Bodiccea (Act IV)
The Pandemonium Fortress looked like usual: austere, impressive, and boring. There was no furniture of any kind, no food or water stores, not even a place to sleep. Maybe when you become heavenly, you stop needing those things. Bodiccea and Heather looked around with bleary eyes, then went to talk with Cain.
"Hi, Cain," Bodiccea yawned.
"Can you believe this place?" Cain crowed, throwing his arms wide as he gazed around the fortress. "Did you ever dare to dream that you'd one day stand on the crossroads between Heaven... and Hell? This Pandemonium Fortress is truly miraculous! However, your journey is not yet over. Diablo still roams free in Hell, marshalling his demonic forces. Only when he is beaten will our world finally have peace. Hurry now... the sands of time slow for no one!"
"Uh huh," both women mumbled together, and staggered over to Tyrael.
"It is good to see you again, hero. Mephisto's defeat is a great victory for the Light. I knew that you would eventually find your way here. The Pandemonium Fortress is the last bastion of Heaven's power before the Gates of the Burning Hells. This place has been hallowed by the blood of thousands of champions of the Light, many of whom were mortal, like yourself. Now the final battle against the Prime Evils draws near... and you must face it alone. I have been forbidden to aid you directly, save for a few bits of wisdom. For this is the hour of mortal man's triumph... your triumph. May the Light protect you, and the powers of Heaven shine upon your path..."
As Tyrael continued, Cain listened rapturously, marveling at Bodiccea's silence. Tyrael had obviously impressed her; she'd never gone this long without interrupting before. "There is a dark, tortured soul who was trapped in this forsaken realm long ago. He was called Izual by mortal men, and in ages past he was my most trusted Lieutenant. Yet, against my wishes he led an ill-fated assault on the fiery Hellforge, itself. Despite his valor and strength, Izual was captured by the Prime Evils and twisted by their perverse power. They forced him to betray his own kind and give up Heaven's most guarded secrets. He became a corrupt shadow of his former self -- a fallen angel trusted by neither Heaven nor Hell. For his transgressions, Izual's spirit was bound within the form of a terrible creature which was summoned from the Abyss. His maddened spirit has resided within that tortured husk for many ages now. It seems to me that he has suffered long enough. I implore you, hero, find Izual and release him from his cruel imprisonment. Put an end to his guilt and suffering."
There was no reply... except the sound of snoring. Cain looked around. Bodiccea and Heather were both curled up on the floor in front of the fire, their weapons fallen from their limp fingers. He cleared his throat. "Please, let me apologize for her, great Tyrael! The journey has been long and troubled..."
"There is no need, Deckard Cain of the Horadrim. The Pandemonium Fortress is a place of succor, where wounds to the body may be healed and the spirit soothed. There is no safer place to rest in all of the Burning Hells... and for our heroines, rest appears to be what they need at the moment."
The next day, after a long bout of stretching (there's reasons why its a bad idea to sleep on bare stone floors) Bodiccea and Heather explored the fortress. That took about 5 seconds. Halbu and Jamella were... Halbu and Jamella, so Bodiccea summoned Aphelia for the charge out onto the Outer Steppes. This time, Aphelia didn't come: someone else was standing there, glowing like a christmas tree. She was an Amazon all right, but shorter, darker, and much heavier in build. Her hips and shoulders were square blocks of muscle, and one breast was noticeably absent. Scars lined her face, making the cruel smirk look even worse.
"Hey!" Bodiccea blinked in surprise. "Where's Aphie?"
"Aphelia will not be coming," the strange Valkyrie answered. "You should have known that she would not. Don't you worry your empty little head, I'll spell it out for you. You now wear an amulet which bestows +2 to your magical skills, having abandoned the +1 amulet you wore before. Is this not so?"
"Uh-huh..." Bodiccea nodded, staring intently, recognition dawning in her eyes.
Dripping with sarcasm, the Valkyrie went on: "Anyone should realize that with greater skill, the spell summons a more advanced Valkyrie, and so dear little Aphelia would no longer be suitable. Anyone, it seems, except a certain overgrown HARLOT who doesn't have two brain cells to rub together, and has brought nothing but shame to the name of Amazon all the time she's been parading herself around over half of the world!!"
Heather glanced over at Bodiccea. "Sounds like she knows you too."
Trembling, eyes wide with genuine fear, Bodiccea whispered, "B-battle Mistress Phoebe?"
"Oh!" she sneered. "Dawn has broken. Will the Goddess' miracles never cease?"
"But you're old!" Bodiccea squealed in alarm.
Phoebe laughed. "Bo-dee-she-a..." she said, carefully enunciating every syllable, "if you'd bothered to listen during your classes -- not sneak peeks at vapid glamour-girl magazines or daydream about boys -- you might remember that an Amazon who rises up into the embrace of our Goddess is restored by the experience; all the injuries, ailments, and physical infirmities that flesh is heir to are wiped away by her power." After taking a deep, strong breath, she smiled savagely, eyes narrowed. "Seeing you has reminded me of those days... how the wounds I received keeping our islands safe for you ungrateful little brats ached every time I had to chase you down and put you back in your seat... how you used to take advantage of my weakened senses and put laxatives in my morning tea... and who could forget the terribly funny joke of putting sexually suggestive letters in the high priest's box with my name on them, as though they were from me?" She chuckled. "Oh, that was a good one! All this time, you thought I never guessed who did that, didn't you?"
"Eeep..." Bodiccea stammered, drops of sweat dripping down her forehead.
"And now..." Phoebe stepped closer, looking up into Bodiccea's face. "Here you are: all grown up, and obviously very, very proud of that. And here I am... ready and pleased to teach you a lesson you desparately need and won't soon forget." Her smile broadened, looking almost sadistic now. "You have nowhere you can run, no place you can hide, and there's no one else around to distract me. It's just you... and me."
Heather started to speak, thought better of it, and stayed quiet. Bodiccea had gone pale as death during the long speech, and after it was over, she started hyperventilating. "Uh... eee... heee..."
"RIGHT!" Phoebe shouted in Bodiccea's face. "Lace up that armor, you SLUT! They're not for sale, quit advertising them!" As Bodiccea jumped and started tugging her leathers closed, she went on. "Like anything in Hell would care about those floppy appendages you're so unjustifiably proud of anyway! When you're done with that, tie that sash properly! What is your major malfunction? You have a waist! Good! Now drop and give me 50! ALL THE WAY DOWN! You'd have it too easy if all you had to do was touch the ground -- I want to see them squashed flat EVERY TIME!"
Straining to do the push-ups, Bodiccea whined, "But that hurts!"
"Did I give you permission to speak? Did I!?"
"No, Battle Mistress Phoebe!"
"Damn right," Phoebe smiled proudly, then glanced at Heather. "What are YOU looking at!?"
Heather jumped, then tried to stand at attention. "Nothing!"
