about to go back and look for her, when Heather appeared around the next corner.
"Hi. Where you going?"
"ACK!" Bodiccea jumped. "How'd you get up there? Rogues can't teleport!"
Looking a little smug, Heather shrugged with feigned nonchalance. "Oh, I just ran around the short way. I've been down here before, you know."
Bodiccea smirked, eyes narrowing. "You popped out of the game and back in in front of me, didn't you?"
"Um, uh, yeah." Heather grinned sheepishly.
"Hmph!" Bodiccea snorted. "Sneak. See if I ever run back for you again."
The next level of catacombs was all Dark Ones, Arachs, and one Misshapen pack with a multi-shot boss. The spiders were a curious touch, there weren't any creatures like them in the rest of Act I. Otherwise, everything was just like all the previous levels of Catacombs and Jails: packs of Gargoyle traps, packs of champions, little nests of Shamans close enough to resurrect each others minions... ho hum.
"I wonder where the giant spiders come from," Heather said.
"Andarial likes 'em. She's kind of a black widow type."
"Maybe they're her children or something."
"I dunno. They always call her the 'Maiden' of Anguish, so I'm betting she's never done it."
"Oh, yeah. Huh. Then why is she in charge of the Succubi?"
After a few minutes pause to kill a pack of Dark Ones, Bodiccea continued, "I don't know about Succubutts. All I know is, there aren't any Incubi, which is just one more way the universe isn't fair."
Heather looked at her strangely. "You'd WANT Incubi around?"
"No." Bodiccea thought about it for a minute. "But they should at least have some here so we can look at them."
"Oh. Yeah, I guess that wouldn't be so bad."
"I don't think it'd be bad at all... except we'd have to kill 'em."
They went on in silence for a while. As the last of a pack of spiders lay dying, Heather asked, "I wonder if Andarial even can do it. I mean, she's supposed to be so poisonous..."
Bodiccea laughed. "You mean, her hootchie is so impure anyone who tried anything would have his thingie shrivel up and fall off? Maybe."
"Maybe another demon lord could."
"Maybe, but it ain't gonna happen outside of some kinky piece of fanfic. Andy's in Act I, and stays here where there aren't any other demon lords."
"Uh, what's fanfic?"
Bodiccea rolled her eyes. "Fan fiction. That's where some no-talent hack can't come up with anything on his own, so he takes somebody else's world and tries writing a story set in it. Basically, it's a total loser with no imagination trying to be a writer."
"Oh. Glad we don't know anyone like that."
"As if! You'd never catch me around somebody like that."
Deeper into the catacombs, Bodiccea and Heather finally started running into undead: hungry Ghouls, and The Banished, which were vampires. Funny, they didn't look like the exquisite, sensuous things Anne Rice described at all. The open-topped skulls were especially strange -- they had to levitate along very smoothly, keeping their heads as steady as possible so their brains wouldn't fall out. The Ghouls still didn't care about Bodiccea, but she found she could get their attention by waving a Banished brain at them. The only uniques were a mana burn Afflicted and a holy freeze Afflicted. Every boss in the Catacombs was either a Misshapen or an Afflicted... weird.
The outer chamber of level 4 was empty, except for the flaming pits and pools of blood. Why would Andarial put so much flame in her lair if she doesn't like fire? Whatever, the entrance hall was full of Dark Ones and Ghouls, just like usual. Bodiccea and Heather cleared it, looked at the pool full of dead naked people, and opened the doors to Andarial's throne room.
"Ok!" Bodiccea nodded. "Remember to use fire arrows."
"Check. You got some antidotes?"
"Check. Let's do it."
Off to the left, Bodiccea stopped to loot a couple of dead Rogues, ignoring the skins, torsos and other human body parts decorating the room. Back to the right, they killed the Dark Ones by the burning crates, and avoided getting burned. Then Bodiccea ran up the middle of the hall to Jab a Shaman to death. A bellow shook the hall: "FEAR ME!"
Andarial came stomping out just as the Shaman died. After stifling a giggle, Bodiccea backed up until she was in Heather's range, then turned around to face her in the middle of the hall. Her poison spray got them both once, but a red potion took care of Heather and Bodiccea was leeching so much she barely noticed. Two blue potions later, and Andarial disintegrated in a blast of flame. Bodiccea and Heather drank their antidotes, cleared out the rest of the throne room, and went back to camp.
"You did it," Kashya said when they walked up to the campfire. "We heard her scream from here. It must have been terrifying."
"Oh, yeah!" Bodiccea said. "That hair, the spidery legs, and most of all, the g-string. You don't want to know where these gems came from."
Kashya was still staring at her. "Perhaps I have... misjudged you, outlander. Your flippant words belie your serious intent."
"Nah, it's all right," Bodiccea grinned. "Hmm... you know, I've got an idea. Do you kick with your left foot or your right?"
Kashya blinked. "My left."
"Cool." Bodiccea handed her the left of Sigon's boots. "Put this on."
"What's this for?" Kashya asked, putting the boot on.
"You'll see." Bodiccea grabbed her hand, and pulled her back to a tavern, empty except for Bodiccea, a very confused Kashya, and Tearlach, snoring on a bench.
"Hey, big guy," Bodiccea shook his shoulder. "There's someone I want to see you."
As he blinked awake, Kashya's eyes widened. "I know that face..."
"Kashya!" Tearlach stood up, his eyes brimming over with lust. "You fiery hellcat! I knew you would come. I have decided the world is not worthy of me now, and I will not conquer it today. But soon! Tonight, there is only one conquest I want to make."
By now, Kashya's eyes were so wide Bodiccea thought they might pop right out of her skull. "I REMEMBER YOU..."
"Ha!" Tearlach laughed. "No lass ever forgets me. But this night, you are mine! Come and get what every red-blooded woman in the world wants!"
Trembling, teeth gritted, Kashya grabbed Tearlach by the shoulders and drove her iron-clad knee upwards, straight and true and harder than Chinese algebra. A bone-splintering crack raised the roof and shook the walls. Men for miles around collapsed in sympathetic agony. And Tearlach's scream made dogs howl and cover their ears in pain. When the earth stopped shaking and Tearlach's lungs were empty, he closed his mouth, opened it again, spat out two walnuts, and collapsed to the floor in a curled-up heap.
"Berserkers," Bodiccea shook her head. "Never even thought about defending himself."
Panting, Kashya staggered back against a table, a blissful smile on her face. "Oooh..."
Suddenly, Xanthippe and Amanita appeared out of nowhere. "What the hell was that?"
"Oh, nothing," Bodiccea grinned. "Where are the guys?"
"Doubled over in pain," Amanita said. "Even deadboy. Wait... did you her in here and let her go at him?"
"And you didn't invite us to watch?" Xanthippe's eyes widened in alarm. "You b!tch!"
"Sorry, didn't think of it. How you doing, Kashya?"
"I feel... cleansed."
"Need a cigarette?" Amanita asked.
"No, I'm cool. Wow. It's like there's light in the world for the first time. I can hear birds singing. They're so beautiful..."
A faint, very high-pitched groan squeaked up from the floor. Bodiccea snorted. "Oh, shut up. This is all softcore, you'll be fine after the next restart."
Kashya pointed out the window. "Look! A rainbow. Isn't it pretty?"
"Wow," Amanita smiled. "That sure took the pepper out of her."
"I'll say," Xanthippe nodded. "Wish she'd been this nice when I was around."
Bodiccea laughed, and gave Kashya a hug. "Yeah, violence can do that. Let's get you back where you belong. And I need my boot back too. I'm off to Lut Gholein!"