Glowering fiercely, Phoebe slowly looked Heather up and down while Bodiccea gasped her way to 30 push-ups. "Are you supposed to be an archer? Why are you intact?"
"Wha...?" Then Heather's eyes widened, and she held her bow in front of her chest. "I'm a Rogue. Our goddess doesn't want us to mutilate our bodies."
Phoebe laughed. "Why not? The pain too much for you? A warrior's life is pain, get used to it. We have two for a reason! A shame this slattern's been your only example of what an Amazon is." Looking down at Bodiccea, who was struggling to do her 35th push-up, Phoebe sneered, "You are completely soft."
"I don't have much stamina..." Bodiccea strained upwards, her face red with effort.
"Ha! You don't have the energy to do a few push-ups, but you do have the energy to whine about it! You should be ashamed you ever called yourself an Amazon. GET UP! I'm sick of looking at your flabby ass! Get that spear and show me your Fend drills! You!" She pointed at Heather. "You show me what you've got too! Can't be much, but at least we'll know what we've got to work with here."
"Um..." Heather hesitated, then raised her bow and fired an arrow at the wall. It made a nice crackle and burst of sparks, but Phoebe did not seem impressed.
"What was that? WHAT WAS THAT!? Let me see that thing." After snatching the bow away, Phoebe examined it, then made a face. "This is pathetic! Anyone your level should be using a bow 10 times heavier than this! No wonder you're so scrawny, you've never had to work for it!"
"Hey!" Heather frowned.
"Hey, nothing! Gems can only take you so far, little girl! Whoever trained you obviously didn't do a very good job, so... drop and give me 50! NOW!!"
Heather dropped to the floor, and started doing push-ups. Phoebe watched Bodiccea fend off imaginary foes. "Hmm... barely acceptable. Now your Lightning Strike."
Panting, Bodiccea stopped. "I don't know Lightning Strike yet..."
Phoebe's eyes went wide. "What did you say?"
"I don't know Lightning Strike yet, Battle Mistress Phoebe."
"Why not?! Didn't save enough points? Wasted them all on Dodge or Evade? No, I'll bet you put a point into Pierce, didn't you?"
"No, Battle Mistress Phoebe! I --"
"Then we sure as hell know where your next point is going, don't we! A spear Amazon without Lightning Strike! Athulua gave us that for a reason!"
"And Blizzard made it suck," Bodiccea muttered through her teeth -- and almost instantly the butt of Phoebe's spear whished up and thudded into her belly. Bodiccea doubled over and dropped with hardly a sound.
"I DID NOT GIVE YOU PERMISSION TO SPEAK!!" Phoebe shouted in her face.
"Eeep!" Bodiccea replied, as Heather finished her push-ups and got to her feet.
"Goddess, that felt good." Obviously feeling pleased with herself, Phoebe grinned. "From now on, you will speak when you are asked a question, or have important information to convey. At no other time are you to open your yap. Bodiccea, you are going on a diet, to lose that soft belly. You, whatever your name is, you are also going on a diet, to gain some weight. Your days will begin with two hours of calisthenics every morning, and two every night before I tuck you all snug into your little beds. You two think you can handle that?"
Panting, staring, resentment boiling in both their minds, Bodiccea and Heather passively said, "Yes, Battle Mistress Phoebe."
"Good. Now, get your asses into Hell where you belong! MOVE IT!!"
Cold gray ash crunched underfoot as they entered the Outer Steppes. Hoping that distance might make Battle Mistress Phoebe a little easier to tolerate, Bodiccea ran down the stairs, but they found the Valkyrie waiting at the bottom. Some Doom Casters met them there, and during the battle, a Doom Knight boss pack came over. It was a short fight, like usual, and neither Bodiccea nor Heather had a scratch on them when it was over.
Feeling a bit smug, Bodiccea smirked at Phoebe, who'd just stood there watching during the battle. "Ok, Heather. That went pretty good."
"Pretty good?!" Phoebe spat. "Your grammar is worse than your combat skills! Why were you using Jab on that Knight?"
Bodiccea frowned. "Because Jab is what you use on lone targets. After we killed the --"
"You saw its modifiers clearly. Tell me, what does 'stone skin' mean?"
After taking as deep a breath as she could with her armor laced up, Bodiccea replied, "It's a boss mod that gives the unique monster resistance to physical damage --"
"So..." Phoebe asked, with long-suffering mock-patience, "... why, in the depths of your ignorance, did you see fit to rely on a purely physical skill when your Goddess-given lightning skills were obviously the better choice?"
"Jab is much fas --"
"So you can do less damage faster?!" Phoebe snapped. "Someday, stone skin bosses will be immune to physical, and so will a lot of other things! What do you plan to do then? Do you think that 1-2 cold damage charm is going to save your tender pink hide?!"
Through gritting teeth, Bodiccea answered, "By that time, I --"
"You'll WHAT? Have another spear, loaded down with jewels and gems, so you don't have to waste points on 'useless' skills? You spoiled young hussies make me sick. In my day, we didn't have blacksmiths standing by around every corner, ready to patch up our equipment! We had to be careful, and make every shot count. Yeah, spears have lousy durability... SO WE HAD TO LEARN TO FIGHT BETTER!! That's what made us great! And we didn't get any uniques dropped in our laps either! In my day, any one of us would have killed for Bloodthief! We had to make do with whatever pointy sticks we could find, AND WE LIKED IT THAT WAY!! You couldn't do SQUAT without a fancy rune-spear and sparkly jewelry and that skimpy little leather nightgown. Throw you out in the field with we had to make war with, and in no time you'd be fleeing back to the baggage train, squealing like a stuck pig, BEGGING for something decent to wear!! And what's more..."
Heather was sure she could hear Bodiccea's teeth grinding. She leaned in close and whispered, "When will she stop?"
"Used to be," Bodiccea muttered, "her lungs would have given out by now."
"WHAT WAS THAT!?!"
"Nothing, Battle Mistress Phoebe!"
The butt of Phoebe's spear flashed up again, thudding into Bodiccea's gut. "You still think I'm half-deaf, don't you, you cow?" After pausing to spit in the dirt, she went on: "You spoiled little soft-bellies, with your gemmed bows and new-fangled jewels... My generation fought hard with NOTHING to make the islands safe for you, and what kind of gratitude do we get from you? NOTHING!! When I was young, we had REAL fighting to do, and we gave our elders the respect they deserved! None of this... DID I GIVE YOU PERMISSION TO GO OUT THERE?"
While Bodiccea was trying to get her breath back, Heather had wandered off, as far as she dared to go. When Phoebe yelled, she jumped and started firing into the distance. "There are demons over here, Miss Phoebe!"
"I have to go help!" Bodiccea gasped, sprang to her feet, and ran to the rescue. She kept going past Heather until they found some Trapped Souls.
As Heather shot the souls, she glanced at Bodiccea. "You've got to do something..."
"Gawd, I know," Bodiccea rubbed her temples. "But I don't know what! I am in hell!"
Heather laughed mirthlessly, and almost said something before a metallic shriek announced Phoebe's arrival. "This is it?!" she snorted. "Trapped Souls?"
"I think I see more Doom Knights over there!" Bodiccea pointed in a random direction, and charged off.
And so it went. For hours, a desperate attempt to find enough privacy to plan Phoebe's exit ranged all across the Outer Steppes. In quick snatches, enough conversation took place to cement certain conclusions in their minds:
With Phoebe behind them, their pace around the steppes was fast, even frantic. There was hardly any time to inspect loot, just sell it and move on. Bodiccea hardly even took the time to joke about all the hung skeletons they found. There were plenty of big boners -- excuse me, big bones -- scattered on the ground. Most of them looked human, but a lot bigger; either people were larger back in ye olden tymes, or Blizzard got really sloppy when it came to graphics matching in act IV.
Once they'd cleared the last of the Outer Steppes, Phoebe decided they could have a little bit of a reward: lunch. She was even nice enough to summon it up on an old crown shield they'd found instead of letting it fall on the ground. Despite her generosity, Bodiccea and Heather did not react very well to the proposed meal.
"Two rice cakes?" Bodiccea whined. "That's it?"
"Hell, yes," Phoebe smiled. "I'm not going to let you ruin that light workout you had this morning, no matter how much you want to!"
Heather picked up the large tureen she'd been given, a little surprised she could actually do so. "Miss Phoebe? I can't eat all this."
"Yes, you will! That's beans, barley, and boiled beef; plenty of protein and enough energy to start building some muscles! Get it all down, most of it'll go right through you anyway."
Heather smiled plaintively. "If I can't finish it, can --"
"She doesn't need it!" Phoebe shouted. "And you will finish it."
"It's ok, Heather," Bodiccea nodded. "I remember how that stuff tastes. I'll take the rice cakes."
That earned Bodiccea a clout on the ear. "You should be grateful you have anything. In my day, we ate meat that had been rotting on the ground for days, or bark off the trees, anything we could get!"
"Oh, sure!" Bodiccea yelled. "And you had to walk to school uphill both ways through snow and ice and walls of flaming rabid wolverines too! We've heard it already!"
Eyes wide with rage, Phoebe clouted Bodiccea's other ear before she could react -- then the first, then the second one again. "You're the same little snot you always were!" Shaking her head, she proclaimed, "Your mother was a fool; you were never beaten enough as a child, and it's high time someone started giving you the correction you need!"
Bodiccea threw the rice cakes at Phoebe and yelled, "Stop hitting me!"
"It's. For. Your. Own. Good!" Phoebe punctuated each syllable with another smack to Bodiccea's head as the taller Amazon tried to defend herself. "A child will never better herself if she is not corrected when she does wrong. There is no other way! I have had enough of your disobedience, your disrespect, and your unforgivable stupidity! You will be treated as an adult when you have EARNED it, not one second before!"
Seething, Bodiccea glared white hot death at Phoebe, then threw her head back and screamed, "CONFERENCE!!!"
Phoebe laughed. "A coward's maneuver..."
Everyone was sitting out on what looked like a huge map, divided up into a grid. Some grids were green like plains of grass; others were wooded, swampy, or mountainous. A sparkling blue ocean was visible in the distance, with a gray, hash-marked square labeled "Samarkand" on the shore. Two little covered wagons sat adjacent to Samarkand, with tiny blue lines spreading from the ocean into the squares beneath them. Everyone was alone in a different square, standing in some warlike pose like they were chess pieces.
"Really, woman!" Varnae grumped from his square. "This had better be important."
"Just the pasty deadboy I wanted to talk to!" Bodiccea said triumphantly. "How the hell do you get rid of a Valkyrie?"
Next to her, Phoebe just laughed. Varnae stared at Bodiccea, then quietly said, "I would love to know how you came to believe I could be an authority on such a subject, but I fear that if you attempt to elucidate your train of thought, my brain might explode."
To his left, Xanthippe slid over a space to avoid a red cavalry unit that had entered the area. "Gawd. Why do we even pay attention to her anymore?"
"Oh, hi Xany!" Bodiccea smiled. "How'd Jerhyn like the dress?"
Xanthippe looked at her suspiciously. "He didn't. He said it wasn't me."
"Maybe you should have gone with the green one. Hey, fuzzy!"
Mizor: (from atop a mountain range) "Hwrerro!"
"Hi! Deadboy doesn't know anything, and you're our other summoner. You used to have a bear running around with you. How'd you get rid of it when you didn't want it?"
Mizor: (blank look of confusion) "Rr?"
"The bear!" Bodiccea shouted, trying to ignore Phoebe's laughter beside her. "You had a bear! How'd you get rid of it when you didn't want it around?"
Mizor: (still confused) "Wrrri?"
From a nearby river, Thaddeus said, "I don't believe he ever wanted to be rid of it."
The red cavalry unit was still chasing Xanthippe, until she smacked it and it vanished in a puff of pixels. "Yeah! Why would he?"
Mizor: (smiles, and shrugs)
"Oh, phoo!" Bodiccea yelled. "Doesn't anyone know anything?"
"I know lots of things," Amanita smiled. "But leave me out of this one. It's too funny."
"To be frank," Varnae said, "your new companion has already provided hours of amusement for us all. If will be a dreadful shame when you do part company. Perhaps she could deign to visit us out here for a while?"
"Don't even try, deadboy!" Phoebe said. "I'm going to be riding her ass all the way into the Chaos Sanctuary."
Varnae shivered visibly. "What a compelling image," he muttered.
"You're gross," Xanthippe huffed. "If you want to get rid of her, why don't you..." Then she paused.
Bodiccea shouted, "What?"
"Uh..." Xanthippe smiled. "Nothing."
"No, you thought of something! What?!"
Xanthippe shook her head, struggling to conceal a grin. "Nothing!"
"Xany, don't do this to me! What what what what what!!!"
"You could try introducing her to Tearlach..."
"Hmmm?" Tearlach said from the hills where he'd been standing.
Bodiccea looked at him for a long time, then shook her head. "I'm not that sadistic."
"What was being said about me?" Tearlach looked around.
"Nothing," Thaddeus said. "Go back to sleep."
"I was not sleeping. Merely meditating upon the future."
"Right," Amanita smirked.
"Yeah," Bodiccea turned to stare at Phoebe. "So... you'd better watch yourself. I'm the hero, I'm in charge, and if you don't stop, I'm gonna bring you back here and let Tearlach pitch woo at you for a few days."
Phoebe stared back, confident and unblinking. "That is a threat to him, not to me."
"Another compelling image," Varnae opined more quietly.
Paying no attention to him, Phoebe kept staring Bodiccea straight in the face. "Since you do not want your food, you will both go out onto the Plains of Despair with empty bellies. Think of it as your punishment. And do not expect me to change my ways, when you are clearly the one who needs to change."
Eyes narrowed, Bodiccea hissed, "You're not gonna be around forever."
"Neither are you. Given as much intelligence as you've displayed thus far, I should outlast you. Now get back into the proper game! We've no time for this foolishness."
They glared at each other a moment longer, before Bodiccea looked away. "Yeah."
Through gritted teeth, Bodiccea snarled, "Yes, Battle Mistress Phoebe."
The Plains of Despair look just like the Outer Steppes, only with more buildings and a few recognizable landscape features. A few Doom Knights and a pair of Corpulents met them at the gate. As usual, Bodiccea headed straight into the greatest concentration and started Fending them off, while Heather hung back and plinked away. Phoebe stayed back on the stairs, watching. It was a routine fight except for when one of the Corpulents ate a dead knight and spit up on Heather. Bodiccea gave her a potion after it was over.
"Now," Phoebe said with a condescending sneer as Heather drank, "can you guess what you did wrong this time? Go ahead and try."
While trying to scrape the worst of the half-digested knight off of Heather, Bodiccea muttered, "I guess I'm just too stupid, Battle Mistress Phoebe. Heather, promise me you'll try to dodge those in the future, huh? Corpse spitters have easily the most disgusting attack in the whole game before you hit act V."
Heather squeezed a slime-covered vertebra out of the collar of her mail. "I'll try, Miss B."
"BODICCEA! You will listen to me when I am speaking to you!"
"I'm listening, Battle Mistress Phoebe. You're about to tell me how stupid I am, again."
After a short pause, Phoebe continued, in a slightly less strident tone of voice. "You must think I'm here only to make life hard for you. I have come as a handmaiden of Athulua, our Goddess. You do not know it, but I am here to help you. Would I leave a heavenly reward behind and descend into the bowels of Hell just to plague you?"
With no pause, Bodiccea quietly said, "Yes."
"You never understood," Phoebe growled. "None of you did. Before you were born, life was hard, and the trials we suffered forged us anew. Without those trials --"
"No, you don't understand!" Bodiccea snapped. "You died still fighting wars that were over 50 years ago! Nobody's trying to kill each other anymore! Now the fights are in bedrooms and kitchens and temples and business offices, and you don't win them at spear point. They call that 'spousal abuse' and arrest you for it now."
Phoebe snorted. "Those laws should never have been extended to men. If you knew ANYTHING about what they did to us..."
"That was a compromise to end the fighting. You know men: can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em."
"That is a lie stupid women tell themselves," Phoebe snorted. "Women who seek to be the equals of men lack ambition. And little girls who try to distract me with ramblings about men are going to fail. What did you do wrong in this battle?"
Bodiccea sighed. "Not a clue, Battle Mistress Phoebe."
"Which of your foes was the most dangerous? Most capable of inflicting serious injury?"
After a moment's thought, Bodiccea said, "The Corpulents."
Phoebe smiled sarcastically. "Why?"
"The corpse-spitting thing."
"Very perceptive. Are they dangerous in any other way?"
Bodiccea shrugged. "Not really. They've got a melee attack, but it's weak."
"My, what a font of knowledge you are. Now, how did you try to control the battle?"
"By running up to them and attacking."
"Mm-hm. How did your most dangerous foes react to your stratagem?"
Chewing her lip, Bodiccea replied, "They broke away in two different directions. I went to get one, the other came back and got Heather."
"Ah, a potential flaw. And what might have happened if you had used lightning to extend your reach beyond the range of your spear? Or stood your ground over the corpses?"
"Then... Heather's clothes might not be such a stinky mess."
"It's my fault anyway," Heather said. "I should have moved out of the way."
"It is not, Heather. People get hurt in fights. It happens."
"It happened when you did not anticipate your opponent!" Phoebe angrily announced. "In the future, when you meet Corpulents, or any other variety of corpse-spitter, what are you going to do?"
Bodiccea rolled her eyes, and replied, "Kill the Corpulent first?"
"Not always possible."
"Freeze everything first so there aren't any corpses?" Bodiccea smirked.
"Too item dependent. You're not a Sorceress! Next uneducated guess?"
"Buy a Holy Freeze merc so they can't get to the corpses fast enough?"
Phoebe scowled. "Depending on an unreliable hireling? What if he gets himself killed?"
"Ok, taunt the Corpulents into coming close and dying!"
Finally, Phoebe walloped her and bellowed, "CAN YOU BE EDUCATED AT ALL?!?"
"Sure," Bodiccea stood back up again with a calm smile. "I learned something new today: you're a lot easier to piss off now that you're not old." Eyes closed, she folded her hands together before her, her face a mask of Zen-like tranquillity. "Anger is a weapon only for your opponent, grasshopper."
"Oh, no you don't," Phoebe grinned, seething. "I knew all the tricks before you were born, little girl. I'm going to make a halfway-decent fighter out of you if it kills you."
"Yes, Battle Mistress Phoebe," Bodiccea smirked.
"When you face Corpulents," Phoebe shouted, "isolate them! Strike first with lightning, so your other foes will be too busy to surround you. Then, once the Corpulent is dead, Fend off the rest. Since you have neglected to learn Lightning Strike, you will use Jab until such time as you have learned it. Do I make myself clear?!"
If she noticed the impertinent form of address, Battle Mistress Phoebe gave no sign. "Now find something to demonstrate on! I want to see if anything I said leaked through that thick skull of yours."
Their next encounter was a lone Flesh Spawner. Bodiccea had been hoping she wouldn't see any of those; they're gross, disturbing, and just plain wrong on so many levels. The thing only got a chance to spit out one young before it got Jabbed to death. The running around that always accompanies combat stirred up a nest of Burning Souls; Bodiccea had to run each one down. Once again, Phoebe reminded her of Lightning Strike. Stupid things are immune to lightning in Hell difficulty anyway...
When they found the entrance to the City of the Damned, Bodiccea wanted to go in and find the waypoint, so they could return to the fortress and get some sleep. Phoebe would have none of it.
"Many's the sleepless night we passed back then," she was reminiscing. "Three hours out of every 3 days was enough for us. I remember one time -- where are you going?!"
Bodiccea was ambling down the steps. "I see the waypoint from here. I'll just go get it."
"You will do no such thing! You are not finished here, little girl!"
"But I can see the waypoint from here!" Bodiccea lied. "Besides, didn't you once tell me how important it was to establish beachheads close to enemy territory?"
"That does not involve leaving an assault unfinished! Your main objective is the angel Izual, you are not to deviate from that!"
"But I see the -- EEP!"
Two packs of Abyss Knights came out from behind separate buildings. Before she could blink, Bodiccea was chilled, poisoned, and her health bulb was falling dangerously low. She ran to the nearest knight and hit him with Fend. That helped some... until the Fend bug kicked in. She started whiffing in slow motion as the knights blasted her from a distance. Once again, Heather came to her rescue, killing a knight, then two, then a third, and attracting a lot of fire. Then Bodiccea unchilled, and switched to Jab to get the knights one at a time.
Both Heather and Bodiccea needed healing potions this time. As they came back up the stairs, Phoebe quietly said, "And what about the waypoint?"
Grinning through tightly clenched teeth, Bodiccea said, "Battle Mistress Phoebe, I decided that your assessment of the situation was correct. We really should finish off the Plains of Despair before we head down into the city."
"My, my!" Phoebe acted very surprised. "Why, what's that? It's as though I felt a cool breeze. Goodness gracious, is that snow falling, down here?"
"Ha, ha," Bodiccea grumbled.
Once the sarcasm had dropped to levels compatible with human life, they went to the Plains of Despair. There were enough identify scrolls lying around to keep Cain almost completely idle, and enough town portal scrolls to fill Bodiccea's tome; she sold it and bought another. They found a few curious items, but not much. Mostly, they spent a long time chasing Burning Souls into knots of knights and Flesh Spawners.
Clearing the plains took them all night and long into the next morning; Bodiccea and Heather began to wobble from lack of sleep. Of course, Phoebe felt it was doing them a world of good to drive on, not giving in to physical weakness. She told them so repeatedly; after about the time the sun should have been rising, Bodiccea couldn't think straight enough to answer her. Finally, as they approached the last corner of the map, a strangled voice growled, "Save yourself!" Izual and one Flesh Spawner came out. Bodiccea switched to Jab and went to work. Heather killed the spawner. Phoebe sat the fight out. Again.
It took forever to kill Izual -- it always does. The instant he was dead, he started laughing. "Tyrael wa --"
"Yeah," Bodiccea mumbled, grabbed his drop, and portaled back to the fortress. "Hey, Tyrael."
"Yay!" Before Phoebe could say a thing, Bodiccea dropped a skill point into Valkyrie, and cast the summoning spell. Phoebe vanished, and someone new appeared. She was tall, maybe taller than Bodiccea herself, with honey-blonde hair and bright blue eyes. Bodiccea smiled blearily. "Hi."
"Hello," the new Valkyrie said with an icy smile.
"Are you gonna be my buddy, or do I hafta blow my next skill point?"
"Ahem," Tyrael said.
"Oh, yeah," Bodiccea leaned on her spear, listening to the rest of Tyrael's dialogue.
"Thank you, hero, for putting Izual's tortured spirit to rest. May the Light protect you, and the powers of Heaven shine upon your path. But, if what you tell me is true, then I fear that we have been played for fools all along. Izual helped Diablo and his Brothers trick me into using the Soulstones against them... Now the Stones' powers are corrupted. With the combined powers of the Soulstones under their control, the Prime Evils will be able to turn the mortal world into a permanent outpost of Hell!"
After the last echoes of Tyrael's pronouncement resounded through the Pandemonium Fortress, there was only silence... and snoring. As they watched, Bodiccea silently slumped to the floor. Heather was already down.
"Hmm," Tyrael intoned. "It seems I am not much of a speaker."
Cain sighed. "More so than I. I never get to finish."
The new Valkyrie laughed. "Let them rest. They have suffered. I am eager to tell them how they could have avoided it, but it can wait."
The screaming in her back woke Bodiccea up -- even heavenly stone floors are not a good place to sleep. Falling asleep with her armor completely laced up didn't help either; even hardened leather isn't very comfortable. Painfully, she rolled onto her back and pulled the lacings open, relishing the chance to breathe as she tried to stretch her back. After a few seconds of agony, she gave up and rolled onto her other side for some more sleep. A short trip to the healer in the morning would take care of the pain anyway, and at least this way she could spread it around so it wouldn't wake her up again.
The world went black for a few hours, but then Bodiccea awoke refreshed, almost invigorated. Heather was nowhere in sight, but she could hear voices. "Heather?"
The voices stopped, and after a few seconds, Heather came around the corner. "Hi, Miss B. Wow, you were really knocked out."
Bodiccea groaned. "Dealing with an old battle-axe like Phoebe can do that to ya. Man, what a b!tch."
Heather smirked. "I thought you said being a b!tch was good."
After giving her the stink-eye, Bodiccea laughed. "No, I said ME being a b!tch was good! What I really meant is you should be a B.I.T.C.H.: Babe In Total Control of Herself."
"Oh. Is that like a secret club, with codes and handshakes and things?"
"Sure! I'm a founding member. The membership card is a lifetime excuse for anything, on the grounds that you have permanent PMS."
Smiling, Heather nodded. "I see why you'd like that, Miss B."
"Heather!" Bodiccea laughed, and mimed a cat clawing. "Hiss! Spit! You're pretty happy to see Phoebe gone. You've turned snotty again."
"I guess," Heather shrugged, still laughing. "Mostly, I've been talking with Regulix. She's pretty nice."
"Your new Valkyrie. Behind you."
Bodiccea looked around, and there she was. The new valkyrie was indeed taller than her by about an inch, but willowy-slim and lithe even in full armor. From her long, graceful legs up to her slender but powerful shoulders, the glimmering golden plate she wore seemed to underscore her body rather than conceal it. Her eyes were the deep, fathomless blue of the evening sky, under a crown of thick, lustrous hair the color of honey. "Hello," Regulix said, in a silken voice as smooth as untroubled waters.
Bodiccea hated her almost instantly. "Hi," she said, trying to smile.
Maybe there were a few too many teeth showing in that smile. Sensing trouble, Heather stepped up beside the two taller women and said, "You know, Regulix told me about a trick you could have used to get rid of Phoebe. It's really simple."
Smile still frozen on her face, Bodiccea said, "Do tell."
"If you wish," Regulix smiled softly. "You grew powerful enough to summon Phoebe by use of an item. Dispensing with the item would have rendered you unable to summon her."
The lower half of Bodiccea's face hardly moved, but she blinked several times and finally muttered, "You mean, like, getting +1 meant she... she TOLD me that's why... so all I had to do was get rid of +1, and..."
"We would have sent Aphelia back to you."
Slowly, Bodiccea walked over to the nearest wall, bashed her forehead against it three times, and came back. "All right!" she grinned maniacally. "What other incredibly obvious things have I missed so far?"
"Nothing of importance," Regulix said in the same maddeningly calm tone.
"It's ok, Miss B," Heather said sheepishly. "I didn't think of it either."
"Well, why didn't you? You're the brains in this outfit."
"Uh... I know I'm not blonde, but what makes you think I'm the smart one?"
"You have to be," Bodiccea laughed. "You wear higher necklines than I do."
"Uh... yeah. Anyway, Regulix says she's from a long time before you were born, and she was kind of well-known back then, but no one really remembers her anymore."
Bodiccea nodded. "Uh-huh. The name's kind of familiar. So, Reggie... does that mean that now, if I take off a +2 skills item like this circlet, I'd summon Aphelia again?"
Regulix nodded. "Yes."
Heather smiled. "That'd be okay. I liked Aphie."
After glancing at Heather, Bodiccea said to Regulix, "So we both know I could get rid of you anytime I want."
"If that is your wish."
Pausing for a moment, Bodiccea weighed her options. "Do you know any embarrassing stories about me from when I was a kid?"
A hint of amusement flashed across Regulix's eyes. "No."
Bodiccea nodded. "Good. What's your opinion on militaristic discipline?"
"It should be left to soldiers."
Suspicious, Bodiccea pressed further. "Are we soldiers?"
"No. You are the heroine, leader of a band of sisters in arms."
"Ooh, I like that," Bodiccea smiled more genuinely. Standing arms akimbo, she breathed in deep, making her leathers creak. "Whatcha think of my outfit?"
"How you dress is your choice."
"Damn right, but that's not what I asked." Eyes narrowed, Bodiccea asked, "Do you think walking around like this makes me look like a cheap floozy?"
After a slight pause, Regulix said, "Yes."
"Did it occur to you that maybe I WANT to look like a cheap floozy?"
"That was never in doubt."
"Ok, sarcasm is fine," Bodiccea laughed. "I'm starved. What say we hit Atma's for some pancakes and sausage, then clear the City of the Damned?"
"Okay!" Heather smiled brightly. "Mmm, pancakes."
"Dripping with syrup and melted butter," Bodiccea agreed. "Oooh, yeah."
After a huge breakfast, which would have been bigger but Regulix reminded them they'd be running to the City of the Damned, they set out. One of the most annoying things about Hell is the scarcity of waypoints. Bodiccea had been investing in vitality, so she made the run from the Pandemonium Fortress to the city entrance without stopping. Heather and Regulix took the easy way, once Bodiccea had arrived. This time, some Corpse Spitters and Dark Familiars were closest to the entrance; Bodiccea wondered if maybe there wouldn't be any Abyss Knights at all. No such luck: ten steps later, fiery missiles with little horns came roaring out of the darkness. At least there weren't any Flesh Mothers.
As an experiment, Bodiccea stuck a point in Lightning Strike and tried it out on some Corpse Spitters. It was kind of weak, but 1 point in a skill usually is, and synergies would improve it in 1.10. Pity Blizzard didn't give the physical spear skills any synergy bonuses, though. It was kind of awe-inspiring when Regulix took on Corpse Spitters. Bodiccea learned through personal experience that their barf attack is both powerful and revolting, but Regulix hardly noticed. The goop couldn't stick to her either, and she ignored it so serenely...
There were two times when the City of the Damned gave them trouble. The first was when a boss pack of Abyss Knights attacked, reinforced by a larger band of normal Abyss Knights. Even without the Fend bug coming up, Bodiccea's life ball bounced up and down something fierce; the Chaos Sanctuary would be very dangerous. The second time was when they entered a ruined building whose floor was covered in skull piles, bone chests, stashes, and trapped souls, and a boss Strangler pack attacked. Bodiccea kept hitting random treasure piles instead of monsters, and Heather got seriously hurt. The waypoint was nearby, and after finishing off the level, Bodiccea was halfway to level 33.
Down on the River of Flame, Bodiccea first went to the right, knowing there'd be a little section with a sampling of the local monsters. They first met a champion pack of Venom Lords, reinforced by Abyss Knights. That was acceptable; Abyss Knights are bad, but a mix of corpse spitters and either Grotesques or Hell Maggots would be worse. Sure enough, when they turned around to head up river, the next monster type they encountered was Grotesques, with Maw Fiends right behind them. Venom Lords never appeared again.
With all the monsters and ranged attackers, it was slow going up the River of Flame. More than once, the gang got tied up in a narrow section, hemmed in by Grotesques and their young while Abyss Knights blasted them from across the river. When Bodiccea ran to get the knights, Maw Fiends would come in to the abundant corpse piles and started pegging them all over again. The worse tangle came at a square area with a central moat surrounding an island, with one bridge leading to it. The island was full of Abyss Knights, and the rest of the area was full of Grotesques. Working their way around to the bridge took forever -- Heather had to be given potions twice. Once Bodiccea got through, the knights fell quickly, and she hit level 33. Risking another Valkyrie wasn't worth it, so she improved Fend.
Despite the difficulty, loot was sparse on the river. Cain only got to identify one item from Abyss Knight island, a scepter with big bonuses to Conversion and Holy Fire. That made it useless, of course, but worth a lot of money. From the island, there were two directions they could go: one should lead to the waypoint, and the other to the Hellforge. Bodiccea flipped a coin, and they went right.
Past a monster shrine, Bodiccea's quest button flashed on: the Hellforge! She hit the shrine and gave a Maw Fiend spectral hit, then killed it while Heather and Regulix cleaned up some Grotesques. A little further in, and Hey, Fatso! came out to get them, hobbling along at a high clip. He looks so silly when he does that, but his conviction aura is not silly, especially with Abyss Knights in the area; Bodiccea led him away from the forge. Regulix was there, and she cast a Decoy to get another hit, but once Heather came in and stood close enough behind her to give her a fourth Fend strike, Fatso was as good as dead. In a matter of seconds, Bodiccea had the hammer and was heading back to clear his island. Mephisto's soulstone yielded up the usual gems and a Thul rune -- pretty good for Normal.
The other way from Abyss Knight island wandered through several groups of monsters. They dropped some awful Amazon spears (about time) and a heavy crossbow. Damn, those things are slow. In short order, they had the River of Flame waypoint, were ogled by the statues, listened to Hadriel's odd comments about Diablo, and were headed back to the fortress for a well-deserved night's rest.
"Congratulations!" Cain said when they came back. "Surely, even Diablo himself, sensed the fury unleashed when you smashed his Brother's Soulstone."
"Hi, Cain," Bodiccea smiled. "Sorry I haven't gotten more stuff for you. The pickings are mighty slim down there."
Cain laughed, looking happy at the chance for any kind of conversation. "My needs are not important..." As he said this, Bodiccea wandered off. "Oh, fudge."
"That was annoying," Bodiccea said as she unloaded stuff at Halbu's. "I don't think I've ever found this little for so much trouble. Eh, the gems are enough to pay for repairs, at least."
Heather shrugged. "It's not as though we need much."
Halbu regarded them mildly. "What do you need?"
Bodiccea laughed. "The usual. A little money, a little fun, a challenge or two..."
Regulix quirked an eyebrow. "All quite pointless without agreeable company."
"Oh, yeah," Bodiccea nodded. "I guess that's one thing Phoebe taught me, but she never knew it."
"For myself," Regulix said, "I enjoyed our time at Atma's."
"You didn't even eat anything," Heather observed.
"No," Regulix smiled. "But our short stay reminded me that it has been some time since I was in the company of men."
"Oh, yeah!" Heather said. "I think everybody noticed you! It's like, for once, nobody was paying any attention to --" Then she noticed Bodiccea. "Uh, their breakfasts. Yeah, it was breakfast, but no one was paying attention. 'Cause you're all glowy and stuff."
"Yeah," Bodiccea was smiling again, the hairs on the back of her neck prickling up. "You know, I don't think most of those guys thought you were for real."
"I am accustomed to that," Regulix smiled. "Even in life, men would often comment on seeing visions when I entered a room."
"Gee," Bodiccea nodded, still smiling. "That's great. You know something else I need? I need a little respect. Sometimes, I don't think I get very much."
Halbu smiled and bowed to her. "Hail to you, champion."
"No, no!" Bodiccea snorted. "Not like that. I need something else."
"What DO you need?" Jamella asked.
Bodiccea sighed. "A little respect. And... oh, I don't know." She went silent for a long time, fidgeting as she stood there.
Finally, Heather cleared her throat and said, "What do we have to do next?"
"Whack the big enchilada himself. Which means talk to Tyrael."
Regulix smiled. "Perhaps you should bring some sleeping mats there before you do."
"Oh, ha ha," Bodiccea grumped. "I think I can stay awake this time."
"Yeah," Heather nodded. "Maybe we could spend the night in Lut Gholein. It's a lot more comfortable there."
"Sure," Bodiccea agreed, then glanced at Regulix. "I take it you don't object?"
Smiling faintly, Regulix shook her head. "No."
Bodiccea slowly nodded, then quietly said, "Um... one question?"
"Can I borrow that outfit sometime?"
Regulix smiled, but shook her head. "Someday. You are not skilled enough as yet."
"Oh, not now! You need it now. Or will in the morning."
She nodded. "I will not be wearing it tonight."
Bodiccea took a deep breath, and slowly let it out. "So the armor can come off, huh?"
"When I wish... and it has been a very, very long time."
"Yeah. Don't rub it in, huh? Let's just go."
In the morning, Bodiccea woke to a tapping on her door. "Uungha," she greeted her visitor, and Regulix walked in. It must be nice not having to bother opening doors. Regulix's armor and spear were nowhere to be seen. Instead, she wore a simple mid-thigh length tunic in the Greek style, belted at the waist and pinned at the shoulders, leaving her arms and long legs bare. The light, breezy cloth was perfect for the desert heat, and fluttered with every movement of her body. Her feet were bare, but a pair of sandals hung by their lacings from her hand. Perfectly disheveled hair cascaded in flowing amber waves over her shoulders, clear to the small of her back. She didn't say a thing as she glided in, simply laid herself out over the only chair in the room, stretched like a lioness, and went limp with a smile and sigh of deepest satisfaction.
Bodiccea cleared her throat. "I guess you had a good time last night."
"Intoxicatingly so," Regulix purred. Her eyes half opened, the blue somehow smoldering under long lashes as she gazed off into space. "It is extraordinary how deeply we can miss a thing, yet be aware of it only when reminded. The glories of the company of Goddesses are not to be denied... I would be the last to do so. Yet, all the same... there is so, so much to be said for simple, straightforward, earthly carnality..."
The last word slid slowly off her tongue, like satin from bare skin. In the moment it rested between her lips, there could be no more erotic term in any language. Bodiccea just stared, then finally murmured, "You've never had a pimple in your life, have you?"
"Hmm?" Regulix gazed at Bodiccea, looking mildly surprised. "No, not that I recall. Why do you ask?"
"Nothing," Bodiccea muttered and reached for her clothes. "Sorry to be a buzz-kill."
"Ah." Regulix sat up straighter. "It is I who should apologize. This is neither the time nor place to rhapsodize about physical pleasures."
"I'm surprised you could find a guy who'd put up with the glowing," Bodiccea grumbled.
Regulix quirked an eyebrow, her eyes twinkling with amusement. "On the contrary: more than one remarked on how pleasant it was to meet someone who didn't insist on putting out the lights."
Once that sank in, Bodiccea looked up. "More than one?"
"Bodiccea!" Laughing, Regulix tsked. "Whatever could you be thinking of me?"
She grinned. "That, as a Valkyrie, you have enough stamina to wear out ten guys?"
"Oh, many more than that," Regulix said slyly. "But one mustn't kiss and tell. Let us leave this lascivious subject behind, for now, and plan for today's battle."
"Yeah," Bodiccea nodded, and thumped on the wall. "Heather?"
In the other room, Heather answered, "Yes?"
"Let's get dressed and get going. It's time for the big D."
Back in the Pandemonium Fortress, Bodiccea stopped to listen to Cain's speech, and Tyrael's. After Regulix shook her and Heather back awake (it was early) they hit the waypoint and set off up the River of Flame. Hadriel didn't even wave as they went past; snotty bastard. It would serve him right if they lured some demons back to thwack him, but they didn't. The river monsters were a relief: Urdar, Pit Lords, and Maw Fiends. No fliers, no breeders, and especially no damned knights until they reached the Chaos Sanctuary.
Storm Casters met them at the door of the sanctuary. One flew away over the lava -- one always does. It was nice enough to come back and die a minute later, while they were busy with a champion pack of Pit Lords. The shrine right inside the door was a Fire Shrine. They ignored it, and slowly crept forward. Doom Knights came into view up ahead, and Bodiccea retreated. Their Oblivion Knight lord came right behind them, casting Amplify Damage on Regulix as she faced off with the Doom Knights. Thankful for the distraction, Bodiccea ran around and Jabbed the Oblivion Knight to death before he could curse her. Heather and Regulix cleaned up the rest, and Heather reached level 33.
Their next few encounters with Oblivion Knights also went fairly well. With her great speed, Bodiccea could run around the Doom Knights and reach the Oblivion Knight, once killing one right in mid-cast. Even when one did get a curse off, it was something like Decrepify or Lower Resistance. Those, she could deal with. She almost felt confident approaching the central pentagram. Two knight packs attacked, and four Oblivion Knights cast curses. The winner was Iron Maiden. With one hit, more than three quarters of Bodiccea's life was gone. Quickly assessing the situation, she decided on the only rational course of action: she ran, screaming like a little girl for Heather to save her.
Once the curse faded, Bodiccea switched to Jab and ran around to the first Oblivion Knight. It retreated into a group of Pit Lords, so Bodiccea ran back for O. K. #2. It hit her with Lower Resistance; sucker. O. K. #3 went next, but O. K. #4 found his Iron Maiden button again. The Pit Lords joined the surviving Doom Nights, and soon monsters were everywhere, with curses and attacks flying willy-nilly; Bodiccea could not afford to sit out of the fight, or Heather might get killed. They retreated.
"Okay, this is bad. We're getting slaughtered."
Heather nodded. "I wish you'd quit running around so much, I can't tell what you're doing."
"I'm trying to get away from those Oblivion Knights. Iron Maiden is nasty!"
"Perhaps employing a lightning skill would be to your advantage," Regulix suggested.
"You're starting to sound like Phoebe," Bodiccea snorted.
"An alternative," she went on as though she'd never been interrupted, "would be to refrain from hostile action while under the influence of the curse. Remain with the Oblivion Knights instead, and goad them into cursing you again."
Bodiccea thought about that for a minute. "Kind of dangerous... but it might work. Even better would be to find a shrine and use it to override the curse."
Heather smiled. "There was one near the pentagram up there."
"Yeah," Bodiccea grinned. "Let's go back and try that again."
This time, things went better. Bodiccea got hit with Iron Maiden once, but the handy Cold Resistance shrine canceled it and she killed the O. K. with ease. After clearing the area around the pentagram, they headed off into the leftmost wing of the sanctuary.
After carefully dissecting two more knight groups (sure, there were other critters, but they're almost irrelevant) they found a Mana Recharge shrine, which Bodiccea saved for later. Three more knight groups were by the seals, and they were immediately Iron Maidened. Bodiccea led the slow retreat back to the shrine; after clearing out the melee guys, they went back and got the Oblivion Knights. Killing the Grand Vizier of Chaos was actually easy.
The central wing went smoothly until an Oblivion Knight cast... you guessed it... Iron Maiden. This was getting old fast. Bodiccea ran around in front of the O. K. until she got Decrepify, then killed it. In the meantime, Heather was being swarmed, and Regulix couldn't do enough damage to help her escape. Screeching like a banshee, Bodiccea charged in and crushed all who stood before her. The lamentations of the woman were cured with two red potions.
After breaking Lord de Seis' seal, they slowly came back until they spotted their first Oblivion Knight minion. It ran up to them, then away: the typical minion strategy. Bodiccea inched forward until Lord de Seis came into view, and cast a Decoy next to him. He and his minions gave it their full attention; it didn't last long, but gave them time to kill a minion. A second Decoy bought them two more stragglers, and a third covered a direct assault on the Lord himself. Just before he died, he cast... Decrepify. Sucker. The last two minions ran around like headless chickens until they cut them down. That was a good fight -- nobody got hurt who shouldn't have. Diablo would be no problem.
The final wing of the Chaos Sanctuary went just like the others. Bodiccea hit level 34, and spent a fair bit of time dancing around in front of Oblivion Knights who refused to curse her again. She broke the fourth seal by accident while Fending off some Doom Knights, but was good and ready when she hit the fifth. The Infector of Souls is quick enough to be fairly nasty, but Fend is made for big crowds; the instant he died, the whole sanctuary went red and "Not even death can save you from me" echoed all around them.
Bodiccea decided to use Fend, with Regulix and a Decoy close by. It worked on Hey, Fatso!, no reason not to try. Unfortunately, Diablo didn't do what they expected. First, he used his Pink Lightning Bolt of Ultra-Zappage, aimed at Heather. Bodiccea fed her a fat purple. Then he threw his Firestorm of Extreme Annoyance -- another purple for Heather.
Then he ran over, right past Bodiccea and Regulix, took Heather's head in one hand, and crushed her skull like an overripe blueberry. She never even got a chance to scream.
Bodiccea screamed for her. It went something like this:
"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!! YOU FVCKING BASTARD!! THAT WAS MY BEST FRIEND THAT WAS MY ONLY FRIEND I'M GONNA KICK YOUR GAWDAMMED A$$ SO FAR UP YOUR OWN SPINE YOU'LL BE SH!TTING OUT YOUR TONSILS FOR A WEEK EXCEPT YOU'LL BE DEAD YOU FVCKING BASTARD!! GET YOUR A$$ BACK HERE AND DIE NOWNOWNOWNOWNOW FVCKING BASTARD AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!! EAT THIS EAT THAT EAT SOME OF THOSE DON'T YOU DARE STEP ON HER YOU FVCKING BASTARD OR AT LEAST WIPE YOUR FEET HERE I'LL HELP BY BITING YOUR GAWDAMMED LEGS OFF!!! AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!! DIEDIEDIEDIE AND DIEDIEDIEDIEDIEDIE SOME MORE I'M SORRY WAS THAT YOUR SPLEEN? I'M GONNA EAT YOUR GAWDAMMED LIVER WITH FAVRE BEANS AND A NICE CHIANTI SLURPSLURPSLURP OH YOU LIKE THAT, HUH? HERE'S SOME MORE OF THAT AND SOME MORE OF THAT AND SOME MORE OF THAT! DIEDIEDIEDIEDIEDIEDIEDIEDIE DON'T YOU DARE DIE ALREADY YOU FVCKING BASTARD I'M NOT FINISHED WITH YOU!!! aw, fvck it."
Regulix, who had been ignored throughout the battle, lay her hand on Bodiccea's shoulder as she sobbed. "You have done well, and she could not have chosen a better way to die. None could expect to face the Lord of Terror without suffering loss."
"Dammit!" Bodiccea cried. "I thought he'd come after me and leave you guys alone! I do way more damage than either of you!" With tears streaming down her face, she shook her fist at the uncaring sky, howling, "Why? Oh, why did it have to be this way?!"
With a sigh, Regulix fixed her steely gaze on the horizon. "You realize this would be much more meaningful if you weren't just going to resurrect her."
"I know," Bodiccea sobbed, "but how often do I get the chance to play out a truly harsh and emotional scene like this?"
"That's certainly true," Regulix smiled. "Shall I give you a few minutes to more fully develop the melodrama?"
"Nah, it's all good. How'd the fist-shaking bit look?"
"I'm sure the Goddess herself wept at the sight of it."
"Coolness," Bodiccea grinned. "Well, the big D's drop sucks, like usual. Let's talk to Tyrael and blow this popsicle stand. On to act V!"
Regulix laughed. "Odd that you should mention popsicle stands, considering where we are going."
Tyrael raised Heather from the dead, but only when paid. Why an angel would want cash, Bodiccea didn't try to guess. Heather was all right, but she did tell them a strange story about meeting a small man with a very large nose while she was dead. Before they pulled her back, he told her she'd probably be bouncing in and out of there for the rest of her career, and she'd better get used to it. After healing Regulix and patching up equipment, they all went through the red gate, off to the Barbarian Highlands.
"Say, Miss B?"
"Can we watch the cut scene this time? It's supposed to be a good one."
"Oh, sure. Let's watch 'em both. That Barbarian guy going splatooie is funny in kind of a sick way."
"Uh, sure, Miss B. Whatever floats your boat."